Archive for March, 2017

Project 52, Week 41, Part Four – Getting Back on My Feet

Friday, March 31st, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 41!

2006_02_15 1 Selfie

41 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 41 — June 14, 2005, to June 14, 2006.

During these hard years, I’m trying to frame my reflections by asking the question, What was the Lord doing?

And tonight I’m hoping I can finish up Year 41, the most difficult year of my life.

Last time, I got through to the end of 2005, when my husband told me he wanted a divorce and moved out in order to establish residences that were separate and apart. He was hoping to get a divorce in six months, which would send me back to America three months early, and before our oldest graduated from high school. But that would only happen if I agreed to a divorce. If I did not agree, under Illinois law (the last state where we’d lived together before we moved to Germany with the Air Force), we had to live separate and apart for two years. Basically, I figured that if Steve still wanted to divorce me in two years, then I had given it a good try. At the same time, we didn’t know which state we’d be in after two years — so it was hard to say what the requirements would be.

On our anniversary, January 3rd, I got Steve a gift and left it for him. He’d be coming to the house that day. But he refused to take the gift and left me a note that he wasn’t going to accept any gifts from me because he’d filed for divorce with a lawyer in Illinois.

But what was the Lord doing?

One of the next things was the perfect book for that time literally showed up on my desk at the library. (I processed the new books, so this wasn’t miraculous by itself — but the appropriateness and the timing I do think of as miraculous.)

I wrote in my quiet time journal on January 11, 2006, “I’m amazed by how You keep on bringing exactly the right book into my life at exactly the right time. Thank You, Father. This time it’s You Don’t Have to Take It Any More, a book about overcoming resentment with compassion.”

I’m not going to repeat what I wrote in the review, but I so wanted to respond to Steve with compassion. He was still getting angry with me and still baiting me. We couldn’t seem to have a conversation any more without anger flaring up. Dr. Stosny taught me — with practical techniques — how to channel my anger into compassion.

And it’s not about gritting your teeth and taking it. His techniques are based on acknowledging and recognizing your own core value — and that was something I desperately needed to reinforce. I was feeling quite worthless about that time. And my anger was coming from that place. Dr. Stosny teaches you what to think about to feel more valuable and has a process to go through when you get angry that will give you compassion for yourself that translates to compassion for your spouse.

It sounds rather vague and nebulous — but it’s actually completely specific and practical. And helped me tremendously. It helped me stop fighting and it really helped me felt better about myself.

I even took selfies (with a regular camera) after I got a haircut!

2006_02_15 2 Selfie

Here’s an affirmation I took straight from Steven Stosny’s book:

I am worthy of respect, value and compassion, whether or not I get them from others. If I don’t get them from others, it is necessary to feel MORE worthy, not less. It is necessary to affirm my own deep value as a child of God and a unique person. I respect and value myself. I have compassion for my hurt. I have compassion for the hurt of loved ones. I trust myself to act in my best interests and in the best interests of my children, which will ultimately be in the best interests of my husband.

This book was so effective, Steve later asked me why I’d changed, that I didn’t seem as angry. Yes, Dear Reader, he deserved anger — but this was a good thing. He wasn’t nearly as able to tear down my feelings of value. Which made it easier to not respond with anger. Even though it was still an awful time, and I missed my husband-as-he-once-was terribly — I was starting to feel less beaten down.

Another nice thing happened in January. I have a note that a man from a couple I knew — he was one of Timothy’s teachers and she was a friend from the library and yoga class — took me aside and talked with me about the time he cheated on his wife. It was about ten years earlier and they were now more in love than ever. Here’s what I wrote about that conversation:

He said that for him, the overwhelming emotion was shame. He said that everything Steve’s said to me was coming from shame.

He also told me that the novelty of the other woman wears off. Also that I’m doing the right thing getting a life and making plans for if he leaves.

He, too, said that their marriage is better than ever. And that he is so glad that his wife stayed.

Father, thank You for the encouragement when I so needed it.

I liked it when he said that Steve’s trying to be a jerk, but he’s not very good at it.

It meant worlds to me that this man cared enough about me to encourage me, confiding about when he messed up.

But the next adventure of the start of the year was medical.

Back on the day in November when I’d seen Steve drive onto base right behind Amy, I had a doctor appointment and they were investigating previous problems — and found a “non-healing wound” on my cervix. They did various tests. It was not an STD (Thank God!) and it was not cancer, but it was growing. I was referred to a German gynecologist.

[Okay, how symbolic is that to have a “non-healing wound” on my cervix when my husband left? They never did find a reason for it.]

And let me just rave for a second about German doctors. I grant you, it was weird to go to a man for gynecology. But he had an ultrasound machine in his office! This meant he could take a look at the time and see what was going on. Months later, I started getting ovarian cysts — and he took a look with the ultrasound and knew that’s exactly what it was. When I was there again later, there was no cyst, but he pointed out the extra fluid that showed it had burst. A couple years later, I had an ovarian cyst again in America, and the gynecologist put in a referral so I could get an ultrasound done at a different facility by an ultrasound technician who would send the results to my doctor to report to me. By the time I had the procedure, the cyst was long gone! (But I knew exactly what it felt like from my experience with the German doctor.)

But the cysts came later, around May. In January, besides the non-healing wound, I began getting severe pelvic pain. The doctor decided to do surgery.

This happened at the same time Steve was behaving toward me with extra coldness. So I was going to have surgery in a German hospital with no moral support from my husband.

On February 7, my quiet time journal reads:

Psalm 118:13
“I was pushed back and about to fall,
but the Lord helped me.”

Father, today was a very hard day. Steve told me yesterday he sent in a signed and notarized petition for divorce.

And I’ve been having lots of pain possibly related to my cervical wound. And I left my car at the library because I had lost my key — so I couldn’t go to choir even if I wanted to. [Later it turned out I’d put it in my jacket pocket! Oh well.]

Father, I am pushed back and about to fall. Please don’t let me fall. Where there is hatred, let me sow love.

I started feeling bad enough that I was taking a lot of time off work. With Valentine’s Day coming up, I was feeling discouraged and sad, so I got an idea. I asked all my girlfriends whom I had contact with via email to send me Valentines for Valentine’s Day. I needed the affirmation badly — so I decided to ask for it.

They didn’t come in time for Valentine’s Day — I hadn’t gotten the idea soon enough. But that way, they came by the time I was going in for surgery on the 20th, which was when I needed it all the more. My favorite was that my friend Patricia actually quilted a little flowered bag for me. It’s the perfect size to hold a Bible and journal. I still use it every week to take those things to church.

Steve did drive me to the hospital for the surgery. And was pretty awful to me. But I managed not to engage in a fight.

As I was going into surgery, I still remember the way the doctor squeezed my hand and told me not to worry. The doctor found adhesions in my uterus and removed them — which explained the pain I was having. We also don’t know how I got them — probably from giving birth to Timothy, which was a difficult birth, and they used forceps. But why it took so long to cause pain? It felt like a physical manifestation of what was happening in my life.

But a nice thing about German hospitals is that they keep you there until you are actually well! Blood tests found an infection, so they kept me there three nights and took very good care of me. Steve brought the kids to see me once, and some other friends came to see me and brought flowers.

Oh, and in a bizarre little excursion, a week later the kids and I got to go to a World Cup preliminary soccer game, the U.S. vs. Poland, at the Kaiserslautern stadium. I was still really sore and moving stiffly — and it started snowing during the game! I don’t remember how or why we got tickets, but it was a whole lot of fun to attend. And then we all got snow days the next two days.

And look! I got another book with perfect timing! This time it was NOT “Just Friends, by Shirley Glass.

That book gave me several key insights. The first was the idea that even if sex wasn’t involved, this was obviously an emotional affair and a betrayal. (To acknowledge that to myself was huge. Mind you, sex was involved, but I still didn’t know it.)

But it cast so much light on my situation! For one thing, she said that the amount of trauma depends on how much the betrayed partner was expecting it. I was not expecting it one bit.

But she also shows why the aftermath of finding out about the “secret friendship” (aka emotional affair) was so hard for me — It kept going.

She warns you that it will be nearly impossible for the betrayed partner to heal if the threat continues.  “Trust has to be earned.  Safety has to be reestablished.  This is not an overnight process.  Just as the involved partner cannot flick a switch and turn off all feelings for the lover, the noninvolved partner cannot shift from betrayal to unquestioning trust in an instant.”

If the involved partner says they are “just friends” because they didn’t have sex, he may believe that he should be able to continue this friendship.  Dr. Glass says, “If the contact continues, the threat continues.  It’s like a recovering alcoholic who continues to go to happy hour after work every Friday.”

It was too bad that it was way too late to discuss what I’d learned with Steve. But on the good side, the book had a long section on healing and recovering — including a part about recovering alone. I liked these lines:

No matter where the energy comes from, the process is the same.  Let go of the hurt and the anger, and get on with your own life.

There is no revenge as sweet as living a joyful life.

I didn’t go back to work until March 7, and then Josh had their Senior year Brain Bowl competition March 9-10.

2006_03_09 1 Brain Bowl

2006_03_09 2 Brain Bowl

Steve was able to go to the final day of competition and took the kids out to dinner afterward.

And then Josh turned 18 years old!

2006_03_19 1 Birthday

2006_03_19 2 Birthday

And toward the end of March, I went with Marta, a friend from the Sembach Writer’s Group, to a small writers’ conference the day before the Bologna Book Fair. Tickets on Ryan Air were cheap, and we split the hotel costs.

2006_03_26 1 Bologna

Here I am pointing out my friend Kristin’s published book!

2006_03_26 2 Bologna

In March, I learned that Steve had volunteered for a tuba opening with the Air Force Band in Japan.

I had planned to follow Steve wherever he was stationed next so that he could be near Tim. I was very upset that he hated me so much he would go so far from his son just to get away from me.

Steve’s Mom said to me “It will all work out for the best,” and I got mad. That’s not what it says! It says in Romans 8:28, “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.” How could it possibly be the best when someone makes a BAD decision?

[But, Dear Reader, here’s a spoiler alert: Things ended up working out to be very good indeed for me and for my kids.]

Here’s what I wrote 11 years ago today, on March 31, 2006:

Genesis 50:20-21
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done….
So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.”

I know I’m taking that second verse out of context. Yet I’m taking it as a word from You, as an “unmistakeable touch of grace.” You will provide for my children and me.

Lord, it looks like You’re leading me to live near Darlene and Kathe for awhile. Thank You! Thank You that even though it’s such an expensive area, You will provide for my children and me.

Thank You, Lord. Open doors and show me the right way to go.

Timothy, in 6th grade, competed in MathCounts that year.

2006_04_04 1 Math Counts

And sometimes God spoke through people. I was very upset about Steve going to Japan, and wished I could stop him. It seemed unfair to Timothy. I’d prayed that it wouldn’t go through — and it was going through. Since Steve had quit attending church, now I was attending a Sunday School class that was very supportive. At church one day, a lady who was divorced and in a second marriage told me, “You need to let Steve go.” I resisted the message. But the next day I wrote this:

Dear Father,
You’re really giving me messages, aren’t You?

Yesterday I had just finished emailing to my siblings why the message “You need to let Steve GO!” was so annoying.

Then I opened the email from Patricia — and she said, “You need to let Steve go!”

So I got to thinking that I really do need to let Steve go. (She can be taught!)

I do believe that Steve will come around some day. But he needs this quest to happen on his own.

Father, I trust Steve into Your hands.

One thing God did change about the Japan plans, though, was that Steve signed up to go unaccompanied, for 3 years. But then budget cuts happened — and the chances were good that the Japan band would be cut and would no longer have a tuba slot. So it looked like Steve would only be there six months. (It turned out to be a little more than a year.) But it was not 3 years. In fact, it was just enough time for me to process the big news he told me just before I went to America and he went to Japan. (But that’s for next week.)

In May, my job sharer Kim was moving back to the States. Which meant I got pictures of my wonderful coworkers!

Here’s Kim:

2006_05_05 1 Kim at Library

Kim and my dear Elfriede:

2006_05_05 2 Kim and Elfriede

Our boss, Helen, the Librarian at our library (and the fifth librarian I’d worked under!)

2006_05_05 3 Helen

Kim and me:

2006_05_05 4 Kim and me

What was the Lord doing? Well, He was working in my heart.

