Monthly Archives: December 2014

Halfway Through

I will say that it has been a rough week. This year has been much more difficult and confronting than this time last year. Perhaps because last year was the year of “firsts without Mom” or perhaps because I had just moved here. Or maybe because I was distracted by Dylan being here and having first Christmas day here. Whatever the combination of distractions, it made it bearable. This year, 180 degrees the other way.

I am angry. I am angry that my mom didn’t have a 75th birthday to celebrate. I am angry that she didn’t have a first or second Christmas day to celebrate with me this year. I am angry that she wasn’t with me to go to the Christmas Eve service at the church in Marum. Instead I left flowers at her niche and went into the service by myself. I am angry that tonight is New Years Eve and that in celebrating as we used to do, at home, watching the fireworks and keeping the dogs off the ceiling, I have to do it alone.

I am angry that on her birthday on Sunday, I won’t be able to sit across the table from her and watch her get giddy off one margarita and enjoy the food from Cactus all the while she is telling me that it is not really her birthday.

But most of all I am angry because my heart is still broken and I miss her so much.

Here comes summer…

Okay, so that is a bit of an exaggeration. However, today is the Winter Solstice and as my mom would say, we would now be heading in the right direction. Of course, fleece is a year round fashion statement and heading towards summer certainly wouldn’t mean giving that up!

We started this morning with George having a seizure. His routine for his medicine has been off for the past couple of days so I am not sure if that is coincidence or not. Regardless, we are heading right back to the regular schedule. And he is no longer allowed to go to the disco at night if they have strobe lighting. I have told Henry that means he can’t go either because they are brothers. Henry is disappointed that he will have to show off his dance moves elsewhere.

Just in case you think I am nuts, the boys really can dance. My mom used to play the Gipsy Kings album Compas frequently and she would dance around to it. The dogs learned to dance as well with her. Even now, if I play the opening moments for that album they start dancing around. No one is going to sign them up for a competition but George can dance on his back legs and Henry tries but is more successful with moves that have all four legs on the ground.

We had a good walk in the park today. Both today and yesterday the weather has been very windy and overcast so we have mostly had the park to ourselves. Which is fun!

I went to the movies Friday night and saw the mockumentary “What we do in the Shadows”. It was hilarious and I was so relieved to watch a movie in English so I got all of the nuances and humor. Yesterday, I saw “Samba” which was also good. However, it was in French with Dutch subtitles so it was a bit of mental effort to follow along. Joanne and some of her friends came to the big city to celebrate her birthday and the movie was a surprise for her as well as the dinner.

It is just barely 5pm and pitch dark outside already. Starting tomorrow, I think I will put out the terrace cushions. Not really but I did plant my tulip bulbs too early because I noticed they are already coming up. Well, they will be punk rock tulips, coming up during their own season.

A few more days of work and then Wednesday evening off to Marum. The church is open Christmas Eve late for a service. I am going to go because part of me wants to walk in the church that was open when my mother lived there as a child after the war. My Oma and Opa and my great grandparents certainly went there. My great grandparents are also buried in the church yard. And I want to feel close to Mom.

Then for first Christmas day, we are gathering at Joanne’s. I will be driving because Sjoerd wants to drink so Astrid will be headed to the north with a full cargo of Sjoerd, Marieke (his GF) , the dogs and enough of PCC’s Winter Caesar salad for 10. Well, and maybe a backup dish in case I mess up the recipe πŸ˜‰

It will be a little difficult. The last Christmas I celebrated at Joanne’s house was with Mom so I still have a lot of memories associated with that. But I will pull up my big grrl pants and make it through. And if it gets overwhelming, I will take the dogs for a walk.

Okay, I have to get started writing my Christmas cards that need to go into the mail tomorrow. Luckily I finished all my US ones last week and they are well on their way. Since this is such a small country, I can put the ones for here in the mail tomorrow and they should still arrive on time.


both caused by dinner and brought to the dinner. Last night was the first dinner of the people that over the past nine months I have collected in my neighborhood. All of them work in one of the cafes or restaurants on the main street by my house. About a month ago, I had the idea to have dinner together one night. Sort of my way to get everyone to gather at the table and connect. Of course, the best way to do this was to go for Indonesian with the rijstafel idea. When I discovered that several of them had never even had Indonesian, it became even more important.

There were eleven of us at dinner. The range of ages and personalities was quite wonderful. From the barely 19 year old waiter to the 43 year old veteran of the hospitality industry. And from the reserved human services worker to the playa barman of the street, the conversations were hilarious and all over the place. There were even Homer Simpson style moments of belts being loosened before diving back in for another plate full.

The best moment of all was when I looked up and down the table and realized everyone was silent because they were so into their food. Of course, since there’s definitely heat and spice in almost every dish, people’s digestive systems already started setting off fireworks. Which lead me to sing (to the tune of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’s “Thrift Shop”) “I’m gonna pop some gas” which set everyone into hysterics. When the dessert came out, there were four large fireworks shooting off the plate. It was so cool! Someone had remembered what I said about Mom and her love for fireworks so they thought that would be a way to surprise me.

It was a great evening. I am really glad I pulled it off. Just getting everyone convinced to come was a lot of work and I did worry when I was sitting there before everyone arrived if people were still going to come. Afterwards, the shyest one of the party said that we should do this every two months with each other. I consider that a great mark of success. Really that is what I wanted to accomplish – to connect people who are very much alone in one way or another. That is the one thing that everyone at the table has in common.

