Tuesday, July 31

Put It All Together

At my mother's 39th birthday party (billed as "her last birthday" on the invitations) our family hosted a gathering in the backyard of our home. Friends, family, neighbors, possibly even strangers congregated at our place for food and gab. In addition, as is wont to do in any family gathering if your surname is G-W-I-L-L-I-A-M, there was entertainment. I am certain some of it was good, possibly even great entertainment, but except for a single entry on the evening's stage, I cannot recall specifics. What I do remember with crystal clarity is my older brother, then 17 years old, who sang his own rendition of the M.O.T.H.E.R. song--long before made charming by young children's choruses the world over. He of course put a spin on it and began his serenade thusly,

M is for the Million things she gave me....
O is for the Other things she gave me....
T is for The things that she gave me....

He continued through the letters of the word in this hilariously repetitive pattern until reaching the capping point of the song.


Put them all together, they spell Mother....
And brother what A Mother she can be!"

At which point the audience of family, friends, neighbors and strangers erupted into voluminous laughter. There were some who had to wipe tears, others who were doubled over clutching their stomachs in fits of giggles. And yet, no one was laughing harder than my Mom. Her cheeks were flushed red and her eyes sparkled and danced while the laughs poured forth.

Brother, what a mother.


Indeed.


What a mother I have!


I know she will smile as she reads this post today. She might have even begun crying at this point, but just in case she hasn't I want to cite few things I appreciate deeply about my Mom. And I want to share some photos.

This is my Mom:


She is a lovely woman. I dare say, she has always been.

My mom loves her children--six of us along with our six spouses--deeply, passionately, and forever.

She especially loves that her children gave her grandchilren. Currently she boasts 19 of them. She loves each of them without bounds and without end.

She's been married to my Dad for 46 years.

They are still crazy about each other.

My mom is so many things. A loyal friend, a fierce advocate, a talented musician, a caring, kind and loving human being. At the core of my Mom is that same young mother throwing her head back in laughter at her son's birthday foolery. She loves people; she loves life and she taught me to do the same.

A few years have passed since that "last birthday" was celebrated and in fact, today, my mom is turning 65 years old. Certainly that calls for celebration! In spite of the fact that in three days time I get to throw my arms around her and wish her welcome to Holland, I want to shout as loudly as I can today and share with her my warmest wishes for a happy, happy birthday!

After all:

M is for the many things she gave me
O means only that she's growing old
T is for the tears she shed to save me
H is for her heart of purest gold
E is everything she did to help me
R is right and right she'll always be!

Put them all together they spell 'mother'. The word that means the world to me!*


I love you Mom. Happy Birthday.


*Written in 1915 by Howard Johnson



*****************************************************

Look deep in the glass
My own reflection stares back
With my mother's eyes**

Sunday, July 29

Image and Wonder

The danger in taking a day or two off from posting a something or two, is that then my brain literally bursts with ideas and I can't get in front of the thoughts fast enough to get them all down. Also my fingers tingle. Literally. As if they are longing, itching, needing to touch a keyboard, to strike letters and numbers. The pads cry out to pound keys. Let me write they say, let me write!

Desire or no, the reality of the clock rules my life lately. The demands of the day often get precendence over the preference of my tingling fingertips.

I am ignoring that reality now.

You'd better believe I am also ignoring that basket full of shirts which need ironing.

Last Friday as I was reading Leslie's blog, I came across her entry about a Haiku Writing Contest. I also came across her confession that she writes a Haiku every day to get her creative juices flowing. My first thought was, Huh, I don't really write Haiku. Following on Thought one's heels was Thought two: Hmm. It's been years since I've tried, I wonder if I can?

So I tried.

As I peeled back my eyelids on Sunday morning and could hear the rain falling pit-pat as drops struck my windows, my first Haiku was born.

Rain, rain, rain-rain-rain
Falling on the windowpane
I don't want more rain

And then, I tried again.

Sunday morning rain
Making tracks along the glass
Like tears on my cheeks

Then just for fits and giggles I kept writing.

I think so I am
But often I can't decide
Just what I do think
******
This Amsterdam train
Smells just a little like pee
And rank old man farts


And the truth is, now I can't STOP writing Haiku.The continual drumming of fingertips against my thigh as I count out cadence and syllables of every phrase that pops into my brain does not cease.

This Haiku challenge
Makes my brain churn with pictures
Must share them in words

The other truth is, I am not very good at it, but goodness it's fun to do.

Mmm. Ribs for dinner
Fingers are made for lickin'
Who needs a washcloth?

You may have gathered by now, I will be entering Leslie's contest, if only for the sheer fun of thinking in short full thoughts. Well, that, and she's giving away prizes.

Haiku Buckaroo!
I want to drink my coffee
from the winners mug

You should consider entering too. You should also expect a Haiku or two to show up in my every post between now and Friday, when the entrance deadline arrives. From here to there, I'll be saying my something in 5-7-5.

