The Glorification of Busy

One year can make a huge difference.  This time last year, I was five months pregnant.  We lived on an acre and a half in New Braunfels, Texas, a place Brady and I have come to call “our Eden.”  Tristan was finishing up Kindergarten in the best school in the county, surrounded by his closest friends, playing soccer on the weekends and deeply involved in our church.  Wyatt was going part time to the kind of preschool that I know with 100% confidence was hand-picked and gifted to us by God.  (We miss you terribly, Ms. Kerry!!)

But life wasn’t all it seemed to be.  I have to remind myself of this  point when I get too homesick.

Besides all these beautiful things about our lives, on the inside, we were gasping for air.  Brady worked and traveled constantly.  He had an hour and a half commute each way!  I was knee deep in being the managing owner of a successful small business.  A small business that kept me from my family on EVERY major holiday for the previous five years.  My phone rang constantly, never really allowing for my kids to get my undivided attention.  And I was TIRED!  I didn’t want anyone to miss out on anything, so every night was full of activities.  That meant that I dropped everyone off at school in the morning, worked all day, and the raced home to pick them up, feed them a healthy meal (from the frozen section of HEB of course!) and get us where we needed to be.  That usually entailed a panicked call to my mom who was in all essence the boys’ primary care giver, and absolutely my life saver, telling her how they needed to be dressed, what to have collected and ready to go (and where it might be located in our chaotic house).   On a few occasions, Tristan had a special lunch or party at school at an odd time of day.  So, I’d go to work for an hour.  Drive 30 minutes back to New Braunfels for the event, stay 30 minutes, and then drive 30 minutes back.  I was sure if I didn’t, Tristan would never forgive me.  Afterall, in my mind, all the other kids had stay-at-home moms who made it not only to the class parties and field trips, but helped make copies for the teachers and performed major surgery in the break room in their spare time.

Fast forward to now.  Now, I live in a world where I have someone who comes and watches the baby three mornings a week.  The boys are both in school full time.  Brady’s commute is a solid ten minutes.  I no longer work outside of the home.  We either go to church on Sunday only, or watch last week’s Oakwood sermon streamed from home.  Tristan has French tutoring once a week, and we are trying to get both boys into football (soccer).  Other than that, we lead a much slower paced life. And you know what?  We are happier.  We have dinner with friends at least once a week, if not more.  The boys have play dates.  I have gone to get my hair done and grocery shopped without any kids.  I even got a mani/pedi on a Saturday afternoon (albeit with a baby on my lap!)  Here’s my point: When we stopped running around being busy, we started spending our time more wisely.  We have time for that game of Memory with the boys.  Feeding Lyla is not the chore it was with Wyatt.  I love to see the faces she makes as she tries new foods; the independence she is acquiring as she learns to feed herself.  Brady and I have gone on more dates since we arrived in Bosnia than we did the entire previous year.  And our kids aren’t being raised by day care, or our nanny.  We are just not as busy.

When I first came to the realization that I was no longer busy, I felt guilty.  I felt like I wasn’t doing enough.  My friends work harder than me.  I need to get a job so I have more worth.  It became apparent to me that busyness had become my crown of thorns that I wore like a badge of honor.  Let me say that again, I was miserable, and I wanted extra credit for it.  Sick, right?  Until I really thought about it and came to the conclusion that our American culture glorifies busyness, and I had fallen right into the trap.  If you aren’t constantly on the go, then you are lazy.  And lazy adults breed lazy kids, so be sure to keep them as busy as you.  I remember one time posting on Facebook something about a book I had read, and the first response was from someone loathing how they wished they had time to read.  Really?  We have the same 24 hours.  And I was really busy at that time.  So, what was the logical response?  To question why I had so much free time to read and how could I be spending that time in other “more productive ways,” of course.  I hate to repeat myself, but Really??  

