Frenchman's Bay, Maine

Frenchman's Bay, Maine

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Whirligigs and Rockets

As we approach the dawn of a new year here in Germany, booms, loud pops and bangs are erupting outside, interspersed with yells and dogs barking frantically. For a country that runs by a pretty extensive set of rules most of the time, the hours from 10 to 12 midnight tonight are when the masses let loose & purchase cartloads of firecrackers to set off in the street (most of which would certainly be illegal in my home state, Oregon, because they launch off the ground and fly screaming through the air, spinning crazily in all directions, while spurting fire). This is the closest my neighborhood comes to resembling a war zone.

Because I don't get quite the thrill everyone else in my family does from setting off whirligigs and rockets, I'm staying inside with the dog, who charges our back door every few seconds, determined to protect us from noises in the night. Just now, I confined him in the bathroom (no windows) because the frantic-ness outside has suddenly escalated. Well, it's time to say a hasty HAPPY NEW YEAR! and go hide under the covers. Enjoy your festivities!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Tying up loose ends

Just so I have things all tidied up, the link for my old Xanga blog is : . I like better because it's easier to use, and as far as I can tell, has quite a few more options. But that's from someone who's only beginning to explore the world of blogging, so take it with a dose of caution. Ok, that's all.

Wild West Murphy

Sad to say, we get a kick out of dressing up our corgi and taking pics--he doesn't seem to mind, as there's always a treat for him afterwards. Anyway, for your viewing entertainment, here's the latest in a series of Murphy poses. I'm feeling lazy today, and he makes me laugh.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Boarding School Thoughts

At the age of eight, my parents sent me to Windy Hill School in Mweya. It was a day's drive away from our little mission station of Murore--and I could come home every three months for a visit. I remember the day my father drove me to school for the first time. I sat in the front seat of our Jeep, watching the green hills and scrubby grass pass by, and every so often, breaking into tears and sobbing, "Please, couldn't mom teach me! Do I have to go?"

Anyway, boarding school was both a wonderful and a horrible experience. Horrible, because the dorm parents (whom I shall call the Caines) didn't seem to like most children except their own daughter, and were (in my perception, then and now) rigid and rule-bound. Wonderful, on the other hand, because I met kids my own age and formed some tight friendships, especially with red-haired Nicki, companion and fellow rebel against the Caines. It was quite a year, one I'll perhaps write about more in future posts--but fortunately, at the end of that grade, my parents relented, and allowed me to come back home for another round of homeschooling. The next year we left for the States, and into an entirely new environment...

Don't know why I'm thinking about this today, except that as 2005 ends, I've got the topic of "change" on my mind. Some changes are so easy to make, others are quite difficult. What are your times of change, and how have you reacted to them? Just curious. We're all flexible in various areas, and in various ways. Or, as the case may be, inflexible. What makes the difference?

Sunday, December 25, 2005

What Can I Give Him?

In The Bleak Midwinter
--by Christina Rossetti

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty,
Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air,
But His mother only,
In her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him,
Give my heart.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Happy Christmas Eve

We drove home yesterday from five days skiing in Austria--at least Jeff and the kids skiied. My shoulder still aches from a year ago when I fell off my bike and landed on my right arm and shoulder. Since falling is a integral part of skiing, I decided I didn't want to mess my body up any more, and opted for long walks instead. We stayed in a family-run hotel at the bottom of the Alps. Yes, postcard material...Our kids especially enjoyed the week because friends from another family came along and stayed at the same place. A fun vacation for all! Now we're home, the dog is happy about being rescued from the doggie kennel, and D and D hung the last ornaments on our tree (nicknamed "the Carniverous Christmas-Trap" for its hellish spikes). Happy Christmas Eve, everyone.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Santa Dog?

Well, if you ever read this site, now is the time for your voice to be heard. What caption would you attach to this photo? I'll have to admit, Murphy is not looking his usual perky self here. In truth, I think he felt intimidated by the Santa hat sitting precariously on his head. But who knows what goes through the mind of any four-footed creature?

Go ahead, leave a comment. You can try for either humor or seriousness. Your choice! Have fun...

