Rituals

Now that all of our habits are under scrutiny, I really notice how important these habits and rituals are to us humans. Maybe you habitually go to the grocery store on Saturday mornings and shop for the week. Maybe you habitually get up at a certain time during the week, do habitual things to get ready to go to work, and then do habitual things when you get home again. Rituals and habits give us the calm illusion that life is ok and there is nothing to worry about.

And now we can’t do most of those things, while we wait for the wave of virus sickness to pass over us, or to hit us.

I’m living with DB and his elderly parents in a small house. When you live this close with people you really learn their habits, or at least the habits they hold on to in a time of crisis.

This morning, Sunday, I came downstairs to find both parents-in-law dressed as if going to an afternoon party or possibly to church. Every other day they also shower and dress for going outside the house. Which they don’t do. But they are ready for it just in case it’s a possibility.

So far, during these 3 weeks of not going out, I have stayed in sweats all day only once. Only once! It seems that if others in the house make the effort to shower and dress then that is the least I can do to keep up the atmosphere of normality. So I do this.

My in-laws have other rituals that they stick to no matter what. Every day at noon we put a table cloth on the dining table and pull out all the bread and stuff to put on bread and make tea and fresh orange juice and have lunch. They bow their heads and do a silent prayer before and after lunch. DB and I silently stare at our plates. Maybe DB is also praying. I don’t know. After lunch we put everything away and fold up the table cloth and put it in a drawer. We repeat this exercise at dinner. Every single day.

Well, not every day any more because we have asked for Sundays off from the ritual. Can we please come downstairs whenever we want on Sundays and take care of our own breakfast and lunch on Sundays? Of course that is fine. A small concession to the daily rituals.

My new habit: from Monday through Friday in the mornings from 8-12 I spend time doing useful things for our household, or soon to be new household. I research washers and dryers to find what we want and where to buy them and who is still open and delivering. I do banking. I found us a guy to sand and oil our wood floor in the new house. And I do what chores I can around here like laundry or looking for something to cook for dinner that everyone in the house would like.

In the afternoons during the week I do what I want. Lately I’ve been going upstairs and watching something on Netflix and knit. Or listen to a podcast and knit. Or spend time on Ravelry. In any case, it is my time to do what I want to keep sane. Lately the sun has been shining bright upstairs in that little room and that also makes me feel better.

DB is working from home, so he stays downstairs and sets up his “office” on the dining table, between the meal rituals, setting up and tearing down his laptop, mouse, keyboard, notebooks, etc. Twice a day.

These are our new routines. Our new habits. And we count our blessings that we can hold fast to them while others are not so fortunate.

The above photo is my Foldlines sweater. I’m just a few rounds short of dividing for armholes. I’ve been working on this pretty exclusively the past few days because I really want to finish it before it gets too warm to wear it. It’s going to be a really warm sweater! Worsted weight yarn knit on size US5 (3.75mm) needles makes a pretty dense fabric. But it does show the stitch pattern really well.

Knitting every single day is a habit that I hold on to even harder in this time of crisis. As long as my hands and head are busy creating something beautiful, I can still have hope that everything will be alright in the end.

Social Insecurity

I decided to apply for Social Security retirement benefits. Yes, I’m that old. I could wait and get a bigger payout in a few years, but it seems like a good time now to do this.

It was kind of a shock when I realized about a month ago that I could apply. I had that Dutch “dubbel” feeling – on the one hand YAY I can get some money back from the government! (Even if it’s a tiny bit) – on the other hand WHAT? I’m that OLD? How did that happen?

This morning I tried to log in to my SSA account to press the button to apply. Above is the screen I was greeted with.

What?

I have a hard time finding the right words to tell you what I think about this screen. To me, this is, in a nutshell, a perfect view of the United States right now. Technology that is so old fashioned that it’s laughable. A mindset that is so old fashioned that you wonder who is running things. Even my 83 year old mother is more tech-savvy than the people running this site. A website that has opening hours? WHAT? Is this 1990? Is this a third-world country without the resources to service the public the way other countries do?

