furniture shopping: futile pursuit?

Have you shopped for furniture lately? The furniture market is a crazy overload of products. There are a bazillion online stores and many of them offer you “affordable” furniture shipped quickly to your door. You just need to take a wild guess at the quality, color and proportions. You can browse through reviews of the suckers who took the bait to evaluate whether their opinion matters. The “affordable” online merchants are rabid and once you enter their website you will be inundated with email offers and internet ads on social media.

I’ve spent countless hours perusing online furniture sites. I spend way too much time trying to find the perfect piece and even more time evaluating whether what I see is what I’ll actually get. So far, I’ve ordered a sofa table (two shelves and four legs that will be mostly hidden behind a sofa — low risk) and an area rug. The table was fine for the price and easy to put together. The rug hasn’t been shipped yet; it’s apparently coming directly from Turkey?

I’m also pursuing second hand online shopping. I really want to save money, help people get rid of unwanted stuff and keep perfectly useful items from ending up in the land fill. Easier said than done. Again, I spend inordinate amounts of time finding what I need and like. Then one has to navigate the idiosyncrasies of the people who post. I’ve encountered a couple of categories. There’s the people who just don’t respond. The item is still listed for sale, but crickets in response to my interest. Then there’s the people who don’t post a description or post an inaccurate description. I’ve found that a lot of people think their lousy photos tell everything. Do they not realize that low res photos show no detail and that colors vary wildly from one monitor to the other? ๐Ÿ™„ We wasted time going out of our way to look at a sideboard that looked great in the low res photo. The item was nicked, scratched and the top veneer was coming off. There are some really good sellers out there, though. We’ve purchased a dresser and counter stools at a great price from some really nice people.

One might think that going to a reputable furniture store would be the safest route to acquiring good furniture. Not so fast. We spent over five hours furniture shopping this past weekend. We started at a store where we bought our coffee table. I saw a couple of pieces on their website that looked promising. So yeah, those pieces were not in the store. We did find a piece that we liked. It was lower on our shopping priority list, but it was on sale and we decided to get it. We picked it up from the warehouse to save on delivery costs, which also meant that it came in a box and had to be assembled. We went to Gardner, MA, the self proclaimed furniture capital of Massachusetts. It was a bust. The Gardner Furniture Outlet also did not have the pieces we saw online and their selection was pretty small. We went to another store which has gorgeous furniture, but even the outlet prices were three times what we could afford. They build the furniture there and will do custom work . . . for a premium. ๐Ÿค‘

One of the most stressful aspects of furniture shopping for me is having to send every choice up for review to the husband, asking “do you like this?” over and over. ๐Ÿคฆ๐Ÿปโ€โ™€๏ธ Our tastes are not that dissimilar, thank God, but since I’ve already deliberated over the selection as described above I’d rather skip this final approval step!

I have faith that we will eventually fully furnish our new home. I’d like to to be done NOW, but I’ll summon up the patience and perseverance to wait until we find what we like, can afford and will live with for a long time. In the meantime, we have some furnishings to get rid of!

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timing

โ€œThere is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavensโ€ Ecclesiastesโ€ฌ โ€ญ3:1โ€ฌ โ€ญ

I’ve been thinking a lot about timing lately. I believe things happen at a particular time for a reason. It’s not all random. As much as we try to control time and therefore timing, it is just beyond our full control. Instead of waxing philosophical and over analyzing it all, I choose to be grateful. Thank you God for your orchestration over the events of my life — the good, the sad, the difficult. By your grace, the timing is perfect.

After eight months of searching for my next job, I had a flurry of interviews for two job possibilities. The first interviews for each were a week apart, but the second rounds were two weeks apart. As I feared, an offer came from the least desirable job first and I had to hold them off for a full week before I knew where I stood with the job that I most wanted. The timing wasn’t ideal, but it worked out in the end and I had enough information to make the best decision for my future when I needed to make it. The timing of interviews allowed me to spend time with my family in Florida in January and to help out with Emma for a few days in February. The start date for my new job allowed me to be with my husband’s family when his father passed away and attend my grandmother’s funeral.