I know my life is unique in a lot of ways.  I have the ability to not work anymore.  I have someone who can come and love on my kids so I can go workout or get some much needed quality time with the hubs.  Not everyone has that.  And when we move back to the states, I likely won’t have it either.  But, what I hope to have is a perspective on what’s important.  I hope to have the ability to say “NO” to things so I won’t be so busy.  And the confidence to be ok with watching everyone around me scuttle about trying to keep all their ducks in a row, while I sit and sip on a cup of coffee and read my book.  Because in reality, this is the only life we get.  I’d hate to look back on it in 50 years and see how much I truly missed when I was trying to do it all.

I don't want to miss a moment of this.

I don’t want to miss a moment of this.

Getting the Most Out of Mostar

As is par for the course, I am already behind!  Seeing as I took my sweet time setting up this blog, we’ve now had a multitude of experiences that are begging to be shared!  So, in no particular order, I am going to begin my most frequent game… Catch-up!

A few weeks ago we decided that we’d had enough of Sarajevo for a day.  We had been here a solid two months and never left the city.  That might not sound like a big deal to most.  After all, Sarajevo is a capital city, so it must be huge.  Not so.  There are amazing discoveries to be made here, but it is more like a really large village than a city.  And after two months of sitting in this bowl, we needed to get out.  We needed a break from the horrendous pollution and the dreary winter weather.  It was time to stretch our traveling legs.  So, we all piled in our car, and left for a day trip to Mostar.

But, in order to truly torture our kids, we had to stop along the way!  We had been told about an amazing furniture shop in a town called Konjic on the way to Mostar.  Rukotvorine didn’t disappoint.  Not only was the craftsmanship mind blowing, the man that was working the floor was about the coolest guy ever!  His English was about as good as our Bosnian, so we definitely had to rely on our trusty sign language to get our point across.  He did his best to show us around and explain how the furniture was made and what it all symbolized.  The boys were interested for a solid 3.5 seconds, so we spent a lot of time reminding them to look with their eyes and not their hands!  You’ll hear me say this a lot over the next couple of years, but one of my favorite things about Bosnians is their love of children.  You might be thinking, ‘Oh, I love kids too.’  But you’d be wrong.  You might love kids, but Bosnians LOVE kids!  All kids.  Big ones, little ones, babies.  And it isn’t just the women who love them.  The men are just as enamored with our little people as the women are.  Oh, and even the kids love kids!  You should see the attention Lyla gets when I am at either boys’ school.  But I digress.  So, this guy was no exception to the Kid-Love rule.   He cooed at the baby (and held her by the end of the visit) and rustled the boys’ hair.  And then, he did something that caught me by surprise.  He offered to take us back to the room that the furniture is made in.  Heck yeah, we want to go!  So, we all walk back to this little, sawdust filled room to see about a half dozen men, some sitting, some standing, all creating works of art.  Then, one of the men patted his leg and invited Wyatt to come sit on his lap as he whittled away on a piece of wood.  And wouldn’t you know, my super shy guy went right over.  Not only did he get to see these creations being made first hand, the gentleman let Wyatt do the work.  Here is what it looked like.

I'd say Wyatt was pretty thrilled!

I’d say Wyatt was pretty thrilled!

His hands seem so little next to this craftsman's.

His hands seem so little next to this craftsman’s.

After Konjic, I knew this was going to be a great day!  We hopped back into the car and headed south to Mostar.

Here are some important facts about Mostar.  

It is one of the largest cities in Bosnia.  One of the most recognizable architectural landmarks of Bosnian culture is in Mostar: Stari Most.  This bridge was built in the 16th century by the Ottomans connecting two parts of the city over the Neretva River.  It was breathtaking.  But more importantly, it was of the utmost cultural importance to the people of Bosnia.  So, during the war, the Serbs knew that it would be a devastating blow to the morale of the Bosnian Muslims (not to mention their supply line) if it were destroyed.  And destroyed, it was.  But, if there is anything I am learning about the Bosnian people, there isn’t much that will keep them down for good.  So, with the financial help of a few other countries, Stari Most was rebuilt using as many of the original bricks as possible and reopened in 2004.

