It was now Easter 1998 at our house in Meadow View Cottage, and our family’s tradition has always been to enjoy a nice breakfast before Mass – here’s our dining room table set for breakfast with my wife’s many decorating touches.
A vase of daises decorates our kitchen table along with a few small Easter touches – our holiday traditions have always been very important to our family – the open doorway leads into the dining room next door.
We were enjoying our life in Bridge Street Hamlet, and this would be our third spring in rural Suffolk, immersed in the countryside and flavors of a time and place that acknowledged the present…and celebrated the past.
I’ve always enjoyed seeing decorated Easter eggs, symbols of the new life that is promised us at Easter – and here my wife has hung a number of Easter eggs from a wreath in our foyer under our staircase.
In these quiet moments of reflection, the stress and strains of modern life and external events just fades away, replaced with the calmer waters of tradition, commitment, shared values and memories.
Family traditions arise over time from shared experiences and memories, created season by season throughout the years, by keeping that which strengthens and reinforces, and letting go of the things that don’t.
Our kitchen window decorated for Easter, with small touches that are welcome reminders of the season in unexpected moments – my wife made the blue and white curtains and the bow, but these lace curtains were purchased and weren’t handmade.
David’s ready to enjoy my wife’s homemade Easter cake while I take this picture – coffee & cake in the late afternoon is one of our favorite family traditions ever since I first moved to Germany in 1983!
Our two, young parakeets were welcome additions to our family in 1998, and a source of joy for us with their individual antics, mannerisms and personalities – I gave them flying lessons when we first purchased them, using hand held perches in our upstairs bathroom.
The largest Easter egg hanging under my wife’s hand-crocheted lampshade, is a goose egg that David colored for Kindergarten during the time we lived in Monzelfeld, Germany, between 1989 and 1991.
It’s nice for me to pause and reflect on these photos of the time we lived in England, prior to retiring and moving to Keene, NH, in 2001 – our time spent in both Germany and England were very special years for our family.
Posting my pictures over the past few years has been a nice stroll down memory lane for me, from my childhood years up to this time in 1998 – I have one more photo post following this one, and then I’ll switch gears and begin posting my writings that tell the story behind my pictures!
Here, David stands in front of our Christmas tree on Christmas Eve, and with this post I’m nearing the completion of some 41 years of photos I’ve been posting on my blog over the past couple of years.
I postponed, posting my early writings a few years ago, in order to first tell my story through photos, and now as I draw a close to this chapter of posting my photos, I’ll soon return to posting my writings once again.
These photos serve to tell anyone at a glance, so many small details about our family and of how and where we’ve lived along the way, which provide both background and authenticity to the story I tell through in my writings.
My story really isn’t that different than anyone else’s, except for the fact, I lived my life very deliberately and purposefully in the pursuit of my hopes and dreams – and succeeded in documenting it all along the way.
The ‘success’ of one’s life, isn’t measured by appearances, positions, fortune or fame…but in the journey, meaning and purpose you’ve committed to through your life along the way.
Each of us has a different calling and purpose for our lives, and much of our early years, are often focused with struggling to determine what that calling and purpose is for our lives, and how to find and live it.
I tell the story of my ‘interior life’ from a very young age, of a world around me that didn’t match up to my expectations or beliefs, and about how I couldn’t reconcile how things should be, with the reality of my experience.
So my ‘internal life’ was one of questions, doubts, anguish and turmoil that I experienced as I determined to go my own way from a very young age, and the frustrations of attempting to live the life I’ve always imagined it could be.
In so many ways, my ‘internal life’ remains discontented to this day as I continue this internal dialogue of mismatched perceptions, imagination and reality…of how things are…and of how things should be in the world around us.
As an idealist, I look at our lives and at Earth from a ‘distance,’ pondering this oasis we all live on as it orbits the sun – and simply can’t understand why we haven’t built a kinder, gentler and more peaceful world…in the limited time we all have together in this world.
I grew up watching the events of the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement and the ’60s displayed on the evening news every day after school…and couldn’t reconcile why the world was the way it was…and couldn’t understand why it wasn’t evolving into something much better than this…and still can’t.
We’re all born into a world that we have no control of or authorship for, and weighing all I saw and felt around me, I couldn’t and wouldn’t accept the ‘status-quo’ as an acceptable reality…and was determined to search for the life I always imagined I’d have.
I wanted a ‘new reality’ on almost every level, as I interacted with or observed the world around me, always discontented with the options I was presented with or that were made available to me at the time.
It is this disenchantment and frustration that I write about, about options and choices I didn’t want to pick from or to call my own…the ‘shoe’ simply didn’t fit my imagination…and I wasn’t about to take ownership of them either.