Here’s what I wrote on May 12, 2006:

Psalm 119:58
“I have sought your face with all my heart;
be gracious to me according to your promise.”

Father, I have sought your face and I am trying to seek Your face.

Father, I’m not sure I’ve forgiven myself for the times I didn’t respond to Steve as You would have me do.

But I am sure that You have forgiven me.

Father, You are being gracious to me according to Your promise.

Even Steve going to Japan may be part of Your graciousness to me. I won’t have to face him day-to-day.

And getting to live near Darlene and Kathe will be such a blessing!

Thank You, Father, for those many, many unexpected touches of grace and small miracles.

And I continued to have physical challenges. Ovarian cysts started happening after the uterine adhesions were removed. But I was getting a clue. Here’s what I wrote on May 25:

Psalm 119:71
“It was good for me to be afflicted
so that I might learn your decrees.”

Father, although I’m not going to say it’s “for the best,” this whole awful trial is definitely working out for great good. Thank You, Father.

There are two lessons You seem to be trying to teach me.

Last night I listened to Christel Nani’s CD. Maybe I learned what the three “slamming doors” in my pelvic area represent.

That’s the seat of our relationships with our significant other, as well as our creativity, sexuality, and relationships with finances.

She said that this is mostly shut down by manipulating — that doing anything to get the person you love to act a certain way is manipulation.

Not only have I, for the past year, been desperately trying to get Steve not to leave, but I do a lot of manipulating in all of my love relationships — and especially over the years of my marriage with Steve.

So this time while he’s in Japan can be a time for me to work on unconditional love — love without trying to get him to do anything….

Some time that year, Josh got rejected by the three colleges they applied to — and I learned that Josh had never gotten anyone to write references for him, even though I am absolutely sure Josh could have gotten glowing ones. And I felt terrible — I’d been so distracted by my own troubles. (I had made sure Josh got the applications sent, but didn’t find out this detail until it was too late.)

However, Josh applied to Full Sail University in Florida. Yes, they’re a for-profit school. But I think it worked out well for Josh. It is sort of a vocational school for the film industry. But they go to school year-round — and Josh was able to finish a Bachelor’s degree in Film in less than two years.

But that was still future. On June 9, 2006, Josh graduated from Kaiserslautern American High School

2006_06_09 1 Graduation

2006_06_09 2 Graduation

2006_06_09 3 Graduation

I’m going to close out Year 41 with a list I made on May 1, 2006 of things I thought God had said to me, now that I was listening to His voice:

“Our God delights in turning hopeless situations around.” (This was from a sermon.)

“Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Delight yourself in the Lord
and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

“Wait for the Lord and keep his way.
You will be exalted to possess the land;
when the wicked are cut off, you will see it.”

“He does not treat us as our sins deserve,
or repay us according to our iniquities.”

“I will provide for you and your children.”

“They should always pray and not give up.”

“Those who sow in tears
will reap with songs of joy.
He who goes out weeping,
carrying seed to sow
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with him.”

So that takes us to June 14, 2006. I had two more months left in Germany, and then would start a new adventure.

Project 52, Week 41, Part Three — Separation and Spain

Thursday, March 30th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 41!

2005_12_18 1 Spain Me and Audrey

41 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 41 — June 14, 2005, to June 14, 2006.

For these difficult years, I’m trying to answer the question: What was the Lord doing?

Last time, I covered the incredibly wonderful trip to Paris that happened soon after my husband told me he was filing for divorce.

When I got home from Paris, on November 10, 2005, Steve told me that he would be sleeping somewhere else in order to establish a separation. My journal entry says that Steve still thought we could be divorced in six months.

Going back in time a little bit, here’s the email I sent to my sister October 25th, after Steve told me he was filing for divorce:

Well, I went to Ramstein Legal today.  A wonderful
older lady saw me.  (And Steve knew I was going

I wondered what would happen if I did NOT sign a
separation agreement.  I wondered if I would lose any

The answer is absolutely not.  I could lose all kinds
of rights if I do sign an agreement.

In fact, an “uncontested” divorce in Illinois only
takes 6 months.  A contested divorce takes 2 years of
separation–including separate bank accounts.  So he
can’t possibly divorce me while we are still in
Germany.  (A German divorce sounds like it would give
me better terms, but it would take 3 years of
separation, not living under the same roof if the
divorce is contested.)  I will absolutely not sign
that there are “irreconcilable differences.”

So–It will basically depend on where we move after
this, and what the laws are there.  He cannot get an
Illinois divorce unless we stay overseas, and he
cannot get one of those in less than two years.

So we will see what happens next.  At least time in
the same house gives him time to change his mind.

Oh, and if I gave him a separation agreement, though
adultery would still be frowned on by the military, it
would give him leeway to have any other sort of
relationship with whoever he wants.  There’s no way in
the world I want to do that!

So I was really encouraged by the meeting with the
lady.  I think she gave me good advice.  She advised
me that I have all kinds of rights, and that I should
absolutely NOT give him a separation agreement unless
he should offer me practically all his money for the
rest of his life!  Anyway, if he does offer me an
agreement, I should bring it to them first and find
out if it’s anything more than I would be entitled to,

I also found out that legally, the military REQUIRES
him to support me as long as we are legally married.
So that gives me two years of that, right?

This email gives some clues why I didn’t want a divorce. First, though, I still believed Steve that he was not having an affair. I believed that in that case divorce was wrong.

Unless Steve was an unbeliever. I Corinthians 7 does say, “If the unbeliever wants to leave, let him do so. God has called us to live in peace.” I knew Steve was a Christian when we married. His sister told me the story of when he accepted Christ as a child. I didn’t want to think of him as an unbeliever. Since he seemed to be turning away from God at the same time he was turning away from me — that made me all the more want to win him back.

Though Steve was filing for divorce because he said that I was too awful to live with. Now, I had bought a lot of guilt over this whole situation, agonizing over everything I said to or about Steve. But even in my guilt, I knew full well that I hadn’t given Steve Biblical grounds for divorce. If he ever got in a relationship with anybody ever again, he was going to need to learn to forgive. Why not learn it with me, instead of throwing away 18 years of marriage?

But also — There was no way I wanted to be sent back to America in the middle of Josh’s Senior year. We were due to leave in August anyway. The only way Steve could get an Illinois divorce was if I signed an agreement. There was no way I was going to sign.

Why did I still believe Steve that he wasn’t having an affair? Yes, he’d looked me in the eyes and told me he wasn’t right at the beginning of this, the same time on March 14 that he “confessed” to “living a double life” and seeing Amy behind my back. (And he thought that shouldn’t bother me since he wasn’t having an affair!) During the summer, it became more and more clear he was doing this again. My friends kept seeing him out with her around the base, and then I walked in on him eating lunch with her on a day he’d picked up her parents from the airport.

The main tool Steve used to throw me off the scent was indignation. I remember one day we were in the kitchen making a meal. I’m not sure if it was before or after Steve had moved out. (He still came over often. He’d read to Timothy at bedtime three nights a week, and he’d cook dinner for the kids on the nights I worked late or had choir practice or yoga.)

Anyway, whatever we were discussing, Steve said, “We haven’t exactly been nice to each other lately.”

I was flabbergasted and speechless that Steve would equate him seeing another woman behind my back with me being angry with him for seeing another woman behind my back! Yes, I’d been angry with him that summer. But I was bending over backwards trying to be “nice” and get him back into the marriage.

After a moment of silence trying to process his statement, I said, “At least I’m not the one who’s cheating!”

Steve got furious with me. He looked at me and said, “How dare you accuse me of having an affair!” Did I know it’s a crime in the military to have an affair? The person with seniority would get kicked out of the Air Force! That’s fraternization! Is that what I was accusing him of? And then he walked out of the house and drove away, too angry to be around me any more.

Dear Reader, I’m afraid I sent him an email and apologized for my words!

[About a year later, I bought a book called When Your Lover Is a Liar, by Susan Forward. I learned about this technique. Looking back, any time Steve had said to me, “How dare you accuse me of…” that was precisely something he had done. So I took note when he said, “How dare you accuse me of hiding money!” at that time.]

But in 2005 — It was still an effective technique to completely fool me. There were many times I thought about that day and that Steve would not have gotten so angry if he were actually having an affair.

However, now that Steve wasn’t sleeping at our house, what would stop him from having an affair?

Well, honestly, I was taking comfort in the official Letter of Counseling he’d gotten warning him to stop the “Appearance of an Inappropriate Relationship” with Amy.

Steve claimed that they were “just friends” and that being seen in public with her over and over again and eating out with her was a friendly thing to do and I was horrible to get mad at him about it. Well, there was something comforting about learning that I wasn’t crazy in thinking this was inappropriate — the band leadership thought so, too.

Now, it must have been after Steve moved out, but I found out Steve was still seeing Amy. My calendar says that after I got back from Paris, I had 14 straight days with a headache. I was seeing a doctor on base at Sembach. He said that he was qualified to do a nerve block procedure. I had an appointment the next day at 8:30 am about another problem, and he could do it then if I still had the headache — but I would need someone to drive me home.

So — I told Steve I might need him to drive me home at 8:30 am the next morning. Would that be okay? He said Yes. (We lived 5 minutes from the base.)

I don’t remember why I didn’t get the procedure done in the morning, but it was probably that my headache finally felt better. I was going to call Steve when I got home to tell him he wouldn’t need to take me home after all.

As I was driving through the gate to go off base, I saw Amy’s car just coming on base. (I’d learned her license number awhile before.) And then, right behind her — Steve’s car!

Okay, I’ll grant you this was not hard evidence that they had been together. They could have coincidentally driven to the gate at the same time. At this point, I devised an elaborate scenario that Steve had maybe walked her dogs with her before work. (He’d done early dogwalking sometimes when he was walking her dogs when she was away.)

Now, I wasn’t completely stupid — but I’d heard Steve the night before on the phone with his friend Jerry arranging to spend the night at Jerry’s house. I hadn’t heard Jerry’s voice, but the conversation was pretty convincing. On top of that, Steve told me some time or other that when he went to Jerry’s house, he tried to leave before breakfast, so he wouldn’t impose on Jerry and his wife. Now I figured I knew where he was going for breakfast.

But I was upset. Okay, let’s be honest. I was enraged. I so wanted to call him up and say sarcastic things. And I was hurt that he apparently had completely forgotten I’d been planning to ask him for a ride at 8:30. Good thing I hadn’t gotten the procedure done, because he wouldn’t have been there.

But I also wanted to tell him that I really hoped they hadn’t walked into the squadron together. The Letter of Counseling was supposed to be a warning. He wasn’t exactly following it was he?

Now I did figure out that calling him when I was so angry was a really bad idea. And it was pretty sure not to do anybody any good.

But then I started stewing. The lawyer had said something about if we were separated, then Steve could do whatever he wanted. So instead of calling Steve, I called Joe, the first sergeant.

Okay, maybe that wasn’t the best idea I ever had. I did tell Joe I didn’t have any evidence that Steve was still seeing Amy. But I wanted to make sure they knew we weren’t legally separated, and I wanted to find out if that made any difference.

Joe said it didn’t matter at all what was happening at home. And he was going to have to talk to Steve because Joe had seen him with Amy during a band trip the previous week. That was when Joe explained to me that this was totally apart from whether Steve was even married. He wasn’t supposed to be showing special preference to a Senior Airman when he’s a Master Sergeant. It’s bad for the whole squadron.

But what was God doing?

Well, another helpful book came my way. I didn’t check it out, and just looked through it at the library, so I don’t even remember the title. But it was written by a woman who had been a mistress in Paris for a few years. She said that wives should never ever be envious of mistresses. They are in a miserable position! The wife gets the best of everything. The man isn’t even proud to be seen with the mistress. The wife gets the house, the kids, the financial support. The mistress gets leftovers.

That gave me a new perspective! It helped me feel sorry for Amy more than be angry with her. After all, Steve was still spending many evenings and weekends at my house. I’ve always liked public displays of affection because I want my man to be proud to be seen with me. Well, whatever their relationship — Amy wasn’t getting any of that.

I know it was around that time, because in my quiet time journal on November 18, I say, “Thank You for the book I picked up last night that reminded me that Amy’s in a miserable position, with far more reason to be jealous of me than I have to be jealous of her.”

And then Steve’s parents came to visit.

