Category Archives: Uncategorized

What Can You Do?

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Like a lot of people, I was pretty much knocked for a loop about the chaos in Charlottesville. I spent most of the weekend glued to my screen, waiting for the latest news. We’re 6 ahead of the east coast, so the wait is interminable. Today I’d planned to get up early and go for a run after I had breakfast and did the morning’s “Bastard Watch”. These days you want to know what’s going on with the wacko in the Whitehouse before making any kinds of plans.

I got sucked in. by the time the microwave pinged for my oatmeal, I was in tears over this article at Dailykos:  A Charlottesville ER Nurse Speaks  Instead of a short run, I spent the morning and most of the afternoon scouring the news pages for a glimmer of hope. There were lots of good articles, blogs, scribblings online. I recommend the following:

From the WaPo

They Can’t Win
By 2 pm. it was clear that hopeful news was going to be thin on the ground. Running was not in the cards today. Crying and wringing my hands was getting boring, but what else can you do as an expat?

The sun was shining, the weather was fine. A walk was in order. All I needed were some good tunes, and my dawgs.

A while ago I’d made a playlist which got the title “Upside Down” from the eponymous Jack Johnson song, simply because that was the first one I entered. “Upside Down” matches my mood today, and goodness knows, I love being co-ordinated, so I gave it a listen.

Walking on the Sun – Smashmouth   Might as well be walking on the sun as worrying, just sayin’.

Spirit in the Sky– Norman Greenbaum For the 60s vibe.

Stand – R.E.M.  Hold that line. Strong together.

Sound & Vision – Bowie  Just because it’s beautiful.

Hand in Pocket – Alanis Morrisette Gotta believe everything is going to be alright or roll over and die right now.

I’m on Spotify, and it’s a public playlist, so feel free to download or just give a listen if you need a boost. It cheered me up a bit.

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After walking with the dawgs, I phoned a friend, re-organized the planter by the kitchen window and made up some late summer florals for the livingroom.

Florals

 

I decided not to give in to the growing sense of panic and worry I feel for my birth country while the sense of unable to do anything to stay the tide of the neo-nazi madness eats at me every waking second. I’m not one for formal prayer. I’m not conventionally religious. Some things religious strike a chord though. Like this.

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This I can do.

Resistance Playlist

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I haven’t been around for a while. The constant vigilance thing has been keeping me busy. Frankly, I’m getting worn out, keeping my beady little eye trained on D.C. Still this week, we’ve got James Comey’s testimony to look forward to, and based on how that goes, I’ll take a news break, or not.

A pattern is emerging. Gaffes, mishaps, the occasional disaster just before the weekend, followed by a weekend of speculation, most Mondays and Tuesdays see lots of calls for “impeachment”, which, I have to tell you, unfortunately does not = removal from office, Wednesday starts the spin cycle at both ends of the spectrum accompanied by tweetstorms, Thursday more spin and the occasional shred of hope that this debacle of a presidency will soon be behind us, and by Friday early in the morning our time, I’m waiting in trepidation for the next s**tstorm. Oh the humanity!

It is a weird situation being an ex-pat in these times. My contributions to The Resistance are token at best: subscriptions, memberships, making the occasional astute comment on the newsfeeds, trying to reassure the Europeans that not all Americans are MAGAmorons and climate change deniers. I lived through the Civil Rights Movement and Watergate so I know a bit of which I speak. From where I am standing, it seems like the U.S. is at war with itself again and all an ex-pat can do is watch in horror as things unfold. Keep Calm and Carry On and all that. When that doesn’t work, there’s always primal screaming or lifting heavy at the Box. On that note, I’ve made a few PR’s the past weeks.

Today I thought I’d do something constructive. I made a Resistance Playlist to cheer myself up when the news gets me down. Here are a few selections:

First up is Mel & Tim’s “Yes We Can-Can” . Just because President Obama is out of office doesn’t mean we should forget this message. We are Americans. We got this.We’ll come out stronger in the end.

“Work to Do” by the incredible Isley Bros. We’ve got so much work to do. Well said, LeBron.

“No Mercy” Racoon’s a Dutch band and well worth a listen. Show no mercy, make no apologies, take no prisoners. The current administration is not made up of nice people.

