Walking, catalysts, and pans.

Update on the pans, in case you (like my Canadian friend) were wondering what transpired there: they were in the very bottom on a box all along, somehow obscured so that I could not find them.

I’m not in Austria anymore, but I was thinking back to before I left today. I remembered how I didn’t know what to expect and mostly pictured a lot of walking, coffee, trains, and classes. And German, though I didn’t realize how much. Then, when I arrived in Austria, I saw that the pretty, old buildings I expected were there, along with the trains, the German language, the classes, the need to walk, and plenty of places to get coffee.

And then there was the excess of free time, where I realized that I have a big part to play in creating my reality. Who decides my schedule? Oh, right. I do that. There’s a certain amount of responsibilities and assignments and requirements involved in that decision, but I decide. I decide how I get places and when I go. I decide when I don’t go and what I do instead.

It’s both a freeing and frightening reality.

So, today, thinking back to my days of walking around Graz and (as Thoreau might say) “sauntering” from place to place without a goal in mind, I took a walk. I started walking and eventually gave myself a direction. Sure, the buildings were all brick, and there was a heck-of-a-lot of sirens and honking and cars and dust and people, but that’s Chicago. It was a different kind of wandering. Still the kind I need to do to foster creativity (I’ve found that walking is integral to my writing process) but just in my current setting.

I found myself in Lincoln Square, then decided to walk into the book store, where I spontaneously picked up a Billy Collins anthology and bought it, asking the clerk if this book store is hiring. Then I took a lesser known route home, trusting the Chicago grid to get me where I need to be.

You can wander anywhere, and you create the kind of life you want to live, to an extent. If I want to be the kind of person who up and walks to an adventure, then I’d better start being that person.

Sometimes, you’re your own catalyst.


The ultimate guide to packing for study abroad: Part 3, SHOES

Now, gentlemen, don’t write me off because you think this is just going to be about which of your high heels to bring. Most of this will apply to you. You wear shoes, do you not?

So far we’ve talked about BAGS and APPAREL, so our natural next point is: SHOES.

Why are these so important? you ask. I’m not walking there. I mean, I’m going to a place where there’s great public transit. Any reason you can think of for not needing good shoes is nonsense. Here’s why: even if you don’t plan to walk very far, getting lost is a big part of being new in another country. Airports require a lot of walking, especially those international hubs. You will have to walk into class and maybe even walk to school. Sure, they have a tram system. Can you afford to take it every day? Do you even want to take it? Does it go the places you need to go?

Trust me. Take the good walking shoes. In fact, bring very few pairs of shoes that are not good walking shoes.

Which kinds? you ask.

  • At least two pairs of casual, tennis-shoe type, really supportive shoes that you could wear for at least three hours and not have much discomfort. Break them in before you go. Wear them to work at least a few times. Walk around your house in them. You don’t want to break in new shoes on your first few days. Why two? Because your feet need variety. Feel free to quote me on that one. Don’t wear the same pair of shoes every day.
  • Supportive walking sandals (unless you will be abroad in the dead of winter or in Antarctica) Again, if you bring those cute sandals that hurt your feet when you wear them for longer than like 20 minutes of walking, you won’t end up wearing them. You’ll instead start wearing your tennis shoes all the time. I have some Ecco sandals that are really comfy and have good heel support, so I actually wear them to walk. Even if they don’t look adorable, go for support. You probably won’t care what’s on your feet after a couple months, just as long as your feet feel good.
  • No more than one pair of fancy shoes Unless you have an internship or some kind of special circumstance that means you need to dress up frequently. If you really like going to clubs, too, then maybe you’ll need fancy shoes. But you’ll have to talk to someone else about what kind since I know negative zero about clubbing. I brought a pair of black flats and have worn them a total of maybe 3 times, but each time, I’m glad I have them.
  • Cheap flip-flops for showering at hostels, taking out the trash, running to your neighbor’s building, getting the mail, doing your laundry. Those are always good to have.
  • I also brought a pair of TOMS, even though they aren’t the best for walking long distances. They are mediocrely comfortable, so I can wear them for shorter errands or walks. I mostly brought them because they’re from an Etsy shop (ibleedheART, link to the shoes I have but she has tons of amazing designs!) and I love them.

Other tips about shoes:

  • For European adventures in particular, high heels aren’t practical unless you have great balance and thicker heels. Cobblestone, uneven streets do not lend themselves well to unbalanced walkers or stilettos that can get stuck between stones. More than that, tram lines and such make this kind of footwear even more dangerous. I’d forego the heels, even though I am looking forward to getting back home to mine.
  • Wear your most comfortable, bulkiest shoes on the plane. Kind of obvious, but it saves space in your luggage AND keeps your feet happy during a long trip. Double whammy.
  • Make sure you have enough socks to go with your shoes! Socks are important to not get blisters. Get good socks.