So I went my own way looking for adventure and authenticity, giving up the comforts of a middle-class life for the unknown – often without a safety net to catch me if I fell.
Adventures are times of discovery and serendipity, because adventures rarely take you where you think you need to go, and like Bilbo Baggins, become ‘unexpected journeys’ on so many different levels.
I originally wanted a life of adventure and travel and found it in spades, but I really found everything else I never even knew I was looking for in my life or ever hoped to find.
There’s always a thread running through our lives that describes us and tells our stories – a byline, tagline, theme, brand or a message – that summarizes the life we’ve lived from start to finish.
It’s best to know your own message and live it purposefully along the way, instead of letting someone else write and inscribe it on a tombstone once it’s all said and done – Carpe Diem, seize the day – while you still can!
I often wished while growing up, that there was someone or something that I could identify with and reference my life to, there was no internet back then, so I had to resolve my life myself…on my own terms…which I did through my writing.
In telling my story, I’m giving others of any age, the support and encouragement of knowing that they’re not alone in their struggles…because other people have been there too, and succeeded against all odds, when the world around them didn’t make any sense and they longed for something better!
Enjoying an Advent coffee & cake with Christmas music playing in the background in the days leading up to Christmas, is one of our very, favorite pastimes – allowing us to savor the entirety of Advent and the Christmas season.
Although the camera seemed to be moving in this picture, for some reason I remained still…sometimes life is like that…when we somehow find that we’re out of sync with the rest of the world.
We often get caught up in thinking that life has to be about ‘big things’ – prestige, accolades, fortune and fame – when really it’s about doing all the little things in life…to the very best ability you are capable of.
Creating special moments in life is what really matters and defines you, that you’ll cherish and remember forever – not the ones that filled-in all the time in-between with ‘stuff’ that you’ll never remember again.
Life is often about creating special moments when your heart is at rest…quiet and very still…while watching the setting sun or discovering that a rainbow fills the sky…when all is well with your soul, and you can hear yourself ponder and think.
Looking back at these photos, our family has always lived very quietly and simply; and while others may think it’s a bit boring, I’ve loved the peacefulness we’ve enjoyed through our 26 years of marriage.
David had his own Christmas tree in his room in those days, with the original ornaments my wife and I acquired during the early days of our marriage – traditional German wooden and straw ornaments painted mostly in reds and whites.
Peacefulness is one of life’s most valuable blessings, and while some seem to seek out and fill their lives with hectic drama and confusion…I prefer music, calm, quiet, contemplation, projects and peace.
That explains why Christmas is my favorite time of the year, not for attending high profile parties, but for enjoying the ambiance and nature of what Christmas and the holidays really mean to our family.
Christmas teaches us to savor all the special moments that really matter in our lives…for the True meaning of Christmas, friends and family, the thoughtfulness of a beautifully wrapped gift, the thankfulness for our many blessings and the care we extend to other hearts throughout the year.
I’ve never believed that the world must accept the endless status quo and circle of violence and chaos that has consumed it throughout history…so if I can somehow help bring a little peace to our world, of course, I’ll try.
A few years ago, I researched creating a non-profit organization dedicated to creating World Peace, but quickly learned I don’t have the financial resources to run one…but one day, when God’s willing and my heart’s fully ready and prepared…it just may happen.
It’s peace that enables all other human activities and endeavors to flourish and prosper, including for our family and yours, and perhaps the greatest ingredients to peace are to know you’re appreciated, understood, respected, cared for and loved.
So instead of having a singular, ‘Department of State’…nations should become, ‘Departments of Peace and Love’ – towards their own citizens, as well as, to all the people of our beautiful planet.
The world’s entire paradigm needs to change, from looking at singular issues like the economy, education or defense…to approaching the future in a holistic way, through the lens of peace and love…after which, the rest of the details won’t really seem to matter very much at all.
The years seem to fly by at this point, looking back through my photo albums – here it is Christmas again! As you know, I love Christmas!
If I can’t invite everyone over for coffee & cake at Christmastime, I can at least offer you a tour of our home!
As 1997 began to draw to a close, and with David quickly growing up, like many parents, our picture taking was beginning to taper off as the years went by.
In the years to follow, our family began to look ahead towards retirement and moving back to the States…and our trips around the UK and Europe would begin to taper off.
Soon, I’ll begin to transition from posting photos on my blog, to instead posting my autobiography and all the writings I’ve compiled over the years.
My guess is that I have about 10 more posts of photos to go before beginning to post my writings, which tell the story behind all the photos I’ve been posting over the past few years!
In most every phase of my life, I wrote something that captures the thoughts and events of my life at that time, and once compiled together, they all dovetail to tell my story.
My story is one of following my dreams from an early age, with all the twists and turns and adventures along the way – not for fame or fortune – but to show you that your dreams can also come true!