When Steve told me he wanted a divorce, I said okay, but now you have to tell your parents. When he said he was moving out, I said okay, but now it’s public information, and I can tell anyone I want. (In fact, I was upset when he didn’t change his phone number on the band roster right away, because someone called me with a message for Steve and I started crying when I told that person that I didn’t know where Steve was or if I’d see him.)

So Steve’s parents wanted to come at Thanksgiving to try to be supportive. When Steve asked me about it, I said that it would be okay, but it would be much better if they didn’t stay in our house. I guess Steve thought that was because he was sleeping in the guestroom — but really it was about dealing with guests. In the back of my mind, I was hoping that maybe talking to his parents — who surely didn’t believe in divorce when there wasn’t adultery — would help Steve come around.

After Steve moved out, a few days before they were to arrive, Steve’s Mom told me not to worry about cleaning. I said, “Well, I won’t, since you won’t be staying here.” Then Steve’s Mom said that Steve had told them since he was in a hotel, they might as well stay in our house. I guess his thinking was that now the guestroom was free. It was too late to even argue.

But the visit was really hard. Steve’s parents tried very very hard not to take sides. But this was their son! Steve told them that we were having so many fights, it was bad for the kids.

But the worst thing that happened was that Steve got an official Letter of Reprimand for the Appearance of an Inappropriate Relationship on the day that his parents arrived. And, again, he believed it was my fault.

It turned out that Joe had told him I called.

So — I called again and asked why Steve believed it was my fault. Joe said if Steve said that, then he was delusional. That the letter was based entirely on what Joe had seen with his own eyes. The weekend before, Steve had gone to a restaurant in Winnweiler, he said to hear his friend Jerry play a gig. Well, Amy was also there. And so was Joe.

Steve was indignant. Said he only talked to Amy briefly when she walked up to him. (Joe said that he was onstage and it was 45 minutes.) Steve said Joe was lying. (Right.) Anyway, all this didn’t come out at once, but in back-and-forths.

But the really awful part was when I was driving Steve’s Mom somewhere, and she said to me, “We’ll never forget the look on our son’s face when he said he got in trouble at work because of his wife.”

OUCH! [News flash: Steve was lying! I knew that even then — though I am pretty sure he did believe that I was lying about what I’d said to Joe and that it was my fault.]

But that was hard.

I tried to explain to Steve’s parents that it was not, in fact, my fault. They just said that I shouldn’t be talking to Steve’s first sergeant at all. And yes, I started feeling guilty that I had. [Oh, Sondy! In my quiet time journal just after Steve’s parents left, I say, “Last week’s incident reminds me that I’m not blameless in this divorce. It was a terrible thing to talk about Steve with his first sergeant. Lord, please redeem this situation.” Not so terrible, Sondy — not so terrible.]

However — Something very good came out of all of this. After his Letter of Reprimand, Steve really did stop being seen in public with Amy. And that helped ease the pressure on me — and those repeated stabs through the heart.

Oh look! A bright spot! On December 15, I took the GRE to apply to library school! It was a computerized version, and I found out my score that day — and again did very well. Alas! They had eliminated the “Analytical” portion of the test on which I’d gotten a perfect score when I took it in 1985. There was an essay portion instead. (And that took longer to grade, but I did well. Not perfect, but well.) I do remember that one of the essays was if there’s any value to critiquing art or only in creating art. Well, I am a book reviewer! I took that one on with enthusiasm.

But what was the Lord doing?

I was shopping at the Base Exchange with my kids for Christmas gifts, and a book called The Script caught my eye. Maybe it would be good for Josh, who was interested in scriptwriting.

Then I saw the subtitle: The 100% Absolutely Predictable Things Men Do When They Cheat!

Dear Reader, I cannot stress enough how much that book helped me!

When I opened the book up, at least half of the “lines” of the Script I had already heard come out of Steve’s mouth! “I like living alone.” “You’ll be better off without me.” “I’m going to take care of you.” “We’re not having sex.” (I’m afraid I still believed that last one.)

In my review of The Script, I didn’t say I was talking about my own husband. But I sure was.

I’m going to repeat here the ending of my review. Because it was SO important in opening my eyes and helping me stop feeling burdened and loaded down with guilt that Steve had left me.

Why did I go into so much detail about this book?  (Yes, I did leave a whole lot out—It’s still very much worth reading.)  Why do I think this book is so important that I will be recommending it to anyone and everyone whose husband has left her and/or whose husband has been unfaithful?

Fundamentally, the Script is about calling something evil something good.  It’s about saying that something that is wrong is really the right thing to do under the circumstances.  It’s full of lies and founded on lies, but the man is also lying to himself.  He wants to think of himself as a good person, so he doesn’t want to face up to what he’s done and what he’s doing.

The Script does give me some compassion for that man.  He didn’t set out to betray his wife and his vows and all his values.  He’s desperate to convince himself that he hasn’t really done that.  And it’s going to come out of his mouth in lies and deception.

To be perfectly honest, and at risk of sounding radical, I believe that the Script was designed—by Satan—to deceive.  And the number one person it’s designed to deceive is the man himself.  It says he’s a good person who’s doing the right thing.  He may be a good person, but he is NOT doing the right thing.

This may even help you to forgive your husband.  You can try to see the Script as the Enemy of both of you.  Or the one behind the Script, if you believe there’s a real devil.  Your husband wasn’t trying to hurt you.  He is a good man, but he’s been horribly deceived into doing some bad things.  If he plays out the whole Script, he’s going to end up worse off than you are, having done some terrible things, but not able to face up to them.

It’s crazy-making for the wife.  She can know in her head that, while she hasn’t been the perfect wife, nothing that she’s done isn’t covered by “for better or for worse.”  She knows that what he’s doing is wrong and unkind.  She knows that marriage and love is about forgiveness and that if he can’t work things out with her, he’s going to have trouble with any woman.

There’s nothing in the world that wounds a woman’s self-esteem more than her husband telling her he doesn’t want to be married to her any more.  As he continues to tell her, over and over, in many different ways, that his leaving is essentially her fault, her self-esteem will start to plunge even further.

Her husband will keep telling her things that she knows are not true.  After awhile, it’s easy to start believing them.  That’s why women being divorced need books like this as a reality check.  That’s why they need to talk to their friends again and again, to be sure they’re not actually crazy.  Yes, his actions are wrong.  Yes, it is set up to make him look good and make it look like it’s all the wife’s fault.  No, the Script is not telling the truth.

This book will help you to understand what’s going on and not think you’re crazy.  It will help you see what is really happening.  You’ll be able to cope when you’re unwillingly trapped in The Script.

And maybe, just maybe, men will read this book and realize that following the Script is a fantasy world that does not end happily for anyone, especially not the Hero.

“And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

Whew! And that book did all those things for me.

I don’t know when I started, but I think I must have been getting emails from Rejoice Ministries by then. They were tremendously encouraging, too. Rejoice Ministries is a ministry that encourages you to “stand for your marriage” and pray your spouse back. It was founded by a couple who were separated for two years before the prodigal came to his senses and returned.

The one thing that made me uneasy was that I believed you should get divorced if there was an affair. They taught that divorce is always wrong. That you should Stand for your marriage until you’re old and gray and in a rocking chair. After all, you want the father of your children to come back to God. If you don’t pray for him, who will?

So years in the future when I did think it was time to get divorced — then it was hard to shake those voices. But at the time, they were very encouraging. They helped me not respond with anger.

And best of all, the teaching from Rejoice Ministries encouraged me to listen for God’s voice. To hear what He had to say to me.

Oh, but the reason I think maybe I was getting the emails already back then, was that they clearly taught that the enemy of your marriage is not your husband. The enemy of your marriage is the devil. He’s the Enemy of both of you.

But then, I got another wonderful trip! At first, Steve hoped I could take the kids to Berlin over Christmas break, while he had to do some work with the band. It was our last Christmas in Europe, and he wanted them to get to travel. Well, Berlin ended up being too expensive, but we got an inexpensive Ryan Air flight to Spain — and got to visit our dear friends Audrey and Tom in Rota, Spain, right on the beach!

They’ve been in this story before — at Biola University with me, my housemate in L. A., as newlyweds in our small group in L.A., then in Philadelphia when we were in New Jersey. Now they were at Victory Villa in Rota, as missionaries to the military — at the same place where they had met many years before when they were both in the military stationed in Spain! So I went to visit them with the kids.

And this is the view from our room!

2005_12_18 2 View

We took a walk into Rota.

2005_12_18 3 Rota

2005_12_18 4 Rota

2005_12_18 5 Rota

2005_12_18 6a Rota

2005_12_18 6 Rota

And I touched my 166th castle!

2005_12_18 7 Castle

In the middle of our trip, we spent a day at Gibraltar! It was fun to be somewhere where English was spoken. (I hadn’t realized it’s a little piece of the British Empire.)

2005_12_20 1 Gibraltar

We took a tour through caves and fortifications on the Rock of Gibraltar. And there are monkeys on top!

2005_12_20 2 Gibraltar

2005_12_20 3 Gibraltar

2005_12_20 4 Monkeys

2005_12_20 5 View

2005_12_20 6 Cannon

2005_12_20 7 Lookout

2005_12_20 8 Caves

2005_12_20 9 Boys

And here’s the view when we got back to Victory Villa that night.

2005_12_20 10 VV View

Once again, the trip was a small part of why I was so encouraged by this trip. It was the people, my dear friends Audrey and Tom. They had a good talk with me about it all. These were people who loved me and loved Steve, too.

Audrey told me she always remembered what Steve told her when Josh was born, that the best thing he could do for his children was love their mother. Audrey was mad at Steve. Which was somewhat therapeutic for me.

But they encouraged me and uplifted me and reminded me that God really does work all things together for good.

And at Gibraltar, it was lovely just to have some fun sight-seeing again.

Well, it’s late. I think I’ll be able to finish Year 41 in one more post.

Looking back now, things did get easier once Steve moved out. And much easier once he started hiding his relationship with Amy. The next adventures, though, were medical….

Project 52, Week 41, Part Two – I’ll Always Have Paris!

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 41!

2005_11_07 5 Me

41 weeks (and one day) 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 41 — June 14, 2005, to June 14, 2006.

Last time, I covered the start of the hardest year of my life. My husband was having an affair, but kept telling me they were friends and if I were a supportive wife I’d be happy he was spending time with his friend. More and more incidents happened when I found out he was seeing her behind my back. (After all, he couldn’t tell me or I would get upset!) So finally, at the end of October 2005, he told me he was going to file for divorce.

But — remember how a full year before, I’d learned about a Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Advanced Writing Retreat in Paris happening in November 2005? I really wanted to go — and Steve said he’d pay for my trip, but we’d have to postpone the family ski trip we had been planning for that Thanksgiving. Eventually, he said we couldn’t afford it to be a family trip, so he’d go alone — and that was when he started his affair (I found out much later).

However — now it was time for the Writer’s Retreat at the Abbaye de Royaumont! And so began the best vacation of my life — smack in the middle of the worst year of my life!

The background was this: In 1999, I’d gone to an SCBWI Writer’s Retreat at the Abbaye de Royaumont. When I went, I prayed that I’d make some friends who were also writers. I wanted some people in my life who understood my drive to write children’s books. And that prayer was answered! I got started there in an email critique group with Kristin Wolden Nitz, Vicki Sansum, and Erin MacLellan. We emailed regularly, and all three of them had gotten published in the intervening years. (It was my turn — some day. Now I want to wait until after I’ve been on the Newbery committee.) We called ourselves the Sisters of Royaumont.

As it happened, all four of us were able to go to the 2005 Retreat! And Vicki arranged a place to stay so we could spend some time in Paris together before and after the retreat! So I was in Paris November 2 through 10!

Remember also that the week before was when Steve told me he wanted a divorce. And the morning after he told me that, I woke up and decided to get my Master’s in Library Science and become a librarian.

Early on the morning of the 2nd, I drove myself to the train station in Kaiserslautern. (From there, it was a straight shot to Paris. About 5 hours.) I was praying hard as I drove. Praying that it would be a good conference. Praying that the Lord would walk with me as I tried to be a librarian and a writer. Praying that my marriage would be restored.

And then I looked up — and there was a bright rainbow right in front of me, over my path.

I decided that maybe it was childish and silly — but I was going to take it as a sign that the Lord would answer those prayers.