Monday, December 12, 2005

Oh, Christmas Tree

Yesterday we decorated our tree. In the course of hanging our hodge-podge of ornaments, collected over more than twenty years, Anna commented, "I like it that you don't make us have all matching red glass balls and Santas, like some people." (Now, if you know anything about our family, you know this would never happen, even if we aspired to a new Christmas decor with fully coordinated colors and tasteful angels...but I was happy to hear those words). So Anna, Jeff, and I popped on an Amy Grant Christmas CD (tradition, after all) and "dressed" the blue spruce, each ornament eliciting another memory -- "I made that with popsicle sticks in Mrs. Ankeny's class." "There's the Swedish horse!" "That's my favorite, the painted globe you put in my St. Nicholas boot." We saved a few pieces of tinsel for Danielle and David, due home the tail end of this week from Grand Rapids & Grenoble. Voila, the centerpiece of our living room. Murpy isn't sure whether to avoid the tree or to pee on it, I hope he keeps his little doggie body far away.

Friday, December 09, 2005


Sunday night, I drove downtown to MTV (Mark Twain Village) for a special treat--the chapel's choral and orchestral presentation of The Messiah. Now, you need to understand something about my growing-up years. Every Christmas season, starting in about, oh, August, my mother played Handel's Messiah nonstop on the record player. I left for school in the early morning with "Every valley shall be exalted" blaring from our speakers, and arrived home late afternoon to the strains of "I know that my Redeemer liveth" wafting from the living room. In fact, I probably ended up memorizing every word without even trying, thanks to my mom. And you know what? You might think, as a result, I'd hate that particular piece of music, but you'd be wrong. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it. So much so that I now inflict the same Messianic marathon upon my own children, only I start a tiny bit later, around November. Trust me, this is the essence of Christmas. Sunday night? Himmlisch...*


Thursday, December 08, 2005

Star of Wonder

You'll find these paper cut-out stars at many Christmas markets here in Germany; these were in a booth at the Heidelberg Weihnachtsmarkt. I like the way our neighbors hang lighted stars in the front windows this time of year--our street looks quite festive, and the glowing shapes remind me of an Eastern star guiding the band of wise men to Jesus so long ago.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

A Winter's Tale

It is a winter's tale
That the snow blind twilight ferries over the lakes
And floating fields from the farm in the cup of the vales,
Gliding windless through the hand folded flakes,
The pale breath of cattle at the stealthy sail,
And the stars falling cold,
And the smell of hay in the snow, and the far owl...

Dylan Thomas

Friday, December 02, 2005

Short Stories and Life

I'll never forget the time I turned in a short story during Martha Gies' fiction class a few years ago. The next week, each student gave me feedback. I've forgotten what most of them said, but one of Martha's comments will always stay with me. "Your main character is passive, she isn't really doing anything," Martha said. "For her to engage our interest, she can't stay passive." Now, looking back, that seems like a simple enough comment, but at the time, it was dynamite. THERE MUST BE SOME TYPE OF CONFLICT, AND THE PROTAGONIST MUST RESPOND!

The reason I'm remembering Martha's advice? Well, since moving to Germany, I've felt bewildered and befuddled many days. It's a huge effort to try and translate all the time, it takes forever to get to know my neighbors, and whenever I want to talk to family and friends in the States, they're either sleeping or gone (6-9 hours difference). I've often felt sorry for myself this past year and three months. But I don't want to be a passive character in my own life! Enough passivity, already... It drains all the joy away. So I'm going to try and apply Martha's advice each day, and see what happens. That's my early New Year's goal--moving forward, and I hope not letting myself be tossed around so much by circumstances. I know it'll take a healthy serving of God's grace to help me move out of my rut. Guess I'm getting a headstart on January.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Mary Karr on Poetry & Prayer

