Sunday, December 31, 2017

Looking back over 2017 and forward to 2018 - Happy New Year!

No Christmas cards or letters sent again this year... This will take the place of those and take time to remember big events from 2017 and the things we think will be happening as we move through 2018.

Together finally in Branson!
Happiness definitely was in evidence as Kristen moved to Branson, Missouri and started her new life there working at Sight and Sound Theatre. She moved from New York City where she had lived for two years and experienced life in the fast lane. So many young people move to the city with the hope of getting the big break to work on Broadway with few being so fortunate. Life is hard and survival jobs with the need to travel on the subway at all hours of the day and night really take its toll. To say that we were relieved when she moved from NYC would be an understatement! Of course, we can't forget that she was also engaged and planning her wedding to Justin which was also something that was a large part of all of the happiness surrounding her move! They were both able to come and visit with us in Belgium in January and we had a great time visiting some of our favorite places.

April quickly arrived and off we went flying to the States for the wedding in Maryland. We had a great time meeting new members of the family and spending some time with the kids before the big event. We even had a quick trip to State College to find out what was awaiting us in Kristen's storage unit there from college. Two cars were filled up and we were on our way to Havre de Grace, Maryland to unload everything there for sorting and their eventual trip to Missouri. Living in Europe has complicated many things to include not having a place for your college graduate to come back to on the US side of the ocean! It is also causing other complications but that comes later in this story.  The wedding took place on Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland near Justin's family. It was a wonderful venue and everything was easy and perfect. We all had a wonderful time seeing family and friends and celebrating with the newly married couple!

Just before the ceremony
At the reception

Just after the wedding, we took a flight to Florida and spent a week in the sunshine where the boys enjoyed golfing at Orange Lake and we celebrated my 60th birthday. I wouldn't mind celebrating each year by the pool at Orange Lake but I'm pretty sure that won't be happening anytime soon!
Cheers to 60!
April and May quickly flew by and, before we knew it, we had a high school graduate to celebrate with! The graduation was held at the base in the theater this year and Michael sang both the Dutch and US anthems at the start of the ceremony. Michael graduated from AFNORTH International School in the Netherlands with plans to enlist in the Navy. We said goodbye to the days of driving over an hour each way to school from Belgium to the Netherlands and closed the door on our visits to a school that saw both of our kids grow up. Very few of our military and ABMC families can have both of their children graduate from the same high school. We were very fortunate for this to occur even though we moved to Italy right after Kristen graduated there and moved to a different cemetery in Belgium for Michael to finish school -- a gap of 3 years.

Class of 2017!

Graduating class fit on the small stage

Last day of school after grad practice
July/August brought us back to the States for home leave and we started with our visit to Orange Lake in Florida, then up to York, PA and finishing in Branson, Missouri. This was Michael's final home leave with us and we definitely had a good time visiting with family and friends with lots of golf for the Michaels fitted in along the way! While in York, we had a mini Class of 1975 reunion at the Reliance. It was wonderful being able to visit and see friends that I haven't seen in person for a long time! A highlight of our trip to Branson was being able to see Kristen and Justin in Moses. We actually saw the show several times and were able to see all of the actors who rotate in as Moses which was really fun. Of course, seeing Kristen and Justin up on that huge stage in all of their roles was unbelievable and a really great experience. The Sight and Sound Theatre cast and crew are amazing people who bring biblical stories to life to the many people who are able to attend. What a blessing that is!

Fun family pictures - Mike's Dad is now 93!

Mike and Vicki (his "big" sister)

The pool is also 60 this year too!

Bulldogs always find their way home!

Sight & Sound - Moses

Awesome fairy crowns in Midsummer in the Park

I was blessed to be able to fly to Branson in November and visit with Kristen and Justin. They were both in the cast of Miracle of Christmas which was a blessing for them to be a part of the show and also continuing to be gainfully employed at S&S! I had a wonderful time staying with them and getting to play with their new bulldog puppy, Clover. I also got to see Jodie and Cal (Justin's parents) at the end of my visit! It was fun to also be able to do some shopping in America for Christmas presents for the boys at home. In person vs. shopping online was a definite bonus! While I was there, I got to visit with dear friends we met in the South of France --Wayne and Drue Huffman. We had a great time visiting at dinner and spending a little time together! At the theatre, I got to see Kristen in all of her roles (they are understudies for roles other than their principal ones so that everything is covered when actors need to take time off) and this was quite overwhelming due to the fact that her regular role was the innkeeper's wife who helps Mary give birth to Baby Jesus and also she played Mary's mother as an understudy and did both during the one show. She was in almost every scene and had lines and sang and danced -- my heart was full and overflowing for her and her abilities and the messages she shared as part of the story.

Friends since 2004 and the South of France!

