Happy Birthday!

Thirty one years ago today at 6:02 p.m., our first child was born.  A son.  During the week and a half before I had two false labors.  But ten days after the predicted due date, we had our baby.  I was nervous and I wanted to be the best mother I could be.  I had very little exposure to babies and knew very little about their care and how to raise a child.  The nurse and other mothers in prenatal assured me that all the maternal instincts would kick in when I held the baby in my arms.  I wasn’t so sure.  I watched the birth in the mirror and then our son was laid on my stomach, followed by being taken away to be washed, weighed, wrapped in a blue striped blanket and then placed in my arms.  He was so small.  Seven pounds 2 ounces covering 22 inches made for a tiny, frail looking little boy.  He had those dreamy dark eyes and, of course, we were in love. I wanted to be the best mother.  Those first few weeks were quite a challenge and I made many calls to Dr.Ras.  I had told him while I was pregnant that I didn’t have much experience with babies. After several calls and visits during the first two weeks, he looked at me and said “You really don’t know much about babies.”  He was a great doctor.   At that time not every doctor delivered their own babies, but he did.  He was very much in love with delivering babies and didn’t mind being called in the middle of the night.  That wasn’t the case with Andrew but Allyson got him out of bed and nearly arrived before Dr. Ras did.  He loved his job and was the perfect doctor for me with his tons of compassion.   As flowers, gifts, food and many good wishes flooded in from all over the country, I was stunned by the affect this one small boy made in so many lives.  He was our boy and we loved him and that has not changed.

This past week the day set aside for  Assumption of Mary was celebrated.  My dear dear friend blogged on this topic and I was very touched by her talking of how Mary points us to Jesus.  From all the pictures we see of Mary and the Babe, we feel the love and compassion she has for her child.  Jesus was so loved by His mother.  How can a mother not love her son?  Now don’t get me wrong, I can get irritated but the love doesn’t change.

In 1991, we took our kids on an after Christmas holiday.  We were living close to family so had celebrated the holiday with them and decided to get away for a few days prior to school resuming.  There was another reason for the trip.  I had something I wanted to tell the kids.  We got checked into our hotel and went to dinner.  I tried to talk to them, but the timing was off.  When we returned to our room, I began again.  The kids were sitting on the beds with television controls in hand.  I asked them to listen to me for a few minutes and they turned their faces towards me.  I said I wanted to tell them something important.  I told them I had been married before I  married their dad.  I told them I wanted them to hear from me and not someone else.  Their reply, “Can we rent a movie?”  I knew from books I had read that kids took information and processed it in their own time and own way.  So I didn’t push for any further attention from them.  As our son and I walked back from getting the video (this was the time before movies  were all ready on your TV), he asked me, “Did Nanny still love you?” I replied, “Yes, she did”.  He looked up at me and said “How could anyone not love you?”  My eyes watered and tears ran down my cheeks as we continued to our room.

The kids sat on the bed and watched the movie and I recounted to Dale the conversation Andrew had with me.  It had a huge impact on me.  The conversation has come to mind many times over the past 22 years.  It still brings tears.

I believe Jesus had this kind of love for Mary and I believe He has that same love for me.  Unconditional love that surpasses anything I have done or ever will do.  The great news is….Jesus’ love is for all people.  He has enough for everyone and then some.

I believe our children can teach us much about Jesus.  I believe we need to teach our children about Jesus.  Mary points us to Jesus.  She knew He was the one to be worshipped and that He was the one people needed.  It hasn’t changed.  People need Jesus.

As I wrote earlier in this post I was amazed at the affect this little boy had on so many people, but it is not nearly as amazing as the affect Jesus has had on my life.

Thank you son, for being an amazing blessing in my life and thank you, The Son of God for giving me my son.

Love and blessings,   Joanie


A Visit

                Dale and I were very happy to be a part of Johnny’s party.  Allie and Matthew were able to be with us.  Alex was excited knowing we were coming.  We  took him to the mall to the play area. He loved running around and hiding from us.

