The end is near

The end of our trip here is near, at least for some of us! My little family and I have the pleasure of a few more days with my parents. But all the others are leaving tomorrow. So people are packing and doing "last things". Today I finally went to town with my brother. We walked a lot, took the local minicabs and enjoyed being around town. It's so amazing to me that I can just walk the streets. When I was here last time that was just simply not possible. We never went out to go shopping, took a taxi, or did anything that brought us out of our little safe ex-pat world. And now I walk the streets in peace and can really soak in the atmosphere here. It's one of the big differences that I have seen. I feel safe and comfortable and am surprised by the apparent "wealth" which is here. I say wealth in quotation marks because there is still a lot of poverty, but internet and mobile phones can be found everywhere as well. It's a weird contrast. And I am totally over the idea that I can really share my experiences with my kids. There's just been too many changes! But I love the fact that they are here and have gained some concept for how I have grown up.

Christmas Spirit

The Christmas spirit has come and gone intermittently here in Ethiopia. I didn't realize how where you live defines so much of how you experience Christmas! Should have known better of course, having lived in so many places! With my family we celebrate with gift giving and a lovely meal on Christmas Eve. So that is what we did. But first Herman and I went tourist shopping. Then we came home to a rushed house where everybody was getting their best clothes on to celebrate Christmas together. The transition is so big! And this morning we went to a church service, then did some more tourist shopping (stores stay open all the time here....) and went out for injera. And now I'm sitting here in my dads office writing this blog feeling like Christmas was about a year ago.
It was good to be together with family though, and some of our Christmas moments were truly "cliche". Like singing Christmas songs together after having our evening meal with my mom playing the guitar. Most definately a "flashback to the past" kind of moment. Or watching the enthousiasm of my little nephew as he handed out presents and eagerly helped unwrap them. And breakfast this morning with the typical dutch bread that I dragged out of Holland in my hand luggage.
Lunch at the Ghion Hotel was also very memorable. The place hasn't changed and it's a great joy to watch my kids eating injera eagerly in the same place where I enjoyed it so many years ago. Funny thing is I'm much less caught up in the whole thing of going down memory lane than I thought I would be. It's enough just to be here and let my kids see some of what I saw when growing up. Things have also changed a lot. We had coffee at a real nice place tonight, practically nicer than in Holland and definately cheaper! And that was just not done when I lived here before, unless I went to a real high class place. And I can walk the streets without being harassed. Another new experience. My kids and husband think that's normal, but I definately remember differently!
So it's just good to be here and soak in the sun and the atmosphere and get back in touch with my "tropical" side. I hope I'll be able to hold on to it once I get back to cold, chilly, cold-cultured Holland.

Mixed feelings

One of the things that has really struck me this trip is how our different personalities and circumstances influence the way we experience this trip. By we I mean my little family unit, but also my roots; brother and sisters and parents. Each person carries with them their own history, expectations, feelings, hopes and dreams and that leads to totally different experiences. What I perceive as a wonderful time may be really miserable to someone else. The way you wake up in the morning inflluences your mood obviously, but also the way you look at your past, at who you are as a person. We all carry our bagage with us and it influences us in so many ways! I know I'm stating the obvious, but somehow being here has made me so much more aware of it.
Maybe I'm so much more conscious of it because I feel that we have all shared the same experiences in the past. And to a certain degree that is true of course. We all grew up here, at least partly. The other day we discovered that we all lived here for a different amount of years! That is one difference, our ages are another, and our family positions. I think what I need to realize from this is that each person is unique. My past is mine, not someone elses. My experiences here and now are unique to me, I can't generalize them and simply assume that others are having the same good time as I am. This counts for all experiences, not only this one. It's important to be respectful of each persons "eigenheid" (dutch word meaning that which belongs to a person, that which makes a person unique). That way I can be sure that I can be open for how others experience things and that I will not let my own judgement cloud how I react to others.

Home Again

It's the end of our tour of ethiopia. We're back "home" and the house feels packed to overflowing. It is quite a lot to have what pretty much amounts to 5 families in one house! But it's good to be back, to see the kids and hug my husband. Feed them sugar cane and find that they don't like it at all!! (But actually, neither do I, it's mostly the memories that makes the stuff taste so good :-) ). We had an excellent last day, with a stop at the Portugese bridge which really had us oohing and aahing. An unexpected gift. The day before we were on Lake Tana. I had some fruit juice that didn't sit well so I ended up feeding the fish and exploring the local toilets. Also an experience which belongs in these kinds of trips. I mean, we're in Africa! Stomach upset is part of the whole happening! I thank God for camera's. Now I get to redo my trip all over again. On the other hand it can be so dissappointing to see what actually ends up on a picture and to find that in no way does it compare to the real thing. I asked my kids what they thought of the pictures and my daughter calmly said " I wasn't there, so it doesn't mean much". I guess that about covers it! That's why I want to take them to the Portugese bridge, so that they can see what I've seen. I'm looking forward to doing that the next couple of days. Herman is loving the atmosphere here. He had a great time bargaining at the Markato and is in his element there. This trip away from them has made me realize how much I love my little family. It's good to be reminded of that sometimes!
More some other time, hopefully with the added attraction of pictures. I took a stunning total of 250. Really, I'm quite ashamed.... But some will be sure to show up here and on facebook.

Middle of Ethiopia

Here I am, in the middle of Ethiopia, sitting in a well-lit little office with a very slow internet connection. We had a busy day today! It all culminated in a visit to the Blue Nile falls with my dad and brother. Poor sister Joy had to stay behind with a bad head cold. The pictures are great. I was telling my family that I have to view the pictures in order to understand that I've really been there. It's almost too big to grasp! That's what a lot of this trip is, a lot of things coming right behind the other, a lot of which are hard to realize are really happening. We left Addis yesterday, and it feels like a week ago. I left behind a sick daughter who thankfully wished me a lot of fun and told me she would be able to manage with all the other mothers in the house. Then we took a 7 hour car drive to a city which just "happens" to be the city where my friend has adopted a son from. How cool is that! So I took a lot of pictures of the environment there and even had a little attempt at tracing some of his family members. That was not a succes, but I'm sure they will be thrilled with any pictures that I come back with.
Today we drove to Bahar Dar, Lake Tana and then visited the falls. Tomorrow we'll be taking a boat trip to some monastaries here in the environment and then heading back to Addis with a lot of stops for pictures on the way. The weird thing to me is how normal everything seems to me. In Holland I'm often very aware of how my surroundings look, I can look at things through the eyes of a tourist. Here I just am, I see and absorb and look and enjoy but it feels so totally comfortable and normal that I forget to take pictures! So I have to consciously grab my camera and take shots to show the folks back home. And at the same time I realize that the pictures which show the way things really are just don't exist. But I have to come back with something!
And I still keep on smiling all the time. I love driving through the space here, seeing the countryside change. Having coffee in a local place, eating lots of injera, staying in a hotel with hardly any regard to the costs. My smile is just pasted to my face. I guess that's what comes with feeling totally comfortable and at home.

The second day

Another day that feels like a year at least! This morning I walked around the compound here with a huge grin on my face the whole time. I practically felt my face cramp up from smiling so much! It was just from the pure pleasure of being here, soaking up the sun and the smells and the sense of belonging that comes from being here. It's like putting on an old pair of shoes, no sore toes or blisters from having to walk them in.
I'm torn between all the different things to do. Be lazy, go shopping, be a tourist, call old friends, catch up with family, be a tour guide for my kids..... Today we ended up going to the pool at the Sheraton Hotel with the kids. That in itself is an experience, like living a lie. By the poolside, in the midst of the lap of luxury, while the drive to the pool is one where beggars come up to your window at every stop and the sights on the street are those of extreem poverty. Nevertheless, we enjoyed it tremendously! And I felt a real sense of vacation.
Tomorrow I'll be travelling with some of the clan for a couple of days. Leave behind husband and kids and see some of the country. I never saw much when I was living here, so I guess I should take the chance when I get it! But I leave with mixed feelings. I've only just gotten here, and now I'm leaving. It feels like I should be showing the kids where I grew up before I go and explore the country! But the timing works out this way, so I will enjoy the sights while I can.
I probably won't be able to blog from where I'm going, so there will be silence for the next 4 days unless I find an internet cafe somewhere. I kind of hope I do, because it will help me write down what I'm doing and then I'll have something to read and reminesce (spelling?) over when I go back to Holland. Have you noticed that this has become home, and Holland is not?

