Networking at its best

Remember this unexpected encounter? Well, the woman I met has now introduced me by mail to two other people living in my town. One who is a fellow english book lover, and the other who is a native english speaker. I worked up the nerve to go visit one of these two ladies today. She lives just around the corner! I was graciously invited in and over coffee we talked about books and church. Turns out she goes to the one church that we are considering as an option here in my town! The chances of that happening are not huge, let me tell you. So I came home determined to make an appointment with one of the elders so that Herman and I can get more of an inside look into the church.

Coincidence??After I left her place I went to do a bit of grocery shopping and ran into an acquaintance from the gym. She mentioned that she needed a babysitter, I remembered that the lady I had just visited does some babysitting, and low and behold another connection was made! Very very satisfying. Makes me feel like I'm being of use here in this little town!

Hopefully I will soon meet up with the native english speaker and see if we can get some positive vibes going on there as well. Before you know it I'll be swamped in friends :-)
One good thing will hopefully lead to another... And I'll have something to tell my unexpected friend when she comes back from the States!

Old friends

Yesterday I finally got around to unpacking the 15 or so boxes of books that have been laying around in our attic. It was actually a quite a joyous occassion! See, one of the new things in this house is "my" room. It's our fourth bedroom/guest room/office, but I have the honor of claiming it as mine. I get to decorate it the way I see fit. Now if you think that that is no big deal, let me tell you, that to me it is! As I have written before, Herman and I are very different. Decorating therefore also becomes a compromise between his taste and mine. In "my" room, there is no compromise! YEAHHHH!! Though it's far from being done, just unpacking boxes of my books and arranging them in the room made it feel more mine. As well as finding and placing these: they are like old friends......

I made this lady when I was in RVA. She's travelled with me to every house since then.

I like to mess around with clay every once in a while. It's often very therapeutic. So a lot of my stuff has a story. I won't tell you the stories around these. If you want to hear them, come by and ask! And my stuff is often three dimensional, so I have front and backs of these.


And last but not least: this little fellow. I got him on my first birthday, and as you can tell, he has had some hard lovin'.

I'm getting a real kick out of seeing my room come to life!

Spy Fox

My kids have very little in common, but yesterday Marinda went to the library and got a computer game called Spy Fox which brought instant bonding between them. Years ago we used to have this game on our computer and the kids would play it fanatically. So now they use their combined memories to play the game and see it through to the end. And they enjoy every minute of it! It's so nice to see them connect over something. Though it's kind of weird as well because it's so far beyond what my siblings and I bond over. Most of my sibling bonding is over our shared memories of growing up in Ethiopia. And our common link is the fact that we talk english together. Sometimes I wonder what my kids will talk about when they're older. Sometimes I worry that they'll drift apart and not talk at all. I would hate to see that happen! Though I think it wouldn't happen quickly because they have a pretty strong connection to my family and to Hermans. They are actually growing up with grandparents and aunts and uncles that they see on a regular basis. I didn't. I rarely have contact with aunts or uncles or cousins. I guess that's one of the disadvantages of growing up all over the world, instead of in Holland. Marinda and Tristan have a much stronger sense of extended family than I do. And all in all I think that's pretty special. I wouldn't trade the way I grew up though! That had/has it's own unique specialness.
It's like comparing an apple with a pear or, if you will, a mango with a ....... hmm, I was hoping to get a nice comparison here, but can't come up with the right fruit!


When I was small, I had high hopes of becoming a ballerina. When I was a teen I listenened to Abba's Dancing Queen and imagined myself stealing the show at the disco. Listening to that song still makes me feel nostalgic and wistful. Maybe that's why I like it so much when I see Marinda dance! I get to dance vicariously through her. I may have a tendency to do that every now and again :-)
So here's a picture of me as a small ballerina. As far as I can remember this was the Christmas after I had whooping cough. My knobby knees are proof of that fact. Often, after I ate, I would cough and then everything would come up again. I remember vividly getting ice cream once (which was a rarity in Ethiopia!) and then throwing it all up again. Oh, I just cried and cried at the loss of that ice cream. But I am digressing most horribly....
So that Christmas I got this ballerina outfit and felt proud and pretty as a picture. About two years later I got a jeans skirt and jacket which I wore constantly because it made me feel like stewardess. That was my highest ambition at that time! I'm sure there's a picture of me with that skirt and top somewhere, but I havn't found it yet.
For now, you will have to make do with this one. (please note the socks and sandals!!)

