Archive for February, 2017

Project 52, Week 35, Part One – Vacation in England!

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 35!

1999_07_16 11 Dover

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.

Now that I’m in the Germany years, though, I can’t seem to cover a year in one little blog post. It makes me tired trying to post about all we did. No wonder I remember feeling a little overwhelmed! I didn’t finish last week’s posts until last night, when I finally finished up with Castles #70 and #71 that we visited the day before my 35th birthday.

To review: As the year started, Steve was still with the USAFE Band, stationed at Sembach Air Base in Germany. We loved it there so much, he’d decided to sign up for another 3 years. I had been working for a year now half-time at the base library at Sembach. It was as if the job were designed for me, I loved it so much. (And continually marveled at how much more I liked it than teaching.) We had lived for awhile in my dream house in Gundersweiler, Germany.

The catch to all this was that life was a little crazy. We were visiting castles. I was a Mom of two kids. I had a big house to keep up with. My headaches were coming back, since I’d stopped Inderal after I figured out it was giving me drug-induced lupus. And I was trying to be a writer. But it was hard to find time to write.

The good side? What a wonderful, wonderful place to live! And with Steve, Jade (then called Josh) and Timmy, the people I loved most. Steve was a great sport to do all the castling with us even though his job took him all over Europe.

I haven’t mentioned yet that it was right around the time we moved to Germany that my friends started getting email. (Darlene had it before that, but she was the exception.) So I felt much less isolated from my friends than I had when we lived in Illinois. Plus the other folks in the band knew that your family was far away — so they were friendlier than the band folks in Illinois, as a rule. (Though some of our best friends in Europe, we’d known first in Illinois, so maybe it was just that we knew more people, right from the start.)

Plus, when I went to the SCBWI Writer’s Retreat in Paris in 1999, I made actual friends who wrote children’s novels! I remember this was also about the time I discovered Knitter’s Magazine. Both things, in a rather silly way, made me feel like there were people out there like me. Kindred spirits.

And my best friend (and kindred spirit) in Germany and fellow band wife Jeanine Krause, started working at the Sembach Library that summer, sharing the job with me. That was a treat. (And sometimes we’d go into the library on the day it was closed and do photo album scrapbooking together.)

In fact, the first castle we visited when I was 35 was with Jeanine. It was Father’s Day, June 20, 1999, and our husbands were marching in a parade in Boppard (on the Rhine River). So we went to the Fest together and watched the parade — and visited the Römer Kastel in Boppard while we were there.

The bus we took to the Fest in Boppard had one of my favorite words on it! (Sonderfahrt means “special trip”.)

1999_06_20 1 Sonderfahrt

And here’s the Römer Kastell. Just a little ruin in the center of town.

1999_06_20 2 Romer Kastell

On July 2, we went to Holiday Park! I think it was a belated birthday celebration for Josh. We’d give them a choice of a party or a trip to an amusement park with one friend, so Josh chose Holiday Park with their best friend Ryan.

Holiday Park was a tiny amusement park very close to us. It didn’t have a whole lot of rides, but it was empty! So we could go on the rides they did have over and over again.

1999_07_02 1 Holiday Park

Looks like Timmy lost a tooth!

1999_07_02 2 Holiday Park

1999_07_02 3 Holiday Park

1999_07_02 4 Holiday Park

1999_07_02 5 Holiday Park

1999_07_02 6 Holiday Park

1999_07_02 7 Holiday Park

This was one of the most boring rides in the world, so the kids had fun posing:

1999_07_02 8 Scared

1999_07_02 9 Holiday Park

There’s a kid who’s come to terms with getting wet! We went on this ride many times.

1999_07_02 10 Wet Timmy

1999_07_02 11 Wet Timmy

1999_07_02 12 Log Ride

1999_07_02 13 Log Ride

And after one more time on the rafts:

1999_07_02 14 Wet Timmy

But then came our trip to ENGLAND!!!!

Our first summer in Europe, Steve’s parents chose our vacation — to Sweden (which was amazing). The next year, I wanted to go back to Spittal an der Drau. The top priority, right after that, was going to England. We were there from July 16 to July 24.

And I’ve seen so many movies and read so many books set in England — it felt like coming home.

That first time, before Ryan Air existed, we took the ferry from Calais to Dover, which was actually very expensive — but it also meant we didn’t have to rent a car.

1999_07_16 1 Ferry

Our first stop in England was Castle #73 — Dover Castle!

1999_07_16 2 Dover Castle

I liked Dover Castle a lot. A castle with a beautiful view (We could see all the way to France!), but also one that had an important function from the days of King Henry VIII all the way to World War II. Amazing.

1999_07_16 3 Dover

1999_07_16 4 Dover

1999_07_16 5 Dover

1999_07_16 6 Dover

1999_07_16 7 Dover

1999_07_16 8 Dover

1999_07_16 9 Dover

1999_07_16 10 Dover

1999_07_16 12 Dover

1999_07_16 13 Dover

1999_07_16 14 Dover

1999_07_16 15 Dover

1999_07_16 16 Dover

Okay, I’m afraid I’m going to stop there tonight. More about our England vacation is coming up!

Project 52, Week 34, Part 9 – The Most Beautiful Place in the World!

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 34 – Part 9!

1999_04_14 9 Happy Family

34 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 34 — June 14, 1998, to June 14, 1999.

The question is: Can I finish talking about Year 34 on the last night of Week 34? This is now the ninth post about being 34, after talking about my new home and new job, our vacation in Spittal an der Drau, visiting the village of Sondra, yet more castles, Ruth and John’s visit, our trip to EuroDisney, more travels and more visitors, and Writing at the Abbaye de Royaumont.

My family, including my in-laws, was still on vacation when they picked me up after my overwhelmingly wonderful weekend at the Writer’s Retreat at the Abbaye de Royaumont. Our next stop was Holland, and the next day we went to the most beautiful place in the world — Keukenhof Gardens in Springtime. I’m just going to post lots of pictures. The gardens were amazing.

1999_04_14 1 Keukenhof

1999_04_14 2 Keukenhof

1999_04_14 3 Keukenhof

1999_04_14 4 Keukenhof

1999_04_14 5 Keukenhof

1999_04_14 6 Timmy shoes

1999_04_14 7 Keukenhof

1999_04_14 8 Keukenhof

1999_04_14 10 Timmy

1999_04_14 11 Statue

1999_04_14 12 Bridge

1999_04_14 13 Jade

1999_04_14 14 Jade

1999_04_14 15 Timmy

1999_04_14 16 Keukenhof

1999_04_14 17 Keukenhof

1999_04_14 18 Keukenhof

1999_04_14 19 Timmy

1999_04_14 20 Timmy

1999_04_14 21 Keukenhof

1999_04_14 22 Keukenhof

1999_04_14 23 Keukenhof

1999_04_14 24 Keukenhof

1999_04_14 25 Keukenhof

1999_04_14 26 Keukenhof

1999_04_14 27 Keukenhof

1999_04_14 28 Keukenhof

1999_04_14 29 Eklunds

1999_04_14 30 All

1999_04_14 31 Keukenhof

1999_04_14 32 Keukenhof

1999_04_14 33 Keukenhof

1999_04_14 34 Keukenhof

1999_04_14 35 Keukenhof

And we finished up our vacation with a trip to the tiny city at Madurodam.

