Sunday, March 30, 2008

New plans and what we did before....

After all the negative stuff it was time to forget about all that and make plans for the summer. Without thinking about it twice, we aimed for 4 weeks together.
The maximum seen my (no) job situation. Something I really hope will change soon.
Most important was finding out if my sons father would be ok with that, which was no problem at all.
So we can start planning en dreaming about Pennsylvania and the American beaches in the summer.
I am really glad we can do this, because a planned visit to Europe in May for Jack fell through and we need something to look forward to, both of us.
The last few weeks I realized how much Jack had spoiled me with how often we could meet since we met the first time.
There was never more than 10 weeks in between. Which is more than great if you realize how far apart we live. So I keep telling Jack that I am not complaining or whining, but only pointing out that 3,5 months is a long, long time to be away from each other.
LOL, I think he is getting the point.

About the things we did before..

Still have some things to share about our last visit.
Like the day we thought we could surprise my son with his first flight lesson.
Well, were we wrong!!!
For quite some time now, my son knows he wants to be a pilot and when he found out that he will have little problems with the education he will do, he is even more determined.
Jack likes the idea, since he has flown himself, so he suggested to take him to a small airport in the area and go into the air with an instructor.
All went well, until the moment my son saw how small the actual plane was.
Boy, did I have to do a lot of talking to get him into it.
Luckily the lady who owned the plane has a son herself and knows how they can react, even when they want to be a pilot. She was very patient with him and when he later said he felt sick, she explained that it is something most people experience and that it is a matter of learning where you point your eyes at.
Now looking back, he liked the experience and is not put off by it. Which was the whole idea to set this up.
To find out if he really wants to be a pilot, and he sure does...

In the meanwhile, Jack and I both loved it also, being in a small plane, seeing the country from above is an great experience. It is strange that you can love this and still have a terrible fear of heights. (like me)
And I got the feeling Jack kind of liked being in a small plane again also, even was thinking about flying himself again.

The rest of the day we spent having an awful lot of fun bowling.
We had the bowling alee to ourselves and the place was huge ! (to us Dutch that is)
After Jack had tried every bowling ball in the place, he finally found one he wanted to use and the fun could start. It was nice to be able to just have fun, no need for competition, so I could drop balls all over the place.
That was until the last game.
My son had had enough and Jack and I went for one more game.
With Jack doing a bit worse than he did before and me finally figuring out how to do it, we got close and it started turning in to a real game. Which was fun.
Jack won and got his winners prize.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Doing a happy dance here

we'll be back for 4 weeks in the summer!!!

Friday, March 21, 2008


I have been struggling with making a post here to touch on some of the comments Petra made in her last post. I am going to share a personal story, something I am hesitant to do but it is a story that became a turning point in my life and relates to many of the frustrations that I sense in Petra's comments.

Being in a negative surrounding and around negative people is destructive and it is also contageous. If you hear things like "you can never do that" or "that can never happen" or "you aren't capable of doing more" then after awhile you start to believe it yourself. This is very tragic and sad. Whether it is on purpose or because some just think differently, to hold back or down the desire that burns inside each of us to learn and broaden our experiences and to use the intelligence and talents we hold, is a waste of the possibilities that lie within all of us. Some may say it is selfish and not responsible to want to follow your dreams and to think you can do things beyond your current surrondings. I feel just the oposite. I think it is your responsibility to find the positive things in life and pursue the possibilities that present themselves to you and become a better person, a happy person and a person that can then pass on responsibly the happiness and the possibilities to those we love and care for. We only get one chance at this life.

My story.
I am an average person in most every way. I went to University and studied History. I sense, maybe incorrectly, in the NL that a lot of emphasis is put on background, education and experience in deciding what types of work or career you may have a chance to work in. It's sort of like you are put in a "box" and to think that you would like to do something beyond what your qualifications show in that box may be very difficult. Qualifications are important here too, that's for sure, but this country was founded on the notion that it is the land of opportunity for the common person and it still remains that way today. I am living proof of this and in my job I have met hundreds of people that have their own similar story to tell.

