Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Traveling, Part Three: California Part Two

Now it's December and we've been to Costa Rica, Mexico, back to the U.S., to Germany again, to Scotland, to England, and home to Cyprus since I posted Part Two. If I take the same amount of time and include the same amount of detail for each part of the rest of our trip, I won't finish blogging the trip until...well, until all the children are grown, I would guess. So I'm going to go ahead and upload here the photos from our camping trip (way too many photos, and nowhere near all of them--with a great deal of effort, I got it down to only 23 essential ones...) that I already sorted out and watermarked in Picasa back in October, and I will attempt to make minimal comments (I say that now, but the likelihood is that I will ramble on quite a bit...), and after this I will try to make much shorter posts. In any case, the people who read my blog are all on Facebook with me, so I really should just upload all the photos to Facebook and leave it at that. (If there's ANYBODY, just one person, reading this who is NOT on Facebook with me, let me know!!)

So...on Wednesday, September 27th, we eventually arrived at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, where we set up camp. (And as an aside, finding that link just now, I learned something I may expound on later!!) Marie, Katie, and Helen shared one tent...

...and Elisabeth had (by choice) her own tent, where she slept the first night until about 2:00 a.m.

As of about 2:00, she slept in the tent with Jörn and me, and did the second and third nights as well.

Mom and Dad slept in their RV, of course, and Lukas did, too, in the bed over the cab.

Once camp was set up, we went for what at least my mother and I would call a walk and my husband and some of the children would call a hike. Either way, the redwoods fascinate me as much as they ever did.

Interestingly, there is also quite a lot of sand there, where a lot of ancient sea creatures have been found. The park is not far from the coast, but much higher, but was evidently under water at some point in the distant past.

Back at camp, I got this photo of my four daughters:

At some point, my brother Shawn and his wife Lindsey and their two daughters arrived. S is 4 1/2 and we'd met her several times, as they had visited us in Cyprus when she was a baby, but we hadn't seen her since we were last in the U.S., two years ago. We hadn't yet met N, though, as she won't be two until January. S jumped right in with the cousins, but N was a little more wary. Helen, as usual, was immediately entranced with N, who was happy to be followed around by H. All of the girls spent a lot of time coloring while we were in camp.

Thursday morning Shawn and Mom made breakfast...
..and shortly after, Shawn had to leave for work.

I had gotten up early Thursday morning and gone for a walk, but didn't take the camera. Nor did I take a map, but when I looked a map later on, I realized that a lot of the trails weren't on the map anyway. The trails themselves are well-marked and I have a good sense of direction, so I wasn't worried about getting actually lost, but I like returning a different way that I started out, so it took a bit longer than I'd anticipated.

After breakfast we packed lunches and everybody set out. We found Cable Car Beach, as planned, so those who like freezing cold water put on their swimsuits and splashed around.

Mom, Jörn, Marie, and I decided to walk a bit further to the visitor center:
From the visitor center there's a fenced-in loop one can walk around, but we only walked through half of it, back the way we'd come but parallel to the trails, and then out of that at the end and back to the trail.

When we got back to where the others were still at the river, Dad asked if Katie had found us. No, she had not. Apparently, not long after we had left, Katie said she was going to catch up with us. Mom and I immediately started back towards the visitor center, Mom on the road and I on a path at the side. I hadn't jogged since last year November, but found myself moving pretty quickly, and in sandals, too. When I got to the parking lot and still hadn't found her, I was not feeling particularly calm, but as I headed towards the building, I saw Katie through the window, talking to a ranger inside. The time I made on the last 25-ish-meter sprint is probably the best time I've ever made. Neither Katie and I had cried until I was hugging her.

While there was basically only one road from where we were to the visitor center (the footpath and the road are usually visible from each other), we'd been inside the loop while Katie was still on the road, so didn't join the road/footpath again until Katie had already passed that part, which was how we missed each other.

Friday morning I went for an even longer map, still without camera or map, but I was intrigued by a sign to Big Rock Hole and tried to find it. I went about half a mile down a very narrow, very steep path that had a lot of cobwebs across it, so I slipped and slid down the trail with my arms in front of my face, thinking "I sure hope that the next person on this trail appreciates the lack of spider webs!" And then I got to a river, and to a sign saying "trail closed." At least on the climb back up, I appreciated that there were no spider webs...

Shawn arrived back in camp sometime late Thursday night, and on Friday he and Lukas headed back to Cable Car Beach to go fishing. They caught several crawdads and fish and Lukas, at least, had a wonderful time.

My dad volunteered to stay in camp and all the girls (my four daughters, my two nieces, my sister-in-law, my mother, and I) drove to the visitor center and walked the Redwood Grove loop.

This is INSIDE a living tree.

The girls played on this natural slide for ages:

Then we went to a playground, where there was also an old covered bridge. S got a splinter in her foot, which Lindsey removed with the tweezers from my pocketknife: easily the most used part of my pocketknife in all 22 years that I've had it! I included this photo more because it shows N wearing an outfit that had been a hand-me-down to Katie and was also worn by Helen and Elisabeth. :-)

Friday night my youngest sister arrived, together with her daughter, her boyfriend, and her boyfriend's two daughters, but I don't have permission to post any photos of them. There was one really cool moment with one of her boyfriend's daughters, about six years old. She'd asked my daughters what grade they're in in school, and Helen said, "Oh, Mommy teaches us." Without the slightest bit of confusion, M responded, "Oh, you're homeschooled. My cousin is, too." It was incredibly refreshing to have someone just see it as totally NORMAL!!

