our journey so far…

We started this blog in 2012 when we moved abroad to work at a school called the Black Forest Academy.  BFA is in Kandern, Germany,which from photos looks like a quaint little puzzle you might put together with your family at Christmas.

Many of you know that we have both been interested in working and living abroad since… well before we even met each other!  In fact it was something that attracted us to one another! After we got married the question became when will we go?  We thought about it, and prayed about it, and decided it would be wise to wait to pursue opportunities abroad until we had been married for a year, this gave us some time to transition into life together! And time to enjoy our friends, family and new marriage!

We didn’t quite make it to the 1 yr mark before we dove into exploring our options!  All sorts of questions came up! How? When Exactly? Where? Doing What?

After doing some research We decided to pursue working with the organization Teach Beyond.  Teach Beyond partners with people who want to serve at international schools around the world and helps to place them in a school that will fit their skills and personality best.  They also help through the process of applying to schools and raising support to go.  Yup. We had to and continue to raise support… don’t worry, we’re not there yet. So there was the answer to How, TeachBeyond!

You might wonder, why international schools?  Good question! We both worked in Portland with kids, I worked as an art instructor and Jamison is a community support specialist, Jamison met with “at risk youths” in the community and helped them develop life skills and self confidence! We both really love working with kids. I dare say, it is even something we are good at!  At BFA I teach ceramics and AP Art, this means my skills and strengths are being put to good use!  Jamison is great with helping kids understand who they are, and helping them work on the things they want to be better at.  At BFA he is a guidance counselor. Long story short, working at an international school like BFA gives us both the opportunity to serve together at the same place, in different ways, using our skills!

We were very fortunate in our initial inquiry with TeachBeyond, One of their recruiters, was going to be in the area soon and we set up a coffee date with him.  At this point we didn’t have any clue about the when? aspect of things, we were given a few schools who were in need of both art teachers and counselors for the coming 2011 school year.  One of which was BFA, We were really drawn to BFA!  When we met up for coffee with TeachBeyond’s recruiter we had a great time talking about the different schools and opportunities as well as the practicalities like raising support, and when we would go.  He knew a lot about BFA because he had spent several years working there.  After talking about the practicalities we decided to aim at leaving this coming summer of 2012.  We planned to apply to TeachBeyond and BFA, begin raising our support, live intentionally the upcoming year with our family and friends and hopefully be set to leave for the 2012 school year!  So there was the When and potentially the where!

Teachbeyond encouraged us to contact BFA to let them know of our interest.  Amazingly enough their recruiting liaison was going to be in our area in a few weeks. (crazy? or crazy awesome?) We got to meet with her and talk more about our potential fit at BFA.  It was really a joy and a blessing to get to meet with both of these individuals, talking with them gave us such an excitement to pursue working at BFA and also gave us both a strong feeling of affirmation that we were headed in the right direction.  BFA’s recruiting liaison gave us a lot of insight into what life at the school could be like for us.  She told us about different roles we might fit into at the school and a little about the kids there too!

We began the long process of applying to both Teachbeyond and BFA.  There were pages and pages of questions and essays and we had many references to ask for!  Thanks to everyone who sent in a reference for either of us!  After several months of applications and a 2 hour+ phone interview each!  We were notified that we had been accepted by Teachbeyond to serve at BFA!

We then went thru a whirlwind of support raising and training in the next few months.  August found us on the plane bound for Germany and a new chapter in our lives working at Black Forest Academy!   We would not be where you are without the support of so many.  Friends, Family and even some strangers (not strangers anymore!) are responsible for getting us to where we are.  We are so grateful to have so many people behind us!

We have been working at BFA now since 2012 and plan to stay at BFA for a few more years, most likely a total of 5 years.  We are constantly looking for more financial supporters.  You can support us on a monthly basis (the best way!) 🙂 or you can support us with one time gifts!  (also very helpful!!)  Just follow this link to fill out forms to commit to giving for Jennifer and Jamison Loop… www.give.teachbeyond.org

Keep following us here on the blog for stories and experiences from teaching at Black Forest Academy, living in Germany, and occasionally traveling Europe!

❤  J and J Loop

Wrapping it Up.

Idioms are funny.  I would say every language has them, but I’m actually not positive, I’m just assuming.  I do know that English has some strange Idioms and I know that German has some pretty funny idioms too.

The question people ask when encountering an idiom is… Why? Where did that come from?  This year I’ve found myself “cry laughing” at Flula who is a German working in the states, he has made some short videos about the ridiculous English language idioms… This is my favorite one… (not all of them are as good and some have language)  My goal right now with my German language learning is to be able to speak enough German to make a “come back” video of me pondering the strange German Idioms… for example…  “das Leben ist kein ponyhof.”  Life is not a pony farm…  What?  Why?  What’s so great about a pony farm that it’s a bitter part of reality that life is not a pony farm?  It’s the equivalent to our English idiom “Life is not a bed of roses” or “Life is not a bowl of cherries”  1. Roses are sharp and pokey  2. What if you don’t like Cherries?!  One more German Idiom that I learned awhile back from my friend Suzanne.  “Ich drücke dir die Daumen.” Literally, “I press my thumbs for you”  This is the equivalent of “cross your fingers” and is done for good luck, you stick your thumbs in your fists!

Okay, that was a rabbit trail… but it started because I was thinking about “wrapping up” the school year, and when you’re learning a new language sometimes you get distracted with your own language.

“Let’s wrap this up, we’re wrapping it up, that’s a wrap.”  These are all ways of expressing an end to a time, it comes from wrapping up something with paper, like a present, or you know, anything else you feel like wrapping up.  We’ve been busy trying to wrap things up here in Germany, but just for this school year.  See, we are not ready yet to wrap up our time in Germany or at Black Forest Academy yet.  Jamison has been conducting his final meeting with students of the school year, planning ahead for the next year with students and encouraging seniors in their future plans.  Yesterday my students worked SO hard, cleaning up the ceramics studio all day long.  I was really feeling blessed this week by my students, so many of them pitched in to help out with the tasks that become mundane and stressful.  I had help unloading the kiln on several occasions, help cleaning the studio, and help setting up the art show.  Now the studio is clean, the wheels have been “detailed” so to say, and though clean is always a relative term in an art room, and specifically in a ceramics room… I have to say, that room is pretty well “wrapped up.”

As a school, we are wrapping up, teachers are finalizing grades and administering finals next week.  We are sending off our  senior students and presenting them to the world, shipping them out so to say.  Some of them are wrapped more sleekly than others, but in my opinion wrapping paper can be pretty deceiving.  Giving away this class of seniors, it’s like the kind of present you give away that you would have liked to keep to yourself.  You know what I’m talking about, you buy or make something for a friend,  it’s really nice, you would like to give it to yourself, but you know the right thing to do, what you must do, is give it away and share it with the one it’s intended for.

There are some amazing people leaving our school, both students and staff.  They are the presents I want to keep to myself because they are some of the best people, and those seniors, those are some of the brightest and best.  I don’t want to share them with the world yet.  A few of my seniors in my ceramics 1 class mentioned to me that if they did fail my class they wouldn’t graduate because it was fulfilling their fine art credit, I’m not going to lie, I was tempted to tweak their grades to keep them here another year, hey they could take ceramics 2, so win win!