All in all, show your feet some love.

Got questions? Ask em in the comments! I love shoe questions.

Questions and flowers.

Sometimes the inter-webs disappoint me. I clicked “publish” a few minutes ago on a lovely post about waffeln and walking, and I got an error message.

Oh, WordPress, why do you do this to me? Why didn’t you save my lovely post? In it, I justified my excessive sugar intake for today with my many kilometers of walking and explained that I did so much walking because I’m afraid of wiping out on the tram tracks, in which my tires have a tendency to get caught. I have not had said wipe out yet, and I’m unwilling to have it.

As lovely as it was to write that post once, I’m not inclined to do it again. Let’s try something new.

The season of blooming is officially in Graz. Green keeps popping up everywhere, and I keep finding new bits in me. Do you ever look at yourself and see something totally new? Or do you ever see the same weeds you thought you already pulled cropping up again? Does the whiff of a flower that used to be familiar but hasn’t been around for a while ever come back around?

Then you have to step back and look at the whole garden all over again. Are there more weeds? Did that one invite friends? Where does this flower fit in the grand scheme of things? Do I need to move it to make my garden as beautiful as it can be? How did that even get here?

Do you ever have more questions than answers?

Blister recovery day.

Screenshot 2014-02-26 12.11.44

Today is blister recovery day. My many kilometers of walking in the past week and a half have finally caught up with me (in more than just the sore legs). My poor feet, who were relatively unused in Minnesota except to drive with, sprouted some very large blisters a few days ago. I decided to ignore them and keep walking since I had things to do, people to see, and forms to turn in. After this abuse, however, the blisters got to the point where they needed some care last night, and though I won’t share the gory details, my feet are taking a break today.

I’ve got band-aids on my heels and have promised myself to not walk more than a couple kilometers in shoes today. Something about shoes is just irritating to them, I guess.

So, today is the day I stay home. I keep learning German on Duolingo (amazing how much you can learn in a few minutes!), I eat a – hopefully – balanced diet that doesn’t include too much bread, and write letters. I’m also going to make a flyer to put up in the English department saying, “Need a native English speaker to proofread your papers??” It should be a hit.

I’ve decided to also make a list of things I want to do before I leave. This way I can have goals for the days when I have no responsibilities.

Even days at home can have purpose. Fortunately, I have a lovely window with plenty of sunshine and fresh air to keep me sane today. And if I get desperate, there’s a bank, a grocery store, and a bakery two minutes away from here. My feet should be able to take that.

Sunny 20 carbohydrates.

I turn twenty in six days. It’s probably not that big of a deal, but let me tell you – it feels like a big deal.

I’ll be able to casually include myself in the “twenty-somethings” category.  I won’t be a teenager anymore. I will have a “2” in my age for the third time in my life. I won’t have to say I’m nineteen anymore (duh and hallelujah).

I thought it called for a blog makeover. It was either that or dye my hair, and I didn’t think I could pick a color, so I picked a new WordPress template.

Welcome to my journey in Austria, now officially labelled on here. It’s like we have a little side party going on from our normal blog relationship.

Today was another beautiful, sunny day, so I decided to walk to Uni (again… this time to get the ID that I was supposed to get yesterday when the office was closed and the man said “of course” is was too late to get the card) despite my heel blisters. I wasn’t aware that you can get blisters on your heels, like the area almost on the soles of your feet, but apparently, you can.

I got a hundred strange looks from people as I walked, because apparently it’s still winter jacket weather. I was wearing a spring cardigan and maxi skirt, so I suppose I looked crazy, but the sun was shining, and it was well above freezing. I only cared a little bit that they thought I was crazy.

I’m finally an official Uni-Graz student and can get into the library – the most important thing because it’s beautiful. I’ll post a picture sometime.

Rebekka and I went to a vegetarian restaurant for lunch since she couldn’t work on her thesis anymore, and I don’t have anything to work on. Who knew you could get so full on veggies? It was a buffet line of all good things, and I didn’t realize you had to pay by weight, so I just got a little bit of everything. I’m not even sure what all I ate, but most of it was very good, including the banana chocolate rum cake. We had to sit for a little bit before we could walk anywhere.

I won’t tell you how many bread-y items I bought at the store after that. I’ve decided that at least for the first few weeks or until I’ve tried everything, counting carbs is not important. I’ll just try to balance it out with fruit and yogurt and other good things. I feel like that way I can still grab life by the loaf and not miss out on anything.

