Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Amsterdam, August 22, 2002

These are notes my mom jotted down during a phone call from me my third day in Amsterdam. I was fed up and frustrated, so I went to the airport alone at night to call my parents - the only way I had of calling them. I was a real downer. I like being in control and productive and frugal, so my first days in the Netherlands were not my favorite.

Afterwards I found out it was nearly a $100 collect phone call. During the call, some guy came up to the phone and started pushing buttons, further distressing me and my mom, whom I left in considerable distress, helpless on the other end of the line.

(Wondering why I'm being so presumptuous as to publish my own emails and letters? Read this.)

City of Haarlem, where I ate some delicious profiteroles in front of this cathedral with my friend Stephanie and roommate Naomi

Is alone at airport 8:30 pm Amsterdam time.

Cell phone: Got cell phone in Dutch so can't figure it out. Can only call at airport. Got cell phone in Amsterdam, guy not that helpful. Today went to Haarlem and guy at a cell phone place there helped a lot, but when she tried it, it didn't work after all. Was impatient to get cell and may have gotten one that is expensive. Feeling cut-off. "I'm lonely and I hate it here!"

Email: She can only get it in Central Amsterdam. Leiden University has no access to email.

Keys: Only have 3 so she doesn't have one. Can't get in or out.

Counterfeit: Went and had money changed. Received a counterfeit 50. Finally found a place that took it.

Leiden: Went this morning. Got there at 10 am and there were no appointments available. Will go again tomorrow or Monday.

Rent: Was told that info received in Colorado was wrong and that she owed $3000 euros. It's due in 5 days. Wants Ron to wire money from her savings account to her landlord.

Bus Home: Amber knows number of bus but it never came. She needs to get off phone as it's about 9 pm and buses run less frequently at night.

Went with Steph and Naomi to Haarlem to Corrie Ten Boom house. Steph and Naomi want to go touristing tomorrow but Am may not. Has too much to do and not getting anything accomplished.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Lion and the Lamb

Mike and I had our Halloween party last night. I was too distracted to get many pictures, but here are a couple.

The lamb happened upon my safari hat. (Or rather, her mom repeatedly put the hat on the lamb's head while she repeatedly threw it off.)

Alexandra's friend Tim came as a lion. He's swiping at her with his cat-like paw.

I, the intrepid explorer, swiped the lion for my very own and intended to mount his head on my wall, but he got away.

I didn't catch anyone else's picture, other than the ninja and his "non-prostitutional" geisha.

Someone called Mike last minute, hoping to visit our small group and Mike told them to come on over, failing to mention it was a costume party. Imagine his surprise when the door was opened by this ninja. 

I love Halloween and can't wait until Allie can appreciate it (rather than screaming with rather un-lamb-like rage when I put her sheep hat).

Amsterdam, August 21, 2002

This email was sent my third day in Amsterdam, still struggling to figure out life. 

(Wondering why I'm being so presumptuous as to publish my own emails? Read this.)

 My apartment in Amstelveen, a suburb of Amsterdam

From: Amber
To: My Parents
Sent: August 21, 2002 5:58 a.m.

Hey guys!

I'm at an internet cafe now. I just bought my one month pass for transportation here--50 euros per month. That'll get me all around Amsterdam and for the train to leiden I'll have to buy separate tickets. Nowhere here takes credit cards and no one takes travelers checks--I have to change them for a 3% fee. Everything is so complicated!

Everything takes so long or costs so much or is so complicated that i have not accomplished anything other than getting a transportation pass. Today I will hopefully find a cell phone. you can't get minutes here until you have a dutch bank account which takes awhile, so i have to get a cell phone without minutes then buy a phone card to make calls in town. that's really expensive to call international on, so when i have a phone i'll probably call you and then have you call me back and then i'll split the bill with you later.

it'll take awhile to get a phone at home--2 months and so that long for internet and my university doesn't have email, so i won't have much email access unless i keep paying, which gets expensive. hopefully everything will get worked out soon.

My bedroom is large and nice. I need to work on decor though. Amsterdam pizza is good-it's really Italian pizza, thinner and less greasy.

I don't have too much more time. I'll try to get back in touch soon! thanks for your love and support! I'm starting to get teh hang of things, including buses and trams, which makes life 100% better.

I'm starting to like my apartment and I'm excited to go to Leiden. talk to you soon.

love, amber

Monday, October 29, 2012

Amsterdam, August 20, 2002

This is an email my mom sent to my family after a phone call from me the second day I was in Amsterdam.

(Wondering why I'm being so presumptuous as to publish my own emails? Read this.)

City of Leiden

From: Mom
To: Family
Sent: Tuesday, August 20, 2002 11:13 AM

I just received a call from Amber. She was at the airport in Amsterdam on her way back from Leiden. She said to tell you all, "hi."