1999_04_15 1 Madurodam

1999_04_15 2 Madurodam

1999_04_15 3 Madurodam

1999_04_15 4 Madurodam

1999_04_15 5 Madurodam

1999_04_15 6 Madurodam

1999_04_15 7 Madurodam

And we stopped at the pottery factory in Delft. I got an adorable little piggy bank that I still have today on my desk.

1999_04_15 8 Delft

So we had a lovely time while the Eklunds visited, but it was also exhausting. Then we caught our breaths and the next pictures are from Mother’s Day. On Mother’s Day and on my birthday, I always requested that we have dinner at a castle. And the weather in Germany in May is pretty much glorious. So we went to one of our favorites, Altenbaumburg, and had dinner outside, overlooking the valley.

1999_05_09 1 Altenbaumburg

1999_05_09 2 Altenbaumburg

1999_05_09 3 Jade

1999_05_09 4 Altenbaumburg

I call this one My Angel Picture. Behind them the yellow fields are the Rapps blooming, as they do in May.

1999_05_09 5 Angel Picture

1999_05_09 6 Altenbaumburg

1999_05_09 7 Altenbaumburg

1999_05_09 8 Altenbaumburg

1999_05_09 9 Altenbaumburg

1999_05_09 10 Altenbaumburg

Here are some from a May ramble on the top of our Gundersweiler Hill:

1999_05_23 1 Our Hill Steve

1999_05_23 2 Our Hill Jade

1999_05_23 3 Our Hill

1999_05_23 4 Our Hill

Some time in there, by the way, we began reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone as a family, followed by Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. It wasn’t a phenomenon quite yet. We gave a copy to Josh’s 5th grade teacher at the end of the year, and he later said it was the best gift he’d ever received.

Here are some pictures from our house. The first flowers are Pfingsten Poppies that bloom around the holiday of Pfingsten. (I loved the flowers that popped up around our house in Gundersweiler.)

1999_05 1 At Home

1999_05 2 Pfingsten Poppies

1999_06 1 Gundersweiler

In June, we went to Zweibrücken and visited the Rose Garden and Castle #69.

1999_06_07 1 Zweibrucken

1999_06_07 2 Zweibrucken

1999_06_07 3 Burg Zweibrucken

1999_06_07 4 Burg Zweibrucken

And on the last day I was 34, we did some castling in Luxembourg!

First was Castle #70, Burg Ulmen (actually in the Vulkan-Eifel on the way to Luxembourg). And yes, Vulkan is the same word as volcano. The lake next to Burg Ulmen was once a volcanic crater.

1999_06_13 1 Burg Ulmen

1999_06_13 2 Burg Ulmen

1999_06_13 3 Burg Ulmen

1999_06_13 4 Burg Ulmen

1999_06_13 5 Burg Ulmen

1999_06_13 6 Burg Ulmen

1999_06_13 7 Burg Ulmen

1999_06_13 8 Burg Ulmen

And then Castle #71, Chateau-Palais de Vianden in Luxembourg.

1999_06_13 1 Vianden

1999_06_13 2 Vianden

1999_06_13 9 Vianden - Copy

1999_06_13 10 Vianden - Copy

1999_06_13 11 Vianden - Copy

1999_06_13 12 Vianden - Copy

1999_06_13 13 Vianden - Copy

1999_06_13 14 Vianden - Copy

1999_06_13 15 Vianden - Copy

1999_06_13 16 Vianden Jade - Copy

1999_06_13 17 Vianden Me

1999_06_13 18 Vianden

And here’s how my 34th year ended:

1999_06_13 19 Sleeping

Now tomorrow I’m ready to talk about when I was 35!

Project 52, Week 34, Part 8 – Writing at the Abbaye de Royaumont!

Monday, February 13th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 34 – Part 8!

1999_04_12 2 Abbaye

34 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 34 — June 14, 1998, to June 14, 1999.

And the week is almost up, but I haven’t finished the year yet! This is now the eighth post about being 34, after talking about my new home and new job, our vacation in Spittal an der Drau, visiting the village of Sondra, yet more castles, Ruth and John’s visit, our trip to EuroDisney, and more travels and more visitors.

After we went to Belgium with my family and Steve’s parents, one of the highlights of my life happened. They went to Paris — and dropped me off at the Abbaye de Royaumont outside Paris on April 11. They picked me up on April 13, after I attended the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference.

When I walked through the gate of the Abbaye, here is the sight that greeted me!

1999_04_11 1 Abbaye

When I prayed about the conference, yes, I hoped an editor would discover my work and beg to publish it, but what I really prayed for was that I’d make some connections with other writers of middle grade novels. I was feeling a little bit of a freak, since I didn’t know anyone else who was desperately trying to find time in their lives to write children’s novels.

That prayer was answered in spades!

But first, some walking about the Abbaye grounds.

1999_04_11 2 Abbaye

1999_04_11 3 Abbaye

1999_04_11 4 Abbaye

My roommate was Vicki Sansum, and she proved to be delightful! We were pretty sure they’d given us the Servant’s Quarters, but the conference was so good, that was a minor detail in comparison.

That first night, at dinner, I sat next to someone — who ended up being Arthur Levine, the editor with Scholastic who had brought the Harry Potter books to America!

I had given Josh the first Harry Potter book for their birthday, having read about it in Horn Book Magazine. But I hadn’t read it myself yet! (What an opportunity lost!) It was shortly after this conference that Josh told us this needed to be the next book we read at bedtime. (We were trying to read to both kids at once, now that Timmy was 4 years old.) And so began a wonderful family tradition. Steve did most of the reading aloud when we were home. (In fact, when Steve moved out just after Book 6 came out, when I was crying about it, I said, “But who will read Harry Potter to us?” What, after all, is important?)

Anyway, the conference was wonderful. I got to talk with editors. I got a critique of my first book. I affirmed my intention to be a writer. And, best of all, I made connections with other writers.

1999_04_11 5 Abbaye

1999_04_12 1 Abbaye

Here’s the luxurious dining hall. Vicki’s in front in the blue.

1999_04_12 3 Lunch

1999_04_12 6 Abbaye

By the end of the conference, we’d formed an email critique group. It ended up being me, Vicki Sansum, Erin MacLellan, and Kristin Wolden Nitz. Within the next few years, all three of them did get published, and I’ve put links to my reviews of their first books. (I kept saying it was my turn next, but I stopped critiquing awhile back because now I’d like to get on the Newbery committee before getting published.)