Friends we’ve made are “wrapping up” their time in Germany at Black Forest Academy and there will be empty places and new faces next year.  The Seniors next year will seem so young for a quarter or two, then by the end of another year there will be another cycle of wrapping up, of sending out.  It’s the normal ebb and flow of any school, but just like many other things about BFA, with its own added twist.  The BFA twist is that it’s more than our seniors leaving, it’s our staff, something like 20+ staff will be flying away to start their life up somewhere else in the weeks to come.  The other difference is not as many of our students (or staff!) will find themselves back in Kandern, Germany to catch up with their old teachers and friends.  Sure, some of them do come back into town, for graduation, or because their family actually does live here.  For many though, they won’t be stopping by, and time will only tell if our paths will cross again.

So this is where we stand.  With our arms wrapped around the beautiful people of our community, wishing we didn’t have to let them go, but knowing, we must, and knowing, it will be okay, yet anticipating the lonely empty space.  One week of finals, a sunny blur, graduation and many good byes.  I am thankful for the relationships built with those leaving and thankful for those who will be staying with us here, a constant in our lives, at least for this year.

We will be flying into Seattle in less than 2 weeks.  June 18th!  I don’t know that we will believe it’s happening till we land, we will be so busy until then!  We will be in Seattle until the 22nd, in the Portland area from June 22nd-29th.  In Rogue River from June 3oth-July 11th.  Then possibly in Madras/Bend for July 12th-14th then on to Idaho from the 15th-20th, then back to Portland, sharing the rest of the time between Portland and Rogue River again until we leave back to Germany on August 4th!

We will be speaking at Cascade Park Baptist Church in Vancouver Washington on Tuesday June 24th in the evening and on Sunday June 29th during church for about 10 minutes.

We will be speaking at Rogue Valley Community Church in Rogue River Oregon on Sunday July 6th

We hope to plan other times and places to meet with friends and family in groups to share photos and stories from our life and work here in Germany so stay tuned for more meeting times, follow Jennifer on Facebook under Jennifer Joy for updates this summer on where we are at!

For now, I leave you with a few photos, of my students diligently, and happily cleaning.  Also a photo of my independent study students (seniors who took all three levels of ceramics and opted for an independent study in ceramics)  We just finished a lovely evening together sharing a meal and talking about the work they’ve made and what they’ve learned this year, as well as just some regular high school like conversation. 😉

Sweeping, Mopping and cleaning the walls with toothbrushes!

Sweeping, Mopping and cleaning the walls with toothbrushes!

Scrubbing down everything from turn wheels, to boards to aprons! With a smile too!

Scrubbing down everything from turn wheels, to boards to aprons! With a smile too!

Cleaning the glaze buckets!

Cleaning the glaze buckets!

We had to do a "funny" one.

We had to do a “funny” one.

Going to miss these awesome artists next year!

Going to miss these awesome artists next year!

Time is what keeps everything from happening at once…

“Time is what keeps everything from happening at once.” -Ray Cummings

Everything is happing at once…

I have to use my weekly planner. This is how you know that we have hit a “low point” in how busy we are.  It’s not just us.  Everyone at BFA is busy.  Every student, Every teacher, Every dorm/home parent and RA, Every administrator, Every body.  We are all using our weekly planners, and they all must look the same.  They all must look like mine (or worse!) every day filled in with pencil and pen and erased marks. FULL.

It’s all good stuff! (mostly) or at least things that have to get done.  Like the AP tests, the SAT’s, the CLEP tests.  This is Jamison’s current life and struggle.  He has given several CLEP tests on the past few weekends to students driving from the Netherlands and Austria, and flying in from other European countries.  We have one of the only CLEP testing services available in greater Europe.  (AKA Jamison) Last weekend was the SAT and this week and next week I will coin AP Armageddon.  Jamison is proctoring about 18 AP tests.  He has some helpers to proctor when more than one is going on.  He has been going to school early and coming home late after soccer practice.  He is wiped.

Students are busy too, the amount of school activities in this last stretch is overwhelming.  Every last minute of time spent with one another is precious.  The seniors especially, you can see them clinging to one another in the hallways and after school, soaking up the time together.  The reality sinking in, soon, in a few weeks they have to say goodbye.

We have our goodbyes to say too.  Not just to this years amazing soon to be graduates, but to staff, our friends who are leaving BFA and returning to their past lives and old homes 1000’s of miles away.  When will we see them again?  Both students and staff are asking that question, the answer, who knows? and maybe never?  Best to grab onto the time now, but there’s not enough, and every night is full, when can we sneak in a dinner, a coffee, a walk?

In the ceramics room students are working hard, fighting off senioritus and the feeling of sloth that comes with the end of the year and the turn in the weather.  Yesterday the AP Studio Art portfolios were due, my students got them together and sent off on time and they looked, SO GOOD!  I’m so proud of their work this year.  Soon the kiln will be running literally nonstop.  I feel like I load up the kiln and empty the shelf in the morning and at the end of the school day students are rearranging the pieces on the already full shelf, trying to fit theirs in.  This is the fate of my weekend, the loading and unloading, and then the grading… 50 students time their projects.  I have become a more efficient grader this past year!  The last week of class I have coined the term Glaze-megeddeon.  Similar to Armageddon, only referring to the mad rush of students glazing their final pieces before the cutoff.  I pull out an extra glazing table during this week to accommodate the insane amount of glazing that needs to occur.

Summer planning is there, somewhere in the back of our minds.  We hope to meet with supporters, our friends and family, one and the same.  We hope to rest, will that happen?  We need to plan when we will be where and we are thankful that our families are relatively close to one another, a long drive is all that separates us.

It’s hard, but we have to find times to take a breath, otherwise we pass out and wonder why.  Oh, because we forgot to breathe for an entire week… aha.  Tuesday I took a train ride up near Stuttgart to pick up the pottery from the wood fire kiln that my students made work for earlier in the year (see the post Ceramics workshop)  I sat on the train for 4 hours.  Picked up the beautiful pots and had a nice lunch with the artist we worked with, who is the sweetest kindest person!  And another 4 hours back.  That was a breath of air for me.  Today I am walking up to the last home soccer game in Marzell.  From Riedlingen it will probably take me about 2 and a half hours.  I think I will do a lot of breathing then.  I hope Jamison gets a chance to breath, but it looks like he might have to wait until the end of the month.

May 29th is our four year anniversary! 🙂 We are driving up to Brussels for a long weekend which will consist mostly of walking around the city and touring free chocolate museums and eating free samples!  This little trip is our “light at the end of the tunnel” so to say.  I hope we can shake off the many stressors we are feeling for the weekend.

Well, I must walk!

Enjoy some photos of the Wood fired pieces!

DSC_9537 2

Grace’s Teapot

DSC_9536 2 IMG_0017Elise’s Teapot
IMG_0021 IMG_0055

My Teaset

IMG_0058Beka’s Teapot



Burkina Faso

Whelp, I’ve been back in the moderate climate and rolling green landscape of southern Germany for over a week now, and its high time I give a report of my recent adventures in Burkina Faso.  In case you missed it before, I’ll give some background to the trip.  Each year, BFA sends out several groups of staff and students to various parts of the world to participate in week-long service and mission projects.  This year groups were sent to Jordan, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Tanzania, Portugal, France, and Burkina Faso to do a variety of projects, some outreach oriented, some construction oriented, and some medical oriented.  I was asked to join the group of 10 students and 1 other adult traveling to Burkina Faso to participate in a mobile medical clinic in partnership with an already established medical ministry, Paam Laafi.  Our group met several times in the past few months to prepare for the trip.  Many of the students hope to eventually join the medical profession, so this was an excellent opportunity for them to get some experience with hands-on care and to learn from the participating physicians.

