Exceptional weather

Today it’s 8 years ago that Mom passed into the light. On the day that it happened, Seattle was experiencing a strangely beautiful winter day. The day was cold, clear and sunny. When she left, it was with the sunlight shining down on her face through the windows. Later, it was as if she chose the most beautiful moment of the day to go since Seattle in January usually consists of grey, plus more grey, plus rain.

Today it’s snowing. I didn’t believe it would happen since I think most weather forecasts follow the CYA Forecast Methodology – the Cover Your Ass kind. When they say “There will be a chance of showers, some breaks and a light wind may occur in the evening. And there’s a chance of some sun.” Everything in one forecast, take your pick and you will always be partially correct!

It started snowing in the middle of our walk this afternoon. I didn’t think it would continue or pick up in intensity but it has. After all, we’re too much of a city, it’s too warm, etc. It also started earlier than they said it would. Then again, why shouldn’t it today?  Mom wasn’t known for her “go along with crowd” personality.

Where snow is concerned, I have some really good memories of my Mom. For example, the day we went to pick up George at 3 months of age from the shelter in Yakima, it was snowing. He and Henry first met each other in the snow. When I surprised her with a trip to the Yukon Territory (CAN) for her 72nd birthday, there was so much snow that if you stepped of the path to to your cabin, you would be standing in snow above your knee. I remember her stepping off the path by accident and how much we laughed then. WP_001021

We were the only guests during the time and the toilets were in the main building. If you left your cabin at night, the only light was from the sky and the snow.

As it snows today, there won’t be the chance of seeing the Northern Lights or hearing her laugh. Instead I’ll make soup out of all of the leftover things in the kitchen and think of her doubting if all of those things really belong together in one pan. And I will miss her When the snow stops, I hope the world outside will be as magical as my Mom was.

Having a hard time, Mom

I really tried today to have a brighter mindset. Riding my bike this morning, I tried to find the freezing cold weather and harsh wind out of the NE as a way of bringing my Mom closer. She used to say that all of the cycling in the rain and wind is what made her tough. I tried to use that wisdom this morning to keep missing her at bay. Not particularly successful.

By the time that I got to the classroom, there was just no salvaging it. Today was going to be hard and I wasn’t going to be able to get away from the feeling of missing her and still being sorry that she is gone. And yeah, still feeling angry – too early. I wasn’t ready not to have my Mom at my side anymore. Or more realistically, standing behind me and giving me a swift kick.

The thing I want to yell most is “IT’S NOT FAIR.” It’s not and it won’t ever be. That doesn’t make me unique, it makes me one of the billions of people who have lost someone that they loved. It makes me mad that there are so many things I didn’t get to share with her, all of the energy and determination she had that didn’t get to start as many shitstorms as she had a right to and a capacity for and that sometimes I think that all of my strength is not my own but came from my mother.

It’s that last one that I have spent a lot of time with today. I know that the wild and stubborn will of my mother is within me. As is the anxiety and the fear that I am not doing enough. But how do you know that you will have enough endurance to keep going?

When I think about her life and all of the things that she experienced, I wonder if I would also have had that strength? Would I have made it through like she did? Would I have continued to be myself and not fade away into some type of people pleaser? Because if there was one thing my Mom was not, it was a people pleaser!

I can try to wrap it up in sentences, to see if I can make sense of what I am feeling. The reality is I know what I am feeling. Today, when we should have been going somewhere to eat really good Mexican food and drink a margarita, I am instead missing her deeply. I’d like to say “Happy Birthday, Mom” and have her look at me over the top of her glass with that spark of mischief in her eye.

Code Yellow

It’s Code Yellow today for the coastal provinces. That means that with the storm that is due, wind on the coast will be up to 90 km per hour but not more. If it were higher, that would move to Code Orange. For those homeviewers on the non-metric system, that’s about 56 MPH winds. While I have enough body mass to not get swept out to sea, there are two small dogs who could find themselves taking off with that kind of windpower.

To make sure we would get enough beach time, we went out earlier this morning while the skies were grey and the wind was okay. Everytime the boys are off leash, they shed years. Although Henry does get many comments from passersby ranging from “Should he still be going out at his age?” – clearly not dog owners – to “Well, that must take a while to get places”. He also gets more of his fair share of “Oh, look at that little cutie.”

