Day 279: Queen’s Day! King’s Glory.

I was so excited for Queen’s Day today, that I drove my family crazy trying to get us out of the house early this morning. I wanted to see as much as we could and we did! I wanted to see and feel and experience what Queen’s Day was all about. I loved the feeling of it all and am so glad we braved the crowds and rode our bikes and walked all around and then some.

We rode our bikes through Amstelveen. It was the biggest garage sale I’ve ever seen! And people were everywhere, selling their wares, performing for tips, and selling baked goods.

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After we checked out Amstelveen, we rode our bikes into Amsterdam and parked them by Vondel Park. Vondel Park was dedicated to kids and they could sell and act and perform too. It’s the only day of the year that the Dutch people are allowed to publicly sell their belongings out on the street. They don’t have yard sales or garage sale like we do in the US, so today is a HUGE opportunity for them and thy use every square inch of space. The craziest thing I saw was a fish race! I think they were selling bets as to which fish would move from start to finish first! Crazy!

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I know I’m sharing a ton of pictures, but there was so much to see, that we’ve never seen before and I want to pretend you were there with me! We met up with Jen and her family. I have no idea how they spotted us because it was so crowded.

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For five euros you could pretend to be a hamster! This looked like so much fun, but the line was very long, so we just watched.
After seeing Vondel Park, we wanted to see what the canal streets looked like and what was happening there. OMG – the biggest party I’ve ever seen! People were dressed up and singing and dancing every where you looked. Check it out…

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Jeff’s office is in the city center, so we walked over to his office to relax and sit for awhile and to enjoy the views.

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From Jeff’s office, we walked over to the Herengracht to visit with Toen and Loes. Their house is at a prime viewing spot to see all the boats going by. Charlie had fun helping Loes sell things.

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I could go on and on, and hope you’ve enjoyed being a part of the celebration with me!
On the way back to our bikes at Vondel park, the clean up had already become.

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Riding home after a long day.

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Peaceful little duck family.

Happy Queen’s Day, and long live the new king!

Day 278: Almost Queens Day

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I’m excited to be living in Holland for the last Queens Day. The anticipation is exciting. The kids all wore orange to school today to celebrate. I can only imagine what it will look like tomorrow.

Tonight Jen organized a group of friends to meet up in Valeriusplein for drinks and appetizers and to let the kids run around and play outside. We all hung out until the sun went down behind the buildings and the wind picked up. The kids were so cute, climbing trees, playing soccer and football and running around together.

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The parents also seemed to be having fun too, chatting and eating and making plans for tomorrow too.

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As I write this, fireworks are going off in different parts of the city. People have been out all day setting up their yard sale spaces along the prime street space. They are camping out over night, setting up canopies and flags and banners, tables and chairs. I love watching and am excited to wake up early tomorrow morning to jump on my bike and go shopping at all the kids’ stalls. We are going to ride through our town and through the forest, and into Amsterdam to Vondel Park, which I hear is hosting the sales of all sales! Mama and Pops, I wish you were here to go with me! It’s gonna be a sea of orange and celebration and patriotism. I can’t wait to mingle with locals and tourists and to meet up with friends and live it up with all the Dutchies!

Tot ziens!

Day 277: Hanging in the Trees

It was such a gorgeous day in Amstelveen today. Luckily the sun was shining, even though it was still very cold and we needed three layers! We decided to go on an adventure to Fun Forest in the Amsterdamse Bos. The have ropes courses high in the trees for us to climb and explore on small wooden platforms and cables and clips. I have always wanted to do a ropes course and never have. We were out hanging around and climbing for 4 hours and had the best day! We are all exhausted, so I’d say it was good!

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Life is good. The kids can’t stop talking about their fun day. We all had a great time being together out doors.

Namaste.

Day 276: Two Lives

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Everyone assumes I’m excited to move back home and I am. But I’m also nervous and have anxiety over it. I want to move back and I want to live here a bit longer. And I get to do both, but I have stress about moving and leaving my home here. My life is good here in Holland. And my life was good in California. It’s that yin and yang thing that is constant. And I’ll flow with whatever comes my way, but it does cause stress and I just wanted to mention that as I feel it and move through it.

