Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Supporting Women

Women supporting women.  Until I became a stay-at-home mom I didn't really see the importance behind women supporting each other.  I had a hand full of female friends and was content.  Then when I entered this other world, this world of creating my own schedule and choosing who I spend time with (not 40hrs a week of being forced into confined spaces with colleagues), it started to sink in that I needed to branch out.  And that the rules and guidelines I once adhered to no longer applied.  Many women choose not to stay home with their children because they feel it's lonely and secluded, but that's a choice, it doesn't have to be that way.  All it takes is putting yourself out there and being open to new experiences and strangers.  Signing up for activities with my daughter has opened many doors to new people and experiences.  And in this quest to branch out, to get involved, to keep my child entertained and well-rounded, I discovered there are a lot of women just like me.  Women who pull together to help each other through phases of life, a support system if you will.  It can be as simple as meeting in the park with your kids (the more the merrier) to helping someone find a plumber or just feel they have some connection outside of their home.  This 2 1/2 yr process led me to two wonderful experiences this past week, ones that may not have happened if I hadn't dared to branch out, if I had chosen to remain secluded, a foreign SAHM locked away in a house.

The first was a women's workshop hosted by Maaike ter Haar (we met through my daughter's preschool).  She firmly believes in networking as a mother, it was something that hadn't really crossed my mind until she pointed it out.  But she's right, just like people striving for a career network so do we.  Some of you might chuckle, how is meeting for play dates considered networking?  It is, you meet new people with new ideas from new places, all of which open your world even further and theirs too.  At this workshop alone there were 5 different nationalities.  Maaike took it a step further, saying how hard it is for women to try and manage it all (kids, the house, a career, hobbies, etc.) and that sometimes we just need to support each other and work together instead of judging.  And her idea of bringing women together Dutch and foreign is great, we can all pull together and share our experiences and help each other grow.  This particular workshop was more of an introduction, getting to know each other, where we are in life now and where we'd like to be in a few years.  I look forward to her next workshop.  Because Maaike takes an interesting approach, she wants us all to find our inner Goddesses (our inner strength), to believe in ourselves, and not let the world place us on the back-burner.  I thoroughly enjoyed the judgement free approach, and I felt braver and more confident when it ended. 

The second event that ties in to this "Supporting Women" post was an art exhibit.  Through Mums & Toddlers I have met a lot of women, women that need support, women that feel very lost in a foreign country.  But I have also met a lot like me, that have lived abroad for years and that call the Netherlands home.  One of which is Emma Skeet, an artist and a mother to 4 kids.  She's a great example of someone who can manage it all.  Emma and a few other women joined together to create an art exhibit, talk about branching out and putting yourself out there.  Emma provided the paintings, and there were also photographs and furniture, all tucked into an old chapel.  I missed opening night, but I told myself that I wanted to support her, that I wanted to make sure I attended the exhibit and sure enough my daughter and I made it on the last day.  They were brave enough to put themselves out there, and all they needed were people to show up.  I was glad I did, it was my daughter's first art exhibit and it was wonderful to teach her to appreciate things other than toys and tv.  Emma had four beautiful pieces on display, and as I stared at them all I could think about was the time and dedication that went into the paintings.  The layers, the textures, how much they could say without saying anything.  I also thought about networking, if neither one of us had joined M&T's I wouldn't have been standing under the vaulted ceilings, stained glass windows, holding my 2 yr olds hand taking in a well-done art exhibit.

So often women can be catty and work against each other, it's a pointless battle.  We're better off uniting, helping each other, and being a lot less judgemental and a lot more open.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Alien Series

It's so easy to forget things from elementary school, it was a loooong time ago.  But every once in a while you stumble across something that makes you smile and reminds you of bits and pieces of such an innocent time.  A time of development, a time of learning (oh wait, that's still happening).  Maybe it's just where certain things in your life started, an interest was instilled, a seed planted deep inside that would one day bloom.  I stumbled across an old book cover, and when I did I remembered how much I enjoyed the book series as a kid.  In my elementary ALPHA class we were asked to read a certain amount of books, a point system that most schools in the county used.  I can't remember if we were allowed to choose the books ourselves or not but all I know is I ended up reading Bruce Coville's series again and again. 