He’s more than capable of making the walk and judging by his enthusiasm, he likes it. By the time we reached the 2 kilometer point on the beach, things were getting a little more stormy so I thought we would cross back over the dunes and take the path along the dike (which is built to hold back the water in case it makes through the dunes). It’s an elevated path, with a speedway for bikes and a lane for walkers. There’s a grass strip of about six feet wide between the two asphalt paths which is used for horses.

I thought that using the walker’s side would give them more time to be offleash. I underestimated how much traffic there would be and how much George would either not hear me for real or how often he was practicing selective hearing. George kept crossing over the grass and into the bike paths because it was so much more interesting over there.

After a near miss with two riders – who saw George in plenty of time due to his orange sweater, I decided he was going back on the leash. I figured Henry would continue to follow along with us. Until I noticed that I didn’t hear his little collar music anymore. I turned around to look for him only to discover that at some point, Henry had turned around and was walking back to the beach.

Off we go after him. His hearing is slightly better than George’s but not by much. Once again, we start on the path back to the beachhouse, George on the leash out front and Henry following along. Did I mention that by this time, I really have to pee and there’s nowhere to do this anywhere?

With Henry, I tend to stop every 25 feet or so to make sure he’s within six feet of me. The next time I stop, I see blood on his paw. I pick him up right away and see that quite a bit is coming out. I can’t let him walk on that so under the arm he goes and I tell George that we need to hurry it up. George is happy to hear that and starts up his turbo.

Now you can imagine, I have George pulling on the leash in front of me and Henry tucked under my arm like a baby pig with his leash around my neck so I don’t trip on it. It’s raining and yes, I still have to pee.

The last thing I wanted at that moment was a delay. I knew that GG had gone to town to restock on supplies and I was hoping she remembered not to lock the door as we only have one key. This is also about the time that I discovered that I didn’t have my phone either. With a sprint down the last hill, we crossed the bike highway and made our way to the house. GG was already back so immediately it was triage Henry. He’s okay and now they are both napping in their basket while it rains outside.

And they say that vacations are meant to help you relax. 😉

By the sea

My best moments and memories of being deeply connected with people who are important to me involve the sea. Given my habit of living near cold water, it’s usually a case of walking by the sea instead of being in it, with a few exceptions like Bonaire.

There’s something about the environment, the waves, the wide open space that brings a sense of freedom and openness. Somewhere that I can either talk about the things I am feeling, challenges I am facing, listening to someone I love or just being in the moment and discovering all of the things that are thrown up on the shore to admire and wonder.

I was walking along the North Sea today with Henry and George, letting the wind clear my head and turn my ever unruly hairstyle into something even wilder, when I started thinking about other walks in the past. I thought back to the first time my mom, Raven and I took a trip to the Pacific coast of Washington state. We spend the weekend at Kalaloch, in the cabins perched up on the bluff.

No one knew really what to expect of that trip. It was the first time the three of us traveled together and we were not really a family unit at that time. Henry and George were quite a bit younger then and still chased balls on the beach. My mom had no patience with slow walkers and wasn’t about to wait for a somewhat surly 9 year old (Raven) and her daughter, who pretty much knew a whole lot about some things and almost nothing about being a parent.

But the beach was our common ground, somewhere where we all felt at peace. I remember that there was a fish that washed up on the shore, still alive but somehow stuck. Raven was fascinated but not going to get to close to it. My mom reached down and picked it up and threw it far back into the water without even hesitating. It needed to be done. Raven was a mix of shocked (because girls didn’t do that kind of brave thing and my mom was still a girl in his category system) and more than a little impressed by her bravery.

My mom, knowing more than a little about being a parent, acted very nonchalantly as if it was something she did everyday, wrestling mysterious creatures from the deep and returning them to their rightful place. Looking back, there are two very clear things in that moment – my mom’s deep love for animals and her sense of taking immediate action.

While I was thinking about that day, I suddenly noticed that I could really hear the waves. They had stopped being background noise and really sounded like proper waves. In case you are wondering, there’s a difference between the waves of the North Sea and those of the Pacific Ocean – namely size and volume. But today, their sound was the same in that moment. I hope that was a sign that all of the invisible signals that connect us to those we love are working properly, even if we don’t always notice them.

We are here until Monday morning and I plan to spend a lot more time walking along the North Sea, listening and being listened to.