Sunshine peeks through clouds
Touches my head with sweet heat
Brings wamth to my heart

Saturday, July 28

Rosebud


CREATIVE

Friday, July 27

First Past the Post

The winner of the giveaway--hosted by Rocks In My Dryer--at this blog has been chosen!

Randomly generated by the Custom Random Number Generator* it has been determined that the chocolate goes to:

Jen of A2EATWRITE

And I couldn't be more pleased. Jen is a regular reader and commenter here and has quickly landed a place in my heart. Her writing is brilliant, her insights amazing. And? And, she wants to move to Holland someday. Could a bag full of Dutch chocolate go to someone more deserving?

Thanks to all who came by to play. It was a lot of fun to meet you!
Congratulations Jen. I'll be in touch for your details and your chocolate preferences. mmm-mmm...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

*It appears that there is a website for positively EVERYTHING!

15 Steps to Landing an Unplanned Job

1. When an email arrives in your inbox from the teacher who used to coordinate the after school activities program at your children's school, don't even finish reading it, but immediately
2. dash off an email of your own to the Headmaster telling him that you absolutely, positively must have that job.

3. When he returns a note saying that your proposal is interesting but probably not possible as the organization in control stichting will not likely give him permission to create a separate job position,
4. send a note back, telling him he can simply hire you for a position, any position, on staff and then give you this responsibility.

5. Be a little cheeky and also tell him he will not be sorry for entertaining such a notion.

6. Do all this in rapid fire succession so
7. when his response arrives by email asking you to come in for an informal chat,
8. only 10 minutes have passed on the clock.

9. Scratch your head and wonder aloud just what you are getting yourself into. Then click send on the message which reads,
10. I will be there.

11. Chat with the Head at the playground gate on Friday afternoon.

12. Attend a formal panel interview on Monday.

13. Accept the job offer on Tuesday.

14. Begin the new position as Primary School Administrative Assistant (read as: office lady!) on 27 August 2007.

15. Buy new shoes.*
*It's my understanding that office personnel don't wear flip flops

Friday Fifteen

Thursday, July 26

Standing On the Corner

On a rainy day, to make the journey to Andrew's speech therapist becomes, rather than a 15 minute bike ride, a two-bus journey. We catch the first just outside our street, ride it for two stops and then transfer to the second bus. It's not difficult and since Andrew enjoys cupping hands around his mouth and shouting "STOP BUS STOP!" as the big vehicle approaches, getting the the chance to call two buses in rapid succession is a heady bonus.

Tuesday morning, while Andrew and I waited for the second bus we chatted away about all the things he could see: cars passing on the road, the rain drops on the bench, the broken glass on the ground, the way the wind was bending the trees. Given that he is pretty irresistible when he is prattling away, a woman who had been waiting alongside and watching the exchange leaned forward and said to Andrew "Hallo!".

At which point he completely clammed up.

I quickly explained to her that Andrew doesn't speak much Dutch, and will hardly speak English to a stranger. She smiled and said she understood, and then as is inevitable when a Nederlander hears my accent, she asked, in English, about us. Were we on holiday or did we live here? Where were we from? The perfunctory get to know you questions rolled off her tongue and I answered in kind.

In that exchange I was struck once again by the permanence of a Dutch life. This woman, like most of the Dutch I know, was born here in The Hague, grew up here in The Hague, had raised her children here in The Hague, and will be living here in The Hague for the remainder of her days. Her life is not a rarity. I find this same story (change the location) again and again as I swap travelogues with my friends in the local culture.

It sits in strong juxtaposition to my own life, this staying put, and I am as fascinated by the idea as I am afraid of it. In truth, I simply cannot imagine it.

Even as a child, growing up in the Salt Lake City valley, I didn't have a single home. I had several. We moved often enough in those early years as our family grew, that I attended 4 different elementary schools. At my insistence upon reaching middle school age I stayed in the same school, but moved house an additional four times in those years before completing high school.

I suppose I was set up for the nomad life long before I was choosing it for myself, and I continued the forward momentum of relocation even after Don and I married. This time the nomadic spirit kept the two of us moving from Utah, to Nevada, to Arizona in pursuit of educational goals. Then from Arizona, to Texas, and back to Arizona in a single calendar year in pursuit of the ideal we're-done-with-school-now-what-do-we-do-with-the-rest-of-our-lives JOB.

When we found ourselves with 2 children and our first mortgaged house in Phoenix in 1998, I think we both cringed just a little over the idea that we might be settling down. For real.

Five years further down that road, we had been in Phoenix for a total of eight years, and in Arizona for a complete dozen. For all intents and purposes, we had settled in and established our lives there; we had indeed arrived at that grown up place. With Andrew's arrival, we were a family of five, living the happy suburban life in Phoenix. Good jobs, beautiful home, kids established in school, deep connections formed, lifetime job prospects confirmed, 2 cars in the garage. The bliss list is endless. We had done it, we were settled and content. And yet, itching to do something different. To change it up. To move.