The rest of the year has been pretty mundane in comparison to all of the above with one exception. I hinted that living in Europe brings complications and it definitely has brought about a big logistical problem for us now. We found out in September that Michael would probably not be able to stay in Belgium with us until he is ready to enlist. The ID card we need to allow us to live in Belgium expires in early March and his card will not be renewed because he is over the age of 18 and not in school full-time. This was a huge surprise to us with no warning and no easy solution since we have lived in Europe since 2001 and have no home in the States to send him to. We looked into all sorts of ideas through the Embassy but found that there is no legal way to keep him here with us full time. The only way he can be with us in Belgium is to travel here for 90 days at a time on his tourist passport (which also was expiring in January -- a new one has been applied for). Then he would need to return to the States for 90 days, etc. until he is ready to enlist.

A potential position may be created in the Virginia office of Mike's agency which is being designed for someone approaching the end of their ABMC career. We were honestly thinking we would be here in Europe until 2021 and Mike would then retire but that may not be the case. If this new position occurs, we will buy a home in York, PA and Mike will commute home on the weekends. I will find us a home, get a job hopefully with a law firm in York or Harrisburg and Michael will enlist in the Navy. Or, in the alternative, we will stay here and Michael will stay with our friend, Jim, or other family members and then fly back, rinse and repeat until he can enlist. Having to write this makes my head hurt because I'm the one that needs to feel in control (which is funny if you think back on us living through Mike's military and ABMC careers and all of our moves) and that certainly isn't the case right now! The only thing for certain, as we close 2017, is that Michael and I will be flying back to the States in early March and we will stay with our dear friend who is taking the poor wandering nomads into his home!

This has been a stressful period for us and we know that God has a plan for all of us. Of course, I would be thrilled if that plan were revealed step by step to me... God works in mysterious ways and the mystery is yet to unfold for us.

We wish all of our friends and family a very Happy New Year!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

All Saints' Day

It's a beautiful sunny Sunday morning. It's November 1st - All Saints' Day. In Belgium, it is a National holiday. Many who have adopted graves here at the Ardennes will come by with flowers to place on their soldier's grave. The traditional flower for this day is the chrysanthemum. The florists and even the grocery stores have them in large displays for people to pick up on their way home. I  wanted one for our front porch to sit alongside our pumpkins. Now it has more significance than just being a decoration. I will remember all of our family members who have passed from this life.

I remember being back in the States at our various churches where we would recognize and remember family members and congregation members who had died in the past year. We would pray and their names would be read out loud. This led me to look further into the history of today's date.

I googled November 1 and found many interesting events that occurred in history on November 1. Here are a few:

Today, I sit here looking back at all of these events and think about our visit to the Sistine Chapel while living in Rome -- it was interesting but I found it not as breathtaking as I had hoped. It was dimly lit to preserve the paintings for a longer life and it was crowded. It's like many things you look forward to -- they don't live up to your expectations and imagination. Maybe it was the sensation of being crowded into the room and having to look straight up and not being able to relax and take it all in...

I think back to homeschooling with Michael when I read about the Strait of Magellan. We studied World History while we were living in Nettuno. Maybe our own family travels were a part of that history lesson too?

It's hard to imagine the All Saints' Flood in 1570 today because the sky is blue and the sun is shining brightly. I read that 5/6 of the Netherlands was flooded at this time. So much destruction. Right now, friends are experiencing this back in Texas from all of the rain that has been falling. I'm praying that they are all safe and that it soon is a thing of the past.

There's got to be some interesting connection why two of Shakespeare's works were performed for the first time on November 1. Perhaps it is as simple as it was a holiday and even the common man could attend on this day. 

It's amazing to me to think that the big city of New York where Kristen lives was once a British Crown colony. So much history has taken place there. So many people from so many countries have passed through there on their way to a new life and a new future. Now, many go there to seek their fortune and their future just like our daughter. It is a vibrant city rich with culture and yet it is a hard and demanding city in which to find your way and your niche.

Finally, John Adams being the first president to live in the now named White House. I just was looking at the news on and came across photos from Halloween at the White House. What a contrast from 1800 to 2015! To see the Obamas handing candy out to trick or treaters and the White House adorned in Halloween decorations is sort of surreal. 

Obama and the first lady join a crowd of trick-or-treaters on the South Lawn of the White House on October 30.

I have a feeling that our forefathers would consider this a bit garish and inappropriate. I'm torn about how I feel about this display. Maybe I'm just getting older and am a bit too serious minded... I don't see Buckingham Palace doing this for example... What do you think?

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Throwback Thursdays...

Stepping away from the 31 day challenge seemed to be a good idea today. These challenges are good because they help us grow but they are also daunting and overwhelming and tend to take over our lives. Trying to fulfill the challenge by blogging every day for 31 days straight is a good exercise in discipline and discipline is an important part of our lives. BUT, when life throws you a curve ball and you can't keep on track with the challenge, then you feel the seeds of guilt and failure creep in. The challenge itself is positive and the side effects are sometimes negative. Step away from the negative. Embrace the positive. So that's why I'm over here today!

#TBT - we see this all across Facebook and Twitter. Throwback Thursday celebrates all of those little and big moments in our lives. People share fun pictures of their children from years past and other memories that are special and significant to them. I sat here with visions of our kids as they grew up -- especially here in Europe at the various locations we have lived. Today Michael will be with his school group as a young man but I flashed back to the little guy about 3 or 4 years old in his red rubber boots getting stuck in a big pile of dirt -- we can remember it fondly with a smile but it was pretty scary as we searched for him back on that day long ago. I remember back to Kristen and our many drives in the car from place to place and her singing Disney songs to us. Now she's a young woman making her way in New York City. So much time has passed! TBT gives us a chance to treasure and reminisce about those moments in time.

