Frenchman's Bay, Maine

Frenchman's Bay, Maine

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year

The night of flashy noise is upon us. In an hour or so, Jeff and I are going over to our neighbor's home for a New Year's party. Marie Helene has stockpiled French wines, chocolates, and cheeses, and I'm bringing Mexican dip with tortilla chips (they wanted something common to the US). These are our French/German neighbors, the ones who've helped us start the furnace, figure out how to fill the radiators, and basically function on a day to day basis. They've been more than hospitable, and I'm so glad they live only five doors down. Ten cheers for people like Oliver and Marie Helene.

I also love that their house is not immaculate, so I feel comfortable inviting them into my home once and awhile. Which is a mélange of dog hair, stacks of books, coffee cups, and piled CDs.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Rome Photos

I couldn't resist snapping a picture of this little guy in green as he posed for his parents.

Susan, Dad, and Beth walking towards the Pantheon.

Two young Swiss guards at the front of St. Peter's in Vatican City.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


Two of my kids showed me this video. I have to admit, the choreography is surprisingly good.
Me and treadmills are not a good mix. The treadmill always wins.

Time for Fun & Games

So, it's been fun to have the five of us back together in one house. I bought Die Siedler von Catan /Settlers of Catan for a family Christmas present and we sat down to play it yesterday. There's a bit of strategy involved, but thank God, not like chess, so I'll survive. The game turned into an evening-long marathon, but now that the basic rules are explained, I won't be reading multiple chapters of my book between certain people's turns (Jeff??). Our two oldest children love this game, so I want to give it another chance in a few days.

This evening, Anna and her friend and I played Balderdash, a game where everyone makes up fake definitions of unusual words, and then we try to guess the real definition amongst the fakes. One of the better games out there! Here are a few of the real words that we picked:

wallydrag--the runt of the litter
ghawazee--Egyptian dancing girls
oikofugic--an incredible desire to wander
whiffler--one who clears the way for a procession
bonnyclabber--sour curdled milk

Well, it's off to bed for me. Anyone for a nice warm cup of bonnyclabber first?

Monday, December 25, 2006

Happy Birth Day

For any birth makes an inconvenient demand;
Like all holy things
It is frequently a nuisance, and its needs never end;
Strange freedom it brings: we should welcome release
From its long merciless rehearsal of peace.
So Christ comes
At the iron senseless time, comes
To force the glory into frozen veins:
His warmth wakes
Green life glazed in the pool, wakes
All calm and crystal trance with living pains.

from the poem "Christmas and Common Birth" -- by Anne Ridler

Monday, December 18, 2006

Crunch Time

Just sent something off by email to an editor who wanted a revision of one of my picture book stories. So here's hoping...

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Water Lilies

Even though it's nowhere near spring, these water lilies in an Italian farm pond reminded me that after rain and fog and sprinklings of snow and icy days, spring will arrive again.
"Never lose a holy curiousity," Einstein said; and so I lift my microscope down from the shelf, spread a drop of duck pond on the glass slide, and try to look spring in the eye. -- Annie Dillard, from "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek"

Monday, December 11, 2006

Friday, December 08, 2006

Happy Birthday, Dan

Well, Dan, have a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Here's a fitting proverb for you..."BUKE BUKE BUKOMEZA IGIHONYI" (Slowly slowly the banana ripens) Found it on Eric Riley's website. Hope you have many more years of ripening!

P.S. For other readers of the blog, Dan is my brother--and currently lives in Burundi, Africa with his family--although one son attends college in Oregon, and two younger sons go to high school in Kenya. So he's experiencing the "empty nest" earlier than most.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Advent 1 Meditation

I saw this on Mill Road Messenger's site and liked it. Images--Bob Carlton, Music--Paul Simon.

Woe Unto Me

I did a terrible thing.

Yesterday was St. Nicholas Day here in Germany. The evening before, I was at the store with Anna and her friend, buying supplies, when I spotted a stash of chocolate candy. With no thought for innocent ears, I asked Anna, " Do you want peppermint chocolate in your St. Nicholas boot? Or would you rather I buy dark chocolate? Maybe both?" I didn't realize until Anna pulled me aside a minute later and whispered in my ear, "Mom, Kasie still believes in St. Nicholas..." that I'd pretty much proclaimed to all kids within hearing range: "Santa Claus=Your Parents."

Now, in my defense, Kasie is twelve years old, but she still believes in Santa's existence. I guess she told Anna, "You don't believe in Santa and that's the reason you don't get gifts from him. That's why your mom and dad have to do it." So it seems her faith is unshaken. And Anna is happy too, just as long as the boot is filled one way or another.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Oh, The Joys

Oh, the joys of a new camera (early Christmas present from Jeff) -- I received it just in time for Italy. So, without further ado, some pics from my trip:

The three sisters -- Beth, Susan & Laurie
An olive farm in Lucca
Dad and Mom with their Nordic walking sticks

Monday, December 04, 2006

In the Lap of Luxury

Who has the cushiest place to sleep in our house? Couldn't be this four-legged beast...

Friday, December 01, 2006

Will Miracles Never Cease?

From the New York Times: Germany announced today that it would seek to ban smoking in restaurants, discotheques, schools and other public buildings — but not in pubs, bars or under beer tents.
Mind you, this from a country that has cigarette vending machines on practically every corner! I've gradually become accustomed to the smoke, but every time friends and family visit, they cough and comment on the thick haze in restaurants and airport halls. So, it is indeed a miracle. Or at least the beginning of one.

