Welcome to Switzerland!

Part of what makes life fabulous is the opportunity to visit new people in new places. While I’ve been to Switzerland briefly in the past, I’ve never had the opportunity to stop and stay for awhile. This time I did. Staying for a longer time provides the opportunity to view life through the eyes of those living in Winterthur, just outside of Zurich.

Via my smart phone camera – you can join us!

Walk by the market area or town center

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Public transportation is easy and on time. For example, our friends met us at the airport and traveled with us on the local commuter train for the 10 minute trip into Winterthur.

Local streets cater to pedestrians and cyclists since not as many people drive cars. Pollution is low because traffic is light. Winterthur is quite walkable.

Look at these vintage shutters and ironwork – amazing, isn’t it?

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R. Meshar

R. Meshar

The water is crystal clear everywhere. Our host often fills her water bottle during the day at town fountains and assures us that it is pristine. It certainly looked clear – all the way to the bottom!

Next we’ve planned an excursion to a nearby a castle, complete with moat . . .

Christmas Present

CelebratingMyHome

These days Christmas for me is less about decorations and buying gifts and more about experiencing the beauty all around us and being with people I love and who love me. As I have moved more into experiencing Christmas, rather than doing the “tasks for Christmas” for others, the season has taken on a different shape. It’s starts earlier and lasts longer. It’s more enjoyable, peaceful and renewing.

This year for example, we participated in a “Biscotti Blitz” early in the month with a group of friends. We had fun making many flavors of biscotti – then passing them on to others, too, to enjoy. We saw a movie and went to the Jewish Community Theater and experienced a play about Hanukkah and racism. Dinner afterward gave space to discuss the ideas presented in the play and appreciate DH’s take on the performance.

Scattered throughout the season I have been going to Taizé. Taizé liturgy has songs styled in repetitive chant often with readings and candles. It is slow. There are long spaces of silence. The church is darkened. It restores my soul. At St. John Neumann, I can gaze out the large expanse of windows behind the altar and watch the snow covered evergreens, glistening in the night.

Christmas Eve brings midnight mass, Christmas music, readings and connecting with friends. Christmas day brings a relaxed late morning gathering with more friends for brunch.

Year end reminds me to give back since I have received so, so much. A candle is lit. Volunteer projects are considered, donations are made. I have enjoyed the practice of tithing for many years now. It keeps me focused on how over privileged I am and how much of what I have rightfully belongs to others.

New Year’s Eve takes us to another group of friends gathering together. Taize continues well into January. Liturgically, the season of Christmas begins Christmas Eve and lasts until the Feast of the Baptism of Christ in January. So much time to celebrate.

And so it goes. What was one day in my life is now expanded to embrace an entire season. Relaxed. Not too much fuss. Space for long walks in the snow, discussion, candle lights and reading by the fireplace.

Photo: GetGreen365.com

Birch logs or scented evergreen boughs and candles complete my decorating. Christmas Present – for me – means being present.

Whatever your tradition, happy holidays to all of you on the other side of this screen. May you receive peace, health and joy in the year to come.

You may also like Fast & Easy Holiday Decor and Christmas Past.

Christmas Past

This post continues the series of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Future.

When my daughters were young, we enjoyed taking them to see the iconic Christmas windows at Marshall Field’s on State Street in Chicago. Often we went as a family, but some years I took them myself on the train. I commuted to downtown Chicago everyday on the train. But train rides are exciting for kids, and my daughters were no exception. Riding in the upper berth was especially fun for them. The seats above are smaller and closer to the floor – perfectly sized for kids.

Once at State Street, we’d take our time, moving with the crowds while we looked at each themed window around the store. The themes varied from year to year; A Dickens Village, Ebenezer Scrooge’s Christmas Carol, Nutcracker Suite and Santa at the North Pole are examples I remember. The windows were magical. The detailed, colorful, animated figures and backgrounds were mesmerizing – for kids and adults.

