Hup Holland!!

I am missing Holland.  I believe today was the last day of school at the ISA, and with the last day at an international school, comes some big goodbyes.  Several people are moving back to their original home countries and some are getting ready to take on new expat adventures.  I’ve been thinking of you Cami, Carolyn, Patti Beth, and Amy and Jen who recently left. And I’m thinking of all the friends who stay and continue on a little bit longer, adapting to the changes of good friends leaving and dealing with the loss and change and adapting. There are always new beginnings.  Wishing all my friends smooth transitions and comforts.  

I’m so thankful that we lived in Holland and that I felt such a connection to my Dutch roots. I got to celebrate with my Dutch friend, Pauline and her Dutch friends, watching Holland beat Australia 3-2 in the World Cup today. I was so happy to be dressed in orange clothes, orange boas and glasses and hats, watching the kids prance around with the Dutch flag, and eating off orange plates. When Holland scored a goal, Karen played Dutch music really loudly and began dancing, while I smiled from ear to ear.  The house felt so gezellig and I was happy to be with the Dutch ladies and kids, drinking coffee and listening to Dutch being spoken again. I felt at home and so happy.

Jen sent me pictures of the Dutch flag flying from her new house in Minnesota and seeing all the Dutch celebrations from Holland on Facebook brought me joy.  I miss Holland and my family and friends, but am glad that I’ll always have a piece of Holland with me.

Peace.

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International Night

Tonight was International Night at Charlie’s school. We chose to represent Holland and brought the bakfiets, served Hagel slag toast, and pretended it was Queen’s Day. We dressed up and shared stories and made friends.

I thought Charlie would be more into it than he was, but it was a bit overwhelming. The kids were swarming, the music was really uncomfortably loud, and the crowds were ginormous!

Charlie had made a prize grab box with toys for the kids like he saw on Queen’s Day. We didn’t charge the kids of course, so everyone wanted to play again and again. Charlie decided he didn’t want to be any part of it and went outside to play. I didn’t blame him. They started ripping the box apart! Savages!! Or just happy kids?

It’s amazing how many cultures and countries were represented tonight!

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I ❤️Holland!

Trying New Things

I gave a presentation tonight about the journey of becoming an expatriate and a repatriate.  I had an outline and food and props and shared my story with women who are great friends, which made for a comfortable audience. Most of the women had followed along with me through my blog and knew the highlights and virtually joined me on our one year adventure abroad.

So I decided to share the feelings and stories behind the story, kind of a behind the scenes version of the tour.  I think they liked it, as they asked me to share another story, a version 2, another time. This made me very happy, as I am generally uncomfortable presenting to an audience and feel like I talk too much. 

I shared what it was like to make the decision to move to another country. I talked about all the gritty details of the transitions and getting us out the door and into a new home in the Netherlands and back again.  I shared the sad goodbyes, the anxious arrivals, the settling in, the exploration, and the return to our homeland.

I shared the lessons learned, both positive and negative.

What I learned, is that a year goes by very quickly, faster than you really think. It’s important to try new things and to not let our fears stop us from experiencing life. I think that we can do anything we set our minds to do, and that if we want something, really want something, and set a goal, we can do anything for a month, or maybe even a year or two or three. It’s not forever and we have so much to experience and try, if we trust our heart and not our fears.

And so I challenged the brave ones to come up and try some salty, Dutch licorice powder. This was a heavenly treat for me growing up, and one that I loved and used to prank my friends, just to see their reactions
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They were good sports and I had a good laugh!!  I don’t think they liked it much, but I was sure proud of them for trying!!

Life is good, my friends! Live it up, love it out and enjoy your precious time on this great, big planet.  xo

Red, White, and Blue

I keep getting asked if I am happy to be home, or if I wish I was still living overseas. This is a complicated question and there isn’t an easy answer. Overall, I say yes, I am happy to be home again in the United States, and more especially California, but I miss several aspects of the European, expat lifestyle as well.

I miss the friendships the most and the slower pace of life. I miss our travel around the world, exploring new lands and cultures and living in Holland and exploring and adapting to the local way of life the best I could.

Being away also made me appreciate all that is good in America. Sometimes the media makes it sound like America is broken, but I don’t believe all of it. For some reason, it seems normal to talk about all the negativity and I don’t understand that. I would like to see and share more stories about why America is great and why so many immigrants want to become citizens of this great country and all that it offers.

This morning there was an article in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) that made me appreciate living here and proud to be an American. I am also thankful and proud to have European roots. They are not mutually exclusive. I just think its time to change the conversation and focus on what’s good again in the USA, and celebrate our roots too.

