Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Snow World

 This weekend was kind of busy for us.  Saturday we filled with errands, chores and just generally getting stuff done.

That left our Sunday wide open for a trip to the Netherlands or if you prefer French - Pays Bas.  Part of the country dips down between Belgium and Germany.  You can see it if you click here.   It is about a two hour drive from our house.

Our first stop were the Christmas Caves.  They will be another blog (perhaps tomorrow).

Then we ventured on to Snow World.  The men's group of the church sent an email out to organize this trip.  Not many came but we were glad we did.

Snow World is an indoor ski place.  There were a couple gentle slopes, an intermediate run, a snowboarding area and an "advanced run."  If you love skiing mountains, do not come here.  If you want to ski without wind and in a setting that is now overwhelming, Snow World is great.

Kyra had never skied before.  Now she has.  The bunny slope was perfect for her and it had a conveyor belt to move beginner skiers to the top which meant that she did not have to try to learn to use a rope tow or t-bar.

This is Allen (in the middle of the photo)
Kyle had been once before (14 years ago or more) and could not manage to stay vertical or make it up to the top of the bunny hill.  Now he has done so.

Not surprisingly, Allen is a natural skier.  He just loved having the opportunity to go fast.

I spent most of my time on the bunny hill with Kyle and Kyra (no lessons were available) but also worked in a couple of runs on the intermediate run.

I was pleased to discover that even though I haven't really skied in over 20 years (with the exception of one run down an intermediate slope 14 years ago), it all came back pretty quickly.

All in all not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Our house is located in Thieusies which is in the "county" of Soignies.  Soignies has a custom of holding a welcome reception for its new residents every six months.

The reception was held at the cultural arts center.  There were over a hundred people in attendance.  We got to shake hands with the mayor and the council members.  The mayor made a short speech welcoming all the new residents and then a short film about the area was shown.  Following the film, the SHAPE jazz band offered a concert and following that was a ceremonial toast.

This reception marked the first time that SHAPE families were invited.  This was not because Soignies didn't wish to welcome SHAPE families, rather they did not have a way of tracking us down.  They worked with SHAPE to make that possible.  In addition, they provided an English translator who translated the mayor's remarks.  

All in all it was a pleasant evening and while we could not stay for the whole reception, it was nice to be included in such a hospitable tradition.  

Saturday, November 27, 2010

In Pursuit of a Christmas Tree

As a family we have a tradition of putting up and decorating our fake Christmas tree over the course of Thanksgiving weekend.

When we were preparing to move I made the unilateral decision not to move our tree.  The main reason being I did not want to have to store such a huge item for 11 months of the year in a home that was certain to have limited storage space.

So now we are in need of a Christmas tree.  Belgians have not adopted the whole Christmas tree tradition.  I understand they are sold here, but not until closer to Christmas.

We are already on the look out for trees though.  Kyra spotted some yesterday as she was leaving school.  The Germans are having their Christmas market on SHAPE today.  We went over to check it out in hopes that the Germans might be selling them as part of their market.  They are not.  They were using the trees for decoration.

Plan B is to stop by at the time the market is closing and see if they will give us one and/or sell us one cheaply.  If not we'll keep trying.

Traditions are important particularly when we find ourselves far away from so much that is familiar and comfortable.  The decorations, ornaments and traditions connect us with family, memories and each other.

If you get a lead on a tree, let us know..

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Turkey (breast) is In

Just in case you think I've been exaggerating about the size of my oven, I thought I'd share a photo of my Thanksgiving meal preparation.

The hunk of meat is a 7.25 pound turkey breast.  It is in a 10x13 roasting pan.  I had to lower the shelf to the very bottom in order to get it to fit in with the thermometer.

My plan is to get the casseroles ready to go in when the turkey comes out.  I'm using my flattest casserole dishes in hopes that I can get two in the oven at the same time.

Despite a great longing for my Virginia kitchen and general whininess, I am truly thankful for wonderful family and friends, their health and mine, the blessing of all my basic necessities being met, and all the wants, desires and luxuries I take for granted on a daily basis.  

When all is said and done, today my family and I will gather around a table in a house that is heated and dry, we will eat to excess and not have to worry about tomorrow.  There are too many places in the world where that is not true.  For these blessings and many others I am thankful.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Thanksgiving Like No Other

I know Thanksgiving is an American holiday.  I am aware that not everyone celebrates it and that here in Belgium it would look different.