You mark my words – in 30 years the United States will be well and truly in the shit. I wonder what things will look like for the country after this pandemic is over. How many homeless people will there be? How many people will have lost their life savings and their ability to retire at all because every cent they ever had is gone with health care payments and lost jobs. The people in Washington D.C., no matter the political party, have NO IDEA the wave of terribleness that is heading their way.

And still the propaganda machine rolls on and Americans wave flags and think that their systems are basically fine. I can only hope that enough people realize after this pandemic that tying health insurance to your employer is a system that doesn’t work for most people. I hope more people start to believe that health care is a basic human right. I hope more people believe that insurance companies and drug manufactures do not have the right to make billions on the backs of individual sick people. I believe that is morally wrong. It’s not the Wild West anymore folks. Wake up.

Top 10

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A friend asked on Facebook “Why am I not knitting?”. She’s an avid knitter and a knitting designer. It was totally out of character for her to not be knitting. I ask myself, “Why am I not writing in the blog after a good start and lots to write about?”.

The answers are probably about the same – these are strange days that give us emotions we aren’t used to feeling and energy that moves in different directions than we are used to. Every day I think about what to write here but I don’t have the mental energy to actually do it. I think going forward even if I don’t write something I will at least post a photo a day. I do take at least 1 photo every day. That is a habit that hasn’t been broken by this virus situation.

Today marks 2 weeks and 1 day since I arrived in the Netherlands, living in my in-law’s small house, in a small bedroom, in a small town. It feels like a lot longer mostly because every day is a new reality. News from the government every day. A message from the King. Yesterday complaints from mayors because they have no power to enforce the “social distancing” without stronger rules from the government and stupid young people still gather in groups (MOSTLY young people – some older ones too).

In light of all the negative news, here are my top 10 reasons I am happy to be where I am:

  1. I can walk 30 minutes from the house and be in (albeit a small piece of) nature. The beach. The dunes. Some wild animals.
  2. I can walk 10 minutes from the house and watch boats on the North Sea come and go and hear and watch sea birds fly.
  3. The air is super clean which is good for my lungs.
  4. I don’t have to worry (so far) about being well taken care of medically if I get really sick and it won’t cost me any more than my 300euro deductible. No matter what.
  5. While there was a little hoarding going on here a week ago, that has settled down and we can buy whatever we need from the grocery stores in town. Which are walking distance away.
  6. Even though we are cramped in this small house, we are saving money until our own home purchase is final.
  7. DB has a good job and is not in danger of losing it due to this crisis. He can work from home easily. This was not our situation in California where my job could have been terminated at a moments notice.
  8. I can catch my breath from the past 3 years of stressful life. This virus crisis is stressful, but in a very different way. I have no control over how this will play out and so my stress about it is less. My stress level from commuting long hours on SoCal highways and working in a crappy job and being the main wage earner was far more stressful. I’m knitting 2 sweaters and a pair of socks – all at the same time!
  9. The political leaders in the Netherlands are much smarter and level headed than those in the U.S. They don’t make nonsense statements or make such outrageous lies that the population doesn’t trust them anymore. In fact Rutter’s ratings as a leader have never been higher.
  10. I never, ever, feel afraid that some idiot in Walmart is going to start shooting.

DB and I do go out every day for a walk. Yesterday, Sunday, we walked for 2 hours which I’m not used to and had sore muscles afterwards and still today feel it. We walked 50 minutes to the beach, then walked along the beach northwards to Huisduinen and then through housing areas to home. Here is a photo from the beach yesterday.

Row Your Boat

Well, we’re all in the same boat now aren’t we!

Since we don’t yet have a house of our own and are living in a small house with two elderly people, we are very housebound, even compared with other people who are laying low, staying at home. It does feel like a kind of war situation. Our fellow citizens are deciding what we ourselves must ration by their hoarding behavior. Luckily we haven’t run out of anything and have been able to find what we need in the grocery store. No panic in our house. DB is working from home and his parents don’t go out, so I have become the designated grocery shopper. I’m being very careful myself because of asthma. Cross fingers and wash hands.