Home sweet Home?

It's only been one evening here in Addis and it feels almost like I've never left. So it also doesn't feel very emotional, just welcoming and comfortable and homey! Those feelings are obviously also emotions but not the ones I expected. I though I would be crying on every street corner while memories hit me right and left. But I actually didn't remember anything much until we were almost home. And things have really really changed. That was to be expected, obviously, after 18 years! Things have shrunk most awefully. What I thought of as miles of space has turned into meters somehow. Does the world shrink when you get older or something?
I walked around the compound with Herman, showed him all the corners, but the kids were too zonked after not sleeping all night in the airplane. I'm sure more memories will come as I wander around here.
I love where we're staying here the feel of this house, the space in it and around it! It's wonderful to smell the eucalyptus and the occasional diesel fumes mixed with a bit of poop. Very ethiopian!
I'm really looking forward to the rest of the time here and am secretly hoping that I will get hit by some stronger emotions some time soon!

Lift Off

It't 5.38 in the morning, THE morning of the day that we're leaving to go to Addis. Back to the place of my youth. Time for many "oprah-esque" full circle moments. Or so I hope!
I don't have to be up at this ungodly hour, because we're not leaving till at least one this afternoon. But here I am anyway, with my head full of all the things that still need to be done.
I just found out that I can post through e-mail, so I will be keeping you up to date on my time in Ethiopia. Only I won't be able to see what a post looks like because I can't log on to blogger from there. So if things look strange, or you don't see anything at all, or ethiopian language appears in my blog, I apologize beforehand!
I still can hardly believe we're going. Things are just too mixed up right now I guess. Our house still looks like our house instead of looking like an empty shell. Which is a roundabout way of saying that we still have an immense amount of packing to do for our move to our new town. Yesterday was a day full of goodbyes, and shopping trips for last minute things for my mom, and celebrating Hermans birthday. I broke down once, after getting kidded just one to many times about my hairstyle. Ended up screaming at everybody to "stop it now!!". After which we went out to eat. (Luckily I managed to recover my sweet, calm, pleasant and friendly mood ;-) )
But seriously, I need a break now. The stress is now really getting to me and it's time for a holiday! I'm still amazed at the patience I have had the last couple of weeks. I guess sometime the real nasty, shrewish, impatient, flying of the handle, annoyed and irritated me has to come out. I can't keep her hidden forever :-(
Now I will crawl back into bed and cuddle up to my hubby. It's literally freezing outside. Maybe I will catch an hour or so of sleep and wake up feeling ready to rock and roll.


Hey everybody!! I'M GOING TO ETHIOPIA!!!!

Last times

Last day at work today, yesterday was my last
bike ride "home". Yesterday was Tristans last soccer practice. This picture is of the last social event for my volunteers that I attended. Here I am unwrapping the last gift that they will ever give me.
Tomorrow is Tristans last day at school. And Marinda's last visit to school. I'm doing my last loads of laundry, typing possibly my last post in this house. I will wake up early for the last time in this house, we had our last dinner here tonight.
If I'm not careful I may get emotional!
Not really though. But I do want to make sure that I am aware that we are leaving here. I want to make sure I say my goodbyes properly and not leave anything unfinished. So far, that's working out pretty good!

Countdown

The countdown is beginning! Today was the last day of work in our new house. We got our bedrooms done and a floor down in the living room so it's enough to camp in when we get back. So now we can focus on preparing for our trip to Ethiopia! Wow! My sister is at this very moment staying in a hotel close to the airport because she has to leave real early tomorrow morning. Brings a smile to my face, knowing she's almost there. She and my other sister will meet up at the airport and then get picked up by my folks. Just four more nights and we'll be flying too!
I have hardly had any time to really think about what I want to do there but maybe that's a good thing. Then I won't have any expectations which turn into letdowns. Our time is open to us, we'll see what we do. Just the thought of really being somewhere else, our trip as a family, seeing all the others and spending Christmas in the sun is a really awesome thing.

Acceptance

I read this quote the other day

"The thing is, it’s a bit sad to accept yourself.

You face all the things that you will never be.
But to be yourself is the only way to be happy."

What especially struck me is the part about facing the things that you will never be. One (very minor and pretty unimportant) thing that I am facing is the fact that I'm not an intelligent reader. Maybe you all already knew that, but I'm experiencing quite a sense of sadness about it! I figure that my gift for speed reading combined with the fact that I am moderately intelligent should make for a person who does read Shakespeare and Jane Austen. But every time I try, I just don't want to! And then I feel guilty for reading less intelligent books.
So it's out with my need to seem intelligent and in with the love of reading anything I can get my paws on. Murder, science fiction, fantasy, fairy tales and even a bit of romance, welcome! I'm just me and accepting this little part of me makes me more myself and makes me a lot happier!

Sinterklaas evening






































Working in the house

I'm taking a break from working in the house. Things are going pretty well! We've almost finished painting all four bedrooms and are going back this evening to wallpaper Marindas room. She has expensive taste, that girl! She's chosen a very classy grey and black wallpaper. There goes her budget for her room....Our room is shocking because one of the colors we picked turned out much darker than we thought it would be. We're going to see if we can work around it though.
Doing this makes me feel a bit more at home in the house, just a tiny bit more like it's really mine. I still look upon our move with a certain amount of trepidation, it won't disappear no matter what I do. I guess only time will tell if I really will feel like this is a good place to be!
I have a little boy around me now, blowing spit bubbles in my face. I think he needs some attention badly. I will go do my motherly duty :-) and give him some!

Time

It's friday evening, I have done practically nothing here at home while Herman has been busy in our new house. I dragged myself to work, bought some Christmas presents to take with me to Ethiopia, made it home and then pretty much did nothing but vegetate behind a book for the rest of the evening feeling guilty the whole time. I neglected to feed the kids properly, didn't clear up the kitchen, hang up the laundry, or vacuum, or pack boxes, or do anything that might be construed as helpful in this busy time. Shame on me....
We have to leave early tomorrow to start work in our new house. The troops will be waiting for us around 10 and we have an hours drive to get there and we have to stop at some store to get something we forgot on the way in. I should feel pretty harried, but I'm too tired!
But thank God for small mercies, there's no soccer match tomorrow so I can actually help in the house. We have a car, so don't have to take a long trip by train to get there, and preparations are well under way, we might even get more done in our house than I originally thought. On that positive note I will shut down the computer and get my ass (scuse me, butt/derriere/hiney/rear end) to bed.

Nine happy tips

Here are nine tips for keeping yourself feeling happy during the holiday period. (I have shamelessly "stolen" these from www.happiness-project.com)

1.Get enough sleep. Turns out that, although it seems like a minor life issue, not getting enough sleep is a major disturber of people’s moods. Jet lag, traveling, parties, and over-excited children all make it hard to get your usual number of hours. Making an effort to get to bed at a a decent hour really pays off.

2.Exercise. Studies show that one of the quickest and surest ways to boost your mood is to exercise. If you’re away from home and can’t do your usual routine, even a short walk will help. Even better…

3.Go outside to exercise. Or at least go outside. Light deprivation is one reason that people feel tired. Research suggests that light stimulates brain chemicals that improve mood and focus. For an extra boost, get your sunlight first thing in the morning

4.Stay in control of your eating. It seems to me that guilt about holiday binging is a major source of the blues.