I have great friends, who I enjoy every single day here. And I have great friends with shared history back home who are waiting for us and want us back (thank goodness) who we want to see and hug and hang out with again too.

But today I hung out with my friends here – I picked up Charlie from Joseine’s house and shared a cup of coffee with her, while the kids played outside and ran around together and talked us into another sleepover. How could I say no? We walked over to see her new home being built and she shared with me the details that she’s been planning for a year and a half, if not longer. She is passionate and I loved hearing and seeing her vision, and that she was sharing it with me. She is quietly proud and chose to let m be a part of her journey and dream, which I think is really cool. It made me not want to move just yet, because I won’t be here when it’s completed and I want to see it and be a part of her joy. I know I can come back someday, but I want to be here for the housewarming when it’s all done. You get it, right?

At the same time as I was enjoying my friends here, Jeff is back in California and enjoying our friends there. He went to Jessie’s soccer game and saw her score a goal.

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He went to Costco and bought ribs to grill/smoke on the Traeger with Steve and is enjoying his last day there before heading back to us in Holland, probably drinking a tasty margarita in a green glass from Megan, with salt!! He went to deliver gifts to Becca from Juliana and helped to keep us connected with our loved ones back home. I love that he is there enjoying the yin and I’m here enjoying the yang. 😉

As he was getting ready to grill, we were just leaving a BBQ with Patti Beth & Amy & Mindy and their families. The weather was sunny and cool, and the kids – both young and old, played together, laughing and chasing and enjoying one another. The parents all brought food and wine to share and we had a potluck – just like we do in California.

It’s weird, in a good way.

Knowing that we’re leaving makes me savor the moment more than ever. I’m hyper aware that there won’t be many more and so I want to be 100% present and I am, and it’s weird to feel that. It’s kinda like a gift to really enjoy and appreciate your friends. I know, I’m sappy. It’s just who I am. I’ve always been like this and will probably drive my kids nuts. Hopefully I’ll know when to be quiet. 😉 I’m sure they’ll let me know.

During the car ride to J’s house, the sun was shining, flowers were blooming everywhere and Jack Johnson sang to me:

“And there will always be stop and go and fast and slow
Action, reaction, sticks and stones and broken bones
Those for peace and those for war
And god bless these ones, not those ones
But these ones made times like these
And times like those
What will be will be
And so it goes
And it always goes on and on…
On and on it goes

But somehow I know it won’t be the same
Somehow I know it will never be the same.”

And so it goes…

Namaste, friends. Thanks for reading and sharing this crazy journey. xo

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Day 275: Change is Good

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“One who wants to always stay happy has to change often.”

Do you believe this to be true? Well, at least my tea bag says so.

I feel like this is my path… I like change and I hate it at the same time. I like routine and then I like to shake things up. I like to move to another country and then move back again. And when I move back, I don’t expect things to be the same. I don’t expect to do the same things and I’m already dreaming of what I’ll try and learn and do next. That’s exciting to me. I’m excited for the friends that will be there when I get back. And I’m excited to explore, play, laugh, eat, hike, run, kiss, hug, paddle, and just be together.

And if you’re not happy right now, just focus on your breathe. Close your eyes and feel the air filling your lungs and feel it exiting slowly out. It keeps changing without you even thinking about it. Keep focused on your breathe until you feel calm and ready to change your thoughts to bring you back to your happy place, wherever that may be. We get to change every minute! Make it a good one. 🙂

Day 274: Homeward Bound

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It’s bound to happen some day. Our some day just happens to be coming very soon.

94 days to be almost exact.

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When we set out to move abroad, we agreed to one year away with the possibility of three. We were always fine with one year, until we started talking with friends and other expats, who kept telling us one year wasn’t long enough. We doubted ourselves momentarily, but soon realized what is best for our family is different than what is best for other families. There are several excellent reasons why we are choosing to move back to our home town after our one year is up in July. The number one reason is that it is best for Jeff’s career. Secondly, Christian is starting high school and we are happy for him to start back with his peer group at the beginning of his freshman year. And the younger children still prefer California over Holland, so they are thrilled.

Even though we’ve made this family decision, it still is challenging to accept the change and prepare for the transition because our life is also good here in Holland. I’m happy to move back home, but I also like our home here too. It’s what I like to call a high class problem, in that we are so blessed to have two homes now with friends and family we love in both places. Saying goodbye is never easy.