Olive Trees Forever

What a time in Tuscany! I'll write more about it later this week. The best part of course, was seeing my parents and sisters. And then, the Tuscan countryside...once I read the instruction booklet on how to download photos from my new camera, I'll post pictures. Such distinctive light and color in that part of the world. I'd forgotten that olive trees have a sort of silvery tint to the leaves. And that olives are all types of colors, from a hundred shades of green to purplish to black.

I have to mention our tour guide, David Macchi. The first day, I thought, "Oh, he's nice." The second day: "He really knows what he's talking about." And the third day? "Wow!" David began playing opera selections on our bus as we rolled through the countryside (including the songs of Andrea Bocelli, an operatic tenor from Tuscany). Later that afternoon, and for the rest of the tour, David surprised us by singing some opera himself. The combination of music and scenery? Nothing better!

If you know me at all, you'll know that I loved the foods of Italy, too. Visiting all the tiny pasticcerias and formaggio shops--pure heaven. Since I wasn't returning to the States, I brought home some peccorino, chocolate paneforte (a type of almond and honey spice cake) and a bottle of Tuscan wine tucked into my checked suitcase. Maybe I can find a recipe on the web for the paneforte, it would be nice for Christmas. About the only Italian food I wouldn't care to try? Well, that would be tripe. And any related cow organs.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Another Type of Prozac

Well, my spirits are out of the dumps today--
Two reasons:
I 'm listening to a wonderful CD, The John Rutter Christmas Album, featuring the Cambridge Singers and City of London Sinfonia. Music...another type of prozac, at least for me (not knocking medication when it's needed).
Also, tomorrow bright and early, I leave for a walking tour of Tuscany. My parents, as a gift, are taking me and my two sisters with them to Florence and surrounding regions. Bless them!
Anyway, probably won't be blogging for a few weeks. Wish me a good trip!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Somewhere On the Seven Continents

I'm feeling rather melancholy today. No huge reason. Except we don't know where we'll be a year from now...maybe still here in Germany, maybe in Oregon or one of the other fifty states, at least somewhere on the seven continents.
Right now there are no engineer job openings at Bonneville Power in Oregon where Jeff worked before--his boss would hire him back if any positions opened up but that's not an option at this point. There's a possibility some job might open up there before he has to start looking elsewhere, but no certainty.
I do believe we were meant to come to Germany for this time. But now, where? We could stay, and I'm trying to be open to that thought. But I've been awfully homesick these last two and a half years. My feelings fluctuate from day to day.
In Hebrews 11 where it talks about us being "strangers and foreigners on earth," yeah, I get that idea.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Smack, Smack, Smack

If there's a sound I hate, it's the sound of people chewing with their mouths wide open. Smack, smack, smack. It's not that hard to close your mouth and eat! Unless you need your tonsils removed or something. Ok, one or two members of my family are going to read this and groan. They're tired of me reminding them.

Now for sounds I enjoy:
* Christmas carols of all types, especially those sung by boy's choirs with high voices.
* A baby laughing and then hiccuping because she's chortling so hard.
* German church bells ringing throughout the day.
* Drums pounding out a danceable rhythm (it all goes back to my African childhood).
* Crickets chirping at dusk.
* Listening to someone who's really good at reading poetry out loud (think Dylan Thomas, for instance--love that Welsh accent on the recording).
* While we're on accents, I like an Italian accent too! Makes even English sound romantic.
* Listening to people scream on roller coasters.
* Waves rolling in on the Oregon coast.

That's all I can think of for now.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Murphy Monday

It's fall again and Murphy's coat matches the farm fields around us. All the tobacco and corn crop is harvested and the trees are bare. This is where we walk most of the time.

For Election Day

Had to share this poem by Daniel Berrigan. I found it on Journey With Jesus, included in Dan Clenidin's essay :


I can only tell you what I believe;
I believe:I cannot be saved by foreign policies.
I cannot be saved by the sexual revolution.
I cannot be saved by the gross national product.
I cannot be saved by nuclear deterrents.
I cannot be saved by aldermen, priests, artists,
plumbers, city planners, social engineers,
nor by the Vatican,
nor by the World Buddhist Association,
nor by Hitler, nor by Joan of Arc,
nor by angels and archangels,
nor by powers and dominions,
I can be saved only by Jesus Christ.

At the end of his essay, Dan adds,
I'd like to update and expand Berrigan's repudiation of false hopes and misplaced trust. I cannot be saved by George Bush or Jesse Jackson, by Hillary Clinton or Condi Rice, nor by their successors or opponents. I cannot be saved by Green Peace or the ACLU, by Focus on the Family or by Promise Keepers. Which returns us to the Psalm for this week: "Blessed is he whose help is in the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God" (146:5).

Sunday, November 05, 2006

A Compliment

This evening, I sewed the sleeve back onto Anna's pink and brown coat. Grr, it's only a month old, and barely worn.

Just a hint--never buy a coat, no matter how beautiful it looks, if it has zip-on and zip-off sleeves. This feature will come back to haunt you.

Back to what I was saying. Anna ran inside, and I showed her the coat, now with sleeve permanently attached. She hugged me and exclaimed,

"Mom, you're so industrial!"

Hmm...Had to think about that one, since I haven't sprouted any smokestacks lately. But I am glad she sees me as industrious--at least the one time a year I tackle any sewing.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Cathedrals and Crepes Chocolat

Yesterday, I helped drive for a fieldtrip down to Strasbourg, France. Anna took a two-evening class in simple French conversation and the class ended with a day trip so that everyone could practice speaking and learn more about this region of Alsace Lorraine (which has alternated between German and French ownership through the years).

Anna took the cathedral shot--I like her perspective! Without a wide-angle lens, this captures some of the immensity.

A lonely gargoyle on the side of Strasbourg cathedral...and a little boy who wants a closer look.

