Showing posts with label moving. Show all posts
Showing posts with label moving. Show all posts

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Having a Morning Wander in Cihangir

One of my rules of life is that each day must include discovery. I recently moved into a new flat in Istanbul and decided the morning after moving day to see what my neighborhood had to offer.
Looking down my street to the Bosphorus
There's a busy street at the bottom
but it is easy to cross over or under.
A bit of cheerful tromp l'oeil as I walk by.
An Ottoman Grave preserved behind a shop window,
the turban signifies he was a man,
presumably named Sofu Baba.
People slip into the small room to pray.
I wonder what his story is!
Not everything is exotic
Domino's scooters,
complete with an advertisement on the box,
for a 30-minute guarantee.
In Istanbul, it seems you can get everything delivered.
If all you want is one single hamburger,
 someone on a scooter will race over to your house with it -
and I do mean "race."
Scooter drivers seem to drive like stuntmen.
The bread seller loaded down
with his morning wares.
How fantastic is this?
A yoga studio on my street.
I pause a moment to appreciate the beautiful tile work
in the underpass.
One of the Ottoman sultans loved tulips
and tulips have been a recurring theme in Istanbul
 ever since.
Morning commuters rushing off the ferry.
They have either come from the Asian side
or one of the islands.
A beautiful Ottoman-era public fountain
constructed out of marble
It's common to run across film crews
in central Istanbul
I've seen up to four cruise ships
docked end-to-end in this Bosphorus port.
Pinch this Iowa girl!
I've never lived within walking distance
of salt water.
Beautiful Ottoman script over a public fountain
Ottoman window detailing
Looking back up the hills:
how does the average 8-year-old in Istanbul
resist this chute?
It just screams "TOY"
to my inner child.
I can't help but imagine marbles...melons...
water balloons... little Mehmet...
rolling all the way down to the street.
Kids, don't try this at home.
 Coming across a nargile station
connected to the popular nargile cafe
in front of the Istanbul Modern Art Museum.
I've been to this cafe before.
 It's easy to get comfortable on their big divans
shaped in a semi-circle
and contemplate life at a slower pace.
The divans can fit you and up to eight of your friends.
I don't know if these are new or old coals.
Right in front of all of the cruise ships
is the Istanbul Modern Art Museum.

Can it be?
I live within walking distance of the
Istanbul equivalent of MOMA
(the Museum of Modern Art)?
Pinch me twice!
Taking a closer look at the life boats.
 It fascinated me that this was the first shop
cruise passengers see as they leave the ship.

According to the staff, this dock served Russian freighters
before cruise ships and the freighter's vendors haven't moved yet.
 A view of Nusretiye Camii (mosque)
from the Nargile Cafe
 The mosque was built in 1825.
Let's walk around to the front of it.
Looking up at the minarets.
It's a beautiful day.
Isn't it fun to discover?
Can you guess what affected these trees
outside sidewalk cafes?
An example of the renovation
that is occuring all over Istanbul.
This will probably be a hotel
or new condominums.
The shore road takes us back into
more of the industrial part.
You don't run across one of these everyday!
A maritime shop
selling ? What is this exactly?
I know the shape from the movies
but I can't name it.
I have better luck naming this -
a captain's wheel.
I wonder if ships keep a spare.
I can't imagine they'd want to be without one.
The man minding the shop good-naturedly put up
with my poking around. It was fun to imagine an
alternative life as a merchant mariner.
Merchant mariners have better poetry
than most industrial sectors
but I think I'd get sea sick.
I never imagined spies advertising!
Let's keep our eyes peeled for him...or her.
Discovery and mystery on my morning wander
...the perfect combination.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Safely in Sofia

Good morning from Sofia, Bulgaria! What a fantastic, comfortable, and easy bus trip that was. There was so much to look at.  It was the first time I was in Moravia, Czech Republic. I loved seeing all of this beautiful wine country.  The bus drove through Brno, and I remarked to my bus companion "wow, so many panalaks (Communist working housing that looks like an American housing project). It's too bad."  "I don't see them that way," she said. "to me, it's normal."