Before I give a report on the trip, I would like to first thank everyone who prayed for our team and contributed financially to this opportunity.  Its always risky for us to join these extra endeavors because we already depend so much on the generosity of our friends and family for our daily living.  It is difficult to ask for more when we already feel so blessed for what we continue to receive.  I have to say, God used many of you to bless us richly in support of this trip.  We were (and continue to be) overwhelmed with your willingness to support us and the ministry we are so passionately involved in.  Thank you!

So, about the trip… Burkina Faso is a small country in West Africa.  Like much of Africa, it is very hot and dry (while we were there, we experienced the area’s first rain since late October).  Also, like much of Africa, it is plagued by developing world problems like poverty, lack of clean water, and very poor medical care.  The family we partnered with is working very hard to bring quality health care to Burkina Faso.  Dr Peter Van Dingenen and his family do this in two very practical ways: they are currently in the (10-15 year) process of building a large hospital facility just outside the capital city of Ouagadougou, and they go out to more rural areas of the country to do medical clinics.

The medical clinic we helped with was about an 8 hour drive from Ouagadougou.  Several of these hours were spent on rugged dirt roads in 110 degree temperatures.  Fortunately, the AC in the van worked very well (especially in the front seat) and the students were in very high spirits.  With our group were four members of the Van Dingenen family, four nursing students from Belgium, a British doctor and her husband, another British doctor whose husband was away for work, two local doctors, and our cook.

The clinic looked like this: a child was assigned a number, which was written on their hand.  They then came in to be checked-in by a nurse and given a cup for a urine sample.  From there they were handed off to one of our students who led them to the restroom for the urine sample, took them to the urine testing station, gave them a vision examination, and took their height and weight.  From there they were taken to wait in line to see a physician.  Here they were given a full examination and prescribed various treatments.  Finally, they visit the nurses to have their ears cleaned out (huge balls of wax, dead bugs and small pebbles were some of the things washed out of their ears).  Most of the kids had malaria (Africa’s common cold – only dangerous when left untreated, which is most of the time), many had some sort of parasite (worms), and a handful were identified as in need of more serious follow-up care.  All in all, we saw over 500 kids in two very full work days.  Dr Peter said that there were several children we saw that might not have lived through the year, but since they were able to get this examination and because they will have the opportunity for follow-up care, should be able to live much healthier lives.

For me, it was so encouraging to watch our students joyfully serve, even in very repetitive work.  They gained some very good insights into the medical profession and I think some gleaned a lot from the physicians.  Its so good for me to see these mission trips, even though they are so short-term, begin to change the perspectives of the students who serve on them.  They were so excited to see all the amazing things God is doing through the Van Dingenen family and other missionaries in the area.  It was a very successful trip, free of injuries or sickness, and our whole team seemed to have been deeply impacted by the things we saw and learned.

Thank you so much, again, for praying for our team while we were away.  Please continue to pray for our students, that they would continue to process and learn from this opportunity and that they would grow in faith in God and hope for our broken world.  Please also pray for the Van Dingenens and the other doctors that work with them, that God would continue to bless their work and bring physical healing to a place in such desperate need.

Please enjoy a few pictures from our journey…ImageImageIMG_0080IMG_0057IMG_0048IMG_0027IMG_0024IMG_0020

Ceramics Workshop

Photo Gallery at the End!

Last weekend I had an adventure with some of my students!  Our little group consisted of myself, my friend Kristi who teaches English, and three students.  All three of these students are in an independent study (they already took all the classes we offer in ceramics) they have been working this year on putting a portfolio together to submit to AP for studio are credit in 3-D.

Our adventure started Friday afternoon, we boarded a train in the little town of Schliengen about 15 minutes drive from BFA and began our 5 hour journey!  We rode from Schliengen to Freiburg and had an hour layover before boarding a train from Freiburg to Neustadt with only a 5 minute transfer window.  Then we were on a train going towards Ulm for about 2 hours until we hopped off at a little stop in a town called Riedlingen (no not the one Jamison and I live in!)  We were picked up by pottery artist Susanne and her friend.

I met Susanne at the annual Töpfermarkt here in Kandern.  Every fall ceramic artists come into town for the weekend to sell their work.  It’s a wonderful market and I love walking around it with students as we soak up inspiration together.  Susanne’s work stood out to me because her work is wood fired in an Anagama kiln, this look is both very unique and distinct as well as dear to my heart.  Seeing a wood fired piece sends my careening into a bath of sweet memories.  The tedious and precise loading of the kiln before firing, a day on your hands and knees picking out pots handing them to whoever is hunched in the kiln to place each piece in it’s place, awaiting to be painted by the fire.  The long nights in front of the Anagama with friends warm even in the winter from the heat of the fire, glowing hot red from inside the anagram, the sun rising on us in the morning and being called into my professors parents house to a wonderful breakfast prepared for our hungry bodies by his sweet kind mother.  The smell of fire permeating everything.  And you can’t possibly forget the anticipation of the week after the kiln has finished and is bricked up, letting everything settle and cool slowly inside.  The joy of cracking the kiln open after the week of anticipation, everyone anxiously peering inside as each piece is carefully removed from it’s place.  Everyone marveling at the story told on it’s surface of ash and heat and intensity, all in beautiful shades of creams and golds, flashes of red and orange and maybe a crystal or two!

I digress! I was drawn to Susanne’s work because of her aesthetic and her technique.  The first year I attempted to strike up a conversation with her in German (my Germany was sehr schlect at that time!) Susanne speaks wonderful English though so we were able to talk about her kiln and her techniques.  The next year (this past fall)  I talked with her again and she gave me her card.  I got an idea then, that maybe I could take the small group of advanced students to her place, maybe she would do a workshop for us?  I looked on her site and saw that she indeed offered workshops from time to time so I emailed her to propose a workshop for us and she accepted!

Susanne’s Anagama was built several years ago in 2005 as a workshop for other artists to participate in, this made the work lighter and faster and more fun.  I love that her kiln was built this way because wood firing is all about community and her kiln was built in community!  Another interesting fact about her kiln is that it was designed by Fred Olsen (a potter based in California who has a knack for building kilns) her kiln is featured in his book “The Kiln Book” on page 270 (4th addition) Fred came to the kiln workshop and organized it’s building.  I think this is all pretty neat!  Her kiln is a fusion kiln, it has a wood fire chamber and attached is a smaller salt fire chamber.

On with the weekend!  Friday evening we settled into Susanne’s house, a quaint house in the country.  It was large with plenty of room and space for us all.  Her studio was a small room off to the right when you enter into the house.  She has a barn to store and bisque fire her work in and the anagama is outside of course!  She also had a sweet little standalone shed where all her finished work was neatly stored ready to accompany her to market.  That first night we enjoyed a Japanese meal with veggie soup and sushi, ginger and tea of course!  After the meal Susanne showed us photos and told us stories about her time in Japan.  She told us to always believe in our dreams because she had a dream to go to Japan and work with an artist there and it came true!  She was a warm and encouraging woman.