5.Don’t rush around. Hurrying to pack, rushing through stores, sprinting to make a flight – these are sure to put you in a bad mood. Give yourself plenty of time. Do a few errands or buy a few presents each day, starting now.

6.Learn from the past. What has made you unhappy in years of old? Think back. Avoid your triggers. Stay out of the kitchen, stay out of the mall, stay away from Uncle Billy – sometimes there’s a weird triumphant satisfaction in getting worked up, yet again, by a particular situation. Don’t do it! Don’t expose yourself to known happiness risks.

7.Make time for real fun. Sometimes holiday vacations, which are supposed to be “fun,” are actually just a huge hassle. Figure out ways to have fun. In my family, we decided to reduce gift-giving. All the adults “draw” for each other’s names, and we each buy stocking presents for just one other person. Also, include time for things YOU like to do: going to a movie, taking a nap while everyone else goes skating, going to the gym.

8.Behave yourself! If you sulk, snap, tease, or shirk, you’re not going to feel happy. It may feel good, but only for a moment. Then you’re going to feel bad. Instead, try to help out, bite your tongue, clean up, or run to the store. Look for opportunities to say, “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it,” or “This is fine,” or “What should I be doing?” Do good, feel good—this really works! The way we feel reflect the way we act, so if you act in an affectionate way, you’ll feel more affectionate.

9.Fill your heart with love. If you’re heading into a difficult situation, take a moment to fill your heart with love. Think of all the reasons that you’re grateful to your family, and the happy memories you’ve shared, and how things might look from other people's perspectives. This can be very hard to do, but it will make you happier. And if you’re happy, you’re going to be better able to make other people happy.

Leprosy

When I was fourteen and living in Louisiana, I was diagnosed with leprosy. By accident actually. I had had a white patch on my knee for a while and just for the heck of it my dad decided to give it a sensitivity test. Leprosy attacks nerves, making them less sensitive. Well, the joke was on me because that test turned into a number of tests, including several skin biopsies. And finally the diagnosis that I was indeed practically the only young white girl on the planet to have leprosy. Believe me, it's pretty unique! A total of two, no three, documentaries about leprosy have been made with my story playing a roll in them. That part of it has been fun! When I was 18 I travelled to Nepal for a documentary there, and when I was 20 I went back to the States (where I was originally diagnosed) for a documentary there. Not bad!
It was stressful having leprosy in the States though. I had many worried moments because there was such a taboe around it. My best friend at that time knew about it, also because her father was our doctor and worked in the same leprosy hospital as my dad did at that time. I had panicked moments when I had bandages from the skin biopsies and was worried people would ask what that was for. I couldn't lie, I really couldn't! So I just prayed and prayed nobody would ask. Nobody did either!
I think that was the biggest problem. Not the leprosy itself but the tremendous amount of ignorance that surrounds it. And the total panic that americans can get into sometime. Yes, I am discriminating, but really the reactions to us living and working at the leprosy hospital were just aweful in their stupidity. It even went so far that some of the nuns working in the hospital felt that I should be exempt from swimming in the swimming pool. (the chances of catching leprosy like that are totally nihil). So I spent the month september not swimming and telling people that I prefered reading instead. A vague untruth that I only just managed to tell.
All in all it's a strange time to look back on.

No Time

No time for any of this nowadays!

Another goodbye

Today was Hermans goodbye at work. He took the time and effort to write personal notes to all his direct colleagues and have the last ritual of coffee with cake with them. That's a very typical dutch thing on any momentous occassion. The one who's celebrating his birthday, departure, marriage, birth, drivers licence, or whatever, has to bring cake and then celebrate with the direct colleagues, preferably sitting in a circle. When at home, you do the same. The circle is a terrible thing. You get stuck next to people you neither know, or care to know, and then you have to spend the rest of the time making pleasant small talk with them! Many a birthday has been spent trying to get people out of the circle, but tradition must prevail at all costs...
But I digress... I was actually trying to tell about Hermans goodbye. He had a reception from his work (the same principle of the circle was repeated here, only the circle was big enough to contain about thirty people). I was invited too so I got to meet a lot of people from his work. Some of them for the first time. It doesn't sound very logical when I write it down. I mean why should I show up all of a sudden, when he's leaving? It's not like I was working there! I did enjoy it though. Lots of people showed up, he got a lot of gifts and people were very personal in wishing him the best. I enjoyed watching people enjoy him! He got a good sendoff and now has 5 weeks of vacation to look forward to. The weeks in Ethiopia will be peaceful (hopefully), the coming two weeks will be rushed. So glad he'll be home to bring some semblance of normality back to the house!

A churchly goodbye

Today we said goodbye to our church, (picture taken this morning) and surprisingly it wasn't emotional at all.
I say surprisingly because this is a church that we have been attending for 14 years, which is quite a while! You'd think that goodbyes would be coupled with liters of tears and lots of hankies. No such thing....I guess it means it's a good thing we're leaving, and that the time is right to move on.
When we first came to the church we were a young couple with major problems. I was really depressed, had barely any parenting skills, and our marriage was hanging on a thread. The church was a good place to be, the people were supportive, there were jobs to be done, opportunities to grow. The name of the church is The Shelter, and that is what we did. I wonder what church we will go to now? Maybe we ought to chose a church based on its name! Something like The Challenge or The Growth or the Church of Great Opportunities or something like that ;-)

Proud

I'm pretty proud of ourselves for staying sane and even friendly during these last couple of weeks. I've written before that I'm somebody who needs time for herself, and that I love my moments alone. I havn't had a lot of those because of all the things that have been going on and yet I'm still doing ok! More than ok even. I think I need to give myself a pat on the back for that. That may sound arrogant, but I'm firmly convinced that it's important to be nice to yourself with great regularity and to reward yourself when you have done something well. So I guess that's what I'm doing now!
Our whole family is functioning pretty well. Herman has a lot more energy and patience than years ago, I have more patience as well. I'm so glad to see that we are growing! Better late then never I suppose. There have been plenty of moments when I have despaired of ever having a normally functioning family or any kind of positive atmosphere in house. The hard work pays off!

Flowers

We've been blessed with lots of flowers lately. A friend has the lovely habit of giving great bunches of flowers every time she feels there's an occasion to celebrate. And she uses almost every situation to create a celebration! This one was to celebrate the fact that we got a house. Then last week another friend dropped by to give Marinda an encouraging bunch of flowers because she's still feeling sick. And today I got two bunches of flowers as a thank you from my volunteers at work.
I love a great bunch of flowers. The colors are great, inspiring and give a lift every time you look at them! And in Holland we're blessed with flower stalls around every corner where you can get a big bunch for very little cash. It's lovely!

Ramblings

The smell of frying salmon is floating up the stairs, almost making me nauseous. Herman is frying up his dinner. He came home late so I fixed the kids the ultimate easy meal of macaroni with ham and cheese (REAL cheese and REAL ham, none of those packaged thingys here!). Tristan is off to soccer practice and I've been doing odd jobs keeping myself busy. Laundry and dishes and suchlike. Kind of peaceful to do these routine things!
I have a huge shopping list of things I still "need" to get before going to Ethiopia. Like new underwear for example. Ridiculous really, but suddenly I find it appalling that my underwear is falling apart and I feel I cannot confront my mother with my shreds. So new undies it must be. (I know, I know, you really don't need to know these details!) I will not get thongs though. I still cannot get used to them and only wear them when in desperate need (like with white pants) or when I think it will make me feel sexy (though often the effort is wasted, because Herman is not particularly charmed by the state of my butt------ yes, I know! Even more information you don't need!).
Making a list is satisfying though, because I get the feeling that I have a good overall picture and I have the great satisfaction of checking things off when I have them done. I'm even one of those people who when she does something that's not on the list, writes it down anyway just for the sheer pleasure of checking it off!
I'm now off to do the last thing on my list for today, clearing away the laundry. Hope you have a good day!

