Monday, July 24, 2017

Books finished in April 2017

July is nearing its end, so why not finally blog the books I read (or finished) in April?

Folly, Alan Titchmarsh  Yet another book by this author (also given to me for my birthday by Sue), I enjoyed it very much, definitely my favorite of his books that I've read so far. Most of the chapters alternate between the years 2007 and 1949 and it was fascinating putting together some pieces, suspecting some things before the characters did, but mostly having "aha!" moments about the same time as they did.

Finding You, Giselle Green This is the sequel to Little Miracles, which I read sometime last year. I was EXTREMELY disappointed with the ending of Little Miracles, which ended without solving the mystery of nearly the entire book. Sue admitted that she knew the answer to the one burning question, and I begged her to tell me, which she finally did. I don't remember if she found it out by reading this book, or by looking it up on-line. Either way, despite having a wonderful writing style, I highly disapproved of Giselle Green's ending! I like tied-up ends, or at least, the hope of them happening. This book answers that one burning question in one fell swoop, and poses a whole lot more. While leaving the ending open as to what might happen next, it was still a satisfying ending. In particular, very early in the book I thought, "'s interesting that the trauma of this situation would mimic that particular diagnosis." It turned out that it wasn't the case at all...that particular diagnosis was actually correct.

Crown of Blood, The Deadly Inheritance of Lady Jane Grey, Nicola Tallis This book rather dominated April. The first two books had both been started in March, and then Jörn gave me this one as a late birthday present right at the beginning of April. I like history in general. I love historical fiction. I very much like biographies that READ like historical fiction. This didn't. This was loooooooong. And yet...compelling. Just as I was deciding I was giving up on it (like, 135 times or so...), there would suddenly be a new, intriguing fact or link or something, and I kept reading. For at least a few weeks after finally finishing it, I could have told you just about anything you might have wanted to know (or not) about Lady Jane Grey and her nine (or 13, depending on how you count) as Queen of England, and why so many paintings are inaccurate, and what kind of things probably happened and probably didn't. I think I've probably forgotten most of it now.

The Narrative of Sojourner Truth, Sojourner Truth  This was a free book for the Kindle, and although I'd heard of Sojourner Truth, I didn't really know anything about her. She was born a slave and escaped to freedom in 1826, only half a year before all slavery was ended in New York anyway. She never learned to read (her books were dictated) and she never stopped fighting for abolition, and after the legal end of slavery, for equal rights for former slaves, for women, and for anybody and everybody who was oppressed. This book was published in 1850, well before slavery was finally abolished completely in the United States. Quite fascinating.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Books finished in March 2017

Since I wrote them down (at least some of them...), I figure I may as well go ahead and list the books I finished reading in March this year. I'm curious how many of them I'll even remember!

Dance With Me, Victoria Clayton I continue to enjoy Victoria Clayton's style, although by the third or fourth book of hers I read, I knew certain things about the plot for the whole book by the end of the first page. Still, I don't mind predictable when it's well written (which this is) and has lots of surprises despite the overall predictability, and just the right number of loose ends are tied up.

Rosie, Alan Titchmarsh I discovered Alan Titchmarsh at the library a year or so ago, never having heard of him (he's apparently well-known in the U.K. as a TV gardener...), and really enjoyed the couple of books I read then. My friend Sue, who is better at remembering what interests me than I am, gave me two Alan Titchmarsh books for my birthday in March! It's a little debatable who the main character of this book is. Rosie is definitely central, but it's really her grandson Nick who is the one changing and growing throughout the story, and most of it (if I remember correctly) is told from his point of view. I haven't particularly enjoyed very many novels written by men, but this is a wonderful exception.

The Midwife's Tale, Delia Parr Every week I get several free books for my Kindle, and this was one of them. It was...okay. It was one of those that reminded me that sometimes things that are free are worth about what was paid for them. There were quite a few anachronisms that irritated me, but the story was interesting enough to keep going. I disagreed with one plot twist. Not so much that it happened (that's up to the author, and it DID surprise me...), but because it wasn't, in my opinion, at all foreshadowed, and depended on yet another anachronism and so felt totally fake...