We all have a dream that has been placed in our hearts by God, and our job is one of discovery and fulfillment – because His dream was given to us for a much greater purpose!
For you see, if I hadn’t had a dream of adventure and travel, I would never have met my wife in a small village in Germany…and my son would never have been born!
Behind the scenes I’ll continue scanning photos to keep our family organized…and I’ll still occasionally post special photos for your enjoyment!
I look forward to sharing my photos, thoughts and writings with all of you for many years to come…because I’ll never run out of content or thoughts on this journey of ours I call, “Life, Love & the Human Condition!”
My wife and I worked hard to create a special ‘cottage garden’ at Meadow View Cottage, that would be worthy of the name we had given our home.
Even though we rented all the homes we lived in during the 16 years we lived in Germany and England, we took great pride in taking the very best care of them that we possibly could.
We planted birch trees, roses and annuals in our courtyard’s flower beds around our front yard, in order to add color, greenery and a vertical dimension to Meadow View Cottage.
The pink-flowering clematis we planted loved the Mediterranean micro-climate that our south-facing front courtyard had, and it was quickly growing up the guide wires I installed to lead it along the roof line.
Even our front side-yard was springing to life in color, which made a nice contrast to the ever present green backdrop of Bridge Street Hamlet and the English countryside.
Sunshine was often fickle in England, hiding behind partially cloudy and overcast skies, and was welcomed anytime it showed up for a visit!
We especially loved all the roses, which grew eagerly and with an abundance of blooms, each competing with the next for position in the sunshine.
Flower gardens are a joy to see with their colors, sizes and shapes all merging into a texture and pattern of natural vitality and beauty.
Our birch trees were now beginning their second growing season, filling in and helping to define the natural separation the fence created between our front and back yards.
Our small and often overlooked front side yard began to come into its own as well, no longer playing second fiddle to the more visible and prominent front flower bed.
Our front side yard was becoming a ‘destination’ to itself; while not a very large space, the short wall created a cozy surrounding backdrop that helped define it as a space to itself.
The irises were growing tall and enjoying the sunshine they were exposed to, while the birch trees slowly matured and filled in all the space both around and above them with their fresh, new leaves.
It was now Easter 1997, and my wife has always baked a traditional Easter cake for coffee and cake, and decorated the dining room to make the event memorable and special for all of us.
Our family has always lived a quiet life with seasonal traditions that have carried on through the years, especially because they work for us and we enjoy them – and Easter is no different!
Our family has always had china and porcelain items for both daily use and as seasonal decorations around the house, and all the years David was growing up he never broke or damaged a single item.
Many of the Easter eggs displayed on my wife’s crocheted lampshade date back to David’s early grade school years, where he decorated Easter eggs both at home with his mom as well as at school.
Traditions are important to families, and after 26 years of marriage many of our family’s traditions began in the very first years of our time together as a family and continue on unchanged even today!
In December 1996, we had a nice snowfall that turned the normally green English countryside into a winter wonderland – this is our good friends’ cottage next door to our house at the time.
Thatched roof cottages have a special, magical feel to them that’s all their own, as if they’ve just stepped out of a wondrous and classic fairy tale from days gone by!
Bridge Street Hamlet is a sleepy little corner of Suffolk, England, and our good friends in this quaint little cottage were the best neighbors we’ve ever had!
This thatched roof cottage was a stone’s throw from our house just up the street in Bridge Street Hamlet, and in the snow it looks perfectly proper and idyllic.
This is a view of The Rose & Crown pub covered in snow across the street from our house on Bridge Street, which had a nice pub menu and served good pub meals at the time.
This view shows our house on the left just beyond the thatched roof cottage on Bridge Street across from The Rose & Crown pub – the bus stop is directly ahead, with a small thatched roof ‘blacksmith’ cottage behind it, across the A134 highway.
This view looks up Bridge Street, showing our neighbors’ garage and workshop, which was directly next door to our house, with their cottage just beyond it.
This picture shows our garage, the front door and what was our master bedroom at the time above the garage with two dormer windows, which was only a stone’s throw from our neighbors’ quaint cottage.
When I took this series of photos, I tried to carefully leave the snow undisturbed around our house, in order to leave intact this idyllic setting covered in fresh snow!
We always garaged our ’95 Honda Accord station wagon and parked our ’94 Accord coupe in front of the house in our bricked courtyard, which provided a Mediterranean micro-climate for our front landscaping when it wasn’t covered in snow!
I took this photo from the bus stop alongside the A134 highway; the bus stop had a ‘layby’ behind it which was a remnant of the original highway the A-134 replaced years ago.
This picture was taken from the layby behind the bus stop, showing a portion of the property next to ours, along with our backyard and fields beyond our property.
