Monday, December 3, 2012

Meeting goals that I didn't even know I had

These two photos have something in common: they both represent things that a year ago I would have said would never, ever have anything at all to do with me. I did two things last month that were scary and exhilarating and totally unexpected and now I'm going to brag about them, so now is probably a good time to stop reading.
The tennis shoes ("tennies", "trainers", "sneakers", "takkies", "athletic shoes", and who know how many other words there might be...) were bought by me, for me, when we were in Germany in April, and are the first tennies I've owned in at least ten years, which is why when Lukas saw me wearing them, two months before he turned ten, he told me I looked like Grandma. (A compliment to me, not to my mother, who is 20 years older than I am but considerably more active and fit and has run three marathons in the last few years. She probably goes through more pairs of tennis shoes in a year than I have in my entire life so far.) In addition to buying these tennies, I actually started wearing them when we got back home to Cyprus. I went out walking in the Salt Lake park near our house two or three times at the end of April and beginning of May, and as of May 18th, have been out every single day since, except for 11 days in July/August when I was in Germany, one day in September when I overslept, and two days in October while my husband was out of town. Some mornings I've gotten a late start and only had time for two or three kilometers, but most mornings I go at least four and often eight kilometers (plus the 300ish meters each way to and from the trail), since the nature path along part of the Salt Lake is four kilometers long.
Aaaanyway, when I first started walking, it not only took me 45 minutes to go four kilometers, my heartbeat got up to 200 beats per minute while walking and I was worn out for the day. That kind of scared me--I knew I was out of shape, but not that I was THAT out of shape. Happily, that did change pretty quickly, so that within just a couple of weeks I was having to make an effort to walk fast enough to even get it up to 120. (No, I don't know what my ideal target heartrate would be, and Google wasn't much help, either. But I do know that 200 is way, way too high.)
Within less than a month I'd actually started jogging a tiny bit, just a few hundred meters at a time. That was the first thing that I thought I would never, ever do, and then in the middle of August (AUGUST! In CYPRUS!!) I jogged the entire eight kilometers without stopping. At a speed that would make real runners chuckle with amusement, but I was pleased. And then on November 4th, I participated in the 16th Annual Larnaka International Run, a free six-kilometer race along the sea front. While I thought of it as a "fun run", it was quickly obvious that I was the only person there not really taking it seriously. I had three goals for the run, and met them all: to complete it all, to jog the whole way, and to do it in under 42 minutes. The winners were finished in about 20 minutes, and the judges and timers had long since disappeared by the time I finished at 40 minutes 35 and a half seconds (according to the stopwatch on my cell phone), but I was thrilled. (In fact, I was giddy and hyper and totally crazy with excitement, and I love my friends who instead of laughing at me, cheered me on and laughed WITH me. It was so cool.) So, that was the long version of what the photo of my muddy tennis shoes represents.
The other photo, downloaded from the NaNoWriMo site, is because Marie and I participated in National Novel Writing Month this year. The goal is to write a complete work of fiction of at least 50,000 words during the month of November, and I really don't know what made me sign up (well, I could partly blame a Facebook/internet/homeschooling friend of mine--you know who you are, D MG!), much less then actually TELL anyone about it, and then Marie signed up, and my friend Sue, and Marie's friend Charis, and...we DID IT! On Saturday, December 1st, the four of us went out for ice cream to celebrate over 200,000 words in 30 days, very pleased with ourselves. I've always loved writing, but rarely even manage to actually finish even short stories, and had never attempted anything like this before. My story (I really can't bring myself to call it a "book", much less a "novel") is fairly silly and not very coherent, but it was a ton of fun writing it. And that is the short version of why I only blogged once in November.

Saturday, November 10, 2012


It's been almost two months since I blogged, but as far as I know, all but one of the handful of people who read this are with me on Facebook anyway, where I keep linking to my friend Sue's blog because she so often has photos of us or writes about something we've done together. At the moment she's participating in a challenge to blog every day this month and has already mentioned me in several of the first 10 posts, and others covered what I would have written as well, so I just linked them, as well as previous ones. For example: dehydrating fruit. Sue bought a dehydrator, talked about it on Facebook, a friend of hers commented that she had one just like it but didn't want it, I gave a throw-away comment that if she was really giving it away I would like it, and the next thing I knew, I had a practically new dehydrator, given to me by someone I didn't even know! On October 30th Sue blogged about hers, complete with photos, so although I didn't dry exactly the same things (mostly plums, apples, and bananas here, plus fruit leather), I figure her post covered my experience pretty well, too. She also writes about the weather (rain is VERY exciting here!), which is of course the same for us as we're only about 500 meters away, and walking on the Salt Lake path, which she does three days a week with me. Here's one post that covers both.

