Monthly Archives: May 2017

Restless…

It’s Saturday morning and I woke up restless. Yesterday GG and I went back and forth across the provinces of North and South Holland to look at unique buildings with the eye out for a place to potentially move to. We were only looking at buildings that were unique in the sense of their history or their purpose – none of the modern, perfect new construction. In order, we were looking at a old soap factory (from 1600), the gathering place and hq of the jenever distillers ((1583), a house built into the dyke (1880) and hopefully an old farm on an island (1850). We couldn’t see the last one because we got the call yesterday that it was a pending sale *scowl*.

They were all interesting. But my heart is stuck on number two. I was kind of afraid it would be. I spent most of the week hoping that it would be nowhere near as great as it looked on the internet. It was even better. Here, let me show you.

WP_20170526_12_55_57_Rich

Yes, that is a windmill that you see just above the roof line. You see, this house in the center of Schiedam. It’s next to Rotterdam. The big white house is number 97. Where I want to live. When I am thinking about living in this house, I am not thinking about things like resale value or how long it would take to sell if necessary. I am not thinking about things like having a reserve fund for the type of maintenance a house this old and elegant requires. I am not thinking about the practical aspects of keeping a house of 630 square meters (6781 sq ft) dusted. I am thinking about having a home that is big enough to share with the community, kids or refugees. I am thinking about a home that is big enough to let me unpack and stay. I am thinking about a home that is surrounded by history and no one has the plan to sky high towers there. I am thinking about a home in a neighborhood that is far more diverse.

I am kind of ready to start over somewhere new. Over the past three and a half years, my neighborhood has changed a great deal. Amsterdam is only rising in popularity and steadily, people are moving out who have lived here for years and being replaced by people who can afford to pay 700K euro for an apartment and then have 150K worth of work done to it to make it reflect their taste. It’s not gentrification, it’s turning into a single demographic. That’s not what attracted me in the first place. On my street, in the past year, it feels as if every ground floor apartment has changed hands except for the old lady at the beginning of the street, my neighbors on one side and the family with adult disabled son further down. All the others have been sold as they were converted from long time rentals and now it’s the “yummy mummy” demographic. That’s where they have 1-2 children, a 1200 euro stroller and they spend their days lunching
and chatting on terraces and waiting for their husbands to come home. Totally understand that is their choice and they have the resources to do so. However, that doesn’t make for a neighborhood that is inclusive or lively. It makes it feel sanitized.

Changing gears to what I am grateful for. πŸ™‚ On Thursday, Little C and Mika came to pick us up and we went to the Open Air Museum in Arnhem. We had a lovely long day in the sun, exploring all the beautiful old historic buildings and I even got to cuddle horses. It has been such a long time since I have done that. I love the way they smell. The boys were exhausted on the way home from all that walking.

Today it promises to be 87 degrees. GG and I are off to the European World of Bluegrass later this afternoon for our volunteer shifts. Then we will watch the last bands of the evening, including the Sons of Navarone, which is one of the bands Paul plays in. It might be the last time EWOB is held after 20 years so we are going to do our best to make sure we sell lots of tshirts and CDs, collect the raffle tickets and generally enjoy the atmosphere. Last year they were really thrilled to meet such “young” volunteers πŸ˜‰

Today is Marianne’s birthday πŸ™‚ Tomorrow evening we are meeting up at REM Island for dinner on the platform where they used to broadcast pirate television as a celebration of both our birthdays. Should be beautiful weather for it!

And a week from today, we leave for Sicily. It’s rather unfortunate timing since my interns will start that week but I have found projects for them to do. πŸ™‚ I’m only going to be gone for a week so they should be able to keep themselves occupied. It’s a terrible life πŸ˜‰

 

I couldn’t be more proud…

I was sitting on the sofa just now keeping the dynamic duo secured against falling into the cushions and I went to check my mail. There was a message from John, the young professional in Kenya that I have been working with as a mentor over the past year.Β  I want to share it just the way he wrote it because I have tears of joy and pride in my eyes at this moment.

Hello Caroline,

I lack words to share my excitement and gratitude to you for your support and encouragement throught the application process. I finally made it. The next steps are preparing and looking for financial aid which I am hoping to get.

