Thursday, January 31, 2008

Weeping May Endure for a Night

Today in Atlanta is the memorial service for Donica's cousin-in-law, Sam, who finally lost her 5-year battle with colon cancer. She was only 55.

Last week I was in the Holland polder outside of Amsterdam, taking pictures with Astrid near her home. When I saw this weeping willow, I immediately thought of Sam and took this for her, knowing her days were numbered.

This is what I said on Shutterchance today:

We have loved you in Life, Sam, and will love you in death.
We will see you again. Prepare a place for us!

"Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." (Psalms 30:5)


Tomorrow Donica and I fly home to Atlanta on the same plane! We will miss today's service but there will be another one later for all of us who don't make it today.
We're so thankful.

Please pray for Theresa (Sam's partner) and the rest of Donica's family.
We've known this was coming but it's still a severe grief.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Utrecht Cathedral

Is it really possible that I am BUSIER here in Amsterdam than when I'm home in Atlanta? YES! I can hardly believe it but I can hardly catch my breath, going from one thing and one person to another. BUT I'm NOT complaining!!!! I am loving every minute of my life here in this fair city/country! I'm even learning Dutch!

Last week, BEFORE all the shenanigans from my last post with Tracy (from England) and Astrid and Scarlet from Holland, I went by train to Utrecht and met up with Astrid to take photos of the city. It so happened that it was raining the entire day, so all we could do was take pictures of the inside of the city's cathedral, the Cathedral of Saint Martin or the Dom Church.

This is Astrid, snapping away. And in spite of the fact that we were on each other's heels, we both took very different photos throughout the day. That's the fun about being photographers. No two ever see exactly the same thing at the same time/place!

Outside the church is this statue that stands in front of a HUGE banner on the side of the church that is a painting of the renovation they plan to do inside. Can you believe that's a backdrop painting?!

Inside is a treasure trove of art, some of which was defaced in 1572 during the Iconoclast Fury in which statues in a house of God were considered idolatrous images which had to be destroyed. So sad.

After lunch, we had reserved spots for an hour's tour of the Dom Tower that happens to be Holland's tallest church tower at 112.5 metres (368 feet) in height.

In the belfry, after 221 steps up (49 m/161 ft), is a set of 14 bronze bells weighing 31,000 kg (68,343 lbs) total. This is one of the smaller bells. The set is the heaviest in Holland and, after the set in the Dom of Cologne, Germany, is the heaviest in Europe.

At 318 steps (70 m/230 ft) we reached the Latern, which is an open, octangular-shaped room housing 50 carillon bells. While we were in that space, the wind and rain came howling through the open windows, nearly making the taking of photos impossible.

A handful of us continued climbing yet again, 465 steps by now (95 m/312 ft), to the highest platform where we stood outside in the wind and rain to see the city. What you see here is Utrecht's water tower, and a fancy one at that!

Even though we could NOT take photos of the outside church/tower, because of the rain, we felt very lucky to get the pictures we got! One day, when the weather clears up and sun is predicted, we'll go back and walk the city!

This week I had the chance to visit Astrid in Arkel again for a full day of seeing the REAL Holland, out where the polders are (the dikes, you know!). Once I get those photos ready, I'll show you what life outside of Amsterdam is like!

Last night I walked to the Portuguese-Israeli Synagogue here in town to take photos of the lit candles from 5-7p. THOSE photos are also to come.

And tomorrow I meet another blogger friend, Philine, who is my age. Well, she's not a blogger, per se, but a commenter on our Shutterchance blogs. She happens to be in AMS from Germany this weekend and was willing and ready for a meet-up. I'm beginning to think all roads lead to Amsterdam! :)

See what I mean about being busy!

Back at the ranch, Donica is in the thick of a bout with bronchitis, caught while in Brussels this week. She came home today and was so weak that I had to meet her at the train station to help her home with her suitcase. Poor thing! We're glad for the weekend now and hope that these next 2 days of rest will be just what the doctor ordered!

Hopefully YOU are busy with life and healthy. Be safe, stay warm, and PAY ATTENTION as Mercury Retrograde goes into effect from Jan. 28 - Feb. 19. Just HAD to end with that, you know. It'll slow us all down...even me!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Bloggers Out the Wazoo!

When it rains, it pours! And that's exactly what we all needed.

First Tracy from England flew in on Wednesday evening. Even though we had never set eyes on each other, we both KNEW we'd hit it off. We had been commenting off and on each other's photos on our Shutterchance photoblog for months. We weren't disappointed!!

Yes, every bit the hoot she appears!

Then Astrid arrived early Friday morning and the 3 of us went off to scout out the city. Astrid knows Amsterdam better than I do. But Tracy had been here only once almost 20 years ago.

And yes, Tracy is TALL. 6 feet, to be exact!

We had way too much fun playing around with our cameras and goofing off like teenagers. Hey! It was good for the soul!