Saturday morning I went for yet another walk, still determined to find Big Rock Hole. I'd looked at a map and determined that Buckeye Trail was the way to go, and and figured out one way to go there and another to go back, and that I would have to cross a river without a bridge. The river wasn't very deep, so I took off my shoes and socks and crossed it and picked up the trail on the other side...but didn't find any signposts, and the trail petered out and I was no longer sure if I was on an actual trail or just a deer path. When I found another loop of the river, a bit narrower and therefore a bit deeper, I stood there for quite awhile trying to see any trail on the other side, but there was nothing obvious, so I very reluctantly turned around and went back the way I came.

And TODAY, three months later, when looking for the link to the Park, the first thing I saw on the webpage was this:

The Buckeye Trail is closed between river crossings due to extremely rough terrain, making hiking between Buckeye Trail and Big Rock Hole impassible.  

 Ah. It would have been nice if that had been marked on the trails or on the maps...

I got back to camp when breakfast was over (they'd saved some for me) and the rest of the morning was spent packing up camp (at least for the grownups), and then Shawn gave everyone who wanted one a ride on his motorcycle, which is what is being admired at this point:
 ...And here is a photo of the first time ever that I've been on a motorcycle!!

 S had never been on her dad's motorcycle before, either, but wanted to do what everyone else had!
 She was pretty pleased. :-)
 N also wanted to go on, but the helmet was already rather too big for S, so there was no way it was going to work for a 20-month-old! She wasn't very happy about that, but did accept a cuddle from Lukas, of which I have an adorable photo, but it has other people in the photo, so isn't here.

We drove back to San Bruno where my parents dropped off the seven of us and picked up their dog, and then started their 6-hour drive home to Eureka. Erin was out of town and we just relaxed (and did laundry) the rest of the day.

I originally had an even longer title for this post, but the sub categories were getting a bit ridiculous, so I just left it with California Part Two...but there's going to have to be a California Part Three, as well, as we had another three full days. After that, though, I'm going to have to scale waaaaay down on details of the rest of our trip...

Monday, December 11, 2017

Books finished in November 2017

I read a lot more books in November than in December. Part of the number increase was due to the number of short books (mainly Hourly Histories, which only take about half an hour to read), part was because of having the opportunity to read actual paper books (five of them, in fact), and part was because for the two weeks we were in Scotland, we had no internet in our room so when I should have been in bed, instead of going on-line I read on my Kindle.

We'd arrived in Germany October 26th, stayed two days with our friends Margaret and Phil in Düesseldorf, then stayed the rest of our time in Germany in Hamminkeln at the guest house of our mission agency. On November 1st Jörn flew to England for an art conference, on Friday the 3rd Lukas left to spend the weekend with friends before starting his two-week introduction apprenticeship in gardening and landscaping in Mülheim, and on Saturday the 4th, the three girls and I flew to Scotland (from Dortmund to Luton to Glasgow, all three being new airports to me, and Scotland being a new country to me), where Jörn joined us the next day. We participated in an awesome retreat for long-term missionaries for the next two weeks, where the children also had a great program, and there was lots of free time and some group outings. After that finished, we slowly made our way to Birmingham, visiting friends near Manchester for two days, then staying another two days with friends in Birmingham and getting to visit with four others there. November 23rd, nine weeks to the day after the girls and I had left Cyprus, we flew home. (Lukas had returned home on his own from Germany three days earlier, and Jörn had been gone for 10 weeks and one day, having left Cyprus eight days before we did.)

For some odd reason, I haven't managed to read anywhere near as much since we got home...

Isambard Kindom Brunel, Hourly History  I felt like I'd heard of this engineer before, probably in something I'd read out loud to the children, but nothing at all sounded familiar, and it was very interesting. And in the five weeks or so since I finished this, I must have seen his name mentioned at least half a dozen times! I never would have picked up a biography of any length (not even a 30-minute read) on an engineer, but since it was there...I read it. I'm enjoying the Hourly Histories for the opportunity to be introduced to historical figures I wouldn't have looked up on my own.

Born a Crime, Trevor Noah  On the Monday that we were in Germany, I got to visit my friend Leigh for six hours. I've probably known her for about 26 years, although the first conversation I remember with her took place only 24 years ago, when her oldest daughter was about six months old. We had never, ever, in those 24 years, spent time together without children around. We used to talk on the phone fairly often, but always with interruptions from her children or mine, or more likely both. I absolutely loved the afternoon/evening with her, both of us finishing whole sentences and even stories. It wasn't quite long enough, though. And she gave me this book, which was fascinating. Trevor Noah was born in South Africa five years before Apartheid ended, to a black mother and white father. Most of his first five years were spent hiding, because if anyone in authority had found out he existed, his parents could have both been arrested and imprisoned. This is biographical, but not chronological, and there are some inconsistencies, such as his constant mention of never having had any friends, except in the many chapters that detail escapades with his friends. He's apparently now a famous comedian in the U.S., but I'd never heard of him. Jacob had, however, and was quite excited to see me unpack this book. Language warning for people who will be offended by that, but otherwise a great book.