The movers came today to do an inventory and give us a quote to move our belongings back to where they belong. This made things feel real, and gave me a little anxiety.

I believe in living in the moment and living it up, so I’m not going to give much time to feeling sad or confused, because that will be living it down. I’m going to keep enjoying my friends and doing the work to prepare us for the big move home. I’m going to play and have fun and continue to make travel plans to see as much of the world as we can before we leave this continent, not that we can’t travel back here once we are back in America, its just easier from here.

Today I Am happy and sad and ok…and almost ready to start packing things up.

Namaste.

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Day 273: Living it Up at the Rijksmuseum and in the Sunshine

I have a motto – Live It Up! We only get one life and we have limited time, so we better live up every minute and choose to do what creates happiness for ourselves, our friends, our family and our community. Right now. Every damn day!

Some of my daily sayings include:

Let it go.

Do you want to create a connection or conflict?

It’s all good.

Yes.

Life is good.

What made you happy today?

No worries.

So what?

I love you.

Can I have a do-over?

God bless you.

I’m sorry.

I made a mistake. Can I try again?

Do the right thing. Choose the harder right.

In 20 years, this won’t matter.

But I digress… One of the best things I’ve learned so far is to live in the moment and to enjoy what you have and where you are. Right now. Don’t wait until tomorrow. Be in the moment and live it up. And I do. And I do my work and take care of my responsibilities and I have fun, every day in some way. If the mama’s happy, everyone is happy. Am I right??

Today I rode my bike for the first time from Amstelveen into Amsterdam with my friends, and i was so proud of myself. I’ve been a little intimidated and finally faced my stupid fears and went, like all the other Dutch people! We met up with Cami at the Rijksmuseum and hired a tour guide for five euros each to give us the highlights of the museum. I highly recommend this option for your first visit. We also all had museum cards, which get you into the museum for free and avoids the queues. The museum just reopened after ten years of renovations. There were lots of problems and bureaucracy that postponed the reopening, but finally last week it reopened again and it is marvelous. The architecture is amazing, and was almost as entertaining as the art.

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The arrangement of the collections are now organized by combining paintings, sculpture, crafts, and historical objects chronologically. Together, they tell the story of Dutch art and history Ina more contextual iced and meaningful way.

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This was the first piece that was highlighted. It is from the Middle Ages and depicts the Virgin Mary expressing sorrow. The majority of the art produced in Europe during the Middle Ages was of a religious nature.

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This painting is from the 19th century and was created by George Hendrik Breitner. Its interest comes from the use of photography to structure the painting. The veiled woman in the front is significantly larger than the other figures and was originally a maid, but was transformed into a well to do lady as requested by the art dealer. In this time,maids and the wealthy folks were not seen on the street at the same time of day. So this was cutting edge!

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Van Gogh’s self portrait and a few of his pieces were displayed. Most of his art is in his own museum, and is temporarily at the Hermitage while the VG museum is being renovated.

We climbed up several flights of stairs to see a 20th century airplane that was designed by the Dutch.

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We were all fascinated by how they got the airplane onto and into the building on the highest floor. They took it apart and rebuilt it over several months to get it to fit indoors.

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The best part of sightseeing with a tour guide, is that they highlight details that you might otherwise overlook. I’ve seen Vermeer’s The Milkmaid before, but this time I noticed the broken window and the light coming through the cracks, and the Delft tiles on the floor. I loved the woman’s hands and the stillness and simplicity of her pouring milk.

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This scene by Jan Steen is awesome and provided my lesson for the day. This painting is called the Merry Family. I love that everyone is being silly and jovial and playing together. The paper hanging from the mantel tells the moral of the story: “as the old sing, so shall the young twitter.” The young will copy and mimic their elders. What will become of our youth if we set the wrong example?

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The masterpiece of the Rijksmuseum is Rembrandt’s Nightwatch painting. The room where it is hung is where it was originally showcased. The entire room is dedicated to Rembrandt, the master of capturing light and darkness. You could sit in this room and stare for hours and see something different every time.

Speaking of light, the sun was shining so warmly today and brightly that we had to go outside for lunch and soak up the sun. I’ll leave you with a few more pictures from this glorious day. Namaste and I hope you get a chance to see the newly reopened Rijksmuseum.

