Archive for the ‘Project 52’ Category

Project 52, Week 40, Part 3 — Please, Let Me Fix It!

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 40!

2005_06_14 1 Me

40 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I began Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week I’m taking one year of my life and blogging about it. This week, I’m covering the year I was 40 — June 14, 2004, to June 14, 2005.

I’m doing it in pieces. This morning, I covered the revelation that my husband was spending time with another woman — walking dogs with her, watching movies with her — behind my back.

He looked me in the eye and confessed with the words, “I’m not having an affair, but…” And so much that followed was pretty much a direct result of my belief in this lie.

I mentioned that I’d always thought I’d immediately file divorce from my husband if he had an affair. Well, at the time I had very black-and-white thinking about divorce. Since I believed him that there was not an affair, I very strongly with all my heart believed that divorce was WRONG.

(Okay, there’s also the element that if I divorced him, I’d lose my job and get sent back to America. And it was Josh’s Junior year of high school!)

But yes, I was still devastated. I think that surprised Steve a little bit. I mean, he wasn’t having an affair, just needed a friend. What was my problem?

Here’s what I wrote in my quiet time journal the next day, March 15:

Father,
I feel like my heart has been stepped on, splattering a room full of blood.
When I get busy, I forget about it for awhile.
Then I remember, and pain actually catches in my chest.
I feel so horribly needy, and I feel sure Steve must hate that. But I so desperately want him to love me! So much! And I’m so afraid that that makes me unlovable.

Why do I feel like Steve dislikes me?

Any little criticism now revives all my fears.

Steve said people are defined by their biggest fears. My greatest fear is that Steve won’t like me.

I’m torturing myself by thinking of how his eyes lit up as he left me — to go to be with the dogs and Amy. He barely talked to me those last three days of his trip — and then he went to Amy’s house to watch Mulan. It makes my stomach sick when I think of it.

Now I don’t know what to do. When is it supposed to stop hurting? How do I find out what Steve’s thinking? How do I make him happy? Is it possible?

Oh God, I need HELP!!!!

I just feel so despairing. How can I ever regain his love? How did I get it in the first place?

I so want Steve to be happy.

Why did he hurt me so much?

What should I do? What should I do?

Steve was apologetic at first. I don’t think he’d realized how hugely I was hurt even if I did believe him it wasn’t an affair. But he didn’t sound like he’d enjoyed living a double life. I thought that was that. The secret was out, and it was done.

I did write to Amy at her work email address the next day. I don’t remember everything I said, but I do remember some of what it included. I said, first, that Steve had assured me that absolutely nothing romantic had happened between them — but I really needed to hear it from her as well.

After all, I didn’t want to, when I saw her at band functions, feel like scratching her eyes out.

Notice everyone: This is NOT a threat at all! I believed I was talking to someone who was a “friend” to Steve! A “friend” would want their friend’s wife to know that everything was aboveboard and friendly! A “friend” would not want the wife to think they were making on move on her husband! A “friend” would completely understand and want to defuse that completely natural anger they had unwittingly aroused!

For all I knew, Amy didn’t even know that Steve hadn’t told me he was going to her house. So I explained to her that I didn’t know, and she really should ask him in the future, because she wasn’t helping his marriage.

I told her that Steve had said he needed a friend, so I should thank her for being there for him.

But I also said that, if a married man asks to come over to your house at midnight, a friend says No. So I couldn’t really call her Steve’s friend.

She didn’t answer. The next day or so, Steve found out that she had been crying. Later, he came to me saying that Amy had suffered abuse in the past, so she was upset by my threats of violence!!!

I asked him why she would be upset by my letter if there was nothing romantic between them. He then admitted that she had told him she had “feelings” for him. I asked if they’d done anything romantic at all — even held hands? He assured me that no, they hadn’t.

Though at that point all I could think was, I TOLD you so! I TOLD you she’d fall for you if you went on romantic walks with her! See! I was right all along!

Steve asked to go to Amy’s house to talk with her. I said okay, and I sent her a note saying that I knew he was going, because of course now she would want to be very careful not to see him behind my back. I actually apologized for my earlier note! (Which I regretted before long.)

Steve said she told him to go to hell and that he’d put her in a bad position, and she wouldn’t let him in.

Well, that was fine with me. (Though Steve said I didn’t want him to have any friends.) Okay, so I all the more thought it was done. Steve was seeing this “friend” behind my back, but he’d apologized and I’d explained to her that it was behind my back and now she was mad at him anyway.

So I was wary, but I thought it was done.

However, Steve did start telling me all the ways I’d let him down. Everything I’d done wrong over 18 years of marriage. According to him, three times, I had said, “I hate you.” I remembered one of those times. It was in our first year of marriage. I had apologized for it. (Steve never told me how many times I’d said “I love you” over the years.)

He also said that three times I’d threatened to leave him. I only remembered one of those, too. It was during a recent argument. I’d said, “Maybe I should just Leave!” What I’d meant by that was Maybe I should do the horrible thing of leaving the house in the middle of an argument and drive around for an hour. I did not mean divorce. But when I explained that to Steve, he continued to insist that I’d threatened to leave him three times.

And he had many other grievances. But there was a big disconnect there. Remember, Steve was having an affair — This list of things I’d done were his reasons why that was totally justified.

I believed Steve had “needed a friend” because I had not “been there” for him. Well, I could fix that! I would hereby “be there” for him and satisfy his every whim!

One of his complaints was not enough sex. Well, I could definitely fix that! (And Steve traveled a lot. I wasn’t satisfied with the amount of sex in our marriage, either.)

Steve gave me a little speech about how he shouldn’t really have sex with me now, but he couldn’t turn it down. That was incomprehensible to me. I figured that sex was one thing she wasn’t getting, and I was going to make the most of that! Though there were times in the coming months when Steve actually got mad at me for initiating sex when he was tired! Should have been a big, big, big tip-off, but I still believed that he wouldn’t look into my eyes and lie to me.

That part is almost amusing now. But the truth is, I went into a major depression.

It turned out that the migraine preventative I was taking, Neurontin, can actually cause depression — if you have a reason to be depressed. I didn’t figure this out until much later, though.

But here’s what I wrote in my quiet time journal on March 17. I hadn’t realized this happened so soon after the revelation.

Thank You, Father.

As I was praying to you out on our front doorstep, crying out to you in agony, You suddenly took away my neediness. You told me that if Steve left me, that would not be the end — that You would give me someone new to love me, and my life would be beautiful.

Actually, what I “heard” clear as could be in my mind was “Steve will leave you, and…” Well, I didn’t listen carefully after that, I was so horrified by those first words and was saying, “No, Lord, please No.” But — it really did fill me with peace. And tell me that there was joy ahead. That I should NOT end my life. (And that’s how bad I was.)

My journal entry continues…

Father, I don’t want that second-best wonderful option. But thank You for helping me to stop being a quivering bundle of neediness. Thank You that You reminded me that, even though I am flawed, You made me a wonderful person with glorious possibilities.

Then, yesterday, Steve began doing wonderful things for me. He introduced me [when the Brass Quintet played at the middle school] as “beautiful and wonderful.” And he played, just for me, “Simple Gifts,” the song he played on the day he asked me to marry him.

He really did that. After the concert, when people were milling around, he played Simple Gifts. To me.

He’s making it very clear that he’s choosing to stay in love with me.

However, three days later on the 20th:

Today Steve and I spent a couple of hours talking. He worked hard to convince me that we have a bad, unhappy marriage. Father, he had plenty of evidence.

Lord, I tried to think of our marriage as a good one. We have lunches together. We talk to each other. Steve brought up all the times we’ve caused each other pain. He seems ready to jump on little things and show me why that proves we’re incompatible. Even his band friends have told him they wonder why we’re together.

Lord, he convinced me. He doesn’t sound like he has much hope for our marriage at all.

Father, I always like to look on the bright side. Steve still thrills me. We hadn’t fought in awhile. So I thought things were okay.

Lord, please help our marriage to heal.

Help me to know what changes I should make that will help me to be a better wife. And help Steve to trust those changes and to be able to forgive the past.

Okay, wait a minute. I glossed over Josh’s 17th birthday on the 19th.

2005_03_19 1 Birthday

It was a Saturday, so we went to Holiday Park that day.

And the next week, was Josh’s Brain Bowl competition, a couple hours away. That year, Josh’s team got 2nd place!

2005_03_24 1 Brain Bowl

2005_03_24 2 Brain Bowl

Steve went to Georgia, the former Soviet republic, the next week, which was a fantastic trip for him. But I remember crying on the phone with him. He was already talking about moving out.

And here’s my quiet time journal on April 2nd.

Dear Father,
I feel soooo rejected tonight. Talk about up and down and up and down. Any time I feel encouraged about our relationship, Steve pushes me down again.

He won’t tell me he loves me. When I talk about how he loved me when we were married, he talks about the fights we had. He seemed to think they were worth it then.

[He actually said that he’d decided to stop lying to me, and that was why he wouldn’t say he loved me any more. I clung to that and reasoned if he wouldn’t even tell me he loved me, then he was telling the truth about everything else, too! But it was selective truth.]

He’d worked out all these reasons why we should split up. He seems disappointed that I don’t agree.

Lord, I’m wrong to be angry. That will NOT win his heart.

[Oh Sondy, Sondy, I’m not so sure you were wrong!]

He’s rejecting me, and he’s rejecting You, too.

Thank You for the progress today and yesterday. Thank You that he’s giving me three months. Thank You that he sees that things are not the way he thought he had them figured out.

Lord, help Steve to want to fix things.

Right now Steve doesn’t want to read my notes; he doesn’t want to read to me; he doesn’t want to have sex with me; he doesn’t want to go to church with me; he doesn’t want to kiss me.

Lord, Steve is hurting. Put compassion in my heart toward him….

I see from the next entry that Steve was already talking about not attending church any more. I tried switching churches — we went to the bigger Faith Baptist Church near Ramstein. They had a better Sunday School for the kids. Steve went a couple weeks — and slept through the sermon. Then he stopped altogether.

However, Steve did agree to go on the Rome vacation I’d already booked. Josh’s Florence trip started on April 5, and we flew to Pisa on April 9. (That was actually where we met Josh.)

But the day before the trip — when I was busy packing and getting ready — Steve spent a few hours because he “needed” to take Amy’s dogs to a kennel. There had been a sudden change of plans for a Brass Quintet tour that Amy was on, and she hadn’t had time to take them.

I hadn’t even known they were friends again. And I did not see why Steve should spend his time helping her when I needed his help getting ready for the trip. But Steve got mad at me for that reaction.

We did, though, have another wonderful trip. Lots of tension between Steve and me, but fun times, too.

I only got really sad once on the train when Steve sat on the other side of the aisle from me and the kids joined him. I felt like poison.

But anyway, here are some Rome pictures!

2005_04_11 1 Colosseum

2005_04_11 2 Rome

2005_04_11 3 Rome

2005_04_11 4 Rome

2005_04_11 5 Rome

2005_04_11 6 Rome

2005_04_12 1 Spanish Steps

2005_04_12 2 Fountain

2005_04_12 3 Rome

2005_04_12 4 Borghese Gardens

One of the awesome things about going after Josh’s AP Art History field trip was having Josh explain things about various works of art during our trip. We saw some amazing museums where I couldn’t take pictures. We especially enjoyed the Museo Borghese.

We finished with a few hours in Florence.

2005_04_13 1 Florence

2005_04_13 2 Florence

2005_04_13 3 Florence

2005_04_13 4 Florence

Things continued to be very rocky. But I arranged for Timothy’s friend’s mom to take him on a weekend and for Josh to stay with a friend — and I made plans to visit Steve on his tour in England, now that he was a MSgt and got his own hotel room. I came for a free day they had in the middle of the trip and spent the night before and after.

He showed me Ely Cathedral, where he’d performed many concerts.

2005_04_24 1 Ely

2005_04_24 2 Ely

2005_04_24 3 Ely

Sigh. But on that trip, Steve had openly brought along a book with tips for having better sex with women. I actually thought he was reading it to improve our relationship! I read a bit of it myself. Yes, I feel very, very, very stupid about this. But also angry that Steve was so confident he could fool me — and he could — that he didn’t even hide those things. He also didn’t hide a book he’d purchased called Seduction that he kept in his bedside table drawer. It still didn’t even compute that he was having an affair.

Mind you, I was relieved that we didn’t even see Amy while I was there. Somehow, I thought band people saw more of each other.

We also went into London and visited the British Library, where Jane Austen’s manuscript brought tears to my eyes.

2005_04_25 1 British Library

And we visited the British Museum.

2005_04_25 2 British Museum

So, we had a nice trip — but things weren’t going well. I’d keep trying. We’d keep having setbacks. I was in a very deep depression.

Toward the end of May, Steve said that while Amy was out of town, he’d agreed to walk her dogs. He thought I would have no problem with that, since, after all, Amy wasn’t there.

Well, I wasn’t going to argue with anything Steve said. Because that would make me argumentative. But I was not happy about it. However, I did say that he could do it, if he’d take me along. Then at least I’d get some time with my husband. And I could see for myself that Amy wasn’t there!

Still, my depression was very deep. But four things helped get me out of it.

The biggest help was the least spiritual. Remember how the migraine preventative I was on could actually cause depression? I eventually switched to an antidepressant I’d tried before as a preventative, Zoloft. (Okay, now I can’t find starting Zoloft written in my calendar, so maybe this happened later. But eventually, it really did help, both my depression and my headaches.)

Another big help I mentioned when I told my story. My quiet times were happening in Psalm 103. More about that in a bit.

Another big help was that Kathe came to visit! She brought her kids, Tim and Ben, and her Mom, Patti. I had a wonderful talk with Patti. Her own husband had left her in a very similar way when she was about my age. So to see her vibrant and active and happy, traveling in Europe was inspirational. (Both Kathe and her Mom had left their husbands back at home.)

We took Kathe and her family to our favorite castles, of course!

First, Burg Falkenstein.

2005_05_26 1 Falkenstein

2005_05_26 2 Falkenstein

2005_05_26 3 Falkenstein

2005_05_26 4 Falkenstein

Then Altenbaumburg.

2005_05_26 5 Falkenstein

2005_05_29 1 Altenbaumburg

2005_05_29 2 Altenbaumburg

2005_05_29 3 Altenbaumburg

And of course Burg Rheinfels!

2005_05_30 1 Rhine

2005_05_30 2 Rheinfels

2005_05_30 3 Rheinfels

2005_05_30 4 Rheinfels

2005_05_30 5 Rheinfels

2005_05_30 6 Rheinfels

2005_05_30 7 Rheinfels

2005_05_30 8 Thistles

2005_05_30 9 Rheinfels

2005_05_30 10 Rheinfels

2005_05_30 11 Rheinfels

2005_05_30 12 Rheinfels

2005_05_30 13 Rheinfels

But — the thing that helped most to pull me out of depression happened on Kathe’s birthday, June 4, 2005.

I’d been singing with the German-American choir all this time? Well, they had a concert on Kathe’s birthday in the gorgeous old Cistercian church in Otterberg. (It looked like a cathedral, but technically wasn’t one.)

Anyway, two days before the concert, our soloist got sick and lost her voice. They asked me to step in and sing the solo.

It was perfect! I didn’t have any time to be nervous. And if I did a bad job — well, I hadn’t prepared.

I don’t remember what song it was, but I do remember that it was a Christian song with encouraging words that really helped.

And what do you know? It turns out you can’t stand up and sing a solo while feeling like you’re worthless. It just can’t be done.

Mind you, Steve managed to miss the solo. He drove Josh to their prom that night. Kathe’s family and my Timothy were there — and Timothy came home with a fever! But we had cake for Kathe after the concert — and I was just encouraged and uplifted.

2005_06_04 1 Cake

We were still struggling along. We had started going to marriage counseling. Free on-base marriage counseling. I think when I got where I was thinking about thinking about suicide, Steve thought it would be good to get me in there. And I had convinced myself that Steve’s problem was that he was depressed. (Hadn’t he been telling me how much he needed a friend?) So I wanted to get him to see a counselor. Anyway, at the beginning of the counseling, I was still hoping it would help. But this was an Air Force officer, so it’s not like Steve was ever going to tell him the truth about his affair.

The counselor did enroll us in a Communication Class for couples.

I’ll end with a hopeful note. Here’s what I wrote in my quiet time notebook on my 41st birthday, June 14, 2005.

I’m 41 today.

What will my 42nd year hold?

I’d like it to be the year that my marriage is restored.

Father, even if it is not, I know that You will remain faithful.

And today I’m hopeful. Steve is sweetly working to give me a happy birthday. He can’t come to the Couples’ Class today, but that gives us a reason to start meeting weekly — the first time, I’ll go over what we learned today.

Lord, please restore our marriage this year. Draw Steve back to You. Help him to feel how greatly You love him. Help both of us grow to be the people You created us to be.

The verses I’d like for my 42nd year are Psalm 103:8-14 —
“The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth
so great is his love for those who fear him,
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.”

Father, thank You for Your tremendous love. Thank You for Your faithfulness. Thank You for the love You’ve put in my heart for Steve. Help him feel Your love for him.

I’d also like for this to be the year I become a published author. But so much more than that, I’d like my marriage to be restored.

I’m afraid, though, that things were about to get much, much worse — before they eventually got much, much better.

Project 52, Week 40, Part Two — Heartbreak

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 40!

40 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I began Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week I’m taking one year of my life and blogging about it. This week, I’m covering the year I was 40 — June 14, 2004, to June 14, 2005.

Last time, I covered the start of that year, right up until the time that my husband started having an affair.

No, I didn’t know it was an affair. I found out in August 2006 — so a year and a half later.

Anyway, the previous November, I’d found out about an SCBWI Writers’ Retreat in Paris. I so wanted to go! But it was expensive. So my husband generously offered to give me this gift. The one catch was we’d have to put off the family ski trip we were planning for over Thanksgiving.

Steve really wanted to go on a ski trip. He grew up in upstate New York and loved to ski. Me? Not so much. So as it approached, he said we couldn’t really afford a family trip. Why shouldn’t he just go alone? After all, I was going on the Writers’ Retreat myself. It made sense to me.

But that week, Steve was terribly sick with the flu. Here’s my journal entry from Thursday, February 10, 2005:

Steve’s going skiing this weekend. He wanted to feel that he has interests and activities and a life outside work. The only trouble is — He’s terribly sick with the flu. Since Tuesday, he’s had a bad sore throat and earache and a fever. He’s gone to work anyway, though his co-workers say he looks terrible. I guess he figures if he can work while he’s sick, he can certainly ski while he’s sick!

His train leaves at 5 am tomorrow for Innsbruck, Austria. He’ll get back at midnight on Sunday.

