Friday, November 25, 2011

New Life, New Plans

It seems that just when one settles in, life changes.  The first thing that happened, at the end of a beautiful summer in Holland, was that my partner learned that a seemingly innocuous bump on the side of his head was in fact a tumor.  Surgery was scheduled, and five weeks of daily radiation treatments to follow.  He was fine, and then suddenly not. 

I did my best to be helpful, to try and take care of him.  He's strong of mind, and very matter-of-fact about everything.  That seems to be typically Dutch, and a frame of mind I am unable to achieve.  I'm watching his physical condition deteriorate now as the effects of the radiation become stronger and stronger.

I finished a year of schooling in the meantime, and took the last three tests in the inburgeringsexamen (integration exam).  I haven't heard yet if I passed, but with everything else going on I hardly have time to worry about the results.  If I didn't pass, I'll simply return to school and try again.

The reason I decided to write this entry today, though, was because of another change.  A lot of my friends and my family know that I have been going to a series of doctors/specialists for my vision problems.  I had my final appointment yesterday, and the results of all sorts of tests.  I couldn't bear writing each person who asked about that outcome, so I decided to share it here.

About a year ago, the same time I began school, I noticed a change for the worse in my vision.  I also started experiencing constant headaches, most often on the right side of my head where my skull was damaged in a motorcycle accident.  I was pushing myself really hard in school, as I not only wanted to do well, but I must work twice as hard as a "regular" person to get around my brain injury.  I can still learn, but it takes all sorts of tricks to try and keep the new information in, at least long enough to take the exam.

I knew my eyeglass prescription was wrong, and suspected that might be causing the headaches, but the damage to my vision is so complicated I couldn't simply get new glasses.  Yesterday I learned that my vision has deteriorated further, even between my first eye appointment and the last specialist.  I was also told that the problem is not in my eyes.  Eye surgery, glasses, even special lenses and treatments will not work.  They believe it is likely that the problem is in my brain.

I was waiting for so long, hoping that something could be done.  Now I'm back at square one.  My vision is slipping away, and I don't know why.  My world has been reduced to a measurement - forty centimeters - beyond which only lights and darks, hazy shapes and blurry figures exist.  I have dealt with that in the past, when I had more vision, by taking photographs of the world around me.  The camera could see the details live and in focus, and I could review the photos later to learn about where I had been.

I saved money with the goal of buying a professional digital camera.  Now, I don't know what to do, or how long I have left to be able to see.  I wanted to try portrait photography, to be able to finally see the details of the faces around me.  A better choice at the moment would be macro photography, especially since my forty centimeters of visual clarity is continuing to degrade. 

I feel guilty.  Maybe this is my fault; I pushed myself too hard in school.  Could I have caused my own brain to start failing?  I've never accepted that there were boundaries on what was possible, what I could do after I became disabled.  But maybe there are.  Maybe I have found a limitation that cannot be crossed, cannot be overcome. 

I had so many plans for what I wanted to do in the future, once school was done.  There are so many places I haven't seen, so many new hobbies I wanted to learn.  I'm in the middle of writing a screenplay, and I will need to finish that before I start on other things.  I'm just hoping that there will be time enough.  At the current rate, my body will outlast what's left of my sight, and I find that to be terrifying.   

I got a second chance at life when I was twenty.  I was dead for a short while during my motorcycle accident, and I got to come back.  It's not always easy - that's the same for everyone.  I try to remember how grateful I am, how privileged I am to be alive.  Today, though, and perhaps for a while longer I am going to be sad.  I have to be strong for other people, and when I'm alone I comfort myself.  It's lonely, but better than repeating myself endlessly in a zillion emails to concerned friends and family.

The constant pain in my head and a long-ongoing problem in my lower back have their own limitations to add to the mix.  I'm so tired.  Tired of always trying to keep a positive outlook, always trying to invent new ways to overcome and do more with my life.  I've always wanted to live up to my potential.  For those of you who know me well, you know I'm a fighter, a survivor.  I'll pick myself up, and get on with living, doing the best that I can do with whatever is left of me.  Just not today, not right now.  Please have patience as I redesign my life; my dreams and goals. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Summer in the Netherlands

It's been a terrific summer, with the usual ups and downs.  Always challenges to deal with, and then a nice bit where you can just relax and enjoy.  The stories I've been hearing from back in the U.S. with jobs and homes lost, people really worried about just putting food on the table, bad weather, and general hopelessness - it's been heartbreaking.

My school here went bankrupt, so I get to begin anew in September.  I'm waiting to hear from the placement agency as to when and where that will happen.  We're not unaffected here by the U.S. and global crisis.  But the cows still graze serenely, and the unusually wet season has kept my garden looking beautiful, even without my help.

This is what I started with this season.

Everything started budding, and later bloomed without me doing anything!  I was sick once with something like the flu, and have been dealing with a broken finger, back pain and constant headaches most of the summer.  With health insurance I've been able to go to a physical therapist and the doctor, for which I am so grateful!

My sunflowers started blooming in the rain.  Not a whole lot of sun lately, but they seem not to mind.

It's really pretty! 

Not much motorcycling with all the health problems, but here we are going over the Afsluitdijk

Tjalk - Wikipedia does not have an English entry for this type of boat.