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                                                                    Dale and Allie


Matthew dancing to get more tickets for more “loot”.


                                                          Johnny driving.


                                  Shooting  hoops                              “I’m concentrating Nana”


                                      Allie and Matthew                        Allie and me



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                                                 Playing games with Uncle Matt


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The cake was huge.  It wasn’t what was ordered but it was tasty.  We’re not sure of the color either but the icing was buttercream and very yummy.  It was filled with a fruit preserve.  There were leftovers to share.



Dale and I are getting ready to go to the airport.The kids were going to have dinner together.  I am not a big fan of goodbyes

but as my mother used to tell me if we didn’t leave, we couldn’t come visit again. 

I am grateful for my family, for health and being able to visit again and again.

“Praise God from whom all blessings flow.”

Blessings, Joanie


Lo, children and the fruit of the womb are an heritage and gift that cometh of the Lord.”  Psalm 127:4Taken from the Book of Common Prayer, issued by the Authority of the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada 1962.  Made and printed in Great Britain by BPCC Hazell Books, Aylesbury, Bucks, England.  Member of BPCC Ltd.

Zierkesee (Zeer-K-say)


January 2012 – Dale in front of the tower.

          This is one of my favorite places to visit in the Netherlands.  I have taken all my family to see this little village on the North Sea.  It is usually windy and cool but if not rainy, it is quite enjoyable.  I take a picture in front of the tower which stands 62 meters (201.5 feet) tall.  The name of the tower is Sint (Saint) Lievensmonstertoren.  Because of the length of the name the locals called it the Great Tower.  Looking at the Dutch name I can see monster and tower!  It was constructed between 1454 and 1510.  The base dimensions are 24.5 x 24.5 meters (79.7 x 79.7 feet).  There was much prosperity in Zierikzee during the 14th century as reflected in the height of the tower.  The base alone took 25 years to build.  Building the tower did not come without trials.  A fire in the city in 1466 destroyed much of the city.  The church stood behind the tower and once the work was completed on the tower, the plan was for joining the tower and church.  Keeping the buildings separate during construction was to protect the church.

           But alas, building was halted in 1510 when prosperity diminished and the city fell into poverty.  So far the building of the tower had cost 100,000 guilders.  So the tower destined to be 180 to 200 meters high topped off at a mere 62.  At 62 meters it was considered a “respectable height.”  At the end of the year 1530, the tower had a temporary roof and a bell tower.  Originally the tower was very decorative which was characteristic of the style of the Keldermans family. The Keldermans were a family of sculptors and architects during the 14 and 1500’s.  There were seven generations of Keldermans. Their work was Gothic in style. They worked in Belgium and the Netherlands.  A number of buildings in the City where we do much of our shopping, Bergen op Zoom, were designed and built by this family.  Much of the decoration disappeared in the 18th century. The tower became the property of the Government Building Department in 1881.  It was suffered damaged by the allied forces at the end of World War II.  They were firing from the liberated island of Noord Beveland (located in the southwestern part of the Netherlands).  The final restoration took place from 1957 to 1972 or about 15 years.

          The guilder was the currency of the Netherlands from the 17th century till 2002.  It was then replaced by the euro.  The cost of the Great Tower is equivalent to $51,467,045 US or $51,490,572 Canadian.  It would have been equivalent to 1,825.2 yearly wages of an unskilled worker.  Now that boggles my mind.


               These two pictures were taken when Al and Sharon were visiting.  I can’t find one with them standing in front.  I’ll get one the next time, guys!  You can’t escape!


  Dale, Andrew, Jessica, Alex and Johnny


We walked to the top or stumbled…. The guy at the bottom told us to take our time and don’t go fast.  Well we didn’t think we were going fast.  I don’t know at what point it was that we realized we still had a very long way to go.  As you can see the stairwell is circular so it was round and round and round we went.  I kept thinking about soldiers with swords running up and down these stairs; or being chased on these stairs. The steps are triangles.  Not easy walking up or down.


