Celebrations

Do you find it interesting that humans choose to celebrate different holidays differently?

When we were in Holland, we celebrated the arrival of Sinterklaas on December 5th with his sidekick Zwarte Piet. Everyone was in the streets celebrating and waiting for the arrival and parade and giving of gifts and pepernoten. Of course, I’m oversimplifying.

In America, this holiday isn’t celebrated and would be viewed as racist, which isn’t how the Dutch see their tradition at all0. In Holland, this holiday was bigger than Christmas and the birth of Jesus and is part of Dutch culture. I find it fascinating that two Western countries share such different celebrations and that many other countries and religions don’t recognize either of these celebrations, and that there are several others that we hardly hear about.

I’m only sharing a bit of my context and connection as I was reading about the celebration of Eid in the Muslim countries that ends Friday (already today there) and realizing how little I know or understand of this significant celebration in another part of the world.

We all have so many different cultural and religious ways of celebrating life.

I’m always curious about how others choose to live, love, and celebrate.

‘Eid Mubarak’ which means Blessed Feast.

From reading about a couple people’s descriptions of how they celebrate Eid, it sounds like Eid is a celebration with friends and loved ones, with a grand feast and gifts shared after a month of fasting. It is a cultural celebration.

Sounds like a great practice of mindfulness and connectedness.

What celebrations do you most enjoy?

I love Halloween and Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day to name a few. Heck, I love them all!

Namaste.

Day 344: American Pride on the 4th of July

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Happy 4th of July! I love the red, white, and blue. And fireworks and friends and freedom! And BBQs and guacamole and drinks and fun times shared together.

I worked with the kids all day today, cleaning out all the kitchen cupboards and preparing for our big move in 4 more days. And then I spent a few minutes freshening up, preparing hamburgers and salads to bring to the Fourth of July party at Bob and Danielle’s today. Juliana made April’s best chocolate cake to celebrate all the birthdays this month and last, and off we went to enjoy our friends and Independence Day. I was so busy today, that I didn’t have much time to feel homesick, even though I missed singing Firework with Jessie on top of our lungs this year, out in the field in Cupertino!! It was jacket weather- cold in Holland today, and it didn’t get dark until after 10:30 pm…just a bit different from California!! All is good…

I’m thankful for our friends, our time in Holland and for our freedom. Hope you’re enjoying the holiday wherever you are!!

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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 244: Differences

As I finally sat down to rest at the end of the day, I poured myself a cup of tea, and plopped into my comfy old rocking chair that I brought with me from California. I sat and looked at Facebook and played Words with Friends, while I thought about what to write today and waited for my kids to settle into their beds for the night.

I thought I was going to write about the differences in experiences when visiting a doctor in the USA and the Netherlands. But I changed my mind when I read the inscription on my tea bag.

My tea bag summarizes the connection we all have to one another, despite our differing beliefs.

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Today I got to enjoy pictures of my Jewish friends celebrating Passover. On Facebook, I’ve been watching the debate on gay marriage. In Dutch class, we talked about Easter and Good Friday and recognized that in India and China, most people don’t celebrate or recognize this Christian holiday, however in Holland they celebrate the feast without the religious connection. Of course this isn’t 100% true for everyone, and this blog is definitely not a debate, but what it pointed out to me (which is obvious) and more to my point, is that there are several different ways to express love and our values and way of life. We all use different means to express the good in our souls, and if we’re all practicing how to make life sweeter and more enjoyable, shouldn’t we all benefit from the synergy we create from all our goodness? Celebrate our differences. Celebrate the love we create. And celebrate each other. One love.

Namaste.

Day 234: Celebrations

We celebrated Juliana’s birthday today by having 22 girls over for two hours. Luckily there wasn’t any drama and I think they all had fun. We asked every girl to bring a gift for under 10 euros. Then we did a white elephant style gift exchange where they all brought gifts and could steal from each other or pick a new gift, until all the gifts were unwrapped. A gift could only be transferred three times and then it had a permanent owner. Some of the popular gifts include OPI nail polish, a disco lamp, glass jars with candy and a polka dotted wallet. At first the girls were very hesitant to steal, not wanting to make each other mad. But once they got into it, the laughter and screaming and stealing got very exciting.
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We had a photo booth set up with props to change into, and took pictures of all the guests with Juliana. We then projected the pictures onto Apple TV so everyone could see themselves during the party. At one point, our little rascal Charlie decided to high jack the Apple TV and projected his iPod music and Shut Up app onto the tv. I thought this was hilarious, but Juliana didn’t find it very funny.

We made and served April’s chocolate cake ad frosting and it was so deliciously moist and yummy!