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And after the beauty of the Rijksmuseum, nature finished the day with her beautiful, final curtain.

Life is good.

Day 272: The King is Coming

I am so happy to be living in Holland right now. The sun is shining again, the weather is warming up, and there is excitement in the air.

We get to be part of something big! Everyone is making plans and preparing for Queens Day and the coronation of (our) new king. It’s strange to say “our”, since even though we are legal residents of the Netherlands, it feels like theirs and not ours. Nevertheless, we get to enjoy and celebrate along with the locals and I am excited.

The stores are filled with orange decorations and paraphernalia everywhere you go. People are sharing ideas of how and where and when to celebrate and telling us what we need to do. On Monday, our school will have celebrations in honor of the new king and the school will be closed on Tuesday to celebrate Queens Day.

Today during our Dutch class, the teacher told us to look out the window and look at what was happening down in the court yard.

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The people had been working on a brick mosaic in the city center honoring the new king. This year the Queen was supposed to come to our city of Amstelveen to celebrate her special day. Instead, the coronation of her son will be happening in Dam square in Amsterdam. Today there were photos of several people vacuuming the Dam Square, preparing for the royal family’s arrival. The buildings are decorated with banners in the colors of the Dutch flag and orange is everywhere. I can’t wait!! The anticipation is building.

I love Holland!

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Day 271: Have You Filled A Bucket Today?

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Have you heard of this book? Charlie’s class read it recently and he came home talking about it and shared it with me. He asked me to play with him and invited me to just come hang out with him. We then played foosball together and laughed and had fun, doing something I didn’t expect to do. I, of course, had 100 other things I “had” to do, yet I stopped to play and was so happy afterwards, mostly because he was happy and also because I had fun sitting on the floor and enjoying my kid. Afterwards he asked if he had filled my bucket? It’s a connection to the story that teaches children the meaning of bucket filling and bucket dipping and encourages positive behavior. I loved that he was thinking of ways to make me happy.

So today we were at his school, and giving our family friend, Darryl, a tour of the school. The kids were excited and proud to show him around. Charlie wanted to show him his classroom door that was decorated with the book cover and mini buckets that each student wrote on and decorated, explaining how they filled someone’s bucket. Charlie wrote about how he filled my bucket by playing my favorite game with me. I love it!

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Darryl said that his son also read the same book and shared that with him. What a small world.

Watching the kids give Darryl a tour and showing him the art displays, music rooms, food tech, design tech, Dutch and humanities classrooms was very touching to me. I love that they were proud of their school and that Christian was taking pictures so he’ll remember it after he leaves one day. They filled my bucket today!

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This picture is a piece of art from outside the Dutch classrooms.

It was very comforting having a friend from home come and take the time to drop in on his way to a business meeting in Delft. We enjoyed making dinner together with the kids and afterwards went for a walk to the park and played until bed time. I love that Darryl was open to just flow with the kids and enjoy just being with our family for a few hours, and played outside until near dusk. Thanks for coming, Darryl and for the British treats! But now you’re making me miss home!

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Life is good!! Have you filled someone’s bucket today?

Day 270: Beautiful Day in Amsterdamse Bos

 

 

Sometimes not having a plan is the best plan of all.

This morning we were up early to get Jeff to the airport by 7:45 am on a Sunday morning!  He has meetings back in the States this week. I wished he could have taken me along, as I’ve felt a bit home sick, and I hate the feeling of him being so far away, even though I’m fine on my own. Jeff and I were commenting how strange it is that the roads from our house to the airport are now second nature. When I first arrived, I was afraid to even get in the car to drive less than a mile to the grocery store. I couldn’t read Dutch, wasn’t used to traffic circles and couldn’t tell what the traffic logos meant. Now, it’s all good and I got him there on time, and back home again without the Navigation system! Oooh….ahhh… just kiddin’.

Charlie had a friend sleep over last night and they had fun eating American pancakes, playing Mine Craft and video games and loved being in their pajamas all morning. I was liking just hanging out too, procrastinating shopping and cleaning as we have a house guest tomorrow night.  Luckily Patti Beth suggested we get out and go for a bike ride since the weather was so nice, otherwise I could have easily wasted the day away being lazy. I’m soooo glad we went out as you’ll see the highlights below from our wonderful, unplanned day.  What I thought would be a short ride, turned into a 6+ hour adventure in the sun!  Life is good, especially with family, friends, and good weather!