Beautiful Child, Torey Hayden I thought I'd read all of Torey Hayden's books (and I think I have most of them), but came across this in the give-aways at the library and it didn't look familiar. I can't ever read more than one Torey Hayden book in a row, as they can be too depressing. The author has received a certain amount of criticism for allegedly implying that she is perfect, "look at all the children she has saved." I don't think she comes across that way at all. She's honest about her failures, signs she's missed, etc., but yes, obviously she writes about cases where she was successful in her job with children with some pretty extreme special needs. I find HER encouraging, while the situations of some of the children make me very sad.

Good Omens, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett Despite the best efforts of several people, I haven't been able to get into Terry Pratchett, really. But this book was lying around (sort's Marie's, and I was moving some of her stuff from one place to another and saw this and it appealed...) and I started reading it, and actually finished it. Neil Gaiman is apparently also famous, but I'd never heard of him. Surreal and very funny and thought-provoking, too.

Parker Twins Bundle: Cave of the Inca Re, Jungle Hideout, Captured in Colombia, Mystery at Death Canyon, Secret of the Dragon mark, Race for the Secret Code Jeanette Windle I think I started this last November or so. I got it (them?) free for the Kindle, and it's pretty much another case of getting what I paid for. I think the target age group is around 10-12 and they're certainly very easy reading, but I have nothing against well-written children's books. These aren't, particularly. There's a pair of twins who get to travel to South America with their uncle. In the first book they're in Peru and stumble across smugglers. Spoiler: the twins don't get murdered. (That's clear anyway, because there are five more books.) The smugglers also get caught. This is because the twins pray. In the second book, they're in...Bolivia, I think and they stumble across...hmm...some other lawbreakers. The lawbreakers get caught. The twins don't get murdered. This is because they pray. In the third book they stumble across drug smugglers. The smugglers get caught. The twins don't get murdered. This is because they pray. (Sorry, I know I'm giving away the whole and complete plot of each and every book here...) In the fourth book they're actually back in the U.S. They stumble across smugglers. The smugglers get caught. The twins don't get murdered. This is because they pray. In the fifth book they're also in the U.S. They stumble across a violent gang. The gang gets caught. The twins don't get murdered. This is because they pray. In the sixth book--PLOT TWIST--the boy twin doesn't pray. He gets tricked into doing stuff he shouldn't. This leads him to stumble across more illegal behavior. Finally, like a couple of pages before the end, he prays. So he doesn't get murdered and the bad people get caught. I don't really know why I finished these books, unless it was because I was reading them when I couldn't sleep...

I also read lots and lots of books to the children and don't feel like leaving my comfortable seat in the air conditioning (set at 28 Celsius) to look at the list in the living room, which isn't even a complete list. None of the books I read to them were books I hadn't read before, except maybe a few picture books from the library.

Monday, April 17, 2017

At home in the world...

I've sort of sometimes kind of skimmed the blogposts at "The Art of Simple," but there are a lot of posts, and many of them just aren't all that interesting to me, personally. There are several contributors to the blog, and some of them have ideas of "simple" that are way more complicated than my ideas of simple. For example, a recent blogpost about "packing light" included at least twice as much as I pack! But every once in awhile a post catches my eye and I read the whole one, and I WOULD like Tsh Oxenrider's book, which is being released tomorrow.

The newest post, in honor of the release of the book, "At Home in the World," posed several questions and challenged people to answer them. That appeals to me, partly because I'm not particularly creative but love talking (= writing), but also for the sake of the topic itself. So for those three people who sometimes read my blog, here goes. (For all I know, at least two of those people skim my occasional blogpost the way I skim most of those I "read", but that's why I like blogs...nobody is forced to listen, but I get to ramble all I want without feeling guilty for doing so, because if YOU decide to read the whole thing, it's YOUR problem.)

So finally getting to the point, here's the first question (in italics) and my response below.

1. Share about a place where you feel at home in the world.
This can be anything from a little coffee shop in an obscure back alley in a tiny village in Central Asia, all the way to your favorite armchair in the corner of your bedroom. Tell me why you love being there so much, and why it feels like home to you.

