Life is Measured in Two Kinds of Time - Chronos and Kairos

by EMILY ORTON

Our New York City family has been traveling in Europe since September 2018.

There Are Two Kinds of Time – Chronos and Kairos

This post is an intersection of insight, confession, and aspiration rolled into a brief overview of where we’ve been for the past few weeks.

 Trusty van

Trusty van

Erik and I were listening to this podcast on our way from Germany to France. We learned that the ancient Greeks measured time in two different ways and used two different words—chronos and kairos.  Chronos is time measured in seconds, minutes and days.  Kairos is time measured in meaningful experiences—moments that shift our paradigm, open our eyes, touch our hearts, and deepen our relationships. 

 It struck a chord.  Our family has been having a lot of kairos time in very little chronos time.  When chronos time gets that densely packed with kairos experiences, we need a little chronos to process it, to reshuffle the deck, to assess how those experiences change or refine who we are.  We need regular chronos to upgrade our sense of identity to reflect those new experiences.  I'm not complaining. I'm trying to assess so I can be steadier going forward.

 The past 3 months

The past 3 months

 There is a reason gourmet food has such a high plate to food ratio—so we savor each bite. Compare that with the famous hot dog eating competition at Coney Island.  Now imagine a gourmet food eating competition.  Mixed emotions.  It would be wonderful to eat delicious dishes.  But would it be wonderful to eat them as fast as possible?  Better than not eating them at all.  It’s the same with kairos experiences.  

Though I love travel, I prefer slow travel—staying in one place for weeks or months.  Wouldn't that be lovely? New experiences spark new responses, new ideas, new thoughts about who we want to be or who we don’t want to be and what it means to be human.  I want my life to be filled with those kind of experiences.  But if I press too many of those moments together without articulating or digesting how they’ve affected me, it creates the achy stupor of gluttony.

 Here’s what I’ve been chewing on:

Our daughter, Alison, left from Rome to serve an 18-month mission in Japan. (Read the post here:  The Hardest Part of Love.). We visited the Vatican, which is technically a border crossing and certainly feels like a different world. We made new friends in Narni, Italy.  We reconnected with high school friends in Venice.  We visited family near Bern, Switzerland and celebrated Eli’s thirteenth birthday. We shared a Thanksgiving feast with friends in Stuttgart, Germany and revisited Erik’s childhood memories in Wiesbaden.  We had a quick stopover in Kaiserslautern with friends from Virginia.  Then we rolled into Paris as the “yellow jacket” protest fires were still blazing.  We enjoyed our days there despite the smashed storefront windows on the Champs-Elysees and the throngs of gendarmerie in full body armor hefting huge guns.  

From there we accelerated our pace to make it to Portugal in time for the van to visit the mechanic and for me to visit the immigration offices and request a visa extension.  My 90 days in Europe were up December 6th. Erik and I had our morning walks to enjoy the French countryside, the Spanish vineyards, and finally the Andalusia coast.  We met up with our friends on their boat for one night in Malaga, Spain. I would love to visit again and stay longer.  I say that about every place.  Our last stop in Spain was Gibraltar where we saw Africa from the top of the rocks and met some cheeky monkeys (the only wild monkey population in Europe). 

The van had been smoking and the oil pressure was irregular, so John wanted to trade us for a rental and get his vehicle to the mechanic sooner.  We made it to John and Michelle’s home in the Algarve—the southern coast of Portugal.  We swapped our coats and gloves for shorts and t-shirts, at least at mid-day.  I got an appointment for an extension.  Relief! 

Golden ticket.jpg

Opposition is instructive. We’ve been on the move so much, that I am incredibly grateful for a season of stillness.  A season to rest from wandering.  A season to reflect.  A season to switch from seeing with my eyes to seeing inside. Chronos time to savor my kairos experiences.

 I know.  I know.  It’s Christmas season.  Maybe I’m in denial, or maybe I’m in southern Portugal where the golden light reminds me more of lazy summers than wrapping presents.  This season I’ll be unpacking my experiences by writing in my journal and maybe sharing some thoughts here.

 Albufeira, Portugal —I think we’ll stay for awhile

Albufeira, Portugal —I think we’ll stay for awhile

 My Christmas wish for my family and yours is that we use our time together to thoroughly enjoy what we already have.