And wow — was the conference ever good! And maybe the specific thing of my marriage being restored didn’t happen — but I feel like light is shining on my whole life at this point. In retrospect, I’ll take it as a sign that There would be joy for me! Yes!

And as soon as I got there, my friends enveloped me with love. They let me talk incessantly about Steve and all my confusion and pain. And I just felt loved.

Kristin didn’t arrive as soon as the rest of us. But here are Vicki, Erin’s friend Robin, Erin, and me having dinner that first night.

2005_11_02 1 Paris

Something I noticed right from the start: Frenchmen are far, far more likely to flirt with you if you visit Paris with girlfriends than if you come with your husband and two sons. And at that point in my life, it felt wonderful to have handsome French strangers flirt with me!

The next morning we started out with a visit to Montmartre.

2005_11_02 2 Montmartre

2005_11_02 3 Montmartre

2005_11_02 4 Montmartre

2005_11_02 5 Montmartre

Somewhere along the way, we picked up Kristin and visited Notre Dame.

2005_11_03 1 Notre Dame

Here are Vicki, Kristin, and Erin, having lunch across from Notre Dame. (That was the meal when I lost a crown. But it didn’t hurt, and I got through the week without it.)

2005_11_03 2 Sisters

Then we visited the gargoyles! I’d never been to the top of Notre Dame before and loved this.

2005_11_03 3 Gargoyle

2005_11_03 4 Gargoyles

2005_11_03 5 Gargoyle

2005_11_03 6 Gargoyles

2005_11_03 7 Gargoyles

2005_11_03 8 Gargoyles

2005_11_03 9 Paris

2005_11_03 10 Gargoyles

Here I am, filling the bell tower with my great height!

2005_11_03 11 Me

2005_11_03 12 Gargoyle

2005_11_03 13 Notre Dame

2005_11_03 14 Sisters

2005_11_03 15 Notre Dame

2005_11_03 16 Notre Dame

Across the street from Notre Dame, I had to get a picture at the street named after the famous mathematician!

2005_11_03 18 Rue Lagrange

Erin wanted a picture with the truckful of bread we found!

2005_11_03 19 Erin Bread

And that night we went for a walk, skipping together and singing songs from musicals! It was so good to feel joyous!

2005_11_03 20 Eiffel Lights

We were at the Louvre, looking at the pyramid, when we turned around and saw the Eiffel Tower. “It’s Sparkling!!!

2005_11_03 21 Eiffel sparkling

And then — the writer’s conference at Royaumont started!

It was planned to be a working retreat, so we each had private rooms. The first few pictures were taken in the morning out my window of the lovely grounds.

2005_11_04 1 Abbaye

2005_11_04 2 Royaumont

2005_11_04 3 Royaumont

Later I went for a walk myself.

2005_11_04 4 Royaumont

2005_11_04 5 Royaumont

There’s Kristin, writing away!

2005_11_04 6 Kristin

2005_11_04 7 Royaumont

2005_11_04 8 Royaumont

2005_11_04 9 Royaumont

2005_11_04 10 Royaumont

2005_11_04 11 Royaumont

2005_11_04 12 Royaumont

In the middle of the conference, my quiet time notebook had me looking at these verses from Psalm 112:

Even in darkness light dawns for the upright,
for the gracious and compassionate and righteous woman….
She will have no fear of bad news;
her heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
Her heart is secure, she will have no fear;
in the end she will look in triumph on her enemies.

That sums up what I got from that trip and that conference. I took as my icon for the trip the Arc de Triomphe. I was encouraged that I would triumph!

2005_11_04 13 Royaumont

2005_11_04 14 Royaumont

2005_11_04 15 Royaumont

This was my room:

2005_11_04 16 My Room

And I went for a walk at night, too.

2005_11_04 17 Night

Another sunrise from my window.

2005_11_06 1 Sunrise

2005_11_06 2 Royaumont

And the conference itself was inspiring. I was thinking about and excited about being a librarian and a writer. I was excited about the future — whether or not my marriage was ever restored. I was surrounded by wonderful book people. I even got a work session with an editor and she agreed to look at my manuscript of my second novel!

Here are Erin and Kristin taking a walk while I was inside working this time.

2005_11_06 3 Kristin and Erin

2005_11_06 4 Royaumont

Here’s a Group Shot of all the writers at the conference. Can you find me?

2005_11_06 5 Group shot

This one features Erin and Kristin.

2005_11_06 6 Group shot

And here we are — the Sisters of Royaumont!

2005_11_06 7 Sisters

Our last morning at Royaumont!

2005_11_07 1 Royaumont

I love this candid, because it shows just how much fun all us writers were having!

2005_11_07 2 Candid fun

Here is Erin with author Franny Billingsley, who was attending the conference, too.

2005_11_07 3 Erin and Franny

And here we are again!

2005_11_07 4 Sisters

Almost time to go. Here are Erin and Kristin.

2005_11_07 6 Erin and Kristin

That night, we visited Erin’s friend and Kristin got novel background material from her Finnish husband.

2005_11_07 7 Writing advice

Robin and their parrot:

2005_11_07 8 Robin

I think Kristin had to leave the next day, but we roamed Paris.

2005_11_08 1 Seine

2005_11_08 2 Paris

2005_11_08 3 Paris

2005_11_08 4 Pastries

At the park by Victor Hugo’s house.

2005_11_08 5 Park

2005_11_08 6 Vicki and Erin

2005_11_08 7 Erin cafe

I mentioned last time that the Spring before — after I found out my husband was seeing another woman — I got depressed and lost more than 20% of my weight and was down to my high school weight of 105 pounds. Basically, I was skeletal. So — my friends decided to fatten me up! And there is no better place to be fattened up than Paris! Let me just say that aspect of the trip was fantastique!

2005_11_08 8 Me cafe

2005_11_08 9 Us park

We went to the Musée d’Orsay.

2005_11_09 1 d'Orsay

2005_11_09 2 d'Orsay

I think it was Vicki’s tip to eat lunch in the tea room, which was pretty much the most elegant place in the world.

2005_11_09 4 tea room

2005_11_09 5 tea room

2005_11_09 6 tea room

2005_11_09 7 Paris

Our last night in Paris, we visited the Eiffel Tower.

2005_11_09 8 Eiffel Tower

2005_11_09 9 Eiffel Tower

2005_11_09 11 Erin and Vicki

2005_11_09 12 Eiffel Tower

2005_11_09 13 Eiffel Tower

2005_11_09 14 Eiffel

2005_11_09 15 View

L’Arc de Triomphe:

2005_11_09 16 l'Arc de Triomphe

2005_11_09 17 View

2005_11_09 18 View

The Eiffel Tower sparkled while we were standing underneath it!

2005_11_09 19 Giant sparkles

2005_11_09 20 Tower

So, what was God doing in my life November 2-10, 2005?

Mostly, He was filling me with hope for the future, whether or not my marriage was restored.

I was excited about becoming a librarian. I was energized about my writing. I’d been encouraged by people who loved me. I’d gotten to talk out all my frustration and pain and fear. I’d been fattened up! I heard fantastic speakers and attended wonderful workshops about writing. I’d been surrounded by book people. I’d seen beautiful Paris and realized that whatever happened, God would help me Triumph!

Maybe Steve’s motives weren’t the best in giving me that trip to Paris. But without question, God used it for good.

That trip was such an amazing blessing! In the middle of an incredibly hard year — God gave me an interlude that energized and inspired and uplifted me!

Project 52, Week 41, Part One — Into the Wilderness

Sunday, March 26th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 41!

2005_07_25 5 PF Sweater

41 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 41 — June 14, 2005, to June 14, 2006.

Okay, I’m starting Week 41 a little early. I have plans for next Tuesday night, and I’m not sure how long it’s going to take to cover Year 41, so I thought I’d start this weekend.

In Year 40, I covered the fateful day when I learned my husband was spending time with another woman behind my back. I believed him when he looked me in the eye and told me he wasn’t having an affair. I found out later — much later — that was a lie. But he apologized, and I thought that was that, and we could work hard to fix things. Though I sank into a deep depression when my efforts didn’t seem to go anywhere and nothing I could do seemed to help.

Year 41 was, without question, the hardest year of my life so far. It’s hard to know how to approach it.

But a good friend asked a question which I’m going to use as my frame for telling about this year: Where was the Lord in this?

And that question reminded me of Hosea 2:14 —
“But now I am going to allure her.
I will lead her into the wilderness
and speak tenderly to her.”

Because, looking back, the Lord was with me every step of the way. He brought me into the wilderness — but His love drew me closer to Him even as I was facing rejection from the person I loved most.

So — what was God doing during Year 41? Let’s talk about that, instead of focusing on the various ways I got hurt.

The first thing I saw God do very soon after my birthday didn’t happen in Germany. In Virginia, my dear friend Darlene, who I’d known since 3rd grade and who shows up over and over again in the story of my life — stopped breathing in the night. Her husband Matt did CPR and the paramedics came and took her to the hospital, but she was in a coma.

Kathe was there on the spot and forwarded me the church emails. The church rallied round and was praying for Darlene. But on Saturday, June 25, I read an email from Pastor Ed Allen that they didn’t think Darlene was here any more. The doctors thought the brain activity that was left was just random. So on Monday, Matt was going to have to make the hard decision whether to turn off life support. But Pastor Ed urged everyone to keep praying.

I remember that our family went to see Star Wars Episode 3 that night — and I started weeping at Padme’s death. She even looked somewhat like Darlene! And Darlene had a one-year-old baby, Michelle. (I did not believe that Padme would have given up and died of a broken heart once she saw her babies!)

But when I got home and checked my email — Darlene had woken up! I also remember weeping for joy the next morning in church during the singing.

So that was a big thing the Lord did that year — brought Darlene back to life. How I hoped He would also bring my marriage back to life!

I can see something else God was doing just from glancing at my quiet time notebook. Now I was spending time with God every single day. No more missing days here and there. I was turning to God in desperation — and in that time, He showed me His love.

The entries during the summer go up and down. Here’s from June 16:

Why do you pour out Your blessings at some times but not at others?
Lord, yesterday Steve was kind and loving, despite my headache. Tonight he’s hard and cold and drinking a whole bottle of wine….

A lot is about me — that I would not be critical. That I would be able to show Steve love. That our counseling sessions would go well. (We’d usually fight on the way home.) Steve didn’t seem happy. At all. I developed a theory that he was deeply depressed and I went on websites for people whose spouse is depressed. I so wanted to be there for him. Here’s the entry from June 22:

O Father,
Please help me.
I’m so afraid. Steve spent last night in a hotel. He’s said he’s probably not going to go to church with us any more.
O Father, please work in Steve’s heart.
Please bring him back to you and to me.
O Lord, let Your Spirit fill me. Help me to know how to be there for Steve. Help me to know what to do and to say….
Please hold me firmly in your love.

Oh wow! I took Josh to the airport on July 2, so that means he went to Ireland again that summer. (I hadn’t remembered he got to go one more time.) It looks like I picked him up again on July 31 — when a lot had changed.

In late May, Steve had started walking Amy’s dogs when she was out of town. I didn’t like it, but I asked to go with him to do it. By the end of June, Steve refused to bring me along.

We did a last family vacation to Apeldoorn in Holland on July 3 and 4. Steve had brass quintet jobs, but we were able to drive up as a family. It didn’t go well. In the night I reached out to Steve, and when he turned away, I gave a little sigh — which infuriated him.

We went to the Dolfinarium there. And a wave hit my camera — and it never worked well again. I bought a new one not long after.

2005_07_03 Dolfinarium

On the way back — after years of me navigating for Steve, including times when he had told me how much he appreciates my navigating — we had a big fight about navigating. I’d accidentally put the map in the trunk, and the computer directions I’d printed out got us lost. And he wouldn’t stop to get the map out of the trunk.

And that was our last vacation together ever.

And I’ve got to figure out how to gloss over that awful summer.

My friends started seeing him on base out with Amy. Steve would say he suggested to several band folks to come to lunch. That was the same day he “forgot” to wear his wedding ring.

When I was upset about it, he said that I was argumentative and didn’t want him to have friends.

Where was the Lord? I see that July 8, I’d already found the verse in Isaiah 54 — “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….Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”

Steve stopped telling me if he’d be coming home for dinner. But he didn’t want me to call work and “check up on him.” He didn’t want me to email him any more at all.

