Monthly Archives: July 2015

The L word

Monday was a day full of the L word. Which L word? Take your pick: love, loss, laughter, Lynn Marie, Laura, light… Those kind of L words. I was really fortunate to have a day that included all of them. Not bad for my first day of nerd camp. I had a chance to catch up with my friend Laura here at nerd camp. The conversation brought me to a whole new appreciation for the choices I have made in uprooting my life (another L word!) and moving to the Lowlands 😉 There’s something to be said about being able to share stories with someone over guacamole from Cactus and share laughter, even when some of the stories you are hearing and telling touch on loss. And lineage (another one) that thanks to Laura I am now completely into the idea of getting my DNA tested to see where my roots really are.

After fortifying myself with guacamole for the traffic battle, I drove over to Ballard to see my old stomping grounds and Lynn Marie. Lynn Marie has been someone who has seen our family through some intense experiences. She’s also the person who we owe a tremendous debt of thanks to her work with my mom. I was promptly surrounded by love from her three dogs – Buddy, BG and Bindi – all similarly sized like their friends Henry and George. And of course then there’s Lynn Marie herself, someone who personifies no nonsense truth and love. I spent the evening with her and the dogs and touring old/new Ballard.

When I spend time with people like Laura and Lynn Marie, I realize anew what I miss about Seattle. I hardly recognize how much the city has changed, even since I was last here in January. I miss the people.

Last night, I took one of my coworkers, the other Caroline on my team, to Cactus in West Seattle. Yes, you read that right, I have been in a Cactus for two days in a row. As I have told stories before about my mom and how much she loved Cactus on Alki, I wanted to stop in and do it again. We were able to sit outside and had a really good dinner. In tribute to my mom, we had a margarita a piece and I convinced Caroline to order and drink a Mexican coffee, just like my mom always had. I passed because I was the designated driver and I have taught the people in my favorite café in Amsterdam to make Mexican coffee. When I am missing my mom too much, they know to make me one.

In a way, going to Cactus last night was sort of a blending of my old life with my new. As I was dropping Caroline off, she said to me that she now understood where all my stories took place. Which was a nice way of saying that the tour was not so boring since I took her all the way around West Seattle and then up to Ballard. I felt like I was connecting myself (and mom) between past and present.

I was reminded anew of the beauty of the Pacific Northwest, the mountains, the bay, Tahoma, the sunsets. It is true, I do miss seeing the mountains and the ferries crossing the sound.

Another airport

This time, Spokane. I have about three hours before my flight leaves. So, I looked for the place that serves a decent glass of wine and has wireless. I feel the need to post again today, probably because it helps me process through events and emotions.

Earlier today, I was deeply in need of “Mom” energy. What I mean by that is that I needed to talk to someone who was a mom, who has been through the yuck sometimes and seen their kiddo come out okay. And who also understands the uncertainty that one feels when they wonder if they have done it all wrong with respect to their kid. I don’t have many friends who are parents so I called Rupert. Talking to him helped, he encouraged me to be only in the moment with R and not stress about the future implications, to ask questions and just be right there with him. It helped.

After leaving the hotel, I needed to kill some time before visiting hour so I drove around the area and ended up stopping for lunch at Veraci pizza. Here’s a weird connection, right down the hill (in Seattle) from my mom’s old apartment was the only Veraci pizza. Apparently business has been good and they have branched out to Spokane. Plus they served kombucha so I felt like I really needed to go in.

Of course, walking into a restaurant here alone makes servers look at you funny so I was seated at the back bar, one seat away from another party of one. I intended on eating my lunch and drinking my kombucha and trying to sit still. However, my fellow single party began talking to me. As we talked, I realized something, here was the Mom encouragement I needed. For she had three children who were definitely teenagers and I gather from her wisdom they were not always the easiest. She reminded me that I still have what it takes to be around R and that the environment was the uncertainty, not the bond between us. And without me realizing it, she bought me lunch.

Where I am going with all of this is that there is something to this thing of asking for help. When I realize I need it and ask for it, it finds me. The kindness of this woman today, who kept talking to me and asking me questions, when I hadn’t given any thought to sharing anything with anyone today, reminds me of how many people there are who connect with us and want to.

I will say this about seeing R, I am so glad that I could. The environment was completely not comfortable but the hour flew by and it was really good to see how surprised he was to see me. As I reminded him, I will always find him 😉 I did manage to stay focused in the moment with him. It was really good to see that one of the things that he worries about most is that he will not see his friends again. He gave me a letter to mail to one of his friends and when I read it I realized that my boy knows how to bond with people now. My mom was right when she said we taught him that he was loved and that he is connected. I don’t know what his next destination is but I encouraged him to use words to express what he wants instead of actions.

