23 01 2009


This has been a difficult day at the end of a pretty nice week.  I just needed to see a smile.

We love you, Anna.

Dad, Mom, and Sam


Planning for Italy

22 01 2009
Amalfi Coast

Amalfi Coast

Okay, where were we.  Alitalia is going bankrupt.  Not sure if they even fly out of Chicago anymore.  Rome is in a state of emergency.  Venice is so far underwater that extreme sports people have descended on the city to take advantage of the water.  Oh yes, our decision to fly into Naples.

When I bought the tickets online, I found really cheap tickets from Chicago to Rome.  “Well,” I thought, “If they have cheap tickets to Rome, then maybe they have cheap rates to other cities as well.”  Chicago to Milan?  No.  Costs more.  Chicago to Venice?  To Florence?  No, and no.  Chicago to Naples?  Hey, I just saved $400!  And Naples is farther south, so it will be a warmer place to stay.  What a great deal!  At this point the little voice inside my head must have been blinded by the $400 and sunshine so that it was not asking the obvious question, “The airline wants to fly you to Rome and then put you on another plane to Naples.  And they will give you $400 to do so.  Why are they trying to get you to Naples?”  Who cares?  Just buy the ticket.

Then we started our planning.  We checked out all the travel books from the library.  We scoured the internet for information.  And we started reading things like, “If you travel south to Rome [assuming you are starting your trip in the north of Italy] and you find that you have had enough of Italy, turn around and go back.  It only gets worse.”  Or the one about Naples being the hub of organized crime in Italy.  That was a good one.  Or the time we started to look for a place to stay in Naples and we read, “We can’t imagine why anyone would want to stay in Naples, but if you must . . .”  My favorite was one of the travel books that began its section on Naples with the heading, “Naples: A Tough City to Love, But It’s Worth the Effort.”

That $400 was starting to look like a bad trade.

Back to the Beginning

20 01 2009


Samuel loved his little sister!  A friend of mine from work, whenever she saw a pictire of Samuel, would always say, “Look at that big cheesy grin!”  She said he always looked like he was up to something.  He still does.  Sometimes.

Anna changed so much from her baby pictures.  When she was a baby she had that big round face.  Kind of a Winston-Churchill-in-diapers kind of look.  You can still see her big cheeks on the picture of Timberley and her in Jakarta.  But something happened when she was about seven when she suddenly turned into a tall, thin young lady.  And a beautiful one at that.

In Sam’s case, well some things never change.

Trip to Italy, part 3

19 01 2009


So we have tickets on a soon-to-be-bankrupt Italian airline.  This soon-to-be-bankrupt Italian may or may not fly out of the airport for which we have tickets.  (As it turned out, my brother was mistaken.  He aplogized later for his mistake.  You are forgiven, Dave.)  I wonder what winter weather is like in Italy.

We read on the internet that winter is a fine time to go to Italy as long as you don’t go north of Florence.  But we’re Americans.  We’re used to the cold.  We’ll go wherever we please, thank you very much.  Let’s go to Venice!  (For those of you who are not sure where this is going, Venice is north of Florence.)  Let’s check the weather on the internet, shall we.  We turn on the computer, open up the explorer.  Before we can get to a weather site, we find that we don’t need to look there.  The Italian weather is so bad that it has made the US news!  Rome has had so much rain that it has been declared a state of emergency.  And Venice is experiencing some strange tides that have brought on the worst flooding for the last forty years or so.  Things have gotten so bad in Venice that a world-famous Dutch wake boarder made news and brought the attention of the Venetian police by wake boarding through St. Mark’s Square.

How is this going to turn out?

First Day in Indonesia, March 2003

18 01 2009


This picture was taken our first morning in Indonesia.  It was March of 2003.  We were staying in a guesthouse in Jakarta while our immigration paperwork was being processed.  It is strange that at such a momentous time I do not have many clear memories.  Perhaps it was the location of the guest house.  It was located in a busy, downtown area of Jakarta.  The street was full of offices and small stores, of which we knew little to nothing.  In this photo Timberley and Anna were taking a walk to a grocery store a few blocks down the road.  Little did we know at the time that the dirty, slightly odiferous convenience store down the road was part of one of the largest and finest grocery chains in the country.  The dirt was not from the store itself.  It was simply everywhere.  In one newspaper, Jakarta had the nickname “The Big Smoke.”  At street level the pollutants are horrible.  The exhaust from busses and trucks is so thick at times that one is unable to see through it.  If you get  caught in the middle of a large blast from an accelerating bus, you are momentarily blinded in a thick black fog.