My spontaneous response to the title of the blogpost was "anywhere but in the U.S." Despite having lived in the United States for just over 19 years (not consecutive, but from birth until 20 1/2, so nearly), and that still being my only passport, I never "fit in." And the problem is that when one doesn't fit in where one is expected to fit in, the result is, at best, being ignored. Maybe that's mostly just childhood (and definitely teenagerhood) in general, but the three months I spent in the U.S. at the age of 35 weren't any different. I don't particularly "fit in" anywhere else, either, but nobody expects me to anywhere else. Outside of my passport country it's kind of that I'm given more freedom to be me, but I mostly take the freedom to be me whether it's given to me or not, so it's not even that. At the very least, outside of the U.S. people can shrug and blame my me-ness on my passport, but they don't reject me because of it. At least, that's the impression I get.

There ARE specific attitudes I enjoy in other places that I never knew I missed in the U.S. until I met them other places. In Latin America, for example, hugs and kisses are everyday life, every day, multiple times a day. I like that. When with my host family in Costa Rica (I was an exchange student there for seven weeks when I was 17, and have been back to visit ten times since), I enjoy greeting and being greeted every morning, by every member of the family. When anyone leaves or arrives, it's hugs and kisses all around, and the same when anyone goes to bed. Some people would hate that (and most U.S.ians seem to), but I love it.

In Germany, where I lived for over 17 years, it's "only" handshakes, but there's still always a connection. In some ways, Latino culture and Northern European culture are totally opposite (maybe "warm climate culture" vs. "cold climate culture" could be the topic of another post...), but I feel very at home in both.

Another aspect with both is that I KNOW where I stand. In Costa Rica and in Mexico (I lived in Mexico for one year when I was 18-19), people say, "Stop by anytime!" and they really mean it, and if you don't stop by, they'll ask you why you didn't and when you are coming. I've only been back to visit Mexico once, for one week, and at the end of that week I flew back to Germany from a city 20 hours away by bus from where I'd been staying with a friend. When my friend realized I'd be arriving at 9:00 at night and my flight was the next morning, she said I should stay with her cousin. Her cousin didn't have a phone and there was no other way for anyone to get a message through, but they gave me the cousin's address. When I arrived, I took a taxi to the address. These people who had never even HEARD of me before opened the door to a stranger, in the rain, late at night. When I said I was a friend of Carolina in Tuxtla, they welcomed me in, fed me, and put me not only in the room but in the bed with a teenage daughter, and were disappointed that I was leaving the next day.

In Germany, it's nearly the opposite in that people only invite you if they really want you, and they don't necessarily, so one doesn't get the "open invitation" of Latino culture. However, again, I'm comfortable with that because I know where I stand. If they invite me to stop by next week for coffee, they want me to do so and they expect me to do so, and if I don't do so, they'll wonder what's wrong and probably feel hurt. I don't have to wonder whether they're just being polite, because in my experience, Germans don't bother "just being polite." (And having been married to one particular German for 22 years, I do have a little bit of experience to go on.) Some U.S.ians mean it when they issue an open invitation, and some even expect to be taken up on it, but I am so utterly lacking in intuition that I can't figure out who does and who doesn't, so it's just a source of confusion for me.

And now I live in Cyprus. The friendly attitude here to large families (which we also experienced in Costa Rica, Peru, Thailand, and South Africa, but not, unfortunately, Germany) is a huge bonus, and I do very well with the laid-back attitudes about time that resemble my experiences in Latin America. And hugging and kisses (on both cheeks, as opposed to only one in Mexico and Costa Rica) are normal and people are hospitable and mean it. That's all cool. Unfortunately, we haven't gotten to be really immersed in Cypriot culture, the way I was in Costa Rica, Mexico, Germany, and even some in our short time (two months) in Thailand. There are certainly practical reasons for that, one being that virtually everyone speaks such good English that it's not been necessary to learn Greek (I'm the only member of the family who can communicate in Greek beyond greetings and set phrases), and there are so many ex-pats that it's very easy to have a very full life without encountering many Cypriots. All the children take drama classes, four are currently taking music lessons (from British teachers), we're active in an English-language church which includes activities during the week for all ages, etc.