Now it is on to the next part of this week. For the next few days, it will be good to be really busy with training at Nerd Camp. Keeps my head busy until it is ready to listen to what my heart has to say. I will also have a chance to see a number of old colleagues and catch up with their latest news.

I haven’t heard anything yet from home, so I hope the pets are behaving. There was significant bad weather yesterday, people were sending me pictures of the downed trees in Amsterdam. I think I can safely say that Henry and George probably were not hanging out in the park yesterday.

I was about to write about some of the things I like about the US but I have just been sidetracked by this group of good ol’ boys sitting at the bar talking trash about women, liberals, golf, prenups, women treating you the way they should – you know that kind of stuff. However, they have left for their flight to wherever so it is quiet again. The things I like about the US: toilet seat covers in public restrooms (although after living in Europe, I have pretty much forgotten that they are ever there), the availability of public bathrooms, the wide open spaces between places, hand sanitizer stations everywhere, the size of the wine pours. 😉

I do think it is kind of weird that Americans will tell each other stuff, like to random strangers, that mostly seem to involve how much you have to buy or how much you own or what you spent. Since living in the Netherlands, I only tend to run into that when I run into Americans. For example, these two guys sitting here right now have just met at this wine bar and they are already discussing prenups and costs of their lives. Weird. Of course, one has been married four times, so I guess he has alot of wisdom to impart about what not to do…

Earlier today, I also told someone more than I normally would have so I guess that American habit is alive and well in me also!

Truck stops and interstate hotels

Last night I went to get my dinner at the Flying J truckstop. Why? Well, because I am here outside of Spokane and the other choice was getting in the big rental car and driving somewhere to find food. I knew I probably wouldn’t necessarily find much better so I made do with chili cheese Fritos, coconut water and almonds. Right now, I am eating the last of those for breakfast along with my hotel room made coffee. It is 6AM and I could brave the Flying J for breakfast but I would rather not.

Yesterday was a long day, first the flight from Amsterdam to Seattle, which really was 9.5 hours and then four hours in Seattle waiting for the flight to Spokane. I head back to Seattle tonight for a week’s worth of Nerd Camp Lite and then back to the Netherlands with a stop in San Francisco for a wedding. Not mine!

So, what am I doing here? I am going to see R. today. The plans I had made to spend time with him have been rather dramatically changed so I am permitted to visit him for one hour this afternoon. That’s it. I am going to have to cram an awful lot of love in that one hour. Which is always difficult with a time crunch.

I am fluctuating between calm and anxiety which means really that I am not calm. It is going to be difficult to see him, for both of us. And as it is each time, it is going to be really difficult to leave him behind. Not seeing him would be worse so it isn’t a question that I would stop coming. As the years go one, it gets more difficult to see him because of the choices that he is making and how the system reacts to a child that doesn’t seem to fit anywhere.

In fitting with this thought pattern, on the airplane I watched “Danny Collins” and Annie the original and the remake. No wonder I didn’t sleep!

I have several hours before I can see R. I will stay at the hotel as long as I can. I have been to Spokane many times before and I have seen most of the sights.

Busy busy busy

I am multi-tasking again, watching a digital training while checking in. I have had a week of meeting really interesting people and having conversations that have my brain popping with ideas. As of this week, I think I have ended up finding several new projects that will ultimately help empower women and other people that are normally outside of the work market. I like to do this stuff, it gives me a way to put my gratitude into practice.

Last night I also got a phone call from Marum. It was the archivist who had some information to tell me about my mom and her family. I am so appreciative! He send me some things last night, like the original house cards that show when the family came to Marum, etc. He’s also started asking people in their 80s if they will share any stories they have regarding our family with me.

Tonight it is off to Sjoerd and Marieke’s new house to celebrate their move. I have picked up some desserts from Tout and it looks like it will be a great evening to sit outside in their new garden and enjoy it.

I hope you are well 🙂

Perfect weather

It really is, a little windy, a little sunny and every evening a quick rainshower. It also directly contributes to my staying up and out late! I mentioned that I was going to try the 10 PM bedtime this week. I managed it for three days but after that, I am afraid that my nocturnal side took over. The good news is that I can always try again.

This morning I am multitasking. The wash is running, the last load is drying outside, I am upgrading another computer, waiting patiently for Lientje to crawl out from under the bed so she can take her medicine and typing away. I managed to catch Moortje already and he’s had his two morning syringes. I look forward to the day that my cats just wake up, open their mouths and swallow the stuff. I don’t think that is likely to happen but it is good to remain optimistic.