The square in front of the cathedral is a great place to people-watch. I'm coming back to climb the steps to the viewing platform when it's open. Our guide said on a clear day you can see all the way to the Black Forest from up top.

The kids sampled tarte flambee and desert crepes for lunch. I snuck away in the afternoon for a visit to the boulangerie--had to take home some pain au chocolat for the family, after all.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Murphy Monday--the Premiere

My thirteen year old, Anna, keeps begging me to post more photos of our dog. So today is the beginning of a grand tradition: Murphy Monday. Drumroll, please...

Here's Murphy in his first role as The PostDog. This was filmed in Oregon a few years ago. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

When I Talk To You

Just bought "When I Talk To You: A Cartoonist Talks To God," by Michael Leunig. Very different than the usual, and I'm enjoying it to no end. Each prayer is paired with a cartoon penned by Leunig. Here's a snippet from one prayer :

It is time to plant tomatoes. Dear God, we praise this
fruit and give thanks for its life and evolution. We
salute the tomato: cheery, fragrant morsel, beloved
provider, survivor and thriver and giver of life. Giving
and giving and giving. Plump with summer's joy.
The scent of its stem is summer's joy, is promise and
rapture. Its branches breathe perfume of promise
and rapture. Giving and giving and giving.

Dear God, give strength to the wings and knees
of pollinating bees; give protection from hailstorms,
gales, and frosts; give warm days and quenching
rains. Refresh and adorn our gardens and our tables.
Refresh us with tomatoes.

There's another prayer thanking God for the invention of the handle and a blessing for those who are baffled and perplexed. I'll be looking back through this book often.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

Wow. Just watched this video, which I found via Spidey, who got it from dualraven's site.

“Specially created for Harvard biology students, this eight-minute computer-animated film reveals the beauty and hidden cycle of intricate organic mechanisms at work at the molecular level. The focus is on how white blood cells respond and react to external stimuli. Everything that you see in this clip, the unusual orchestra of Nuclei, proteins, and lipids, are actions that are taking place right now in your body, in every individual cell. This includes one of the most surprising sequences – the motor protein plodding along on two pod-like feet along a track, carrying behind it a sphere of lipids. As cartoonish as that sequence looks, biologists report it’s an accurate rendering.”

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

A few weeks ago, I found "The Very Hungry Caterpillar," German version, at a flohmarkt (flea market) put on by the children in our little town. My own kids probably knew this book by heart when they were little, because I read it to them countless evenings before bedtime. The author and illustrator, Eric Carle, works in collage, layers, and cut-outs, giving most of his books an interactive aspect. Our own copy was almost shredded at the end, but very well-loved!

Someday I'd like to visit the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts.

P.S. Maybe one of the reasons I like this book so well--when I was a little kid in Africa, we had an abundance of hairy, colorful caterpillars inside and outside. I had great fun watching them, especially their bumpy accordian style of moving from place to place. Better than video games!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Our 24th

October 16th-- our twenty-fourth anniversary. (Don't these kids look awfully young to be getting married??) Ok, if I had to do it over again, I'd not do the "Princess Di" dress. But half the brides wore one that year, I think. The biggest surprise of the ceremony was right before our kiss, when on cue, my bridesmaids all pulled out noisemakers they'd craftily hidden in their bouquets and blew a LOUD combined blast on those things. Whoo-hoo!

We honeymooned at the Columbia River Gorge hotel, and then the Oregon coast. I love the beach and I loved being there with Jeff.


Saturday, October 14, 2006

Sunshine All Around

Twas an absolutely gorgeous day in Heidelberg this afternoon. And fortunately enough, Jeff and I had signed up to walk the grounds of Heidelberg Schloss (castle) with the German-American club. Have a look.
Jeff is the man second from the right, and that's the Schloss in the background. Below, a view from the castle terrace overlooking Heidelberg. One of the prettier cities around, I think. Something about all those red roofs and the Neckar river winding through the heart of town.

A few of the interesting tidbits our guide tossed to us:

* Martin Luther dined at the castle in 1518. Thomas Jefferson visited the castle many years later and measured its giant wine vat, which holds 220,017 liters (58,124 gallons).

* The castle has a series of tunnels running underneath it, which soldiers used to move between different levels.

* Stonemasons who built the castle believed that they breathed life into the stones as they worked on them. Somehow, energy was transferred from people into inanimate rocks, and the wall came "alive." (I'm just quoting our guide!) If a stone was damaged during building, the masons gave it a proper burial.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Cards from Africa

From my brother's friend, Chris Page, at :

In April a friend from my church in Rwanda, and someone I didn't know from YWAM Switzerland, both asked if they could nominate CfA in a competition BBC World were running, in conjunction with Newsweek and Shell, called World Challenge. It was for businesses that are innovative and are benefitting communities socially, environmentally and financially. Of course I said that they could, but didn't really think any more about it.

Then I got a phone call from the BBC in June saying that over 800 businesses had entered the competition from over 120 countries, and that their expert panel of judges had chosen CfA to go to the final 12! They told me they were going to send a film crew out to make a 12-minute documentary to show on BBC World, and for writing an article in Newsweek magazine!

Well, you can imagine we were just a little more than just speechless for all of about 5 seconds, and then I shouted with delight to just about everyone I met for the next few days, including Jesus! The film crew (actually just one person!) came and went in July. Viewers of BBC World, and readers of Newsweek will be asked to go online and vote for their favourite of the 12 businesses. The winning business receives $20,000 and the two runners-up will receive $10,000 each, with the prize presented to them in the Hague , in the Netherlands ! Of course, both the publicity and the prize money will enormously help our marketing efforts, and we're very, very excited indeed.

