Saturday, May 31, 2014

Day 6: Corrie Ten Boom en de Keukenhof

We visited the Corrie Ten Boom house in Haarlem. It was really amazing. Corrie Ten Boom and her family hid Jews in their house during WWII, during Germany's occupation of Holland. They eventually were put into concentration camps for their resistance efforts, but through everything, they kept an amazing faith in God.
In Corrie's bed room, members of the resistance movement created a false wall, behind which Jews could hide if there was ever a raid.
Here is the actual Hiding Place:

It was incredible to stand in the actual room, and to crawl inside the actual hiding place.
Our tour guide was amazing also. She came to Christ through Corrie Ten Boom's story, and now works in the Corrie Ten Boom Museum. The story came alive through her lips. She was great.

The Beje, where the family lived. It was actually two houses smushed together - hence the uneveness of the windows!

It was connect to the Ten Boom watch shop. The shop isn't owned by the Ten Boom's anymore, but it is still a watch shop, and it keeps its name.
If you've never read The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom, I really recommend it! and you should go read it!

After that, we went to The Keukenhof, which means "Kitchen Garden." It is open for a few months every summer and is sort of a zoo for flowers... There are thousands upon thousands different varieties. Of course, the crowning glory is all the different types of tulips!

There were lots of vivid, vibrant oranges which were very beautiful!

Look, flowers planted in the shape of Dutch houses!

These next pictures come to you via Abbey hanging out of the car window to try take pictures as we sped along.

Tulip fields!

After that we drove to Gouda, where we walked around a bit.

It was in Gouda that I took the picture which is now my blog header. It's a beautiful city.

A meeting house. The little figures from the above video were on the side of this building.

Getting ready for Koningsdag!
Just walking through the Dutch towns was my favorite part of Holland. 

Live long and prosper!

Friday, May 30, 2014

A word of advice...

Never, EVER go to a doctor's appointment without eating or drinking anything beforehand (unless they specifically tell you to).
This morning I had my physical at 9:00 AM. We were a bit rushed heading out the door and I didn't have time to eat anything; as for drink, I simply wasn't thirsty so I didn't think about it.
Everything went well, and then I had to get a shot. I'm not one to get squeamish when I get shots, and this one went quick, because my attention was otherwise engaged. The nurse left, I changed into my regular clothes, and my mom and I prepared to leave. Before we left, however, she had to make an appointment for herself.
I grabbed the paper explaining the shot I had just been given.
  • Anyone who has ever had a severe (life-threatening) allergic reaction to a previous dose... etc.etc.
  • Anyone who has a severe (life-threatening) allergy to any vaccine... etc.etc.
  • Anyone who is moderately or severely ill at the time the shot is scheduled should probably wait... etc.etc.
Suddenly the left side of my body started feeling all tingly and weird. My head felt fuzzy, like I had gotten up too fast. My vision started blurring. I touched my mom's sleeve.
"Mom," I said, "I don't feel so well..." (In my mind, I said, "Mom, I feel faint." Go figure.)
The next thing I knew, I was waking up with about ten people swarmed around me.
"Did she have a seizure?"
"No, she just fell."
"I heard a noise like a chair falling!"
"Get her feet up."
"Put this behind her head."
"Mom," I gurgled. This time, I had wanted to add, "I'm all right." But what if I wasn't all right? What if I had had a seizure? What if I needed to go to the hospital? I sent up a quick prayer and didn't open my eyes up.
"I'm here!" Mom replied.
I blinked my eyes a bit.
"Let's get her up," someone said.
"Here are some cold clothes for her head."
"Abbey, do you think you can get up?" someone else asked.
I tried to get up.
"Slowly, slowly!" the nurses cautioned, and helped me to my feet and into a chair.
"Has she eaten yet today?" someone asked.
"No," said my mom.
"Has she drank anything?"
A chorus of "Ooohh's" from all assembled.
"Next time, you need to eat something before getting a shot," my nurse said.
"Get her some crackers and something to drink!"
Soon I had some soda crackers in my mouth and some apple juice on my knee. The cold cloth from my forehead were soaking into my other knee.
"Let's move her into the room she had her physical in."
"Can you walk?"
"Yeah, I'm feeling better," I said.
"Okay, get up slowly. Walk slowly... slowly."
We got into the room and another nurse came to take my blood pressure and pulse. After consuming several more crackers and the rest of the juice, and sitting for probably half an hour, I was okayed to go home - slow-ly.
Evidently, after I touched my mom's sleeve, I fell backwards, landed on my bum, and crumpled sideways. She tried to catch me, but I was too heavy, and just out of reach. My mom thinks I had a mini-seizure, because evidently my eyes rolled way back in my head (which happens when you faint, so we learned) and my head shook a bit. No one else saw it, and the paper on the vaccine says, "Side effects may include fainting spells and seizure-like movements."
So, all in all, an exciting morning! I thank the Lord that I'm no worse for the wear - I just have a sore bottom.
Moral of the story: Eat and drink before you get shots!!!
(At least I have nice story fodder, eh?)
Live long and prosper!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte - a review.