Just a moment in time

It's 20.35. It's been a luke-warm kind of day. Herman is pounding little bricks into the ground to make a patio kind of place. I can hear the squeak of the trampoline springs as Tristan and the neighbor boy jump up and down. Marinda just came by to give me a hug. She's sporting her new sweatshirt with Carrie Dance Productions written on it. That's her dance school. She just flirted with the neighbor boys brother who came driving by on a scooter. My dishes are steaming on the sink, the water is waiting for more dishes to be cleaned. The sun is still shining with that soft warm light that comes late in the evening.
I guess the right word would be contentment.



Today I took a break from work to go shopping. An illegal break, but the sun was shining and I couldn't concentrate anymore so I thought "what the heck!".
I headed off to Miss Etam because I had missed that store on thursday in Utrecht. And it really is the ultimate store for when you feel overweight and tacky. Practically everthing is available in the right size, wrong shape for a low price. NOT a classy store, I repeat NOT a classy store. But very easy nevertheless. I had high hopes of being able to find some blouses. And find them I did. Like, 12 of them. And then I went into the changing room and manhandled myself into them. And ALL of them, I repeat ALL of them DIDN'T FIT!! Thunderation and Tarnation!!!!!
Nothing gets me grouchy as quickly as shopping, and nothing will get me even more grouchy then finding out that NOTHING FITS!! I must have a weird body shape. Because if it fit over my chest, then it was too tight around my stomach. Or too tight around my arms and then too loose around my waist. Every imaginable combination of bad-fitting that can be found. AARRRGGGG!!!

(this shirt was too wide around the neckline and too tight around my stomach)

Here I was, looking for a quick shopping fix. But no such luck.
This leaves me with two options. Either I hit the even cheaper stores (like Zeeman), the ones that don't even have changing rooms (and surprisingly enough, I often manage to find something there!) or I'll have to upgrade and spend more money........

A man

A man made a pass at me today.

I must pause to let that sink in again....

This is what happened: I was in the store when a man came up to me and told me I looked like his dutch teacher from the back. But I looked much nicer up front. And I had a beautiful face, she didn't. And a minute later he wondered if there was another dissimilarity with her. She was married, was I? I told him I was. He said that was really too bad and then left, never to be seen again.

My, my, my... I can't tell you the last time somebody made such a blatant pass at me! It's totally not a dutch thing to do (and this man was definately not dutch!). So I smiled and felt supremely flattered. And about half an hour later, much to my dismay, I found myself thinking of 100 reasons why this man was a con artist, a cheat, somebody looking for a "green card" for Holland, anything but accepting the thought that maybe, just maybe, he might really have found me attractive. Instead of keeping my smile, and walking that little bit taller, and feeling like a cute bit of motherhood I convinced myself that he didn't mean a word he said. And isn't that just too bad? All those negative thoughts, such a waste of time! So maybe he wasn't sincere. WHO CARES! He made me feel pretty good for a while!!


Fun at Duinrell

We had fun at Duinrell!

Recharging my batteries

I've just had the most glorious two days recharging my batteries. I can't put into words how happy and satisfied I have felt over the last two days and the amount of energy I have gotten because of it, so instead I will tell you what I did and leave the rest up to your imagination:

Here's what I did:
- went to my old work and was welcomed with genuine warmth and affection. Such a lovely start to the day!
- Had lunch with my former manager. I like her! (and not only because she gives me compliments :-) , which she did though, making me feel so encouraged!)
- Bought the cutest shoes ever! Bluey/purple, just utterly too cute. Don't know what I'm going to wear them with yet, but had to have them!
- Enjoyed every single minute of walking around Utrecht. Revelled seeing the homeless man singing loudly, listening to the drunk who sat behind me on the bus who complimented me on my hair, the american tourists speaking english, seeing the muslim ladies wearing their headcloths, knowing just where to go to get what. I didn't realize I missed it until I got out of the train and everything felt so comfortably familiar! Utrecht has a buzz to it that is a real kick after the sleepy town I live in.
- went to two museums and felt hugely intellectual and artistic because of it!
- got a call from my sister telling me about a job she had just seen which just suits me down to a T. Got heart palpitations just thinking about it!
- had supper with an old colleague of mine. She lost her child a couple of months ago and I was so happy to catch up with her. We ate tapas and talked and talked and then had an Australian ice-cream to end it off.
- slept over at a really really good friends house. Talked and shared and the next day
- went to the sauna and lounged around soaking and sweating and steaming and feeling greatly relaxed.