I had always heard that Bratislava was a Communist architecture monstrosity, but it didn't look so bad as we drove through it.  My Slovakian companion showed me the historic castle up on the bluff overlooking the Danube.  The Danube River was large, filled to the brim, and it looked worth singing about. The bridges in Bratislava were beautifully designed and quite striking.

From Bratislava, we drove on toward Budapest. I loved seeing this crazy Hungarian language on all of the road signs.  In both Slovakia and Hungary, it looked like the topsoil had been eroded away (Iowans care deeply about such things - we're topsoil proud).  Hungary had beautiful wildflowers, especially fields of wild red poppies.  I wonder if Frank Baum, the man who wrote "The Wizard of Oz" had been to Hungary.  Remember when Dorothy falls asleep in the field of poppies? I don't think buses go through the pretty parts of a city because I didn't see any historical parts of Budapest, only globalized McDonald's drive-thrus and Aldis. Not so compelling.

A friend of a friend was on the bus and she prepared me that we would have to sit for a long time on the Serbian border because it wasn't a part of the EU. I'm glad she had told me this because it took a good hour.
Most of our journey through Serbia was in the dark.  My only real outside contact with anything Serbian was going into two globalized large convenience store/gas stations that could have been anywhere in the world. That hardly counts!

We arrived a half-hour early.  I chatted up three Bulgarians the whole way and they were so kind and helpful to me when we arrived in Sofia.  They helped me haul all of my luggage to the storage facility and translate with the staff there.  Truly, when I have an interaction like that, it makes me vow to look out for foreigners who need help when I'm also traveling.  These Bulgarian bus drivers were so nice and helpful too.  I was the only American on the bus. Now it's time to connect with my Sofia couchsurfing host.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

I'm a better American citizen for having gone through this

I have to admit that if an American immigrant told me their hardship story about how awful it is to deal with American immigration, my reaction before I went through my own problems in the Czech Republic would have been "good, I"m glad it's hard. The whole world wants to come here and America should honor those who are gritty enough, determined enough, and persistent enough to go through whatever it takes to get in. How bad do you want it? "

Soooooooo, I've experienced a little personal growth here in compassion. I realize now my "survival of the fittest" mentality about American immigration is rude.

I now see how dehumanizing the mix of a language you don't speak and arcane immigration laws that seem to float can be. My friend Lenka, a Czech native, who lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin says "Karen I spent hours and hours and thousands of dollars to get my American visa."

This experience has opened my eyes to see that an immigration interaction between a foreigner and my government is just as important to my nation's image as any other interaction. Maybe even more important because it so deeply impacts people's finances.

Prior to this, I could care less about immigration stories in the news because I knew people who were in my country illegally were doing jobs natives wouldn't do, for salaries natives wouldn't work for, and they were most likely leaving a place where they couldn't find work. My eyes would glaze over at descriptions of how awful the legal immigration process is.

However quixotic it sounds, I have learned that it now matters to me how my government treats people who are only trying to improve their life. I want my government to fund enough people to make it not such a laborious process so that even if the answer to whether someone can legally immigrate or not ends up "no," they leave feeling like they were treated with respect. I want there to be enough funding for people's paperwork to be processed quickly.

I was treated with respect by the immigration authorities in the Czech Republic. Yet that one day at the foreign police was enough to make me realize how awful the whole process can be, especially when I know that in my country, it's much worse.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Real and True Blessings

I've safely arrived in Madison and am up early because I can't sleep. Maybe because it's high noon in Prague. Luckily, there's some leftover lemon chiffon birthday cake from my daughter's 21st birthday and ice cold milk.

My journey was totally awesome. Have you seen the floor at the Prague airport? It's perfect for rollerblading! They should shut down the airport for a day and just let everybody try out that floor - it's huge.

I hung out with a 23-year-old Quebecois waiting for the plane. He was so excited about the Obama administration. Wow, it's nice to hear that again. Appreciation for an American administration by someone from another country. I had to ask him about his own region's politics.

"Are you a separatist?" I asked.