And shortly after he asked me to stop sending him any emails, I went into the band building when Steve had forgotten his ID — and saw a funny joke email from Steve posted on Amy’s desk.

I told Steve I’d like to be treated at least as well as his friends — and he said that he treated all his friends better than he treated me.

Oh — another thing God did that summer was help me find my network of girlfriends. I didn’t have many local friends at that time — but at the end of March I’d emailed my two closest sisters Becky and Wendy, and then my three best friends — Kathe, Darlene, and Ruth. But I’d also added onto the list people who didn’t know Steve — who wouldn’t think any less of him for it. I included my writing buddies, and some new friends from the Sembach Writers’ Group. I included a friend I’d made who used to volunteer at the library and whose travel blog I followed. It turned out about ten years before, her husband had an emotional affair. But they were back together. She had a lot of wise advice. We still email regularly.

Writing to these friends so often helped me keep from over-reacting.

I was trying to reach out to Amy — and that seemed to make Steve furious.

Remember: I still believed Steve that she was the friend he needed. I figured if she was Steve’s good friend, she’d want to be friends with his wife. She could help me try to get Steve out of that depression.

Steve told me he didn’t want home stress to confront him at work. He didn’t want me to go to any band events or be around any band people.

There was a going-away party for one of Steve’s friends at Amy’s house. I thought it would be very rude for me to stay away. He was adamant that I should not go. I almost went anyway, but we ended up neither of us going. Who knows what I would have found if I had gone?

Steve did keep on getting found out — my friends kept seeing him out with Amy, or at the laundromat washing dog hair off his clothes. I thought that was God, and I still think so. Though I was also spared from finding out it was an affair.

And who knows what I would have done? She was a Senior Airman and he was a Master Sergeant. He could have indeed gotten kicked out of the Air Force if it had been found out.

I don’t know what God was doing at the time — but I do know that, years later, I’m glad how it all worked out.

I was able to resist the temptation to track him down. I don’t know how many times I was tempted to drive to Amy’s house and see if he was there. I never did. And that’s a good thing.

And God started bringing good books into my life, exactly the books I needed. I worked in a library. And one of the first tremendously helpful books I found was The Divorce Remedy, by Michele Weiner Davis. I wrote the review in December, after Steve had moved out. But I read the book in July. I’ve got an entry in my quiet time notebook where I resolved to follow the Last Resort Technique:

1) Stop pursuing. (I’d been pursuing so very, very hard!)
2) Get a life! (My plan was to focus on my writing and my work and be good to myself.)
3) Wait and watch.

This technique — and all the advice and comfort in the book really helped my sanity that summer. Not that I really managed to stop pursuing — but I do think I managed to tone it down!

(And remember: Steve was having an affair. He was telling me that he was working on the marriage — but he had already checked out. I didn’t know it was an affair, so I thought there was still hope.)

I also had to learn to find my value and worth in myself, with only negative reinforcement from Steve.

One thing that helped with that was I FINISHED MY PRIME FACTORIZATION SWEATER on July 25!

I’d been working on it for years. But finishing it made me smile, even in a really hard summer!

I explained the sweater later on my blog, so here I’ll just show the pictures I took.

2005_07_25 1 PF Sweater

2005_07_25 2 PF Sweater

2005_07_25 3 PF Sleeve

2005_07_25 4 PF Sweater

Then came Timothy’s 11th Birthday!

2005_07_29 1 Birthday

2005_07_29 2 Birthday

And that, I’m afraid, was the day that Steve moved out of my bedroom for good. He didn’t consult me about it, just didn’t come to bed. And I was so afraid to be seen as being critical, I didn’t dare say anything. (No wait a minute — the second night, I went downstairs and saw him on the couch and made a sound of sadness — and got yelled at for doing that.)

Here’s what I wrote about that:

Wow, it hurts when Steve sleeps downstairs.

Talk about rejection.

He looks so sad now. Almost constantly frowning, and his face is sagging. His eyes are red and there are bags under his eyes.

He says he’s not depressed; he’s resentful.

Perhaps it will help if I think of him as wrestling with forgiveness. I hope he is. There are even indications that he is.

But he doesn’t want to sleep in the same room with me. And I’m afraid to breathe and wake him up.

It was so twisted. Every time I’d find out Steve had been with Amy — even when I believed they weren’t having an affair — because that meant he was preferring her to me — I felt like I was stabbed through the heart — but I didn’t dare make even a whimper of complaint. I was somehow believing that this was critical and wasn’t respectful. That I hadn’t forgiven him. That I was too prone to anger.

Here’s what I wrote on August 6:

O God, help me!
I found Dalmatian hair again — on our bed, on Steve’s bag, on Steve’s clothes, on the rug in the hall, and on the guestroom bed.
O God, today’s counseling. I don’t know what to say.
O God, I don’t want Steve to leave me.
Is the verse I need: “If the unbeliever wants to leave, let him do so. We are called to live in peace.”
O God, I was going to try to talk about forgiveness, to try to make restitution. What now?
O God, I want our marriage to be saved….

Well, by the next day, Steve had convinced me the Dalmatian hair was nothing — still in the back seat of his car and getting all over everything from a time he had walked dogs when Amy was out of town. He’d driven them to a path in the woods in his car and the hair was still there.

And I felt wrong for getting upset about it!

But the big enormous conflict happened at the end of the summer, August 25. I was planning to take the kids shopping for school clothes at the BX at Vogelweh. But Steve asked to use my slightly larger car. He eventually said that someone new in the band wanted help moving some stuff.

The next day, Steve got up early and went in to work. I was ready to take the kids shopping, and thought I’d suggest that we could have lunch together after shopping. (He must have said something about the person was moving near Vogelweh?) But the person I talked to didn’t know where Steve was — he wasn’t at the band building.

So — I took the kids clothes shopping. Afterward, we were going to have lunch and then do the grocery shopping. And look! There was my car in the parking lot next to Subway! We could have lunch with Steve!

Well, I wasn’t too surprised when I walked in that, sure enough, Steve was having lunch with Amy. (She was attending Airman Leadership School at the time, which was located near Vogelweh.) But the surprise was that — her parents were there.

Because Amy was attending Airman Leadership School, Steve had offered to pick up her parents from the airport when they came to visit.

Well, I was livid! But I’d made myself a resolution to wait 24 hours before I confronted Steve. So after introducing myself “I’m his wife” and having Steve buy the three of us lunch, I sat with them and chatted icily sweetly. Steve and Amy were pretty quiet, so I chatted with her parents.

That night I wrote, “Father, You are clearly working. I could not possibly have caught out Steve so neatly in his lies.
Father, please continue working. Soften Steve’s heart. Help him to feel Your love and my love.”

I have to interject here: I do think that these many times that Steve got found out — that God was giving him chance after chance to change his mind.

I’ll say no more about that, because this is my story not Steve’s. But I do believe God was working in Steve’s life as well as in mine.

I do think I was growing! My desperation was much less. Here’s from the next day:

Dear Father,
Well, Steve admits to no wrongdoing when he lied to me and met with Amy and picked up her parents.

He is going to continue meeting with Amy and maybe even continue lying. He doesn’t think I should make a fuss about him having lunch with a co-worker.

And he’s very angry with me.

So what do I do?

Lord, I still want our marriage to continue. At worst, I would stay married to him and co-parent our kids.

I don’t think he’ll divorce me while we’re in Germany. That would mean breaking up our home during Josh’s Senior year….

If we do get divorced, we’ll need to put aside anger and resentment. So I might as well practice that now.

I need to do as the book The Divorce Remedy recommends and completely ignore his relationship with Amy — to put all the energy I might spend thinking about them into other things….

And the kids started school! Timmy started 6th grade, Middle School, and Josh started 12th grade, a Senior!

On the second day of school, I wrote:

Today Timothy said he likes Algebra! He liked being the fastest, even though he was the youngest and smallest! I’m glad. He felt awkward being there yesterday.

Josh is still walking tall as a Senior. He said someone told him he looked like he’d grown — I think he’s simply holding himself tall. It’s nice to see him so happy with life.

One thing I really don’t like in my next set of entries is I keep on talking about my mistakes — mostly where I gave Steve an inkling of how hurt I was feeling. And he found out how many people I was writing to and got upset about that. And I’m reading in what I was writing that I was taking on a lot of the guilt about how I was responding.

In September, we took a trip to Europa Park in honor of Timothy’s birthday. Steve almost refused to go, but I convinced him to for Timothy’s sake. Here’s what I wrote about it.

Labor Day was rough. We went to Europa Park in honor of Timothy’s birthday. We did have a good time.

However, after awhile it got to me that Steve was avoiding sitting by me or touching me. I felt like I was poison.

We talked about it in counseling. He still thinks that he should not be too nice to me, or I will get my hopes too high. But it gets to me after awhile.

However, I think we both enjoyed being with the kids. Josh danced in the yodeling log ride line — and then boasted about how he got everyone in line to stare at him!

Timothy didn’t want to go on too many rides — too bad, since he liked the ones he did go on. And he did prefer to ride with Dad, so it was good that Steve came along.

After the counseling appointment, I wrote:

It was rough, because we ended with Steve mad at me. So I was discouraged most of today. I wish Steve wanted to be with me.

However, something significant was said. Steve thinks it’s not a matter of forgiveness — It’s that we’re just not right for each other. For example, I need to talk and he hates conflict.

That always makes me wonder where in the world he thinks he’ll find a woman who doesn’t need to talk. So I asked him.

He said, “I’m not thinking about another woman. I want to be ALONE!” That actually relieves me. If he doesn’t marry someone else, there’s always hope. I can wait him out.

He says he’s tired of emotional turmoil. I wish he’d see that it could be reduced with kindness.

[Dear Reader, I did eventually get over that desire to wait him out! And notice how he so neatly reassured me by saying he wanted to be alone. It does make you wonder if he was getting some pressure from the other woman, too.]

Though the next few days, he was much kinder to me. For awhile.

And that Fall, I started going to Yoga class one night a week, and still had Choir practice one night a week. Yay! I was getting a life! I was friends with the yoga instructor and my friend Suzanne, the wife of the first sergeant of the band, was also attending. It happened in Winnweiler, which was where Amy lived.

The first night I got there, and Suzanne told me someone else from the band was attending. Did I know Amy?

So — each week at yoga, I got to practice being gracious. In my most spiteful moments, I’d think to myself how sad Amy must be that she was so fat. (I had lost more than 20% of my weight in the first few months of our marital crisis. I simply wasn’t hungry. I got down to my high school weight of 105 pounds. Don’t worry — I’ve gained it all back since then! But it was fun while it lasted.) But all in all, yoga was great for me. A good practice thinking peaceful thoughts and the exercise was good for me.

And in September, my journal entries are excited and happy about my writing and about getting ready for PARIS in November! (More on that!) I finally got myself a laptop so I wouldn’t have to wait my turn on the family computer. (And it was time to stop writing to my friends on the family email account. After Steve started reading what I was writing, I opened the sonderbooks account.)

And then things really went downhill. On September 29, Steve wasn’t home yet when I left for yoga, even though the plan was for him to feed the kids dinner. But I went ahead to Winnweiler. I had trouble finding parking, and as I was driving around the village — I saw Steve’s car coming toward me leaving the village. I rolled down my window and greeted him. He said he “went for a walk.” I asked, “With Amy?” And he said Yes.

Of course, he’d gone for a walk after work several times in the past three weeks — so I was pretty sure it was with Amy each time. This meant he was walking dogs with her again behind my back. It broke my heart the first time. Why did he think it wouldn’t break my heart this time?

Amy wasn’t at yoga that night. The instructor kept saying to notice what you were feeling. Well, what I was feeling was heartbreak. But I managed to keep it together the entire class. Only I was shaking in some of the positions. My friend Suzanne, the first sergeant’s wife, tried to give me tips afterward to help me not shake — and I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I started sobbing.

This really worried Suzanne. She urged me and urged me to tell her what was wrong. I said I couldn’t. But she said, “You can tell me.” And that she wouldn’t tell her husband. So finally I poured it out.

I did confront Steve when I got home.

Here’s what I wrote to my email support group. I was getting some perspective.

I assumed that this meant that every time in the last
few weeks when he came home late, that he was with
Amy. It turns out that it was only tonight, now that
she’s back from ALS.

