Monthly Archives: January 2016

Tuesday morning

It is time to be productive. Actually, I am taking a break to eat my breakfast (second to the last of the everything bagels that I brought back from the US in July) and thinking about how I want to focus the rest of my day.

Yesterday was busy! I had an incredible banjo lesson, played until I had deep grooves in my finger tips. Technically that means I am still not playing enough 😉 Real banjo players have callused fingertips apparently. Starting in two weeks, I will also go to Paul for written Dutch lessons. Not at the same time as my banjo lesson since that would be taking away my budding skills at just playing music via a flow.

No time to go home so with the banjo strapped to my back, it was off to the office. Then to the dentist and then to the grocery store and eventually, back home. The banjo case is not aerodynamic so on the bike, it isn’t a great help for acceleration.

Then to the gym and a late yoga class last night. Before you know, it is midnight. I could say it is due to the wheatgrass juice but I just realized I forgot again to drink it this morning before having anything else. Oh, well, I will try again tomorrow.

The True Colors party on Sunday night was fantastic! It is party celebrating all of the work that the various LGBTQ organizations are doing throughout the Netherlands. I went with a group from the meetup. Amidst the 2000 people there, the woman from earlier this month (hereafter known as The Date or TD) found me on the dance floor. We had a great time dancing and I met some of her coworkers. I was reminded again of how much I like her and being around her. 🙂

In last night’s paper, the headlines announced that Amsterdam is beginning immediately with lessons on LGBQT and women’s rights in the refugee centers within the city. I was so proud to read this. It is an affirmation that Amsterdam takes these rights seriously and people who are going to live here and be part of the social fabric need to understand this.

Thursday night, it is Henry Rollins doing spoken word at Paradiso. I haven’t seen him live in two years or so. I am looking forward to it. I had an extra ticket so I invited someone I met last week. We have similar music taste so she said yes! I would have been happy to see Henry on my own yet it will be nice to go with someone else.

You might say that I am as the Dutch say, goed bezig (good busy) 🙂

Never too old to experiment

Even if you were not a member of Future Scientists of the Universe when you were growing up. I certainly was not.

I have spent alot of time trying various things to reduce the stress I collect, get rid of the stress I have and practice relaxing. I am very task oriented so I move from the mindset that if I create a sort of stress management plan with X amount of steps, surely I will be successful. Right, making a list of things to complete so you can learn to relax. I recognize the irony in this 😉

I have spent alot of time with Astrid this week. Groningen on Tuesday and Venlo on Thursday. As comfortable as Astrid is, sitting behind the wheel for 8 hours makes me stiff. Last night I went to the gym and gave the yoga class a try. On the way home, it was that cold, bonechilling rain and wind that somehow gets inside your skin. After feeding the pets first because I know my duties, I decided that I was actually going to use my bathtub for the first time for a person.

Previously, the bathtub has been used for Small Dog Olympic Swimming Team tryouts and practice. Never for people. I threw in my Rosemary and Mint detox bath salts from Curacao, turned on the Billie Holiday and turned off the guilty feeling about using so much water.

Okay, wow. I think I spent a good hour in the bath, enough to listen to one Billie album and half of an Andre Rieu. I was so relaxed, I had to test myself. I started thinking about each stressful thing in my life right now and waited for myself to get tense and clench all the muscles in my neck. Topic 1 didn’t cause that reaction, so on to topic 2 and so forth until I went through the entire library of stressful things and realized that the bath was keeping me from getting agitated.

I know right now some of you are saying “Duh”. Especially those of you who have long been bathtub fans. What can I say, it takes me a little longer to learn sometimes 😉 even more so through my natural Taurus stubbornness.

Also, my bathtub is sized for Dutch people. Meaning it is really long. I can’t say I will do it alot, that guilty feeling about using so much water comes into play. Although this is a country that has to do everything possible regarding water management to keep from flooding…

The boys are quietly snoozing since we have just come home from the park. I hear Moortje’s footsteps in the background so I imagine we will soon be seeing him. I am going to practice some banjo and think about the big party tomorrow night.


Handicapped by a cat in your lap

That’s the truth, Moortje is sitting in my lap. Of course, right when I decide to post, he comes over and walks up my leg with his nails out – which results in me wanting to scream in pain. Once he is up, he moves over to the desk and parks himself between the laptop and the tablet. Depending on his exact location, things start to go wonky on one device or the other. Since I am technically participating in a conference call, I decided to move him into my lap. Judging by the amount of purring that is going on and his head butting, which is causing some typos, he must be content with his current position.