"Yes. Being part of Canada is like trying to make a woman love you who doesn't want to love you. She still wants to live in the same house cause she she wants the house, and she doesn't want to be alone, but she doesn't love anymore. Quebec has been sleeping on the couch for years."

Later I asked him, "does all of Quebec use that analogy?"

"No," he said proudly. "It's mine."

My flight was booked on Swiss Air. Oh my, do the Swiss know how to pamper people. That eight hour flight went by quickly, helped by interesting passengers, a totally fantastic entertainment system, and good food and wine. It was like being cocooned for eight hours. I watched the movie "Burn After Reading" which had me rolling in my seat it was so funny.

Part of the time on the flight, I sat and mused how truly, truly blessed I am with my friends. I know I said it yesterday but to be given so much love in so short a time by so many people, it was such a gift. I could not believe the outpouring of caring. That is my real and true blessing.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What Just Hit Me?

My dream of living in the Czech Republic came true. It just didn't last.

As of Friday, I will no longer have legal status to remain in the Czech Republic. I must leave immediately or risk a large fine and a ban on being inside one of the fifteen Schengen countries for the next five years.

I have no idea why this happened. When I signed up to teach in the Czech Republic, one of the reasons I chose the school I did was because they advertised "full visa support" to everyone. Wonderful. Moving to a foreign country is overwhelming enough. Having a knowledgeable local handle all of the paperwork in a way that is in accordance with all laws gave the whole school a value-added appeal. I relied on that.

I arrived on November 6th. I took a TEFL course and was offered a contract in December. My school applied for my visa in Berlin at the Czech Embassy on January 21st, almost three months later.

Did that leave the government enough time to process the visa? I don't know what is enough time. Is there a visa department benchmark statistic somewhere that shows how one country gets it done in two months but another country takes longer and isn't getting it done fast enough? I have no idea what is a reasonable length of time and have no way to judge. Wait, yes I do. I have to leave the country so I guess it's not fast enough!

I started to get some inkling of how serious the situation was thanks to a fantastic article in the Prague Post. I have appreciated the journalists at the New York Times for years because of how they affect the life of my nation, but this woman and this paper published an article that directly affected my life! I can't thank them enough. Being a new expat, and having relied on my employers to secure my required paperwork, this article helped me understand the danger I was in of losing the life I had built here:

Since I have no idea if my visa will be approved or denied, I could leave the country and fly back to the States and find out as quickly as one day later (if that's when an approval comes through) that the job, friends, apartment, neighborhood, and church I had to give up was a big "oops, you can come back in now."

The government sent registered letters to the Americans in my TEFL class to come to immigration (what the Czechs call the foreign police). We each spent an entire day there. I kept thinking surely Czech taxpayers have something better to spend their money on then harassing Americans who are here to help Czech people improve their English so that Czech people can compete more effectively for multinational jobs? Yet this seems like some city-wide or country-wide initiative trying to make some sort of political point.

The day started out very scary. All of these men had muscles the size of a Zizkov bouncer and the jail cells were right behind the door. One of my fellow teachers, who regarded this as one big lark to tell the grandchildren about one day pointed out, "look there's an American in there already!" Thanks. Not helpful.

There wasn't enough staff to process us quickly. It took from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. to get out of there. The foreign police made us sign documents in Czech I didn't understand or we couldn't leave. I know my father was rolling over in his grave because he always said "read everything thoroughly before you sign it." Sorry Dad. I couldn't read it.

The foreign police told us we were lucky the deportation prison was full otherwise we would have to go straight to the prison. Given this was the Thursday before Obama's visit, if we had gone there, do you think the American Embassy could have spared a staff member to come get us? No.

Even with the prison remark (which I couldn't tell if it was a joke since this was translated secondhand), the men in this office treated us with professionalism and kindness. They were nice. This seemed such a poor use of their time and taxpayer's money! They gave us a one-month extension to our tourist visas which I thought was to give the government more time to finish the paperwork.

So one month later, there is still no visa. I must leave. I have done all of the wailing, raging, and asking for help a person can do.

I asked all of my expat friends if they could help. I have asked Czech friends for help. One of our teachers went to the American Embassy and asked for help (they said, "sorry, we can't help that these schools lure Americans here with false promises. There is no answer.")

