Sunday, December 7, 2008


Mary Engelbreit

I'm a bit weary--temporarily peopled-out. It took me years to discover that I am not an extrovert. I am an introvert with very impressive people skills. I am stimulated by being with and conversing with intelligent, observant people. But, when I am again alone I need to be still. A quiet room with a book or beautiful magazine. An hour or so on my screened porch. An afternoon or early evening nap--just 15 minutes can restore and revitalize.

Traveling is never my favorite thing, but I love experiencing new places--the sites, the architecture, the views... I love to go to grocery stores in foreign countries. I love open-air markets with their displays of regional produce and flowers and specialties. I love touristy shops--always hoping for something well-made, clever, and well-priced.

This month we are traveling in southern Europe with others and we have chosen delightful companions. But, it takes a toll. I find myself talking too much and then feeling drained. There is a balance between being sociable and protecting my spirit and my energy. CA is much quieter than I, but he handles sociability far better.

CA and I travel well together. Amazingly we share an appreciation for much of what is listed above. And, we love to try the foods of new places--we take pictures of our food!

Growing up there was not much opportunity to travel. We went to small Midwestern towns and later to Chicago. The early years of our marriage we lived on the east coast--first New England and then the Virginia coast before returning to Illinois. We visited Hawaii in 1977, but not again until 1998. In the intervening years we took the kids many times to Door County, Wisconsin and southern Michigan. We went on a Bahamas Disney cruise in 1986, to Boston and Maine in 1987. We went to Virginia and the Carolinas; Cooperstown, NY and Vermont; and Disney World. The two of us visited San Francisco, New Mexico and Colorado, and white-water rafted in North Carolina and West Virginia.

Then in 1999 we took our first trip to Europe--10 days over Christmas in Paris. We loved it! Since then we have been to Kauai in Hawaii 4 or 5 more times, and to Europe again in July 2000, December 2002, July 2004, December 2005, July 2007, February 2008, and we are here now.

We chose to raise our children in the Midwest, always planning to relocate when they were grown. So far we have stayed in NW suburban Chicago--choosing to travel frequently while maintaining our home base. We have plans to stay rooted for three more years--our children love coming home and we both have contract work to keep us interested. But, we talk about a simpler, slower life-style where we might walk to a coffee shop or cafe, the library, and the market.

I am a person who appreciates home; one who delights in creating an inviting environment. My stuff probably matters too much. From childhood it has been important to me to be surrounded by graceful and lovely objects and comforts. I like dishes and serving bowls, cooking utensils and good cookware. My idea of artwork can be something clipped from a magazine and framed, a bowl of lemons or green apples, bottles of olive oil and vinegar, spice bottles from a French grocery store lined on a chunky black shelf... Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and much of what I consider beautiful is domestic--fabrics and books, comfy chairs with ottomans, and plenty of small pillows to prop up bad backs and knees.

We are readers. There are many well-lit spots for reading in our home--the red floral chair and ottoman in the corner between the fireplace and the plantation-shuttered window, the carmel-colored so-soft leather recliner that divides the dining area from the living area of our great room, my bed with pillows propped just so and a halogen light to ease the eyes, the screened porch, and the upstairs guest room... In childhood books were my salvation, my retreat, my comfort, my safe place. Reading offered me the hope of an enriched life with opportunities to learn and grow and become all that God created me to be. I always knew that my adult life would be far different from the life offered to me as a child. I don't remember being goal oriented--I remember trying to survive and to understand. Yet, I ALWAYS knew that when I had control I would do well.

I married well--one of the greatest gifts and blessings that God has given me. And, I learned from all that I observed, what was functional and good. I don't tolerate dysfunction--I had more than a lifetime of that as a child. From early on, I knew I could work toward whatever I wanted. My Grandpa K. instilled those values by example and by word. I was loved and valued, but expected to do my best and pull my weight.

I was a good student--in school and in life. There was rarely any help with homework or interest or support with school. But those who work hard and get good grades are noticed and validated.

Like the seedlings that peek through a cracked stone wall or pavement, this girl took root in the best soil she could find and bloomed where she was planted!

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