An oldie, but a goodie from my misspent youth: Elvis Costello’s “Oliver’s Army” Check out the Wiki(icky), then the choice will make sense.

Next up is “Something in the Air” from the fabulously named Thunderclap Newman. We have got to get it together RIGHT NOW.

Another, final selection worth sharing is “I’ll Take You There” with mighty Mavis Staples on vocals. Gotta spread a little love on the resistance.

Ok, brothers and sisters, that’s a few from my playlist. What’s on yours?

The Day After the Day After

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I was shocked when I woke up to the US election results and walked around the whole day yesterday as if I were suffering from a post-funeral hangover. Today I was determined to take on life from a different angle.

Despite promising myself to avoid the news media, I couldn’t resist checking out the Flipboard on my phone. There was my man, Michael Moore weighing in on what happened. I read the piece despite a niggling worry that he’d go all dark Irishy pessimistic, but no. The lines in his article which brought me enormous comfort were these:

“You must say this sentence to everyone you meet today: “HILLARY CLINTON WON THE POPULAR VOTE!” The MAJORITY of our fellow Americans preferred Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. Period. Fact. If you woke up this morning thinking you live in an effed-up country, you don’t.”

Much of my grief yesterday was based on the idea that all my countrymen and women had all morphed into the deplorables when I wasn’t looking. The majority have not.

The second thing I looked was an illustrated version of the famous poem-prayer or a prayer poem, Desiderata by Max Ehrman.

I’m generally not a praying woman. I’m more the “Serenity Now!”type, although when things really get bad I’ve been known to recite the first lines of the Serenity Prayer in order to focus. This version of  Desiderata appealed to me on a Zen level and as a Crossfitter— we are, as Crossfitters all about the unknwn and the unkwable. It helped me to focus and realize, I can do this. I can get out of bed, get on with life and know that I have the skills to help me get through whatever follows yesterday’s election.

 

 

The last thing I read this morning, before hitting the vertical position was short but powerful essay, which I am extremely proud to say was written by my son, Olivier Rutgers. I’ve pasted it here below:

A wall

A wall was built,
Between people and politics. Political accountability was never a thing and it has been long decided to keep it that way. The American People kept electing politicians who renounced scientific consensus, politicians that did not represent them economically and politicians that were too lazy to vote on matters important to their people. This disconnect between people and politics led to indifference and relinquished hope.

A wall has been built,
Between people within their communities. The past few years uncovered deep racism and intolerance. Even this year, we learned about shootings in Ferguson MO and Minneapolis MN, that officers who were supposed to protect their community saw their unarmed citizens as a threat. With its citizens, the faith in building a community died. We learned about a “bathroom bill”, discriminating against transgenders in NC. Whereas the LGBTQIA community is allowed to marry in all states since 2015, it is still lawful to discriminate them in the work place in many states under the “Religous Freedom”-umbrella. Neighbours of different faiths no longer walk together, but try their hardest to banish each other from their community, state or country. Not just religion, but business takes a part in this as well, as the native Sioux people of Standing Rock are fought off their indian reservations right this minute.
“Yes we can” was supposed to be translated into “Stronger together”. Because when we strong communities are built, we are empowered. 

A wall will be built,
Between America and the World. America has seen itself as the world’s policeman for far too long, while ignoring domestic problems. Funds for infrastructure and education was allocated to the Department of Defence. This allowed military power to grow, which enabled military invasions in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya.
But the world is tired of America interfering. Of it declaring wars without congressional approval AND without approval by the UNSC. The world thinks America should focus on solving domestic issues first, before telling other countries why their systems are wrong. And now, it has chosen a mouthy leader who is frowned upon by presidents and prime-ministers around the world.

A wall could be destroyed.
When America learns it is no longer #1 in the world, and is willing to learn from other countries. When it respects treaties it signs with other countries on global affairs such as climate change. When the ridiculous defence budget is reduced and spent on education and job growth. When if faces domestic problems like poor infrastructure by investing in public transport and maintenance. When it faces the damage done by oil and fracking and starts investing more money into green alternatives. When it starts rebuilding disbanded communities by addressing discrimination and large economic divides. And when it abandones the electoral college and the two-party system and allows fair representation of voting.
Walls are destroyed when people no longer fear each other, or the government. This election has been dominated by fear of the other side. No policy argument was made, only that one was “Not Hillary” and the other “Not Trump”.

