Monday, December 30, 2013

When you find yourself asking... "WHY????"

At this time of the year... there tends to be a lot of 'reflecting', regrets, new hope, and making of resolutions.   I've never been one to make resolutions... because, I know myself well enough to know that ... "I'd GET very disappointed with myself" when I failed and also knowing myself... I know that I would fail to fulfill whatever the resolution was that I had made. 

Just try to do your best everyday.  I tell my students all the time that 'all we own in this world' that is our own making and CAN NEVER BE TAKEN AWAY FROM US... is our own 'character'... it is up to us to decide what type of person that we want to be each and every day.   We have constant chances to start over.   To make changes.   Are we honest?  Do we keep our word?  Treat each other following the Golden Rule?  "Do onto others as you would have them do unto you?"  Or to put in it words that a 7 year old can understand... "Treat others the way that you want them to treat you."  I always tell them 'Do what you know is the right thing to do-- not what you see others doing."

I hope it does make a difference.   Eventually.   Even if I never see the result of my attempts at teaching character along with our learning lessons.   I will tell you this though... while 'as a whole' children are the same... there is a big part of the world (USA world especially- since, that is my life's frame) that isn't the same as it was even 10 years ago.   There just seems to be more of 'blaming others'...  Even in little things.  It makes me sad.  And tired.

Sometimes, I feel like I am ready to get a cane and hold it over my head and yell at people to get off of my lawn! 

We shape others each and every day.   It is our choice to be helpful to strangers, to smile at those that seem tired, unsmiling, fretting, overwhelmed.   Who knows what battles they are fighting?  I'm sure that I'm like many of you- I rarely share (especially with those that I work with-- we only have to learn that lesson once, right?) personal problems with casual friends, work friends, etc.   All it takes is to be 'burned once' by someone... eager to share 'news' about you... and why is it that they tend to add this 'news' with a side order of some 'embellishment' on their part?

I just know that in my everyday life and especially my life as an American living overseas and 'rarely' understanding the language being spoken around me... that I very much appreciate those that do try to help me get around in this world, help me know what to do, how to find something and even as simple as help me order food off of the menu.  It doesn't take much for me to receive the benefits of someone's kindness towards me.

Last week, I went around my new community, as I've done for over 30 years... I took holiday goodies to the local people that are a part of my life.   In the past, I've made several things and made a holiday goodie package- this year... time was very limited-- and I made fudge.   Fudge is something that is a part of the Christmas holiday and winter season in the states and especially in the southern states.   I translated a simple message to Italian explaining that this was a candy that was a 'traditional' holiday food for Christmas from my part of America.   I then wrote out this message for each package of fudge that I passed out.

Before school was out, I gave some to the teachers in my grade-level and to the office staff of course.   In my 'off-base community' I took the fudge to the girl that cuts my hair, to the physical therapy department, to the local grocery store (he doesn't speak any English- but, he is so nice to me), the local pizza place, and to the Deli of the much larger grocery store that I also frequent.   I gave the fudge to others too.   They all read my little translated message and thanked me profusely for my simple gift.   I did this when I lived in America too.

Last week, when my friends arrived from Germany (via:  Austria and the Christmas Market in Bolzano, Italy) it was dinner time.   I took them to one of the local small restaurants.   No one speaks any English at this place.  (nor do I expect them to do so)   This was the first time that I had been there at night- my other visits had consisted of going there at lunch...  At lunch, there is a hand-written menu listing 3 choices of each of the 3 courses, that they had prepared that day, to choose from.   At dinner, there was a printed menu to select from.   I saw a chicken dish and I had wondered if it was the same chicken dish that I had recently had for lunch.   So, I asked her if this particular dish had tomatoes in it.  (I did use the Italian words for chicken and tomatoes.)

