Monthly Archives: June 2015

Sunburns and steps

Yesterday I made it to 20,000 steps before switching to the bike. I am happy to report that the Fitbit did not blow up. It was a really sunny day yesterday and I forgot my sunscreen. So, I left Rotterdam with a pretty good sunburn. It was such a great day! We started our trip having coffee and cake with Ageeth’s parents and catching the metro from their house. Her pWarents are darling.I wanted to shrink them down and store them in my pockets like good luck charms!

We walked 13 kilometers yesterday. In that distance, we walked through the harbors, crossed the Willems bridge, past the Stadhuis and the few buildings that remain from pre bombardment Rotterdam. We had a wine on the terrace of the Hotel New York which is the old Holland America Line HQ. We took a water taxi to cross back over to the other side. We went to markets and photo galleries.It was a super day 🙂

After getting home at 9pm and quickly feeding the dogs, it was off to a meetup. I was really nervous going there. I even parked my bike a block away so I could think about not going in. Eventually I kicked myself in the butt hard enough and went in. I am glad I did. It was super awkward at first. Of course it was! However, I did finally meet some interesting people and break through the early awkwardness. We ended up staying there until the bar closed. After that, it was on to another terrace until they closed. I got home at 5am because I ended up walking two people home across West since one was not able to ride her bike anymore and couldn’t even remember where she lived. By the time we had an address to work with and gotten there, the birds were already singing. Pedaling home through the city in the early morning was beautiful. However, I was so tired, I knew I wasn’t riding properly. I actually wanted to fall asleep on my bike.

Anyway, point being, I went to a meetup and I went to one of Amsterdam’s oldest bars for women. And I survived and didn’t cause any accidents 😉 so that’s two important social milestones achieved yesterday.


Wow, I just read the news tonight. Pretty big decisions from the Supreme Court. On one hand, I am excited by the rulings on both on healthcare for everyone and marriage for everyone whether you are hetero, homo or somewhere in between. Maybe the US is finally moving forward when it comes to real equality for everyone, not just those who can buy it.

In between the pride in the decisions today there is mixed the disappointment that with the next administration, there will probably be more attempts to just turn all of these things over again, that it took so many years for this finally to be decided on by the Supreme Court and the disbelief that it took so long for a nation that touts it’s horn about equality and freedom to get to these rulings. I think this is a result of a two party political system. It remains too easy to polarize people against each other, politicians and others don’t have to work together because there is an “us vs them” mindset. In a multiparty system, groups have to work together to form consensus.

I am glad that these decisions have come to life. The Netherlands was the first country to expand marriage to same sex couples. All the way back in 2001. Guess what? The world and Dutch society did not come to a burning halt or fall into the sea. I hope that sort of common sense is also found in the weeks to come in the US instead of people freaking out and turning on each other, whipped up by inflammatory political campaigns and slogans. I have seen that one Republican presidential would be is already calling for an amendment to the US Constitution in order to override the decision… and so it continues.

As for me, it has been a busy couple of days between unpacking suitcases, trying to get the cats to like me again, finishing out the work year, looking at houses and catching up with a week’s worth of missed people. I cut the trees back tonight that were coming over the fence and repaired the top rails. I also decided that in my next garden, I wouldn’t have terrace stone with all the baby rocks in it, I would have smooth stone – much easier to sweep clean. The vegetables are growing quite well. The plants anyway. I am not sure if I will see any vegetables themselves. Actually, in my next garden I am also going to have grass. It doesn’t have to be alot of grass, it can be like a Zen size corner. Just enough to say it is there.

I looked at a really great house this week but in the end decided not to make an offer. Two reasons – the design of the bathroom was backwards and if you used the shower the water would go straight out under the door into the hallway. I would have switched the shower and the bathtub but the contractor obviously had his own ideas. It also didn’t have a kitchen, you would still have to put one in and it had two offers already over the asking price which was already at the top of the market. I am not worried, I will find the right house. I am just glad I started looking now. If it gets to be too much, I can always move out of the city and into an old farm 😉 I can just see the dogs learning to herd sheep!

