Pursuing Life's Daring Adventure

Friday, July 31, 2009

Departure and Arrival

Not more than three months ago, our family decided to seize the day, take the large risk, and embark on a great new opportunity called moving to Prague, for an expat assignment there with my husband’s job. Weeks of careful planning and work, by our family and with professional assistance, has gone into the process. Moving across the ocean has involved selling our former home and cars, moving our essentials by sea shipment, and storing things that needed to remain in the States (like the piano), and also has included school preparations for our boys, and countless details for every facet of an international move. And after weeks of envisioning how things might actually go, we are here. Yes, we are in Prague.

In all, physically departing our lives of ten years in the United States was not easy. But, the whole process went without a significant glitch. And once we arrived in Europe, our boys have been thrilled to discover many parts of the world are the same—especially pleasing has been the discovery of swimming pools, and ice cream (zmrzlina in Czech), of knowing a simple “please” and “thank you” in several languages really works. Best stated was our oldest son’s proclamation that the world really is smaller than he thought.

Our stay in Berlin brought the discoveries of the infamous Berlin Wall, as well as the Brandenberg Gate or Tor, and many other significant landmarks, including the maze of granite pillars set up in memorial of the Holocaust. Each made their significant impressions on us all, for sure. And then, the swift ride via autobahn through the German countryside and over substantial hills and small mountains down, past checkered fields and picturesque villages of tiled roofed villas, and into the Czech Republic. From a foreigner’s eye, the crossing from Germany into Czech could not have been more pronounced, a very Western-type world embanked by the blink of a border and the just-out-of-communism feeling of a Republic only twenty years old. But the Czech Republic is beautiful, in every way, maybe more because of its new freedom and the old-European ambiance found everywhere.
--taken from my iphone while riding :) through the Czech countryside

Yes, we are here, in our new city, culturally rich Prague, adorned by its Castle shimmering alongside the Vltava River. We are here, and we are grateful. Soon, maybe sooner than we think, we may know this new country as home.

Thank you for all of your thoughts and prayers on our behalf. I look forward to sharing our adventures (and misadventures) with you all…

With gratitude, JK

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Giant Called Change

For those of you who know me, or who have been following my blog for any small stretch of time, you are aware of the unique life circumstances that have come the way of our King family of five. We are now en route to Central Europe to begin our next adventure in life—a three year expat assignment with my husband’s job. All five of us are quite excited about the immediate future—new sites, new foods, new language, and new experiences. We are all looking forward to fresh challenges—superb soccer and schooling for the boys, and the vibrant cultural, artistic, lingual, and architectural interests for me.
I took this photo of a juvenile male Ruby-throated Hummingbird on althea the last day at our house in Cincinnati. (I will miss the hummers, as they are only American jewels.)

Last week, packing week, proved to be a pivotal week for me. One huge thought still looms large in my mind: we, as Americans, have so much stuff. Though I think my personal tastes usually lean in the favor of minimalism, I know I sway even further in that direction now. Why?
· Having to itemize every thing in our house opened my eyes, far. (Think of your own house… lots of stuff, right?)

· One resonant question demanded an answer: What is it that I value most? Or what is it that I really need?

· Why do we naturally have so much stuff?
My quick answer to the last question—it’s the American Way, the American Dream, right? But, to answer the second question, I came to my conclusions, and found creative ways to use the things we do not need to try to help others.

As change has come upon us, many people have asked about the logistics of such an intercontinental move. We had to sort everything into three categories: air shipment (takes two weeks to reach us, very limited space), sea shipment (takes eight weeks to reach us), and storage (tried to pare down to only the things we’ll really want and need when we get back). After working through the house for sorting and packing, working through the details of selling the house and cars, and touching up paint and cleaning the house for sale, I can say that last week was incredibly demanding, and that this week is a welcome respite. Whew!

But when the whirlwind of activity dies down, it’s hard not to realize the Giant of Change bearing down on us. Fear easily slips in, and stirs up doubt. It is so much easier to go though our American Dream ways in Comfort Zone days and accumulate the stuff around us to pad ourselves against the frightening things that may come our way. But the truth is, I think, life is about change, and “safety” is an illusion; we might as well go out and embrace the unknown.
Perhaps in stepping up to bat with the Giant of Change, we can take away some of the power of fear and uncertainty, and begin to live the lives for which we were created.

