Hi There!

(For my Dutch-English translating and proofreading business, please go to my D-E Translating WordPress site. Thank you.)

Welcome to my blog.

I’m an energetic, slim, reasonably pretty thirty-year-old. However, I reside in a rather shocking, obese, aching, apathetic 55-year-old body. I love living in Austin but I’m chock-full of criticism of America in general. The Rockies bring me to tears, but so does the health care system. I’ve adopted Thanksgiving, but not the Pledge of Allegiance. If I seem elated and unbearably grouchy in sometimes schizophrenically quick succession, this is why.

I love the usual: my husband, my children, my friends and our pets. I hate heat, willful ignorance, bone spurs, spiders, and walking or cycling in place.

I collect raft books and I’ve developed a weird obsession with the bottoms of bridges.

When I lived in the Netherlands, twenty-three years ago, I loved hot tea, wild camping in Great Britain, gardening, reading for days on end, and I walked and cycled everywhere. Now that I live in a pretty darn hot part of the US, with kids who have to be driven everywhere by car, I love reminiscing about hot tea, wild camping in Great Britain, gardening, reading for days on end and walking and cycling everywhere…

My blog is a crazy—some might say completely unhinged–collection of posts about any of the above-mentioned issues and then some. Nothing is sacred. I blatantly ignore all American no-nos. Which means I talk politics, religion, I don’t idolize  teachers and I swear (but not that much).

As you read my posts you might laugh, seethe, weep or shrug your shoulders. If you like a post, great. Let me know. If you hate a post, great, let me know. I’d like to think I’m always right, but don’t let that stop you from telling me if you disagree. We Dutch love a good debate.

If you want to know more about how I ended up in America and an overview of how that’s been, visit my About page.

Otherwise, have at it!

(In my posts, I refer to my husband as T, my 19-year-old son as B, and my 17-year-old daughter as R.)

Adrift in Books

007_edited-1Today’s writing prompt is the perfect excuse to revisit the post about my raft book collection.

I’m not big on collections. I used to be. I had all sorts of collections. If I saw something I liked, I would start a collection. Until I felt that I was surrounding myself with things just for the sake of surrounding myself with things, and I got rid of most of them.

One collection I still have is my book collection. It’s not a collection like a porcelain elephant collection. My books represent a large part of my life. I’d no less get rid of my books–the ones worth keeping–than I would get rid of baby photos.

And within my collection of books, I’ve allowed myself another collection: raft books.

It all started with this one:

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This 1968 street directory of Sydney and the surrounding area usually lay on our coffee table.

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When we emigrated to Australia in 1965, we lived in a tiny trailer or caravan for the first six months or so. After that we first lived in Dee Why, then in Collaroy, and then in Dee Why again, before moving back to the Netherlands.

But I digress. It all started with the photo on the back of the Gregory’s street directory:

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This photo fascinated me. I could stare at it forever. I still can. Despite the fact that these three kids were obviously very Australian, wholesome, happy, well-fed and well-taken care of, I imagined that they were building that raft so they could run away from home. Or float away from home. In which case they also lived on waterfront property.

Around the same time I was also introduced to survival stories like Robinson Crusoe, and my favorite: The Swiss Family Robinson. These stories also got my imagination going.

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Decades later, when my parents were going to get rid of Gregory’s Street Directory, I saved it. It was the beginning of my collection of raft books.

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My definition of a raft book is very loose. Any kind of book that has any kind of mention or picture of a raft is a raft book. Except for the thousands of books about rafting down the Colorado River, rafting down the Grand Canyon, etc. The travel guide type of raft books are too easy and too numerous to be much sport.

Other than that, raft books include both fiction and non-fiction in which a raft plays a major role, like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Raft Book, an instruction manual for building rafts.

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One of the most riveting survival raft books I’ve ever read is Adrift, by Stephen Callahan. And one of the worst is 65 Days Adrift, by William Butler. Well, it’s the worst in the sense that the author is incredibly unsympathetic. But that in itself is also interesting. It’s the only autobiographical story I’ve ever read by a complete jerk who has no idea that his own writing shows exactly what a jerk he is.

Books that only very briefly feature a raft count as well. An example is Sinister Island, by C. Bernard Rutley. And quality has nothing to do with it. Because Sinister Island is an example of a badly written book of the kind I would usually never even pick up. Part of the point of having a collection of raft books is that I find and read books I usually wouldn’t.

At first I didn’t look up raft books online, because I felt that was cheating. But once I had the most obvious ones, I did google raft books. I’ve got a list on my smartphone, and every now and then I find one of them at the Half Price Book Store. It’s great when that happens.

Ordering raft books that I’ve googled at a regular bookstore would still be cheating, but I do scan the shelves at both regular bookstores and Half Price Books for books that look like they might be raft books. Like the one below, from HPB. Doesn’t it look like there might be a raft in there somewhere? (If you’ve read it, don’t give it away.) And because it’s part two in a series, I had to buy part one as well.

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In the photo below, I’ve only read the last one, a very thin little picture book about words starting with an R. So I still have a couple of delicious raft books to read!

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If you know of any raft books that you don’t see in the photos above, let me know. Especially ones in which a raft doesn’t play a big part, because those don’t show up when I google raft books.

If you want to see most of my collection, visit my Pinterest board about my raft books.

 

Followed By the Pound Key

water billSo I was brushing my teeth before leaving home to go work out. I had it all perfectly timed: I would get more than an hour and a half on the treadmill at the YMCA before having to pick up R nearby. I turned on the tap to rinse… no water. Continue reading

Plenty of Reasons Why

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Image: Netflix

I finished watching the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why this morning. High school in America is so vastly different from my high school experience in the Netherlands on every level, and it never ceases to shock me. Continue reading

My Magnificent Salad of the Moment

saladMy mother’s idea of a salad was a floppy lettuce with one sliced tomato and one sliced hard-boiled egg. Salad dressing was mayonnaise and oil. So I like my salads to have plenty of ingredients and per definition no lettuce! Continue reading

Get Real, America!

sean spicer

Image: cnn.com

This week White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer uttered what may be the most offensive garbage yet, claiming that Bashar al-Assad is worse than Hitler, because even Hitler didn’t use chemical weapons, at least not on his own people and not in their cities and villages. Continue reading

Belated Note to Self

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(It’s April, so it’s National Poetry Writing Month. One prompt I saw this morning was to find a picture of your younger self and write a poem describing the mood and telling your younger self something about the future. I had just the thing already on my mind.) Continue reading

Famine, War and Love: a Novel

famine, war and love

Image: amazon.com

A reader of my blog recently published a novel and he has been kind enough to send me a signed copy!

The story makes the connection between the famines of Ireland in the nineteenth century, the Netherlands during the Hunger Winter of 1944-1945 under German occupation, and Ethiopia in the early 1980s,  thus bringing into view the universality of the effects of hunger, war and displacement. Continue reading