Years ago while going through storage boxes at my mother's house I found a t-shirt I had designed for a school project based on one of the books.  I had painted my own version of the book cover on the t-shirt with puff paint (super popular in the 90's), it glowed in the dark similar to the title of the book.  It was a nice find.  I can't say I remember much of the books, I think there was one intense scene as the kids stood outside of the teachers house and witnessed that he was an alien, other than that it's a blur.  Curiosity almost makes me want to order the books and read them again, just to experience what I did as a child, relive the magic.  But then again at 30 years old I don't think I want to regress to reading elementary level books.  I guess I'll just wait until my daughter is older and read them together.  As I stared at the book cover it made me think, was this when I realized how much I like books and stories or did it happen long before?  Was this when I found an appreciation for sci-fi?  Was this when deep inside the seed was planted to become an author? 

One thing I remember vividly from this time period was one of my ALPHA teachers, Ron Wilder.  He was creative and knew exactly how to motivate the kids, he could draw, he could play an instrument, he had high tech equipment in the classroom (laserdisc player), and above all he taught us how to dream and let our creativeness inspire each other despite the fact the other kids at school put us down for being different, for being nerdy.  ALPHA was a seed, and I thank my parents for making sure I was enrolled in these special classes. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

No Laughing Matter

In a previous post I mentioned that I laugh hysterically when I panic, so I thought I'd fill you in a little.  We all have quirky traits and this one I can't seem to control.  Luckily it doesn't happen often!  When it crossed my mind to write a post about it, 3 instances immediately popped in mind.  I'm in high school, hitching a ride home from a friend, and suddenly she loses control of her car.  We start swerving side to side, I wish I could remember why, but that's not important.  Anyway, my friend driving starts screaming, the guy sitting next to her starts screaming, and I burst out laughing.  It wasn't a funny ha-ha kind of laugh, it was hysterical, kind of like I had lost my mind.  Once she finally gained control of her car, she was mad at me for laughing... it was rude, bad timing, and kind of cruel.  What she didn't understand was I had no control over it; it's not something you see often.  The next time that popped in mind was when I used to bike to work during my UPS days.  I tended to bike quickly... I do everything quickly, walking, talking, etc.  Anyway, I was flying off the road to the sidewalk in front of our old apartment and swerved around the large container for recycled clothes.  I wasn't expecting anyone to be there, but sure enough there was an elderly couple in my path.  The woman squealed, her husband pulled her to safety, and I laughed hysterically.  They must have thought I was such a punk.  Being that I'm a little shy and I definitely embarrassed myself almost plowing her down, I did the only logical thing and took off.  How was I supposed to explain myself in Dutch (I barely spoke Dutch at the time) when my old friend in The States barely understood this strange thing I do.  And the third time that popped in mind my husband also got to experience.  Before I discovered how marvelous a grocery delivery service is, I used to walk about 10 minutes to the store, load up 1-2 huge bags of groceries, and lug them back home.  One day while walking home with a huge bag of groceries, I tripped in the middle of the road and fell down.  How in the world did I trip?  Maybe because I'm always in a hurry like I said, and when you mix that with the fact I'm a klutz it gets interesting at times.  Needless to say my groceries dumped out.  I was a bit stunned (who knows why), luckily a woman ran over to help me gather my things before I was hit by a car.  As soon as I was safe and walking again, I called my husband to tell him what happened.  As I tried to speak all I could do was laugh.  At this point I had experienced the hysterical laughter often enough I knew what was going on, even though I couldn't control it.  I tried to reassure him I was fine and that it actually wasn't funny but it must have been a strange phone call.  My husband's used to all of my quirky traits now, that's what over 10 yrs together will do.  I can't say he enjoys them all, but at least he knows what and who he's dealing with!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Green Thumb (#2)

Here's a follow-up to a post from last October, Green Thumb.  As you might have read in many posts, we are still stuck in an apartment that isn't selling thanks to the market.  I finally grew tired of waiting for a new house with a backyard to plant herbs and vegetables in and decided to get busy on our terrace.  It all started with one package of flower seeds my 2 year old received at school.  We had a warm spell of weather in March and I decided to give gardening a shot, we'll just call it a practice round for the yard we'll one day have. 

