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Category Archives: Moments

Reunion…of sorts #IAmATriangle

Screen Shot 2017-08-19 at 8.02.23 AM“Raised on Sweet Tea & Jesus” says the t shirt of the young woman entering the glass door of the beauty shop. I’m sitting in the corner in the only pedicure chair facing out listening to the mixing of hair color and chat of women being themselves, sharing a little life moment. A regular happening for some, an occasional indulgence for others. I’m not sure which I will be although my last paid-for haircut was over a year ago.

Men frequent this place as well. Third one I’ve seen takes a swivel seat, tucks his sunglasses in the top of a gray baseball shirt tee and doffs hit hat. The drape drops around his shoulders, not the typical black or white plastic that catches clippings. No, this one is printed to like a worn, battered American flag.

I tear up just sitting here. How silly am I?

This time is different. I’m here for good. I cannot tell you how great it is to finally be here, not for a visit, not only for a few years and then on to an unknown. This time is different.

Hello America.

I’m home.

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Posted by on August 19, 2017 in Moments

 

Pump Your #Brain

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Photo Credit: Mother Nature Network

Celebrated inventor and physicist Nikola Tesla swore by toe exercises – every night, he’d repeatedly ‘squish’ his toes, 100 times for each foot, according to the author Marc J Seifer.

….According to the latest review of the evidence, around 40% of what distinguishes the brainiacs from the blockheads in adulthood is environmental. Like it or not, our daily habits have a powerful impact on our brains, shaping their structure and changing the way we think.

Einstein’s daily walk was sacred to him….He followed in the footsteps of other diligent walkers, including Darwin who went for three 45 minute walks every day.

….These constitutionals weren’t just for fitness – there’s mountains of evidence that walking can boost memory, creativity and problem-solving. For creativity at least, walking outside is even better.

For more click over to the BBC.

Doing my toe crunches right now. Totally lost count.

–Kristin

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2017 in Moments

 

Smelling Socks #Motherhood

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(Photo Credit to TimelessTreasureTrove.com Where Frugal Got Fabulous)

I sometimes smell boy socks. It’s a dirty job, but someone has to yada yada. You know how it goes. Here’s the deal, though. When you tell kids to clean up their room, and most the mess is a hodgepodge of clothes both clean and dirty, all the clothes end up in your laundry basket.

Maybe that’s no big deal at your house. You’re always trying to make a full load anyway. Not at my house. Four sons, two parents, and a tiny European washer with the shortest clean time for colors at 1 h 20 m. The dryer will take  two times longer, maybe three.

Therefore, I must smell socks. Boys will have a consequence for every clean sock they’ve put in the dirty clothes. I don’t smell underwear. As a woman and a mom, you’ve got to draw the line somewhere.

And don’t get me started on the odors seeping out into the hall. I’m sorry. Once you’ve made the room smell that bad, why would you continue to sit on the toilet for another 45 minutes?

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Kristin King is an author of paranormal fiction. She blogs about travel, food, living in Holland, the occasional current event, and most anything except motherhood.

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2017 in Brings a Smile, Moments

 

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2017 Without You #Loss #Grief #Holidays

His inhaler was empty.

A little American boy woke up a few weeks ago and went to school…just like my four sons did. If he is like them, he was in his favorite class, PE, when the attack came. It had happened before. This time his inhaler was empty. His lungs felt as if they were filling with water. The pressure inside pulled everything into that growing liquid. He was drowning in a room full of dry air. His throat was closing down in the middle of the gym. And his inhaler was empty.

Did you head into the holidays with an empty slot? A vibrant friend who took his own life? A parent you’ve never been without at Hanukkah before? A brother who fought the cancer till he had no fight left?

Is there an empty slot at your center threatening to suck your whole life into pain? Threatening your joy with sorrow? Threatening your blessing with unbearable loss?

When I started writing this blog, Alan Thicke and George Michael were still breathing. Mother and daughter, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, were still in the world together. Shocking. Taking our wind for a moment. Yet distant. Not like my husband’s father and his aunt. My friend Beth’s brother. My student Sydney’s grandfather. Not like Yuhan, the little boy in my nephew’s class. No article by CNN will review that we lost them this year, or the person you lost who makes your throat ache and close.

