Archive for April, 2009

Kasteel de Haar

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009 by janice

Benji drove down from Ede to pick me and Arij up and then we traveled to Kasteel de Haar. We met up with Joram and his girlfriend Maaike and went for a very nice tour. The grounds were the site of a medieval castle that fell into ruins when the family that owned the land left for the southern Netherlands (present-day Belgium) after the ascendancy of the Protestant faith. It was later rebuilt by the Baron Etienne van Zuylen van Nijevelt in the late 1800s. The castle as it stands now was designed and the project overseen by the same architect of the Rijksmuesum in Amsterdam, Petrus Cuypers.

As befits a the nobility, not expense was spared or inconvenience allowed. The baron bought out the farmers living on the land surrounding the castle so that he could have a appropriate grounds, demolishing the village with the exception of the church, which Cuypers felt fit with the feel of the castle. They brought in fully grown trees from around Netherlands to fill the park because the Baron did not want the grounds to seem too new. The castle had hot and cold running water and electric lights – the Baron was so proud of the later fact that all of the light bulbs are visible to show them off properly.

The tour was in Dutch but they gave me an English translation of the tour guide’s spiel and there were little signs around in English as well as Dutch – I was able to catch some of what he said but mostly because I had already read it and could get the context with a few words. Benji and Maaike also helped fill me in on things that weren’t in the literature. Lead to funny moments because Joram would try to come tell me a story and I would have to say I already heard that. Finally Joram joked “What am I good for?” (Bit of an inside family in-joke – Joram is the official family tour guide as he is well-traveled, studies history and retains facts about places and things like you wouldn’t believe. So normally he would be the one giving all the details on any given excursion. Don’t worry, Joram, you’re still the resident expert!)

It is a stunning place but is currently under renovations due to the settling of the land and the consequent cracks in the foundation and walls of the castle. Pics only allowed outside of course but here are a few:

Main entrance to the ground

Main entrance to the ground

De Haar Castle

De Haar Castle

Swim anyone?

Swim anyone?

It even has a moat and draw-bridge

It even has a moat and draw-bridge

View from the bridge between the castle and the church

View from the bridge between the castle and the church

Ben, Joram, Arij and Maaike

Ben, Joram, Arij and Maaike

These are full grown domestic deer, residents of the castle grounds

These are full grown domestic deer, residents of the castle grounds

All castle grounds must have a lake of course

All castle grounds must have a lake of course

Ben and me

Ben and me

Joram and me

Joram and me

View of the castle across the lake

View of the castle across the lake

Anyway, had a nice evening with Oma and the rest of the family in residence in Goudswaard. Fried rice (lekker!) and chocolate and berry muffins for desert.

A quiet day tomorrow just relaxing with Oma and the rest. Jim and Ingrid will come in the evening to wish me farewell. Torn between wanting to stay another two weeks and wanting to go home but I really have done what I came to do.

See many of you very soon.

Much love and blessings,

Janice

Share

Another Day

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009 by janice

So today Uncle Jim and I went to the Keukenhof – a botanical garden – together. I was torn about going because of course I want to spend time with Oma and though she was a bit better today, there was no way she had the strength to go. She is often short of breath and is more comfortable sitting up. She dozes a lot and is experiencing quite a bit of confusion. All expected signs but no less disturbing and hard to see.

I find it somewhat hard to really express the depth of my sorrow, both for myself and for my family. It has been precious time. A few more days left and I am finding it hard to think of going although I also long to be home with my beloved and the rest of my chosen family.

I was glad we went anyway though, because it is a lovely place and it was nice to have some bonding time with my Uncle Jim. Like the rest of the family, he is a really bright guy and has a wicked sense of humor and I really need to write him more often. (But isn’t that the case with all of my family? ) There are simply not enough hours in the day, I tell ya.

Poor Uncle Jim ran himself a bit ragged today because of the traffic around Eindhoven and I cannot begin to say how thankful I am that he would put up with all that just to pick me up and then drive some more! We walked around almost all of the gardens and exhibits, including the New York area. Funny to travel all the way to the Netherlands just to go to the Bronx!

netherlands-trip-8-1071

We walked on water:

netherlands-trip-8-1561 netherlands-trip-8-158

And climbed up a windmill:

netherlands-trip-8-057

netherlands-trip-8-058

And of course saw a wonderful array of lovely flowers:

dsc_1098

Yes, it is an orchid. No, it apparently does not eat bugs.

