“You almost got the job” (Translation: You were second out of a zillion applicants).
“You were almost accepted” … to the club, college, team, etc.
“You almost made the flight”… and now you’ll be stuck at the airport lounge eating stale peanuts for three hours.
This sneaky little word can encapsulate the difference between success and failure, or, in the case of our never-ending home renovation, the difference between ”livable” and ”not exactly”.
When our well-meaning neighbors ask, ”Is the house finished?”, no doubt wondering how in hell this remodel has taken a year and a half and counting, we generally answer ”almost”. As in, we still don’t have shower doors in two of the bathrooms because, well, somehow they were measured incorrectly. Twice. And no ovens, because they were “only” ordered nine months ago. Oh, and an unusable bath tub because the tub filler was set too far away from the tub so water splashes all over the floor and needs to be replaced. I could go on, but you get the picture.
On the other hand, ”almost” could have magical powers, e.g., ”The bullet almost pierced your lungs/spine/brain” or ”That car almost plowed right into you”.
If only this were one of those good ”almosts”. Grrrr.
A couple of weeks ago, I wandered down a blog rabbit hole reading a post and responses concerning the author’s dilemma of whether or not to have a third child.
The comments were sensitive and thought-provoking, relying on various writers’ personal experiences and larger ethical questions, such as: Is it selfish to bring more children into a world where profound climate change threatens to create an uninhabitable future for the next generations?
Set against the current debates on Roe v. Wade, the decision whether to have children at all is increasingly fraught.
It is, of course, both a deeply personal and mostly unknowable decision with no ”right” answer. Some of the women had yearned for children and wished they’d had more before their biological clock stopped ticking. Others admitted that parenthood involved more sacrifice than they’d ever expected. Which isn’t to say they regretted or resented having kids, though some might have, but it was not exactly what they’d envisioned.
Having struggled to balance a demanding career with raising two kids— on my own after my divorce when they were young teens— I know it’s not a simple choice. And that it’s not for everyone, regardless of what your friends, family, or well-meaning co-worker tells you. Or, frankly, your spouse, unless they are the sort of person who is guaranteed to cook, clean, change diapers, do at least 50% of the work, and take over when it all becomes too much to handle.
The only person who should decide what you truly want is you. Letting anyone else pressure you either way will just lead to resentment.
As someone who is not particularly patient, and who likes things done the way I want them done, I could easily have forgone the parenting experience. And not because I don’t love my kids, which I do, but because I would have been a happier person if I hadn’t been stretched so thin.
I do know this: parenthood is hard. Kids get sick, get hurt, require a lot of attention for the first two decades, change your marriage (not always for the better), and come into the world with their own personalities which may not be the mini-me you envisioned. And how would you handle serious illness or disability— theirs or yours? Or becoming a single parent?
For anyone on the fence, I’d say you will be ”ready” when you feel that any and all obstacles are less important to you than not having kids. If you thrive on order and control, the chaos implicit in having children will be profoundly stressful, no matter how much money you can spend on childcare. Kids are messy, unpredictable, and not for everyone. I know an awful lot of people who never had children and don’t regret it.
Another litmus test: What’s your ideal pet? A cat, which can be happily left on its own? A dog that needs frequent walks, lots of attention, and rewards you with unconditional love?
Ack, what a week it’s been! Last Thursday, the movers delivered all the furniture etc. that had been stored since we had it all packed in March 2021. (Thanks to Covid and living halfway across the country, we couldn’t do this ourselves so we hired “professionals”.)
Since then, we’ve been driving to the house (about an hour away from where we’re renting) to go through everything. And finding lots of broken china, crystal and antique furniture— much that we collected in our travels or had been in our families for years.
Most breakables were packed reasonably well, although their boxes weren’t marked “fragile”. The damage seems to have occurred when boxes were loaded, unloaded, and probably dropped along the way.
To add insult to injury, we’re also missing several valuable items. The list keeps growing, though as we get to the last remaining boxes, hope is fading. Luckily, we have insurance, but I anticipate a long, unpleasant process to resolve it all. And, admittedly, this is a first-world problem and we have accumulated way too much stuff, but still.
End of rant; hope your week is going better than mine!
This is our favorite day of the trip. We dock in Ghent, which I would love to see but alas there isn’t enough time to thoroughly explore both cities, and we want to do justice to beautiful Bruges.
Bruges is a fascinating combination of old and new, from its medieval buildings and churches, tree-lined canals and peaceful courtyards, to its many delectable restaurants, chocolate shops and other modern offerings.
We begin with a stroll through the convent originally established in 1245 as a béguinage. This was a community of religious laywomen who lived and worked together, following the prioress’s rules, but did not take vows: a remarkable opportunity at that time for unmarried women to be (relatively) socially and financially independent. Today, Benedictine nuns call this lovely complex of 16th-18th century houses and gardens home.
We stroll through narrow streets to the expansive main plaza, where horse-drawn carriages await eager tourists such as ourselves. It’s still too early for lunch so off we go for a tour led by our horse Gina. Our driver warns us that Gina can display a bit of a temper if we get too close, so we stay safely tucked in the back while she clip-clops through town.
