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

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?

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