Recently, I read an essay by Mary Karr in Poetry magazine. It startled me and made me think about my own faith journey anew. An excerpt:
I started kneeling to pray morning and night—spitefully at first, in a bitter pout. The truth is, I still fancied the idea that glugging down Jack Daniels would stay my turmoil, but doing so had resulted in my car hurtling into stuff. I had a baby to whom I had made many vows, and—whatever whiskey’s virtues—it had gotten hard to maintain my initial argument that it made me a calmer mom to a colicky infant.
So I prayed—not with the misty-eyed glee I’d seen in The Song of Bernadette, nor with the butch conviction of Charlton Heston playing Moses in The Ten Commandments. I prayed with belligerence, at least once with a middle finger aimed at the light fixture—my own small unloaded bazooka pointed at the Almighty. I said, Keep me sober, in the morning. I said, Thanks, at night.
For the entire essay, go to . Great writing and lots to think about.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Advent Sunday

We sang "Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus" in church today. After numerous praise songs, which are good, but often repeated over and over, the words and music to this older hymn washed over me, communicating deep hope and a bittersweet sense of our waiting for Christ's return. The only thing is, I cry every time we sing this song...but I think I'm finally at a point where I can say (internally) "the heck with it," and just bawl without worrying too much about the rows behind me. No kleenexs? A sleeve will do just fine.

Text by Charles Wesley
Music by Rowland H. Pritchard

Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel's strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.

Born thy people to deliver,
born a child and yet a King,
born to reign in us forever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all sufficient merit,
raise us to thy glorious throne.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

A Milestone (Or Should I Say "A Kilometer Marker?")

Yesterday, our youngest achieved a momentous goal. Anna has been moving towards this moment for the last few years, hoping and plotting and drinking extra protein smoothies. She is now taller than me, her mother! I accept the fact that, from this day forth, I will forever be the shortest member in our family of five...except for family member # six, Murphy, the dog with legs shorter than a guinea pig. Anyway, in honor of Anna's new status, here's a picture of her at the local Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market). Jeff, Anna, and I walked around the market today, searching for gift ideas, admiring the giant Christmas pyramid and enjoying a cup of hot Gluhwein (spiced wine). For the kids, there's always kinder-punch, minus the alcohol, and still quite yummy.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Signs, Signs, and More Signs

Subway sign in Stockholm, Sweden
Sign for toboggan run in Garmisch, Germany

Sign at St. Peter's Dome in Rome
Paris, entrance to public gardens

I take pictures of signs that catch my eye or make me laugh.
More to come in the future...

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Tensions in France

My daughter is currently in Grenoble, France on a study-abroad with Calvin College. This link,, gives an interesting perspective on current events in France. Just as a side remark, I spent six months living in France in the late seventies, and met many North Africans at that time. They invariably treated me with friendship and hospitality. Even then, tensions existed as they tried to integrate into French society. Unfortunately, things have gotten worse. Similar situations worldwide make me yearn for the city of God, where, as Revelation 22 says, there stands a tree of life, and "the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations." This thought gives me hope, and yet I wonder--how long?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

My Brother's Blog

My brother and his wife started a blog, telling about their work in Burundi with World Relief. The link is . My father just flew to Burundi to see them after spending a few days in Paris with my sisters and me and Danielle.

Dan and my dad plan to drive to Murore, the place we lived when my parents were missionaries--wish I could hitch a ride. There will be singing and dancing and much happiness when Dad greets old friends from the sixties and seventies.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Train to Paris

I'm taking the train from Germany to Paris tomorrow. And yes, for the last 12 days I've been following what's happening in France with the riots and general unrest. But after all, my father and two sisters are meeting me there, so it would take massive chaos to keep me away. The consensus seems to be, stay away from neighborhoods where cars and businesses have been torched and don't go out at night if you can avoid it. Anyway, I'll report back when I return. And, by the way, if you're so inclined, offer up a few prayers for the situation between the French and the North Africans--for some type of peace and for active resolution of the ongoing social problems (actually, I can think of many areas of the world which could use this type of prayer).

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Little Africakid Pictures

Meet little Africakid. These photos must have been taken during my parents' first four years in Burundi. I don't remember the dik-dik (tiny variety of African antelope) too well, but the Stewart boys had one as a pet, along with a golden crested crane named Ichabod and a talking crow. In the other picture, I'm subjecting our longsuffering dachshund, Gretchen, to yet another bath. Although, now that I look closely, is she actually relaxing? Perhaps it's just resignation. We also had kittens, a monkey, numerous chameleons which lived in our flowerbox, chickens and a rooster, guineapigs, rabbits, and probably some animals I've forgotten. Fun memories!