For awhile, we emailed very faithfully, and they became my dear friends. We call ourselves the Sisters of Royaumont. We had a reunion at another SCBWI Writer’s Conference at the Abbaye de Royaumont in 2005 — which happened the day after my husband told me he wanted a divorce. These women were my lifeline! (But more about that later.) Anyway, it all began at the beautiful Abbaye de Royaumont in April 1999.

Here I am with Vicki:

1999_04_12 4 with Vicki

And here are Erin and Vicki:

1999_04_12 5 Vicki and Erin

And I’m afraid this isn’t the greatest picture of Kristin, but think of her as a Woman of Mystery.

1999_04_12 7 Kristin

It was an amazing weekend. And I came home now having new lifelong friends who shared my passion.

Project 52, Week 34, Part 7 – More Visitors, More Travels

Monday, February 13th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 34 – Part 7!

1999_03_27 5 Me and Tim

34 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 34 — June 14, 1998, to June 14, 1999.

But my 34th year was a big one! This is now the seventh post about being 34, after talking about my new home and new job, our vacation in Spittal an der Drau, visiting the village of Sondra, yet more castles, Ruth and John’s visit, and our trip to EuroDisney.

Well, so far I’ve gotten to the winter….

One major event that happened on December 15, 1998, was that my Grandpa Bates died, in Oregon, of a brain tumor. I couldn’t afford to fly to the funeral at Christmastime prices. (I hadn’t heard of bereavement fares, though any amount would have been difficult.) That made me feel far away from family. And it gave me a fresh wave of grief about my college roommate Colleen Jenks, who’d died of a brain tumor in Oregon in March of that year.

As the winter carried on, my job-share Sonia moved away, but it took them months to replace her. From January through August, I worked 27 hours per week instead of 20. At the same time, I was taking my writing very seriously, trying to spend 7 hours per week writing. But I was also working, being a Mom, trying to keep a large house decently clean, going to castles on weekends, and trying to get all those pictures I was taking into photo albums. (I did not succeed, but some of them are in nice albums. Now I’m trying to post them all online, which is a much more doable task.)

My journals are interesting. There was lots at this time about being my Authentic Self — probably natural now that I was in a job I loved so much. I also believe that’s a side effect of my theology changing. If God is going to eventually save everyone, it doesn’t make sense that my main purpose in life is to convert people to Christianity. Maybe the other gifts I have to bring have meaning. Maybe God made me my quirky self for a reason and takes joy in what I can bring. Working in a library certainly makes my heart sing. And Writing.

And I was delighting in my sweet kids. When it snowed, Timmy loved to go outside and use his bubble mower and “mow” the snow!

1998_12 1 Snowmower

1998_12 2 Snowmower

Here’s our beautiful view with snow on top!

1998_12 3 Snowy Gundersweiler

And here are the kids sledding in our own yard:

1998_12 4 Sledding

Here’s our pretty house at Christmastime:

1998_12 5 Christmas

And look! I took some pictures at the Sembach Library! The first one has my dear Elfriede!

1998_12 6 Elfriede

1998_12 7 Sembach Library

1998_12 8 Library

1998_12 9 Library

1998_12 10 Library

1998_12 11 Library

1998_12 12 Library

1998_12 13 Library

Did I mention our cat, Oskar? He came with the house, and quickly “informed” us that he was allowed indoors, and that he did not tolerate dry cat food. I swear he liked to go walk in the mud and then come back into the house, just to annoy me. He also liked to rip the “skirt” off the back of our sofa. You can see him here making nefarious plans. But the kids loved him.

1998_12 14 Oskar

We got to one castle that winter, on February 27, 1999. Castle #64, Burg Reipoltskirchen, a Wasserburg (with a moat!) — I think the only moated castle in the Pfalz. Most there were built on hills instead.

1999_02_27 1 Reipoltskirchen

Josh turned 11 years old. They were a winner in the 5th Grade Oral Reading Festival!

1999_03_19 1 Josh's Birthday

But on March 25, 1999, Steve’s parents came — for a month! That put a lot of pressure on me. I was already trying to find every spare minute to do my writing. Now I had to set it aside to be a good host. Only I was scheduled for a Society of Children’s Book Writer’s and Illustrators retreat in Paris in April, during their visit. And there was homework. So I really had to get that homework done before the retreat.

On top of that, as soon as they arrived, I got sick with a bad cold. But we took off two days after they arrived and headed south to the Black Forest.

1999_03_27 1 Black Forest

1999_03_27 2 Black Forest

And the next day, we went to Mainau Island and visited Castle #65, Schloß Mainau.

1999_03_27 3 Lake

1999_03_27 4 Lake

1999_03_28 1 Mainau

1999_03_28 2 Mainau

1999_03_28 3 Mainau

1999_03_28 4 Mainau

1999_03_28 5 Mainau

That next week, of course, we went with Gram E and Gramp E to Falkensteinerhof for dinner and visited Burg Falkenstein.

1999_04_02 1 Falkenstein

1999_04_02 2 Falkenstein

1999_04_02 3 Falkenstein

1999_04_02 4 Falkenstein

Springtime! We could eat outdoors with the beautiful view!

1999_04_02 5 Falkensteinerhof

My main homework assignment for the writer’s retreat was to illustrate the poem “I’m Hiding.” Since I don’t draw, I decided to use photos. Setting them up was a lot of fun. Here are my favorites.

1999_04_03 1 I'm Hiding

1999_04_03 2 I'm Hiding

1999_04_03 3 I'm Hiding

On Easter Sunday, after church we drove to Bern, Switzerland, and saw the bears!

1999_04_04 1 Bern

1999_04_04 2 Bern

1999_04_04 3 Bern

1999_04_04 4 Bern

1999_04_04 5 Bern

And the next day, April 5, we visited Castle #66, Schloß Burgdorf, near Bern.

1999_04_05 1 Burgdorf

1999_04_05 2 Burgdorf

1999_04_05 3 Burgdorf

1999_04_05 4 Burgdorf

1999_04_05 5 Burgdorf

1999_04_05 6 Burgdorf

1999_04_05 7 Burgdorf

1999_04_05 8 Burgdorf

1999_04_05 9 Burgdorf

1999_04_05 10 Burgdorf

1999_04_05 11 Burgdorf

When it came time for my SCBWI Retreat, the whole family went on vacation. They visited Paris while I was on the retreat.

First, we spent a night with Steve’s Dad’s cousin in Ghent. The flea markets there were amazing!

1999_04_10 1 Ghent

1999_04_10 2 Ghent

1999_04_10 3 Ghent

1999_04_10 4 Ghent

And of course we made sure to touch Burg Ghent, Castle #67!

1999_04_10 5 Burg Ghent

1999_04_10 6 Burg Ghent

1999_04_10 7 Ghent

1999_04_10 8 Burg Ghent

The city of Ghent is lovely.

1999_04_10 9 Ghent

1999_04_10 10 Ghent

1999_04_10 11 Ghent

This is at Steve’s Dad’s cousin’s house. Beautiful countryside.

1999_04_10 12 Eklund house

And we stopped in Brussels for a couple hours on our way to Paris and were dazzled.