Ants in the pants…

I have this small tic. I have a tendency to skip through time (the present) and fast forward. Usually this is also accompanied with overpreparation. Not like I am building a bunker or something but rather that I try to think of every possible scenario and “what if” it. I used to this alot before I would have to give technical presentations. I would make sure that I prepared for every possible random question.

It took me a few years to understand that my peers did not go to this level of preparation. 😉 Knowing that earlier might have saved me some stress. I thought that everyone just really knew their shit and I needed to play catch-up. Well, what they were really good at was acting like their knew their shit. I discovered this when there was a year where I had to cover for three of my peers.

Fast forward and I still get these feelings before meetings. But I know that once I am in the meeting itself, I don’t feel that way anymore at all. Then I feel like I am in the flow and wherever it goes will be just fine. It would be great if I could channel this in the time before the meeting. 😉

Another side effect is that this messes with my sense of time. As in if I do not doublecheck myself, I will show up three days early – sometimes more. This can be a little embarrassing!

I’m waiting on the outcome of a big meeting last week. Needless to say, I am running through all of the scenarios and you know what the absolute worst thing could be? That they say “Yes”. Which is hilarious. GG said to me the other day that I am so used to resistance in the work that I am doing that when there is none, I don’t to know what to do with myself. I hadn’t realized that.

I’ve spent the weekend trying to accept the fact that there just might not be any resistance because holy cannoli, my company might be part of the solution to another’s very big problem! This might take me a while to process. In the meantime, I am trying not to “what if” it.

All these ants in the pants are turning up some very strange dreams. Not surprisingly, there’s a common theme of anxiety and searching. For example, that I am trying to get back to my Mom and I keep get stuck in airports. Waking up from these kind of dreams is both a relief and a disappointment. Disappointment because I feel like if I kept going a little more, I would be able to see her, to talk to her, anything. Relief because the feelings that I am experiencing in the dream are not that pleasant, they are definitely high stress.

What I really need is a good dose of my Mom’s sarcasm, in a reminder not to take myself so seriously!

And they are 15…

Biggest news around here is that in the last week Henry and George turned 15 on their respective birthdays. While there was less live music and go-go dancing on these birthdays, they did each manage to open their presents and go to town on their birthday dinners. In between their birthdays, Pickle and Olive turned 2. Cats are not that good at opening birthday presents in comparison to the dogs.

For the winter, there’s definitely a new sweater in Henry’s future. He’s always had less hair then George and now he’s got some balding going on. I tell him often that it makes him look more distinguished. We went on a walk this morning and with the rain, the sweaters needed to go on to try and keep the undercarriage somewhat dry. It’s not really cold enough yet but it’s been raining nearly the whole week.

They are not the only ones who don’t like wearing extra gear. I am also not a fan. I’m commuting via bike daily, despite the rain. Regularly on the ride, I say out loud “See, Mom? I’m learning not to be a sissy!” 😉 It’s like you reach an acceptance point. That no matter how much rain gear you might wear, you’re going to get soaked. So just pedal through. Last Saturday, I got caught in so much rain and hail that my cotton sweater was down to my knees from the weight of the water. Yeah, that was super comfortable to sit in for three hours while I was meeting with someone.

This afternoon I am going to walk 50 feet and listen to the organ concert in the Grote Kerk. I love organ music. It’s the perfect fall music too because it makes me think of haunted houses. That might not precisely be their goal in the church. 😉 I’m going with my 89 year old walking companion in crime. GG was her first choice for concert partner but I am actually the one who likes that kind of music!

In the past week, the rules have changed again to counter a rising number of Covid-19 cases. For example, everything pretty much closes at 9PM now – since no new people can come in after that time. If you want to go out to dinner, make sure you do it before 9PM. Same thing if you want to grab a drink somewhere. My magic hour for going out was leaving the house around 10PM. Well, that’s not working so well anymore. They say it is only for three weeks but I have a feeling it is going to be extended.

We were scheduled to leave on vacation this morning. As you can imagine, that didn’t happen. We’re not going to reschedule for a third time, we’ll just skip it this year. Which suits me fine anyway because we all know how much I struggle with vacation. 🙂

I’m hoping that you are healthy!

Here’s where I begin to realize

that I seem to have wandered into a bit of a writing wasteland. Not sure what that is all about. You would think that with all of the staying at home due to Covid, there would have been more things to read, not less.

