Friday, January 11, 2013

Focusing on Life :: Sisu

Oh boy. I thought last week's challenge was a tough one, but this week's might be even more so for me. You see, my word is not one that is easy to capture. The word sisu is a word that most Finns would use to describe themselves. It is one I've heard my whole life, and one that I've learned is an essential part of being Finnish. But this year, I've challenged myself to truly live by the word and to be true to myself even if it takes a little more inner strength.

So what exactly is the meaning of sisu? There are plenty of definitions, but the one most agree with is that it translates to the strength of will, determination and perseverance. I often heard it translated as a child as 'having guts.' Other, more thoughtful interpretations say it is not momentary courage, but the ability to sustain an action against the odds - even with repeated failure.

Now you can call that stubbornness, which many Finns are accused of, and you can call that stoic-ness which is also a typically Finnish trait. But I choose to call it persistent: to keep trying until you get it right. That in a nutshell is me. And I'd like to channel that energy to realigning my life this year. To let go of those things that are holding me back and embrace those things that are helping me grow as a person.

Ok, so how do you capture that in a picture? I took the entire week to try to figure out what I could photograph. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that when I think about what this means to me it is captured by my grandparents. Funny thing is I think of my maternal grandparents, who are German. My father is actually the Finn. Nonetheless, that is what I think of. They grew up in rural Nebraska, on neighboring farms. They were sweethearts from about the age of 6 and ran off to get married at 17 across the Nebraska border in Kansas (that wild state of KS - ha!). 

But by the time the kids came along, they were heading into the dust bowl. And Nebraska was right in the heart of that crazy thing. They tried to move the family to Oregon twice. The first time Grandpa just couldn't find any work. So he went back to Nebraska. But the second time he found work on a Dairy farm and went back to pack up the family and drive across the states in an old Ford pickup truck shown here (c. 1938). The little girl is my mom.

My grandparents were hard-working, people of few words, and what they said was honest. They lived their lives simply and with love. I think that is a great guide to assess my life this year.

45 comments:

Beti Horvath said...

Wonderful story. Love your word and your struggle to define it.Photo of a photo. Clever. Your grandparents look tough but kind.

Christine Altmiller said...

What a great word and family example of it. My Grandpa was born in Nebraska to farmers and then they moved to OR to farm too! Really! My aunt and I visited the family farm in NE. Your word...describes the backbone of that whole Nebraska town.

Patti Van said...

This is a beautiful story! I immediatley thought of my mom's parents, who hail from Minnesota. There is something about the people from this era...admirable to say the least. Nwonderful post!

Alice said...

What a unique word you chose. I love the photo you used to represent this word, and what a great story to go with that photo. I'm a sucker for old photos and this one surely tells a story.

Thanks so much for sharing.

Cynthia@Ornamental Style said...

It's a powerful word and one that would be difficult to find something to photograph to represent it. But you've chosen a perfect photo! Their strength and persistence can be felt, especially after hearing a little bit about them.

Alicia said...

Such a beautiful story, Cynthia - and such a clever way of capturing it! Your family picture is perfectly showing strength and love, and your grandparents' story is a heartwarming one - thanks for sharing!

Kashmira said...

Wow, didn't know you were Finnish!
These old pictures are so inspiring, isn't it? Definitely a good reality check when we complain about trivial things, and give up too soon.

Your mom's such a cutie!

New End Studio said...

Fortitude of that generation to keep going through all of the troubles of those times is something we admire. Stubbornness is sometimes an excellent trait.

Your uncle is holding a cat and looks so delighted. It's a beautiful photo of a happy family.

Claire said...

What a great word and a wonderfully evocative photo!
I've learnt a lot in this post - thank you :)
I'm no. 21 on the list btw :o)

Duni said...

What a great word and you explained it beautifully!
How interesting that your maternal grandparents are German :)
In recent years I have scaled down the way I live. I love living simply. It's a keystone for happiness!

Courtney said...

What a powerful word! I love your history of the word and your picture. You can do this! 2013 will be great.

maryharding said...

I have enjoyed your post immensely. Thank you for sharing your story and word.

Sandi Volpe said...

Fantastic story and so inspiring!!!

memoriesforlifescrapbooks said...

Great post...and great photo :)
Persistence is a great trait! And you've chosen a good word for this year.

Plowing Through Life (Martha) said...

Wonderful post and beautiful photo! Your grandparents look strong but kind.

kimmykats said...

I think as we all speed about our daily journeys we sometimes need to take a step back and look at our heritage. Bring back some of that simple hard honest work. What do you remember most something handed to you or something you have worked at to achieve? You have written a beautiful tribute to your family.

Tanya said...