In Japan she worked for a week with the Artist Takashi Nakasato who’s father was a national treasure in Japan (a high honor!) She made pots with him and learned from his techniques.  They fired his anagama kiln together (with the help of his community of course!) A year later they showed them at a gallery in Tokyo and she gave a presentation at the opening about women potters firing with wood fire techniques.  Takashi even came to Susanne’s to fire pots with her in her kiln, so they did an exchange of sorts.  How amazing is that?!

We went to bed that night tired and happy, anticipating the following day of work.

Saturday we woke up to a wonderful German breakfast (meat, cheese, bread, soft boiled eggs, toast and tea) Our plan was to work all day.  First Susanne showed us how to make a platter using slabs, this was a really good warm up because after making our platters we sat down at the wheels in her studio and set to making teapots for the rest of the day!  Susanne’s favorite form is the teapot, she says it is her life’s blood, it is very dear to her and you can see her love and care for this form in her teapots!  She demonstrated how to throw the body and lid of the teapot and we set to work, she encouraged us to throw 2 or 3 teapots so that we can be sure to have one we really love.

I was so proud of my students this weekend, they were nervous to work on such a difficult project in front of a master potter!  I admit I was too, and my first attempt at a teapot turned into a bowl, I thought to myself, good, here we are at this wonderful workshop and my teapot is a huge bowl, I’m the teacher!!!  We all got the hang of it though and threw a few teapot bodies each.  Next we worked on the lids throwing a few different options for each teapot body.  Just in case!  We were so tired and it was already nearly 2pm when we took a break for lunch.  We had wonderful Gulasch soup over potatoes and a salad.  Susanne told us she wanted it to be like Paradis for us at her workshop and she kept her word!  We felt reenergized and ready for more work.  Susanne demonstrated how to throw tea spouts off the hump and encouraged us to also make a little sugar jar and tea bowls for our set.  We got right down to business throwing.  I had so many tea spouts! Not many of them any good, but lots of them!  We threw and threw and threw!  Eventually we started to lose our steam and a couple of my students got tired and antsy, it was time for a coffee break!  One of my students and I were too focused for coffee so we continued along until we couldn’t resist the break any longer.

We finished work around 6, we worked a full 8 hour day (not including our lunch break!) Everyone was tired and happy as we let our pots dry out for trimming the next day.  We had another delicious dinner and settled into the couches next to the wood stove for a presentation about women potters who work with wood firing.  It was inspiring to see their kilns and their work and hear their stories since they were all women that Susanne had met and some of them were close friends.  We went to bed very content again, looking forward to the work ahead of us on Sunday of trimming and assembling all our pieces.

We woke up early Sunday for breakfast because we wanted to start work by 8:30am, we had a train to catch at 1pm and everything had to be together by about 12:20 for us to be on time.  We set to work trimming the bottoms of teapots, tea bowls, sugar jars and creamers.  We held spouts up looking for the right fit for each teapot, once found there was trimming and hole boring, slip and scoring and attaching until our lidded pieces took on the shape and feel of a teapot, they began to each have their own personality as they took shape in front of our eyes.

We were racing the clock and all of us wishing we could stay another day, or MORE!  I was smoothing out the edges and seams of my teapot and tea bowls, all the time thinking it wasn’t good enough, I needed hours more time to run my fingers over each seam and groove carefully enough.  Finished work was set on the table.  Bags were grabbed from upstairs, shoes put on, a double check on the finished work, a scratch smoothed over, another run upstairs to grab a coat or scarf.  The clock read 12:35 before we were loading our bags into the cars.  We could risk missing our train for a group picture though and we gathered round together all smiles and clay in the cracks of our hands, under our nails, left behind on our clothes.  Then the mad dash into our seats, buckling up, speeding out of the drive and down the country road towards the country town, to the train station.

I talked with Susanne on the way. (we were in her car a two seater, while Kristi and the students rode with Susanne’s friend.)  I was proud of my students work and their willingness to share their background and stories of their life so far with Susanne.  She was proud of them too and amazed by their personalities and their stories.  I realized that having time to create my own work wasn’t the only reason this weekend was special and “like paradise” as Susanne wanted it to be for us.  I saw my students take on the task of throwing teapots with a professional ceramic artist, something that made me nervous too, and they took to it and did exceedingly well.

We were in such a hurry to catch our train, that we didn’t take photos of our finished pottery!  I will post some as soon as they are out of the kiln for your enjoyment!  We only made the train because it was 20 minutes late.  On the way to the station Susanne said she didn’t think we would make it unless it was late, I agreed and said a quick prayer that our train might run a bit late for us. (the next train didn’t leave for 2 more hours after that) I was only a little surprised when our train was late enough for us to say proper goodbyes and eat a picnic lunch at the station!  🙂

I was encouraged by this weekend to work harder on my own ceramics and to continue to pursue finding my own style and technique.  I’m looking forward to squeezing in some work time for myself in the coming weeks, I will be sure to post some photos of the outcome.  My students work as well as they are in the heat of finishing their portfolios for the AP credit.  They submit their work at the beginning of May, which is fast approaching!

Here are some photos from the weekend! Click on the first one to view them larger in a gallery.

Saturday Morning

I wake up to the sound of the church bells ringing out the time.  I only hear two tolls ring out and that makes me worried.  If it was one toll it could mean that it was simply 9:30, or 10:30.  two tolls means it is either 2:00 and Jamison should be home from proctoring the SAT test soon, OR it could mean that I woke up mid-chime.  Luckily it’s the later since I have a few things to do before the stores close today!  I open up the laptop which also serves as our alarm clock, and find it to be 10am.  I don’t feel guilty, but I need to get going.

We have a huge stack of envelopes to send stateside. Over the past month they have been sitting in various places in our house, even in our car for a week, but until last night the letters hadn’t been stuffed into them and they most assuredly had not made it anywhere near the post.  Last night I stuffed the letters into the envelopes and sealed them shut.  The seal was the least pleasant tasting seal I have ever licked.  This morning they are sitting on the couch in a box.  I quickly get dressed, let Gatsby out, feed him, and lock the pathetic faced pup in the room.   I’m walking into town but I don’t relish the thought of lugging the envelopes (yes, they look heavy!) and Gatsby into town for my errands.  I remember how cold and crisp the air felt when I had let the dog out so I bundle up and find Jamison’s warm mittens to bring.  I sling the bag over my shoulder, I was right, it is heavy.  The envelopes don’t all fit and they stick out of the top of my bag.  The names of people I miss and adore peek out at me.

Frost and ice greet me on the steps and follow me down the hill towards Riedlingen.  It’s beautiful and I almost always remember to see the beauty on this walk.  It’s important to me to try not to forget.  I walk thru the tiny town of Riedlingen, I take a short cut thru a cluster of houses instead of walking on the road.  When the street stops I walk across the road carefully towards the path into the trees.