When we hear someone tell us "you can't do that" or " Don't waste your time trying" many of us find the hair on the back of our neck go up and respond "why not?"
My "box" with my education would have been a teacher, a wonderful profession but one I did not want to do. I did have an interest in investing and finance so many years ago I got the crazy notion that I would like to work on Wall Street. I certainly did not have the formal education for that field and was young with no experience but I saw all around me people achieving things that looked beyond their possibilities so I persisted. After several resumes sent in to firms and phone calls and rejections, I did have a couple of the best known firms on Wall Street that wanted to talk to this guy who thinks he can work in that environment. They started the interviewing process to take a look. I did reasonably well at the local level and was asked to go to New York City, Wall Street, to interview with the top people in the firms. At each firm I was to talk with about 4 people who would then make the final decision. I learned a very valuable lesson that day with the help of someone at the first firm I went to. The first 3 interviews were all very positive, building up my hopes and making me feel like this was just a formality to get to know me. Then my last interview was with the president of the company. Unknown to me, It was his job to try and tear me down with negatives to see how I would react. I will never forget him looking across at me and saying " What makes you think you can do this job? You don't have the education or the experience. You may think you can do it but I don't think you can." I shrunk down in my chair and reacted as I'm sure so many others that sat there did. I lost all of my self confidence and barely uttered another word through the rest of the interview. I did not get the job but the president called me back in to his office and shared with me that this was a test and at my next interview be aware that I may be tested again and if I truly believed in myself, don't let anyone tell you that you can't do something. Needless to say, I was offered the next job and spent the first couple of years of my career working right on Wall Street and living in New York City. To think that a young fellow that grew up on a horse farm in Pennsylvania would be walking the streets and working in the financial capital of the world to many would seem impossible.

My point in sharing a story from my life is not that getting a fancy job and earning a good living equals happiness. My point is that no one should tell you "you can't do that, or, you are not capable of something." The point is that we should always being asking ourselves "why not?" There are possibilities and positive things in life that we may be afraid to try or unsure of but if they can make us better people and give us more knowledge and fulfillment then we should say "why not?"We have not only been true to ourselves then but we can touch the lives of others in a good and positive way when we reach for the possibilities in our one and only lifetime.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

For who wants to is MY life!!!

Last month it was a year ago that I finally got the papers that told me I was responsible for myself and my son. That I would be responsible for how happy we would be and responsible for every decision I made.
To get that far, to admit that that would be the step I had to take, took me about 2 years I think, after that, it took about a year to make it all really happen.

Seeing where we are now, how wonderful my son is doing. Seeing his self confidence grow, I think we are doing great.
We are looking at the future with the feeling that we have a lot to look forward to.
For a year there were no dark clouds smothering us, no dark clouds that made it hard to breath, no clouds that made us want to tiptoe around in fear of dark clouds turning into thunderstorms.

We are actually discussing the future, what do we want, for my son, the sky seems the limit right now.
He finally is getting the idea that good things can happen to him also, that he is smart enough to make things happen himself.
The two of us learned an awful lot this year.
Strongly encouraged by Jack, who seems to believe in people and has a positive look on things.

And than you walk into people with such a negative attitude, who set you back years.
People that tell you that no matter what you want, other people pull the strings. That no matter how hard you worked, it won't help you.
People so negative, who look down on you and make you feel bad instantly.
People who make you mad, make you want to cry and crawl under a rock and hide.
They tell you they mean well, they want you to have the best life possible.
Who tell you they want to see you happy...

I walked away.
You can tell me that that was weak, but I had had to get away from those dark clouds that were already suffocating me.
I needed about 45 minutes to recognize they are wrong.
My life is mine, my decisions are mine to take.
And I am doing a good job, together with my son.

It is MY life!!!
And I live it how I want to live it.
I am not asking for your permission and I sure don't need it.

You are kidding, right?

Now, I know I am not in any position to make any political statements, but please...

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Some Comments

I always enjoy reading Petra's comments on the trips over here. We and you over there are very much alike in many ways but very different in some ways too. As people, I think we are pretty close in what makes us happy, what is important to us and the desire to experience those things that give us satisfaction and educate us.

One area that I have mentioned before and have talked with Petra about is that in many ways the basic infrastructure in Holland is better than here. I mean, those wires running everywhere here because we have never gone to total underground electric systems, are ugly with a capital U. LOL The water over there is much better than here. Getting a glass of water there actually tastes clear and pure. Here it is full of chlorine that we somehow assume is good for us. I also found the roads generally in better condition over there than here. While we have good highways and most roads are good, it is easy to find parts that the roads are in need of repair.

As Petra mentioned not only about the book store but the grocery markets as well, we tend to have an over abundance of choices when it comes to shopping. The book store we were in was so big you could spend hours and hours there. They even make it easy for you to do that by having big comfortable chairs and couches spread around as well as a coffee shop in hopes you will sit down, relax and look at books that you may end up buying. We seem to have these huge stores for every item. I was in an electronics store recently and they have one whole section with probably 100 tv's of all sizes and shapes, same with pc's and phones and anything electronic. So when I saw Petra post about the grocery stores, I had to chuckle. She is right, how many different brands of tissues or shampoo or pizza's do you need. But there are aisles of these things to choose from.