 In her attempt to make sure that I was helped as much as possible, the waitress actually called a friend who spoke both Italian and English to act as my/our translator.   There was much laughing and enjoyment in their attempts to help me and my friends.   It's just things like this that, while it was a small thing, it meant so much to me... that they were willing to go that extra step to make sure that I was able to order what I wanted to eat from the menu.

I try my best to 'most of the time' to see the good in the world... and I'd like to think that there really are good people out there in this world... tiny, little, kindnesses are done all around us all day long.  Sometimes, these acts of kindnesses are given, shared, blessed, and even dumped on us too.

I remember a speech that I heard when I was in high school.   I don't remember who the speaker was... but, he was talking about how we all have a 'bucket' and that every time someone says something mean, doesn't keep a promise, ignores us, stabs us in the back, disappoints us, etc.... well, it dings our buckets we develop some leaks/holes in our buckets...  that get bigger and bigger and eventually...   Pretty soon... our bucket full of:  happiness, joy, endurance, and being able to handle life's ups and downs appropriately gets all skewed/drained/etc.   AND, the only way to fill our bucket back up is by being kind towards others and receiving the same in return... showing care/concern/commitment/faith/being honest/helping/simple politeness/etc.  AND, Each praise towards us and each kindness that we show towards others - even if it is returning borrowed property... fills our bucket and the buckets of others too.

It was a very powerful speech.   A huge convention center full of thousands of teenagers in absolute silence listening to the power of words spoken to our hearts.   I heard this 30 years ago and I can still remember the gist of the speech.   We were there as a part of our FHA state convention in Oklahoma City to hear speakers in the General Assembly Meeting.

Of course, after this... we got to go and see the current heart throb in concert:  David Cassidy!   We did scream our heads off too.   Our poor Home Economics Teacher.   We gave her a headache.  I think it also might have had something to do with some of the girls going down on the main floor, to the empty seats, to get a closer view of David Cassidy instead of staying in our 'cheap seats' up high in the balcony?

I remember that we were NOT ALLOWED to speak on the way home.   For over 2 hours.  It was a long, long, long bus ride home.

So, go out there and fill some buckets and try your best to keep your bucket from getting empty too!

I hope that 2014 finds you with a very full bucket on a regular basis.   Be kind to yourself-- sometimes the world seems to be getting a little harder to find the 'good'... but, it is out there.  I have to believe that it is still out there.  

I hope that you have good health, happiness, joy, find lost things, and experience peace and restful sleep in this new year.

As 2013 ends...

I find myself thinking about all the changes in the past year... and I just know that sometimes I do think that it would be good to have a 'warning' about future life events-- but, the reality is... I think it is best to not know things ahead of time.   We might become fearful or even dread the future- if we really knew things that were going to happen to us ahead of time.  I just know that in my own life- I know that I wouldn't want to know even minor life's events before they happened.    I found this song (ignore the strange creepy puppet doll dancing and the tree with what looks like 'gun' ornaments' hanging on it)  I heard this song in an old Christmas movie that I was watching and this was the only 'you tube' video of the song that I could link to so that it would play in the blog.    If you'd rather not watch the dancing puppet-- here is just the song (but, I wasn't able to link just the music to the blog)      It is a beautiful song the singer's name is:  Charlene Oliver and she has a beautiful voice.   The name of the song is:  Are You Coming Home for Christmas

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The things you see in window displays...

Window display.  I'm not quite sure why/how/when spider webs fall into the plan of wearing ski clothing?  Maybe, buy new ski clothing because it's been a year since you last wore it... and it probably has spider webs all in it now?   Or is it being used 'to represent' skiing through the clouds?

I think I have the 'message' decoded now:  "IF you don't wear COLORFUL new ski clothing... spider webs will attack you!"

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Don't TRUST the images on the Navigon system... OR ??????

As we left Innsbruck, Austria and drove through the ALPS and through the Brenner Pass... this is the landscape images that are seen along the side of the Interstate... (on both sides- mind you)...