So my number one and favorite excuse for not blogging is that most of what I would blog about is covered anyway. :-) (No, that does NOT mean that it's Sue's fault!!)

Next, I figure a post is more interesting if there are photos, and half the time when I think of it, the photos I want aren't yet in the computer and I don't know where the camera is. (Or I do know where the camera is, and it's not accessible, such as being in Germany with my husband, as it was for ten days recently.)

Another good excuse is that life is just a little teeny tiny bit busy around here. I'm not all that slow of a typist, and it's taken me over half an hour to write this already, because of getting up to answer the phone, listening to Lukas, getting Helen to stop throwing blocks, etc.

And my best excuse this month is that there's quite a lot of extra writing going on at the moment, which I might blog about later. Or might not.

I think I had some more excuses (all variations on a theme: I am lazy), but I have to go pick up Marie now. I could put this in drafts, of course, but then it likely won't get posted until December or later, so here goes. Oh, and if people remind me, I might blog (with photos, even!) about haircuts.

By the way, DeeDee in UK, I did look for you at FB under your real name, but didn't find you. If you're there and want to find me, I'm under my real name! :-)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Summer scavenger hunt, part three

After I didn't even notice that one of the photos of a fountain that I included in the previous post ALSO included a statue of an angel, I thought I'd go through my photos from May onwards and have another look for the last five subjects. I definitely didn't have any photos of a roadside stand or of a movie poster, but as I had to take Marie and Jacob to a birthday party this evening, I just collected those on my way home, as well. :-)

4. a roadside stand selling something

During the week, there are roadside "stands" (usually pick-up trucks) all over the place, selling whatever fruit is in season. At the moment, there are quite a few watermelon stands. However, Saturday evening at 6:00, I didn't see any in the usual places, so swung by our favorite fruit store, to see if the stand in the parking lot was still open. It was--only just, as they were starting to pack up--and Lukas took a photo for me.

8. a person dressed as an angel or a statue of an angel

Okay, so I already covered this one with the angel fountain. And children ACTING like angels probably doesn't count as being DRESSED UP as an angel, but I just had to work in a way to include this photo, so here it is. Yes, they are both asleep. Yes, they are on the tile floor. Yes, they both have beds.

And this is neither a person nor a statue, but this dog's name is Angel! Shouldn't that count for something? (She belongs to our friends Dena and Joseph.)
14. a person playing with a ball
This isn't actually a ball, this is a lemon from one of our lemon trees. But Elisabeth was playing with it and kept calling it a ball!
In this one, on the other hand, Elisabeth is definitely playing with a ball, or at least, she's holding the ball away from Marie and making it very clear that this is HER ball. It's too bad that the ball isn't exactly visible in the picture--Marie crocheted it for Elisabeth for her birthday, with Elisabeth's name on it.
18. a movie poster
The local cinema seemed a logical, if uninspired, place to find a movie poster, but as I wasn't sure if this one, taken through the windshield while waiting at the traffic lights, really counted. On the left-hand side there are three banners advertising movies, but they're on plastic... I drove closer and caught the posters for all of the movies showing at the moment. I haven't seen any of them, although I was pretty impressed that I had actually heard of two of them. I've only been to this cinema once, to see "Voyage of the Dawn Treader" with Marie and Jacob.
19. an outdoor stairway
I could easily get a photo of an outdoor stairway by stepping outside--many Cypriot houses have a flat on the ground floor (a "granny flat" or "mother-law flat", maybe there are other terms), and then there are stairs outside leading to the next floor, which is very often a full house on two or more levels. I specifically planned to photograph the house of Sue and Richard, since those are the outdoor stairs I most often use, and since we stayed in the downstairs flat for awhile when we first moved to Cyprus, and I still might take that photo. And for that matter, although our house is on the ground floor, it's built on a slope and we have a flat underneath part of the house as well, which is also on the ground floor, which you can get to by walking around the house and down the driveway...or by going out the back (kitchen) door and down a long flight of outdoor stairs. But in the meantime, here are a few photos I found in my files.
This is our house, and if you look very carefully, you can see the four steps leading up to our front porch.

