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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.

Repost and Revision : In the Wake of Charleston

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A post from about 2 years ago, edited, re-written and revised.

I’m back. Did you miss me?

The past week or so offline, I’ve been, as they say, “gathering material” with which to entertain you and my gathering has taken me to the American Deep South. So, grab an iced tea, a mint julep, hey, I’ve even got beer (domestic) if you’re a redneck, kick off your shoes, scooch up on the porch swing, settle back and enjoy…

Now, ya’ll might find this a bit strange, but I have come to the disconcerting realisation that I am, deep in my heart, a dixie chick. But for the mere happenstance of being born above the Mason-Dixon Line, I could have been a daughter of the south. Let me present the evidence and see what you think.

Item 1: As soon as they hit the Orlando airport, my teenage sons pick up the “ya’ll”and odder still, sprinkle their speech, particularly to strangers with liberal “yes’ms” and “yessirs”. This phenomenon remains constant until we arrive in Europe where they promptly revert to Euro teenspeak.

Item 2: Weird things happen to me in the south; I get friendlier. I can do small-talk. I can do small-talk like nobody’s business when I am in the south. Who’d a thunk? In Chattanooga, just last week, I found myself on the CARTA free shuttle sitting across from a charming matron from Augusta, Georgia and her five year-old grandson. Somehow we got to talking and the talk turned to families and before I knew it, I’d missed my stop for talking. The CARTA rides in a loop, so it wasn’t a big deal and I eventually got off at the right stop with a cheery “Byah now!” to the driver and all the other passengers.

Item 3: At the Riverfront Restaurant in New Orleans, Charlie Brown tells the waiter he has a question and the waiter says, “Ya’ll wanna know whatchem boudin is, right?”

And my son informs the waiter he’s had boudin, likes gumbo and can tell him exactly how to fry up an egg with “trinity”*. What he really wants to know is this: Those alligator poppers on the appetizer list? They really got ‘gator meat in ’em?” They did. He ordered the poppers and ate all of them himself, no sharing. That child has no manners when it comes to food. I blame his mama.

Item 4: I noticed that I no longer say “Civil War” when speaking in reference to that conflict from 1861-65. A few years ago I began, as they do here, calling it “The War Between The States”. I cannot bring myself to calling it “The War of Yankee Agression” because I’d have been an abolitionist, but “Civil War” sounds well, a bit unrefined.

Item 5: For the most part, Dixie turns on manners. One of the things I enjoy most about the south is the way people I’ve met have been unwaveringly polite. They might be telling you they hate your guts and God don’t like ugly, but a southerner will do it with such grace, you’d think they were giving you a compliment. This is something I strive to achieve but have yet to accomplish. Where I come from it is gloves off and no holds barred for insults. My favorite is: You ugly and yo’ mama dress you funny.

Other things I love about the south are grits, pecan pie, the warm weather, the pace of life, William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, jambalaya, country music, Harry Connick, Jr., people who call me “dahlin’” or in the case of one extremely dishy public transport employee “baby girl”, the general pace of life…really I could go on for days.

Still, driving down from Tennessee through Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama, I saw the names of cities and places that sent chills down my spine: The Lorraine Motel in Tennessee, Philadelphia, Mississippi, New Orleans’s 9th Ward, Birmingham and Selma, Alabama. We marvelled at the enormous magnolia trees along the Natchez Trace and unbidden, Billie Holliday’s haunting “Strange Fruit” snaked its way out of my memory.

I may love a lot about the south: her charm, her music, her literature, her cuisine, but I am not prepared to accept the bad history along with all the good and glorious. I am forever a daughter of the liberal northeast, who saw the city of Trenton burn that April of 1968. I was almost 4 years old and had no way of comprehending what was going on, but deep, very deep inside, I knew that something was very, very wrong.

At the half-century mark, on another continent, I read the news uncomprehending. Charleston? My Charelston? The place I’ve been trying to convince my lovely husband would be a good spot for us to retire. This morning I read about the lives of those 9 good people; 9 Americans gunned down on American soil in their own church in prayer and fellowship by some misguided, home-grown racist child. It is not my nature to despair and I know what that “very wrong” something is: Visceral and institutionalised racism. Take a sledgehammer to those statues of Jeff Davis, burn the “stars and bars” out of existence and in doing so  remember, understand and accept that our country was born  and is borne on the notion that “..all men are created equal…”

St. Michiel, Defender of the Faithless

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St. Michiel, Defender of the Faithless

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For the past 3 years, I’ve had a “man about the house”. Decades of putting up with cleaners, most of whom (but not all) were women of a certain ilk, given to back problems, migraine, and vague “lady issues” which prevented them from moving the furniture to vacuum underneath, cleaning windows and/or showing up on time, I’d almost given up on finding a cleaner. One last advertisement then. Michiel responded.

I liked the sound of his voice even before he came over to check out the lay of the land and discuss terms. When he walked through the door, I knew I was going to hire him: Michiel is very easy on the eyes. After a trial period of 2 months, my windows had never been so clean and we decided that it is a perfect match.

Yesterday Michiel  came to work and after leaving him with a list of what needed to be done, I crawled back to bed to nurse my hellacious migraine.

One of the things on the list was scrubbing down the kitchen floor. It was nice weather, so Michiel left the kitchen door open to speed the drying while he moved along to the livingroom. Suddenly he heard the dogs going ballistic in the kitchen.

Now I’m not anti-religious although I’m in no way a conventional believer. I don’t think all people who subscribe to an organized religion are morons. Indeed many of my friends are people who have a deep and abiding faith in a higher power. I do, however take umbrage at being evangelized by strangers on my front doorstep. I could not for the life of me, imagine a situation where a person would walk uninvited into a someone’s kitchen, clutching sheaves of “The Watchtower” and think anyone living in that particular house would be interested in hearing what they have to say. Not even if the back door was wide open. That’s what doorbells are for. Well readers, it happened right here in Hengelo.

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You call it a squeegie, I call it a modified Jo stick

All I can say is that Mighty Mack made quite an impression, but it was Michiel , or rather St. Michiel, Defender of the Faithless who was the hero of the day. He managed to call Mack to order, then proceded to chase the Jehovah’s Witnesses out the kitchen door and down the driveway while wielding a floor squeegie. It must have been a sight to see.

St. Michael

Unfortunately there is no video of this. I missed all the fun, being conked out on Advil, but Vince sure enjoyed telling me about it later.