Some people will try to comfort us. Try to speak of how great his life was. How my aunt  did everything on her own terms. How filled their lives were with accomplishments, or family, or friends. You know what though? Friends don’t cut it. Honestly, if there’s an empty slot, no lover, no marriage, no success, no child birthed or adopted is ever going to fill that slot. And no words of sympathy, no matter how heart-felt, are going to relieve that grief. Not right now.

My friend wrote me about her loss. “As the year comes to a close here in a few hours for me, I find a strange sense of anxiety welling up inside me. It’s as if by going into 2017 and leaving 2016 I’m stepping through a door and closing off my brother forever. I don’t quite understand that one.” I don’t get it either. But I feel it. Don’t you?

My religious tradition talks about an emptiness inside us that we try to fill with the things of this world, that we think will make us happy. Maybe some of them work for a while. Distract us. Put a lift in our step. A smile for a moment. The hole is God-sized though, and nothing else can take that place. No one else can fill it. And grief is that way too.

An older person dies and somebody somewhere will inevitably talk about how fulfilled their life was. Really? Can’t they feel how wrong that death was? The great-aunt in her 80’s or the little boy in gym class–IT’S WRONG. It was not how this world was created to be. We know that truth inside of us even if we don’t have any way to express it–even if the words won’t come to us or the faith is beyond us. Death is wrong.

Her life was filled. Was it fulfilled? Full-filled life. How do we get that?

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full,” Jesus said. Weren’t those people already living? Well, yeah. There’s more though. More for you and for me to reach full-fillment. It’s there for anyone who seeks it. That’s what I’m opening my heart to.

In 2017, that is the air I breathe (song lyrics again) when my chest is too tight to expand. That is the bread I eat when my throat is too constricted to swallow. How do people go on without Jesus? There’s lots I can imagine. Not that. I really can’t imagine that.

2016 was the year that: the colleague lost his dad, the granddaughter lost her grandfather, the wife lost her husband, the sister lost her big sis. The year that you lost…

 

The doctors said my nephew’s best friend would have died even if his inhaler had been full. If the medics had been right there. If he’d been in the hospital at the time of his asthma attack. Sometimes the emptiness is one that nothing on this earth can fill, that nothing in this world can fix. One song lyric says, “And all I see, it could never make me happy.” And if that was the point of the song, it’d be one pretty depressing tune. But the chorus quietly prays:

Let me know that You hear me
Let me know Your touch
Let me know that You love me
And let that be enough (Switchfoot)

Oh God, so many of us are hurting. We need to feel your touch, to know you love us. Some of us know that you hear us, but you seem so far away. We know you are there for us, that you are here with us. Let that be enough. Fill our emptiness with more of you. Full-fill our lives with all you have for us.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

I had decided not to write this post. Not to transfer the words from my chicken-scratched notebook to this page. Then I opened social media, and two more friends had lost someone so dear to them. I couldn’t not write it. I couldn’t not tell you that there is hope, that there is comfort, that there is a brighter tomorrow. It might get worse before it gets better. And that tomorrow won’t be the same as those yesterdays with your loved one. This is new place, a new way of being in a new year…

2017 Without You

Never without our all-loving God.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  (Romans 15:13)

Maybe this will speak to you, the words of Gwen Flowers’ “Grief”

I had my own notion of grief.
I thought it was the sad time
That followed the death of someone you love.
And you had to push through it
To get to the other side.
But I’m learning there is no other side.
There is no pushing through.
But rather,
There is absorption.
Adjustment.
Acceptance.
And grief is not something you complete,
But rather, you endure.
Grief is not a task to finish
And move on,
But an element of yourself-
An alteration of your being.
A new way of seeing.
A new definition of self.

(Some names were changed to protect the privacy of the individuals.)

