Archive for February, 2017

Three Tips for Memorizing Scripture

Sunday, February 26th, 2017

Today I told my story at my church and how God has used His Word in my life.

But I originally thought I was going to talk about memorizing Scripture, so I came up with three tips if people want to try adding some memorizing Scripture into their devotional routine.

A few years ago, I talked about Why Memorizing Scripture is a great thing to add to your personal devotional life. Now I’d just like to mention three practical tips.

1. Consider memorizing entire chapters.

When you memorize an entire chapter, you get the train of thought of the passage. It’s easier to remember, and you get the entire context. You’re not just listening to a snippet here and there.

2. Consider memorizing by time, rather than by amount.

The truth is that different verses in the Bible take different amounts of time to learn. And different chapters take different amounts of time. Psalms are easier than the gospels, for example. But Psalm 117 has two verses and Psalm 119 has 176 verses. If you try to memorize a verse a day or a chapter a month, you may run into trouble.

Also, this makes it not about skill. I may not be *able* to learn some particular chapter in a month — but what I can do is spend 10 minutes a day memorizing.

This way, I don’t get mad at myself if I do it slowly. If it takes me a long time to memorize a chapter, I figure that God wanted me to spend more time on it.

I did an hour a day when I was a kid and my parents were paying me to memorize. Now I do ten minutes a day. This is something that anyone can do (or some amount of time), regardless of “ability.” So now you don’t have to even think about ability — but just spending time with God’s Word.

3. One Thing at a Time.

This works on the macro and micro level.

For chapters, I don’t try to keep more than one chapter in short-term memory at a time. I stumbled on this because my parents paid me to memorize and gave me half-price for chapters I reviewed a month later. 10 cents a verse the first time, 5 cents a verse every time after, as long as there was at least a month in between. It turned out that reviewing was where the real money was to be made!

But what I discovered was this: The second time I memorized a chapter, it was almost as hard as the first time. However, by about the sixth time, that chapter was firmly stored in my long-term memory and was mine for life.

But if I try to have everything I’ve ever memorized on the tip of my tongue at all times — I’m setting myself up for failure. Focus on one thing at a time. Then make a habit of coming back to chapters you’ve memorized before. Eventually, that reviewing process will get easier and easier.

When memorizing a long chapter, I don’t work on more than one thing at a time, either. I don’t learn verse 1, then verse 1 and 2, then 1 through 3. Instead, I first memorize each verse, one at a time. Then I go back and memorize each paragraph. (I won’t remember verse 1 when I start on the first paragraph. But it will come back after awhile.) Then, depending on how long the chapter is, I might go back and learn a section at a time. Eventually, I’m working on the whole chapter. I count it as completed when I can sit down and say the chapter perfectly the first time I recite it in the morning. If there’s a mistake somewhere — that means I need to try again the next day. God knew I needed more time with it!

(I usually then pick a verse from the chapter I’m working on that day and write in my journal, talking to God about it.)

Consider adding this habit to your daily devotions. It’s blessed me over and over again. Because God’s Word has power.

My Story – Church Version

Sunday, February 26th, 2017

Today Pastor Ed had me tell my story in church. Here’s what I wrote out to say, which I followed pretty closely.

My Story

First, I want everyone to know that Ed tricked me. Since he was doing a series about Practicing creative devotion, I offered to get up here and talk about memorizing Scripture, and then he told me he wanted me to share my story! So it’s kind of a compromise talk about how the Bible has touched my life.

The reason I wanted to talk about memorizing Scripture is that I grew up in a Christian home, and my parents had the bright idea to pay us for memorizing chapters of the Bible. I wanted to earn some money and that sounded much better than housework, so over the years I memorized a lot of chapters.

But I do believe that God’s Word has power. If you put the Bible in your head – whatever the motive – it will find its way into your heart. Doing all that memorization honestly made me love it.

Now mine was the kind of family that was at church whenever the doors were open. I went to a Christian elementary school, a Christian high school, and a Christian university. I married a guy from Biola who sang in the choir with me. We were part of a small group of young married couples at our church in downtown LA.

After we got married, I went back to Biola as a math instructor. But when our first child was born, I wanted to have more time with him, so my husband joined the Air Force as a musician and I started teaching part-time. We moved to New Jersey and then Illinois. In Illinois, I had a second child and was put on bed rest for the pregnancy, and our church brought us meals and got us through.

After 5 years in Illinois, we got the opportunity to move to Germany, and we were thrilled. We got to see Europe, and I got a job in the base library and loved it. We extended twice so that we could stay until our oldest graduated from high school, for a total of ten years. I thought we were a good Christian family with a side of world travel.

But a year and a half before we left Germany, everything fell apart. On March 14, 2005, I found out that instead of spending extra hours at the office, my husband had been spending that time with another woman.

It didn’t even compute at first. I thought it was a terrible mistake. Some sort of weird misunderstanding. We loved each other, right? When I confronted him, he confessed by looking me in the eye and saying, “I’m not having an affair, but I am living a double life.” He said he’d been spending time with this other woman because he needed a friend and that I hadn’t been there for him.

He did apologize, and I thought that was that. We’d straighten it all out. But over the next month, he started telling me every single way I’d hurt him over 18 years of marriage.

What was devastating about it was that it was based in truth. I had done hurtful things over 18 years of marriage. But I begged forgiveness, and I groveled, and I cried and I looked for ways to make it up to him, but he said he just couldn’t forgive me.

That was pretty much the low point in my life. I remember going for a walk and chanting the names of my kids so that I wouldn’t think about suicide.

I want to talk about the ways God used the Bible in my life, and it was at that time, when I was in a deep depression, being told I was unforgivable by the person I loved most, being told that I was the one who had ruined my marriage – that Psalm 103 came up in my memorizing rotation.

So here I want to give a little commercial for memorizing. Imagine you’re feeling unforgiveable. Then this is what you’re memorizing. You’re reading it over and over again. It starts to sink in.

Psalm 103

Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—

who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,

who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,

who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord works righteousness
    and justice for all the oppressed.

He made known his ways to Moses,
    his deeds to the people of Israel:

The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
    slow to anger, abounding in love.