But I'm not sure the blame is so clear-cut on my school. The minute the way they were doing things proved not to be effective, they changed their procedures. They loophole they were using to apply for our visas in Berlin is the same one used by the American government when they apply for visas for their employees at Radio Free Europe.

My school, which is a different one than the one mentioned in the article, is not making us whole but at least they are paying for the ticket home. I spent about $5000 to come here having rented my house, sold my car, and all of my possessions. They know we have a right to be angry and have said as much.

Czechs ask me, "couldn't you just stay here and work illegally?" I can't do that. If a person works illegally, they are not free. Lately, I've been reading about a Czech patriot named Michael Kocab. He said, "a nation that does not value it's freedom, does not value itself." Well, doesn't that also apply to us as individuals as well? I need freedom.

The hardest part was trying to say goodbye to my English students when it all came down to "there is no answer." I was devastated and they couldn't understand my too-fast, emotional English! But each and everyone of them taught me something and I will value the time I had with them for the rest of my life. I will value the time I had in this beautiful, amazing country for the rest of my life. I only wish the dream could have lasted.

I want to give the last word to the journalists and paper who helped me understand that this was a bigger story than just me and my little TEFL class. Here's their editorial about the situation, aptly titled "The Dream is Over."

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Happy Blog Birthday to Me!

One year ago I started this blog to help me go through the emotional journey of graduating my youngest child from high school, downsizing and potentially selling my home, and moving across the world from the American Midwest to Prague, Czech Republic.

My home in America

One year ago, I was living a very American mom lifestyle in a 3 bedroom/3 bath suburban home with one child at university and another in her senior year at high school. I only went places by car. I didn't yet know how to blog. I didn't yet know how to Twitter. I didn't yet know how to couchsurf.

I was mowing the lawn once a week. I read somewhere that not having a lawn to mow anymore frees up 30 hours a year. Hallelujah! I still own the house and the magnificent blackberry tree that goes with it. Currently, I have it rented out to some terrific people.

At the beginning of my blogging journey, I was working on what to do with all of my "stuff." I don't think of myself as particularly attached to possessions but once a lifetime of them have built up, the task of thoughtfully going through each and every one and making a decision about what to do with each one is overwhelming.

Fortunately, I found this fantastic book that helped me go through the process in an incredibly empowering way. It's called "When Organizing Isn't Enough: Shed Your Stuff, Change Your Life" by Julie Morgenstern. Wow, did that book help me. I didn't waste any years in procrastination before starting. All of those posts are under the label SHED. They used to be the most-read part of my blog.

My children have thrived on their own. Each of them are attending their university of choice and living their own dream. They're loving life and they haven't needed their mother stateside to do it.

Pinch me!

And where am I now? I'm living in Prague!!! In the six months since I moved here, I've found great students, great friends, a great neighborhood, a great flat, a great flatmate, and a great church community. I feel like I'm living my values 100%. Life is awesome!

My property maintenance consists of cleaning my apartment every other week when it's my turn. That takes about two hours max.

I no longer have to worry about oil changes, or tires, or brakes. That frees up even more time. Using public transportation has been a Godsend. In six months, I've lost twenty pounds because I'm walking to and from metro and tram stops rather than merely to the driveway. I have zero worries about traffic - imagine how stress-free that makes life.

Even the stress of having a rotten president has gone away! Hallelujah!

Over a year of blogging, I've written 226 posts. I've had 4,200 visitors and 10,000 page hits. My blog was chosen as Expat Blog of the Month (thank you Julian!) in December of 2008. Now that I'm actually living here in Prague my readership keeps growing about 5% a month. If this were a business that would be an outstanding rate of growth. But it's not, it's just for fun.

And fun it has been. Blogging has helped me focus, focus, focus on achieving my dream of moving to Prague to learn about this beautiful city and the wonderful people of the Czech Republic. Thank you for reading and being part of the conversation!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Aspens are Quaking!

I've arrived in Colorado where my mom and sister live. My timing couldn't be better. The aspens are at their peak - it's as if someone poured liquid gold on the mountains and let it follow the path of least resistance this way and that creating stunning beauty amongst already stunning landscape.

