Twirl

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My husband and I work out of the same office 3 days a week. It is some of my favorite time together. The other two days of the week (not weekend) we trade going to the big city for work. I get to go to Poznan on Tuesdays—he on Thursdays.

Which means that we each get a very personal day with the kids at home. He said that while Sundays used to be his favorite day of the week (He is the pastor of an international church-and we love Sundays and we love Poznan International Church), Tuesdays are creeping up on Sundays in the race for favorite.  Uh-oh and watch out, PIC ;)

Richard LOVES the free day that he has. And he spends every minute of it with his children. He takes them to the park. He takes them grocery shopping. He jumps with them on the trampoline. He makes them lunch. He makes me dinner.

It is a GREAT day.

And I love my Thursdays. Most of the day I spend in sweats and usually (except for today), electronic free. I love cooking with my kids—and my daughter always has her best friend over after school.

Anyhow, back to the office days with my husband. When I go to the office with my husband, I try and dress up for him.

It’s not that he didn’t see me 30 minutes earlier without makeup, lion’s mane, and fresh out of bed. He knows what I really look like—and, I must say, it’s really HOT (if by hot I mean—BURN THE LOOK) ;)

Anyhow, it’s kind-of silly to know that I get dressed up to go to work…with my husband.  But I do.

Do you know why?

Because, as we work together, he glances across the office or looks up from his desk and he sees me.

And I love it when he sees me and smiles.

And sometimes—just sometimes—he says, “Can I take a photo of you?”

And then I smile. Because I know that not only does he love me—but he likes the effort that I put into going to work with my hubby!

I hop up. I smile. And, the other day, he said, “Now twirl!”

So I did.

To be honest, the motion made it really hard to capture a photo, but this is what he sent me…his new phone screen.

I love my husband.
I like him, too.
I LOVE going to work with him.
And I am glad that he likes it, too!

So, my friends…I encourage you. When you have that chance, get dressed up for your special someone.

And twirl!

***

Have a view and see a few of the tens of the thousands helped through the foundation we started, and you will understand why we love our work and do what we do!  We also invite you to join our team and help us “Rescue the Forgotten!”  (our web site is under construction, but you can also find us here:  Bread of Life)

I used to think it was age that defined contentment. Now I realize it’s attitude.

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I was certain once I hit 30 years of age I would be content.

Satisfied.

Happy with life.

Life equals good equals no more looking for the outside to fulfill the inside.

I was certain that would be the case.

I was wrong.

I am about to hit 40 in a year.  So, I guess “about to” is a bit exaggerated.

Anyhow.  40 is around my corner.  A few miles off (or kilometers, depending on which side of the world you are reading this) and I have come to the beautiful conclusion that age does not bring about contentment.

Attitude most certainly does.

We continue to live in a rented home and I don’t have the Jeep that I really, really want.

My belly remains squishier than I desire.  My bank account smaller.

My bedroom doesn’t have a closet, and I really only fit in one pair of jeans.  Unless maternity jeans count.

And as I look at everything around me, I am just so plain content it’s crazy.

When I was younger, I was certain that life would begin at 16.  That is until I turned 16 and realized that life began at 18.  But then I turned 18 and realized life didn’t really begin until 21.  21 came and I was certain that adulthood began at 22, along with the disappearance of my acne.  Both didn’t occur.  Well, I guess I grew up a little, you know, getting a professional job and all…

But 22 came, and that is when I was 100% without a doubt certain 25 must be the age of magical, grown-up, beginning.  And, even though I was married and now living in a foreign country at 25, 25 just didn’t seem to be that age.  30…Finally with a baby in our life.  Nope.

But as I near 40…what many call “Over the Hill”…I smile.

And I look back 38 years and see.

I see the little girl that had a muddy, sand-filled, boy-chasing, big-mouthed childhood.  And I love looking there.

I look back to the awkward teenager, too skinny, with braces and absolutely horrendous hair.  Still a big mouth.  Rather athletically talented.  And I love looking there.