He will not always accuse,
    nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
    so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
    he remembers that we are dust.
The life of mortals is like grass,
    they flourish like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone,
    and its place remembers it no more.
But from everlasting to everlasting
    the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,
    and his righteousness with their children’s children—
with those who keep his covenant
    and remember to obey his precepts.
The Lord has established his throne in heaven,
    and his kingdom rules over all.
Praise the Lord, you his angels,
    you mighty ones who do his bidding,
    who obey his word.
Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts,
    you his servants who do his will.
Praise the Lord, all his works
    everywhere in his dominion.
Praise the Lord, my soul.

You can see why those words were life to me.

I realized I’d always proved to myself that I was lovable because my husband loved me, and now I really had to turn to God.

The last year and a half in Germany were truly awful. It felt like my marriage was slipping through my fingers. I kept trying to patch things up, trying to be extra loving, trying to somehow get things right, and every time I thought I’d made progress, Steve would pull further away.

But I started following a ministry that encourages you to “Stand for your marriage,” and I still didn’t think there were grounds for divorce, and I believed divorce was wrong, and I made a vow, and, doggone it, I was going to pray him back. (I look at it now and think maybe I was a little controlling?)

One very good thing about that ministry was they encouraged you to listen to God’s voice. I was desperate and I started listening.

Toward the end of my time in Germany, the pastor there preached on the passage in Mark 7 where Jesus heals a deaf and mute man. It’s a weird passage. Jesus puts his fingers in the man’s ears and then spits and touches the man’s tongue – and the pastor pointed out that Jesus was speaking to the deaf man in sign language, telling him what he was going to do. And he said that God speaks your language. And I realized that my language is books. And Scripture.

And it made me cry, because for the last several months exactly the book I needed kept landing on my desk at the library. I read The Divorce Remedy, which helped me stop chasing after Steve to try to get him back. And I read Love Without Hurt, which is about responding with compassion instead of anger. And there were several other books that came just exactly when I needed them.

Our time in Germany was up when our oldest graduated from high school. I’d planned to follow Steve wherever he was stationed next, so he could be near Tim, our youngest. But he got himself sent to Japan unaccompanied so that I could not follow him. He wanted to be on the other side of the world from me.

Well, that gave me a choice to go anywhere in America. I didn’t want to go back to California for a number of reasons – but I had two friends I’d known since 3rd grade in California who both lived in Herndon and attended Gateway, Kathe Barsotti and Darlene LeVault. I’d visited Gateway when I was here for Darlene’s wedding, and had wished there was a church like that where we lived. What’s more, Tim was starting 7th grade, and Gateway was meeting at Rachel Carson, a brand new beautiful middle school.

So we got it on his orders for me to go to Virginia. The day the movers came was the day Steve told me it had been an affair all along. Since I’d been saying for a year that nothing is unforgivable, I wasn’t able to turn around and say, “Except that! That’s not forgivable!”

So I came to Virginia still standing for my marriage. But I came here completely broken and devastated and sad – and Gateway took me in. Darlene and Matt let me and my kids live in their basement for six weeks, bless them. I was so distraught, I lost my cellphone and a key to Darlene’s house in the first week. I went with them to Trisha & Phil Sallee’s small group, and it turned out they’d gone to Biola and started the first semester after I quit teaching, so that was a connection.

But what completely touched my heart was that when my household goods arrived, the entire small group came over – even though they didn’t know me yet – and moved me in. Almost all my furniture had been disassembled, and some of it was broken, and they put it back together and made me feel so cared for and so much less alone. That was when Gateway became my family.

That was 2006. God was taking care of me, too. I knew I needed to work full-time now, so I got my Master’s in Library Science, and I was able to almost completely finish it while Steve was still in Japan getting a dual housing allowance. And when I did finish it, I got a job right away at the closest library to my house.

I was still standing for my marriage, still hoping to pray Steve back or somehow win him back with my loving, forgiving attitude! I had this feeling that if I were really spiritual, and really loving and forgiving, then nothing Steve said should be able to hurt me.

That brings up a story from August 2009, when Steve sent an email basically telling me I was a terrible mother and a terrible person. My mind didn’t believe it, but my heart did.

My first reaction was to write back a blistering response, but I was pretty sure that probably wasn’t the best idea. I did pray and ask God how I should respond.

That night I was planning what I was going to wear to church the next day. When I saw a t-shirt with stars embroidered on it, I thought of the verse Philippians 2:15. It says, “so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life.”

It comforted me to think that God was using all I was going through to make me shine. Again – you have to understand that I was feeling terrible about myself. As much as I wanted to not believe it, a part of me was believing that I was unlovable, that I was a bad mother and a bad person. But how healing it would be to think that God was using these awful times to build my character and was making me shine like a star. And that He brought that verse to mind to tell me so.

The next morning as I was getting dressed, the thought came to me, I think the prompting of the Holy Spirit, to pray that Philippians 2:15 would come up in the sermon. That would be confirmation from God that He was making me shine like a star, that I wasn’t unlovable, that God was bringing good things out of all this. That would show me that the verse coming up wasn’t a coincidence, but a message to me from God.

You weren’t preaching that day, Ed — and the verse did not come up in the sermon. Oh well. It was probably a silly thing to pray. I mean, what are the odds?

Then they sang the closing song.

“We are the people of God,
The sons and daughters of love
Forgiven, restored and redeemed,
Living our lives to the praise of our King
We are the ones who will shine
His light in the darkness of night
The hopeless, the broken, the poor,
They will be hopeless and broken no more.

You are the light
The light of the world
And we shine you, Lord.
You are the light
The light of the world
And we shine you, Lord.”

Okay, I’m getting very emotional, realizing how much this fits the verse, and they went through that twice, and then they sang the bridge:

“We shine like stars in the universe
Proclaiming the hope of our God
To the sons and daughters in all the earth
We shine you, Lord.”

In case you didn’t catch it, that’s a direct quote from Philippians 2:15. I completely lost it. Partly what meant so much was that God looked down and saw just how much I desperately needed that encouragement.

And then when I got home came the punchline. I looked up the verse to go over it again. I had forgotten that the sentence begins in the previous verse, Philippians 2:14 – “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine as stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life.”