What an awesome word! I love it. There is so much meaning wrapped up in those four little letters. Our words are similar. Thank you for putting into words everything I was thinking. :). The photo of your grandparents is lovely and a great example of sisu.

Islandgirl said...

I often think of how little my parents/grandparents had in comparison to me. ANd yes getting to work and getting things done is what most of us are saying in our different ways!

Lishak said...

I love the vintage picture! Old photographs are a special interest for me. Your word goes perfectly with the picture. I can see their strength and determination!

Linda Primmer said...

Such a wonderful photos and your mother is adorable. I found some of my ancestors and was so delighted to see their photos. Many treasures for sure. A powerful word, indeed. Enjoy your week-end, from your newest follower, Linda

Magic Love Crow said...

This is a fantastic post! I love the word! Very strong meaning! We should all live our lives like this. I try to ;o) You have to go for it, try not to let fear get in the way, live with love, be honest and be grateful! I love the picture and love the history of your family ;o)

Shel said...

I think your word may be my favorite in this weeks challenge - I adore it! So powerful and spot on for the year! And I equally like how you told us what it means and encompasses about you. My hubby's from Nebraska (Grand Island) and so when you started talking of that all I could think of was my craving for a Runza!! LOL!!

Kathleen Lange Klik said...

What a wonderful story! Very unique word too; love it's meaning and your intent!

EB Bead and Metal Works, LLC said...

Love the story and the meaning to you! What a way to incorporate a word with so much meaning and history behind it for you this year!

Marlene Cupo said...

What a wonderful heritage to come from, and draw from. It certainly does fit you beautifully.

Crafty Gal Linda said...

Wonderful story, beautiful picture and COOL WORD!!! Sisu hmmm I like that.

Introverted Art said...

Such an amazing story and I love this word "sisu" and what it means. I am completely fascinated by language and the unique significance some words have that cannot be conveyed in just one word in English.

BeadedTail said...

What a great story and word! My grandpa's family came from Czechoslovakia and first settled in NE before moving to the wild state of KS where he met my grandma! Thanks for sharing your photo and story of your grandparents!

Sally Russick said...

Cynthia, the photo captures the essence of your word beautifully! Sisu, the word encompasses such a large meaning! May you have "sisu" and may that courage and persistence stay with you as you journey through this year!

Karen Williams said...

"the ability to sustain an action against the odds" - that is an extremely powerful goal! And what a wonderful story - your grandparents sound so strong.

And I've just learned a new word 'sisu' - thank you!

Caron Michelle said...

Wonderful story - enjoyed reading this.

Therese's Treasures said...

Hi Cynthia,
I love your word and the meaning behind it. I also love the way you chose to define the mean through a family history.
Therese

Paula, Chief Bead Officer said...

Sisu - it even looks strong. And what great inspiration with your heritage propelling you into the year ahead. Thanks for the wonderful post!

Karen Mitchell said...

Such a small word with so much meaning! Love your post, thanks for sharing this.

Annette Beanland said...

What a terrific story and word to choose. Sisu is something I could use! I don't think you could have used a more perfect photo for your word.

Katherines Corner said...

It was wonderful reading this post and learning about Sisu. Thank you for sharing at the hop xo

Pearl and Pebble said...

Great post! I love your grandparents' story. Perfect for your word for sure! How do you pronounce it?

Lisa said...

I have to make a note to remember this word. Sisu. Wonderful post, and what an inspiring choice of words. I love how it has so many shades of meaning - and you chose one that speaks to you. Thanks for sharing such a lovely story.

CraftyHope said...

I love that you're looking to your past to help mold your future. What a great word and a lovely family photo. Thank you for sharing your story with us!

Miss Val's Creations said...

I love this post. It made me giggle a little because Jim's mom's family is from Finland so the traits describe his mom to a tee! Great story about your family. What a perfect photo to treasure for generations to come!!!!

Lola said...

Such a beautiful post Cynthia!!! I love the strength behind the word and how it is a part of your ancestry. I also love how you applied it to the part of your family that is not Finnish! You defined the word beautifully and I am certain it will serve you well throughout 2013.

TesoriTrovati said...

We are the product of our pasts, and I love that you used a picture of your grandparents as inspiration. You will be well grounded by their strong examples and even better prepared for whatever is next. I wish you joy in the journey this year! Enjoy the day. Erin

A Polymer Penchant said...

What an adventure that must have been! This is such an awesome photo, so full of life and promise, it will serve your journey this year well I'm sure

Marcela Gmd said...

Great post!!!!:))))

Laura Twiford said...

What wonderfully romantic story although I'm sure it didn't feel like it to your grandparents at the time. I love knowing the history behind pictures and ideas, thank you for sharing!

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