Solo Trip

One year ago this week, I took a vacation with myself to Heidelberg, right before starting my Master’s degree and right after quitting my job.

I had no expectations. I just wanted to eat soft pretzels and walk around for a few days. Read some books. Sit in some cute German cafes. Reflect on my life and be by myself.

It’s crazy to think this was my last trip outside of the Netherlands since then. I now have endless hours to look inward and be by myself, for myself, but then it felt like a treat.

There is a long laundry list of reasons why this pandemic is awful. Isolation is used to punish prisoners, after all. But there is also something calm and quiet about finding smaller things to appreciate in life. Being with yourself without the expectation of productivity or “getting things done”. That’s what my trip to Germany was last year. A reset. A bunch of books and me. Wandering around. Watching Netflix in my little single hotel bed after dark because there was nothing else to do, no one else to see. I didn’t know anyone in Heidelberg. I had no real reason to visit. I just went because I could.

Now, no one can go anywhere without a reason. The Netherlands has a curfew. People are rioting, destroying stores, fighting with police.

As we get antsy and angry and claustrophobic in this lock down, it’s good to remember that sometimes there is calm where you are. You don’t have to go anywhere to be by yourself. And sometimes a vacation alone is just what you need.

Gratitude Practice

The smell of a baby’s head

Fleece lined leggings

Waterproof warm boots

Walks in nature

A friend’s reliable and consistent weekly yoga instruction

Wool hand-made hats

Belly lint

Fun socks

Non-competitive board games

Late night desert

Gingerbread cookie cutters

Spotting farm animals on long walks

Waking up to sunshine

The light from candles

The existence of dishwashers

A cat’s response meow when you say his name

Coming back to a clean house after being away

Sitting too close to your partner on the couch

Pasta for dinner, knowing there is enough for lunch tomorrow

Rock lamps

Finding a coloring book you thought you lost

Having Monday off before starting work again

Putting snail gel on a tired face

Realizing life isn’t that bad

New Beginnings

One of my fondest memories from my first time in The Netherlands back in 2007 was a trip to Schiermonnikoog with my program. We stayed in an old farm house with lambs in the back yard, sleeping all together in one big room upstairs.

There are many moments in life that I don’t remember or appreciate. Sometimes individual memories can be different depending on the person remembering them. My sister read a post on this blog and is convinced I made up it up because she doesn’t remember the story at all.

But I actively wanted to make that Schiermonnikoog trip a memory. I felt so grateful, in wonder of this beautiful place: an island with green fields and sandy beaches and frolicking lambs. Having not traveled much beforehand, I knew I was lucky to be there.

This week, we’re on a similar trip with friends. After a year of hibernating and feeling fearful of others, we are at another Dutch farmhouse in the countryside, with big windows overlooking cloudy skies, close to sheep.

The area is typical of Holland – wet, green, and windmilled. Thirteen years later, I am still playing board games into the night with lukewarm enthusiasm. I am still grateful for the drafty rooms we are sharing with friends. And like before, I want to keep this memory. In a year of endless days that merge together and where time passes with a lack of special moments, I will try to remember the joy of watching my friend’s daughter read a book on the floor with my husband, and the look her son gives when he wakes up from a nap. Despite corona’s endless days, I can still make new memories worth keeping.


The bulbs from our indoor white hyacinth bloomed on Christmas, and despite being rainy for days before and after, Christmas day was sunny.

I am not a particularly religious person, but I do think I have become more spiritual over the years. Anyone who has lost someone to some dreadful accident or to some awful disease, won’t respond well to the phrase “everything happens for a reason”. Unfortunately, I think bad things happen to good people for no reason at all. And it’s awful. There is no other work-around for it. There is never anything right to say, or justification to give. It’s just bad. I like the Dutch expression to offer strength, to cope, to continue on, to manage. That’s all one can wish for on a particularly bad day.

But now after the initial pain has dulled and my own life continues chugging along after losing my dad, I realize I cope differently, believing in a bit more magic.

A couple days ago, we realized a beautiful large moth was perched inside our windowsill. It seemed curious to me that 1. it had managed to get inside despite having all the windows and doors closed for days, and 2. that it had escaped our cat’s attention, the household’s aggressive bug hunter. This moth, that I’d preferred to imagine as a gorgeous butterfly, was sitting in stillness, looking out our window.

My dad always called all the spiders in our house “his friends,” and insisted that we let them live, resulting in endless cobwebs and daddy long-legs in every corner and crevice of my childhood home. Growing up Catholic, my dad was a Buddhist during my time with him, and didn’t believe in killing anything. We lived amongst the bugs in our house, and when he was sick, always keeping his humor, he told us that after he was gone, “when we see a pencil drop, or a butterfly land, that was him.”

So, we let the moth out the door into the wintery world, and I followed him onto the balcony. He didn’t go far, landing close to a different window a bit farther from where he’d come, but now outside. I stood with this moth for awhile, in the rain, thanking him for visiting. Telling him we were okay without him. Telling him I loved him very much.

I know this sounds kooky. It is. But the idea of reincarnation often brings me comfort. Likely, this moth was not my dad. But what my dad has taught me, both in his life and after it, is to be more kind to living things. To appreciate them more, to be more grateful for a spider, or a butterfly. I stood in the rain for awhile watching that moth, and looking out into our backyard. And told him again, in the middle of this pandemic where we often feel alone, “we’re okay.” Then I left the moth to sit there by our house, and went back inside.

Things That Make Me Happy – The 2020 Edition

Taking out a new face mask from the box for a special day out

The security of having hand sanitizer in my pocket

Seeing a message from a friend I haven’t heard from for awhile

Organizing my books by color

Street lights turning on when I happen to be looking at them

My cat taking a nap on the washing machine

A plentiful amount of liquid hand soap in the bathroom cupboard

Seeing my in-laws when they drop by for a yard coffee

Getting pictures of the babies I know

Changing into different pajama bottoms after a shower

Realizing that I brushed my teeth at all the right times of the day

Discovering how much I miss my husband after he comes up from the downstairs office for his lunch break

House Plants

The sound of rain on our roof when I fall asleep

Finishing all the laundry

The cat actually sleeping in one of the millions of beds we’ve purchased for him 

Birds perching on our balcony railing

Remembering there are still snacks in the house

A new soft pair of socks

Re-reading old birthday/holiday cards

My niece picking up my video call

Rock lamps

Eating mangos in winter

Wearing red plaid

Good lighting

A perfect selfie

A comfy sweater

Easy access to warm blankets at any indoor sitting location

A perfectly timed gif

My dad’s winter hat