As soon as I accepted a job offer, we started looking for a house to buy. There wasn’t much to choose from in the area where we were looking and it felt like we were going to open houses merely to rule them out. We were prepared to have to extend our apartment lease beyond the end of May. On my birthday, March 17th, we attended five open houses thinking we didn’t have a strong interest in any of them. But there was a condo that grabbed our attention and after I resigned to the fact that it was in a subdivision in a town that was last on my list, we decided to take a second look with our realtor. It checked off most of the boxes on our wish list, has beautiful features and it felt like a place we could call home. We put in an offer that night and it was accepted right away. We were able to do the initial paperwork and inspection in the week between Papa Smid’s passing and the funeral. This was also my first week of work, but Dick picked up the slack. We will close on house and move before our lease expires and we can comfortably give the required 60 day notice.

Beyond the timing of recent events, I can look back and see how the timing of our two year adventure in The Netherlands fit into a bigger timeline. I’m so glad we’ve had time with Kathryn during her last year of high school, time to watch Emma grow, time to be with Pop during in his last moments on this earth, time to say goodbye to Grandma Neivel and grieve with family I haven’t seen in decades, time to help Jenna find the perfect wedding dress and so much more.

a progress report

Our favorite apples, cider donuts, vibrant orange on the trees, hiking in the woods as the leaves are falling — these are some of the things we missed the past two years. It’s autumn in New England and change is in the air. As the leaves turn colorful and the temps get cooler, Dick and I are continuing to adjust to this phase of our lives. The most recent change is a very, very good one. Dick started a full-time job! He is now an Art Director at a major government contractor. This job answers our prayers and needs in a lot of ways — stable employer, good income, reasonable commute, and an excellent work opportunity at this point in D’s career. He’s on a contract with no benefits, but we can manage without that for now. Dick has been freelancing and working from home for over 30 years, so you can imagine what a big change this is for him. It’s exciting, though!

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It’s so weird to be the one staying home as he goes off to work — complete flip from the past five years! I’m adjusting to being alone after being with my husband 24/7 for the last four months. It helped a little that we were apart for a week before he started the new job. I made a trip to New York to visit family and take some classes for a professional certificate.

I’m still “in between” and allowing the pause. In some ways, I feel like I’m gearing up for the next adventure. I’m optimistic that it’s just around the corner. I had a phone interview recently and there are a few other irons in the fire. I’m taking advantage of continuing education opportunities and doing lots of reading to bone up on some topics and just absorb some really good stuff. I’m addressing some physical issues (nothing serious) and processing (or reprocessing) some emotional residue. I’m not thrilled about being in the “change of life” phase ๐Ÿ˜›, but I intend to persevere!

It’s been difficult to close the last chapter and sometimes I miss our life in Nederland so much (damn Facebook memories!), but I know there are more adventures ahead. Let’s see what happens next! ๐Ÿ™‚

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Repatriation – part 3

As I write this, I wonder how many parts this repatriation story will have. Two and half months should be enough time to get back into the American swing of things — right? It’s so complicated, though. I feel like I’m in this ‘in between’ place — not where I was before and not yet where I want to be now.

I’ve had a few pauses in my life where I felt stuck in one place until I got a green light to move forward. One of them was when I was ready to get married and Dick was not. ๐Ÿคจ Another was when I got the job offer at NATO, but I had to wait five months for a security clearance. These pauses give me anxiety because I don’t like having little or no control over the situation. I do all that I know to do, then come to a point where I can only wait. I think I’m a relatively patient person, but I get VERY impatient in these situations! ๐Ÿ˜ซ

I have an almost obsessive need to know and plan. I love finding information and putting things in order (throw in a fascination with history and it’s no surprise that I chose archives as my profession). I loved planning our adventures in Europe. I scoured travel blogs and tourist sites for information and then planned detailed itineraries. Much of my life is organized in OneNote; my Google map is a thing of beauty; hello, my name is Amy and I’m a Pinterest addict. ๐Ÿ˜›

My days right now are largely unplanned. I can’t keep the days straight because one day runs into another. I delay getting up some mornings because I feel like I have no particular purpose for the day. I have no set routine and that’s depressing. I have ideas and intentions of meaningful purposes, but I’m hesitant to act on most of them because I think I need a better idea of what my schedule and location will be in the future. Just so you know, I’m reading the inspirational ‘how to make the most of life now’ books and blogs. I get it. I really do. So even while I’m impatient with this pause in my life, I’m also allowing myself the pause. I’m just trying to explain the ‘in-between’ phenomenon.