I look back to the young adult, still too skinny, sinking grades, tumor at the base of her brain, and dating a guy she might just possibly marry.  I look back to that girl that bought her first car with the help of her parents and the one that moved away and back home again.  I look back to those young adult years and I love looking there.

And then I look at my married years.  Exciting.  Fun.  Adventurous.  Hard.  Compromise?  Say what!?  Different country.  Poor as a church mouse.  No car.  Cold.  Walking everywhere.  Different.  And I love looking there.

30 came.  Ah beautiful 30.  I loved turning 30.  With 30 my body changed.  I finally graduated out of the child-size clothes.  I birthed a baby.  I matured emotionally.  And I love looking there.

And the rest of my 30s have gone by with so much trouble and heartbreak and success and excitement, it’s unbelievable how much less than a decade can cover.  And I look at it all.  The sadness and gladness.  The senseless and the secure.  And I realize I am different because of them all.  And I smile.

Even though I always thought that there was a magical age when contentment came and life changed, I learned I was wrong.  Age has nothing to do with any of it.  Attitude does.  That is what I was missing over the last 38 years.  The attitude of contentment.

I love my children’s hand-me-down clothes.  I love our rented house.  I love our 3 dogs—one being a ridiculously ugly farm mutt.  I love our small rooms and no closeted house.  I must admit, I am not in love with my stove nor stove fan (contentment is still obviously a work in progress in some areas, apparently ;) ).

I love my husband and his graying hair and his endless wit.

I love my daughter despite her idiosyncrasies in being a child of 2 cultures and not much at all like her momma.

I love my son and all of his health issues and all of the money he costs us just to merely maintain his little lungs.

And I love my daughter, my youngest, that came in way too heavy, where I was cut open, and her cheeks that literally melted off of her little face.  The girl that smiles and wrinkles her nose.

Contentment.  It’s definitely not an age.  It is not an item.

Contentment.  It’s an attitude.

And I am glad that I finally got it right.

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 

Matthew 6:19-21

Cooking for Max

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When you have a child with life-threatening allergies, you learn to live differently.

And it is not easy.

My son is deathly allergic to peanuts.  But we have found that he reacts to even the touch of other nuts.  Very unfortunately, he also reacts strongly to sunflower seeds.  Not because of an allergy.  Just, most likely, because of the factory where they are processed.

Max is deathly allergic to the smell of peanuts in the air.

On our last airplane journey with him—returning home from Norway back to Poland—we were taking an airline where they offer no service except for paid service.  In other words, a really cheap airline.

The foods that they sell include foods with peanuts.

On the way to Norway, we did not notice anyone purchasing peanuts.  The flight was very uneventful.  And, believe it or not, when you live in Poland, a flight to Norway is also very short.

So our journey to Norway on the plane was great.

Upon return, however, immediately after the customers’ purchases, Max became swollen and red and leaned over to me as if to say, “I CAN’T BREATHE, MOMMA!”

My husband looked at him.  I looked at him.  We had no idea what was taking place when my husband sniffed the air and said, “I smell it.  Peanuts.”

I grabbed Max’s life-saving bag and ran him into the restroom where I basically spent the rest of the flight giving him medicine, watching his breathing counting down the seconds on the clock to the number 20===where I read once that if you make it 20 minutes after an allergy attack, then you can start to breathe easier.  Is this true?  I don’t know.  But when you are a mother to a child that may die due to food or air—it is really nice to have something to grasp.  ANYTHING to grasp.  Hope to grasp.

Poor airline.  Poor customers.  We felt horrible.  Here they just paid for their food and had to close their purchased items and wait to eat them until after the flight.

And, of course, we were scolded.  “We need to tell them AT THE BEGINNING OF THE FLIGHT!”

“Yes.  Of course.  We understand…”

Sigh.  Hanging our heads.  Hiding our son from the general crowd and air filtration system.  Living in the airplane bathroom with shame and fear and all of it wrapped up sometimes into frustration.  Frustration that you have to constantly helicopter your child.  Especially when air or touch can send him spiraling out of control.