Yes, it is an orchid. No, it apparently does not eat bugs.

netherlands-trip-8-116

netherlands-trip-8-017

dsc_1100

No kidding!

No kidding!

Got home kinda late due to traffic on the way home too. Rush hour in the Netherlands! But Joyce, Arij and Oma had just sat down to eat so our timing was perfect. After a very nice meal of leftovers from yesterday’s dinner, we spent some time looking at the pictures of the day. We sat and chatted for a while as well. Then Uncle Jim hit the road and I sat up for a time with Oma and Joyce.

Tomorrow, Ben and Joram are taking me to a castle to do some more sight-seeing. Should be really nice weather tomorrow – very warm for the time of year in Netherlands. Looking forward to it.

Many blessings to all and sundry,

Janice

Share

Family Days

Monday, April 13th, 2009 by janice

Saturday turned out to be quiet for me and Oma. We talked when she was awake and I read or played on the computer when she slept. I also made dinner for Joyce and Arij and Oma and me as they were working at the old house again and it is quite tiring. There is a lot of work to do on a house that has been lived in continuously for 50+ years. I understand Thomas got to use a Scouting skill and cut down one of the old trees in Oma’s garden. Anyway, by the end of the day they were not quite finished but very close. But emotionally and physically they were all pretty worn. So it was nice for me to be able to do something to help. Just hamburgers and fries and some corn but a bit of American flavor for their evening. Seems to have been well-received.

Sunday was Easter but Oma was not feeling up to going to church so we all ended up staying home. Then we drove to Eindhoven where my Uncle Jim and Aunt Ingrid live. Their two sons, Thomas (named for Opa) and Maarten, were also there with their respective girlfriends. Ben and Sandra also came a little later in the evening (just in time for food actually!) Thomas did the honors for the satay – babi and kambing – beef and goatsmeat. Goat is not actually common in Holland but is popular in Indonesia. Fortunately, there is a Muslim butcher near Jim’s so they are able to get it. (I’m not a fan btw.) Jim, Ingrid and Joyce did the rest of the cooking. A really nice Indonesian meal. We sat outside in the unseasonably warm (well, for the Netherlands) and talked. Got quizzed a lot about California and encouraged to move to the Netherlands where there are no earthquakes and wild fires. πŸ˜‰

After dinner we got everyone around for a nice family photos session.

From top left, Maarten's girlfriend, Maarten, Jim, Arij, Petra, Thomas - second row Sandra, me, Oma, Joyce and Aunt Ingrid. Front row Sam and Snooker. ;-)

From top left, Maarten's girlfriend, Maarten, Jim, Arij, Petra, Thomas - second row Sandra, me, Oma, Joyce and Aunt Ingrid. Front row Sam and Snooker. πŸ˜‰

When it got too cold we moved back indoors and chatted until it got late and we headed back home to Goudswaard.

Unfortunately the day was probably a bit too much excitement for Oma. She had a very bad night, getting up several times with trouble breathing. Joyce came upstairs to let Ben and Sandra (who had stayed the night) and me know what was going on and that we would be curtailing events for the day. We had a very quiet brunch while Oma slept. It was a very somber morning. Everyone was feeling sad and I think just about everyone there had a bit of a crying session. I know I did. It’s very hard. She is a strong and wonderful woman and the depth of the love of her children and grandchildren for her as her days are waning is a testament that. But it is heartbreaking nonetheless.