He was really mad when I said he was lying to me
(after yoga). Because he told me what he was doing as
soon as I asked. Whatever! But it was a bit of a
relief to know that this wasn’t what he was doing the
past several weeks. He said he hadn’t seen her during
her six weeks at ALS.

Anyway, he told me that the reason he doesn’t tell me
ahead of time is that I will want to talk about it
“like this.” I tried to explain that I was upset
about the deception, not about the walking with Amy–I
did say that he is welcome to break her heart.

I was completely calm and did not raise my voice while
talking with him, but he’s furious with me and said he
doesn’t want to talk about things and he doesn’t like
spending time with me. (I DID cry hard at the end of
yoga–but yoga helped me feel calmer about things.)

I’m still not leaving. Yes, he’s treating me like
dirt. Yes, I deserve much, much better than this
treatment. So I am going to continue to focus on my
activities and not let him ruin my happiness. I do
believe that God will take my revenge for me, if Steve
is indeed wronging me. He promises especially to take
up the case of “the wife of your youth” if a man
betrays her. So I am going to try to forgive and
repay the evil with good and leave room for God’s

I’m giving myself a pep talk here. I’m not nearly as
strong as I’m trying to sound. Believe me, I did some
hard crying tonight, and a lot of the yoga moves got
me shaking when they might not have otherwise.

I do believe that if Steve is the sort of person who
would leave his wife, then I am much better off
without him. But I don’t think he’s that kind of
person, and I so, so hope that he will choose to love
me again and treat me as a wife should be treated. I
think we’ll both (and definitely our kids) be better
off. But I know that if He rejects me, God will bring
good out of it, and make me a much more beautiful
person than before.

Tonight I’m not reproaching myself about anything I
said. I think the bottomline reason Steve got mad is
because he knows he treated me badly. But he
certainly doesn’t think so.

I don’t think he’s going to fall for Amy (If he does,
they deserve each other!)–so this kind of behavior is
bound to hurt her–and that’s fine with me! It does
hurt me, but I am going to try to forgive to keep it
from being lasting hurt.

OKAY–ENOUGH already! 🙂

Sigh. Things were deteriorating.

But to add to the fun — when Suzanne got home, her husband asked why she was so late. She said that Sondy was really upset. He asked right away, “Was Amy there?” Suzanne had no clue about Steve and Amy before that night — but Joe knew exactly why I was upset before she told him.

And then — Steve got a letter of counseling for the “Perception of an Inappropriate Relationship.”

I had sent Joe an email saying that Steve and Amy had not done anything inappropriate. Please do not do anything, because Steve would blame me. Joe said that it didn’t matter what was happening at home. People at work were complaining. He sent the letter of counseling completely based on what was going on at work.

[I hadn’t realized at all how strict the rules against fraternization are in the military. I thought since Steve wasn’t having an affair (or so I thought), he couldn’t get in trouble. But apparently, a Master Sergeant isn’t even supposed to be special friends with a senior airman.]

And yes, Steve was completely convinced it was my fault.

Oh look! In the middle of these comments about the letter of counseling, I see that my dear co-worker Elfriede took me to a long lunch and bought me apple strudel and told me she loves me.

Here’s Elfriede! Elfriede always told me she was my fan. It’s good to have a fan! Especially when you feel like you’re doing things wrong.

2005_07 Elfriede

And then, on October 25, 2005, I wrote this:

O Father,
Steve told me last night that he has finally decided to divorce me.

O God, I so hoped he wouldn’t do this. Now it sounds like he’s even willing to divorce me before we move, forcing me to go back to the States.

Lord, give me wisdom. I don’t want my signature on any divorce documents. But I do want custody of Timothy and for Steve to keep his promise to support me. Give me wisdom, Lord.

Thank You, Father, that You will watch over me no matter what. Help me to be loving, not vindictive. Help me to be a better person through this. Thank You for Your great love.

The “promise” I was referring to was that back in the Spring, when Steve was already talking about leaving me, I’d asked him if I needed to find a full-time job. He’d said that even if he left, he’d still support me. (My friends said I should have gotten that in writing, and they were right!) But by this time — It was too late for me to find a full-time job. We were due to leave Germany the following August and I actually wasn’t allowed to apply for anything with so little time left. Plus, I was going to lose the job I did have in August.

The next morning when I woke up, I made a decision: I would become a Librarian!

I had been thinking for at least a year that when we moved back to the States, I’d focus on my writing full-time. But now that I knew I’d be needing a full-time job, I didn’t trust that I could find anything with my Math Master’s, so why not get a Master’s in Library Science and become a full-time librarian? The more I thought about it, the happier I was with the decision.

So that’s another thing God was doing — this career I love was a direct result of getting divorced.

The next day I went to the Ramstein legal office and talked to a wonderful lawyer who was an older lady. She was tremendously encouraging. And she explained that Steve couldn’t possibly divorce me before we left Germany. We’d be under Illinois law — and under Illinois law you have to be separated for a full year before you can file for divorce. We didn’t have a year left in Germany. So that really eased my fears of getting sent back early.

And — I’m going to have to stop there tonight. But the next thing that happened in the worst year of my life was the best trip of my life — the SCBWI Writers’ Retreat in Paris! I’ll talk about that in the next installment.

I’m not sure I’ve communicated in this post how much God was with me, walking me through. But He was, He was, He was.

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

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 40!

2005_06_14 1 Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why do I feel like Steve dislikes me?

Any little criticism now revives all my fears.

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

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

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

Oh God, I need HELP!!!!

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

I so want Steve to be happy.

Why did he hurt me so much?

What should I do? What should I do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank You, Father.

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

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

My journal entry continues…

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

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

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

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

However, three days later on the 20th:

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

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

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

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

Lord, please help our marriage to heal.

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

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

2005_03_19 1 Birthday

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

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

2005_03_24 1 Brain Bowl

2005_03_24 2 Brain Bowl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lord, help Steve to want to fix things.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But anyway, here are some Rome pictures!

2005_04_11 1 Colosseum

2005_04_11 2 Rome

2005_04_11 3 Rome

2005_04_11 4 Rome

2005_04_11 5 Rome

2005_04_11 6 Rome

2005_04_12 1 Spanish Steps

2005_04_12 2 Fountain

2005_04_12 3 Rome

2005_04_12 4 Borghese Gardens

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

We finished with a few hours in Florence.

2005_04_13 1 Florence

2005_04_13 2 Florence

2005_04_13 3 Florence

2005_04_13 4 Florence

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

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

2005_04_24 1 Ely

2005_04_24 2 Ely

2005_04_24 3 Ely

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

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

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

2005_04_25 1 British Library

And we visited the British Museum.

2005_04_25 2 British Museum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First, Burg Falkenstein.

2005_05_26 1 Falkenstein

2005_05_26 2 Falkenstein

2005_05_26 3 Falkenstein

2005_05_26 4 Falkenstein

Then Altenbaumburg.

2005_05_26 5 Falkenstein

2005_05_29 1 Altenbaumburg

2005_05_29 2 Altenbaumburg

2005_05_29 3 Altenbaumburg

And of course Burg Rheinfels!

2005_05_30 1 Rhine

2005_05_30 2 Rheinfels

2005_05_30 3 Rheinfels

2005_05_30 4 Rheinfels

2005_05_30 5 Rheinfels

2005_05_30 6 Rheinfels

2005_05_30 7 Rheinfels

2005_05_30 8 Thistles

2005_05_30 9 Rheinfels

2005_05_30 10 Rheinfels

2005_05_30 11 Rheinfels

2005_05_30 12 Rheinfels

2005_05_30 13 Rheinfels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2005_06_04 1 Cake

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

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

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

I’m 41 today.

What will my 42nd year hold?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Project 52, Week 40, Part Two — Heartbreak

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 40!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From my Quiet Time journal on Saturday:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank You that You hear my prayer and answer.

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

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

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

We had some more beautiful snow that month.

2005_02_22 1 Snow

2005_02_22 2 Snow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He asked, “What do you mean?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To say I was devastated is putting it mildly.

My husband was having an affair!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was wrong.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Father, I need some light and some joy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 40!

2004_10_09 6 Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The first few photos are from Mělnik.

2004_07_15 1 Melnik

2004_07_15 2 Melnik

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

2004_07_15 3 Vltava

2004_07_15 4 Melnik

2004_07_15 5 Melnik

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

2004_07_16 1 Prague

2004_07_16 2 Prague

2004_07_16 3 Prague

2004_07_16 4 Prague

2004_07_16 5 Prague

The Charles Bridge is so beautiful.

2004_07_17 1 Charles Bridge

2004_07_17 2 Prague

2004_07_17 3 Bridge

2004_07_17 4 Bridge

2004_07_17 5 Bridge

2004_07_17 6 Bridge

2004_07_17 7 Bridge

2004_07_17 8 Cow

2004_07_17 9 Cow

2004_07_17 10 Prague

2004_07_17 11 Cow

2004_07_17 12 Cow

2004_07_17 13 Cows

Here’s my favorite cow statue!

2004_07_17 14 Timmy Cow

2004_07_17 15 Cow

2004_07_17 16 Cow parade

2004_07_17 17 Cow

2004_07_17 18 Reading cow

2004_07_17 19 Mermaid Cow

2004_07_17 20 Cows

2004_07_17 21 Prague

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

2004_07_18 Plzen

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

2004_07_29 1 Cake

2004_07_29 2 Cake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jade learned to throw an axe!

2004_08_13 1 Axe

And we took him to Trier on the 14th.

2004_08_14 1 Trier

2004_08_14 2 Trier

2004_08_14 3 Trier

2004_08_14 4 Trier

2004_08_14 5 Baths

2004_08_14 6 Josh

They were having a Roman Fest!

2004_08_14 7 Roman Fest

2004_08_14 8 Dad

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

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

Father, I feel so sad, sad, sad.

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

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

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

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

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

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

We had a picnic by the river!

2004_08_22 1 Picnic

Waiting for a boat over to Burg Pfalzgrafenstein.

2004_08_22 2 Ferry

2004_08_22 3 Pfalz

2004_08_22 4 Pfalz

2004_08_22 5 Swing

2004_08_22 6 Swing

2004_08_22 7 Rhine

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

2004_08_22 8 Lahneck

2004_08_22 9 Lahneck

2004_08_22 10 Lahneck

2004_08_22 11 Lahneck

2004_08_22 12 Lahneck

2004_08_22 13 Lahneck

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

2004_09_05 1 Chocolate

2004_09_05 2 Chocolate

2004_09_05 3 Koln

2004_09_05 4 Koln

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lord, help our love to grow….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2004_10_08 1 Monkeys

2004_10_08 2 Monkeys

2004_10_08 3 Monkeys

2004_10_08 4 Monkeys

2004_10_08 5 Monkeys

2004_10_08 6 Monkeys

2004_10_08 7 Monkeys

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

2004_10_09 1 Colmar

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

2004_10_09 3 Me

2004_10_09 4 Nideck

2004_10_09 5 Nideck

2004_10_09 7 Nideck

2004_10_09 8 Nideck

2004_10_09 9 Nideck

2004_10_09 10 Nideck

2004_10_09 11 Nideck

The castle was just above the waterfall.

2004_10_09 12 Nideck

2004_10_09 13 Nideck

2004_10_09 14 Nideck

2004_10_09 15 Nideck

2004_10_09 16 Nideck

2004_10_09 17 Nideck

2004_10_09 18 Nideck

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

On October 15, I wrote:

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

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

Thank You, Father, that Steve loves me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Timothy was Wolverine for Halloween.

2004_10_31 1 Wolverine

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

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

2004_11_07 1 Maria Laach

2004_11_07 2 Maria Laach

2004_11_07 3 Ducks

2004_11_07 4 Laacher See

2004_11_07 5 Laacher See

We had some early snow!

2004_11_09 1 Snow

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

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

2004_11_30 1 Birthday

2004_11_30 2 Birthday

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

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

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

2005_01_02 1 Arithmeum

2005_01_02 2 Arithmeum

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

2005_02_06 1 Wolfsburg

2005_02_06 2 Wolfsburg

2005_02_06 3 Wolfsburg

2005_02_06 4 Wolfsburg

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

Project 52, Week 39, Part Two – Blooming!

Saturday, March 18th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 39!