But most of all, walls are destroyed when differences are respected, not overcome. That is truly what makes countries great.

I am still an American citizen, and I still love America, but its time for an intervention and apparently Trump is the wake-up call it needed. Let’s hope we can contain the damage he can do and restore America into a beautiful country.

As dark as things seemed yesterday, this 22 year old, who has seen a bit more of the world than most, reached into Pandora’s Box and gently pulled out hope. If a young person can do that in these times, I’m willing to throw my lot in with theirs and refuse to give in to one more day of despair.

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

For Those About to Rock…

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For Those About to Rock…

 

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There is a lot to be said for mobile technology, being able to keep in touch with your loved ones at all times and then there’s the downside.

This is a rare weekend for Vince and I, being mostly child-free. We went out to dinner last night, made conversation about subjects other than our offspring, enjoyed getting up without a rugby match or concert on our Saturday agenda, we were relaxed. I worked on a new oil painting, Vince went to the gym and pottered around the yard. No. 2 Son was off to Pink Pop with his uncle and No. 1 Son wasn’t arriving for one of his flying visits home until the late afternoon. If anybody needed us, we were a phonecall, text, or what’sapp away.

No. 2 Son is a hard rocker. To emphasize this point he has a wardrobe consisting almost entirely of black T-shirts promoting various bands, some known to us, some only known to heavy-metal cognoscenti. I don’t think he has a tattoo yet, at least not where I could see it. Perhaps he really has taken my threat of the sandblaster to heart? Recently he’s taken up the bass. It could have been the drums, but no, he chose the bass. It is not the piano. I shall say no more on the subject. Apparently he’s in a Motörhead  tribute band and I will get to hear them play at a school event this week, but I digress.

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No 2. with a friend and his cousin at Pink Pop

 

This morning, No. 2 was off to the legendary Pink Pop festival with his uncle and a few other like-minded individuals because today’s lineup was all about metal. We were treated, via telephone to lots of nice photos of the black T-shirt contingent from Pink Pop, just to let us know they were having a good time. I thought that was nice, long live the mobile phone, until this flashed up on screen:

Mosh Pit

No. 2, dead center wearing the vest with patches…

There was my baby, (he’s 6′ tall, but still my baby!) headed straight to the vortex of the mosh pit. Some things you just don’t want to know. I responded as one would expect by yelling at my brother-in-law in caps that he ought to put a stop to this. If I’d responded any other way, everybody would be disappointed.

We haven’t heard anything from Pink Pop since. I can only assume that he made it out of the mosh pit in one piece and I have already planned my revenge. Next Wednesday evening, guess who’s going to be in the mosh pit when her son’s on stage.

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The Shabbos Goy at Leiden U.

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Our firstborn is at university on the other side of the country. That sounds far away; it’s only a 2 hour drive, but still! We’ve had the necessary sleepless nights worrying first about how he was going to make it on his own,keeping on top of his busy schedule, laundry, feeding himself proper food, then about his choice of study, followed by what would his wacky first landlord come up with next, and shouldn’t he be spending more time on his study than his music? Lately we’ve seemed to have arrived in calmer waters. Olivier’s study is going well, he’s still singing but it’s no. 2 on the priority list for the time being, he doesn’t come home in the weekend with a week’s worth of laundry anymore and disappear until Sunday dinner, he actually spends time with us when he’s home, he’s learning to drink wine…in short he’s turned into a delightfully civilised young man and we’re getting a good night’s sleep because of it.

He’s been writing a few articles lately as part of his minor at Leiden U. as well as just setting his thoughts down to make sense of the world. Here’s what he wrote about the shooting at Umpqua Community College last week.

Horrified by the shooting in Roseburg, OR. I couldn’t imagine the lack of safety, and fear I would feel if this would happen at Leiden University. With eight school-shootings in the US in the past three years, the most painful being the one involving the first-graders in Newtown, CT, it makes you question if school environments are safe in the US. Especially, since this one happened in a gun-free zone.