Ben, Sandra, Sharon and I decided to take a bit of a drive to Willemstad, a fortified city not far from Gousdwaard. It is a lovely placing dating back to the 1500s, built on orders from William of Orange and finished by his son Prince Maurits. Much of the city is still intact although the gates are gone as well as the barracks. It is an officially protect Dutch historical site and as such is well-visited. On this sunny holiday, it was quite busy. We started with a walk along the walls.

netherlands-trip-6-006

Sharon, Ben and me behind D'Orangemolen (Willaim of Orange windmill)

Sharon, Ben and me behind D'Orangemolen (Willaim of Orange windmill)

Me and my cannon

Me and my cannon

The city was built in a star pattern with ramparts at each of the points. There are seven in all named for the seven provinces that at the time of the city’s founding made up the Republic of the Netherlands. There are also bunkers that where built by the Germans.Β  There are also sheep. (Note the undocked tails.)

netherlands-trip-6-034

AfterΒ  our walk around the perimeter of the city,Β  we ducked into the Mauritshuis museum just in time to get a couple of minutes at the gift shop. Tried to see the church but it is apparently only open to visitors on Saturdays. Strolled down one of the main streets trying to find a place to have a drink but of course all the tables in the sun were taken. Settled on one that was not in the sun and ordered hot drinks but the wind was very cold so we didn’t linger.

Headed back to the house and Oma was doing a bit better. Joram and his new girlfriend had arrived by then as well as Ezra, Marijke and the kids. Oma was sitting up and talking with everyone which was nice. We had a subdued but very warm family dinner. Joyce had cooked up a storm (more Indonesian FTW!) and we all enjoyed that. We called Paul as well so he got a chance to talk with Oma a little (though her hearing is not good so it’s hard to talk to her on the phone) and Joyce and the cousins as well, which was nice for him. He’s sad not to be able to come but I must say I am proud that he takes his responsibilites at work so seriously.Β  Between chatting and showing off pictures – and off course Auntie Janice’s obligatory service as Ester’s walker – the evening passed quite nicely.

So, again, to my family who is so wonderful – I try to tell you all in person but for the record, thank you so much for providing such wonderful hospitality, for bending over backwards to give me time with Oma and to share time with all of you. It is a very precious blessing to be with you, my family, who gives so much love even when we see each other so little. And I know Darren thanks you as well for taking such kind and good care of me.

And of course, my deep gratitude to my dearest Darren for also letting this be possible. I love you, deeply, madly and more! πŸ˜‰

Well, it is late and I should add some pics and get some sleep. Om Jim comes tomorrow and we will see how Oma is doing.

Many blessings and much love to all.

Petra and Thomas giving Oma flowers.

Petra and Thomas giving Oma flowers.

Still-life with Easter eggs and Tulips

Still-life with Easter eggs and Tulips

Oma and me

Oma and me

Ben and Sandra

Ben and Sandra

I love this pic of Sharon

I love this pic of Sharon

Share

Quiet Days

Friday, April 10th, 2009 by janice

Not much to report in the last couple of days. Oma has been quite tired though and sleeps a lot. But she is always quite happy to talk when she is awake and there is not a lot of other stuff going on.

Yesterday we had both of the children of my cousin Ezra here. Michael is four and Esther is just over a year old. Michael is a little talker and chattered away about his cars and showed me what they each did. He really loves his little sister too, which is nice to see. Reminds me of how Paul and I were when we were that small. What happened there, huh? πŸ˜‰

Today we just had Ester. I think I have made a permanent friend in there. She is not quite able to walk and since her Oma and Opa do not have a walker there, one has to take her hands. She does NOT get tired of this so I think both Esther and Joyce were happy to let me walk her. She takes a little while to warm up but I finally got a few smiles while we were playing with her toys. She was having way too much fun toward the end of the evening – sleepy but not wanting to go to sleep. She did sit on my lap and lay her head on my shoulder for a while though she never quite fell asleep. I guess she fell asleep at last in the car on the way home though.

Tomorrow hopefully the family will finish up work on Oma’s old house. I’ll be here with Oma. Sunday as Easter dinner in Einhoven at my Uncle Jim and Aunt Ingrid’s house. It will be nice to see them when they are not trying to get a bunch of hard work done. Then on Easter Monday (which is a holiday in the Netherlands) all of Joyce and Arij’s children and their respective SOs and kids will be here for a family get together as well.

Anyway, a few pictures and then I am going to bed. Want to get up a little earlier than I have been the last few days so I don’t leave Oma alone too much. Having dragged her all the way to Goudswaard to see me, it would be nice to actually, ya know, see her. πŸ˜‰

Blessings to you all,

Janice

Michael and Ester with Oma

Michael and Ester with Oma

Esther showing off her mad "walking" skills

Esther showing off her mad "walking" skills

Michael's 20-something car pile-up - he started to count them and stopped at 20.