2004_05_22 11 Me

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

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

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

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

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

2004_01_29 1 Sembach Snow

2004_01_29 2 Snow

And in our own yard:

2004_01_30 1 Snow

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

2004_02_09 Deriveras

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

2004_02_15 2 Play

2004_02_15 3 Play

2004_02_15 4 Play

2004_02_15 5 Play

2004_02_15 6 Play

2004_02_15 7 Play

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

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

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

My new love is my old love.

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

In the “…And Old Loves” box:

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

And in the box “Valentine Sentiments”:

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s Pordenone:

2004_02_20 1 Pordenone

2004_02_20 2 Pordenone

2004_02_20 3 Pordenone

2004_02_20 4 Pordenone

2004_02_20 5 Pordenone

We had dinner at “The Chicken Place.”

2004_02_20 6 Pordenone

2004_02_20 7 Pordenone

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

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

2004_02_21 1 Venice DNA Scarf

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

2004_02_21 2 Timmy Mask

2004_02_21 3 Josh Venice

2004_02_21 4 Josh Mask

2004_02_21 5 Josh Mask

2004_02_21 6 Timmy Mask

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

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

2004_03_09 1 Big Snow

2004_03_09 2 Snow

2004_03_09 3 Snowmonkey

And then came Spring!

2004_03_15 Pussy Willows

And Josh’s 16th Birthday!

2004_03_19 1 Josh's Birthday

2004_03_19 2 Birthday

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

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

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

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

2004_03_25 Brain Bowl

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

2004_04_04 Senckenberg Museum

2004_04_04 2 Senckenberg

2004_04_04 3 Senckenberg

2004_04_04 4 Senckenberg

2004_04_04 5 Senckenberg

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

2004_04_06 1 Math Museum

2004_04_06 2 Mathmatikum

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

2004_04_08 1 Furstengrab

2004_04_08 2 Furstengrab

2004_04_08 3 Furstengrab

That day we also visited Castle #153, Hohenasperg.

2004_04_08 4 Hohenasperg

2004_04_08 5 Hohenasperg

2004_04_08 6 Hohenasperg

2004_04_08 7 Hohenasperg

2004_04_08 8 Hohenasperg

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

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

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

2004_04_17 1 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 2 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 3 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 4 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 5 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 6 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 7 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 8 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 9 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 10 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 11 Chess

2004_04_17 12 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 13 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 14 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 15 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 16 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 17 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 18 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 19 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 20 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 21 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 22 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 23 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 24 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 25 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 26 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 27 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 28 Chess

2004_04_17 29 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 30 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 31 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 32 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 33 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 34 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 35 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 36 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 37 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 38 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 39 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 40 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 41 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 42 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 43 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 44 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 45 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 46 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 47 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 48 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 49 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 50 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 51 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 52 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 53 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 54 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 55 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 56 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 57 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 58 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 59 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 60 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 61 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 62 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 63 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 64 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 65 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 66 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 67 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 68 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 69 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 70 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 71 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 72 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 73 Keukenhof

2004_04_17 74 Keukenhof

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

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

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

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

2004_04_21 1 Tulips

2004_04_21 2 Tulips

2004_04_21 3 Blossoms

2004_04_21 4 Tulips

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

I got to see lots and lots of family.

2004_04_23 1 Cousins

2004_04_23 2 Cousins

2004_04_24 1 Funeral

2004_04_24 2 Linda

2004_04_24 3 Bates

2004_04_24 4 Cousins

2004_04_24 5 Donna

2004_04_24 6 Dad

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

2004_04_24 7 Us

The cemetery was lovely.

2004_04_24 8 Cemetery

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

2004_04_24 9 Grandma's House

And back home, our flowers were still blooming!

2004_04_27 1 Flowers

2004_04_27 2 Flowers

2004_04_27 3 Flowers

2004_04_27 4 Flowers

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

2004_05_09 1 Burg Trifels

2004_05_09 2 Trifels

2004_05_09 3 Trifels

2004_05_09 4 Trifels

2004_05_09 5 Trifels

2004_05_09 6 Trifels

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

2004_05_12 1 Flat Stanley

2004_05_12 2 Flat Stanley

2004_05_12 3 Rapps

2004_05_12 4 Rapps

2004_05_12 5 Rapps

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

2004_05_15 1 Wendy

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

2004_05_15 2 Park

2004_05_15 3 Mill

2004_05_15 4 Flat Stanley

2004_05_15 5 Musikanten

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

2004_05_15 6 Gameface

Be careful, Flat Stanley!

2004_05_15 7 Lion

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

2004_05_16 1 Rhododendron Park

2004_05_16 2 Wendy

2004_05_16 3 Rhododendrons

2004_05_16 4 Flowers

2004_05_16 5 Flowers

2004_05_16 6 Flowers

2004_05_16 7 Wendy

2004_05_16 8 Flowers

2004_05_16 9 Flowers

2004_05_16 10 Flowers

2004_05_16 11 Flowers

2004_05_16 12 Flowers

2004_05_16 13 Flowers

2004_05_16 14 Flowers

2004_05_16 15 Flowers

2004_05_16 16 Flowers

2004_05_16 17 Flowers

2004_05_16 18 Flowers

2004_05_16 19 Flowers

2004_05_16 20 Flowers

2004_05_16 21 Flowers

2004_05_16 22 Flowers

2004_05_16 23 Flowers

2004_05_16 24 Flowers

2004_05_16 25 Flowers

2004_05_16 26 Flowers

2004_05_16 27 Flowers

2004_05_16 28 Flowers

2004_05_16 29 Flowers

2004_05_16 30 Flowers

2004_05_16 31 Flowers

2004_05_16 32 Flowers

2004_05_16 33 Flowers

2004_05_16 34 Flowers

2004_05_16 35 Flowers

2004_05_16 36 Wendy

2004_05_16 37 Wendy

2004_05_16 38 Flowers

2004_05_16 39 Flowers

2004_05_16 40 Flowers

2004_05_16 41 Flowers

2004_05_16 42 Flowers

2004_05_16 43 Flowers

2004_05_16 44 Flowers

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

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

2004_05_16 45 Wildeshausen

2004_05_16 46 Wildeshausen

2004_05_16 47 Wildeshausen

2004_05_16 48 Wildeshausen

2004_05_16 49 Wildeshausen

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

2004_05_16 50 Wildeshausen

2004_05_16 51 Wildeshausen

2004_05_16 52 Wildeshausen

2004_05_16 53 Wildeshausen

2004_05_16 54 Wildeshausen

2004_05_16 55 King's Grave

2004_05_16 56 King's Grave

2004_05_16 57 Grave

2004_05_16 58 Grave

2004_05_16 59 Grave

2004_05_16 60 Grave

2004_05_16 61 Wendy

2004_05_16 62 Flat Stanley

2004_05_16 63 Wendy

2004_05_16 64 Grave

2004_05_16 65 Grave

2004_05_16 66 Grave

2004_05_16 67 Wildeshausen

2004_05_16 68 Wildeshausen

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

2004_05_16 69 Dog

2004_05_16 70 Wildeshausen

2004_05_16 71 Wildeshausen

2004_05_16 72 Wildeshausen

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

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

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

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

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

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

2004_05_22 1 Beilstein

2004_05_22 2 Beilstein

2004_05_22 3 Beilstein

2004_05_22 4 Beilstein

2004_05_22 5 Beilstein

2004_05_22 6 Beilstein

2004_05_22 7 Beilstein

Flat Stanley was still sharing our adventures!

2004_05_22 8 Flat Stanley

2004_05_22 9 Beilstein

2004_05_22 10 Beilstein

2004_05_22 12 Beilstein

2004_05_22 13 Josh

2004_05_22 14 Timmy

2004_05_22 15 Josh

2004_05_22 16 Beilstein

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2004_06_13 1 Donnersberg

2004_06_13 2 Donnersberg

2004_06_13 3 Donnersberg

2004_06_13 4 Donnersberg

2004_06_13 5 Donnersberg

2004_06_13 6 Donnersberg

2004_06_13 7 Donnersberg

2004_06_13 8 Donnersberg

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

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

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

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

2004_06_14 1 Kallenfels

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

2004_06_14 2 Kallenfels

2004_06_14 3 Kallenfels

2004_06_14 4 Kallenfels

2004_06_14 5 Kallenfels

2004_06_14 6 Kallenfels

2004_06_14 7 Josh

2004_06_14 8 Josh

2004_06_14 9 Kallenfels

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

2004_06_14 10 Kyrburg

2004_06_14 11 Kyrburg

2004_06_14 12 Kyrburg

2004_06_14 13 Kyrburg

2004_06_14 14 Kyrburg

2004_06_14 15 Kyrburg

2004_06_14 16 Kyrburg

2004_06_14 17 Kyrburg

2004_06_14 18 Kyrburg

2004_06_14 19 Kyrburg

2004_06_14 20 Kyrburg

I like the cake my family made for me!

2004_06_14 21 Cake

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

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

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 39!

2003_11_27 4 Eklunds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2003_07_08 1 Stirling Castle

2003_07_08 2 Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle had an incredible view.

2003_07_08 3 Stirling View

2003_07_08 4 Stirling Castle

2003_07_08 5 Stirling

2003_07_08 6 Stirling View

2003_07_08 7 Timmy Lookout

2003_07_08 8 Josh Throne

2003_07_08 9 Us Throne

2003_07_08 10 Stirling

Here are my Three Wise Monkeys:

2003_07_08 11 Wise Monkeys

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

2003_07_08 12 Culross

The next day, we went to Edinburgh.

2003_07_09 1 Edinburgh

2003_07_09 2 Edinburgh

2003_07_09 3 Edinburgh

2003_07_09 4 Edinburgh

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

2003_07_09 5 Culross

2003_07_09 6 Culross

2003_07_09 7 Culross

2003_07_09 8 Culross

2003_07_09 9 Culross

2003_07_09 10 Culross

2003_07_09 11 Culross

2003_07_09 12 Culross

2003_07_09 13 Culross

2003_07_09 14 Culross

Genuine Scottish thistles!

2003_07_09 100 Thistles

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

2003_07_10 1 Crannog

2003_07_10 2 Crannog

2003_07_10 3 Crannog

2003_07_10 4 Crannog

2003_07_10 5 Crannog

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

2003_07_10 6 Loch Ness

2003_07_10 7 Loch Ness

2003_07_10 8 Loch Ness

2003_07_10 9 Loch Ness

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

2003_07_11 1 Loch Ness

2003_07_11 2 Loch Ness

2003_07_11 3 Loch Ness

2003_07_11 4 Loch Ness

2003_07_11 5 Loch Ness

2003_07_11 6 Loch Ness

2003_07_11 7 Loch Ness

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

2003_07_11 100 Nessie

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

2003_07_11 8 Urquhart

2003_07_11 9 Urquhart

2003_07_11 10 Urquhart

2003_07_11 11 Urquhart

2003_07_11 12 Urquhart

2003_07_11 13 Urquhart

2003_07_11 14 Urquhart

2003_07_11 15 Urquhart

2003_07_11 16 Urquhart

2003_07_11 17 Urquhart

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

2003_07_12 1 Ferry

2003_07_12 2 Ferry

2003_07_12 3 Ferry

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

2003_07_12 4 Duart Castle

More Thistles there!

2003_07_12 5 Thistles

2003_07_12 6 Duart

2003_07_12 7 Duart

2003_07_12 8 Mull

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

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

2003_07_12 9 Mull

2003_07_12 10 Mull

2003_07_12 11 Thistle

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

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

2003_07_12 12 Bay

2003_07_12 13 Bay

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

2003_07_13 1 Boat

2003_07_13 2 Staff

2003_07_13 3 Staffa

2003_07_13 4 Staffa

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

2003_07_13 5 Staffa

2003_07_13 6 Staffa

2003_07_13 7 Staffa

2003_07_13 8 Staffa

2003_07_13 9 Fingal's Cave

2003_07_13 10 Fingal's Cave

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

2003_07_13 11 Fingal's Cave

2003_07_13 12 Staffa

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

2003_07_13 13 Staffa

2003_07_13 14 Staffa

2003_07_13 15 Staffa

2003_07_13 16 Staffa

2003_07_13 17 Staffa

2003_07_13 18 Staffa

2003_07_13 19 Staffa

2003_07_13 20 Staffa

2003_07_13 21 Staffa

2003_07_13 22 Staffa

2003_07_13 23 Staffa

After Staffa, we wandered around Iona for a bit.

