Category Archives: February 2014

How much kale is too much?

I had the leftover kale salad from yesterday for dinner.I think I have eaten enough leafy greens for several people. I modeled the salad after PCC’s Kale Caesar. Here in the Netherlands, kale is called “boerkool” or farmer’s cabbage and people do not eat it raw. They associate it has needing to be cooked, preferably with a hearty portion of potatoes and a smoked sausage or “rookworst”.

I did have enough food for the party yesterday. Joanne made an enormous chickpea and chorizo salad so we made an effort to give people choices other than cheese.Oh wait, there was feta in it! I did feel somewhat guilty yesterday when I was impaling all the snacks on toothpicks. It seemed like everything had cheese in it. And I didn’t even do it on purpose, that’s just how tapas come here.

I think the party went well. I had a really nice mix of people. I know for next time, I need to have more rose wine and less red and I need more wine glasses. At one point I was pulling glass jars out of the cupboards. It was nice to have people in the house enjoying themselves and eating and drinking. I can’t wait until warmer weather when we can use the yard.

People brought me gifts, which I was surprised by. I received two gorgeous orchids, flowers, a snazzy toaster, a full planting of bulbs, a dachshund shaped watering can named Genry, a dishwashing brush in the shape of a pop diva but it suits me more as a microphone, nice bottles of wine, a tea light display board for multiple ones, fancy meringues and some nice bottles of wine. It was quite a haul!

The boys did pretty well with the party. George did try to reach the table on his hind legs and attempt to steal some of the food. I think he definitely licked the rim of the plate so I had to clean that up. Moortje did his walk through and checked out the scene and then went off to sleep. Lientje, predictably, hid behind the curtain in my room.

I am so grateful to have a dishwasher! It makes party clean up so much easier.

I took this picture of an ad on Friday. I have a fondness for toilet humour so consider yourself forewarned. Of course, if you are reading this, you knew that about me already. Its in the pictures folder and it is an ad for Big Bang Beans.

I was looking through some pictures that Joanne took on her visit to Seattle and I found some really great silly ones of my mom. While I was looking them, I easily remembered what we had been doing. And I also realized where I get my quirky behavior from. My Oma could be very silly and my mom was. However, I have held tightly to the belief that I am so serious that silliness is outside of my capacity. Well, looking at the pictures, clearly not. Which makes feel good, to know that I have a quirky streak, just like my mom. I am not silly deficient. I wish she was here to be silly with though. There are times that I laughed so hard with my mom, I am not sure that I didn’t pee in my pants. She could just get me started and it was all downhill from there. When we were in the Yukon in 2012, we were getting ready to leave the little cabin and brave the big outdoors. She started putting on all her layers of gear and started to make typical Mom remarks and then the next second we laughing so hard, I swear they heard us in Alberta. I took pictures of her in the midst of the laughing fits. I’m glad I did because watching my mom laugh were some of the best moments of my life.