I know that in general this year I have been feeling less open to the world, less interested in sharing what I am thinking, feeling or experiencing. I think that there’s a good portion of that due to redirecting all available energy and motivation to keeping my company alive. When I am bathed in the glowlight of a computer screen, it is usually because I am doing something work related.

Then there’s the cycling. I don’t take public transit anymore. I get sweaty fast and wearing a facemask makes that worse. This means my options are limited to the bike or the car. Gas still around 8 euros a gallon and let’s not even get started on how cranky I get in traffic. Biking it is. I like it. I put on the music and do a lot of thinking during the commute. Even in the 90 plus degree days of the past week, I biked to the classroom. I was not the only Sweaty Betty out there!

I have a special crate for Henry and George, complete with seatbelts, on the front of Beatrix. This week, one of my employees repurposed an old tent to build a rain frame for the boys so they can ride safely sheltered, even in foul weather. They are still toddling along at nearly 15. With this heat, we have been going on the big walk of the day at 630AM. This timeslot was not always appreciated. 😉 They are in good health, for which I am immensely grateful and determined to keep that way.

It’s the vacation season in the Netherlands. It doesn’t really feel like it compared to previous years. We had rescheduled from June to October. Our province is listed as Code Orange now for Covid so that means it is unlikely that we will be welcome visitors. We had an old farm rented in the Ardennes, the “mountains” of Belgium. I think if we want to go on vacation this year, we will probably be better of staying within the borders. I don’t really do vacation, so that’s not such a bad thing. 😉 I would like to be able to take the boys somewhere that they can spend 95% of their time off leash. H&G taking a break

I hope I find my way out of this closed off period. Now that I have said it “out loud”, I can begin to do something with the idea. That’s me, Action Fan. 😉

Winter is coming…

It’s the Summer Solstice today, I believe. My mother would say that after today, it was time to get your fleece back out because winter would be coming. Even though I know that we have a long way to go until the dark winter days, I can’t help but feel like today we have to enjoy the sunlight as much as possible.

In preparation for a late evening, all of the pets are taking a nap at the moment. The square in front of our house is full of people sitting on the terraces. The 1.5m distance between people seems to shrink with the increase in the number of beverages consumed. 😉

This morning we went out early to escape the heat and to pick up the bread that we order once a week. Pickle came along as he was ready for an adventure. It’s not always handy when the cats are along for the walk but it is fairly difficult to persuade them otherwise!

The “intelligent lockdown” has gradually been easing here since 1 June. It still feels weird. With the requirements to wear masks in public transport, I pushed myself to bike to work instead. The first couple of days were tough. I also needed to get lost a few times as I was trying to do it out of directional feel rather than using technology. I think I have a good speed and a good route now. Monday will be the first day I try the commute with the dogs in the basket. They were used to the Metro but it’s too much to manage right now and the bike is better for me physically. I have made special adapted seatbelts for them so they don’t fall out or in the case of George, jump out.

Last Friday, I had a rough day in general. It wasn’t made any better by it being the 4 year mark of Raven’s death. That night, during the hour that he passed, the skies opened up and there was a massive storm. Enough water came down to flood into GG’s Chamber of Stuff. We didn’t discover that until Saturday. Back to the storm, I really felt like Raven was making his voice heard, that he had something to say. I stood at our backdoor and just watched and listened. There’s not much thunder and lightning here so when it happens I pay special attention. This was angry thunder, the big bangs that make you jump.

So I did what felt right, I started talking to the air around me. I usually do this in times of extreme stress or sadness, the moments that I really wish I could hear my Mom. I figured why not try it with Raven too?

For most of the past four years, I’ve shut off how I feel about Raven’s death. There are lots of reasons for that. I still do hope that that it’s all been a terrible mistake and he will come walking through that door again. Much like I still hope that about my Mom. Full of stories about what they have been up to. It’s not going to be that way though. I haven’t stopped loving them and every time I think of them, they are coming through that door, even if not in the way I had hoped.

Olive has just turned over and stretched out the other way, which is a sure indicator that she is on to something. I think I might add my snores to their’s. After all, tonight we have to celebrate!