Coming home we met up with a storm front.  Difficult on a motorcycle, and I can say I get less wet in the shower than we were that day on the road.

Sunshine came out briefly when we visited the beach.  It was warm and windy, perfect for all the activities that take advantage of the wind.



We also went to the Alkmaar Kaasmarkt

It didn't rain at the cheese market, but it did look like it was going to.

The weather didn't stop the tourists and shoppers in Alkmaar!

Traditional organ music player at the cheese market.

People were taking pictures of our tandem, so I did as well.  I like to pretend I'm a tourist too.

I got a mushroom growing kit as a present - and grew three crops of delicious mushrooms. 

Another gift this summer - poppy seeds - grew gorgeous flowers and colors.

The Alpine strawberries are doing great, and are very sweet.  The wire keeps them safe from the birds - a family of Jackdaws.    

 Nearly all of my lilies have bloomed now, in pink, white, orange, and multi-colors.  Another gift of six packages of bulbs from a friend.  If you ever want to know what to get for me as a present - plant and flower seeds/bulbs are fantastic!

These grow wild over the fence.

Last but not least, cows - my favorite!  This was taken next to a petrol station.
Dutch cows, unperturbed by anything.

I'm wishing all the folks back in America can have the time and opportunity to find the beauty and peace where they are.  It will get better, it always does.

Meanwhile, if you can offer support to my mother in New Jersey, I'd appreciate it.  She's nearly eighty years old, and still works for NY Life.  She and a friend are raising six hens to produce organic eggs.  Not to sell - she's been eating organic food and has been a vegitarian since before it became fashionable.  Where she lives organic eggs can cost $4/dozen, and in today's world looking to live more "green" and becoming as self-sustanable as possible is a better choice for those who can. 

But, she and her friend own one more chicken than the local law allows, and a neighbor complained.  There are no roosters (so no loud crowing noise), and she is clean and responsible, keeping the chickens inside a coop, on her own property.  But until the law is changed, my mother is a criminal!  She needs people to support her with their signature to change the law there. 

For more info, visit these links or email me:

I'm very proud of my mother for many reasons.  She's always led the way towards the future.  She did things before most other people, because she thought it was right.  She adopted me as a single parent - and I got to raise my own pet chicken from an egg to a hen when I was a child.  My mom built me a coop in our yard.  She taught me that whatever you dream about doing, you can do it. 

Go Mom!


Friday, April 22, 2011

Germany Motorbike Trip

It's that time of year, the warm weather is here, and the biking season has begun.  Boele's Place has moved from Belgium to Heimborn, Germany - so that's where we headed last weekend.  Most of the photos I took from the back of the bike, so they are perhaps a bit blurry.  Riding on the autobahn is kinda scary, but I must say that the German people drive very well.  I actually felt safer there on the highway than I do here, surprisingly.

We're still in the Netherlands here, getting ready for the long ride ahead.  A bit chilly, and not a lot of sun - but no rain.  In all that protective clothing, I'm glad when it's a bit colder rather than warmer.

I like this photo.  It's our bike, not fancy, not a ratbike.  A few dents and dings.  Older.  Kinda like me!

Who doesn't know by now that I gained a bit of weight this past winter?  I was enjoying all sorts of delicious Dutch food, as often as possible.  Unfortunately, I am now on a diet, as leather pants are very expensive and the pair I have doesn't stretch at all.  I'm not sure I look that cute with a little buddah belly anyhow.

  The photo above and the rest below are all taken in Germany.  I took a couple photos that have place signs in them, but other than that I'm not sure where exactly each is, and they are not in order. 

This is a road through a small town.  Most of the places we saw are huge fields or forest land dotted with villages.  A few of these towns had traffic lights, most did not.  Lots of hills, twists and turns - great for motorcycling!

My camera cannot capture the view as nicely as I was able to see it.  What looks like grey trees in the landscape should actually be white flower-covered trees.  It's so much prettier in person.

You can click on any of these photos to view a larger image.  The best part of traveling by bike is that you can smell all the flowers blooming, the new grass, freshly tilled earth and clean, crisp air.

There are solar panels covering the house and barn in the background, and there are windmills everywhere.  Not like the older ones in the Netherlands, but the huge ones that look like airplane propellers.

Here we are somewhere in Germany...

Just passing by.

I'm not sure why there are so many caves around here - some are open, some are boarded up or bricked up.  We passed a mining car memorial, but I didn't have a chance to stop and see it.

The pine forests smell wonderful too.

Not quite as flat as the Netherlands.

My helmet, rear view.

I thought this was a cool looking house.

An old barn

Older electric tower thingie.

I couldn't decide whether this was a spooky or pretty house.

We stopped in a few larger places too - you know McDonald's.

I took this picture as I can read (understand) their slogan - Alles unter einem Dach.  It's so close to Dutch that I can read a lot of German now without a problem.  Pronunciation in either language though still escapes me.

Like many homes in the Netherlands, there are quite a few buildings here with really great details.

Sometimes you have to look closely, and then you get to see some interesting things.

Cool building.

And the best for last...
"Ich bin ein Berliner."

Oh wait, no I'm not. "Ich bin ein Amerikaner."

That's it for now.  I hope you enjoyed!