And yet you love your child more than you love your very life—and so you hover on.

No one ever said parenting was easy.  Oh, and I should mention that Maxwell is treated as an asthmatic.  Hence breathing problems super serious to start (he is on 3 daily meds as it is).

But that’s not all.  Oh no.

Maxwell is also allergic to milk.  Not in quite the same death-way.  But in a way that also makes it very difficult to maneuver.

He welts at the touch of milk to his skin.  His swells if ingested.  He vomits.  And he has great difficulty breathing, too.

I guess one of the only big differences is that the smell of milk does not bother him.

My coffee is so grateful for that one!

And my husband—because my husband LOVES butter!  So do I.  And freshly whipped cream.  YUM!  And my daughter loves mint-chocolate chip ice cream.

Therefore, I think we are all a bit happy that Max can be air-exposed to milk.

Peanut butter was a hard one for our family to bid farewell.  You may judge and say, “Your child is more important.”

Listen, Peeps.  We laid peanut butter to rest—but it doesn’t mean that we still don’t crave it, okay?!

But having peanut butter in our home made us all live in constant fear.  And, thus, we banned our favorite food friend from our presence.  It was not an easy thing to do.

Anyhow…Cooking for Maxwell is a daily—multiple times a day—chore.  Every food prepared or every item purchased is scrutinized.  Foods are kept separated in the refrigerator.  And we have our 2-year-old son deathly afraid of new food.

And when people offer him food, he has known forever to say, “NO!”

Kids his age don’t understand and cheerfully try and try and try to give it to him.  This eventually sends him running into my arms.  And for that, I am simultaneously sad and grateful.  Sad that he must run.  Grateful that God has given him the fortitude to understand that his very life may depend on his actions.

And, as Maxwell nears 3, we all are getting better at Cooking For Max.

In fact, today, I was a Maxwell cooking machine.

Belgian Waffles for breakfast?  Yes, please and CHECK!

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Coconut milk, rice milk, orange juice, banana, apple, and frozen strawberry smoothie to compliment breakfast?  Yes, please!  And check!  (No picture—it was devoured too quickly.  Oops.)

Depression chocolate cake for snack?

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With freshly whipped chocolate-coconut whipped cream?  Yes, please and CHECK!

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Fresh sopapillas for lunch?  And fresh toppings for it (beans, corn, salsa, and more)?  Yes, please.  And check!

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And dinner?  Well, something Max friendly will come about—I am just not sure what.  Yet.

How do we do it?

We found the following items to be musts in our home:

Good olive oil.

Good coconut oil.

Fresh popping corn kernels as it is a very Max-friendly snack.

Rice milk.  Coconut milk.  Oat milk.  Max does not like soy milk.

A completely 100% milk free margarine.

Good chocolate that is 100% milk free.

And a huge separation of anything that may touch something he cannot eat.

We use more plates, spoons, and bowls than a small army—as we have to keep all things separated.  He cannot touch his sister’s milk or straw.

He can’t have her chocolate—he has his own.

He MUST ask before he eats anything.

Should I remind you all that he is only 2?  Two.

“It’s a hard-enough life for us kids!” Or is it hard-knocks life?

In any case, as Annie and the gang sing it—It is a hard life.  For all of us.

But we are slowly getting into a Maxwell-friendly system in our home.  We normally have 2 different meals at every 1 meal.  One meal that all 3 kids typically eat.  And one that Rich and I eat.

Jo and Max usually get the exact same foods and probably always will.  Josephine does not even know what cows milk tastes like.

Ada is 9.  So she gets to choose what she wants.  And she even made the choice herself to give up peanut butter—her favorite food ever.

And the internet gets used a lot to help us get creative as we try and cook and feed a kid that has had to grow up a picky eater.

We like cooking.  We like creativity.  We like desserts.