This stairway isn't actually outside, as it's inside a boat, Morning Star, which we visited a few weeks ago. But it's sort of outside, because it's not inside a building...

This little shelter is on a peninsula across the Salt Lake from us and I'd been meaning to go to it for years, and finally did so for the first time, just in time for sunrise, a week or so ago. And it is definitely outdoors and definitely has stairs.
21. a picture of you (me) standing with something that symbolizes your (my) nation(s)
For this one, I had intended to wear my Costa Rica t-shirt, hold flags from the U.S., Germany, Costa Rica, and Cyprus, and maybe include a few children, as well, as they are all dual citizens (German/U.S.) and I hate having my photo taken, so that would make it more bearable. Technically, "my" only nation is the U.S. That is where I was born and that is my only nationality. However, I have spent over half of my life outside of the U.S., the majority of that time in Germany, and my husband is German. I have also been to Costa Rica ten times and feel very connected to my "family" there, and have lived in Cyprus for over three and a half years, so this being home makes it also a bit "my" nation. And then Sue suggested that just a photo of Elisabeth and me would cover it, as she is German and U.S.ian, was born in Cyprus, and her middle name, Martha, is after my host mother in Costa Rica! I loved that idea, and best of all, I didn't even specifically have to take a photo for it. Both of these photos were taken in May, by Birgit. I like the first one better, but in the second one I'm standing (therefore fulfilling the whole target...), AND not only do I have my Costa Rica t-shirt on, I'm wearing American jeans, German Birkenstocks, and Cypriot mud. :-)

And with that, I have completed the summer scavenger hunt, a week before the official end of summer!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Summer scavenger hunt, part two

It's the same day, and here I am working on the next part already. Maybe I WILL finish by the end of September! Here's the first part, if you're interested, including the complete list.

And now for the next batch of photos.

8. a person dressed as an angel or a statue of an angel, and

9. a fountain

These five photos (and a whole lot more...) were all taken at Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna on August 1st. I didn't even remember that I needed a fountain for the scavenger hunt, just couldn't help taking the photos. Nor did I remember the angel or even notice that this first fountain IS an angel, until a friend pointed it out (thanks, Sue!) after I published this blogpost, so have just edited it to add number 8 and am letting this photo count for both. :-)

10. a horse

On our last day in Germany, we went for a walk with Margaret and Phil. Katie especially wanted to see horses, which we did.

11. a shadow
Maybe it's cheating to include a photo that I already had on my blog, and this isn't the only one, either, but here's one from a walk with Helen and Elisabeth.

12. a maze, a labyrinth, or trail

I have a LOT of photos of trails, especially the Salt Lake Nature Trail, where I've gone walking almost every morning for the last nearly four months, but I controlled myself and didn't include ALL of them. Just this one, because although there aren't even any trees, it reminds me of a poem I love, Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken."
And...yet another photo from Schönbrunn. It really is an amazing place!