Old playlists

I am listening to a playlist I made before going to Kentucky to spend a long weekend touring the backroads, looking for the paternal family history. The transportation of choice for this trip was a screaming red Dodge Magnum station wagon. It pretty says “I might be a shaped like a station wagon but I am a MANLY wagon”. And MANLY is definitely in All Caps. I took this trip with two of my brothers and my dad. Dylan was late because he had chosen to route through Detroit to get an extra segment for his elite frequent flyer status so he ended up having to rent a car from Detroit and drive down to Louisville where the rest of us arrived on schedule. That sort of dedication to attaining status is pretty much vintage Dylan. He’s mellowed out some but at the time it was a pretty major motivator.
Anyway, it was an interesting trip and as I listen to this playlist I can very clearly see my mental state. I think even the best of family relationships are complex and in our family, we have some very difficult to navigate ones. I remember going on this trip and my mom sending me with a batch of roasted pecans. My mom encouraged me to go but at the time I felt very conflicted about going. That is something I have to say about my mom, she always tried to make sure that we had our own relationships with my dad. I don’t know that I could say that my dad would have had the same outlook. My parents were very different from each other. I don’t know if my brothers sometimes understand that the relationship I had with my mom was different then their’s, not because I am special and they are not but because we were in each other’s daily lives. And as much as I might not want to admit it, I know that my mom loved us all and as we were. I can’t deny that I wouldn’t like to go back to the 5 of February 1976, when I was still an only child 😉
I have been thinking about my mom a lot this week as I have been randomly inviting more people to the house warming cocktail hour on Saturday. I am not sure where I am going to have everyone sit. I do want the house to be filled with interesting people and their conversations. Ever practical, I have ordered 72 beers, 8 bottles of wine and enough appetizers (I hope) to feed everyone. That’s also channeling my mom and her tendency to stock up for any kind of entertaining. I guess whatever doesn’t get consumed can just go in the shed for a summer party. I was smart this time, I ordered everything from the AH website and they will deliver Saturday afternoon, three hours before the door opens. Much better than going to the grocery store six times to get beer!
I’ve been busy this week with work. I’ve been to Gouda and Ijmuiden. And my manager has told me to talk to him in sentences like a 4 year old. Today he said to me that he heard me thinking in English and talking in Dutch. So, I have to use short, declarative sentences. Basically, talking in bullet points!
I realized how American I am behind the wheel. I have a hard time trusting Ms. Nokia when I am using the drive app on my phone because inevitably I pass through the polders.By this time I think I am going in the wrong direction. What I realized yesterday is that a lot of the roads here are through the polders, the farmlands. It’s normal to leave the highway and travel at a high rate of speed through the countryside. Well, I am not really at the high rate of speed because I am too busy staring at the window at the sheep. So even when I am driving from one large city to another, farmland is definitely between the two. So, I am learning to trust Ms. Nokia, after all she has all the maps.
I also have a Dutch driver’s license now. I picked it up Tuesday morning so I would be street legal. It is an incredibly unflattering picture and good for ten years. I hope I never get pulled over. The picture on my residence permit is much better. And that one is only good for five years. They have all these rules that you can’t smile or have any kind of expression on your face for official photos so I think everyone probably looks terrible.
I don’t spend a lot of time wearing “professional” clothes. I spend most of my time in jeans and yoga pants. Except, of course, when I am going to a customer meeting. I try to dress appropriately then. But with fancy clothes, I always want to get more than one wear out of them before they have to go to the cleaners. So, I wore the same thing to Ijmuiden that I had worn to Gouda, consciously. And I noticed that my coworker (a man) had done the exact same thing. This cracks me up. Apparently, I am not the only fancy clothes recycler on my team. I will keep testing this theory in the months to come since we go to a lot of the same meetings.
I really want a crock pot. I am not sure if they have them here but I am on the hunt for one. I’ll let you know how it turns out. In the meantime, I wish you were all here on Saturday. I will be thinking about you and wishing that you were.

It is hard work being short

I could say that this only applies to the boys since dachshunds are pretty short by classification. Of course, George has a little extra height since he is half dachshund and multiple other things. However, I also feel short in this country. Maybe not quite dachshund short but definitely vertically challenged. The Dutch generally seem to be pretty tall. My team at work is mostly tall people. As a matter of fact, on a team of tall people, we have one person so tall that others call him “Hightower” after the Police Academy movies. I think he’s 2.06 meter which equals 6 foot 10. What I can’t figure out is if people are so tall, why are the shoes so small? Maybe it is all the time on the bicycles – it shortens your toes or something!

I went into the office today and had to reset everyone’s expectations that I could now speak Dutch. Plus it was necessary for me to confirm that I had not managed to sneak any of the nuns habits away with my language workbooks. I am hyper conscious now of the Dutch I am trying to speak and now I am making even more mistakes and losing track of my sentences. I had a conversation with my manager today in Dutch and I think the word I said most often was “Shit.” But you have to say it like the Dutch do. It is very emphatic. It is always heartening to hear that people look forward to reading your emails because they are so amusingly childlike.