We are just all learning to like it the Max way.

That way we can enjoy life together.  The way it is meant to be.

Together.  Even at the dinner table.

***

Here are where I found today’s recipes.  And if it calls for non-Max friendly items, I just substitute them with his butter or his milk.  Usually you can’t even taste the difference.

Real Sopapillas:  http://allrecipes.com/recipe/real-sopapillas/

Coconut whipped cream:  http://tasty-yummies.com/2014/03/04/make-whipped-coconut-cream/

Depression-era chocolate cake:  http://www.sweetlittlebluebird.com/2013/03/tried-true-tuesday-crazy-cake-no-eggs.html

Best Belgian Waffle Recipe I have found yet:  http://www.food.com/recipe/the-bestest-belgian-waffles-63071

Cheap Love



Sometimes we believe that love must be extravagant.  

Cost a lot.

Be grand expressions with public displays.

But sometimes the greatest love is cheap.  And hidden.  Private.  Sentimental.  Yet shared.

We go through books with our daughter where we write notes or secret messages with invisible ink or dot and dash coded messages. And we fill up her books with short but daily messages that let her know we are thinking about her all the time.

One book was waiting for her every day when she returned from school.

She’d run through the door, throw her backpack down, grab the book, and decipher the invisible or coded message.

And then she’d return it that evening with a message of her own.

Right now she is getting a Second-Breakfast Book.  It’s a running love note from her daddy. It’s a running love note from me- her mommy. And it’s inserted into her snack box so that every day at school she sees our love for her.

Sometimes when she doesn’t finish her 2nd breakfast at school, I see her eating it at home, going through each page of the book, giggling and smiling simultaneously.  

They will forever be ingrained into my mind. Into the innermost part of my heart and soul.

Love—sometimes expressions of it may not cost a lot—but the effects of it are more than any diamond in any crown on any queen around the world because they show my daughter she’s priceless to me!

Daddy on the Potty

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The other day I went to the bathroom. Alone. It was evening. My husband was home.

When I went to the physical presence of the room with the toilet, ALL THREE of my children were occupied with 1 million other activities.

BUT—and what is it about THAT DOOR—But when that door shut, it is as if the world DID stop spinning and the only thing that was important was THAT DOOR!

I had closed it.

I had closed myself off from that OTHER world.

The world where littles occupy my legs. My hands. My thoughts. My mind.

And I went for a very biological reason to the toilet. But the toilet, once you are a mommy, serves not just the physiological but the MENTAL worlds that are YOU.

YET. And, I repeat, when I went to the restroom, my husband was at home and all three of my children were playing happily…

Yet when I closed myself off from their worlds, all hinges came unscrewed.  INCLUDING those holding that door shut.

My littlest (Josephine 14 months) came knocking and shouting.  My 2nd littlest (Maxwell 22 months) began peeking through the holes at the bottom, fingers sticking through, shouting my name.  My oldest (Adelyne) went and found a coin that acts as the PERFECT bathroom key and UNLOCKED that door.

My sanity was lost in the chaos that ensued.  No peace.  No pee.  Because, of course, no peace.  And all three just DYING to know when I would be out of that room and in their presence yet again.

My husband—he filmed the ENTIRE event from the other room—while laughing.

Picture it—Mommy in the bathroom—kids interrupting everything.  Mommy shouting for FREEDOM AND PEACE.  Daddy in the background laughing.  Kids coming in and out of the now open door.  Mommy losing what little strand of sanity she has left (which was not a lot to begin with).

If you are a mom, you know EXACTLY what I am talking about, right?!

But—if you are the daddy—for some reason, this is probably NOT what you know.

You go to the restroom.  You lock the door.  You grab a newspaper.  Your legs fall asleep from spending so much peaceful time on the potty—locked in your own private world—with your favorite sports author sharing all of the exciting news of the upcoming blah blah blah sports season.

When you’ve read the entire paper, you exit.  In peace.  And everyone is doing the same thing that they were doing when you retreated.