–Kristin

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2017 in Christmas, Holidays, Moments

 

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Muhammad Ali Philanthropy and Me #MuhammadAli #GOAT #ALI

Ali quote Make the days countThe moment I saw the news, I knew I would have to write about Ali, about our connections however tenuous. At first it was impossible to put my thoughts together. All week long news feeds, photos, quotes, and videos about him drew me away from whatever else I was working on. My last post about the connections I keep seeing between world events and my life was in my mind (Inside the UCLA Shooting).

When as a child I heard Muhammad Ali say he was “The Greatest” I believed him. Why wouldn’t I? My Mom and Dad, two of the greatest people I knew, were both born and raised in Louisville. My grandmothers both lived there where I spent numerous holidays and weeks of summer vacations. My brother watched Ali’s fights, rooting for the most famous of Louisville’s favored sons. Great people came from Louisville. Why not the G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time)?

Born January 17, 1942, Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. was 13 months older than my father. I grew up thinking they attended the same school, or that perhaps my grandmother, a local teacher, taught young Cassius who didn’t change his name till 1964. As it turns out, I was wrong on both counts. My youthful imagination already made stories. Until hearing about Ali, it had never occurred to me that you could change your name to anything you wanted. To me that was pretty darn cool. Despite my youthful error, there are a couple of connections.

Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 10.49.18 AMAngry about a stolen bike, Cassius ran into a local gym where cops worked out. Telling Sergeant Joe Martin how he wanted to whip the thief, Martin told the 86 pound 12-year-old that he should learn how to fight first, and Martin became his first trainer taking him up to his Golden Gloves days when my father first hear of him. Since my grandfather was the superintendent of the traffic division, he was Officer Martin’s supervisor at some point earlier in his law enforcement career.

Hearing this story I had to wonder, was this the kind of encounter a black youth in 1954 expected to have in a gym full of cops? Kentucky is a mid-southern state, and Louisville was its largest city. Experience in Europe has shown me that some Europeans think the movie “Selma” represents what all of America was like in 1965. Obviously that’s not so, even if Americans of subsequent generations think pretty much the same thing. Consider Louisville in 1957 as my father described it:

Certainly, I remember the news coverage, and the brutality of the Alabama police, but south Alabama is so far removed from Kentucky, and I don’t mean just in road distance: I mean culturally as well….In Louisville…the schools were desegregated in 1957 without incident (to my knowledge).  I was in the seventh grade at Shawnee Junior High, and the integration of black kids into our classes, lunchrooms, and gym were a non event.

15-year-old Cassius must have had a slightly different experience of racism from those raised in the deep south. Certainly whites-only restaurants persisted, like the one Ali was turned away from not long after returning home with his 1960 Olympic gold medal. (He said the medal was lost and not thrown into the Ohio River in anger, debunking an oft-repeated urban legend).

Outside the ring, Ali’s refusal to submit to the Vietnam draft was one of the biggest news stories of his young career. My father remembers, “He and I both had to appear for our draft physical on the same day. The only difference was that I was standing in line with fifty or sixty other guys in our underwear waiting to see the doctor, when he came down the hall with his attorney, and went right in. He was already famous by then.” Gee, I hope they didn’t interrupts anybody…coughing.

Screen Shot 2016-06-12 at 11.13.04 PMThe coverage of Ali’s boxing career and rise to fame was everywhere on the web this last week. What strikes me, though, is what he did with that fame and admiration. Certainly he used it in the civil rights movement. Some speculate that it was his first trip to Africa that opened his eyes to his larger world-wide influence. His “Rumble in the Jungle” against George Foreman in Kinshasa (where we adopted our younger sons) is humorously titled in my opinion when I think of how large the city was even at that time. He road through the streets sitting behind the sunroof of a slow-moving vehicle, hands stretching out to meet the thousands reaching for him. That I cannot relate to.

However, I know what it’s like for Africa to open your heart, take a piece, and never return it. Co-founding Future Hope Africa in the DR Congo and sponsoring two Ethiopian children’s education and welfare through Compassion International are two of the ways I answered the call to make a difference.