Tomorrow, I am off to Gouda. Like the cheese. It is also the origin of the stroop wafel. It looks like it is more effective for me to drive. Which is somewhat disappointing because I like the trains but it would be 4 transfers and 1 hour and 40 minutes versus 42 minutes by car. I am sure I will have other chances to go to Gouda by train.

Saturday is the house warming cocktail hour. I decided to learn from my Christmas efforts and order the beer online and have it delivered, instead of making six trips to the grocery store and breaking bottles again. Not that my sneakers aren’t overdue for another brewery freshener – eau de pils. I hope everyone is going to have a good time.

Tonight we were able to go out for our last walk without having to bundle up. It was about 46 degrees. The boys were happy not to have to put on their jackets. If this is the last of the winter cold, we got off pretty easily this winter. It is now light until six pm. My mom would be happy that the days are getting longer. A travel catalog came in the mail today, full of adventure travel throughout Europe. I skimmed it briefly and the choices were overwhelming. I can hear my mom leafing through it and calling out all of the places we could go. I am saving it for inspiration for some of the places to spend my five weeks of vacation.


Home again

On the big bright rust orange couch again with the boys nearby and Moortje peering around like a stealth cat. The wind is howling outside and it is raining. I am glad to be home and using English. I gave one of my fellow students a ride back to Amsterdam. Eliza arrived in the Netherlands two weeks ago. She lives over on the Rembrandtplein. The battery gave out on my mobile before the Nokia lady could finish navigating us to her neighborhood. In the pouring rain, one brand new Amsterdam resident and one less new Amsterdam resident trying to find an address in the dark, while dodging the tons of black wearing cyclists and pedestrians. Anyway, we eventually managed to find Eliza’s street. Of course, then I had to find my way back to my neighborhood. That took quite a bit longer involving traveling under the river IJ by accident and driving around the concert hall at least three times and taking a detour around Centraal Station. 45 minutes to go probably less than 10 miles all the way around. I can manage to make it all the way to Vught but driving in the city is completely a cluster. I think that’s why I prefer to get around this city on foot and by public transit.

Renee left me a note that George hit his head in his enthusiasm today. Apparently, he managed to find a stone wall and gave himself a crunch. I think for George, the next thing will be a helmet. I will need to see if I can find him a small child’s sized helmet. Of course, once he gets a helmet, he will probably expect a scooter next. It is indeed a slippery slope.

While I was gone, my laptop was returned from the repair depot. Yay! I had missed it.

It is good to be home with my pets again. Tomorrow, I definitely have to go grocery shopping. And I definitely do not have to go to any Dutch lessons 😉

The learning curve is definitely sharp

Tonight is technically our short night since it is the middle of the week and this is about the time that most students begin to experience their head detaching from their neck with great sizzling clouds of smoke that are scented with the faint aroma of a grilled cheese that has been in the pan too long. In other words, the brain’s melting from all the stuff crammed into it. I know I am certainly at that stage. Today was full of the perfect and imperfect and the past, intermixed with the Normal and Not Normal verbs. That’s literally what they are called in Dutch – normaal werkworden and niet normaal werkworden. A verb translates to “work word”. How very practical. It has been so long since I took English grammar lessons, that I feel like a big idiot because I can not relate the grammar types and rules in Dutch to English.

There are two German ladies who keep tracking me down to speak English with, which is not helping my Dutch. I share a bus ride with the two German ladies, 1 American learning Dutch, 3 Dutch learning French and 1 Russian Dutch learning English. There are 57 students participating this week. I am amazed at the amount of coordination that has to come into play because every student has an individualized instruction plan.