Same view... but, you can clearly see that we are driving along the Interstate road... or the Autostrada  as it is called in:  Italy

We continued to drive and ended up getting into a very cloudy area... at different points -- you couldn't even see the mountains along the sides of the road and in front of you.

Notice the ROUTE that my friend's TRAVEL SYSTEM showed us driving in/on/with... the blue car?  That's us?  Where's the road you ask?  Well, we are clearly on it as you can see in the photo... The blue line?  THE RIVER that we can't even see while driving on the road and just barely, to the left of the river, is the purple road that we are 'supposed to be driving on'... instead it appears that we are driving over the mountains 'off road'...

Oh, what's this?  We have almost found the 'desired route?'  (the purple road) and apparently another road... (yellow road) and yet we appear to still be driving far, far, far from the desired road.   The navigation system kept telling us to 'drive' on the desired roadway.

Night falls... and it looks like we MIGHT FIND THE ROAD... if we stay true and continue driving straight towards and across it...

All I can say is... it was quite entertaining and it continued this 'off path' driving (on the screen only) until about 4 miles from my house when we finally got off the Autostrada (Interstate) system and started driving on the local roads.   Sometimes the navigation system had us on the river, driving along side the actual road, or far, far... away and apparently driving along the mountain tops?

Friday, December 27, 2013

Swarovski Christmas Tree in Innsbruck, Austria

There is a Swarovski Factory/showroom in Innsbruck and this year they have a Christmas Tree in one of the market areas.  I didn't get to see it at night- but, apparently it is lit up and really sparkles then.

It is placed over an opening of the 'food area' and you can look up into the tree.  

This is as close to standing in the center that I could get-- people were in the way.

Some of the items for sale.

I have always taken photos of old bikes that I have found in my travels.  Here's one with a decorated basket that I saw parked in Bolzano, Italy.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

EEKKK... It's Thursday already... WHERE DID my winter break go? It's almost half over already!

I've been on the go since school was out last Friday at 3:10pm.   I spent Saturday 'cleaning' for house guests that would arrive on Monday.   On Sunday, I got on the train for a 4 1/2 hour trip to Innsbruck, Austria to meet my friends driving down from Germany (from where I used to live).  We shopping/looked around at the Christmas Market and spent the night.   On Monday, we drove towards Italy and my house- with a stop at the Christmas Market in Bolzano, Italy.  
On Tuesday, (Christmas Eve) there was lots of cooking, watching of 2 movies, and eating.
On Wednesday, (Christmas Day and yesterday) I cooked breakfast, we watched a movie (true store that I didn't know about-- a town only about 15 miles from where I went to University in southern Oklahoma- the movie was based on a town in Texas- (Sherman) across the state line.  My friends left after a lunch of sandwiches made out of the left-over ham.  They are out touring Italy.
Door on a Church in Innsbruck. 

More of the carvings on the door. The door was also very thick.

Lots of marble in the church.   Here is the beautiful floor design right in front of the altar.   That's different colors of marble.

I am going to take the day off today.   I need a break-- from work and I'm going to just clean up the kitchen, put away anything still out from having company, knit, and watch maybe a whole movie?   Tomorrow, I'll do some errands, get my hair cut (if I can remember what time I am supposed to be there- I made the appointment a little over a month ago.) and start in doing some of the many 'things' that I want to get taken care of while I am off work.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas to all...

Innsbruck, Austria walking along the street to the hotel. 

A storefront display.

The star was in front of a department store.

I took to the train to Innsbruck, Austria to meet my friends from Germany who were driving down from Germany to my house for a few days.   We went to the Christmas Market, had dinner at a place that someone on the train (who lived in Innsbruck) recommended to me.   The food was pretty good.

We spent the night and then drove down towards my part of Italy with a stop in Bolzano, Italy.   This is where the Christmas Market was that I went to last weekend.  We had a good lunch after looking around and shopping in the Market.    Then, on to my house.  It was fun to have company during Christmas and made it more special.  I made some good food to eat- which I enjoyed too- since, I got to have a variety of foods because others were there eating the food. 