I went out for dinner last night with the women from the meetup. There were more new people this time which always makes things interesting. We had a really good dinner with lots of garlic and small plates – not exactly the best recipe for social success and from there we met up with a larger group at Cafe Saarein in the Jordaan. I enjoyed it, the discussions were lively and it feels good to be able to hang out socially with people you don’t know or know well and there’s no pressure like one on one meetings. One of the women passed along this link. If you have ever wanted wondered if there is a difference between Holland and the Netherlands, here’s your chance to find out.

Around 1130, I decided to cycle back to my neighborhood and spent the last of my wine budget for the month sitting on my favorite terrace. Which only involved more good conversation and so it goes. It sounds so dramatic to say my wine budget, really it’s my dinner out/travel/wine/miscellaneous budget but wine budget is shorter 😉 Tonight I will meet up with Renee, who is back from Australia, and we will sit on the “beach” over in Oost (East). Renee is still our housesitter when I am gone and I am looking forward to hearing the stories about her travels.

We also have a trip to make to the park so the boys can get their sillies out. I think we will go in an hour or so. And then I am going to work on tidying up the garden. No one tells you that hortensias can get so messy and straggly. It turns out the my landlord will be returning to the Netherlands in August so we will definitely be moving. In the meantime, I will enjoy our little house and be open to the idea of what our next home will be like!

Here’s hoping your weekend is a good one 🙂

Somewhere along the road to enlightmentent

I am back in Amsterdam after spending a too short weekend in Groningen. I had signed up some months ago for a yoga camp at my favorite mineral baths in the North. Unfortunately, I was very late getting out of Amsterdam on Friday night and so missed the first day of camp, dinner, etc. However, I like to think I made up for that for being extra in need of meditation and inner peace on Saturday and Sunday 😉

The yoga was good and not the competitive bikram style I am used so it was extra challenging for me since it focused much more so on the meditation and mindfulness aspect. We all know shutting off my brain is difficult for me. I reached a milestone for myself during the second session Saturday evening. It involved the color orange and two words by which I want to anchor my actions and words in this lifetime. When it happened, I was so surprised. I had the equivalent of “Whoa, where the hell did that voice come from? Is there someone else here?” I think I had my first successful meditation ever! Usually, I spend all my meditation time just counting in between breaths so I don’t get distracted.

In between the yoga sessions, I spent time in the mineral baths, got sunburned from sitting out reading, moved to reading under a tree, took a nap and tried to just be calm. Of course, the grounds have a bathrobe park meaning you can walk around the park in a bathrobe if you choose not to wear street clothes. It has all kinds of places to sit and paths. I had found a place on a bench under a tree since I was sunburned. Along comes a fellow park visitor that understands the rules of the park. He is wearing a bathrobe. However, he isn’t wearing anything under it and he hasn’t secured the bath robe. He is literally flying in the breeze. Okay, I think, do your thing, man and I will try to get that image out of my head. However, he is also apparently training for the Olympics so he is walking laps and laps around the park to build his conditioning. After the third time he passed me and spoke, I decided it was time to go for a coffee and rest my eyes!

I also stopped in at the little cafe where I had met so many people in times past. Everyone, including the owners, were sitting on the terrace, so it was an evening full of laughter and catching up on the stories of the village. It was pretty late by the time I returned to the hotel, midnight. 😉

On Sunday afternoon, I left and stopped in at Marum on the way south. The church was open so I took a look inside and took some pictures. On Sundays in July, old churches in Groningen (the province) display different kinds of art. For Marum, it is the work of glassblowers. I didn’t break anything luckily. I was obviously a stranger and taking pictures like a tacky tourist so the lady in charge asked me if she could help me – right after she caught me sticking my head behind the church organ looking for the staircase to the tower. When I told her that I was going to visit my mom and that I had family from here, she called her husband over who is Marum born and bred. He talked with me for a good 30 minutes about the family history that I know and wrote it all down. He’s going to give it through to a recently retired worker from the Groningen Archives. During our conversation some other older people came in and he asked them. Turns out the man knew mother’s name and knew where the family used to live but didn’t have much more information than that. However, once a month, there is a group that meets to share the stories from the past 100 years of Marum history. Perhaps I will find more out there. I would love to hear more stories of my mother and my family. That’s one of the hardest things, I don’t have any more new stories about her now.