1999_04_11 1 Brussels

1999_04_11 2 Brussels

1999_04_11 3 Brussels

1999_04_11 4 Brussels

You have to have chocolate in Belgium!

1999_04_11 5 Chocolate

And of course we visited Mannekin Pis!

1999_04_11 6 Mannekin

Well, it’s getting awfully late, and I still haven’t been able to finish. Next up is my amazing SCBWI Writer’s Retreat at the Abbaye de Royaumont in Paris, where I made some lifelong friends.

Project 52, Week 34 – Part 6, EuroDisney!

Sunday, February 12th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 34 – Part 6!

1998_11 26 Whole Family

34 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 34 — June 14, 1998, to June 14, 1999.

I’m afraid now that I’ve reached the Germany years, it’s taking multiple posts! This is now the sixth post about being 34, after talking about my new home and new job, our vacation in Spittal an der Drau, visiting the village of Sondra, yet more castles, and Ruth and John’s visit.

That brought us to the end of October, 1998. For Halloween that year, naturally Timmy was a knight.

1998_11 3 Timmy Knight

And here’s the first snow day of the year, on November 19.

1998_11_19 Snow Day

But the next Big Event was when we decided what to do with the $740 from the Beanie Babies Aunt Kay had given to the kids that Steve had sold in Colorado. It was really the kids’ money — so we decided to go to Disneyland Paris!

Knowing Disneyland (California) like I do, it seemed ideal to go over Thanksgiving Break, when the French kids would be in school. (This was, indeed, an excellent idea.) I’m going to quote from my journal for most of the description of the trip.

“We left on a cold, cloudy morning. We left fairly late — 10:30, and arrived at 3:30. It took us an hour to find the Ranch Davy Crockett and check in. It was so foggy when we arrived, we couldn’t tell where the park was when we were in the parking lot!

“We entered Disneyland Paris at 4:30 — It was open until 6:00. There were no lines whatsoever. First, we all rode Star Tours. It’s the same as California, only the robots speak French! I’m not crazy about that ride, because it doesn’t give the whooshing feel I love on roller coasters, and is so jerky. Timmy said it was too scary.

“Then Josh and I went on Space Mountain. Josh was just barely tall enough — they checked him twice. He’s 1.40 m tall. I was glad they had a Space Mountain, and liked the Jules Verne décor, but I expected the ride to be exactly like Disneyland California. How wrong I was! It had both a 360-degree loop and a corkscrew! As we went around, I was laughing delightedly — ‘Space Mountain doesn’t go upside-down!’ Ah, but it does! The ride was also darker and faster than the other Space Mountain — all-in-all, one of the best roller coasters I’ve ever ridden!”

1998_11 27 Space Mountain

“That night we also rode It’s a Small World and the Teacups. It was an excellent hour and a half.

“After the park closed, we looked at Disney Village.”

1998_11 10 Disney Village

“I wanted to eat out since it was Thanksgiving. We shelled out well over $100 for Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. It was rough on someone with a headache (me) — too much shooting. I expected tables — dinner theatre sort of thing. Instead, we were crammed into a bleachers sort of arrangement. Anyway, the boys did enjoy it.”

1998_11 4 EuroDisney

1998_11 5 EuroDisney

The next morning, we did the Character Breakfast. I love the way Timmy’s face is shining in these pictures. (And we’re all wearing my knitting!)

1998_11 6 EuroDisney

1998_11 7 Pluto

1998_11 8 Timmy

1998_11 9 Chip

“On Friday, we were at the park by 9:30. Sure enough, they let you in before opening at 10:00.”

1998_11 11 Main Street

1998_11 12 Kids and me

“This time we headed first for Frontierland — for Indiana Jones et le Temple du Péril and Big Thunder. We took turns riding those and being with Timmy. I liked Big Thunder better than the California one. It goes underground at the start, to go on an island. And it seems faster to me. Indiana Jones is another roller coaster that goes upside-down.”

1998_11 13 Playground

1998_11 14 Temple of Doom

“We had a marvelous day. There were no lines at all. I liked Adventure Isle — no boats to get there, just bridges — how nice. It has more caves and tunnels than Tom Sawyer’s Island.”

1998_11 15 Josh jungle

1998_11 16 Josh pirate

“Another thing that’s different is Alice’s Curious Labyrinth — instead of a ride. Rather fun.”

1998_11 18 Alice

1998_11 19 Queen of Hearts

1998_11 20 Queen of Hearts

1998_11 21 Alice Castle

“Timmy also liked Storybook Land — both the boat and the Casey Jr. train (which goes faster than the California one).” Here’s Belle’s village in Storybook Land:

1998_11 22 Belle's Village

“We got to go on everything — Timmy went with us on Pirates of the Caribbean and Phantom Manor (both updated) and even Big Thunder! He must be exactly 1.02 m tall — the height limit. On that ride, he clutched the bar and my hand tightly and looked pretty scared. He said it went ‘too fast.'”

The Pirates of the Caribbean got a castle! (No, I didn’t count any of these castles! They weren’t 100 years old!)

1998_11 17 Timmy Pirates

“Another highlight that was different was the 360-degree movie — a journey through time and Europe, instead of America. It was fun.”

More pictures from that wonderful day:

1998_11 23 Timmy Castle

1998_11 24 Castle

1998_11 25 Castle

I love the oh-so-French shrubbery:

1998_11 30 Castle

This part of Frontierland looks almost the same.

1998_11 31 Frontier Land

1998_11 32 Whole Family

1998_11 33 Pooh

I call this one “Tired and Cold”:

1998_11 34 Tired and Cold

But there was still enthusiasm for Eeyore!

1998_11 35 Eeyore

“The next day (Saturday), we took the kids to their favorite rides and headed home about 3:30. The lines were short — max was 30-45 minutes, but we had been spoiled the day before!

“Josh chose Star Tours, Space Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean.

“Timmy chose Peter Pan, It’s a Small World, and Autopia. We did those separately, and all rode on the Teacups together (another favorite of Timmy’s).”

1998_11 28 Sword Timmy

1998_11 29 Sword Josh

“Saturday was cold and even rained a little, a contrast from our lovely day Friday. I did like that they had “galleries” behind the Main Street shops, so you didn’t have to be outside. We ate at Buzz Lightyear’s Pizza Planet for lunch.

“On the way home, we ate at a French restaurant, where I had absolutely scrumptious pear ice cream.

“A nice finish to a fabulous vacation!”

Project 52, Week 34 – Part 5 – Ruth and John’s Visit!

Sunday, February 12th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 34 – Part 5!

1998_10_19 3 Lichtenberg

34 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 34 — June 14, 1998, to June 14, 1999.

However, I can’t seem to restrain myself when it comes to talking about Germany! This is now the fifth post about being 34, after talking about my new home and new job, our vacation in Spittal an der Drau, visiting the village of Sondra, and yet more castles.

In October 1998, Ruth and John came to visit!

The night they arrived, of course, we took them to eat at Falkensteinerhof. It was too dark to see the castle that night, so we took them to Burg Falkenstein the next day.