Our path to here--life in The Netherlands--is a story in it's own right. A story which I intend to share soon. But the fact of the matter is, I know this is not the end destination for us. I have a deep seated urge to keep moving in my life. Literally and figuratively. In this way, as in many others I find myself more than a bit on the outside of the culture I am living within. Certainly though, I find myself in good company with the other "internationals" and expats here. In fact, my nomadic life pales in comparison to many others.

I don't know where we will be next, or when that will be, but I know--for me--there is more to see, more to experience, more to be than can be found in one place.

Thus, here I am, standing on the corner, and wondering what is just around the bend.

Wednesday, July 25

Garden Glory



Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, July 24

Yours for the Taking

**Drawing on Friday**
Comments close 27 July at 7:00 GMT +1

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I am joining forces with, oh, I don't know, about a million other bloggers at ROCKS IN MY DRYER in the Dog Days of Summer Giveaway. You don't have to be a blogger to play, all you need do is leave a comment on this post and you have a chance to win!

Ah, but what will you win? Something wonderful of course. Something lovely, and yummy and so very Dutch. Take a look:

If you are the lucky one whose name I draw, you will be munching on de lekkerste treats from Holland. Chocolate pastilles by Droste, milk chocolate bars (or dark if you prefer), mini Stroopwaffels, and a taste of a very typical Dutch breakfast/party treat: Hagelslag. Don't be afraid, it's little candy sprinkles.

But wait, there's more!

All of that yumminess will arrive with this cool little bag:


I don't know what you will use it for, but if I was keeping it, it would definitely be my bag of cuteness to carry around when I wanted to feel, well, cute and unencumbered. This bag would DEFINITELY NOT hold a diaper. I mean to say it would hold a diaper if you wanted to put a diaper in it, but I am so tired of carrying diapers inside every bag I own, I would just like to specify one bag as the NO DIAPER ZONE. Come to think on it, I would like to specify my life as a no diaper zone. It's time. I am over it.

I am also way off topic.

It's easy to play, just leave a comment (with or without sympathy for my eternal diaper changing future) and from the names here, I will draw a winner. If you are not a blogger, please also leave an email address in your comment so I can reach you if you win. I will ultimately need your address, so play only if you feel safe giving that to me.

For more players (and I am not kidding there are lots!) click here and have a blast hopping the blogosphere to enter drawings. Seriously, who doesn't want free stuff?

Monday, July 23

One Singular Sensation

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I got it back, and that can only mean one thing. I get to pay it forward again. This time it's going out to my adorable, amazing, incredible blogging friend,
Leslie.

I love her
. Really.

I sing her praises with loud and long operatic notes. And not just because she drew this picture and posted it on her blog:




But for lots of other reasons.

I fell in love with her witty writing right away. You will too. I dare you to go to her blog and not be completely swept away. She is lovely, and funny, and quirky, and honest and oh-so-many-other-things.

And now, of course, she is an award winner.

Congratulations Buck, you are one schmooze operator!

***********************************************************************

We were on the road again this weekend, and I will tell all and share some photos, just as soon as I have finished the new Harry Potter book (I am on page 410). In the meantime I leave you with (What? Another Andrew story?) this:

Tucked comfortably into a corner of the couch I am reading my book when Andrew approaches and requests "Can I watch CARS?"

"Certainly", I say, then close the cover on the magical adventure temporarily to help him find the DVD and prepare the player.

The trailer images appear on screen and I settle back to my reading. Looking up a few minutes later when I hear the tell-tale sounds of the main menu to Disney's CARS movie I watch my four-year-old slither off the couch and begin to move various objects (throw pillows, small toys, discarded pajama pants) from the chocolate brown rug in our living room. The music is booming repetitively from the television.

da na na-na nana, da na na-na nana! da na na-na nana, da na na-na nana!

I ask him "Okay, then. Is it time to push play?"

He snaps his head and catches my eyes in his, thrusts out his hand in classic STOP gesture and with all the power in his lungs shouts "NO! I NEED TO DANCE FIRST!"

At which point he proceeds to run the Indy Holland 500 around the living room rug, chanting "See me dancing Mama? I'm dancing!"

"Yep, baby. That's what they call cuttin' a rug"

He stops abruptly and says "Yeah. I gotta get a scissors."

Friday, July 20

15 Wind Whines

Who has seen the wind?
by Christina Georgina Rossetti

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling
The wind is passing thro'

Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads
The wind is passing by.

I will tell you who has seen the wind; Nederlanders have seen the wind! I have seen the wind. The wind won't leave me alone. It can be considered a constant companion here and you must trust me when I tell you, it is no gentle thing. While I have whined this whine before, today I bring it up again because I have been out in it all morning. And well, because I can--It's my blog and I'll whine if I want to.