Friday, November 04, 2005

Emmaus Poem


In mid-day’s heat
Grit coats the donkey’s mane,
Rubs eyelids rough.
Hours of uneven ground
Stretch ahead. Salt traces
Sparkle, crystal constellations
Fallen along Emmaus road.
Our salt, our lives leaked
Out to dry. Gleaming.

Questions scrape
Like jagged pebbles
Against my sole.
I am without the one
Who would walk
My dusty passageway
Of recently buried gods.

Past serrated mountains,
Joining us, another traveler
Chewing handfuls of olives.
Loudly, he spits the wet stones
Down angled cliffs broken
By thorn trees. Jackals
Startle in their wild slumber.

When this bearded stranger
Wrapped in desert robes
Speaks, he fires my heart –
Prophecy’s brittle crust
Splits open, its dull golden
Glow fanned into flame.
Even the rocks have begun to burn
And sizzle under our feet.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

A Closer Look

A Detail From Strasbourg Cathedral--France

Last week, I drove our oldest daughter to Strasbourg so that she could catch a TGV train back to Grenoble. Danielle's on a study abroad, living with a French host family and attending Grenoble university. Anyway, whenever I visit Strasbourg, if at all possible, I walk to the main square, stand there, and just stare at the cathedral's front carvings. If it weren't so crowded, I'd be tempted to lie on my back for an hour or so to just take it all in. Maybe some quiet winter night...

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

All Saint's Day

All Saint's Day is a holiday here in Germany, a fact I forgot until I tried to go buy more tea, yogurt, and eggs at a local store--the windows were shuttered and the parking lot was empty. Silly me! At least I usually remember now not to try and go shopping on Sunday, the day of rest.

When we first arrived, it bothered me that I couldn't just dash out and buy what I needed on any day or night (most stores also close between 5:00 to 8:00 pm), but I've begun to appreciate this new schedule. People, even shopkeepers and workers, benefit from consistent times off. And since the root meaning beneath "holiday" is "holy day," it makes sense to devote the day to things other than commerce. No eggs? Maybe I can go next door and borrow some. As for the tea, hmmm...anyone have some nice Earl Grey they'd let me brew up?

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Cathedral Windows

Storkyrkan Cathedral in Stockholm, Sweden

The ironwork throughout Stockholm is incredible--but this cathedral window in Gamla Stan (Old Town) caught my attention when we visited a few weeks ago. What can I say, I'm a sucker for any type of window in churches, whether stained glass or otherwise. There truly is something about this man-made (or woman-made) beauty that points me towards God.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Old churches and xrays

This is a church about 45 minutes away from us, in the town of Worms (pronounced with a "V" sound for the "W," and believe me, it sounds better that way...). Martin Luther answered questions about his beliefs at the Diet of Worms, so it's semi-well known for that. Mainly, though, I just like the church architecture and the juxtaposition of the bare tree against building and sky. My daughter's class took a field trip to Worms last year, also visiting a Jewish synagogue there and the oldest Jewish cemetery in Germany. That's one of the big benefits of living in Deutschland--all the historical landmarks and beautiful buildings!

Oh, complete change of subject, but thank you to those who asked about my dentist appointment. The guy was a jaw surgeon, so probably knows his stuff. I had panoramic x-rays, during which the assistant told me to "bleiben," which I finally figured out meant "stay in place." At this point, the doctor says I have excess bone growth under my gum, so they need to go in and scrape off the lump, but it sounds less invasive than other options I was fearing. And he's reasonably sure it's benign. So thanks again, I appreciated your prayers!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Dental phobias

Today I've been obsessing over a hard lump that appeared in my upper gum two days ago--worrying that I might need a root canal, concerned that I have an abcess the dentist will have to dig out with shiny sharpened tools, occasionally wondering "what if it's something even worse?" I have to wait until tomorrow (Monday) to call the dentist my friends in Germany have recommended. In the meantime, I want to stop worrying. I want to quit whining and trust in God's care for me regardless of the outcome. So I'm going to meditate on this verse:

For I know that my Redeemer lives...this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God...How my heart yearns within me! Job 19:25-27