Just reading through this list makes me realize that I can't capture the full extent of the well-being I experienced in these two days. I wish I could though! I would love to be able to put it into words so I could read back through this and feel it all over again. But I am so happy I can write it down here, to read back and know that I will enjoy remembering this at some other time when I might not be feeling just as happy.

These two days were a precious gift, just the pick me up I needed!


I placed a comment on Et Tu, and this is what somebody answered in reply:

Would like to pray for a commenter; join me if you wish:

Merciful Father, God, We gather to pray for our sister, and other who feel as she does. You know what has hurt her. We ask that you heal her heart and make it soft to receiving the Truth of your word. Bind the devil and his evil ones, surround her with your angels. Lift her to feel your forgiveness, acceptance, love, and grace. We thank you for all you do. We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, forever and ever. Amen

Needless to say, I am now crying.

Friendly but reserved

This is what I wrote this morning:

Yesterday we went to our old church for a visit. We were welcomed with open arms mostly, and kind of ignored by a few. On the way over there I was thinking of ways to typify the people here in our new town and came up with friendly but reserved. I think that just about sums it up. People will smile, they will talk to me and they are friendly, but that's where it stops. There are no friendly advances as of yet. I get the feeling that maybe it will take 5 years or so for people to open up and welcome me into their home, let alone welcome me into their heart!
I've grown up with parents who were are hospitable. People were always welcome to come over for coffee, dinner or just a chat. I like that and try to implement the same sense of hospitality in my house. We've often had people over, sometimes even for weeks at a time. For me inviting somebody over for coffee doesn't mean that I'm inviting them to be my BFF! I think here it implies more. So I guess people become more reserved and watch and wait and see before making friendly advances. Meanwhile, I'm getting impatient!

12 hours later:

On my way to the gym this morning, after writing what you just read, I saw somebody I kind of know. The thought passed through my mind to just wave and bike on, but instead I stopped for a talk. And a friendly advance was made. More than a friendly advance actually. A couple of minutes into the talk we were hugging each other with tears in our eyes!

Sometimes the Lord works in mysterious ways.


When Tristan was little he was hospitalized 4 times. It was a combination of hypospadias and his hemophilia which made these hospitalizations neccesary. Besides being operated on the hypospadias, he also received a portacath, an implanted catheter which was supposed to make it easier for us to inject him for his hemofilia.
Because of his hemofilia, he had to stay in hospital a lot longer than any other child. First it took a day to get his clotting levels up to "normal" and then he had to stay while the healing proces went on. An IV with clotting factors was either attached to his hand or his foot during the whole proces. Amazingly enough, he has no trauma from any of these hospitalizations.
We do though! Although trauma might be too big of a word. But one thing we learned and adhere to strictly is to be VERY VERY ALERT during all hospital visits. A lot of things could have gone wrong if we hadn't been alert enough to pay attention to every detail.
I have mixed memories of all these hospital visits. One of the times, we were actually on vacation. He developed a high fever, sign of infection, and halfway the holiday I went to hospital with him. His portacath was infected and needed to be removed. So Herman and I spent the rest of the holiday travelling back and forth to the hospital by turns, driven by our loving wonderful friends each way. That way Marinda had her vacation and we each got a couple of days break. The funny thing is I have good memories of that vacation despite the fact that Tristan was in hospital!
Another time I remember him feeling perfectly well after his surgery. His first hypospadias surgery hadn't worked, and this was the second repair job. One of my friend made a gift box for him, one gift for every day. He got an extra long IV so he was even able to ride a tricycle through the hospital hallways. And that time we celebrated Marindas birthday in the hospital, in the rec room, with a couple of family members. During his surgery we went to visit a friend who had just given birth to her son in the same hospital.
The "severity" of it all has faded into the past. It's only when I look at the pictures that I remember the strain of being alert all the time, of sleeping next to a bleeping, beeping, peeping machine. Of breathing the rarified air of the hospital. Of feeling lost in time and encapsulated, like the days lasted forever. Of a knot of tension in my stomach when he went under. I also remember feeling grateful for friends coming to visit, feeling secure that things were going all right at home, knowing that people were praying for us.
It was a strange time. I hope it doesn't need repeating.