 Rothenburg, Germany

Rothenburg, Germany

P.S. If this the most wonderful time of the year stresses you out like it usually does me – please take a breath and enjoy this simple refreshing post, Christmas Presence—Easy Thoughtful Gift Ideas.

If you think this post would encourage someone you know, please consider sharing. 

The Hardest Part of Love is Letting Go

by EMILY ORTON

Emily and A.jpg

Erik worked with a musical called, Children of Eden, and in one of the most poignant songs Father says this about his children, “the hardest part of love is the letting go.” That’s true.

Alison has been planning to serve a church mission since she was nine-years-old, so it’s not like I didn’t see this coming.  There was a spring detour when she decided to get married, but ultimately she chose to go with her original childhood plan of being a full-time missionary.  (This is the abridged version.  See every gray hair on my head for details).  

 She was assigned to serve in the Japan, Tokyo mission.  But the timing was such that she wouldn’t start until 11 weeks after Erik and I took the three youngest kids to explore Europe.  She chose to join us.

 For ten weeks we traveled through Ireland, Finland, Greece, and Italy.  Between Salerno and Rome, we took a couple of days to be still as a family, nourish our spirits, and really see each other.  We had one glorious afternoon with only Alison driving the Amalfi coast. Then she joined Erik to bring the van from Athens to Salerno in thirty-six hours.  On her last day with us, she sang for euros busking in the streets of Rome.  

Screen Shot 2018-11-27 at 10.45.35 PM.jpg

 Then the goodbyes began.

  • Tears on the train to the airport, grateful for the ten weeks together.

  • Tears at the security gate, knowing I won’t see her in person for at least 18 months, literally recalling the day she was born and all the light and laughter she brings to the world.

  • Tears on the phone one week later when she entered the Missionary Training Center.  I asked her be the one to hang up.  I couldn’t do it.  All the minutes leading up to this minute were fine, but the last minute was awful.

Alison is allowed to email us once weekly. She’s focusing on other stuff. She said she would be able to email the same day that she arrived to confirm that all was well.  No email that day.  No email the next day. No email for seven days.  We traveled from Italy to Switzerland and then Germany.  

Finally, one week after she arrived, a flurry of emails came assuring us that she was incredibly happy, making great friends, enjoying the food and thrilled with her decision to serve a mission.  And, oh yeah, that first email got stuck in the outbox.  Sorry about that.

20181115_075636.jpg

 

We all have something—or many things—we love that we have to let go of. It might be control, expectations, or people. Goodbyes like this may be ongoing.  Most days I’ll be a cheering fan excited that Alison is pursuing her own goals with conviction.  Other days, I’ll just miss her—like holidays, or when she’s sick, or on a random Tuesday.  And that makes sense.

Family and A.jpg

3 Things I Learned From Lost Cities in Italy

by EMILY ORTON

Pompeii –You Don’t Know, What You Don’t Know 

Since grade school I’ve heard about how Mt. Vesuvius covered nearby Pompeii in ash and rubble, killing the inhabitants and preserving the city as a time capsule of average Roman life circa 79 A.D.  The question I had, but never raised my hand to ask was, “What did they expect, living at the base of a volcano?”   

When we visited Pompeii recently, I learned that Mt. Vesuvius had been still for over 1200 years when it suddenly shot volcanic material 12 miles straight up.  Ninety percent of the city’s inhabitants took that as their cue to run for their lives. A portion of the other ten percent is on display in the historic site or at the museum in Naples.

The people of Pompeii had no idea that they were building their homes and businesses under a volcano.  With all that we know, or think that we know in the information age, it’s a good idea to stay flexible.  Stay open to new beta that could change your whole paradigm. You don’t know what you don’t know.

 

Herculaneum –People Haven’t Changed Much in 2000 Years

North of Pompeii, on the west side of Mt. Vesuvius is a town called Herculaneum, a wealthier town than Pompeii.  When the volcano erupted, Herculaneum was hit with pyroclastic material at one hundred miles per hour.  Fortunately for them, the inhabitants had some warning and most evacuated. 