Make no mistake about it, I urged him to put off the ski trip, since he was so sick. But he was adamant. However, I really worried about him. It didn’t help that he didn’t call until Sunday. I didn’t have the phone number at his hotel. He’d said he’d just find a place once he got there.

From my Quiet Time journal on Saturday:

Lord, watch over Steve on his ski trip. Draw him to You. Call his name. Let him have time to think about the life You have for him.

On Sunday, I was in Psalm 91. This was before he called.

Father, I know from Psalm 91 that You are watching over Steve.

So I refuse to worry about him or let my imagination think up things that could go wrong.

Lord, I ask that You watch over Steve on his trip. Let him get a chance to call me. Speak to Steve, Father. Get his attention. Help him to be the man You made him to be.

Let Steve be energized and invigorated, with new excitement about his life.

Thank You that You hear my prayer and answer.

Let our Valentine’s Day be a beautiful time of growing closer together.

Truth check: Much later, Steve told me this was when their affair started. I’m afraid it gave me a certain satisfaction to realize that when they started out, he was sniffling and coughing and very sick.

Anyway, Monday was Valentine’s Day. I see we went out to dinner and a movie, but I don’t remember what movie. There was a USAFE Awards Lunch that day, and Steve the award of Senior NCO of the Year!

We had some more beautiful snow that month.

2005_02_22 1 Snow

2005_02_22 2 Snow

On March 5, I was excited because I booked us a vacation in Rome over Spring Break. That year, Josh’s AP Art History class was taking a field trip to Florence at the start of Spring Break. (Coolest field trip EVER!) Our plan was to meet Josh in Florence when that trip ended and take a train to Rome, then Pisa, then back to Florence, finishing out Spring Break.

That same day, Saturday, March 5, Steve started a week-long trip to England. I think it was just the Brass Quintet. I’m pretty sure his co-worker Amy was not on that trip.

They were due to leave in the afternoon, at 3:00. So when Steve said he had to go to work early (He was Director of Operations.) and left around 10 am, I stooped to begging that he could stay home a little longer to be with us. He gave a funny little smile (which still haunts me) and said No, he had a lot of work to do.

After he left, I discovered he’d left his credit card at home. I was willing to bring it to work. I called him two or three times at work, but got no answer. Around 2:00, someone else answered, but they said he wasn’t there. I left a message that his credit card was at home, but he didn’t get the message in time to pick it up. It was odd.

I asked him about it on the trip, and he said he’d done some shopping for food for the trip. That didn’t explain being gone from the office four hours, but I didn’t argue. Just figured I’d missed him somehow.

That week, it turned out my Dad was going to be coming through Germany again! We made plans to pick him up at the airport in Frankfurt on Friday and bring him back to the airport on Sunday

Steve was due to get back from his trip on Saturday at midnight. I didn’t get to talk with him a lot on that trip. (It was always hard on trips going through the hotel operator.) When we talked on Wednesday or so, he said he was going to have to do some work at the office after he got home on Saturday night, so don’t wait up for him. I started stewing about that. I was going to ask him to come home right away, since we’d be driving my Dad to the airport the next day. But I didn’t get a chance to talk with Steve again before he got back.

We had a quiet weekend. After I picked up my Dad, that was the night of the Parent-Teen Brain Bowl competition. The families of the Brain Bowl team come and compete with the kids, for practice for the big upcoming tournament. On Saturday, I think we just walked around the lovely fields. There may have still been snow on the ground.

Saturday night, I couldn’t sleep, waiting for Steve. I was anxious to see him after a week away. I tried calling the office two or three times, but never got an answer. I thought about driving to the band building to find him, but didn’t want to leave the house with everyone sleeping.

I finally went to sleep around 2:30 am. I woke up when Steve came to bed and checked the clock. It was 3 am.

We skipped church the next day, and took my Dad to the airport around noon, while the kids stayed home. On the way back from the airport, I told Steve, “If it were a novel, and a husband wasn’t where he said he’d be multiple times, that would be a sure sign it was an affair.”

He asked, “What do you mean?”

I explained that multiple times I’d called his work and he wasn’t there. (I was also thinking of the day he’d left for the trip, which still hadn’t been explained adequately, but mostly the night before.)

Steve looked me in the eye, and he said, “I’m not having an affair.”

I explained that I knew that, but I’d sure think a character in a novel was dumb if she didn’t suspect an affair in my situation.

Steve said he’d been really sick to his stomach the night before, so had spent a lot of time in the restroom. (Hmmm. Thinking about it now, I wouldn’t be surprised if that was very true.) That didn’t begin to explain how many many times I’d tried to call him. And it didn’t clear up my frustration that I’d never gotten to ask him not to work late that night. I was really missing my husband after his week away. But I didn’t want to complain about having such a hard-working husband….

That day, all my calendar says is “Nap.”

The next day, Monday, was March 14, 2005. I had a day off (still working 20 hours per week at the base library). The kids were at school and Steve was at work.

When I made my bed, I noticed a whole lot of white hairs on the bedspread. Those were Dalmatian hairs.

[Edited to add: Over Christmas break, while Amy was out of town, Steve had offered to walk her Dalmatians, and did it with me. (I think there was no point in hiding this, and he may have still been hoping I’d be willing to get a dog. I was happy to have the outing with him.) That was when I’d learned that Dalmatian hair — little short white hairs — gets all over EVERYTHING.]

But I’d vacuumed while Steve was on his trip. (Yes, it was a month after Christmas break! Don’t judge!) These were new Dalmatian hairs. On my bed.

Calm down, Sondy. If he’d been with Amy the night before, there’d be Dalmatian hairs on his coat.

I checked. There were Dalmatian hairs. But only a few. Probably still leftover from before?

But I then looked at the laundry he had in a basket downstairs from his trip. (He’d started doing his own laundry after trips. Some time or other I’d complained about having lots of laundry to do when he got back.) Well, in the basket underneath some other clothes were a pair of socks — completely covered in Dalmatian hair.

To say I was devastated is putting it mildly.

My husband was having an affair!

No! There must be some mistake! This wasn’t possible! We loved each other! He was committed to me!

Well, I called Steve at work and said, “We need to talk!” There was urgency in my voice.

He promised to come right home at lunchtime. I had an hour where I was sure my husband was having an affair.

I’d ALWAYS thought if my husband had an affair, I’d divorce him in a heartbeat. In fact, in the 90s, I’d despised Hillary Clinton because she hadn’t divorced her husband. I thought surely she only stayed with him because she was power hungry.

But when it came down to it, I was far too bewildered to want divorce. I didn’t believe it could be true. Steve must not understand that I loved him! No, we could fix this!

When Steve walked in the door, I showed him the socks and cried.

He looked me in the eye and said, “I’m not having an affair….”

[Dear Reader, everything I did and said in the next year and a half was filtered through the fact that I BELIEVED my husband would not look me in the eye and lie to me.

I was wrong.]

He continued, “… but I am living a double life.”

He said that he’d continued walking dogs with Amy, and he’d started going to her house and watching movies. That night, they’d watched the movie Mulan.

[Yes, Dear Reader, I believed my husband when he said he was at a young woman’s house from midnight to 3 am and they only watched a movie. This trust also has the effect of making me feel pretty darn stupid.]

He said he needed a friend because I hadn’t been there for him.

I was catching a bad cold that day already. I learned that doing lots of crying feels pretty much the same as having a bad cold. Also, a broken heart actually physically hurts. Who knew?

Here’s what I wrote in my Quiet Time journal on March 14:

“Light is shed upon the righteous
and joy on the upright in heart.”

Father, I need some light and some joy.

Today I found out that Steve has been lying to me in order to spend time with Amy. He apologized; I forgave him. But I feel cut to the quick, heartbroken and worthless. I feel like this means that even my husband can’t love me.

Father, Steve says he does love me. Steve says that partly he lied to me because it seemed like our relationship was getting better. But that was a lie, too.

Oh, Father, please help us! Please let my husband love me. Please help us to be best friends again. Father, You made me. Help me to remember that I do have value to You.

Lord, give me love and forgiveness toward Steve. Help me to be there for him. Help him to turn to me.

Lord, Steve is hurting so much. Please, please draw him to You.

You see, Steve said that he’d really needed a friend and I hadn’t been there for him. What I heard is this: Steve needed me! And I wasn’t there for him! Oh, I was so ready to make up for that!

And I need to get to work, so that’s going to be it for this installment.

Project 52, Week 40, Part One — Happily Walking Toward the Cliff

Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 40!

2004_10_09 6 Me

40 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I began Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week I’m taking one year of my life and blogging about it. This week, I’m covering the year I was 40 — June 14, 2004, to June 14, 2005. I’m going to try to cover it in one post. But now the story stops being about the cool places we got to see in Europe and starts to be about a marriage falling apart.

This is going to be tricky to write about. I’m going to tell my story, and try not to speculate about what Steve was thinking or feeling. I did find out much later that I was being told lies — so I will try to straighten some of that out as I go.

But I’ll be working more out of my journals than off of pictures, I think.

Anyway, the year started with another happy family summer. There’s some bragging on that first page of my journal. We got Josh’s SAT scores (They’d taken the test as a Sophomore. They were revising the test that summer to then include essays.), and Josh got a perfect Verbal score of 800 and a 770 on the Math! Wow!

Josh also got their best grades yet in high school — with A+’s on all the Finals that were listed separately. Timothy got straight As in 4th grade and made Ultimate Honor Roll for straight As every quarter.

Steve started out the summer with a trip with the USAFE Band to Bulgaria, so I took Josh to the airport for one last summer at Dublin City University’s Centre for Talented Youth. Josh just called it Nerd Camp.

After we took Josh to the airport, Timmy and I went to the Autobahnfest happening on the brand new Autobahn near us. It was to be completed that October, when our lives would get simpler. It was connecting the Autobahn to Frankfurt to the Autobahn that went through Kaiserslautern (and to Ramstein AFB). Looking back, I hadn’t remembered that we only got to drive on that thing for less than two years. We got used to it quickly!

Let’s see, what was the normal for our lives at this time?

I was very focused on trying to become a writer. I was sending my first children’s novel off to publishers, and was working hard — trying for an hour a day — on my second children’s novel. I’d started a writer’s critique group at Sembach Library that met once a month after hours, and was working through that second novel with them. I was thinking about, when we finally had to leave Germany in August 2006 (We wouldn’t be able to extend past ten years.) — of not looking for a new job, but really focusing on becoming a writer.

I still loved my half-time job at the base library. I had a knitting buddy from church who I met with weekly. (Oh, but I turn the page on my journal — and that was when Leah moved away.) And I was still writing Sonderbooks — writing reviews of every book I read — and I read a lot of books.

I was still getting lots of headaches. I tried a new preventative that summer, Neurontin. It seemed to help a little bit.

Steve was about to promote to Master Sergeant. He was very busy with the band. He was traveling about a third of each month, with lots of short trips.

Here’s what I wrote about the fourth of July weekend:

This year, the Fourth of July weekend was a nice one for me.

It was just Timmy and me. Josh was in Ireland. Steve was in Israel.

Timothy is a nice little companion these days. We play games with each other. He still likes to tell me all he’s thinking and feeling. It’s a privilege, even if I do tend to tune out when it’s about video games and comic books. Timothy’s a nice person to be with.

Leah moved away this week, and so did Wendy. I need some new friends. But the Writing Group met Wednesday, and I think maybe Marta and Suzanne will be that for me.

Steve’s trip to Israel was very exciting. He played at a party at the Ambassador’s Residence with incredibly high security. He had to play his tuba to prove it wasn’t concealing a bomb. He had his picture taken with Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu.

He also promoted to MSgt on this trip, so he had a room to himself. In Tel Aviv, he had a corner room with two balconies overlooking the beach. Sunday night, we talked as he was on a cell phone walking along the beach. I could hear gentle waves in the background. It was almost like being there with him.

They were given a tour of Old City Jerusalem. He’s walked where Jesus walked. They also saw Roman ruins at Cesaria.

Steve and I seem in harmony these days. That’s such a blessing.

On Friday, Timothy got invited to go to Holiday Park with Mikey, his best friend, on Monday. So he was looking forward to that, and I looked forward to a day all to myself in the middle of the summer. What luxury!

On Sunday, we went to church and the church potluck. After that, we played games together, but we didn’t bother braving the crowds at Ramstein to see fireworks. Instead I let Timothy stay up until sunset (10:00), and we played games together. It was a nice, relaxing day.

I remember that call from Steve on the beach in Israel meant a whole lot to me. He wanted me there, and shared it with me.

(Yes, okay, I’m writing all this to show how clueless I was that my husband wasn’t happy with me.)

Josh got back from Ireland on July 9. I’d wanted to do another big vacation, but we decided we couldn’t afford it, so instead we planned two nights in the Czech Republic, staying in Mělnik, a town just outside Prague.

[Tip for folks traveling in Europe: If you stay in a village or town outside a big city, the cost will be much lower, and the setting will be much more beautiful. Drive or take a train into the city during the day. This was a plan I used all over Europe and was never unhappy with it.]

We had our evenings in a spacious suite in Mělnik, and did sight-seeing in Prague during the day. Prague is 6 hours straight east of Sembach, where we lived. (We were exactly in between Paris and Prague. Paris was 6 hours west of us.)

I do remember there was some tension between Steve and me in Mělnik, but I don’t remember what it was about. I also remember, though, that I really loved Prague.

The first few photos are from Mělnik.

2004_07_15 1 Melnik

2004_07_15 2 Melnik

I like the way the Vltava River, which also runs through Prague, was clearly labelled.

2004_07_15 3 Vltava

2004_07_15 4 Melnik

2004_07_15 5 Melnik

In Prague, they were having a “Cow Parade”! Various artists had painted cow statues, with three basic poses. They were all over the city. It was something new to focus on, and increased our kids’ interest in roaming over the city. Timmy got a Cow Parade t-shirt, and Josh got one that said, “Make cows not war.”

2004_07_16 1 Prague

2004_07_16 2 Prague

2004_07_16 3 Prague

2004_07_16 4 Prague

2004_07_16 5 Prague

The Charles Bridge is so beautiful.

2004_07_17 1 Charles Bridge

2004_07_17 2 Prague

2004_07_17 3 Bridge

2004_07_17 4 Bridge

2004_07_17 5 Bridge

2004_07_17 6 Bridge

2004_07_17 7 Bridge

2004_07_17 8 Cow

2004_07_17 9 Cow

2004_07_17 10 Prague

2004_07_17 11 Cow

2004_07_17 12 Cow

2004_07_17 13 Cows

Here’s my favorite cow statue!

2004_07_17 14 Timmy Cow

2004_07_17 15 Cow

2004_07_17 16 Cow parade

2004_07_17 17 Cow

2004_07_17 18 Reading cow

2004_07_17 19 Mermaid Cow

2004_07_17 20 Cows

2004_07_17 21 Prague

On the way back home, we stopped in Plzen, where Steve had performed twice with the USAFE Band.

2004_07_18 Plzen

And on July 29, Timmy turned TEN years old! I was trying to stop calling him Timmy. My transitional name was Timothy, but eventually, I was able to call him Tim. It really varies in my journals.

2004_07_29 1 Cake

2004_07_29 2 Cake

We went to Europa Park for his birthday and brought along his friend Mikey, but it looks like I didn’t bring my camera.

This little entry in my journal makes me laugh, because I still have this problem:

I’m trying to bring back most of my library books — except the ones I will read in the next few weeks. Wouldn’t it be better to trust that I will always have something good to read, instead of feeling that I have to hoard them? It’s easy to say, but not easy to do. Think how nice it would be to even run out of library books sometimes and read my own books?

Some time that summer, after a full day working at the library (It looks like most Fridays that summer, I worked 8 to 5 at the library.), Steve wanted to go to not one but two band parties. One was at our friends the Kings’ house. The wife worked with me and the husband worked with Steve, and the kids were two boys between our kids’ ages. I might have gone to that, but Steve also wanted to go to a birthday party for Amy’s sister who was visiting. I remember I asked, “Who’s Amy?” She was a new person in the band that summer, and she had two Dalmatians. Steve wanted Timmy to meet the dogs.

I wasn’t interested in going to a birthday party for someone I didn’t know and was way too tired for two parties, so Josh and I stayed home and Steve took Timmy to the party, and I thought everyone was happy.

And my Dad came to visit! He went to a conference in St. Petersburg for people who don’t agree with Einstein, and he stayed with us before and after. I say in my journal, “It’s fun to ask him about his theory and watch his eyes light up!”

We took him to the Medieval Fest in Kaiserslautern on Friday the 13th in August.

Jade learned to throw an axe!

2004_08_13 1 Axe

And we took him to Trier on the 14th.

2004_08_14 1 Trier

2004_08_14 2 Trier

2004_08_14 3 Trier

2004_08_14 4 Trier

2004_08_14 5 Baths

2004_08_14 6 Josh

They were having a Roman Fest!

2004_08_14 7 Roman Fest

2004_08_14 8 Dad

After that, Dad went to St. Petersburg, and Steve went to France with the Band.

Oh dear. On August 16, I see this in my Quiet Time journal (writing out prayers):

Father, I feel so sad, sad, sad.

Steve and I had a big fight yesterday. I feel like every fight tears our marriage further apart, and making up barely sews a few threads back together.

I’m scared now — scared that all those awful things he said are what Steve really thinks of me. I’m scared that any time that Steve acts distant, that’s because he’s hiding a lot of anger.

Lord, it’s hard to forgive someone who doesn’t believe he’s done anything wrong.

Lord, please help keep our feet from stumbling. I know Steve doesn’t want to divorce me. I don’t want to divorce him either. He’s brought so much good into my life. I know he loves me, in his own way.

Sometimes I wish he thought more highly of me. I wish I felt like he wanted me to succeed, like he was excited about Sonderbooks and about my writing. Father, help me to know what to say when we talk on the phone tonight.

There’s no more about that. When Steve and Dad got back from their trips, we took Dad to the Rhine River on the way back from the airport.

We had a picnic by the river!

2004_08_22 1 Picnic

Waiting for a boat over to Burg Pfalzgrafenstein.

2004_08_22 2 Ferry

2004_08_22 3 Pfalz

2004_08_22 4 Pfalz

2004_08_22 5 Swing

2004_08_22 6 Swing

2004_08_22 7 Rhine

And then we went to Burg Lahneck, where we had dinner at the castle restaurant.

2004_08_22 8 Lahneck

2004_08_22 9 Lahneck

2004_08_22 10 Lahneck

2004_08_22 11 Lahneck

2004_08_22 12 Lahneck

2004_08_22 13 Lahneck

After my Dad went back home, we finished off the summer with a family day trip to Köln and the Schokoladen Museum there.