Walking this path is familiar, it reminds me of the drives that become a part of you, to work, to church to the store.  You almost don’t see while you travel those roads.  The path changes with the season and even day to day there is something new to see.  Today I am not seeing everything though, I am thinking through my errand and the conversation I am going to have at the post.  I’m also thinking about how much time I have for my errand.  I left before 11, it usually takes me about thirty minutes to walk to school from home and the post is not as far as school, I only have 15E in my pocket, and sending all these letters stateside is going to come to a bigger bezahlen than that.  If I walk further into town to the bank, that will add some time and I can’t remember if the post closes at 12:00 or 13:00.  If it closes at 12:00 I might not have time to go to the bank and back to the post.  I would have to ask if I can use my card to pay.  I don’t really want to, I like to use cash, it’s what everyone else does, besides, that way I can listen to the numbers, find the exact change and leave the cashier at the post smiling.  I spend the next bit of the walk, thru the golf course, going over the words.  I know how to ask if I can pay with a card, my new goal in my German language this year is to start speaking in more complete sentences and to learn new phrases so that I can be more than just polite.  I’m trying to think how to start off by saying that I have a lot of mail! (Ich habe so veil Post!) and next how to ask if I can pay with card (mit karte) or only with money (nur mit gelde) once I have that all figured out in my mind I roll it over and over again.  Fully aware that if I were not alone on this path through the golf course someone might see me and be concerned about the way my lips are moving in silence.

I pass out of the golf course path and come into the beginning of town.  Ah, Kandern.  To my left I see the large mountain, Hoch Blauen, looming in the distance, covered with snow.  I’m ready to go thru the second scenario.  If I have time to walk to the bank and get more cash out and then return to the post.  What then will I say?  I decide to keep with my plan to joke about my large amount of mail and then wing the rest.  I walk down the hill into town, Penny the grocery store on my left, next the bus bahnhof on my right and now the Post.  The sign says on Samstag it is open until 12:30.  I walk a bit forward till I can see the time posted on the bank next door, it’s only 11:07, I made good time and I can avoid using my card to pay and walk to the bank.  I have to readjust my bag of envelopes.  I’m telling you, it’s heavy.  I stroll to the left and around the corner past the Eis Cafe, open only during the warm months, I think about the “spaghetti eis” I will enjoy in June.  Vanilla ice-cream pressed through a metal pasta maker of sorts to look like noodles in your bowl, covered with strawberry “marinara” sauce.  I  pass the Topferei (the local ceramic artist’s shop,) past the Café Gemp and the small Saturday Markt in the markt platz before coming to Volksbank.  I use the ATM inside and the machine shoots out the European money that reminds me of Monopoly money.

I pass by everything once again on my way back to the Post.  I pass happy strangers on their own Saturday errands.  I greet them as they pass and my favorite person to greet today is an elderly lady out with her walker who gave me the brightest smile with her greeting.  Things go well at the Post.  I set down my mail and explain that I have “So veil Post!”  I hand the woman the envelope on top which goes to my doctor in Freiburg, I explain that this is the only letter for Germany, all the rest are for the USA.  She takes all the envelopes bound for the USA and counts them up.  There are two envelopes that have several other letters in them to be sent to our Mom’s to distribute around town to those who live too close to them to warrant the cost of mailing them one individually.  One of those packages is over 1000g she tells me, so it costs much more.  I know what she’s saying to me so that makes me happy and I don’t want to think about how long it would be before I returned to the post to mail the larger package after dividing it into two packages so I pay the higher price.  The trip to the bank is worth it, I am able to give her nearly exact change, she’s the friendliest worker at the Post (in my opinion) and the almost exact change is enough to make her smile and exclaim schönes Wochenende! to me as I turn to go.  “Gleichfalls” I say back (you as well!)  TSCHÜSS we sing together.

Back outside I decide I deserve a reward for my morning excursion.  After all, it’s the Saturday after finals week, I walked into town and was successful in my excursions and, I havn’t had breakfast yet.  I walk back towards the Café with my now weightless bag swinging by my side.  Inside the cafe smells absolutely delightful.  I glance at all the options, I could get a croissant and snack on it in the cold on the way home, or a slice of küchen (cake) for later… some quiche?  Then I spy a Rosenküchen.  It is as close as you might ever find to a pan of cinnamon buns, only I know better than to think they are going to be as gooey, as sugary, or as sweet as Cinnabon’s or my mom’s!  They are delicious in a subtle less sugary sweet way.  Your teeth don’t feel like they may have suffered some casualties after indulging in one.  I order my treat and pay.  The lady behind the counter and I call out Schones Wochenende to each other at the same time, we smile at one another and I call out tschuss, as I walk out the door with my Rosenküchen in hand.

Back up the hill, into the golf course, through the wooded path and the street of houses behind the road to my street. Kirchbergstrasse.  Kirche means church, the Riedlingen church is at the bottom of our street and I stand next to the church now and look up the street, which from here is a hill.  I walk up the hill, some kids are outside playing and they call out their hellos in their sweet playful voices.  There are always kids out, adults too, even though the cold is out to play as well.  They just bundle up, practically, with the clothes they must wear in order to compete with this weather.  I make it up the hill and to our house, I walk down the steps to my apartment, the ice has melted in the sun.

I’m tempted to heat up some water for tea and pop a piece of the Rosenküchen into the oven immediately.  Instead I pick up the apartment.  Jamison has been gone since before 7am this morning to proctor an SAT test at the school.  I decide I can wait to eat my treat until I straighten up the house as a little present to Jamison for when he returns.  Clothes away, bed made, this and that around the house put away, thrown away and to finish it all off I sweep the floor free of our furry companions fur!  Now, finally I turn on the kettle, heat the oven and pull a piece of the sweet dough free from the rest.  After everything is warm I sit on the couch in the living room with a view of the hillsides and farmland sloping away from me.  I soak in the accomplishments of my morning with a soft doughy piece of Rosen küchen, a warm chai and my cozy friend Gatsby.

saturday morning

cafe und kuchen


A time of Celebration and Rejuvenation.

When the last bell of school on friday rang, I was relieved.  I took a big breath and smiled.  That last day of school I told my students to have a great break, I told them that I wouldn’t miss them for a week or two but that I’d be sure glad when they did return.  🙂   Jamison wasn’t able to breath a sigh of relief yet, he had to proctor an ACT the next day.  I guess I didn’t get much of a breath either, I spent the next few hours boxing up my pottery and running over to the Art Factory to set it up for the sale which was Friday evening and Saturday morning.  None if that mattered though, not the sale, not the ACT, well it mattered, but we didn’t care too much about stressing out about those things, We were going on vacation Saturday afternoon!


We needed a break.  We needed a change of scenery. We needed our own bathroom (we’ve been sharing with our frau upstairs because ours is being remodeled.)

We weren’t sure if we were going to be able to go on vacation, I think the Lord knew how much we needed it because thru the generosity of Christmas gifts from supporters and the profits from my pottery sale we were able to take a trip to get our mind off of school and onto each other and REST!

So… we went on a road trip.

We left Saturday afternoon and drove for 7 hours until we reached Southern France.  We got some shut eye and drove another 8 hours the next day until we arrived in Alicante, Spain!  (Isn’t it crazy that we can go thru 2 countries in the same amount of time/miles it takes us to drive from N. Oregon to S. Cali?!)

cmas (2 of 23)Alicante isn’t a huge city, we mostly went there because it was cheap, by the sea and had great hiking nearby!  Oh… and Gatsby came too!  He was a traveling champ!