YEP!  I noticed this EXACT scenario the other day—the day following my bathroom chaos—when Richard went to the toilet.

And this is what I thought…WHY???  Why does Richard get the luxury of a few unspoiled moments in the bathroom?  Alone?  No shouting or crying kids?  Completing his “duty” in peace?  Why????

Therefore this Momma shouted, “Hey, Kids!  Guess what?!  Daddy is in the bathroom.  GO AND GET HIM!”

BAM!  All excitement broke loose.

The door was opened, the kids ran in…Daddy tried to be a good sport for as long as possible—until daddy didn’t find the “sport” fun any longer.  Then the kids were banished and lots of threats ensued.

I am fairly certain the children will leave daddy in peace from here on out when he’s on the pot.

But Mommy?  Forget about it—Today I was fishing my littlest out of the toilets snares while I was simply trying to pee.

In peace.

Silly me!

What’s it like living in Europe? Here are 10 things I’d like to share with you.

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That’s a great question.  I am sure that every Expat American that lives in Europe has an opinion, how about I share mine?

I should start by sharing some information that will give you background information about me.

1.  I am from the desert of Arizona. Hot.  Dry.  Beautiful.  3rd Generation born in Arizona.  For Europe, 3rd generation born in one area could be a small joke===but, in the States, that’s quite the accomplishment!

2.  We moved to Poland in 2001.  That’s 12 years after the Berlin Wall was opened.  When we first arrived in Poland, we did not get to travel freely within Europe even though the Wall had fallen.  There were still two border crossings to go West.  We had to stop at the Polish border and allow for Polish border guards to rifle through all of our luggage.  Then we had to do the same thing as we entered Germany.  Sometimes border crossing took 3 hours.  And, yes, we saw many people escorted off of the trains with their passports.

Another fact:  American or other Western European Countries’ Passports were very hot commodities often stolen or sold.  If you had a passport that allowed easier travel, then you had more opportunities for work.  We have known people that have bought illegal passports, been caught using them in varying countries to try and find work, and have found themselves in prison because of this.

You should know the majority of the people that participated in these crimes were people with the best intentions—people looking to work.  Work hard.  And save so that they could send money to their families.    It doesn’t make it right—but after living in what was once a country with unemployment raging in some cities at the extremes of 20-40% (in the days when we first arrived), I did have great compassion on those that simply wanted to find work.

*Again—I do not condone illegal measures, I am just sharing facts*

3.  We came without knowing anything but “Byc or not byc.” Which is the funny way to say in half Polish/half English the phrase “To be or not to be…” I think you probably need to speak Polish to giggle at this one.

Anyhow, since we came to Poland without any Polish during a time when hardly anyone spoke English, we lived a life of loud words with lots of hand gesturing and crazy facial expressions or animal sounds to get what we wanted.

For example, if we wanted some beef but didn’t see any behind the butcher counter, we would say, “Czy Pani ma MOO?” (Do you, Ma’am, have any MOO?)

You would think we would attract a whole lot more smiles, but we did move to an Eastern European country, so we mostly just got blank stares ;)

Figuring out everything from how to ride a tram, to buy a train ticket, to shop for milk—everything was extreme amounts of work. We are so thankful we had friends to help lead us along the way. The rest of the time we just suffered humiliation at attempts on our own.

Well, without further can’t hardly sit still in anticipation, ready to read it…Here is my Top 10 List of What It’s Like to Live in Europe as an Expat American:

I will go backwards from 10 to 1.  But please know that I do not succeed at all 10 of these.

10.  Grocery Shopping.

Bring extra money to buy your grocery bag!

Oh, and don’t forget to pack your own groceries, QUICKLY!  As fast as the grocer is throwing them at you, separate and shove into the bags you just bought (unless you are amazingly fantastic at always having extra plastic shopping bags with you).