I also got some awesome Christmas gifts from my friends.  I'll have to take a photo and post the photos.

I hope you all have had a great and fun holiday.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas...

I saw SANTA at the bus stop in Vicenza, Italy!  
On Saturday morning, I went on the city bus to the Vicenza Train Station... so, I could buy my train ticket to Innsbruck, Austria on Sunday morning.   As I walked towards the 'bus stop' I couldn't believe my eyes... IT WAS SANTA waiting for the city bus too!  *Ok, if Santa is late this year... it could be because he has problems with his travel plans.   You know how it is... 'going by city bus' isn't very fast. 

'Santa' told me that he was going to the main part of the city (actually to the train station stop) to meet some others going there for a 'Santa Run'... and that he and I had just missed a large group of other Americans getting on the previous city bus in their Santa suits on their way to the 'race/walk' location.

Bye Santa's... and by the way... I'VE REALLY been GOOD this year!
I hope that Santa makes it to your house.   And I hope you have a great day of celebrating, eating great foods, and I do hope that you get the gift that you really do want. 
  I hope you have a wonderful celebration, eat lots of good foods, and enjoy the special day with your loved ones.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Glad to leave the 6 month long 'snow season' behind... Photos of where I used to live

I was looking through some photos... and came across some photos of my house in Germany that I never posted (because the Internet was so slow/bad that it was almost impossible to download photos to post to my blog and of course... I had pneumonia for months at a time due to the horrible cold, damp, long, winters... but, that's another story.)   This is my backyard and the balcony that leads out a door from my living room.   My backyard was small and triangle in shape.   They used 'tree or shrubbery' lines to divide the property.   You can see that at least 5 houses (there are 2 you can't see) that all have yards that meet in the center.  The 'yard' space is actually a big circle and the back yards are like parts of a pie shape-- my slice of the pie was small and I didn't mind-- less leaves to rake up. 

I was doing a 'science/snow experiment' in this corner but my landlord made me remove the snow.  I was just going to see HOW DEEP the snow would really get in this one place!   The table top is open mesh so it took many inches of snow falling before it even starting sticking to the top surface of the table.  

This is early in the experiment.  The rest of the snow- I would shovel -- I just left the far corner of the table and one chair.  I had a theory about the painted houses in Germany.   The houses were painted in very bright colors- orange, lime green, purple, (the house in my photo is a light purple), greens, blues, etc.   My theory?  It snows so much-- that they needed the bright colors to be able to find their houses in the snow!??

House down the street-- they all end up looking like this... tiny front yards... with huge mountains of snow 'taken' only from the short sidewalk in front of the house.

This is my house in Germany- you can see that my 'front yard snow mountain' is in the early stages-- but, it is almost as tall as my Jeep parked in the driveway.   This photo was taken on a RARE SUNNY DAY.   I think that was what I had the most difficult time with... no sunshine for 7 months a year.  I'd drive to work in the dark and drive home in the dark.  (It did get dark by 4:15 in the winter.)   The snow from the driveway... I had to haul by snow shovel full to the empty lot across the street.

Front of my house in the early part of winter.  The snow mountain got taller and my shoveled sidewalk area got more narrow- eventually it became the 'width' of the snow shovel. 

As I drove away from my street (that only had 3 houses on it) and onto the main road and just after I turned onto the last street that would lead me to the highway... one of the locals always put this Santa on a real sleigh on their property.  I finally had my camera with me and took his photo. 

His face is made out of hay!   There is a barn that you can see in the other Santa/Sleigh photo.   I'm not sure what the zoning laws were... but, you often saw barns right in little towns... Animals are kept in barns not on the grassy fields/lots/pastures like I was used to in the states.

This is what happens if you park and THEN THE SNOWPLOW comes down the street.  Note the color of the fire hydrant.  I always notice the different colors of them when I travel.   They are red in the states.