The commissary has been very helpful.  They have stocked turkey, stuffing mixes, cranberries, canned pumpkin, frozen mince meat pie, french fried onions, oyster crackers, cream of mushroom soup and more.  All the basic ingredients of American's typical Thanksgiving meals have been available.

But the day is going to feel "off."  The kids have school.  In a nod to the Americans, the school will close two hours early tomorrow.  I have French class.  Kyra has practice for the musical she is in.  I'll be spending a good amount of tomorrow driving back and forth.  Somewhere in there I need to figure out how cooking a big meal in a small kitchen works.

We'll have Thanksgiving.  We'll eat familiar foods. We will be and are thankful.  We'll stuff ourselves, roll to bed and then get up early for work and school on Friday.

It will be Thanksgiving.  It just won't be quite the same.

I hope you all have a lovely day filled with friends, family and much for which to be grateful.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Alternate Route

Just when I thought I was doing well...

I know how to drive all the places our family goes on a regular basis.  I have learned how to navigate around SHAPE, even when they close roads (for no obvious reason).    I do not know however, any alternate routes when off SHAPE.

This was painfully clear this morning when a truck fire stopped traffic on the main road between our house and SHAPE.  Traffic could only move one way at a time.  What is usually a 10 minute trip became a 30 minute trip and I got to experience it both ways!

Most of the route was bordered by fields but there were side roads in parts.  These would have been helpful, had I known where they would take me.  I do know there is a back road way to reach our house, but knowing it exists and knowing how to navigate it are two different things.

I miss the handy ADC maps I had back home.  When stuck in traffic I could get it out, study side streets and plot a course.  Here, I just got to sit (twice!).

I've learned basic navigation, I'm getting used to the culture, I'm studying French, now I need to learn alternate routes, either that or I need a tractor so I can just drive through the fields.

Monday, November 22, 2010

No Last Minute Christmas

Three weeks ago signs went up in our post office here on SHAPE.  On it were several dates, dates in November!  It listed drop dead shipping deadlines for posting packages to the United States.   So if one wanted to get one's packages to the United States by Christmas, these were the shipping deadlines.  My initial reaction (keep in mind I am an advanced planner) was "yikes!"

I usually am ready for Christmas by Thanksgiving.  This year with moving and keeping up with the kids I'm not sure I'm going to make that deadline.

Many gifts have been purchased, many have been thought about. But I am not ready.  All the local Christmas markets, held in town squares across Europe don't even open until next weekend.  Maybe I'll be shopping for next year's gifts - really advanced planning.

The postage deadline doesn't just mean sending gifts out, it also means I've got to get things ordered in hopes that they arrive here in time.  Allen and Kyra keep revising and re-prioritizing their lists so I've got to make an educated guess as to where they will have landed by Christmas time.

I'm also working on Christmas cards.  Family photo - check.  Cards in hand - check.  Chasing down everyone's new addresses - in process.  We weren't the only ones moving this year.

After I get all the packages and cards taken care of I then need to turn to the task of keeping family traditions up in a new place.  Belgians don't have a long standing tradition of Christmas trees, so finding a tree might take some work.  Hopefully the commissary or PX will help me out.  I'll let you know.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Flat Stanley Left Us

on the bus to Pisa
 We returned from our vacation almost two weeks ago, and I still miss him.  Flat Stanley had been with us since Kyra's second grade year.  He went to Afghanistan with Kyle.  He traveled with Kyra's Grandma and Grandpa Reeves.  He has been to several states, England, Canada, Mexico,  Luxembourg, Afghanistan, the Netherlands, Panama, France, Belgium, Germany and Italy.

He got to Pisa, Italy and decided to stay.  As much as I miss him, I can't blame him.  The weather there was lovely -the air temperate, the sky blue, the sun was shining.

Maybe he was just tired of traveling and wanted to settle down.  Perhaps he was tired on being folded and slotted into a backpack only to be squashed by our water bottles.  Whatever his reasons he joined us on our excursion to Pisa but did not travel back with us.  I hope the other tourists are kind to him.  

Kyra and I have resolved that another Stanley is in order.  I have already found similar looking template.  He will look as much as possible like our original Flat Stanley but it won't quite be the same.  Our thoughts are that a Flat Stanley 2 is better than no Flat Stanley.  Flat Stanley 2 will have our email address and mailing label on him.