Let's take more time to treasure each and every moment we have with one another. Maybe it will become a TBT moment in our future!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Sunday Morning Thoughts

Good morning! It's a beautiful sunny Sunday morning in Belgium. The geese were flying over our home this morning and Butch barked to let them know he was watching them. Without a doubt he has a bit of hunter in him. The carillon just finished playing outside my window and it is back to the quiet that is the norm here on the grounds of an American cemetery and memorial. Around the outside of the cemetery proper it looks a lot like this picture I've shared. We are surrounded by woods and nature and it is a peaceful place to think about life and family and so many things. 

When you think about what is happening in the world right now with those who are fleeing horrible conditions in their countries and others who are attacking those who are trying to protect us, it is hard to imagine when living at a place so peaceful. However, all I have to do is open up any of the news websites and I am quickly reminded. We need to continue to pray for our world leaders, pray for those who are suffering and in pain and for those who continue to place their own safety aside to protect and defend. So today, wherever you may be, take a moment and join me in prayer.  Amen.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Seasons in our lives

As we travel through life, we have different purposes we need to pursue. It's really interesting to read back through my posts to see the many twists and turns my life has taken in such a short period of time.  I just reread my post about feeling anonymous. That was a chapter of my life when living in Italy after having a full and busy life in the Netherlands.

Now, we are living back in Belgium in the Ardennes area and my time is taken up with driving to and from the Netherlands during the week for school and work. I also jumped back into PWOC, volunteering, substitute teaching and then the perfect job for me right now at the base education center. I'm no longer anonymous! However, I am happily transitioning to a quieter time of less or no volunteering after two years as our middle/high school PTA president and also no position on the PWOC board so that I can focus on our family and take a slower approach to life while still driving 500 miles a week!

After spending a month back in the States in Florida, Pennsylvania and a quick run over to Indiana, I treasure a simpler schedule and time to think about what's important in life -- faith, family, friends and enjoying what gifts God has provided us in our lives.

My newest chapter (as soon as I close the one on PTA) is going to include sharing more bits and pieces of life here in Europe. I'm fortunate to have found the Clumsy Bloggers Workshop to learn more about blogging to make it more interesting and readable to others who will find my posts. My cousin, Joyce, thinks I should write a book about our life and adventures. This is the first step! We'll see where it takes me!  Here is the view from our cabana in Florida this Summer. It was a slice of life when we were with good friends and taking the time to just enjoy our moment in the sun!  Meanwhile bon voyage to you in all of your lives and adventures!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Valentine's Day in Belgium and a great new blog to follow

Saturday morning following Valentine's Day dawned with the chiming of the carillon next to our home at 8am. A long day was had yesterday with a drive over to the base clinic in Mons and two appointments to keep. Michael was seeing a new doc and I was attempting to get an x-ray at the American clinic vs. going back to visit the busy Belgian hospital in Genk. We were pleased to find the new clinic very friendly and both medical providers really helpful. Michael got the full treatment with a trip to the lab for blood tests and also up to the Immunization clinic for a shot. My visit was interesting because my doctor was very curious about the treatment I've been receiving for my foot problems here in Belgium. He had never heard of the use of electro shockwave therapy for achilles and heel spur issues. It's always nice to share new information with people...

After all of the fun at the clinic, we went to the PX down the road and found baseball cleats for Michael and glove oil since both were not available at our base. I was thrilled to find a cash box for our new high school PTA. Yes, little triumphs are good! Then we ate at the very small food court (not filet mignon for V Day for us). Michael had sub-par Anthony's Pizza, Mike had Burger King and I had a doner kebab. Maybe I can plan something a little more appropriate for a celebratory Valentine's Dinner a day late! After our 2+ hour drive home, we settled in to watch a little of the Olympics. Definitely a different sort of Valentine's Day celebration for us.

This morning I found a great blog shared by Cathleen - Her post yesterday "Skip the Hype & Get to the Heart of Valentines Day" was great and to the point. So much "over the top" business these days going on.  Cathleen shared "Dear Lonely Mom of Older Kids" which hit home for me these days. With one finishing college and another halfway through high school, it is sometimes hard to deal with the issues older children bring. The days of diapers, finger paintings and many "firsts" are gone and we are on our way to being real empty nesters with our baby birds ready to launch into their own lives. It's a scary time for sure!

I highly recommend you visit Rachel Anne's Home Sanctuary to add a little peace and quiet in your day!


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

driving on autopilot...

Today my boy woke up with a huge headache so I got to do the drive by myself. I even thought that I needed to take a direct route to my office but the car had other ideas! When I realized I was on the school route, I laughed to myself and replanned my next move...

How many times have we been on autopilot? It's a beautiful sunny and cool Wednesday morning here in the Netherlands - the land of the Olympic speed skaters!

Happy Hump Day to all!