Ali answered a call as well, and I wish there was more information on Muhammad Ali’s philanthropy work being tagged and shared. That is perhaps where his greatest legacy remains. In his retirement, Ali devoted much of his time to philanthropy. Over the years he supported the Special Olympics and the Make-A-Wish Foundation, among other organizations. He traveled to numerous countries, including Mexico and Morocco, to help those in need.Screen Shot 2016-06-12 at 11.14.56 PM

Mr. Ali first came to the UN in 1978 to address the UN Special Committee against Apartheid with a message of peace and spirituality. He brings people from all races together by preaching “healing” to everyone irrespective of race, religion or age. Over the years Mr. Ali has been a relentless advocate for people in need and a significant humanitarian actor in the developing world, supporting relief and development initiatives and hand-delivering food and medical supplies to hospitals, street children and orphanages in Africa and Asia. (From Ali’s “United Nations Messenger of Peace” page)

Muhammad Ali became an ambassador for peace beginning in 1985, when he flew to Lebanon to secure the release of four hostages. Ali also has made goodwill missions to Afghanistan and North Korea; delivered over $1 million in medical aid to Cuba; traveled to Iraq to secure the release of 15 United States hostages during the first Gulf War; and journeyed to South Africa to meet Nelson Mandela upon his release from prison.(Look To the Stars)

Muhammad Ali and Michael J. Fox

Muhammad Ali and Michael J. Fox

When Ali announced in 1984 that he had Parkinson’s disease, he entered another fight. You may remember that Michael J. Fox, who was diagnosed in 1991, did a series of commercials with Ali that juxtaposed the big man and the small both working toward a cure. That’s the video I’d like to share with you. Living in Arizona, Ali also raised funds for Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center in Phoenix. Fox called Ali “a peaceful warrior.”

In 2005, Ali received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush. He also opened the Muhammad Ali Center in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, that same year. “I am an ordinary man who worked hard to develop the talent I was given,” he said. “Many fans wanted to build a museum to acknowledge my achievements. I wanted more than a building to house my memorabilia. I wanted a place that would inspire people to be the best that they could be at whatever they chose to do, and to encourage them to be respectful of one another.”

About a week and half ago I was browsing the sports section of our international school library in The Netherlands picking out books for my children to read this summer. A few days later we woke to the news that Muhammad Ali had died. “I just brought a biography home for the kids to read about him,” I said. My husband responded to my angst with, “You didn’t kill him by checking out that book.” What a coincidence though.

Screen Shot 2016-06-12 at 11.22.50 PMMany of my cousins still live in Louisville, and they took their children to stand along the funeral route Friday and then posted photos of the historical procession to Facebook. Muhammad Ali is buried in Louisville’s Cave Hill National Cemetery, a last crossroads for us.

In college I remember navigating the 296-acre cemetery, taking lefts at most forks in the narrow road till I reached a right-hand turn near the brick, back wall. From that winding bit of pavement, I spotted my grandmother’s stone, stopped the car, and laid flowers before wandering to look for nearby relatives.

Perhaps the next time I visit I’ll wander a bit farther, see the grotto, take my children to feed the ducks at the pond, and pay my respects at the grave of Muhammad Ali. I will tell them how he was much more than a boxer, how he fought for the rights of himself and others, how he used his fame to help poor and oppressed people around the world, and how The Greatest defined being great.

During his boxing days Ali said, “I float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.” It’s one of his most famous quotes. I like this other one better myself.  Hana Ali repeated these oft spoken words of her father.

“Nothing makes us greater than the next person but the heart. If you want to be greater than someone than you have to have a great heart.” –Muhammad Ali

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Kristin King is a native of Kentucky, an author, and co-founder of Future Hope Africa. She is working on her third novel and closely monitoring the crowdfundraiser her nonprofit is running for Vacation Bible School in the Congo where for a limited time your gift will be doubled! She encourages others to “answer your call” whatever it may be.

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2016 in In The News, Moments

 

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An Arab, a Dutchman, a Chinaman and My Error

You can help 3x as many children go to VBS in Congo this summer just by a SHARE!

You can help 3x as many children go to VBS in Congo this summer just by a SHARE!

No, this isn’t the beginning of a joke. It is a key insight into the life we’re living as expats in the multinational area surrounding The Hague.