So Deeply Scarred, Howard Morgan  Friends gave me this book, which is about how the Jewish community has been persecuted throughout their history, all over the world. It could be quite an eye-opener to someone who hasn't read much on the topic, but I have. Much of it consisted of lists and statistics, so not exactly smooth reading, but not long.

Like Grounded Swallows, Gerhard P. Drumm  My mother gave me this book in September and I started reading it while in Costa Rica, but most of my reading was done at night on my Kindle, so I didn't get into it until we were in Scotland, when I read it every available moment until I finished it. Gerhard Drumm is, like my mother, a United Methodist pastor (although he is now retired and she is not yet), and he signed this copy of the first part of his biography, covering the time from his birth in Serbia (then part of Yugoslavia) in 1929 until his escape, together with most of his siblings, to Austria in 1947. It was extremely interesting reading this book, about the persecution of ethnic Germans during and after World War II, around the same time as reading So Deeply Scarred, five biographies of important political figures (see below), and two other Hourly Histories about World War II. I've read so much about World War II, but never before had heard about persecution of ethnic Germans in non-German countries. Gerhard Drumm is 88 years old and living in California, and it's strange to think that he was born the same year as my father-in-law, who has now been dead for over 12 years.

Emma & I, Sheila Hocken  I actually paid money for this book, I think something like 90 pence, at a second-hand bookshop in West Kilbride, Scotland. It was admittedly the author's name that first caught my eye and made me pull the book off the shelf, but the topic then interested me as well. I enjoy memoirs and biographies in any case, and this was autobiographical. The author had a congenital condition that meant she'd never been able to see well, and eventually lost her sight completely as a teenager. The "Emma" referred to in the title is the guide dog she received when she was 17, and which changed her life completely. There was quite a surprising ending. This isn't the most well-written book in the world, but I did deem it worth bringing back with me to Cyprus, although I finished it while still in Scotland.

World War II Biographies: Adolf Hitler, Erwin Rommel, Benito Mussolini, George Patton, Joseph Stalin, Hourly History  These were really five books, each one taking half an hour. I'd never read biographies, even short ones, of any of these people before. I'd started the book quite awhile before finishing it, definitely in October, and probably while still in Costa Rica. These key characters in the Second World War have remarkably different backgrounds, histories, and characters. I was left thinking with Hitler in particular that "if only...." so many things had been different, he wouldn't have turned out as he so infamously did, whereas Rommel's character is so awful from childhood on, that one wonders how he could possibly have become involved in a plot to assassinate Hitler. I knew that Mussolini was more of a follower than a leader, who changed sides constantly, but not that that had also been a life-long pattern. George Patton should be seen as a "good guy," being on the Allied side, but he was just plain not a nice person. Joseph Stalin held the fewest surprises for me, probably because I'd read more about him previously.

Ivan the Terrible, Hourly History  More of the same, as far as most of the Hourly Histories are concerned: a few bits of new information about someone I had known something about, found it interesting, and don't now remember much.

A Field Full of Butterflies: Memories of a Romany Childhood, Rosemary Penfold  I bought this one in Scotland at the second-hand bookstore, as well. It was everything I like in a book: well-written memoirs, memorable characters who were a mix of good and bad, some photos of the real people, and as a bonus, about a topic that I know very little about. I'd only ever read about Romanies, or Gypsies, as side characters in other books. Sometimes "good" and sometimes "bad" and sometimes "neutral," but never as the main characters. I enjoyed also the dropping of various Romany words in the conversation, sometimes explained and sometimes needing to be understood from context (although there was also a glossary in the back), in just the right amount: enough to be interesting, but not so much as to make it stilted or frustrating to read.

World War II D-Day, Hourly History  Having just finished the five World War II biographies, much of this information was still fresh in my memory, especially as three of those five were key figures in the Normandy Invasion. Having a picture of the personalities of those people in involved also lead to a much deeper understanding of this event beyond the mere facts.

George Stephenson, Hourly History  This started out by dispelling several myths about George Stephenson, listing one thing after another that he did NOT do, to the point where I was starting to wonder why they'd bothered writing a book about him. However, they did finally end up getting to the point, and one thing he certainly had was perseverance. He wasn't, after all, the first person to do many of the things that are credited to him (such as inventing the first steam locomotive), but he WAS the person who made many of these inventions into viable components of modern society. A great idea isn't of much use if it doesn't get put into practice, and putting into practice was George Stephenson's strength.

The Book of Dragons, Edith Nesbit  I'm not sure when I started this children's book, but it may have been six or more months ago. I finally finished it in November. I'm not sure what even made me start reading a book by an author I'm not really crazy about, but since the book consisted of unconnected short stories (all about, surprise surprise, dragons), it didn't matter if I went months between stories. I like fantasy just fine, but even fantasy needs to follow rules. None of these stories, as I recall, did. Random things happen with no logical (even fantastically logical) reason behind them, everything has an improbable happy ending, and characters are all completely two-dimensional, if that. (I'm not sure how to make a one-dimensional character, but Edith Nesbit is.)

An Awakened Heart, Jody Hedlund  Unbelievable Christian romance, in which one speech makes another person change character completely, and you know in the first couple of pages who is going to marry whom. A free book that was worth what I paid, and worth less than the time spent reading it. Also the last book I finished reading in November of this year.

