Tuesday, April 26, 2011

My First French Adventure!

I woke up at 4 a.m. (Yes, you read that right!) this past Friday for my trip to France. The Instigator swore I wouldn't be able to get out of bed. (I am not a morning person in the least, and sleep in whenever I can!) But he failed to account for my motivation in getting up before the sun! I went to bed early the night before to compensate, but my mind was racing and I slept little and what little sleep I got was fitful. I drove down to the house of one of my closest friends (who lives about an hour away), and in about another half hour, we were over the border into France!!!!!! And Misha got video of me as we entered the country I longed to enter for so long....

video

**VIDEO TAKEN BY MISHA**
MY REACTION TO CROSSING THE BORDER INTO FRANCE 

The GPS took us an interesting route, owing to the fact that it wouldn't let me enter Domrémy-la-Pucelle, so I went simply with Domrémy. We were whisked away to the beautiful French countryside and got to see the sun rise in France. We went up a tree-covered hill and got a spectacular view, and I took the opportunity to kiss the ground I dreamed of for 18 years.


**PHOTO TAKEN BY MISHA**
ME KISSING FRENCH SOIL

When we got to the place our destination supposedly was, there was nothing but a driveway up to a house that was obviously occupied. We were lost! But it was the best kind of lost in the world. I was "lost" in France with one of my best friends. It doesn't get much better than that! (And the reason I put lost in quotes is because we DID have a GPS. We could have easily put in a major city or our homes and found our way easily enough.) So we went into the town immediately following where Domrémy was supposed to be. Being as it was a small town in the middle of French countryside, no nearby large tourist-y cities and no American military bases to speak of, the lady at the bakery we stopped in at didn't speak English. It may have been 8 years since my last French class, but I was able to (in my broken and poor French! LOL) ask if she knew which way Domrémy-la-Pucelle was. Unfortunately, she didn't, but that was okay. :)

Even simply driving in the French countryside made me fall even deeper in love with the country. (Well, minus the fields of yellow flowers that aggravate my allergies to the point of my misery!) It was beautiful, and such a nice change of pace from everyday life! No laundry to fold and put away. No dishes to wash. No meals to cook. No fights to break up. No whining from the kids to endure....just me, one of my best friends, and the French countryside. It was amazing.

I then was able to order an eclair for me (Misha got a Lorraine quiche), and we headed back to the car. And let me tell you....that food....it was DIVINE!!!!! After we scarfed down our breakfast, Misha took over the GPS and found Domrémy-la-Pucelle without incident (go figure, lol), and we were on our way to the birthplace of Jeanne d'Arc (Joan of Arc).

The story of Joan of Arc has always impacted me heavily. I don't know why, but in the same vein of Anne Frank, whenever I hear her story, no matter how dry the prose, no matter the source, I cry. I'm not even sure why it is so close to my heart and affects me so much, but to go to France, in a region that I have ancestral ties to, and see the birthplace of one of my historical heroes.........words fail me. I simply cannot describe what it meant to me. 


LE MAISON NATALE DE JEANNE D'ARC
(THE BIRTHPLACE OF JOAN OF ARC) 

We got there about an hour or so before everything even opened, so we spent some time just ambling around and taking photos, drinking in the feel of the small town (population of 155!) and the landscape all around us. I was absolutely hooked. I have to go back. I already feel the pull of that region again. All it takes is for me to look at the photos, and I wish I could teleport there straight away. 

Between the birthplace and the nearby cathedral (La Basilique du Bois Chenu), we spent all morning just relishing in the silence and history, and enjoying ourselves. 


LA BASILIQUE DU BOIS CHENU



FACING AWAY FROM THE CATHEDRAL TOWARDS THE GORGEOUS COUNTRYSIDE


 Also, if you would like to hear Misha's telling or see the other photos she has posted (and I really encourage you to...she is a natural at photography and has amazing skill! Plus, she posted pictures from inside the basilica!), you can read/see her recounting of Domrémy-la-Pucelle here.

TO BE CONTINUED....AGAIN!...

Saturday, April 23, 2011

VIVE LA FRANCE!!!!!!!!!

The first time I really became aware of the world outside my own immediate existence was when I was 9 years old. It was when I was in 4th grade. We were given an assignment to write a report on the European country doled out to us. I got France.

Being the type of student that I was, I dove in, scrounging up everything of interest to me that I could (that was still relevant to the subject of the report), and I fell in love. I just didn't realize to what extent it at that time. Regardless, I already felt the stirrings inside to visit the country I'd written about that was half a world away...