2004_09_05 1 Chocolate

2004_09_05 2 Chocolate

2004_09_05 3 Koln

2004_09_05 4 Koln

Then Timothy started 5th grade and Josh started 11th grade. There’s a happy note in my Quiet Time journal.

Lord, thank you so much for your beautiful answer to prayer yesterday. I had been praying and I had asked others to pray that Timothy would make new friends this year. I figured it would take time. Timothy’s first words when he walked through the door were: “I made a new friend!” And he went on to excitedly tell me about this friend!

(Tim, my other journal says the friend was Michael Dropps. I think Mikey may have moved away that summer?)

I’ve also got a note that lists Josh’s classes. They had a tough schedule that year!

1) AP English Language; 2) AP Computer Science; 3) AP Chemistry; 4) CISCO Networking; 5) AP Art History; 6) AP German Language; and 7) AP Calculus BC.

On September 24, there was a going-away dinner for Ellen, a friend of Steve’s in the Band. (The kids stayed home.) As we got out of the car, Steve told me, “There’s someone I’ve been wanting you to meet.” It was that same Amy who had the two Dalmatians. We talked with her at the dinner. She was a fan of Pride and Prejudice and I don’t know if that’s when I promised to loan her my copy of the Colin Firth movie, but I did that soon after. Also Steve asked later to borrow for her the book he’d given me of Pride and Prejudice from Mr. Darcy’s perspective. (Oh look, my calendar says I started reading it the day after the dinner for Ellen.) So anyway, at that point, Steve still wanted me to meet his friends.

And that was the week I started singing in the German-American Choir! It met on Tuesday nights. I went with some other folks from Sembach Bible Church, including the pastor. It was a lot of fun — a few more Germans than Americans, but they mostly gave instructions in English. It was a good way to get better at pronouncing German and a nice weekly outing. I really loved singing in a choir again.

I do remember that when I told Steve that our pastor wouldn’t ride in a car — even to choir practice with just one woman, Steve said it seemed like he didn’t trust Doris (the woman in question that time). I was proud that I didn’t have to worry about Steve spending time with his female friends. Sigh.

Oh dear, September 15, another worrisome quiet time journal entry. (These are interspersed with happy and thankful ones, by the way.)

Lord, thank you that You have brought me through troubles before and You will again.

Father, help my marriage. Steve’s gotten horribly angry with me for little things lately, but he doesn’t want to talk about it. I’m afraid our marriage may split over these stupid little things.

Father, I know that Steve loves me and doesn’t want to lose me. I also know that he’s stressed out lately. He doesn’t like his job. His job is on its way to getting more stressful.

Lord, help our love to grow….

Father, I am incredibly lucky to have such a husband. Help me to keep him, and help us to be happy together.

Hmmm. The very next entry (September 17) says:

Lord, thank You that Steve went off to Spain with us in harmony and in love.

These problems would surface, but I’d think we’d get them smoothed out….

On September 25, my Quiet Time was about Psalm 73:25, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.” I wrote:

It’s been 22 years since I last memorized this psalm. It meant so much to me then. I thought I would never find someone who truly loved me. But I had God, caring for me and directing my life.

Father, Thank You for bringing Steve into my life. Thank You that he is faithful and I know I can count on him. Thank You for Your faithful love that brought me his faithful love.

Thank You, Lord, for expanding my borders and blessing me indeed.

When I read Let Your Life Speak, I realized that Sonderbooks is one thing I did not because anybody thought I should, but because I wanted to. And that makes it especially meaningful. Writing is another thing that comes from a calling within. Some day, I will be published. Even now, an editor is considering Unicorn Wings, and maybe she sees potential.

Then, on Columbus Day weekend, we spent a night in France and went back to Monkey Mountain!

We had first gone to Monkey Mountain when Timmy was about 3 years old (and he threw a fit for a Monkey cookie.) You walk among the baboons and they take popcorn from your hands. We all really enjoyed going back!

2004_10_08 1 Monkeys

2004_10_08 2 Monkeys

2004_10_08 3 Monkeys

2004_10_08 4 Monkeys

2004_10_08 5 Monkeys

2004_10_08 6 Monkeys

2004_10_08 7 Monkeys

The next day in Colmar, we visited the Musée d’Unterlinden.

2004_10_09 1 Colmar

And on the way back, we stopped at the Cascade and Chateaux du Nideck, our Castle #163.

2004_10_09 3 Me

2004_10_09 4 Nideck

2004_10_09 5 Nideck

2004_10_09 7 Nideck

2004_10_09 8 Nideck

2004_10_09 9 Nideck

2004_10_09 10 Nideck

2004_10_09 11 Nideck

The castle was just above the waterfall.

2004_10_09 12 Nideck

2004_10_09 13 Nideck

2004_10_09 14 Nideck

2004_10_09 15 Nideck

2004_10_09 16 Nideck

2004_10_09 17 Nideck

2004_10_09 18 Nideck

Okay, in October was about the time that the Band had been letting people off early when they were in town to do “Physical Training.” One of the earlier days, Steve had gone for a jog in the Sembach woods. I tried going with him, but we concluded that I was too slow. He wasn’t getting enough exercise. But long about October, he started walking dogs with this friend Amy. He still liked her Dalmatians. Well, I didn’t like the sound of that.

On October 15, I wrote:

Yesterday I felt a little sad and lonely when Steve didn’t show up at lunchtime because he was out with Band friends. I also feel left out when he goes walking with another friend. I would love to walk in the woods with Steve. In fact, that’s one of my favorite things on earth.

On the other hand, I don’t want to criticize Steve and I don’t want to crowd him. If I tell him I miss him, I don’t want him to feel controlled.

Thank You, Father, that Steve loves me.

Well, I did speak up, because that next week, on the 20th, Steve took me along to walk Amy’s dogs with her. Timothy came along, too. It was fabulous. The woods were at the height of their color in brilliant oranges and yellows and redt s. Steve really enjoyed the dogs, and Timmy did, too.

But what struck me was that it was super romantic walking in the woods with Steve. Watching him play with the dogs in the beautiful woods. I wasn’t worried for a second about Steve falling for Amy. But if they kept walking dogs together, I didn’t see how Amy could possibly keep from falling for Steve. She was very tall, so she was sure to be attracted to my even taller husband. I decided to talk with him about it.

The two of us went for a walk in the woods on the Donnersberg the following Saturday, and I did talk about it. I told Steve exactly that — that I thought Amy would fall for him if they continued to walk in the woods. I asked if he would please bring me along.

Steve sounded agreeable. He suggested twice a week? I thought that seemed like an awful lot. Well, the next week Steve had a trip to Belgium. And then it didn’t come up. I thought he’d given up the idea.

And here’s where what really happened began diverging from what I thought was happening. Steve decided to continue doing things with Amy, but not to tell me about it. When he didn’t talk about walking dogs together, I thought it was just as well. It was easy for him to hide it from me, since he was so busy with work now that he was Director of Operations.

But I had something exciting and wrote about it on that same page:

The big excitement of this week was the news of another SCBWI conference in Paris at the Abbaye de Royaumont. This one is limited to 35 people, and it’s designed for “advanced” or published writers. It’s taking place November 4-7, 2005, a Friday through Monday. It’s designed as a working retreat, with single rooms. The cost is $740 for three nights and three days worth of meals.

The part that truly amazed me was that Steve said right away that he could pay for it — If we postponed the ski trip we’d been talking about for Thanksgiving until January or February. So I’ve already sent in my registration! I’m so amazed and jazzed, it immediately gave me the energy to tackle the big change in my book that I’d been putting off until then.

Best of all — It looks like my three e-mail writing buddies — Erin, Vicki, and Kristin, will be able to go as well. Erin needs to do some school visits, and Kristin needs to sell a manuscript. But it looks hopeful that we can have a grand reunion.

I met those three ladies at the Abbaye de Royaumont at the SCBWI Conference in 1999. Vicki was my roommate. Erin read a fantastic piece about her character and had a great meal and discussion with Vicki. Kristin and I shared in a fantastic lunch discussion with editors Steven Roxborough and Arthur Levine. Since then, they’ve shared my hopes and dreams about writing. They’ve given me great advice on my work, and they’ve listened to my suggestions about their work. I’ve watched all three of them have books accepted for publication and Kristin and Erin get published, and I’ve been thrilled with their success as if it were my own. They mean so much to me. In many ways, their success makes me believe that it will soon happen to me, too.

When I went to that 1999 conference, I prayed that I would make friends who were writers, in a similar place to me. How wonderfully God answered that prayer! Now I know so well that I am not alone in my dream of writing for children, and that dream truly can come true.

Truth check: Steve later suggested that we couldn’t afford our whole family taking a ski trip, so he should just go on the trip that was moved to February. And that was the trip when he began his affair with Amy. The gift of the Paris conference definitely distracted me.

Timothy was Wolverine for Halloween.

2004_10_31 1 Wolverine

The day after trick-or-treating, Steve and I went for what I thought was a very romantic late night moonlit walk in the Sembach fields.

Early in November, we went to the Maria Laach Abbey and walked in the lovely Autumn woods.

2004_11_07 1 Maria Laach

2004_11_07 2 Maria Laach

2004_11_07 3 Ducks

2004_11_07 4 Laacher See

2004_11_07 5 Laacher See

We had some early snow!

2004_11_09 1 Snow

Thanksgiving was fairly quiet. I say, “With all the busy activities, Steve and I did get a chance to think about how happy we are with our life, and how blessed we are to have each other.”

And November 30, it was Steve’s time to turn 40 years old. We had Jerry and his wife Andreea over the day before his birthday, using our Raklete grill.

2004_11_30 1 Birthday

2004_11_30 2 Birthday

Steve left for a Band trip to the U.K. on his birthday. But he hosted a party for the band at the hotel that night. He called me at 2 am, drunk out of his mind, but happy. I was happy that he did think of me when he was too drunk to even remember it the next day!

And I’m going to start glossing over things. We got through Christmas, very busy as usual. We didn’t take a trip this year. I sang with the German-American choir in a Christmas concert where the band played.

We did some cool things in January. We visited the King Tut exhibit in Bonn and then went to the Arithmeum — a museum about calculating machines.

2005_01_02 1 Arithmeum

2005_01_02 2 Arithmeum

And on February 6, we visited Castle #164, the Wolfsburg.

2005_02_06 1 Wolfsburg

2005_02_06 2 Wolfsburg

2005_02_06 3 Wolfsburg

2005_02_06 4 Wolfsburg

And… It’s late. I should continue the hard part of this year another time. It all looked happy so far, right?

Project 52, Week 39, Part Two – Blooming!

Saturday, March 18th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 39!

2004_05_22 11 Me

39 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I began Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week I’m taking one year of my life and blogging about it. This week, I’m covering the year I was 39 — June 14, 2003, to June 14, 2004. On Tuesday, I covered the first half of that year — our trips to Scotland and America in particular. Today I hope to finish out the year, beginning when we got back home to Germany in January 2004.

I’m laughing at myself, because one of the first things I talked about in my journal when I got back was the joy of processing all the new books that had come to the library when I was in America. We had recently been given $15,000 to order books, and I’d had a lot to do with the books selected — and I wanted to read them ALL!

My journal says, “I tried only to check out books I really want to read NOW, but I’ve already checked out 50 books! Oops!” This problem continues to this day, but it is a problem I love to have — too many outstanding books I want to read!

But we settled in to being back home in Germany. I was writing, working, posting Sonderbooks. On January 24, Steve took me — and Josh — to see the opera Julius Caesar in Kaiserslautern. Timothy stayed with our friends the Kings. (Bill King worked with Steve, and Pat King worked with me. Their two boys were in between Josh’s and Timmy’s ages.)

And then we got some SNOW! These were taken in the field near Sembach village.

2004_01_29 1 Sembach Snow

2004_01_29 2 Snow

And in our own yard:

2004_01_30 1 Snow

On February 9th, our dear friends the de Riveras visited on their way back to their home in Spain (via Hahn airport near us) after a retreat in Switzerland. All five of their kids were with them, but I especially like this picture with their youngest.

2004_02_09 Deriveras

Josh, a Sophomore in high school, was in Drama that year — and had the play that weekend. They did a collection of monologues, dialogues and ensemble pieces. Josh was in a very funny piece called “The Shrink,” in which Josh (the patient) drives a German psychiatrist crazy. He was in another piece that was a parody of a soap opera.

2004_02_15 2 Play

2004_02_15 3 Play

2004_02_15 4 Play

2004_02_15 5 Play

2004_02_15 6 Play

2004_02_15 7 Play

Oh dear. My journal/calendar has a special two-page spread to talk about Valentine’s Day. In view of what happened a year later, I want to write out what I wrote.

Yes, I was pretty aware that Steve wasn’t very happy. But I was completely unaware that he was unhappy with me. And I fully believed that he was every bit as committed to our marriage as I was.

Here’s what I wrote in the “New Loves” box:

My new love is my old love.

We had dinner out. We tried Max’s, then the Bierkrug, but both said we needed reservations. Then we settled for La Caseta on B40. The food was great, but it was packed, and very slow, so I worried about Timothy being home alone and whether Steve would be able to pick up Josh on time after the play. Anyway, both were fine, and it was great to have the time to talk with Steve. We talked about life — goals and dreams and having each other.

In the “…And Old Loves” box:

Steve will stick by me forever, and I’ll stick by him. We’ve been married for seventeen years, and I’m so glad he loves me still.

And in the box “Valentine Sentiments”:

Steve is my one and only, and my life is so much richer because of him.

(Note: The phrase “my one and only” was one Steve had used for me first.)

Sigh. Oh Sondy, you were in for heartbreak…. But it was lovely being in love. Yes, there are some disagreements I recorded in my quiet time journal. Yes, I was pretty aware Steve wasn’t completely happy with his life. But I was absolutely convinced that he loved me as much as I loved him and that I could count on him.

Mind you, we were getting divergent interests. I was working on my writing, on Sonderbooks, and was doing more and more reading. And Steve wasn’t interested in those things. When I had concerns, I was afraid to express them, because it came out sounding like criticism, and that got Steve angry. So I tried not to bring up Steve’s drinking. I tried not to complain that he suddenly started having really bad breath. (It did eventually turn out to be a medical reason.) I made a conscious decision not to complain when he worked late, because he was working hard as Director of Operations and NCO in charge of the Concert Band. He was proud of his responsibility, and I knew he’d be with me as much as possible. (So he concluded that I didn’t care….)

But — still lots of happy times! Steve’s Brass Quintet was playing for a party in Venice during Carnevale — so we got tickets to join him! Steve had been wanting to show us his hang-outs in Pordenone.

Here’s Pordenone:

2004_02_20 1 Pordenone

2004_02_20 2 Pordenone

2004_02_20 3 Pordenone

2004_02_20 4 Pordenone

2004_02_20 5 Pordenone

We had dinner at “The Chicken Place.”

2004_02_20 6 Pordenone

2004_02_20 7 Pordenone

Our day in Venice had relentless, pouring rain. In fact, Steve’s gig in Venice was cancelled because it was an outdoor job. We went to Venice anyway — and ended up spending two hours over lunch just to get out of the rain.

Here’s Timmy with the DNA helix scarf I’d knitted for him.

2004_02_21 1 Venice DNA Scarf

Hey, it was Carnevale! We played with Timmy’s mask.

2004_02_21 2 Timmy Mask

2004_02_21 3 Josh Venice

2004_02_21 4 Josh Mask

2004_02_21 5 Josh Mask

2004_02_21 6 Timmy Mask

We did feed the pigeons in St. Mark’s Square. But I didn’t take many pictures at all, because I didn’t want to get my camera wet.

On March 9th, we got a really big snow. 10 inches in our backyard! The kids and Steve had a grand snowball fight while I took pictures.

2004_03_09 1 Big Snow

2004_03_09 2 Snow

2004_03_09 3 Snowmonkey

And then came Spring!

2004_03_15 Pussy Willows

And Josh’s 16th Birthday!

2004_03_19 1 Josh's Birthday

2004_03_19 2 Birthday

Reading my journal is fun. (This was the last year I was able to purchase a nice calendar that had space for short journaling across from the entries for each date. It’s perfect for just summaries of what happened. I had one most of the years in Germany, so that was nice, and how I kept track of all those castles.) Here’s a paragraph I like about Timmy:

Timothy did a report telling The Odyssey to his class this week — He got 225 out of 200 points! He said it was his “dream assignment” — and he didn’t even need to use notes!

I don’t think I’d mentioned that Timothy went through a few years where he really loved Mythology. Updated with information from Tim: This started in a TAG class in 1st grade on Mythology and had continued with reading about it, and absorbing everything mythological. We had a miniseries dramatizing The Odyssey that he watched over and over.

And this year, Josh did get to compete in the District Brain Bowl competition on March 25-26. He was definitely the star of their team, even as a Sophomore. (Every grade must be represented.) They took 4th place out of 21 teams. When I went to watch on Friday, I got to see them win three games in a row.

2004_03_25 Brain Bowl

I took Spring Break off, but we did only day trips to save money. First, we went to Frankfurt’s Natural History Museum, the Senckenberg.

2004_04_04 Senckenberg Museum

2004_04_04 2 Senckenberg

2004_04_04 3 Senckenberg

2004_04_04 4 Senckenberg

2004_04_04 5 Senckenberg

Next we went back to the Math Museum in Giessen, the Mathematikum!

2004_04_06 1 Math Museum

2004_04_06 2 Mathmatikum

And our next outing was the Keltenmuseum in Hochdorf near Stuttgart and saw a 2,500 year old gravesite, the Fürstengrab. It was also a beautiful day.

2004_04_08 1 Furstengrab

2004_04_08 2 Furstengrab

2004_04_08 3 Furstengrab

That day we also visited Castle #153, Hohenasperg.

2004_04_08 4 Hohenasperg

2004_04_08 5 Hohenasperg

2004_04_08 6 Hohenasperg

2004_04_08 7 Hohenasperg

2004_04_08 8 Hohenasperg

But the highlight of April was a trip to Keukenhof! Well, really to the Netherlands. The excuse was that there was to be a European Biola Alumni Chapter gathering in Amsterdam on Saturday night. It ended up that no one else there attended Biola the same time as we did, but the food was good, and it was a great excuse to go to Keukenhof.

Steve and I both had Friday off, so we left as soon as Josh got home from school, and got two nights in the Holiday Inn in Leiden. So we got up early and spent the day Saturday at Keukenhof. I was just learning to use the Macro function on my camera.

I do so love Keukenhof! In the Springtime, it’s the most beautiful place in the world.