I suggest you get your glasses ready as the whine is about to be poured.

1. The wind turns my umbrella inside out. I don't think I can even count the number of umbrellas we have lost to wind origami. On an extremely windy day it is not at all uncommon to see myriad broken umbrellas discarded on the street. I suppose it's a good thing a new one only sets you back a couple of euros.

2. It is insanely hard to cycle in the wind. It feels as if someone is weighing you down with cement in your shoes. No matter how hard you push the pedals the wheels hardly make forward progress.

3. That makes your quads extremely tired,
4. and your heart rate slides past "fat burning" straight into "soon to be a corpse" zone.
5. You start dripping with sweat,
6. and the moisturizer you applied drops straight into your eyes,
7. and burns.

8. I don't know how it's possible for the wind to blow from earth's four corners simultaneously, but it does.

9. No matter which direction I am riding, I could swear that I am biking straight into the wind.

10. Straight on is wind. Turn left: wind. Turn right: still wind.

11. It's like the wind knows where I am going and readies itself to make me work just that much harder to get there.

12. I have gone kilometers out of my way before, just to find the literal path of least resistance.

13. One of these days I am going to pull a quick U-turn away from the zephyr and thwart the evil design just to see if I can outrun it.

14. Of course, then I will be going in the wrong direction entirely.

15. But when has that ever stopped me?



Speaking of The Wind:


*************************************************************

And now, on a breezier note. The winners for Scribbit's write-away contest are mentioned on her blog today. I was thrilled to see I was awarded honorable mention for this piece. Thanks go to Allison for her encouragement to submit it. She's always watching my back, that one. In fact, you could say she's the wind beneath my wings.

Thursday, July 19

Inquiring Minds

Tagged by His Greatness--Sir Gunfighter--for 8 random facts about me, I will tell you that:

1. In truth, random describes me perfectly. There is hardly a thing about my personality or my life that is planned or systematic in any way. Other than:

2. My headaches, which come like clockwork with the release of certain substances and/or materials in my body. Too cryptic for you? I shall spell it out. I am a slave to my ovaries and my hormones. It's not pretty and it has been getting increasingly uglier and fiercer as I age. However, whether it is because of, or coincidentally to, the acupuncture treatments I am receiving, I am celebrating:

3. The random victory of being headache free this week, in spite of what the calendar shows. This week should have, would have, begun with a screaming-mimi of a migraine. And it didn't.

4. I believe in acupuncture.

5. I practice Reiki.

6. I love yoga.

7. I am not afraid of spiders but I abhor moths. I understand it's an irrational fear, but it is deeply rooted all the same. When I was a camp counselor, oh, about 1000 years ago, my campers found out about my distaste for the critters and filled my cabin with creative paper cutouts of the horrible hideous beasts as a prank. I was pleased to see that in each rendition, my 12-year-old charges had also penciled in vampire-like fangs at the mouth, as that is exactly how I envision and describe them. I have never been close enough to one to really inspect whether my theory is true and don't tell me I should, I won't. I am comfortable with my story that the fuzzy monstrosities also have fangs. I'm stickin' with it.

8. On a whim, I got a job this week. Yes, you read that correctly. I. am. going. back. to. work. FULL TIME. I will perhaps post in detail how an innocent email exchange with the Headmaster at the International School suddenly became a job interview. But that certainly sums up the randomness of my life. Four days ago I didn't have a job, and today I do.

Now, I'll be needing a nanny. Inquiries about the post can be made here.

**************************************************
Speaking of inquiries. It has come to my attention via some random email questions that perhaps there are parts of my story about our life here, that I haven't told yet. So, my question to you, dear friends and readers, is what do you want to know? Other than the back story of what brought our family from the USA to The Netherlands (this is the question which has come in a few times over the email), what are the burning questions in your mind about me? About us? About life in Holland?

Ask away, and I will post in coming days, until you know the rest of the story.

Wednesday, July 18

Tuesday, July 17

Thank You for Being a Friend

"Mom, mom, mom, mom. The goose. The goose are talking to me!"

"The geese are talking to you? What are they saying?"


"HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK!"

"Yeah? And what do you suppose that means?"


"uh... I don't know."

"Do you think they are saying thanks for the bread you're feeding them? Are they saying 'Thank y
ou, Andrew'?"

"uh... yeah. They are saying thank me Andrew, thank me for that bread!"


*****************************************************************

Thank You Mark!

Mark awarded me the Schmoozer. I am graciously accepting because, well, look at this cool button.
I am pleased and proud to hang it on my side bar, and I thank Mark over at The Green Fingered Photographer for sharing it with me.