What to write?

I'm finding it hard to know what to write because so much is going on I don't know where to start and I live in fear of boring my readers. I guess I should go back to my original reason for writing, which was more because I wanted to and not so much because I wanted to "entertain" people. So if I go back my original motivation then I think it will do me good to write about two little hopeful things that happened today.
I got a call from somebody who has a foundation for Third Culture Kids. She's giving it up because she's moving out of the country, and has approached me to see if I can take over some of the work. It sounds like fun, it also sounds like something I would like to do, and am capable of doing, but it's not paid! But I'm going to explore the possibilities anyway and see where we end up. It would be funny if this came back in my life because a number of years ago I was quite involved in the whole missionary kids/third culture kids networks and I had imagined myself doing something quite like this. I'm not very very excited yet, because I'm pretty sure finances are going to be a big problem, but who knows what this will lead to?
And secondly I got a mail from this same person giving me the adres of somebody in this area who was looking for people with a similar background to mine. So I sent off a quick mail. Maybe person will be my first non-family contact in my new home town! You never know. And I found out that there's a womens meeting in this town in january. I've enjoyed them here every now and again, and will go visit it there and maybe mix and mingle and find some new contacts. Hopefully it will not be filled with older ladies in flowered dresses :-)
There, at least I've written down my hopeful things of the day. And I just remembered another one! We had job interviews today and have decided who is going to be my replacement. And I'm quite happy about her! That makes it easier for me to let go of my work, feeling confident that my replacement will be able to carry on what I've started (don't mean to sound arrogant, just conscientious!).
Enough for now. Time to see if I can get rid of this headache!!

My favorite position .......

What a morning!

My goodness, I'm sitting here behind the computer still panting from a sprint to get ready for a soccer match. We overslept quite badly and were all rushing around to get ready. Then the phone rang and we found out that the opponent had cancelled the game. Now we can all turn back to normal again. I can now get undressed, take a shower, have breakfast and re-start the day in a less frantic state of mind.
I have to laugh though. Things like this often happen. I get into a tizzy and then something comes along and helps me calm down, or things don't turn out as bad as I think. This is a recurring theme in my life. I think I have to experience it until I learn that I don't have to get into a tizzy!

&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

Herman came home last night from one of his goodbye parties. He had a real good time and I couldn't help but feel jealous. And then I felt bad about myself for feeling jealous! I don't like to think of myself as being a person who can't enjoy other peoples pleasure, but always wants that pleasure for herself. But sometimes that kind of envy does pop up in me. So I look at Herman in different ways. In one way I see that my husband is enjoying himself, receiving a lot of praise for the work he's done. People are telling him they're going to miss him, there are farewell parties being planned, he's getting gifts from colleagues. And he's so calm and comfortable and relaxed and looking forward to the change! And the other part of me looks at all that and then gets sour and miserable wanting it for myself, and wonders if my life will ever pick up........ nasty old part of me!!
I'm thankful I can share it with Herman though and he's very understanding. He realizes that I don't have the same things to look forward to in our new home that he does. I'm so glad he doesn't get upset with me for being envious! Bless him for being big-hearted.

Extra work

I have to work extra hours the next couple of weeks. Turns out I don't have enough vacation hours to make up for our trip to Ethiopia. It's not exactly convenient to have to work extra right now! I'm tired enough as it is.... And it's not like I'm really being very productive either. My mind is all over the place and I have a hard time concentrating and raising enough patience to cope with my volunteers at this moment. I don't like the way I'm acting at work right now. Short-tempered and easily annoyed. I don't know if anybody notices, because I'm pretty good at hiding it, but I know that's how I'm feeling and it's affecting the way I look at my work and at myself. Guess I need to give myself an inner makeover!
On the bright, lighthearted side.... Yesterday I bought a new red shirt and bag to travel with to Ethiopia. Red is my absolute favorite color and I got a kick out of deciding what I want to wear on the plane. How silly is that! But I haven't flown in a long time and it feels like an event which is worthy of new clothes to me :-)
Imbetween all the hectic moments here I try to find some time to remind myself that I am going on vacation soon!




My kids

Here's some more pictures of my kids. They're old ones, Tristan still has his hair in these pictures! But you can see they're still great and can be real silly together.
Lately they've been getting along better. It was weird, when we moved here we assumed they would get along better because they each had their own room (they shared a room in our last house). But the reverse happened. Having their own territory only seemed to increase the number of arguments! Now they seem to be "rediscovering" eachother, much to my joy. I will take into consideration that a period of strife may still arise, but I'm enjoying the peace while it's here!

Stagnation

I wrote this when I was just in Holland.

I stagnate
here in this place.
The times are changeless
the days pass by
with boring monotony.
There is none
of the heigthened awareness
the great expectancy
the simple joy of being alive.
No raging storms
no blazing sun
no solid friendships
or tearful partings.
simply time
just passing by

I stagnate.

Alternative Date


Herman and I went on an alternative date this evening, to the library! I come there a couple of times a month, but it's not Hermans place to be. But it was an easy option to grab a look at magazines about houses, to see if we could get some good design ideas.....
That totally didn't work! All the magazines were filled with dark greys and browns. Most definately not my choice of style, and not even Hermans style (our styles differ, but we agree on this). It saved us money though, as we were planning to buy some magazines to help inspire us. Now we'll just rely on our own common sense and see where it gets us.

One of the things I'm going to miss about living here is the library. I have this sneaking suspicion that the library in our new town will not carry quite as many english books as I would like. This library doesn't either, but I'm glad for every english book I can get my hands on. Obviously I could buy them, but I consider that to be a pretty big waste of money, seeing as I read so fast. And if I bought every book I ever read, then I'd have to be a millionair :-)

Last summer we were in a monastery with a really old library. We weren't allowed near the books, could only smell (you know that musty, booky smell) and see them from behind a gate. Some had been laid down in a glass case to admire safely. I find the thought of those old old books thrilling. It would give me such a rush to hold one in my hands, realizing that it has been treasured through the centuries. It's like holding a real live bit of history in your hands. Cool!

4 days

We have 4 days in december to prepare the house so we can kind of live in it in january. That kind of puts a strain on us! The house needs painting and new carpeting/floors and of course it's handier to have that done before you put in all the furniture! So we've asked friends and mostly family to give us a helping hand. Hopefully that will work out well.
I can tell the stress is getting to me, lots more headaches than usual the last couple of weeks. This coming week should be pretty quiet though and saturday will be spent in the shops deciding what colors we want to use in our house. That should be fun, but I'm still having an enormously difficult time visualizing myself living in our new house, so picking out colors is really hard! I don't know why I'm having such a hard time with this move. Somehow I just can't manage to get really excited about it, mostly just nervous and uptight. And I find myself worrying a lot. Even when things work out pretty well, I find new things to worry about! Find myself thinking of some kind of quote "sufficient to the day is the evil thereof" or something like that. In other words, I shouldn't go "borrowing" trouble when there really is no reason to. Easier said than done I suppose! (well, lo and behold, I just googled my quote and found out it's biblical!)
Be not therefore anxious for the morrow:
for the morrow will be anxious for itself.
Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
Matthew 6:34

Sinterklaas

Today Sinterklaas came to Holland. My kiddies, who are way to old to believe in him, had a good time watching the show on tv. I love it when they can still get into these "childish" celebrations. Tonight they will be putting out their shoe (dutch version of a stocking) for Sinterklaas and his black helpers to put a gift into. As small children they used to put down their shoe and then sings songs to make sure that Sinterklaas would pay attention. They get to do this every saturday until the 5th of december which is when the official celebration is.