1998_10_19 5 Falkenstein

1998_10_19 6 Falkenstein

1998_10_19 7 Falkenstein

But that day, October 19, we took them all over Burg Lichtenberg. (This was a castle we’d already visited, Castle #14.)

1998_10_19a 1 Lichtenberg

1998_10_19a 2 Lichtenberg

1998_10_19a 3 Lichtenberg

1998_10_19a 4 Lichtenberg

1998_10_19a 5 Lichtenberg

1998_10_19a 6 Lichtenberg

1998_10_19a 7 Lichtenberg

1998_10_19 1 Burg Lichtenberg

1998_10_19 2 Lichtenberg

Burg Lichtenberg is right outside the village of Ruthweiler, so I thought Ruth should get a picture with the sign, too.

1998_10_19 4 Ruthweiler

And the next day, we took them to the Rhein River. We showed them an old favorite, Burg Rheinfels, but also took them to Castle #61, Burg Sooneck.

1998_10_20 1 Rhein

1998_10_20 1a Sooneck

1998_10_20 2 Sooneck

1998_10_20 3 Sooneck

1998_10_20 4 Sooneck

1998_10_20 5 Sooneck

1998_10_20 6 Sooneck

1998_10_20 7 Sooneck

1998_10_20 8 Sooneck

1998_10_20 9 Sooneck

Here’s Ruth in front of the Lorelei, where sirens used to sing riverboat captains to their doom.

1998_10_20 10 Lorelei

After this, Ruth and John went off to Bavaria and did some sight-seeing on their own. We did some sight-seeing on our own, too, driving into France on October 24, and visiting Castle #62, Chateau de Fleckenstein.

1998_10_24 1 Fleckenstein

1998_10_24 2 Fleckenstein

1998_10_24 3 Fleckenstein

1998_10_24 4 Fleckenstein

1998_10_24 5 Fleckenstein

1998_10_24 6 Fleckenstein

1998_10_24 7 Fleckenstein

1998_10_24 8 Fleckenstein

On October 25, Steve had to work, but the rest of us went with Ruth and John to Trier, where we visited Castle #63, the Kaiserthermen, the Imperial Baths. Now, I know I had a reason for calling these a castle. They were used by the Roman emperors, and I believe it was part of a palace structure… maybe I was stretching it, but it was fun to roam around in the passages with flashlights.

1998_10_25 Kaiserthermen

1998_10_25 2 Kaiserthermen

1998_10_25 3 Kaiserthermen

1998_10_25 4 Kaiserthermen

1998_10_25 5 Kaiserthermen

I’ll finish off this post with some views from our home in Gundersweiler.

1998_11 Gundersweiler View

And this one from the balcony outside my bedroom:

1998_10 1 Balcony View

I was definitely still loving living in Germany! So far, my family seemed to share my enthusiasm for castles! (I never did get tired of them. This was not necessarily true of everyone else by the time our 10 years were up.)

I’m still not even halfway through Year 34. Next up: Eurodisney!

Project 52, Week 34 – Part Four – More Castles

Saturday, February 11th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 34 – Part 4!

1998_08_16 1 Heidelberg

34 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 34 — June 14, 1998, to June 14, 1999.

However, when I lived in Germany, each year was packed full! This is now the fourth post about being 34, after talking about my new home and new job, our vacation in Spittal an der Drau, and visiting the village of Sondra.

I still haven’t gotten through the summer. It was about that time that my cushy schedule of working Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday switched to working four hours a day, five days a week. In a lot of ways it was nicer — I could get a regular schedule and usually worked 9:00 to 1:00, which was very nice. It was a three-week rotation, and every third week I had to work Saturday and Sunday.

I was still trying to spend lots of time writing. I was trying to sell my first novel and trying to write my second. Working a little bit more days was conducive to that (though being a Mom wasn’t — there were always things that came up).

I remembered that just when my boss told me my schedule would have to change, I’d bought tickets to go see the Student Prince in Heidelberg. Fortunately, Elfriede took pity on me and took that Sunday.

So on August 16, I went on a bus tour with band wives Kathy Huggins and Daphne Ciufo, and we got a tour of Heidelberg and got to see the musical “The Student Prince” performed in the courtyard of Heidelberg castle!

First was a tour of the city.

1998_08_16 2 Heidelberg

1998_08_16 3 Heidelberg

1998_08_16 4 Heidelberg

And then we saw the musical “The Student Prince“! They set up chairs in the courtyard. They brought in a real carriage and horses! And used an upstairs balcony for some of the scenes. It was a wonderful summer night, not too hot, not too cold, and most of the play happened as the sun was slowly setting.

My favorite part was when the Student Prince would say, “Ahhh, Heidelberg!” talking with longing of his time there — as we were sitting there in Heidelberg. It was wonderful.

Our busy summer finally ended and Josh started 5th grade.

1998_08_31 1 5th grade

In my quiet time notebook for this year, I see that this was when I first read the compilation of George MacDonald’s writing, Discovering the Character of God. My journals are joyful. Lots of quotes from the book. On September 18, I wrote this:

But my mind has been expanded. George MacDonald is convincing me little by little of his belief that God is so loving that all will be saved — eventually.

I knew this was a big deal. I figured I wouldn’t be able to teach at Biola any more, since I wouldn’t be able to sign the statement of faith as written. I wouldn’t be able to become a member of our church for the same reason. (Though Steve couldn’t become a member because he was baptized as an infant. But still.)

We had switched churches when we moved. We’d been attending Faith Baptist Church near Ramstein. But when we moved, we missed lots of weeks, and even though I was singing in the choir, no one seemed to notice. (To be fair, there was so much turnover, it was hard to even know who was new or who’d moved away.) So we started attending Sembach Bible Church, near the base at Sembach. A nice thing about this is it made us more part of the Sembach community. I’d see people I knew from church at the library, and some of my friends’ kids went to school with Josh.

I still believed that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. So I could still worship with them. But I was starting to think that Jesus brings some people to the Father in a way I might not recognize.

After I read the George MacDonald book, I began reading through the New Testament with this new lens. Could it be true? It seemed impossible before I tried it — but to me the new view actually seemed a better and more natural interpretation of the words of Scripture. (Since then, I’ve read many, many more books on the topic. And found out that this was actually the view of the Church Fathers. And there are many today who believe it as well. For more, check my book reviews.)

On Labor Day, the whole family was off, so we drove into France to Strasbourg.

1998_09_07 Strasbourg

1998_09_07 2 Strasbourg

There we visited Castle #59, Palais de Rohan, and the Musée de Beaux-Arts.

1998_09_07 3 Palais de Rohan

On Saturday, September 19, I spent the morning at work, and then we drove on the Hunsrück Schiefer- und Burgenstraße, and on a whim followed signs to Ruine Koppenstein. There was a nice path — a Rundweg — through the woods to the castle.

