Sunday, April 13, 2014

Idar-Oberstein, St. Wendel, & Fruhling

"A good life is when you assume nothing, do more, need less, smile often, dream big, laugh a lot and realize how blessed you are for what you have."  - Unknown.

Over the course of my adult life, particularly the last couple years, I have discovered the secret to happiness, and yes, I will share it with you!  Maybe you have discovered this long before me.  I keep telling myself I wish I had discovered this when I was younger!  Happiness is achieved once you stop trying to strive for happiness.  

We all are guilty of this, or maybe its just an assumption and its just me!  We are all to some degree have our sights set on the horizon verses the present moment- whether that is moving up the professional ladder or losing the next 5 pounds.  Once I realized happiness is not about chasing relationships, jobs, beauty, or money- happiness found me.  Happiness resides in simplicity.  

Children and babies already know this. Children squeal in delight at jumping in a mud puddle.  We see it as an annoyance as now we have laundry to do.  Children will run, jump and dance until their lungs are about to burst.  We as adults view it as discomfort and would rather sit in a comfortable chair.  Bed head and a great big old food stain on the shirt would never be a reason to stay inside for a 4 year old like Liam.  When does clothing transform from a basic necessity in life to a source of confidence and pleasure?  For a child, a shiny rock, a bug on a leaf, or a little patch of dandelions is reason to pause and soak in the simple beauty.  Happiness lies in the moments when we take time to pick a dandelion, roll in the grass, and focus on the simplicity of the moment. I discovered happiness is with Liam watching a bug crawl across the floor.  I discovered beauty is staring at the freckles on Rowan's nose as she tells me about her school day.  Contentment lies in taking my shoes off in the warm Spring weather and rubbing my toes in the grass.  I have discovered confidence resides in the healthy nourishment of my mind and body. This is the art of happiness!

It is now Spring here in Germany and I can honestly say my family and I are ridiculously happy here.  The kids are acclimated to life in the German schools and quickly picking up the language.  I had a conference with Rowan's teacher.  She told me Rowan is speaking more and more German to the teachers and children in her class.  She said she learns visually and very quickly.  She is quite shy at first but after a while warms up and comes out of her shell.

Patrick played in his first Fussball game in Rodenbach this week.  The competition is fiercer than he ever faced before.  He has yet to get the ball up the field close enough to take a shot.  He is learning the game here is focused very much here on passing, and the players here even at his age are very good at it.

Teddy is also playing soccer and has at times felt discouraged because of the talent of other players on his team.  We tell him he is not allowed to quit and he will improved more here than he ever would playing on an easier team somewhere else.  He has a good attitude and is sticking with it.  Out of all the children, Teddy's is extremely motivated to learn the language.  He even told me this week, "I want to get really good at German.  I have conversations with myself sometimes to practice.  Some words I say aren't really words but I try to use real words."  We have also hired a German language tutor to come once a week to work with the children.

Liam is home with me during the day.  He has a couple little friends in the neighborhood which he loves!  I have found a spot for him in a Waldorf Kindergarten next year in Otterberg Germany, about 10 minutes from our village.  I am nervous about sending him off as I feel he is a young 4. We have never been quick to send our children off to school, and in many ways I feel that has benefited them.  However German Kindergartens have very little academics and focus a great deal on socialization and play. Liam tells me he likes to stay home with mom.  However I know out of all the kids he is more apt to pick up the language.  We will try and see.

Daniel is interviewing this week for the Director position at his organization.  He has been acting director for over a month now and really enjoys the challenges of the job.  He has said he will be content with either way this opportunity unfolds.  He is grateful for the opportunity to interview and the experiences this job has granted to our entire family.

As for me?  I have really focused quite a bit on my own mental and physical health as of recently.  Many of you may not know but I completely quit drinking alcohol almost 2 years ago.  It was a personal choice I made for health reasons, and also in the best interest of my family.  I really wanted to focus on being the best version of me not only for myself, but my children.  In light of what I started this blog entry about, I have found nurturing myself with exercise, good food, plenty of water, and a good night's sleep really brings me joy and energy.  I have been unable to run due to recent hip pain but have traded in my running shoes for a bicycle.  The bike paths here are spectacular.  Right now all the trees and flowers are in bloom.  Right now the countryside is adorned with spectacular fields of yellow flowers.  They are absolutely amazing!  They are called Raps (Rapseed or Canola Oil) in German.  It is used as animal food but most of the time as an oil plant for food and also used as an oil with special detergents. Needless to say they are amaaazing!!

I recently heard about the legend of the Chapel in the Rocks of Idar-Oberstein constructed in the year 1482.  According to legend, there were two noble brothers, Wyrich and Emich, who both fell in love with a beautiful girl named Bertha. The brothers lived at Castle Bosselstein, which stood atop a 135 m-high hill. Bertha was from a noble line that occupied the nearby Lichtenburg Castle.
Neither brother was aware of the other’s feelings for Bertha. When Wyrich, the elder brother, was away on some unknown business, Emich succeeded in securing Bertha’s affections and, subsequently, married her. When Emich announced the news to his brother, Wyrich’s temper got the better of him. In the heat of the moment, he hurled his brother out of a window of the castle and sent him to his death on the rocks below.
Wyrich was almost immediately filled with remorse. With the counsel of a local abbot, he began a long period of penance. At this time, Bertha disappears from the historical record. Many romantics feel that she died of a broken heart.
As Wyrich waited for a heavenly sign showing that he was forgiven, the abbot suggested that he build a church on the exact place where his brother died. Wyrich worked and prayed himself into exhaustion. However, the moment the church was completed, he received his sign: a miraculous spring opened up in the church.
Wyrich died soon after this. When the local bishop came to consecrate the new church, he found the noble lord dead on its steps. Wyrich was later placed in the same tomb with his brother. 