I like this time of year. Sinterklaas is a family oriented creatieve celebration. Traditionally, (when kids are older and don't actually belive that Sinterklaas comes from Spain every year bringing gifts for them on a big steamship) we draw lots with eachothers name on them and then buy a gift for the person. Presentation is very important. You have to write a poem, and make a gag gift out of it. It's the perfect time to jokingly tell people off or make fun of some aspect of someones life. This year we will be doing this with the kids for the first time. I'm actually kind of nervous, seeing as we've never done it with our small family before.

A lot of times in the past having people around has helped us function better. We have been pretty uptight and there have been a lot of underlying tensions. Having people over helped alleviate the tension and helped us to function better, maybe because we put our best foot forward? The good news is that we're doing much better now! We laugh a lot more and there's a lot less arguing going on. All the more reason to treasure the things that we can do together!

New House

Today we're going to pick out tiles for the renovation of the bathroom and toilet in our new house (all lovingly paid for by our rental agency, how cool is that!).
Boring house, isn't it! It certainly needs some extra attention on the outside and the inside. But as you can see, the garden is pretty nice (for dutch standards) and there's more room in the back as well as a shed, and we have a little bit of space around the houset. Our house now only has a garden in the back and the front, nothing on the side because it's stuck in the middle of a row.
We're totally charmed by the orange front door (not!) and especially admire the way the people before us made the house seem so welcoming and open.....
Today I will probably plant some tulips in the front, back and side of the house. I bought these a number of weeks ago because I wanted something to look forward to in the spring. We'll probably also plant an apple or plum tree somewhere in the garden and enclose it so that we can have some more privacy. As well as that we've been checking out the dutch version of e-bay looking for secondhand floors, couches and kitchens. So our house will be new to us, old to others! Limited budgets make for creative home makeovers. I'm starting to look forward to it more and more though, and I'm happy about that!
Come by and visit sometime!

Roller coaster

I seem to be on a roller coaster of emotions lately. Today I was mostly in a dip. PMS maybe? We got our vaccinations for our trip to Ethiopia. It was actually quite fun to do, despite the huge amount of money we had to pay (as much as one of our tickets!). Luckily our insurance will cover 75% of the costs. Long live the dutch medical insurance system!!
I cleaned some of the house at 8:30 this evening. Ridiculous really. Cleaning in the dark is not very effective. And then when Herman came home after his farewell party at his volunteer work, I snapped at him and was not very nice at all :-( I apologized quickly, but couldn't help but feel very guilty.
Now my daughter is standing next to me (Hi Mom! love you:-)), reading (and typing) over my shoulder. I guess that means I should stop and get her to bed.
All in all this is practically a post not worth reading. I will do better another time!

Job applicants

Today I had the "honor" of interviewing 3 of a number of job applicants for the job that I will be leaving behind in january. It's a funny position to be in, talking to people who may be sitting in my chair in a couple of weeks! And also fun to read the letters from the applicants and be really really critical. And then sit behind the table watching people squirm when you ask them difficult questions (not really though, usually I'm pretty nice).
All in all my colleagues and I saw 6 applicants, none of which really appealed to them or me. Tomorrow they will be interviewing another 8 people. My manager took the effort to tell me that I had made a great first impression when I applied all those years ago, and that she was still really happy with me. Needless to say that made me (the compliment junky) feel pretty good.
All this also makes me wonder how it will be to sit on the other side of the table, wanting to be the one to get the job. Usually I like applying for jobs though. Something in me likes to rise to the occassion and do my best to impress. It's the attention seeking part of me that enjoys it I think!
I wonder what my new job will be. I havn't found anything yet that really appeals to me. Maybe I will even revert to being a secretary for a while while looking for something else. Time will tell!

On the sofa

Marinda was feeling sick again today and called me at work and asked me to come home earlier. I couldn't manage (luckily Herman was home earlier than I was), but to compensate a little I spent a lot of the evening sitting next to her on the couch huddled under a blanket. I'm cold all the time, should probably turn up the heating, but feel guilty about it because it's 20 degrees inside according to the thermometer. So instead I suffer in silence, or cuddle up to my feverish daughter :-)
Tristan joined us after he took a shower and we sat together and ate popcorn and watched Hollands Next Top Model (yes, unfortunately, that plague has also hit us here!).
I'm hoping Marinda will feel better tomorrow though. She's so big she doesn't need us to stay home every time she's not feeling well, but I feel really bad leaving her home alone if she's really sick. It's touching to see how she kind of loses her sense of independence and really needs a mommy around. She was so independent, even as a little child, that it's fun to catch up on some mothering every now and again.
Tristan on the other hand, does not like to be alone at all and is very bothered if we leave him at home. The weird thing is that he is "sicker" than Marinda with his hemofilia and alopecia but is never really sick. And Marinda, who has no genetic disorders, is often home with migraines and that kind of stuff. And now it seems like her glandular fever is acting up again.
Oh well, we will cope, like we always do! And try to make the best of it as well by grabbing the good moments when we can.

Photographs

A fantastic friend of ours is making a "goodbye portfolio" for us. Just like her to do something like that! Today she was in church taking pictures of me doing my chores for the last time. I had to hang up the church decorations and greet people at the door and I ended up pouring the coffee as well, so she had enough to do! And she's already collected all the pictures that she has made of us in the last couple of years. Pictures of our wedding anniversary, the tapas evening we organized together, the ladies night we had at her house a while back and a number of other occasions. As well as that she's taking pictures of us here in our house now, doing all our mundane things. It might sound boring, but I know we will really enjoy those pictures once we've moved! And besides that, I often use pictures to inspire me when I post something on my blog. So it works out well in every way. I have actually been bummed because I've already packed up my albums and don't have any fun old pictures that I can write anecdotes to.
Prepare yourself, sometime in december you may be bored witless by the plethora of pictures of people you don't know appearing on this blog!

New resolution

I've been letting my weight creep up again the last couple of weeks. It's just been too easy to give in to all the food that's in the house. That means I'm eating lots of candy and pretty much anything else that's lying around! It's so weird though, because although it tastes good and feels comforting in some way, it doesn't "hit the spot" (wherever that may be!!). And just today I realized that we'll be leaving for Ethiopia in 5 weeks, and I don't want any extra weight on me. I guess it's a matter of pride in some way. And somehow being heavy has always made me feel ashamed of myself and less able to cope. Although losing weight has not brought the dramatic change that I hoped it would. I'm still just me! The most important thing is after all, my concept of myself. If I'm feeling selfconfident then I also look better.
I guess weight gain gives me a sense of visibly failing. And in the past it has definately been associated with not doing things right, or not being good enough. And eating is a way of coping, of not dealing with what's going on. That's why it's not really so weird that I have been eating badly lately, what with all the action in our lives! I want to work on coping better while not being too hard on myself. Hopefully people like me for being me, and not for being thin(ner)!
Some other time I'll post some pictures of my different looks in the past.

Church group 2

We had our last church group evening tonight. It was only the third night that we had met, but it was beginning to be fun. I guess that's part of saying goodbye. You leave the good behind and as well as the bad (or maybe a better word would be less pleasant!) We had some laughs tonight in addition to some serious conversation about experiencing God. And again I realize how inspiring it can be to be with a group of people and feel free to talk about what's going on in your life, to joke about christian excesses, and be willing to ask eachother difficult questions as well. I'm hoping we'll find some good (christian) friends in our new town.
Herman was checking out churches and became kind of discouraged. There's a lot of older traditional churches in the area, but we're looking for one with a more evangelical tint to it. I'm not discouraged yet, just really curious to see where we'll end up. We've spent most of our married lives in the church we're at now, and a bit of change will do us good I think!
I had a good talk with a sister in law today as well. She called to congratulate us with our new house and we ended up really talking, instead of just chatting. Makes me feel hopeful about the contact with family after our move. Maybe it will be a chance to get closer to them, and maybe they can be friends in a way that I don't expect. I guess I have to be open to a lot of things the coming time!