After the girls arrived at 3 pm yesterday, they got a cab to the apartment to meet the realtor. Amber thought their apartment was nicer than what we could get here for the same price...The owner of the apartment is a doctor that is a consultant to lawyers in medical cases. He has his office on the first floor so he is there during the day. He lives across the street. Amber said he is very nice and it is very reassuring to have him nearby in case they need help.

Then they went to Central Amsterdam to get something to eat, and went to an internet cafe where they could email. It took about 20 minutes to get there. It took 2 hours and "lots of money" to find their way back since you have to know exactly what trains to take. She said it was very frustrating. They were already exhausted since they hadn't had any sleep for over 24 hours. Any task you think should take 10 minutes will take 2 to 3 hours. She said yesterday she was feeling totally overwhelmed and cut off. Said she was so lonely and sad she just wanted to come home because she was so miserable. She wrapped her "TEXAS" blanket around her and fanned herself with the fan Jen gave her and had something from home to comfort herself with.

She hasn't been able to get to a place to email and they don't have a phone yet so they are cut off from us and also from others over there. She said she will look for a cell phone tomorrow because it takes over two months to get a phone installed. She said they couldn't even call Katy and Daryl to ask how to do things or how to meet up with them; and couldn't even email them.

Today they went to check Leiden out since Naomi and Amber will attend Leiden University and Rachel will attend Webster University in Leiden. It is incredibly hard to figure out how to get around. The train to Leiden goes right through the airport, so that is the way she will go to school. She loved the city of Leiden. She said it seemed more wholesome and is not so busy. It has windmills.

I told her while she was feeling so alone, people were calling to see how she was, thinking about her, and praying for her. That made her feel better. ...


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Amsterdam, August 19, 2002

Recently my mother pulled out a thick stack of emails printed out long ago that she has kept tucked away for 10 years. I always thought my mother's habit of printing emails was odd, but now I'm so grateful she did.

Perhaps it's that I've been reading a collection of Dorothy L. Sayers' old letters. Perhaps it's that my grandmother published a volume of love letters my grandpa sent to her in WWII, shortly before he died. Perhaps it's that this is one of my favorite blogs. Perhaps it's that I'm out of anything original to say. Or perhaps I'm simply narcissistic. But I've decided to type out for posterity the emails sent between my mother and I while I was living in Amsterdam.

I don't presume that anyone out there will be whatsoever interested - these certainly aren't "Letters of Note" - so feel free to skip any posts thus labelled. But reading through several of these letters has brought back such memories and emotions that I want to remember them. 

A little background: When I was in college, I was part of a church that was all about church planting. As freshmen, we dreamed of starting a church somewhere in Europe, like Italy, London or Amsterdam. Shortly after graduating, plans were laid to start a church in Amsterdam. We spent a year as "The A-Team," learning Dutch and studying culture and missions. I made plans to study for a Masters in Literature at Leiden University.

In the meantime, I had started getting to know Michael, a quirky, intelligent younger brother of a friend of mine. This considerably complicated my carefully laid plans of being a European missionary. I remember telling my life group on the A-Team that this guy I had started talking to was somehow special and different - but I was only interested in friendship. They looked at each other knowingly. I had also begun to have a crisis of faith at the time, brought on in part by the various readings and experiences I had with the A-team. 

So I left for Amsterdam in August of 2002, torn between my longtime conviction and desire to be a missionary to Europe, my knowledge that Michael fit the description of Amber's husband eerily well, and a niggling doubt about and disillusionment with the church.

And so, here is my first email, sent after I'd first arrived in Amsterdam.

 Amsterdam Centraal Station

From: Amber
To: Mom, friends and family
Sent: Monday, August 19, 2002 1:47 p.m.

Hi Guys!

I don't have much time to write. I'm here at an e-cafe it's 9:45 at night and I haven't slept for 24 hours.

My apartment is adorable--way nicer than I thought it would be. I have my own room on the second floor by the kitchen and the living room. The other girls are on the third floor. (it's three floors, but the first floor is just a foyer and a bathroom. The stairs are steep and windy! I'll send you pictures when I can.

We went to a pizzeria for dinner in Central Amsterdam. It's very bustling! Tomorrow we'll go to Leiden to start figuring things out. It took us about 15 or 20 minutes by bus to get from our place to central station.

I hope you guys are doing well. I'm about out of time so I better send this!

love you!


Saturday, October 27, 2012

A Little Lamb

My sister had a Halloween party today. Instead of being Yoda, Alexandra was a sweet little lamb. Her dad was a shepherd (a beardless shepherd since the fake beard made Allie cry). And I was an explorer. Or maybe Jane Goodall. Couldn't decide.

Allie was so cute I wanted to kiss her little face off.