Earlier, we’ve serendipitously stumbled upon the Delvaux boutique, which is enticing to me and tolerated by my long-suffering husband. I spy, and purchase, a silk scarf with Delvaux’s famous Magritte-inspired designs, which goes perfectly with one of my favorite bags, the Tempête.
We see many people taking advantage of the sunny weather to float along the canals but we continue our wanderings until it’s time to return to the ship and rejoin new friends for cocktails and dinner.
Greetings from Belgium! Today we’re in Antwerp, which seems to have more chocolate boutiques per square foot than anywhere else on the planet. Luckily for me, they are all closed at the moment. Antwerp is also famous for diamonds, should you need a bauble or two.
Antwerp was the home of Peter Paul Rubens, and you can see his 17th century masterpieces in the beautiful Gothic cathedral (Cathedral of Our Lady) in the main square. The medieval guild houses are quite stunning as well.
Happy Passover and Easter; I hope you’re having a lovely holiday weekend.
Resuming our travels, we arrive at the scenic village of Kinderdijk, a World Heritage site remarkable for its nineteen preserved 18th century windmills. Not merely picturesque, the windmills are an innovative hydraulic system (first developed in the Middle Ages) that harnesses wind power to pump water away from the land, allowing cultivation and preventing flooding. Low-lying Holland would be underwater without its network of polders (land reclaimed from the sea), windmills, and protective dikes (embankments)!
We’re docked near eight of them (built in 1740) — an easy walk — and begin with an overview of the area, aka Windmill 101.
We then stroll over to one of the mills which allows visitors inside. Much like a lighthouse, it features minimal living quarters (and low rent) for the person who tends the mill and keeps it in running order.
l skip the steep climb to the top, as I can envision one of us losing their footing and everyone tumbling down like dominoes. Even so, the windmill is a majestic sight.
You might not expect the site of a failed WWII operation to be on the itinerary, but the nearby Airborne Museum is well worth the trip.
As depicted in the famous 1977 epic war film A Bridge Too Far, Allied forces tried to secure a series of bridges in The Netherlands in a massive airborne operation that was the largest of its kind at the time. The most interesting part of the museum is the Battle of Arnhem immersive experience, in which you “board” a plane and find yourself dropped into the battle, complete with visual and sound effects that make the events all too real.
Though sadly we didn’t have time to explore the city itself — next time!— it’s worth noting that Arnhem boasts a museum featuring Van Gogh, Gauguin, Picasso and more, a zoo where the animals roam in large ”eco-displays”, medieval cellars, and many boutiques and restaurants.
In the afternoon we head to the Netherlands Open Air Museum— think Colonial Williamsburg, Dutch-style. Unfortunately, all the indoor exhibits are closed, but it’s a beautiful day to stroll outside and admire the authentic buildings and windmills that were transplanted to the site to showcase life as it used to be.
The great thing about a cruise like this is that we see places we would otherwise miss.
Hoorn (pronounced ”horn”, as in Cape Horn, which was named by Dutch navigator Willem Schouten in 1616 in honor of his birthplace) is a charming and historic harbor town in North Holland.
In the 1600s, it was a prosperous trade center for the Dutch East India Company, as evidenced by elegant merchant houses and the Hoofdtoren, the magnificent watchtower overlooking the harbor that was built in 1532, with its clock added in 1651.
Modern shops, restaurants, and sailboats mingle comfortably with centuries-old architecture and barges. We would love to come back!
We arrive in Amsterdam a day before we embark on our Viking Cruise through The Netherlands and Belgium, and check into our wonderful hotel De L’Europe. The hotel is an easy walk to the Museumplein, the square that’s home to the three major museums, the Rijksmuseum (famed for its collection of Dutch Masters including Rembrandt, Vermeer and Jan Steen), the Stedelijk, featuring works by Picasso, Matisse, Rauschenberg and Warhol, among many others, and the Van Gogh Museum.
But much of the art is the city itself, with its 16th and 17th century brick houses lining the streets and canals.
Thank you so much; that’s very kind of you!
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“Oh to be in Holland now the tulips are in bloom” (with apologies to Robert Browning)! We’ve just returned from a relaxing two weeks in The Netherlands and Belgium and I was eager to post photos except that my computer died over the weekend😩!!! Ah technology— can’t live with it/can’t live without it. Fingers crossed the iPad keeps functioning.
The shots below are from the glorious Keukenhof Gardens in Amsterdam.
I also learned a great trick for keeping tulips from getting all droopy. For years I’ve used the old method of adding copper pennies to the vase, but this works better:
When you bring your flowers home, do not unwrap them. Simply place the wrapped tulips in a container of cool room temperature water and leave them to ”acclimate” for 2 hours. After they’ve rested, you can unwrap the flowers, trim the stems about 1/2” on the diagonal, and transfer to a vase.
On day 5, mine are still upright. Happy Spring, everyone!