Monthly Archives: January 2017

Thinking of you…

Over the past week, since the inauguration, the news seems to get worse and worse. I’ve stopped reading the news first thing in the morning because it puts a heaviness on my whole day. And I am an ocean away.

With each executive order, my concern for those of you at home grows. For some of you, this is the moment you have been looking for and probably will do fairly well under all of these orders because you don’t fit the demographics being (or soon to be) targeted. For far more of you, you do. For my friends and loved ones, the wonderful normal (in my book) people that you are, I want you to know that you are always welcome to come here and escape. Come for whatever time you need.

I worry about all the gains that the US has made to be a more egalitatarian society are being undone. I worry that the exceptionally privileged are determining the rights and benefits for the majority of people who rely on standards, laws and services to make it right. I worry about the effect for years to come as these orders will certainly be contested in court and then reattempted and contested again.

I worry about the fact that these orders make the world a less safe place, for Americans and everyone else.

For those of you resisting, we stand with you here, in the local protests and funding the organizations who are taking the protection of freedomย and rights to the only available medium, the courts. We stand with you through acts of compassion and belief that the good in each of us exists. When all else fails, we try to find a way to laugh such asย  if it really is going to be America First, then surely the Netherlands Second?

Hearts and Minds…

I am flying high right now! This afternoon, I went to the Amsterdam location of the national refugee centers – which is located in an old prison – and sold them on the idea of basic digital literacy classes for the people who are living there. Overall Dutch society is fairly digital, banking everything. People need these skills to be able to navigate and most of it is in Dutch which is even harder.

We’re starting with a weekly class and from there will look at creating other cohorts based on demand and interest. I was very relaxed for me, I suggested that we have the classes for 2 hours instead of 3 – which is a little intense if you are just getting started with computers.

There are 650 people living in this center and I don’t think all of them will be interested but I hope that we will be able to reach a good portion of them. I AM SO EXCITED.

Last night, we went to see Shovels & Rope perform. I had listened to them and asked GG if she wanted to go. I lost a bet to her about the strategy that the management would bring to me regarding my job situation. The price was dinner but she forget to specify where. So, on the way to the ferry to the concert, I took her to dinner at the snackbar Smuller’s in the middle of the train station ๐Ÿ˜‰ She has made a note to specify in future bets the exact terms… It still makes me laugh.

Tonight we’re going to something different musically. The Dropkick Murphys at the Heineken Music Hall for a good dose of Boston Irish punk. Sunday night, we’re going to Sabaton – which is Swedish heavy metal who’s lyrics are all about military campaigns and strategy through history. Rock for History nerds ๐Ÿ˜‰ In case you are wondering, all the concerts this week are my influence on GG… she’s much more highbrow!

Okay, back to pay full attention to my Skype meeting on Accessibility Testing.



I’ve just walked in the door from my banjo lesson and I think it’s probably wise to give a little context to tonight’s episode. I feel like I am wrestling in so many areas of my life right now, particularly with being in limbo. I don’t do well with the feelings that are coming up since I am project/task/results oriented. When I don’t have enough of those things to keep my mind occupied, then I end up with all kinds of emotions that I am not really sure what to do with.

Yesterday afternoon, Paul had organized a recital for his students. It was in a very cool tiny theatre and there were 16 students who played for the audience. He’s got students of banjo, ukelele, mandolin, guitar, basically anything with strings. While I was watching the students play, I thought to myself “Banjo is something else you have to make a decision on. Either you invest in more practice or you give it up.” Nothing like a light dose of shoulding on myself again. With one set of thoughts, I turned what I do to teach myself not to think into a task. Bah. So, tonight in my lesson, I talked about this and some of the other things I am struggling with, while mindlessly playing songs out of my head. That was actually a key moment. I can play songs from memory while talking about something completely unrelated. Go, me! In my conversation with the Banjo Buddha, I also realized that it isn’t something I am going to give up and I need to stop with the extremes.

No, that’s not quite the whole truth. I was admitting that years ago, I would be pretty good at keeping emotions compartmentalized. Playing the banjo means that I am less able to emotionally repress myself. Which sounds deeply serious. Or the beginning of a sad song about how the banjo won’t take my feelings back. While it sounds ridiculous and it made me laugh at myself, it also made me aware of the question that was really needing to be asked… what do I want to do with my life, right now?