Music

Nothing peps me up as much as listening to great old 80's hits. I have an aversion to housework, but if I turn the music on loud it will usually get me going. First I have to get off my butt and turn the music on though, and sometimes that's a challenge in itself!
I used to play the clarinet and have attempted to play it again over the last couple of years but somehow that has never really turned out well. I manage to play for about a week and then my clarinet goes back into its case to gather dust for another year or two. A couple of weeks ago I actually put it on the internet to sell. That was quite something because the case alone is so jampacked with memories that I have a very sentimental connection to it! It's covered with stickers from different countries I've been in.
Funny how objects can carry such memories. For example, I'll always be grateful to my mom for lugging around a lot of childhood pictures, report cards and essays I wrote. I hardly ever look at them, but I love knowing I have them! And when I do open up the box, the smell of the old paper immediately brings all kinds of memories to mind.
I'm rambling, so I think I'll stop and get myself to bed. That's probably the wisest thing to do right now!

Lesson learned?

It took a drive back to our new town today to remind me of a lesson I had hoped I had learned! The thing is, I was really not too happy about the rental house that we looked at. The smallness and the location didn't agree with me. It felt almost claustrofobic to sign my name to the lease. So I decided I needed to go see the house one more time to see if that would help me change my mind. I asked one of my wisest friends to come with me.
On the drive over I was complaining about how bad I felt about the house, and yet that I also knew it was the only realistic option to take. She reminded me of something our therapist taught us, namely that you can choose to support something even if you don't feel quite comfortable with it. Like with raising kids for example. Herman and I often have different opinions about what is right and was is wrong and what kind of disciplinary actions need to be taken. We used to get into arguments about the differences. I always felt that I needed to agree with a disciplinary action in order to be able to put it into effect. But there's another way out of the dilemma. I can choose to support Hermans choice while not agreeing with it, especially if I see that it's something that's very important to him and not as important to me. Am I making sense? At any rate, it has helped me to look at our differences and how we deal with them with different eyes.
In the case of this house the conclusion is as follows. I choose to support everybodies wish to move to this house, even though it has its disadvantages. I don't have to force myself to like the house as much as the others do, I can still not be very happy with it, but my choice is to go along with this decision. It gives me tremendous peace of mind to do it like this!
So the decision is made, we'll be moving to our new rental house in January. Pictures will be posted as soon as we have decent ones. All offers of help will be greatly appreciated!!

Autumn

It's pretty gorgeous here this year. Last year there were storms very early in autumn and the trees were bare in no time at all. No beautiful colors to be seen! This year there is color everywhere and I'm just soaking it in. Spring was miserable, the summer was wet, so a nice crisp autumn is just perfect.
I love the seasons. I get grouchy if winter doesn't feel like winter, or if the summer is too wet. Funny how one can get used to the change of seasons. Didn't have but two when I was growing up, wet or dry!! It'll be strange to celebrate Christmas in the sunshine this year, but I'm really looking forward to it for old times sake!

Houses, houses, houses

Just exhausted from looking at 5 houses today! 4 of them were "buy" houses, 1 was a rental. It looks like we'll be going for the rental. Besides it being cheaper on a monthly basis, it was also in better shape than the other houses we looked at. My goodness, what a lot of work needed to be done to some of them! This rental house also needs work, the kitchen especially could use a big makeover, but otherwise it's in pretty good shape. A lick of paint will do miracles.
The weird thing is though, that our living room gets smaller with every move we make. We first lived in a house in Utrecht which had a nice L shaped living room with plenty of space, but only two bedrooms and with a shower in a closet. Our present house has 4 bedrooms, and a decent (but brown colored) bathroom, and a much smaller living room. And the new rental has an even smaller living room but bigger bedrooms and also a bigger garden.
So where are we supposed to stall all the company that we get so often (ok then, not that often, but still... I like to be hospitable!)?!? We'll be bulging out of the house every time we decide to celebrate someones birthday, or we'll be forced to celebrate everybodies birthday on a sunny day in july when we can fill up the garden with people as well.
I guess every house has it's advantages and disadvantages and a dream house on our budget is not very realistic. But I'm kind of having a hard time giving up the idea of having a bigger living area. Gives me a closed in feeling, despite the fact that there are fields, forests and even lakes pretty close to the house.

Smiling

I'm not much of a fan of corny poems, but I like the one copied down here. I think mostly because I used to smile a lot. In my yearbooks one of the things that was written down most was "I love your smile!". I lost a lot of my smiles in the years past but seem to be getting a much better grip on smiling despite the circumstances. In fact, one of my resolutions is to smile more! That includes smiling in stores and on the street. It may sound absolutely normal to you, but in Holland we have a pretty cold culture. If you smile at somebody you often get a startled look and a shaky smile back or no response at all.
My resolution to keep smiling was also greatly supported by a gift that I got from my brother and sister. A little sign that reads:


"A smile is the prettiest thing you can wear".


I couldn't agree more! I've got it on my desk now, to remind me. I have it facing the door to my office so that others walking in will also see it and take note :-)


Smiling is infectious,

you catch it like the flu,

When someone smiled at me today,

I started smiling too.

I passed around the corner

and someone saw my grin

When he smiled I realised

I'd passed it on to him .

I thought about that smile

then I realised its worth,

A single smile, just like mine,

could travel round the earth.

So, if you feel a smile begin,

don't leave it undetected

Let's start an epidemic quick,

and get the world infected!

Marinda in action

YouTube - Spirit and Soul -Dance Mix


Klik on the link and see my daughter, second from the left, on tour in Hungary with her christian dance group. (it starts off dark, but there is more to see after a couple of seconds!)I'm so immensely proud of her! It always moves me to see her dancing, I'm not even sure why. Maybe it's also part envy because she does it so well and I always feel like such a dork when I'm on the dance floor! But it also the pleasure I get from seeing her do something she's good at. Makes me smile every time I look at her. She's not dancing right now, also due to her bout of glandular fever. Instead she's playing the guitar a bit more often. I love hearing music in the house! Makes me feel like we are doing a good job of raising our kids, instead of letting them ignorantly stagnate in front of the tv and computer (as you can tell, I have some doubts about the adequacy of my childraising skills....).
Well, hope you enjoy watching this!

Sauna

I went to the sauna today with a friend. A couple of years ago I wouldn't have dreamt of going. No way was I going to show myself naked to the world! But on the other hand, the whole concept of a sauna also attracted the alternative, slightly rebellious side of me. So I went for the first time with this same friend to a very small sauna with very few people and loved it. And now we've turned into sauna specialists. We pore over sauna sites on the internet, comparing advantages and disadvantages, looking for the one place that has all the facilities we love. Today we were at the largest sauna in Holland for the second time, and we still havn't used every sauna that they have there. We don't go very often, it's a real treat (often it's literally a treat, because it's her gift to me)
The funny thing is that the sexuality of nakedness pretty much disappears when you see so many naked bodies in all sizes, shapes and forms. I always find it very consoling that everybody is entirely different. I have yet to run into the perfect female or male form, it just doesn't exist (except in magazines, but then the airbrush does its miracles!). And it's very relaxing to be so focussed on physical wellbeing. The cares of life seem to disappear into the warmth and the steam.

A weekend in Zeeland

A couple of years ago I went to Zeeland with my brother, sister and our boys. It was a good weekend in a little trailer close to the sea! It was mothers day that weekend and my brother bought a rose for us mommies. The boys had a great time in the swimming pool close by. We went to the beach and got blown away by the spring wind.
The boys are a real handful together. We don't even let them sleep over with eachother because they work up such an energy that a couple of hours is draining enough! Around this time, when asked, my sisters son would say he wanted to grow up to become Tristan. What beter compliment can one ask? We're going to have to wait a while before we manage a weekend like this again. There's another little baby around now, and one little trailer can only hold so many people ;-)
Looking forward to the next time though!