Tomorrow I am off to spend the day in Rotterdam with a born and bred Rotterdammer. Ageeth and her husband own my second living room and she invited me to spend the day in exploring Rotterdam with her when she heard I hadn’t ever been out of the train station or the Ahoy stadium. I am looking forward to it! Tomorrow night, I am going out with some people from a meetup so that should be an interesting experience… I hope interesting good.

Almost like Europe

Here I am, sitting in the KLM lounge in Terminal 5. In front of me I have an espresso and a sparkling water. I’ve got a window seat that lets me watch the big wide bodies being loaded. Alitalia is first up. I might have mentioned a time or two how watching airplanes being loaded makes me both wish I could do it again and then again glad that I have a different job now. Things I miss are the precision with which planes are loaded, the feeling of being physically tired when you go home, the super jolt of power when you are pushing back a big plane and those highly paid pilots have to listen to the ground monkeys while the plane is still hooked up to the tow bar and repeating all those moments all again. Things I don’t miss include doing your best in the worst weather possible, never quite getting the smell of Jet A out of your hair and clothes and the management structure and hierarchy. Now of course, most of the baggage handlers are contractors which is also the result of all of those management structures and changes. I have nothing against the people who are working as contract employees. I am sorry that they are not paid what they are worth and rarely have benefits. Not to mention that they don’t get to experience that sense of ownership that I think every airline employee needs to have. I also think they have a right to much better wages than what they get. I am definitely proud of the fact that I was a Ramp Rat. In the end, that pride and time served didn’t matter and I have gone on to other things after the last rounds of layoffs, pension defaulting, etc. I don’t ever regret the time served though. And believe me, if you knew some of the individuals I worked with, you would understand why sometimes it felt like time served. As much as I was a strange animal for them, a woman throwing luggage, some of their concrete mindsets and attitudes made them an unusual animal for me to be around.

I got here very early today because Cedric’s flight was at noon. It was hard to say good bye to him, Rupert and Meredith. I think that is the worst part about visits. We decided yesterday that we will make this an annual event. We’ve already done it two years in a row so we’re committing to it now. It has been a really fun and relaxing week with some important time together building memories. From our bike ride from downtown to Montrose Beach to go to Mumford & Sons to going to see the awesome 80s band 16 Candles at the Pride street fest in Boys’ Town and having an Indonesian dinner together on the balcony, we did pretty well with each other.  No one got punched or arrested and no one did any punching. For us, this was progress 😉

Dylan left yesterday to go back to Cleveland which meant that Sunday night, we went to Giordano’s for pizza. Dylan had some difficulty at 16 Candles at first but after a few beers, he stopped worrying and got into the music. It seemed then only fitting that we should further push his boundaries with the fully carb loaded stuffed crust pizza from Giordano’s! There’s moments I feel sorry for him, since he looks at the world in a very black and white way. I used to have moments were I felt compelled to try and break though some of that concrete thinking. However, I have realized that’s not my responsibility, it is his and only if he wants to do that. If he likes his life the way it is, that’s his business. He’s still not invited to stay at my house again. However, if he had been more like this in Amsterdam, it would have been a much better visit.

Then there’s Cedric. My brother that reminds me so much of my mom, I want to kick him sometimes. I am sure the feeling is mutual. I am hoping that he will come and visit soon since he is the only one who hasn’t been to visit me yet since I moved. Cedric is a good egg. I have to wait him out a lot, conversation is definitely slow. He is my brother that I can sit next to for hours with neither one of us talking and it is just excellent. We went to the Chicago Diner last night – it is one of my favorite veg places in the world so far. We did this the last time we were in Chicago too. He’s off home to Charlotte, back to the 100 degree heat and his dog and his ridiculous work schedule. I missed him before we even dropped him off at Terminal 3.

Yesterday afternoon I watched Rupert and Meredith’s wedding video, complete with the rehearsal dinner and the reception. It was a difficult thing to watch because I remember where I was with my mom on that day. We watched the wedding ceremony on a borrowed iPad via FaceTime. It was really hard for my mom. I had never seen the rest of the celebration. I am glad that they were surrounded by so many people who love them. I can see why. I feel that we are exceptionally fortunate that there is a Rupert & Meredith. I have learned a great deal from them about communicating, acceptance and the importance of having fun. I hope that for all of us siblings we find our partner that embraces those things and their priority in building a life together. Knowing that it took R&M four years makes me feel a little more confident that we can all do it. I wish my mom had had more time with them.