2004_04_17 1 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 2 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 3 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 4 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 5 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 6 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 7 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 8 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 9 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 10 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 11 Chess

2004_04_17 12 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 13 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 14 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 15 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 16 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 17 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 18 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 19 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 20 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 21 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 22 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 23 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 24 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 25 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 26 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 27 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 28 Chess

2004_04_17 29 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 30 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 31 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 32 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 33 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 34 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 35 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 36 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 37 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 38 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 39 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 40 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 41 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 42 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 43 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 44 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 45 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 46 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 47 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 48 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 49 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 50 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 51 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 52 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 53 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 54 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 55 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 56 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 57 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 58 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 59 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 60 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 61 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 62 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 63 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 64 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 65 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 66 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 67 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 68 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 69 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 70 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 71 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 72 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 73 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 74 Keukenhof

Okay, believe it or not, I really cut down the number of pictures I posted from the number I took!

That night, we went to the Biola gathering in Amsterdam. The next day, we went back into Amsterdam and visited the Van Gogh Museum. (Where I couldn’t take pictures.) Then we walked to the big English-language bookstore we’d found the night before. We said good-by to Steve — he had a band trip that began in Amsterdam, and I drove the family home.

Our wonderful Amsterdam trip highlights how many of our cool adventures in Europe were long weekend trips or day trips. It was so wonderful living in Europe, so you could do things like that as an afterthought. It was a long time before I could see a long weekend on the calendar and not think about what fantastic place we should go.

I was in the habit now of taking tulip pictures, so I took some in our own yard.

2004_04_21 1 Tulips

2004_04_21 2 Tulips

2004_04_21 3 Blossoms

2004_04_21 4 Tulips

When I got home, my Mom called to say that Grandma Bates had died. Steve was out of town the rest of the week, but my friend Leah took me to the airport on Friday for me to go to the funeral in Oregon.

I got to see lots and lots of family.

2004_04_23 1 Cousins

2004_04_23 2 Cousins

2004_04_24 1 Funeral

2004_04_24 2 Linda

2004_04_24 3 Bates

2004_04_24 4 Cousins

2004_04_24 5 Donna

2004_04_24 6 Dad

In case you’re wondering, this picture below is me and my siblings who made it: Marcy, Robert, Melanie, Ron, Rick, me, Peter, and Abby.

2004_04_24 7 Us

The cemetery was lovely.

2004_04_24 8 Cemetery

And we went back to Grandma’s house (where Aunt Susie still lives) afterward.

2004_04_24 9 Grandma's House

And back home, our flowers were still blooming!

2004_04_27 1 Flowers

2004_04_27 2 Flowers

2004_04_27 3 Flowers

2004_04_27 4 Flowers

For Mothers’ Day that year, we went to the castle restaurant at Burg Trifels.

2004_05_09 1 Burg Trifels

2004_05_09 2 Trifels

2004_05_09 3 Trifels

2004_05_09 4 Trifels

2004_05_09 5 Trifels

2004_05_09 6 Trifels

My niece Kristen sent us a Flat Stanley. In May, the Rapps bloom, and I just love to look at the yellow fields, so first I took Flat Stanley among the Rapps in the fields by Sembach.

2004_05_12 1 Flat Stanley

2004_05_12 2 Flat Stanley

2004_05_12 3 Rapps

2004_05_12 4 Rapps

2004_05_12 5 Rapps

And the next weekend, I took a trip to Bremen to see my sister Wendy. Of course I brought Flat Stanley along!

2004_05_15 1 Wendy

Such a lovely walk through the park to the Mill Café.

2004_05_15 2 Park

2004_05_15 3 Mill

2004_05_15 4 Flat Stanley

2004_05_15 5 Musikanten

This is what happens when there’s a big game.

2004_05_15 6 Gameface

Be careful, Flat Stanley!

2004_05_15 7 Lion

Then on Sunday, Wendy took me to the Rhododendron Park. More flowers!

2004_05_16 1 Rhododendron Park

2004_05_16 2 Wendy

2004_05_16 3 Rhododendrons

2004_05_16 4 Flowers

2004_05_16 5 Flowers

2004_05_16 6 Flowers

2004_05_16 7 Wendy

2004_05_16 8 Flowers

2004_05_16 9 Flowers

2004_05_16 10 Flowers

2004_05_16 11 Flowers

2004_05_16 12 Flowers

2004_05_16 13 Flowers

2004_05_16 14 Flowers

2004_05_16 15 Flowers

2004_05_16 16 Flowers

2004_05_16 17 Flowers

2004_05_16 18 Flowers

2004_05_16 19 Flowers

2004_05_16 20 Flowers

2004_05_16 21 Flowers

2004_05_16 22 Flowers

2004_05_16 23 Flowers

2004_05_16 24 Flowers

2004_05_16 25 Flowers

2004_05_16 26 Flowers

2004_05_16 27 Flowers

2004_05_16 28 Flowers

2004_05_16 29 Flowers

2004_05_16 30 Flowers

2004_05_16 31 Flowers

2004_05_16 32 Flowers

2004_05_16 33 Flowers

2004_05_16 34 Flowers

2004_05_16 35 Flowers

2004_05_16 36 Wendy

2004_05_16 37 Wendy

2004_05_16 38 Flowers

2004_05_16 39 Flowers

2004_05_16 40 Flowers

2004_05_16 41 Flowers

2004_05_16 42 Flowers

2004_05_16 43 Flowers

2004_05_16 44 Flowers

After lunch, we took the train out to Wildeshausen, where Wendy’s nice landlady spent her weekends, tending her mother.

First, we went to some Bronze Age sites with acres and acres of burial mounds, covered with heather.

2004_05_16 45 Wildeshausen

2004_05_16 46 Wildeshausen

2004_05_16 47 Wildeshausen

2004_05_16 48 Wildeshausen

2004_05_16 49 Wildeshausen

To quote my journal, “Then we walked around fields of Rapps to a site with standing stones and a reconstructed king’s grave mound. It was all very amazing and 2500 years old.”

2004_05_16 50 Wildeshausen

2004_05_16 51 Wildeshausen

2004_05_16 52 Wildeshausen

2004_05_16 53 Wildeshausen

2004_05_16 54 Wildeshausen

2004_05_16 55 King's Grave

2004_05_16 56 King's Grave

2004_05_16 57 Grave

2004_05_16 58 Grave

2004_05_16 59 Grave

2004_05_16 60 Grave

2004_05_16 61 Wendy

2004_05_16 62 Flat Stanley

2004_05_16 63 Wendy

2004_05_16 64 Grave

2004_05_16 65 Grave

2004_05_16 66 Grave

2004_05_16 67 Wildeshausen

2004_05_16 68 Wildeshausen

We finished up our time at Wildeshausen with tea and Kuchen and then walked Wendy’s landlady’s cute dog.

2004_05_16 69 Dog

2004_05_16 70 Wildeshausen

2004_05_16 71 Wildeshausen

2004_05_16 72 Wildeshausen

I took the train back on the 17th. Then my journal says this:

That evening, Steve and I were sitting out on the back patio enjoying the dazzlingly beautiful weather, when we said something about how long we’d known each other. Steve underestimated, then I said, no, I’d been 19 when we met, so it had been twenty years. He said something about missing the halfway point when we’d known each other half our lives, and we started figuring dates, when I realized it was exactly 20 years to the day from the day I fell in love with Steve!

(The day I refer to was the day Steve went to my dorm room open house and we read Winnie-the-Pooh out loud with a group, and I realized when he left that I’d just fallen for him.)

A week later, 20 years from our first date, when Steve took me to the Mongolian Barbecue for lunch, we went out to lunch in honor of the anniversary. Steve gave me a card in which he’d written, “If I had it to do over again, I’d have asked you out sooner! Happy 20th Anniversary of our first date! I love you! — Steve”

(So, yeah, I was blindsided by the events of the following year….)

Meanwhile, we actually went castling on the weekend of the 22nd. It was a little ruin outside Kaiserslautern, Ruine Beilstein, our Castle #154.

2004_05_22 1 Beilstein

2004_05_22 2 Beilstein

2004_05_22 3 Beilstein

2004_05_22 4 Beilstein

2004_05_22 5 Beilstein

2004_05_22 6 Beilstein

2004_05_22 7 Beilstein

Flat Stanley was still sharing our adventures!

2004_05_22 8 Flat Stanley

2004_05_22 9 Beilstein

2004_05_22 10 Beilstein

2004_05_22 12 Beilstein

2004_05_22 13 Josh

2004_05_22 14 Timmy

2004_05_22 15 Josh

2004_05_22 16 Beilstein

My notes say that was when I started a monthly Writer’s Group at Sembach Library that met after we closed. That was when I met some wonderful friends I have kept to this day.

And May 27 was an Awards Ceremony for Josh. My notes about that:

Josh got a “K-Award” for Honors English. This award is one where teachers nominate the most outstanding student in a class. It was ironic that he got it in English — the same class he got his lowest grade ever [an F, for not turning in homework] second quarter! Still, Ms. Knox did tell me that Josh is her favorite student, so perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised.

Josh also got the award for the highest score in the school on the AMC12 Exam; he got a special certificate of achievement from the Mathematical Association of America for being a Sophomore who scored higher than 90.

That week we went to Holiday Park in honor of Josh’s 16th birthday in March. I didn’t bring my camera. Notes about that:

The only really good roller coaster in the park is Ge-Force, but it’s my favorite roller coaster ever. I got to ride it 5 times. Josh rode it 7 times, and his friend Mike 6 times. It’s an incredibly fast roller coaster with wonderful drops and twists. There’s an 82 degree drop at the beginning (almost vertical) that also twists from side to side.

I found the more I relaxed and enjoyed it, the more I loved it. The looping roller coaster in the park gave me a headache from banging my head, but Ge Force has no upper body constraints — a tight seat belt and lap bar hold you in. It’s more fun if you reach your hands high and fly free! It got rid of my headache!

Poor Mike kept his eyes closed and hated it the first time, but with peer pressure, by the end of the day we had him converted.

And now I was gearing up for turning 40! In honor of that, I scheduled my first colonoscopy. It was awful! Not so much because of the colonoscopy, but because not eating before gave me one of my worst headaches ever, and it even was still there when I woke up from the anesthetic. Steve was out of town, so I was having to function and take care of the kids with the headache, too.

Wendy came to visit on the weekend before my Monday birthday. I took her to the coffee place where she met my dear co-worker Elfriede. Then we went for a hike on the Donnersberg and found Castle #155, Ruine Tannenfels, the last ruin on the Donnersberg I hadn’t touched yet. We also found a Keltische Ringwall, totally covered with earth, but definitely where the map said it was.

2004_06_13 1 Donnersberg

2004_06_13 2 Donnersberg

2004_06_13 3 Donnersberg

2004_06_13 4 Donnersberg

2004_06_13 5 Donnersberg

2004_06_13 6 Donnersberg

2004_06_13 7 Donnersberg

2004_06_13 8 Donnersberg

We went out to dinner as a family that night, and by that time we’d started our family tradition of writing a story where each person contributes one word and we go around. My notes say that night our stories were especially witty!

Then on my 40th birthday, I took Wendy to the train station and picked up Steve at Hahn Airport. He’d gotten special permission to come home from a trip by plane instead of by bus in order to be with me on my 40th birthday!

Steve and the boys gave me a book from Britain, a British type Logic Puzzles magazine, a box of shortbread, some good books, a blouse from Lands’ End, some German games, and a bread maker. And after lunch, we went off castling!

We went northwest, to the Hunsrück Burgen und Schieferstrasse. I wanted to find the one just past Kyrburg, Ruine Kallenfels. We succeeded, with some tricky driving by Steve on some little narrow lanes winding up the hill. So that was our Castle #156.

2004_06_14 1 Kallenfels

Steve pretty much no longer let me take his picture. In a passive-aggressive way, though. (He never actually told me not to.)

2004_06_14 2 Kallenfels

2004_06_14 3 Kallenfels

2004_06_14 4 Kallenfels

2004_06_14 5 Kallenfels

2004_06_14 6 Kallenfels

2004_06_14 7 Josh

2004_06_14 8 Josh

2004_06_14 9 Kallenfels

We looked for a castle restaurant at Kyrburg, which I think had been Castle #9. The restaurant was closed on Monday (as so many German restaurants are), but we roamed over the castle.

2004_06_14 10 Kyrburg

2004_06_14 11 Kyrburg

2004_06_14 12 Kyrburg

2004_06_14 13 Kyrburg

2004_06_14 14 Kyrburg

2004_06_14 15 Kyrburg

2004_06_14 16 Kyrburg

2004_06_14 17 Kyrburg

2004_06_14 18 Kyrburg

2004_06_14 19 Kyrburg

2004_06_14 20 Kyrburg

I like the cake my family made for me!

2004_06_14 21 Cake

So, the year ended happily, with me excited for what my forties would hold. It’s just as well I didn’t know!

Project 52 – Week 39, Part One – Scotland and More

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 39!

2003_11_27 4 Eklunds

39 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I began Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week I’m taking one year of my life and blogging about it. This week, I’m covering the year I was 39 — June 14, 2003, to June 14, 2004. I have now come 3/4 of the way through my life! Though I’m afraid I think of the year I was 39 as the last year of innocence. If I’d known how hard my 40s would be….

When I was 38, we made our final move during our ten years in Germany and moved to Sembach Village. Jade (then called Josh) started high school, and we extended one more year in Germany — so that we could extend three more years this year and finish our time in Germany when Josh graduated from high school.

According to my journal, the summer began with the new Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Instead of going somewhere to get it at midnight, Steve got a copy on Saturday morning (June 21) at the Sembach Shopette, and our family read the first chapter together (Steve reading aloud) during my lunch break. We continued our tradition of reading it aloud at bedtime, but were holding more marathon reading sessions than we had before.

The next week, Josh got their first job! It was a student job at the Bowling Center. Josh learned to cook food and take orders and set up bowling lanes. It was a six-week program, and they still got to go on vacation with us and go to Ireland for three weeks later in the summer.

Also that week, Steve found out he made Master Sergeant! It was the lowest percentage promoted in six years — which they had published in advance, so Steve didn’t think he had a chance. Of course, he didn’t actually get the promotion for a year (which is an honor — the order’s by seniority). But he was happy about the increased responsibility.

Then the week of July 8 to 15, we vacationed in Scotland! Another wonderful UK trip. Now we’d visited England, Ireland and Scotland. (Some day, I very much want to go to Wales!) We touched castles 144 to 148: Stirling Castle, Edinburgh Castle, Urquhart Castle, Duart Castle, and Kilchurn Castle. My favorite of those was Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness. I’ll now include some Scottish pictures.

The first day, we went to Stirling Castle. (Had I mentioned that Timmy got glasses?)

2003_07_08 1 Stirling Castle

2003_07_08 2 Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle had an incredible view.

2003_07_08 3 Stirling View

2003_07_08 4 Stirling Castle

2003_07_08 5 Stirling

2003_07_08 6 Stirling View

2003_07_08 7 Timmy Lookout

2003_07_08 8 Josh Throne

2003_07_08 9 Us Throne

2003_07_08 10 Stirling

Here are my Three Wise Monkeys:

2003_07_08 11 Wise Monkeys

Here’s the village of Culross, where we stayed in a B&B:

2003_07_08 12 Culross

The next day, we went to Edinburgh.

2003_07_09 1 Edinburgh

2003_07_09 2 Edinburgh

2003_07_09 3 Edinburgh

2003_07_09 4 Edinburgh

And that evening we rambled up the hill and through the lanes to Culross Abbey.

2003_07_09 5 Culross

2003_07_09 6 Culross

2003_07_09 7 Culross

2003_07_09 8 Culross

2003_07_09 9 Culross

2003_07_09 10 Culross

2003_07_09 11 Culross

2003_07_09 12 Culross

2003_07_09 13 Culross

2003_07_09 14 Culross

Genuine Scottish thistles!

2003_07_09 100 Thistles

The next day we headed north and stopped at the Scottish Crannog Centre, where we learned about prehistoric life in Scotland.

2003_07_10 1 Crannog

2003_07_10 2 Crannog

2003_07_10 3 Crannog

2003_07_10 4 Crannog

2003_07_10 5 Crannog

We arrived that night in Loch Ness! We had time to throw some rocks into the lake.

2003_07_10 6 Loch Ness

2003_07_10 7 Loch Ness

2003_07_10 8 Loch Ness

2003_07_10 9 Loch Ness

In the morning, we took a Nessie-hunting boat tour of Loch Ness. (So beautiful!)

2003_07_11 1 Loch Ness

2003_07_11 2 Loch Ness

2003_07_11 3 Loch Ness

2003_07_11 4 Loch Ness

2003_07_11 5 Loch Ness

2003_07_11 6 Loch Ness

2003_07_11 7 Loch Ness

And what do you know?!! We found Nessie!

2003_07_11 100 Nessie

And in the afternoon, we visited Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness.

2003_07_11 8 Urquhart

2003_07_11 9 Urquhart

2003_07_11 10 Urquhart

2003_07_11 11 Urquhart

2003_07_11 12 Urquhart

2003_07_11 13 Urquhart

2003_07_11 14 Urquhart

2003_07_11 15 Urquhart

2003_07_11 16 Urquhart

2003_07_11 17 Urquhart

Our next adventure was a ferry to the Isle of Mull, where we spent a night.

2003_07_12 1 Ferry

2003_07_12 2 Ferry

2003_07_12 3 Ferry

And of course our first stop on Mull was Duart Castle.

2003_07_12 4 Duart Castle

More Thistles there!

2003_07_12 5 Thistles

2003_07_12 6 Duart

2003_07_12 7 Duart

2003_07_12 8 Mull

Here’s what I wrote about our drive to our hotel, the Argyll Arms:

Then Steve drove an hour on the one-lane road to our hotel. The Isle of Mull is an amazing landscape. Tall mountains of dark green tower on either side of you, completely empty of any sign of human existence.

2003_07_12 9 Mull

2003_07_12 10 Mull

2003_07_12 11 Thistle

One thing I remember about the Argyll Arms was a truly awesome breakfast. (Though they are always good in the U.K.)

We also wandered along the bay in front of the hotel.

2003_07_12 12 Bay

2003_07_12 13 Bay

The next day we took a ferry to Iona Island, and from there a boat to Staffa Island, which has basalt columns just like the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland.

2003_07_13 1 Boat

2003_07_13 2 Staff

2003_07_13 3 Staffa

2003_07_13 4 Staffa

There’s Fingal’s Cave, which we got to go inside.

2003_07_13 5 Staffa

2003_07_13 6 Staffa

2003_07_13 7 Staffa

2003_07_13 8 Staffa

2003_07_13 9 Fingal's Cave

2003_07_13 10 Fingal's Cave

Watching the water go in and out of Fingal’s Cave was impressive.