This is what it's all about:
"Schmoozing is the natural ability “to converse casually, especially in order to gain an advantage or make a social connection.” Good schmoozers effortlessly weave their way in and out of the blogosphere, leaving friendly trails and smiles, happily making new friends along the way. They don’t limit their visits to only the rich and successful, but spend some time to say hello to new blogs as well. They are the ones who engage others in meaningful conversations, refusing to let it end at a mere hello - all the while fostering a sense of closeness and friendship"

And I now get to pass it along. I didn't see any 'rules' posted about it, so I am arbitrarily choosing to give it to six, no, seven *NOW NINE super schmoozy bloggers. In no particular order I share the love with:

Allison, over at Soccer Mom in Denial. In my mind, no one is more deserving. She was my first commenter and has been a loyal friend since the first moment she tripped upon my site.

Ken, who writes The Ambassador Returns. Baby, no one can schmooze like this man can!

Jen, author at A2EATWRITE. Friendly, kind, warm and wonderful. That's Jen.

Jami, from Not That Different. In a single word: Hilarious. In two words: Absolutely fabulous.

Fourier Analyst (I don't know if she's telling her real name so I shall keep it secret) Honest, funny, fresh, and gorgeous. That she is my offline friend too is my treasure.

Michelle, at Scribbit. Brilliant blogger. Great friend. AND? And I got to chat (as in SPEAK) with her via Skype* yesterday. Now, that was fun.

Ellen, who blogs from Belgium at Goofball's World. Always with a fun perspective and a friendly smile. She is a great presence in my blog neighborhood!

Happy Schmoozing friends!
*UPDATE~~UPDATE~~UPDATE

While I was sitting in the acupuncture hot seat this afternoon, it occurred to me that I had forgotten to add in two bloggers who really deserve this kind of nod. This, I suppose, is what comes from trying to rush through a post. After all, I can't hold all that much in my brain any all of the time.
The rest of the awardees are:

Brillig, at 'Twas Brillig. Schmoozer just may be her middle name.

Rebecca, writing from down under at Rebecca James. Sweetest human on the planet. And sharp wit to boot.

That's it for real now. Even though there are others, many others, lots of others, DOZENS of others who should be getting this award. But I have to stop somewhere. I will leave it to those on the list above to send this award winging it's way 'round the neighborhood.

*want my Skype id? just email me.

Monday, July 16

Rhythm is Gonna Get You

Music enters my body through my feet. And I am not talking about the toe tapping response to rhythm, or even the vibration of sound reverberating through the floor, but something more subtle than both.

Like energy.

Energy produced by musicians and laid down on tracks; strummed out on guitars; pounded out from pianos; belted out through voice boxes. Energy which starts at the tips of my toes and penetrates every cell of my skin as it traverses the gravity defying path upward, through my very veins and breaks into a pounding heart at the center of my chest. At the moment pulsation of arteries and energy of music combine there is an explosion of sorts and that music bursts outward in extreme electric shocks.

Vibrating through my trunk, down my arms, out my fingertips, and POW out the crown of my head.

That's when the dancing starts. It can't be helped, it is an ingrained, automated response, as natural to me as blinking or breathing.

Music, good music, does that. Music which is full of passion and meaning and passion and flair and passion. Music flies into my soul right through my feet.

Saturday, Don and I traveled to the neighboring city of Rotterdam to attend Night 2 of The North Sea Jazz Festival. A three-day affair hosted at the large Ahoy. convention center in the city, it was an incredible celebration of music. The place is ginormous (I can use this word because I just learned it has been admitted into the dictionary) and boasts several stages--count 'em, 15--for performers. There is action in every corner and down every corridor. In spite of the large crowds, which is never my favorite thing, it was an absolute thrill to be there.

My toes tingled.

We began our concert tour Saturday with a 14-year old jazz singer named Kim Hoorweg. Working our way through stages and rooms we caught the tail end of the show by Steely Dan (yes, Steely Dan!), and introduced our ears to several new-to-us artists throughout the night--Joe Bonamassa, Curtis Steigers, New Generation Big Band. For the midnight show we parked ourselves in the crowd aching to hear from Jason Mraz at one of the outdoor stages. Though he has fame and reputation in the US, he is not, as yet, well known in The Netherlands.The crowd was large, but not crushing and we staked a place quite close to the stage so we could enjoy his performance.

(It would have been THE PERFECT place were it not for one REALLY OBNOXIOUS American tourist who continually insisted upon explaining lyrics to her Dutch boyfriend and without tolerance or understanding for the culture she was visiting made herself look a fool over and over again. I will save that rant perhaps, but just suffice to say I was deeply annoyed by my fellow countrywoman.)

Jason Mraz is a completely engaging performer with unbelievable talent dripping out his fingertips and through his vocal chords. I was mesmerized and completely taken in.

Before I share a little clip of my *new* boyfriend, I just want to mention that this extravagant music festival happens every year, and I am just wondering, which of you I can count on for company at next year's venue?

I promise, your toes will tingle.