And, of course, I’ll keep walking the carbs off. I’ve decided that I want to attempt biking, as well. I want to see if I can navigate the streets with cars and trams… I may die, but at least we’ll know that it was in a valiant effort to get to class on time without paying exorbitant tram fares.

In other news, I booked a flight to Paris in April to see my longtime friend who is teaching at a university in Rennes. It’s thrilling just to type that, much more to go, I’m sure. It seems far away, but I’m sure before I know it I’ll be home again. Sometimes life just is exciting, isn’t it?


I paced around our apartment today while I read Plato’s Republic. Paced not because we don’t have anywhere to sit or because I couldn’t sit still but because I’m doing a pedometer challenge. Sitting is for sissies when you’re going up against highly motivated walkers.

I actually don’t know how highly motivated the other people are. I just know that I want to win.

My pedometer challenge pales in comparison to The Actual Pastor‘s run through the Grand Canyon, though. He’s running 24 miles, the very end of which is called “The Devil’s Staircase” (which I wouldn’t even attempt to run if that was my only challenge). He’s doing it to raise money to rescue women in Ethiopia from forced prostitution.

He’s crazy. In the very best way.

Don’t we all want that kind of existence? Where we know that we don’t just matter to our moms and our best friends but that we make a difference?

Do you believe that you can change the world? I’m not asking you if you think that the world can and will change. I’m asking you if you think that you as an individual person can change the world with your dreams and passions.

Do you?

I bet we could.

I bet if we dug down deep and rooted ourselves in a God whose capabilities know no boundaries, we could do something great. I bet if we were willing to risk something so that love could win and justice could reign and the world could know that our God lives, things would start happening.

I bet it would be worth the risk.

New paths.

This morning, I’m thinking about paths.

This is the forest through which Jesus and I walk on my journey.  I really can’t imagine a prettier place to walk.  The sunlight filters through the trees, and as I gaze up at the juncture where the sunlight is trying to break through the canopy of leaves, I feel small.  It’s not a common feeling for a gal just under six feet, but these trees are so tall.  They stretch upwards with branches outstretched, like they are growing perpetually but invisibly.

Sometimes, the trees are beautiful and enhance the journey.  Sometimes, they just make me feel small and insignificant.

Jesus and I have been walking along a path that winds around the trees for a while now.  To me, it seems like we have no destination, but I’m sure He knows where we’re going.  We never pass the same trees twice, covering new ground every day.  I feel like I’m going to stroll around this path in the forest for my whole life.

Then, Jesus nudges me and points to a spot where the trees are closer together, where there’s quite a bit of brush on the ground.  I have no idea why He’s pointing there.  There?  You want me to walk there?  Wait, you’re coming too, right?  Can we really walk there?  It looks more like we’d have to crawl.  I think that might be a little bit too much work, Jesus.  I don’t think I fit there – look at how the tree branches come down to where my waist is.  That’s not a path, Jesus.

But He keeps pointing, so we walk over. He goes first, holding my hand and showing me how He walks.  He ducks and steps over the brush in the way, effortlessly, and pulls me with Him, to walk as He does.

I do it less gracefully and with less certainty, but I follow.

I don’t know where this path leads.  I thought I’d stay in the forest for the rest of my days, strolling on the path with Jesus, but maybe we’re not even staying in the forest.  Perhaps this way leads out.

It shouldn’t matter what terrain faces me.  Though I cringe at the thought of deserts to maneuver or mountains to climb or cities to get lost in, I follow.  Because I want Jesus to walk with me.



Taking a jaunt.

I forget about walking sometimes.  Not that I don’t do it everyday, for a significant portion of my day, but I forget that it doesn’t always have to be about the destination.

Sometimes, it’s about the journey.

I typically walk to get places.  You could say that I’m not much of a meanderer.  But I had a realization today that walking for the sake of walking is really nice.

Liesel and I walked and talked.  We weren’t going anywhere, didn’t have an agenda.  We just had a half an hour to walk.  And – minus the part where a car inconsiderately sprayed us with slush – we had a lovely jaunt.

Sometimes I think I’m walking through life with a destination, but really, I have no idea where I’m going.  Not for lack of thought or dreaming, just lack of true foresight.  I’m walking with a clear view of the next block, but beyond that, things are fuzzy at best.  And there’s always a chance that someone or something unexpected will cross my path along the way.

Thank goodness for metaphors.

It’s comforting to me that it’s not an all-out-sprint, not a 50-yard dash to get through life.  (to a person like me who hates running, especially on treadmills or for more than 2 miles… I really do wish I enjoyed it)  I don’t even think you could call it a marathon.