In your travels if you see a Flat Stanley with "Kyra" written in second grade cursive on the back - he's ours and he's welcome home anytime.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Trevi Fountain

Our first stop in Rome was Trevi Fountain.  The fountain is lovely.  It is big.  People throw coins in.

Tradition says if you throw a coin in, you are guaranteed to return to Rome.  I'll have to take my chances.

Why didn't I throw a coin in?

A number of reasons -

3.  It was really crowded - the square is small and people are everywhere!

2.  Kyra wanted a gelato

1.  The bathroom opportunity preceding this one was at a rest stop with a line 40 women deep and only 15 minutes before the bus would leave again.  A bathroom was available and there was no line.

So no coin for me.  I'd like to return to Rome, but we'll have to see.  In the meantime, I'll point out that there is a Trevi fountain not far from you at EPCOT.  If you throw a coin in there, I don't know what that means - do you get to go to Rome? or just back to Walt Disney World?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


As a mom, I have been very attuned to what Allen and Kyra are missing back in the United States.  On the one hand there's all kinds of stuff we gladly leave behind - the traumatic years of being a girl in junior high,  extensive drug and alcohol abuse (it's here just not on as large a scale), American self-indulgence, Northern Virginia traffic, etc.  And on the other, I cringe at what we have lost in being away from a Fairfax County education, its level of excellence and diversity of classes.  I miss opportunities for Allen and Kyra -  big and small.

And in the midst of these "woe is me/ woe is my family" pity parties in breaks a reminder of how fortunate we are, how what we have here might never happen had we not picked up our lives and settled in rainy, foggy Belgium.

Such a moment happened last night.  Last night was the fall sports banquet.  It was a potluck in the school cafeteria.  I can sense you are jealous already.  But wait there is more - six teams, their coaches and parents were present and we got to sit and listen and clap for six teams (with their middle school, jv, and varsity divisions) passing out participation certificates, awards and gifts.  All this in an echo-y cafeteria with a not so great sound system.  I hope you are getting the picture.

As awful as the evening was, there was one shining moment that made it worth sitting through all over again.  Allen not only received a varsity letter for cross-country but also a certificate for athlete acadmic achievement.  Would Allen eventually letter at Lake Braddock? Probably, but not until his senior year and certainly not as a freshman.  In a smaller school, with more individual attention and less fierce athletic competition, Allen has really stepped up both academically and athletically.

Had we stayed in the US, Allen would not know the joy of being on this cross country team (which is a great group of kids, their camaraderie is evident), competing in some notable places and reaching a level of achievement he (and his parents) can be proud of.  

Even in the midst of the damp and clouds every now and again, a bit of light shines through

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The "Restaurant"

One of the better preserved/restored buildings in the city of Pompeii is the brothel.  This makes it a "must see" when touring this archaeological site. It also makes it a bit difficult to provide a family friendly guided tour appropriate for all ages.

The adults in our group quite enjoyed listening to our guide tell us about this site while in the presence of several elementary aged students.

Our guide started by pointing out that Pompeii was a port city.  As such, many sailors visited it on a regular basis.  When in port, the sailors were "hungry" and often were in search of a good "restaurant."

When they arrived at the "restaurant" they could choose their level of service.  If they didn't have a lot of money or time to spend they could choose to remain on the first floor for "fast food."  If they wanted to linger over a "gourmet meal" they could head up to the second floor where there was better "service" and the "food" was more expensive.

As he led us into the building (only the first floor was available for viewing), he pointed out the menus above each door.   The patron could look at the menu options and then choose the room that matched what they wanted.  The frescos were in incredibly good condition considering how old they are.  Some were more graphic than others.  I thought this one to be fairly tame.

Anyways, our guide went on to explain that the patrons of the "restaurant" didn't get to choose their "servers" they only got to choose their menu item.

He then explained about the rooms.  Each room had a "table."  He said that people were often surprised that the "tables" were made of stone and not wood.   Our guide asked us to consider how busy the "restaurant" probably was and how quickly wood would wear out or be damaged.

Later in the tour, our guide showed us markings in the street that helped the sailors find the "restaurant."  These markings were as old as the city and worn by much foot traffic.  Kyra looked at the marking and saw an arrow.  The rest of us looked and saw something more phallic in nature.

So if you are ever in need of giving a family friendly tour, just remember the "restaurant."

Monday, November 15, 2010


The photo isn't all that picturesque.  The industrial port of Naples isn't gorgeous.  But in the background you can see Vesuvius.  Up until the eruption of 79 AD, this was one mountain peak not two.  With your imagination draw an inverted V between the two peaks and you'll have a rough idea of the mountain the Romans saw.