2003_07_13 11 Fingal's Cave

2003_07_13 12 Staffa

Then on top of the island, it’s a huge grassy area. The rest ran to go see some puffins we were told about, but I was worried about meeting the boat.

2003_07_13 13 Staffa

2003_07_13 14 Staffa

2003_07_13 15 Staffa

2003_07_13 16 Staffa

2003_07_13 17 Staffa

2003_07_13 18 Staffa

2003_07_13 19 Staffa

2003_07_13 20 Staffa

2003_07_13 21 Staffa

2003_07_13 22 Staffa

2003_07_13 23 Staffa

After Staffa, we wandered around Iona for a bit.

2003_07_13 24 Iona

2003_07_13 25 Iona

2003_07_13 26 Iona

2003_07_13 27 Iona

2003_07_13 28 Iona

2003_07_13 29 Iona

2003_07_13 30 Iona

2003_07_13 31 Iona

At a small museum on Iona:

2003_07_13 32 Tim Monk

2003_07_13 33 Josh Monk

And back on Mull that night by the Argyll Arms.

2003_07_13 34 Argyll

2003_07_13 35 Mull

Poor Timmy got super sunburned that day!

2003_07_13 36 Sunburn

But we had a wonderful sunset from our hotel window.

2003_07_13 37 Mull

2003_07_13 38 Mull

The next day we took the ferry back to mainland Scotland.

2003_07_14 1 Ferry

2003_07_14 2 Ferry

2003_07_14 3 Ferry

We headed south that day and stopped at Kilchurn Castle.

2003_07_14 4 Kilchurn

2003_07_14 5 Kilchurn

2003_07_14 6 Kilchurn

2003_07_14 7 Kilchurn

2003_07_14 8 Kilchurn

2003_07_14 9 Kilchurn

2003_07_14 10 Kilchurn

2003_07_14 11 Kilchurn

2003_07_14 12 Kilchurn

2003_07_14 13 Kilchurn

2003_07_14 14 Kilchurn

And then another stop on the bonny, bonny shores of Loch Lomond. (We’d gotten a CD of Scottish songs to play in our rental car.)

2003_07_14 15 Loch Lomond

2003_07_14 16 Loch Lomond

2003_07_14 17 Loch Lomond

Our final B&B was at Largs, near Glasgow, but even nearer to the beach.

2003_07_14 18 Largs

2003_07_14 19 Largs

2003_07_14 20 Largs

2003_07_14 21 Largs

So that was our Scottish vacation. A truly lovely week!

When we got back, Josh headed to Ireland for one more summer session at Dublin City University’s Centre for Talented Youth. (I think they did Scriptwriting that year.)

We had lots of flowers in our yard at Sembach, flowers I didn’t plant but thoroughly enjoyed. I’ll insert some flower pictures here and there.

2003_07_29 1 Sembach

And Timmy turned 9 years old on July 29! We gave him the usual choice between a birthday party and a trip to an amusement park with a friend. And he chose — to stay home! He wanted to play the video games he presumed he’d get. And had a great time doing so! As well as a Bionicle board game.

2003_07_29 4 Timmy

2003_07_29 5 Birthday

2003_07_29 6 Birthday

2003_07_29 7 Birthday

2003_07_29 8 Birthday

The rest of my life, I was still working at the Sembach Base Library, still loving it. By now I worked with a third band wife, Pat King, after Jeanine and Robin had moved on. Elfriede was still there. But now my boss was Rochelle, after Jeff and Mary had moved on.

2003_07_29 3 Timmy at Library

I was still writing Sonderbooks, now posting it as a website, still as a zine with issues. I posted Sonderbooks #59 on Timmy’s birthday. I had taken a writing course in the Spring, which had given me an idea for a second children’s novel, which I was working hard to find time to write.

And alas — looking at it now, I see that my marriage was really hurting. I didn’t know it then. Yes, I write frequently in my journal about “lack of harmony” between me and Steve. And I was worried that he’d drink every night. But I also mention that I’m thankful that “we” are committed to our marriage. I had promised my kids we’d never get divorced, and I believed that Steve wouldn’t ever do that. When we did have disagreements or tension, I’d think we’d worked them out. I write many times in my journals how thankful I am that my husband loves me. I may have been trying to convince myself — but I succeeded.

It bothers me going through these pictures, that in most of the ones I took of Steve, he’s scowling at me. I liked to take his picture because I loved to look at him. But he didn’t want me to. At one point he told me he didn’t want to remember these times. (Sondy, how much clearer could he get?) I also notice that he didn’t ever seem to take my picture…. Sigh.

But Steve also traveled a lot. That summer we had record-breaking heat, getting up past 100 degrees. The only time that happened while we lived in Germany. And Steve was in Finland, where it was in the 70s!

We didn’t have air conditioning anywhere — normally it wasn’t necessary. So we kept our Rolladen (thick metal blinds) closed and huddled in our house.

But on one of the hottest days of the year, I met my Aunt Linda, who was visiting in Germany, at Heidelberg Castle with Timmy. (Josh was in Ireland.) It was a bit amusing, because we’d also been to Heidelberg on our coldest day in Germany, right when we first moved there.

2003_08_04 1 Heidelberg

2003_08_04 2 Heidelberg

2003_08_04 3 Linda

2003_08_04 4 Heidelberg

Then at the end of August, after Josh got back, we did something a little crazy: We tried out the Barefoot Path!

The website billed it as a 3 and a half kilometer foot massage. In practice? Ouch! The mud and water were bone-numbing cold. The sand was blazing hot. The grass might have felt good, but now it was dried up and prickly. And there were an overabundance of sharp little rocks. The best parts were crossing the Nahe River. It’s water was lovely, cool, and clear, and you could see little fish swimming past your feet. There was a suspension bridge on the way back with nice smooth footing.

2003_08_23 1 Barefoot Path

2003_08_23 2 Barefoot Path

2003_08_23 3 Barefoot Path

2003_08_23 4 Barefoot Path

2003_08_23 5 Barefoot Path

2003_08_23 6 Barefoot Path

On the way back, we stopped at a Cloister Ruin from a monastery built in 1108, Disibodenberg. Since it was fortified, I decided to count it as Castle #149.

2003_08_23 7 Disibodenberg

2003_08_23 8 Disibodenberg

2003_08_23 9 Disibodenberg

2003_08_23 10 Disibodenberg

2003_08_23 11 Disibodenberg

2003_08_23 12 Disibodenberg

2003_08_23 13 Disibodenberg

2003_08_23 14 Disibodenberg

2003_08_23 15 Disibodenberg

And look! Look! September 2003 was when I began designing my Prime Factorization Sweater! Here I am working out what colors to use for which numbers.

2003_09_06 PF Yarn

And in September, my sister Wendy came to visit! Wendy had moved to Bremen with her husband Roger. She came south to visit us! We took her to the Rhein River, and visited Castle #150, Burg Stolzenfels (“Castle Proud Rock”). (You can always find a new castle to visit on the Rhein River!)

2003_09_13 1 Wendy

2003_09_13 2 Stolzenfels

2003_09_13 3 Stolzenfels

2003_09_13 4 Stolzenfels

2003_09_13 5 Stolzenfels

2003_09_13 6 Stolzenfels

2003_09_13 7 Stolzenfels

2003_09_13 8 Stolzenfels

2003_09_13 9 Stolzenfels

2003_09_13 10 Stolzenfels

2003_09_13 11 Stolzenfels

2003_09_13 12 Stolzenfels

2003_09_13 13 Stolzenfels

2003_09_13 14 Stolzenfels

2003_09_13 15 Stolzenfels

2003_09_13 16 Stolzenfels

2003_09_13 17 Stolzenfels

And then the next day, I took Wendy into Kaiserslautern and we toured the Kaiserpfalz.

2003_09_14 1 Kaiserpfalz

2003_09_14 2 Kaiserpfalz

2003_09_14 3 Kaiserpfalz

2003_09_14 4 Kaiserpfalz

2003_09_14 5 Kaiserslautern

2003_09_14 6 Kaiserslautern

But after that, my journal talks about how good it is to have Steve back after lots of trips and NCO Academy. He took me to an opera in Kaiserslautern, and it was so nice to be with him. I was happy I understood the German übertiteln, too. Then the next day, we walked in the woods together near Sembach and discovered a secret tunnel-like path completely arched over with branches.

Oh and school had started. Timmy was in 4th grade and Josh in 10th grade.

And then in October, I took the train and visited Wendy in Bremen!

2003_10_11 1 Bremen

2003_10_11 2 Bremen

2003_10_11 3 Bremen

2003_10_11 4 Bremen

2003_10_11 5 Bremen

A couple of rare photos of our living room at Sembach.

2003_10_13 1 Sembach

2003_10_13 2 Sembach

For Halloween, we talked Timmy into trying Josh’s old phone costume.

2003_10_31 1 Timmy

Josh tried something else.

2003_10_31 2 Josh

We took a November hike on the Donnersberg.

2003_11_08 1 Hike Donnersberg

2003_11_08 2 Donnersberg

2003_11_08 3 Donnersberg

2003_11_08 4 Donnersberg

2003_11_08 5 Donnersberg

And there’s Burg Falkenstein!

2003_11_08 6 Falkenstein

2003_11_08 7 Falkenstein

I have an interesting note on that page about the kids’ teacher conferences. Timothy made the Gold Honor Roll. Then there was this:

Josh’s lowest grade was a C in Honors English. I was all set to be upset about it, but when I went to the conference, the teacher raved about how great Josh is. She said he’s the most popular person in class! He wowed them first when reciting a Shakespearean sonnet, then completely won their hearts reciting a Shakespearean sonnet of his own. The class voted on five people to represent them, and Josh got 23 votes out of 25! The next highest was 13! So I wasn’t left with much to scold Josh about. He needs to do his homework! That was the problem in all the classes with grades below A’s.

For Thanksgiving, the whole family visited Wendy in Bremen!

2003_11_27 1 Bremen

There was a Christmas Market going on in the main square.

2003_11_27 2 Christmasmarkt

2003_11_27 3 Bremen

2003_11_27 5 Bremen

Unfortunately, I had a headache the whole time we were there. I was also trying a new migraine preventative, Zoloft — which years later worked beautifully for me — but that time was awful and made me tense and agitated.

But then came December — and it was time for our trip to America, courtesy of the Air Force, when Steve signed up for 3 more years in Germany – to finish when Josh graduated from high school.

We went first to Phoenix, where Aunt Kay was visiting.

2003_12_21 1 Aunt Kay

2003_12_21 2 Phoenix

Stephanie and her family were there, too!

2003_12_21 3 Phoenix

2003_12_21 4 Phoenix

2003_12_21 5 Phoenix

2003_12_25 1 Phoenix

2003_12_25 2 Phoenix

2003_12_25 3 Phoenix

Here’s the whole Eklund Family!

2003_12_25 4 Eklund Family

They took us to the Science Center.

2003_12_27 1 Challenger Center

2003_12_27 2 Science Center

We drove to California, to Becky’s house in Encinitas, in time for my Dad’s birthday on the 28th.

2003_12_28 1 Frieses

2003_12_28 2 Dad's Birthday

2003_12_28 3 Frieses

And of course we had to go to the beach!

2003_12_29 1 Beach

2003_12_29 2 Beach

Tim demonstrated his pigeon-feeding technique.

2003_12_29 3 Pigeons

2003_12_29 4 Pigeons

Watch Kristen’s face change!

2003_12_29 5 Pigeons

2003_12_29 6 Pigeons

2003_12_29 7 Kristen

We went pedalboating on Mission Bay

2003_12_30 1 Mission Bay

2003_12_30 2 Mission Bay

2003_12_30 3 Mission Bay

2003_12_30 4 Mission Bay

And that was the Christmas of Dance Dance Revolution.

2003_12_31 DDR

Next, we went north to L.A., where my Dad got us a hotel room in Redondo Beach right on the water near his workplace.

2004_01_01 1 Portefino

And we went to Ruth’s! And so did Jennifer and Darlene!

2004_01_02 1 Ruth's

By now there were a lot of kids!

2004_01_02 2 Kids

Here’s a fun picture. The other boy is Carl John, Jennifer’s son, the same age as Tim.

2004_01_02 3 Tim and Carl John

I’d brought my Prime Factorization Sweater on this trip. My family thought it was very cool. But Carl John’s the one who, when I showed it to him, said, “That’s just weird!”

I had to admit he had a point!

We visited my brother Rick and his wife Pam in their apartment on Palos Verdes.

2004_01_03 1 Palos Verdes

2004_01_03 2 Rick

2004_01_03 3 Beach

2004_01_03 4 Beach

2004_01_03 5 Palos Verdes

2004_01_03 6 Palos Verdes

I don’t know when I’ve seen Catalina Island so clearly.

2004_01_03 7 Palos Verdes

In fact, it was our 17th wedding anniversary that day, so Rick and Pam kept our kids while Steve and I went out to dinner.

Darlene and Matt came to see us in Redondo Beach, now with little Ryan.

2004_01_06 1 LeVaults

2004_01_06 Me and Dar

2004_01_06 3 Me and Ryan

Later, Games at the Hatch House:

2004_01_07 1 Hatch House

2004_01_07 2 Hatch House

2004_01_07 3 Hatch House

(That’s Melanie, Abby, Marcy, Nathan, Peter, Ron, and Robert.)

2004_01_07 4 Hatch House

On the way back to Encinitas, we stopped at the San Juan Capistrano Mission, where the swallows return every year on Josh’s birthday.

2004_01_07 5 SJ Mission

2004_01_07 6 SJC Mission

2004_01_07 7 SJC Mission

2004_01_07 8 SJC Mission

2004_01_07 9 SJC Mission

And more DDR before we went back to Phoenix.

2004_01_08 1 DDR

In Phoenix, Gram E and Gramp E took us to the Wildlife Zoo.

2004_01_11 1 Phoenix Zoo

2004_01_11 2 Zoo

2004_01_11 3 Zoo

Gramp E took Timmy to the park to shoot off some rockets and try his new scooter!

2004_01_12 1 Rockets

2004_01_12 2 Rockets

2004_01_12 3 Rockets

2004_01_12 4 Rockets

2004_01_12 5 Scooter

Okay, I’m going to have to stop there and call this Part One. I thought, because I had a snow day, that I could take my time and include all the pictures I wanted to. Oops! It’s already midnight, so I need to stop! There are 10 photo CDs left for the year I was 39. I’m going to have to try to be more concise when I post Part Two!

Project 52 – Week 38 – Friends, Family, Travels

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 38!

2002_06 20 Friends

38 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I began Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week I’m taking one year of my life and blogging about it. This week, I’m covering the year I was 38 — June 14, 2002, to June 14, 2003. Once again, the challenge is summarizing, not posting all the wonderful pictures, and trying to get it down to one post.

Last time, I mentioned that on my 38th birthday, we were in Chicago, where Jade (then called Josh) was competing in the National MathCounts competition.

Now, the two previous years when Josh had done very well in MathCounts but hadn’t quite made the national DoDDS team (6th when they needed to be 4th), those years the team had gone to Washington, DC, to compete. So my heart had gotten set on the year that Josh made the team we’d go to DC. And then when Josh did make the team — the competition was in Chicago!

So — we decided to make a trip to DC on the way home from Chicago. Steve had to get back to work, but Josh, Timmy, and I made a stop in Virginia to see my dear friends Kathe and Darlene.

We stayed at Kathe’s house. Kathe now had two kids, Tim and Ben. They are the same distance apart as Jade and my Tim — only my Tim is the youngest and Kathe’s Tim is the oldest. (First Timothy and Second Timothy. Back then, my Tim was Timmy and Kathe’s Tim was Tim. Who knew they’d ever live near each other?) Here are Kathe and Ben.

2002_06 1 Kathe and Ben

And we spent a day in DC.

2002_06 2 Tims Smithsonian

2002_06 3 Tims

2002_06 4 Tims

2002_06 5 DC

2002_06 6 DC

2002_06 7 DC

Oh look! Darlene’s oldest, Ryan, was born by then, and was with us in DC.

2002_06 8 Ryan

2002_06 9 DC

2002_06 10 Smithsonian

Here’s an extra cute one of Kathe and Ben.

2002_06 11 Kathe and Ben

This was another day in DC. We wanted to go to Ford’s Theater (because of Tim’s project on Lincoln), but it was closed. We did see the room where Lincoln died.

2002_06 12 DC

(Kathe was such a nice hostess, taking us all around!)

Finally a picture with Josh! Later, Kathe took us to Shenandoah Caverns. Next to the caverns, there’s a parade float museum. We explored it for awhile.

2002_06 14 Shenandoah

2002_06 15 Float

2002_06 16 Shenandoah

Back at Darlene’s house, little Ryan was at an adorable age!

2002_06 17 Ryan

2002_06 18 LeVaults

Our friends the Ciufos (from Germany and Illinois) were now stationed in DC, so they came to see us at Darlene’s house and all the kids played together.

2002_06 19 Ciufos

2002_06 20 Ciufos

It wasn’t quite the 4th of July, but we set off fireworks while we were in America.

2002_06 21 Fireworks

And that was the second time I got to visit Gateway Community Church, then meeting at Rachel Carson Middle School!

2002_06 23 Friends

2002_06 24 Barsottis

Josh enjoyed Kathe’s dogs.

2002_06 25 Dogs

A Group Picture before we went back home.

2002_06 26 Group

Back home, Germany was doing well in the World Cup! This picture was taken out our window.

2002_07 1 Deutschland

We’d spent our money on the trip to America, so we did shorter trips that summer. Here’s Schloss Dhaun.

2002_07 2 Schloss Dhaun

2002_07 3 Schloss Dhaun

2002_07 4 Dhaun

2002_07 5 Dhaun

2002_07 6 Dhaun

It’s always fun to fill a doorway! (Or window?)

2002_07 7 Timmy Window

2002_07 8 Dhaun

We did an overnight trip to go to LEGOLAND Deutschland, which was quite new.

2002_07 9 Legoland

2002_07 10 Legoland Lion

2002_07 11 Legoland

2002_07 12 Legoland

Now that I think about it: Josh is probably missing from the LEGOLAND photos because that was when they were in Ireland! Josh again went to the Ireland Centre for Talented Youth program at Dublin City University. This time we put Josh on the plane and didn’t get to take an Irish vacation ourselves. So it seemed like a good idea to do something special with Timmy. (My 2002 calendar is missing is why I had to remember that.)

Timmy turned 8 years old at the end of July.

2002_07 14 Timmy's Birthday

2002_07 15 Timmy's Birthday

Josh was back. They did not like getting their picture taken and had painted their fingernails in Ireland. (Perhaps there were some clues about their true gender? It was soon after that they grew their hair out.)