OakParkJournal.com

Photo: OakParkJournal.com

http://www.korenskyjourney.blogspot.com/

Photo: korenskyjourney.blogspot.com

Afterward, we’d make our way to the Walnut Room Restaurant inside the store. The Walnut Room had a large decorated tree in the center and overlooked floors below. Bright, white tablecloths with cloth napkins and real silverware. Here they could order from a grown-up menu (usually the typical grilled cheese, Coke and fries), watch the center of the store from up on high and eat lunch. It was a totally fun day just being with them and experiencing the atmosphere of State Street and downtown Chicago through their eyes – wide open and with delight.

I remember . . . and it makes me smile whenever I think of it.

Christmas Past

Oakbrook Center Christmas Tree

This post begins a series that will look at Christmas past, present and future. Part of it will be a bit of memoir, part of it will be current experiences and part will be envisioning the future. These posts will occur throughout the Christmas season until it ends in January.

I’d like to begin with Christmas Past. One of the best experiences of my life was being a parent. While I know this isn’t the best choice or even possible for everyone – it was a good experience for me. And one of my best memories as a parent was the annual ritual of taking my oldest daughter, when she was maybe five to ten years old, Christmas shopping at Oakbrook Center, at night. Some years it would even be snowing as we walked outside, from store to store. The giant Christmas tree was lit in the center. Christmas music was playing. Her eyes sparkled as we walked along, crunching the snow under our boots.

One thing I remember was hoisting her up on a stool at the make-up counter at Marshall Field’s (now long gone). The sales woman put a bit of blush on her cheeks and gloss on her lips. My daughter beamed – such a grown-up thing to do when you are young! Leaving the store we sampled colognes and hand creams, looked at jewelry and scarves. She chattered away as we walked along.

The purpose of the trip was so that she could do her Christmas shopping. Some of her gifts she had already purchased at her school where each year they held a small Christmas bazaar. Here children could shop for their parents, siblings and grandparents. But some gifts needed to be purchased at the mall. She had saved her money for the gifts she had in mind. She was careful to select gifts that would actually be used and enjoyed. Sometimes she also helped me pick out gifts on my list – but that was not our real reason for being there. Mostly I simply enjoyed being with her, watching her shop, and seeing winter and the Christmas season through her eyes.

For me, that was the amazing gift of parenthood, being able to see the world brand new, through the bright, wide eyes of your child.

You may also like The Jewelry We Keep and What Is Your Story?

Authentic Living

Photo DesktopNexus.com

Recently I had the occasion to reconnect with the woman who was my principal for eight years in grade school. She is just as bright, vibrant and sharp today as she was then. While she worked many years in education and administration, she still works three days a week as a chaplain. Her focus has always been in the area of social justice and service. I credit her and her faculty with my own interest in service and social justice.

However, there is more going on here than simply a focus on justice. The capacity to focus on others in a permanent way allows us to “de-center” ourselves. It is in “de-centering” or becoming other-centered that we experience a deeper, more permanent happiness and joy.

This can feel like a scary process that involves giving up control. However, in reality any feelings of security or control we imagine we have are really illusory. There is no real security or control in life. Life lives us. We are being lived.

Often circumstances in our lives will naturally move us towards this process of becoming other-centered. Falling in love, becoming a new parent, religious conversion or work situations can nudge us toward de-centering temporarily. This is why new lovers are so happy, as are new parents. But not until it becomes a permanent way of living and being will joy and happiness envelop us and permeate our lives.

The medical profession knows too. Those struggling with depression or recovering from addiction are encouraged to volunteer and engage in service. They are encouraged to “de-center” as part of their healing.

Bring more joy into your life. Learn about social justice. Focus on others in the world. In doing so you will become more authentic, bring depth to your life, become real.

You may also like Secret to the Fabulous Life, Authentic Living – Life Editing and Endlessly Interesting.