On our first excursion day we had the choice of going into Naples, driving along the Amalfi coast, visiting Capri and other such activities.  The "strenuous" excursion was a climb of Vesuvius followed by a visit to Pompeii. With two active children and bodies that aren't letting us down (yet) we opted to climb Vesuvius.

The day was cool so the climbing was pleasant.  The bus took us over halfway up, our feet took us the rest of the way.  Our guide told us of the two eruptions - 79 and 1944.  He described the changes to the volcano and how it affected the cities below. We peered into the crater and looked out over the population below.

If/when Vesuvius (which is still considered active) erupts again, many people will need to move quickly to safety lest they become the newest Pompeii.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

I Miss the Sun

We returned to Belgium six days ago.  Not only has it rained everyday, not just part of the day - it has rained all day.

Just to give you an idea of how accustomed to the cloudy rainy weather we have become - while we were on the cruise, we noticed the sun.  We were thrilled that we noticed it every day.  

It was sunny in Rome.  No wandering through rain slicked streets.  No quick photographs with worries the camera would be damaged. 

It was so sunny in Pisa that we were competing with shadows to get decent photos when we were on the ground.  From of the top of the leaning tower, it lit the cathedral and baptistry beautifully. 

In France (and other ports), the kids enjoyed just being out on deck.  The 24-7 access to miniature golf was also a big attraction.  Allen also ran around the track and Kyra liked inline skating. 

The sun also added to the lovely scenery of southern France.  Our excursions didn't take us anywhere famous or notable.  We just visited small villages and enjoyed being out while the sun was shining. 

We are already anticipating our next travel opportunity, not for the history or culture, but for the chance to once again spend time in the sun.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Ice Skating on the Ocean

 Yes there was an ice rink on the cruise ship.

It was about a quarter of the size of a competition rink.

Our first cruise day was "at sea."  That afternoon we attended the ice show.  Given the size of the rink, I was impressed with what the skaters were able to do in terms of jumps and lifts.  We managed to get second row seats so we saw it all up close.  Neat experience.

After dinner the rink was opened up for the teens to skate.  Allen isn't a huge fan of ice skating (he prefers inline skates and ramps) but he is good at it.  He wasn't going to pass up the opportunity to say he ice skated in the middle of the ocean - or more accurately the Mediterranean Sea.

Kyra enjoys ice skating and looked forward to strapping on skates.  As there weren't many teens on the cruise, they only had to share the space with about four other kids.

The rink was open a few more evenings, but it coincided with our dinner time.  This meant I never got a chance to ice skate on the ocean.  Maybe next time....

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans Day

Depending on where you are today, you are observing Veterans Day, Remembrance Day and/or Armistice Day - or you are just sleeping in.

November 11th - marking the end of major hostilities of World War I - is a big deal in Europe.  As the war was fought on local soil this makes sense.

One can not travel in Europe without noticing these memorials everywhere.  Every town (even the teeny tiny ones) has a monument that looks similar to this one.

They are small obelisks honoring the town's soldiers who fought and died in World War I.  Often there is an additional plaque noting that the memorial also honors the World War II dead as well.  (It is there in the photo - it's the long rectangle between the stone facade with writing and the base with the dates of WWI)

Kyle will be spending the day with some British people we know from church tracing some battle lines and visiting cemeteries where soldiers are buried.  I'll be playing chauffeur to Kyra's dance engagements and Allen, well, he's sleeping in.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

European Championships

 The Department of Defense schools held their European Championships for Cross Country in Heidelburg Germany on Saturday, October 30th.  All schools could send their team, but only their top six runners.

The course was through a local wooded park and it wound up hill and down.  It was laid out in such a way that with a short walk spectators could view the race at several different points.

It was interesting to watch the race progress and see how the runners went from a pack to individuals.

There were 172 runners in the boys' race.  Allen finished 103rd.  Not bad for a freshman in his first year of running.

Now Allen starts his winter training in anticipation of the track season...

sprinting for the finish

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Our European Vacation

Disclaimer - It is my intent to share information, my thoughts and in general let you know about my life here in Belgium.  I wish to share not brag.