It is rainy and windy outside so I don’t have to worry about missing balmy weather for studying time. Today, every lesson I participated in was a meltdown. And the last session of the day is always the hardest because I am tired and that’s the one with the lead teacher for my plan so there’s no mercy. It is a good thing this is not my first week in the Netherlands or some of his directness might really have offended me. Fortunately, by now I am somewhat acclimated to the no holds barred conversation. It is definitely a bit of a battle in his office. It is very territorial. It feels like every time I am make a point in Dutch properly and emphatically, it is the equivalent of peeing on a tree like the dogs. Because then he “pees” right back and on we go. Tomorrow, we’ll be debating the construction of the architecture of an IT application in Dutch. Promises to be fun.

I have met some interesting people. I hope that we’ll keep in contact once the week ends since it is always useful to have people to meet for a coffee and to practice your grammar. I miss my pets. The hotel is really nice and out in the countryside. However, since I leave here when it is dark and get back when it is dark, there’s not much to see.

This week has also been pretty emotional, because learning this language only makes me miss my mom more it seems. The last language I learned, Spanish, we learned together at North Seattle Community College. You can imagine what kind of learning environment my mom and I added to when we were practicing Spanish together. I remember the teacher being Japanese and I think he was glad we didn’t go for the second year 🙂

Wow, do I really want to do this?

Today is the first full day of my participation in an immersive Dutch language program. And right now I am wondering if I want to continue on with the Dutch I know, identifying me as an American? Or do I want to start over from scratch with my sense of language identity? The last session I had before the study break (which I am on now for an hour), I couldn’t get through a sentence without being corrected. The teacher told me that I have to stop thinking in English, to throw it out. Easier said than done. And right now I am feeling frustrated by how much I don’t know and how much I get wrong.

This morning was good. I learned to conjugate some very important verbs and the patterns they work in. Well, let’s say I can do them very well on paper but installing them in my head so I speak them in the right context is a bit more difficult. I am very grateful for the opportunity to do this. Having one on one lessons is incredible and the curriculum is specifically tailored to my competency with the language and what I want to use it for. But again, if my brain melts, I can’t push the teacher’s attention to someone else for a mental break.

While I am learning Dutch, there are many other people here learning all kinds of other languages. That’s been fun to hear and meet people. And of course, with the Dutch taking the speed skating medals today, everyone is happily temporarily Orange. It is also interesting to hear people making conversation with each other over topics they are able to express themselves with. Last night I had an amazing conversation in Dutch on waste management, recycling and food sovereignty. In Dutch with three fellow students who are here to learn French.

Okay, now I need to actually use the study hour for studying before dinner. We also eat dinner together. Unfortunately, the original cloister building was replaced by a shiny modern facility which is very nice technologically but missing the richness of the history of the order. Food is great though, much better than Ireland!

And for those keeping score, I am in the province of Brabant. So, that means I have now been to the provinces of Groningen, Noord Holland, Brabant and Limburg. And also the province that Schagen and Den Helder are located in. There are 12 provinces in all so I have a few more to go. Okay, now I really am going to study…


I spent last night in the old Noordsingel prison in Rotterdam. I have to say that going there was super creepy. It was an active prison until the beginning of this year, first used in 1872 or so. Going in there last night certainly made me grateful that I haven’t spent in any time in a contained environment like that. It is known for being the first prison in the Netherlands have single cells.

So, what was I doing there? We had an event from work. A 24 hour code camp in the prison for developers of iOS and Android apps. I managed to stay awake until about 4AM and then crashed in my cell for a couple of hours. Surprisingly, I slept pretty well on my big bean bag on the floor, despite the racket and the fear that the door would close while I was sleeping. The doors can’t be opened from inside the cell, as would make sense. This morning I went around exploring the basement and taking pictures. I was not going to do that last night since I had no idea what I would find down there, rats and what not.