Books finished in October 2017

Here it is December and I never even got around to blogging the rest of our trip after the first week, and we were gone for nine weeks altogether. Maybe I eventually will, but don't hold your breath.

All but one of the books I read in October were on my Kindle, all of the Kindle books being free. We were in the U.S until October 2nd, when we flew to Costa Rica via Guadalajara and Mexico City. We had a ten-hour layover during which we just hung out in the airport, because after our flight leaving at midnight and having virtually no sleep, we weren't up to trying to leave the airport, especially since when I looked for ideas on-line as to what to do in Guadalajara, most of the suggestions were to go someplace outside of the city. Various members of the family slept at various times throughout the day and I read a lot of the day. We were then in Costa Rica for three weeks (well, about 18 hours less than three weeks), returning to San Francisco via Mexico City. (That's another long story, but it worked out very well, and we even went into the city for the afternoon, which was pretty cool.) One night in California at my sister's house, then on to Germany, where we stayed until maybe I'll mention more about that if I blog November's books...

In the meantime, here are the books I read in October this year:

The Wisdom of Walt, Jeffrey A. Barnes  This wasn't a very long book and had some interesting tidbits about Walt Disney, but the overtone of obsession with making money and with Disneyland was kind of off-putting.

The Time Traveler's Wife, Audrey Niffenegger  This was the one paper book I read in the entire month, gleaned from the bookcase of my host sister, Cristina. It was quite a fascinating idea, with a man who time traveled, but had no control over when or where. He often met up with himself in other times, but especially often met up with his wife-to-be, from when she was about six years old. There were many poignant and a few tragic moments, but not, really, a whole lot of story. That each chapter started with a date and the respective ages of the two main characters (or three, if Henry was represented twice), which really helped to keep it all straight for me. Then on the flight from Mexico City to San Francisco, I was able to watch the movie. It was surprisingly well-done (I actually approved of some of the changes they made, for various reasons, but they of course left out far, far too much), but there is no way I would have been able to follow it at all without having read the book first.

Triple Creek Ranch, Book One, Unbroken, Rebekah A. Morris  Umm...I had to think about this for a minute. If I remember correctly, it was a totally predictable Christian romance, not a genre I favor...

Okay, I just looked it up (and, incidentally, it's still free at amazon), and it's not actually a romance. But it is totally predictable Christian fiction, where the good guys are too good and the bad guys are too bad and there's one terrible character who becomes perfect. Still not a genre I favor.

Thomas Jefferson, Hourly History  Like the other Hourly Histories, able to be read in about half an hour, with a good overview of Thomas Jefforson's life, and with a few details that were new and interesting to me and which I have completely forgotten in the intervening two months.

Amish Faith Renewed, Becca Fisher  Well, now, that was interesting: I had to look it up, and the description did not spark any memories. Amish romance. I started looking at the reviews to see if they would say something else interesting, and I found a one-star review with the title "Reads like a summary" that I thought might be apt to copy and paste, and then noticed the name of the commenter: it was me, in August 2015. So I actually read the book in October 2017 for the SECOND time, and still don't remember it. With no concern about copyright or plagiarism, since it's what I wrote, here it is: I'm just glad this "book" was free and that it took less than ten minutes to read. I kept hoping that the introduction would end and something approaching character development and a story would happen, but they didn't.

The Author Startup, Ray Brehm  This was all about marketing a book for the purpose of making money. In fact, it was even about writing a book for the purpose of making money. And the author must know about that, since he's apparently written lots of books about how to write books to make money, and he links to them over and over again. He seemed rather obsessed with making money. This one was free, the others aren't. I didn't buy any of them.

Angels Watching Over Me, Michael Phillips  I actually enjoyed and remember this book. I think it was a little unrealistic for the white plantation owner's daughter and the black slave girl to both be so utterly clueless about the realities of the society around them, and to so easily become friends, but it was still a good story. It's set in the South of the United States just after the Civil War. Unfortunately, it ends rather abruptly, my assumption being because then the author hopes that it will make you buy the next book after getting this one free. It wasn't a bad book, but not good enough for me to spend money on the sequel.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Books finished in September 2017

This list looks long, but most of the "books" were free Kindle books that were quite short, some of them read in half an hour or not much more. It did, however, help that my husband was gone for a week in September (so I could read one paper book in bed, but even then I didn't manage to finish it before leaving for Germany, so had to take it with us and finish it in an airport), and that for most of the 10 days of September that we were traveling, I didn't have consistent reasonable internet access, so read more than I do when I do have internet access! Also, time in airports and on airplanes (six of them in September...) contributed to available reading time.

(The above was written at the beginning of October, as was the bare list of books/authors below. I am now, over a month later, going to attempt to give extremely short comments on each one, to just get around to publishing this...)

Days on the Road, Sarah Raymond Herndon  As I recall, this was a pioneer trip and an actual diary, and I enjoyed it very much, even it was free.

The Measure of Katie Calloway, Serena Miller  Yet another very good book, with certain predictable events (who was going to show up where and why, and who was going to get married).

Ten Days in a Mad-House, Nellie Bly  Non-fiction, by a woman reporter in a time when it was rare for women to have "real" jobs. She got herself committed to an insane asylum for the sake of the story, and the scary thing is, that once she was committed, she reverted to acting 100% her normal self and telling the complete truth, but without it having been arranged for someone else to get her out 10 days later, she never would have gotten out.