They have told us that they will be showing the documentary of CfA at the following dates and times:

Saturday 14th October at 0930 & 1630 GMT& Sunday 15th October at 0230, 1330 & 2030 GMT

Other businesses will be shown the week before (same days and times) and for 4 weeks afterwards (2 businesses each weekend, for 6 weeks).

The article will go out in Newsweek on 23rd October 2006 (which they start selling on the 16th Oct), so please buy a copy, read it, pass it on to your friends, vote for us online, and then ask your friends, your neighbours, your postman and in fact anyone you communicate with over the next 4 weeks to vote for us online! Please!

Here's the link to vote for us - and a short video clip to whet your appetite:

Pass on the message :-)

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Back to Walking

I've really had fun cycling through the summer, but as of today I'm focusing on walking again. Why? Mid-November, I'm meeting my two sisters and my folks in Florence for a walking tour through Tuscany. And I can't wait! There's something about knowing I'll get to see and hug most of my family in a little over a month. (Sorry, Dan, wish you could make it over from Africa).

That's been the toughest part for me of living in Germany--not living near my extended family. We've been pretty close, and it's like having part of my heart ripped out to be far away from them. That also applies to our friends back in the US. Even if I'm not the greatest at letters and emails all the time, I think about them every day.

Anyway, it was good walking this evening. Smelling the freshly turned earth, passing loaded apple trees and vogelbeere bushes. Watching a woman ride her black horse in the field across a meadow. Passing a gang of kids on bicycles, and remembering how it felt to ride around for hours with Patty Thompson, back on Clinton Street. Feeling my bunion ache just a tiny bit, and wishing my feet were still young!

Saturday, September 23, 2006


Someone I met while bicycling yesterday in the fields near our town. Betsy, is this the shade of blond your neighbors had in mind??

Thursday, September 21, 2006

More Signs and Stuff

Every once and awhile I put up photos of signs I appreciate. One sign is at the entrance to our friendly neighborhood graveyard (it instructs dogs to stay outside). Guess they don't want to take any chances with dogs getting into the bones...

Mr. Mais (the corn guy) welcomed guests to a recent Wurstfest in Bad Durkheim. Now he's someone I wouldn't want to encounter in a dark alley. He's grinning a little too widely...or is he gritting his teeth? Slightly crazed look.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Just Clarifying...

Well, guess I need to clarify, since Beth asked--the previous photo taken at Schwetzingen Schloss is of David and Anna. This is a photo of David and me, taken on the castle grounds. I have a few pounds on Anna...but we do have a similar smile, at a certain angle! Anyway, I have a phobia about posting pictures of myself most of the time. Here's your photo for the year.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Schwetzingen Schloss

Toward the end of August, David, Anna and I visited the Schwetzingen Schloss--it's close to our little town and rivals Versailles. We had fun strolling the grounds, staying away from the predatory swans (no joke), and finding new hideaways in the maze of paths and shrubbery.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

First Lines

I've been searching the books on my shelves, trying to pick out authors who've started with what I consider some attention-getting first lines. Here are a few I've found so far:

There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it. -- C. S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

When I was little I would think of ways to kill my daddy. -- Kaye Gibbons, Ellen Foster

If I could tell you only one thing about my life it would be this: when I was seven years old the mailman ran over my head. -- Brady Udall, The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint

"Where's Papa going with that ax?" said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast. -- E.B. White, Charlotte's Web

When the lights went off the accompanist kissed her. -- Ann Patchett, Bel Canto

My coming to faith did not start with a leap but rather a series of staggers from what seemed like one safe place to another. -- Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies

Also, if you're so inclined, American Book Review has listed what they consider the 100 best first lines from novels. Ha Jin's sentence certainly qualifies!

Every summer Lin Kong returned to Goose Village to divorce his wife, Shuyu. -- Ha Jin, Waiting

Festive, Hand-knit Hats For Dogs

This you've got to see. Dooce has a daily link on the left side of her page to festive hand-knit hats for dogs. I wonder how Murphy would look, dolled up in one of these? I can definitely see him going for this one...

Sunday, September 03, 2006

See Below

See below for Tick Tack, Cuckoo. Couldn't figure out how to get my post to today's date, if I saved it as a draft on a prior date. So much for my blogger know-how.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Important People

August 27th is a special day. My mom and Jeff's mom both celebrate their birthdays today. So, Happy Birthday, Mom! Since I can't be there in person, I'll drink a cup of Burundi tea in your honor.

Also, I was in the States during July and didn't get a chance to tell Danielle, our oldest, Happy Birthday on this blog. So here's one for you, Dani. You're an amazing young woman and I love you! Also, I appreciate your moments of silliness, like dressing up in Anna's old Halloween costume (poodle skirt and all) and shooting funny pics in the backyard. Miss you and hope you enjoy your senior year in college. Let me know how German 1 and Swahili 1 turn out.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

This Summer

This summer I:
* Flew on a long trip to Oregon and for the first time felt as if I needed to use the handy "motion discomfort bag" provided by my airline (fortunately, I recovered, and saved the unused bag for a gag birthday bag).
* Bicycled more than I ever have before in my life. It helped that Bruhl, the town I cycled through most often, has an Italian gelato shop with the best Malaga ice cream around (a rich egg custard ice cream flavored with rum and raisins, for the uninitiated). Also, it didn't hurt that Germany has an astounding array of bike trails in all directions.
* Neglected to vacuum up dog hair often enough. As a result, Jeff, the kids, and I sometimes find corgi hair in our cookies, our bath water, and our suitcases. We like to say that Murphy, our corgi, will remain with us long after his eventual death...the omnipresent hair, that is.
* Took a ferry to Victoria, Canada, where the customs lady almost turned my daughter and me away, because I didn't have a note from "the other parent" authorizing me to take Anna (13 years old) out of the country. That, after we'd already flown from Germany to the US!