Tomorrow, I’ll go to a closed complex of a different sort. I am off to learn Dutch in a very intensive manner pioneered and taught by the nuns at Vught. And while the nuns are no longer active in the day to day of the language institute, if you tell people you are going to the “Nonnen” they know exactly what that means. Eight hours a day of 1:1 instruction with 4 different teachers assigned to you. And since you are the sole focus of their efforts, you can’t even try to get someone else to answer when your brain gives out. I am excited though. I love to learn, especially in a classroom setting. And I am totally thrilled that I get to go and do this because I am so frustrated with the limitations of my Dutch writing skills. I will be spending the week there.

I am also hoping that I will have some time to turn off my brain a bit and chill out. I expect that is probably pretty unlikely but perhaps I will be inspired by being out in the middle of the Dutch countryside. I also went to Heerlen yesterday, which is in Limburg in the south eastern part of the Netherlands, again near the German border. It was a 2.5 hour train ride each way so by now, with Dutch travel math, you know that is almost out of the country!

Another new thing is that I learned that if you send out an invitation in the Netherlands, to a party for example, you should be very specific about who is invited. I decided to finally have a house warming borrel (cocktail hour) and send out the invitation to the folks I work with. I didn’t understand why I was getting so many replies that asked me if they could bring their partners. Turns out that unless you specify, people won’t automatically think it is okay to bring their other. I, of course, operate on the “more the merrier” principle so today I sent out an update very specifically letting people know they could bring their significant other/house pet/rock/grandma/etc. Funny how many little nuances there are.

I had lunch with Marianne today after I got out of prison and we had a very interesting discussion about social differences between the US and the Netherlands – such as the invitation thing. Another thing, if you date in the Netherlands, the expectation is that you are only dating one person at a time and you don’t choose the next one until you are finished with deciding whether or not you will be pursuing a relationship with that person. This contrasts to the American pattern where you might simultaneously date a few people casually at one time until you decide who will be the lucky contestant for relationship status. I think it’s kind of like ordering from a menu vs going to the buffet.

I’ll let you know how it goes when I get to the nuns!


I like the way the English language sounds here. Although, sometimes it is difficult for me to follow. I heard someone refer to it as “encrypted English” which seemed like a great way to describe it. Tonight I was in a little supermarket, getting my Irish souvenir. There were two boys, probably 8 and 10, rolling around on the floor, clearly looking for something they had dropped. I watched them for a while and then finally asked them what they had dropped. The 10 year old looks at me very seriously and says that he dropped a whole 2 euro coin. It took me a moment to understand what he said and in the meantime, the boys were continuing to look because their mum had said they had to be home by 7 and they thought they might be late already but they had to find the coin. This was an easy problem for me to solve. I said to the older boy “Here, I’ve got one, go ahead and take it.” What was so charming was he immediately asked me “Are you certain, Miss? I don’t want you to be troubled” I thanked him for his concern and assured him it was not a problem. And he thanked me very nicely while three times more asking me if I was certain. Who knows what’s ahead of him in life but at this moment, he was clearly a very well mannered young man. I wish I could solve so many problems that swiftly.

Dublin is beautiful. I am not in danger of becoming Catholic but when I see all the churches around here, I can imagine that you might just become Catholic after being inspired by the beauty – sort of recruiting tool. It is also apparent that there’s much more land available to build on here than there is in Amsterdam. Most buildings are only two stories. I have done a lot of walking while I have been here and hope to do more tomorrow. I will say that after the howling wind and rain last night, I completely understand Irish songs like “The Long Black Veil”. Something else I noticed here is that while the streets are all paved with stone, like Amsterdam, the stones are not perfectly matched and shaped. They are rather more freeform. Clearly the Irish are less into the precision regularity of the Dutch and a bit more expressive with their materials. You also see this in the buildings. They might be attached to each other but they are not built in a same style, almost as if each had a different builder.