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             The North Sea in the background.  The green area next to the sea is land reclaimed from    the sea.  It is hard to get my head around some of the things I’ve seen in the Netherlands.


      We walked by the windmill on the way to the tower so it was neat to show it to Alex from  the top of the tower.                                    


It’s rainy and cold but we are still smiling. After all being with the grandkids is a grandparents dream come true.


This canal makes its way down through part of the city.  On this particular day it was very clear and sunny making it great for reflections.  The buildings are leaning in.  This is from years of wind and ground movement in this city.DSCN0049

Most medieval cities, if not all, were gated.  This is one of the gates.  It is fun driving through them.  Of course it is not a straight road.  It curves and turns and you think you might hit the wall. And it is cobblestones to boot!


Allie, Matthew, Duncan and the Great Tower.


It’s cold but we still have fun.


Leaning buildings.  And then I saw this…..


My camera is level.  How do you suppose they got this window, door and step to look like this?





Little works of art……….

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…..can be seen everywhere.  Beauty, detail and everyone unique.   These are not made by sculptors or architects.  They like us were created by the Master Architect.  No matter how many towers, churches, and impressive buildings and cities, nothing compares to what I see in my life everyday.

             Some days I think He has sent me a special picture to enjoy. I don’t have to worry about shaking my camera or getting the right light, I can just enjoy.  And I am reminded of  “How Great Thou Art.”


“God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.”  Genesis 1:31.*

Blessings, Joanie

*Taken from the C.S.Lewis Bible, New Revised Standard Version, Harper One Copyright 2001 by Harper Collins Publishers

Everyday Stuff

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The day Allie and Matthew flew back to the States, I took the train back to Bergen op Zoom and then caught the bus back to Lepelstraat.  Walking home from the bus stop, I was listening to Christmas music on my cell phone and enjoying the sun and the blue sky.

Sunday on the way home from church it started to rain then there was hail and low and behold there was a rainbow.  Dale is driving about 70 kph and I am using my cell phone so the pictures aren’t good quality but it was something to see.  Now if the sermon had been on Noah and flood.  Living in an area that is below sea level it is always nice to see the rainbow and remember God’s promise.  It is nice to remember God.


Not bad for a moving vehicle and wipers on medium.

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When we pulled in the yard, I captured some hail on the wiper.  By then I really need to use the restroom.  While washing my hands, I noticed the hail in my hair.  Yes that is hail in my hair!

This morning I woke to a scattering of snow.  I wonder if Sinterklaas sprinkled it on his way through last night.  Duncan had to check it out too.


Duncan wants to sleep in our room.  He sits outside the door waiting for us to let him in.  He is always hopeful.  Too bad we weren’t more co-operative.  Sometimes when Dale goes to bed before me, Duncan stands guard at the door and if I try to go in he growls and snaps.  He is the great protector.  But…..he shouldn’t try to bite the hand that feeds him.


I, too, am waiting patiently and expectantly.  This is the season of preparation and waiting.  Advent has begun.  Dale and I light our candles and read the scripture and remember that we have the greatest gift of all.  As a mother, I waited expectantly for birth of my babies as Mary waited for hers.  Now I wait patiently for the return of Mary’s baby as “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.”*

“Come, Lord Jesus!”**

                                                                                                                                                                          Blessings,  Joanie

*Revelation 19:16

**Revelation 22:20


Here in the Netherlands, on the night of December 5, children go to sleep leaving a carrot out for a horse and anticipating what gifts they will find upon awakening.  This is the night they have been waiting for. The night Sinterklaas will come.  He arrived in the country on November 17 this year. (It varies from year to year depending on which date the Saturday falls.)  First he visited Amsterdam and then visits the other cities and towns in their (city center) where he greets the children with a smile, a wave or a handshake.

