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Stille Nacht & Astro del Ciel

One of my favourite German Christmas carols is Stille Nacht (heilige Nacht), not only because its message and the sweet memories singing it with my parents at Christmas when I was a child, but also because there is also an Italian version of it, with the same melody, but different words.

The lyrics of this carol are by the Austrian priest Joseph Moor in 1816 and it is believed that Franz Xaver Gruber produced the German melody in only a few hours (in 1818), written as a guitar accompaniment. The melody and words altered slightly over the years, but this is the carol like many sing it today:

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Alles schläft; einsam wacht
Nur das traute hochheilige Paar.
Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar,
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Hirten erst kundgemacht
Durch der Engel Halleluja,
Tönt es laut von fern und nah:
Christ, der Retter ist da!
Christ, der Retter ist da!

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Gottes Sohn, o wie lacht
Lieb’ aus deinem göttlichen Mund,
Da uns schlägt die rettende Stund’.
Christ, in deiner Geburt!
Christ, in deiner Geburt!

Words: Joseph Mohr, 1816
Music: Franz Xaver Gruber, 1818

English

Silent night, holy night
All is calm all is bright
‘Round yon virgin Mother and Child
Holy infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace

Silent night, holy night,
Shepherds quake at the sight.
Glories stream from heaven afar,
Heav’nly hosts sing Alleluia;
Christ the Savior is born
Christ the Savior is born

Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love’s pure light.
Radiant beams from Thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth

The Italian version follows the same melody, but the lyrics are completely different.
Don Angelo Meli (1901-1970) published a set of Italian lyrics in 1937 that were supposed to accompany the melody of “Stille Nacht” under the title of “Astro del Ciel” (Star of the Sky)

Astro del ciel, Pargol divin,
mite Agnello Redentor!
Tu che ai Vati da lungi sognar,
Tu che angeliche voci nunziar,
luce dona alle menti
pace infondi nei cuor!
luce dona alle menti
pace infondi nei cuor!

Star of the sky, divine Child,
Redeemer meek Lamb!
You, whom the Prophets dreamt about from far away,
You, whom angelical voices announced,
give light to the minds,
bring peace to their hearts! x2

Astro del ciel, Pargol divin,
mite Agnello Redentor!
Tu di stirpe regale decor,
Tu virgineo, mistico fior,
luce dona alle menti,
pace infondi nei cuor! 

Star of the sky, divine Child,
Redeemer, meek Lamb!
You of pride of regal descendancy,
You virginal, mystical flower,
give light to the minds,
bring peace to their hearts!

Astro del ciel, Pargol divin,
mite Agnello Redentor!
Tu disceso a scontare l’error,
Tu sol nato a parlare d’amor,
luce dona alle menti,
pace infondi nei cuor! 

Star of the sky, divine Child,
Redeemer meek Lamb!
You descended to atone for our errors,
You born only to speak of love,
give light to the people,
bring peace to their hearts!
give light to the people,
bring peace to their hearts!

I wish everyone a peaceful Christmas

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How to volunteer in a healthy and efficient way

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I lead several volunteer groups in the past 20 years and have helped many volunteers who were close to give up to change their way to volunteer into a more healthy one, for them, their family and the organization or group they were volunteering for.

Here are 6 question you should ask yourself:

1. Why are you considering to volunteer?

Do you want to help the world, your community, your children?

Do you want to hone your own skills, maybe learn new ones?

Do you want to make new friends?

Do you like what you do?

Do you want to share your skills with others or give something back?

– Before starting to volunteer, try to find out what you want to achieve. What is your goal? What are your expectations? For how long do you think you can or want to commit?

I volunteered for several reasons: to connect with the community, to hone my skills, learn new ones. The advantage of a volunteer job is that it’s usually time limited. You probably won’t volunteer in the same position for more than 2 years – I always recommend to change after 1,5 or 2 years as staying too long in the same role can take its toll on us: as it is usually an unpayed job, if we do it for too long, we tend to do more than necessary and not feel satisfied anymore. When you feel this, it’s time to say goodbye or to change something…

2. Choose the right role, the right organization…

Depending on what you answered under 1., choose the right place to volunteer. If you want to hone your skills (or learn new ones), and maybe want to gap a period where you don’t have a job, choose an organization that gives you the opportunity to grow and learn. If your intent is to socialize, a more flexible and relaxed setting is better (some volunteer works at schools, communities etc.)