I have only heard that I need to have more patience regarding the external job, that they are taking longer than expected. This gives me ample time to spin possible outcomes in my head, none of which are making me any more calm. It also makes my day to day job more stressful because I really want to be able to say “this day will be the last day so we need to plan for it now”. It makes it harder to put up with all the things that currently drain my energy. It’s reducing my ability to care about what happens. I engage in projects half heartedly, because I don’t want to let the customer down but really I don’t want to be involved because I won’t be there to see it complete. My overactive sense of responsibility won’t let me say “No” but my side that has already decided to leave can’t speak freely either. See, more wrestling.

Then today, in the middle of the afternoon, I got a call from the Refugee Center that I had emailed months ago offering to teach basic digital literacy. They have decided that would be a really great idea and there is a need for it, so could I come Wednesday and talk to them about it? Whoosh, the rockets went right back up and I was immediately brainstorming what was possible… which seemed to be a little overwhelming to the poor man on the other end of the phone.

I spent a great deal of time today talking with my manager. Partly because I was meeting people to interview to take over my role, partly because she cares about where I end up. Out of this came the following, that I will know by the end of the week about the job that is tentatively titled National Empowerment Plan for the Netherlands. I don’t want to put too much hope into it because I would be really disappointed if it doesn’t happen – I mean the plan in general, not just me being part of it. And at the same time, I am already thinking about all the things that would be required to make it work and what I would want to see it become. This would be something that I could do for years to come because there is SO much work to be done. There’s all kinds of questions around it, since it is not a position that exists on the organizational blueprint, etc. Which then makes me think, if I am in the position to choose between two, which one is the right one? Does it matter more to me to be in a brand new environment with a very different culture, from the underdog perspective? Or does it matter more for me to be helping to build an infrastructure that will enable people to be change agents for themselves and their communities in the long run, but at the same company that I am at now?

I know, I know, luxury problems to have. In the meantime, I’m realizing that I have a lot of stuff to work through. My dreams lately are really complicated and come back to similar themes, all related to events that have happened in the past 4 years that apparently I still need to do some work processing. I know they are coming up during the night because that’s when I am not distracting myself with tasks and projects. I realized tonight on the way home that both my parents always kept themselves busy. My mom was always exploring something new, sitting still and going through emotions was really difficult for her. Being sick brought that to the forefront, having time in your own head. My dad is 70 and still taking projects for work because he doesn’t really want to sit still and reflect on emotions either. It is not a judgment but rather suddenly an awareness that maybe some of this is a learned behavior ๐Ÿ˜‰

A very scary decision I made is that if I am going to go to the new employer, I will take a month off and just be. That’s not the most appealing decision ever but it is something I need to do, if I want to be stronger and healthier emotionally speaking. I’m wondering if somewhere along the way, I missed the class on Emotional Health or if this is something that you learn based on your stage in life? Is this part of my midlife crisis?

I’m curious, how do other people get this right? Is it something you’re born with, a skillset you learn or the luck of your personality? My first instinct is to take a class ๐Ÿ˜‰ but then I can very calmly apply academic learning to the situation, which is not the answer. For example, I understood on an academic level what grief could look like for children and how it might manifest itself. Until I lost my mom, I had no understanding of the emotional impact that Raven must have felt not being with his birth mom or the actual loss from moving from family to family. I remember sitting in the grass with him overlooking a bluff in Idaho and him telling me what he did when things hurt too much. I felt like the roles really were reversed that day, that suddenly this teenager was showing me how to cope. It was humbling moment and one that made me realized what an amazing person he was. It was one of those moments that I realized how much greatness he had inside him.

I want to be free. I want to be able to spend three days in a camper with Little C at Pinkpop and then leave the next day for a week in Sicily with GG. I want to be free to take on the projects that matter, to support the people who shape my life for the better, to drive change, to play music that matters, to be the best friend that I can, to be the fun sister instead of the one who takes responsiblity way too seriously and as the most important thing, I want to be the parent who gives children a place to thrive and grow, I want to be the best that I can, whole heartedly. I think I might need to remember that the next time I get overwhelmed by the limbo stress. Well, this was helpful for me ๐Ÿ˜‰

Four years

I just walked in the door from a meeting in Utrecht. I figured I would play it safe today and take public transit instead of driving, which was probably a wise choice. The next appointment on my calendar is marking the time that Mom passed into the sunlight. Looking at it is terribly difficult, I don’t want to delete it because that feels terrible all on it’s own. I can’t fast forward past it since it is set for moment that we feel it happened, while I was on the phone to hospice that day. Since this is the digital age, it appears across every screen.