I dug out a few mismatched old pots from the shed and my daughter and I planted the seeds.  We waited and waited then seedlings started popping up; I don't know who was more excited me or my daughter.  Seeing it was enjoyable for both of us, I went in search of other plants.  With her help we planted bulbs of gladioli and again waited.  When the green began to peak through the soil we knew we were on a roll.  The flowers haven't bloomed yet, but their time will come, the whites and golds from the different flowers will liven up our terrace even more. 

Not wanting to stop there and wanting to encourage my daughter to eat vegetables we have gone on to plant tomatoes (my Dad grew tomatoes when I was a kid) and carrots, the seedlings sprouted this week!  And being a fan of basil and hearing that it's one of the easiest things to grow, we also planted a row in a large rectangular pot, we're still waiting to see any results.  Since my gardening skills are at a beginners level, I'm still trying to decide what's a weed and what is actually the plant I'm waiting on.  You think weeds would be obvious, oh I have a lot to learn!  Thanks to my father-in-laws awesome camera, I took a few shots to share with you all.  I'm still learning how to use the camera so the pictures aren't as focused as I would like (either that or my vision is off)!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Applying Makeup

Why is it that women have to make such strange faces in the mirror while applying makeup?  Many of the faces serve purposes, though.  Opening your eyes as wide as you can helps with putting on mascara, and something about that tends to make your mouth open.  Sucking your cheeks in helps the cheek bones to stand out while applying blush.  Widening and flattening your lips makes it easiest to slap the lipstick on.  Then there's the constant touch ups and blending.  My husband decided to take pictures of me getting ready to go out to eat with friends, and as I look at them I just chuckle.  I was going to visit close friends to eat in a dark restaurant not preparing for the paparazzi.  It must seem absurd to men, to watch us women put on our war paint.  My husband doesn't even like makeup and feels most women wear too much.  Luckily for him I only wear makeup while outside of the house (also another silly thing women do).
But these silly faces women make go beyond the mirrors of their bathrooms.  How many women have you seen driving/riding down the road making faces in the mirror of the sun visor?  And beyond mirrors, there are our reflections in windows.  Why can't we walk passed our reflection without looking and analyzing ourselves?  My husband says I make the same face every time I look at myself; there's actually a slang term for it these days, duckface (mine falls short because my lips are too thin).  We all know it, you suck your cheeks in and pucker your lips.  It's something I've inherited, my mother does it also.  And it's a face you see all over the internet too, from celebrity gossip sites to Facebook profile pics (that people have taken of themselves).  Why do we think it makes us look nicer, the men (and other women) are laughing at us?!  At least I wear less makeup now than I did as a teenager; those poor girls have no idea that while trying to make themselves look older they're basically painting a sign on their face that screams I'm a teenager!  We all have reasons for caking on makeup, mine is mostly to hide acne, but doesn't the makeup just make the acne worse, wow, where's the sense behind it?  Vanity... narcissism... think about it ladies.  Isn't a smile supposed to be the best accessory?

Saturday, May 19, 2012


Along with many other quirky traits of mine, I am fairly superstitious.  At times it can make life challenging interesting.  The other day on the way to the store I had to walk quite far out of the way just to avoid walking under a ladder.  I often find myself knocking on things three times (preferably wood).  I personally never dispose of mirrors, I leave it up to someone else just in case it breaks I can't have that hanging over my head.  Days like Friday the 13th I'd rather stay inside.  When I was taking driving lessons (and the exam) I wore two necklaces hoping the well wishes behind them (gifts from my husband & grandmother) would somehow protect me.  Opening an umbrella inside is strictly forbidden when I'm around.  Or that certain times require me to make a wish, like when I blow out candles, see a shooting star, or toast a drink.  You'd think with all this in mind I struggle to step outside, but somehow the neurotic things have become second nature. 
Of course I've given up a few over time.  I've grown used to black cats and stepping on cracks.  That an apple a day keeps the doctor away (I'm allergic to uncooked apple so it might have the reverse effect).  Finding a penny heads up brings good luck.  That if the first butterfly you see that year is white, it'll bring good luck all year (too bad because I saw white butterflies everywhere this year).  That crows are a negative sign or that four-leaf clovers even exist. 
And occasionally I have to let things slide, like this past week while visiting Disneyland Paris we stayed in room 1408.  Seriously, they put us in 1408!  For those of you questioning the significance, just watch the movie.  Besides all of the crazy superstitions that have been around for ages, Hollywood is creating just a few more for us, thanks!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Wordless Wednesday #1