Sinterklaas  is celebrated on the eve of December 5 or morning of December 6.  The saint for which the celebration gets its name is  Saint Nicholas who died on December 6, in 343 AD.  Saint Nicholas was Greek bishop of Myra now known as Turkey.  In 1087 his remains were found in Bari (once a Spanish city) and so it is believed that Saint Nicholas comes from Spain.  In Spain, he is  the well known the patron saint of sailors thus he arrives in the Netherlands by steamboat.  This happened after the steamboat was invented.  Prior to that it was just a boat.  Considering so much of the travel for business and pleasure was done by boat being the patron of sailors stands to reason.  There are tales of him being lost at sea and sending letters to the children giving them updates on his whereabouts.  This makes the children fret and worry thinking maybe he wouldn’t make it this year.  Sinterklaas has helpers called  Zwarte Pieten (black Petes.)

There is much history (legend) about Sinterklaas (the name comprising Sinter or Saint and Klaas a shortened version of Nicholas).  The man himself was real and the western Catholic Church made his name day a church holiday.  He became the patron saint of school children.  Most of the children attended Catholic schools.  This feast began in the Middle Ages and there is much history on its possible pagan origins.  The festivities became a time of public merriment spilling over into the streets from the homes and school rooms.

After the Reformation, the Protestants banned any public celebrations.  However this was in the north while the south remained Catholic and there were Catholic students in Amsterdam.  These people protested and the governments were forced into allowing the celebration, but only within the family.  (This was the 16th and 17 Centuries)

In the 19th century, the saint reappeared from inside the family home and celebrations  once again became public.  A man named Jan Schenkman wrote a book called Sint Nicolaas en zijn knecht (Saint Nicholas and His Servant).  It is said that perhaps the author gave the ideas of Sinterklaas delivering presents through chimneys while riding a gray horse.

The man Nicholas was born of wealthy Greek parents. They died in an epidemic when Nicholas was a young child.  Nicholas went to live with his uncle, a priest, also named Nicholas.   Young Nicholas  was devout and took his religion very seriously.  He became a priest as well and was ordained by his uncle. Nicholas was known for helping people by anonymously leaving gifts.   There are also miracles associated with Nicholas.  During a famine in  311-312, a ship was leaving to take wheat to the Emperor in the capital.  Nicholas asked the sailors to unload some wheat to feed the people they were leaving.  He assured the sailors they would not get in trouble for leaving the wheat.  When the sailors reached the capital city, they were amazed.  When unloaded, the weight of the wheat showed no change even though the amount of wheat unloaded was enough for three years as well as enough for planting.   Maybe this is another reason for him being the patron of sailors.

Another story is of a poor man who had three daughters.  He didn’t have money to provide a dowry so they would not be able to marry.  Because there was no employment, the girls would enter into prostitution.  But it is said that Nicholas, under the cover of night, threw bags of coins  through the windows of the house to save the girls from their fate.  There have been variations of this tale each, for me, being plausible.  The saint was said to have brought the money over the course of three years the night before each girl came of age.  On the night of the third drop, he is said to have dropped it down the chimney where the washed stockings of the girl hung to dry.  Another angle has the father laying in wait and he confronts Nicholas to thank him and Nicholas says he should really thank God.  That, too, seems quite plausible to me.  From all of this it is easy to see where many of the traditions and practices of today have sprung.

There are many churches named after Nicholas.  It used to be the official gift giving time of the season and Christmas was about Church, family and fellowship.

On December 1, this year I attended a Sinterklaas party held at a Refugee center.  These people didn’t know Sinterklaas or Jesus.  The Church we attend puts on this party each year for whoever is at the center at the time.  Names of kids are gathered gifts are purchased and food prepared.  It was an amazing sight.  The little kids were excited to get their gift but the teenagers were really interested in Sinterklaas.  Many pictures were taken and Sinterklaas spent time with them all.