This is what happens when you don't move your car for a few days... Less than a week results in this type of 'car trapped' situation.  I was glad that I had a driveway to park my car in and that I did not have to park on the streets.

My old sled that I found (bought of course) and brought home.

This is the tree that I was able to put up in my living room in the rental house in Germany- I was glad to finally have enough space to put a tree up.  See the wooden arch in the window?  Movers broke it when I moved to Italy.   See the glass snowman in the window?  Movers broke his head off.  : (
I enjoyed my time living in Germany- but, I really didn't like the lack of sunshine during the long winters combined with the 6 months of snow.  All of the above photos were taken on a couple of rare sunshine days.   Here in Italy?  Sunny most of the time, cold; but bearable... if it gets down in the upper 20's it is very cold for here.  So far, the temps have been in the 30's - 40's.  

Sometimes, they do get snow in this area-- but, it is only a few inches and it leaves quickly.   I am always excited when it first snows.   Always hoping that school will be cancelled... just like the kids.  "Teachers" hope for snow days too!!

Friday, December 20, 2013

A little touch of Christmas...

My little metal tree that I decorate for the center of the table.   I knitted the knitted ornaments.  I have a couple (at least) of polish pottery birds (you can see the back of one's tail feathers on the top left) that I bought in Poland on the last trip there- not knowing it would be my last shopping trip there before I moved to Italy.  The little wooden ornaments were purchase in Germany.   The Christmas Markets almost always has someone selling wooden ornaments featuring special buildings or churches of the city/town where the market is being held.  The clear glass ball is hand painted on the inside.  The hand crafted flying cat glass ornament was purchased at one of the Christmas Markets in Germany.  I have way, way more ornaments than I need... but, it is difficult to not purchase unusual, unique, hand crafted ornaments when I come across them.   They will also always remind me of my travels and living overseas.

Today, at 3:10pm, started my first evening of Winter Holiday...  I went to the main base to do errands, get euro out of the bank, get a Christmas gift from the post-office, and then a quick stop to my house to change into clothes for my physical therapy session.  When that was over, I stopped quickly at my favorite Italian big grocery store and picked up a few things.  I have company coming this weekend-- and I have to clean house tomorrow and do some errands.  

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Things seen while walking around where the Italian Christmas Market was held....

While walking along the streets of Bolzano... I saw this poster advertising a musical group.

This cute little 'toddler' sized sweater was in a store window. 

In most places in Europe... you can't just eat lunch whenever you want.  There is a specific time for meals.  12:00 to usually around 1:30.   I found everything closed-- except for this one place.   A Turkish place that had the food already made.   This entire meal, including my drink (which is usually about 2 or 3 euro each- or about $2.30 to $3.40 each) was only 5 euro.. or about $6.00?   They had 2 different types of rice and I asked the guy to give me 'just a little of both types' so I could try them both-- and look at how much he gave me!   The green stuff is a potato spinach dish-- yummy.   I also had some Turkish bread (looks very much like a tortilla- but, freshly made.)

"Singing in the Rain"... ore = hours (8:30pm)  I remember that when I first moved overseas- I was most worried about having to 'figure out' how to tell time using: MILITARY TIME.  
I will start my winter break this Friday (yes, TOMORROW!!) at 3:10pm or 15:10.  ;D  Two whole weeks of not having to walk up/down as many stairs as I do each day (my knee will be happy) and a chance to do some things in my house that never get done-- since, I am just trying to make it through each day with my hurting knee.

I'm going to meet friends driving down from Germany at the Christmas Market at Innsbruck, Austria.  I'll take the train and meet them.  We'll spend the night in Innsbruck and then drive on down to my house in Italy where we will stop at the Christmas Market in Bolzano.    Yeah!   Both markets were enjoyable enough to visit them again.   There were a few things that I wanted to get at both markets- that I didn't get (needed more Euro) when I went the first time.   My friends are looking forward to shopping there too.