The reason she's looking a bit sheepish (ha, ha!) is that she just had her first run in with a clown. The verdict: She really doesn't like clowns. My Aunt Cin was wearing silly glasses, a floppy hat and a red clown nose. When she approached, Allie shrieked and started sobbing. I think this is the first time I've seen her really frightened.

Jett was the cutest pirate I've ever seen. But, of course, I can't show you pictures of that. My sister Chris was Dr. Horrible, and Mike coveted her evil doctor goggles.

Once Allie saw the dogs, she returned to her old self.

Tonight, she got to babysit Hadassah. She was a very good babysitter.

And, fret not, Allie will be wearing this costume twice more this Halloween season, so I will certainly be regaling you with more photos.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Baby in a Box

Because my mother-in-law asked for more videos...

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Monday, October 22, 2012

This and That

We're enjoying the fall around here - beautiful blue skies and yellow trees. Last weekend, we went to a fall festival in Parker with my family where Allie pet a pig and went gold panning (aka playing in the sand).

Around here, the deer are gathered for the mating season, so we pass large herds on our drives and walks. On one walk, we passed about 12 bucks with really large antlers. Allie tries to intimidate them. (You can't see the deer very well in this video, but they're quite large, and there's a big herd just behind us.)

At home, Allie has developed the new trick of climbing up on the fireplace. Thankfully, she learned the trick of climbing back down the same day. (But it's still slightly terrifying.)

Allie likes staring out the window, watching the leaves fall from the trees.

She's also decided that climbing the couch is the most fun thing ever, which is nice for us, as it keeps her happy for chunks of time. She's also a big dancer right now.

And, lastly, she's improving her cruising/walking skills. (Notice her car noises.)

That's about all that's new with us!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

13 Months and Counting

It's going to be tough to keep her in the chair from now on...

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

This One's for the Grandmas

I continue to be boring and have nothing to say. Meanwhile, my baby is charming, vibrant and ridiculous. Here is some unadulterated baby for all the grandmas in the house.

Disclaimer: Mike does not usually burp. I asked him to "do his burp thing" to make Allie laugh, meaning his bird-squawk hiccup thingy. He thought I literally meant burp. Whew. I feel better now that I said that.

There's nothing like the sound of her laugh. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Honor of Submission

The startling thought came to me last night that submission could actually be an honor. Of course, having been in the church my whole life, I've heard this time and again. But it is awful hard to keep in your head in this society.

Submission is simply not a value in American culture. We applaud those who "follow their dreams" and "don't worry what anyone else has to say." Independence is one of our highest values. This can be both good and bad - we value the uniqueness of each individual. But we also often place very little value on the good of the whole, opting rather for the good of the one.

So it's no wonder that when the Bible talks of submission it can sometimes seem hierarchical, archaic and unseemly. It's no wonder that women buck under Paul's letter that states, "Wives, submit to your husbands." It's no wonder that the picture of Christian masculinity in America often more resembles the strong warrior Joshua than it does Jesus - who "made himself nothing" and "humbled himself and became obedient to death."

We'd rather picture ourselves as strong warriors or American Idols than humble nothings, as Christ made himself.

But submission is what every Christian is called to - not just women as we so often focus on. We all are called to submit to one another:

"Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." Ephesians 5:21

Wisdom itself is submissive:

"The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere." James 3:17

Ultimately, our submission to others is a mirror of our submission to God: 

"Submit yourselves, then, to God." James 4:7

And the gold standard for one who willingly does not seek His own good, but places others above Himself is Christ, as it states in one of the most beautiful passages of all Scripture:

"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross!" Philippians 2:5-8 

In that light, what an honor it is to follow Christ's example of this upside-down world.

If that weren't enough (although it is), I find it comforting to think of Eastern cultures. In many Asian cultures, such as in Japan, submission is a matter of honor. To only seek our own good, putting our desires and dreams above any other consideration, would be dishonorable. But giving reverence to the elderly, to the family, and submitting to the good of all is honorable and noble. 

How interesting that this largely non-Christian culture may have a better understanding of the beauty and honor of submission than our culture, which was founded on Christian values. 

So my resolution is this: When I cringe under the commands to submit to others, to put their needs and wisdom above my own, instead of secretly feeling it's unfair, archaic or patriarchal, I will remember that I am a product of my own only-out-for-yourself culture. I will remember the quiet honor that other cultures place on one who seeks to support and honor others. But, most of all, I will remember what an honor it is to be called to live in a way worthy of Christ, who "did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Outside My Window

It's been a bit quiet around her lately. I've been feeling a bit meh, blah, blerg. But then I remembered what I do when I have nothing to say! Here goes...

Outside my window: Rust-colored scrub oaks march up the hillside, and I hear fallen leaves blowing down the street.

I am thinking: I've been reading several books lately and working with a literary agent, but these things have left me feeling and thinking blah. I had a good long talk with my husband about it all last night. He's good for that. 