What is WORDLESS WEDNESDAY?  According to Wikianswers : on Wednesdays all over the internet, bloggers post a photograph with no words to explain it on their blog. Hence the ‘wordless’ title. The idea is that the photo itself says so much that it doesn’t need any description.

If you're interested in seeing other bloggers Wordless Wednesday or participating, just click here.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Old Pics - Fishing

It's funny to look back at old pictures and see how some things change and some things never do.  When these shots were taken in the early 80's, fishing was a huge part of my life, I naturally took on my grandfather's hobby and he was happy to include me.  Whether I was out with him on the lakes surrounding town or practicing in my grandparents garage, fishing and boating were part of my childhood. 

What's changed... I can't bring myself to touch the worm much less kill it in order to bait the hook, I don't have a boat at my disposal, I don't own a fishing rod, my grandfather died in a boating accident, I don't play with dolls anymore (even though I did play with Barbies until I was a teen), I don't have bangs (I finally gave them up when I turned 20yrs old), someone else is making memories in my grandparents house, I moved countries, I'm not tan anymore (growing up in Florida you can't even help it), and my hair is a different color.

What hasn't changed... I still love water and boats, have a big imagination, live in jeans and cotton shirts, wear plastic shoes (gotta love Crocs), love to document life through pictures, want to pass on my childhood activities to my daughter (we've already started with photography and gardening), my love and close connection to my grandmother, the fond memories of my grandfather, my curiosity, and my pot belly!

Periodically I'm going to post old pics, and see what ideas flow through my fingers.

Monday, May 14, 2012


Oh, the web we weave!  I've been amazed at the network of bloggers I have found... one blog leads to the next, each blog different, each blog appealing in its own way.  There are the ones you follow, the ones you visit periodically, the ones that just lead you to a blog you might never have found on your own, and the ones that just suite other people.  Needless to say this woven web has led me to a "MeMe" post.  It's a game of sorts.  Someone tags you, you answer questions about yourself, and then you pass on a new set of questions (funny or serious).  It all started out with a visit to "Sara in Le Petit Village".  She had been tagged by the blog "Musings From The Big Pink" and he had tagged others.  One of which being "And I'll Raise You 5" and she decided to leave a few of her tags open, so I'm joining in the fun!  I hope you too enjoy the questions and join in.  Even if I haven't tagged you, you're more than welcome to participate.  Just reply back to this post with a link to your blog so I can see how the web of "MeMe" questions grows on! 

So that everyone is on the same page, here are THE RULES :

1) You must post the rules.
2) Answer the questions the tagger sent for you in the post, and then create 11 new questions to ask the people you've tagged.
3) Tag 11 bloggers, however, you can break the rules and tag fewer people if you want. Make sure you hyperlink their names/blogs.
4) Let them know you've tagged them!
5) Have fun!

Here are the 11 questions "And I'll Raise You 5" asked, QUESTIONS FOR ME :

