Monthly Archives: June 2017

Two big steps…

I have taken two tonight. The first one was sending away for an information packet for becoming a therapeutic foster parent in the Netherlands. The second was signing up for the Attention pilot program for work and taking the first steps of the program – turning off all notifications on the computer and the phone.

I think it was last week I went to an informational evening on being a meeleefgezin (living with family). It’s basically a committment to a family where the parents have some mental health problems and a child under the age of 5. The program means that you take the child one day a week and one weekend a month, in order to give the child and the parents respite. I know how important mental health can be for young children. At the end of the evening, I wasn’t quite ready to do it. For starters because it is strictly volunteer and I have my doubts about how well that kind of program can work in the long run if it doesn’t have any infrastructure behind it. Secondly, little kids are not really my best area. I tend to have a better click with 8 and up since they can tell me when they need to go to the bathroom. Also, I didn’t want to commit to a set day a week.

So, I can imagine why you might be asking why am I sending away for information on becoming a foster parent? Well, because I might be okay with crisis care or weekend respite. There’s a shortage of places for both and I think that’s a good place for me to think about starting. At this point, I am only collecting information. Since there are rules for everything in the Netherlands, if I start reading the pamphlets (in Dutch) over the weekend, I might get through them by next week.

Tomorrow’s the end of the fiscal year for us. Doesn’t impact me much since I have a new role now. My little team of interns and I will just keep plugging along. Today we met the most fabulous woman from Rotterdam who is running a program to teach youth and refugees skills to become electricians and installation techs on the big skyscrapers. I can’t wait to work with her.

Then this afternoon, we met with someone who is setting up a cybersecurity lab in the Hague for students and teachers to learn and consider IT. I think I might have run over him in my enthusiasm but on the plus side, I think we can work something out there too.

My biggest challenge is knitting all of these little initiatives and projects into one national plan. I hope I am up for it since administrative bullshit is not my greatest strength 😉

Back in the saddle…

Well, the desk chair anyway. I had a lunch meeting with someone today. I’ve worked with him once or twice over the past three years, not very often. They were serving broodje haring in the cafeteria today, herring sandwiches with onions and he couldn’t resist the temptation. In the middle of our discussion, out of nowhere, he said to me “Don’t you have a child? A daughter?” Trapped… what the hell do you do with that?? Be truthful. I said “Not quite, I had a son”.

He stumbled over the word “had”. I tried to go on, back to our discussion. And he stopped me and told me that he couldn’t follow along, because he was still stuck on the word “had”.  I wanted to grab my tray and run. But that wasn’t really the most effective way of handling the topic and it wouldn’t change the reality. I stayed put and answered his questions as openly as I could.

I don’t know how this will impact us working together in the future. Perhaps it will enable us to do some pretty amazing things. I give him major credit for wading into a deeply sensitive and personal subject. For asking the questions as well.

At the same time, I was relieved when our meeting was over and I could sequester myself at a long table with a wall to my back and throw myself into my work. At least I thought I could until someone sat down next to me, close to a near freakout. Since I left my old job, people think that I have some mysterious wisdom so they come to me for advice. In the back of my mind, as I am listening, I hope that I am going to say something useful. I believe today’s wisdom was telling this person that in my opinion, she was being served a big hot platter of bullshit and to simply decline to accept it. Pretty visual, isn’t it? 😉

As a mea culpa for my colorful language, I introduced her to someone who was walking by, a person who could possibly help her in her next career step. Good deed for the day accomplished 😉

It’s been 80 plus degrees the past few days so we are testing the maximums of our deodorant and the ability to keep cool, dogs included. We are okay.

I’m still mad


Today marks a year since you left this planet. In case you were wondering, your mom is still mad. I can’t seem to get beyond that feeling. Every now and again, the sorrow manages to break through for a few minutes. But then I get angry again. You and I know a little about being mad. We learned that being mad was usually a response to fear and sorrow. And that it was important to look beyond the mad, to what was lying underneath.