In between all our goofiness, we acted like the serious photographers we all think we are!

Then we picked up Scarlet for lunch here at the apartment and did our prerequisite group photo via tripod!
Ginnie, Astrid, Tracy and Scarlet (l to r).

After at least 2 hours of yakkity-yakking while sitting at the table, we all picked up our cameras and started learning from each other! Tracy taught me about my 9-point focus system on our same Canon cameras. Astrid taught me about changing the White Balance based on the inside lighting. Scarlet was fiddling with her camera because it was acting up on her. And I don't think I taught anyone anything!

This was my collage on Shutterchance today, since all four of us are bloggers there. And because Tracy was the new gal on the block for me, she was the one I emphasized.

It still astounds me how many bloggers I have been able to meet by living here in Amsterdam half of each month. I've decided if I live long enough, I might be able to meet everyone...even the ones here on In Soul. You know who you are! And this is a new year.
Off to a good start!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Christmas Past

You knew I would eventually get back to OUR Christmas at home, right?! I've now completed 4 of the 5 Christmas albums from here there and everywhere. THIS is from home, way back on Sunday the 23rd. So, yes, I've been going backwards in time.

I think I told you that Donica's job is always the hors d'oeuvres. She's the Queen of them. So everyone came early, around noon, to start enjoying the day.

After hors d'oeuvres was the Christmas stockings. Actually, Donica does those and she's Queen of them as well. In fact , the kids say they enjoy them as much as the "real" presents. And besides, this is the one time when everyone can "open" their stockings at the same time. No one has to wait.
And then Nicholas gets to open all his gifts because he always has the most. And we all watch him. Kids!

BUT when the rest of us start opening our gifts, we have a tradition: one gift at a time, one person at a time, going around the room till they're all opened. I can't stand free-for-all gift opening! After all the time and energy and thought put into the gifts, each for the other, there needs to be some careful respect. That's my motto!

Besides, some gifts are so touching, everyone has to look and see...

...and laugh, together!

There's even time to discover and explore and pay attention.

Then we all went outside. This year, the weather was NICELY permitting!

Mark and Dennis threw the football...

...while Donica and Amy held down the fort, Nicholas tried out his new Nintendo DS game, and G'ma took the pictures.

Speaking of G'ma, lucky her, she gets to show you HER special gift of the day: another photo book from Amy (remember last year's on our Castles of Scotland?!). This one is a compilation of photos I took of her and Mark from when she was age 0-13. Can you imagine THAT! OMG! How can she top that, two years in a row!

And speaking of Amy, here she is after all that outside fresh air, fixing the spinach salad for the Christmas dinner. That's always her dinner contribution. It's to die for!

My part was the traditional pot of Chicken Paprikash that we all grew up on from their dad's mom years ago. Though a Hungarian poor-man's dish, it suddenly became what we all decided was our favorite dish after the divorce. Once a year at Christmas!

It's one of the few times we actually eat in the dining room! If you squint, you can see that Nicholas really IS there, on the other side of Donica.

Later, after the dishes are done and there's room in our stomachs, Mark's from-scratch pumpkin pie comes out! He's the King of our desserts in the same way Donica is the Queen of our hors d'oeuvres. We ALWAYS save room for his pumpkin pie. It's a no-brainer.

By the last bite, we've just finished 8 hours together! A beautiful memory of family time, now with Dennis included! He fits right in, of course. He doesn't need to be married to Amy YET to be part of the family. But that'll come quickly. June 1 is not that far away, as we all know.


In the here and now, Donica and I are both safe-n-sound in Amsterdam. On Wednesday evening, Tracy/Lurch from the UK, part of my Shutterchance photoblog (SC), arrives by plane for a couple days here at the apartment. On Friday, Astrid and Scarlet, the Dutch Girls, will join us for fun and games. A mini-SC meet-up!

Life is always exciting, isn't it! How could I ask for more?!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

God Bless the Children

By now I have finished 3 of my 5 Christmas albums between Georgia and Michigan! The "important" ones, with all of the kids, are done. And while working on them, I couldn't help but be all philosophical about them!

How can we NOT be mindful of our children! They are our future. They are the ones we need to be all they're meant to be and NOT like the rest of the world.

Here's the batch from my side of the family in Michigan (NOT the ones of Nicholas here in Georgia, yet!! That's another album on its own, of course!!)...the wee ones from my niece and nephews (in no particular order):

Greta and Audrey

Lydia and Audrey


Aden and Lydia



Audrey, Lydia and Eli




Lydia and Audrey









From Donica's side of the family there are these two cherubs from a cousin:





How, pray tell, can we not teach them well? You tell me!


Donica left for Europe this past Sunday and is in the snowcapped Switzerland mountains, as we speak, on a team-building trip. I fly to Amsterdam tomorrow, arriving on Friday morning. Donica will join me on Saturday for the rest of the month.