The admission letter reads;
“Dear :Β JOHN

Congratulations! I am pleased to inform you that you have been accepted to the Master of Science in Information Technology (MSIT) program at Carnegie Mellon University Africa in Rwanda.

Classes will begin on Monday 28 August 2017. In preparation for the program, we are asking all new students to participate in an MSIT Orientation Program during the firstΒ four weeks before formal classes begin. The MSIT Orientation Program will begin on Monday 31 July 2017. ”

I hope to talk to you on Sunday as tomorrow I will be at work. Thank you once more and mostly for believing in me. 😁

Warm Regards,

John

When we first came into contact, it was the first month after Raven died and I was deeply in need of a new project to find my way through the unbelievable idea that my son was gone. The Africa Talent Bank had requested volunteers through my work and I jumped in. I’ve learned a great deal this past year from our regular weekly contact. It’s funny, when Raven and I met, he would introduce me to people with the following description “This is Caroline. She’s my dementor” like in Harry Potter. It was adorable and I think it fit pretty well πŸ˜‰

With John, it’s a different type of connection, of course. It’s still a mixture of life experience, common sense, encouragment, listening and sometimes asking the tough questions. Mostly it is a chance to watch someone grow and that’s what really means the most to me, that I get to see this young man work his way through to where he wants to be.

I spent the first half of today talking to Data Science students. What’s interesting is that they were all wearing sensors – to collect data about how long they stayed in locations and to see what the patterns were – and they spent a great deal of time waiting to talk to me. Not because of me but because of where I work and they are curious. While I was talking to several of them, I realized how much I wanted to remind them to stay curious, be open and find something that they love to do. It is really important because creativity drives innovation and you need to be open to let your creativity grow. Being in this new job has unlocked mine for sure. Then during the formal presentation, which I only delivered the start of, it went quickly into standard mode and reinforcing the image of constructs and defined role titles. That was unfortunate. On the way home, I wondered if my ideas about where I work were completely wrong. Then I realized no, they weren’t, what’s different between myself and the other presenter is that I look at things differently, I am not looking for the opportunities to fit in but rather to find the risks.

It was a relief to tell myself that I wasn’t slipping in my pending old age πŸ˜‰ I’m off to practice my banjo, having been super inspired by Hayseed Dixie last night with GG. We talked to the banjo player after the show and he told me that I needed to play everyday even if only for 5 minutes. They were amazing and I think that playing Rockgrass is a way forward for me!

Hey Rupeeeee…

Yesterday the mail came through the door with an unusually loud thunk. I don’t get much paper mail so this was a call to strong to resist. Even Henry and George had to come along to check it out. Turns out among the ads, there was a bright orange envelope with a Chicago return address. Woohoo, a card from Rupert and Meredith! Not just any card either, it plays a unique soundtrack. I’d like to share this with you…

GG and I have opened the card multiple times for the humour of it! I know, I will be 44 on Saturday and I am still laughing at things like this πŸ˜‰

What really is a scandal is that I haven’t sent Rupert his birthday card yet. Now the challenge is finding an equally appropriate card. It’s something I am going to put considerable effort into. I can’t have a Cher moment and “Turn back time” but I can send it with extra postage, to support the postal carriers of both countries. Seven different reminders just popped up to tell me that today is Rupert’s birthday.

Rupert, congratulations on reaching 39, with none of your hair intact but all of your teeth. That’s a milestone of itself. Thanks for being part of the dynamic duo of R&M and always being up for teaching the family about the importance of fun. I hope that you never really grow up πŸ˜‰ When I hear really strange Dutch words and phrases like “Gebrouwen door Vrouwen”,Β  s’Hertogenbosch or Texels Scuumkoppe I can hear you say “Watch your mouth”and it never fails to make me laugh. Tonight, while I write this, I am toasting you with a Gin Weizen from the above mentioned GdV. πŸ™‚

I’m so glad you were here over the New Year and I know that we’ll be meeting up again this year, in the mountains of North Carolina to play Family Survivor. I am really proud to be your (big) sister and can’t wait to hear you laugh again!