From the kitchen: My blah thoughts have been driving me to bake. Considering my very poor culinary performance for the past several years, I'm very proud of my past several weeks of cooking: chicken noodle soup, biscuits, prune cake, apple bread, chicken pesto, etc. Come to think of it, since the baby is currently napping, I should be making dinner, not blogging...

I am reading: I've been reading through the letters of Dorothy L. Sayers. It's interesting to read her frustrations on the books she was writing that I know so well. She thought Murder Must Advertise was rushed and botched, but I like it just fine. I'm also reading the Copywriter's Handbook for work. And I'm reading A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans. There are parts of it I like and parts of it I disagree with.

I am hoping: The baby naps longer than 25 minutes since that's how long she cried before she went to sleep. I'm always disappointed that my hopes aren't more metaphysical. Update: She slept 30 minutes. So I guess I net 5 minutes.

I am hearing: Planes buzzing overhead - as they do every day, living so close to the Air Force Academy.

I am creating: Nothing! I just go on Pinterest to see what other people are creating, get exhausted, and have a marathon of The Voice.

One of my favorite things: My husband is really too kind. He is in charge of the baby monitor at night - I sleep with ear plugs and he sleeps with earphones in, hence why we still need a baby monitor. He knows what a light sleeper I am, so he's the one who listens every single morning for the baby to wake up, even though I am the morning person and not he. That is one of my favorite things. That and pumpkin chocolate chip muffins, which I'm currently baking.

A few plans for the rest of the week: My sister's birthday party, a trip to the zoo, a load of laundry: the usual.

A picture thought for the day: Here we are at Mueller State Park last week with our friends. Don't you love fall?

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Hike on High Drive

Today was the typical Colorado fall day - perfect. Warm and sunny with a cool breeze, allowing us to snatch a few hours of glory before winter. We took a hike up High Drive.

Allie's looking so grown up, isn't she?

We'd hiked up the other side of High Drive when I was pregnant, but this time came at it from the other direction. So beautiful and still!

On our drive back home, look who was waiting for us!

He was so cute and I wanted to cuddle him. But I didn't. When we got home, Allie got to see the usual suspects. She's going to be jaded by deer by the time she's 3.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Baby's First Couch Fort

This weekend was a big one for Alexandra - she got to experience her first couch fort.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


Alexandra got a winter hat for her birthday.

That's all. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Our Next Project

I lived in the same home for the first 18 years of my life. My parents still live there, and I love that it truly is home for me, filled with memories of "painting" the back fence, camping in the basement and coloring on the white brick fireplace. (The crayon marks are still there.) Mike also grew up in the same home his whole life, where his parents still live. And even though I didn't grow up in that home, going there for holidays makes me feel like I did, since Mike's mom does so much to make their house a home.

Mike and I, being romantics, wanted the first home we ever bought to be the last home we ever bought. We waited and saved to buy the home where we want to raise our children and grow old together. (Although, I fully reserve the right to buy a castle when I get filthy rich on writing. Mwahahaha.) We love our home, and we're trying to improve it in ways that will make us want to live here forever, rather than feeling that need to move on up. (Is this the longest ramp-up/justification for a home project, or what?)

So, in short, we are building a walk-in closet in our bedroom! Our bedroom has a closet that I regret to say, I am totally hogging. Mike has to go to the empty third bedroom to get his clothes in the morning. And once the yet-to-be-conceived Baby #2, Enrique, is born, he will probably want this closet for himself, that greedy Gus. I emptied out my closet and gave a ton away, hoping we could both squeeze into our one modest closet, but in the end, we just couldn't do it.

Therefore, Mike's taking on his most ambitious project yet. We're going to combine three closets, which all just happen to be back-to-back: our closet, Enrique's closet, and the hall linen closet. Mike will build a new closet that bumps into Enrique's room.

So here are my official before pictures. Sorry, I have no clue how to make pictures of closets look good, other than to stick a baby in them. 

Hall linen closet. We'll tear out the back wall, which backs into our closet, and wall off the door. (That's the master bedroom on the left, and Enrique's bedroom on the right.)

Here's Mike's closet in the third bedroom, complete with uninstalled doors and trim and paint swatches on the walls. First, Mike will frame a new closet on the outside of this closet. Then we'll knock down the back wall of this old closet, which will open up to our closet. Then Mike will drywall in the doors to be the back wall of Enrique's closet. Capiche?

Here's our current closet. We're not sure if we'll leave the doors as is or wall part of it off so just one door would lead in to the closet to give us more wall space - it's a tight fit right now with the dresser.

Definitely the biggest project we've yet to undertake, which will have to include flooring and lighting (eek!). It'll be fun to take a sledgehammer to some walls, but scary to drywall, which we've never done. We don't know how long it will take - it's a good thing Enrique is still just a twinkle in our eyes!