Michael's 20-something car pile-up - he started to count them and stopped at 20.

Michael and his Omi

Michael and his Omi

Oma with Esther - I love this picture - such serious faces!

Oma with Esther - I love this picture - such serious faces!

Share

Go Iowa!

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009 by darren

Since this is marriage equality and Holland week here at Ravenstower, and I’m not in Holland:

Background: This is the Iowa State Senate Majority Leader, Mike Gronstal, telling the Minority Leader that he won’t be helping overturn the recent court decision on marriage equality, and why.

Moar pasty middle-aged white guys in suits like this, plz πŸ™‚

Share

Tide is Turning II – SSM in Vermont – And More Updates

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009 by janice

Vermont just became the first state to legalize same sex marriage by legislation. Although the bill was vetoed by the governor on Monday, today the legislature quickly gathered the needed 2/3 majority in both houses to over-ride and allow gay and lesbian couples to marry legally at last. Although Vermont has had a civil union law for many years, we all know very well that separate is not not equal. I’m so please that this passed and that we finally have a legislated legalization.

Oh, yes, the tide is definitely turning.

On a more personal note, today Joyce, Arij and I braved the rain and met Joram in Den Haag to go togo to Madurodam, which is a miniature city representing places all over the Netherlands. As Joram jokes, once you see Madurodam you have seen Holland. πŸ˜‰

Over view of Madurodam

Over view of Madurodam

We made a small detour through the city center to have my picture taken near the house my father stayed at for a time in Den Haag when he was young. Seems a little silly I know since he wasn’t there long and I don’t know how much of the neighborhood is even the same. But the house looked relatively like what it might have then with just the windows seeming to be new.

Madurodam is a unique place, part amusement park, part work of art, part feat of engineering. It was quite fun to see some of the places I have been in the Netherlands in miniature and ogle the places I’d like to go as well. If you ever have a chance to see it, I assure you it is not to be missed.

Now I am going to have a short nap, after adding a few more pictures.

Blessings,

Janice

Janice with a windmill

Janice with a windmill

Rembrandtsplein in Amsterdam where Darren and I stayed in 2004

Rembrandtsplein in Amsterdam where Darren and I stayed in 2004

Aunt Joyce and Uncle Arij

Aunt Joyce and Uncle Arij

Share

The Tide is Turning – SSM in IOWA! and a Short Trip Update

Monday, April 6th, 2009 by janice

I was so caught up in the whirlwind to come out here to the Netherlands that I didn’t get much chance to read about the major event in Iowa. One knows that the tide must be turning when a Mid-western Supreme Court, in Iowa, of all places, makes a decision in favor of same-sex marriage. I was absolutely floored to hear of it and so proud of the lawyers who argues for it and justices who struck down the ban. And a unanimous vote at that! Amazing!

Now, if we can only get California to make the same decision.

Things are going OK here although Joyce is under the weather a bit. Got to hear some more family stories yesterday and we looked at a lot of old pictures and sorted through some things from Oma’s house. Joyce found some letters my mother had written to Oma which was such a wonderful gift to read. My mother was very young – some of them were from when she was still in Washington while Dad was serving in Vietnam. I have some information I need to process just now. I wrote to my brother to get some idea what he knows about the event in question because we haven’t really talked about it much. Sorry to be oblique – it is family business and I want to talk to my husband about it as well.

Anyway, a couple more pics from her in Holland. Joram is coming tomorrow to take me to see some castles – I’ll see Oma again on Wed when we go pick her up from Oosterhout.
My love to you all.

Blessings,

Janice

Switzerland - my Opa Tom painted this

Switzerland - my Opa Tom painted this

Oom Jim and his puppy

Oom Jim and his puppy

Tante Joyce and Uzi

Tante Joyce and Uzi

Share

Ventura, LA, Paris, Amsterdam, around Rotterdam, Goudswaard and Oosterhout

Saturday, April 4th, 2009 by janice

So I am here in the Netherlands. It isΒ  late here and I’m pretty tired so my ramblings may be more rambly than usual. Fortunately we will be sleeping in tomorrow.