Idar-Oberstein is known as a gemstone centre. Until the 18th century, the area was a source for agate and jasper. A combination of low-cost labour and energy helped the gemstone-working industry flourish. The river Nahe provided free water power for the cutting and polishing machines at the mills.
In the 18th century, though, gemstone finds in the Hunsr├╝ck were dwindling, making life harder for the local people. Many left to try their luck abroad. Some went as far as Brazil, where they found that gemstones could be recovered from open-pit mines or even found in rivers and streams. The locally common tradition of preparing meat over an open fire, churrasco, was also adopted by the newcomers and even found its way back to their homeland by way of gemstone shipping. Agate nodules were shipped back as ballast on empty vessels that had offloaded cargo in Brazil. The cheap agates were then transported to Idar-Oberstein.
In the early 19th century, many people were driven out of the local area by hunger and also went to South America. In 1827, emigrants from Idar-Oberstein discovered the world’s most important agate deposit in Brazil’s state of Rio Grande do Sul. As early as 1834, the first delivery of agate from Rio Grande do Sul had been made to Idar-Oberstein. The Brazilian agate exhibited very even layers, much evener that those seen in the local agates. This made them especially good for making engraved gems. Using locals’ technical knowledge of chemical dyes, the industry grew bigger than ever at the turn of the 20th century.
After the Second World War, the region had to redefine itself once more, and it developed into a leading hub in the trade of gemstones from Brazil and Africa. That in turn provided local artists with a large selection of material and the region experienced a “third boom” as a gemstone centre. More recently, however, competition from Thailand and India has hit the region hard.
Shops with the word, "schmuck" meaning jewelry  line the streets.  Teddy and Patrick had a great interest in rocks and gems even before our move here.  All the kids were fascinated with the rocks, gems, wind chimes, key chains, jewelry, and other trinkets on the streets.  Teddy purchased a piece of flourite, while Patrick picked out a pretty polished black rock.  
We picnicked in a small park complete with playground, beer garden, and pond where you could rent paddle boats for 30 minutes at a shot.  The way Liam walks up to German children and just starts jabbering in English really cracks me up.  He is just catching on that most children he encounters do not speak English.  He has even started his own form of German where he jabbers, making all kinds of sounds, and then ends with "Danke!"  I ask him what he is saying and he says "German."   Locals were floating mechanical boats on the water.  Liam really enjoyed watching that.  On the way home we passed an interesting castle on the side of the road.  On a whim we decided to turn around and hike up to it.  Come to find out this was a castle built in the 15th century.  This woman was windowed and had 3 children.  After her husband died she ruled the county herself.  Of course many did not like this as she was a woman, and apparently she ruled with a firm hand.  Eventually the Roman Catholic Church excommunicated her.  She retired to this castle that we hiked up to.  A woman quite progressive for her time!  After the drive back to Weilerbach we had ice cream with baked apples.  The perfect end to the perfect day.
Last weekend we took an insiders tip and went to the village of Saint Wendel and toured their Ostermarkt (Easter Market).  It is really getting fun to take the boys out because they can read and understand things that go right over Daniel's and my head.  They can also tell us what people are trying to tell us.  I have heard from a couple American parents with kids in the German schools that they rely heavily on their children's communication when they travel.  I can see this starting to happen already.  Daniel and I are constantly asking them, "What does that mean?  Do you know what this says?"   The family enjoyed a brot and crepes at the Easter Market.  Street vendors were selling their crafts and of course plenty of food and drink.
Fruhling is here in Germany and it is most welcome!   Each season that passes I find one reason or another to consider THIS time of year my favorite!


Teddy on our hike outside of Idar-Oberstein


One of the bike trails I ride outside of Weilerbach


The kids in Idar-Oberstein


Daniel and I in St. Wendel


Rowan hiking in Idar-Oberstein
(recognize the shirt, Madeline?)


In front of the chapel in the Rocks in Idar-Oberstein




Chapel in the Rock at Idar-Oberstein


Idar Oberstein blooms



Patrick in front of the castle outside of Idar Oberstein


The pillars of my happiness


Brothers


Patrick and his crepe


Teddy and his crepe


Patrick assisting Liam with his crepe.  This could get messy.


Digging for treasure at the Easter Market in St. Wendel


Shooting cans with the captain in St. Wendel


Shooting cans in St. Wendel with the captain


Shooting cans with the captain in St. Wendel


Schloss Litchenstein on our drive home from St. Wendel



German countryside


Fruhling (Spring)!


Rap seed fields


Rap seed fields






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