Remember that I had asked God if I should defend myself and answer the email that hurt me? Well, in His loving and wonderful way (with His sense of humor), He gently led me to the answer: “Do everything without complaining or arguing”! But he also answered the pain and doubt that came with the email. He was making me shine like a star.

And that reminds me of how you talked last month about coming to God as a lover. But what I learned in that awful time is that God comes to us as a Lover.

He says in Isaiah 54:5 – “For your Maker is your husband –
The Lord Almighty is his name –
The Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
He is called the God of all the earth.”

He says in Hosea 2:14-16 –
“Therefore I am now going to allure her;
I will lead her into the wilderness
And speak tenderly to her.
There I will give her back her vineyards,
And will make the Valley of Trouble a door of hope.
There she will sing as in the days of her youth,
As in the day she came up out of Egypt.
‘In that day,’ declares the Lord,
‘you will call me “my husband”;
You will no longer call me “my master.”’”

It took a long time, but I did finally realize, especially with the help of a sermon you preached, that “standing for my marriage” wasn’t actually trusting God. I was still trying to control the outcome.

I had this vision of bringing glory to God with a restored marriage. But how much was that really about bringing glory to me?

I think, for me, I had to let go of my belief that God would do this thing that I was sure was best – but hold onto my belief that yes, God would bring good out of this awful thing that happened. I had to realize that Faith isn’t telling God what to do.

At one point in the middle of this, someone said to me that “Everything works out for the best.” And I got mad. That’s not what it says! Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” It’s not the best when someone makes a bad decision, and I still think my husband made a bad decision to leave me and leave the church. But – God brought me so much good out of it, I’m not sure it’s not far better than what I thought was best.

I remember sitting in Mark and Rachel Morgan’s small group, a few years after coming to Virginia, and I realized that I’d turned the corner. I no longer had to just believe that God would bring good out of my marriage falling apart, but I could already start to feel it in my heart. I was already so much closer to God, felt so much more loved by Him.

I had to trust that about the divorce, too. Our divorce was final in November 2010.

And God has brought all kinds of good out of it. Some things are obvious. I got a career for the first time, and I love being a librarian. Also, I wouldn’t even be here at Gateway if all that hadn’t happened.

It made me feel much closer to God, but it also humbled me. And I discovered how much I needed humbling. I had always looked down on people who were divorced. Even when I was standing for my marriage. I had to be shown that some things, believe it or not, are out of my control. And, boy, did it give me a heart for other people going through similar things.

Just last week, my small group was talking about the Beatitudes. And I was struck for the first time by “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” My heart had been broken, I was as low as I could go, and God comforted me. And that’s a blessing. It’s not a blessing I would have ever chosen for myself. But it is a blessing that honestly does outweigh the mourning.

Project 52, Week 36 – More Adventures in Europe!

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 36!

2000_07_20 1 Me at Neuschwanstein

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2000_07_18 1 Innsbruck

2000_07_18 Dolomites

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

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

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

2000_07_19 1 Deutsches Museum

2000_07_19 2 Deutsches Museum

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

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

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

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

2000_07_20 2 Neuschwanstein

2000_07_20 3 Josh at Neuschwanstein

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

2000_07_21 1 Passionspiele

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

2000_07_21 2 Obstruction

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

2000_07_21 3 Binoculars

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

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

And a funny thing happened at lunchtime!

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

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

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

2000_07_21 4 Lunch

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

2000_07_29 1 Birthday

2000_07_29 2 Birthday

2000_07_29 3 Birthday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First stop was always Burg Falkenstein and dinner at Falkensteinerhof.

2000_08_03 1 Falkenstein

2000_08_03 2 Falkenstein

2000_08_03 3 Falkenstein

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

2000_08_05 1 Bitche

2000_08_05 2 Bitche

2000_08_05 3 Bitche

2000_08_05 4 Bitche

2000_08_05 5 Bitche

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

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

2000_08_07 1 Kurpfalzpark

2000_08_07 2 Kurpfalzpark

2000_08_07 3 Kurpfalzpark

2000_08_07 4 Kurpfalzpark

2000_08_07 5 Kurpfalzpark

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

2000_08_11 0a Adlerturm

2000_08_11 0b Cruise

2000_08_11 0c Cruise

2000_08_11 0d Bromserburg

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

2000_08_11 1 Pfalzgrafenstein

2000_08_11 2 Pfalzgrafenstein

Timmy would gladly lower Josh into the dungeon!

2000_08_11 3 Dungeon

Here’s where we had dinner.

2000_08_11 4 Lahneck

2000_08_11 5 Lahneck

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

2000_08_12 1 BQ

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

2000_08_13 1 Fest

2000_08_13 2 Fest

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

2000_08_22 1 Heidelberg

2000_08_22 2 Heidelberg

2000_08_22 3 Heidelberg

2000_08_22 4 Heidelberg

2000_08_22 5 Heidelberg

2000_08_22 6 Heidelberg

2000_08_22 7 Heidelberg

2000_08_22 8 Heidelberg

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

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

2000_08_26 1 Pow wow

2000_08_26 2 Pow wow

2000_08_26 3 Ktown

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

2000_08_28 1 School

We did eventually take Steve’s parents to Falkensteinerhof.

2000_09_14 Falkenstein

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

2000_09_24 1 Luisen Park

2000_09_24 2 Luisen Park

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

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

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

2000_11_24 1 Tuba factory

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

2000_11_25 1 CERN

2000_11_25 2 CERN

2000_11_25 3 CERN

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

2000_11_25 4 Chillon

2000_11_25 5 Chillon

2000_11_25 6 Chillon

2000_11_25 7 Chillon

2000_11_25 8 Chillon

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

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

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

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

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

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

2000_04 1 Paris

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

2000_04 2 Pyramids

He could!

2000_04 3 Pyramids

Castle #107 was the Palais Royale

2001_04_09 2 Palais Royale

2001_04_09 Palais Royale

2001_04_09 3 Palais Royale

Josh was happy to imitate this statue in the Louvre.

2001_04_09 4 Louvre

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

2001_04_09 5 Pompidou Centre

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

2001_04_10 1 Notre Dame

2001_04_10 2 Notre Dame

2001_04_10 3 Notre Dame

2001_04_10 4 Notre Dame

2001_04_10 5 Notre Dame

2001_04_10 6 Notre Dame

2001_04_10 7 Notre Dame

I had to pose again at Rue Lagrange!