I would not have picked the Irish as big tomato eaters. I tend to think of Southern Europe as being more tomato oriented. But they are everywhere here, broiled for breakfast, in the soup, not in salads, on all sandwiches almost. They eat a lot of white bread. And they serve a lot of it too. Not a fan. After being spoiled by Dutch bread, it seems kind of tasteless. For my Irish souvenir, I got rice cakes covered in dark chocolate and orange peel. I don’t have a particular desire to eat them, just thought it was such a contradictory idea. The good news is that they are gluten free so go ahead and enjoy that dark chocolate rice cake! The clerk at the store told me that they are very popular.

I am super tired and we start tomorrow morning at 830AM so think I am off to bed.

One last thing, tomorrow is a birthday. It is the birthday of my brothers, Cedric and Dylan. In 1976, my life forever changed. I stopped being an only child *deep deep sigh*. In addition to my brothers, it is also the birthday of Ronald Reagan and Bob Marley if I remember correctly. I find this rather humorous, especially when I consider the personality differences between my brothers. For the home viewers who may not have experienced the twins in the same room, it would be easy to make the case that Cedric has clearly channeled Bob Marley at some points in his life and Dylan definitely has an inner Ronald Reagan. Happy Birthday!


Today would have been Oma’s 104th birthday. I was really fortunate to be so close to my Oma and Opa. For me, going to spend the summer with my Oma and Opa meant several things. The first was that I would get undivided attention, since my brothers were back home. The second was that my Oma drew you to her, you felt that being around her was like being wrapped in all of the good things. My Oma had that spark to her, that magnetism that drew people in and that made you feel as if you were the only person in the world that mattered to her. It is no wonder that we always competed for her attention when she came to visit. My Opa, on the other hand, was this steady presence in the background, content to watch over the people that mattered most to him. My Opa was a sea captain and had the perfect personality for it – strong, principled, patient, believing in the potential of people and reserved.

Being close to my Oma and Opa meant that I also had another way to learn about my mom. It seemed hard to believe that my mom was ever young enough to have parents, that she wasn’t just born Mom! And, of course, while I was in my period of “I know it better than anyone else and certainly better than my mom”, my Oma and Opa were even more of a safe refuge. I could love and be loved without having to worry about whether or not I was giving into parental authority. I wonder sometimes if my Opa and Oma didn’t have a quiet chuckle over the the fact that my mom ‘s daughter was just as difficult as she had been to them. Potentially more so because I had a far more alienating fashion sense and loved the Ramones vs the relative sedateness of big band, jazz and the Beatles.

I like to think that maybe somewhere the three of them have had time to catch up with each other. When I look through the boxes of pictures that I have, my favorites are when I was still an only child and surrounded by my mom and Oma and Opa. These were the moments of my life that I was wrapped in all the love, security and adoration of three adults all to myself! My mom has told me stories of how I would refuse to fall asleep and Opa would have to take me around for blocks and blocks and that I stood at the top of the staircase calling for Oma in the most annoying voice possible because I knew she would come.

And I keep them near. The jewelry I wear regularly is my Opa’s sealing ring and my mom’s bracelet which was Oma’s first. Not to mention the furniture and the table that I eat at.

Lots of visitors today. The owner of our house came by and showed me how to change the light bulbs under the kitchen cabinets. He seemed relieved that I very much liked living here but I think it was bittersweet for him as well, since they now live in San Francisco. We’ve got two more months before the diplomatic clause is up. This is the clause in the lease that allows either party to end the lease in the event of work related issues. It is good for six months and then after that, it no longer applies. I would hate to move. I mean, I would give them back their house at the end of the lease, I am not unreasonable 😉 but I would like to stay.

The upstairs neighbors came down a few minutes ago to introduce themselves. Very nice young women, it is the first time they have lived outside of their parent’s homes. And a first home purchase. Not a bad place for your starter home!