Over the next few days, I'll be blogging about our recent family vacation.  In many ways it was similar to vacations we have taken in the US, except this time what is close to us is Europe.  So - if this is coming off as bragging, I kindly request that you don't read this blog for a few days.  In case you think life is glamorous here, I'll remind you I do not have a garbage disposal, the toilet lid falls down on me every time I sit, it is cloudy most days and because my washing machine is small, I'll be doing laundry continuously for three days to recover from this vacation.

And now on with the show..

All Saints' Day is observed in most of Europe as a holiday.  In the kids' case, as a week break from school.  So with a week off of school, our choice was to travel.

Allen's cross country season finished with the European championships held in Heidelburg Germany on Saturday, October 30th.  He traveled there on the team bus and Kyle, Kyra and I followed in the car Friday evening.

Allen competed Saturday afternoon (separate blog).  We then started our drive to Barcelona which was our cruise port.

We did a week long Mediterranean cruise which stopped in Naples, Rome (sort of), Pisa (sort of) and two small towns in France.

The picture is of our cruise ship taken through a window of a fortification in southern France.

We docked again on Sunday morning and then drove for over 13 hours to get home in time for the kids to return to school on Monday.

We had a great time and made some wonderful memories.  The most remarkable things weren't so much what we saw but what we did together.

Monday, November 8, 2010


Last Friday I was driving Kyra home from dance when the car next to me rolled down the window and the driver asked me for directions.  I gave him directions and we both continued on our way.

Not a very remarkable occurrence, but it made my day for the following reasons -

1.  the request for directions was made in French

2.  I didn't have to ask him to repeat the question

3.  I knew where he wanted to go and the direction to send him in

4.  I replied in French

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Club Beyond

Allen and Kyra have been enjoying the student ministries of Club Beyond these past few months.  In some ways, Club Beyond is similar to many other fine student ministries offered in the US.  The kids are invited to come play some games and hear a biblically themed talk.  Later in the week they have an opportunity to gather for small group Bible study.

These gatherings involve food and silliness - a great draw for teens.  They also involve Jesus, Bible and time for prayer - also a draw for the teens of Club Beyond.

So the difference - well, we are in Europe.  Most of the Club Beyond kids are American, but not exclusively so.  There's an international flavor to the gatherings.  The ski trip to a ski resort within a day's drive, well it's in Austria.  The mission trip that will be in Romania.  Same ministry different setting.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

SHAPE Library

It is interesting to note what amenities are provided for military and foreign service overseas.  We get a PX, a commissary, a gym, school, bowling alley and a library.

I did not have high hopes for the library and those hopes have been met.  I will admit Fairfax County will spoil one for almost any other library system.  SHAPE library is multi-lingual.  The English language section is shared by both the Americans and the British so it is larger than the other sections.  There is a decent selection of best-selling authors.  So I have access to Steele, Archer, Cussler, etc.  It is an opportunity to read authors I have long ignored, to try some new things.

Earlier this year, I wanted to have Kyra read Diary of Anne Frank.  Given that we are next to the Netherlands I thought for sure the library would have it - wrong.

The upside is I have found some new authors I enjoy - Sarah Addison Bell and Carol Cassella.  I have also encountered some duds - Dixie Cash.

So while the library isn't great, it isn't all bad and has plenty of books I haven't read.  I am grateful though, I have a Kindle.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Food Network

Kyra was a fan of Food Network before we moved to Belgium.  Now with limited cable and access to English language shows she is even a bigger fan.

I have to admit Food Network is easy to watch (particularly with the more limited commercials).  We don't have to keep track of any continuing story lines (this is important as we have no way of recording shows here.  If we miss it, we miss it).  It doesn't take much brain power to understand what is happening and all the hosts are happy and perky.

Barefoot Contessa is on quite a bit.  Kyra really likes the show, but I far prefer Iron Chef America.  As much as Allen complains about having to watch shows that he doesn't pick (one TV here), he likes Iron Chef too.

So while the shows haven't changed the way we cook or eat, at least they keep us entertained in a light, don't have to think way.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


I feel like I am back in college when it comes to getting mail.

The Americans have a separate post office on the SHAPE campus.  It is a room filled with those little mail boxes with combination locks.  Unlike my college mail box, these don't have windows, so I never know whether or not something waits for me behind the little door or not.

The rate at which mail is delivered varies by a good deal.  Sometimes it takes 3-4 weeks for a package or letter to reach the states and vice versa.  Other times, it takes less than a week.  Sometimes we get magazines in a timely manner, at other times we receive three issues of Newsweek or the Economist at once.