2001_04_10 8 Rue Lagrange

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

2001_04_11 1 Science

2001_04_11 2 Science

I love this one of the Timmys conferring!

2001_04_11 3 Science

Josh lost their head over this exhibit.

2001_04_11 4 Headless

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

2001_05_12 1 Eiffel

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

I’m 37 years old today.

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017

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

2000_04 1 Springtime

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

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

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

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

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

1999_12_19 1 Snow

1999_12_19 2 Snow

1999_12_19 3 Snow

1999_12_19 4 Snowman

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

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

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

1999_12 1 Eklund gathering

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

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

1999_12 2 Hatch gathering

And some aunts and uncles and cousins came, too!

1999_12 3 Hatches

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

2000_01_01 1 Star Wars

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

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

2000_01_03 Beach Restaurant

And we went to Disneyland!

2000_01_04 1 Disneyland

2000_01_04 2 Disneyland

2000_01_04 3 Disneyland

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

2000_01_08 1 Friends

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

2000_01_08 2 Friends

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

2000_01_09 1 Joshua Tree

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

2000_01 1 Gram E

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

2000_01_10 Montezuma's Castle

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

2000_01_11 1 Zoo

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

2000_02_07 1 Bitche

2000_02_07 2 Bitche

2000_02_07 3 Bitche

2000_02_07 4 Bitche

2000_02_07 5 Bitche

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

2000_02 1 Spelling Bee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2000_04_06 1 Storytelling

We went to Holiday Park for Josh’s birthday.

2000_04_10 1 Holiday Park

2000_04_10 2 Holiday Park

2000_04_10 3 Holiday Park

2000_04_10 4 Holiday Park

Springtime in Gundersweiler was glorious.

2000_04 2 Tulips

2000_04 3 Tulips

2000_04 4 Tulips

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

2000_04_22 1 Walk

2000_04_22 2 Walk

2000_04_22 3 Walk

2000_04_22 4 Walk

2000_04_22 5 Walk

2000_04_22 6 Walk

2000_04_22 7 Walk

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

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


2000_04_29 1 Sababurg

2000_04_29 2 Sababurg

2000_04_29 3 Sababurg

2000_04_29 4 Sababurg

2000_04_29 5 Sababurg

2000_04_29 6 Sababurg

2000_04_29 7 Sababurg

Schloß Wilhelmsthal:

2000_04_30 1 Schloss Wilhelmsthal

2000_04_30 2 Schloss Wilhelmsthal

2000_04_30 3 Schloss Wilhelmsthal

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

2000_04_30 4 Wilhelmshohe

2000_04_30 5 Wilhelmshohe

2000_04_30 6 Wilhelmshohe

2000_04_30 7 Wilhelmshohe

2000_04_30 8 Wilhelmshohe

2000_04_30 9 Lowenburg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2000_05_14 1 Saalburg

2000_05_14 2 Saalburg

2000_05_14 3 Saalburg

2000_05_14 4 Saalburg

2000_05_14 5 Saalburg

2000_05_14 6 Saalburg

2000_05_14 7 Saalburg

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

2000_05_14 8 Limes

First, they’re being Romans.

2000_05_14 9 Limes

Now, they’re being Barbarians.

2000_05_14 10 Limes Barbarians

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

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

2000_06_14 0a Altenbaumburg

2000_06_14 1 Altenbaumburg

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

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

Monday, February 20th, 2017

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

1999_10_31 2 Halloween

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

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

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

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

1999_10_31 1 Halloween

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

1999_10_31 3 Library

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

1999_10_31 4 Halloween

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

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

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

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

Here’s what I say in my journal:

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

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

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

Even writing that much has got me thinking about it!

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

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

1999_11 1 Gundersweiler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1999_11 2 Gundersweiler

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

1999_11 3 Gundersweiler View

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

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

And three days later, I wrote:

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

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

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

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

1999_11 4 Gundersweiler

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

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

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

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

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

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

1999_11 5 Snow

1999_11 6 Snowy Gundersweiler

1999_11 7 Sled

1999_11 8 Snow

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

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

1999_11_28 1 Ruine Eremitage

1999_11_28 2 Eremitage

1999_11_28 3 Eremitage

1999_11_28 4 Hardenburg

1999_11_28 5 Hardenburg

1999_11_28 6 Hardenburg

1999_11_28 7 Hardenburg

I like the Christmas tree!

1999_11_28 8 Hardenburg

1999_11_28 9 Hardenburg

1999_11_28 10 Hardenburg

1999_11_28 11 Hardenburg

1999_11_28 12 Hardenburg

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

1999_11_30 1 Steve's Birthday

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

1999_12 1 HP Windows

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

Project 52, Week 35, Part 6 – Darlene’s Wedding!

Monday, February 20th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 35!

1999_10_23 3 Friends!

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.

This is the last day of the 35th week, and I’m not even halfway through the year! I may have to start summarizing. It took four posts to talk about our England vacation, and then another to get through the rest of the summer and both my kids in school.

We were still Castling. On Saturday, September 25, we got out a map and picked a location with several symbols for castle ruins, and then tried to find out how to get there using road signs, once we got to the area. (Would Google maps take out the fun of castling? It would make it easier to know if it were possible to get to a castle. In our day, we had to pick a place with lots of potential choices, in hopes that at least one was findable.)

Castle #85 was Ruine Randeck. We had headed in a new direction, but it wasn’t real far from home in Gundersweiler. You can see that we got there on a beautiful day.

1999_09_25 1 Ruine Randeck

1999_09_25 2 Ruine Randeck

1999_09_25 3 Ruine Randeck

1999_09_25 4 Ruine Randeck

1999_09_25 5 Ruine Randeck

1999_09_25 6 Randeck

1999_09_25 7 Randeck

1999_09_25 8 Me at Randeck

Playing tag at a castle again:

1999_09_25 9 Randeck

1999_09_25 10 Randeck

We were the only people there (one of the cool things about castle ruins), so there wasn’t anyone to ask to take a family picture. I gave everyone else a turn with the camera. First Timmy took a picture:

1999_09_25 11 Randeck

Then it was Jade’s turn:

1999_09_25 12 Randeck

And finally Steve took a picture:

1999_09_25 13 Randeck

Timmy was in Kindergarten, so maybe this was a shoe-tying lesson? (Steve taught using a different method than I did, and it was simpler.)