Part of this pause is figuring out what I really want to do next. I’ve spent the last seven years in jobs that were frustratingly arduous. I’m grateful for these jobs and I gained so much, but I dreaded every Monday and looked forward to every Friday (or vacation day!). Even though I’ve been determined to take the time to find a job that I will enjoy and even though my dear husband agreed, I’ve had moments of panic (or impatience) where I applied for jobs because I NEED a job. This has gotten me in a bind of then having to interview for these less than desirable jobs. Kick myself. ๐Ÿ˜– I turned down a job last week after the second interview because it gave me anxiety just thinking about how much I didn’t want to do it. I had an interview for a part time job (8 hrs a week) last week and I was a little uneasy about it because itโ€™s not quite my thing. I didnโ€™t get the job, so thatโ€™s settled. Iโ€™m now vying for four open jobs that Iโ€™m feeling good about and that gives me hope!

Dick is also slogging through the job hunt. He had a phone interview scheduled last week, but they didn’t call . . . and they didn’t reschedule. Who does that?! ๐Ÿ˜  He gets calls from recruiters almost every day and his resume has been submitted for several temp jobs. A promising connection for a long term position is in the works. ๐Ÿ™ย ๐ŸคžHe’s proactive with networking and doing webinars to get advice, which I have to hope will eventually pay off.

We are settled into our apartment and that’s a positive move forward. It’s feels homey with our own furniture and “stuff” around. ๐Ÿ›‹ We still have a full storage unit and we’ve made many trips back and forth to it as we figure out what we do/do not need right now. After we unpacked, we returned unnecessary boxes of stuff. Then there were odd things missing that we had to find in unpacked boxes, like the remote to the TV and the glass plate for the microwave. We seriously have too much stuff and it gets overwhelming! We’ve dropped off some donations and several things have been posted for sale. Progress. As much as we dread moving again soon, we will buy a permanent home as soon as we can. I browse Zillow every day and we’ve attended several open houses. It’s a bit of self-imposed torture, but this girl HAS to plan or um, keep the dream alive. ๐Ÿค“

Repatriation – part 2

This is the part where it gets icky. It kinda feels like camping without all the fun activities. We’re ‘camping’ in a furnished, third floor walk up, one bedroom apartment in the fringe where urban meets suburban. The neighborhood appears to be safe enough, but there’s no outdoor space and we don’t have good views from the windows (parking lot and trash bins). There really isn’t any place to walk to either. Dick and I tried a trail nearby, which was fine except for the garbage strewn everywhere. The street is filled with huge houses split into multiple apartments and Spanish music can be heard all around. The apartment kitchen has the very basics and cooking healthy recipes has been a challenge. We’re doing another Whole30 during the month of July to detox from overindulgence during our travels.

The job thing is still unsettled and that’s stressful. Dick has the best prospects and we’re praying that one of them solidifies into a permanent position. One promising opportunity fell through after two rounds of interviews, but he has a tentative offer from an agency in Boston. They need to go through the search formalities and don’t expect the hire to happen until mid-August. It’s wait and see for now and Dick will do some temp work in the meantime. My search has stagnated. Three applications are pending, but I’m losing confidence in them as time goes by with no contact. I’ve applied at a temp agency for library type jobs and will see if anything comes of it. Lot’s of waiting going on here!

We’ve decided that we will have to move into an apartment for several months until the job thing is settled and we can buy a house. We’re looking at apartment complexes that offer short term leases and are close to commuter rail. Dick also wants to be close to Kathryn’s school during her busy fall activities. Our shipment of household goods arrived after 4 weeks of travel and 2 weeks in customs. We’ll have to sort two storage units to figure out what we will move into an apartment temporarily. Fun stuff!