I’m pretty sure we don’t run through life.  There are some parts where you have to speed walk a bit – or at least, you want to.  I’m pretty sure it’s a walking pace, sometimes a stroll.  Either way, it’s one foot in front of the other, without knowing exactly what’s ahead, when you’ll turn, when a car will almost hit you (or splash you with slushy water).

We walk by faith, not by sight, right?

I can’t see where the next two weeks are going to take me, much less where I’ll be in five years.  It’s anxiety-ridden, that realization.  It’s wrought with knots in my stomach.  But walking by faith is the way to go.  Walking with Jesus into the future – not the far off future, the tomorrow and the next day future.

Step one: start walking.

refuge and reminders.

God is in the business of lifting burdens.  I was thinking this morning about why  we like Psalm 46:10 so much: Be still and know that I am God.  It’s essentially a statement attesting to the fact that we have no power over our own situations.  It’s saying, Hey there.  Stop what you’re doing.  I am God, not you.  Earlier in chapter 46, it talks about God being a refuge and a stronghold.  

Those words just sink into my heart.  Refuge.  Safe place.  Stronghold. I’m God.  You are not.

I forget every single day, and sometimes neglect to remember, that God doesn’t wake me up everyday, give me a sword and a shield, and push me out into battle, saying, “Have a nice day!  Good luck out there!”  He doesn’t shove me into my daily life with a sack lunch and a how-to manual.

He walks with me.  With me.  And when the world throws burdens and worries and cares my way, he extends his arms to hold them.  Then he gives me peace and righteousness and wisdom to wear.

It works best if I live by the truth that I’m not God.  It works best if I surrender the burdens that I really am not capable of carrying anyways.  It works best if I walk beside him, as closely as possible.

We like this verse a lot.  We put it on t-shirts and mugs and jewelry and artwork.  Why?  Because it’s a reminder that we desperately need.  Be still.  Cease striving.  DESIST!  Let me be God.  I’m the capable one, remember?

I sometimes struggle to appreciate the verses that are everywhere, the ones that we’re put in danger of extinction of meaning from overuse.  But this one, this passage (actually the whole chapter… read it), it retains its power.  Mostly because I forget so often.

Thank God for reminders.

Verbs, more interesting than you thought.

(look at those fancy graphics!)

I don’t think I need to tell you where I am right now.  You can probably guess based on the fact that I’m here every Tuesday and Thursday mornings.

Chicago city streets are a busy place around 8:30 in the morning, which isn’t a surprise at all, really.  That’s also the time when I need to cross to get to my java.  Some Chicagoans (or North Parkers who are basically Chicagoans) are totally comfortable with crossing right in front of a moving car.  I haven’t gotten to that level of comfort yet.  (This is the part where my parents heave a sigh of relief that I won’t be run over any time soon.) No, I usually wait until both of the traffic lights at the end of the block are red so that no cars are coming for at least 5 seconds.  Then I scurry across.

Or I wait until some bold Chicago businessman steps directly out into the crosswalk and puts his hand up in a signal to the car to stop.  Then I just scurry across the street while he walks confidently across.

Either way, I’m scurrying.  It’s different when there’s a walk sign… obviously.

There’s a waiting process involved either way, for me.  I either wait for the breakthrough or for the walk sign.  In this case, waiting is good.  Walking on my own timing could likely end up in a transformation into road pizza. (reference to the Amber Brown books… one of those childhood books references that I think of every time I talk about getting hit by a car or taking a double decker bus)

So, now to the thought of the past few days: is waiting an action or a state of being?  Even if you aren’t a grammar nerd, this is important.  In fifth grade, we learned all of the state of being verbs, to the tune of “Let’s Go Band.”  And I still remember them, thanks to my great fifth grade teacher’s persistence in repetition.  It really has been helpful.  (And we learned all the prepositions.  I’ll recite them on request. Or the helping verbs.  Or the Gettysburg Address.)  “Wait” wasn’t included in those, but I think it could be a state of being.

If I’m sitting on a bench outside of this building, waiting for the bus, and someone comes up to ask me what I’m doing, am I waiting?  Or am I sitting?  What would waiting look like if it’s an action?  Isn’t waiting sort of the opposite of doing?

Does waiting have an action associated with it?  Or is it just the absence of action?  Is simply “waiting” enough, or does one have to be doing a real action while one waits?

And while we’re on the topic, do you have to know what you’re waiting for to be waiting? Can you just be waiting for whatever is coming next?

Who knew one word could bring up so many questions.