Before leaving the American Midwest I took a trip through Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska to see some of the people and places I had a hankering to see. It was fantastic! One of the things that happens with an empty nest is that I'm able to devote more time to my friendships and letting people know they matter to me. Plus, I saw a lot of neat stuff. Over the next few days, I'll highlight some of the sights that I enjoyed. Meanwhile, I'm off for a picnic lunch in the Rocky Mountains!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Casting My Vote

I moved out of my home in Illinois before absentee ballots for the presidential election were scheduled to be mailed out. I called to see if my ballot could be forwarded, or sent to a P.O. Box, or all kinds of different scenarios. None of them were allowed.
If I moved to Prague immediately, I would have two residences in the first 40 days (student housing and then my own apartment), which probably complicates my voting. I was not willing to risk not being able to vote.
So I'm slowly making my way to Colorado where my family lives. I want to spend some serious face time with my Mom and my sister before going overseas and it turns out if I live in Colorado for thirty days, I can cast my vote there. My vote will actually matter more in Colorado because it's a swing state. I don't care about that as much as just getting to add my two cents. People gave their lives so I could do that!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

My Own Bed

There was this lady in Chicago named Bernadette.

Bernadette was a single mum and had her own set of children. She then took in her sister's kids when her sister was going through a heroin addiction and wasn't caring for them properly. I can't remember how many kids there were total but it was around six.

Bernadette worked at Starbuck's in Chicago and passed sunshine on to every single person who came into her store. Her attitude was remarkable and she did nothing but give, give, give with enthusiasm to everyone she came in contact with. One of her customers or coworkers came to know her well, know her story, and wrote Oprah and said "here's a beautiful lady who could use some help."

Well, the resulting show was so touching and so moving that it was even featured in one of the Ocean Eleven movies. George Clooney's character asked Brad Pitt's character, "you're not going to cry, are you?"

Oprah bought Bernadette a house, had Nate Berkus, her decorator, fix it up, promised the entire family she would send them all to college, and basically changed the trajectory of their entire life.

When Oprah asked one of the teenage boys, "what was your favorite part of this whole experience." He said, "the first night when I got to sleep in my own bed." He and his brothers and sisters had all had to share beds. My mouth fell to the floor. His gratitude for something so simple was so profound.

Ever since then, I've had a GREAT appreciation for my own bed. I know my emotions are in overdrive as I get ready to move but I'm just really aware that I have two nights left in my OWN bed. He and Oprah taught me something that day, which of course, is why people go so crazy for her.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

SHED Your Furniture

Craigslist rocks.

Here’s why: the old way of eliminating possessions when one is moving is to select a date for a garage sale, be organized enough to have the ad describing what you will have for sale into the paper on time to meet their deadline, have all the stuff organized and laid out on the appointed day, round up a friend to help out, watch an absolute buying frenzy for the first hour, then sit patiently watching browsers for the next three very slow hours.

With Craiglist, I’ve been putting stuff up on the list from each room as I pack it. It’s amazing how fast some stuff sells (the DVD player took under one hour) and other stuff that I thought would be popular just sits there. When it isn't selling, I can look at the ad and see what would improve it and try again. I’ve had someone call from as far away as California for a set of cutlery (keep dreaming). I have sold every single piece of furniture within one week. At no cost -- gotta love it.

My favorite part is when you realize it’s the same person who keeps coming for your stuff. After awhile, I’d just skip Craigslist and say “here’s what I’m selling today.” Only if she didn’t want it, would the item go on the official list. I’ve advertised stuff for $10.00 an item at a time, an amount that would never merit it’s own paid ad.

For all the dollar items that one would sell at a garage sale, I’ve shown each buyer the small items I’m “shedding.” Usually it would result in $20 to $30 in add-on sales. I get to skip the garage sale! When I see the children's poetry books go to fun families it doesn't hurt to sell them, it feels good. Release the energy!

In the future, I won’t wait to sell stuff in one fell swoop. Daughter #1 sells stuff on Amazon or Craigslist the minute she finishes needing it. No waiting around for garage sale day. Not using it – it’s gone.