Our first day in Alicante we walked around town and spent a lot of time on the beach!  We miss the beach, but we didn’t miss the beach as much as Gatsby did!  (he hasn’t been to a beach since we left the states!)  As soon as his feet hit the sand he lost it!  He was full of happiness and tore around in the sand digging and running everywhere!!!

The second day we went on a long and amazing hike, we summited one of the amazing mountains of the Costa Blancas. From the top we could see the sea and the surrounding mountains.  It was hard work and took us most of the day to summit and return to our car, it was worth it!  We loved the new terrain, something like high desert, and it’s always refreshing to experience the beauty and artists details of creation.

cmas (3 of 23) cmas (5 of 23) cmas (6 of 23) cmas (7 of 23) cmas (8 of 23) cmas (9 of 23)Our third day we spent time walking on the beach and we also went into the city in the evening to a real MEXICAN restaurant (not Spanish food, Mexican)  It was delicious.  yum!

Then we started the journey back home.  We drove the long drive back from Alicante to S. Spain.  The next day we headed into Italy, but we stopped for a walk along the shore line of Nice, France, somewhere I’ve always wanted to see (hopefully we have a chance to stay there for a day sometime!)  We drove into italy and even stayed the night in Milan! (which is only about 4 1/2 hours from us in Kandern!) People drive crazy in Italy.  In Germany you only get honked at if you are in danger of death.  In Italy they honk at you just because they feel like honking.  Also, they might as well not have lines painted on the roads.  Just saying.  We drove the 4 1/2 hour drive from Milan to Kandern in the daylight and  now we would love to go hiking in Southern Switzerland.  It was breathtaking.  Jamison said “God wasn’t messing around when he made this part of the world!”  It was true!  Amazing blue waters of lakes, striking beautiful mountains falling into valleys of bright green grass and quaint little villages.

cmas (13 of 23) cmas (12 of 23) cmas (14 of 23) cmas (11 of 23) cmas (19 of 23) cmas (17 of 23) cmas (16 of 23) cmas (18 of 23)

The only thing I wasn’t a fan of on our last leg of the journey was the 17km long tunnel.  I like to be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel at all times thank you very much!

We both had the same highlights/favorites.  They were the amazing hike in Alicante and the amazing views of Southern Switzerland.

Matthew 2:10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.

Matthäus 2:10 Als sie den Stern sahen, waren sie überglücklich. 

After our trip we were ready to cherish the joys of Christmas.  We went to a Christmas Markt in Freiburg with our friends.  Christmas markts are magical with their cheery lights and their adorable stalls that look like little clusters of wooden huts.  Towns string up lights along the walkways with stars and snowflakes.

In Freiburg they had decorated with strings of Moravian stars which are a beautiful symbol of advent.  Last year my favorite Christmas scene was the star hanging above the church in our little town of Riedlingen.  Everytime I saw it lit up in the night it made me feel warm, it stirred something inside me that didn’t make me cry, but made me feel awestruck.  It spread the Joy of Christmas by its light.  They sell these stars in different styles, shapes, and colors.

This year Jamison bought a star for me and I placed it in our window so that others can see it’s light in the dark and feel that warm joy rise up inside them.


November & December (Where did you go?!)

You know that saying… “time flies.”  Sometimes people say “time flies when you’re having fun.”  There are a lot of great quotes about time… Dr. Seuss explains it all…

“How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?”
―Dr. Seuss

If time flies though, why don’t we notice it when it does?  flight: I think a large loud plane or a huge beautiful bird when I think of time flying! Those are noticeable things.  I feel like time is sort of a sneaky thing, and when it goes by quick it’s because time is being especially sneaky so that you don’t notice it.  Fast and sneaky time.  That’s what the last part of October and November and the beginning of December were like.  Fast sneaky time took those months right out from under us, like a rug.  That rug dumped us right into Christmas break.

So, here are the highlights from those “lost” months.  I chose 2 things that were memorable to me and Jamison chose 2 as well.  So for those months, this is all you get.  My goal for the new year is one SHORT post a week.  That way I avoid writing these lengthy posts every month… or 2… or 3 months.

Jennifer’s Lost Months

My two highlights are a special ART CRITIQUE and an ART SHOWING/SALE

ART CRITIQUE:  I might have mentioned the “class” I’m teaching.  Independent Study AP Art.  We don’t have an official AP ART class at BFA (yet!) However, four of my ceramics 3 students last year wanted to continue on in their ceramics thru an independent study.  Since I know one of the guidance counselors fairly well 😉 He was able to make sure they all took their ind. study during the same class period.  This way I am able to teach them all at once instead of leaving them on their own in this endeavor!  Well, they have been working all semester.  The students had critiqued one another, I had critiqued them.  This was going to be even bigger!

I invited several artists to sit in on a critique.  The panel was six artists and myself.  mike, who taught drawing and painting last year and is highly respected by his past students(now he and his wife are awesome dorm parents!) Jeremy who teaches at the elementary school but is a phenomenal artist and has his degree in the arts.  Jon who teaches the art classes that I go to Thursday nights, he is very articulate in his descriptions and suggestions which was perfect!  The other studio art teachers were also invited Emily (foundations of art and graphic design) Karen (painting and drawing) Lexi (yearbook and art appreciation.)

Each student gave a short artist statement talking about their background and work and had 20 min with the critics to talk about their work and give them suggestions!  It went very well and seemed to inspire the students to think thru and plan during break.  I was proud of the students for their hard work and the chance to showcase their work.  I was also thankful for the artists and teacher artists who gave up their time to give these students the opportunity.

One of my Ceramics 2 Students working on a set of vases.

One of my Ceramics 2 Students working on a set of vases.

ART SHOWING/SALE:  I have been joining some artists in a class at the Art Factory on Thursday nights this semester.  Each month we focus on a different medium.  We’ve worked with oils and also watercolor/mixed media.  It’s been so good to have that time set aside to continue to foster my own creativity and to learn new techniques.  It’s also a fun time of fellowship with other artists, which can’t be beat!  The Art Factory had an open house where we got to show some of our best works so far.  There was also the chance for me to sell some of my ceramics.  I bought some clay and glaze and set to work, squeezing in throwing time wherever I could!  It all ended in a mass glazing rush, everything turned out pretty well and it was fun to sell my work, not only because it meant we had money for Christmas fun, but also because I love when people purchase a piece of functional art.  They will appreciate the artistry and design as well as the wonderful function of holding flowers, or holding delicious warm beverages duringWinter!    I didn’t find time or space to do an art sale last year so it felt good to buckle down and make art to show and sell again!

Art work.  The landscape and large work on the left are mine.

Art work. The landscape and large work on the left are mine.


The country of MONACO:  In November Jamison got to go on a business trip… to MONACO.  He and the head of the guidance team went to a convention for guidance counselors of international schools.  They actually did a lot of work.  Meetings upon meetings.  Jamison learned some things that can help him while he works with our BFA students to find schools that will fit them.  He also learned about schools from all over because the convention invited college admissions counselors to come and show off their schools.  Jamison also had a lot of fun because they “had” to fly in the day before the convention because that was the only flight… bummer, they got to sight see around Monaco for the day!  It is second in it’s smallness only to the Vatican City (which is seriously a country?  It’s 0.2 square miles!)  Monaco is only 0.7 square miles, it’s population is 32,000 people!!  The country is mostly centered around the Monte Carlo Casino and Monaco is also known for the auto races it holds yearly on it’s own city roads!  Jamison was flabbergasted by the yachts.  HUGE ones.  He also saw a car for sale for several million euros.  All in all he had a good time, both because he got to go to the 2nd smallest country and also because of all the things he learned while he was there!