Somehow, I haven’t been able to do that yet. Not in the way that would show a role model of emotional health and smart coping techniques. Instead, I lock it down and throw myself into another project, another cause, anything to distract myself from the feeling that I failed you, that I caused this by holding you to the rules and expectations of our family.

So, yes, I’m still mad and if I am honest with us both, I don’t really want to stop being mad. Because I don’t want to feel the terrible heartbreak of your loss. To know that your life stopped, that you won’t be growing up past 16. That I’ll never see grow and struggle with adulthood, with kicking ass and getting back up again when you fall. To know that I won’t be able to have to look up to you to hug you. To know that I won’t ever get see you find someone who wants to spend their life with you or at least the forseeable future, to know that you won’t meet the people who have come to mean something to me, or to hear you say the same things to your children that I once said to you.

Some people would say that I should focus on the positive, the memories and times that we had and learn to accept and move on. But I am not ready to do that. I think this is what it ultimately means to be a parent, to love someone so completely and be so angry at them at the same time. If that is the test of parenthood, I think I have that one covered.

I don’t know why you made the choice that you did. I don’t know if it was an accident, a last minute change of heart, or deliberate. Knowing that answer wouldn’t make the reality any better, you are still gone.

What doesn’t change, is that you were loved and still are. And there’s no way you can ever get away from that fact. I remember you telling me that there was “NO WAY I am ever going to tell you I love you” as if that would cause me to take it back, to withdraw. My answer to you was “Doesn’t matter if you tell me or not, it doesn’t change how I feel about you.”  The look on your face was pretty good, it was a combination of “Huh, now what? Not the answer I was expecting.” I have to say, confusing you with the unexpected was one of the greatest joys I have ever had. I used to delight in outsmarting you because I knew it was teaching you new things and ultimately teaching you what it meant to be part of a family that loved you. You had all of the street smarts and survival strategy skills that had worked so many times before. But I had the magic weapon, I was determined to make you see what we saw in you, the people who believed in and loved you.

We love you, Raven.


Memories, Old and New

Yesterday was what would have been Raven’s 17th birthday. I used to tell him that it was so handy that he was born in the year 2000 because it made it really difficult to forget how old he was during any given year. Birthdays were important to him. I remember that when we celebrating his 10th, we were in the first house in West Seattle. Actually, it was officially Arbor Heights. It was a small party with my mom and Lawyerella as the party guests. Raven was deep in a pizza phase and still learning to be comfortable eating at the table as part of a family.

There used to be a pizza place in West Seattle called Red Star Pizza. I think they are gone now. There is an enormous condo building where they used to stand. It looked like a hole in the wall, with graffiti everywhere and old arcade games. You could sit in the window or you could take it out, that’s it. Their pizzas were awesome. And you could order individual size ones so no one had topping trauma. I can’t remember what the rest of the pizzas were but I remember that Raven’s had jalapenos on it. Big rings of jalapeno too, not just little chunks. He was pretty thrilled that he was getting his own pizza and with whatever toppings they had available. The only rule that applied was  “you ordered it, you eat it”;)

I can still see him sitting at the square table, looking at that pizza as if he wasn’t quite sure this was going to work out. That was a good birthday. It was the first one that he didn’t have to be brought back at the end of the evening to the children’s home.

So last night, I deliberately went looking for a place that served pizza. Not in a highly elegant bistro style, rather the kind that you feed your family with – love stuffed in a crust. There was a little place around the corner from our hotel that we ended up, after first walking past and checking out all the other options in a 3 block radius. In the end, it was la duchesa after all. Primarily because the patio was full of Italians eating, some with their dogs patiently waiting under the table or in their lap.

It’s hard for me to accept that Raven is gone, that it has almost been a year. Later this week, GG’s friend will be arriving with her 14 year old son. I think that’s going to be a little difficult. Of course, I am good at not letting things show so much so I will be on my best carefree behaviour.

I think for now, I’m going to take a little nap because after walking around in the sun for a few hours, I completely get the siesta time concept. That’s progress, that it only took half a day this time 😉 When I was in Italy the second summer I was here, it took me nearly 5 days to acknowledge the wisdom of the siesta and to look forward to it…