Stari Most

Besides the bridge, Mostar has an amazing “old town” paved with cobblestone (not the most stroller friendly, in case you’re wondering), and lined with vendors that sell everything from touristy trinkets, to pashmina shawls, to one-of-a-kind artwork.

shawls watermark-0351

During the war, for about 9 months in 1993, Mostar was under siege.  They were cut off from food and electricity.  Constant shelling and snipers kept people in their homes all day and night, leaving only to get water.  As an American, it is incredibly difficult to imagine life like this.  It goes against everything I know.  Yet, walking the streets of Mostar (just like in Sarajevo) there are constant reminders that in my own lifetime, there were people being killed, tortured and raped daily for the “crime” of being ethnically Muslim.  It is eerie to see so many cemeteries all over the city with one glaring detail in common… the death dates all say 1993, 1994, 1993, 1995, 1994… It’s disturbing to say the least.  But, I’ll get into the real grit of the war in a future post.

Mostar is just one of the places that you have to see.  It has character, culture and quality that can’t be found anywhere else.  It also has crazy people that jump off the bridge for fun!  The boys thoroughly enjoyed that!

This was just the first of what I am sure will be several trips to Mostar.  Here are some other pictures of our day there.

The boys on Stari Most

The boys on Stari Most

Stari Most family watermark-0313

One day, the kids will appreciate the places they’ve been.

This scraggly guy was napping on the bridge.

This scraggly guy was napping on the bridge.

This is the delivery vehicle for the little cafe we had lunch at.

The delivery vehicle for the little cafe we had lunch at.

This is a long video,  about 45 minutes, but if you are at all interested in seeing what Mostar looked like during the war, I highly recommend it.  I think it’s important to remember what this country has gone through.  While I was playing volleyball and getting my hair done for school dances, Bosnians were literally fighting for their lives.  And not just soldiers.  Kids, teenagers, grandparents.  Sometimes, when you’re American, it’s easy to forget what the rest of the world is going through, because, well, it’s easy to live in America.  Really easy.  Take a moment to read up on the news around the world.  I promise you, where the President vacationed or who marries whom won’t seem like such a big deal anymore.

don't forget watermark-0297 

A Blog is Born

You know Heather, you just need to live where you’re at.  

That came straight from Brady’s mouth one night last fall when we were living in our little apartment in Arlington.  I was complaining (shocking, I know) about not wanting to get “plugged in,” as we were moving in a few short months.  After all, we had been living like gypsies for months at that point, and I was tired.  Tired of being the new kid.  Tired of being holed up in an apartment after spending the last few years on acreage in the Hill Country of Texas.  Tired of missing my friends and my family.  I was waiting to move to our newest home in Sarajevo before I decided to live.  When we got there, then I’d live.  I’d make friends.  I would consider it home.  I hate to admit it sometimes, but I married a really smart man.  Shhh, don’t tell him I said that!  I could spend my whole life being tired and waiting to live.  So, after a little pride swallowing, a prayer and a glass of red wine, I decided to heed his advice.  From now on, I was going to stop waiting.  Live Where You’re At.  That night, our family motto was born.  And I now live by it.

So, here we are.  Almost three months in our new home in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.  And boy, are we living!  Our boys are learning a new language (Tristan is learning two!)  Lyla spends three mornings a week with a nanny who loves her like she’s her own, walking the cobble stone streets of Bascarcija, flirting with every person who looks her way!  And I am getting to take pictures of one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, and this ain’t my first rodeo, so I’ve seen some amazing places.

What can you expect from this blog? 

1. Pictures of our adventures, including, but not limited to: food, lots of pictures of food.  My always well-behaved children absorbing culture all around them without a single, “Are we there yet?” and “Moooom!  My DS battery is dead!!  How much longer do I have to sit in this car?!?”  A beautiful dichotomy of serene landscapes riddled with bullet holes, shrapnel and a country still in recovery from a pain that I can only try to imagine.

2. A history lesson or two on what this unique and amazing country has gone through in the last 20 or so years.

3. And very likely a healthy dose of sarcasm.  Hey, the boys have their languages, I have mine!

I’m excited to show everyone what I live each day.  It isn’t always glamorous, but it’s my life.  And I’m living it where I’m at.

This is our amazing view from our balcony.

Sarajevo sunset