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We sang happy birthday in three languages – English, Dutch and Chinese. One party guest is moving to Japan in a couple weeks. Two others are moving back to the states at the end of school. Everyone has a unique story and it was so fun to see all these girls together.

Before everyone left, the girls all did the Haarlem Shake and we took a group photo. And after they went home, we cleaned up again and I made the kids one of their favorite dinners – a chicken and veggie noodle stir fry dish. Jeff and I then headed out for some adult conversation with two other couples to celebrate a birthday. I love birthdays and celebrating loved ones. Tonight we went around the table and did a roast to the party guest! He said it was like having a live obituary. I think everyone should know how they are loved and admired while they are alive, even if it does feel a bit weird. Why should we be afraid of compliments? When its your turn, soak in all the acknowledgements and praise and celebrate wonderful you!

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Day 25: Lemons

Planning this move has made me get the most out of each day, like squeezing every last drop of juice out of a lemon, and then squeezing once more just in case there is still a drop left.

That’s really kinda what it’s been like every day and I can’t imagine slowing down much. I thought I’d slow down today, but NOT!

I did enjoy a quiet morning, relaxing on the couch with a cup of coffee and watching mindless tv.

The day then started with a funeral for Colleen’s husband, Steve. Friends gathered and supported their family by attending the funeral and providing food for the reception. It’s always ironic how nice these gatherings are on such a sad occasion. It’s like a forcing function, where the celebration of life takes precedence over everything else and it’s so nice to be gathered as a community, sharing stories and togetherness.
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After the funeral, I picked up the two little ones from a birthday and graduation celebration party. It felt ironic that we could again be celebrating life but in a totally different way, with a more upbeat feel.
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Typically that would be enough for one day, but my Stacey is still in town for the weekend and I wanted to spend the rest of the day together, of course!! We all met up at our house and crammed into one car and drove up to San Francisco.

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We got out and froze atop Twin Peaks.
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We drove by where we used to live and through the Castro where we saw more than we wanted too, and then down thru Noe Valley, and around to Ocean Beach. We had dinner at Than Longh, one of my favorite restaurants for crab and garlic noodles. It’s been two years since we’ve been there and it was on my list of places to visit before the move. We can check that off the list and it didn’t disappoint. If you’ve never been, make a reservation and go hungry! Mmm…

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And for dessert we headed back over to Cupertino for Charlie’s favorite – Beard Papa’s for cream puffs. They were pretty tasty!

The night ended at 11:30, after fits of laughter, playing cards, doing hair, wrestling and playing with our iPhones, sharing pictures and videos and playing games. It doesn’t matter what we are doing, I just have fun doing whatever and laughing. Tonight was fun!!

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Day 64 – Celebrations

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Today J was recognized for a very important award. She was part of the Math Olympiad team at her public elementary school, and her school was one of 3,719 teams worldwide. Her team placed in the top 10% of the world for 4th and 5th grade students.  She also received an individual award for scoring in the top 50% of students in the world. We are so very proud of her and the volunteer teacher and parents who helped out every week to give them this opportunity!  This picture was taken of our family after the celebration in front of the school this afternoon.

I was also excited to celebrate Apryl Krakovsky’s success today. Apryl was my first mom-friend in San Francisco, whom I met when we were in Labor/Delivery classes together before our first babies were born. We’ve been friends ever since. She now lives in L.A. and has been recognized numerous times for a program she developed based on sharing her gifts and talents and passion for fitness and healthy living and kids. The program is called Overland in Motion (the name of the Elementary School) where she teaches a 15 minutes morning fitness program every school morning bringing together students, teachers, staff and community members. She started out with a vision to volunteer and help out and kept building on it. She just won $25,000 for her school and is headed to Washington next month. If she wins the National Level, she will win $100,000.  This is being sponsored by Blue Shield of California, The Active Schools Acceleration Project and a ChildObesity180 initiative in cooperation with the Partnership for a Healthier America which is sponsored by First Lady Michelle Obama.  It’s a BIG DEAL!! I’m excited about this, not because of the money, but because the money helps to validate Apryl’s story – one mom’s vision that became a reality. Apryl loved what she did and others did too. They followed her and wanted to be part of what she was doing. She’s working on a business plan now and has people sponsoring her innovative platform – and because of this, I’m proud of her – I love watching women follow their dreams and being the change they want to see in the world, despite every day challenges.  Way to go, girlfriend!  Can’t wait to see how far you go.

And on to smaller celebrations, today I felt myself smiling and soaking up the sun and warmth and friendship being outside, playing volleyball with my girlfriends on the grass. I am not too busy and the dishes can wait. I know I only have 64 days here and everyone keeps telling me to enjoy it and I am!  Celebrate the little things… they’re actually big. 

What did you celebrate today?