Sinterklaas arrives                                                   Zwarte Pieten with bags of candy



He even visited us in the kitchen.



The kids loved having their picture taken with the Saint.  He smiles and nods but there is no HO HO HO!


Hanging out and getting their gifts.

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The younger kids coming up and talking to Sinterklaas before getting their gift bag.  Some sang or recited a poem.

Sinterklaas has a book with the names of the kids.  (Sounds like “making a list and checking it twice.)

Although none of this really has anything to do with Christmas as in the birth of the Christ Child, it did stem from the kindness and giving nature of a third century saint.  During the Reformation the Protestants changed the name from Sinterklaas to Christkindl meaning Christ Child, but when translated into English it became Kris Kringle.  Not even close.  The North American Santa did get his roots from Sinterklaas.

From a Greek saint living on the Mediterranean to an elf living at the North Pole.  I know who I would rather hang out with.

Blessings,  Joanie













A Marvelous Month continues….

               Before continuing with part two, I want to include these pictures of Tilley on the left and Pepper on the right having their chance to swim.  They love it.  Matthew gets them on the board.  They jump off and swim to shore.  The pier is too high for them to jump from it into the water.  They really enjoy themselves.


The next leg of my journey took me to New Brunswick.  The weather was wonderful and I visited with family and friends.  I was able to attend the ACW (Anglican Church Women) Annual Deanery meeting in Woodstock with the ladies from St. James Anglican Church in Centreville.  At the meeting I saw ladies from The Church of the Good Shepherd, Florenceville, St. Barnabas in Greenfield and Christ Church in Glassville.  It was a wonderful time for me to see the ladies from the groups I had once been such a part of.  The year Dad died (1995) I was president.  Dad died the Saturday before the Annual Meeting.  (The meeting is always the second Tuesday in September.)  Mom and I were unable to attend.  Mom was the auctioneer at these meetings so there were many many memories during the meeting.  The love these ladies have always shown me is as strong as always. My Church family is very important to me.

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I had lots of fun at my great nieces first birthday party.  She was a pro riding in her car with one hand on the wheel and one on the door.  She knew how to open the door and get in.  It was very cute watching her.



Sophia with the royal wave and Sawyer and Tucker telling Mom a story.

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Sawyer and Tucker are my great nephews.  They are wonderful little boys.  Good parenting I would say.  I was amazed at some family resemblances.

Kids are so fun to watch and listen to.  Sophia puts her feet up taking a break while the adults get ready for the cake.

                                                                                    Sometimes adults can be so slow, but looks like Sophia is developing patience.

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Sawyer really enjoyed the cake.  Below Tucker is spontaneously giving a Sophia a kiss.  I just happened to have my camera ready.

It was one of the moments that is over in a flash.  I was happy to have been able to catch it on film.

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Now it is Sophia’s turn to dig in and dig in she did.  I’m guessing it was really good cake!

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The scenery in New Brunswick is beautiful.  The lake behind my brother’s house is a new panorama every day.

The birds, the hint of fall colors all make for great pictures.

I find this type of picture so relaxing.  Being there was relaxing as well.


The sky is always changing and like in Washington I can take the same scene over and over and still be amazed at God’s handiwork.

My brother, Al, has realized a long time dream.   He has purchased a truck.

It is a beautiful. Of course, green is one of my favorite colors.

He and his son, Zach are very excited and are doing all kinds of fun things to customize it.

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I think it would be wonderful if everyone could have a dream come true.  Many miles of happy trucking to you, Al.