In fifth grade, my teacher (Mrs. Simpson) taught us a few words in French. I pretty sure that it was only counting to 10 and then a Christmas carol in French. Hearing the language, and then being able to not only hear it being sung, but getting to sing it myself cemented it for me.

I was absent the day we were assigned countries to write about in 5th grade, and I got "stuck" with Luxembourg, while the boy I had a crush on got France. I remember the deep disappointment, and even having tears in my eyes. Some of them may have even escaped. But regardless to the extent I expressed my emotions, he noticed, and he offered to trade with me. (I think that may have even prompted me to like him more! LOL)

It was then that I discovered Joan of Arc. And it was also in 5th grade, in a family tree/heritage project that I discovered that my mom's side of the family has ancestral ties to the Alsace-Lorraine region of France. From that point on, there was no denying it. I wanted to experience France. The food, the language, the history, the culture, the landmarks (and specifically Paris!)...all of it. I wanted it more than I had wanted anything else in my life.

And that desire stuck with me.

And every attempt to make it to the country where my heart was evaded me. Two of my best friends in high school got to go on a school trip to France without me.


When I found out, then, that we were moving to Italy after The Instigator completed his tour in Korea, I was on cloud nine. Italy is so close to France! I googled how far away it was. I researched the fastest ways to get from Aviano to Paris. I switched the google maps to the satellite view of the city, and stared at a computer screen showing me an aerial view of the Eiffel Tower, and cried happy tears.

Flying over France to get to Italy, it was dark out. I could see nothing of France.

I went twice to the UK; once to Edinburgh and once to Yorkshire. Both times, flying out from Italy, the cloud cover over France was so ridiculous, I saw nothing of it, either direction of flight. I literally had tears of disappointment and longing coursing down my face.

While we were stationed in Italy, I never made it to France. I got to go to Venice (two or three times), made it over to Tuscany, went down to Verona, participated in an organized trip to Austria (for the Christmas Market!), and as aforementioned, flew twice to the UK. I was certain that we were going to sent back to the States, and that I'd have missed my chance. Every day that we were without follow-on orders, I lost hope that we'd get to stay overseas. I was seriously on the verge of an emotional breakdown about it. It took a lot of prayer and a lot of effort before I was finally able to just let go and let God take control. The very next day we got orders. To Germany. To whatever extent I celebrated and exulted over Italy, multiply that by about 10, and that was my reaction. I was moving closer to France! I would only be a four hour drive away from Paris!!!!


Yesterday, a dream came true. Something that I had been wanting since I was a little 9-year-old girl. It finally came to pass.

I. Got. To. Go. To. France.

It's not Paris. Not yet. But I went to France.



TO BE CONTINUED......

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Spoilage

So. I previously posted about the earring and necklace set The Instigator bought for me. (And for those wondering, yes, it is still sitting in it's box, and no I have not yet worn them.)

Since then, he has gotten me...

Another earring and necklace set that I'm saving for when I go to see Wicked in London with a couple of close friends:



A bag and matching wallet (that are made for the target audience of knitters and crocheters) that cost more than I've ever spent on any bag in my entire life:



A voucher to the spa on base (including a voucher each for the friends that I'm going to London with) for Mother's Day:



My first ever pair of Nike shoes:



A complete workout set (sports bra, pants and t-shirt, also all Nike):




And (the only thing I actually asked for and have been wanting) an iPhone 4. 



I love my phone. Before now, I've only ever had the cheesy flip phones that don't do much of anything past making calls and sending texts. The main reason for that is simply because I had no real use for a smart phone. I didn't care that I didn't have the newest electronic gadget. Then we moved to Germany, and I saw Misha and Kristin with their iPod touches, and given how much technology has advanced and all linked up together from when these phones first came out (not to mention how much they've come down in price!), I decided I wanted an iPhone. I can take it with me when we leave and use it wherever we are stationed. :) I'm pretty addicted to it, actually. LOL The novelty will wear off, though in a week or so, and it'll just be a cool phone instead of my lifeline. ;)

As to the Nike....well, I've never spent that much on brand name before. Shoes or clothes. (I'm pretty much a Wal-Mart/BX brand shopper...I don't really care about the brand names on things I wear...) But I won't lie. The shoes are nice, and with the new workout regime I've begun, the clothes and shoes have both come in handy.

