Sand Dollars and Solace

California came two weeks after a miserable break up.

I was devastated, heartbroken and exhausted.

Nothing was fitting clearly in my mind between the constant flow of excuses and reasons creeping in the corners of my brain and I was ready to jump in the ocean and let the waves carry me wherever they thought I should go.

IMG_6203IMG_6200I would drive to the ocean and walk the coast for miles, humming songs that filled my heart and dancing if only to leave beautifully intricate patterns in the sand.

Wind whipped my hair constantly and the waves would crash around my ankles as I hopped frantically out of the freezing water.

As I walked the beach, I would find pieces of broken shells everywhere. Soon, I found cracked sand dollars every few steps. The farther I would go, the more whole the sand dollars would become.

But I couldn’t find one that was whole.

Ironic,  I thought to myself, the broken girl stumbles across all of the chipped and cracked sand dollars, never finding a whole one because she’ll never feel that way again.

On one of my last trips to the beach, I remember sitting in the sand, digging my toes as far as I could into the earth and covering my legs until a mini sand castle kept me warm.

I ran my hands through patterns upon patterns, the sand felt so good running through my fingers.

I came across this sand dollar that was 90% whole and I held it in my hands. I spoke aloud to the universe and I said “If I can find one whole sand dollar, please let that be a sign that everything is going to be okay.”

I can’t tell you how stupid I felt saying this to the ocean. However, I had complete confidence in those words and so I said them aloud a few more times, begging for the universe to show me that eventually I would be okay.

I walked for miles down the shore and found one more sand dollar that was not quite whole and I smiled. Maybe this was it. A sign that even though this sand dollar was chipped, it was beautiful. I told myself that this is what I would find.

Still, I kept walking along the ocean.

Not even a minute later, I spotted another white circle buried in waves.

I remember this moment clear as day.

I gasped and ran to it, gently lifting it from the wet sand and washing it in the next crest that came to shore.

It was whole.

IMG_6230The happiness that swelled inside me brought tears to my eyes and I remember laughing by myself in the middle of the beach with the ocean right by my side.

That’s it, I thought,  I will be whole again. 

And it’s so strange that I needed the universe to tell me that I would be okay, but it did. Every trip to the beach after that never led me to another whole sand dollar.

It was my sign.

And maybe I made the entire coincidence up in my head in order to find the fight within me that I needed to heal.

But it worked.

I still have that sand dollar in my room, telling me that feeling whole is a process. I kept the broken one too if only to remind me that imperfection is still beautiful.

Until tomorrow,

Anna Marie

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My Grandparents Love Story Is Everything

Born oceans apart, my grandparents fell into a story that starts with “once upon a time”. 

But before we go there, we need to understand something about a huge trip and a leap of faith.

The thing about traveling is it forces change upon you whether you’re ready or not. You’re in a new place with new people and in this case, a completely new culture. Your languages don’t match and the basics of every day living are different, like the way the bread and water tastes.

Leaving your comfort zone doesn’t begin to describe it. You aren’t used to the way people say hello to each other or the laws you are now abiding. You can’t put your finger on why the food tastes different or why the weather is just a little more dramatic then you’re used to.

This is the beauty that comes with traveling, especially to a place you’re staying for a few weeks or more. As I experience this town for the first time, I realize this is how my opa (grandpa) must have felt when he first came here back in 1958 as part of the U.S. Army. 

Northpoint, Kriegsfeld.

When I first explored this town, I was shown the army base my opa was sent to. I saw the barracks he lived in and the mess hall where he stuffed his face. I stared through a locked gate at the overgrown roads and crumbling structures that had such a huge impact on my family. I saw the building my oma (grandma), her sister and niece worked in and imagined the blacktop filled with busy feet marching and cultures clashing.

As I walked through the small town of Kriegsfeld, I stared at the restaurant where my oma and opa had their first date. I studied the coat rack where my oma had sent a little boy to retrieve her coat after ditching my opa at the dining table. I laughed at the idea that these two young kids had no idea the family they would create.

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The restaurant where it all began.

It became so beautiful, to see these places for myself and hear their love story again. My oma, who barely spoke English, fell for the American army boy who barely spoke German. We drove the 10 Kilometers it took to get from the base to this small town and my opa would poke fun at the killer hills and swerving paths he took to walk all this way to see my oma. It wasn’t uncommon for the army boys to fall in love with the women in this town, he told me.

Somehow, the language barrier didn’t stop these two from falling for each other. Through late curfews and stolen motorcycle rides (my oma was driving) their love story began to unfold as two best friends that were in love.

I asked my oma what language she first said “I love you” to my opa and she responded with “German, but he didn’t understand what I was saying so it didn’t even matter.” Somehow, she must have got the message across because they’ve been married for 55 years now.