They lived a lot like us with their restaurants, businesses, places of worship, schools, gyms, and places for entertainment. They had their sport heroes, brothels, wars and political corruption.  The imperial family of August Caesar were sculpted in marble (now in the Naples museum) and made to appear physically perfect just like our photo shopped celebrities today.

 It’s great that we’re always trying to progress as human beings, but it often seems like we’re the same people with different technology.  Real change will only come when we change our nature.

 

Paestum –Change is Constant

Paestum is in the Salerno region of southwestern Italy. This city wasn’t covered in volcanic ash or lava yet the outlines of the city streets and buildings form a low sleepy maze around some of the best preserved Graeco-Roman temples in the world. Paestum simply passed  through the centuries, changing a little at a time; eventually giving way to the peaceful beach town it is today.

 

The most famous artifact from Paestum is this fresco of a diver.  This painting was uncovered 1500 years after it was sealed up with the assumption that this image would never be seen.  WWII Allied soldiers were building an airstrip when they found this fresco and called in a British archaeologist to excavate and preserve it.  

Diver full.jpg

I recognize myself in this diver—or who I hope to be.  I don’t know if he’s diving into the Tyrrhenian Sea or into the after-life. What is certain is that change is imminent.  He is quickly transitioning from one state to another—from land to water.  Yet, he is face forward, body purposefully positioned and controlled.  He is completely exposed.  Yet, he proceeds with confidence.

I’m not planning to leap naked from a column into the Tyrrhenian Sea.  But I am diving face first into experience beyond my comfort zone. I want to show up with a smile on my face and ready to learn.  

6Paestum Path.jpg

Your Big Picture

 John’s van, where I parked it at Athens International Airport.

John’s van, where I parked it at Athens International Airport.

Precision planning is everything.  I made a perfect plan.  It was so perfect it’s going to take a few sentences to spell it out, so bear with me.  [cue heist movie soundtrack]

The mission: get John’s van from Athens, Greece to Salerno, Italy where we were staying on John’s boat. I recruited Alison as my assistant and booked us on flights from Naples (a one hour drive north of Salerno) to Athens. We would fly out in the morning, arrive in Athens mid-day, get the van out of long-term Athens airport parking. Then we would drive seven hours north to Igoumenitsa, Greece, where we would catch the midnight ferry to Brindisi, Italy.  We would sleep on the ferry, arrive around 8:30am and drive six hours to Salerno, arriving in time for lunch.  The thing that makes this plan perfect was that I’d arranged a rental car so Emily could drive us to the airport at 7am and we’d even arranged to get the car the night before in case the rental office opened late.  AND the car could be used to get John and Michelle to their flight to the U.S. the next day and still have the car back in time for it to be a one day rental.  Perfect. [end heist movie soundtrack]

 Alison and I headed into Naples International Airport.

Alison and I headed into Naples International Airport.

Emily, Alison and I left right on time and drove the one hour from Salerno to Naples.  I’d already checked Alison and I in online for our flights, so we went straight to security.  We had the electronic QCR boarding passes on our phones. Security was a breeze because we’d packed light.  We’d be back in 24 hours.  Once through security I started to relace my belt and repack my laptop when I got a message from John, “The van keys are here on the counter.”

My mind spun 360.  My plan was perfect.  I’d thought of everything.  Rental car, airfare, ferry reservations, phone charger, passport, cash, change of clothes, laptop, wallet, sunglasses, head lamp, empty water bottle to refill after getting through security, granola bars, book to read.  The only thing I couldn’t do without was the van key, and I’d forgotten it on the boat.

John and I quickly talked through the possibilities:

  • Could Emily race back, pick it up and bring it to us in time?  No.  Physically impossible.

  • Could John get in a cab and bring it to us?  Again, not enough time even if there was a cab immediately available.  (I’d planned our trip so perfectly that our flight was boarding in thirty minutes, taking off in fifty minutes.  So much for perfect.)

  • Could John overnight the key somewhere and I pick it up in Greece?  Maybe.  But then I’d have to find a way to get to wherever the key was delivered, which would have to be somewhere else besides the airport.  It was getting complex and expensive fast.

  • Maybe I could get us on a flight that left later that day?  I needed to go check.

