Day 314: Biking Around Amsterdam Without a Map

I had a list of plans for today, but the sun was shining so I had to go outside all day.  Patti Beth and I went for a long bike ride without a direction or plan, but to be outside just biking.  We left around 9:30 am and came back in time for my physio appointment at 1 pm.  


A view of the Amstel River in Amsterdam on a gorgeous day.

Holland is so beautiful and the bike paths make it very easy to cycle around and through all the towns.  We started from my house and rode into Ouderkerk and followed the Amstel River into Amsterdam. 

Seeing the water always makes me happy and add the sunshine, warm weather and a great friend… life doesn’t get much better than this.

Once we got to Amsterdam, neither of us really knew which direction to go. We had a hunch, and luckily this time we both were right and headed in the right direction, not that we really knew where we were headed, but just towards the center.  It’s kind of fun not knowing where you’re going and just enjoying the journey. I mean, we had a general idea of what to expect, but we weren’t quite sure which road or which turn to take, but we were happy just enjoying the new sites around Amsterdam and kept moving forward. Kinda like this whole expat journey, now that I think about it.

We ended up on the back side of Albert Cuypstraat and were pleasantly surprised. We walked our bikes up and down the uncrowded market streets, stopping to buy a sweater for me, and fresh artichokes for dinner.   Patti Beth knew of a Surinamese restaurant and we stopped in there for a quick, tasty shared lunch before figuring out our way back home.

We both surprised ourselves how we navigated the city, because we weren’t so good the first time we tried to find a fun shop in the Jordaan… kind of like the blind leading the blind. But I guess we’re getting used to navigating Amsterdam… not that it’s that big, but maybe we’ve just become local enough to feel like we belong here.  Hmm…

A perfect day.  

What did you discover today?  Did you do something that challenged you?  

Day 310: Making Decisions

Life is a journey, not a destination

I had to push myself today to make three “big” decisions and I struggled with the process more than I should have.

I learned that three things affect my decision making process:

1) not having enough structure or pressure to make a decision (I tend to procrastinate and then work better under pressure)

2) having too many choices or options

3) trying to balance the needs and wants of others with my own desires

My first decision was whether or not to go to yoga this morning. Sounds so stupid, but I was feeling down today and didn’t want to go, even though I knew it was good for me and needed to go. I put my yoga pants on first thing this morning to inspire me to go after kid drop off. But I had to push myself three times to actually get me there and I had to actively talk myself into going vs. out of going and felt like I was my own freak show in my head… go to yoga, no go home and have a cup of tea and be lazy. You’re late, no you can make it.   Turn right and just go home, no go straight and find the new studio!  And then I was late and convinced myself I wasn’t going but I’d just drive by anyway to find the studio because I didn’t want to walk in 5 minutes late and I was mad at myself. Luckily for me, the instructor was standing at the door and recognized me and told me where to park and said he’d wait for me.  Can I just tell you how happy I was?  If he wasn’t standing at the door (which I don’t know why he was), I would not have gone in. But there he was and there I was rolling out my matt and so thankful that I kept moving one foot in front of the other despite all my negative self talk not to go.  Phew!

The second big decision I’ve been struggling with all week is when to move back home. I weighed all the pros and cons and discussed it with Jeff and the kids and made a decision, but then second guessed myself. Sometimes even making a good decision is difficult because you have to leave other options behind that have benefits too. Even this sounds stupid to me, but when a decision becomes emotional, it’s harder to feel good about even your good decision because it might hurt others.  I made my decision and then felt sad all day for deciding to return home earlier than Jeff and our original plan. I’m happy with my choice but sad for having to forgo travel plans and time together and leaving Jeff to close up the house alone.

The third decision wasn’t as big, but followed a similar pattern. I wanted to go for a bike ride this afternoon to Ouderkerk and I wanted to go with Jeff and the kids, if they wanted to join me. I knew I really wanted to go and I patiently waited for Jeff to finish his conference calls and the kids to have some down time before asking them to join me again. It doesn’t get dark here until after 10 pm, so I was happy still going at 8 pm. But by 7:30ish, the rest of the family started having second thoughts, the weather began to chill, and the little one wanted to stay home and order pizza.  I stil wanted to go on the ride and see the sheep and open fields and the river, but they all had other ideas. I almost and I think I did say, fine, we won’t go, and then changed my mind and struggled to get out the door with a few little ducklings behind me. But at first no one was happy, except me.  Jeff and I decided to go and the rest stayed back and then two changed their minds and hurriedly tried to catch up with us while one stayed home. I struggled to decide whether to go because I wanted to make everyone happy and in the process almost made everyone miserable, including myself.  In the end, it was a great decision and we were thankful we pushed on despite the resistance and had a fabulous time together. Next time I want to be more decisive and convincing when I make a decision to help everyone with the clarity. I don’t expect them to do what I want, but it would be good for me if I was clear and firm about what I want.  I’m still learning.