Itchy feet…

It’s the 9th of May and we’re technically still under an “intelligent lockdown”. This morning, as soon as my eyes were open, I needed to move and get out of the house. On Saturdays, we pick up bread that we have ordered the week before. I brushed my teeth and threw on some pants and ran for my bike.

First a stop at the tiny organic vegetable store. Since you have to have 10 m2 per person in a store, going to shop there often means standing in a line outside waiting for people to touch everything. For many people, grocery shopping has become the form of entertainment and diversion. People use this to get out of their house, to feel somewhat normal. So, it takes twice as long at least.

By the time I was checking out, there was already a line outside of shoppers. Jumping on my bike, I cycled to the coop as fast as I could because her doors open at 10 and the line for bread is usually quite long . Only three people are allowed in at a time. Since Dutch people often seem to be more talkative, everyone also wants to complain/talk with the people behind the counter. Luckily, there was no one there yet when I arrived. Within minutes though, the line was forming.

The common theme for me is that I am losing a lot of the patience I had. Going outside now really irritates the hell out of me, with all of the lines. As the weather gets better, more and more people are going outside. Also because people are tired of being indoors, which I completely understand.

Before this lockdown period, there were certain routines that were part of the daily life, primarily centered around the needs of the pets. Around those routines I had lots of freedom to live the rest of my life relatively unscheduled and unstructured – which is not the same as having nothing to do but rather not living my life according to a daily schedule.

Now that’s very different. My office is downstairs now, which has also become GG’s office, which occasisionally leads to tension over who has the most video calls per day. Going outside means taking the dogs for walks, accompanied by the cats when they feel like participating. For entertainment, it’s the grocery store. Everything is digital or has fallen away. Even my banjo lessons are now online.

What I find is that while this is absolutely a luxury problem to have, I have a lot of difficulty as a person with accepting the current state of things. Tomorrow I am going to go to my classroom and open up all the windows and just spend some time there. I need to feel like I can move freely, even if that isn’t quite the case. I am definitely also not someone who can live exclusively in the digital world. I need variety and disruption, I need the randomness that comes with being out in the world.

This afternoon, I will leash up the dogs and we will walk across the city center to go pick up our favorite 89 year old and go for a walk with her. She’s also someone who has very definitive opinions about freedom and restrictions so I can count on an interesting conversation! 😉

Trying not to fall prey to cabin fever…

Like the rest of the world, The Netherlands is trying to get a handle on the Corona virus and what it means for public health. From last Thursday’s message of being careful not to infect the elderly and others with compromised immune systems to Sunday evening’s announcement at 1730 that all cafes, schools, gyms, massage parlors and others were to be closed for three weeks effective in 30 minutes, there was a pretty significant shift.

This is a weird situation to be sure. As I sit here, downstairs in the office, the dogs are in their big bed. Olive is sitting in the middle of the conference table (aka Oma and Opa’s dining room table from the 50s) and Pickle is trying to get himself in and out of the mailbox. GG finally has permission to work fully digital – which was a big step for her employer. Today she was among the first 2500 employees who they were going to enable the video features of Skype for. 😉 Of course, that means that there’s an upgraded standard of grooming required when video functionality is added!

For my classroom, we’re digital. It’s interesting because we’ve always been able to run the program fully online but we chose not to since the interpersonal contact is critical. It seems to be working well, I think that is primarily due to the group already being formed offline.

That is the positive thing that I see could come from this period. That Dutch society (employers and institutions primarily) begin to see and experience that flexibility is not a bad thing. That requiring people to show up 9-6 in order to be productive is not a guarantee, that allowing people to work from home for what ever the reason creates more room for inclusion in society, that it’s good not to commute excessively, that there’s a lot of unpaid work that happens and that perhaps you can look at how you encourage that to be shared. Stuff like that.

I have been reading the news from Seattle again, since the news a few weeks ago about the outbreak. That’s an unusual feeling. Since the middle of 2018, I had sort of distanced myself from Seattle. After all, since I wasn’t going to be an employee anymore, I wouldn’t be returning to Seattle for nerd camp anymore. Of course, when you are starting something new up, then it tends to take all of your time and focus. Now I have a little more time to do some deep thinking about stuff that isn’t related to the company. That’s still there as a constant pressure but there’s not much I can do at the moment since everything is contingent on what happens 6 April. Will everything open up again? In the meantime, I can do some more reading, writing and creating. I think I might like that.

Take care of yourself.