Sunday, July 15

I'd Like to Ask You A Question

I had intentions of posting about something else entirely today, but I have a house full of sickness this weekend. (Okay, it's just one kid, but it's the biggest one, so it feels like A LOT)

This however, is a fitting end to the week's posts about Austria, for this reason. Along the route home, driving toward Holland through the hills of Germany, this song played several times on the radio. I had not heard it, nor of it, before this trip. I will tell you straight up, I think it beautiful as it captures so much, so perfectly. But I am wondering if it gets any sort of radio play in the U.S. or elsewhere. Weigh in please, and tell me what you think. How do you feel?

I give you: Dear Mr. President, by Pink. Lyrics below.



Dear Mr. President,
Come take a walk with me.
Let's pretend we're just two people and
You're not better than me.
I'd like to ask you some questions if we can speak honestly.
What do you feel when you see all the homeless on the street?
Who do you pray for at night before you go to sleep?
What do you feel when you look in the mirror?
Are you proud?
How do you sleep while the rest of us cry?
How do you dream when a mother has no chance to say goodbye?
How do you walk with your head held high?
Can you even look me in the eye
And tell me why?
Dear Mr. President,
Were you a lonely boy?
Are you a lonely boy?
Are you a lonely boy?
How can you say
No child is left behind?
We're not dumb and we're not blind.
They're all sitting in your cells
While you pave the road to hell.
What kind of father would take his own daughter's rights away?
And what kind of father might hate his own daughter if she were gay?
I can only imagine what the first lady has to say
You've come a long way from whiskey and cocaine.
How do you sleep while the rest of us cry?
How do you dream when a mother has no chance to say goodbye?
How do you walk with your head held high?
Can you even look me in the eye?
Let me tell you 'bout hard work
Minimum wage with a baby on the way
Let me tell you 'bout hard work
Rebuilding your house after the bombs took them away
Let me tell you 'bout hard work
Building a bed out of a cardboard box
Let me tell you 'bout hard work
Hard work
Hard work
You don't know nothing 'bout hard work
Hard work
Hard work
Oh, How do you sleep at night?
How do you walk with your head held high?
Dear Mr. President,
You'd never take a walk with me.
Would you?

Saturday, July 14

Friday, July 13

15 Florian Faves

And so the travelogue continues.

Saturday, 7 July 2007, we drove to the village of St. Florian. My friend Sonja tells me that St. Florian is not actually a proper village, but is smaller than a village. If we were fluent in German there would be an actual word for the-village-that-is-smaller-than-a-village. But in English--at least to my knowledge--there is no such word.

St. Florian is a monastery and music center, housing the St. Florian Boys Choir. While not as famous to the outside world as those young 'uns from Vienna, the boys of St. Florian enjoy a fame in Austria and a reputation of great skill and tremendous talent.

The grounds are stunning. The cathedral awe inspiring.

Being that it was 7-7-07 there were plenty of bride and groom pairs running around the property having chosen this day of luck to tie the knot.

My favorite moment of the morning was the Viennese tourist who asked if I would please take his photo on the grounds. I agreed of course, happy to comply, and to my surprise he didn't want any of the gorgeous landscape or the historical architecture in the background of his portrait, but chose instead a plain, green bush to pose in front of. Go figure.

For those of you who are fascinated by facts (like me), here are a few about the cathedral of St. Florian:
  • The imposing Baroque structure was built between 1686 and 1750.

  • Carlo A. Carlone, Jakob Prandtauer, and Gotthard Hayberger: builders.

  • The monastery church houses the world famous Bruckner Organ.

  • Anton Bruckner "God's Composer" is buried in a crypt below the organ.

  • The monastery is built above the legendary grave of the martyr St. Florian, who died in 304 A.D.

  • The monastery boasts "The Marble Hall" and sixteen Emperor's rooms, especially furnished for the members of the imperial family. All are open for tourists.

Further, I give you my favorite 15 photos of the monastery grounds and the church.






And because I can't resist, a bonus shot of some village (which is smaller than a village) children in classic national costume. Dirndl and lederhosen, naturally.


Friday Fifteen

Thursday, July 12

Passage of Time

In general, the inkling that the weekend ahead is bound to be pleasant is confirmed when you set your luggage down in your room and there are chocolates adorning your pillow.

And when your morning breakfast, presented after waking at your leisure, is filled with traditional Austrian delights, including homemade elderberry jelly, you can be assured that this getaway weekend was indeed a good idea.

In my opinion the best way to see any country—villages, cities, towns and tourist spots—is through the eyes of a native of the land. The insight and the information regarding local culture and custom are priceless. As is the chance to spend some bonding time with a friend.

Sonja met me at the train station in Linz late on Thursday evening, and as we drove to the city toward her village, I could not help but loudly exclaim “Wow, what a beautiful country!” It is a visual splendor to see the farms and the barns stretching on through the hills: Barley, Wheat, Hops, and Cornfields decorate the land, far as the eye can see in every direction. As she steered the car down narrow snaking roads over the hills toward her home, I grinned, then giggled, and grinned some more.