A big Squeeze from the big Cheese xoxoxoxoxoxox

 

 

Remembering a Dragon…

The reminder popped up yesterday that today, which was Mother’s Day in 2009, Mikha died. It was Raven’s first Mother’s Day at home and we had gone to have brunch with my mom that morning. I think now how strange it must have been for Raven, to be there with my mom and I. At this point, he was 9 and had just come to live with me the month before. I know that he must have wondered where his birth mom was.

We went home afterwards and there was Mikha in my room, unconscious and having a nonstop seizure. Straight to the vet with him holding her crate like it would explode and me driving as fast as possible without endangering anyone to get to the West Seattle Animal Hospital. Mikha had been through some surgery the week before and pronounced healthy and definitely ready to go a few years more. She was 18 at the time. The vet on duty took her back and they did xrays to find the cause. And they tried to stop the seizure with an elephant dose of Valium. In the meantime, Raven and I sat in the waiting room, singing songs from the Canoe Journey that we had been learning at the Duwamish Longhouse.

When the vet came out, she told us that Mikha was calm now and the best thing to do would be to put her to sleep since the x-rays showed that she had cancer in multiple places. I called my mom to tell her and ask her if she wanted us to wait. She said “No” and then it was time. Sitting on the floor in the exam room, I held my terribly angry and dysfunctional dragon in a feline form in my arms, with my new kid next to me and held her while the vet gave her the shot.

Mikha had been with me half my life by that point, precisely. I adopted her from the pound in New Jersey and kept her in my dorm room until I was expelled. She was an intimidating force from the first day we met. I picked her up at the pound and she tried to bite my fingers off and not in a playful kitten way. The guy at the pound told me that she was a mess and I was better off leaving her behind, unadoptable he said. So, of course, I took her home.

And for the next 18 years, she was my grrl. We moved several times and she definitely got the short end of the stick when it came to attention sometimes. If I think about those moments, it doesn’t make me feel like a good pet parent. But she had a good friend in my mom, who she would tolerate in my absence. She ruled Lientje and yet my favorite picture of them shows them sitting back to back high up in the window at the little house.

Mikha was tough. She would sit on the front porch and neighborhood cats would cross the street to go past our house, instead of crossing directly in front of and in reach of her. She had tufted ears and a stocky frame. I have a thing for tabby cats. Lientje is one as well.

Mikha is buried in the backyard in Seattle. Next to her grave is the Japanese maple tree my mom planted. When I was there in March, I took the little cat statue from her grave and brought it back with me. Now it sits next to the urn of Moortje’s ashes.

I had to the privilege of serving as Mikha’s personnel for 18 years. I don’t know what’s out there when we are not here anymore but I like to think that she’s with my Mom and Raven… causing her own share of trouble.

Sunday afternoon

I’ve just spent a very productive hour with my feet in the portable bubbling foot spa while practicing my banjo. Kind of like a hillbilly pedicure πŸ˜‰ The pedicure culture is more of a medical one here so last month I ended up buying my own foot bath for 25 euro and free delivery.

GG is watching the Feyenood – Excelsior match. The weird part is that TV channels cannot broadcast what is happening on the screen since only one channel has rights, so instead they are simply showing coverage of the 50K people in the stadium and providing the radio commentary for play by play. It’s an interesting workaround.

Tonight we are going to see Depeche Mode. However, that’s not til 9pm so that leaves plenty of time today to do other things.

Yesterday, the boys and I met up with Little C and Mika to go and explore another set of woods. We walked for around 2.5 hours in the woods which was a nice way to spend a sunny Saturday.

As for me, I survived the first week. Tomorrow my new manager is back from vacation so I imagine that we’ll have a conversation about what this new job really should be about. On Tuesday it’s the “Choose Your 4 Interns” show so I better practice asking thoughtful questions πŸ˜‰

 

P.S. I forgot to hit Publish yesterday afternoon. Well, that saves me from having to go back and click Edit πŸ˜‰ Depeche Mode was terrible… I left the concert hall after 30 minutes to go hang in the hallway/bar. What a disappointment! I did get to read all of the news happening in the world and spend a good portion of my time people watching.