I called Emily to ask her to stop.   She didn’t pick up.  I called again.  John called her.  I called again.  Then I texted, “Please pull-over and call me.”  I proceeded down to the check-in counters to see about flight options.

In the midst of my walking, Emily called me back.  She was balling.  “Why do I have six missed calls from you?  What’s wrong?  Did Lily drown?”

Click.  Everything came into focus.  I’d been blown sideways by my painfully obvious lapse in remembering the most important thing.  But then I was blown sideways again by the obvious fact that once again, I hadn’t remembered the most important thing.  I was dealing with a small, first world problem.  I’d forgotten the van keys and had to scrap my perfect plan.  There was some wasted time and money thanks to me. But my wounded pride was put in its place by Emily’s question.

The big things were in place.  Our children were safe.  Nothing that truly mattered was wrong.  I explained the key situation quickly to Emily and asked, “How are you doing?”

            “Horrible,” she said.  “As soon as I left the airport I took three wrong turns.  Now I’m lost in downtown Naples at rush hour.  I’m completely turned around.  There’s only a quarter tank of gas.  And every time you or John called, it would block the map I was trying to look at to get myself back on the right path.  Why in the world would I have that many missed calls unless something catastrophic was wrong?  Plus I’m driving stick shift for the first time in fifteen years in a car I’m unfamiliar with.”

            “I’m so sorry,” was all I could manage.

            We each took a breath.  

            “How about you pull over somewhere safe and give me thirty minutes.  That will give me time to figure out alternate flights and know if we need to be picked up or if we need to ask you to go get the key.”  She agreed to do that and Alison and I went to work on a perfect plan B.

The best solution was to scrap our airfare and get new tickets for a flight that left the next morning.  I called Emily and asked her to come pick us up, emailed the ferry company, pushed our reservation back and then went to the curb with Alison to wait for Emily. Emily picked us up 20 minutes later. She gotten three miles away but traffic was so bad it took her that long.  Maybe we should have walked to her.

“We have the car for the day,” I said.  “What if we take the scenic route home?”  The emotional blindsiding was over for the moment.  We decided to drive out to Sorrento and then back to Salerno via the Amalfi Coast.         

One of the reasons I’d invited Alison to join me on this trip was because she would be leaving for Japan in a few weeks.  This was one of our last chances for some solo time for the next year and a half. We made it a trio trip for the day and ended up having a delightful lunch on the pier in Sorrento, wound our way down the historic Amalfi Coast, stopping in Amalfi for gelato in the town square and watched the sun set from the wharf.  We got back home after dark.  In the morning we’d drive back to the airport for a second attempt at our perfect plan.

I’d lost track of the big picture.  My mission was to deliver the van from Greece to Italy.  I’d forgotten the key.  I don’t ever want to make that kind of mistake again.  But more importantly for me was that I’d felt like forgetting the key was a real problem.  What really mattered was the safety of my family and making sure they know I love them. 

Rhetorical question: What matters most to you and how do your problems fit into your big picture?

P.S. the next go around, I had the van keys with me.  We caught our flight, and everything went according to plan.  It was an awesome dad/daughter road trip.

Greece | Family Travel Highlights and Insights

by EMILY ORTON

THINGS RARELY GO ACCORDING TO PLAN.  

We left Helsinki for Athens thinking we’d be sailing the Greek Isles by morning.  Instead we got to spend nine days near Athens while our friend’s boat, Wicked, got some electrical upgrade love.

We’re traveling with digital nomads, John and Michelle, and their four kids, one dog and one cat.  We met when both our families were sailing in the Caribbean. 

Note - Everyone has different family travel highlights. Eli’s would be that day I surprised him with a bottle of Mountain Dew. These are some of mine.

GREECE — THE ACROPOLIS

The Acropolis was the main thing we wanted to see.  Taking public transportation with eight kids was half of the adventure, but the Parthenon at sunset was definitely the highlight.  The kids loved it because Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series has kindled their love of Greek mythology.   

Athena is easily the coolest goddess; smart, strategic, and crafty.  She beat out Poseidon as patron of Athens when she gifted the people olive trees while the sea god’s offered salt water.

We had a few rainy days to catch up on BOOKWORK, the kids for school and us for our book.  The galley copies are printed and we’re looking for endorsements now.