Taken this morning.

55 years is a remarkable time to be in love, I thought as I walked past the parking lot that used to be my oma’s home. This is the place she was born as well as where my aunt was born. She reminded me of how terrified she was to move to the United States where everything was so different from home.

But she did it anyways.

She said she lost so much weight from the ups and downs of her first year in America. She got her citizenship in a year in a half instead of the five years it usually took. She was scared in this new place that was her home and as she tells me this in completely perfect English, I realize that this woman is one of the bravest people I have ever met. 

My oma had love and that was it. The love for her husband and their new daughter gave her the strength to leave her home and everything she ever knew. She learned English by listening and became more aware of United States history than a native citizen. She made friends with a babysitter and local librarian who would help her learn as much as possible so she could become an American.

DSC_0147This is just small evidence of the courage she has. Every other year, she would fly back to this small town to reconnect with her family and friends and she’s been doing this for over 50 years now.

And now, I’m finally with her. I get to see every place she enjoyed as a teenager and enjoy them with the grandchildren of her friends. I get to meet my dad’s friends from his trips to Germany and make new friends of my own.

The history this town holds in my family is truly incredible and inspiring. 

The love story that unfolded in this town is one that I hope to be so blessed to find one day. A love that you would literally cross oceans for. 

Until tomorrow,

Anna Marie

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You Need to Sink Into Nature

Travel Tuesday takes a twist into appreciating nature wherever your adventure leads. 

When on the verge of self-implosion, I step into a place that offers much more than a beautiful view and I sink into it.

I will close my eyes and take in what it is to sink into nature.

The rustle of leaves as the wind whispers through shaken stems forms a language that calms the heart, mind and soul.

A gentle breeze lightly kisses your skin to take away the heat that comes with the warm sunshine on your shoulders. Nature knows the pain you feel and it fills those cracks with the shrill of birds singing and the smell of new leaves springing from their homes.

Breathe out, breathe in. The faint smell of flowers is overwhelmed by the earthly scents that flood all five senses. Maybe you’re standing by a lake and can hear the light trickle of water moving and smell the fish and seaweed that lie beneath the glittering surface.

Perhaps you’re caught in the wind on the ocean and can almost taste the salt on your lips. You slowly squish your toes into the sandy beach, feeling each grain of crushed rock smooth the skin you walk on. The ocean waves slowly crash against the shore. They stretch and reach for you, maybe just getting far enough to wash your feet, pulling your worries and self-doubt into the vast blue.

forestThere you stand in the midst of a thousand trees. A forest filled with cracking trunks and bending limbs. Rodents rustle rapidly through the brush and climb heights we consider feats. The sun rays slice through the branches that shelter us, if only to wash our face with light and hope. White noise hushes your thoughts as each leaf high fives it’s partner and the forest dances as one.

What you hear, what you see, what you feel has erupted what you have been holding inside of you. You loosen your grip on what you can’t change or let go piece by piece.  A calmness settles in that whispers you’ll be okay and you once again feel the hug of sunshine and earth surrounding you.

Nature can heal you if you sink into everything it has to offer.

Until tomorrow,

Anna Marie

Life’s Little Therapies

There are certain instances in life that you just sit back and think “WOW, did that just make me feel better…”

Life has a funny way of teaching you therapeutic ways to make yourself feel better without you even realizing it. Check out the examples I came up with below.

Riding in a car with the music loud… There is just something about loud music that speaks to you in a car that let’s you experience the environment around you. Riding in a car soothes the soul and rocks your anger to sleep. The music lets you belt out your favorite words and says exactly what you are feeling. The combination drowns out the thoughts in your head as your journeying to somewhere different (even if it is just on your way back home).

Seeing something new… Whether it’s a back road you’ve never taken or a town 15 minutes away that you have never explored, a change of scenery is stimulating. It occupies your brain and can erase your worries for the time being. It’s a reminder that the world is huge and there are opportunities everywhere.

Sticking your feet in the ocean… Grounding yourself. Letting the waves wash over your toes and sinking your feet into the sand is one of the most wonderful feelings in the world. It’s a gentle motivation to stay calm and breathe. It makes us feel peaceful and whole in the mass of the world. It is by far one of my favorite therapies.

A get together with your closest friends or family members… There is something about sharing laughter with those closest to you that can lift your spirits. Reminiscing on old times, creating new memories or just sitting in their presence can make you feel so much better. The presence of someone who cares about you can really make you feel less alone and give you something to look forward to. It’s a way to distract yourself from negativity and reach for the ones who can make your happiness soar.