I have to admit, when we were at the one fancy grocery store and saw the parking spots for pregnant women and those with children, I had to scratch my head also. I haven't seen it go that far before either. I wish they would make one for single guys in a hurry to get something to make for dinner. LOL

The first day that we went to Gettysburg was nice. It was a beautiful day and although it is hard to describe a place that a battle took place as beautiful, it really is a pretty area and a great place to walk and slowly drive through and see the beauty of the scenery.

Can't wait for more posts from Petra. I like seeing her impressions of where I live.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Yes, I did bring my camera...

for those who asked.

Not that I made that many pictures, next time there will be more, I promise.
But this time there was just too much to take in. And I still have to get the confidence to walk up to places and start photographing the things that really get my attention, like those houses that have their porches filled with the most strange stuff.
The wooden houses that have little paint left and look like they are centuries old.
Or the ones that have so many old cars there that it looks like a graveyard.
And I really would love some pictures of those big farms that are on top of the hills looking out over the area, when the fields are green. The red color of many of those wooden barns must look wonderful than.
But to get those I have to ask Jack to stop the car in places that I am not sure it is allowed. But next time I will ask.

Anyway, this time I was in tourist mode, got the camera every time we went on a trip. And our first trip was to a place I would love to visit several times over.
Listening to Jack we probably will, next time maybe on horseback.
On sunday we got in the car to visit Gettysburg, the area where an important battle in the Civil war was fought.These days the total area is preserved as it was in those days, no buildings except for statues every other meter and the farms that were there in that same time.
You can drive through the area between wooden fences that are still like they used in those days to keep their cattle in.
The whole area tells the story of how bloody the battle between the north and the south was. At this moment I am trying to read in to it a little since we know little about it over here. Still, it had such an influence on the way freedom was looked at in the US.
And it wasn't that long ago, if you realize that they already made photographs in that time.

That sunday it was a beautiful sunny afternoon and we enjoyed the views and climbing the rocks at Devil's Den. Much to our surprise, my son initiated a long walk up the hill to see the views. So that is what we did.
After that we drove around a little and visited the Pennsylvania Monument on which Jack great grandfather is mentioned also.

The area is to big to describe in one blog entry and to interesting for just one visit. So I hope we will be back there.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Things you shouldn't do on a rainy sunday afternoon

...opening a package of Oreo cookies.
Half of it is gone already and that means another attack on the weight loss I worked so hard for before our visit to Jack.

The other attacks took place during our visit, since we both love a good glass of wine and we had no obligations outside the house after dinner, we liked a glass of wine while Jack started cooking.
Yes, Jack did cook and I have to say he did a pretty good job. He does way better than I do with meat, his chicken and tenderloin were wonderful. Better than I could have done. And really, taco's aren't that bad either. And they are a lot of fun to put together for a 13 year old.LOL, I really got to get lazy that week, no cooking at all besides getting the fresh green beans ready for cooking, that was it.
Hmm, I could get used to that.

To make sure we could have dinner, we had to go to the market a few times.
And that is something else...
They are huge over there. No small markets downtown, but shopping centers somewhere outside. Not much fun to walk around like we can do here.
Huge parking lots that at some point made me laugh out loud.
Just like over here, there are the special parking places for disabled people.
Close to the shops, which made totally sense to me.
But during one visit I took a better look at some of the other parking spaces and had to ask Jack if they were serious...
After the parking spaces for the disabled, you got the ones for pregnant women, the ones for people with kids...
I mean, I was still riding my bike 8 months pregnant, it wouldn't have hurt one bit to walk a few steps.
Anyway, I could add another strange thing to my list.
As for the markets themselves, they are huge. For every item they have too many brands, too many choices. How much choice do you need in tissue's?
Not a whole lane I think.

But it is fun to see things you have never heard of, see the difference in food.
One of the markets we went to was amazing, isles with fresh prepared food, you could make your own salads and other complete meals there. So much stuff that looked really good, it was hard to walk away with just buying what you need.
Which is probably just what they wanted you to do.

I learned very fast to just look, since Jack would throw every thing in the basket that I was curious about. Which is why I am eating Oreo's now.

One really great thing I have to mention here is something I noticed which may have been just a lucky strike, but we seldom saw Moms with little kids in the markets.
It may have been the timing, but when I have to get groceries here, no matter what time, there is always a tired looking Mom with one or two screaming kids.
Please tell me they have special parking spaces there that you can leave the screaming kids?