The next three days that grin didn’t fade in the least.

I spent my first night in Linz chatting long into the night with my friend, then retiring to my perfect guest room, and slept soundly and long.

Friday we toured the city of Linz, spending the day just the way I love to spend time anywhere, wandering along streets, camera in hand.

Friday evening we dined at a local restaurant in the countryside, along with part of Sonja’s family (a brother, a sister-in-law, a niece, and her friend).

My beauiful friend Sonja and her darling niece.

That is where the table full of Austrian teases got their giggles on teaching me German (specifically Austrian) words, and getting a right guffaw out of my murderous attempts to pronounce words with the “Pf” diagraph.

However, I did master the word “Brettljause” (bray-tle-YOW-zah) which is a plate filled with thinly sliced meats, sausage, bacon, shaved radish, red pepper, onion, potato spread, hardboiled egg and a pickle. The tray of meats is served with a hearty brown bread in slices. You then pile the farmers bread with the plate’s contents as pleases you and gobble it down. Since I could say it, everyone agreed that I should order it for dinner. So I did.

And I drank this:

A drink made from Pears, called Most. It was most delicious.

The dinner ended with a shot of apricot schnapps, which my dinner company assured me was the traditional way to top a Brettljause dinner. I think partly they were hoping that this raucous American would get up and do some tap dancing on the wooden tables. Alas, it wasn’t THAT much schnapps. I must admit, I did join in on the tongue tricks demonstration (I can touch my tongue to my nose) and I did do my share of loud open-mouth–head-thrown-back laughing. That wasn’t the schnapps, or the most either. That was pure joy over keeping company with new friends.

What way to spend a day.



Wednesday, July 11

Tuesday, July 10

Pulling Through

On the train from Vienna to Linz:

"Oh, hello! uh... can I give you help with you bags... or something?"

"Ah, no, I'm fine. But thanks."

"Okay."

"You go to Linz?"

"Yes. I am going to meet a friend there for the weekend. It's my first time to visit Austria."

"Uh, yes. I go... we go to Linz too. I go there once before last year and again now for music festival."

"Oh, cool."

"Uh, yes. I am... do you know hip-hop? Break dance?"

"Sure."

"Yes. I am break dance. No no, I am beat box!"

"You're a rapper?"

"Yes, yes. Rapper. I come out Serbia. We travel all day to come Linz for music festival."

"Hey, that's pretty cool. My son would think that was great. I don't know so much about rap myself"

"Uh, yes. You come from where?"

"Well, today Holland which is where I live right now, but originally from the United States."

"Yes, America. I think you American."

"Yup. American."

"I love New York."

"Yeah? Me too actually. It's a great city. Always alive."

"Yes, everything on all night at New York."

"um-hmmm."

"Uh, yes. I love America. America has Snoop Dog, and 50 Cent. And yes, Tupac."

*grins--he, wildly. Me, sheepishly.

"Uh.... yeah. I guess we do."

*hands to heart

"I see 50 Cent before, so good, so good. I love Snoop Dogg. He so... ah! I love Snoop Dogg. And Tupac too. Yes! Tupac!"

"Okay, yeah, well.... er... ummm.... yeah. So you're from Serbia?"


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Note One: Yes, I changed the subject! Because though I can muster enthusiasm for all kinds of things, such as monocolor painting masterpieces by a three-year old, hairstyling wonders at the hands of a seven-year old, and even video game tales of a ten-year old, I cannot, will not feign enthusiasm about rap: gangsta, or otherwise. Not even for a foreigner, who was cute as a button with a grin to beat the band!

Note Two: He was very cute.

Note Three: However, I won't say more than that out of deference to Brillig's hubby who is already quite positive that the standard for drooling doesn't lean his way. Though he is welcome to weigh in here anytime with his votes on whether the cheese guy or the beat box kid from Serbia is Hot. This all inclusive salivating policy is open to everyone, I welcome all to my drooling club.

Note Four: I would have pictures with this post except for the fact that the sun is out in full force this afternoon in Holland and I am blogging in the garden. (The photos are all inside on my computer) Though it's a real hardship to have to sit here in the sunshine to write, I am willing to do it for you my dear friends and readers. Because, well, I'm a giver.

Note Five: Someday soon, Scribbit and I are going to design a cool shade cover for a laptop so we can get our blog on in the sun without a glare on the screen. That's going to be wicked awesome, right Allison?