Queen Victoria, Hourly History  This was the first "Hourly History" that I read, and have read quite a few in the last couple of months. Nowhere could I find an actual author's name. Most of them take me about half an hour to read, but give an interesting overview with tidbits I either never knew or didn't remember. (Contrast this book, on the life of someone who lived for over 80 years, to the book it took me MONTHS to get through, on the life of Lady Jane Grey, who lived only 17 years!) Some of these books could do with better proofreading, but I like having this "history-lite" library on my Kindle.

Mahatma Gandhi and His Myths, Mark Shepard  Another very short book, but at the very least, I should now remember how to spell GandHi, as I'm pretty sure I used to, as I see regularly, put the H after the G...

Eden Park, Charlotte Bingham   This was the one and only paperback book (as opposed to Kindle book) that I finished in the month of September. The description on the back was one of those that makes the reader think that a particular event is the main event, when it isn't at all, but as the book was better than the back cover, that was fine with me. I like books that follow different people's lives and then show how they intersect with each other.

Embers of Love, Tracie Peterson  Umm....trying to remember this one, but don't. And it's one of the first ones on my Kindle carousel at the moment, because Katie is reading it. I suspect that it's a Christian romance and basically harmless. And I feel kind of the same way about the use of the word "harmless" when describing a book as Emily Starr did. (Or was it even her Aunt Elizabeth who said that? Lucy Maud Montgomery, anyway.)

The Mayflower, Hourly History  Again, a good overview, and some facts that I'd either never learned or long since forgotten, despite having grown up in the U.S.-history-centric U.S. school system.

Ashley's Amish Adventures: An Outsider Living with the Amish, Ashley Emma  This is supposed to be an actual account, and may well be, but I found it a little unbelievable. The author was researching for writing an "Amish romance," and the Amish and Mennonite people with whom I've actually spoken about Amish romances have been generally quite disdainful about them, so it surprises me that this entire community was so happy to host the author (who was homeschooled) for her purposes.

Benny and the Bank Robber, Mary C. Findley  This was a book that started out really slow for me, and then I couldn't put it down, even when I got extremely annoyed with a twist that should NOT have happened, and yet was predictable, too. I'd guess it's written for about ages 10-12, not a difficult read, but not too terribly preachy.

Benjamin Franklin, Hourly History  No comments to add to the other "Hourly History" comments, except that I may have gotten less out of this having already read so much about Benjamin Franklin.

Andrew Jackson, Hourly History Unlike the previous Hourly History books I'd read, I previously knew very little about Andrew Jackson, so there was much more new information for me in this book, yet I was glad to only spend half an hour on the topic!

Friday, October 20, 2017

Traveling, Part Two: California Part One

Either I hardly blog for years or a manage a bunch of posts at once. (The "books I finished" posts don't really count, I think.) And for the week we were in California, I can EITHER write a sentence or two ("We stayed with one of my sisters at the beginning and end and went camping with much of the rest of the family in the middle, and it was cool that Marie was able to join us for that, too.") or write way too much. I'm opting for the way too much. Oh well, nobody is obligated to read this.

So we arrived late Monday night (September 25th), California time, in San Francisco. My sister Erin lives in San Bruno, ten minutes from the airport, in the house where my dad grew up, and in fact, where I lived from when I was three and a half until I was nearly six. The first couple of times returning to that house without my uncle and Grandma there were really strange, and even now, I half expect to see Grandma walking out of the kitchen, asking us what we want to eat while already preparing half a dozen things and sending Uncle Rich across the street to 7-11 to buy something else. Uncle Rich died in December 2007 and Grandma in August 2008, so it's been awhile now, but we don't go that often, either. (Katie and I visited Grandma in May 2008, our whole family went in December 2009/January 2010 to celebrate my parents 40th wedding anniversary and my brother's wedding, we went again not quite a year later in November/December 2010 for my sister's wedding, and then in November 2015 for my mother's 65th birthday.)

Anyway, Erin came to meet us, taking half of the family to the house and then going back for the rest. It was well past midnight and we'd been traveling for well over 24 hours by the time we arrived, so the only thing on the agenda that night was to collapse. Jörn and I got our own room and the children distributed themselves over the living room.

Tuesday, the main thing on the agenda was to Stay Awake. Erin and I took the girls shopping for underwear (that's the one thing, after 26 years of living in Europe, that I still regularly buy in the U.S. when I Europe, I can EITHER pay for it OR buy sufficient numbers), and as usual, I was way overwhelmed by the sheer quantities and varieties of EVERYTHING. Oh, and we got Elisabeth shoes, too. In Germany she informed me that her shoes were too small, and I had a look, and sure enough, they were. It would have been nice to know that before leaving Cyprus, as she probably has at least a dozen pairs of shoes. Oh well.

Then we packed a picnic and walked to the park.

When I first moved to Germany, the U.S. was in a phase of freaking out about dangerous playground equipment and they were taking out all the merry-go-rounds, swings, and fun slides. So for many years, I've thought of German playgrounds as being awesome and U.S. ones as being pretty boring. However, they've apparently come up with compromises in safety and fun, and we got to visit several pretty cool playgrounds in our short time in the U.S. Still no merry-go-rounds, but swings are back, and big climbing things.