Raising kids

I'm trying to tempt Tristan to eat his veggies by telling him that after he does so we will go get ice cream at Marindas place of work.

It's not working.

Ok, I just have to update this post! It's now about an hour later. Tristan is taking one pea at a time with a huge gulp of ice tea and then painfully trying to swallow it all. And he still has about 30 peas to go! I have now given him 5 more minutes. (I know... my parenting skills are astounding! Everybody now wants to follow my shining example.....).


Blogs I like to read

I havn't updated the list of blogs I like to read in the longest time. I thought I would do it now, with an added explanation of why I like them. These are the blogs of strangers. I also read friends blogs, but will not mention those here. I hasten to add that this list is in no way complete. I read more blogs than I like to admit and am always on the look-out for new ones!!

A touch of dutch: very informative about dutch culture, habits and mannerisms. If you want to know more about Holland, check it out!

A very very recent discovery, Stukje bij Beetje. She writes in dutch and english! I have no idea why, but she does it well.

Blogs are stupid. Sharp sense of humor, well written and says it like it is.

I mentioned Et tu? a couple of posts ago. Insightful christianity, really makes me think!

Italian loveliness from The life I chose.

As well as Notes to self, Rocks in my Dryer, and Adventures in Chaos, to name a few more.

Does anybody have any other good blog suggestions?

Light and Fluffy

I'm trying to think of something light and fluffy and easily digestible after my last two posts, but the only thing I came up with is a picture of my feet. I thought I would spare you that. The truth is that I don't know exactly where to go from here!

I could mention a couple of random things:
- soccer fever has hit Holland. People, streets, houses, shops, bars, and cars are decorated in orange. Tristan had a good scream and holler last night when Holland beat Italy in their first game of the European Championship.
- on saturday I wore my kurta suruwal to a work outing. It was an internationally oriented day of fun with everybody dressed up at Hermans work. If it was socially acceptable I would wear a kurta all the time. They are flattering, feminine and infinately comfortable (unless they're made out of nylon and it's a really hot day!)
- yesterday the friend I don't see very often dropped by for a visit, just for the heck of it. That was fun!
- at work they are rebuilding the kitchen which means my office has become the way in and out of the building and all my appointments were made while enduring loud banging noises. Very tiring that....
- I did sugar free for about 5 days. Unfortunately I fell off that wagon.

That was it. More light and fluffy attempts some other time!

Things I need to hear

Just after I wrote my last post on compliments, I read this at "ET TU?"- The diary of a former atheist.

Here's an excerpt. This falls into the category of "things I NEED to hear, but don't really want to know...."

"I know now that the validation I seek can only come from the "still, small voice" of God. But God doesn't shout. To hear his voice is not an entirely passive endeavor; it requires something of us. We hear God's voice most clearly when we make time for silence, and when we get rid of the static that our sins create -- but that's an arduous, sometimes painful process. Frankly, it's a whole lot quicker and easier to pick up the phone and call a friend or, for those of us who have blogs, to go read comments or log in to Sitemeter. To read responses on your blog that essentially say "I approve" offers passive, instant gratification in a way that the voice of God does not; to discern whether or not God says "I approve" is an entirely different endeavor...and a whole lot more work."


Sitting at home, thinking about my job and how I feel about it, I think I've found one of the things that keeps me from enjoying this job as much as I can. Quite simply, it's the lack of compliments. I crave recognition for what I'm doing. I've written about it before, you can read more here.
At my old job I had a good working relationship with my manager. She knew just which buttons to push to make me do my best. Recognition, in the form of compliments, really work with me! Even though sometimes I could tell that giving compliments was almost forced with her, not being something she was used to, it still made me feel good!
I don't have the same relationship with my manager here. In fact, she's leaving, and somebody else is going to be taking her place. For me, that's not very helpful! I got thrown in the deep end in this job, and now one of the people who is supposed to guide and coach me is leaving. Oh my, I think I sound kind of pathetic.
What I actually wanted to say is that this lack of recognition that I'm feeling at my work leaves me feeling slightly resentful and unappreciated. So I think I become a bit more edgy and irritable and more easily annoyed at things than I would be if I got a regular "feed" of recognition. One part of me feels quite childish about this. My goodness, I should be adult enough to cope with a situation where people are not very complimentary! On the other hand, I'm happy that I know where this dissatisfaction is coming from. I'd rather put a name to it then walk around feeling annoyed and tense without knowing the reason why.
Another side effect of the lack of recognition is that I start feeling really insecure. If a joke is made, then I feel there may be a double layer in it. That the joke is not a joke, it may be a snide comment meant for me. Every comment gets weighed and I get doubtful about if I'm doing a good job or not. I really hate that part of me. I hate feeling needy and insecure!!
So now I've put it into words, I want to think about how I'm going to deal with this at work. I have a feeling that if I get through this I might just really enjoy my job a lot more.