That's all for now. Lightning interrupts my thinking. Maybe there will be more tomorrow.

Tick Tack, Cuckoo

A few weeks ago, Jeff and I visited Triberg. We ate at a restaurant called the Tick Tack Stube, near our hotel. My food was ok--the standard cheese, pork and blumenkohl (cauliflower) with brown sauce. But what made my evening memorable? Our waiter.

First of all, when he came for our order, I got flustered trying to track down my choice among pages and pages of entree options. "It's ok!" our waiter smiled, and waved his hands broadly, as if calming troubled waters. After a sigh, I relaxed. While we waited for the food, Jeff and I checked out the wall of cuckoo clocks behind us, ready to go off in unison at any minute.

Soon, a German family walked in and took a nearby table. The same waiter approached and chatted with them for a few moments. He made a special fuss over the two kids, finding them suitable chairs and explaining the menu at length. Finally, they ordered and he brought out drinks, staying to converse longer.

Then, it turned seven o'clock, and the clocks on the wall began their show. One after another, each opened, cuckooed the time, and wound down. Every bird sounded slightly different--some whistled with a high pitch, others as if they'd finally made it through puberty. I simultaneously wanted to clap my hands over my ears and to beat on cymbals, the noise was so deafening and exhilarating. Afterwards, the two children called the waiter, gesturing and waving their arms. It was obvious they were excited about the cuckoo clocks and wanted to see more.

Mr. Waiter beckoned them over to the back wall, near us. Then he leaped up on the cushioned bench seat and began to reset each clock. He wound the hands around so that each one would strike the hour again. Pulled the metal weights hanging below, tricked the clocks into the future.

And then it began. Ding! Dong! Cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckoo! A whole wall of sound. Little wooden figures slid out of Alpine houses and danced in circles, then returned to the inner workings of their clocks. A carved rooster crowed the time. Painted cows grazed in laquered grass. And the children's faces... Our waiter looked on like a child himself, delighting in their glee. Finally the cuckoos were cuckooed out, and all was quiet again.

I don't think I've enjoyed a meal so very much in a long time.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Crossing the Border

Last Sunday, after a night in Triberg, Jeff and I crossed the border into Colmar, France. A few pictures from that visit:

Flowers everywhere...
Interesting smells on the cobblestones.
Crême glacée and warm coconut macaroons!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Saturday, Jeff and I drove south a few hours to Triberg, a small town in the Black Forest, where we spent the night. We hiked up to the waterfall, which reminded me somewhat of Multnomah Falls in Oregon. One thing that astounds me often in Germany--the large numbers of young men out hiking with lit cigarettes dangling from their mouths and a trail of smoke in their wake. Enhanced lung capacity? Huh.
On the way down, we stopped in at an open-air museum with farm houses built during the 1600s and later. Can't you imagine Heidi prancing down this slope?
Quite a nice weekend. We wanted to take advantage of big sister's presence to watch Anna, since leaving a thirteen year old alone for twenty-four hours is not a wise move. David is off backpacking in the Alps near Berchtesgaden, so he's on his own adventure.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Happy Birthday, Spidey!

生日快乐, 蜘蛛
с днем рождения к вам
alles Gute zum Geburtstag liebes spidey,
joyeux anniversaire !

To someone who impresses me with her love of languages and for the way she cares deeply about people.
Have a wonderful Spider-mas. Wish I could drop by for a coffee with you!

Friday, August 04, 2006

For Jeff

I'm happy to be home in Germany again with my family. This poem is for Jeff:


Strolling the Hauptstrasse, baguettes
and brotchen in the basket, your hand
on my arm. The fine glinting
spokes of a bicycle passing, pebbles
sparking. We struck fire too, you and I,
through children, taxes, the cold frost
mornings in Oregon, cut emerald
lawns. Not an inferno—fire
trucks clustered, globe lights flashing—
but the warm center of a midnight
campfire, hands toasted over open
coals, the melted goo of a marshmallow
coating your scalded, pink tongue.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Soap of Many Colors

This will be my only post from the U S of A. Enjoying myself immensely, by the way!

Real Live Preacher is someone I've read for awhile. He started out blogging on, and now has his own site, which you can find on the links to the right. Gordon's trying to make a living as a writer, and now his wife, Jeanene, is pitching in and selling homemade soap via the internet to supplement their income. Check out their natural soap -- Dragon's Blood ( Sangre de Grado) and Honeyed Amber sound especially interesting -- or maybe, since I'm a tea freak, the Iced Black Keemun Tea. Hmm. Hard decisions.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

A Good Kind of Busy

This last week has been "a good kind of busy" because Allison, one of my college room-mates, stayed at our home along with her three children. Lisa, if you're reading this, you need to come and visit next! We drove all over Germany and Paris, laughed an extraordinary amount, and generally caught up on the last seventeen years of life since we've seen each other. I couldn't believe how easy it was to connect, even after all that time. Allison retains a few of her New York habits, including walking faster than anyone else in the group (except me), and signaling the waiter for a bill before the meal arrives. The waiter in Paris thought Allison was joking when she asked for the check before we'd even finished our baguettes...