3. Start small…and learn to say “no”

If you have already a busy schedule or if you are not sure if the volunteer job is the right one for you, start with only a few hours per week. Then, if you find you enjoy the work and have more time to pursue it, gradually take on more. – If you are too enthusiastic at the beginning, and say “yes” to too many tasks, people will be more likely to ask you more than you actually can or want to give. You may end up feeling exhausted instead of energized and rewarded by the work you’re doing!

When I volunteered for the first time after years, and after a longer break from work, I was so glad to have a new meaning and purpose that I overdid it. I committed to more than I really wanted and I resigned – yes, like in a real job! – after 6 months.

4. Voice your expectations

When you start in a new group, make sure that within a month of time you make clear what you expect from this new role. This might need that you have more meetings than expected, that you have to discuss a lot and negotiate, but it is better to find out asap if the new role fits you or not. – Like in a real job you can get overwhelmed and burned out quickly…

When I started volunteering in my 20ies I was way too shy to speak up every time I felt that something wasn’t going well. I kept on saying “it’s only a volunteer job and I can quit anytime”, but maybe I’m too responsible and conscientious: I once volunteered in a non-healthy position for 2 years and was very close to a burnout. Thanks to a very good friend who saw it coming, I quit on time…

5. Ask many questions…

Ask questions and do your research. What kind of prospectives will you have in the new role? Do you have a say when it comes to decisions? Are you ok with the role that is offered to you? How many hours are expected from you? What if you’ll work more hours?…

Sometimes you need to get your feet wet before realizing that the job is not for you. Don’t hesitate to speak up and quit if it’s not what you need right now.
I have volunteered in positions where I got a reference at the end. This is something you should always ask! Will you receive any kind of reference that you can put on your CV?

With the volunteer groups I am leading, I make it clear that if the role they choose is comparable to the one in a real job, i.e. if they take some responsibilities, use some specific skills, I will issue them a personal reference.

6. It is for you if…

I regularly do for my own business and my volunteer jobs. If you volunteer in a certain position, ask yourself regularly:

– Am I getting the feedback that keeps me going? – If your work is taken for granted and not “seen”, it is not rewarding enough. Getting regular feedback is essential. If you don’t get it automatically, ask for it. And if you still don’t get it, ask yourself why and if it’s healthy to keep on doing it.

– Am I getting the (personal!) recognition I need? – many organizations thank their “volunteers”: thanking volunteers personally is much more rewarding and healthy for a good relationship!

– How do I feel after an intense week? – Volunteer work usually requires a lot of flexibility, which can be very challenging. But it also can be immensely rewarding! If after a week of intense volunteer work you feel exhausted and grumpy, ask yourself why. Is there anything you can change in the way you work, the way your role is defined (maybe you want more responsibility, or less, or do something else). Voice your needs and if you don’t get the response you expect and need, find a way to change your position…

After great accomplishments we should take a time out to assess what went well and what went wrong, what could be done better. Always. – If your volunteer group is lead by a person who feels overwhelmed or unsatisfied, struggling, it is very unlikely that you’ll get recognized for the effort you make and it’s not a healthy environment to spend your energy for. It is very important to take good care of ourselves, to be aware of what we need to be happy to help and volunteer.

– Am I enjoying this? If the job/role gives you more energy, makes you stand up in the morning, it’s a good sign. If you wake up in the middle of the night, worrying or struggling: it’s the time to quit. As simple as that. Don’t feel guilty that you quit, that you speak up. Volunteering is not only giving, it’s also receiving. If you feel that you are constantly giving and not receiving enough in return, it’s not healthy to go on.

