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

top of the dike this morning

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.

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.