STUDENTS:  Jamison has LOVED his new job at the high school,  It’s something he sees himself doing life long.  (Maybe not his whole life at BFA, don’t panic mom’s!)  He has enjoyed meeting with seniors and helping them apply for colleges around the WORLD.  Some of his senior students applied for early decision and have already received their acceptance letters!  He feels privileged to be a part of this exciting process.  Jamison has also enjoyed helping those who are nervous or unsure about school find the right fit somewhere.  If you know Jamison you know it’s hard to feel upset, nervous, angry or frustrated in his presence, he has a very calming effect!  Another favorite part about the students is when he meets with underclassmen.  He has been surprised and interested in the goals that some of these students have for their lives at a young age, as well as their direction.  He loves listening to the hopes and dreams of students and for the chance to help them get where they want to be.  I think he is a pretty good guidance counselor, but I guess I’m pretty biased!

Well, those are our highlights!  Stay tuned for a post about our Christmas break adventures and rest, with lots of photos!

J and J Loop

Balancing Busy BFA

You might know this about me, but I love to use alliterations.  I use them on my class project titles when possible… examples being “cultural coils” and “tea for two.”  I’ve used them when showing art and in everyday conversation they tend to pop up.  It’s really just fun to use the same letter repeatedly.

Balancing Busy BFA is the biggest alliteration of them all.  Right now it is the most important one too.  Everyone involved in Black Forest Academy is constantly putting pieces of a BFA puzzle together, everyone has pieces, pieces that don’t go together with their own pieces, but match up with someone else’s pieces.  sometimes you can’t tell if the piece you are holding is an “important” piece or not.  Other times you know you are holding one of the all important corner pieces and you better be sure to place it well!  Let me make this illustration more accurate though.  In all honestly sometimes it feels like we are holding not one or two pieces of a BFA puzzle, but maybe 10 or 20.  Oh, and they are not normal puzzle piece sized!  They are the puzzle pieces from those 32,000 piece giant puzzles (that you can actually buy from Ravensburg and it might be Jamison’s dream to put one together) Now at the same time you are putting together the BFA puzzle, with about 50 other people who also have 10 random pieces of the puzzle, you also have a few normal sized tiny puzzle pieces that you might forget about, but dont, because they are very important!

These little pieces are you personal puzzle.  They are relationships, your personal health, your sanity, your alone time, your family and friends back home, your financial supporters, cleaning your apartment, walking the dog, etc. etc. etc. It is this small puzzle that can be forgotten because those pieces fit in your pocket so they don’t seem important.  Especially when your ministry is BFA (and the insanely huge and complicated puzzle that sits before you)

Those tiny pieces though, they are your life.  Stop.  Take time to slip out of the insanity of the never ending BFA puzzle.  Find a quiet corner, a cup of tea and sit.  pull out the pieces of your personal puzzle and put them together.

Go home for lunch, Take a run(or a walk) thru the hills in the afternoon and watch each day as more leaves turn red, orange, yellow.  Go on a date, spend time with a friend.  Journal, sketch, take a class for yourself, read a book, play your guitar,  pray while you do these things.  Whatever it is you need to do for you.  Basically. Breath.

Now, come back to the BFA puzzle.  Realizing that all of your pieces have meaning. (Even those tiny ones in your pocket.)  Start fitting your BFA pieces into the puzzle, teaching, lesson planning, class sponsoring, bus duty monday morning, grading, dorm subbing, coaching, driving the tennis van (thanks Jamison!) organizing the PSAT or proctoring the ACT,  meeting with students.

This week I took out my precious personal puzzle.   I took out the pieces of my own creativity, and my health.  I spent time piecing them together.  I ran thru the woods with my dog.  I worked out ideas of my own from my sketchbook.  I spent quality time with Jamison,  We visited our friends even though we had other “important” things we could work on.  I took a breath.  I needed it.

Now I am able to step back, look at my BFA role(s) and calmly and assuredly work out the pieces.  If I don’t take time to step back and take care of myself, If you don’t either.  We will come to a point with the BFA puzzle where we drop our pieces in frustration, maybe we will even give up, we will doubt our place and doubt our influence, we will wonder if we are useful here.

Today, reach into your pocket for a sacred personal puzzle piece.  Take care of yourself; then, we can all take care of one another and the students and school we love.

What Makes Us BUSY

I just wrote a piece about balancing life at BFA.  Those of you who are back in the states, well, I know you want to know WHAT we have been so busy with here.  So I will try to sum up the past month and of course, show you some pictures!

Well, we started school.  After the excitement of the first week we began to dig into the nitty gritty of projects and responsibilities!  I have 5 classes this year (last fall I just had 3!) I am also the head tennis coach this year.  Weeks have flown by where I felt like I was working on tennis during my only 2 prep periods and had no time for loading, unloading the kiln, cleaning or prepping for lessons.   After school is tennis practice.  I usually get home around 6 and after dinner I need to work on the things I didnt get to during the day, like lesson planning!

Jamison has been busy as well!  He spent the first few weeks of school meeting with all his seniors and talking about where they are at in their college/future plans.  He has been working with kids to help them decide where and what they might like to do after graduating.  Jamison is also in charge of testing services, he has already proctored both an ACT and an SAT (early saturday mornings!)  He is currently getting prepared to administer PSATs to over 100 students this coming Wednesday!

At the end of September, the Töpfermarkt came to town again (ceramic market) I met with some of my students and walked thru the beautiful pottery.  We talked about techniques and gained some ceramic inspiration together.  I have some really skilled seniors this year, I will miss them next year, but I’m sure the Juniors this year will rise to the occasion next year in their ceramic skills!

Every other Monday we are subbing at a dorm, we have had fun doing that, and hanging out with our students in a different setting besides school.  We are also class sponsors for the freshman class.  This past friday was field trip day for the freshmen and sophomores.  The trips are educational, the freshmen went to the WW1 trenches (1 hour drive from here)  and the sophomores went to a concentration camp from WW2.

We went to the trenches and had a great time exploring the area and learning from the history teachers.  I even found an old bullet shell! There was a group of French police looking officials there.  It turns out that they had found two undetonated bomb shells from the war and they were carefully removing them.  They were really excited about them and even showed us the bombs and let us take a photo! (yes I will post it below)  The  most surprising thing was how close the French and German front lines were. (photo below)  I had always imagined a large distance, like maybe 1/2 a mile or so.  Nope.  The closest point seemed to be about 20 yards!  The other interesting thing was the mix of people walking around the trenches, both French and German people hiked through the trenches together.  100 years ago their ancestors were murdering one another on this ground.  Today, they casually chatted and smoked cigars and pipes.  (sorry I didn’t take a photo of the French guy smoking his awesome pipe, It was going to be to obvious!)  The German side trenches are in much better shape.  The history teacher said it was because there was more rock on their side of the hill… but we all know rock or no rock the German trenches would be built well!  They even included grates for wiping your feet before entering into some of the little bunkers.  Ah, the German way.