It’s weird that the transition back is so much more difficult than our transition to The Netherlands. The landscape, culture and people here are all well known to us, but without a job or a home we feel unmoored.

Some days we are discouraged and impatient, but we try to keep in mind that our basic needs are met and it’s only been six weeks. We have so much to be thankful for and so many memories to savor! God is good!

Repatriation – part 1

Repatriation is defined as “the return of someone to their own country,” but it’s more than that. It’s this whole complicated readjustment to one’s own culture and once familiar surroundings. It’s this weird state of being where the environment that used to be everything you knew is now strange and uncomfortable. I find myself wanting to reach back for everything I loved about NL, transport it to this present place and mix it with what I love about home. That would be perfect!

We find ourselves critiquing America a lot and it’s probably unfair. The cost of living is ridiculous, the traffic is horrendous, people are rude, the landscape is marred with overdevelopment, obnoxious politics is in our face . . . and the list goes on. Okay, it’s a little unfair. I’m not ready to analyze it that closely right now, though. Right now, I just want to figure out how to stay emotionally balanced — let go of what I can’t change and stay positive.

Step one – spend time with family. This is what we missed the most and why we’re here. Alan and Natasha (brother and sister-in-law) have graciously given us a temporary place to stay. We’ve been able to restart regular time with Kathryn and it’s been so good to hang out with Jenna and Jamie. This week we will visit Smid family and hope to provide some help to mom & dad. Then we will meet up with Jasmine, Matt, Jared, Michelle and EMMA!!! I can’t wait to smooch those chubby cheeks! I’m so excited to see them all!

Step two – get the jobs nailed down. It will help to have a work routine and we pray that we will be in jobs that are fulfilling. We’re just into our second week back and Dick already has some promising leads. I had an interview, but it’s not the right fit for me right now. I’m exploring other possibilities.

Step three – find a home. This is a big one for me. I’ve been looking forward to finding a cozy home where we can entertain family, friends and visitors. I really want to put down roots in a place where we can get involved in the community. I guess that’s Step four – get involved and give back.

More to come on this journey . . .

Farewell Tour: Wassenaar & The Hague

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On our way to Wassenaar, we stopped at Muiderslot, a medieval castle. One more castle! There was a really cool exhibit there about women and power called Armed with Beauty. The castle tour didn’t take too long — cause medieval castles are all about defense not fancy living. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Our last accommodation was at a farm bed & breakfast in Wassenaar. Dick’s mother has stayed at this B&B twice during her visits because it’s close to an assisted living home where Tante Nel lives. Lucia, the host, is vivacious and we really enjoyed chatting with her. She gave us a full tour of their house, barn and event facility. She is very clever and creative and has accomplished a lot in their agritourism ventures. Its a working modern dairy farm and horse stable, but they have a beautiful B&B suite in the front of their house and a converted carriage house as an event venue. We were able to see a robotic milking machine in action, which was fascinating to me as a former farm girl! ๐Ÿฎ

The first night, we biked to a pannenkoeken house and had some delicious Dutch pancakes one more time. It was a nice long bike ride past gorgeous mansions and parks. Wassenaar is where some rich and famous people live (though I have no idea who they are).

I decided that I really needed to get my hair done before our flight because salons at home would be closed Sunday – Monday and I had an interview scheduled for Tuesday morning. I did a little research and found a salon in The Hague that catered to expats (i.e. they promised to speak English). Dick dropped me off at the salon on Friday morning and I’m happy to report that I got great service. ๐Ÿ’‡โ€โ™€๏ธ Whew!

Rain was threatening in the afternoon as we drove into the center of The Hague. We went to the Mauritshuis, an art museum that houses some famous Dutch paintings. We saw The Girl With the Pearl Earring, The Goldfinch, some Rembrandt’s and one of my favorite Dutch painters, Salomon van Ruysdael.