Snap Judgements

I, like many, am excellent at making snap judgements.
Today I biked home and came across a girl skating towards me wearing a dressy type skirt with a purse hanging over her shoulder. My instant judgement was "that looks totally stupid". And then I thought "wait a minute, this might actually be pretty brave!". See, we live in a pretty conservative area of Holland. On sundays you can see hundreds of women/girls headed to church wearing skirts and hats with their hair in buns. On weekdays you can identify this group by the length of their skirts (absolutely no pants allowed!) and the length of their hair. So, what if this girl belongs to this church, but really likes to skate? Well then, you skate with your skirt and your purse hanging over your shoulder. You go girl!! Who am I to judge her??
And then another incident. I thought my colleagues were a pretty normal and traditional group of people. But, my, did I have a shock the other day when I heard just a tiny bit about the sex life of one of my colleagues. Goodness gracious me, I had to gulp and rethink my "boring colleagues" judgement!!
Just goes to show that looks can be deceiving....
Wonder what they think of me???

Unexpected encounter

Leaning over the pile of books in the secondhand store, I unexpectedly encountered a fellow english book lover. We ended up having a 20 minute conversation about books, living in my town and how we got where we are. And we exchanged adresses so that we can also exchange books at some point in time. Well, hey! It looks like I may have made a friend of sorts!
We got on the subject of It's a cool system of sharing books! The point is to launch a book after registering it on the bookcrossing site. You leave a sticker or bookmark in the book. The next reader to pick up the book can log in on the bookcrossing site and then you can follow the books travels. I picked one up once in Houten and got a real kick out of it. It's nice to think of books being shared around the world in all kinds of different ways. There's a lot more possibilities with the whole bookcrossing concept. Make sure to take a peek if you love books and reading!

Our first home

After we got married (and for a little while before), Herman and I lived in this lovely villa. The outside was gorgeous, as you can see. The inside was decorated in our wonderfully unique style. We had no money to speak of and no clue as to how long we would be living there so we didn't bother painting the smokestained walls, or replacing the worn out carpets. Instead we threw in every bit of junk we had, picked furniture up off the street, and made do with what we had! This second picture is the end result of that huge effort. Isn't it fantastic in its orginality? The wall decorations were made by me at school while studying art therapy. The couch came from a friend in Belgium and was so uncomfortable we hardly ever sat on it. The chairs were almost as bad. We slept on matrasses on the floor. But we had a good time anyway!
Then, just before we got married, we got a chance to buy pretty much everything we needed in one go from somebody who was changing practically everything in their house. When we came back from our "honeymoon" our house was finally furnished with something approaching good taste. That was just lovely. Marinda was born in this house. Later, after we moved out, our family doctor moved in. Whenever I went for a checkup I would sit in the waiting room on almost exactly the same spot as where Marinda was born. This house is probably the closest we will ever come to living large!


I have been looking into sugar addiction and considering a sugar-free diet. Maybe that's just a fancy way for me to say that I can't control my eating. Calling it an addiction sounds so much more interesting and complicated, doesn't it?!? I can't help but feel really sad to think of spending days and days (not to mention weeks and weeks) sugar-free though. Like today for example. I baked brownies. Now how can I bake brownies and not eat them? If I had that kind of willpower I would not be overweight! But I have tried sugar-free before and have reaped the benefits and weight loss is only one of them. When I eat healthily I have less PMS, am less moody (though I'm not sure if that's due to diet or due to the fact that I'm so glad to be losing weight!), and I feel more energy. And I feel less compulsive about eating. I hate it when I walk around driven by appetite and am seemingly unable to control it.
So I will brood on this sugar free option some more and possibly give it a try. As you can tell, it may take a while............