The flight here was thankfully uneventful. Tina and Bran took me to the airport and I got a nice send off of toddler kisses and hugs. πŸ™‚ Apparently Thursday afternoon in April is a good day to be flying out of LAX (or maybe it is just the economy, stupid) as it didn’t take terribly long to check in and get through security. (Insert rant about TSA and security theatre here.) The first leg of the flight was to Paris on a 777 (hurray for large planes with personal in-flight entertainment centers.) I even managed to sleep a little. CDG is an orderly airport and I managed to get through passport control and back through security to catch my flight to Amsterdam. The plane was delayed slightly and then we spent at least another 15-20 minutes circling before we could land in Amsterdam. But finally we were on the ground. Schipol is a pretty fair-sized airport so it took me some time to get to the baggage claim and even longer for them to get the bags out on the belt but wonder of wonders, mine actually made it.

My cousin Benjamin met me at the airport. He really loves planes (and trains and cars) so he was taking pictures of the planes landing while he was waiting and even managed to get a pciture of my plane taxiing. Unfortunately, the minor delays were just enough to put us in Friday “rush” hour traffic for parts of the drive home.Β  But on the other hand it gave us a chance to have a nice conversation, despite the jet lag.

Finally made it to Goudswaard, where my Uncle Ari and Aunt Joyce live, driving around Rotterdam to avoid the traffic there.Β  I was so pleased to see them and got to meet their two new dogs Belle and Sam. They also have a great big cat names Uzi as well. A quiet evening of dinner and watching TV (US programs with Dutch subtitles). I did get to sit up and talk with Joyce a bit too although finally my body said enough so I took myself up the steep, steep stairs to the room I am staying in – it’s the same one Darren and I stayed in 5 years ago when we visited last. It used to be Joram’s – he had moved out but a lot of his stuff is still here. Much like my room at my parents house for some years after I left. Some things are universal, hmmm?

Today we went to Oosterhout. First Benji took my over to the house that Oma used to live it. They are selling the house and are doing quite a bit of work to make it ready. They had an inspection on April 1st and found out there are still some things they need to fix to make it ready. Walking through the place still brought some good memories but also made me sad. The house looks so very different, stripped of all the things that made it the home it was. I know that what I feel can only be a small reflection of how hard it must be emotionally for Joyce and Jim (not to mention how physically difficult the work has been.)

After a short trip down memory lane, and saying hi to Uncle Jim and Aunt Ingrid, Ben took me over to see Oma in her new apartment. It is in an assisted living building and the apartment itself is very nice, bright and warm. She has already made friends in the building and another friend she’s known for many years lives there as well. Oma herself was very happy to see me. She is doing better than I had expected; she was alert and upbeat. She gets around mostly on a walker or in a wheelchair now as she has little energy and cannot walk far on her own. And though her English is not as good as it once was, we were able to get on quite well. I got to hear some new stories and hear a few of the old stories over again. Oma is still pretty mentally sharp though a bit forgetful – she does tend to repeat things but at nearly 88 it is to be expected. It was so nice to visit with her.

Jim, Ingrid, Ari, Joyce and Ben worked on the old house much of the day and then they brought take out Chinese over and we all had dinner together. As I am sure most of you are aware, Chinese food in America is really Americanized dishes that vaguely resemble something one might eat in China. The same is true of Chinese food in Holland, though of course it is Dutchified (is that a word?) and comes with krupuk which is an addition I’m all in favor of!

Then it was time to say good-bye for the day to Oma, Jim and Ingrid, who live in Einhoven and Benji, who is going back to his own apartment in Ede for the night. Oma is going to her church tomorrow for Palm Sunday and she wants to be at the apartment when her cleaning service. Joyce and Ari will bring her to Goudswaard later this week so we won’t have to travel back and forth everyday.

All and all, it has been a good day and I am glad I came though I wish it could be a happier time for everyone.

Anyway, I’m going to try to add a couple of pictures then go to bed.

Love and blessings to you all,

Janice

Ben and Sam

Ben and Sam

Opa's home built radio transmitter

Opa's home built radio transmitter

Oma

Oma

Share