Later after the rain stopped, we drove to Sheveningen Beach. It was cloudy and windy — not a great day to be at the beach, but we walked the length of the pier and perused the restaurants along the shore. I realized that I hadn’t checked into our flight, so we went back to the car to hotspot the laptop and take care of it. Dick was not able to check into the second leg of our trip and was put on hold for at least a half hour to try to resolve it. We finally got to a restaurant at 9pm, but neither of us had much of an appetite.

We packed and repacked our luggage on Saturday morning. Lucia served us another hearty breakfast and then we were off to the airport. We ended up paying โ‚ฌ225 ๐Ÿ˜ต in extra fees for our luggage at check in — probably packed more than we needed, but relying on the speedy arrival of our goods by boat is a gamble. We were seated by the window on the flight out of Amsterdam so we got our final look and shed a few tears. Very difficult to say goodbye to this place we love so much . . . ๐Ÿ˜ข๐Ÿ˜ข๐Ÿ˜ข

Our flight out of Dublin was a bit delayed, but we didn’t know this until we were standing in line ready to board. Dick thought his paper AerClub card would get us priority boarding, but after standing in that line for a half hour (or more?) we were told that wouldn’t work. ๐Ÿ˜ So we headed to the back of the general boarding line. Not a big deal since we were in the back of the plane!

I guess this is the end of our travels for awhile. โ˜น๏ธ What an amazing adventure it has been! ๐Ÿ˜€ We have been incredibly blessed and forever changed!

Farewell Tour: Friesland

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Dick’s cousin Els and her husband Frans graciously offered us a place to stay for three nights while we did some exploring and met up with other cousins. We had a nice Chinese take out dinner with them when we arrived on Monday night. Frans prayed a blessing over us after dinner, which was very special.

Tuesday, we took a ferry to Schiermonnikoog, an island in the North Sea. It was cloudy and cool in the morning, but we sat on the top deck anyway. When we arrived, we rented bikes at the pier and biked into town. We took a short coffee break and then walked around the small town before heading to the beach. The beach was huge and almost completely deserted. Dick walked into the water, but I chose to stay dry. ๐Ÿ˜Œ The sun had come out by this time and made it feel warmer. We continued on by bike to a lighthouse to take some pics.

Back in town we paused so Dick could conduct some business by phone and then we had lunch. We decided that biking around the whole island would take too much time and there wouldn’t be much to see that we hadn’t already seen. So we biked up to a nice sitting spot, relaxed for awhile and did some reading. The ferry ride back was nicer in the sun. We didn’t realize until we got back how sunburned our faces were! ๐Ÿ˜ณ

We drove into Leeuwarden to have dinner and check out some art installations. Leeuwarden is one of this year’s European Culture Capitals. We ended up having a lousy dinner at an Irish Pub (probably the worst restaurant meal we’ve had in Europe) and saw just a couple of art pieces.

Wednesday was a relaxed day. We slept in (yay!) and then took a long walk. We brought some of our food leftovers along and made a picnic out of it. In the afternoon, we went to Giethoorn, a picturesque village with a series of canals and bridges. There is no car traffic allowed inside the village. We rented a boat a took a slow cruise through the main canal, out to a big lake and then back into town. In the evening, we met Dick’s cousin Joke and her husband Coen at their favorite Italian restaurant. We had a table outside along the canal, which was lovely! Our hosts had arranged a three course Sicilian meal, which lasted almost 4 hours. Very Italian! The food was delicious, the service was incredible and we really enjoyed the company of Dick’s cousins.

On Thursday morning as we were getting ready to leave, a street organ pulled up in front of the house. We went out to listen for awhile and give our regards to organ grinders. We won’t see this in America! We said our goodbyes to Els and Frans and packed up for the final leg of our journey.

Farewell Tour: Hoorn & Enkhuizen

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Hoorn and Enkhuizen had been on our want-to-visit list for a long time. We had hoped to do a biking trip along IJsselmeer with stops at Hoorn and Enkhuizen, but that never materialized. So we added them to our farewell journey, along with a stop in Edam and squeezed in a shorter bike ride.