2002_07 16 Jade

We also took a trip to Detmold in northern Germany when my sister Marcy toured there with the Continental Singers.

2002_07 13 Detmold

2002_08 1 Detmold

Detmold had some amazing rock formations. And now Josh is the one letting me take their picture.

2002_08 2 Detmold

2002_08 3 Detmold

2002_08 4 Detmold

We visited Hameln on that trip.

2002_08 5 Hameln

That Fall, Timmy started 3rd grade and Josh started high school!

2002_09 2 Timmy 3rd grade

2002_09 Josh 9th grade

In October, my cousin Jani came to visit! We took her to stay with her former college roommate from Switzerland, traveling through the Black Forest.

2002_10 1 Jani

The Swiss family was charming, and fed us Raklete. We liked it so much, I bought Steve our own Raklete grill for his birthday that year.

And one of my favorite translation stories happened there. Jani’s friend was married, with an adorable two-year-old son. I mentioned how adorable the boy was. The father got out his dictionary and said, “Yes, he’s cute, but he gets this… raving madness.”

I laughed so hard, because I knew exactly what he meant! But I’d never before heard a child’s temper tantrums called raving madness. The perils of dictionary translation!

After dropping off Jani, we went back home by way of “Heidi’s Alp.” So beautiful!

2002_10 2 Switzerland

2002_10 3 Heidi's Alp

2002_10 4 Heidi's Alp

2002_10 5 Heidi's Alp

2002_10 6 Heidi's Alp

2002_10 7 Heidi's Alp

2002_10 8 Heidi's Alp

We drove through Liechtenstein on the way home, simply to say we’d been in another country.

2002_10 9 Liechtenstein

Jani came back to us before going back to America. Steve was on a trip, but I took her to Heidelberg.

2002_10 10 Heidelberg

2002_10 11 Heidelberg

2002_10 12 Heidelberg

2002_10 13 Jani

And another favorite, Burg Rheinfels:

2002_10 14 Rheinfels

2002_10 15 Rheinfels

2002_10 16 Rheinfels

Here’s the Raklete grill we got for Steve’s birthday. It’s a party and a meal both! You grill at the table. Put meats and veggies on top, and melt Raklete cheese underneath. Also boil some small potatoes to serve with it. So yummy! And it’s a lot of fun as each person cooks their own. (It’s making me hungry just thinking about it. Steve got to keep the grill when we left Germany.)

2002_11 1 Raklete

And in January 2003, we moved to Sembach Village. This was our fourth and final home during our 10 years in Germany. We’d never been crazy about the Alsenborn house. The Sembach house was no Gundersweiler and had no view, but it was very large with five bedrooms, a storage room, a living room, a huge den, and two kitchens. (For awhile, it had been rented as two apartments.) And we could still walk to great hiking.

2003_01 1 Moving

2003_01 2 Moving

2003 did not start well. I purposely planned to take two weeks to move, thinking that would take off the pressure — but it just prolonged the pressure. And on the day when we had rented a truck to move the big stuff — It snowed six inches.

We had a fiasco with trying to get our ID cards renewed — multiple trips to Ramstein. We all caught the flu that year and were each sick for at least a week. I got a sinus infection that stayed with me for weeks more. And lots and lots of headaches to go with that.

And then my Mom had a heart attack, at 61 years old. That took me by surprise. Her grandmothers were both long-lived. I hadn’t realized that one of her grandfathers died of a heart attack. Fortunately, it didn’t kill her, though she had bypass surgery, and we later came to think that surgery may have caused her Alzheimer’s to start sooner.

In 2003, though, I did sign up for a writing course with Gotham Writer’s Workshop. I ended up starting my second children’s novel, which I eventually did finish. It was nice having a course to work on — kept me doing it.

We didn’t do anything for our anniversary that year, since we were moving. But with Josh old enough to babysit, we went on dates more often. Steve started taking me to the opera in Kaiserslautern. The first one we saw was MacBeth by Verdi. It was an interesting experience to see an opera based on a play written in English, sung in Italian, with a German translation flashed on a screen above the stage. I could read German well enough to follow along what was happening.

In March, we started traveling again. We went to the Mathimatikum, “The World’s First and Only Math Museum” in Giessen.

2003_03_01 Mathematikum

2002_03_01 2 Mathematikum

2002_03_01 Mathematikum

2003_03_01 4 Mathematikum

2003_03_01 5 Mathematikum

2003_03_01 6 Mathematikum

2003_03_01 7 Mathematikum

Josh turned 15 on March 19.

2003_03_19 1 Josh's Birthday

2003_03_19 2 Josh's Birthday

But sadly, right around Josh’s birthday, the war in Iraq started. Which meant that all field trips for DoDDS schools were cancelled. Which meant that the big Brain Bowl competition, which Josh had been working toward for months — was cancelled. I did get to see Josh play against the faculty, and they were awesome. Each Brain Bowl team has to have one student from each grade (as well as I think two alternates who can be any grade). That year they had an outstanding team because the Senior who had been on the team four years was super good — and Josh, the Freshman, was super good. But alas! They didn’t get to prove their prowess that year. And the next year, they didn’t have Seniors who were quite as strong.

We were planning to send Josh to Ireland the next summer, and this time we were paying, so we didn’t do a big trip for Spring Break, either. We did some day trips.

We went back to Rheinfels — but this time Josh wrote a script and filmed a movie there — the Monster of Doctor Flugenstein. It was tremendous fun, and I enjoyed seeing the kids be once again enthusiastic about visiting a castle!

2003_04_09 1 Rheinfels

2003_04_09 2 Rheinfels

2003_04_09 3 Rheinfels

2003_04_09 4 Rheinfels

2003_04_09 5 Rheinfels

2003_04_09 6 Rheinfels

2003_04_09 7 Rheinfels

2003_04_09 8 Rheinfels

2003_04_09 9 Rheinfels

2003_04_09 10 Rheinfels

2003_04_09 11 Rheinfels

2003_04_09 12 Rheinfels

2003_04_09 13 Rheinfels

2003_04_09 14 Rheinfels

2003_04_09 15 Rheinfels

On April 13, we drove out to Verdun.

2003_04_13 1 Verdun

We touched Castle #136, the medieval Porte Chausée.

2003_04_13 2 Porte Chausee

Here’s what I wrote in my journal:

Sunday we drove two hours out to Verdun. It was another glorious day. We got a snack at the lovely Meuse waterfront and touched Castle #136 — The medieval Porte Chausée. Then we went to the Underground Citadel and did the ride that takes you through a re-creation of war time in the citadel. Finally, we drove out to the now nonexistent village of Fleury to the Battle of Verdun Memorial and Museum.

We learned about the horror of World War I. It’s no wonder the French are not in a hurry to go to war again!

Our new home had lovely Spring flowers.

2003_04 1 Tulips

2003_04 2 Crocuses

2003_04 3 Bubbles

Then when June rolled around, Steve’s parents came June 4-11. One of our trips with them was to the Rose Garden in Zweibrücken. We had a wonderful lunch featuring fresh Spargel (asparagus) there.

2003_06_07 Eklunds

2003_06_07 Gram E

2003_06_07 Roses

2003_06_07 1 Roses

2003_06_07 2 Roses

2003_06_07 3 Steve and Gram E

2003_06_07 4 Roses

2003_06_07 5 Roses

The next day we went to a Medieval Fest at Castle #139, Burg Satzvey.

2003_06_08 1 Burg Satzvey

2003_06_08 2 Burg Satzvey

2003_06_08 3 Burg Satzvey

2003_06_08 4 Burg Satzvey

2003_06_08 5 Burg Satzvey

They even had a jousting demonstration.

2003_06_08 6 Jousting

2003_06_08 7 Jousting

For my 39th Birthday, we had to go to a castle. I chose Neckarsteinach on the Neckar River, a town with four castles, the “Vier Burgen” above it. There was a hiking trail to all four castles. So we visited Castle #140, Hinterburg, Castle #141, Mittelburg, Castle #142, Vorderburg, and Castle #143, Burg Schadeck.

2003_06_14 0a Zu den Burgen

2003_06_14 1 Castle

2003_06_14 2 Castle

2003_06_14 3 Castle

2003_06_14 4 Castle

2003_06_14 5 Castle

2003_06_14 6 Castle

2003_06_14 7 Castle

2003_06_14 8 Castle

2003_06_14 9 Hiking

2003_06_14 10 Neckar

2003_06_14 11 Castle

2003_06_14 12 Castle

2003_06_14 13 Castle

Looking back on that year, I remember a lot more tension with Steve than I was willing to admit at that time. My journals still go on about how wonderful my husband is and how much I loved him. But I may have been convincing myself that everything was fine. When he does show up in photos, he’s just not as thoroughly enjoying himself. He went along, but his heart’s not in it like it used to be. Which makes me sad, looking back.

But — our kids were getting older, we were still traveling, I still loved my job, and I still loved living in Germany. We were now very close to the base, which added many levels of convenience. The bus stop situation was better, so I believe Josh was able to watch Timmy after school again. I was writing my second book, and this was the year I converted Sonderbooks, my e-mail newsletter of book reviews, into a website of book reviews.

Life was good! Next up was our vacation to Scotland the summer I was 39!

Project 52, Week 37 – More Amazing Travels!

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 37!

2001_07_07 1 Newgrange

37 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I began Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week I’m taking one year of my life and blogging about it. This week, I’m covering the year I was 37 — June 14, 2001, to June 14, 2002. Now, by this time we were taking truly amazing trips. And I took wonderful pictures. I’m going to promise myself that will eventually post all these albums of pictures on Facebook. But try to include only the best here.

Last time, I did manage to cover the year I was 36 in one post. So I’m going to try for a summary only. But it will be difficult! (Though it will help that I haven’t scanned most of the pictures. I did get scans when I got the film developed, but they are mostly too dark and don’t do the pictures justice. So stay tuned for albums on my Facebook page when I get them scanned!)

We hit 110 castles that June, visiting Burg Cochem on the Mosel River on June 24.

And then came my favorite vacation of all the ten years we lived in Europe — 3 weeks in Ireland!

The reason we went to Ireland was that in January Jade (then called Josh) had taken the SAT in 7th grade — and scored 700 Math and 680 Verbal. Of 20,000 top 7th graders taking it, they were in the top 110 verbal scores and top 210 math scores. Josh qualified for Johns Hopkins’ Study of Exceptional Talent, which had many summer programs. Well, one summer program was offered by Dublin City University’s Center for Talented Youth. What an opportunity! We wanted so much to sign Josh up! I asked my Dad and he was willing to pay the tuition — and Josh was headed to Ireland for 3 weeks!

But we couldn’t just let our 13-year-old go to Ireland all by themselves, could we? We decided it would be best to fly with Josh to Ireland and back home to Germany. (Ryan Air flights were very cheap.) So that meant we were going to have to spend a 3-week vacation in Ireland!

Ohhh, I wish I could talk about every detail of that trip! I’m sure it’s just as well I don’t have the pictures scanned. We started and ended in Dublin. And traveled all around the perimeter of the island in the three weeks.

Our first night was spent in Dublin. The next day we visited Newgrange — older than the pyramids — and then dropped Josh off. The Irish kids were friendly. It was a little scary to drop Josh off, but they ended up having a fantastic time.

That night, we drove to Hatch Castle! I had a book of all the castles in the British Isles, so of course I wanted to see that one while we were nearby. It didn’t turn out to be very big. But it was Hatch Castle!

2001_07_08 1 Hatch Castle

Then we spent the night in Carlingford, which of course also had a castle.

2001_07_08 0a Carlingford

And yes, I really need to stop giving the play-by-play. We spent a few nights at a Bed & Breakfast in Northern Ireland. My favorite place was the Giant’s Causeway, with the hexagonal pillars.

2001_07_11 10 Giant's Causeway

2001_07_11 11 Giant's Causeway

2001_07_11 12 Giant's Causeway

2001_07_11 13 Giant's Causeway

2001_07_11 14 Giant's Causeway

2001_07_11 15 Giant's Causeway

2001_07_11 16 Giant's Causeway

2001_07_11 17 Giant's Causeway

2001_07_11 18 Dunluce

But we spent our middle week in a self-catering farmhouse in the south of the country, but at a central location. While we were there was the only day that we had rain. That was perfect, since we stayed in the farmhouse and did our laundry.

2001_07_20 3 Farm Tour

We drove back north to a lovely Bed & Breakfast on the water just north of Dublin in the town of Skerries. Steve had to go back to work before we were done, so we took him to the airport. From then on, I didn’t do as much driving around, but Timmy and I had a great time in Skerries, and one day took the train into Dublin before picking Josh up at their graduation ceremony on the 27th.

Let me just say that Ireland is one of the most beautiful places in the world. I fell in love with it. We got some Irish music CDs and played them while Steve expertly drove us around the island in a rental car. And okay, I can’t resist posting a very few of my favorite pictures.

2001_07_10 1 Glenveagh

2001_07_16 1 Beehive

2001_07_16 2 Beehive

2001_07_16 3 Dingle

2001_07_16 4 Gallarus

2001_07_18 1 Killarney

2001_07_18 1a Killarney

2001_07_18 2 Torc Waterfall

2001_07_19 1 Cahir Castle

2001_07_19 2 Cahir Castle

2001_07_19 3 Cashel

2001_07_19 4 Cashel

Yes, I’ve kissed the Blarney Stone!

2001_07_20 1 Kissing

2001_07_20 2 Timmy Blarney

2001_07_20 Blarney Castle

2001_07_21 1 Lismore

2001_07_22 1 Skerries Harbor

2001_07_24 1 Beach

2001_07_24 2 Sondy Banks

When we got back to Germany, soon it was Timmy’s 7th Birthday.

Then on August 4, 2001, I wrote my first issue of Sonderbooks!

When I started Sonderbooks, I thought of it as an e-zine. So I wrote it in “issues” and emailed it out. I was reading so many books now that I was working in a library, I decided I wanted a way to tell people about them.

I was very excited when I quickly made some new friends via Sonderbooks. And of course, eventually (I think within a year) it became a website, I added a blog, and I added some supplementary blogs (like this one), and I still write it today!

The next big event, sadly, was September 11, 2001.

I was working at the library, scheduled to work until 7:00 pm. My co-worker Elfriede got a call from her neighbor, and little by little she told us something terrible was happening.

I ended up going home early (It happened around 5:00 pm) to see if my kids were okay. They didn’t know about it, but I felt better being with them. We ended up watching images on German TV while listening to American radio for hours. The base shut down. No school or work for a few days. We were all stunned. We went back to work and school on the 14th.

Things changed for the USAFE Band and with life on base at that time. Lots more security. Lots more.

Our next adventure was a weekend trip to the Black Forest and the Rheinfall in Switzerland on October 6-7.

2001_09_29 Stuttgart Zoo

2001_10_6 Titisee

2001_10_7 1 Rheinfall - Me

2001_10_7 2 Rheinfall

And don’t forget that even though we now lived in Alsenborn instead of Gundersweiler, we still could go on stunningly beautiful hikes, walking out our own door.

2001_11_3 1 Autumn Hike

2001_11_3 2 Autumn Hike

2001_11_3 3 Autumn

2001_11_3 4 Autumn

2001_11_3 5 Autumn

This one’s from a Medieval Fest at Castle #129, Ruine Ronneburg.

2001_11_4 1 Ronneburg

That year Timmy was Harry Potter for “Book Character Day.” We were still reading the Harry Potter books aloud. Josh was in 8th grade and Timmy was in 2nd grade. And my journal says that we saw the first Harry Potter movie on November 22, 2001, which was Thanksgiving Day. We had dinner at the Kaiserslautern Rathaus Restaurant (a tall tower) rather than cook a turkey ourselves that year. (I liked it that all German restaurants were open on Thanksgiving, and you weren’t keeping any workers from a holiday.)

2001_11 Book Character

I see that by now I was meeting with my friend Jeanine now and then to work on photo albums, and with my friend Leah to knit! (Still lots and lots of headaches on my calendar, though.)

And that year we really did get a White Christmas again!

2001_12 1 Snowman

Then January 3, 2002, was our 15th Wedding Anniversary! Steve and I took our first and only overnight trip away from the kids after Josh’s birth. (No, wait, we did one more in 2005.) We visited Rothenburg ob. der Tauber. It was bitter cold. We walked around the town and spent our brand new shiny Euros and used up all our Deutschmarks. I purchased Pu der Bär, Winnie-the-Pooh in German.

2002_01_03 Rothenburg

2002_01_03a Rothenburg

We had some nice sledding in the field next to Alsenborn!

2002_01_05 1 Sledding

2002_01_05 2 Sledding

Josh turned 14, and those are some MathCounts trophies behind them. Josh had already won 1st place in the “Chapter Competition” — 1st place in the Individual Round and 1st place in the Countdown Round.

2002_03_19 Josh's Birthday

March 20, 2002, was the DODDS “State” Competition. Josh had been 6th place in 7th grade — the top four go to National competition.

This year Josh got 2nd place on the written tests (which determines the team) — and 1st place in the Countdown Round!

Here’s how the Stars and Stripes described it:

MAINZ-KASTEL, Germany — Matt Lane and Joshua Eklund sat deadlocked at 2 apiece after 11 tough math questions between them, buzzers at the ready.

Matt, the top seed, had displayed his best poker face after each question, while emotions had danced all over Joshua’s.

Josh was the one who got that last question right.

Here Josh is happily preparing to be interviewed by AFN TV.

2002_03_20 MathCounts

2002_03_20a MathCounts

And then — I finally got a digital camera! The literally hundreds of dollars I spent developing film for the Ireland pictures convinced me it was time.

Our next adventure was a week in Italy during Spring Break. The cool thing about that was that RyanAir was expanding its service to Italy — so we got plane tickets for 50 cents each! Now, with taxes and fees, it ended up costing us a total of $60 for the flight, but that was an awfully good deal! Mind you, with renting a car and hotels and the way we couldn’t seem to find inexpensive meals — It was still an expensive trip. But we still got a 50 cent flight to Italy.

I remember a big fight with Steve on that trip, where he threatened to leave me. Why did it take me so completely by surprise when he really did leave me a few years later? I guess once I got over it, I focused on enjoying Europe and always took the optimistic view….

But other than that, the trip was wonderful. We flew in to Bergamo, went to Sirmione and Verona, Venice, Padova, Bologna, Lucca, Pisa, Carrara, then back to Bergamo to fly home.

2002_04_08 1 Sirmione

2002_04_08 2 Sirmione

I did love that Steve had already had many opportunities to go to Venice with the band — but he saved it to visit the first time with me.