On Tuesday, I fly to Oregon with Anna, our thirteen year old. We'll spend six weeks visiting family and friends. I'm a little curious whether she'll go through any culture shock--it's been two years we've lived in Germany, and this is Anna's first time back to the States. Anyway, my postings may be sporadic for awhile. And it'll be because I'm back in my favorite state of the whole USA!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

I've Seen It All

Kitsch is one of those great words that's made its way into the English language. So, you decide, is this the definition of kitsch? And if so, then this would be the ultimate in kitsch. I don't have strong feelings about this or anything... Maybe if I hadn't seen the pictures plastered all over kleenexes, pencils, sticky notes, and what have you.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Tintin Thoughts

Growing up, my brother and I read Tintin whenever we could get our hands on a new publication of these comic strip books drawn and written by Herge (I'd put an accent over the last "e" in his name, but can't figure out how to do that). Herge's plots are full of twists and turns. Tintin's fox terrier, Snowy, whom I wanted to adopt, accompanies Tintin on his global adventures. And the pictures are perfect; colorful, sharp and clean. I read about Tintin in Tibet on thinkBuddha's blog today, and it got me wanting to dig up this particular book. I read most of the series many years ago, but don't think I ever came upon the Tibet comic, and it's supposed to be a classic. I might have to drive to Belgium to find one. :)


Tomorrow Jeff, David, and Danielle leave Jerusalem to return home. I'm looking forward to hearing all about their trip. I last saw Jerusalem at the age of ten, enroute to the States. Most of all I remember the Dome of the Rock shining golden in the sun and a stream of people from many countries passing through that holy place, heads covered in respect. I saw (and maybe touched?) the rock where Isaac might have been sacrificed, if God hadn't provided a ram at the last minute. And I walked Jerusalem's narrow streets with my parents and brother and sisters, breathing in the air of a place that I'd heard about since toddlerhood.

Here's a fragment from a poem about Jerusalem by Yehuda Amichai. He's a beloved poet in Israel and throughout the world, for good reason.

And there are days here when everything is sails and more sails,
even though there's no sea in Jerusalem, not even a river.
Everything is sails: the flags, the prayer shawls, the black coats,
the monks' robes, the kaftans and kaffiyehs,
young women's dresses and headdresses,
Torah mantles and prayer rugs, feelings that swell in the wind
and hopes that set them sailing in other directions.
Even my father's hands, spread out in blessing,
my mother's broad face and Ruth's faraway death
are sails, all of them sails in the splendid regatta
on the two seas of Jerusalem:
the sea of memory and the sea of forgetting.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Another Beautiful Voice

Milton at Don't Eat Alone touches on many topics, but this week I took a closer look at the music he recommends--and have gotten hooked on Diane Zeigler. She has a voice I could listen to day and night, based on excerpts from the "Paintbrush" album and "December In Vermont." Listening to her songs, I experienced a mix of deep longing and precarious joy. Not a bad mixture. If I can do half of that with some of my poems, I'll feel successful.

Monday, May 29, 2006


Tonight I'm feeling blue, not for any particular reason, I guess. Maybe it just goes along with having a temperament that swings between enthusiastic and melancholic, with not much ground in between. And it's funny, I tend to not want to write about those down times on this blog. Don't know if it's part of growing up with the feeling that I'm supposed to "Be a Sunbeam for Jesus" (a song on a record I had as a child) or just the idea of public exposure and possible criticism.

Anyway, I am looking forward to seeing people I love in Oregon--just 22 days and counting. And I'm really happy to have our entire family of five together for part of this summer (though Jeff and the two oldest are in Israel at this moment on a trip--I'm glad they can tour some of the places like Jerusalem and Jericho that I got to see when I was ten, on the way back from Africa to the States). I have lots to be happy about.

On the flip side, I wish I knew where we will go a year from now. Back to the northwest, I hope, but nothing is certain. Also, these last two years have been utterly draining for me. Sigh. Moving to Germany, I assumed I'd be the one making the adjustments more easily than anyone, after all, wasn't I the one who grew up in another country and has always appreciated diverse cultures? Ha. Assumptions suck, especially in the aftermath.

I do know that God is here with me. Just wish I felt God more in the day to day moments.

Memorial Day 2006

Sculpture in London, England

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Journey With Jesus

Just added a link to a website I've been enjoying lately -- Journey With Jesus -- essays, books, film, poetry, and music. Found a good poem on their site by Anna Kamienska, "Those Who Carry." In fact, the entire index of poems is worth checking out.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

The Latest

Currently reading: "The Dark is Rising" by Susan Cooper and "a Generous Or+hodoxy" by Brian McLaren.

Currently listening: Nickel Creek

One of the advantages, as far as I'm concerned, of having older children (in the thirteen to twenty-one year age range) is that they introduce me to books and music I might not otherwise encounter. David saw Nickel Creek in concert this last year at college--he's been playing their songs and I especially like "Ode To A Butterfly." Can't help tapping my feet when that's on...

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Five, Plus A Canine

Our kids are all home--huzzah! David, with his usual luck, almost got upgraded to business class, but didn't sprint to the counter fast enough and missed extra leg room by a microsecond. It's nice to be five at the dinner table again (plus the dog, lurking underneath).

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

News Flash

Pure deliciousness = A Jolly Rancher green apple lollipop.

In other news: Danielle arrived safely, having survived an enforced seating next to a man who hogged the joint armrest, stuck his feet into her small space, and emitted numerous gaseous clouds during the nine hour flight to Frankfurt. But she's still alive. Her hearing might not be intact, since she could hear rap music playing at full blast through his headphones (I hate to think what the decibel level was cranked up to).