I’m going to miss my family. However, now that I know we are going to do this annually, I can start planning 😉 I just watched my airplane come in to the gate. I am flying an airplane that is named for the City of Jakarta (Indonesia). It reminds me that I am going home. I know of Jakarta from Mom stories. Sitting on the upper deck again. I liked it so much last time that I switched my seat so I could do it again. Oh my goodness, they have horses coming off. They just opened the cargo doors to horse transport containers. Okay, that is another thing I miss about being a Ramp Rat! I do think all the Reese’s Peanut Butter cups in my checked luggage for my pet sitter and other friends are definitely melted. Okay, I am going to watch the unloading… I know, I am a dork 😉

Happy to be here

Working my way into being far more relaxed. I can say that for the past two nights, I have slept really well. No waking up countless times, a bed to myself and getting up with the light from outside. Okay, so I wake up at home with daylight too. I am not sure what it is, I think perhaps just the sense of comfort that comes from being with Rupert and Meredith.

Cedric arrives today. I am really looking forward to seeing him since it has been almost a year.

Last night I finally saw the classic movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”. I had never seen it before and it was showing outside in the park. We went over there about dusk and watched from the steps of the Chicago Museum. I have to get the soundtrack, so many great 80s songs.

We had originally planned to see Mumford & Sons at Montrose Beach last night but the rain postponed the concert until Friday night. This will be great since i would have missed them at home since they were playing the same night as Andre Rieu. What fun to discover that Rupert and Meredith also have an appreciation for the banjo 😉

I brought my banjo board with me. Basically a banjo head without a neck so I can keep increasing my picking speed while not making any noise. It is very useful and only looks slightly weird. I think the same sentence could be used to describe me 😉

Tomorrow night, we have a family dinner with our Aunt Sharon and her daughter and son in law. We are eating before the senior rush, at 5pm! It will be good to see my Aunt again. She’s an interesting woman. She is always very happy to see us which seems hard to believe when I think of what a bunch of hard headed siblings we are. Eigenwijs is the Dutch word for it. Literally you own wisdom. Henry is very eigenwijs!

I miss the pets. However, they are all doing fine per Nikah. 80 degrees today and 100% humidity so it is probably a good thing that they are not here.

Meredith and I are off to get our feet glamourized!

hello from upstairs…

I am having a very Austin Powers moment sitting here on the upper deck of a 747. I always wanted to do this. I feel like running around and saying “Shagadelic” ! And dancing to funky music. In the interest of my fellow passengers, I will refrain. Last thing I need is to get in trouble and be a candidate for the Darwin Awards.

I snuck out of the house, hoping the pets were too occupied with their bribes to notice me. I will see them again in a week and they will be okay while I am gone.

The open house was a disappointment, especially for the price. The garden was lovely but the house itself needed a ton of work and the master bedroom was only 2 meters wide. Yep, roughly 6 feet wide. So, on to the next. Bummer because it was right around the corner from where we live now.

Time for us to fly… Yeah, baby, yeah!

20-20-24 hours to go…

I wanna be sedated… as the classic Ramones song goes. In my case, I nearly wore out the cassette tape I had of Ramones Mania (their first greatest hits album) listening to that song. As a matter of fact, I am going to play it write now while I type just to keep me bouncing along.

I haven’t packed yet but the boys already know something is up. There’s been a high amount of anxiety peeing around here. Them, not me. As for me, I know everything will be fine. I showed Nikah today how to give the cats their medicine. If you can catch her, Lientje is alot easier than Moortje about getting her medicine. Of course, catching her is not that easy.

I went to the Albert Cuyp market to get stroop wafels for Meredith. She loves them, they are about as fresh as you can get and extra delicious. Besides, I think that since I will be staying with them for a week, it is the least I can do. I also bought cheese and Indonesian spices and sauces so I can cook for them as a way of saying thank you. I can actually cook, tortillas being the exception of course!