At dinner this week, the Arab gentleman to my left discovered his Chinese colleague across the table has only one child, a son, as does the Dutch couple across from me. The Arab has five daughters. All were variously surprised by the fact that my husband and I have four sons.

“All boys!”

“Such a large family for America!”

“Isn’t one or two more the case?”

I commented that larger families were not uncommon in the military.

“Why is that?”

Although I’m not really sure, I speculated for them that the job security, housing, and health care probably played into it. Later, though, I realized my error.

Certainly these benefits have a role in the decision to have more children, but I think a deeper more fundamental aspect of the human condition is at play. My eldest Ethiopian son has at least 8 brothers and sisters somewhere, and families with 8-12 siblings were not uncommon in his country of birth. If you’ve ever toured the great home of a common family from a by gone century (especially in the US), you were probably amazed when told the number of children the woman of the house gave birth to; somewhere I remember being shocked by a number as high as 21.

How many of those babies lived to become adults?

Of the adults, how many died before the age of 40?

Our proximity to death, the frequency with which we experience it both first hand and through our neighbors, the fact of mortality which cannot be ignored day-to-day drives family growth, I think. Perhaps I am in error again. Perhaps too many variables are at play in these life decisions to consider in a simple blog post.

The other day my husband was wondering about friends nearing retirement who choose career and lifestyle over having children. “Do you think they regret it now?” he mused. We’ve known several couples with no children of their own who nonetheless take on vital roles in the lives of children through service organizations, churches, and nieces and nephews as well. Engaging the next generation in these ways can be very fulfilling and part of our nonprofit work in Africa.

Still, an old proverb says “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.” Quivers of the time reportedly held five arrows as a rule, yet we only have four. Hmm. Yes, only God knows what all influences our decisions.

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Kristin King is an author and nonprofit co-founder currently living in Holland. She is currently promoting her first crowdfunded project. Please stop by Congo VBS 2016 and join the crowd.

 
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Posted by on June 1, 2016 in Living in Holland, Moments

 

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Soldier’s Goodbye

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 3.04.27 PM(Guest Post by Ryan King)

When I returned from my first tour in Afghanistan in late 2005 I was having a hard time relaxing. I felt tense and on edge most of time. They told us this was common post-deployment behavior and would slowly go away. Someone recommended simply having ‘alone time’ or ‘relax time.’ It seemed ridiculously simple, but I tried it anyway. I would sit outside alone and simply relax for an hour or so a week. Sometimes it was with a cigar or a pipe or a beverage. Alone time became a once a week routine that I have kept up for over a decade. But I wasn’t really alone. At least not until tonight.

Argos became a part of our family in 2003 while we were living in Belgium. We also already had an eight year old white German shepherd who was showing signs of age. My wife and I decided it would be good to get another dog and friends of ours allowed us to adopt their dog when they were unable to keep Argos. He and our shepherd Angel were instant friends. They played and romped and were constant companions. Our old shepherd dog became young again and lasted another five years. Argos saved Angel’s life…at least for a little while.

Argos was a golden Labrador/golden retriever mix who was always friendly and filled with energy. A friend of mine dubbed Argos “Full Throttle” and the name couldn’t have been more apt. He loved to get attention from anyone and was so eager to please. He never bit anyone or barked in anger…but he would lick you to death sometimes.

Yet, he was my constant companion during nearly a decade of alone time. He would sit with me quietly and sniff the air. On occasion he would bring me a ball and insist that I throw it for him to retrieve. Even last Sunday, our final alone time together it turned out, he brought me a ball a few times and his weary eyes told me what he wanted. I tossed the ball for him and he slowly walked over to it, bent down and picked it up in his soft mouth, and then slowly walked back over to me to repeat the routine.

Tonight was the first alone time without my friend and near constant companion. I keenly felt the aloneness and realized it had never been alone time after all. Argos, I miss you.

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Ryan King is a career army officer with multiple combat tours who continues to serve in the military. He has lived, worked, and traveled throughout Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. He writes post-apocalyptic, dystopian, thriller, horror, and action short stories, short novels, and novels.

Argos earlier this year, his first Holland Spring also his last.

Argos earlier this year, his first Holland Spring also his last.

 
 

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