Our Cat

Our gray cat’s name is Duman which means “Smokey” in Turkish; there are many hookah bars and weed shops around this fine country acting as his namesake.

Since my husband and I don’t have children, we care deeply about our throw pillows, our new yoga equipment, and our cat. I am so grateful for him these days when seeing other human beings is rare. We talk to him, we talk about him, and we live to celebrate his little cat achievements.

The main news of our household lately relates to his new automatic cat feeder. Like his dad, Duman is a huge food enthusiast. He meows every morning and every evening for roughly two hours before mealtime, desperately reminding us, his parents, that he exists and needs to be fed. During the day, sometimes, he will randomly run to his bowl, and sniff hopefully at it, looking inside in an earnest attempt to will kibble inside.

So, to take the pressure off his extremely busy parents (who mainly sit around eating chocolate on the couch these days), we spent weeks agonizing over an automatic cat feeder to buy. We finally settled on one in a shape of a circle with six bowls that reveal themselves at different times of day (pre-programmed!), offering him kibble meals every morning and evening at set times.

This was not only exciting for the cat, but exciting for my husband and me as well. Every time he meowed, we’d explain to him that food from his new magical contraption would come out in a given amount of time. Then, when it did indeed open and beep, all three of us would sprint to the feeder, marveling at the amazing technology before us. For a few days in the feeder’s initial debut, Duman was hesitant about the whole operation, which meant my husband and I were the only ones prompted by the noise. We’d stop whatever we were doing, in whichever room we were doing it in, and congregate together looking at the kibble emerge.

“Wow, there it is again,” we’d nod, until the next time.

A Memory From America

“I seem to get along better with the squirrels,” my dad said, taking a long drag of his cigarette and looking out onto his backyard.  He blows out and continues, as if finishing the other half of a sentence that wasn’t spoken out loud, “…so that’s the other thing. These guys are all my pals now.”

His bird feeding had progressed to a new level of insanity that was surprising, even for me.  The backyard was a small patch of grass, right before a large parking lot nearly three times the size. The lawn, if one was generous enough to call it that, had one single scraggly tree. My dad had put roughly six bird feeders in it, weighing down each little skinny branch with 9 pounds worth of seeds. He explained that the squirrels were annoyed because they couldn’t get easily to the bird feeders, so for them, he had placed about a dozen mountains of expensive designer grocery store nuts at the bottom of the tree, piled among the Buddha statue covered in bird poo.  He proudly reveals that these piles come from a separate outdoor storage closet that is full of enough nuts, bird seed, peanut butter and crackers to feed a large metropolitan zoo.

I had come to his house for the weekend from my apartment in NYC, taking the train and then a bus from Springfield that drives almost everywhere around rural America before taking you where you’d like to go. My dad picked me up at the bus station, behind a Chinese food restaurant in a parking lot outside of town, and we headed back to his place.

When we arrived, I was always mixed with emotions – the feeling of being comfortable and back in the cocoon of his lunatic land, and feeling deeply overwhelmed by how lunatic that land has become. After ten minutes without a cigarette, he starts to get antsy, so I throw my bags down and we go outside to catch up.

On the balcony, he explained his latest problem: the amount of food he is throwing out onto the lawn all day has attracted more than just birds and squirrels. Raccoons are now popping by, seagulls have travelled from the ocean more than 130 miles to visit his lawn, pigeons have come from big cities to get a taste of his delicacies.  And, not unpredictably perhaps, the neighbours in his shared condo have complained.

I look out onto the lawn, and wonder, as I often do when visiting, where he can go from here.

The Day My Niece Was Born

Sometimes there are things in life that feel like fate, and I like to think my niece’s bold 10-day-late entry into the world in the middle of the pandemic was so.

My sister was having spaced contractions for a while at home and was waiting for the hospital to open up, since it was full. (I didn’t know this was possible.) So we were video chatting while she ate donuts and wondered why she was still pregnant, and I packed up our apartment for a pending move. In sorting through all my crap, I had found this letter my dad wrote to his parents in 1967 when he was stationed in North Carolina in the air force, during the Vietnam War.  It radiates with the spirit of him, almost 20 years before I was born. My sister actually copied the letter for me to have, and I had rediscovered it. Both of us, I think, forgot what it said. (Like me, my dad was very prolific in his writing, and there is also a digital archive of his wisdoms from his facebook years.)

 I read this particular letter to my sister Wednesday night, and very soon after I hung up, her contractions started becoming more intense. Two hours after she entered the hospital, peanut was born. Popped right out.

The letter my dad wrote to my grandparents is long and full of his quirky rants. I think it’s likely he was very stoned. It starts with an argument about why his parents should listen to the Beatles.  But the part that got me (and likely got my sister):

“I guess I’m feeling misty and sentimental tonight, but I’d really like to say that I really dig and appreciate both of you. […] Because in our family, one good thing is that everyone is actually part of the other. And that’s so good and one doesn’t realize until he is away. Everything is so cool and complicated and sad and comical and thoughtful in our home and I hope we all realize that even if we’re poor or whatever, that there could be no realer or truer of better home in the world.”