I had a rought banjo lesson today. Most likely because I was stressing out about leaving tomorrow and that it is not the brightest time of the year to be taking a week off from work. It will be okay. I have 8 hours of flying time tomorrow to be doing work stuff. Except KLM doesn’t have wifi on their international flights. I don’t that’s a bad thing really. I am supposed to be writing a magazine article and that doesn’t require wifi.

I felt like PigPen from Peanuts while I was trying to play the banjo today. It seemed like no matter what I tried, stuff kept getting stuck and swirling around making the songs sound terrible. Luckily, the mess was musical as opposed to bricks or other hard objects so no one was seriously damaged.

Tomorrow morning, one more open house to look at before I leave for the airport. It feels strange to be going to the US. I am going to be very happy to see Cedric, Rupert and Meredith. That’s not it. It just feels odd somehow. I have to go since my new check in sized suitcase has already been delivered to Rupert’s third floor walkup.

I think I better get my butt in gear and try discreetly packing around the pets.

Grounded again

Yesterday I spent the day on Forteiland in the Ijmuiden harbor. It is an old fort that used to be part of the defense line of Amsterdam. We had a work meeting there. I thought it was going to be another meeting involving slides and increasing butt numbness from the chairs only this time on an island so we couldn’t sneak off early. I was wrong. It turns out it was a day of adventure. We had all kinds of interesting stuff to do like shooting a bow, going blindfolded through an obstacle course in the old ammunition rooms, building a catapult and launching missiles. It was good fun! I did get a sunburn despite my sunscreen. However, it was worth it. We were split into teams and I had a really good team to work with. We were excellent with strategic things and working together, we didn’t do so well in the single oriented activities like sharpshooting on the range.

Today I had another day long meeting. However, this one was more serious. Instead of the office, we met at Wim’s house. He lives out in the polder and has a tremendous yard with rabbits (Ozzy and Sharon) and four chickens and a rooster, a goldfish pond and a garden that is composed of different “rooms” so you are never bored. Of course, an enormous terrace as well. It reached 84 degrees today so this was a great place to have a meeting. It was also really productive despite our best efforts to be distracted by the outdoors.

When I see places like Wim’s, I do think about moving outside of the city. I am charmed by the old farmhouses and tiny streets with one lane bridges and canals along every house. I like looking across the meadows and seeing the cows and the sheep and in the distance the tall tower of the church in the next town. I like the space that you have and imagine the peace and quiet. And then I think about things like the fact that his town doesn’t have an ATM anymore. The bank said there wasn’t enough usage. I think about how I like going out in the evening and in a small town you either have to make friends quickly or be perfectly okay with being the outcast. Not much middle ground. That pulls me back to the idea of living in the city pretty quickly! I do enjoy visiting it. Perhaps one day when I grow up, I will live in the countryside too, on a small farm.

I have spent the past couple of days processing things out of my head and talking myself down from the ceiling. I try not to get so wound up but it happens. It gets worse when I don’t say anything about it and keep it buried. I haven’t changed my mind about the decisions I made for going forward. In the future, I will act on them sooner and not wait for things to get better, because really they won’t.

My Andre Rieu tickets came today. I have to figure out who to bring along since the original intended guest is out of the picture. Or I could just go alone, which would be completely okay. Either way, I have my weekend booked at the castle nearby and before the concert, there is a fabulous dinner at Chateau Neercanne complete with a wine pairing and a designated driver so I am certain to enjoy the concert 🙂 Unfortunately, small dogs are not invited! I will do my best to celebrate Mom’s chosen 75th birthday with happiness and gratitude for the life that I have.

New House Rules

I am going to say that I am glad to have an empty house again. For the future, the Air BnB experience is not welcome. I spent the past few days feeling like I was having an Air BnB guest. One without any regard for the environment or people around, one who didn’t even display common courtesies like asking if I also wanted anything as they went into the store to get themselves some breakfast and water.

It is my fault for tolerating it. After today’s trip to Marum, which was also a NON Enjoyable experience as chauffeur, I am done with people who have highly developed egos and the resulting tendencies that go with them. I know there is something wrong with me as I have had the history of them finding their way into my life. I have had enough of it. So, I am cleaning out my house of people that I know that spend their entire existence acting as if they are the center of the universe. Life is too short for such imbalanced friendships. I am not doing it anymore.