I met someone from Seattle today. The lady who works at the clothing repair shop. 38 years ago she came here on a college trip and obviously found a life here! We talked about the Seahawks and the size of Seattle. Turns out she was just there last week too. In three minutes, she had sewed the button back on my shirt and fixed a hole I didn’t even know about.

I am off to Dublin tomorrow for work. This should be fun, my first time to visit Ireland and my first time flying Aer Lingus. I will be there for three days. Renée will house sitting for the zoo again so I know they are all going to be in good hands.

We had a good trip to Schagen yesterday. George had some upset stomach issues (thanks to Dr. Pieter for the diagnosis) and didn’t really want to eat. Although he made an exception for a piece of liverwurst with his seizure pill in it. And he got to spend a lot of time sitting on Dr. Pieter’s lap. Henry, on the other hand, spent the time sitting under the table on a blanket barking at various passersby. We had a wonderful afternoon over Thai soup, coffee, white wine and an amazing set of sandwiches. I always feel like going to Schagen is a like a vacation, it feels so far away. However, it is really only 40 miles from us. George’s appetite is back to normal and he seems to be his bouncy self again.


Well, the new neighbors have moved in upstairs. Here is what I know so far. They have a gorgeous cherry red refrigerator and they wear boots with heels. This will be different than having a two year old upstairs. I used to not have to set an alarm during the week because Hugo, the two year old, would be up and running every morning at 7AM. Hugo and his family moved to the Hague. That’s the interesting part about houses in Amsterdam, you take your appliances and closets with you when you move. I guess it makes sense if none of the distances are so very great.

This morning, I went into a frenzy of house cleaning because tomorrow we are taking Astrid up to Schagen to have coffee with Jo and Pieter. I need to drive about once a week to keep her battery fully charged so I guess I might get into the habit of being a weekend driver. This coming week I am going to Dublin but obviously not driving there. Astrid doesn’t have a submarine or flight mode, unfortunately! It would have been pretty cool if Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was more than just a concept car.

The boys are passed out. We went for a long walk in Beatrix Park and they had plenty of birds to chase. Their coats are full of sand since they went to the beach yesterday with Renée. I have to say, I think they lead a pretty good life here. I have to say a nap is sounding pretty good right about now. I am torn between the idea of a nap or having another cup of coffee.

My favorite laptop is having a small problem and will have to be picked up by UPS and taken to the warranty center. Well, not really a small problem, it doesn’t work when connected to the keyboard. I am not a rocket scientist but even so I thought it was pretty apparent that the keyboard unit would probably have to be replaced. Of course, when dealing with support desk people, you have to walk through the 12 steps of the trouble ticket system. And there’s no way that you can deviate from it. Anyway, they promise that most people will have their laptops back in six working days. We’ll see. It’s been my experience that almost everything here takes approximately two weeks so I find six days suspiciously optimistic! It stopped working while I was in Seattle so I suspect that Henry and George were busy using it while I was gone and their paws messed up the keyboard unit. I have this suspicion sometimes that the boys have a secret life of their own and when I go to work, the chaos starts.

Today in the park, we had an interesting encounter with a glamorous Amsterdam lady of a certain age, probably late sixties. Her dog ran away from her and the boys held his attention long enough for her to catch up. And then we had a long conversation about – of all things, neutering dogs. She found it to be an appalling habit and didn’t understand why it was such a big movement. It reminded me of the conversations that my mom and Hilde used to have on the street during the long summer nights. Hilde was VERY pro-neutering and my mom was not. As a matter of fact, when my mom told Hilde that she was going to move to Ecuador and Hilde should think about visiting it, Hilde’s first objection to the idea was that in Ecuador, they don’t neuter dogs! Based on that characteristic, Hilde felt that my mom should take Ecuador off the list of places to move to. It was a fun conversation and she was so frank, talking about how her dog kept trying to lick Henry’s butt. She was very matter of fact about it which cracked me up. And I could hear my mom saying something in a similar tone.