1999_09_25 14 Randeck

And could anyone look more angelic?

1999_09_25 15 Randeck

Now here’s a picture that makes my heart happy. Timmy took a few weeks to adjust to Kindergarten. He is one of the most introverted people I’ve ever known, and was very quiet, observant, and tentative the first few weeks. But this showed that he was adjusting and finding his stride. He was Star of the Week! And I love his proud smile.

1999_09 1 Star of the Week

And the highlight of the Fall was when I took a trip by myself to Virginia to be in Darlene’s wedding! I got a seat on a Space Available flight for almost free. (It flew in to BWI, so Kathe had a long drive to pick me up.) I flew out on October 18 and stayed at Kathe’s house.

1999_10 1 Kathe

I hung out with Kathe and her son Tim, and ran some errands with Darlene and met her new husband Matt. It was strange to be in America, but have it not feel like home. (So much cement! The wide, wide roads! Ugly strip malls!) And it was hard to be on the other side of the ocean from my kids and husband. But very, very good to have time with Kathe and Darlene.

On October 21, Kathe took me and Tim for a drive along Skyline Drive to enjoy the Fall Color. So beautiful!

1999_10_21 1 Skyline Drive

1999_10_21 2 Skyline Drive

1999_10_21 3 Skyline Drive

1999_10_21 4 Skyline Drive

1999_10_21 5 Skyline Drive

1999_10_21 6 Skyline Drive

1999_10_21 7 Skyline Drive

1999_10_21 8 Skyline Drive

1999_10_21 9 Skyline Drive

1999_10_21 10 Skyline Drive

And here’s the happy couple!

1999_10 2 Darlene and Matt

At the Rehearsal:

1999_10_22 1 Rehearsal

1999_10_22 2 Rehearsal

At the Rehearsal dinner, we were in booths, and here’s the group I sat with. The couple on the left were friends of Matt’s. On the right are Diane and Ed Allen, and Lisa Miller, who went to high school and church with Darlene and me.

1999_10_22 3 Rehearsal Dinner

And yes, that was when I met Pastor Ed Allen and his wonderful wife Diane! I remember he teased me about the childhood photos of Darlene that I was circulating! So now I can tease back that he had more and a different color of hair than he does now.

And Darlene Sasaki and Matt LeVault got married on October 23, 1999.

1999_10_23 1 Wedding

1999_10_23 2 Friends

The truth is that Lisa put butter on her finger to take this picture to try to shock Darlene after the fact!

1999_10_23 4 Cake Tasting

1999_10_23 5 Darlene

1999_10_23 6 Dancing

1999_10_23 7 Going Away

The reception was at the LeVault home.

1999_10_23 8 Reception

1999_10_23 9 Reception

1999_10_23 10 Reception

1999_10_23 11 Reception

My last day in Virginia was Sunday, October 24. I attended Gateway Community Church in the morning with Kathe, and wished there was a church like that where we lived. It wasn’t too small or too big (Kathe seemed to know most of the people.). I liked the singing, and Pastor Ed didn’t have a “preacher voice” and I liked the style of the service. After the service there was a Fall Fest and I thought that my whole family would enjoy such a church.

After that, I hung out with Kathe and Joe and Tim until Kathe took me to BWI Airport in the evening and I caught a Space Available flight home.

1999_10_24 Kathe

Project 52, Week 35, Part 5 – Total Solar Eclipse!

Monday, February 20th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 35!

1999_08 1 Me at Eclipse

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.

And this may be the year I can’t get through in a week! It took me four posts just to cover our vacation in England. First, we roamed around Dover Castle, then we went to Bodiam Castle, Battle Abbey, Winnie-the-Pooh country, Framlingham Castle, and Somerleyton Hall, then Cambridge, London, Weeting Castle, Castle Acre Priory, and Castle Acre Castle, and finally Oxford, Castle Rising Castle, Leeds Castle, and the white cliffs of Dover.

We got back from England in time for Timmy’s 5th Birthday on July 29.

1999_07_29 1 Timmy's Birthday

1999_07_29 2 Timmy's Birthday

The book Timothy Goes to School was a good choice, because Timmy was about to start Kindergarten!

1999_07_29 3 Timmy's Birthday

1999_07_29 4 Timmy's Birthday

My journal says that on August 2, my friend Jeanine really did get the other half of my job at the Sembach Library! I had been working 27 hours per week since January, and now could go back to 20. Plus, Timmy was about to start Kindergarten, so I was looking forward to having more times for things like writing.

August 11, 1999, there was a total eclipse of the sun happening in Germany. I looked carefully at maps, though the eclipse was definitely going to be visible in Kaiserslautern, it looked like Sembach, where we worked, would be right on the edge. So I wasn’t sure we’d even get to see it if we stayed there. Kaiserslautern was having a fest on the hill above the city, so I took the day off and we went, with Jeanine and her husband, to Kaiserslautern to see the eclipse. We got special viewer glasses to be safe about it.

1999_08 2 Eclipse

We were having a great time, and enjoyed the partial eclipse leading up to total.

1999_08 3 Eclipse

And then — about one second before the eclipse went total — clouds completely covered the sun, and we couldn’t see it at all! It even began to rain a bit. Yes, it got dark, but we didn’t get to see the actual event.

1999_08 4 Eclipse

The final straw to the story is that my co-workers who had been at work said that they and the library patrons just stepped outside and got to see the total eclipse just fine! No clouds covering the sun 20 minutes north of Kaiserslautern! Oh well!

(I’m thinking about going to Oregon to see the total solar eclipse in August 2017. But will my luck continue like this time?)

Still some more outings. We went for a hike on the Donnersberg — the large hill near our house that dominated the skyline — on August 20 and went up the tower at the top.

1999_08 5 Donnersberg Hike

1999_08 6 Donnersberg Hike

1999_08_20 1 Donnersberg

The kids are wearing shirts Steve got them on a recent Band tour to Budapest.