Being silly

This is a perfect example of how my brother makes us all laugh. He got together with the kids and with not much more than plastic cups and plates, inspired them to these magnificent works of art ;-) He always makes us laugh! He was here today and we had a good time acting silly. Which for me means singing falsely and loudly, dancing weirdly and really goofing off. A nice break from all the stress I've been feeling!
Marinda labelled his and my humor the other day as being silly humor. Which is pretty much what it is. We don't tell a lot of jokes, or have intelligent witty conversation, but there's pretty much always somebody ready to burst into ridiculous song or dance. It's a side of me that does not show up at all with my inlaws, somehow it's reserved for my sisters and brothers, or me with the kids. Good to have some place where the goofy side of me can come out of the closet!

A new morning

It's amazing how things can change within such a short period of time! I woke up to a phone call saying that we have an option on a rental house. We can go see it next week. If we want it, it's ours! Later today somebody offered to assist us financially. An offer that makes our options to buy a lot more attractive. I called my work and arranged for some flexibility as to when I will quit working. That was also nagging at me, especially the financial side, so there is some relaxation there as well. Marinda fixed me brunch this morning, with scrambled eggs and all. I came out of my shower to find the table set and my coffee waiting for me. It gave a whole new perspective on the day!
I'm still feeling tense, but certainly a lot less than yesterday, so hopefully I will be able to get some good sleep tonight and relax further and trust that things will, after all, work out for us!!

Burning the midnight oil

It's midnight. Marinda has taken over my side of our bed, because she wasn't feeling well. I'm not feeling too great myself. My head is just spinning with all kinds of thoughts and questions and insecurities and fears and anxieties. So I thought I'd get out of bed and see if writing would help.
Today I realized that what's really getting to me right now is the total insecurity of where we are going to. I can handle a lot of shit, to put it bluntly. Like having a son with hemofilia who is also going bald, like having a husband who has been sick a lot of the years of our marriage, like having to struggle to make a marriage work, like having a real hard time knowing how to raise my kids, like having my son operated on 4 times, like 8 years of sleepless nights, like combining college, moving and a new job all within two months, like dealing with depression and so forth and so on. But somehow this seems to be defeating me. I think it's because I have no perspective. Herman knows what he's looking forward to, his dream job! I have no idea what the future is going to bring. No house, no job, no schools for the kids as of yet, no clue as to what I am going to be doing and a strong feeing of financial insecurity. And that is pretty much driving me insane. I can deal with things as long as I have a grip on them. But I have no grip on our current situation which means my stress levels are sky high. And I can't help but worry and wonder and WAIT, and I hate that!
I feel fine as long as I can DO something. But now I feel like all the things that I want to get done are on hold until we at least know where we're going to live. And I have no idea how to deal with this feeling of powerlessness.
Suggestions anyone?

Crappy

Feeling crappy today. This morning I woke up and was so dizzy standing up I decided to lay right back down again. I think the stress is getting to me :-(
And we were going house seeing today! So I stayed home, called in sick at work, and felt rather bad all day. I sincerely hope I'll feel better tomorrow, I feel guilty enough already as it is for being ill today.
Sometimes I wish I could enjoy being sick a bit more, but my conscience always nags at me. I think it must be a mother thing.

The best food ever

The best food ever is, of course, ethiopian food! This is a picture of celebratory meal at our local ethiopian restaurant in honor of our friends finally getting his permit to live here in Holland. We don't eat out a lot and I don't cook ethiopian food myself, so when we do have it I enjoy it to the full!
One time I was at the restaurant with some injera lovers. We almost attacked the waiter when he brought our food, we were so eager. It was finished in no time at all, all our hands in the plate scraping it clean. Then I noticed two older women sitting at the next table eating primly and precisely. If they could have asked for a fork, I think they might have! It almost ruined my appetite looking at them. I mean, what is this food for, if it's not to guzzle it down when it's hot and fresh?!?

Books

I dreamt about books last night. Maybe because I allowed myself the joy of getting some new books at the library this week. I dreamt about finding some of the books that I read when I was a child. I have a couple that I have carried with me from country to country; the Chronicles of Narnia, the Little House on the Prarie Series, and the Anne of Green Gables series. I remember how dissapointed I felt when I found out that Marinda doesn't like any of these books! To me, these are books that define my childhood. They are a tangible record of something that I enjoyed doing as a child. These books, and others, have shaped me. And I had hoped to pass on some of this legacy to my kids. Now I just find other ways to pass it on!
The weird thing is that there are not many ways to relate to my kids in how they're growing up. I don't know what it's like to grow up in Holland, to know the same people the whole time. I still don't understand the social etiquette that's needed on the playground, or the unspoken rules about how to celebrate birthdays or which presents to give the teachers at what point in time. I'm experiencing all these things for the first time, just like the kids. That's why I'm so looking forward to showing them Ethiopia, the school I went to, the house I lived in, the atmosphere I grew up in, the food I ate. I'm hoping that it will give them a feel for how I grew up. It's not the most important thing in the world, but I get a lot of pleasure from thinking about it!

Regret

I was just looking through Tristans photograph albums, of the first two years of his life, and I'm just overcome with a feeling of regret. Looking at the pictures and smiling at the memories also reminds me of how hard it is to treasure the moment when it's there, instead of living life automatically and routinely. I wish I wasn't so handicapped by my drive to plan things, my need to look forward and be ambitious all the time. I wish I could would have treasured those moments in the pictures at that moment, instead of looking at them now with longing in my heart. I wonder what it is that keeps me so driven to look forward instead of relaxing and enjoying the here and now.
Maybe that's one of the hardest things in life to learn. To take what you have and treasure it and let ambition and longing and desires rest for a while. I know it's a major struggle of mine. I struggle with discontent and disappointment, the feeling that life owes me more than what it's given me. And yet when I look back, I can see the moments of enjoyment that have been there which have been clouded by my own lack of insight into them.
Somebody quoted Kierkegaard to me the other day: “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” It's painfully true!
The hope lies in this: that which is understood when looking backwards can then be applied to living forwards. In other words, the choices I make now will affect the way I look back later.

Lord of the Rings

One of my favorite memories is of watching the Lord of the Rings movies with my brother. He and I are unique in our love of science fiction and fantasy. Only with him can I watch Star Trek, Lost or anything else that is remotely weird or otherworldy.
But this one time was the best. I read in the newspaper that there would be a marathon session of all three movies on an evening in december. Movies one and two before midnight and then the first showing of movie three right after midnight. Wow! Too unique to pass over! I think I must have gotten the last two tickets available, and I gave them to Renzo for his birthday. I worked that day, and borrowed a bike from my friend to get us back home (no trains that late at night). Renzo fixed us up with a lot of munchies and we settled down for a long evening of fantasy, thrills and excitement. It was great!
But almost the most fun was going back home. It was 2.30 at night by then, and we had one bike and about 12 kilometers to go. We took turns sitting on the back, getting bruises on our butt. To top it all off, we couldn't work out how to shift the bicycle gears so it was really hard going! It was great fun though, I wouldn't trade that night for any other regular movie night. Brings a smile to my face every time I think of it!

Herman the Great

I met Herman when I was working as a receptionist at a Bible school here in Holland. When I first came here in 1989, after graduating from RVA, I decided to work for a year. I hadn't applied to any schools yet, and was too late to get started straight away. Working in the Bible school was one of the odd jobs I had that year.