1998_09_19 1 Burguine Koppenstein

1998_09_19 2 Koppenstein

1998_09_19 3 Koppenstein

We weren’t sure if the huge rocks were part of the old wall or part of the mountain.

1998_09_19 4 Koppenstein

Either way, they were fun to climb on!

1998_09_19 5 Koppenstein

1998_09_19 6 Koppenstein

And one day, Josh came home from school and said, “Steg is worth a THOUSAND DOLLARS!” Steg was one of two Beanie Babies that Aunt Kay gave us when Timmy was a baby and Beanie Babies were just cute. 1998 was the height of the Beanie Baby craze. The kids were fine with selling them. So when Steve had a band trip to Colorado in October, he took the Beanie Babies with him and sold them in a mall. He didn’t get a thousand dollars, but he did get $540 for Steg and $200 for the other dinosaur (a triceratops, if I remember right). Now what to do with the money that really belonged to the kids….?

While Steve was in Colorado, I went for the first time to the Frankfurt Book Fair with Elfriede. Now that was an amazing experience! Even just staying in the English-language hall, it was overwhelming to see so many books, so many publishers.

And next up — Ruth and John came to visit!

Project 52, Week 34 – Part Three – SONDRA!

Friday, February 10th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 34 – Part 3!

1998_08_08 4 Sondra

34 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 34 — June 14, 1998, to June 14, 1999.

But now that I’m covering the years I lived in Germany, I don’t seem capable of keeping it to one blog post. This is now the third post about being 34, after talking about my new home and new job and our vacation in Spittal an der Drau.

On August 8, 1998, we got to do something I’d been wanting to do for awhile.

I think I mentioned that one of my first purchases in Germany was a hiking map. Well, I also bought a road atlas. And I loved to look at the atlas and plan these trips to castles.

Well, once when I was looking at the atlas, I was delighted to see a nearby town called Sonderhausen. Anyone who reads my blog knows that Sonder is a German prefix meaning “special,” which I picked up on right away. So Sonderhausen means “special houses.”

I figured there were probably more place names with Sonder- as a prefix. So I went to the index in the back of the atlas.

Imagine my delight when I discovered a town named SONDRA! Exactly my name! It was located in the former East Germany, about three hours away from us. I found a castle nearby as well, so that a trip would involve more than taking pictures of the sign. The closest castle is the Wartburg, which is where Martin Luther translated the Bible.

So, on Saturday, August 8, 1998, I dragged my family with me, and we visited Sondra!

I later made a t-shirt and a sweatshirt with the image. I still wear that sweatshirt when I feel like affirming who I am.

1998_08_08 1 Sondra

Here’s the sign that tells you you’re leaving Sondra:

1998_08_08 2 Sondra

And I just had to get lots of pictures taken. It took us 3 hours to get there, after all.

1998_08_08 3 Sondra

While we were taking these pictures, an old lady wearing a kerchief was working in a field. I wonder what she thought of us.

(I did think the villagers should take better care of their signs.)

Another Leaving Sondra sign:

1998_08_08 5 Sondra

1998_08_08 6 Sondra

1998_08_08 7 Sondra

1998_08_08 8 Sondra

The Wartburg was a fascinating and beautiful castle. Nicely preserved, and with a museum. We took a tour and learned about Martin Luther translating the Bible there.

1998_08_08 9 Wartburg

1998_08_08 10 Wartburg

1998_08_08 11 Wartburg

1998_08_08 12 Wartburg

1998_08_08 13 Wartburg

1998_08_08 14 Wartburg

1998_08_08 15 Wartburg

1998_08_08 16 Wartburg

I always like low ceilings that show how tall I am. Josh could reach this one!

1998_08_08 17 Wartburg

Timmy? Not so much.

1998_08_08 18 Wartburg

1998_08_08 19 Wartburg

1998_08_08 20 Wartburg

Cannon are always fun!

1998_08_08 21 Wartburg

1998_08_08 23 Wartburg

1998_08_08 24 Wartburg

1998_08_08 25 Wartburg

1998_08_08 22 Wartburg

Back home, I’d forgotten to mention that Josh played baseball again that year. Their team even won the little league championship! (Believe it or not, there were enough American bases in the area to have a complete league.)

1998_06 Baseball

And our next outing was much more prosaic: A Corn Labyrinth! We hadn’t been surprised by these in Illinois. A little more so in Germany.

1998_08_15 1 Corn Maze

1998_08_15 2 Corn Maze

It felt a lot more appropriate to go to a Medieval Fest in Kaiserslautern that same night.

1998_08_15 3 Medieval Fest

We did buy a Kinderhelmet.

1998_08_15 4 Medieval Fest

1998_08_15 5 Medieval Fest

This, predictably, resulted in some sparring later.

1998_08_15 6 Knight

1998_08_15 7 Knight

And that was the first couple weeks of August! Year 34 was full…. More to come!

Project 52 – Week 34, Part Two – Back to Spittal an der Drau

Friday, February 10th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 34 — Part Two!

1998_07_29 15 Goldeck Flag

34 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 34 — June 14, 1998, to June 14, 1999.

However, it seems that now that I’ve gotten to the years when I lived in Germany, I’m just not capable of cutting it down to one blog post. I’m having so much fun looking at old pictures — I’m afraid I’m going to stretch these out over several posts.

Last time, I covered the beginning of the year I was 34. We did lots of exploring on top of the new hill we lived on in Gundersweiler. In fact, here are some pictures from another exploration of our hill. (So beautiful! I loved exploring the fields up there, with the world laid out around us.)

We discovered this marker up on top of the hill. These are the villages in that area, on various sides of the hill.

1998_07 1 Our hill

1998_07 2 Our hill

And this crazy seat? It was probably something for hunters to use, but it had the label “Pfalz-Thron.” (The Pfalz was the region of Germany where we lived.)

1998_07 3 Our hill

1998_07 4 Our hill

1998_07 5 Our hill

My sweeties:

1998_07 6 Our hill

Steve had a day off on Monday, July 20 — so naturally, we went to a castle. This time we went back to Schloß and Burg Rheingrafenstein, which we’d visited in November when Jody was visiting. This time, it was much warmer and sunnier.

1998_07_20 1 Burg Rheingrafenstein

1998_07_20 2 Burg Rheingrafenstein

1998_07_20 3 Burg Rheingrafenstein

1998_07_20 4 Burg Rheingrafenstein

1998_07_20 5 Burg Rheingrafenstein

Now, every year the USAFE Band took leave at the same time (or at least half the band would take at one time and half at the other) — so that they would always have all the instruments they needed to perform. Ours was in July, and we were going to be gone during Timmy’s birthday on the 29th, so we threw a birthday party for him at the Bowling Center on base. The kids from Miss Angie’s home day care came, and Angelika and Katharina from Leithöfe. I made him a train cake!

1998_07 7 Timmy's Birthday Cake

Remember in 1986, when we were engaged, I spent the summer in Austria? The first place I wanted to go, now that we lived in Europe, was to go back with my family to Spittal an der Drau. And I wanted to take the cable car to the top of the mountain, Goldeck, and hike down. Because what could be better than a hike on a hill when you never had to hike uphill? I mean, what could be easier? (Famous last words!)