I think my mom would have enjoyed it too. She definitely would have had a lot to say and she would have also collected a group of “orphans” for lack of a better term. I know she would have liked the fireworks, of both variety. Last night, I felt like I was continuing some of the best parts of my mom.

I take my chances…

I am listening to Mary Chapin Carpenter and I genuinely love that song. One of the best things about the internet is music and the streaming services. I only ever buy CDs now from bands that don’t have their music available digitally. I am a big fan of being able to store my music in the cloud πŸ™‚

Yesterday, I had to drive to Apeldoorn for a meeting. By car, it is easily an hour on the freeway. By now, you know that this is significant distance in the Netherlands! On my way up to the meeting, I passed the signs for Paleis Het Loo and made a note of planning to stop by on my way back.

When I was somewhere around 12, my Oma and Opa had their 50th wedding anniversary. My Opa organized a road trip around the Netherlands that included all kinds of cultural and important sites and sights. I remember that it was Oma and Opa, Mom, Rupert and me (the twins stayed home), my cousins Jo and Sjoerd and their parents in a rental minivan tooling around the Netherlands. One of the places we went to was Paleis Het Loo. I remember that Opa bought me a necklace with the head of a horse on it. I was, like most that age, horse mad. I thought the Paleis itself was beautiful but I was really crazy about the stables. So yesterday, I thought I would drive by and maybe take a tour and see if it was still what I remembered. Of course, they would be closed on Mondays. So, I will have to wait until next time to get on the grounds.

I remember Rupert being a pain in the ass on that trip. This wasn’t new. Rupert is best in the passenger seat on any sort of trip involving vehicles. This is still true. When we were younger, if he was in the back seat, well, you could count on him amusing himself by either annoying everyone else in the car or tormenting passing motorists. The last time we went on a road trip, camping on the Olympic Peninsula, he was creating a ruckus in the back seat because he couldn’t get something to install on his MacBook. Luckily, I can troubleshoot and drive at the same time otherwise we would have had hours of grumbling.

Don’t get me wrong, my youngest brother is definitely entertaining. And he does very well on trains and public transit but automobiles not so much πŸ™‚

I remember my mom and my aunt having a very vocal disagreement on that trip. That was the first time I had ever seen my mom give my aunt what for. I remember being worried that my aunt would win because she was so much taller than my mom and I remember being embarrassed and wondering if this meant I had to stop talking to my cousin. I also remember walking with my mom through Het Loo and the gardens that were in full bloom.

In some ways, I am still amazed that my mom had so much feistiness packed into such a small frame. I am missing her a lot these days. I really wish I could find someone who had her same frame so I could give them a hug. I know that might be a bit hard to explain as why it seemed like a good idea at the time to a judge.

Having a bit of a cry at the moment, which is okay since it is about time for lunch anyway.

Is that a banjo I hear?

Or is it just the twang of a lonesome caroler? Be glad that you are not within listening range. In today’s lesson, I learned how to play “Silent Night” on the banjo. But the banjo is not really fully designed for that, so you really just play the harmony and have someone sing along. Without someone singing, it doesn’t sound anything like “Silent Night”. HAH, you could say that with me singing, it doesn’t either! Anyway, I had to learn to today to pitch my voice to my banjo, which was a very interesting experience. Interesting as in “this is kind of weird”. My banjo teacher did ask me if I could get one of the dogs to sing along with me while I played. So, if you hear some howling and caterwauling, then you know what you have run into…

It was so chilly today that the cold put my banjo out of tune between leaving home and getting to my lesson. I decided walking longer in the cold would be better than freezing faster on my bike. Thank goodness I have my scarf. It is one that my mom started for me and didn’t finish. Becky reworked it and finished it and I am very grateful. Besides being a lovely multicolored rust scarf, I feel like I am loved when I wear it. It is my special scarf and I don’t just wear it anywhere.

Okay, back to work. I just had to try to get banjo “Silent Night” out of my head and into yours!

Pull out the jackets…

It is official. No more small dogs wandering through the park without their Husky purple jackets that are sized for the strange bodies of dachshunds. The boys are not really fans of their jackets because when I take them off, there is a lot of static electricity around their heads. But I am less of a fan of watching them shiver and shake and in this case to quote the title of Sinead O’Connor’s latest album “I am not bossy, I am the boss”.

I hope you all had good Thanksgivings. I was driving back through the polder this weekend from the north and did a lot of crying. There seems to be something about the wide open space and the very low speed limit (due to tractors and farm vehicles) that lends itself well to this kind of expression. The next seven weeks will be emotionally rough ones so you can expect some random posts. I am working on keeping myself busy enough with the right mix of things.

Friday is Sinterklaas. This is when kids get their presents and their shoe filled with candy as opposed to Christmas, which is more about food.I have been invited out for Sinterklaas to Joe and Tam’s. I think it is really kind of them and appreciate the invitation. It will be all their parents and grandparents. I have been instructed not to bring anything for the girls because they get enough stuff. It is quite a different perspective than piling things under the Christmas tree. Of course, I can’t go empty handed so maybe I will bring cake. Right, always good, sugar for children πŸ˜‰ To be followed of course by a double espresso in their sippy cups! Yeah, that’s theΒ way to make friends!

I was tempted to go to the movies tonight but then again, I am kind of cosy on the orange couch. And I am still doing work for tomorrow. I will have to make dinner shortly for the boys and heat up some split pea soup for myself. I didn’t feel like going grocery shopping today.

Oh, yes, and thanks for the messages πŸ™‚ They helped. A lot.