1999_08_20 2 Budapest shirts

This is from our house in Gundersweiler. A balloon went right by!

1999_08 7 Balloon

Another Angel picture!

1999_08_22 1 Moschellandsburg

On Sunday, August 22, we decided to do some castling after church. We packed a picnic supper and visited Castle #84, Moschellandsburg.

1999_08_22 2 Moschellandsburg

1999_08_22 3 Moschellandsburg

1999_08_22 4 Moschellandsburg

See how I fill the doorway!

1999_08_22 5 Moschellandsburg

I’m not sure what game they’re playing….

1999_08_22 6 Moschellandsburg

A beautiful spot for a picnic!

1999_08_22 7 Picnic

1999_08_22 8 Picnic

1999_08_22 9 Moschellandsburg

Interesting. Josh’s first day of sixth grade was August 30…

1999_08_30 6th grade

… but Timmy’s first day of Kindergarten was September 7. And there was Orientation and a Home Visit in between.

1999_09_07 1 Kindergarten

Oh look! I wrote in my journal about Timmy’s first day of Kindergarten!

Timmy’s favorite thing about the first day of Kindergarten was — the bus ride! He drew two pictures that first day — and they were both about the bus ride. The first was him and Josh and the bus driver on the bus. The second was of me waiting at the bus stop, angry because the bus was late! (And indeed it was — but I was worried, not mad.

And some about Josh:

Josh seems to like school well enough. He doesn’t say a lot about it, though one day he did say, “I like art!” And that was very good to hear. Too bad that art will only last for one quarter. (He has Art, Host Nation, Spanish, and P. E.)

Josh has chosen to play oboe, thanks to Jeanine’s urging. I’m a little taken aback. Somehow, I always expected him to play a brass instrument. Maybe he’ll actually get his instrument next week.

This week ended up being a rough one for me. Getting the dryer replaced (It had a dead mouse in it.) was a huge hassle, that finally had me in tears. The bureaucracy can be so maddening! There was a Band Parents’ meeting on Tuesday night, and any trip to the base seems like such a huge deal with that detour on the way, making it take almost 30 minutes to get there.

Yesterday was a good day at work, though. It’s so nice to have Jeanine there! And it was a whole lot of fun ordering more McNaughtons than usual — and some old books, to fill in our collection. I love my job very much. In the morning, I had quiet Brandon McDonald laughing aloud at Story Time! (And last week, little Elisha cried when I left!) Jeanine gets Jeff more talkative than ever! We work well together.

That’s all for tonight. Tomorrow will be the test to see if I can finish blogging about the year in one week — not even halfway yet. Coming up is another beautiful little local castle, Darlene’s wedding, and a trip back to the States over Christmas.

Project 52, Week 35, Part 4 – Oxford and Castles!

Saturday, February 18th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 35!

1999_07_24 13 Favorite

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

So far, with three posts, I haven’t gotten very far into the year, because we took an amazing vacation to England. First, we roamed around Dover Castle, then we went to Bodiam Castle, Battle Abbey, Winnie-the-Pooh country, Framlingham Castle, and Somerleyton Hall, and next to Cambridge, London, Weeting Castle, Castle Acre Priory, and Castle Acre Castle.

Tonight I’m hoping to finish describing that English vacation. On Thursday, July 22, 1999, we made the long drive to Oxford. (I’m pretty sure Steve was hoping one of our kids would decide to go to college in Oxford or Cambridge. It didn’t end up working out that way, but we did all have fun visiting.) On the way there, we stopped at a lavender farm.

1999_07_22 1 Lavender

The next stop was the Roald Dahl Children’s Gallery in Aylesbury.

1999_07_22 1 Roald Dahl

1999_07_22 2 Roald Dahl

At Oxford, we visited The Oxford Story – an actual ride that taught you the history of Oxford. And of course we visited bookshops!

1999_07_22 3 Oxford

On Friday, July 23, we started out the day at Castle #82, Castle Rising Castle. (Another village with “Castle” in the name.)

1999_07_23 1 Castle Rising

1999_07_23 2 Castle Rising

This was another castle with an audio tour. You can see Jade (then called Josh) is wearing headphones. Steve and Timmy weren’t interested. (So Josh and I went through the castle much more slowly. But it was so interesting!)

1999_07_23 1 Castle Rising

1999_07_23 2 Castle Rising

1999_07_23 3 Castle Rising

1999_07_23 4 Castle Rising

1999_07_23 4a Castle Rising

1999_07_23 5 Castle Rising

1999_07_23 6 Castle Rising

1999_07_23 7 Castle Rising

1999_07_23 8 Castle Rising

1999_07_23 9 Castle Rising

1999_07_23 10 Castle Rising

1999_07_23 11 Castle Rising

1999_07_23 12 Castle Rising

1999_07_23 13 Castle Rising

1999_07_23 14 Castle Rising

1999_07_23 15 Castle Rising

1999_07_23 16 Castle Rising

1999_07_23 17 Castle Rising

There were some earthworks around this castle, too, so we did some rolling down them.

1999_07_23 18 Rolling

1999_07_23 19 Castle Rising

1999_07_23 20 Castle Rising

1999_07_23 21 Castle Rising

1999_07_23 22 Castle Rising - Copy

1999_07_23 23 Castle Rising - Copy

1999_07_23 24 Castle Rising - Copy

1999_07_23 25 Castle Rising - Copy

We suspected it might be a tacky American thing to do, but we had a picnic lunch on the grounds.

1999_07_23 26 Castle Rising Picnic

Next, the same day, since we were on an island, after all, we headed for the Beach! We went to the town of Hunstanton.

1999_07_23 27 Hunstanton

We went to the Sea Life Centre there, a small aquarium.

1999_07_23 28 Sea Life Centre

1999_07_23 29 Hunstanton

And then we took a boat ride along the coast in a DUKW — an amphibious vehicle like they used to land on the beaches of Normandy.

1999_07_23 34 DUKW

1999_07_23 30 Boat ride

1999_07_23 31 Boat

1999_07_23 32 Boat

1999_07_23 33 Boat

We had to visit the carnival there by the beach.

1999_07_23 35 Carnival

1999_07_23 36 Carnival

1999_07_23 37 Carnival

And we finished our eventful day with a walk by the sea. And in the sea.