13. a library

Just before we moved to Cyprus, I saw an announcement that Larnaka would be opening it's first English-language library right about the time we were moving here. That sounded pretty exciting to me, as I haven't lived in an English-speaking country since 1991. My first three years in Germany I read pretty much all of the books of interest to me at the English-language library in Düsseldorf, as well as ALL of the English-language books, interesting or not, at the German branches near the main train station and in Kaiserswerth. In the next 21 months, when we lived in Essen, I read all of the English-language books there, during the next year when we lived near Bonn I read all of the English-language books there, and it only took me a few months in Mülheim to read their very tiny selection of English-language books. Well...we arrived in Cyprus, and stayed for nearly two months in the guest flat of people I had "known" via internet for some years and who have since become very close friends, and decided we could put off going to the library (which was only open for a couple of hours once a week anyway) for a bit, since just in the guest flat, Richard and Sue had enough books to keep us going for a loooong time. (Many, many more books than all of the English-language sections in Düsseldorf, Essen, Bonn, and Mülheim put together, and I like a MUCH larger percentage of them.) And they have even MORE books in their house where they live! We've been here for over three and a half years, and I haven't finished them yet. Added to which, the Saturday morning English-language library has advertised itself as having "hundreds of books", and we brought about 2500 with us in the first place and have acquired at least a few hundred more since, and Sue and Richard have many more than we we still haven't ever made it to that library. On that note, here is a photo of a mutual friend, H, in part of Sue and Richard's "library":
As well as a photo of Sue herself, reading to Elisabeth and Helen (and Tessie) on our regular Tuesday morning "not-Tots." (Sue used to help out at the Tots and Co. playgroup on Tuesdays, so when it stopped meeting on Tuesdays and she wasn't available on their other meeting date, a combination of joking and misunderstanding between husbands and children and us resulted in us (the little girls and I with Sue) getting together every Tuesday morning at her house. Heavenly.)
15. someone dancing
Elisabeth isn't actually dancing in this photo, because she stopped when I got the camera out, but E2 still is. This was at a wedding reception a few weeks ago. There wasn't any official dancing, but that didn't stop the little girls!
16. a bride
And obviously, since we were at a wedding (well, a marriage blessing, actually, as the actual wedding had taken place in England, but it was really the same thing), it wasn't difficult to get a picture of a bride! I didn't actually know either of the bridal pair, although I knew the mother of the groom, but Marie, Jacob, and Lukas all knew the groom, and Marie also knew the bride, so I took the three of them and Elisabeth to the wedding and reception.


17. a church, chapel, cathedral, mosque, or temple

I did consider just posting a few photos of various friends and family, representing the temple of the Holy Spirit, but didn't want to leave anyone out, so here are some more traditional representations.

This is the Hala Sultan Tekke mosque on the opposite side of the Salt Lake from where we live, a little less than an hour's walk away.

And here is the church of St. Lazarus, about a 20-minute walk in the opposite direction. The Lazarus whom Jesus raised from the dead is said to have come to Cyprus, and when he died the second time and stayed dead, he was buried here.

20. a swing hanging from a tree (or a hammock)

Lukas hung this swing from our giant fig tree some months ago and I just happened to take this photo of Helen on it a few days ago, again, not remembering this scavenger hunt at all. In December 2010 I found the hammock that I bought in Mexico in 1990 in a box in my parents' house and did bring it to Cyprus with me, but still haven't gotten around to hanging it up, so no photo.
Incidentally, and sadly, as of this morning we no longer have the chickens that are visible in the background. Although we'd been told by friends that it was fine to have chickens in the city, someone apparently complained, and we received notice in July that we would have to get rid of them. Jacob fought hard for them, including writing a letter to the mayor, who tried to find a loophole for us. Last week we were told that he wasn't able to grant us an exception and that we had one month to get rid of them. Last night friends who live in the mountains had to come down to Larnaka to go to the airport, so they took the chickens back with them when they left this morning. They'll have a good life there, being even more free-range than we could provide, but we already miss them!

And those are all of the photos I have so far, covering 16 of the 21 subjects, and the only photos I took intentionally for this were those of the trains! Now to see if I can take photos of the last five subjects before summer ends...

Summer scavenger hunt, part one

I read considerably more than I write, in every area, including blogs. One blog I enjoy is by a friend in England, whom I've "known" via internet for probably about 12 years, and met once in person, in 2003. This summer she participated in a photo scavenger hunt, which I thought sounded like fun and thought about participating in...but mostly forgot about, except for when reading her updates. A few days ago she finished, so I'm finally getting my act together to at least see which photos I have. There are actually quite a few lists out there with ideas, but here's the one I bookmarked:

1. A pier
2. A clothesline
3. A border
4. A roadside stand selling something
5. A train
6. A historical landmark
7. A person playing a musical instrument
8. A person dressed as an angel or a statue of an angel
9. A fountain
10. A horse
11. A shadow
12. A maze, labyrinth, or trail.
13. A library
14. A person playing with a ball.
15. Someone dancing.
16. A bride.
17. A church, chapel, cathedral, mosque or temple.
18. A movie poster
19. An outdoor stairway
20. A swing hanging from a tree (or a hammock)
21. A picture of you standing with something that symbolizes your nation.
I had intended to check in every once in awhile and go take photos, but I never did, not a single time. While in Germany, though, I did remember that "a train" was on the list, and as there are no trains in Cyprus, I made sure to photograph several trains. (I think one of the other lists must have mentioned "a train coming into a station", because that was what I actually thought I had to capture.) The train photos are the only ones that were taken specifically for this blogpost, the others just happen to have happened this summer. :-) As the official scavenger hunt goes until the official end of summer, I don't suppose I should have included photos from before June 21st, either. However, it has felt like summer since at least May, and still does, so there are a couple of photos from May. And now, without too much more rambling, here are some of the photos I have so far:

1. a pier

My brother, Shawn, was here for a couple of days in July. He and Lukas are looking (unsuccessfully, unfortunately) for a geocache here, on the main pier at the marina down at Finikoudes.