Monday, July 9

Exodus


I awoke feeling anxious. Free-floating worries which previously resided independent of one another had joined to form small knots of anxiety. I couldn't qualify it as a rock in my stomach, rather it felt more like a dozen pebbles sitting fast in the pit of my belly. Something akin to polished marbles in a leather pouch with a drawstring closure, the worries click-clacked against each other. Agitating. Stirring. Click-click-clacking. Creating a general feeling of unrest.
  • Would Andrew survive the day under my friend's care awaiting Don's 6:00 p.m. retrieval after work?
  • Would my friend survive Andrew, his singing-frog-itis and his high energy for the day?
  • Would she be my friend after that experience?
  • Could Don survive the weekend of single parenting for three?

This particular marble--worth double points--carried double anxiety. The nagging second question following the first,

  • Would he survive it so beautifully and so easily as to wonder what it is exactly I get on about in my daily whining?

click-clack-clickety

The list seemed endless.

  • Could I do this by myself? My bags packed, my tickets purchased, my travel instructions in hand. But always when we travel together, I chiefly rely on Don to navigate tube stations, decipher routes, and fuss with ticket agents. Am I capable of handling the inherent challenges of travel?

click-click-click

And a yet unnamed anxiety settled deep in the pit of my stomach.

clickety-clack-clack

I suppose it would be easy to chalk the entire thing up to hormonal surge, and that wouldn't be entirely without street credibility. However, the gut level truth of it was I was frightened. Just like my seven-year-old self waiting in the wings for my first solo on the big stage. What if I trip? What if I fall? What if I'm no good at this? What if? What if? What if?

With apprehension I approached my husband and confided my fears. I confessed to the child in me feeling afraid. He consoled. He counseled. And as he most often does, he left it to me to decide whether I would be walking out the front door to claim my weekend alone. I knew his support would be mine regardless of the decision I made.

I also knew with a certainty that I had to do it. Had to.

With the zero hour of departure eminent, I gathered my courage, hoisted my bag and my camera over my right shoulder and marched out the door with my pre-schooler in tow. My shoes made a resounding slap-slap on the sidewalk. My heart beat loudly, but resolutely.

click-clack-click

As we walked to the tram stop, my inner dialogue was not so much 'I think I can, I think I can' as the little blue engine might chug, but more an 'I must, I must, I must'.

clickety-click-click

While Andrew and I rode the tram across town, I examined each of the worry clusters individually, running my own one-sided conversation--a self-talk lecture, if you will--inside my head.

  • Of course Andrew would be fine.
  • As would my friend who had agreed to take him for Thursday afternoon and the whole of Friday.
  • Obviously, we would still be friends upon the conclusion of the exchange.
  • Naturally, Don would manage. And even if it did go swimmingly without a bicker, a bark, or a blow-up, I know he appreciates the job I do daily. Further, he does not begrudge me the whining. He never has.

We arrived at my friend's home where I deposited Andrew, his Lightning McQueen backpack, and instructions for his care. Specifically, tips on how to feed a boy whose food vocabulary is woefully inadequate. Andrew had immediately galloped off to play with best friend, Harry, and barely acquiesced the perfunctory kiss goodbye.

click-clickety-clack

After that, I stepped onto the bus which would take me to the Central Station, and with the worry marbles whirring, inadvertently told the driver "Naar Schipol" (to the Airport) which exposed my innermost thoughts that I just may double back if he didn't quickly get me to my airplane. It was a lucky light moment and as the driver handed me my stamped ticket, he jovially pointed out my mistake and we laughed together. At that moment, I caught my reflection in the mirror and realized that in cracking a smile, I was cracking through this anxious mess my gut was in.

Once at Central Station I boarded the train and contemplated the other contents in this sack of marbles.

click-click-click-click. I must. I must. I must.

This was the rhythm I was reduced to as the train whoosh-shushed along the tracks toward Amsterdam. Somewhere along that line, I dug deep to examine the most nagging worry of all. I named that last great worry, suddenly fully conscious that the last time I had attempted a weekend without the children was the very moment I lost someone very dear. At the moment of realization, this very glimpse into my psyche, I sucked in my breath and heaved an open audible sigh.

  • 'Grandpa isn't going to die again'. I told myself 'You are going to be okay'.

The remainder of the train trip, I allowed the tears to flow, the worries to wash away. The big one carrying the small ones in tandem until most had flushed clear. When I arrived at the airport I felt put together from the inside out. I was breathing in a normal cadence, and smiling with genuine enthusiasm.

The last worry about my personal potential to travel alone was already resolving itself as I stepped through the security gates, navigated hallways and boarded the plane.

  • Indeed I could do this, and what's more, I wanted to do this.

When I disembarked in Vienna and my feet hit Austrian ground, the only click-clicking left was the quick stepping tap-tap-tap of Italian made shoes on posh Viennese women. This offered a fresh counter rhythm to the comfortable slap-thuk slap-thuk of my own flip-flops as I strode through the corridors of the airport heading for the subway, to the train, to my destination.

I was well on my way and I was going to be just fine.


*Upon encouragement from Soccer Mom, I am submitting this piece to Scribbit for the August Write-Away contest.