Saturdays have been spent with the Tennis team.  Jamison has been driving one of the school vans for the team so it has been nice to get to spend Saturday together even though we are still working.  The tennis kids are fun, I would say they are my favorite, but I’m not supposed to have favorites, and I think honestly everyone is my favorite so, that sort of defeats the purpose of favorites.  ANYWAYS, As much organizing and work that tennis has meant this year, it has been an enjoyable time and I’m surprised how fast the season has gone, next week is our last match!

One of our away games was especially interesting because we stayed the night (not uncommon when we travel more than 4 hours)  But this time instead of sleeping on the gym floor, the other team organized host families for each of the students.  When we met back together the next morning at McDonalds the kids were all sharing about their different experiences with their military base host families.  Many of them were confused when their hosts kept offering them food past 10pm, oh America.  One family asked a student if BFA was “like a monastery school” she was able to dispel this myth for them, no we are not a monastery school.  It was a neat experience for the kids, and hopefully for the host families as well.

My friend and I hosted a baby shower for our friend Valerie who is due in December!  We had a lot of fun playing games and eating delicious food to celebrate the newest addition to an already stellar family!

Lastly, We found a tiny snake in our sink.  That was awful.  We captured it and let it go outside.

There are more things I could talk about, but those are the main, and more exciting happenings.  Enjoy some photos!

ceramic students at the töpfermarkt

ceramic students at the töpfermarkt



Sharing their tennis host family experiences

Sharing their tennis host family experiences

playing tennis

playing tennis


exploring trenches

exploring trenches

exploring trenches

exploring trenches

German line on the left, French on the right

German line on the left, French on the right





Freshmen "Fighting"

Freshmen “Fighting”

Val's Baby Shower

Val’s Baby Shower

snake. ew.

snake. ew.

Déjà Vu

Déjà Vu.  Do you know what it means, it’s French for “already seen”  and we use it to describe the feeling that “this has happened before” but it hasn’t… or has it?

This week has been a repeat of sorts or… “already seen” I think the best way to describe the opening ceremonies is to do a compare and contrast from what they were like last year.

Opening Ceremony/Day 1

Last year at opening ceremony I was in awe of the students, new to me, without names, just faces of the year to come.  I remember thinking about how many of them would be in my class.  (what would that be like?) All the seniors lined up outside with the flags of their country in hand, ready to start a new year too, ready to start a final year at BFA.  The image of the seniors lined up ready to parade into the auditorium in front of their friends, family and teachers was a beautiful idea, but some of this day left a mystery.  I didn’t know these students, I didn’t know their families, I didn’t know my fellow teachers very well.

This year…   I arrived to the opening ceremony anxiously awaiting the sight of the BFA seniors with their flags outside.  My students were back.  Seeing them lined up in clusters with their friends brought a surge of joy to my heart.  This year the faces were familiar and attached to them are memories of last year.  Many of these kids were my students, or my tennis kids, or Jamison’s soccer team kids.  They know me.  I know them.

Everyone is taking pictures, you feel like you are a part of a red carpet event.  I take a few shots and then make my way thru the lines to find some of my star pupils (not favorites, just stars)  I take some photos of these special students, hug them and welcome them to a new year.  This is the starting point, the springboard, the year is about to begin.

This year there is one more feeling that I didn’t have last year.  Sadness.  Each of those students with a flag, waiting outside on the cool september morning will walk into BFA today to begin their senior year.  In June they will walk out of BFA with their diploma in hand and leave an empty space at BFA.  I think about last years seniors, they were all such great kids, I see their faces and their personalities, the unique ways they learned and experienced art in my classroom.    It feels like my heart sighs.   For there is a great and wonderful thing happening called life, transition and moving on, but sometimes the goodness of it all stings a little.

And then it’s time for the procession to start, and I smile.  All these beautiful people here at BFA today.  The students yes, but the staff, and all the new staff, starry eyed with the prospect of the year ahead.  The parents,  proud parents, many leaving their students here for us to watch over.  There are beautiful people all around.

Wed, Thurs, Friday WHIRLWHIND

Jamison and I were kept pretty busy this week.  Jamison spent his time coming in early, staying late and being in his office during lunch to help students fix, or tweak their schedules.  Jamison will still be doing “testing services” which means he is in charge of the ACT, SAT, PSAT, and some other standardized tests.  He is going to be busy, not just this week, but all year!

I am teaching 5 out of the 7 periods.  1st period I have a group of four students working on creating AP Art portfolios, we don’t have an AP art class (yet!) at BFA so they are taking an independent study, we are treating it like a class so I will be teaching them formally which is not typical of an ind. study.  They have lots of good ideas and are already getting their hands back into the clay!  I teach again 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th.  Back to back classes felt crazy this week, but I think once they are all working on projects it will feel less hectic.  I LOVE having students back in the classroom, I’m excited for the work they will make this year.  I have a ceramics 2 class and a ceramics 3 class, these are all students I know from last year, It was fun to see them come into the classroom again. They are confident and comfortable in the classroom and anxious to start work and learn new things.  I love that my classroom can be a safe haven for them and a time in their day to slow down and create something with their hands.


Last year I was asst. coach of the tennis team, I came to practice a few times a week and helped coach to the matches.  This year I am the head coach!  I spent my prep periods this week running around making sure practice was going to go smoothly (or something close to it.)  We take a bus out to a nearby town to practice because we dont have access to tennis courts here in Kandern.  This week was fun getting kids out on the courts and practicing, there are some new kids on the team too, so it’s fun to get to know them!  One of my friends is asst. coaching which I am incredibly thankful for!  In fact, I have two asst. coaches this year.  Having so many hands will help the kids get the most out of practice and lots of advice as they play.

New Commitments

Last year we were really careful about how many extra things we said yes to.  We were transitioning to this new place and we wanted to be cautious.  This year we felt like we could add a couple things to our plates.

We are excited to be Freshman Class SPONSORS! Being a class sponsor means that you help the students put together the different parties and activities.  We will go on the class outings with the freshman this year, next year we will continue to be their sponsors while they are sophomores.  We don’t know how long we will be at BFA yet, but it is going to be tempting to stay to see this class thru to their senior year.

The other thing we are adding to our plate is… DORM SUBBING!  It is going to be neat to see this other aspect of the kids’ life here at BFA.  We will be subbing every other monday night at a girls dorm called STORCH It isn’t too far from us so we are hoping to ride our bikes over after school and then back later.  Monday is the day the R.A.s have off so we will be joining the dorm parents there for the evening while the RA’s enjoy their day off.

As you can see, there is a lot going on!  We feel like, with special care, we can balance these new commitments with our previous commitments.  We must be intentional with our time, both with each other and working on fostering our marriage relationship as well as with our dear friends, we have such good friends here.  Please pray that we will be diligent this year in managing our time and taking time to nurture all our relationships!

first day of school

Our First day of school, Gatsby isn’t as excited as we are since he doesn’t get to come.


One of the wonderful BFA seniors

Seniors with their country flags, they can choose to carry their passport country’s flag or the flag where their parents/family live.
IMG_0012Some of my ceramic students!