I have to say, it feels pretty damn good. I’ve learned a lesson this week that I am still susceptible to those types of people, which means I have to do a better screening job in the future. I can’t do much about my brother other than to not give him a place to stay next time. We already don’t talk unless he is planning a trip to Europe and wants somewhere to stay. He is almost 40 and he’s not going to change. As for non relatives, those are easier to manage out of your life. And I am fucking tired of dealing with emotionally unstable people.

For future houseguests, please know that you are welcome to stay with the following in mind: clean up after yourself, be inclusive, make conversation – by this I mean dialogue not monologue, every now and then offer to pay for your share, and when going to buy something for yourself make the effort and ask if I also would like something.

I am angry with myself that I drove 3 plus hours roundtrip to Marum for less than 2 minutes to talk to Mom. I had a pissed off passenger because he didn’t get up on time to go, who got irritated with me because I stopped to water the plants by Mom and Oma and the Greats. I am angry with myself that I shut up in my own car by said pissed off passenger because he disagreed with the fact that Russia is a great place (it’s not, I have been there). I am angry with myself that I spent time and effort trying to make sure everything would be in order and gezellig and I DIDN’T GET A SINGLE THANK YOU. I am sick and tired of people like that in my life.

The time in the car today is the most time my brother spent with me. And more than half of it was in silence. So, maybe now you can understand why I am taking charge of my social world and throwing out the center of the universe types. I guess you could say I am declaring my independence 😉


Maybe the best thing to do is not have any, then things can only be a positive. I am not that kind of person though. I have always had expectations of people, places and experiences. I was raised with expectations. I can’t remember my parents ever not telling me what they expected of me, whether it involved grades, a job, contributing to the family, etc. I am pretty sure that I didn’t live up to all of their expectations and their thoughts about what my potential was but that’s for another post.

Over the past few days, I have had some unusual conversations. I have gotten some very frank advice about my tendency to wear sneakers (and sport ones not dressy ones), my fondness for fleece and other outdoor type clothing, color combinations and using clothing as a wall. This was a particularly good conversation because it prompted me to do some thinking about why I wear what I do. A lot of my motivation is based on what is comfortable and what works with riding on a bike. Looking at it more closely, a lot of my clothing choice is also based on what makes me feel safe, protected from the chaos and dirt of the outside world. This doesn’t mean that I walk around in a hazmat suit – I just wear a tinfoil helmet which is equally effective and less obvious. It means that I dress in what reminds of the Pacific Northwest, of Seattle, of my mom. It completely doesn’t go over here. I don’t think I want to change it. I am going to do some more thinking about it though, why am I really wearing what I do? What is it about my clothing that I identify so strongly with? Yet when I travel to the US, I want to be more formal looking, more European and I look at what I pack and wear differently.

Less easy to manage are the expectations I have about people. I think this is where I get into trouble a lot. There used to be a quite important person in my life who I would often tell “those are your expectations of how you would treat people and what you would do. You can’t expect Person X to do so as well”. Instead I find myself now telling myself that. It is not quite as effective when it is your own voice talking to you. I feel like over the past few days, the expectations I have had for some people have not been met. I can’t say I blame them because they are my expectations for someone else but at the same time, I feel irritated and let down. Then I start thinking about what I am going to do with that information. I don’t really think there is anything I can do other than accept it and make different choices in the future.

One of the houses I looked at last week closes for offers tomorrow morning at 830. The owner called me tonight to tell me. And as much as I want to go for it, I know it would be really dumb to do this without at least understanding the process and walking through it with a realtor. Especially since you are only buying the right to the house, not necessarily the house itself, which is a very weird concept for an American. Letting the house go without putting an offer in means also letting go of the expectation of living in that neighborhood, which is a bit of a bummer.

We did have a good family dinner tonight in Alkmaar. My spicy tofu and couscous was really excellent, considering we were definitely in the countryside. The conversation was good overall and it was nice to be together again. And my aunt gave me two Italian phrase books for my upcoming trip. What is hilarious is there are even the phrases for how to tell someone they are seducing you too fast. I guess Italy has a deserved reputation for romance if those kinds of phrases are included! I am going to have fun practicing.

I am done being melancholy. I have more work to do tomorrow morning before I go into the office so it is off to bed.

Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity

That was a slogan for a pancake combination at the International House of Pancakes. I don’t think I have ever eaten it but I give the marketing people full credit for coming up with a word combination that sticks in your head once you hear it! It is not in reference to me. Instead it refers to the newly washed Henry and George. I took them to the park first this afternoon and they rolled in everything including someone’s leftover bbq. So, when we walked in the door, it was only a matter of moments before the dog shampoo was bubbling away in the tub. George seemed to think he was swimming since he sat down in the water while Henry was getting washed first. You have to wash Henry first because he is shorter and the water comes up much higher on him. Henry is also not a big fan of water so I find it is kindest to scrub him first.

Dylan comes tomorrow so it is important for the boys to be at their cleanest since not everyone loves the smell of small dogs. If everything goes as expected, I will pick him up tomorrow evening from Centraal Station and we will go out for Indonesian food. If it doesn’t go as expected, I will have packed my flexbility as we say.

Yesterday the temperature reached 89 degrees. That was a sweaty bike ride home from Schiphol! I had a couple of bottles of water with me, which was smart thinking. I also had a headwind, of course. It was a hair band bike commute yesterday. In the morning, I listened to Guns ‘n’Roses greatest hits album and on the way home Poison’s. Something about warm weather inspires me to listen to 80’s hair bands. I am sure there is a psychological diagnosis in there somewhere!

It has been a busy week. On Tuesday, I met Joanne at Centraal at 1045 with instructions to be surprised. For my birthday, she took me to the Tong Tong Festival in Den Haag. This is a huge all things Indonesian exhibition. It was amazing! From the music to the food to the books. I met someone from the organization that works with survivors of the camps. I had wanted to get my mom a meeting with them but we were never able to do so. However, they are also willing to do family research so I am going to start that request too.

We bought sarongs – Joanne even bought two and I talked her into buying more super cute clothes. She can carry them off since she is super tall and slim, so all kinds of things look great on her. She just usually has to be pushed into committing to make the purchase. It is kind of like watching someone buy cheese, the same sort of vicarious thrill 😉 We had a really good time. Spending time with her always makes me laugh because she has no idea how funny she is. She bought some special beans that STINK. And I mean even through the plastic wrap. You don’t eat them per se, you use them to flavor another dish. The fun part of the beans was on the train back, it was very full. Joanne and I were sitting across from each other and her seatmate got this look on her face everytime she got a whiff of the beans. She eventually left – not sure if it was the train or just to sit somewhere else!

Wednesday we had the ECG for the cats. I have written about the policy here is that you are helping with your pets, you don’t just hand them off to the vet and wait. For both cats, I had to help with the process. The good news is that neither of them have an actual cardiac illness. In Moortje’s case, it is a side effect from the kidney problems. In Lientje’s case it is a birth defect most likely. Their hearts are not a separate issue which was a relief to hear. However, both of them tend to run now when I come near them because they don’t like getting their medicine two times per day. It also doesn’t work if I try to sneak it into their food. Sometimes you just have to live with the fact that you are not liked because you are doing the right thing. However, they both still come looking for attention at bedtime, so I guess I am not completely outside the ring of forgiveness. We have a followup in a month to see if Moortje’s blood pressure comes down.

At our birthday party last week, one of my colleagues gave me two books. The first was a 1965 copy of Simon Carmiggelt’s book Kroeglopen (Bar walking) that has beer and coffee stains on the front cover, actual rings. He was a very prolific Dutch columnist and his writing is pretty legendary. The book is a series of short stories about people that he comes across in various bars. It is important to call out the difference between a kroeg and a bar. A hotel has a bar, or a restaurant. A kroeg is more of a living room. It’s old and dark and might serve food but probably serves mostly bitterballen and fried stuff. Different kinds of people are attracted to bars versus those who go to kroegs. Kroegs normally have a cat – which lately the health inspectors are trying to fight. I was really pleased by the gift. From another coworker, I got a collection of necessary items like a light saber bubble wand, a monster truck tire swim float, fun things like that.

I have been trying to read only Dutch books this week which has been slow going. Helaas, it is not going to get any faster if I don’t do any reading so there you have it.

The washing machine is calling!