It’s frustrating to see this happening over and over again. The Charleston-shooting is just 3,5 months ago. A very memorable quote from a family member of a victim was: “Hate the sin, but forgive the sinner”. It stresses the importance of environmental factors leading to such a crime, be it gun-control in whatever form, lack of good parenting or the lack of a community that exercises social control on its members.

Sending strength and consolation to the families in Oregon, while hoping larger steps will be taken in addressing the root cause(s) of these shootings. And finally, enjoying the safe community around me, consisting of tolerant people allowing different people to live together safely. Tolerance is necessary, but in this case, as a (world-)community, we need to speak out a collective vote to stop tolerating these crimes, not just in the US, but everywhere.

I couldn’t wait to tell him in person how well put I thought this little piece was.

We usually get the week’s drama out of the way when I pick him up at the train station. By the time we’re at our front door I’m listening to his stories of college life, the new experiences, hearing his (wild) plans for the future. Its fun to see his old highschool crew when they come to our house to drink beer and play cards on the odd Saturday night, and hearing him sing the Magnificat when he’s under the shower on Sunday mornings is a treat not to be missed.

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This weekend he announced “Mom! I’m a Shabbos goy!” I can’t remember the last time I heard that term, certainly not in this country. Simply put,a Shabbos goy is a non-Jew who performs work that a Jew is not permitted to do at Shabbat. There are a shedload of specifications and exceptions if you look into this properly, but this is the short version. After I got done laughing he told me the details. Apparently one of his friends at university has returned to the faith and our Ollie puts the lights on in D’s apartment on Friday’s after sundown. The days are short at this time of year on this parallel, so this qualifies as a “life threatening situation”– 18th century buildings, high, narrow stairs…you dont’want to think about the consequences of stumbling around in the dark because you aren’t supposed to turn on a light switch. Is my kid a mensch or what?

We shipped him back to Leiden on Sunday morning. He sent me a funny Facebook sticker last night.

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This afternoon the phone rang and it was my friend, Marjolein. “Did you hear about Leiden?”

The phrase “Did you hear about…” in the middle of the afternoon sends chills up my spine. Nothing good comes of it. Another afternoon in 2001, my mother-in-law phoned and asked, “Did you hear about the Twin Towers?”

The earth tilted and my world started slipping away.“What about Leiden?”

There was a threat posted in social media about a gun massacre somewhere on the Leiden campus. I’d been too busy bumping up my Candy Crush score all morning to look at the news, so I hadn’t heard about it yet.

I hung up and quickly phoned my son. I heard his voice. The earth tilted back to a normal position. He was at home, studying for his exam this afternoon. Olivier wasn’t worried about the threat. He assumed it was just some nutjob being stupid online. My son is 21 and still immortal. The immortal train left my station a long time ago, I think it was when I became a mother. I was scared. He wasn’t. He was going to his exam as planned. I made him promise me that if he heard gunfire to hit the ground and play dead. I couldn’t believe what I was saying as the words left my mouth. What kind of world do we live in?

Murder for Breakfast

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Crazy Jack

I have a terrible addiction. I wake up to it in the morning, binge on it all day long and if left to my own devices, it’s the last thing I do before hitting the hay: Crime TV, or as my family calls it, when they walk in on me enjoying another episode of Homicide Hunter with my morning coffee, “Murder for Breakfast”.

 

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Frankly, I never knew I lived in such a dangerous country the first 22 years of my life. Along with my man, Joe Kenda, the Homicide Hunter, you’ve got “Women Who Kill”, “Nightmare Nextdoor”, “Blood Relatives” and on a good day, something icky and maggoty on “Dr. G. Medical Examiner” or “Forensic Detectives” all happening in the U.S. Of A. keeping law enforcement busy as can be.

A number of episodes of “Nightmare Nextdoor” occur close to where I grew up, but on the other side of the highway, aka “down there”, which provides a comfortable degree of separation and Dr. G. works out of the county where we vacation in Florida. Having watched many seasons of “Homicide Hunter”, there is no way I’ll ever willingly go to Colorado, it is just too damn scary and Lt. Kenda is retired. Don’t get me started on the murderous goings-on in the Midwest; Capote’s “In Cold Blood” is just the tip of one very creepy iceberg.