For safety, I never let a male come by himself. He always has to have a female in tow. Craigslist is ever vigilant about warning about scams too. That’s good because they’re out there. Here’s one email I received on my washer and dryer:

This deal is on as the secretary has prepared the check as promise But there seems to be a little problem which i think we can handle with care.......When i contact the secretary to confirm if the payment has been prepared,I was made to understand that she made out a check of $2400 instead of $400 claiming that's what i told her . The payment was already posted before i was informed about this but i would not want to delay the sale because of this as we have rectify this with the Bank.All you have to do once you receive this check is to take it to the Bank and have it cleared and cashed and you will deducted your money (for the item ) and plus an additional $50 for all the assistance.The excess fund on the payment will then be wired to my mover via Western Union that same day so that he can come for the pick up as i have already planed on using the excess on the payment to offset the cost of the various shipments he as undertaken on my behalf. Do let me know if i can trust you to have the excess sent to my mover as soon as you have check cleared...Please reply me as soon as possible....
They even went so far as to Express mail me a check for $2400!


Monday, September 8, 2008

SHED Your Books

“Once again, I have taken on something impossible:
water with grasses undulating on the bottom….
It is wonderful to look at, but maddening to want to render it.
But then, I am always tackling something like this.”

So wrote Claude Monet on 22 June 1890 to his friend and biographer Gustave Geffroy.

A friend gave me a coffee table book of Monet’s Water Lillies when I had expressed doubt to her that I could leave my hometown, plus my pretty home, and pack up everything to live in a two-bedroom concrete block apartment in student housing and go to graduate school as a single mom with two kids under five.

“Every time you think you can’t do it,” she said, “think of Monet working for ten years to do the impossible -- paint the beauty of water lillies as he saw it at a time when he was actually going blind.”

I did exactly as she asked. It works.

Now do you think I could part with that book? Nope, no way, no how. This is the real hard part of separating my treasures and heaving the rest. My books!

I struggle with parting with the titles that hold great memories but are no longer "necessary" or relevant to my life. Julie Morgenstern asks in her book "When Organizing Isn't Enough": "Do they move you forward toward your new theme?" No.

Out goes all the books I read in preparation for the Chicago Marathon.

Out goes all the books given to me and inscribed by a Pulitzer-prize winning author. I read them already. I am just keeping their energy from going to the next person if they sit on my shelf or in a storage box.

Out go all of my Colorado hiking titles.

Out go most of my children's picture and poetry books. Oooooh the pain of it! I saved three beloved dog-earred titles back. To look at them they should be the first to go.

Treasures I can't part with:

My Library of America titles. They are the collected works of America's greatest writers printed on acid-free paper. My children just roll their eyes when I suggest this is their heritage to be lovingly passed down. They would love nothing better than for me to sell them and free them of this expectation! The likelihood that they are going to read about Francis Parkman's history of life among the early Iroquois, or Grant and Sherman's memoirs of the Civil War complete with maps, or Thomas Jefferson's life writings is close to nil. But if I save them I can hope.

Anything written by or about Winston Churchill. He's the greatest statesman of Western Civilization - nobility pours out of every page.

But I did well. Thank you Julie. Four boxes saved - about six going out. That's pretty good for me when it comes to books. Do you have a favorite book you could never part with no matter what? Here...have a seat... and tell me about it.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

SHED At Work

This weekend I realized I've already experienced SHEDDING in the work world. I once led a three-year effort to SHED all sorts of practices that would prevent an organization from moving forward. Most of them involved eliminating unprofitable ways of doing things that were still being done long after the rest of the industry had evolved to more profitable ways. Every practice had it's staunch defenders who were loathe to give them up.

SHEDDING at work, while as deeply creative as a solo venture, is pretty much a thankless task. That's why it's even more important to constantly evolve at work and not let it build up to one big spurt that has to be done quickly. It exhausts everyone!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

SHED Your Commitments

I once took a week-long jazz appreciation class with an older gentleman who celebrated out loud at the start of our class how exciting it was for our class of jazz lovers to have gathered from all different places to enjoy a week of great music together. His enthusiasm and making the most of each moment is an example I have identified with my whole life.