Listening to Charlie whistle and sing on his bike because he was so happy made me thankful I didn’t give up and that I made the “tough” choice to go anyway despite the No’s.  On the way back home, after our ride along the river and a stop at a pizza parlor that was open, he rode up next to me and said, “I love you mama.”  He was just thanking me for taking him on a bike ride. Who knew?

I Am Content.

Here are the beautiful pictures from our Friday Night Bike Ride to Ouderkerk and along the Amstel.   Life is good!

Riding into OuderkerkI love this cityAlways love seeing windmills

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love the sunlight as the sun begins to set



Day 241: Really Cold Weather & SUP Dreams

It’s cold and windy in Holland and I’m over it. Even with my long down coat, wool socks, jeans and accessories, I am still freezing and uncomfortable. I know they say there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad dressers, but that statement doesn’t work for me. I don’t know why it feels colder now than it did with snow on the ground. Is it because of the humidity and the wind? Why is it so cold? Please warm up… I like it a bit warmer, thank you!

I spent the day mostly indoors, up at the crack of dawn, for no real reason except that I keep waking up early! What is this insomnia business as I get older?

I have been working all day on trying to organize my digital photos and clean up some old emails with attachments. My iPhoto library is full and I’m out of disk space on my computer so I’m trying to figure it all out and it isn’t easy!! Wish me (Jeff) luck! The best part was seeing old pictures of friends from home and the first few weeks of living in Holland. We’ve experienced so much and are so thankful!

The kids had birthday parties this afternoon. Charlie went to a bowling party


Juliana went on a scavenger hunt with a team of friends at the Amstelveen mall, after taking a tram ride together. She had so much fun and is growing up so fast. The highlight from her scavenger hunt was finding pre-colored Easter eggs at Hema (kind of like Target!). She had never seen anything like it before.

Jeff and I went to run errands and on the way back he drove me through more parts of Ouderkerk, my favorite city in Holland. I wished we would have chosen to live there, but we didn’t really know about it when we were looking for housing. We did look at houses on the Amstel, but none were quite right for us. The house we chose is perfect for us. We picked a house with lots of natural light, a huge open kitchen with an American sized refrigerator and oven, and a great room with a view into a small back yard and a beautiful open view of a canal out front. It is perfect for our lifestyle with a place to park right outside our front door. I love that the Ouderkerk is nearby. What I love about this city includes the wide river, prominent church steeples, bakeries, ice cream shop, store fronts and restaurants with outdoor seating right on the water. It has a small town feel which I love.

Today I searched for places where I could park my car, lift my board off the racks and walk a short distance to launch. I found it! Now I just have to wait for the weather to warm up. Any day now… I hope.




Day 235: The Amstel River – aka Where I Plan to SUP

We had the laziest day today. The leprechaun trap didn’t quite catch us a leprechaun, but he did leave Charlie some Euros, and made quite a mess of our house!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day and wishing you the luck of the Irish!

I love this picture of our littlest traveler, for several reasons. First of all, he still believes in Leprechaun’s and built a trap! Secondly, when we decided to move overseas, we promised Charlie that he could collect soccer jerseys from the places we visited to help him accept the change in his stable living environment. He picked this outfit out last week in Istanbul at the Grand Bazaar and insisted that we stop and get it, waiting for the shop keeper to find just the right one in his size(which I think he obtained by buying it from another vendor for 25 Lira and turning around and selling it to us for 50!). Next to Charlie is a travel book for Dubai. One of our goals moving to Holland was to show the kids as much of the world as possible. They have become pretty good at packing, navigating airports, late night arrivals and early morning departures. Dubai is next on our list and today we were doing some research. They are excited to see the watermarks and aquariums, and to eat American food like Panda Express. I was especially keen on finding a place to paddle board in the sunshine! I actually found a place and it is my dream to paddle on the ocean and find someone else riding a camel on the shore at the same time and snap a picture! I think it’s possible… We’ll see!

Back to our lazy day…while dreaming of warm weather and paddle boarding, I heard about some lakes in Aalsmeer. We all decided to hop in the car and drive around for awhile to see what we could find. What I learned is how small the little neighborhoods are and how they’re so easily connected. We found the lake which is quite large and was choppy from the wind. I wasn’t planning on paddling today as the weather was wet and freezing! Se also saw all the flower distributors. Aalsmeer is known for their flower auction and is also known as the flower capital of the world! Right in our backyard! I want to go see a morning auction before we move back to the States. It sounds really fascinating and highly automated.

But what I loved rediscovering the most today, was the curvy back side of the Amstel river that leads away from Amsterdam and Ouderkerk. The Amstel river and its banks are my favorite parts of Holland and I can’t wait to launch my board there in the next couple of weeks when it’s spring time! Here are some pictures of her beauty, despite the grey skies!