We used one rainy day to catch THE ACROPOLIS MUSEUM.  Guide to the sculpture gallery below:

  • 1. Angry Face: I have some kids who don’t like museums.

  • 2. Sad Face: That makes me sad

  • 3. Laughing Faces: “Hey, kids, let’s make museum memes out of the different faces!”

  • 4. Whatever Face: Eye roll at Mom.

  • 5. Australia saved the day with their gift of a Lego Acropolis.  Thank you, Australia.

As sailors, whenever we lose something overboard, we say it’s an offering to the sea god, so we visited POSEIDON’S TEMPLE at sunset, too.

Our last big outing involved off-roading to DAVELIS CAVE, which houses an old monastery on the inside and sports several climbing routes on the outside.  We brought plenty of snacks, flashlights, and stringed instruments to keep us happy for hours.

We finished it all with hot dogs and pizza at IKEA.  Don’t judge. Sometimes you just have to feed ten people in a hurry.  Most mornings we ate Greek yogurt with Greek honey.  And we had local souvlaki with feta and fries twice that week. It was the best yogurt and feta I’ve ever tasted. 

CORINTH

Wicked’s upgrades were complete and we set out for the horizon spending that night docked in Corinth.  I was geeking out because the New Testament apostle, Peter, had pen pals in Corinth.  Erik and I gathered our kids to read the famous chapter on charity, 1 Corinthians 13.

            “Charity suffereth long, andis kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is  not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.  Charity never faileth”

TRIZONIA

We anchored off the small island of Trizonia.  It was our first chance to swim.  When we lived aboard Fezywig, Lily played in a tub of water on deck.  She was scared of swimming.  Look at her now.

The next morning Erik and I went to shore to walk the dog and take out the trash.  The paving stones, shops, homes and gardens were exquisitely quiet in the sunrise.  A few fishermen sat, barely moving, at the water’s edge.  We admired trees heavy with limes and pomegranates on our way past the church and cemetery to a thin hiking path tracing the outer edge of the island.  

Most of this world is so beautiful.  People all over the planet are creating order, beauty and variety. Everywhere people are seeking connection and growth.  It’s all set against the certainty of death, making the series of mundane moments incredibly precious.  All our travels are an exploration of somebody else’s ordinary and mundane.  I realize—Nothing is truly mundane.

Nothing is truly mundane.

TAKEAWAY

I used to try to control situations. Now, I try to use the word, plan, loosely.  I know what direction I want my heart to grow. I know what direction I want my life to go.  The speed and route are always changing.  Usually, that’s okay.  Sometimes, it’s beautiful beyond my imagination.  

En Puhu Suomea

 Lunch with our cousins in Kotka, Finland.

Lunch with our cousins in Kotka, Finland.

By ERIK ORTON

In my last post, I wrote about how coming to Finland felt like the beginning of a movie.  I’d never thought of it that way until my friend, Casey, suggested it.  I’m fascinated by this idea of writing our own stories.  Movies are made up of short 5-15 second clips much like an Instagram or Facebook story.  String together enough of clips and you have a scene or sequence.  Combine enough scenes and sequences and you have a movie or a story.

I don’t know that this trip would make for a very interesting movie.  There’s been no peril, big action, dramatic reversals, or really much angst.  It’s mostly been a lovely time reconnecting with family, making new friends, enjoying the peaceful serenity of the thousands of lakes, driving through the country side and finding joy in the little challenges of everyday life.  If this trip were a movie, it would not be a block buster.  Maybe it’d be one of those patient, gentle foreign films, with a lot of cloudy skies, a subtle plot and subtitles, lots of subtitles.

Emily and I have a protocol for arriving in a new place.  We go to the grocery store and just look around.  We commit to not buying anything on our first trip.  We developed this protocol after visiting many islands living on Fezywig.  Scout the landscape.  Do reconnaissance first.  Then come back to spend money.  After Emily and I did our recon, Eli and I came back with a list and did a proper shop. It was challenge enough to find whole milk instead of skim milk when we didn’t know the Finnish words.  We had to learn how to weigh produce and print the label so it could be properly rung up at the register.  We had to find the sour cream, which was with the milk and dairy, rather than with the cheese and spreads.  Was it a good price?  What was the best value?  Working in a different language and currency made the basic task of grocery shopping an adventure.  