The WSJ article, “Why I Chose the Red, White and Blue,” by Philip Delves Broughton, mentions receiving a certificate of naturalization from President Obama after being sworn in as a citizen. It says, “Since our founding, generations of immigrants have come to this country full of hope for a brighter future, and they have made sacrifices in order to pass that legacy on to their children and grandchildren. This is the price and promise of citizenship. You are now part of this precious history, and you serve as an inspiration to those who will come after you.”

I believe this is a good reminder for all of us living here. We are part of the experience and creating history. We have a duty to one another to continue to do great things and to continue to make our country amazing. That comes from being of service, helping one another and working hard, doing the right thing. It also comes from being able to vote and to have a say in what we believe. There are so many things we do well and enjoy on this great land, like watching football games and bonding with our like minded friends who dress in the same team colors and root for the same team.

These are a few things that create happiness. I am happy to be home (and still miss Holland.)

Life is good.

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Day 347: Last Night in Holland

All my bags are packed and weighed.

Boarding passes are printed and passports are ready to go.

The car is coming bright and early to bring us and all our luggage to the airport.

My day was filled with anxiety and sadness as I prepared to let go and leave Holland behind. I felt so much stress in my body, even though I’m happy to be moving back home. It kind of feels like breaking up with a boyfriend that you still love, but you know it’s time to move on, but you still feel sad breaking up, even though its the right thing to do. Does that make any sense? All I know is that anxiety is real and not really any fun. And the quicker it leaves my body, the better. A few deep breathes helped, but it took awhile and isn’t fully gone yet.

It’s time to leave Holland, but I fell in love here. I liked my life here and my friends and all that Holland had to offer and I’m extremely sad moving on and leaving my friends, even though I’m happy for the next phase too. I think that’s what creates the anxiety. I have so much to love about California and my friends and family and life there too and I’m excited to see everyone again and be back in my home again.

I’m so thankful for having had the experience to live in Europe for a year with my family.

So as Jen and Dr. Seuss said, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

So I took a shower and cleaned up and off we went to enjoy our last night in Holland. Live in the moment, right?

There were three things I wanted to do…take a boat ride, take a family picture on the milk meisje bridge and eat bitterballen one last time.

We took the 5 tram into Amsterdam and met up with Ton and Loes for a boat ride through the canals. It was a gorgeous and warm evening and they made my dream come true. I am happiest on the water and felt my anxiety melt away. Thank you Ton and Loes for sharing your boat with us and giving us such a great going away present!

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Afterwards, Loes took our family photo on the bridge by their home on the Herengracht.

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And finally, we went to discover Loetje in Amsterdam, for bitterballen.

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My night is done.

My heart is content.

My journey in Holland is complete.

It’s been a wonderful year of exploring and discovering and loving life.

I Am. Thankful.

Thank you for sharing the journey with me.

Namaste

Day 345: 3 Days Left in Holland

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3 more days…
2 more sleeps…
1 more blog…

Well… 1 more for today, at least.

Today I worked in the kids room and my room, sorting and tossing and packing again. We also stopped at Clara Maria’s clog farm to buy a few more Dutch souvenirs.
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We took a load of stuff to the dump and another load to the charity store. I made another stack of stuff to give away for Patti Beth and Jane, and even had time for a shower before our evening drive to Boxtel to visit with Franca and Henk, Rowe and Geeke, Rio and Helma, Irma and Janne, one last time before we move.

We had a great evening sitting outside with Chinese food for dinner and ice cream for dessert.

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It was a great summer eve (finally) in Holland and I am thankful they invited us over for a visit and much needed break.

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The thing I really love about my Dutch family is that the teenagers stay and sit together with the family and joke around and share in conversation at the table. I love this and want to bring this idea home with me.

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Goodnight from Boxtel.

I hope you have a nice weekend, wherever you may be!! xx

Day 330: Last Day of School

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Today was the last day of school for my kids in Holland. It’s significant to me for several reasons. It is a milestone that we’ve reached as a family and I’m hyper aware of the end of our journey in the Netherlands.

We had several goodbye celebrations to mark the end and transition and to maximize our time with friends.

The hardest part is letting go and hearing Charlie cry from the pain of realizing he won’t see his friends again for a very long time. He made some really great friends here and trying to help him accept and process the loss of such strong connections is difficult, especially when I feel the same way.

Goodbye to all my Holland friends until we meet again. Goodbye to all my expat soul mates who understand this journey and can relate because you’ve been there with me and get it!

And as Jen said to me this morning as the day started, don’t cry because its over, smile because it happened. Great advice that carried me through the day, despite the heavy sadness.

Safe travels my friends until we meet again.

xoxoxoxo
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Full house
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Best friends