I’m Back! Where have I been? Read on…

So, I’m back. We’re in the middle of a global pandemic, with new terms coined like “sheltering in place,” and I’ve decided this is a good time to pick up the ole blog.

But where have I been?

To make this a bit easier to do, and somewhat succinct enough for a blog post, I’m going to write about the past seven years as though from a bird’s eye perspective…a wise, all-knowing bird, who perches on the roof of my neighbor’s house, and has peered into my life (and my heart and mind).

The bird, a large raven, living on a sycamore tree next to a canal in Amsterdam:

I’ve noticed Erin running out of steam. Actually, it’s the only running I’ve seen her do for quite some time. Motherhood has changed her rapidly. I really think it’s taken all she has to “do life here well” in her words, not mine. She has quite the narrow description of what “doing well” means, I think. Bless her. She refuses to speak English, which has kept her very quiet, muted, almost. She’s determined to learn Dutch, but for someone who prides herself on communicating well, it’s difficult. She needs to just give herself permission to speak English, and then practice with friends or at home with Frans, but I don’t think either of them are ready for that. They’re still getting to know each other, after all.

I’ve noticed that Erin has a mind that thrives on space and air. Her thoughts love to sniff the wind and follow the trail of a scent. She reminds me of my kind, as something that should have feathers. For her, the ability to follow a trail of thoughts to the end is like a thirsty person able to drink a cup of cold water in one throwback. In this sense, motherhood has been dehydrating. Her chosen beverage is now tea, and she’s never able to finish the tea while it is still warm.

Between the first and second years of her life, Erin’s oldest child, a girl (and given the title of the Busiest One in the Crèche by her teachers) was very, very sick 26 times. Yes, they counted. She would pick up a new childhood illness at every opportunity. Each one settled deeply in her, causing raging temperatures and sleepless nights. She’s had all of them. Finally, they were advised by a doctor to remove her from the crèche so that her immune system could recover. They did, and now Busy is a strong, healthy girl.IMG_7987

Update: I have relocated to a orange clay roof on the opposite side of Erin and Frans’s new home. A few weeks ago, the three of them moved out of Amsterdam, desperate for more space and a more restful setting where Busy could move without fear of drowning in the canal across the street or being hit by a bicycle on the busy commuter’s street outside their apartment. They had even resorted to putting Busy on a leash, something Erin swore she’d never do. (I heard Erin say to a friend this is who she was becoming: a bodyguard of the worst case scenarios.) They were also a bit weary of living with the mold the landlord didn’t want to do anything about, or the constant stream of smoke being sucked into their corner apartment like a vacuum (every single one of their neighbors next door, up and down, smoked heavily). We birds are above all that (literally).

By sheer luck (or sheer grace), they moved into the last house on the market they could afford, and worked for three years to make it theirs. Early in the renovation process, Erin found out Baby Two would be on his way. So, nauseous and tired and happy, Erin helped Frans install drywall in the attic in the evenings, after hiring a babysitter to be with Busy. They were so happy to have their little house, and it has truly become home.

Erin started a business! To date, she has translated five books, learning more Dutch in the process. She’s got some faithful clients, and although she misses writing, she seems to enjoy the challenge of polishing or translating the words of others, especially when the content is so good. 

Baby Two was born, strong and healthy, and life was rich and beautiful…and numbingly exhausting. Baby Two was dearly beloved and enjoyed, a terrible sleeper, and was dubbed Feistiest One by his nursery teachers.

I saw how both of them were sleep-deprived, and the toll it took on their marriage. At the time, He was traveling very often for work, and she was left to care for Busy and Feisty. She kept getting sick, and it was very often when he was away. This time seemed bleak to her, I think. She was ashamed that she was unable to pull herself up by the proverbial bootstraps, as she assumed others were able to do. In this phase of life, comparison was indeed the thief of her joy(thank you Teddy Roosevelt). Her immune system struggled to keep up, and she began to visit doctors to find out why. Doctors found her to be healthy, but suspected that the underlying cause for her repressed immune system was a case of heimwee(homesickness) and a higher baseline of daily stress maintained over the years.

[Note: I suspect Erin stopped writing, partially out of fear her words now will be filled with frustration or resentment. She’s worried her blog will read like one long complaint. She says she feels like she’s forgotten how to laugh, but I doubt that. Her humor is still in there, it’s just hibernating.]IMG_2259

Meanwhile, they landed the jackpot with being included in a new “kring” or circle of friends that had once attended the same church. It was here that they found a family…encouragers and first responders who loved their children and cared for them so that Erin and Frans could rest. Rest. A place to arrive, be fed, have their child taken and enjoyed, and handed a glass of wine. The perfect kind of nest.

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How excited they were when they found out Baby Three was on its way. And how very devastating it was to find out the baby was lost. After four days of labor, Erin had to go to the hospital for intervention at fourteen weeks, and in the process lost a lot of blood, enough to keep her in bed for nearly six weeks. At first her loss was very physical, and it was only after several months that she was able to grieve the very much-wanted little mystery person.

Erin has just returned from visiting her parents, her first solo visit to Florida in seven years! She seems to have something on her mind…it takes her a few weeks to work up the courage to mention it to Frans. She’s always prided herself on being a “stayer.” After all, growing roots in a new place is hard work. Not all of us birds are migratory.

They have decided that when Frans finishes seminary, they will move to Florida, at least for a few years, to get the “American” experience. They tell close friends and family. They sell their house quickly, which will they will be able to do at a profit. They won’t need to move out for nine months, thankfully. Within weeks of making their decision and putting their house on the market, one of their nearby “family” from their nest tells them she has pancreatic cancer. Erin goes for many walks. I can see her mouth moving in prayer. She prays for healing and wonders how they can move. But they feel a solid peace, regardless, and continue with the plans for their move.

So how are we doing now? Will we still move with all of this COVID-19 business?

The fall and winter have been busy. Frans is in the last semester, and after seven years of seminary (from very part time, to part time, to finally full time this year) will finish with an M.Div. at the end of May! Feisty turned three and decided to mellow out a bit (much to the relief of his parents), and Busy (now more thoughtful) turned six. I began running again, switched from coffee to matcha tea (mostly), and try to cut out sugar and alcohol (and often fail with the sugar part). Yet, for the first time in seven years we were in Florida for three, glorious, sick-free weeks. I told a friend, “It’s like my body has been able to take a deep breath in and out.”

We all know the importance of deep breaths these days.

Our beloved, beautiful friend is still sick. She will not get well, but she is so full of life and fun and love. The circle around her has had to get creative about how to spend time with her in social isolation. Our plan remains to move. The timing will be based upon when Frans receives his green card and when I finally a naturalized Dutch citizen (in the Netherlands, they allow for two citizenships). The new owners arrive at the end of June, and at the end of June the house must be empty and cleaned for its new occupants. The puzzle is how to sell/give away/donate things in these interesting times. Through it all, Frans and I have become a good team.

Back to the raven: Right now I see Busy and Feisty jumping outside in the sun on the trampoline, Frans with them, and Erin is writing away in the attic. She is focused, at peace. She has found the words again.

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