Our family is transition from Europe to the US, from military service to civilian life, from assigned housing to home ownership. In the midst of that, my heart and prayers are over our charity and the support for Vacation Bible School coming in 6 days. If you have any interest in the environment, Jesus or the church, please check us out. Source: Ready for VBS this year!
Category Archives: Living in Holland
My understanding is that the Dutch find displays of nationalism suspicious. This is quite understandable when one considers a very patriotic neighbor once promised on one day that they would leave The Netherlands alone based on their previous neutrality, and then same country invaded them the next day. So although Holland is well known for flowers, I doubt one would find an entire field carefully planted to represent their nation’s flag, especially considering that the Dutch flag is only allowed to be displayed on certain days and at well defined times.
The U.S. has a different take.
Floral Flag is 740 feet long and 390 feet wide and maintains the proper Flag dimensions as described in Executive Order #10834. This Flag is 6.65 acres and is the first Floral Flag to be planted with 5 pointed Stars comprised of White Larkspur. Each Star is 24 feet in diameter. Each Stripe is 30 feet wide. This Flag is estimated to contain more than 400,000 Larkspur plants with 4-5 flower stems each for a total of more than 2 million flowers. (Link)
Thus, to honor the 240th Flag Day of my home country, I present you with the image of the US flag, this over the top display–and I hope my tolerant Dutch friends will understand.
We’re actually cleaning things out of the house, but I couldn’t resist sharing the book mark I came across today. One side says KEY DUTCH PHRASES and includes such classics as “I didn’t see the sign,” and “I’d like to rent a bike” as well as “What happened?”
The kicker is number nine out of ten: Wil je met me mee naar huis?
Translation: Would you like to come home with me?
We discussed so many great reads. You brought books to my attention I might have never discovered otherwise. You read books I nominated. You forced me into genres I rarely explore where I discovered wonderful insights and perspectives. Our members were American, Australian, Dutch, British, Polish, Hungarian, Indian, Kazantzaki, German and more. Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Agnostic and Atheist. Liberal to conservative. And we gathered in delight to discuss what we enjoyed, what failed for us, what made us think. We shared wonderful moments focused on books, and yes, a bit of food as well, and life as we knew it. We went to each others’ homes. We laughed. We encouraged. And so much more. We were always welcome whether we read the whole book or any of it. We looked forward to each gathering and mourned those we could not attend.
Thank you. I will miss you all so very much. I am grateful we gathered around a shared love of reading.
Being Mortal by Atul Gawande (the best of all of them IMO)
Wild by Carol Strayed
Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson
Amsterdam: A History of the World’s Most Liberal City by Russell Shorto
The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming
The Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson
Five Days At Memorial by Sheri Fink
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas
Red Rising by Pierce Brown
Breaking Night: Homeless to Harvard by Liz Murray
Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Capetown by Paul Theroux
Becoming Nicole by Amy Ellis Nutt
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriaty
The Expatriates by Janice Y.K. Lee
Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen
The Secret River by Kate Grenville
Shakespeare by Bill Bryson
The Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi
The Circle by Dave Eggers
The House on Sugar Beach by Helene Cooper
Survive Little Buddy: Iron Curtain Memoirs by Irene Kucholick
The Twins by Tessa Loo
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
A Replacement Life by Boris Fishman
The Nest by Cynthia d’Aprix Sweeny
End of Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe
A Prayer for Own Meany by John Irving
The Last Man in the Tower by Aravind Adiga
I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron
Perla by Carolina De Robertis
A Man Called Ove by Frederik Bachman
Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil by Jean Sasson
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women by Geraldine Brooks
The Girl On the Train by Paula Hawkins
Bolter: Idina Sackville–the Woman Who Scandalized 1920s Society by Frances Osborne
Saree by Su Dharmapala
Days of Awe: A Novel by Lauren Fox
The Russian Debutante’s Daughter by Gary Shteyngart
Today I say “Happy Day” to my online friends who have no children to call their own. To my friends who have watched as other women receive a flower at church, perhaps a flower for each child, as many women will today. You have watched as I used to, year after year with ebbs and flows of longing as that symbol passed by. Happy Day to the ladies who could no longer bear it and choose to stay home away from the hoopla wherever it appears in our communities. My dear friend who calls her own mother to give a greeting she herself may never hear.
Today I celebrate my friends who chose a different path, who pour their mothering might into other mothers’ children at schools, at churches, at childcare facilities, through Big Sister programs. You give so much. I thank you.
Happy Day to my friend on the next round of IVF. Happy Day to my friends scraping, saving, and raising money for that adoption. Happy Day to my friends trying again.
How well I remember my first Mother’s Day flower. In only a few months we would bring our first two sons home from Ethiopia. Flat stomached and expecting, I accepted a long stemmed rose from a youth. A flower so heavy with pain from the past and hope for the future that I sank beneath the weight pressing down on my chest into my stomach. Tears flowed, a silent torrent of emotions, most unidentifiable. Overwhelmed.
Today I pray blessing and comfort for my friends who raised for a time, within or without, a child who is no longer here to give greetings. To my friend who raised her sons to adulthood and lost them both. To my cousin who mourns the baby come too early, who she never got to hold. To my friend who held her daughter for only a few hours before her precious child slipped away.
We say Happy Mother’s Day. I’ve said it already, heard it already this morning. My secret heart goes elsewhere, though, to be with you ladies who live the struggle and face each day, even this one, with courage, hope, and love. Today I say “Happy Day” with wishes and prayers for you. Let us never be far from each others’ understanding hearts.
P.S. Wrote this before church and another group of moms came and stayed on my mind, Happy Day to women and men who would love to say Happy Mothers Day one more time to their mom but can’t.