2002_04_10 1 Venice

2002_04_10 2 Venice

2002_04_10 3 Venice

2002_04_10 4 Venice

2002_04_10 5 Venice

2002_04_10 6 Venice

2002_04_10 7 Venice

The favorite thing of everyone else in the family was feeding the pigeons in St. Mark’s Square. But that worked– I loved to take their pictures!

2002_04_10 8 Pigeons

2002_04_10 9 Pigeons

2002_04_10 10 Pigeons

2002_04_10 11 Pigeons

2002_04_10 12 Pigeons

2002_04_10 13 Pigeons

2002_04_10 14 Pigeons

2002_04_11 1 Pigeons

2002_04_11 2 Pigeons

2002_04_11 3 Pigeons

2002_04_11 4 Pigeons

2002_04_11 5 Pigeons

2002_04_11 6 Pigeons

2002_04_11 7 Venice

2002_04_11 8 Venice

2002_04_13 1 Pisa

2002_04_13 2 Pisa

2002_04_13 3 Pisa

2002_04_13 4 Pisa

2002_04_13 5 Pisa

2002_04_13 6 Pisa

2002_04_13 7 Pisa

2002_04_12 1 Lucca

2002_04_12 2 Lucca

2002_04_12 3 Lucca

2002_04_14 1 Cararra

2002_04_14 2 Cararra

This next is too adorable not to share. Timmy did a project where we videotaped him reading the Gettysburg Address as Abraham Lincoln.

2002_05 1 Lincoln Timmy

And I took some pictures of some of the most wonderful people in my life!

Here’s Jeanine:

2002_03 1 Jeanine

Here’s my knitting buddy, Leah:

2002_05 2 Leah

Here’s my dear co-worker, Elfriede:

2002_05 3 Elfriede

And here’s my boss at that time, Mary Wallace:

2002_05 4 Mary

Josh got to play Petrucchio in a “Young People’s” version of “The Taming of the Shrew.”

2002_05 5 Taming of the Shrew

2002_05 6 Taming of the Shrew

And the year finished up in Chicago for the National MathCounts competition! Steve’s sister and her family met us there, as well as Steve’s parents.

Here are the cousins:

2002_06 0a Cousins

On my 38th birthday, we girls (Gram E, Stephanie, Karli, and me) went to the American Girl show.

2002_06 0b American Girl

2002_06 1 Chicago

2002_06 2 Chicago

2002_06 3 Chicago

There was a reception at the science museum.

2002_06 4 Reception

Here’s the MathCounts Team from DODDS.

2002_06 5 MathCounts Team

2002_06 6 MathCounts Team

2002_06 7 Reception

And next week’s post will begin with the next phase of our trip, when we spent some time in DC with Kathe and Darlene.

Project 52, Week 36 – More Adventures in Europe!

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 36!

2000_07_20 1 Me at Neuschwanstein

36 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I began Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week I’m taking one year of my life and blogging about it. This week, I’m covering the year I was 36 — June 14, 2000, to June 14, 2001. But I’ve gotten bogged down lately, with each year taking lots and lots of posts, so I’m going to try try try to summarize my 36th year in one post. We’ll see…

(And it turns out, I don’t have all of this film scanned. That will make it easier.)

Last time, I did manage to cover the last half of the year I was 35 in one post.

And that brings us to the summer of 2000. It was a crazy-busy one. I was still getting lots of headaches, still working half-time at the base library (and loving it), and still stressed about all I was trying to do. One nice new development was that Josh was “officially” (by base guidelines) at 12 years old, old enough to babysit Timmy when I was at work and Steve was out of town.

I say in my journal on June 17, “Today, Josh babysat Timmy for 4 hours while I was at work. They say that it went fine. I can’t believe that Josh is so old now.”

I was still working on my writing. And on June 24, I started reading my first children’s novel to my kids, before getting ready to send it out again. So that was a nice milestone.

On July 8, we purchased Harry Potter #4 and Steve started reading that to all of us at the kids’ bedtime. Just in time to bring it on vacation to Bavaria on July 15.

[And I just discovered that there are 6 rolls of film that I haven’t scanned. But I discovered this after I wrote out the description! Anyway, imagine beautiful pictures!]

That was another wonderful and memorable vacation. We stayed at a self-catering place (with a kitchen) in Bavaria, and we were close enough to the American base at Garmisch that we were able to buy food in the commissary there and buy gas at cheap American prices there. Plus, the dollar was super strong compared to the Deutschmark (This was before W. Bush was president), with the rate at better than 2 Deutschmarks to the dollar.

On Sunday, the 16th, we went to Schloß Linderhof, Castle #98, another of Mad King Ludwig’s lavish castles.

Then Monday we took a trip to the top of the Zugspitze, the highest point in Germany!

After we came down the mountain, we did some pedalboating on the Eibsee.

On Tuesday, July 18, we met my email writing buddy Kristin, whom I’d met the previous year in Paris, and her kids, in Innsbrück. Kristin was an American living in northern Italy, and this way we each only drove a couple hours. And our Castle Count passed 100! In Innsbrück, we touched Castle #99, the Goldener Daechl, Castle #100, Schloß Hofburg, and Castle #101, Ottoburg.

2000_07_18 1 Innsbruck

2000_07_18 Dolomites

After touching and touring some castles, our kids played their own version of Quidditch in a park while Kristin and I talked. Very fun!

And on Wednesday, we tried to go to the Passion Play at Oberammergau! You’ve probably heard of the Passion Play? It’s performed every 10 years, and people book tours way in advance and get packages that include a hotel in the city. Well, we’d heard that you can try for same-day tickets, and it’s far, far cheaper.

We did that — and there were no seats. But, we had an alternate plan, and traveled on to Munich, where we visited the Deutsches Museum!

2000_07_19 1 Deutsches Museum

2000_07_19 2 Deutsches Museum

Wednesday night, our reading of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire stopped at a dramatic place. The next morning, we all couldn’t stand it and we made a group decision to read one more chapter before we went out sight-seeing.

Well, one more chapter led to one more chapter — and we didn’t stop until we’d finished the book! But that wasn’t until the afternoon!

Fortunately, Thursday was the one day of the week that Schloß Neuschwanstein was open in the evening. So it worked out perfectly, and we went on a tour of Neuschwanstein.

This wasn’t our first time to Neuschwanstein, which was Castle #20. (Though I haven’t gone on about that visit because I didn’t have the film scanned yet.) But we knew that the best way to do it is take a ride up, then come back through the beautiful Pöllat Schlucht.

2000_07_20 2 Neuschwanstein

2000_07_20 3 Josh at Neuschwanstein

And on Friday, we really did get same-day tickets to the Oberammergau Passion Play!

2000_07_21 1 Passionspiele

They only cost 30 Deutchmarks — so less than 15 dollars each. (As opposed to thousands we could have spent on a packaged tour.) Of course, we soon found the catch — our seats were “obstructed,” with a big beam in front of them! However, there was no one behind us, so we could take turns standing to see better.

2000_07_21 2 Obstruction

The kids brought Game Boys, though we bought a photo book during the lunch break, and the kids actually followed along with the pictures part of the time.

2000_07_21 3 Binoculars

I was very pleased by how well I could follow the German. Of course, it was taken almost entirely from Scripture, which I’d memorized. And we had a program with all the words in German, so I could definitely tell what was going on.

The one thing I really didn’t like about it — They changed the ending! The best part of the story, and the reason I’m a Christian! Instead of following the gospel account that Jesus bodily rose from the dead and appeared to the disciples, they gave Jesus’ lines in the garden to an angel! Okay, that takes all the teeth out of it for me! They did show Jesus alive again, but as some kind of spirit. They were trying to leave it to the audience what you believe, but it really bothered me that they deviated so strongly from the account written in the Bible — in only that one area.

And a funny thing happened at lunchtime!

The Passion Play is 6 hours long. So they do 3 hours in the morning, take a long break for lunch, then go 3 hours in the afternoon. We were having lunch outdoors at a restaurant, along with lots of other people. I noticed the actors from the play eating at a table near us.

I said to Timmy, “Look! There’s Jesus!” (Forgive me, Lord.)

When the actor who played Jesus saw little Timmy staring at him, he smiled and stuck out his tongue. So Jesus stuck his tongue out at my child!

2000_07_21 4 Lunch

We went home the next day. And the next week, July 29, was Timmy’s 6th birthday!

2000_07_29 1 Birthday

2000_07_29 2 Birthday

2000_07_29 3 Birthday

Timmy’s 6th birthday felt very significant to me. Because Josh was 12, and I realized that once Josh lived as many more years as Timmy had already lived, they’d be 18 years old and ready to move out! And once Timmy had lived as many more years as Josh had already lived, he’d be 18 years old and ready to move out! Oh no! My little kids were growing up too quickly!

But I told Timmy before his birthday that when he turned six, his age plus his age would equal Josh’s age, and that his age times his age would equal my age.

He asked right away, “What’s ‘times’?”

I told him. I should also add that this was the time in Timmy’s life when we’d do math problems at bedtime. Timmy learned quickly that he could extend bedtime on and on and on with the magic words that were music to my ears, “Just one more math problem, Mommy, please!”

And one week after I told Timmy what “times” meant, Josh asked him, “What’s 16 times 4?” And Timmy figured it out in his head!

I was amazed. I never would have asked him such a hard one — but I did after that, and he continued to be impressive.

Then, August 3rd, our 7 weeks of visitors started. Stephanie and Bruce (Steve’s sister and her husband), were coming with their kids for 3 weeks. The day after they left, Steve’s parents arrived and stayed for four weeks! So we had guests from August 3 to September 20.

The reasoning was that they wouldn’t have to worry about where everyone would sleep if they didn’t come at the same time. But if they weren’t going to come at the same time, I really would have appreciated at least a week in between. But to be fair, both groups spent at least a week in the middle traveling on their own. So it wasn’t actually 7 solid weeks with guests in the house. And I couldn’t possibly take all 7 weeks off work, so I was working my 20 hours per week during their visits. It looks like that summer I was working two 8 hour days and one 4-hour day, so there were plenty of days free to go sight-seeing.

And despite how long we were hosting, we really did have some lovely times with all of them.

First stop was always Burg Falkenstein and dinner at Falkensteinerhof.

2000_08_03 1 Falkenstein

2000_08_03 2 Falkenstein

2000_08_03 3 Falkenstein

On August 8, we went back to Bitche Citadelle with the Stockhouses. This time it was open, and we did a complete audiotour about how the citadel was used during World War I.

2000_08_05 1 Bitche

2000_08_05 2 Bitche

2000_08_05 3 Bitche

2000_08_05 4 Bitche

2000_08_05 5 Bitche

I wanted to get myself a pink and flowery t-shirt with BITCHE across it, but they only had them in little girl sizes. For some reason, Stephanie didn’t want to get one for Karli!

Then on Monday the 7th, we went to Kurpfalzpark with them, an “Adventure Park.” Not so much rides, as things that get you somewhat active. We had a whole lot of fun.

2000_08_07 1 Kurpfalzpark

2000_08_07 2 Kurpfalzpark

2000_08_07 3 Kurpfalzpark

2000_08_07 4 Kurpfalzpark

2000_08_07 5 Kurpfalzpark

Then Stephanie and Bruce went to Rothenburg for a few days, and on August 11, we took them to the Rhein River and did a short cruise together. We managed to touch three new castles — Castle #102, Brömserburg, Castle #103, Adlerturm, and Castle #104 where we had dinner, Burg Lahneck.

2000_08_11 0a Adlerturm

2000_08_11 0b Cruise

2000_08_11 0c Cruise

2000_08_11 0d Bromserburg

And we went to one of our favorites, Burg Pfalzgrafenstein.

2000_08_11 1 Pfalzgrafenstein

2000_08_11 2 Pfalzgrafenstein

Timmy would gladly lower Josh into the dungeon!

2000_08_11 3 Dungeon

Here’s where we had dinner.

2000_08_11 4 Lahneck

2000_08_11 5 Lahneck

The next night, we went to a Fest where the Brass Quintet was playing.

2000_08_12 1 BQ

And the next day we caught the Medieval Fest in Kaiserslautern.

2000_08_13 1 Fest

2000_08_13 2 Fest

Then the Stockhouses headed to Berlin for a week. (See! It wasn’t really 7 weeks of visitors. Of course, Steve was gone at the same time, in Italy with the Band, so it wasn’t exactly relaxing for me. And in fact, I had a 3-day migraine.) When they got back, we took them to another favorite castle, Heidelberg.

2000_08_22 1 Heidelberg

2000_08_22 2 Heidelberg

2000_08_22 3 Heidelberg

2000_08_22 4 Heidelberg

2000_08_22 5 Heidelberg

2000_08_22 6 Heidelberg

2000_08_22 7 Heidelberg

2000_08_22 8 Heidelberg

August 22 was our last day with Stephanie & Bruce and their kids, and August 23 was the day Gram E and Gramp E arrived. To mix things up a little, we took them to Altenbaumburg Restaurant instead of Falkensteinerhof.

We met our friend Marie-Laurence and her family at a pow-wow in Kaiserslautern. (It was a tad surreal to go to an American Indian pow-wow in Germany.) We also visited the Landesgartenshau there. (And Steve was in England at the time.)

2000_08_26 1 Pow wow

2000_08_26 2 Pow wow

2000_08_26 3 Ktown

And August 28, 2000, was Josh’s first day of 7th grade and Timmy’s first day of first grade!

2000_08_28 1 School

We did eventually take Steve’s parents to Falkensteinerhof.

2000_09_14 Falkenstein

Gram E and Gramp E left on September 20. Then on Sunday afternoon, September 24, we did an outing to Luisen Park in Mannheim.

2000_09_24 1 Luisen Park

2000_09_24 2 Luisen Park

Oh, there’s so much more I’d like to talk about! But I really did want to finish talking about this year tonight.

So — let me deliberately try to mention only three more things.

We took a wonderful trip over Thanksgiving Break to Switzerland. Steve’s tuba had gotten damaged on a band trip, so he took it back to the factory where it was made, to be repaired. The owner gave us a tour!

2000_11_24 1 Tuba factory

And while we were there, we visited the CERN particle accelerator!

2000_11_25 1 CERN

2000_11_25 2 CERN

2000_11_25 3 CERN

And then the beautiful Chateau de Chillon, Castle #106, on Lake Geneva.

2000_11_25 4 Chillon

2000_11_25 5 Chillon

2000_11_25 6 Chillon

2000_11_25 7 Chillon

2000_11_25 8 Chillon

However, when we got home from vacation, we got terrible news — We had to move again!

Our landlords were selling the house. (I think it was another divorce.) So we had to move out. We found a place and moved in January. Alas! It wasn’t nearly as nice, though it was closer to the base. We got friends to help and moved to a new townhouse in Alsenborn.

It was brand-new, but since houses in Germany are mostly made of concrete, it was a bit extra damp. The odd thing about it was that it was on 6 levels. Sort of a half-floor on each level. It was a nice place — but we had been spoiled. We slept in the new place on December 29.

I’m going to gloss over the start of 2001. Moving in. I had the highest fever of my life — 104 degrees — when I had a kidney infection. The next week, Josh’s fever was just as high with a flu bug.

More pleasant, we went on a bus with a group from church to spend a day in Euro Disney in February.

And then we spent Spring Break in Paris. I have to post some of those pictures.

2000_04 1 Paris

We set Timmy the same challenge we’d given Josh in prior years. If he could get his head between the pyramids, he’d become super smart!

2000_04 2 Pyramids

He could!

2000_04 3 Pyramids

Castle #107 was the Palais Royale

2001_04_09 2 Palais Royale

2001_04_09 Palais Royale

2001_04_09 3 Palais Royale

Josh was happy to imitate this statue in the Louvre.

2001_04_09 4 Louvre

We got a wonderful view of the city from the Pompidou Centre.

2001_04_09 5 Pompidou Centre

We got to Notre Dame when it would storm for 10 minutes, then be sunny and beautiful for 10 minutes. I’m very happy with the April in Paris shots I got during some sunny interludes.

2001_04_10 1 Notre Dame

2001_04_10 2 Notre Dame

2001_04_10 3 Notre Dame

2001_04_10 4 Notre Dame

2001_04_10 5 Notre Dame

2001_04_10 6 Notre Dame

2001_04_10 7 Notre Dame

I had to pose again at Rue Lagrange!

2001_04_10 8 Rue Lagrange

And on the way home we stopped at the Science Museum, the Cité des Sciences et l’Industrie.

2001_04_11 1 Science

2001_04_11 2 Science

I love this one of the Timmys conferring!

2001_04_11 3 Science

Josh lost their head over this exhibit.

2001_04_11 4 Headless

And I actually got to Paris again in May. I went to another SCBWI conference May 11 to 13.

2001_05_12 1 Eiffel

So — I managed to cut out a lot, believe it or not! Here’s what I wrote at the end of the year I was 36:

I’m 37 years old today.

It’s been an excellent year — The boys had a good year at school. We went to Bavaria last summer. Steve’s sister and his parents visited. Timothy went from hesitant reading to voracious reading. We discovered he’s a Math Whiz. Josh took the SAT and did phenomenally. He was first place in the district in MathCounts. We spent a week in Paris in Spring Break, and I got to go to the SCBWI Conference. I had a breakthrough in my book and I’m really writing again. And we’re going to Ireland this summer.

So it was a good year. My boys are at such a nice age. Timmy’s still small and cuddly, but smart, too. And Josh is getting big and responsible.

This year, I will finish Unicorn Wings. Perhaps I’ll find a publisher! I like the shape of my life these days, with books and writing and working and being with my boys.

So now I can let this go for a few days! Next week — the greatest vacation of all our years in Europe — 3 weeks in Ireland!

Project 52, Week 35, Part 8 – Trip to America!

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 35, Part 8!

2000_04 1 Springtime

Okay, wait a second. Really, it’s time for Week 36!

36 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I began Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week I’m taking one year of my life and blogging about it. This week, I should be covering the year I was 36 — June 14, 2000, to June 14, 2001, but the truth is, I still haven’t finished the year I was 35.

So I really need to reset. I need to give up the idea of posting all the gorgeous photos of Europe. Settle for a summary, Sondy! So — tonight I’m going to try to summarize the last half of the year I was 35. And then I will try try try to talk about the year I was 36 with ONE post. Not sure I can do it, but I’m going to try!

Last time, I got us up to December 1999. Which meant we had completed one “tour” in Germany. Since we extended for a “Continuous in place” assignment, the Air Force would pay for us to take a trip back to the States! I thought that was so fabulous. When we lived in Illinois for five years, we felt just as far away from family, but no one paid for trips to see them!

And it looked like living in Germany had truly broken my bad luck of missing snow every time I went to California and Arizona for Christmas. Not only did we get a white Christmas that first year, but this year we got a big snowfall in December before we left! Six inches of snow fell on December 19th, which was the most snow I’d seen fall at one time in my life up to that time.