 Two of the many photos Jörn took of Katie while spending a morning with her not too long ago.

2. a clothesline

Elisabeth is hands-down my very best laundry-hanging-upper-helper. She hung up all of the things on the two spinny things herself, as she does regularly.

3. a border

 I don't know exactly where the border is in this photo, but I took the photo while hiking in the Troodos mountains in August, standing in the souther part of Cyprus, and the coast is in the northern part. While the border is admittedly disputed as even legally existing (the southern part of Cyprus and the vast majority of the world consider the northern part to be illegally occupied), it does exist practically.
5. a train (or two or three or...)
As these were the only photos I took specifically for this blogpost, and as usual, I kind of went overboard, it's probably just as well I basically forgot about the scavenger hunt all summer...
This is the S1 arriving in Angermund, Düsseldorf, where I lived for over three years. For two of those years I took this train twice a week to Duisburg for German classes and usually at least once a week into Düsseldorf to go to the library, plus several times to go to the airport, and the third year I took this train two or three or four or more times a week to see Jörn in Essen. In all those years, though, I rarely saw the train arriving--I was usually running up the stairs shouting "hold the door!" (or rather, "Offen halten!!") after the train had arrived in the station. On this day, we were taking the train to Mülheim (where we lived for eight and a half years) to visit my friend Peggy. And traveling with three small children and a carseat (because Peggy's husband drove us back to Margaret and Phil's house that evening), I was nice and punctual.
At Mülheim main train station, we went downstairs and took the Straßenbahn (tram/streetcar which is sometimes underground) to Oberdümpten, where Peggy lives. It was strange being only a ten-minute walk from our flat (which we still own, but is rented out) and not seeing it.
This is the transportation system from the long-distance train station at the airport to the various parking garages and terminals, and it goes by the grand and glorious original German name of "Sky Train."
It's fun to stand right at the front (there is no driver, so no engine to be in the way) and have a good view--here's Helen with Margaret, as Margaret and Phil accompanied us to the airport the day we left Germany. (And we'd taken the S1 to get to the airport--it's just one stop, and faster than going by car.)
We had a ten-hour layover in Vienna and went into the city. This photo was taken on the way back, taking a city train (I guess similar to the tram system in Germany) back to the main train station in Vienna.
And this is the train from the main train station to the airport, something comparable to the S-Bahn system in Germany.
6. a historical landmark
This photo could double for number 12 (a trail) as well. This is the Venetian aquaduct at one end of the Salt Lake Trail near our house.

These are fake Roman ruins in the gardens of Schönbrunn Palace. For all that, they ARE from the 1700s, so I figure that counts as historic, but mostly, I found it extremely amusing that they were built just because ruins were fashionable!

And here's a view of Schönbrunn Palace with Vienna behind it.
7. a person playing a musical instrument.
I could take a photo of Elisabeth who is right now banging on a wooden box with two wooden sticks and singing along, but I'll stick with the photos already sorted out. I already have too many anyway.
Marie playing "Happy birthday" for Jörn in May:
The next two photos were actually taken by our friend, Birgit, who visited in April. Helen and Elisabeth spend a lot of time at the piano, Helen picking out tunes fairly often, and Elisabeth has even done so a couple of times!

 Marie at her music school's recital. The last recital with that school, as her teacher moved to a different music school and Marie opted to move with him.

Despite all the violin photos, Marie actually spent much more time this summer playing the guitar, which she's teaching herself, than the violin. I took this photo while we were visiting friends up in Platres, near Troodos...

...where Elisabeth also "played" the recorder...

...and Lukas learned at least how to hold, if not play, an Irish harp.
I just added "part one" to the title and am going to go ahead and post this now, still hoping to finish the rest before the end of September...