So when Julie Morgenstern asked her readers in "When Organizing Isn't Enough" to look for schedule commitments that are dragging you down and keeping you from moving forward to the next exciting theme in one's life, I didn't have these. Every single commitment I have is one I thoroughly enjoy. It wasn't always so.

This week I resigned from the board of my local children's museum (#4 in the nation, thank you very much). I have served just shy of six years and loved every minute of it. We are about to start a multi-million addition to the museum and the people on my board are of such terrific good will and wisdom, it was a pleasure to serve. I was on the facility committee and I do wistfully admit I hate missing the upcoming good part because I would have learned sooo much. There are very experienced construction minds on that board. I am very proud of my board work there.

Yesterday, I went and told my pastor that I was moving. My church is AWESOME. My church family is so loving and welcoming and they all get along. The music program is incredible. I love my church because my church never shies away from combining the intellectual and the spiritual. That doesn't seem to be a popular combination in America, because mainline churches are struggling with membership.

One insight I learned from my minister gave me enormous pause at the time he said it. In the context of a discussion about if good manners include how you left the world and the state of your government for the next generation, he said that 100 years from now, future generations will look back at how we used up all the oil and left so much public debt for our children and grandchildren to pay off that they will ask of us with the same spiritually questioning we ask looking at slaveowners from 100 years ago: "What were they thinking?"

Tomorrow I go to my last church service and it's going to be a giant celebration of all the downtown churches getting together to form a redevelopment corporation to uplift our neighborhood. The music program will be incredible as usual, only supersized, as all the choirs from all the churches will sing together outside in celebration. This church commitment has been a gift.

Friday, September 5, 2008

SHED Your Clothes

Wow, that got your attention. It’s not what you might think. SHED is Julie Morgenstern’s acronym from her book “When Organizing Isn’t Enough.” Her book encourages those in a life transition such as an empty nest to separate out our treasures and toss or sell what’s not a treasure.

I’ve just gone through my closets and taken stuff to the consignment shop. I thought I was pretty good about regularly tossing stuff when I replaced things, but some of the stuff I’ve held on to is just silly. Most of it is clothes that I hung on to because I remember what I felt like when I wore them -- each item holds such good memories. I should have just taken a picture!

Among them are business suits that made me feel invincible, pretty summer dresses I wore on a fun vacation, and an outfit I wore when I had a new baby (the baby is twenty now).

The silliest thing I hung on to was a winter coat I wanted to save just in case I ever went luging again. How many times have I ever gone luging? A grand total of once. But if I ever was able to do it again, I wanted to be prepared. I didn’t want to ruin a new winter coat. I haven’t lived near a luge in ten years! I moved this old coat three times!

There’s nothing like a move overseas to make me examine what I have. The consignment shop said “please, only items that are less than two years old.” If all things have a physical energy to them, I could have passed this energy on out to the universe to somebody else who needed it when the clothes were still in style and could have done them some good.

What's hanging in your closet that you no longer wear but you can't bear to part with out of sentiment? What will you help you let it go?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

SHED Your Music

When it came to purchasing music, the good ole days weren't better. In my tweens, we purchased "45s", records that contained an "A" side and a "B" side. If the artist merited it, we'd purchase a whole album, once we had a job and were earning money. It was amazing how many albums one person could amass without any overt effort due to 100% disposable teenage paychecks.

But then we needed portability -- we were in our cars, right? Cassette tapes could be popped in and listened to in vehicles and in portable players. So we purchased the same music that we already owned once, only this time on cassette.

The music industry then said, "no, you don't want cassettes, you need to get all of your own music on eight-track tapes." I can't remember what the selling point of eight-track tapes was, especially since they would change to another track right in the middle of a song. That format was really short-lived. But I had a few of those too.

Next came CDs. The music industry said, "oh the quality is better, you can find the exact song you want, and it won't skip or get stuck [not true and I"m not falling for that one again!]