I really don’t know what to do with myself. Normally, I take this day off because I know I am relatively useless but this year it wasn’t possible. I know that yesterday, things were so bad that I couldn’t turn off my shower and flooded a good portion of the bathroom. I couldn’t make the knobs work in the right order to turn off the water. It’s not like I needed to solve a Rubik’s cube, I needed to combine the right 2 of the 4 dials, which I couldn’t seem to do. Eventually, I remembered the right combination and George came running in to start drinking up the excess water before it could splash out to the wood floors.

So, you can see why I made the choice to trust public transit today instead of myself.

Last night, I srarted wandering back down the path of all of the things that I thought up to the point that we knew Mom was sick and then second guessing every single choice I made, combined with a hearty dose of “what if you had done this earlier/instead? Maybe she would still be alive.” It’s a fucked up thing to do to yourself and to anyone near you, in this case GG and the pets. Sometimes, I expect that I will be surpised by some official looking people at my front door, presenting me with a bill for all the secondary stress and therapy needed for GG and the pets. It wouldn’t be an unearned bill…

I remember talking with my Mom once about how she got through those days when all of us kids were blowing up and out, her divorce and the day to day struggle to make it all work. She told me that Ninja helped keep her sane, he needed her to have it together. He was her great rock. Also the primary reason that if she had to do it all again, she would have four Akitas and not four children. I completely understand that, even if I have the smaller model and all three of my pets don’t equal 20% of Ninja’s size.

I want to remember my Mom in her full glory today. I want to remember her like this, laughing at how much stuff you had to put on the Yukon to go out to the bathroom and to think that she might still come in the door one winter’s day full of stories about where she has been since I last saw her.

“We will need to get ready three hours before we need to go to the bathroom in this climate!”

I love you, Mom.

Hunkering Down…

The past few days have been hectic, especially in terms of weather. Lots of high wind, sleet, hail, snow, rain and even thunder and lightning. In between, there has been just enough sun to make you think the weather is changing… it usually lasts about 30 minutes. Right now, it is one of those periods and the boys and I should make a run for it to have a walk outside before the next winter wave starts. However, I am waiting to have my weekly Skype call with my mentee and so we will probably have to wait until the next window.

Last night, I got out the Crock Pot. I was struggling with making a decision about what to make for dinner – stress tends to do this to me. I would be fine with making a decision about the nuclear codes but which types of potatoes to choose in the store – fast cooking vs crumbly will take me a good 10 minutes. I decided it was time to clean out some of the cabinets and experiment. It cooked all night and it is pretty good. I think it was really more about the idea of something warm simmering that was appealing.

Monday is the 16th. This past week, without the distractions of family, I’ve become more and more anxious. While I am conscious of it, I still haven’t found a way to avoid it. And I might not ever. It may simply be that I simply honor the fact that this time of the year is hard for me and I am going to be slightly off during this time. Hence the potato indecision.

I also don’t want to see anybody at the moment. I had to be at the office a lot this week which wasn’t ideal for me when I want to hide out in my house and be left alone to work. Last night, I had promised to drop by my 2nd living room since I hadn’t been there in a while. Around 10PM, I thought to myself “Not going to” and about 15 minutes later someone called me and asked if they could come over. Which I certainly would not say “No” to. It was a good conversation, we spent a lot of time strategizing over her business plans.

I am still waiting to hear about the next job. I finally gave in yesterday and sent a message to their HR department since it was a week later than when they had promised to have an update. I heard back from him that I need to have more patience and wait another week. He thinks that over the coming week they will have reached a decision. ARGH. In the meantime, I had an interview of another sort this past week. The job doesn’t exactly exist at the moment, it was more of a discussion of what the right approach is to take on this particular program. Of course, if you don’t have an actual recquisition, that makes it somewhat dubious ๐Ÿ˜‰ It would be a job I would be great at and it would be my dream job if they actually turned it into a job. But for the moment, it is kind of like playing fantasy football.

Tuesday night GG and I went to see Rufus Wainwright in Utrecht. We were once again in row 1. It appears that she has a special affinity for buying tickets in that row. It was kind of awkward to sit that close because you really have no where else to look. The performers can see you because as we took the train home, we were walking behind two of the violinists and oneย turned to us and said “You were in the first row, weren’t you?”whatsapp-image-2017-01-11-at-23-58-12

While I didn’t get around to counting the number of eyeballs on his pants, it was close enough for me. Unlike the Suzanne Vega experience, where we were diagonally facing the stage from row 1, here we were full on.