This photo shows the water meadow that floods every spring from the creek that runs through the treeline to the right in the picture, as well as a small access step over the fence, for the public footpath to follow alongside our property.
This is a view from our kitchen window overlooking our backyard and the meadow beyond to the treeline alongside the creek, which attracted rabbits to the lush grass in the meadow.
Here’s a view of our backyard – the property beyond the far wooden fence belonged to our neighbors with the thatched roof cottage; under our large willow tree in the distance was a small, natural pond.
This picture was taken from the middle of the water meadow beyond our backyard, which is marked by the fence and our newly planted beech hedge that I helped our landlord plant.
From standing directly behind our house it’s difficult to tell that our backyard has two different levels in the snow, but our lower backyard always flooded every spring along with the water meadow.
Here you can see the sloping contour of our backyard against the wooden fence on the far side of our yard – our neighbors had a large pond under their willow tree as well, which made for a very quaint setting.
This is David on a Sunday morning before leaving for Mass during Advent, which is the period of preparation for Christmas beginning the 4th Sunday prior to Christmas Day.
The previous photo of David was cropped out of this original, and I thought I’d include both in this post.
Here I am in December 1996, just over 16 years ago…how time flies through the years!
In these original photos of David and I, you can see that winter is normally relatively mild in England.
Our Christmas tree is set up in the corner of our living room, waiting for Christmas morning!
This is another picture of our Christmas tree, which our family has always enjoyed from Thanksgiving weekend through Three Kings’ Day or Epiphany on January 6th.
A cropped close-up of our tree that my wife has decorated in pink angels and pink and gold ornaments!
A picture of David at our dining room table on the 2nd Advent Sunday, with my wife’s hand-crocheted lace curtain, lamp shade and trim on the hanging shelves.
German coffee and cake is a tradition, and a favorite of mine in our house, anytime we have an opportunity to pause around 4 pm and enjoy a cup of coffee or milk and home baked treats!
Ever since David was old enough to appreciate Christmas trees, he’s had one in his room – this one is decorated in mostly red, white and natural wood tones.
David relaxes across his rocking chair beside his own Christmas tree in his room, and you can see behind him the numbers of both English and German books he had in just this portion of his ‘library!’
I enjoy focusing on the whimsy, arrangement, colors and styles of Christmas ornaments; these ornaments were purchased in Germany by my wife and I in the first few years I was assigned to Spangdahlem AB, Germany.
We’ve always loved this Nativity scene, consisting of Nao and Lladro figurines, and over the years we’ve added a piece here and there – especially little angels!
There’s nothing like having a fireplace, especially at Christmas time, and here we’ve got a nice fire going in the fireplace with the mantel decorated for the holidays!
This photo shows a greater portion of our living room, with the Christmas tree and fireplace creating a cozy and gemütlich atmosphere!
We’ve always decorated the Christmas cards we’ve received each year during the holidays, and the piano we had at the time served as a perfect place to display them!
We were preparing our back yard for a visit and BBQ with friends, and as we set everything up I took some pictures to capture the memories.
Because we were always moving every couple of years around Europe and England during those years, I would often photograph our house after mowing the yard and washing cars on the weekend when everything looked its best.
In those days we never knew how long we would be in any assignment before having to move, and by taking pictures on a regular basis I was able to document the life of our family even if we were suddenly called to move away on short notice again.
So the end result is that I have lots of detailed photos taken through the years, showing the progression and life of our family, as we hopscotched our way across Europe and England as the military continued its draw-down and closed air bases.
These pictures of our back porch show how convenient and nice it was to have people over for a BBQ, with lots of space to eat and socialize in the afternoon sun.
Meadow View Cottage was one of the most pleasant places our family ever lived in, and it was especially nice having our best friends next door in Bridge Cottage – which was a joy for us over the five years we lived in Bridge Street Hamlet.
Our garden table’s umbrella turned out not to be very practical after we purchased it while living in Bloxham, England, during our assignment to RAF Upper Heyford – in the breeze it turned into a helicopter!
My wife took these pictures of David and I together as we cleaned and prepared the back patio for our guests and BBQ later in the day, two “Country Gentlemen” living in the English countryside!
This is the time I began wearing hats to protect my head from the affects of the sun, my skin over the years had grown less tolerant of the sun, and I wanted to protect it as much as I could while working in the yard.
David was now nine years old and he really liked his leather Aussie cowboy hat – and was quickly growing up into a fine young man!
From one moment to the next, David would spring into action to make a funny face for the camera – always ready to be a regular nine year old and have some fun!
With the yard and patio prepared for our visitors, I pose for a final picture prior to entertaining our guests later in the day – I was enjoying our time in England very much and our family was thriving!