By then, if you really liked a band, like the Beatles or the Stones, you were likely to have purchased it in four different formats! Oh how the musicians of today must envy the luck of those musicians who came before them. Carole King must still be dining out on album sales alone, before boomers purchased her Tapestry album (one of the largest selling albums ever) again on cassette...and again on 8-tracks....and again on CD.

So here I sit with this CD collection, not having digitized it previously because it wasn't a compelling use of my time. Since I'm moving, and I want the music, but don't want the physical 'stuff,' I'm finally digitizing it to take with me. Thank goodness, I started this project a month ago, it takes forever! I'm transferring each CD to a small storage device. I think it will actually increase my listening.

But that's it! My time is too precious to me to spend this much time messing around with metadata. I don't have any idea how to digitize sentimental homemade cassettes. Do you? This was the easy part of shedding the old and moving on to the new ala Julie Moregenstern's 'SHEDing' process. The harder stuff is coming up.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

SHEDing a house and a full-time role

The number one search term that brings people to my blog are labels on Julie Morgenstern and her book “When Organizing Isn’t Enough.” A lot of people must be going through the same thing that I’m going through, the need to transition from one phase of life to another. Her book is fantastic and these are a few of her thoughts I find useful.
Julie says:
“There are three common characteristics that define people who are ready to SHED.
1) There is a specter of some better future in your mind [for me, sampling a life of rich culture in Prague].
2) You don’t know if you’ll be able to do “it" [pull up stakes and move overseas].
3) You’re feeling weighed down by something that’s preventing you from moving forward [a whole house of stuff useful to my full-time parenting life which I am now sorting through and hoping to SHED].

She says SHED can be used by anyone going through any sort of transition at any time in their lives, including those prompted by anticipated natural life transitions such as moving, retirement, graduating, marriage, promotion, new baby, empty nest, or a new business.”
What’s the difference between SHEDing and organizing?
Julie says:
“Think of it this way: if organizing is dropping anchor once you know what you want, SHEDing is lifting anchor so you can go someplace new.

1) Organizing is about identifying what’s important to you and giving yourself access to it. SHEDing is about getting rid of the old and obsolete so that you can have space to discover what’s important to you.
2) A perfectly organized closet filled with items you never use can be SHED.
3) It’s possible to get organized without every throwing anything away…it’s impossible, however, to SHED without letting things go.
4) SHED is an ongoing process that generates movement and fuels transformation, which means the finish line is harder to define. You measure success by the feeling of having completed a transition, as well as the subsequent energy, authenticity and excitement about your life which ensues.
I find her words so helpful because I do want to make this transition a happy celebration of what I have accomplished as a single parent and an exciting pivot to a new life. This book helps me make the most of this moment. 

What has helped your mindfulness during a life transition?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

14 Days

I have fourteen days from today to pack up my home, have a garage sale, and hand it over. I'm told that Europeans don't hold garage sales. How come? What do you do then when your children get older and grow out of their baby clothes and equipment? How would you sell your furniture and the small stuff you no longer need?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Revising my Goal

I need to revise my arrival date for Prague. I had originally planned to leave seven days from today and that is not going to happen because my house hasn't sold yet. It will though. I have faith.

The good side of that is that I will get to spend time with my children one last time before they go back to college. They arrive Friday.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Getting There

So what possibly could keep me from my romantic notion of Prague?
What stands in the way of me moving and taking up residence in one of the most beautiful baroque cities on Earth if that's what I've a mind to do?

In a word: logistics.

Between me and the Charles Bridge stands the work of fixing up my home, selling my possessions, and executing my home sale. Hands-on, concrete stuff!

I can do hands-on, concrete stuff, honest, I can. In the past, daughter #1 would always help move me. She could pack a moving box that would exhibit the grace of a Bento Box. Daughter #1 is grown up and gone.

I live in the world of ideas. Hands-on concrete stuff seems like a lot of work without the fun. My feminist self is secure enough to wish I could just punt on leading this effort and defer to my imaginary husband who tells me what to do! But oh, there's a problem. He's imaginary. I guess I have to lead after all. Ugh.

I don't think I'll every own this much stuff again.
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