I was in Groningen today. I left here at 7am and ended up watching the sun come up somewhere just over the border between Friesland and Groningen. It was 23F here and in Groningen it was 17F. At the giant rotonda where the A6 turns off to the A7, there is a stable. This morning, all the big horses had their jackets on. Running in front of them was a very small pony. The way he was running to the barn, you could almost hear him saying “Last one to the barn is a COW”. He had so much attitude. 🙂

I stopped at Marum on the way back and spent some time talking to Mom. It started snowing while I was there, which cut my visit a little short. I had alot of questions for Mom today and not the least of was how could I support someone who had just lost her own mother, on Saturday?

I realized that losing my mother at 39 is very different than losing your mother at 22. And my heart grieves for this young woman. We have talked quite a bit over the past few days and all I can do is be there for her. To think that a month ago, I was trying to answer her questions on dating and now it is over grief. I really don’t have any answers, even after three years.

As I mentioned, I was looking for advice today. I had a question that I had been wrestling with. More than one, but this is a pretty important one – again involving fear, vulnerability and stubbornness. I didn’t get a direct answer but I walked back through the church yard feeling like my Mom had given me a kick in the ass. By the time I got back into the car, I was convinced of it. I made my decision and I am glad I did. What Laura said a few days ago about my mom still teaching me was spot-on.

Three years

I had plans to go to Calle Ocho tonight, to have my mom near me in an environment that promises a Latin America focused kitchen and margaritas to match. It was my way to be closer to her. And I planned to do this on my own. And last night, came the kindest message my way, asking me how I wanted to celebrate my mom today. It was from Marianne. Now I will have company with which to toast my mom and someone who knew my mom. Some times that is the hardest thing, that out of all of the new people I have met, none of them ever had the chance to meet the force of nature that she was.

I’ll leave you with the request that if you haven’t already today, hug someone dear to you, HARD. And tell them that you love them.

P.S. – among the tears, the stories and the wisdom that comes from shared grief, the tequila was excellent and the food was very, very good. So, I have found another side of Mom in Amsterdam after all. It is the sort of place where she could have very easily danced to the music around the restaurant (tiny though it is) and people might very well have joined her.

It might be time to get out

the winter jacket. By that I mean my Columbia parka that I bought for the Yukon adventure that Mom and I went on. This morning, I had to take Astrid to the garage so she could pass her yearly inspection known as the APK. I could hear the rain coming down from my bedroom and it is also dark until 845AM right now. Oh yes, and it is cold. Still above freezing, which will change this weekend, but the real feel temperature is below freezing.

All told, powerful motivation for getting out the parka. Yet I feel like if I do that, I am really giving into the idea of winter 😉 I did dig out the boys winter coats, the ones with the fleece lining and the water proof exterior. Henry just looks at me like “Why bother with a jacket for me? I will just stay inside, thanks.” Who can blame them really? Especially since I feel the same way. I think this means that the new house finally is beginning to feel like home, since I don’t really want to leave it.

Turns out Astrid needs four new tires. Ugh. I can’t complain really since I can’t remember the last time she got new tires. I think it must have been sometime in 2011 or so. I guess she is overdue 🙂 And we have driven quite a bit since then. I think I am going to pick her up tomorrow, hoping that the weather might be better. She’s in good hands with the guys at 900 Classic in Haarlem. I think they find my literal translations of needs quite funny. I mean, I already struggle with Dutch. Automotive Dutch is a whole other language! Next week I have presentations in Groningen and Venlo. This means I will be going to the top of the Netherlands to the far east of it, border to border basically. Probably a good time for new tires…

I’ve been invited to a 50th birthday party on Saturday. However, since that is the day that marks 3 years without Mom, I am definitely not going to go. I won’t be able to channel enough Sparkle and Light energy to pull off a party with alot of strangers. Turning 50 is a major milestone here. I feel slightly guilty about not going but I know that I will not feel like having the conversations over and over again about “How did you come to the Netherlands?” While it is tempting to come up with a supremely outlandish story like I was hired to manage a troupe of rebellious circus acrobats and sword swallowers, I think it is probably wiser not to.

