Monkey on my back

Thursday, January 22, 2009

For the past 4 months I have been carrying a monkey on my back -- a writing assignment that I just couldn't finish. Granted I had to take a short break for entertaining guests and moving, but I just couldn't write the article that was required.

I think I was paralyzed by the task itself (maybe you've had that problem?), and I just couldn't get over it. I would roll ideas over and over in my head, but I couldn't get anything written down. As my deadline loomed, my stress intensified and the monkey kept getting larger. Finally I decided the only way to get it off was to face it head on.

As I sat down at my computer, I still didn't have the words to write but I decided to just start typing anyway. My words came out sounding like a third-grader, "This is my true adventure story. It's about a time at the Frio River when we faced danger." And on and on it went. HONEST! But the more I wrote, the smaller the monkey seemed to get. Soon I had written 350 words and had a sketch of what I wanted to write. And all of that in less than an hour.

Obviously I deleted that piece and started over, but just sitting down and facing my fear helped me to deal with it. Many times in the past I have just quit because the monkey seemed larger than I could handle, but now I'm realizing that I can do it!

I pray that whatever "monkey" you may be facing today, you will confront it and not let it paralyze you or cause you to back down. If I can, I know you can too!

Praise loudly

Monday, January 19, 2009

I was at my friend Regina's house the other day and came across a book she had. I can't recall the exact title, but it was a book on proverbs and sayings from Hawaii. Curious, I thumbed through the pages to see if there was anything of value. And guess what? There was! The one that stuck with me the most was this: Praise loudly, criticize softly.

I guess it struck such a chord with me because lately I've been so quick and loud to criticize all the difficulties I've faced since moving here to Germany (just ask my husband). It's not that it's bad here, it's just a hassle -- I think being spoiled in China has something to do with that though. And rather than focus on the small victories we accomplish each day, I tend to concentrate on the negatives, which doesn't help my outlook or my attitude!

So, I thought I'd take a moment and praise loudly the awesome things God has done here, and, at least for a few minutes, silence the criticisms I have of my new home:

1. Praise for the car that we found! It was below our budget price, it was in excellent condition, and it's an automatic transmission (a large majority of the cars here in Europe are manual, which are hard for me to drive).
2. Praise for our cat being miraculously returned to us when he escaped from our hotel room two weeks ago!
3. Praise for our sea shipment's arrival this week in Germany! We probably won't get it until the middle of next week as it has to go through customs, but at least it will be here!
4. Praise for our children and their new friends! As I type this, Abbey just received a phone call from one of her new classmates!
5. Praise for the fact that I haven't died in the cold yet. Seriously! I know that may sound funny, but for this girl who loves the warm and the beach I am surviving the below freezing temperatures.

Short list, I know. Hopefully, prayerfully I will be able to add more to this list with each new day. For now, I will just try to remember when to be quiet and when to be loud and try not to get the two mixed up so often. I hope you will find time to praise loudly and criticize softly too.

Just not for me

Friday, January 09, 2009

A few weeks ago I was at a friend's house here in Germany (yes, I have friends here already - they moved here from Nanjing) and she offered me a piece of cake. I gladly accepted her offer and asked for some water to go with it. She gave me a puzzled look and said, "No one in Germany eats cake with water, only coffee or tea." Ouch! She didn't say it to be mean. Being German she was just stating the facts of the culture here.

I pondered her statement while I drank my glass of water and wondered if I would be able to fit into this coffee-loving environment since I don't drink the addicting cocoa bean. For those of you who love your coffee, please don't take offense! I just don't have a taste for it, along with wine, alcohol, or any kind of tea that's not sweet (that's a Texas thing that runs deep within me). But trying to keep in the spirit of the culture, I thought I'd give it a try.

So far I've tried lattes, but they are only drinkable after adding 3 or 4 sugar packets. Then I hate the coffee taste that lingers in my mouth. I'm going to try a cappucino next, but they say it has a stronger coffee taste than a latte! What's a girl to do? Honestly, I think I'll stick with my hot chocolate -- no matter how kiddie like it may be. This coffee thing is just not for me.

I guess the saying, "When in Rome do as the Romans do" will not work for me here in Germany when it comes to coffee. I'll just carry my Swiss Miss packets with me everywhere I go and pray I can be accepted in the German world!

7 things

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

It's good to be back writing in the blogging world! You know it's been too long since your last post when someone mentions it to you and you don't even remember writing it! Hopefully that won't happen again any time soon, but with all our crazy adventures you never know!

Life here in Germany has been interesting and moving to a foreign country is always a challenge. I know that it won't always be this way, but I'm not "loving" Germany just yet. It's more of a love-hate thing. Which reminded me of Miley Cyrus' song "Seven Things". Yes, I know it's pathetic that a grown woman would even know that song, but when it's played endlessly at your house it kinda sticks with you, even when you don't want it to!

Anyways, in the song she mentions the 7 things she hates about an ex-boyfriend and then talks about the 7 things she likes about him. I thought that would be a fitting way to convey my experience here in Germany so far. So here it goes...

The 7 things I dislike/find strange about Germany (in no particular order):
1. Quiet time - Every day from 1 pm to 3 pm, all day Sunday and every public holiday you are not allowed to do any "loud" activities -- mowing the yard, vacuuming, piano playing, etc. If your neighbors think that you are too noisy during this time they can call and complain about you. Honest truth!
2. The English issue - all Germans are required to take English in school so they know the language. However, they choose NOT to speak it! What about the deer in the headlights look on my face do they not understand?!
3. Parking - more trouble than I care to elaborate on...
4. Expensive, expensive, expensive - please take me back to China where things were SO cheap! In China $300 USD could last me a week or more, here in Germany I'm lucky if it lasts 3 days!
5. Weather - way too cold for this South Texas girl! I think I'll thaw out in April, only to bundle up again in September.
6. Where is the sun? - Strangely the sun does not come up here until after 8:00 am and goes down between 4:30 - 5:00 pm. And then I heard in the summer it completely changes and the sun doesn't go down until 10:00 pm. What axis of the planet is this country spinning on??
7. Religion tax - the government charges you extra taxes if you list any religious affiliation on your resident certificate. For that reason many people don't claim any religion here so they don't have to pay taxes. It is a very atheistic society, yet they take public holidays for Ephinany, Ascension Day, and Pentecost. Try to figure that one out...

Okay, enough of the negatives (but trust me I could list more).

The 7 things I like about Germany (in no particular order):
1. You can drive really fast on the Autobahn! A sticker on Clint's car recommends a maximum speed of 210 kmh (130 mph), although the speedometer goes up to 260 kmh.
2. All the European countries are closely connected and don't require visas to get in!
3. It is mainly a cash only system, so no large debts can be accumulated.
4. No air conditioning in the houses must mean that it shouldn't be too hot here during the Spring and Summer.
5. The food is DELICIOUS - Salami, sausages, pastries, and breads...YUM! I have to find a gym soon!
6. We can watch movies in English at a real movie theater -- yeah! In China that was a rare gift....
7. Nice scenic spots with quaint villages, regal castles, and beautiful mountainsides.

So life in Germany isn't all that I thought it would be, but it's only been 2 weeks. Hopefully, prayerfully things will get better with time. Until then, I'll keep driving around really fast with a sausage stick in one hand, exploring the countryside and singing Miley Cyrus....