We kept them awake as long as possible, but at some point, the battle was lost with Elisabeth and Helen...

Lukas was the only one who didn't fall asleep and didn't even doze, and he also slept through the first night and every night and was never up early. It was like he didn't have jet lag at all. (My sister-in-law told me that my brother doesn't believe in jet lag. I guess Lukas doesn't, either. I'd love to not believe in jet lag, but I'm not convinced that I can just "choose" not to...)
 Lukas and Jörn made, and all of us ate, dinner, and then my parents arrived. I don't have a photo of my mom, but here's one of my dad, with the girls awake (but ready for bed) and Jörn nearly asleep.

Shortly after, Katie succumbed:

And finally, Marie arrived!

She was shocked to see how much all the girls have grown, but that does happen when it's been a full year! Marie spent December 2015-June 2016 living with my sister Erin, just for a "different experience," including taking one psychology class at the community college, and working in a pretzel store in the mall. Then after the summer in Cyprus, she returned to the U.S. last year in September to help take care of my other sister's daughter. In August she moved out, to a shared apartment in Rocklin, and is enrolled full-time at Sierra College, where my dad got his AS degree when I was a child, and where I took a few classes during high school and an over-full load between Mexico and Germany (1990-1991), but never finished. At least one of my siblings, possibly two, also took classes there.

So here we are, still not the whole family, because Jacob stayed in Cyprus. Lukas trying hard to look tall...

Without a spirit level, it's STILL not conclusive if Lukas has quite passed up Marie in height yet. I think the book slants slightly to the right, but it also appears to be angled slightly back, so...I don't know. His shoulders definitely seem higher, anyway. By Christmas, the next time we see Marie, I'm sure that Lukas will have gotten another half centimeter or so and it won't be a debatable topic anymore. He's been slow to take off growing, but has grown quite a bit in the last year, finally. last photo, of the girls coloring. They spent a LOT of time doing that, both in San Bruno and while camping, and it was such a peaceful activity that my sister even lent us some nice pencils and a mandala book, but they unfortunately haven't been as interested here in Costa Rica.

On the Wednesday my sister took Helen and me to Target again, to look for socks for me (unsuccessfully--I was annoyingly picky, because I don't need socks in general, I wanted some specific running ones like I've found at Lidl in Cyprus occasionally), and to get more underpants for Helen, since the first ones we got were too small. (So now Elisabeth has a very large supply.) I also fixed the insides of my walking shoes with duct tape, which worked very well.

And at some point, we loaded ourselves and lots of stuff into my parents' RV and my mother's car, and set off for Santa Cruz...and so the next blogpost will be about the camping trip, but yet again, I hear small people stirring, so it's time to close the computer.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Traveling, Part One: Germany

Jörn and Lukas left Cyprus way back on September 13th, to go to an art conference in Germany. The three younger girls and I then flew to Germany (via Belgrade and Berlin to finally arrive in Düsseldorf: exactly 13 hours of travel when a direct flight would be about 4 1/2 hours, but saving lots of money) September 21st, which is when I got the camera back in my possession. And here it's already nearly an entire month later, we've been in Costa Rica for over two weeks, and I figured if I'm going to blog about our trip at all, I'd better get started!

Jörn and Lukas had stayed with friends during the conference, then Tuesday (19th) they went to the Daniells' in Angermund, Düsseldorf, where another friend also visited them, unfortunately before the rest of us arrived.

Düsseldorf is where I lived for my first three years and a bit in Germany, just down the street from Margaret and Phil Daniell. It was through the house group that met at their house that Jörn and I met each other. :-)

Thursday evening was dinner and hanging out and bed, and no photos. Their flat/apartment has only two bedrooms, but is perfectly laid out for guests and we've stayed there several times for a night or two. The three girls and Jörn and I all slept in the upstairs guest room, and Lukas slept on a mattress in the living room. Friday morning the children and Margaret and Phil played outside (there is a huge back garden) while I did a major re-packing: Jörn had sold a couple of paintings and a sculpture, so suddenly had LOTS of room in his suitcase, and we also didn't want to take everything with us to our church retreat that weekend, partly because it simply wouldn't fit in a vehicle. Once I'd finished, we all went for a walk.

This bridge is right at the entrance to the woods, maybe a five-minute walk from where I lived as a nanny. Margaret and Phil have moved now, but not very far away and live nearly as close to it as they did then. We played Pooh Sticks, which Lukas pointed out happily that we ALWAYS do.
 In the photo above, see that moss-covered pipe on the bottom left? It's fairly wide and nearly flat, and I started to walk across it...and very quickly felt very dizzy and had to stand still for quite awhile before I could back slowly off of it. That was rather annoying and embarrassing, and then I realized the reason: a few days earlier, I had gotten new glasses. This is my third prescription of varifocals (progressive lenses), and the lower portion, for reading, was what had changed the most since the last prescription. So when I tried to look down at my feet, it was impossible, as they were just a big blur. Oh well.

Here's the only posed photo we took--Phil's head is just barely visible there behind/between Lukas and Jörn, but it's nice of Margaret. The only evidence there is that I was at the Daniells' was that someone must have been holding the camera.

 As we continued our walk, Elisabeth got upset about something, I don't remember what, and stormed off and sat down. Lukas was very sweet with her. And look at all that GREEN!!! 