Now, the previous year, we didn’t have a choice where to go on vacation, because Steve’s parents took us on an amazing trip to Sweden. But this, my first year living in Europe when I could go anywhere for vacation, I wanted to go to Spittal an der Drau. We didn’t have a lot of money to spend, but we got a hotel room for four nights, traveling from July 27 to July 31.

I wrote in my journal on the 30th, so happy to be there in Spittal. I felt that God brought me back to Spittal, and — Wow! — I wrote, “I think maybe I read something revolutionary today in George MacDonald’s writings, but I still have to think about it and process it.” (I hadn’t remembered that I read that from George MacDonald in Spittal an der Drau! More on that later. That was a life-changer.)

We drove through Bavaria, and our first full day in Spittal, we explored the town — so much as I remembered it. The kids played in the castle park, and we all touched Schloß Porcia, Castle #55, the palace in the middle of the park in the middle of town.

1998_07 8 Schloss Portia

1998_07 9 Schloss Portia

Josh and Timmy played with the giant chess set in the park.

1998_07 10 Schloss Portia

The 29th was Timmy’s 4th Birthday! The hotel folks brought in a cake with lighted candles at breakfast and sang to him! (I say in my journal, “Too bad I was the only one who liked the cake!”) We did bring his presents with us, and he was thrilled.

1998_07_29 1 Timmy's Birthday

Have I mentioned yet how much little Timmy loved everything Dilbert? We had “Dilbert’s Desktop Games” on our computer, which he played often. And that led to the comics. I had the only three-year-old who pretended to be “Techno-Bill.” Anyway, we gave him a stuffed Dogbert.

1998_07_29 2 Timmy's Birthday

Quoting from my journal, “After that, we did what I dreamed of doing for twelve years. We took the cable car up Goldeck (2142 m) and hiked ALL the way down.

“When I first glimpsed Goldeck Tuesday, I had a sinking feeling that it was bigger than I remembered. But we did the WHOLE thing. We exhausted ourselves, but we really did it. My boys and husband were wonderful troopers and didn’t complain and let me fulfill my dream.”

First, the cable car.

1998_07_29 3 Goldeck

From the top, we had to find the right path back to town.

1998_07_29 4 Goldeck

But we did stay on top and enjoy it for awhile.

1998_07_29 5 Goldeck

1998_07_29 6 Goldeck

1998_07_29 7 Goldeck

1998_07_29 8 Goldeck

1998_07_29 9 Goldeck

1998_07_29 10 Goldeck

1998_07_29 11 Goldeck

We started hiking down.

1998_07_29 12 Goldeck

1998_07_29 13 Goldeck

1998_07_29 14 Goldeck

1998_07_29 16 Goldeck

1998_07_29 17 Goldeck

There was a halfway point where we could have caught the cable car the rest of the way down. I’m still thankful Steve let me keep going.

1998_07_29 18 Goldeck

Oh, and all the way down, I was singing, “It’s Timmy’s Birthday today! It’s Timmy’s Birthday today! Hooray, Hooray, Hooray, Hooray! It’s Timmy’s Birthday today!” (And most of the way down, Steve was carrying Timmy.)

1998_07_29 19 Goldeck

At the halfway stop, there were treats! (We’d already had lunch at an earlier mountain hut.)

1998_07_29 20 Goldeck

1998_07_29 21 Goldeck

1998_07_29 22 Goldeck

Reader, I’m afraid it took us six hours to get down that mountain! We crossed this river, and there was a restaurant right next to it where we stopped to eat.

1998_07_29 23 Goldeck

I was completely exhausted when we stopped for dinner. I knew I needed some caffeine to perk me up. Well, I ordered fresh-caught trout, and the waiter would not let me drink coke with it! No, for such a fine dish I had to have white wine! He bullied me into it, and I had a glass of wine with the trout.

It was one of the best meals I’ve ever had in my life, but after six hours of hiking — I was so tipsy, I almost couldn’t walk straight to the hotel! Since we were walking to the hotel, and since it really was one of the best meals of my life, it was probably worth it!

Back at the hotel, we lit candles on some cupcakes we’d brought for Timmy, and then all fell asleep.

The next day was quieter. (We actually got our car keys stuck in the hotel room safe!) But we did enjoy the hotel pool and visited the castle museum in Schloß Porcia.

1998_07_30 1 Schloss Portia

And enjoyed this little car on Main Street:

1998_07_30 2 Spittal

In the evening, we drove to Millstättersee and rented an Elektro-boat!

1998_07_30 3 Millstatter See

1998_07_30 4 Millstatter See

And then we drove back through Spittal and up a winding little road partway up Goldeck and visited Ruine Ortenberg, the first ruined castle I ever saw, 12 years earlier.

1998_07 11 Burg Hohenwerfen

1998_07_30 6 Ortenberg

1998_07_30 Ortenberg

We headed home the next day, but on the way we saw a castle where we had to stop, Festung Hohenwerfen, Castle #57.

1998_07_31 1 Hohenwerfen

The view from the castle:

1998_07_31 2 Hohenwerfen

1998_07_31 3 Hohenwerfen

1998_07_31 4 Hohenwerfen

Looking down at the lower castle from the upper castle:

1998_07_31 5 Hohenwerfen

I don’t think we caught a Raptor show there, but they did have raptors.

1998_07_31 6 Hohenwerfen

1998_07_31 7 Hohenwerfen

So that was our Austrian vacation, 1998!

As if that weren’t enough, the following Sunday, we wandered over the border into France and visited Thillombois and Lac de Madine. We didn’t find any castles, though!

1998_08_01 1 Thillombois

1998_08_01 2 Thillombois

1998_08_01 3 Thillombois

And I believe I took these pictures because I got my pictures up! Only 3 months after moving in — not bad! This was the living/dining room of our beautiful house.

1998_08 1 Gundersweiler

1998_08 2 Gundersweiler

1998_08 3 Gundersweiler

So — two posts, and I’ve only gotten through two months! I think it’s going to speed up, as we didn’t take vacation all year! But you’ll still be hearing more about Year 34….

Project 52 – Week 34, Part One – New House, New Job

Tuesday, February 7th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 34!

1998_06_14 8 Me with kids

34 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 34 — June 14, 1998, to June 14, 1999.

Now, this week I’ve decided to give up on the idea of posting about the whole year in one night. I’m going to spend about an hour and a half, and probably won’t get very far…. But being 34 was a good year to think about.

I had just begun working at Sembach Base Library in May. Last time, I talked about how I almost didn’t take the job. When I did, it felt like such a gift from God. It felt like the job was made for me. Surrounded by books! Half-time, so I still had time with my kids! Jade (then called Josh) could walk to the library after school! It was a job share, so I actually got Holiday time and Sick Leave! I did story times! I even found a way to do some programming!