I'll have more free time to update my blog on a more regular basis during break.   I am ready for break.   I know that the children are always excited for break-- but, what they don't realize is that the teachers are just as excited as they are!

I haven't even had a chance to watch one Christmas movie yet.  I always have certain ones that I watch and I did order a set of Christmas movies from Amazon that I haven't even opened up yet.   So, there is that to look forward to also.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Trains of Italy.. I took a few photos on my trip last weekend.

Most trains have a little pull down table (far, far, far more room than what you'd find on an airplane- look at how long that little table is.  If you look you can see my coat and the edges of my green scarf and my knees.  That should give you an idea of the space that you have.)   On some trains, you'll also have a few sets of seats (4 -- two will be facing the direction of the train travel and the other two will face the opposite direction- and there is a large sized table between all 4 seats.)  This particular train also had the aisle walking area dropped down lower than the seats.   If you look towards the floor, in the photo, you can see what I'm referring to.   Yes, I did start knitting a pair of socks.  :D

You can see the table in the 'up position' on the left side of this photo.   They do have a mixture of seats facing in different directions- in case one likes to sit in the direction of travel?'   If I'm going to a new place- I do like to sit by the window facing the direction of travel- just so that I can read the station (town/city) names on the train platforms.    The armrest between the seats does raise up and goes between the seats and the racks are far enough from the ceiling that you can stuff some pretty big stuff up there- including suitcases.

This was along the side-- only one set of chairs and facing each other... no little pull down table.   There is also a 'trash can' (where that red button is located) that pulls out and holds quite a bit of trash.   I'm sitting in the seat and you can see that there is a lot of room- (yes, that's my backpack on the opposite seat.  I have used it for years-- it is more of a 'large messenger bag' style... and will fit across your front and along the opposite shoulders for security.   Lots of pockets all around and on the inside AND... a couple of on the ends (where the buckles on the strap is located) one has a velcro flap (I put a water bottle in it) and the other one has a zipper closing for security.   There is also a big open flap on the back side the width of the bag-- I put my umbrella in it (inside a plastic bag so that I always have a place to stash a wet umbrella from rain or snow) and books/magazines/etc.   Things that I need for easy access.   I've used this bag for years.   The little see through zipper pocket in the front has:   a tiny vial of Tylenol, some Pepto Bismol tablets, and my inhaler.

Pretty huh?  Bolzano, Italy 

Another view in a different direction-- right in the mountains!  The Dolomite Mountains- or the Italian Alps.

This is another train station in the area.  I love how the sun was playing on the various areas of the mountain.

On my return trip, I was on a train that had compartments like this.  It consisted of 6 seats, a rack to stash your belongings, and you could adjust the headrest, etc.   It was comfy for sure.  You could shut the door that you see to the left.  I was the only one in the compartment.  This type has the aisle on the far side instead of being in the middle of the seats as you saw on the other train.   I always think that these look like the trains that you see in the old movies.  They always look so spacious and the trains like this in Italy are very spacious.

Do you see that oval looking thing along the wall of the train?   It's a pull down seat (you can see another one under the other window) and I've been on these trains when they are so crowded that people are sitting in every one of these seats- I've had to sit in this type of seat before.  

Venezia.. or Venice   (my train-- because, I live only about an hour from Venice)

It was COLD and the fog was rolling in.   I'm glad that I had my alpaca wool socks on, my wool sweater over a long sleeve t-shirt, my thin cotton long johns (really they are thin pj's that shrunk too much in length- but, they are perfect to wear under clothing in the winter), my wool long coat, my 2 pairs of wool gloves (fingerless and regular that I wear together if it is needed and it was damp and cold- so, it was needed), and my wool hat/big shawl/scarf.  I was dressed for the weather in layers-- the day of the market it was cold-- but, no snow... but, that night... once it got dark and after 7pm... it turned damp and COLD.  I was glad for everything that I had on-- I had to wait on the open platform for 40 minutes.