I met Marianne last night at the Gelato Festival. I think it was probably alot busier on Saturday when it was not overcast and windy. However, since we are highly efficient types, we went from gelato tasting to a gin & tonic and then on to Chinese food. And all in a 50 meter radius – who says you can’t travel the world in an evening! I am taking some Marianne advice regarding sleep. I am experimenting this week by being in bed by 10PM. It is not even dark yet at that time! Which makes it seem even more unfair. However, I am trying it out to see if I can improve my sleep quantity and quality. I do have a waiver for weekends though 😉 With the fact that it stays light here so long, it really makes it difficult for me to go to bed before 1AM. It is not just the light that makes it difficult, it usually has to do with the fact that I am sitting somewhere, writing reading or chatting.

I went to another meetup last week and there’s one on Friday night I am going to – see above weekend waiver for 10PM bedtime 😉 I do better at some of them than at others. The important thing is that I am trying and working on my shyness. I think that’s about it for now. Happy Monday!


Funny, as I started typing this, I just got a call from the castle. It turns out I left my card case that has my OV chipkaart (for all public transit systems in the Netherlands) behind so castle keeper was calling to find out how to return it to me. I have been wrestling with this page for a good 30 minutes trying to get the images to display the way I want them to. It looks like that is not really possible in bulk so I guess I will do it one at a time.

Saturday really was a fabulous time, despite the incredible heat. Between 1000 and 1430, I had already walked 10K steps exploring Maastricht. It is an incredibly charming city and these pictures are just highlights. I had walked through the little village to the nearest train station and caught the stop train into Maastricht proper. I wanted to see the city with the exception of where the concert would be held. I wanted to be pleasantly surprised in the evening and see it for the first time. As I wandered down the way from the station to the center, it was a mild 93 degrees F already.

I did stop for a bit at the Onze Lieve Vrouweplein to rehydrate and have some lunch. The cafe I chose was in a building standing since 1655. I chose them because they had 8 veg options on their menu which was unusually high for Maastricht. The Burgundian way of living rules here in Maastricht which means people eat all kinds of rich foods and lots of meat. Essentially they enjoy themselves alot.I felt somewhat like I was in a different country. I heard later that that’s not such an unusual feeling when you come to Maastricht from out of the north of the Netherlands. I figured out pretty quickly that my relaxation abilities are not quite up to Maastricht and I need to work harder on them!

I had a good time wandering around and taking pictures. I was also pretty good at resisting the urge to shop for anything other than bottles of water. I said pretty good, which means I did stop and buy two dresses. Yes, you read that right. They are not made out of camping or outdoor style fabric either, Marianne 😉

I needed to get back to the castle on time since I needed to change for dinner which was going to be at another castle. Dinner was scheduled for Chateau Neercanne . And you certainly don’t want to be late for that kind of experience! We started with wine tastings inside the mines that the stone for the castle was carved from. Now it is all wine cellar. It was pretty cool. I did notice however that I was the only person there by myself. While this doesn’t phase me, it makes other people somewhat awkward. Especially women of a certain age. It is like there still remains a social stereotype that single women are always on the hunt. I can, with 100% certainy, state that I was not on the hunt to catch myself a man of a certain age who enjoyed Andre Rieu concerts!

Once we arrived at the square where the concert would be taking place, I walked around taking even more pictures. And at one point, I was standing less than 10 feet away from Andre Rieu himself! It was a really wonderful performance, complete with fireworks which my mom would have used as evidence that it was her birthday being celebrated by everyone 🙂 Everyone really does link arms and sing together just like the concerts show on PBS. I learned something from watching the locals. They don’t buy tickets, they make reservations at one of the cafes on the square and then spend the evening eating and drinking while enjoying the performance. I am going to do that next time!

I held Mom’s ash the whole concert and struggled a bit with all of the emotions. By the time I got back to the castle, I was still trying to work through all of the emotions so I sat on the terrace overlooking the valley until about 230 in the morning, with the full moon and the sound of the nearby waterfalls for company. It was a lovely experience. I probably would have stayed there longer but I knew I had to get up at a decent hour.

Overnight there were also thunderstorms which made the tower rumble and shake. That was cool!!! It was easy to imagine that it was cannons. I was sorry to leave the next morning.

Today my banjo teacher taught me a waltz so I can amuse myself by playing along with Andre Rieu and his orchestra. I’ll let you know how that turns out!

I have tons more pictures of Maastricht and the surroundings so if you want to see them, let me know and I will send you a link.