The first reason I got to program was that they were hand-writing overdue notices. I made an Access data base to print them and put the overdue books in order so we could check the shelves without having to use the cards. Believe it or not, at Sembach Library, they were still filling out cards with your name and address on each card and the title, author and call number of each book you were checking out. At first, they wouldn’t let me make a data base for check-out — since they’d bought a computer system and it was supposedly coming. But there was no way I was going to take the time to hand write overdue letters when I could invest a little time in making a program to do it for me. So that was the first thing. I loved having a small chance to program again.

When I started, my job was shared with a woman named Sonja. (How’s that for confusing? Sonja and Sondra started at the same time. At least no one ever called me Sandy!) I’m afraid that Sonja did not really like the job and complained a lot about it. Which was a drag, since I was so completely thrilled to have it. Staffing at Sembach was always an issue. When we were fully staffed with a librarian, our German library assistant Elfriede, and two half-time library technicians, we got by okay. But when we were in between librarians or technicians — it was really hard to cover the hours. I went through 5 librarians in 8 years, and 5 job-shares. Jeff Conner was the librarian who hired me, and I really liked working with him.

But my dear Elfriede! The treasure of Sembach Library! She’d been working there 26 years. She is an exuberant, delightful single lady who drives a little red convertible (very very fast) and has never grown up. She loved to feed me, going to the “coffee place” (bakery) for lunch and would always bring me back a pastry. It made her genuinely happy to feed me, so I didn’t want to hurt her feelings and refuse.

As the years went by, Elfriede became my biggest fan. And you know what? it’s good to have a fan! In turn, I am a fan of Elfriede, one of the most delightful people I have ever known. She was the constant over my eight years of working at Sembach Base Library.

But we also had a new home! We’d gotten kicked out of our apartment in Leithöfe, but found this wonderful house in Gundersweiler to rent, just when I got a job so we could afford it.

1998_06 4 Gundersweiler House

The Gundersweiler house was incredible inside and out. Take a look at this incredible bathroom!

1998_06 1 Gundersweiler Bathroom

Yes, that’s a heated towel rack.

I *loved* the German toilets that came out of the wall. You could mop under them so easily. No ridiculous screws that catch dirt. All simple as can be. Sometimes I’d wonder what would happen if one clogged, since the mechanism was in the wall. Well, ten years in Germany, and we never once had a toilet clog! (German bathroom technology is wonderful!) (After I moved to Virginia, a toilet clogged when I wasn’t home, and Tim didn’t have a clue what to do. He’d grown up in Germany, so that was his first clogged toilet.)

1998_06 2 Gundersweiler Bathroom

Yes, it takes three photos to show the whole spacious and luxurious bathroom!

1998_06 3 Gundersweiler Bathroom

And on my birthday, June 14, there was a Balloon Fest going on! It was across the valley from our house. I took this picture sticking my head out the bathroom window.

1998_06_14 1 Balloon Fest

And then we decided to go for a walk up our hill. This was a longer walk than the one up our hill in Leithöfe. But incredibly spacious once we got up there. In the first few pictures, there are dots in the sky that are the balloons still taking off.

1998_06_14 2 Balloons

1998_06_14 3 Balloons

1998_06_14 4 Balloons

We tried to re-create the previous year’s picture.

1998_06_14 5 Timmy Pointing

1998_06_14 6 Walk

1998_06_14 7 Walk

Like in Leithöfe, walking up there felt like being all alone on top of the world.

1998_06_14 9 Gundersweiler

1998_06_14 10 Gundersweiler

I love this one of Josh! I’m afraid we did find a tick on Josh’s back that evening.

1998_06_14 11 Josh

1998_06_14 12 Gundersweiler

And that night, they made me a birthday cake. I love the beautiful windowed nook where we kept our table.

1998_06_14 13 Birthday Cake

And that July 4th was noteworthy. While we were moving our stuff from Leithöfe to Gundersweiler, we kept passing a sign that said “Bungee Jumping in Gehrweiler July 4!” (The sign may have been in German, but that was the gist.) Steve knew that he always worked on July 4, so he said that if he wasn’t working, he’d go bungee jumping.

Well, that year July 4 was on a Saturday. The official U. S. holiday got moved to Friday so people could have a day off. Steve and the Brass Quintet played a party at the Paris Embassy on Friday — and was home on July 4! So we went to Gehrweiler, and Steve really did go bungee jumping!

1998_07_04 1 Bungee

1998_07_04 2 Bungee

1998_07_04 3 Bungee

1998_07_04 4 Bungee

1998_07_04 5 Bungee

A couple other band people were there, and that was the day I met Jeanine Krause! Jeanine was married to Nick Althouse, a trumpet player in the band. It quickly became apparent that Jeanine was a kindred spirit. You’ll be hearing more about Jeanine! She was my first best friend in Germany.

And after bungee jumping, it was a Saturday in July, so we went to the Rhein to see The Rhein Aflame!

On a lot of Saturdays during the summer, Germans shoot off fireworks from castles! It’s dramatic and exciting — and they ended up being the most amazing fireworks I’ve ever seen on the 4th of July. We didn’t take a cruise to see them, since that ended up being expensive and would go late. Instead, we went to a Fest taking place by the river in Bingen. From there, we could see fireworks going off from four different castles. It was amazing.

Here are the kids messing around in the afternoon when we were still figuring out what we were going to do.

1998_07_04 6 Rhein

And we were still enjoying our home. The first time there were horses in the pasture next to our house, I had to take a picture!

1998_07 1 Horses

And there was a soccer field down the road where we flew kites.

1998_07 2 Kites

1998_07 3 Kites

1998_07 4 Kites

1998_07 5 Kites

1998_07 6 Kites

Another thing that happened about this time was I found out what was causing my joint pain. I’d been having joint pain and malaise since just before we left Illinois. I thought I was getting either rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, and the symptoms seemed to fit lupus best. Well, I got in with a German rheumatologist in Mannheim, and he ran a bunch of tests. I see by my journal that I also finally asked a lot of people to pray.

The rheumatologist told me that although some things were elevated, they were not at the level they would be if I had lupus. He sent me away and said, “Check your medication.”

Well, I was now working in a library! We had a Physicians Desk Reference. I looked up Inderal, the migraine preventative I’d started taking six months before I had any joint pain symptoms. It said that in “very rare cases”, it may cause drug-induced lupus! So — I stopped taking Inderal. It took a couple months, but my symptoms completely disappeared, never to return. Yep. That was it.

I wrote in my journal, “I went from thinking I had an incurable disease to one with a simple cure: Stop the Inderal. What’s more, my headaches had gotten so much better during my time not working, it looks like I’ll get along fine without the Inderal. So a shadow that’s been hanging over me for the last two years has been suddenly removed. And I feel so thankful.” (Alas! I was naïve about the headaches. But so thankful about the drug-induced lupus.)

I haven’t gotten very far tonight. But let’s see if I can get through the year if I post a little bit each night….

Tonight was about just how happy I was to start my wonderful made-for-me job and to move into my dream home. I barely got through a month….