At the end of all this rambling, though, there's still the question of how I define "home." I'm good at feeling AT home nearly anyplace (except in the U.S., where I mostly feel stressed...), and I'm good at LIVING where I am. We were only in South Africa for four months, but we had library cards within days of arriving, I joined a homeschool mothers Bible study and a mother-toddler group, the children played with the neighbors, I taught Sunday school, we took the train regularly, we knew where to go grocery shopping: we lived there. Still, "home" was in Germany, where my books were, and that's a definition I've used before. By that definition, the only homes I've had were my childhood homes (five, although three were the same neighborhood, two of those three literally in the EXACT same place, seeing as the last house was built on the site of the house that burned down when I was ten) in the United States, Germany (seven different houses in five different cities), and this house in Cyprus, where we've been for over eight years now, the longest consecutive time my books have stayed on the same shelves in my entire life.

I like my bed, too (we brought it with us from Germany), and no matter how much I enjoy traveling and how comfortable other beds were, there's definitely a moment of sighing happily, "It's so good to be home," when I get back to my own bed. And as it's 10 minutes until tomorrow, that's where I'm headed now.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Books finished in February 2017

After carefully keeping track of the books I read in January, I thought I'd keep that up in February, but didn't write them straight down here and am even less sure that I got them all. I rather hope not, because I don't like to think that I truly only finished six books in the whole month! Again, unusually, all of those listed are ones I read for the first time.

Shadows of the Workhouse, Jennifer Worth  A friend from church saw my post of the books I had read in January and offered to lend me this, a sequel to Call the Midwife, which I of course gratefully accepted. This was likewise very good, although sometimes difficult (emotionally) reading.

Come Rain or Come Shine, Jan Karon  I have the first half dozen or so of Jan Karon's Mitford Series, but have been able to borrow all the others one by one as my friend Sue acquires them. I enjoyed this very much, especially following on the heels of a somewhat depressing book set in post-war London. There were a couple of incidents that were a bit difficult to believe, but I can't think of how to mention them without giving away something rather startling, so I won't!

A Vicarage Family, Noel Streatfeild After enjoying Tea by the Nursery Fire, a fictionalized (but categorized as non-fiction) account of Noel Streatfield's father's nanny, I very much looked forward to this book, the first of the three that are essentially autobiographical. The only thing that annoyed me a bit was that a few characters were completely changed. Yes, I realize that both books are fictionalized, and I know that it can be difficult to remember some details one has made up, but the essential characters of Noel's paternal grandparents are completely the opposite of who they are in the first book, so I wonder which is closer to the truth or if they're both completely fictional. In both cases, they play fairly major roles, so it seems odd! Also, a detail about the nanny's life is completely opposite in the two books, again, a fairly major point in my opinion.

Beyond the Vicarage, Noel Streatfeild This is the third of Noel Streatfeild's autobiographical books, and seemed rather disjointed. It was much more a set of rambling memoirs of an older lady than the first one. (I can't compare to the second one, as Sue, from whom I borrowed both, doesn't have the second one, and when I looked it up on amazon and couldn't find it for less than £28, I decided I wasn't buying it myself, either!) It felt very odd to have some things fictional (for example, the main character is called Victoria Strangeway), but then for the actual titles of the books that Noel Streatfeild wrote to be listed and talked about one by one. Sentences like "Victoria had not read that book since it was published until she re-read it 40 years later while writing this book" when referring to a book, by its correct title, written by Noel, of course, seemed totally out of place. I like memoirs and can ramble just fine on my own, but I suspect that this was published at all mainly on the strength of it being a sequel and being by a well-known author.

The Girl from Venice, Martin Cruz Smith Jörn bought this book at the airport in London and read it in a relatively short time (especially for one who virtually never reads fiction) and talked me into reading it. It took me forever to get through it and I still don't know if I "liked" it. In general, historical fiction is my favorite genre, and specifically, I particularly appreciate World War II historical fiction. But the drama between brothers and not trusting the author to keep certain people alive (he did, after all, except one that he killed off turned out to be alive and then he killed him off anyway...) and the suspense were all things that were not on my list of enjoyable reading. Also, it's set at the beginning of 1945 and I always, very unreasonably, have a hard time not getting annoyed with the characters for not realizing that the war is nearly over anyway...

Past Mischief, Victoria Clayton I read this book in two days, the day I finished it including getting up at 5:00 a.m. and reading until 9:30 (with a short break for a shower, and eating breakfast while reading), having about 10 pages left. I took it with me to church and read another two or three pages before the service started, much to my husband's disapproval (LOL), but actually waited until I got home to finish it completely. It was a very satisfying book, for the most part, with some very surprising twists and finishing with the right number of ends tied up neatly, but not too perfectly to be believable.