And so … we are officially on our adventure over the seas to our new life in Prague. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers—I will keep you up to date, and share as much of the adventure as possible here on my blog. And, I’ll let you know how my theory with handling the Giant called Change develops … maybe it will be a great thing!

Enjoy these precious summer days, JK

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Putting It All Out There (and Surviving the Criticism)

Twenty years ago this summer, I walked a Paris runway for the first time in Elite’s Look of the Year in France, my first real exposure to the world of modeling.

Somehow, at fifteen years old and standing five-foot-nine-and-one-half inches tall, I had been selected from a Midwestern small town to compete with fifty girls from other nations for a handful of modeling contracts with famed Elite Model Management. It was a fast lesson on the glamour of not only makeup and the catwalk, but also of working in the midst of famed designers like Azzedine Alaia, famed models like Linda Evangelista, and famed Elite head John Casablancas.
Certainly, in Paris, the scene was something like television’s popular shows—Gossip Girl or America’s Top Model. Mind-numbing, really, but for me, the 1989 Look of the Year also made for great experiences and fond memories. In the end, I was thrilled to win one of Elite’s contracts, and spent much of the following years pursuing that end in addition to balancing my education.
In the twenty years that have passed, I have tapped into those experiences I learned so early and so well—the times when people have offered their (kind and unkind) opinions of things I hold dear. Modeling, as with writing, is full of rejections. Models face the constant scrutiny of body parts, contours, and shapes, against the elusive “Look.” Writers stand against often only a yes or a no, all based on a subjective feel or sound or voice, as with many arts.

There is no easy formula for dealing with criticism … How can we hear a critic’s inevitable loud opinion, for instance in modeling, that one week our legs are too short or too fat or too twiggy, and then go on? How can we show something we are proud of, only to hear someone smash it to the ground with words?
Criticism comes, whether we want it or not—everyone is entitled to their opinions. Our only choices are 1) to dig our heels down into our comfort zones and never take a risk, or 2) to take a bold step out of our comfort zones and choose how to handle what will inevitably come our way—someone’s opinion that is different than our own.

To live, to really live, is to take the risk—to live in faith that though life may not come smoothly, our lives are rooted in purpose, deeply, to who we are, lived from the heart. When we can really live, we don’t cling to validation for success, but find significance in the knowledge that our lives are authentic, real, and lived in love, from the heart.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Time for Something New?

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve had the interesting task of itemizing everything in our home—toys, towels, tools—everything. It’s strange to account for the pieces of our family of five’s existence by the things we have around us in our home. Often, I thought, “This is it. This stuff defines us.” Weird. But on the other hand, it doesn’t. I am still me without all the stuff (which could lead me into a million ruminations on why do we have so much stuff, which always ends with the thought of less being really more, I think). But, as I was itemizing, and reflecting as I typed, I noticed the date on one of my first paintings—summer 2004. It’s been five years …

I still remember the day in the craft store, towing my three little boys, all under five years of age, around in their stroller, realizing I had always wanted to paint, and daring to pick out a handful of tubes of oil paints, a brush, and a standard canvas. The toothpaste-like consistency of the oils took a while to figure out, but now, after taking painting lessons from a local artist, and over one-hundred canvases later, I’m hooked. I’m confident I’ll never earn the ranks of Michelangelo, but the act of working toward expressing myself in a new way and listening to and moving toward the internal seed of a dream unique to me has set me free in ways I cannot begin to explain. To dream, and then take the steps toward fulfilling that dream, is priceless.

Why create? Why try something new? Why venture outside the box other people (or our own minds) impose upon us?

To those who have never had the experience, I find explaining the feeling of personal accomplishment impossible to quantify. There’s no other comparable feeling in the world. Moving toward the deep roots of personal dreams is exhilarating beyond description.

To those who have had the experience, there’s no need to explain or quantify … you already know.

Today is the first day of the last half of 2009. Today is a great day to listen to your heart and decide to try something new. Only you know what it is. This summer, dare to take the chance to try out a dream, and discover the thrill that follows accomplishing something you’ve always wanted to try.

Today is a great day to try something new …