Okay, two more conference calls to go today.Benefit is that I don’t have to go back out in the chill 🙂


Hello again

I haven’t fallen off the top of the Afsluitdijk and into the cold North Sea 🙂 It has been incredibly busy. I am deliberately taking a pause and listening to Leonard Cohen and writing to you. After so many days of not writing, I begin to miss it. Of course, I have had the habit of writing for a very long time. I remember (and still have) my Strawberry Shortcake diary from 3rd grade. My 8 year old self had just seen the movie “Grease”and had a tremendous crush on John Travolta. I felt the need to document this in my diary. My mom gave me the diary because as kids we moved alot and I didn’t have a lot of friends. She told me I could always write, regardless of where we lived. I am really glad she gave me that advice.

Yes, I still write in a diary – which is currently hiding somewhere in a moving box. After all, not everything can go on a blog 😉 Well, at least not my blog! I have made good progress over the past week, despite all the madness. I chopped my organizational efforts into one hour per day. There is definite progress to be seen and more importantly, I haven’t just said “To hell with it, I can live with boxes”.

Over the weekend, an old coworker of mine stopped in Amsterdam with his wife and stepson. I met them Friday night for dinner and then on Saturday afternoon, I took them on my version of a walking tour. We also took a canal cruise just before dark so we got to see all of the Amsterdam Light Festival – without paying the Light Festival premium. Now that is definitely Dutch blood coming to the forefront! After another really good dinner, they were off to Spain and I went home to get ready for the week ahead.

My new manager started Monday and we had our first meeting at 9am. I like her. I think she is motivational instead of fear-based, which will be an interesting change. She is also jumping right into the shitstorm that I am in and publicly declared that we were all committed to solving the problem. I have never had that kind of outright support at work before. Yesterday was the big review with the region and it went better than expected. I had practiced my presentation until the dogs could recite it. And I put lavender oil under my nose 15 minutes before I went in to the meeting. I had a coworker IM me when to stop talking – which was helpful. I think I am not direct enough yet for the Dutch. After it was over, I started getting wonky chest pains and my eyes were wobbly. Turns out it was letting go off all of the stress regarding this process and meeting that I have been under for the past month.

Now that the review is behind me, I can move forward with the fix-it plan. It is a relief to get to this point. I may not know 100% yet how I am going to make it all happen. I do know I have the aspiration to do so, which is important. I’ve realized living here how optimistic Americans are as part of their cultural identity. It doesn’t always go over well with other people. I don’t mean optimistic like Perky Patty from the Pep Squad but rather the belief that “Yes, we can do it, why not?” . Look at the current scope of would be presidential nominees 😉 I think it is more nuanced than only optimism. Whatever the components, I have recently become aware of it and I am pretty glad to have it in my sense of self.

There is a lot of push for me to find a coach and work on a few things. It seems to be part of Dutch culture that your coworkers feel free to suggest a list of things that you should work on. Not alot of boundaries between your work qualities and your personal qualities. This has taken some getting used to. The habit here is that if you need help, you go and ask for it. You can imagine how foreign that is to me 😉 You can also imagine that I would probably like to do anything but ask for help for me. I also have to let go that a coach is a signal that HR and the Legal Department are doing  a last ditch effort to CYA. The biggest problem I have with this idea is the requirement to be vulnerable. Kind of like how I struggled to depress the valve on my SCUBA gear that would let me sink to the bottom 🙂

I guess, like so many other things, it is a journey. Oh, wow, I never realized how irritating that phrase actually is! Striking it from my vocabularly now.

Unexpected bonus

As you know, I have not exactly been the Princess of Sparkle and Light lately, with all of the things that I have been trying to make sense of and work through. In fact, you could say that I have been making definite progress to Queen of Darkness – which is only partly influenced by the short daylight and more of my innate character 😉

Yet last night, I had a date. Yes, a real one. Not a meetup, not a group activity, not a concert, not volunteer work but a date. As in I asked someone out and she said “Yes”. I had a great time. It was five hours of conversation – which by the way is way over the “Guidelines for a Successful First Date”. Anyway, I asked her if she would like to do it again and she said “Yes”so we’ll see.