I'm of course still reading to the children every day (as I have been doing for 19 1/2 years, and did plenty before that with borrowed children ;-) ), but will only mention that we did read two more Narnia books:

The Horse and His Boy and The Magician's Nephew, C.S. Lewis Again, these were supposedly being read to Helen and Elisabeth, but my husband wouldn't let us read them without him. We managed to finish just before he left for Israel, then had to wait a week to start The Last Battle.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Books finished in January 2017

These are the books I read to myself and finished this month. It's kind of embarrassing how few there are. I'm in the middle of three or four other books at the moment, but as there are only 2 1/2 hours left of this month, I don't expect to finish any more. I was first writing these down as I finished them and had a hard time keeping my comments short (okay, I didn't keep my comments short), but eventually ran out of time to make any comments at all. I don't think I missed any books, but may have. Unusually, every single book I read for myself this month I was reading for the first time.

 At Home: A Short History of Private Life, by Bill Bryson The first Bill Bryson book I read was Mother Tongue: the Story of English and How it Got that Way, at least 20 years ago (and re-read several times since). I'm pretty sure I've read most of his books by now, although I only own about half a dozen myself. I've borrowed them from several friends, and the librarian lent me this one (from her private collection), as she did the Shakespeare book by Bill Bryson. I started this after Christmas and finished it New Year's Day.

Arthur, King of Britain, by Michael Morpurgo I think what appeals to me in the King Arthur stories is the utterly casual mix of history, legend, and magic. I went through a King Arthur phase when I was a teenager and own several books from then, but I hadn't read much more in the 30ish years since. I enjoyed this very much. And I read all but the last five pages of it in practically one sitting, while waiting for different parts of a check-up for the application for health insurance. (I was there for three hours. People kept apologizing for how long I had to wait, and I kept saying, "Look: I'm sitting here reading peacefully. I don't know if my children and husband at home are as happy, but I'm fine!")

Twist of Gold, by Michael Morpurgo I read this in one sitting while holding a cat who was missing her humans. Okay, it's a children's book and only took two hours, but I really like Michael Morpurgo. His books cover so many different topics, a lot of them historical fiction (my favorite genre), but not all, and some of them totally surreal. This one was historical fiction about the Irish Potato Famine, or rather, about a sibling pair who manage to escape.

Call the Midwife, by Jennifer Worth

Better Than School: One family's declaration of independence, by Nancy Wallace

Tea by the Nursery Fire: A Children's Nanny at the Turn of the Century, by Noel Streatfeild

When the Siren Wailed, by Noel Streatfeild 

Angel, by Colleen McCullough

And....I figured I may as well include the non-picture books I read aloud to the children. I read a LOT of other books to them, as well as parts of many other books. (For example, I'm currently reading to Helen and Elisabeth The Usborne Children's Encyclopedia, When We Were Very Young, The Llama Who Had No Pajama, a children's Bible, Hero Tales, and probably more.) All of the books listed below are ones I've read aloud before, but not to the same children.

all the small poems and fourteen more, by Valerie Worth We'd been reading this book for about a year, as part of Sonlight's Core 5 (or F, rather, as I really should get used to calling it, as they changed the names, oh, at least four or five years ago...), "Eastern Hemisphere Explorer," which is what Lukas and Katie are doing right now. This particular book doesn't actually have anything to do with the history, but Sonlight includes a poetry book every year, and this was the one for this Core. We generally read the book several days in a row, three poems each time, each of the three of us reading one out loud, and then would go weeks without reading any.

Prince Caspian, by C.S. Lewis I haven't been getting very far in Sonlight with either Helen or Elisabeth, because we keep reading so many other books! I read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to them in December and then started this. Jörn started listening in and then requested us not to read unless he was there! (I made Jörn read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe before we went to see the movie in December 2005, but that was the only book he had read. :-) )

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, by C.S. Lewis Again, Jörn insisted on listening in.

The Silver Chair, by C.S. Lewis Jörn wasn't so sure he was going to listen to this one, disappointed that none of the Pevensies were in it, and finding some of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader too weird. He doesn't actually like fiction much, and fantasy even less. So he didn't listen to the first chapter...but then got drawn in and yet again wouldn't let us read if he wasn't home. And won't let us start The Horse and His Boy until he gets home again! (He's been in England for the last five days, gets home tomorrow.)