DB and I are going out every morning, early, and walking for an hour. This allows me to get to know my new town better, we get some exercise, and my lungs become acclimated to this new clean sea air. I take photos.

The top photo was taken today at sunrise while we walked on top of the dike from Huisduinen back to the town center. That’s the Texel ferry in the distance. Texel is probably the safest place in the world to be right now but we’ve been told to stay away by the Texel authorities. I can’t blame them.

Here are some other photos of the area that is within a 30 minute walk from my in-law’s house. For the coming few weeks the only things I’m doing is knitting, reading, writing, walking and taking photos.

Every day there is new news about this Corona virus situation. Up until today I was sliding back and forth between nervous fear and relaxed vacation feeling. But today I feel annoyed and jumpy. Maybe I have to start walking twice a day.

Here’s a knitting update. I’m making good progress on my sweater. I should have it finished in 5 weeks or maybe less!

Double

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I started this project the day after I landed in the Netherlands. This is yarn that I bought at Stitches West a few weeks ago. My friends, the Yarniacs, took me by the hand and lead me to the Sincere Sheep booth, introduced me to the dyer/owner, and helped me to pick out this color. Such enablers! This is worsted weight yarn, from Cormo sheep in Wyoming. I wanted something special from the U.S. to make a new sweater and this yarn is indeed special. It feels wonderful in my hands.  It is not superwash so it is not slippery in my hands but has a really sturdy yet next to skin soft feel. The texture is just perfect for the sweater I’m making – Foldlines by Norah Gaughan. Here is the photo from the Ravelry page.

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As you can see, I’m knitting the body in the round even though the pattern says to knit it in pieces.  It’s an even 22 stitch repeat, so why not knit this in the round up to the underarms? There will still be shoulder and armhole seams for structural strength.

DB and I are now “camping” out at his parents house in NL while we organize a home of our own. Changing countries is not an easy process.  It’s stressful and takes a lot of time and effort.  When we moved to the US I was working full time and DB did a lot of the organizing while he wasn’t working.  Now it’s the reverse.  He is working full time and I’m organizing and sorting things out.  He did of course start the process here in NL while I was still in the US, but I think I will be taking that over now. Certainly a lot of the house stuff.

We’ve made an offer on a house, which was accepted, so now we are starting the search for financing and also making budgets for what we have to buy and what to do next. We sold nearly everything we had when we left the US and now we need to buy what will fit nicely into our new home. Exciting, yes! But a lot of work.

The Dutch have an expression “Het voelt dubbel”. “It feels double”.  You might think that the feeling the person is talking about is felt doubly strong, like feeling doubly upset or doubly sad.  But that is not what it means at all.  People keeping asking me how it feels to be back in the Netherlands.  I reply “het voelt dubbel” meaning I feel at both extremes – very happy and very sad. The expression means that you feel both sides of a situation. It’s an interesting view into Dutch culture because this expression is used a lot. Dutch people have the reputation of being open minded and I think this is an example of that. They see both sides of situations and feel both sides of situations all the time and express it in “feeling double”.

I’m really really sad that we left the US when we did and in the manner we did. My job was not only awful, but the company was busy downsizing and it was only a matter of time before my turn would come. We needed to make decisions about our future, not let some company make it for us.

Also, living in Southern California wasn’t easy. It was stressful. It was hard on body and soul. This was a surprise to us and not what we expected when we moved there. But that was the reality and it was clear that staying, even if I found another job (which wasn’t happening no matter how hard I looked), was probably not a good idea.

When DB got the job in Amsterdam I cheered! I was so happy because this meant that I could quit my terrible job and we could go back to a place where we would feel safe and secure and life could be relatively calm again.

But this also meant leaving my mom in California and that makes me very very deeply sad. I don’t really want to talk about it.