1) What do you want to be when you (finally) grow up? 
I'm pretty content being a stay-at-home mom, but as I mentioned (repeatedly) I love writing, I guess my answer is, I'd like to be a published author.
2) What is the last thing you read that truly stirred you?
A petty argument in a newspaper between Christians and Atheists (I think they're both wrong this time) : http://www.theledger.com/article/20120318/NEWS/120319321 
3) What is the last thing that made you truly, righteously angry?
Ignorance really stirs me, so it would have to be a clip I saw on The Daily Show about Rick Santorum and his incorrect thoughts on euthanasia in the Netherlands : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YOuHExTy4is
4) What hung on the walls of your home when you were a child?
One of the oldest things I can remember was a picture of The Last Supper and in later years there was also a framed lace dress collar.
5) What's your pop culture guilty pleasure? Bad music, stupid TV show, cheesy movie...I'll start you off by admitting to being a Law and Order junky, with a particular fondness for SVU?
I watch Vampire Diaries and Pretty Little Liars, luckily one is airing when the other isn't, giving me something cheesy to watch all year (I seriously dislike the fact a lot of tv shows stop for the summer).
6) Can you explain Justin Bieber to me? Please? Cuz clearly I'm missing something.
I don't get it either, even though I have accidentally caught myself enjoying the beats of his music.  My husband and I have agreed we'd rather our nieces listen to someone closer to their own age than some of the other awful music geared toward kids/teenagers.
7) Where do you never want to travel to again, and why?
Milan, there was nothing about it that appealed to me, I wish we had chosen to visit a different city in Italy when we took a road trip a few years back.
8) Do you support your local public radio or television station? Wait. Before you answer that, remember that you can open up a new window in your browser, click over to your local station's website, donate, come back here, and then answer with pride and integrity?
No,  but I do enjoy the local newspaper.  Around here there are county stations, I don't listen/watch them, and I sure don't bother to fund them.
9) Where do all the socks go?
I'm still asking myself that.  Occasionally I do find my stray socks in my husbands sock drawer or tucked into the corner of a duvet cover, so they're here somewhere.
10) Wherefore art thou, Romeo?
I don't like how the Romeo & Juliet story played out, I can't compare it to my life in anyway.  But if you're asking who I love endlessly, it's my husband.
11) If you were to write a letter to your 30-years older or 30-years younger self, what advice would you give yourself?
I would tell my younger self to learn to be more sympathetic and not so judgemental, and I would ask my older self if it ever worked out?

Here are the 11 questions I'm passing on, QUESTIONS FOR YOU :
1) Do you know what cow-tipping is and have you ever done it?
2) How much money is in your pocket/purse right now?
3) Do you ever dance around your house?
4) Can you pat your belly and rub your head at the same time?
5) Have you ever tried to elope?
6) Do you sleep with your bedroom door open or shut?
7) How many tickets have you been issued in the last year?
8) When and how were you last pranked?
9) Have you ever been mentioned in the newspaper?
10) Do you sing out loud while driving?
11) Which do you prefer Coke or Pepsi?

Here are the bloggers asked to continue the game, BLOGGERS TAGGED :

Have fun everyone!!!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Chick Flick

I can't say I'm always in the mood for a chick flick, I usually prefer action or sci-fi, but over the past month I've managed to squeeze in a few.  Mostly because of the lack of decent movies available at the moment.  Last year the trailers for all of the 2012 movies looked great, I was ready to buy a discount pass for the theater because I expected to be there monthly.  But it's May and I can only remember going to one movie so far.  Maybe the American movies are taking their time making it over to Europe, maybe I missed the showings, all I know is I've had to fall back on chick flicks.  I'm not putting them down, I usually get a good laugh, maybe a tear, and I definitely draw inspiration for my stories from them, I just don't think they're always worth going to the theater for and my husband would rather eat vegetables than watch one. 

Extreme boredom led me to choose between No Strings Attached and Friends with Benefits (aren't they the same movie?).  Since Ashton Kutcher can quickly get annoying I went with Friends with Benefits (o.k. Justin Timberlake acting is also questionable, but Mila Kunis is good).  As usual the end - and most of it - was predictable, but it was still cute.  Would I say I recommend it, ummm, ummm, I guess, if you're looking to pass some time.  What do I remember about the movie, the flash mob, the scenes where I had to cover my daughter's eyes, and the dad with no pants.  You'll have to watch it if you want explanations.

Then there was The Vow.  I went to the theater for this one.  Only because it was Ladies Night; you get a free drink, a free snack, and a goodie bag (free - it's included in the jacked up price).  I expected tears, I even brought tissues, but nothing, just enough emotion to get the lump in your throat but not enough to make the tears flow.  I counted on tears, it's been a while since I cried at the theater.  Did the movie let me down?  A bit.  Would I recommend it, maybe.  The idea behind it was good, it's even loosely based on a true story, and it definitely makes you think about your own situation but still it didn't quite meet the bar.  One of the best scenes in the movie involved the mother, but the movie was supposed to be about the couple.