While I was growing up, this road did not exist.  It was built in the last 2 or 3 years, in order to put in the four lane highway.  I had been wanting to get a picture, but I was either in a hurry or there was traffic behind me.  But on this morning, the sun was in a good spot and I could position myself on the turn just where I wanted to be.  The road was built into the middle of a large mass of rock, as seen on each side.  But what truly amazes me is that I never thought about what was under the hill from which the road was built.  Who knew that one day I would be driving through what was once just a solid piece of land and that I would now be below the trees rather than on the level with the trees.  It makes me consider what is hidden way down inside of me.  Would it be as useful as this road? How long and how deep would I have to dig to reach a useable place?

I learn much about myself by observing nature and my surroundings.  I always have lots to think about.  I thank God for giving me a eyes to see, ears to hear and a mind that wants to know more.  He truly is an amazing teacher.

It’s sunny in Lepelstraat and that means I need to get out before it disappears.

Blessings, Joanie

A Marvelous Month (Part 1)

November is about one-third gone.  Where does time go?  Not too long ago I was asked by a Dutch acquaintance what an American Homemaker does with her days while living in the Netherlands.  I’ve been back in Lepelstraat for a couple of  months now and I am determined to get a post written today.  Time flies.  I am glad for very full days.

During the month I was in North America, I visited Washington State, the states of Indiana, Wisconsin, Maine and Tennessee. I also spent a week in New Brunswick, Canada visiting friends and family.

After having three and a half months of rain in the Netherlands, I am glad to say I encountered only a couple of days of rain in the month I was gone.  It is raining in the Netherlands as I write. It is back to rain at some point in every 24 hour period.  Thank goodness for full spectrum lights and lamps that simulate the sun rising.

                  I was very excited to get up in the mornings in Richland.  Even though I have numerous pictures of the sunrise from our porch, it   never gets old.





Three different mornings.  A new house is being built at the end of our street and I always love the Yakima and

the shrubs, trees and grasses growing up and down its banks.


A welcome home from friends together with flowers.  I received many birthday wishes. Thanks to all who made turning 58 a wonderful day.  I am not really into numbers but the day I was born, now that is something to celebrate.

I visited some cousins and my aunt  in Indiana.  The weather was sunny and warm.  We were able to sit under the beautiful overhanging tree in my cousins, Dan and Cheryl’s yard.

My Aunt Connnie came down to visit while I was there.  She lives in Michigan and my cousin, Dan lives on the border of the two states.  Lucas, Dan and Cheryl’s son, took pictures.  Some with his camera and some with mine.



In the picture on the left:  Aunt  Connie, she was married to my dad’s brother, Ernest Donald Smith, then Dan her son, Lucas Andrew Smith, Dan’s son and Cheryl, Dan’s wife and Lucas’ mom. Lucas likes to take pictures.  I am always guaranteed at least one picture of me.  He is a good photographer. Dan and Dale are the same age and both born in Carleton County, New Brunswick in January.  Dad, too, was born in January.


I am very blessed to be invited to spend the weekend at my son-in-law’s family home on Lake

Geneva in Wisconsin.  It is a beautiful lake with lots of activity.

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A view from the front porch and a partial view of the porch.


Matthew loves all the water sports.  Water skiing, wave boarding and wave running.

When he is out on the water, Allie drives the boat and I am the spotter,

letting her know if he is down, or if he wants to go faster.


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My very special hostess and host at Lake Geneva.  I am with MaryAnn and Matthew is with Grampa King. Grampa has lots of stories to tell.  He went to college at Dartmouth and was in the Navy.  MaryAnn and I clicked when we first met and our friendship grows.  I am grateful for all my friends and for God who puts such amazing people in my life.

Allie, ready for work, takes a couple of minutes so I get a picture of her with the dogs.


Matthew is ready for work too.

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My grand dogs. Pepper and Tilly.  Pepper has her Dutch shoe squeak toy.  When I visit them, they sniff around my suitcases looking for treats.

Well the sun is trying to peek out from behind white clouds.  Looking good….for a few minutes anyway.  I’m off to get a walk in before I need an umbrella.



“I give thanks for every remembrance of you” (My paraphrase of Philippians 1:3)