Friday, March 7, 2008


I found the shop I can spend hours.
One thing that Jack and I both found again is our love for books.
Not too long ago I started reading books in English, which was hard at first, but after reading a few books that I really enjoyed, I can take on more challenging books now also.
And one of the things I really like in the US is the much lower prices of books, the difference is crazy, over here we pay more than double for the same book.
So when Jack asked if I wanted to shop, I asked for a visit to Barnes and Nobles.
He had told me about the shop already and now I had the chance to see it for myself.
My poor son already told me that next time he is staying home.
He never knew I could spend that much time in a shop, and I have to say, it was a first for me also.
What fun to find a shop with so many books that I had never seen, from writers I know so well.
And how wonderful not to have to choose one book, but to be able to get several and get books that you normally would let go, because you think you may like them, but you go for certainty with the other book you know you will like because it is more of the same.
For once I left my normal fantasy route and went for a book from Isabel Allende and the other book from the writer who wrote The Kite Runner.
What is even more fun is that I know Jack will enjoy these two books just as much as I do and we will share the books.

Now to find the time to actually read more than one or two pages a day.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

So here's more

for those who want to hear...

First of all, I loved to visit, loved being there and I think the country and the people living there are, in general, wonderful.

But...if everything was like it is over here, it would be pretty boring to write about it, wouldn't it?
So, just keep in mind I am not picking, bashing or thinking bad about the US (at least the part I saw) in my 'schrijfseltjes' but only pointing out the differences as I see them.
Honest, I can live there, without any problems I think, but some things would take getting used to.

One of the things that did surprise me was that even though the US is a modern country, I sometimes get the feeling it is back in time with some things.
Internet, dishwashers and all kind of other hightech stuff is available, but if there is a storm or ice rain, most depends on above ground wiring which is so vulnerable.
I can't imagine losing power for hours ever so often. I can't remember when we had that happen the last time here. And if it does, it makes the news, just like the babyboom 9 months later.

And than the mutilation of trees, poor things get abused so bad to prevent the branches from hanging over the roads or being too close to the wires.
They get their hearts cut out or their sides sawed off and end up looking strange and wounded. Something that is hard for me as Dutchman to grasp, since we put so much effort in saving and even grooming every tree.

All those wires also have effect on the looks of a street.
There seem to be no order in how many wires go to a house, from what side they come or where they go to.
To me it gives many places a bit of an old fashioned feel.

Something I probably will never get used to is the smell of skunk, ewwwwwwwwwww.
We had the 'pleasure' 3 times I think in this week.
Boy, does that smell bad, certainly for a cute looking animal like that.

Monday, March 3, 2008

My turn

to write again.
First of all, I agree with Jack, we had a wonderful time together.
Not that we ever have it a different way. Overall we seem to match really well.

This was going to be a totally different visit than the first one and it was.
For the first time we got to see a bit of what it means to be in the US instead of living the Mickey Mouse life.

We started of really good right away, after Jack picked us up at the airport we found ourselves between howling police cars, ambulances and firetrucks.
Much to my surprise the last ones were yellow instead of red. Takes a little getting used to.
The whole event, a car on fire and thick black smoke, made us weary of our 2 hour trip on the highway from Dulles airport to Dillsburg, but much to our surprise the roads were near to empty.
And through the whole week it stayed that way unless we entered a city.

At this moment my impressions of the US are great. It is a different world, but not in any way worse or better than Europe.
But before I get to that in the posts to follow, I have to say that being in Jacks house, meeting his dogs, walking around the neighborhood and meeting the neighbors was wonderful.
In spite of what Jack said, we did do some exiting things and had many new experiences. I mean, isn't giving the chance of a first flying lesson to a 13 year old exiting?
I think it is...
And to me, painting birdhouses was just as much fun.
Meeting new people is nerve wrecking and having the luxury of a fire in a fireplace, with someone you want to be with, having a glass of wine together is just the best thing ever.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Hardest Part

The hardest part of these trips together is when we have to say goodbye for now. I know it is getting very hard for me. Whether it is Petra taking me to the airport or me taking her, it is no fun.

The hardest part about the few days before we see each other is that the time seems to drag on forever until we meet. Then once we are together the time goes so fast that it hardly seems like we had any time together at all. Then once the trip is over there is a big empty spot as soon as we say goodbye. I know it was especially hard for me this time because they came to the house here. When I got home after dropping them off at the airport the house felt so empty and quiet. For a week it was full of life and laughter and conversation. It was pretty hard coming home to a quiet house this time.

I will let Petra comment on the trip and her impressions and hopefully some pictures but I think we had another great time. We didn't do anything as big as DisneyWorld but we did do many simple things locally that were lots of fun and most of all we just enjoyed each others company.

I have to say that I really loved having them here and the house seemed like it was ours for a week. I really want that feeling again.