During this evening, I discovered the difference in cough medicine definitions in countries. GG had a pretty bad cough so in the train station, she said she was going to get something for it in the HEMA. Okay, makes sense, she comes back with a bag of things which I assume are cough drops. During the concert, she is coughing alot. I keep thinking to myself “Why are those stupid cough drops not working?” On the train ride home, I finally get a good look at the bag and after translating in my head, I realized they were JELLYBEANS. Which then lead to a conversation about why you would use jellybeans as cough suppressants. They have zero cough suppression effectiveness. Next time, I will be checking for the menthol content ๐Ÿ˜‰

Tonight, I am supposed to go to an Italian themed party, hosted by Italians. I am not really feeling like going. But since this is the Netherlands and I said I was coming and they limited the number of attendees, I can’t really back out. So I will put on my extrovert pants and go for a time long enough to show that I value the invitation. Or long enough to consume my contribution of 18 euro in Italian food and wine since we all chipped in.



Empty Nest…

I am working my way through an enormous salad and there’s no sound except that of George jumping up against my leg to convince me to give him some more avocado. GG and I went with Rupert and Meredith to the airport and then after coffee went our separate ways to work. After being with people constantly for the past two weeks, it seems strangely still.

I did immediately turn the heat down to 17 degrees when I came home today. ๐Ÿ˜‰

We spent our last day of this trip bowling and hanging out in the neighborhood. Which was a wise choice considering the weather was stranding some trains. My bowling arm is not quite what it was, if it ever was. However, I did manage to only bowl in my lane this time. Small steps!

The office today was crazy. It felt like all 700 employees were there. Partly because they were making some big announcements today to clarify other big announcements from last week. I did my best to try and hide in the study carrels section so I could get through all of the mail that I did read but not answer on vacation. People still found me so it wasn’t quite as effective as I would have liked.

I also had the awkward conversation today with my manager, since we haven’t talked in two weeks with the holidays. She wanted to know where I was in the process of leaving and I told her what I was waiting to hear. Which convinced her that the other company is going to extend an offer so now I have a flurry of meetings scheduled over the next few days with other people she would like me to talk to before I make the decision to leave.

We’ve got some great photos from this visit. Over the next few days, as everyone adds theirs, I am going to enjoy looking through the ones I want to print. There’s one of Dylan on skates with gluhwein that is definitely a candidate!

And in between the loads of laundry, going back to eating salads and other healthier things, I will try not to miss them all too much. ๐Ÿ™‚


Last night, as Cedric left to walk back to his hotel, snow started falling! I was excited since this is the first time it has snowed in Amsterdam since I have lived here. This morning, there is still some on the ground. George went out first and did a series of elaborate steps to keep himself from touching the ground.

Cedric and Dylan leave today to go back home. We all gathered together one last time yesterday and had our Dutch family with us. It was sort of a day long open house, we started officially at 1PM. It was a good day, we even took a group photo thanks to the selfie stick that I won at nerd camp two summers ago. It came in handy and since I never use it, it was a lucky thing that I knew which corner it had been gathering dust in. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Thinking back over the past 9 days, I feel like I can say that this trip has been a really good one, especially in terms of creating more and different memories. On New Year’s Eve, it made me really happy that my family could be outside and amazed by the fireworks display. It was something they had never seen that closely before and certainly not together. We haven’t been together for a New Year’s celebration since we were under 21! GG’s sister came up for that celebration and stayed with us the next day to go to brunch. I am sure that other people experience this in their families as well, that at some point, everyone is an adult and there are no parental figures at the table anymore. Which means there’s no one to tell you to mind your manners and it really is up to you to make of the experience what you will.

While I am tired and wishing I wasn’t going back to work on Monday – because that’s been a other chapter of drama while I deliberately took this week off and did not travel with any screen bigger than my e-reader – I am so appreciative that we had this time together. I am hoping we will do it again. That we know that we can do this as siblings. It helps, of course, to have the chill out twins of Meredith and GG balancing us all out. I would also like to think that the four of us siblings are learning to bend and work with each other.

This time of the year is always when I want to hibernate and miss my Mom. That’s not going away any time soon. What did come out of this time together was a reminder of how much she is in each of us, even if we don’t recognize it in each other right away. As long as I can keep seeing that, I think it will be easier for me to figure out how I can best build this relationship with my brothers as adults.

Colgone was a great city to visit ๐Ÿ™‚ Heartily recommend it.

As for today, we will take a walk to the Albert Cuyp Market to get Meredith her stroopwafels fresh from the cart and spend some time in Amsterdam itself. Tomorrow, depending on the iciness, we make take a day trip. According to the weather service it is “bacon slippery” out there. Not sure why bacon and not sausage slippery for example, but that’s the literal translation of the Dutch expression for you ๐Ÿ˜‰