Monday, December 2, 2013

Reflections and Ramblings

                "I don't wait for the calendar to figure out when I should live life." 

"A man that carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way."  
                                                                 -Mark Twain

This is the first year of many I missed a traditional Thanksgiving feast with all the trimmings, including my all time favorite pumpkin pie.   It is the first year in more than a decade where I did not drink myself silly or eat myself into a gluttonous coma. It is the first year in quite a while I have not faced Black Friday crunches, or set out to carefully design a master plan on how to make this Christmas just as great as last year's. Consumerism at its best.  

If you know me, you know I adore my home in Arizona.  I love the arid climate, the mountains, the sunshine, and the great outdoors.  Our move to a Germany has not come without growing pains.  What I wouldn't give right now to wake up in Tucson, slap on a pair of shorts and hit the running trails.   I have always thought of myself as a low maintenance girl.  I tease Daniel all the time that he would not find a lower maintenance wife than I am.  The outdoors is my gymnasium, I despise make up, I have got my hair professionally cut 2 times in the past 10 years, and camping is my type of vacation.  Okay that might be a little pathetic, perhaps even substandard, but its me.  I am slowly realizing the consumerism culture of the United States has influenced me more than I realized.

People in Germany shop for fresh daily groceries at their local corner market.  Their kitchens are tiny so that they cannot shove food in the back of their freezer, only to be forgotten and then tossed in the garbage 14 months later.  They eat what they buy.  Nothing less, nothing more.  Foods are whole, not chocked full of corn syrup and hydrogenated oils.  Instead of 50 inch flat screen televisions or standing in ridiculous lines on midnight of the eve of Black Friday, they carefully select a hand knit scarf, a favorite tea or bottle of wine, or perhaps a hand painted ornament purchased from their local craftsman.  Their gifts are simple.  They are special. They are intimate.  It is true gift giving. Everyone pays with cash in stores.  It seems there is very little plastic in their lives, both literally and figuratively speaking.  Restaurants have small children's tables with games and activities, maybe even a swing or a slide.  Walking trails provided and maintained by the government are littered with whole families strolling hand in hand together on each Sunday afternoon.  Cars are either parked for days while people walk or ride their bike regardless of the weather, if they even own a car at all.  Children are allotted many play times during school.  With only 45 minute work periods children have many opportunities for play throughout the school day.  Toys are primarily made from wood instead of being replaced with plastic.  The list goes on and on.  

The Dalai Lama said, "When you are discontent in life, you always want more, more, more.  Your desire can never be satisfied.   But when you practice contentment, you can say to yourself 'Oh!  I already have everything I really need.'  

In the past 6 months I have really tried to embrace this idea.  In fact I told Daniel I might become Buddhist to which he rolled his eyes.

  I have slimmed down the kids wardrobes to just enough clothes for the week, not too many to overwhelm me with laundry.  I have cut down on the bath towels to where everyone has one but I do not have 30 towels to wash at the end of the week.  We have enough plates to feed our family and possibly a couple guests.  We have just enough pans to cook our meals.  I have cleaned out my own wardrobe which I will be honest in saying has left me with what many might deem once again, substandard.  I do not have there stress of buying, washing, maintaining.  We have cleaned out our toys to just a few classic favorites.   Slimming down on material possessions has improved our lives immensely.  We have spent more time on experience this past year than anything else.  I have tried desperately to focus on the knowledge, health, happiness, and nurturing of a kind, tolerant, and positive spirit in myself and my children.  

I recently read a study that said families of 4 have twice as big of houses as families of 6, 8, even 10 people in the 50's and are far less happy.  What has changed?

I stressed myself to the brink when I found out i was homeschooling because i was afraid i could not do it as well as I should. The past few years we were ridiculously happy with the kid's school, yet felt we could not pass up this opportunity.  I struggle with familiarity, what society deems "acceptable," and venturing outside the box for not only myself but my children as well. This is an area where my perspective is slowly changing.  My children are fulfilling their "grade standards" this year and then some.  They are doing it on their own schedule.  They are participating in a living education.  They are gaining perspective, experience and in turn knowledge in their travels and experiences.  We are considering a German school.  Yet I have realized my kids are being far more educated than I realize, and if we cannot find a school we like than they will be okay. I will be okay. They will be better than okay.  Maria Montessori said, "the teacher's task is first to nourish and assist, to watch, encourage, guide, induce, rather than to interfere, prescribe, or restrict. I am slowly gaining the confidence that as their mother I am more than capable of holding this position.  My children are learning.  We have provided the environment and the tools.  Their potential is limitless.

After all of my rambling I have comprised this simple list of things I want to accomplish during our time in Germany. 

1.  Learn the language.
2.  Eat healthy.
3.  Exercise.
4.  Live simply.  
5.  Stress less.
6.  Maintain a positive outlook each and every day.
7.   Laugh.
8.  Roam. Experience.  Live.
9.  Study, learn.
10.  Share.  Give.  Love.

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