And so I feel double. In the past few days, being back here in NL, I’ve felt so completely at home. This is where I belong. I never felt so at home in SoCal, but I do here. I dropped right back in to speaking Dutch all the time. I’m excited about our new house and new life. But I’m sad to leave people in the US and I feel like our leaving so soon was a kind of failure. It was not the plan to leave so soon. Het voelt dubbel.

Yesterday I took the train to Haarlem to look at some house stuff.  While there I had a favorite Dutch snack – kibbeling – pieces of batter dipped and deep fried fish. Yum! 67E01011-87B0-4826-A220-4AC6873047D3

Unencumbered

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This is a photo of a pair of socks I started knitting the other day. I’m just knitting them from my head – no pattern needed. I needed a travel pattern and I have this great sock yarn that I finally splurged on. It’s Lorna’s Laces Solemate yarn in color Amish. I told my mom the color name and she was bemused. Then I told her to picture an Amish woman holding a bouquet of flowers. That works.

I needed the travel socks today because after driving to Sacramento and selling my car, I got a ride with Uber to the train station, got on a BUS to Stockton, and THEN got on a train, down to Merced. The photo was taken on the train.

I sold my car to Carvana which was a fantastic experience! I did most of the transaction online and then made an appointment to drop off my car. A real person called me to offer help to find the drop off point. A guy drove my car around a parking lot and then handed me a check. What could be better? I only had to drive so far to drop it off because they are only located in major metropolitan areas. Merced County doesn’t meet that criteria by a long shot. But it was so worth the effort to drive up there! A few days earlier I drove to Modesto (and had my mom FOLLOW me to Modesto in the expectation of selling my car and needing a ride back to her house) to Carmax.  Carmax offered me such a low amount for my car that I actually laughed at them and asked for my keys back. I walked away fast.  And sold to Carvana for $2k more.

So now I’m homeless, jobless and car-less! What a relief! I was so worried about having that albatross of a car around my neck when I’m flying out of here on SATURDAY.

At the same time, I LOVED THAT CAR! I am sure that that was the BEST car I will ever own. In the Netherlands cars cost 50%-100% more than they do in the U.S.  I will never be able to afford a car like that again and it was really your basic SUV. Say goodbye to a ride with leather seats (heated) and so many ways to set your power/braking/battery charging that my techie brain was blown. And 4WD. And enough room to take an entire market set up and wool inventory for a weekend fiber event. Sigh.

I am completely unencumbered. Meaning no obligations and really here I mean monetarily.  I have no debt. I owe no one any money. How many Americans can say THAT?

I will enjoy it while I can because on Monday I will most likely be encumbered again with the promise to create a new mortgage for a new house in the Netherlands. More about THAT next week!

Leaving on a Jet Plane

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I made this lap blanket for my mom as a Christmas/birthday/going away present. I’m the one going away.

The pattern is “A New Angle” and you can find it on Ravelry to buy and make one yourself. The yarn is Cascade 220 superwash worsted. Each square is 7” on a side and I added 2 rows of double crochet as a border.  It took me 2 1/2 months to make, working on it pretty steadily.  I had a deadline!

Just to bring you up to date, we sold our house in SoCal, I quit my job, selling my car to Carvana tomorrow, and on Saturday I’m flying back to the Netherlands. DB has been back there since January 1, working at his new job, and we already have a new house picked out and an offer accepted. We’re BACK baby!

There will be another blog post regarding “why we are moving back” and all kinds of discussion about being an American in the Netherlands. One step at a time. 🙂

It feels like the past 3 years have been a kind of dream and now we are going back to reality. Living and working in SoCal was not a nightmare, but was definitely not the dream we had imagined when we moved there. Life is hard there. Dutch people have no idea how good they have it. They complain a lot about life in NL, but honestly they have no idea what hard is.

All of the above is why I feel like resurrecting the blog. I have a lot to say, having come out of the dark tunnel of a terrible job and terrible traffic and not so great health. I am on a better path and want to talk.