It is nice to open the door and find something waiting for us (other than bills).  The best find is a yellow card.  Yellow cards mean packages!

For packages we have to go to a window, give them our yellow card and our ID.  The package room is an interesting study on the shopping habits of Americans at SHAPE.  At this time Amazon boxes and Zappos seem to dominate.

It is a wonderful thing to have internet shopping and a US mailing address.  There are so many things that are not available to us any other way - soy nut butter, dance shoes, guitar strings, and more.  Not every country offers this service to their people serving overseas.  I think Canadians have to use international mail to ship and receive.  So yes, it it an extra errand but it's worth it.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Bye Bye Birdie

Because Kyra does not have enough to do in her after school hours, she auditioned for the community theater production of Bye Bye Birdie.  In her audition, the directors noticed that she can dance (surprise!).

She was cast as a "sad faced girl."  This means she dances in the "Put on a Happy Face" number.  Over the past few weeks she has had the opportunity to work with a professional choreographer from California.  This has been a neat experience for her and is a bit of a change from the norm of having dance classes with her choreographers.  She is also dancing with a non-dancer so she is learning that what she takes for granted is much more difficult for others.

She has about a month of rehearsal left before performances start.  Then there is a break and in February the show will be performed again as part of a competition.  The SHAPE theater is truly an award winning theater.  Their most recent production took top honors in several categories at a European competition and will be progressing on to New York.

I'm sure I will have more to say about Bye Bye Birdie as the production gets closer, so watch this space.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Know your Flemmish

Belgium is a multi-lingual country.  In various parts one will encounter French, Flemish, Dutch and/German.  When one changes sections, the signs change.  What makes this particularly interesting is the change in directional signs.

In the French parts signs direct us to Paris, Bruxelles, Mons, Soignes, and Namur.  I'm guessing you can quickly figure out that Bruxelles is Brussels.  Now try this...

Upon exiting the Brussels airport, you can go to the train station and find trains that will take you to Parjis, Bergen, Zinnik, and Namur.  You got Parjis right?  Namur as well.  What about Bergen and Zinnik?

Bergen = Mons
Zinnik = Soignes

Not as easy.  When I am heading home from Brussels, I have to start by following the signs to Bergen and then switch over to following the signs to Mons.

Why such a change in name?  Actually the name stays the same, it's just that the translation is so different.  Mons means mound/hill in French.  Bergen means the same but in Flemmish.  It would be as if we called Detroit - Of the Strait or San Antonio - St. Anthony.  Just think about all the languages represented in our place names within the US - French, Spanish, several Native American languages, English, Dutch.  We could easily have a crazy system of road signs, I guess I should be grateful, I only have to work in two languages.

Monday, November 1, 2010

All Saints Day

Today is All Saints Day, also known as Solemnity of All Saints or Hallowmas.  It is a holy day on the Roman Catholic Church calendar but many Protestants observe this holy day too.  On this day we remember the saints who have gone on before us, particularly those who have died within the past year.  We give thanks for their witness for the ways in which their lives glorified God, for their faith lived out in our midst.

Who are you thankful for this day?  Whose faith has had an impact on yours?  And if you aren't sure about God and Christianity - I'll simply ask, who do you miss?  Whose love made a difference in your life?

Now to get a bit less reverent -
In searching for a link for All Saints, I came across an interesting little nugget.  I knew that in the RC (Roman Catholic) calendar that All Saints was a day of Holy Obligation (meaning church attendance on this day is considered a must).  I did not know that if you live in the United States it is not a holy obligation if All Saints falls on a Saturday or Monday (you're off the hook this year).  Also if you live in Hawaii it isn't a holy obligation no matter what day it falls on.  Are Mondays, Saturdays and Hawaii somehow special?  How does living in the US versus living in Europe or South American make a religious observance optional when for others it is obligatory?

In Europe the kids get a week off of school for what is called the All Saints vacation.  I'm guessing the Catholics will be observing mass today (it is a day of holy obligation here).  I'm also guessing that most people will ignore this holy day completely.

Honestly I struggle with this.  Here in Europe there a many churches that sit empty or exist mainly as tourist attractions while society as a whole marks the dates on the Christian calendar - All Saints, Christmas, Easter, Lent (the kids get what is called a Pre-Lenten break).  From my point of view these are all mostly empty observances.  I think I'd prefer that the church calendar be ignored all together rather than be used as a calendar for school breaks.