Monday, May 15, 2006

A Different Kind of Mother's Day

Yesterday was a unique Mother's Day for me. Anna and I started the morning at church (Jeff was gone on a retreat), and the pastor certainly chose an interesting text--Luke 7:36-50, where Mary washes Jesus' feet with her tears, then dries his feet off with her hair and lovingly annoints them with perfume. Try preaching that story on a day dedicated to moms! He did a good job, and I appreciated his realization of the fact that some come from homes where mothers might have been absent or even done harm to their children, and that others in the congregation might be dealing with an inability to become a mother or the loss of a child. The emphasis was on Mary's heart of love, and how we all, mothers or not, can grow towards loving God more.

After that, Anna and I grabbed lunch, then drove to Heidelberg and hiked my favorite spot in the city, Philosopher's Walk, which overlooks Old Town and the Schloss (castle) . On Sunday, Germans typically get out and stroll with extended family and friends, and yesterday was no exception. We took Murphy along, and as usual, everyone stopped to pet and coo over him. Dogs are always good ice-breakers. Fragrant flowers and bushes were in bloom and blackberry scents drifted across the path when a breeze shifted our way. I think I'd like to do the same thing again next year.

For dinner, we went to an open-air cafe, ordered spargel (white asparagus) soup and dipped french bread in the creamy broth--spargel's in season at the moment, and a great delicacy of this region. There's even an asparagus sculpture in the main square of Schwetzingen! I'll try and remember to take a photo of it.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

World Relief News

On May 2nd, I blogged about the current situation in Darfur, Sudan. Here's what World Relief is doing there to help Sudanese women and communities maintain and repair their own clean water sources.
I'm familiar with World Relief because my brother Dan and his wife Tam work with the same organization in Burundi, Africa.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Nose Washer Deluxe

Here's the photo I promised--it goes with my last post. Looks like fun, eh?

Hayfever Season Beginneth

OK, I confess it--until I bore a daughter who suffers immensely from hayfever symptoms, I had very little empathy (read, none) for people with sneezes, itching, and general misery during the pollen and grass season. Danielle's tried everything, from benedryl to zyrtec, and a few years ago, allergy shots, which she reacted to several times with a swollen-up throat and hives and all manner of scary side-effects. So, at the moment, she's existing on a lesser remedy of pills and eyedrops, hoping for a scientific breakthrough in the next few seconds or weeks. The air cleaner sits in a place of honor in her room, awaiting her arrival in exactly five days (YAY! I'm excited! And David flies back the day after!)

Why are thought of airborne allergens crossing my mind? This has been the craziest week ever as far as pollen, here in the Heidelberg area. My van is entirely covered with a coating of light green dust, and if we dare leave our windows open, it wafts in through cracks and settles on the coffeemaker and toaster and anything else immobile. Never in my life have I actually been able to see the usually-invisible culprit. I hope the worst is over before Danielle returns. I did take the step of buying a plastic nose-washer for her (on sale at the local Penny Markt)--it looks like an ear trumpet, at least what I imagine one might look like. Later I'll try and post the box cover photo, of a woman sticking it up her nose and blasting out the pollen with a saline solution. Highly amusing, but if it works, it's worth a little humiliation and teasing from your family (right, Danielle?).

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

A Good Question

Tuesday, Lorna blogged about how "each of us have two or three key aspects of God locked in our hearts," and asked later in her post, "what are those two or three revelations of God that are imprinted on your heart?" I liked reflecting on that question, and came up with a few of my own key verses and passages:

* “I can do all things through him who strengthens me,” (Phil. 4:13).
* Also, I’ve always liked Genesis 16, the part where Hagar calls God “the God who sees me,” when she’s alone and at wit’s end in the desert.
* Revelation 1 pictures Christ, with “eyes like a flame of fire… his voice as the sound of many waters.” The entire book of Revelation is filled with so many startling and beautiful images--a sea of glass; the tree of life; a multitude of nations, tribes, peoples, & tongues, standing before the Lamb's throne; the stars of heaven, falling like figs...

I could go on, but that’s a good start! Thanks to Lorna, for making me think, as always.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Ice Box

My daughter's friend, Lizzie, rides a school bus daily from town to her American school on base. Each morning, now that the weather's turned warm, the German bus driver greets all the kids as they file into his air-conditioned bus -- "Vell-come to the Ice Box!" in a thick Bavarian accent. Anna and I have had fun intoning those words at odd moments of the day. I think maybe we're amusing ourselves a bit too much. Can someone send us a new phrase to obsess over?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


"For everything there is a season...a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted..."
Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 Today seems to be a day to plant. The sun has overtaken the drizzly south German rain (not unlike Oregon) and green things are springing up overnight in our pocket-sized backyard. Grass, clover, and a new type of nettle, so far. My miniature rosemary bush is sitting by the wall, waiting to be unpotted and given its own spot of honor. I have gladiola bulbs somewhere in the house--hope it's not too late for them. And, as for me? I'm putting down a few tentative roots in this place. At least for the moment.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Looking to Darfur

D., another writer I met last week in Michigan, sent me an email with a link to the Save Darfur Coalition, where his daughter works. He describes the Sudan situation--"hundreds of thousands have died there, and many more are endangered by militia attacks, disease and starvation. The U.S. government has spoken out against the genocide, but their words are not enough. Your words, however, can be crucial: as Senator Paul Simon said about the Rwanda genocide a decade ago, if only 100 people from each congressional district had contacted their Senators and representatives, Congress would have been galvanized to action."

Here's a prayer from the resource section of the Save Darfur site. I know that my prayers must be linked with action, and my actions with prayer, to make any difference in life. Now I'll be looking more closely at the Darfur crisis, with an eye towards what I can be doing to help my brothers and sisters in that African country.

A Franciscan Benediction
May God bless you with discomfort,
At easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships,
So that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger,
At injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,
So that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May God bless you with tears,
To shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war,
So that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and turn their pain to joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness,
To believe that you can make a difference in this world,
So that you can do what others claim cannot be done.