I'm a bit excited about a girls/mom day at the spa (kidless!!!!) with two of my close friends!!! That's going to be FUN! (And it was for Mother's Day, so there's totally a valid reason for the purchase other than sheer spoiling...lol)


The bag and wallet (the latter of which is actually about the size of a clutch purse itself, lol) was something that Misha prompted me to get (with The Instigator supporting her, of course), and I had buyer's guilt for quite some time. I'm finally working past that, though, and am actually glad that I got them. They are very useful, get used all the time, and not to mention pretty! ;) I like having my knitting with me wherever I go, and now as we're past the stage of needing a diaper bag for the boys, I don't so much mind hauling it around to tote my yarn crafting with me. :)

The jewelry, however...I didn't mind the sapphire set as much as the Swarovski set he got me. The reason why? Because The Instigator told me it was for Wicked. Still a bit superfluous in my lowly opinion, but it was semi-justified, anyway.....that is, until he opened his mouth and told me he actually already had bought it and was looking for a reason to give it to me! Ugh. And then he proceeded to tell me that's not the extent of it all...there's more, hiding somewhere in the house, just waiting to be sprung on me. Lovely. What am I going to do with this man?!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Parenting by Design Daily Devotional: Empathy

I know...it's been some time since I've blogged...there's a lot that's gone on here lately, and I promise I'll catch up! I just had to post this, first..

The Instigator (the wonderful man that he is!) recently got me and iPhone! I've been having a lot of fun with apps and everything else that goes with it. This is the first phone I've had that even has a camera, let alone all the other bells and whistles that go with it. Up until now, I've only had cheesy flip phones. Granted, it's because I previously didn't care if I had the high-tech phones.

One of the apps I downloaded is for Bible reading, and it has the option of doing devotionals. Sadly, I've already fallen behind in them, and I only started them on the 30th! But as I was playing catch up, this one really stuck out at me. (The following is as written in the devotional, which is available for free through the "Parenting by Design Daily Devotional" on the "Bible" iPhone app.)

"Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of the body, the church."
~ Ephesians 4:15


EMPATHY


"Our love grows soft if it is not strengthened by truth, and our truth grows hard if not softened by love." 
--John Stott


The essence of empathy is balancing truth and love. A rescuing parent leans heavily on love, but shies away from truth. A dictating parent leans heavily on truth, but mixes in little love. A counselor parent is able to express his love for the child no matter what they say or do, yet is strong enough to deliver appropriate consequences and to allow his child to struggle so that real learning takes place. It is a difficult balance, and out anxiety or anger often reveals where we fall on the continuum between rescuer and dictator. Is your love too soft, or your truth too hard?

Striking a balance between truth and love models out heavenly Father's relationship with us.


The part that really screamed at me was where the balance comes into play. I'm not typically one that's good at balance. I'm a very black and white person...shades of gray irritate me to no end. And it shows in pretty much every area of my life. If I'm not constantly cleaning and keeping house, I don't often get time to do what I want to do. If I forgo the cleaning and laundry in favor of knitting and computer time, the house tends to get into a state that compels The Instigator to take up the slack (...and immediately on the heels of that is overpowering guilt that consumes me, and I overcompensate and do nothing for myself to keep up on cleaning...then I get frustrated because I'm not relaxing...so I take time for me, and...do you see the viscous cycle, here?). I know, in my head (as well as from the experience of others) that all I have to do is manage my time better. Spend 30 minutes a day cleaning a room, a different room every day, to keep up with it all. But for whatever reason, that's not the way I function. I'm all or nothing. Black or white. Up or down. Joyous or furious. I can try to do the allotting of small bits of time to clean each day, but it never sticks for more than a week. So to say that this devotional hit me hard is a bit of an understatement.

In truth...I'm back and forth on the spectrum between the rescuing and dictating parent. And it's more sudden than one might expect. (I let things irritated me far more than I should...) If it's a balance that's hard enough for other people that can balance well, how much more difficult is it going to be for me?! I can absolutely see in my mind's eye examples of both extremes in my recent past. I guess all I can do is try...

I have also noticed that I'm better at  balancing things and being (at least closer to achieving the status of) a counselor parent when I'm actively immersing myself into the Bible and going to church (which is, I'm ashamed to admit, something that I've neglected since I lived in Oklahoma). So I'm taking it a little at a time...getting back into reading the Bible, doing daily devotionals, surrounding myself with positive people. I'm hoping it doesn't take me long to get closer to the middle of that parenting spectrum!