The Hundred Dresses, by Eleanor Estes Another Sonlight book, this one from Core K, for Helen and Elisabeth. Since Jörn was gone, I had to read something non-Narnian.

Peter Pan (abridged), by J.M. Barrie, retold by Susan Shebar I know I read this to Jacob, Lukas, and Katie (that is, three separate times), and I think I may actually have read it to Lukas several times. It's just barely not quite a picture book, but it's very abridged, and not very well done in my biased opinion, and I'm not sure why we own it or how we got it. It's part of the Sonlight Core K (um...A), or at least, it was in 2002, but I know I didn't buy it because I had the original and didn't see any reason for the abridged one, and Marie read the original on her own when she was five anyway. But we have it, so I read it. It was something to keep the children at bay while waiting for Papa to be home tomorrow so we can continue with Narnia.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Running with bunions

Four and a half years ago, I started walking daily. It soon turned into jogging, which I found I was enjoying tremendously, and much to my surprise, in November 2012 I participated in the 6K 16th Annual Larnaka Run. In October 2013 I ran again, pleased it was only 5K that year, as I had quite a bad cold and it was a hot day. I barely finished, but I did it, running the whole way. In November 2014, I ran yet again, the officially 6K run being only 5 1/2 kilometers due to construction along Makenzy Beach.

"Running," by the way, is a term I use strictly by definition, in that while I propel myself forward, both feet are off of the ground in between steps. I'm very slow, slower than some people walk (hello, Tim!), and have no desire to push myself any faster. I'm not racing, just running. Sort of. :-)

So, by that definition of running, I continued running virtually every single Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and some Sundays, from summer 2012 all through 2013 and 2014. Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays I walked (and still do) with my friend Sue. Sundays I sometimes run, sometimes walk, sometimes ramble with awake children, sometimes go for a bike ride, and sometimes stay in bed. I call it my "wild card day."

However, various circumstances led to me running much less in 2015. Several unconnected, but traumatic-to-me, events occurred at the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015 and it rained a great deal in January and February 2015, and I was not in a good place emotionally, which got itself into a vicious circle with my physical well-being. In September 2015 I finally decided to metaphorically kick myself in the rear and get running again, to be able to participate in the 19th Annual Larnaka Run. A couple of days after I started doing so,  however, I found out that the run was later than usual that year, not until November 15th. On November 15th, we were in an airplane on our way to the United States. So I quit running.

February this year, I decided to start up again, following (as I had several times before) the C25K program. This three-day-a-week, nine-week program is meant to get someone from sitting on the couch ("C") to ("2") running five ("5") kilometers ("K"), and it's pretty awesome. The first time I did it, I was struggling at the beginning to complete the first week's plan of alternating jogging 60 seconds and walking 90 seconds for a total of 20 minutes. When I started in February this year, I easily did that the first day for 30 minutes, and was pleased at the end of nine weeks to be easily jogging 6-8 kilometers three times a week.

Except that my right foot hurt.

It had started hurting the first day I jogged, and I tried to ignore it. After a week, I got new shoes, which seemed to help some, but it kept hurting. Sometimes little twinges, sometimes sharp, shooting pains that made me gasp and almost stumble. I thought I probably should quit running, but I didn't, and sometimes it didn't hurt much, so I tried to ignore it. But when I got to the end of nine weeks, in April, I quit running again. My foot didn't hurt as much when I walked (which I continued doing three times a week with Sue, until the weather got too hot for her), and sometimes didn't hurt at all, and sometimes hurt a great deal at random times when I wasn't even walking.

At the beginning of July I finally stopped by the office of a podiatrist who is just around the corner from us, and she listed to my description and said no, she wouldn't give me an appointment, but recommended an orthopedist, so that's where I went. He pretty quickly diagnosed bunions (both feet) and sent me to have an x-ray. He was actually surprised that my right foot hurt and my left one didn't, because apparently, the x-ray indicated that the left foot was worse. The right toe looks worse to me:

(The dark mark, by the way, is the shadow of the camera, not a tan!) Either way, I was surprised. I thought bunions were what old ladies who wear terrible shoes get. Nope: according to this orthopedist, I was born with them, and it was surprising to him that I'd never before had any kind of pain. When he heard that I go barefoot a lot, and that when I don't, I NEVER wear high heels or pointy shoes, and that my favorite shoes are Birkenstocks (not that I've had any for three or four years, but I do wear wide sandals), he said that that was likely the reason I'd never had problems. When I started running in February, in old, thin (but oh, so comfortable!) shoes, I'd probably hit a stone just right (or just wrong, rather) and "caused trauma," and it was inflamed and wouldn't get better without treatment.

