It’s time for Project 52, Week 39!
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.
And in our own yard:
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.
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.
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.
We had dinner at “The Chicken Place.”
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.
Hey, it was Carnevale! We played with Timmy’s 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.
And then came Spring!
And Josh’s 16th 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.
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.
Next we went back to the Math Museum in Giessen, the Mathematikum!
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.
That day we also visited Castle #153, 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.
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.
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.
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.
The cemetery was lovely.
And we went back to Grandma’s house (where Aunt Susie still lives) afterward.
And back home, our flowers were still blooming!
For Mothers’ Day that year, we went to the castle restaurant at Burg 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.
And the next weekend, I took a trip to Bremen to see my sister Wendy. Of course I brought Flat Stanley along!
Such a lovely walk through the park to the Mill Café.
This is what happens when there’s a big game.
Be careful, Flat Stanley!
Then on Sunday, Wendy took me to the Rhododendron Park. More 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.
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.”
We finished up our time at Wildeshausen with tea and Kuchen and then walked Wendy’s landlady’s cute dog.
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.
Flat Stanley was still sharing our adventures!
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.
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.
Steve pretty much no longer let me take his picture. In a passive-aggressive way, though. (He never actually told me not to.)
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.
I like the cake my family made for me!
So, the year ended happily, with me excited for what my forties would hold. It’s just as well I didn’t know!