Friday afternoon our friend Christian came, and we loaded all the luggage and all of us into his car and Phil's car, and drove to our church, where we stored all of the suitcases. Then the six of us and our carry-ons fit into the car with Christian, and we said goodbye to Phil and headed off to the church retreat, less than an hour away.

The retreat was in a hostel in the mountains, and it was beautiful. And for us, coming from Cyprus, a little bit chilly, as evidenced by Lukas NOT in shorts, but jeans, and Helen playing chess with her hands inside her t-shirt!

We did take more photos at the retreat, but all of them have photos of other people's children. We had a great time re-connecting with friends from when we lived in Germany as well as friends who were just acquaintances when we left but we've gotten to know better since, and meeting lots of new people.

On each of the mornings (Saturday and Sunday) I also went for a long walk, which was wonderful. It didn't occur to me to take the camera, however. I was also a little puzzled about my heels hurting the second day, and about having holes in the heels of both of my socks, which I'd only worn maybe once or twice before. When I looked in my shoes, I discovered holes on the inside almost down to the soles! The soles themselves and the entire rest of the shoe look practically new, still, so that was very strange. I've never had a shoe wear like that before.

Christian unfortunately had to leave on Saturday, but left us his car. Sunday afternoon Katie left with our friends Gary and Elisabeth, leaving five of us to take Christian's car to go pick up our luggage (which then fit in the car because there were only five of us, not seven), and then go to Neukirchen-Vluyn, where Gary and Elisabeth live. Once again, I spent a lot of time there re-packing, after doing laundry, which was a nice treat. And once again, we took no photos, but had a very nice time with them.

Monday morning at something like 6:00 we loaded ourselves and our luggage into two cars (theirs and Christian's) and drove to the airport in Düsseldorf. Our flight wasn't until 10:50, but security personnel were on strike, so we were told to get to the airport three hours before our flight. At the airport, it occurred to us that we ought to take at least ONE photo, and hey, I'm even in this one, as it was taken by Lukas. Katie and my Elisabeth don't look all that pleased about being awake, but Helen sure looks chipper!

So, Düsseldorf to London, London to Dallas, and Dallas to San Francisco: another 22 hours of traveling instead of a direct flight that would have cost three to four times as much.

To be continued...but who knows when, because I hear children stirring.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Books finished in August 2017

When I opened my notebook (made of paper, people!) to write (with a ballpoint pen!) the titles of the last three books I finished, I was very surprised to see that I had already finished three other books this month. It sure didn't FEEL like I'd read that many, because the last two weeks were totally consumed with one book that I spent approximately 25 hours with, and didn't even really read. But I'll explain when I get there, in the meantime, here are the books I completed in August...

Farewell to the East End, Jennifer Worth  I'd never even heard of Jennifer Worth until my husband gave me Call a Midwife last Christmas, and then a friend lent me the second book, and then I found this third one in the give-away pile at the library just before the library closed for the summer! (Aside: the library opens again this Saturday! Yay!) Again, I enjoyed the writing style and the stories, in one of my favorite genres: memoirs that read like fiction.

Gypsy, Lesley Pearse  This was a story of the kind I very much enjoy, historical fiction about people braving the trip to the New World in the 19th century, and then even beyond, to Alaska. I can't actually remember having read anything about the Alaskan Gold Rush before, except that it happened. I really could have done without the rather explicit bedroom scenes that seemed dropped into the story just for the sake of having them, rather than to further the plot, and without them, I could have handed this book to Katie to read. Also, too many people died, which I suppose was pretty realistic, but it sometimes felt like the author was killing them off to prove a point, not because it had to happen. And I felt that one rather main character changed character rather suddenly just to make it easy for the author, but that was one of only very few moments during the book when I remembered I was reading a book, rather than living in England, traveling across North America, climbing a mountain, etc. It was awesome reading this in the summer--I was startled sometimes to look up and realize that it was hot out, because I'd thought I was shivering in the snow! Despite my comments of what I DIDN'T like, what I enjoyed stood out to me much more.

Change of Heart, Charlotte Bingham  Parts of this book felt totally surreal, all the more so because of how realistic most of it felt. Unusually for a novel (at least, of those I've read), and even more unusually for a novel written by a woman, the main character is a man. Or at least...the main character for the first part and the last part. The middle part (I don't have the book in front of me and can't say what fractions these parts are) is not exactly a flashback, but a backtracking to fill in the childhood of the woman to whom he is attracted. I found it frustrating how dense some of the characters seemed, not realizing what was going on, but also thought that was probably a better reflection of the complexities of real life than the books that have everybody always understanding everything immediately. And I liked the ending, although I had to read the last several pages several times to figure out what exactly had happened!