Ironically, I also learned that saying, “Puhutko Englantia?” [do you speak English?] wasn’t doing me any good. I’ve grown up listening to spoken Finnish most of my life, so though I don’t speak the language, I have a pretty good accent. Everyone seemed to think I was curious about their language skills rather than asking for help.  They would rattle off something Finnish that I didn’t understand.  I had to switch to, “Anteeksi.  En puhu suomea.”  [I don’t speak Finnish.]  Then people understood and would speak to me in English.  

Reading parking signs. Reading freeway signs.  Knowing in which bin to recycle plastic, glass or metal was a challenge.  These were the daily puzzles.  We were back to basics, but we really had it easy.  Most people under forty-five speak very good English here in Finland.  Many people over that age also speak very well. We have all kinds of translation apps that we simply hold up to a sign and it tells us what it says.  Google Translate is far from perfect but pretty amazing in my opinion.  And in Finland so much is printed in Finnish, Swedish and English.   

I suppose this is the point I’m getting at:  what’s easy for one person is difficult for another person.  Judge not.  What’s easy for you can be a genuine challenge for me.  And what’s easy for me may be a mystery to you.  I think it’s so important I don’t compare myself to others to see if I’m succeeding or failing.  If I’m learning, growing or progressing, I’m succeeding no matter how far ahead or behind I may be.   The beautiful thing about life is it’s not a race.

If there are moments from this trip that make the cut of this hypothetical obscure foreign film, here are a couple:  Emily and I stand curbside downtown next to our car.  For five to seven minutes we stare up at and discuss the sign with the parking stipulations.  I make three or four trips back and forth to the parking meter before putting the receipt on our dashboard and walking away from our car. 

Another scene:  We are driving in our small white car, racing into downtown Helsinki.  We are late. Alison and Jane are about to miss their bus.  We stop at a red light.  I tell them to just get out and run for it.  Cars honk as they cross traffic at a non-cross walk.  The light turns green and I press the gas.  I proceed to drive down the bus-only ramp at the bus station, coming face to face with a line of twenty buses heading the opposite direction.

Last clip:  I ask the cashier at the shopping mall if she speaks English.  I am hoping to change a ten euro bill into coins.  Puhutko Englantia? She speaks to me in Finnish and holds out both her hands, one hand with one kind of coin, the other hand holds another kind of coin.  I freeze and don’t dare speak.  My eyes widen.  Everyone behind me in line is staring.  Here’s a forty-four year old man who looks completely Finnish, yet can’t decide whether he wants change in 1 euro coins or 2 euro coins.

En puhu suomea.  But I’m learning.  We leave tomorrow, but we’ll be back.

 Helsinki Cathedral / St. Nicholas Church, Helsinki, Finland.

Helsinki Cathedral / St. Nicholas Church, Helsinki, Finland.

 

30 Years to Finland

by ERIK ORTON

It’s been 30 years since I’ve been to Finland.  My mother is Finnish.  She moved to NYC at age seventeen to be a nanny.  A few years later she met my dad and they got married.  I’m half Finnish.  I used to spend summers in Finland as a kid.  My last summer there I was fourteen.  My mom worried I would be bored spending all day in my grandmothers two-bedroom/one bath apartment, so she signed me up for a cycling race.  I was big into cycling at the time.

 Me with my great-grandfather, Pappa.  No wonder I think accordions are cool, and Madonna.

Me with my great-grandfather, Pappa.  No wonder I think accordions are cool, and Madonna.

I was too young for my driver’s license, but I was desperate for independence, so I would cycle all over Northern Virginia to do what I wanted and see my friends. I had the fingerless gloves, black shorts, clip-on shoes and everything. But I rode relatively short distances 10-25 miles.  For my flight to Finland, I packed my bicycle into a big box planning to ride when I got there.  When I arrived, my mother informed me I was registered for the rather grandly named Tur de Finlandia, not to be confused with the Tour de France.  The Tur de Finlandia was 180km/120 miles and it was to be held in two weeks.   That didn’t leave me much time to train.  