And never forget your coin for the use of the shopping cart.  Otherwise your arms spilleth over or fall to the floor.  Depending on whether the grocery store HAS a spare basket for you to use (a carry one) or not (some don’t).  So NEVER…and I repeat NEVER…forget your coin to use the grocery cart.

Okay—shopping ALL around is quite the experience.  It’s not for the faint of heart.

Funny labels, different foods, small stores, personal packing, plastic bag buying, grocery cart renting experience.  When I got to the States and started to pack my own groceries the “bagger” was a little upset that I was taking over his job.  Oops.  Habits are hard to hand over.

In the end, I am a rather fast separator, packer, and general bag buyer (I guess I have only accomplished 2 of the 3 needed grocery skills in Europe—I still end up buying a bag EVERY SINGLE TIME).

But, in the end, I have mastered grocery shopping and, therefore, my family eats in Europe.  Phew.

9.  Know how and make your own jam, pickles, pickled items, fresh bread, sausage, and borscht!

You will learn to love cabbage, mushrooms, beets, and repeat.  On top of that, sweet pickles will be considered an unhealthy treat while salted pickles will be what’s good for you!

In other words, your bread will only last a day, you will eat loads of cheese, and your palette will greatly change yet increase!

Bring on the snails, please!  And pickled herring.  Oh, and where is the blood sausage?  Yes!  Put it on top of bulgar wheat.  And, no, not that white cheese—the blah blah blah fancy one over there.

In fact, as long as there are potatoes, wheat, and cabbage in Europe, everyone on this continent will survive.  Oh, along with dill.

It’s a continent of culinary genius!  For sure.  And I L.O.V.E. eating here.

Smacznego!

8.  Dress like you meant to wear it!  And then walk like you mean it.

Seriously, Europeans are so fashionable.  But, and here’s the secret.  They have stockings, funky shoes, scarves, sometimes hats, skinny jeans, and second-hand skirts and throw it all together with a little bit of mascara and a few accessories, looking like fashionistas.

My husband and daughter are amazing Europeans.  Disclaimer—neither are European.  But they put on clothes daily (So now you know that they are REALLY not European.  Smile and wink kind of joke) and voile!  They look amazing.

My daughter wears whatever shoes she wants with short skirts and leggings and then a sweater and allows for her hair to blow in the breeze.  Then she boldly walks to school and smiles.  She is gorgeous and natural and looks like she belongs.

My husband accessorizes his outfits with a fitted sports coat and the right belt, throwing a scarf around his neck and grabbing his leather work satchel when he leaves.  It’s as if GQ dressed him for a photo shoot.

Then there’s me.  For some reason, my love affair with my flip flops prevent me from accessorizing properly.  Therefore, I will remain the staunchly proud American and take gorgeous photos of the European fashionistas that reside under my same roof.

Even my 2 and 1 year olds are already rocking the right shoes, hair, and fedora hats.

I’m glad that when we’re out in public, there only appears to be one tourist in the group—that’s ME!

No, seriously.  If you want my advice:  throw it on and wear it boldly and proudly!  Wear less makeup!  And allow your hair to flow naturally.

Pair that with leather shoes and just the right hat, and there you have it!

You’ll do really well in Europe.

7.  Be Quiet.

No, seriously.  Be quiet.  Unless there is a football game on television, a festival going on in town, or a really drunk singing German nearby (no offense, Germans), be quiet.

This day to day life of walking and shopping and talking and playing is VERY quiet.

I walk outside and the birds fly away.  I am pretty sure that I scare most every European on the continent the minute I walk out the door.

My American voice soars the clouds.

My daughter hides.  My husband shushes me.  My small ones are the only ones that smile.  They still don’t know any better.

Perhaps it’s because Europe is considered the civilized people while we Americans are the wild outlaws.  Who knows?

But my daughter tells me often that I am too boisterous for this nation.

She is right.  But as long as they accept my volume I’ll try and overlook their staring.

So, shall we call it a tie?

Europeans chime in with a probable “No!”  But, if you are American, you hold your ground.  Because if there is one thing America has taught you, it’s how to stay strong.