My very own experience

In the past 29 years (!) I have been regularly volunteering in many different settings and roles. I have created and coordinated student groups, local and international groups etc.
At my childrens’ school for example I first helped out occasionally at festive lunches, school trips etc., then as class representative (in total for 6 classes in 4 years) and PRC (Parent Representative Commitee, a sort of PTA) and finally as Team Leader of a Welcome Team and a Sessions Team at our Family Association. As leader of one of these groups I organized more than 20 talks in the last 2 years: all voluntary work and as a “solo volunteer”, i.e. I did the whole funnel, from finding speakers, agreeing on topics, coordinating the venue and the financial part until the actual speech (including all the technical aspects too). It may sound crazy, but I’m passionate about organizing and planning, so this didn’t cost me much energy – if everything runs smoothly. Wearing many hats simultaneously is what I’m good at, but I must be sure that every hat fits…

I use to say to my volunteers: “make sure that you keep your cup filled, that you fill it up from time to time, because you can’t pour from an empty cup!”… So when it was time for my regular assessment a few weeks ago, I realized that I spent much more time with emailing, double (triple- etc.) checking everything, for my volunteering than for my own business. Two of my hats felt like not fitting anymore – metaphorically speaking, of course… Things had gone out of balance for several reasons; circumstances had changed and required a constant adaptation and “re-inventing-the-wheel” which I was not able and willing to do anymore.
I did the “what if…”–test and imagined how it would feel if I would quit one (or two) of the jobs and decided which ones to keep and which ones to let go.

I am still volunteering, and it’s surely thanks to the fantastic work of my teams, that I don’t spend 20 hours per week anymore, but can keep the time under 8 hours a week– the right amount for me to keep my cup full!

 

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If you would like some help with self-assessment, contact me at info@UtesLounge.com. I’ll help you to make sure you keep your cup filled.

 

 

(this post was also published on my other site Ute’s International Lounge)

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Repair instead of buying new

With the month of October fast approaching, as a buy-nothing-new-month “celebrated” in other countries too, when I saw this post on my timeline this morning, I remembered that I saw some Repair Cafés in Germany recently.

I wasn’t really surprised to find out that the Repair Café was initiated by the Dutch Martine Postma in 2007 in Amsterdam, and that it has been a great success since. Martine started the Repair Café Foundation in 2009, a non-profit organisation, “that provided professional support to local groups in the Netherlands and other countries wishing to start their own Repair Café”, and she even wrote a  book about it (in Dutch).

On the site you can find out where to find the closest Repair Café in your area:
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And if there is none, they have a great guideline about how you can start one, after all, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel…:
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This step-by-step manual is based on our years of experience, and guides you through all the different stages of setting up your own Repair Café: from finding local repair experts and a suitable location, to collecting the right tools, creating publicity, finding funds for your initiative etc.

 

 

 

What I like about this idea is not only the fact that we get the chance to learn how to repair items even if we are not a professional – we can get help at those Cafés! – but it’s the mindset. Why throw away if you can repair it? Many times we choose to buy new because repairing is way too expensive, and I admit that I did it several times in the past. But many items can actually be fixed with less expense. There are shops that have spare parts – one has only to find them… In these Repair Cafés you can ask people about that and maybe you’re lucky and find even someone who has an idea how to repair it.
Repairing is to give things a new chance – and sometimes purpose. I like this idea because it is one of the things I want my children to learn: that we can fix things, that items can be repaired. I want them to grow up with what I call the repairing-mindset (I’ll explain it more in another post soon), because it will help them to be more conscientious and respectful for things they/we own.

Not throwing away things, but trying to fix them is in line with the buy-nothing-new-month movement, a “global movement for collective, conscientious consumption” and the idea started in Melbourne and spread to the Netherlands and the USA.

Since I wrote about this buy-nothing-new-month a few years ago, in our family we tend to expand this month over the whole year. It’s not about not buying anything at all – we all need food and items for our household that we still need to buy. It’s more about reflecting on what we “need” and what we “want”, and if the things we want are really so indispensable – and if they really need to be bought new…

I personally like the idea of knowing how to fix things, to reuse them, maybe by giving them another purpose; and I like the idea of my non-needed/wanted items to find a new home and make someone else happy.

– What are the items you repair? Do you throw away the items you no longer use or need, or do you give them away?

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8 Ways Camping Helps Prepare your Kids for Adulthood

– by William Jonson

Most of us are back from summer holidays. In order to not feel to sad when getting back to the usual routine, I can warmly recommend to plan your next vacation, or shortcation. Why not camping with your kids? For those of you who haven’t done so yet, here are some great reasons why camping with kids is a great alternative to the all-inclusive kind of vacations. – Thank you, William, for writing this post for my blog! You may all want to check out his fantastic site Pandaneo where he gives us more tips on camping!