The smell of Jakarta, and of the grocery store we visited, was not as bad as I had imagined before we arrived.  Much of the foul odor inside the store came from the fruit section.  The large, round, thorny durian fruit filled the boxes in the produce section and filled the air with its pungent and unmistakable odor.  Years later I was driving into Semarang for church one Sunday morning.  I had the window of the car rolled down to enjoy the morning air.  As I approached Semarang I had to roll the windows up because of the bad odor.  At first I thought it was durian season.  But then I realized it was just people outside burning their trash.

When we returned to Indonesia early in 2007 after spending seven months in America Anna got off the airplane in Jakarta, took a big, long sniff of air, and said, “Oh, I just love the smell of Indonesia!”

Italy, part 2

18 01 2009

dscf4302There were a few other times during the planning process that should have given me pause.  After the warning that Alitalia was “only flying until the fuel runs out” I went ahead and made our reservations.  We made our plans to visit my brother’s family in Chicago for Christmas and they agreed to take us to O’Hare for our departure.  My brother works at O’Hare as an air traffic controller.  In the course of one phone conversation he asked me, “So what airline are you flying?”  “Alitalia,” I innocently replied.  There was a pause.  “Alitalia?” he said, “Alitalia doesn’t fly out of Chicago anymore.”  A longer pause on my end.  “But I already bought the ticket.  They must fly out of Chicago.”  He went on to say that he hadn’t seen an Alitalia plane in a long time, but that there was another Italian airline flying out of Chicago.

What had we done?  Was this some sort of internet scam being run by the Italian mafia?

Anna’s Violin Lesson

17 01 2009


Anna loved music.  She loved listening to it.  She loved hearing stories about composers.  She loved dancing to it.  And she loved making it.  She and Samuel are both very gifted in music.  Samuel has a beautiful voice.  Anna sang with a great deal of passion (as she did everything), but her real gift was on the piano and, had she had the chance, would have been on the violin.

Anna had a love affair with the violin.  It was not too different than her attitude about peaches.  When we were in Indonesia Anna would say repeatedly that she wanted to return to America so she could eat peaches.  She loved peaches.  She would talk about peaches and dream about peaches.  But then one day I remember her asking her mother, “Do I like peaches?”  It turned out that Anna did not remember ever eating a peach, but that she had developed this image of peaches as something not in Indonesia.  To her, a peach represented America.  It represented something new.  A can of peaches was something that came in a gift box from America.  To a certain extent, the violin was the same thing.  She had heard violins.  She knew that violins were beautiful to listen to.  They were beautiful to look at.  But she had never played one before.  We told Anna that when she grew a little older she could begin taking violin lessons.  We found a teacher in Indonesia.  We found out where we could buy the instrument.  We were just waiting for the right time.

In the meantime, we came home for Christmas in 2007.  In our time here we visited my brother in Chicago.  His daughter, Emily, is an accomplished violinist.  She is in high school now and has been playing in a local youth symphony outside of Chicago for a number of years.  She has traveled to Spain with the orchestra and this year will go to Italy.  While we were in Chicago she gave Anna a lesson.  It was a long lesson.  They played together for several hours.  When they were finished, Emily came in and said, “She is very good.  She just went through the first few months of lessons in a few hours.” 

When we returned to Indonesia Anna said she was ready.  Anna was already taking piano and voice lessons and we did not want to add a third music lesson.  So we wanted to wait until we finished with one of the others.  But Anna persisted, “If you get me the violin now, I know enough from what Cousin Emily taught me that I can teach myself.”  I knew Anna and I knew that she was right.  She loved to practice.  She was smart.  She had a good ear.  She could figure it out.

But still we waited.  After Anna’s accident Timberley and I told people that we had no regrets in the way that we raised Anna.  There was nothing that we looked back on and said, “We wished we had done such and such.”  But I was wrong.  I wish I had gotten the violin for Anna.

The big story in the news yesterday was about an airliner that crashed into the Hudson River in New York.  The pilot is a hero today because of the way he handled the emergency and saved the lives of all the passengers.  I listened to a radio program last night and the host said that the lives of all those passengers will be changed forever.  He said that they of course will be happy that they have survived the crash, but the lasting change in their lives will come because they will now have perspective on the brevity of life.  They will know that life is something precious that can be taken away at a moment’s notice.

For the Christian, this should not be news.  The Bible is clear and persistent in the message that our life is like a vapor.  With the cold weather we have been having lately the visible vapor from our breath may last a little longer than normal, but it still fades in just a few seconds.  So does our life.  The Bible says we are like grass that withers.  Like a flower that fades away.

Our life is too brief.  Don’t wait to make music.