Indulging in something you love… What is your favorite hobby? What is something you haven’t done in a while? Whether it’s cooking, reading, running or calling your grandma, do something that you know will make you feel relaxed or calm. Sometimes we don’t feel like doing anything at all but by letting ourselves just sit around, we aren’t taking a step forward. At least grab your favorite snack or dance around to one song. Do it for you.

These are a few of life’s indulgences that can raise your mood and make you feel even just a smidge better on a gloomy day. Remember that time will pass whether you are enjoying it or not. Take advantage of what days you have left and be happy.

Until tomorrow,

Anna Marie

Wanderlust + Craving = Fernweh

fernwehFERNWEH. The beauty in this German word is just overwhelming.Travelers are known for saying they crave new places. This word is even more. I love the addition that we not only crave travel,  but we become homesick for a place we’ve never been.

Have you ever felt this way? I have this constant itch to experience something new and see a place I have only seen on Pinterest. I was on vacation only 2 1/2 months ago, yet I am ready to get on a plane to anywhere.

What is it inside travelers that leaves us longing for adventure. It’s an internal timer that constantly ticks down to the next time you set foot on a plane or in a car. Whether it’s the mountains, the forest, the ocean or city lights, I just want my eyes to be exposed to a new scene.

I want to breathe in air that smells different from home. I wish to meet people that grew up in a culture that is nothing like mine. I need to be awed by foods that I’ve never heard of and taste the strangeness they hold. There’s nothing like a whole new world that’s just a plane/car/boat ride away.

It’s so hard to explain the longing we feel for something new. A change of scenery is something that renews us and going many different places somehow helps us find ourselves. For those who don’t understand why travelers want to travel, we don’t understand why staying in one place is desired.

Yet, it’s kind of frightening when you think of that craving you have to go everywhere right now. Will you be able to settle down if you constantly want to change it up? You’re only young once. You could be young forever if you make it that way. Depending on who you are, maybe moving around is exactly what you want. Maybe you just want to have a home but get your butt to a different country ever so often to have it all.

Either way, I won’t stop. I have never regretted the money I spent on travel. Those experiences helped me find a piece of myself and grow into someone who won’t settle for no adventures. I will continue to travel because I crave it more than I crave the every day wish list. I long for these places I’ve never been and dream of mountains I’ve never climbed.

How would you put all of this into one word?

Fernweh.

Until tomorrow,

Anna Marie

5 Places You Didn’t Know You Needed to Go

Let’s crave the greens of a lush forest, lust for the white sandy beaches of tropical paradise and listen for the hustle and bustle of a new city. Let’s find a place that makes our heartbeats stronger, our footsteps lighter and our thoughts quieter. Let’s say hello to new faces, create memories with the ones we know and never forget them. Let’s travel.

Today is the mark of a new weekly topic for Inspired She Lives. It is, if you haven’t guessed, travel Tuesday! Every Tuesday I will post something about Travel since it is one of my greatest passions. So let’s continue.

FIVE PLACES THAT ARE ON MY BUCKET LIST RIGHT NOW:

First I will tell you the place and my personal favored attraction that I think would be a can’t miss during the tour.

1. GREECE– From Athens to Santorini, Greece is known for its amazing food and beautiful beaches. Right on the Mediterranean Sea, I would love for the chance to island hop around the shores and taste the authenticity of Greek cuisine.

Courtesy of Google Images.

Courtesy of Google Images.

Most favored attraction:  I would love to see the Delphi Ruins in Greece. They are historic and known as the ‘center of the universe’. I lot of people consider it a very spiritual and grounding place. Besides, the ruins and the landscape surrounding them are both beyond beautiful.

Courtesy of Google Images.

Courtesy of Google Images.

2. MORAINE LAKE, CANADA– This may seem like an odd choice but I bet you can already see the picture and are awed with the beauty of this place. The blue of the lake in contrast with the dark green pines and the white snow capped mountains is truly breathtaking. I couldn’t imagine a more beautiful and serene place. This is has to be on your bucket list.

Courtesy of Google Images.

Courtesy of Google Images.

Most favored attraction: Moraine Lake was made by a glacier that swept through the land and left moraine (or rocks) that damned the flow of streams and created the lake. If you go and see the lake, you must see how it was made right? The picture below looks like the rockpile is human made; it’s unbelievable to think a glacier is the cause of this beauty.

Courtesy of Google Images.

Courtesy of Google Images.

3. NEW ZEALAND– I know so many people who love the idea of going to Australia but what about it’s neighbor? I have had a few friends visit this beautiful country and I couldn’t be more determined to visit it’s incredible landscapes. The views in any part of this country will blow your mind. At least, I sure hope that’s the case.

Courtesy of Google Images.

Courtesy of Google Images.

Most favored attraction: Glow worms are native to New Zealand and occupy caves to make it look like you are right underneath hundreds of shining stars. How different is this from what we experience at home? The chance to experience these caves would be quite surreal .