1999_07_23 38 Wading

1999_07_23 39 Beach

1999_07_23 40 Beach

1999_07_23 41 Old boat

1999_07_23 42 Beach

1999_07_23 43 Lighthouse

Our final day in England was Saturday, July 24. We drove south to catch the ferry at Dover. (And on the way, we passed a van with a family from our church. They were heading into England.) We stopped along the way at Castle #83, another of the prettiest castles, Leeds Castle in Kent. There I snapped my very favorite castle picture (at the top) with the swans posing.

We did touch the castle, but we didn’t have time for a tour. We did walk all over the beautiful grounds, though.

1999_07_24 1 Leeds Castle

1999_07_24 2 Leeds

1999_07_24 3 Leeds

1999_07_24 4 Leeds

1999_07_24 5 Leeds

Another castle with a Labyrinth on its grounds!

1999_07_24 6 Labyrinth

There was also a Grotto.

1999_07_24 7 Grotto

1999_07_24 8 Leeds

1999_07_24 9 Leeds

1999_07_24 10 Leeds

1999_07_24 11 Leeds

1999_07_24 12 Leeds

1999_07_24 14 Leeds

1999_07_24 15 Leeds

1999_07_24 16 Leeds

1999_07_24 17 Leeds

And so we said goodbye to England. Now, when we’d arrived, I’d been thrilled to see the white cliffs of Dover with my own eyes. But it had been a cloudy day, and I didn’t get any pictures. The day we departed was perfect for that.

1999_07_24 18 Dover

1999_07_24 19 Dover

1999_07_24 20 Dover

So that was our amazing and unforgettable family vacation to England July 1999. And all the car travel of the week was accompanied by the reading of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I can confidently say that a magnificent time was had by all.

(Now I’ve gotten through a month of the year I was 35!)

Project 52, Week 35 – Part 3 – Still in England!

Saturday, February 18th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 35!

1999_07_19 7 Books from Heffers

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.

The year I was 35 began with one of our greatest European vacations, to England, so it’s taking up more than one post. First, we roamed around Dover Castle, then we went to Bodiam Castle, Battle Abbey, Winnie-the-Pooh country, Framlingham Castle, and Somerleyton Hall.

The next day, July 19, we went to Cambridge. It was fun walking around the stately buildings.

1999_07_19 1 Cambridge

1999_07_19 2 Cambridge

And next to the Cam River:

1999_07_19 4 River Cam

1999_07_19 5 River Cam

The cows really surprised me!

1999_07_19 6 Cows

But the highlight of the day was definitely visiting Heffers Children’s Bookshop! Book 3 of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban had been published in the United Kingdom at that time, but not yet in America. So we bought a copy before our American friends could do so! Then all the rest of our travels in England were accompanied by one of us reading the book aloud. (And of course we read a chapter before bed as well.)

1999_07_19 3 Heffers

The picture at the top of this post is me in front of our cottage in Wisbech when we got back. You didn’t think Harry Potter was the only book we bought, did you?

The next day, we went to London! We parked at a station and took a train in.

1999_07_20 1 Train

We began our sight-seeing with Castle #78, the Tower of London!

1999_07_20 2 Tower

1999_07_20 3 Tower

1999_07_20 4 Tower

1999_07_20 5 Tower

1999_07_20 6 Tower

1999_07_20 7 Tower

1999_07_20 8 Tower

1999_07_20 9 Tower Bear

Here’s the Tower Bridge over the Thames:

1999_07_20 10 Tower Bridge

We rode on the top of a double-decker bus around London.

1999_07_20 11 Big Ben

1999_07_20 12 Big Ben

1999_07_20 13 Tour

I didn’t take pictures of the rest, but the kids enjoyed Segaworld, and we visited used book stores at Charing Cross Road.

1999_07_20 14 Bobby Bear

The next day was a day for visiting castles we found in the countryside. First up was Castle #79, Weeting Castle. We had a picnic there (just like we’d do at castles in Germany).

1999_07_21 1 Weeting

1999_07_21 2 Weeting

1999_07_21 3 Weeting

1999_07_21 4 Weeting

1999_07_21 5 Weeting

1999_07_21 6 Weeting

1999_07_21 7 Weeting

1999_07_21 8 Weeting

Our next stop was Castle #80, Castle Acre Priory. I was endlessly fascinated by the shapes made by the ruins.

1999_07_21 9 Castle Acre Priory

1999_07_21 10 Castle Acre Priory

1999_07_21 11 Castle Acre Priory

1999_07_21 12 Castle Acre Priory

1999_07_21 13 Castle Acre Priory

1999_07_21 14 Castle Acre Priory

1999_07_21 15 Castle Acre Priory

1999_07_21 16 Castle Acre Priory

1999_07_21 17 Castle Acre Priory

1999_07_21 18 Castle Acre Priory

1999_07_21 19 Castle Acre Priory

1999_07_21 20 Castle Acre Priory

1999_07_21 21 Castle Acre Priory

1999_07_21 22 Castle Acre Priory

1999_07_21 23 Castle Acre Priory

1999_07_21 24 Castle Acre Priory

1999_07_21 25 Castle Acre Priory

Our final stop of the day, in the same town, was Castle #81, Castle Acre Castle. (The town was “Castle Acre,” and it had both a Priory and a Castle.) This was a much older motte-and-bailey castle — like those I’d read about in books about castles. Apparently they’re a lot more common in England than in Germany, and was how the first castles were built. Lots of massive earthworks around a central round ditch.

1999_07_21 26 Castle Acre Castle

1999_07_21 27 Castle Acre Castle

1999_07_21 28 Castle Acre Castle

1999_07_21 29 Castle Acre Castle

The kids and Steve played “Harry Potter tag” in the center. It was like Freeze tag, but you say “Basilisk” when you touch someone to freeze them.

1999_07_21 30 Castle Acre Castle

1999_07_21 31 Castle Acre Castle

1999_07_21 32 Castle Acre Castle

1999_07_21 33 Castle Acre Castle

1999_07_21 34 Castle Acre Castle

1999_07_21 35 Castle Acre Castle

1999_07_21 36 Castle Acre Castle

And here’s Timmy holding Tiny Daddy!