Monday, May 01, 2006

Another Way of Seeing

Last week, I had the privilege of sitting in on an interview with Makoto Fujimura, an artist who lives and works in the center of New York city. He spoke with thoughtfulness and humility about painting, writing and life in general.

A few quotes from that interview:

"Artists can be the leaders and peacemakers of the world."

"Epiphany takes place, even in ground zero. It's the responsibility of the poet (painter/ musician/etc.) to respond and be open to that epiphanic experience."
"Reconciliation is not possible. But God calls us to it, and it happens through generations."

"Each painting is a sort of confessional to me--usually dealing with issues that I'm dealing with spiritually. My heart becomes transparent."

Sunday, April 30, 2006

For My Pirate Friends

Picture taken in Venice, Italy. Had to chuckle when I saw this boat--so here's a photo for you, all my Real Live Pirate friends!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Back from Michigan

Just got back this afternoon from Michigan, where I combined a couple of vastly pleasureable activities--visiting our two children in college at Calvin, and attending the Festival of Faith & Writing. An amazing smorgasbord of writers and artists. I especially enjoyed Mary Karr, Gary Schmidt, Lauren Winner, Salman Rushdie, Han Nolan, and Makoto Fujimura. But they're just a small sampling. I returned home with new ideas of people and places to write about, so that's good. Something about being around the mix of energy and enthusiasm whenever a bunch of creative types get together...

As a side note, on Monday I took my daughter's car key to a little Sears kiosk to get a copy made. Happened to mention to the attendant that I was from Germany, and flying back later in the day. He leaped to compliment me, " You have such a great accent! Your English is really, really good!" I was tempted to just say "thank you," and let him think I was the world's latest linguistic wunder-kind. But I didn't.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Frohe Ostern / Happy Easter

I set my alarm to go off at 5:00 am, because I wanted to drive downtown to the Holy Ghost Church for organ music and hymns in German. But at the last minute I decided I didn't want to venture out in the dark without an assured place to park and another person beside me if I had to walk through sketchy areas of town (Jeff had to stay home with Anna) . Anyway, I ended up sleeping late after tossing and turning all night, possibly from a disguised dose of caffeine. It turned out for the best, though, since our neighbors V. and S. came to a 10:00 service at our regular church with us, along with their little boys. V. is from Ghana, and S. is German, so we have fun asking them about customs in both countries, and comparing notes on Africa. They're blending two quite different cultures in their marriage, and it intrigues me, how they make it work. Afterwards, we went out to eat together, along with another couple, and just laughed and talked. The food was forgettable, but the company was memorable. That's much better than the other way round! Thank God for friends.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Palm Sunday

We are traveling today, but I didn't want to forget Palm Sunday -- so I found a link to a poem, The Donkey, by G.K. Chesterton. It's a little different take on the day, written from the perspective of the donkey that Jesus rode.

I'll be back on Good Friday.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Happy, Happy Day

Since we'll be gone on your birthday, have a happy, happy day! To my youngest Eeyore, with loads of love.

Friday, April 07, 2006

The Best Bakery

I've made an official decision about the best bakery in our area--it's called Backerei Rutz.

Reasons that Rutz is the best:
* Plates of coffeecake and cinnamon roll samples are always out.
* The counter workers actually understand my attempts at the German language and smile at me.
* Jalapeno baguettes!
* A good selection of tea.
* Nice tables for people-watching.
* Newspapers available to read while sitting.
* Attached to a grocery store, so I can shop after stocking up on bread and other baked goods at Rutz.
* It's always mobbed with customers.
* Buttery cookies.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Not Just Any Fieldtrip

Today I accompanied my seventh grade daughter's German class on a fieldtrip to Schloss Freudenberg, near the town of Wiesbaden. After an hour and a half of riding, everyone tumbled off the bus and we entered the gates of the Schloss. This place has an intriguing history--by turns, it has served as "a private home, a hotel, a Nazi home for unmarried mothers, an American soldiers' recreation center (legend has it that Elvis once played in the center's Jazz Club), and as the headquarters of the International Pentecostal Church." Now, the building houses the Nature and Art Society.

I found it interesting, especially the many interactive stations designed to help us "unfurl the mind and senses" -- the kids loved clashing numerous plate-size cymbals, mounted on two sides of the music room, and each of us stood in line several times to rub wet palms on either side of a smooth brass bowl, filled with water -- as we vigorously rubbed, the bowl gave off a high pitched musical hum and the water surface ruffled on the edges from static electricity.

Most unusual? The "Dunkel Cafe," or "Dark Cafe." We entered through heavy curtains, into a room of complete darkness. Everyone felt around for a seat at the bar, then the waitress came to take our orders. We ordered drinks or cake, for 2 euro apiece. Our entire snacktime was utterly without light, and I could tell the three boys in the group felt most awkward at first, commenting, "hey, J., get your hand off me!" and so on. It's strange to think we never even saw our waitress' face the entire visit. When it came time to pay, the girls panicked at first, "oh no, how can I tell if this is a ten euro or twenty euro bill? Oops, I dropped my coins on the floor and can't find them!" We found out later the waitress is almost totally blind, which explains her comfort in the Dark Cafe. It was nothing new for her, but for us, it was a brief (and memorable!) experience, functioning without our usually taken-for-granted sense of sight.

The weather was near freezing outside, but our group braved the cold, walking on the "barefoot path" through the woods to feel paving textures of smooth pebbles, bricks, stones, wood, and other materials. I only regretted that we never found the Aeolian harp (named after the Greek god of wind) which is played as wind blows between the strings. But, overall, quite a worthwhile day!