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The transition from youth to adulthood is hard and as parents we would like to see it go as smoothly as possible. There are things we do with our kids when they are growing up that help to teach them responsibility, like assigning them chores or helping them to budget their allowance. Camping is also great for preparing kids for adulthood though you (and they) may not even notice. Here are 8 ways that camping helps to prepare your kids for adulthood:

#1: Camping Teaches Tangible Skills

When you go camping, there are many new skills to be learned. You may start with simple car camping and move on to backpacking where things get more complicated. These are all great opportunities for your kids to develop new skills. While some of the skills won’t necessarily be useful outside of camping, your children will have developed the capacity to learn.

#2: Camping Helps Kids Develop Confidence

As your kids are learning and mastering all of the different skills that are necessary when camping, their confidence will grow. Having confidence is very important when transitioning to adulthood, as growing up can feel scary. From the skills and abilities they gained camping, your child will have confidence to take things on in adulthood.

#3: Camping Teaches Responsibility

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While your kids may have minimal responsibility during early camping trips, as they get older their responsibility can increase. They will have their role and they will be expected to fulfill it. And of course all roles are not necessarily fun. My son always wants to be build the campfire but he also has to be responsible for washing the dishes after our meal. We still get some moaning here and there, but for the most part he takes on the task, knowing it is his responsibility. This has been one of the most valuable lessons from camping.

#4: Camping Teaches Kids to be ready and Prepared for Anything

The outdoors is not a controlled environment like your indoor home.  When at home, you will not necessarily be impacted by poor weather, as you can remain inside. When camping, you might encounter wildlife, or be overwhelmed by bugs. Each experience will help your child learn that anything can happen and they can do what they can to prepare. It is my children who remind me before each camping trip to make sure we have the bug spray. And they like to be in charge of their rain gear “just in case”. Kids also learn that even with the best preparation, there still may be problems and they will learn to work through those.

#5: Camping Teaches Kids to Work Together

When camping, there are certain tasks that have to be done before you can go and have fun. Working together on these tasks gets them done faster. There are also certain tasks, like setting up a tent, that require a second person. For young campers, this is an opportunity to learn to help by completing small tasks. Older camper will be able to take on a greater role and experience how to work as a team with their family to accomplish a common goal.

 

#6: Camping Teaches Kids Flexibility

Things don’t always go as you planned in life and that can be frustrating. Those who learn to be flexible will have an easier time navigating those periods in life where things are not going as planned. Camping provides opportunities to practice this. It may rain right when you planned to start cooking your meal for example. Or you may have to camp in a different place than you had planned.

#7: Camping Teaches Planning Skills

Planning ahead is important in many cases to ensure you have what you need. Kids can learn the importance of planning through camping. Creating a camping checklist with your kids is a great way to start them thinking about it and they can help you check off the items as you pack. This is a great life skill. There is other planning that goes into camping, like planning your menu for meals and planning where you will camp. Kids will have the opportunity to see what happens when you don’t plan ahead (campsites booked, meal incomplete, missing an important item) vs. when you do.

#8: Camping Teaches Problem Solving Skills

It never fails; on a camping trip, no matter how well prepared we are, we always forget something or something goes slightly awry. For us, it seems that we regularly forget the rain fly for our tent. Fortunately, the whole family now knows how to hang a tarp over the tent in order to keep it dry. And of course every campsite is different, meaning that we have to problem solve every time we want to hang a tarp. This gives kids the chance to think through the problem and try different ways to solve it.

Camping is much more than an economical vacation. The experience provides kids with a variety of skills and opportunities that will help kids gain the tools that they will need for adulthood. How do you feel camping prepares kids for adulthood?

Author Bio

William Jonson is an outdoor enthusiast, he loves traveling and willing to share interesting experiences about his trips. You can find tips, guides, lessons from camping on his blog Pandaneo.com

Other posts by William that I really like – well, I like all his posts on his site, but these are a bit related to this one:
9 Reasons for Camping in the Backyard

Camping with Family: Preparing for a Fun Activity

Family Camping Safety Tips