Happily, he didn't recommend surgery, saying that he prefers conservative treatment, and prescribed anti-inflammatory medication and told me to try to avoid walking, and to cool the painful area with ice. Yeah, right. A week later we were going to Germany, and I knew that on that Saturday we'd be going to the zoo with friends, walking all day. So...I stuck it out for another week, and the day after the zoo visit, I started taking the anti-inflammatory, and it was easy enough to stay off my feet for a lot of the time of our conference (Family Camp) that next week. By the end of the next week, my foot was a LOT better, and I'd also bought a new pair of running shoes at Aldi around the corner. The new shoes are technically a bit too big for me, but they tie snugly while leaving my toes plenty of space.

The orthopedist also mentioned that there a lot of products on the market which claim to help against bunions. In his opinion, none of them "fix" anything, but some of them may relieve some of the discomfort for some people. The gel pad I bought that day did help considerably, although it wasn't all that comfortable to wear.

And then I started thinking about running again. The doctor wasn't too supportive of the idea, telling me that swimming would be the best sport for me. I don't WANT to "do a sport," nor "go exercise," I just love running. And I don't like to swim when it's cold, or in the sun, or in a pool, so even though I live five minutes from the beach (by car), I don't find swimming to be a very practical thing very much of the time, whereas I live 350 meters from a beautiful four-kilometer-long Nature Trail next to the Salt Lake, with convenient markers every 500 meters. I also don't find riding a bicycle that exciting. I like using it to get someplace, and an occasional bike-ride for fun is okay, but my knees hurt and my bottom hurts and besides, traffic here is SCARY. I was starting to feel pretty miserable again, discouraged and sorry for myself, because after more than 20 years of no sport whatsoever, I'd finally found something I liked, that was good for me, free (except for shoes), and convenient, and I was being told I'd "never be able to do it again." I walked twice in July (with one friend), twice in August (with another friend), and in September started walking three days a week with Sue again, but no running.

But this is 2016 and there IS the internet...

Googling "running with bunions" brings up 1, 790, 000 results. So I'm not the only one who has thought about this, by far. The main conclusion I drew from the few articles I read was that running would NOT make the actual deformation I have any worse, it was simply a matter of treating the symptoms and dealing with it. Encouraged, I stopped by the pharmacy again about six weeks ago and decided to get "toe separators," as they appeared to be highly recommended and not very expensive. (Why they come THREE in a box, I don't know. I only have two feet. But three of them for about 6 Euros doesn't seem too bad to me.)

I was skeptical. I never could stand flip-flops or any other sandals with a strap between the first two toes, finding them extremely uncomfortable. However, these things are made of silicon, and besides, I'd discovered that just HOLDING my big toe out to the side relieved the pain, so I figured it was worth a try.

NO PAIN!!! And no discomfort from these weird-looking things, either. And I've been running, occasionally, for six weeks, and have NO PAIN. I participated in the 20th Annual Larnaka Run. My time was the slowest ever (even slower than last Sunday, when I ran six consecutive kilometers for the first time since April), but I did run the entire way, and of the 600+ participants, there were at least a dozen or so who finished after I did. (And there might have been four more if I hadn't teased unmercifully those fit-looking teenage boys from a local private school, telling them that they should NOT let a fat old lady beat them, and to GET MOVING. I passed them about 20 times, and they passed me about 20 times, because either they were sprinting or creeping. I just kept going. They sprinted the last couple of hundred meters and did finish before I did.)

Incidentally, four of my children participated today as well: Helen and Elisabeth in the 500-meter run:

Waiting at the starting line, Elisabeth is under the "E", in the bright pink shirt and being held up by Lukas, and Helen is next to her under the "H."
There were way too many children crowded together for me to get a photo of them finishing, so I took this photo afterwards. They were very proud of their participation medals.