1999_12_19 1 Snow

1999_12_19 2 Snow

1999_12_19 3 Snow

1999_12_19 4 Snowman

Hmmm. I’ll have to show more restraint than that! (Though you should see all the beautiful snow pictures I didn’t choose.)

Our first stop in America was Phoenix, visiting Gram E and Gramp E — and Steve’s sister Stephanie was there, too, with her husband Bruce and two kids, Karli and David. And we got to see Aunt Kay, who had now moved to Arizona.

Here’s a gathering with some Eklund cousins, I think at the Phoenix Zoo.

1999_12 1 Eklund gathering

Then we drove to Encinitas (near San Diego) to stay with my sister Becky. That was the year we’d been given Furbys. We put them in the trunk. After we’d driven a little while, we heard a loud voice saying “BORING!” coming from the trunk!

My siblings and parents gathered at Becky’s house for a Christmas gift exchange.

1999_12 2 Hatch gathering

And some aunts and uncles and cousins came, too!

1999_12 3 Hatches

We went to a Star Wars Exhibit at the San Diego Museum of Art on New Year’s Day, 2000, with Becky’s family.

2000_01_01 1 Star Wars

And then we headed to Los Angeles. We stayed in a nice hotel on the water that had a deal with my Dad’s company. We connected with old friends there, as well as seeing my family.

We had lunch with my Dad near his work in Redondo Beach.

2000_01_03 Beach Restaurant

And we went to Disneyland!

2000_01_04 1 Disneyland

2000_01_04 2 Disneyland

2000_01_04 3 Disneyland

Darlene was in town, too! We got together at Ruth’s house with Jennifer there, too! And Jennifer’s two kids as well as mine.

2000_01_08 1 Friends

And we always have to do a Tall picture. This time we thought it would be fun to have the wives towering over the husbands.

2000_01_08 2 Friends

On the way back to Arizona, we stopped in Joshua Tree National Park. It seemed only fair for Josh to get a picture with the sign.

2000_01_09 1 Joshua Tree

That was the year we made a Super Timmy video. Josh wrote the script. It was delightful.

2000_01 1 Gram E

We took a trip to Montezuma’s Castle on a bright and beautiful (but headache-inducing) day.

2000_01_10 Montezuma's Castle

And now I’m sure we went to the Phoenix Zoo.

2000_01_11 1 Zoo

Back home in Germany, on February 7, 2000, we took a trip into France to visit Castle #89, Citadelle de Bitche, located in Bitche, France. (Pronounced “Beesh.”) Unfortunately, we’d forgotten how things tend to be closed on Monday. We decided we’d come back later, but thought it made a perfect Dark Lord’s fortress.

2000_02_07 1 Bitche

2000_02_07 2 Bitche

2000_02_07 3 Bitche

2000_02_07 4 Bitche

2000_02_07 5 Bitche

Josh took 3rd place in the All-School Spelling Bee.

2000_02 1 Spelling Bee

Josh turned 12 years old in March, and I went with their class on a field trip to Idar-Oberstein. And something happened which seemed like a tragedy to a mother of a Kindergartner.

Well, I went on Josh’s Field Trip. Though the trip itself was rather fun, it ended with a Horrible Nightmare.

Because the sponsors did not insist on sticking to the schedule and let kids buy souvenirs, the bus was 45 minutes late getting back to school. Well, Timmy had gone home on the bus (I had planned to get him off before they left, or else beat the bus home.) Although they were not supposed to let him off if his parent is not there, they did. (The other girl said, “Timmy, there’s your stop!” — so the bus driver let him off and Timmy felt he should go.)

While I was on Josh’s bus, we passed Timmy’s bus, so I knew it would get to Gundersweiler before I possibly could, but didn’t really expect them to drop him off. I got Josh to the front of the bus with me, and we ran to the elementary school office as soon as the bus stopped. I explained the situation to them, and asked them to call Steve if Timmy showed up there. Then Josh and I ran to the car, and I sped home — with a raging headache.

When we got near the house, there was Timmy, sitting on the step. When I saw his scrunched-up, crying face, all my worst fears came true. I burst into tears, parked the car without backing it, jumped out without closing the door, and hugged him and cried with him. I felt so horrible about not having prevented it.

When we went into the house, Timmy sat on the sofa and put a blanket over his head. I held him and cuddled him and read to him and we all calmed down.

But it was a horrible experience, which I will never forget. I really felt like I let down my son.

And I was never in a hurry to volunteer for field trips again.

The next week, Josh was one of the winners in the 6th Grade Storytelling Festival. (Such an expressive voice!) I left the festival early to be absolutely sure I could meet Timmy’s bus!

2000_04_06 1 Storytelling

We went to Holiday Park for Josh’s birthday.

2000_04_10 1 Holiday Park

2000_04_10 2 Holiday Park

2000_04_10 3 Holiday Park

2000_04_10 4 Holiday Park

Springtime in Gundersweiler was glorious.

2000_04 2 Tulips

2000_04 3 Tulips

2000_04 4 Tulips

We took a walk on our hill when everything was in bloom.

2000_04_22 1 Walk

2000_04_22 2 Walk

2000_04_22 3 Walk

2000_04_22 4 Walk

2000_04_22 5 Walk

2000_04_22 6 Walk

2000_04_22 7 Walk

We went on vacation on a quick weekend trip, traveled north, and touched 5 more castles. (I forgot to mention that we touched Schloß Herrenstein, Castle #90, on Josh’s field trip.) The castles on the weekend of April 29-30 were:

Castle #91, Schloß Sababurg, traditionally Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, so a Grimm Fairy Tales site.
Castle #92, Burg Trendelburg
Castle #93, Schloß Wilhelmsthal
Castle #94, Schloß Wilhelmshöhe
Castle #95, Burg Löwenburg – sort of a “fake” castle, built to be romantic, but more than a hundred years old, so it counts.

Sababurg:

2000_04_29 1 Sababurg

2000_04_29 2 Sababurg

2000_04_29 3 Sababurg

2000_04_29 4 Sababurg

2000_04_29 5 Sababurg

2000_04_29 6 Sababurg

2000_04_29 7 Sababurg

Schloß Wilhelmsthal:

2000_04_30 1 Schloss Wilhelmsthal

2000_04_30 2 Schloss Wilhelmsthal

2000_04_30 3 Schloss Wilhelmsthal

The grounds at Wilhelmshöhe and Burg Löwenburg were amazing. Walking through them gave such a sense of peace.

2000_04_30 4 Wilhelmshohe

2000_04_30 5 Wilhelmshohe

2000_04_30 6 Wilhelmshohe

2000_04_30 7 Wilhelmshohe

2000_04_30 8 Wilhelmshohe

2000_04_30 9 Lowenburg

Oh! I wrote down in the front of my calendar that on April 28, 2000, Timmy read the whole book Bark, George!, by Jules Feiffer, aloud to us. And he learned to swing by himself the same day!

My calendar also notes that my headaches were doing terrible. I was having 3-5 headache days every week. I did finally go back to the doctor. It looks like I tried Verapamil about this time. It doesn’t look like it helped much. Let’s see, April 2000 was when I had a 9-day headache — the longest I’d ever had at that time. (Those were the days! Except later when I got longer ones, I don’t think they were as bad. That year was a super bad time for headaches.)

Ooo, speaking of illness. On May 7, we took Timmy to the Emergency Room with a 104 degree fever. He had scarlet fever. But did recover fairly quickly.

Our next day of castling was Mother’s Day, May 14. We went to Castle #96, Saalburg, and I wrote about it:

This year, Mothers’ Day was glorious. The weather was absolutely unbeatable. It was sunny and bright. The world glowed — with bright, new green and spatterings of flowers. There weren’t any clouds.

After church, we had a quick lunch and headed for Saalburg, just north of Frankfurt.

It’s an old Roman fort, built to guard the border of the Roman Empire, just set back from the Limes. 100 years ago, Kaiser Wilhelm II had it rebuilt.

The castle was beautiful — set in a park. It was a wonderful day to walk among the trees. We also looked at the exhibits of artifacts they found — even old leather shoes, remarkably like shoes we would wear today.

Next, we ate at a nice restaurant, on the patio. I had some wonderful salmon, followed by strawberries and cream.

After dinner, we walked to the Limes — the original earthworks are still there — now, almost 2000 years later. Amazing! They also had a reconstruction of the wooden fence of post that they put up past the ditches and mounds of eart. Truly a beautiful day.

I love this new tradition of going to castles for Mothers’ Day!

2000_05_14 1 Saalburg

2000_05_14 2 Saalburg

2000_05_14 3 Saalburg

2000_05_14 4 Saalburg

2000_05_14 5 Saalburg

2000_05_14 6 Saalburg

2000_05_14 7 Saalburg

We counted the Limes as Castle #97, since it was 2000-year-old fortifications.

2000_05_14 8 Limes

First, they’re being Romans.

2000_05_14 9 Limes

Now, they’re being Barbarians.

2000_05_14 10 Limes Barbarians

Some milestones happened in June: Timmy graduated from Kindergarten. Steve made Tech Sergeant. Josh completed Algebra I. And I got a Performance Award at the Library for my computerized check-out system.

And of course we went to a castle restaurant for my birthday dinner. I chose an old favorite, Altenbaumburg.

2000_06_14 0a Altenbaumburg

2000_06_14 1 Altenbaumburg

And that was the year I was 35! Now, can I even come close to being that concise for the year I was 36? I’m not sure, but I’m going to try… but not tonight!

Project 52, Week 35, Part 7 – Two More Castles!

Monday, February 20th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 35, Part 7!

1999_10_31 2 Halloween

35 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I began Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week I’m taking one year of my life and blogging about it. This week, I’m covering the year I was 35 — June 14, 1999, to June 14, 2000.

So far, Week 35 has had lots to tell about! It took four posts to talk about our England vacation, then another to get through the rest of the summer and both my kids in school, and then my trip back to America for my friend Darlene’s wedding.

First, some adorable pictures of my kids on Halloween. Josh’s Harry Potter costume was easy – my Master’s gown plus one of my knitting needles, and a lightning scar. Though, believe it or not, 1999 was early enough that not many people recognized Harry Potter. Timmy had a purchased Anakin Skywalker outfit, though, which was a lot easier for folks to identify.

We’d trick-or-treat on base (because it’s not a German tradition. Sometimes some German kids would come to our door, and they didn’t know what to say, but would say, “Happy Halloween!”), and apparently we stopped at the library to say Hello to Elfriede. So here they are at the library.

1999_10_31 1 Halloween

And here’s my dear Elfriede! (I’m sure she volunteered to work the late shift that day.)

1999_10_31 3 Library

We ran into the Ciufo family (another band family) while trick-or-treating.

1999_10_31 4 Halloween

I’m reading some interesting things in my journals that don’t really have pictures to go with them. So I’m going to write about some of them and intersperse pictures of our home in Gundersweiler.

This was when I made the Access data base we used at the library for checking out books! I enjoyed that project tremendously. Before this, to check out books, customers had to write their name and address and phone number on a card, and then the title, author and call number of every single book they checked out! It was ridiculous!

So, first, I made an Access data base to print overdue notices. Because as it was, they had been handwriting the book information onto pre-printed notices. And first checking the shelves from the cards — with the books not in order.

I wanted to expand the data base to do check-outs, but they had purchased a new computer system already, or were planning to purchase it, or something.

Here’s what I say in my journal:

I get to start writing a Computer System for the Library! They keep stringing us along — It sounds like it will be months before our system from the contract is up and running.

So Jeff is letting me write a new system for the short-term using Access. I’m having some difficulty — It’s almost just like Overdues, only I want to keep Book information in another data set.

It’s going to be fun exploring Access until I get it to work! The hard part is that I want to spend extra time on it. I do like programming!

Even writing that much has got me thinking about it!

I will add that we used my system for a full year before we got the purchased system. We only had to enter a customer’s information the first time they used the library, and we only had to enter a book’s information the first time it was checked out.

Over the next year, I added a component to track our McNaughton rental books. And then I added ISBNs – which we ended up using to reconcile the new system by loading book information from OCLC. They had scanned our shelflist before I started working in the library — and it was off by thousands of books by the time we got the Horizon system. My data base came to the rescue and made reconciling easy. Well, easy with the help of the SQL program I wrote. (And I learned both Access and SQL and OCLC for the project. So much fun!)

1999_11 1 Gundersweiler

I also spent a lot of time stewing about trying to enable Josh to go ahead in Math and take Pre-algebra in 6th grade. (6th and 7th grade math are for reinforcing skills that Josh already had.) At first, math teachers condescendingly told me that Josh needed to learn to organize their locker and notebook first. But why should Josh have to sit through a class teaching things they already knew just because they had limited organizational skills?

Fortunately, the school had a new teacher for the Talented and Gifted program that year. She advocated for Josh, who ended up going to Dr. Davis’s room for math. I was in charge of making assignments and grading homework.

Here’s what I wrote about their conferences in November:

So — I should write about the boys’ conferences. Timmy is fitting in beautifully in Kindergarten. For the first 3 weeks, he didn’t talk or participate. But once he got used to everyone, he now joins in eagerly. His teacher says he’s adjusting beautifully.

I loved seeing his work. On some pictures, he’d written about the picture — “i LiC GO TRK TRTN” meant “I like going trick-or-treating.” I was amazed — I had no idea that he was interested in trying to write.

Ms. Hawkins said that there are quite a few kids this year who know all their letters well — so she’s going to work with this small group on learning sight-words and such.

Josh’s conferences were not as wholly positive. His teachers agree that he’s smart, but he’s missing lots of work — and already for this semester, too. We went to his locker and found a mountain of papers in a heap. We discovered some of the missing homework — so he spent all day Saturday in the Library working on homework.

The good news with Josh is that he really gets to go to Dr. Davis’s room for Independent Study in Math — and he says that he likes Math homework.

1999_11 2 Gundersweiler

Less cheery writing shows that I was getting lots more headaches again. So quitting Inderal, while stopping the drug-induced lupus — was bad for my headaches. I count 22 headache days written down in July, August, September, and October. So it would get worse. I was steeling myself to start working with a doctor to find a new preventative. That’s hard to do because when you have a headache, you don’t feel like messing with it, but when you don’t, you hope that you don’t actually need it. And they were pretty clearly related to hormonal fluctuations, too.

1999_11 3 Gundersweiler View

Something that shakes me more is seeing seeds of our marriage problems to come. This time, I can’t chalk it up to post-partum depression. On November 5, I wrote:

I’m thrown by that talk I had with Steve. He told me he’s not even sure that he’s a Christian, and my world was shaken. Of all the things I never expected to be, it’s someone with an unsaved spouse.

And three days later, I wrote:

Today I’m really stewing about Steve and about our marriage. I still feel betrayed that for years he hasn’t even felt he was a Christian, and he hid it from me all this time.

Sondy, Sondy, remember? Steve did tell you in Illinois that he “wasn’t sure” he was a Christian. You just assumed he’d seen the light. In fact, when your view of God was revolutionized by George MacDonald’s writings, and you came to believe that everyone will be saved (eventually), you thought that explaining all that to Steve would of course set his doubts to rest.

Looking at it now, I don’t think I listened to Steve. I would complain that he didn’t tell me what he was going through, but it looks like he did tell me some things, and if I didn’t understand, I dismissed it. I was just so darn optimistic. If I was upset with Steve, I’d talk it through with God in my quiet time notebook, and I’d remind myself that I do love Steve. In this section, I say, “Lord, I want to love my husband. I do. I promised to stand by him for better or for worse.” So somehow, I thought that made everything okay — not realizing that if he was going through some of the same doubts about us, he might not be bringing it around to remembering how much he loves me.

If we had gone to marriage counseling back then, if I had started reading books on marriage then, I wonder if it would have helped?

1999_11 4 Gundersweiler

Chicken Night was also an issue. Steve liked to have people over. And since I balked at cooking frequently for guests, we started doing Chicken Night. He would get a rotisserie chicken from a place in Winnweiler. And we’d have a bunch of friends over. We did this every week.

Now, this was super fun! We had a great time! But — every week? It meant I really did have to do some cleaning every week. And I was working late one night a week, and taking the kids to AWANA one night a week, and for awhile taking a German class with Josh once a week — and always looking for time to write.

Here’s what I said in that same journal post:

In theory, I like chicken night. But Steve doesn’t consult me in the slightest as to whether it should happen or who he should invite. He had chicken night on the very day I got back from America — when I desperately wanted to be in bed. Then, last week when I’d been working for 7 days in a row and really didn’t want to.

Steve felt like since he took care of the food, there wasn’t anything for me to do, so he could plan it himself. When I finally protested, eventually we quit doing Chicken Night altogether. Which wasn’t what I wanted at all! I just wanted it not to have to be every single week….

But Snow came in November that year, on the 17th, the 19th, the 20th, and the 22nd. That always brightens things up!

1999_11 5 Snow

1999_11 6 Snowy Gundersweiler

1999_11 7 Sled

1999_11 8 Snow

And we got in two more castles in 1999. On Sunday, November 28, we visited two castles.

First, Castle #87, Ruine Eremitage, which I don’t seem to have photographed. Then Castle #88, Hardenburg. (You’ll want to remember that it gets dark early in Germany in November.)

1999_11_28 1 Ruine Eremitage

1999_11_28 2 Eremitage

1999_11_28 3 Eremitage

1999_11_28 4 Hardenburg

1999_11_28 5 Hardenburg

1999_11_28 6 Hardenburg

1999_11_28 7 Hardenburg

I like the Christmas tree!

1999_11_28 8 Hardenburg

1999_11_28 9 Hardenburg

1999_11_28 10 Hardenburg

1999_11_28 11 Hardenburg

1999_11_28 12 Hardenburg

We had a big gathering for Steve’s 35th birthday on November 30th. For this gathering I was fully on board! (And I really enjoyed that we got together with so many friends in our beautiful home. And a Birthday is a Special Occasion.)

1999_11_30 1 Steve's Birthday

And this picture’s special. Remember how we gave Josh’s 5th grade teacher Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone? Well, he read it to his next 5th grade class. And that was about the time that certain parents started having a fuss because it contained fantasy witchcraft. So Mr. Martin’s class advertised their love of Harry Potter with signs in the windows saying: This CLASS LOVES HARRY POTTER. It made me super happy to see it. And this was about the time that Mr. Martin told me it was the best teacher gift he’d ever been given.

1999_12 1 HP Windows

So — that brings us right up to Christmas. I’m not sure if I’ll get more posted tonight, so Year 35 may have to spill into Week 36. And Christmas meant a trip back to America….