Reflections on the Berlin Wall in pictures and cartoons

Now that Monica Crowley is to serve on the National Security Council in President Elect Trump’s administration, an old tweet has been making the rounds again.



She says people missed the point. I’m not sure what her point was. I don’t know if it was an odd bit of sarcasm or a complete misunderstanding of the historical significance of the wall she was standing next to.

The wall that worked.

But that isn’t really what this post is about. I stood near where Crowley was standing. My thoughts were very different.


Two years after that wall came down, I stood in its shadow. For me, as a child of the Cold War, it was not a smiley selfie moment. It was one of quiet reflection. I felt much as I did standing at Bergen Belsen, the concentration camp where Anne Frank died. There, standing in the shadow of this historic monument, I saw what governments were willing to do to control their people.

The Kiss
“My God help us survive this deadly love” From a famous photograph of Brezhnev and Honecker’s “socialist fraternal kiss” that many thought was a little too “passionate.”

This wall that stood between East and West, between totalitarianism and liberty divided a nation, a continent and a world. East and West. That’s all I had ever known, and one night, the people tore it down. Because once the people realized the guards weren’t going to shoot and the dogs weren’t going to attack, the bit of concrete that stood between them and freedom didn’t prove to be much of a barrier at all.


But I was also there two years after it came down. Two years was long enough for the euphoria to wear off. People weren’t toasting their victory with champagne and passing out money and care packets to people spilling over the wall and through the gates anymore. Once every person who made it across was hailed a hero. Now, they were all a nuisance. Germany was coming to grips with what it meant to graft this second world nation onto their own economic powerhouse. Germany has always prided itself on its social market economy, but now their resources were being drained by these . . . leeches. Unemployment was skyrocketing. The public koffers were draining. And what had the East Germans ever done but take?

"Where the state ends, life begins."
“Where the state ends, life begins.” Graffiti across from the monument.

There was a joke going around we had all heard. “It’s time to build another wall . . . but 10 meters higher.

Reunification cartoon
“Hurry! Before West Germany builds a wall!”

And another wall was being built. But this one wasn’t made of concrete and barbed wire. It was in the hearts and minds of Germans, looking down on their neighbors, not trusting their economic superiority to these outsiders, not entirely accepting of these intruders as Germans.

German reunification
“State of the nation.” The Ziggy-like figure is “the German Michel,” the symbol of Germany, much like our own Uncle Sam.

Now they were Ossies.

And I only ever heard that word used as a perjorative.

Even my civics teacher who had devoted an entire semester to “Die Wende” (The Turning Point — refers to the events in East Germany leading up to the collapse) made very clear that “reunification” was a misnomer. Germany was being unified, not reunified, because it had never existed prior to this moment. East and West were not being reunited. They were being spliced together.

Note how there are two German Michels? And one intends on moving in with the other. The hugging will only last so long . . .

And somewhere in there is what the wall means to me today. The monolith of my childhood. An art gallery in Berlin. A moment in time where two people became one. A reminder that our political dreams often look very different when we achieve them. A symbol of oppression. A symbol of triumph.

A reminder that walls can be torn down. Even between East and West, Red and Blue.

Because at the end of it all, East and West did become one. One Germany. One people.

(Note: The photographs are my own. The political cartoons are from “Die Wende in der DDR” which was published by the German government and hence –to my understanding–free to use with attribution.)


A peek into my homeschool room

Remodeling means you get a peek into my homeschool room.


Though I’d really rather you not. It’s a sad story, really. I never wanted a homeschool room. Not one that looked like a classroom, anyway. I wanted one that looked like a library, with a table for games and art and projects. I wanted inviting space with a reading nook and maybe a blanket and a few teddy bears. I wanted a place for discovery and expression.

What I got was a ten foot by ten foot by ten foot cube.

Once the bookshelves were in, there was no room for a table. I added some bean bag chairs which were actually quite comfortable . . . while they lasted. Then one or two or three of my children thought it would be great fun to jump out of the top of the closet and use the bean bags as landing pads.

It may have been great fun for them, but it was not so pleasant for the bean bags.

So the bookshelves filled up. My husband took out the closet so I became overwhelmed with stuff that had no place to belong. My son decided he couldn’t sleep in his room anymore and started sleeping on the library floor. I took mercy on him and bought him a couch bed to sleep on. And then his stuff started piling up. And some of my daughter’s stuff. And all of this other stuff I didn’t know what to do with.

And the next thing I knew, my little dream space filled with learning and activity and creativity became the room where you put stuff and closed the door so you didn’t have to deal with it.

Then my husband knocked out the wall. This has been a dream of his since we bought the place. And it really doesn’t look too bad. Except I don’t have a place for all this stuff. And I can’t just close the door. I have to deal with it Every. Single. Time. I look at it.

Instead of a little dreamspace, it seems more a symbol of homeschooling derailed.

Now it is calling me, beckoning me, crying for me to deal with it.

In some manner, I know not how. But interior design is a school subject, isn’t it? Sure. We’ll deal with this dream that almost was, and call it school.

And maybe we can make it inviting, yet.

Learning to appreciate and develop a child’s focus

These hands.

teaching focus

These hands of purpose. These hands of industry. These hands of exploring. These hands of discovery. These hands, dirty and discolored.

I love these hands.

They remind me of one of the lessons of parenting I think I got right. Finally.

Maybe it’s part of having a large family. Maybe it’s from raising “that weird kid.” Maybe it just comes in time and the children who come after benefit from what mom has learned before.

Because these hands are not the result of me not watching him with the markers. They are masterpieces. Masterpieces I watched him study and color for fifteen minutes before he finally declared them finished and came running to show me. Masterpieces worked out with focus and purpose and energy and drive.