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Greetings from the tower…

It is certainly warm tonight. Something they didn’t mention in all those shows about castles is that tower rooms can be very, very warm. I guess in the old days, towers weren’t really built for comfort purposes but rather to give a view over the land, a defense post or a place to house your irritating relative, neighbor or treasonous high born conspirator. My tower room has three levels, an entry with the bathroom, a middle floor (where I am now) that is a sweet and spacious living area and the top floor where eventually I will sleep. The top is quite literally under the eaves of the tower, you can only stand up very straight in the middle of the room. I have windows everywhere and I can see the countryside for miles. And there are no bugs, rats, molding bones or other things to take away from the experience. I had booked this stay because I wanted to surprise my original traveling companion with an experience that you couldn’t really replicate in the US. I did on their behalf and I probably would not have done it on my own. However, being here and having so much fun with this has taught me a good lesson about doing things for yourself too, and not just to surprise other people. I am pretty good at arranging fun things for other people and not so good about doing it just for myself. I am learning though and this was an important training exercise 😉

We are in the middle of a heat wave in the Netherlands. NO, I don’t mean it has reached 70 degrees and panicky Dutch people are fainting from the unexpected sun 😉 I mean that the past couple of days it has easily hit the 90 degree mark and doesn’t cool off much at night. There’s not alot of air conditioning here either, much like Seattle. We’ve had about a week of this kind of weather and it doesn’t show much sign of letting up. It makes me glad I let Robert convince me to fix Astrid’s air conditioning when he was renewing her interior. I remember laughing at the time that I would need air conditioning. Well, I used it today during the last 40 km to Maastricht when it just got to be too much! I expect I will be glad to have it when we are going to Italy in August too.

This weather makes you not want to eat and only drink. I can say that within the first 30 minutes that I was sitting outside this evening, writing away in my journal I drank an entire coffee milkshake (i thought iced coffee was Seattle style, it wasn’t) a liter bottle of mineral water and a very cold Brugse Zot beer. And I never had to pee, that’s how hot it was. That’s alot of liquid for you non liter using readers 😉 And right now, I am drinking another bottle of mineral water that I raided from the tower mini bar.

There are people here from all over the world to see Andre Rieu. I heard Australians tonight. I am looking forward to the concert tomorrow night. I have my portable Mom ash with me and will be bringing it and I have her serious camera so I can take good pictures. Oh, and the castle is for sale, which seems only fitting because as soon as I walked in the door, I heard Mom in my head saying her famous “I could live here”. Unfortunately, 2 million is a little out of my budget. Although I am sure they would be open to negotiation.

I had one of the greatest experiences this week. At work, we had an opportunity to spend 1:1 time with a young person who is what they call far from the work market. This means that they have a physical or mental condition or both that makes regular employment probably an incredibly long shot for them. I had a great afternoon working with an amazing young woman. She was 21 and has big plans. I worked with her to help prepare for the process of an interview, what to ask, what to expect, how to carry herself with confidence, to believe in herself. At the end of the day, we were not even done. I asked the organization to keep me posted and let them know that I am open to meeting with her again and helping her. I hope they will contact me. Her dream job means she will need to go to school and that’s not always easy to do if you don’t have people along the way encouraging you that you can do it, especially when your Statistics class SUCKS. We fit well together because I don’t have a traditional path to where I am now either. I didn’t get my bachelor’s until I was 36. I hope that we will be able to work together again.

Talking with her reminded me all over again of the importance of gratitude. I also just finished reading Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking (which was fabulous) and had the connection message jumping all over the place in my brain. I do have difficulty asking. Which is what made the book so interesting to reading. I don’t think I will become an expert in asking for help overnight. I do think I will ask for it more often though. So if I ask for you something, let me stumble my way through it, because the trust it requires for me to do it is something that I want to recognize and cultivate.

We had a vet visit this week for Moortje. I am pleased to report that the medication to lower his blood pressure is working very well. He’s down to 130. He was at 240 which was NOT good. It is nice to know that even if my cats run away from me because they do not want to get their medication twice a day, it is helping. Now if I could only get them to understand that. Henry went with to get his nails trimmed which he absolutely fought. The vet and I were both wrestling with him to get it to happen. This is the vet that works with the lions in the Amsterdam zoo. Henry wasn’t impressed. However, he is walking much faster since it happened. Sometimes I wish I could speak to the pets in a language they would understand.

Wow, it is 1130 pm nearly. I guess I better get some sleep if I plan on exploring tomorrow before it becomes wickedly hot. The forecast is for 93 by noon. Oy.

Hey, thanks for reading, by the way. It means alot to me that you do.