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The cherry blossom trees all bloomed since last week and Blossom Park was gorgeous today!

 

The location of the trees is known as Bloesempark (Blossom Park), located in the south-east of the Amsterdamse Bos, between Burgemeester A. Colijnweg and the pond that’s known as De Poel. At the time of planting, each tree was given a name: 200 have Japanese women’s names, while the remainder have Dutch women’s names.

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peaceful

 

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I noticed two trees that had pink blossoms on opposite sides of the park. The rest appeared to have white blossoms.

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white blossoms with lots of people out today enjoying the gorgeous weather

 

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The entrance to the park is over a footbridge that we are standing on. As you walk behind us, there is a large circle with a half wall for you to sit and enjoy the views.

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The boys were playing catch in the circle grass area between all the trees. We saw one woman explaining to her child what my boys were doing, as I don’t think many people play baseball in Holland. There are baseball teams of course, but most children play field hockey and soccer (football). Can you see the ball in the air?

Thanks to Chris and Patti Beth for bring a bag full of sports equipment and snacks to entertain the kids!  After playing catch, the boys ran off to play hide and seek in the bushes. Don’t you love hide and seek?

On the opposite side of the Amsterdamse Bos is a place they call Fun Forest. They have ropes courses for use, however you have to have a reservation to do the serious courses with cables and helmets. Today was so beautiful out, that of course they were fully booked. The kids still had fun playing on this small version that exposed them a bit to what they can look forward to next time when we plan ahead.

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focused and curious

 

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even the big kid liked climbing around and playing!

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This one was crossing with a cookie in her hand!! 😉 They were very hungry as we hadn’t planned on being out so long and lunch was long overdue.

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We ate lunch at De Bosbaan and had a great view of the racing waters. There was a rowing competition going on today.

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After lunch we rode our bikes through the forest again and let the kids play on the workout equipment. Charlie loved playing on the rings and doing flips, and I loved watching the horses go by.

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There is so much to see and do in the forest. This part has an adventure island where the kids can pull themselves across the water to the island and run around and climb and swing and cross bridges and platforms over water. The kids had a blast!

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Look at them all working together! I love this kind of old fashioned fun.

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This windmill is part of the infamous restaurant, the Jonge Dikkert, in Amstelveen which is on our way home as we headed out of the forest. What a gorgeous site.

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Queens Day is coming up and the children of the town are preparing their places on the streets to sell their second hand goods. It’s the one day of the year that people are allowed to have a “garage sale.” They are not allowed otherwise, so this is a big deal! Up and down the road as we rode our bikes, we saw tape and chalk lining areas for upcoming sales! I can’t wait to go see them all!

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The red part of the road is the bike path! How great is that? Where the lady is walking her dog, is for pedestrians and is where the children are claiming their space for Queens Day sales.

After 6 hours of wandering through the city, we finally came home in time to get to the grocery store before it closed. Most stores are closed on Sunday. When I got to the store today, many of the shelves were empty. All the fresh bread was sold and so were all the salad fixings.  Crazy!!  But we were able to make do and find other items to start off the week, fresh!

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This is a picture of the kids checking out Charlie’s class’ art work that we purchased last night at the Art & Wine & Cheese Fair. Charlie was so excited that we won the auction for this piece and was proudly showing his sister the part he created. I LOVE this Mandala piece and all it represents and can’t wait to take it back with us to America!!

A mandala can take many forms, from elaborate Buddhist sand works to the stained glass windows in Catholic cathedrals. Mandala means “circle” in Sanskrit. Typically they are created in the shape of a circle because the circle is a potent and universal symbol of wholeness and eternity.They are also most commonly symmetrical and are used to aide spiritual meditation. These mandalas have a focus on color, shape and pattern to create a sense of symmetry and wholeness. Each student created a piece of the mandala and they were put together to create a whole.

I am truly blessed to be living in Holland right now, soaking up the sun, enjoying my friends and kids and all that is good.  I hope you have a wonderful weekend and get outside!  Namaste.