Last but not least, This Means War.  I had a very low expectation for this movie, Reese Witherspoon urks me a little, as well as Chris Pine.  But it turned out to be decent.  Maybe because it appealed to the action-romance side of me (most of the stories I write are action-romance).  Almost everything that happens in the movie could and would never happen in real-life, it reminded me of a lot of 80's movies but with a 2012 twist.  Everyone did a decent job and there was never a point I thought I'll pause it and most likely never turn it on again.  Is the ending predictable, yes.  Was Chelsea Handler a funny addition, yes.  Would I watch it again, probably.

Did I see trailers for upcoming chick flicks I plan to watch.?  Of course... they know how to target their audience.  Magic Mike, this one I plan to see at the theater with a group of friends.  Is there a storyline, who knows and who cares.  And there's also The Lucky One, there's a plot and decent actors/actresses.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Dollar Store

If you're an American from the South just the name Dollar Store probably puts a smile on your face.  Where else can you go that most everything in the store costs less than 10 dollars, some things even actually cost just a dollar.  (Well at least when I used to live in Florida, things might have changed in the last decade.)  I'm a frugal shopper and always looking for a good deal or even just random doodads.  And I have found two great bargain stores in Eindhoven (they are also located in other cities).  First, and foremost, there is Action
There are multiple Action's here in town but the mother load is on Insulindelaan.  Everything is cheap, maybe not the best quality but cheap.  When it comes to plastic baskets or coloring books does the price really matter as long as it serves it purpose.  And so what if the stain remover is in a different language, you already know how it works, you're just now spending half the money.  There are also decorations, you can spruce your house up inside and out by combining expensive items from another store with accents from the Action (thanks for the tip, you know who you are).  You can also prepare easily for a bbq (charcoal, cooler, table cloths, etc.), and they even sell snacks and drinks.  It's also a great store to pick up tanks tops and panties for my daughter while potty training, the Disney sets are only 3 euros.  I would prefer to shop at Action but I don't always have access to the car, so my plan B (accessible by foot - for me) is the Big Bazar
It has similar products but is a lot smaller.  These are definitely stores that you'll want to take your time in because the selection is always changing and you never know what you'll find.  You can find... party favors and decorations... painting supplies... gardening supplies... things for your animals ranging from toys to treats... toiletries (even face masks)... kitchen accessories... I could go on and on, you should just check them out yourself.  And before I end this post, I'll leave you with one more tip (for those of you living in the Netherlands).  Drop into Xenos some time, it costs more than the above bargain stores but they too have a unique selection as far as bargain stores go.  (I bought the mix for my brownies there.)
For those of you not living in the Netherlands pop by a bargain store some time.  Maybe many of you frequent them already, maybe you haven't been to one in years, maybe you turn your nose up at them, all I'm saying is give it a shot.  Why not save money where you can!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Queen's Day

Well, my favorite Dutch holiday has come and gone, Queen's Day (aka Koninginnedag).  And like so many times in the past it didn't let me down!  I wish I could post more photos from the day but I don't think my friends want their drunken faces plastered online, so all I can say is I'm glad we had a babysitter because I didn't make it past 7PM!!!  (I apologize to the bbq guests.)  I can give you a glimpse of what Queen's Day entails and a bit of what I saw. 

There are the markets, it's the only time you are allowed to sell items on the street without a license or paying/claiming taxes.  

There are the bands.  All over town there are stages setup where bands and dj's can perform.  Everywhere you turn there is music and dancing. 

There are hundreds of people dressed in orange (the national colors are red, white, & blue, but thanks to Willem van Oranje we get to don bright orange at most holidays/events.) 
There's the alcohol of course.  Oh, did we really need the vodka red bulls on top of the beer and champagne? 
And there's the food.  Luckily we didn't have to settle for a snack bar (aka friettent) because we had a bbq after enjoying the beautiful weather and events in the center of the city. 
We've celebrated Queen's Day in Amsterdam, Best, Eindhoven, & Utrecht each event was very different and each equally as fun.  And like most holidays the Dutch  make it a two day event, so if the day time events don't speak to you then there is always Queen's Day Night (April 29th).  By the way, happy birthday Mom, she always gets strange phone calls from where ever we have ended up on the 30th!