Lise and I decided to get to know some of the students so we invited them over to our house for pizza and a movie. Herman was one of the guys in the group. I noticed him that evening because he was acting real crazy, making us all laugh when we were talking a walk. After that I kept my eye on him and at a certain point decided that he was mine (oh, the arrogance!!). So I set my cap for him and eventually he decided I was pretty nice as well :-). The thing that kept me hooked on him is the fact that he let me be me. When I was in doubt about our relationship he told me I was free to leave, he couldn't force me to love him. That only made me love him more. Finally a guy who didn't claim me and make me feel closed in! He also told me then that if we did decide to get married, that he wouldn't let me go but would chase me to the ends of the earth if neccesary (I doubt he stated it quite so poetically, but that was pretty much what he meant). And that's they way it's been since then. Despite the differences, we stick together! And he still has the most amazing sparkle in his eyes when he's happy!

So tell me, how did you meet the love of your life?

Tired

It's autumn vacation here, so the kids have a week off school. I was looking forward to some peace and quiet but it's not quite working out that way! Though maybe tomorrow will bring a little rest with it. Meanwhile it's 11.20 p.m. and my eyes are blurred with sleep and burning with tiredness. Lord knows why I'm even bothering to write!
We just had another house hunt on the internet. We didn't get any of the rental houses we applied for (it works with a point system and we had enough points to make it to 12th place on the list... not a very hopeful number). So now we're back to looking into buying again! I sincerely hope that this merry go round we're on will come to a stop soon.
Tristan is now at my parents in law, Marinda has just come back from there. Tonight Marinda and I hung on the couch watching medical mysteries while eating loads of popcorn. Our ultimate way of relaxing.
Now I must get my butt to bed, after leaving you behind with nothing of any interest at all to read. Alas, sometimes my life is just a plain old bore! Hopefully tomorrow will bring some more creativity and joy.

Washing clothes

I've just been teaching Tristan how to wash some of his clothes. He has another game tomorrow and his soccer uniform was still crumpled up in the laundry bag. Plus he has to wash his bandanas regularly, seeing as he sweats so much. And I don't want to be the one stuck doing all the laundry in the house!
This reminds me of the fact that I learned absolutely nothing about doing laundry when I was growing up. We had a nice maid who did it all, when we were in "civilized" countries my mom did it for me and when in boarding school I only had to hand it in and get it back fresh and clean. When I first started living on my own I washed three loads of pink laundry before I realized I had to separate my colors. My roommates were not amused! I can remember one of them coming in and saying that she would do her own laundry from now on, she was clearly angry with me. I used tons of the stuff you need to get things to turn white again.
Now I practically have a laundry obsession. I separate colors into reds, blacks, blues/greens, lights, black/white combinations (somebody tell me, how are you supposed to wash a black and white striped shirt???) and whatever else has my fancy. I hang up laundry in a specific way. When somebody else has hung it up I always have to walk by and rearrange whatever they've done. Nobody else can do it quite like me! When did I ever become so housewifely? Really, if anybody had ever told me I would get so obsessive about this I would have laughed myself sick (old roommates can probably testify to this).
I guess the motto is that people really can change!

Poem

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Dawn breaks
the sun sheds teardrops
on the grass
Light vibrates
amid the leaves
Slowly, shyly
the world awakens
and trembles
at the coming of a new day



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Discouraged

While driving back home today after a busy day on the soccer field, viewing 5 houses and a birthday visit with Hermans folks, I had decided to write about being discouraged. Mainly the houses that we viewed were disappointing to me. There were three rental houses, only one of which was remotely appealing. One house was an option to buy but was so run-down that it wasn't an option at all, and another house looked really good but is not available for a while and is in a slightly unappealing neighborhood. Herman and I also went shopping in town and all of the little things I usually like about the town suddenly weren't quite so appealing. Instead of viewing things through visitors eyes, I was viewing them as if I already lived there. And I found the town disturbingly country bumpkinish. The town is in the middle of the dutch Bible belt, quite a conservative belt at that, and being in the bosom of the family suddenly made me wonder if that's where I really want to be! In other words, it was a day to make my courage sink down into my shoes (this is a dutch saying which I have translated into english for you!).

So maybe you can imagine my discouragement. I was trying to make deals with God in the car. Along the line of "if we get the rental house here, then that's a sign from God that we should stay here; and if we don't then it's a sign that we should try elsewhere." Very disturbing to be doing that. When I get discouraged I try to avoid decision making and rely on fatalism to get me where I hope fate wants me to be. I forget that I have my own common sense I should be using as well! I also had a little inner conversation with God saying that I could use some encouragement.
Well, He listened! I came home, logged on to facebook and found my brother had dedicated Keith Greens song He'll take care of the rest to me. A more appropriate song I cannot imagine! So that's what I'm going to keep trying, do as much as I can, and trust that God will take care of the rest!! Maybe the heading of this post should be Encouraged instead of Discouraged?

Nostalgia

These last couple of days have been full of nostalgia. Knowing we're leaving makes me feel nostalgic about everything we have here. I have a bad habit of not truly appreciating something until it's almost too late. I guess I should be happy I have the time to appreciate this house and home before we move on to another! I bike my daily route to work and anxiously hope that my new route will be as nice as this one. I drove by the hospital and remembered all the times Tristan has been there (numerous, numerous times, including 4 operations!). I bike through the city and remember the house calls I've made for my work, the playground I used to study in while the kids were playing, the different places I've worked at, our old house. Lots of memories are coming up and I've been wondering how to hang on to the good things in order to keep remembering them. One of the places I can do this is this blog, so you will be subject to some specific memories of mine, with pictures, the coming time! I've always wanted to write an account of my life and I guess this is as good a place as any ;-) I'm hoping that remembering the good will help me make a good transition from one place to the other. I know how important that can be!

Intern

Sometimes when I get discouraged at work I have an experience that lifts my spirits. Today it was a talk that I had with my intern. She had to write a paper for college, explaining what her goals were and how she meant to achieve them in the time that she's working with us. Since she's been around I've had a hard time with her. The thing is, I can't get a grip on her. She seems bored, but doesn't say she is, she sound arrogant sometimes, insecure at others. I get no feeling for what type of person she is. And that always bothers the heck out of me. I'd much prefer it when somebody has a strong personality, then at least I know how to adjust to them. With her, I just don't know where she's at, and consequentially, don't know where I'm at. I hate the feeling of helplessness it gives me. I know, I know, I have to deal with it! Not avoid it!
We had an appointment today, so I had already decided to grab the bull by the horns and see if I could raise this issue and at least talk about it. She handed me her paper beforehand to read and there were some things she wrote that helped me direct the conversation to how she comes across to me. It's such a relief to talk about it! And to get the impression that I was getting through to her. I love conversations when I get the feeling that I may actually be saying something meaningful (or perhaps even wise?). This was one of those conversations. Always makes me feel like I've actually done something, maybe made somebody think, or at least made myself think or act beyond my usual boundaries. I usually like the coordinating part of my job, in contrast to the more personal contacts that I sometimes need to have. But today was one of those one on ones that reminds me that it can really be worth the while to invest in a relationship. Hopefully this talk will help me to look at my intern differently and give her a chance to show more of who she really is.

The inlaws


This is the family we'll be moving closer to if we get a house in the new town, which we are kind of aiming for right now. We'll be moving back into the bosom of Hermans family. The kids love the idea of being so close to the grandparents they love so much. Somebody once told me that I was blessed with my parents in law because they have been such a constant factor in my kids lives. I can't help but agree! My parents in law are well known for sticking to their promises, no matter if it inconveniences them at all. I, on the other hand, am notorious for either not knowing my mind or changing it regularly which does not help at all when raising children! Both kids still love going over to their grandparents place so moving closer is an appealing option to them. I am comforted by the thought that although many things will change when we move, the contact with the family will offer a sense of security for all of us. We just have to be careful that the sense of security does not get replaced with a feeling of being stifled!