Katie in the 1000-meter run:
Waiting to start, Katie under the "K."

Katie walked most of the way, only sprinting the last 50 meters or so after I'd gone to meet her to encourage her to finish, and since I was holding the camera, that meant that I didn't get a photo of her finishing, either, so took one afterwards. Two or three children did finish after she did...

And Lukas with me in the 6000-meter (doesn't that sound more impressive than 6K??) run:

Jörn took this photo of us, together with two friends from church who were running in support of Oasis Project. They both finished well before I did!

Lukas running the last 100 meters or so, after walking over half of the way, finishing about 10 minutes after I did, but not last...
This is the first time Jörn has been there to cheer us on, as he was out of the country all of the other three times I participated. Which also means that there's a rare photo of me, as Katie ran to meet me just before I finished:

And to finish it off, the photo Jörn took before the race, before we were all hot and sweaty, and while Katie was still considering re-considering:

Wednesday, July 13, 2016


We're in Hamminkeln, Germany, which is legally our home (at the moment it still is, that is, and has been for seven a half years, but we'll be unregistering next week, which is another story...), but have never lived here. Our other legal home is in Cyprus, and is definitely the place we call home. It's where I keep my books. :-)

We often stay in Hamminkeln while we're in Germany, as our sending agency has their headquarters here, and a guest house we're able to use. This time, we're actually here TO be here, for the Family Camp they're running for the third time. 25 children and 26 adults participating this year, plus plenty of staff, and as wonderful as always! There's a children's program during the morning and evening sessions, and lots of free time, to relax and to chat with other people.

And this evening's topic was TCKs: Third-Culture Kids, which, by definition, my children are. And three years ago I wrote a post about why I believe I have Aquired TCK-ism, identifying considerably more with TCKs than with my "passport culture," although maybe I'm just multi-cultural. Whatever. Anyway, it was interesting, although not new information for me, and I especially enjoy hearing people's anecdotes. (Had to laugh especially at one the speaker shared. She had overheard a child being asked where he's from, and he shot out with one rushed sentence: "My-mother-is-American-and-my-father-is-German-and-we-live-in-Cyprus." Guess who THAT was. Her point was that he answered quickly as if he were used to answering that way, that none of us can give simple, quick answers. Totally true.)

One thing that was said tonight was something I hadn't noticed before in definitions of just who is a TCK, though. It was that "you know you will be returning 'home' someday." That's a difficult concept for me, partly because I am always "home" where I happen to live. (I said that in the post I linked, too. I have never lived 'away from home', because where I live IS home.) And it makes me wonder if that then disqualifies my children from being TCKs, as it is highly unlikely that we, as a family, will ever return to Germany (and cannot, as a family, "return" to the United States), and if any of them did ever move to Germany, I don't think any of them would think of it as "returning home." Marie, who spent the last seven months in the United States and is going back there in September did not "return home" when she moved to her passport country; she moved to the United States. I wouldn't even call it "returning home" if I were to move back to the United States (which I have no intention of doing, but there are a lot of things I never had any intention of doing...), and I did live there 19 (non-consecutive) years, still the most years in any one country, although less that half of my life.

So I then asked a few of my children what they would answer if asked where home is.

Helen (nearly 8) said, "Well, I would ask if they know where Faneromeni is, and then tell them to go down the street the same direction as the church, and turn left at..." and gave complete directions to our house. In Cyprus, of course. (She's lived in Cyprus since she was four months old, in that house since she was six months old.)

Katie (11 next week) said, "In Larnaka, in Cyprus. Cyprus is an island in the Eastern Mediterranean, between Turkey and Israel." (And NOT part of Greece, as we have found we regularly have to explain...)

Elisabeth (6) started at me like that was a dumb question, and as she highly disapproves of dumb questions (that is, questions that she knows the questioner knows the answer to), she finally just said, "I need to go to the loo" and left. Proving again at least her international-ness, as "loo" is BRITISH and NOT a word I ever, ever use!!! (I have nothing against it, but it's not part of my vocabulary.)

Lukas (14) said, "Cyprus."

So, I thought I'd add a photo or two of our time here, but I just checked the camera, and so far, the only photos from the Family Camp are of cake and of Duplo. We're too busy enjoying ourselves to take photos, I guess.