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Unique traits

My family members and some of their unique traits…

Me – Collects foreign language dictionaries
Cries in church and embarrasses Anna

Jeff – Likes to tease the Welsh corgi
Half Norwegian

Danielle – Loves to drive cars with gear-shifts
Used to pour ketchup on broccoli & “goldfish” before eating them

David – Writes comical poetry when he’s in the mood
Has broken more bones than anyone else in the family

Anna – Watches DVDs of “Gilmore Girls” compulsively
Cannot stand long-sleeve shirts

Saturday, October 01, 2005

The Rainbow Centre

I added a new link today, to the Rainbow Centre. In their own words, the Rainbow Centre Project is a Christian ministry in Burundi, Africa, whose mission is to provide care, treatment and safe keeping of orphaned, abandoned and HIV positive babies. The ministry was started in 2001 and continues to grow and expand as God blesses and leads. Check it out, the site has pictures and newsletters. In a nutshell, all about Christians making a difference! I know the Johnsons and visited them briefly when I made a trip to Rwanda and Burundi in 2002 . They're some of the best people around.

Friday, September 30, 2005

German class

It's been interesting going to German class four days a week. Every morning I get up, shoo my youngest off to school, and then dash out the door for Heidelberg. We have two teachers, an English woman who's lived here for many years, and a young German woman. Makes for a nice contrast, hearing about the culture from someone who moved here and had to adapt, and then from a local.

I do have to say one thing: German verb conjugations are a pain! But I've been assured that it will come more easily as I learn and memorize the many irregular verbs. This experience gives me great admiration for the Europeans who grow up speaking four or five languages (or should I say envy...). In our class we have sixteen women and a man. His name is Angel, and it doesn't seem to faze him to be so outnumbered. Also, one of the women is due to give birth any day; when I was pregnant and as big as her, no way would I have agreed to sit for two and a half hours at a cramped little desk! She's made of strong stuff, obviously.

Anyway, that's how I spent much of the last two weeks, along with homework every night. Woke up with Deutsche words going through my head...maybe they'll stick!

Sunday, September 25, 2005

A poem


In my dreams, you’re still
long grass-limbed,
fiery star-faced
as the feverish Burundi night.

In my thoughts, you’re still
cool wind-wrapped,
red dust-powdered,
as Burundi’s uncertain dawn.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

The best cat in the world

This is our cat, SeaShell (we changed his name when we adopted him from the animal shelter--he'd been named Cecil). I miss him immensely. We had to leave him with a family in Oregon when we moved overseas. As I browsed through photos today on the computer, I found this shot. It captures SeaShell's personality--reserved, a bit skeptical, but sweet.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Random German words

After exactly one week in German class, here are some random German words of which I've grown fond:

der Luftpirat—hijacker (of aircraft)
der Spargel—asparagus
die Brombeere--blackberry
der Schnabel—beak
die Dunkelkammer—dark room
der Stau—traffic jam

& last but not least,
zusammenklappen—to fold up (a chair, etc.)
How’s that for a mouthful?!

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Some good quotes

Quotes of the day:

"To be an artist means never to avert one's eyes..." --Akira Kurosawa

"All sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story or tell a story about them." --
Isak Dinesen

"Artists are just children who refuse to put down their crayons." --Al Hirschfeld

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

David's turn

One thing my son David enjoyed about living in Europe this past year--all the public sculptures and gorgeous architecture. You see David in this photo, but can you find another person (besides the obvious bearded stone man)?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Poetry Northwest is reborn!

Found out recently that my poetry teacher from Oregon has been asked to be the new editor of Poetry Northwest. The journal will start up again in 2006. Go to for more information!

Monday, September 19, 2005

Sisters forever

A pic of Anna and Danielle, spending time together on a hot summer's day in Rome

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Changing Blogs

I'm trying out this new blog site--I want to show more pictures and Xanga seems too complicated for me to upload photos from the computer without lots of fuss and bother. So here goes.

It worked!

This is our Welsh corgi, Murphy. The dog we adopted at age one after he attended doggy therapy to the tune of $450 and failed to resolve his issues (true story!) So now we have a great dog who is loyal and mostly well-behaved, as long as he doesn't have to compete for attention with any other canines.