2003_07_13 24 Iona

2003_07_13 25 Iona

2003_07_13 26 Iona

2003_07_13 27 Iona

2003_07_13 28 Iona

2003_07_13 29 Iona

2003_07_13 30 Iona

2003_07_13 31 Iona

At a small museum on Iona:

2003_07_13 32 Tim Monk

2003_07_13 33 Josh Monk

And back on Mull that night by the Argyll Arms.

2003_07_13 34 Argyll

2003_07_13 35 Mull

Poor Timmy got super sunburned that day!

2003_07_13 36 Sunburn

But we had a wonderful sunset from our hotel window.

2003_07_13 37 Mull

2003_07_13 38 Mull

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

2003_07_14 1 Ferry

2003_07_14 2 Ferry

2003_07_14 3 Ferry

We headed south that day and stopped at Kilchurn Castle.

2003_07_14 4 Kilchurn

2003_07_14 5 Kilchurn

2003_07_14 6 Kilchurn

2003_07_14 7 Kilchurn

2003_07_14 8 Kilchurn

2003_07_14 9 Kilchurn

2003_07_14 10 Kilchurn

2003_07_14 11 Kilchurn

2003_07_14 12 Kilchurn

2003_07_14 13 Kilchurn

2003_07_14 14 Kilchurn

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

2003_07_14 15 Loch Lomond

2003_07_14 16 Loch Lomond

2003_07_14 17 Loch Lomond

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

2003_07_14 18 Largs

2003_07_14 19 Largs

2003_07_14 20 Largs

2003_07_14 21 Largs

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

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

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

2003_07_29 1 Sembach

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

2003_07_29 4 Timmy

2003_07_29 5 Birthday

2003_07_29 6 Birthday

2003_07_29 7 Birthday

2003_07_29 8 Birthday

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

2003_07_29 3 Timmy at Library

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

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

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

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

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

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

2003_08_04 1 Heidelberg

2003_08_04 2 Heidelberg

2003_08_04 3 Linda

2003_08_04 4 Heidelberg

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

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

2003_08_23 1 Barefoot Path

2003_08_23 2 Barefoot Path

2003_08_23 3 Barefoot Path

2003_08_23 4 Barefoot Path

2003_08_23 5 Barefoot Path

2003_08_23 6 Barefoot Path

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

2003_08_23 7 Disibodenberg

2003_08_23 8 Disibodenberg

2003_08_23 9 Disibodenberg

2003_08_23 10 Disibodenberg

2003_08_23 11 Disibodenberg

2003_08_23 12 Disibodenberg

2003_08_23 13 Disibodenberg

2003_08_23 14 Disibodenberg

2003_08_23 15 Disibodenberg

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

2003_09_06 PF Yarn

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

2003_09_13 1 Wendy

2003_09_13 2 Stolzenfels

2003_09_13 3 Stolzenfels

2003_09_13 4 Stolzenfels

2003_09_13 5 Stolzenfels

2003_09_13 6 Stolzenfels

2003_09_13 7 Stolzenfels

2003_09_13 8 Stolzenfels

2003_09_13 9 Stolzenfels

2003_09_13 10 Stolzenfels

2003_09_13 11 Stolzenfels

2003_09_13 12 Stolzenfels

2003_09_13 13 Stolzenfels

2003_09_13 14 Stolzenfels

2003_09_13 15 Stolzenfels

2003_09_13 16 Stolzenfels

2003_09_13 17 Stolzenfels

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

2003_09_14 1 Kaiserpfalz

2003_09_14 2 Kaiserpfalz

2003_09_14 3 Kaiserpfalz

2003_09_14 4 Kaiserpfalz

2003_09_14 5 Kaiserslautern

2003_09_14 6 Kaiserslautern

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

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

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

2003_10_11 1 Bremen

2003_10_11 2 Bremen

2003_10_11 3 Bremen

2003_10_11 4 Bremen

2003_10_11 5 Bremen

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

2003_10_13 1 Sembach

2003_10_13 2 Sembach

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

2003_10_31 1 Timmy

Josh tried something else.

2003_10_31 2 Josh

We took a November hike on the Donnersberg.

2003_11_08 1 Hike Donnersberg

2003_11_08 2 Donnersberg

2003_11_08 3 Donnersberg

2003_11_08 4 Donnersberg

2003_11_08 5 Donnersberg

And there’s Burg Falkenstein!

2003_11_08 6 Falkenstein

2003_11_08 7 Falkenstein

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

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

For Thanksgiving, the whole family visited Wendy in Bremen!

2003_11_27 1 Bremen

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

2003_11_27 2 Christmasmarkt

2003_11_27 3 Bremen

2003_11_27 5 Bremen

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

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

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

2003_12_21 1 Aunt Kay

2003_12_21 2 Phoenix

Stephanie and her family were there, too!

2003_12_21 3 Phoenix

2003_12_21 4 Phoenix

2003_12_21 5 Phoenix

2003_12_25 1 Phoenix

2003_12_25 2 Phoenix

2003_12_25 3 Phoenix

Here’s the whole Eklund Family!

2003_12_25 4 Eklund Family

They took us to the Science Center.

2003_12_27 1 Challenger Center

2003_12_27 2 Science Center

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

2003_12_28 1 Frieses

2003_12_28 2 Dad's Birthday

2003_12_28 3 Frieses

And of course we had to go to the beach!

2003_12_29 1 Beach

2003_12_29 2 Beach

Tim demonstrated his pigeon-feeding technique.

2003_12_29 3 Pigeons

2003_12_29 4 Pigeons

Watch Kristen’s face change!

2003_12_29 5 Pigeons

2003_12_29 6 Pigeons

2003_12_29 7 Kristen

We went pedalboating on Mission Bay

2003_12_30 1 Mission Bay

2003_12_30 2 Mission Bay

2003_12_30 3 Mission Bay

2003_12_30 4 Mission Bay

And that was the Christmas of Dance Dance Revolution.

2003_12_31 DDR

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

2004_01_01 1 Portefino

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

2004_01_02 1 Ruth's

By now there were a lot of kids!

2004_01_02 2 Kids

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

2004_01_02 3 Tim and Carl John

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

I had to admit he had a point!

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

2004_01_03 1 Palos Verdes

2004_01_03 2 Rick

2004_01_03 3 Beach

2004_01_03 4 Beach

2004_01_03 5 Palos Verdes

2004_01_03 6 Palos Verdes

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

2004_01_03 7 Palos Verdes

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

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

2004_01_06 1 LeVaults

2004_01_06 Me and Dar

2004_01_06 3 Me and Ryan

Later, Games at the Hatch House:

2004_01_07 1 Hatch House

2004_01_07 2 Hatch House

2004_01_07 3 Hatch House

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

2004_01_07 4 Hatch House

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

2004_01_07 5 SJ Mission

2004_01_07 6 SJC Mission

2004_01_07 7 SJC Mission

2004_01_07 8 SJC Mission

2004_01_07 9 SJC Mission

And more DDR before we went back to Phoenix.

2004_01_08 1 DDR

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

2004_01_11 1 Phoenix Zoo

2004_01_11 2 Zoo

2004_01_11 3 Zoo

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

2004_01_12 1 Rockets

2004_01_12 2 Rockets

2004_01_12 3 Rockets

2004_01_12 4 Rockets

2004_01_12 5 Scooter

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

Project 52 – Week 38 – Friends, Family, Travels

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 38!

2002_06 20 Friends

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

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

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

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

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

2002_06 1 Kathe and Ben

And we spent a day in DC.

2002_06 2 Tims Smithsonian

2002_06 3 Tims

2002_06 4 Tims

2002_06 5 DC

2002_06 6 DC

2002_06 7 DC

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

2002_06 8 Ryan

2002_06 9 DC

2002_06 10 Smithsonian

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

2002_06 11 Kathe and Ben

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

2002_06 12 DC

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

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

2002_06 14 Shenandoah

2002_06 15 Float

2002_06 16 Shenandoah

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

2002_06 17 Ryan

2002_06 18 LeVaults

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

2002_06 19 Ciufos

2002_06 20 Ciufos

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

2002_06 21 Fireworks

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

2002_06 23 Friends

2002_06 24 Barsottis

Josh enjoyed Kathe’s dogs.

2002_06 25 Dogs

A Group Picture before we went back home.

2002_06 26 Group

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

2002_07 1 Deutschland

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

2002_07 2 Schloss Dhaun

2002_07 3 Schloss Dhaun

2002_07 4 Dhaun

2002_07 5 Dhaun

2002_07 6 Dhaun

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

2002_07 7 Timmy Window

2002_07 8 Dhaun

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

2002_07 9 Legoland

2002_07 10 Legoland Lion

2002_07 11 Legoland

2002_07 12 Legoland

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

Timmy turned 8 years old at the end of July.

2002_07 14 Timmy's Birthday

2002_07 15 Timmy's Birthday

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

2002_07 16 Jade

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

2002_07 13 Detmold

2002_08 1 Detmold

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

2002_08 2 Detmold

2002_08 3 Detmold

2002_08 4 Detmold

We visited Hameln on that trip.

2002_08 5 Hameln

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

2002_09 2 Timmy 3rd grade

2002_09 Josh 9th grade

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

2002_10 1 Jani

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

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

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

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

2002_10 2 Switzerland

2002_10 3 Heidi's Alp

2002_10 4 Heidi's Alp

2002_10 5 Heidi's Alp

2002_10 6 Heidi's Alp

2002_10 7 Heidi's Alp

2002_10 8 Heidi's Alp

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

2002_10 9 Liechtenstein

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

2002_10 10 Heidelberg

2002_10 11 Heidelberg

2002_10 12 Heidelberg

2002_10 13 Jani

And another favorite, Burg Rheinfels:

2002_10 14 Rheinfels

2002_10 15 Rheinfels

2002_10 16 Rheinfels

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

2002_11 1 Raklete

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

2003_01 1 Moving

2003_01 2 Moving

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

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

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

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

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

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

2003_03_01 Mathematikum

2002_03_01 2 Mathematikum

2002_03_01 Mathematikum

2003_03_01 4 Mathematikum

2003_03_01 5 Mathematikum

2003_03_01 6 Mathematikum

2003_03_01 7 Mathematikum

Josh turned 15 on March 19.

2003_03_19 1 Josh's Birthday

2003_03_19 2 Josh's Birthday

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

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

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

2003_04_09 1 Rheinfels

2003_04_09 2 Rheinfels

2003_04_09 3 Rheinfels

2003_04_09 4 Rheinfels

2003_04_09 5 Rheinfels

2003_04_09 6 Rheinfels

2003_04_09 7 Rheinfels

2003_04_09 8 Rheinfels

2003_04_09 9 Rheinfels

2003_04_09 10 Rheinfels

2003_04_09 11 Rheinfels

2003_04_09 12 Rheinfels

2003_04_09 13 Rheinfels

2003_04_09 14 Rheinfels

2003_04_09 15 Rheinfels

On April 13, we drove out to Verdun.

2003_04_13 1 Verdun

We touched Castle #136, the medieval Porte Chausée.

2003_04_13 2 Porte Chausee

Here’s what I wrote in my journal:

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

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

Our new home had lovely Spring flowers.

2003_04 1 Tulips

2003_04 2 Crocuses

2003_04 3 Bubbles

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

2003_06_07 Eklunds

2003_06_07 Gram E

2003_06_07 Roses

2003_06_07 1 Roses

2003_06_07 2 Roses

2003_06_07 3 Steve and Gram E

2003_06_07 4 Roses

2003_06_07 5 Roses

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

2003_06_08 1 Burg Satzvey

2003_06_08 2 Burg Satzvey

2003_06_08 3 Burg Satzvey

2003_06_08 4 Burg Satzvey

2003_06_08 5 Burg Satzvey

They even had a jousting demonstration.

2003_06_08 6 Jousting

2003_06_08 7 Jousting

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

2003_06_14 0a Zu den Burgen

2003_06_14 1 Castle

2003_06_14 2 Castle

2003_06_14 3 Castle

2003_06_14 4 Castle

2003_06_14 5 Castle

2003_06_14 6 Castle

2003_06_14 7 Castle

2003_06_14 8 Castle

2003_06_14 9 Hiking

2003_06_14 10 Neckar

2003_06_14 11 Castle

2003_06_14 12 Castle

2003_06_14 13 Castle

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

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

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