Creepy, but entertaining. No, seriously. I’m not a ghoul, not really, hear me out. My life is pretty boring (in the nicest way possible) and it is the drama of looking for a solution to the crime, cracking the code, tracking and catching the perp that I enjoy, the crimes are heinous. I cannot watch any programs dealing with child murderer and “Criminal Minds” gives me nightmares. For me its true crime, solved, done and dusted with a Joe Kenda, “My, my, my” thrown in for good measure.

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Finding Amazing Grace

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We are well into the 2nd week of gorgeous summer weather here in Hengelo. For the first time in years, our family is spending the entire summer in the lowlands. Our California adventure was in early May and we were hoping for a nice summer back home. Most of the time we’re in Florida during the two weeks of nice summer weather in the Netherlands, and we return to a premature autumn, around mid-August. Not this year.

The weather has been so hot, the guys doing a bit of remodeling on our house are on a “tropical roster”. This means they begin at 7 am. and down tools by 2 pm. Not a problem. 5 past 2 and it is bikini on and poolside for the rest of the day for me and the dogs. The dogs keep it au naturel, I’m wearing the bikini, just so you don’t get confused.

The past few days have been perfect weather for reading Faulkner. I left off with “The Hamlet” the last warm day of last summer and picked it up recently with “The Town”. You love Faulkner or you hate him. It might help to know that just as one should never attempt to read the Dostoyevsky in winter, Faulkner should only be read on very hot, lazy days with a mint julep or a tall home-brewed iced tea (I’m training this week) close to hand. A little old-school blues in the background is also advisable. May I suggest the following: Etta James, B.B. King, Bobby Bland, a bit of Elmore James (no relation to Miss Etta) would go down a treat too. Faulker reads like music. The music only adds to the atmosphere.

Being a fan of southern literature, I’ve been eagerly awaiting Harper Lee’s “Go Set A Watchman” which finds our girl, Scout all grown-up and headed back home to Maycomb for a visit. So eager in fact that I broke one of my cardinal rules and read some of the pre-release publicity. If the Huffpo (source of all truth and wisdom, I’m sure you’ll agree) is to be believed, Atticus is a racist. I was glad I was sitting down for that. Of course the Huffpo is notoriously lacking in the journalistic quality of nuance, so I am hoping that Miss Lee didn’t present Atticus in such (ahem) black and white terms. Looking forward to downloading the book on the 14th. Eula and the Major will just have to wait a bit while I’m busy at the Finch’s a little further north of the Delta.

When it gets too hot to read outside, I’m hitting the summer sales online, baby! Books and protein powder and new Crossfit gear, cute summer slingbacks that don’t hurt my feet, new bedlinen…..

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Scents and SensibilityWatchmanthe town

All this reading and shopping is a distraction. I’ve had something heavy on my mind.

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor distraction

Someone I know had brain surgery on Friday to remove a malignant tumor. It was one of those things that came up out of nowhere and turned out to be serious trouble.

What do you do? Where are the etiquette guides to tell you how to behave when you hear this news?

Truth be told, my first instinct was to bake (which I hate to do) and smother the family with food, but this of course, was not necessary. The friend with the tumor is Ms. Organization. Food was covered. So I offered to be available if the family needed any practical help. My friend was going to need a cleaner during the recovery period, I tipped her off to my cleaner, St. Michiel, Defender of the Faithless but that was about as helpful as I could be at the moment.

Like just about everybody else, I’ve got a Facebook account. Mostly I use it to keep up with what’s going on in the lives of my sons and gym-buddies, globally scattered friends and a few wacky relatives. I ‘m not big on posting except for the occasional Crossfit brag or a tune of the day selected from Youtube. A lot of times I forget to post anything at all. About a week or so after her diagnosis, my friend sent me a heads up wondering where “Tune of the Day” went because she really enjoyed those posts. I had no idea anybody really looked at them. There was something I could do to make her feel better and it made me feel better as well. Talk about amazing grace. My friend has it in spades.