My quick-on-my-feet training strategy was to have my mother drive me out of town and drop me off.  I would then ride home.  I did this every other day for two weeks, extending my distance until my last day I rode 150km/100 miles from Lahti—where my grandmother lived—to Helsinki where they had Pizza Hut.  The plan was for my mother to pick me up in Helsinki and go to Pizza Hut to celebrate. I was desperate for American pizza.   Unfortunately, my mother never showed up.  

It started to rain; pouring rain.  As I waited alongside the highway, with only my biker shorts, short-sleeve biker shirt, no food and only a little water, I started to shiver.  It was pre-cell phone/internet, I didn’t speak the language and back then most Finns didn’t speak English as a second language.  I didn’t know what else to do, so I got on my bike and started to ride home.  Long story short, after an hour of riding in the pounding rain, I saw my mother speed past in the opposite direction.  She kept going.  But then I saw break lights.  She almost didn’t see me because the rain was so heavy.  She hung a u-turn, pulled over, wrapped me in a blanket and gave me a big hug.  She’d been looking for me for hours. We later realized there were two highways, the old highway and the new freeway.  She had originally driven the freeway. I had ridden the old highway.  Two days later I raced in the Tour de Finlandia.  Riding alone, without a team, the older bikers called me the "Américan poika," American boy.  They spoke to me in broken English, smiled at me and encouraged me as I set a new distance record for myself and completed the race as the youngest registered rider.

 In my riding bib after the Tur de Finlandia.

In my riding bib after the Tur de Finlandia.

 Getting driven home after the race in the same car with which my mother picked me up in the rain.

Getting driven home after the race in the same car with which my mother picked me up in the rain.

That experience did a lot to shape how I saw myself, my family and the world.  I knew I could do hard things.  I knew the world could be merciless; the sky could crack open and pour down on me.  But there was also so much generosity; complete strangers took me under their wing and helped me. And I knew my mother loved me and would always look for me to bring me safely home.  That was 30 years ago.  I haven’t been back since.

I've since gotten married, Emily and I had five kids and over the years we’ve sent our older daughters to Finland so they could meet my grandmother, my uncles and see the “mother land.”  This past summer my grandmother passed away at age ninety-three.  She was happy and healthy to the end.  My mother and Karina went to the funeral.  Now the rest of us are going.  I have the key to my grandmother’s apartment sitting here on my desk.  We have one-way tickets to Helsinki.  I told this to my friend, Casey, and he said, “Sounds like the beginning of a movie.” Grandmother passes away, haven’t been there in 30 years, you have the apartment key, one-way tickets.  I wouldn’t disagree with him.  For me, the question I love is, what kind of movie will it be?  

Don Miller, a favorite author of mine, opens one of his books with this:

“If you watched a movie about a guy who wanted a Volvo and worked for years to get it, you wouldn’t cry at the end when he drove off the lot, testing the windshield wipers. You wouldn’t tell your friends you saw a beautiful movie or go home and put a record on to think about the story you’d seen. The truth is, you wouldn't remember that movie a week later, except you’d feel robbed and want your money back. Nobody cries at the end of a movie about a guy who wants a Volvo.

But we spend years actually living those stories, and expect our lives to be meaningful. The truth is, if what we choose to do with our lives won't make a story meaningful, it won’t make a life meaningful either”

If it won’t make a story meaningful, it won’t make a life meaningful either.  I’m going back to Finland after a long time. We’ll be gone for all of fall and most of winter.  I’m not sure what story will unfold while we’re away, but I look forward to trying to write my best story.  

 Alison and SJ visiting my grandmother in Finland.

Alison and SJ visiting my grandmother in Finland.

 The old highway from Lahti to Helsinki.

The old highway from Lahti to Helsinki.

People Like Us Do Things Like This

by EMILY ORTON

September is a month for momentum.  Kids are going back to school or returning to more structured homeschool days. Families are shifting their routines. It’s the perfect month for re-evaluating the way things are and focusing on how you want them to be.

 We enjoyed structured school days in Hawaii--prepping for our upcoming travels through Europe

We enjoyed structured school days in Hawaii--prepping for our upcoming travels through Europe

One way we’ve done that is by crafting personal and family mission statements.  You can make it as detailed or simple as you like. You can use words or graphics as suits your preferences.  