At church the time for roses came. All the children were called down front to help distribute those long stems…to every woman. “Mothers and spiritual mothers who mentor and encourage,” she said. Yes! And what would you expect from the sermon on Mothers Day? The preach, as it is called here, was about Singleness, what Jesus said about being single and the gift it can be as well as our role in supporting each other whatever our time of life. Love our church home and family here in The Hague. Will miss Redeemer International so much when we move.
With less than 60 days till our return to the US, I can wax sentimental on almost every aspect of our lives in Holland. Earlier this week the topic was our tiny transportation costs which makes me think about the family budget for the grocery.
Our four sons range in age from nine to 15 at the moment, so folks often comment on how big our grocery bill must be. I’ll be honest, we don’t eat as healthily as we might. Pasta, rice, and potatoes are the biggest plate portion of almost every meal at our house. When I’ve tried to serve vegetarian meals, the boys ask “Where’s the real food?”
For our family of six, an average of the last 3 months grocery budget comes to 299 euro a month ($325). That includes cleaning supplies and my regular extravagance at the Seafood Kiosk/Stand, but it does not include eating out.
Every trip to McDonald’s or call to Dominos is a splurge for our family of six even when we limit ourselves to the “cheap eats” menu or sales. The most recent three months of eating out included 40 euro at McDonalds, 111 euro at Dominos, 72 euro at KFC, and 144 euro at our favorite donner kabab place around the corner from our church. Add that up and you’ll see how expensive eating out is compared with eating at home (122 euro a month–yikes!).
Then consider the cost of school lunches at 38,50 for 10 meals. If we actually bought their lunches, it would be 77 euro a week for our four sons and probably more since the older students eat cafeteria style where their all natural “soda” costs two euro alone. A meal for 3,85 sounds pretty good until you do the math and see another 308 euro on the food budget. Double my food budget for 1 of 3 meals? No, thank you!
Big shout out and thanks every day to my husband who makes and packs up 5 lunches (his own included). We go through 4-5 loaves of bread a week, but I have to say those sandwiches won’t quite be the same without all those wonderful Dutch cheese slices. My kids think square yellow slices were made just for grilled cheese.
The optional items are really the ones that can blow our monthly budget for food, clothes, or entertainment. During spring break we vacationed at home working on cleaning out closets for everyone. We’ve been blessed with tons of fabulous hand-me-downs (Thank you Patrice, Sandy, and Toni especially!), but it was time to set a size cut-off (I know it’s your favorite, but it’s just too small now) and narrow down how many pounds of clothing is reasonable to ship. (Goodbye Thor, Batman, and Ninja costumes!)
Since we weren’t traveling and Dad was working, I decided to be extravagant with outings around home a bit. That meal at our local beach where the boys chose any lunch entree they wanted was 68 euro for burgers (huge 200 g burgers, but still). The day out for the movies (with one guest making us 6 again) was 46,60 at KFC, 52 euro for the 3D movie, and 12 for parking.
It will be interesting as we re-patriate and splurge on food we’ve missed to watch how our budget goes. I imagine the first 3 months will be out of wonk while we adjust and celebrate being home with family and old friends. Until then we will add to the budget with extra stops at the Dutch bakery, the cheese shop, the donor place, the fish shack, and…well, you get the idea.
In the small Dutch town of Hoogeloon, my thumb catches on a golden uniform rope as I slip my cold hand into the crook of my husband’s arm. The light breeze does not disturb the performance of the flag twirlers nor does it raise the British, Dutch and American flags at half mast to full furling. The occasion is Remembrance Day, and to refer to it as Dutch Memorial Day does an injustice.
In the US, Memorial Day has for most become a day off with a nod to those who gave their lives for our freedom. Not so in The Netherlands where two minutes of silence are marked across the land at 7:58 pm.
My husband and I march behind the wreath carriers and scouts holding high eternal-flame reminiscent torches. Two Dutchmen, one Brit and four Americans died during WWII in this little place with 2000 residents. Their photos sit in the church beside the wreaths during the first half of the remembrance service. My husband was invited to honor these men, to lay a wreath, to salute their memorial.
Acts and speakers are punctuated by music. With uniformed members from ages twelve to 70+ at attention, the community band plays the Dutch national song, and My Country Tis of Thee, then a hymn, and The Star Spangled Banner. Three high school students read about what remembrance and sacrifice means to them. The Mayor, bedecked in the silver collar of his office, speaks. The scouts fan out beside the memorial, and I notice one tilting his feet on edge. Feet unused to standing for so long a period. Feet, about 10 years old, learning what sacrifices were made for their freedom to rest while a boy plays video games. Feet unconcerned with hiding from invaders or being exceptionally quiet so as not to disturb oppressors.
The youngest participant marches his feet when the band plays, even though he is part of the drum corps, which is a separate unit dressed in blue with feather-plumed floppy round hats. Not until the end, when over 300 community members crowd forward to lay flowers at the monument, do I see other smaller children. I remembere my father lamenting the small turnout for a bygone Memorial Day ceremony by the courthouse in my small Kentucky hometown. Do the Dutch make too much of the day or we back home too little?
Do the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of these soldiers know how their family member is honored and thanked again and again by people grateful for young soldiers crossing oceans to fight?
We speak their names: Eddy Jones, William Williams, John Burke, Nick Pehote, Jacob Fraasse, Jan Goosens, Jan Balkduk. We speak to recognize their sacrifice, to acknowledge the pain and loss their families bore, to remember history should not be reduced to numbers but has a name. Names and faces taught to young Dutch children in small towns and large cities all around The Netherlands.
The Remembrance Day organizers thanked us, were grateful for the gift of our presence, but they gave us, our soldiers, and our country so much more.
Two minutes of silence, and then thousands of church bells peal.