Actually, that’s a fantastic trait of both countries/continents.  I just voice my strength in a louder volume, causing my daughter and husband to run for the forest where they will then find everyone in Poland on a peaceful family walk.  In silence.

It’s true.

But don’t worry—I’m used to it.  I’m just not sure it is mutual.

6.  Appreciate the old.

There is nothing more beautiful than the old.  When I was in the States, I walked or drove in awe at all of the shiny and new.  It was beautiful.  And I loved every moment.  But there were times when I was looking for the cobblestones or the old homes or the buildings with ivy crawling.

I was looking for the chimneys blowing smoke and the cracks in the walls.

There is nothing wrong with shiny America, but there is something surreally stunning about lovely and lived in.  Quaint.  And peaceful.

And the castles.  Now, mind you, there is a palace or a castle like every 15 minutes, so my daughter told me in the car the other day, “WHY do you have to point out the window ALL THE TIME?!”  Apparently the thrill of a castle or palace does not resonant as strongly when a child grows up in this culture.  But to the never-ending foreigner—ME—I LOVE the turrets I see around every bend!

In the end, America will always be the far younger and shinier cousin country.  And Europe the elegant, older family member.

My vote will always be:  Arizona Deserts 1; Polish architecture 1.  TIE!

The weather, of course, sends it from a draw to an Arizona win.  But that’s just my opinion.

And, since we are mostly talking about architecture, I would have to ultimately say that Europe and its history of brilliant places and buildings takes the cake.

So, who wins?  I don’t know.  Perhaps it’s up to each individual to judge that one.

5.  Shop Europe!

My daughter got so frustrated when we were in the United States.  She began looking at EVERY item and would proclaim, “WHY IS EVERYTHING FROM CHINA?”

She was proud to be in America but very sad that she could hardly find anything at all that was truly American.

In Europe, however, even though products from China are slowly creeping into stores, you will overall find most items proudly made in Europe.

America, take a hint!

4.  Drink REAL Coffee.  Not brown water!

My husband and I were in the United States when we asked for some coffee at a restaurant.  The server brought us brown water.  We tasted it and thought, “What did we do to deserve such torture?!”

It was disgusting.

To be fair, we had not been in the States for many years at that point, so we had forgotten that brown water in the States is what they refer to as “Coffee”.

Coffee my foot!

You get better coffee at the gas station in Italy then you get at most places in the United States.

Just saying—weak, cheap, and flavorless brown water is not coffee.  America, take this lesson from Europe.  Stronger is better.

And it will definitely MAKE YOUR DAY!

3.  Prepare for the onslaught of Tourists.  And, no, they are NOT all Americans.

Europeans are GREAT European travelers.  But, if you think about it, it makes SENSE!  Europe is geographically not the largest continent.  Yet is has a million and one countries.  Therefore, to go on vacation, you can cross two borders in one day.

I think that we often believe as Americans that we are the only tourists in Europe.  We’re not.

And, don’t let the Europeans give you a hard time about speaking English.  Because, guess what.  When they cross the borders for their vacations, they generally have to speak English in their country destinations, too.

But—and these are what I wouldn’t mind most American tourists hearing loud and clear—don’t be rude and obnoxious and demanding.  And DON’T put down America at every conversation with a foreigner.

There are a whole lotta countries in the world.  No one knows them all.  So no need to apologize for your desire to travel the world and yet LEARN about it while you travel.

That’s okay.  And, when all is said and done, after you are home, you will know more because you were there.

Come and enjoy Europe.  You’ll leave with a new zeal and zest for life after you do.

And definitely come to Poland.  It is, in my opinion, one of the greatest countries you could ever experience!  No joke.  And see you here soon.

2.  Kissing is Good!

Just come prepared to kiss.  Many and multiple times.  Do not be shy.  And carry breath mints.

I have not met a European yet that does not greet with lovely kisses.  On the cheeks.  1, 2, 3 times or more!