Housewives Can Change the World, Ann S. Eagle  I received this book from the author at the end of July and started reading it immediately. This is her story (but not her real name) from childhood until about seven years ago. The combination of title and content brought somewhat the same feelings as a book I read many years ago that was written by a homeschooling mother of ten, called A Mom Just Like You. In that case, although I enjoyed the book, it was a bit difficult to believe that a mother of ten, who was homeschooling all of her children and whose husband was traveling a lot AND who wrote a book, could realistically claim to be anything at all like me. I think I had three children at the time and couldn't write a page, much less a book! (On the other hand, now that I have six children and the youngest is seven years old, I also realize that time runs differently when they're all small and many things ARE easier now than it was then with only half as many...but not all things.) In this case, "Ann" had rather more challenges to overcome than I've ever had, and moved as a married adult to a foreign country, which I think is considerably more difficult than to do so as a single 20-year-old, which is what I did. She also moved to a considerably more different culture than I did. She claims that she's "just a housewife," but certainly appears to be more involved in the work than I've ever been. (Not to mention that I refuse to call myself a housewife: I am not married to my house. But I do realize that that's just a matter of semantics.) I was fascinated by the story and then misplaced the book not just in the middle of a chapter, but the middle of an emergency scene, and didn't get the book back until the day before yesterday! I didn't actually think there was any chance at all of finishing the book that day, because I had way too much other stuff to do (see the next book...), but ended up reading for nearly an hour during the girls' piano lessons, then drove Jacob somewhere that evening and had to wait for him "just for ten minutes," which turned out to be just over half an hour and exactly enough time to finish the book.

Intercession through Creative Expression, Jörn Lange  You may be very interested in this book written by my husband, which is available at Amazon and at CreateSpace, but please do NOT order it until at least the 5th of September or so, because the version currently available is NOT the final proofread version! The new one was uploaded in the night from Tuesday to Wednesday (29th to 30th), but could take 5 business days to actually have the changes. I wasn't entirely sure whether I should include this book, because although I read every single word of it, much of it out loud, and took approximately 25 hours over 12 days to do so (over half of that in the last three days of that time), I can't say that I took a whole lot of it in. I wasn't actually going to have anything to do with the proofreading of this book, nor did my husband want me to, because, so he claims, he wanted "British English" rather than American. But when I saw the proof copy and saw about ten errors on the first page, I more or less begged to proofread it, although I do not at all enjoy proofreading and am sure that I missed many things. And, of course, with very few exceptions, I much prefer American spelling, so it wasn't like I was even going to notice things like "realize"...until I saw "realizing" and "realising" both in the very same paragraph. The biggest issue wasn't errors so much as inconsistencies, in punctuation, spelling, and capitalization. Our friend Richard spent countless hours on the layout of the book (and also designed the awesome cover), during which he found and corrected plenty of typos himself although he wasn't even intentionally reading the text, and then countless more making all the changes I'd marked. Richard is very good at very many things, and one of them is using "search and replace" effectively. So they searched for the letter-combinations "ize" and "izing" and if the word was realize or symbolize or such, he changed it to realise or symbolise. And if it was size or seize, he of course did know better than to change it to sise or seise, although that would have been interesting. ;-) Likewise capitalized Nouns (my husband is German, and in German, ALL nouns are capitalized...) I definitely should add that the parts of the book that got through to me I found quite interesting, and not too much to disagree with theologically. It's not at all the type of book I would read normally, but I think it's an excellent book for the people to whom it will be interesting, namely, artists who seek to use their arts (painting, dancing, composing, etc.) in worship and intercession. I apologize (not apologise) in advance for typos and inconsistencies I missed.

It's a Sunrise, Not a Sunset, Ann S. Eagle  After finishing the proofreading of Jörn's book Tuesday night (August 29th) just before 10:30 p.m., and handing the final page to Richard while he was working on the third to last page (timing...), I most certainly did not expect to finish reading another book this month, or at least, not one that I wasn't nearly finished with anyway. However, yesterday the children wanted to go to the playground to meet with some friends who have been here for the summer and are going home on Sunday. I do not DO the playground in the summer. But it's been a little bit cooler (well, less hot) the last few days, and there is some shade there, so I finally agreed to take them, with the understanding that I was going to sit and read and was not going to play. (I do usually play when we go to the playground, just ignoring the signs that have some random comments about ages on them...) So I took this book with me and read for over two hours, and at the risk of using Christianese, it really "spoke to me." I must admit, that after 25 hours proofreading one 300-page book, I had considerably more sympathy with proofing errors in this book than I had had while reading the first one by this author, and was able to appreciate the content more. Either way, I think I could relate personally to this book more than to the first anyway, because it's about Ann in the last several years, as a mature woman with children of ages similar to my children's ages, facing changes in her life similar to ones that we may be facing soon. So when the children all wanted to meet up again in the afternoon at the beach, I said yes, as long as I could stay in the shade. (I normally only go to the beach in the early morning or late afternoon/evening: in 8 1/2 years in Cyprus, yesterday was the SECOND TIME I was at the beach during the day.) And so I got to read for another hour or so (we were there for two hours, but the time was much more interrupted, with keeping an eye on the children, and talking with them, and talking with the other children's grandmother, etc.), and then tonight after Helen and Elisabeth had gone to bed (and after I'd finished reading the last chapter of Peter Pan to them--now THERE'S a weird book!!), I actually finished it.

I'm fairly sure that I read some books on my Kindle this month, but didn't write them down. I have another three weeks to read books on paper, and then it will be pretty much only my Kindle for at least...well, I don't really know how long. That's another story. Which I don't know yet.

Oh yes, one paragraph in particular in It's a Sunrise, Not a Sunset that I felt like I could have written:

"Have you ever been so hurt, disappointed, disillusioned, without hope of any reconciliation and yet not giving up on God? It's a weird feeling. To have peace with God, feel secure in His love, not blame Him for all that happened around you, yet feel absolutely hopeless with your surrounding circumstances."