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Merry Christmas

There’s no place more beautiful at Christmastime than Amsterdam. None. Granted, this city is one of my favorite places on the planet so I might be biased, but take a look and decide for yourself.

Whatever you celebrate and wherever you are, I hope your days are filled with  love and laughter and joy.

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Awakening the inner artist

tummy-yoga-400I love a challenge. I love giving myself a clear deadline, daily or weekly goals, and going for it. I love the feeling of accomplishment that comes with checking that task off my list. And if you follow me on social media, you know I also love yoga.

So when my studio asked me if I wanted to participate in their 30-day challenge — a daily yoga class, thirty days in a row, I didn’t have to think before I said yes. Finally! A valid excuse to wear spandex and Uggs every day.

Studies show that yoga boosts creativity, and I can attest that it’s true. Without getting all new-agey on you, yoga helps me to focus, to quieten my mind from all the millions of distractions I encounter every day. It opens me up for new ideas and thoughts and lets my subconscious takes over. An hour on the mat unknots my plot knots in a way a gym class can’t. It’s the reason I was able to pound out book number three — all ninety thousand words of it — in five short months.

But #yogaeverydamnday?

It sounds great in theory, but I also have a life. I have a family and a job and girlfriends I love spending time with. Can I really commit? Can I really haul my sore and tired bones into the studio every single day for a whole month?

Ask me in thirty days.

The real Holland

When I moved to the Netherlands all those years ago, we lived in a beach town on the North Sea. Back when we lived there, it was one of the few villages where the stores were allowed to open on Sundays, so folks flocked there in the weekends, especially those when the sun made a rare appearance. And anytime the mercury nudged up into the seventies, the beaches were packed, with Dutch and foreigners alike.

The street where we lived was a couple of miles from the beach, and a world away from the tourists. Every single person who lived on our street was Dutch, and their families had lived and worked in the village for generations. A hotel owner, a butcher, a handful of farmers. I was the only foreigner, and believe me: everybody knew it.

Especially me.

I lived there for about five minutes before I decided that becoming Dutch was my number-one goal. Not just learning the language, but sucking up the slang and the accent and the culture until I was felt and sounded like one of them. I understood my neighbors within a couple of months. I felt competent in about six. By the end of the first year, Dutch people stopped answering me in English and assumed I was one of them.

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 8.17.45 AMThings in Amsterdam are different. Walk down any street here, and you’ll hear more foreign than Dutch, not just from the tourists but from expats, and I’ve yet to meet one who speaks decent Dutch. Why bother? Everyone here, from the old lady selling flowers to the guy driving the tram to the kids playing on the streets, speaks English and German and French and if you’re lucky a passible Spanish and Italian. My point? If I had only lived here, in Amsterdam instead of in that tiny village on the North Sea, I wouldn’t be half as Dutch. I’d be just any other American expat.

Saying you’ve seen Holland when you’ve only visited Amsterdam is kind of like saying you’ve seen America after a few days in New York City. As awesome as Amsterdam is, it’s not the real Holland. The real Holland is a tiny village surrounded by farms or fields of tulips for as far as the eye can see, where English is something you hear on TV, and not from the people living in the house next door. I am who I am because I’ve experienced them both.

Not in Kansas anymore

So. We’ve been living in Amsterdam for almost three weeks now, and (dare I say it out loud?) the transition has been pretty seamless. My daughter has a new school, new friends, a completely new life. I keep waiting for the dip to hit, for the bottom to fall out and the homesickness to begin, but so far… Nothing.

IMG_5156Part of what helps is that Holland doesn’t feel foreign to any of us. My husband is Dutch, I lived here for twelve years, both kids were born here. We speak the language and know the culture. We have friends and family down the street, around the corner, and a short bike or train ride away. We feel as at home here as we do in the States.

Yet my daughter has always been more American than Dutch. She prefers English. She watches American shows. The American culture fits her to a T. There are other American students at her new school—an international one boasting fifty-four nationalities and dozens of languages—but in an ironic twist, she’s proud to be considered one of the Dutch kids. She goes to school smiling, and she comes home smiling. It’s been a nice…well, not a surprise, exactly, but I never expected it to be this easy.

Is there pixie dust in the water? Is it the calm before the storm? I don’t know. Maybe things will be different by my next post, we’ll see.

But in the meantime, I’m enjoying the peace.

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