I walked to there and home beccause I wanted to collect steps on my FitBit and because I knew I would be nervous and would need the time to get rid of my nerves. When you are walking, you don’t have to worry about fellow tram passengers looking at you like you have lost it while you are trying to do breathing exercises to prevent the nervous puking 😉

I talked to Rupert last night when I got home. We talked alot about Mom and where we were. My brother can make perfectly normal deadpan statements hilariously funny. I don’t think he even tries. It was the first time he had left the house in two days due to the weather in Chicago. I wish sometimes that we didn’t live so far apart, which is not something I would have said 10 years ago.

I talked to Cedric on Monday night too. Sometimes, I think we aren’t any further through our grief than those first days after she was gone.

I am going to have to find a way to kick my own ass the way my mom would when I would get discouraged. 🙂

Birthday 76

is today. Shit, just typing that title is already making the tears come. I am listening to the Gipsy Kings and I just lit the candles around the enormous photo frame I made for her memorial service.  I don’t know how many more times I will say it in my life but it is just NOT FAIR. And nothing is ever going to make it okay, that I don’t have her anymore.

I miss her so much. This weekend I was unpacking and I found my birthday cards from 2008. One from each of the pets and the last from my mom. I turned 35 that year and she wrote about remembering the night I was born and that she didn’t think it was real until they brought me back to her the next morning. She didn’t see me turn 40. And maybe it is stupid to get hung up on a number but it doesn’t feel that way. My mom should have been here to see alot more numbers.

The picture is from Cactus on Alki. Mom had a gift for being the clown, see Rupert as evidence and she was imitating Mrs. Got Rocks, femme fatale in her faux fur. I think one of the things that I miss most about my mom was her refusal to conform to someone else’s expectations. It used to be frustrating to no end. However, it really influenced me.

I needed my mom today when I was getting the verbal beatdown at work. I needed my mom to look at me and yell “Towanda” ala Fried Green Tomatoes and stick her middle finger up at the person in charge. Doing it myself didn’t give the same sense of encouragement. Instead, I waited until the meeting ended and then held the dogs for thirty minutes until I could face it again. I wanted so much to celebrate her today but all I can do is cry.

The only place I didn’t cry was at my banjo lesson today. Instead I ended up helping my banjo teacher get on Skype so he can practice with a bluegrass band in Belgium. I was kind of chuckling to myself because it was a bit like explaining computer stuff to my mom. At least there is a trade off, since often I feel like music is something I don’t understand that easily.

I have cried at banjo lessons before so Paul isn’t weirded out when I do. The only thing I am not allowed to do in banjo lessons is drop the F bomb when I get frustrated.

Sometimes I wonder if it will ever get easier, but I don’t think it will. I think that the hole in my heart is so great, that nothing will ever mend it. Even though I can function and go about the business of living, the hole remains and nothing is capable of filling it. It just remains. Today I feel really breakable.


Going forward

into 2016, I have a list of good intentions which has been placed in a sealed envelope and marked to be opened on New Year’s Eve again. It was a really nice New Year’s Eve. I ended up with a few people here til 5am which was unexpected. We had some really good conversation, listened to alot of music and I tried to get them to eat as much as possible 😉 The pets did their very best to be charming and calm and I think that I might do it again. Not very large scale though, a handful of people is definitely enough.

I also met my neighbors that live across the way on the third floor. Apparently, they can see right into my house and do some watching. It was a slightly awkward moment as I tried to think back if I had done anything really scandalous in my living room! They did compliment me on how nice the buildout of my house was 😉

Last night, Marianne and I kicked off 2016 with dinner together at a restaurant that is going on my list of favorite places. We spent 4.5 hours catching up, planning campaigns and sparring with each other. It was such a great way to begin the year and I really feel that if we were ever to set our minds together, we could do some serious empire building. I feel challenged and inspired when we talk. And often, talking with her brings me insights into myself and my reactions, which I occasionally blunder blindly through.

Cycling home past the canals and being struck again by how beautiful Amsterdam is and wondering how exactly did I end up with the privilege of living here, I realized anew how good I have it 🙂

Which is nearly enough motivation to make me say that today, the unpacking will be finished. IKEA came again yesterday afternoon to finish the closets and the bookcases. In theory, now everything should have a place to go 😉  And it will be nice to be able to have my photos out again. After this, my next task will be finding the nerve to make holes in the wall to hang all my Jan paintings!

Oh, and the extra piece of closet ended up going in the guest room. The idea of getting back to IKEA was mind boggling and while I can hear my mom giving me a hard time about my measuring skills, it did turn out okay after all 🙂

I hope your 2016 is off to a lovely start!