Our Airbnb in Hoorn was gorgeous and I could have easily lived there. One major plus was a big bathtub, of which I took advantage! Hoorn is a lovely seaside village with lots of cute houses and sailboats in the harbor. A replica of the Halve Maen (Half Moon) ship is there and we took a look onboard. This ship was built in NY and sailed the Hudson River for 25 years before coming to Holland. The original was built in Hoorn.

Edam is another cute seaside village most known for its cheese. We went there on Sunday when most things are closed, so it was pretty quiet on the streets. We browsed around and then took a break at a cafe along one of the canals. We thought of renting bikes there, but it was late in the day and my energy was low. I had been fighting some insomnia for several nights. ๐Ÿ˜ฃ

Enkhuizen was also unexpectedly quiet on a Monday. We didn’t realize that most shops would be closed. We had to search for the only bike shop that was open to rent bikes. It turned out to be the best location, though. We could go right up on the dike from the bike shop and were immediately at the shore of the IJsselmeer. It was a cloudy cool day, but we loved being able to finally realize our goal of biking on the dike with a full view of the sea (um, lake). We went out about 11 km before taking a drink break and heading back. Zo mooi!

We finished this segment of our trip with a drive over the Afsluitdijk a dam that created the IJsselmeer and made it a fresh water lake. We were then on our way to Friesland for the next leg.

Farewell Tour: Zeeland

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We packed up our rental car and bid farewell to Oirsbeek on 31 May. In an effort to tick off some ‘wish list’ places to see and gradually remove ourselves from NL, we set up nine days of travel before flying back to Boston. Ironically, our tour started with a detour to southern Belgium.

We wanted to see the historic Leffe brewery in Dinant where our favorite Belgian beer is brewed. Unfortunately when we arrived there, we were told the daily tours don’t start until the 1st of June. We missed it by one day! It was a beautiful warm day so we found a nice place to drink a Leffe Blond along the river. We then took a gondola ride up to the citadel and did a self guided tour, which was pretty cool.

Time to head to our destination: Zeeland. Our drive took a little longer than expected because the traffic around Brussels and Antwerp is always bad. We finally arrived at our Airbnb in Grijpskerke, but it was a little difficult to find because the little log cabin in the pictures turned out to be hidden behind the owners house. It was literally in their backyard/garden. It was kind of cute, but not terribly scenic since it was surrounded by fence on three sides. The bathroom was also a bit funky, but I won’t go there.

After a not so great night of sleep, we went into the closest coastal town the next morning to rent bikes. The idea was to do a scenic bike ride through some woods, along the North Sea and then through some farm land and small towns. Sounds lovely doesn’t it? The first leg through the forest was nice. We kept looking for a turn to go to the sea along this route. Dick abruptly decided to pull over in Domburg to walk around the town — because he was being spontaneous. This may have caused some irritation to his companion and it may have put a damper on the rest of the afternoon. ๐Ÿ˜ก

Speaking of damp…. when we finally turned toward the sea, it had started to rain. We then proceeded to bike into the rain for over an hour. Jammer! Turning around with the wind at our backs was a big improvement. We passed through some nice fields including a field of daisies — wow! At one point, the strap from my bag got caught in the bike chain and we had to stop to disentangle it. Heel jammer! We stopped for a coffee break shortly after that and had a delicious apple tart. Nerves soothed. ๐Ÿ™‚ The rain let up and the wind dried us off before we got back to our starting point.

We walked around Middelburg in the evening and had some seafood for dinner. I was bummed that mussels are out of season and I won’t get a chance to have Zeeland mussels again before we leave. โ˜น๏ธ

We returned Middelburg the next morning to visit the Zeeuse Archives, which is a very nice modern facility that also houses a genealogy center. We browsed the exhibits and picked up some genealogy information. Some of Dick’s ancestors came from Zeeland. There was a choir festival going on โ€” over 200 choirs were performing all over the city. We could hear some of them as we passed by the various venues and the groups were identifiable by their matching outfits.

Our drive out of Zeeland was scenic. We stopped briefly in Goes to get some lunch and Ouddorp to watch the kite surfers and sail boarders. We would really like to come back to Zeeland for a longer stay!