1999_07_21 37 Tiny Steve

Well, that was three more days of our amazing English vacation. I’ll try to finish the last three days in another post tonight.

Project 52, Week 35, Part Two – More of England!

Friday, February 17th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 35!

1999_07_17 2 Me at Bodiam

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.

But the years we lived in Europe seem to be impossible to condense into one blog post, so I’m giving in and posting multiple parts each week. Last time, I only got through the first day of our vacation in England, when we roamed around Dover Castle.

We spent that night near Dover, and the next day, July 17, went to Castle #74, one of my favorite castles of them all, Bodiam Castle — certainly the most beautiful castle I’ve visited.

1999_07_17 4 Bodiam

All around the castle are fields complete with sheep. And this castle has a moat (unlike most German castles where we lived.)

1999_07_17 1 Bodiam Castle

1999_07_17 3 Bodiam

And a rather amazing thing — a year or two ago, while working in the Virginia Room on genealogy, I learned that the knight who built Bodiam Castle was my direct ancestor. (This is true for thousands of other Americans, mind you, but I thought it was cool.) He wasn’t a very nice guy, and killed lots of people in France, but he did build an exceptionally beautiful castle.

1999_07_17 5 Bodiam

1999_07_17 6 Bodiam

1999_07_17 7 Bodiam

1999_07_17 8 Bodiam

1999_07_17 9 Bodiam

1999_07_17 10 Climbing walls

1999_07_17 11 Bodiam

1999_07_17 12 Bodiam

1999_07_17 13 Bodiam

1999_07_17 14 Me at Bodiam

1999_07_17 15 Josh at Bodiam

1999_07_17 16 Timmy at Bodiam

1999_07_17 17 Josh at Bodiam

1999_07_17 18 Bodiam

1999_07_17 19 Bodiam

1999_07_17 20 Bodiam

1999_07_17 21 Josh at Bodiam

1999_07_17 22 Bodiam

1999_07_17 23 Bodiam

1999_07_17 24 Bodiam and dirt

1999_07_17 25 Bodiam

1999_07_17 26 Bodiam

1999_07_17 27 Bodiam

1999_07_17 28 Bodiam

1999_07_17 29 Bodiam Moat

1999_07_17 30 Bodiam

1999_07_17 31 Bodiam

After visiting Bodiam Castle, we went on to Castle #75, Battle Abbey (which was fortified), where the Battle of Hastings was fought! The battlefield had a guided audio tour, so we could get a feel for how the battle went.

1999_07_17 33 Battle Abbey

1999_07_17 34 Battle

The audio tour took us all around the battlefield.

1999_07_17 35 Battlefield

1999_07_17 36 Battlefield

We gained an appreciation of how sloped the ground was.

1999_07_17 37 Battlefield

And the tour brought us back around to the Abbey

1999_07_17 38 Battle

1999_07_17 39 Battle Abbey

1999_07_17 40 Battle Abbey

1999_07_17 41 Battle Abbey

This stone marked the spot where King Harold was killed in 1066. Believe it or not, my eyes got misty when I stood on this spot — because I’d recently read The King’s Shadow, by Elizabeth Alder, which tells Harold’s story. It was silly, because if Harold hadn’t lost that battle, I’m sure I wouldn’t exist — the majority of my ancestors are English, with plenty of Norman blood. But the story was so powerful, I couldn’t help but mourn for Harold.

1999_07_17 42 King Harold

Here’s Jade (then called Josh) listening to the audio tour.

1999_07_17 43 Josh Audio

1999_07_17 44 Battle Abbey

1999_07_17 45 Battle Abbey

We went to a tea room in Hastings, where we had lunch and some fun with the statuary.

1999_07_17 46 Hastings

1999_07_17 47 Hastings

1999_07_17 48 Hastings

Next, we headed to Winnie-the-Pooh country! We visited the town of Hartfield, where A. A. Milne lived and explored the countryside where Christopher Robin used to play.

Here’s the Enchanted Place at the Top of the Forest!

1999_07_17 49 Enchanted Place

And the Poohsticks Bridge! The Poohsticks Bridge!

1999_07_17 50 Poohsticks

1999_07_17 51 Poohsticks

1999_07_17 52 Poohsticks

That night, we drove to where we’d rented a self-catering cottage in Wisbech, in the middle of the fens. It wasn’t the most picturesque spot itself, but it was very central, for all our further travels.

On the 18th, we headed East. First stop was Castle #76, Framlingham Castle.

1999_07_18 1 Framlingham

1999_07_18 2 Framlingham

Framlingham had another audio tour. It was mostly a shell wall, which we could walk around. Framlingham had something like 17 chimneys (added later).

1999_07_18 3 Framlingham

The view over the wall was lovely.

1999_07_18 4 Framlingham View

And here’s the inside:

1999_07_18 5 Framlingham

1999_07_18 6 Framlingham

1999_07_18 7 Framlingham

1999_07_18 8 Framlingham

1999_07_18 9 Josh at Framlingham

Sheep dog trials were happening in the field next to the castle! We watched for awhile from the wall.

1999_07_18 10 Sheep dogs

1999_07_18 11 Sheep dog

1999_07_18 12 Framlingham

1999_07_18 13 Framlingham

Our next stop that day was Castle #77, Somerleyton Hall — more of a grand palace than the ruin that was Framlingham. But the grounds were simply lovely.

1999_07_18 14 Somerleyton Hall

This tent was actually a tea room.

1999_07_18 15 Somerleyton

1999_07_18 16 Somerleyton

1999_07_18 17 Somerleyton

1999_07_18 18 Somerleyton

And the grounds had a labyrinth!

1999_07_18 19 Labyrinth

Josh made it to the center first.

1999_07_18 20 Josh Center

1999_07_18 21 Labyrinth Center

1999_07_18 22 Labyrinth

That covers the second and third days of our England vacation!

I did mention that England was one of my favorite places, right? I’d like to say it was my second-favorite vacation of all our years in Germany, but hmmm, our Bavaria vacation was great, too. (Tied for second, maybe?)

So anyway, next up will be Cambridge, London, more castles, Oxford, more castles, and the seaside. (Perhaps not all in one post.)