Courtesy of Google Images.

Courtesy of Google Images.

4. SWITZERLAND– The Alps, cheese and chocolate. Switzerland is known for the views of its beautiful lakes, mountain ranges and homes. Being a true Wisconsinite means I would be overwhelmed with joy to taste a Swiss cheese and my chocoholic taste buds are tingling with desire to savor a piece of Swiss chocolate.

switzerland

Courtesy of Google Images.

Most favored attraction: Matterhorn mountain sits on the border of Switzerland and Italy. It’s peak is almost a perfect pyramid and is a beacon of power in the horizon. To be able to stand near such a huge landmark would make anyone feel like an ant scuffling through through grass.

Courtesy of Google Images.

Courtesy of Google Images.

5. ITALY– This country has been on my bucket list for such a long time and it always will be until I get to explore its culture. I would love to go all over Italy and see Venice, Verona, Rome, Pompeii, Pisa, Milan, Florence and anywhere else the Gondolas take me. Every city seems to have it’s own history and I would love to experience the Italian cuisine there.

Courtesy of Google Images.

Courtesy of Google Images.

Most favored attraction: My must see for Italy would be the Trevi Fountain in Rome. There is so much to see in Italy with architecture and beautiful sculptures but I feel like the Trevi fountain is held up almost to a magical standard. Tradition says that if you toss a coin into the fountain, you will return to Rome some day.

Courtesy of Google Images.

Courtesy of Google Images.

That’s the top five places on my bucket list right now! What about you?! I love to learn about new places and what other people are desiring in their traveling hearts. Travel is a way to discover ourselves and lose ourselves all at the same time. Any travel bug is a friend of mine. Comment below with your travel wishes!

Until tomorrow,

Anna Marie

Ocean Waves Stole my Heart

When I first galloped into the ocean, the salt splashed in my mouth and I came up spitting and wiping at the salt I felt sticking to my body.  But the first time I saw the ocean, I couldn’t stop searching the horizon or watching the waves crash on shore. The vastness of the ocean is incredible. The sheer size of it is mind boggling. I remember dipping my toes into it and feeling so small. Like compared to this giant home to thousands of creatures, my tiny self was just a fraction of the life touching the waves, the smallest part of the most grand piece of this world.

Now, not all of these words came to mind, but it gives you a sense of how that first encounter with the sea went. That was in 2012.

2014. Florida.

2014. Florida.

In 2013, I was lucky enough to go back to the ocean and it felt, in the strangest way, like I belonged there. Like I was meant to have this vast mystery somewhere close to me. Now, I am not usually super philosophical or categorized as a hippie but I swear the ocean knew it had a gravitational pull on me. I can’t even explain how my thoughts just started melding into ideas and my mind cleared from the rubbish that usually poisons healthy thinking. It was like as soon as the waves touched my skin, a calm would sink into me that allowed all of the thoughts to be processed or hushed. What does this place have that others do not?

I found myself back by the ocean during spring break in Florida in 2014.  As soon as I saw the sea, I got the same building excitement  as I walked towards the shore. On a quiet beach with a pier and sea shell treasures, I didn’t want to leave. The moment in which the waves first crashed over my toes, my mind felt at home again. I couldn’t shake the feeling that this is where I would be at my best, mentally. With the ocean for clarity and the waves for cleansing. I did my best thinking there and I felt renewed whenever I would leave the sand. I always waited for my next chance to go back.

2015. Thailand.

2015. Thailand.

This year, 2015, I had the opportunity to experience the Indian Ocean in Thailand. It was incredibly clear and the most brilliant shade of turquoise you could imagine. When you jumped in, you could see a whole different world beneath your toes. I went snorkeling by different islands and witnessed ocean life untouched. I saw Nemos, Doris, sea urchins, rainbow fish, sea cucumbers that were the most royal shade of blue imaginable and so much more.

Ironically,  days before I witnessed the beauty of the Indian Ocean, I witnessed the devastation of the ruins it left behind when a tsunami hit Thailand years ago. So don’t get me wrong, I think the ocean is beautiful but it’s power scares me. It was so difficult to imagine something so beautiful turning into a deathly disaster. It was terrifying.

The ocean is strong. It is powerful and unpredictable. It can tear apart a country or be the natural force behind championships. It can be the subject of a perfect sunset or the sound of a night time lullaby. You see, the ocean can be all of these things and perhaps the potential hidden beneath the surface is the reason I love to be in it’s presence. It’s quiet and it will always be there. The ocean is a place of serenity and where my thoughts will come together. I can’t imagine a better place for solace and I will always look forward to the next time I can dip my toes into the waves again.

Until next time,

Anna Marie