My personal statement is about a page and a half.  It’s kind of tedious and too long for me to remember, which means it’s hard to live by. It’s a good starting point, but I need to rewrite it.

Our family mission statement is more memorable.  We formatted it like David Letterman’s Top Ten list.  It’s called, Top 10 Reasons to be an Orton.  Each item on the list is something Ortons do—or strive to do.  It is the foundation for our family culture.  If there is one thing our family has in spades it’s culture—not the ballet and opera kind—the This-Is-Who-We-Are kind.

People like us do things like this.

 Our family culture is  -face first -trial & error -figure it out 

Our family culture is  -face first -trial & error -figure it out 

Seth Godin is one of my personal heroes.  He’s known as the “godfather of modern marketing.”  Seth boils branding or culture down to its essence:  “People like us do things like this.” The stories we tell ourselves about ourselves shape what people think of us—and more importantly—what we think of ourselves. Let’s tell stories we want to be true.

If you don’t have one—a mission statement, a story, or a culture—I dare you to make one this month. Don’t stress.  You can always revise it later.  If you want to share, we’d love to see them.  The Fezywig blog doesn’t take comments, but we love hearing from those of you who email us:  hello@fezywig.com

I’ll go first.

Top 10 Reasons to Be an Orton—Ortons:

10.  Discover solutions

  9. Laugh a lot

 8.  Take care of their bodies

 7.  Create and enjoy beauty

 6.  Give generously

 5.  Encourage others

 4.  Engage in adventures

 3.  Explore the world

 2.  Make and keep friends

 1.  Keep the faith

 It doesn't have to be fancy - just write it down

It doesn't have to be fancy - just write it down

We should probably update the list to reflect the gratitude we feel in and through everything.  When we do, I’ll let you know.  In the meantime, this is working for us.  People like us do things like this because we decided to and we wrote it down.

One more thing.  Ortons make music and we play this original song from our daughter, Karina, every September.  

If you think this post would encourage someone, please consider sharing.

Your One Wild and Precious Life

by EMILY ORTON

IMG_6332.jpg

My grandma Wanda turned ninety-nine this week. Ninety-nine.  That’s fifty-five years older than me.  If I had fifty-five years ahead of me, what would I want to do with them? If I had five years ahead of me, what would I want to do with them?  If I only had one year ahead of me, what would I want to do with it?  

The fact is we all have time, but none of us knows how much.  My grandma has spent every year of her life learning, exploring and connecting. She and grandpa have seven children and were serial entrepreneurs running everything from an in-house tinted photography studio to a refrigeration warehouse (pre-home refrigeration era) to a big band.   Grandma mostly worked as a journalist and at ninety-nine, you would think she had seen it all. Yet, she’s still delighted to learn. In her 80’s she went up in a hot air balloon.  Always a huge reader, she switched to audiobooks when her eyes stopped cooperating. She stays in touch with friends and visits family every week.

Whether I have one more year or I live to one-hundred and five, I want to learn, explore and connect just like Grandma Wanda.  Life is short no matter how long we live.  This question from Mary Oliver's poem, The Summer Day, lives in my heart and bears repeating:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

IMG_6335.jpg

If you think this post would encourage someone, please consider sharing.

Podcast & Preorder

"Seven at Sea," is available for pre-order on Amazon and we're excited to celebrate the occasion by sharing our podcast interview with Kristin & Laura of The Progress Project.  They had great questions for us about how we organize our lives, how we approach big undertakings and what we're doing now.  We learned a lot talking with them and even had fun brainstorming how to help Kristin put in motion her dream of spending summers in the British countryside with her family.  We created a couple hopefully-helpful freebies for them to share with listeners.

 Kristin and Laura who generate all the goodness at  The Progress Project

Kristin and Laura who generate all the goodness at The Progress Project

 Link here for the  podcast and show notes   Link here to listen on  iTunes

Link here for the podcast and show notes

Link here to listen on iTunes

As for the book, we've delivered the final manuscript to our editor.  Advance Reader Copies will be sent to reviewers in September. The book releases March 2019.

In the meantime, we've created sevenatsea.com where we'll be posting more about the book as the launch approaches.  Thanks for your enthusiasm.

E + E

If you know someone who would love this podcast, please consider sharing.