Some, depending on the celebration, on the lips!

Yummy!

So, come to Europe and pucker up, for you will get kissed.

1. Climb the Stairs!

As much as they are constantly renovating and revamping, Europe is one big castle.  Lots of cobblestone.  Lots of small streets.  Lots of stairs.

And very tall buildings.  Without elevators or escalators.

But with stairs.

Our office is on the 3rd floor.  I think nothing of it when I grab my bag, my lunch, my coffee and hike the stairs.

But, when I am in the States, to even go to the 2nd floor of a building, I head over to the elevator and wait.

And while I wait for the elevator, I could have walked up and down the stairs a couple of times.  Yet I still wait.  And wait.  And wait.  And wait.

Yep!  As active as America is, we are still, in the day in and day out activities, still rather inactive.

Like driving to school or the grocery store.  When, technically, they are but a 10-20 minute walk away.

What’s it like living in Europe?

It’s one big walk.

And we like it that way!

How about you?  Are you an expat American living in Europe or perhaps another country?  What do you agree with?  Disagree with?  Please share!

I didn’t wear my wedding ring.

Have you ever lost your glasses that were at the end of your nose?  Or your hat that was on top of your head?

Well, I definitely have.  And did.  Just the other day.

You see, I was at work the other day. I work on the computer for a large portion of my time, as I work on sharing stories and finding supporters for our foundation, Bread of Life Ministries (click here!)…

It’s a very daunting job—but I would not have ANY other job.  Here is a a throwback photo of a donation made so that we could build a new soup kitchen!

soup kitchen check from PILC

To know all of the children, men, and women that we get to see served a bowl of soup, a new pair of glasses, an opportunity for counseling, life-saving cancer treatment, an education in Western Africa where most that we serve live on $2.00 or less a day, or a night of safety in a rescue center, is worth every minute that we do not sleep at night worrying about where the money will come in to help rescue these precious people!

And, to be fair to God, he does tell us not to worry about tomorrow.  That’s just a hard one to accept.

Anyhow, it happened.

I was at work when I glanced down at my hand.  That’s when I saw it.  Or didn’t see it!

My MISSING wedding ring.

I panicked.  Not because my husband would be upset if I wasn’t wearing my ring—he knows he’s always been my one and only hottie.  I panicked because I have a 14-month-old daughter that is at a stage in her life that is THROWING EVERYTHING IN THE TRASH!

I mean, really.  She literally goes to the refrigerator and takes something out of it and then goes straight to the trashcan and giddily throws it away.  I should have filmed her the other day.  It was as if she had discovered Disneyland in our very own kitchen.  Except the rides were her feet and the thrill was the trash can.

That is why, when I didn’t see my wedding ring, I panicked.

Where did I put it?  On the table at home?  In the bathroom?  On the counter?

Did I lay it down and then get distracted by doing my hair or makeup?

Oh my.  Oh my.  Oh my.  Oh my!

I still worked the rest of the day, but as soon as I got home, I looked everywhere for my wedding ring.  My search was fruitless.  I couldn’t find it anywhere.

And then suddenly it hit me.  BAM!

This was the very thought that ran through my mind, “Check your left hand!”

Sure enough, I looked at my left hand and there on my “Ring Finger” was my wedding ring!

Say what?  You may ask.

Let me clear your confusion.  For nearly a decade or more, I have been wearing my wedding ring on my right hand like they do in Poland.  And, for some odd reason that morning, I must have absently placed it on my left hand and forgot all about it.  Especially since I frantically looked at my right hand all day and concocted crazy scenarios about where my wedding ring went.

Like the glasses at the end of our nose or the hat on top of our head, my ring finger on my left hand was natural—and yet, at the same time, unnatural.  So unnatural, that I didn’t even think to look on my left hand for my ring when it went missing ;)

I guess my little trash-throwing daughter is off the hook—for now—in this dual-culture case of “The Missing Ring”.