And yes, masterpieces that wash. Turning the bath pink, no less, and thus into a whole new adventure.

I used to get frustrated with them for their lack of focus . . . their lack of focus on what I wanted them to focus on.

OK, so who am I kidding. I still get frustrated with them for that. After all, I just posted this to facebook as a summary of our recent homeschooling adventure:


So what has changed?

I appreciate what they choose to focus on more.

Whether it is laying on the concrete studying an ant or intently coloring their hand with a marker they found under the desk, when I see that intense focus in their eyes, I step back. I see the value in this focus, if not always in their activity.

They are exploring. They are testing. They are observing. They are studying their world. I’ve been known to let whole lessons slide to the backburner because of that look in the eye that tells me that they are completely absorbed in the task at hand.

And I’ve been known to just watch my three year old color his hands.

His masterpiece.

Can civility be saved?

This last election was . . . interesting.

The Case for Civility

I know there was a lot at stake. I mean, it was to decide the fate of the entire free world. That is bound to get someone a little upset.

My view has always been that if you are looking to the executive branch of the United States government to solve our problems, you are probably looking in the wrong place. Not just because I am hesitant of governmental solutions in general, but because our president just doesn’t have that kind of power.


And once he does, that will be the problem.

Watching the election and chatting with people online, it really seemed to me that the last fifteen years (give or take) of blogs and social media shouting out their inciteful (as opposed to insightful) commentary prepared us for this election. People don’t talk to each other. They talk past each other. They put each other in little boxes based on their politics or their religion or their dietary choices. They demonize each other.

They rarely communicate with each other.

And that’s why I was so excited when I stumbled across The Case for Civility by Os Guinness. I love Os anyway, but the premise of his book (that perhaps our greatest threat is the decline in civility!), resonates with me. Republics fall from within and we are set on a course to tear ourselves apart.

So I started a book discussion on facebook and would love if you would join us. The first discussion starts this Friday (January 6) with chapter one. Don’t worry if you can’t get the book by then. It is a pretty light chapter, mostly just outlining where he is going. Stop in, read the discussion and add your thoughts. We’d love to have you join us!

(This post contains an affiliate link which means that, should you actually purchase the book through the provided link, I will receive a few cents.)

Setting Goals for the New Year

2016 was pretty good to me.

New Year's Resolution

Nothing particularly spectacular happened. The railroad is slowing down so money is tighter. Watching the furloughs (basically lay offs) leaves a little anxiety as we wonder just how deep they will go and just how much seniority will be necessary to survive them. Demands on my time are greater. As my children get older, I stress more over their weak areas (and worry more about how much losing their brother will affect them academically rather than just . . . well . . . “just” the way losing loved ones affects everyone). I still battle feelings of failure and inadequacy. I still struggle with becoming suddenly and inexplicably overwhelmed by seemingly mundane tasks.

Except that it isn’t the task at hand. It’s the loss of a child.

So why would I say 2016 has been good to me?

Because this is the first year that I’ve been able to consistently do things like appreciate the small pleasures in life. Find the humor in everyday mishaps. In fact, while is seems to come out more on facebook, I’ve seen my sense of humor more and more over the last year. Little hiccups don’t regularly bring the day to a crashing halt. I have been able to plan things out, make goals and carry them through. I forget important things less. I can remember Mattias and smile. The feelings associated are bittersweet, but they no longer overwhelm me with grief. We’ve homeschooled every single day. And while we’re behind, it’s a normal behind, not an I-just-can’t-cope behind.

Life is moving forward.

And I’m looking forward more, too.

I like the idea of a New Year’s resolution. A time to reflect on the things we don’t like about ourselves and resolve to improve. A time to acknowledge our dreams and resolve to take steps toward achieving them. It’s a time to sweep away the failure and give ourselves a fresh start. Even if that start sputters and dies for all the reasons that brought us to this point to begin with.

But this year, I just have goals.

This year, I want to write.

I want to write more here. I want to get a few more articles published in magazines. I want to finish the e-books I started over the past two years. I want to start the novel that has been slowly developing in my thoughts over the last three years.

And I might be ready to pick up a project that was almost finished before Mattias died.

I purchased myself a nice big planner with room for plans and ideas and deadlines. I wrote my first query and have my first deadline.

My biggest challenge will simply be time. But my children are getting older and I am going to try to go to the library at least once a week to work. Alone. And during the day.

It takes discipline, which is where I’ve fallen short in the past.

So perhaps I have a resolution after all. Simply to be more disciplined.

What are your plans, goals, resolutions or words for the New Year? And maybe even a better question: Is there anything we can do to help you achieve them?

And a little more from around the homeschool web:

Heather from Wellermomma blog shares Ten Ways to Be a Happy {More} Relaxed Momma. (Pretty sure taking time to work on your own lifelong dreams counts, right?)

Becky from Homeschool ‘N Stuff is improving her relationship with God, reading more and getting to know her boys better. (And such a good thought. As homeschoolers, at home with our children ALL day, it seems like we know them. And of course we do. But learning to ask more questions and listen more deepens those relationships.)

Jody of Kitchen Table Classroom is sharing some super cute (and free!) New Year’s printables to help get your children started thinking about the new year and making their own resolutions.

Misty of Year Round Homeschooling is sharing how she prepares for a new year.

Crystal of Serving Joyfully shares the one resolution all of us (as Christians) should make.

And fellow homeschool mom Sarah Coller of Classical Homemaking even wrote a book: Purposeful Steps Toward a More Abundant Life. I have not read it, but we homeschoolers gotta stick together and help each other out, right? (Also, that link is an affiliate link.)