He signs off “I’m gonna grow a mustache. Anyway love, Dave” and then, “P.S. I think women are a lot stronger than men”.

My first niece made me realize how much of who you are must be genetic. At two and a half, she has all my dad’s mannerisms, all his same interests and likes.  The movie Aladdin, Chinese food, flashlights, calling people “screwballs”, the beach, eating endless amounts of chocolate cake. She loves to be eccentric, which is also something they share.

And we are all quite enthusiastic as a family, when we want to be. I believe I am objectively more so than most people; I like to yell and flail my arms and am often told to quiet down when I get too excited (which is often).   When I get to see friends or when a baby is born, or when I get to see a kitten cross the road. For new life in the form of a tiny baby. Peanut. These things bring me so much joy. And I think the world needs more enthusiasm, The Netherlands especially.  Some more pizazz. A bit more flare. My older niece learned the phrase, “Thaaat’s exciting!” a few months back, in her tiny two year old voice, and I went around saying it in the same tone for weeks. But my sister and I do say that often.  I don’t think I got that from my niece,  I think she probably got it from us.

I wonder what Peanut will think of this world. If she will find it exciting. I think it is. The news is certainly not dull lately. My dad would say, “your problems are unique.” and we, as a world, really have a lot of unique problems these days.

But, stay excited, friends. Grow a mustache. 

I’m Live!

This is my second day of winter “vacation”, and I am already bored, slowly slipping into a mild dull sadness that comes with unstructured time in this pandemic. The Netherlands is in another (third?) lockdown. Outside it’s gray, and the winter this year seems unwilling to yield to a nationwide wish for sun.

So here is my passion project, the thing everyone says we should be doing this year. I will warn you, dear readers, I always have a lot to say, and my word count is never managed well. But I suppose that’s why people start blogs – a bit of a self-fulfilling venture to validate your own feelings and rants. Well, team, I have a lot of those. And I am so happy to have any or all of you along for the ride.

An Introduction

Hello my fine winter wanderers,

My name is Tory, and I am excited to introduce you into my life. However boring it may seem, I like to make each small experience into a story, ideally with a funny punchline at the end.

A brief note about me: I am in my mid-30s, living in The Netherlands for almost six years now, primarily in the Utrecht region, but originally from Boston with a blind and raging pride for my home state of Massachusetts (that I still struggle to spell). I have white hairs I am preoccupied with; they match the color of my cat. I live with my stereotypically looking Dutch husband, who I like. (We are still married and going strong in this pandemic life!) I have worked in universities, NYC tech start-ups and most recently in EMEA wide recruiting for global tech companies in The Netherlands. But this is not a Linkedin profile since I quit my last job at the end of January 2020 to go back to school full-time at the University of Amsterdam, finishing up (hopefully!) in June 2021. My degree, sitting at home in my PJs all day, has most closely matched with the start and potential end of this pandemic. I am concluding by doing my thesis on persuasive vaccine communication.

I have created this blog mainly because I like to write, but only when there is an audience. I live to entertain. More than 16 weeks ago, I started weekly emails to 30 or so close family members and friends to critical acclaim. (Talk about a biased audience.) So, now, feeling self satisfied and self righteous, I will start this new endeavor. I am expanding for more of the world to hear my important stories!

In these days of feeling lonely and socially isolated from each other, I have emerged as perhaps one of the most worried, the most strict, and the most cautious. As also someone who is the most loud and the most aggressive in my socialness, this paradox is challenging for me everyday. Mixed with the fact that I am following American news mostly, but living in a country under different restrictions, different mindsets and different realities, this all adds to my confusion. I found reading other people’s thoughts on the pandemic helpful when I was at my lowest; it made me feel less alone. So if nothing else, I hope I can do that for you. Also, I hope, maybe if just once, I can make you laugh.

This blog will be about my day-to-day life and my struggles as a 30 something American living in the Netherlands. I will talk about my husband, my cat, my brand new fancy Dutch digs in the suburbs, my experiences going back to school later in life, and likely whatever else may come to mind. As most other bloggers perhaps, I have always had dreams of writing an epic memoir, focusing on my dad who provided endless content until he didn’t. I never got around to writing that book, but he stays with me despite not being physically present anymore.

Through reading this blog, I’d love to say something relatable and perhaps even helpful to you. I imagine this blog for like-minded expats, fellow Americans, women in their 30s with kids or without, or men. Men are also fine, and welcome to read this! Perhaps some of my stories help other non-Dutch people navigate relationships with their Dutch partners. Perhaps you want to look at this blog for the cat pictures, or the countryside landscapes. I hope you visit often, and I hope to feel connected to you in this time of overconnected disconnectedness.

With all my love,

Tory