Title: Wuthering Heights
Author: Emily Bronte
My rating: 8 out of 10 stars.
Summary (from Goodreads, because I simply can't seem to sum up this book): Wuthering Heights is a wild, passionate story of the intense and almost demonic love between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, a foundling adopted by Catherine's father. After Mr Earnshaw's death, Heathcliff is bullied and humiliated by Catherine's brother Hindley and wrongly believing that his love for Catherine is not reciprocated, leaves Wuthering Heights, only to return years later as a wealthy and polished man. He proceeds to exact a terrible revenge for his former miseries. The action of the story is chaotic and unremittingly violent, but the accomplished handling of a complex structure, the evocative descriptions of the lonely moorland setting and the poetic grandeur of vision combine to make this unique novel a masterpiece of English literature.
Comments: Wuthering Heights is a book that people either really like or really despise. I thought I would despise it, but I ended up really liking it and I couldn't even tell you why. The same thing happened with The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that they're both Gothic novels...? Both books are rather dark and dismal. And with both books, I really didn't like any of the characters.
Wuthering Heights is one of the rare books that made me eager to keep reading to find out what happened next. Not many books give me that feeling (though it is becoming a more common phenomenon for some reason. Maybe it's because I reread so many books that when I get one that I don't know too much about, I'm excited to find out what happens next).
(Spoilers ahead)
The plot follows two families who live in close proximity to each other on the English moors. The two houses are seemingly secluded from civilization (despite the nearby village) and really have nothing to do with people.
The first house is that of the Earnshaw's, who have two children: Hindley and Catherine. They also have a maid-in-training Nelly Dean. One day, Mr. Earnshaw returns with an abandoned boy named Heathcliff, whom he found in London, and adopts as another son. Slowly, the Earnshaw household becomes more and more secluded and more and more ungentlemanlike.
The other family is the Linton's. They also have two children: Edgar and Isabella. They are of a more noble society. The children and well-educated, but also secluded.
The two families are brought together and Edgar falls in love with Catherine. This is a problem because Heathcliff - who has grown rough and mean - also loves Catherine. Eventually, Edgar and Catherine marry, and Heathcliff marries Isabella. Neither of the marriages are happy. Catherine dies shortly after giving birth to her and Edgar's daughter Catherine mark II. Isabella runs away from Heathcliff around this time and a few months later gives birth to their son, whom she names Linton out of spite.
Years pass, and Linton comes to live with Edgar and Catherine after his mother dies. Unfortunately, Heathcliff gets a hold of his son and forces him to come and live with him. He also forces Linton and Cathy (II) to marry, though Linton dies shortly afterward.
The novel ends with Heathcliff's death and Cathy (II) and Hareton's - Hindley's son - intended marriage. The book ends on a happy note.
Other characters include the two narrators, Nelly Dean, and Mr. Lockwood, who is a tenant of the Linton's house after Edgar Linton dies. Another character is Joseph, who serves as the "comic relief" (if you can understand what he's saying!). His is described as "the wearisomest self-righteous Pharisee that ever ransacked a Bible to rake the promises to himself and fling the curses to his neighbours." There's also Hareton, Hindley's son, whom Heathcliff "raises" to be an illiterate servant. Hareton really has a soft(ish) heart and wishes to learn to read and write to impress Cathy (II).

The way the book was written impressed me very much. It starts out with Mr. Lockwood coming to live in Thrushcross Grange (try saying that out loud - it's so difficult!), the Linton's old home. After catching a terrible cold in the snow, he asks the housekeeper, Nelly Dean, to tell him the story of Heathcliff and the others over at Wuthering Heights. She begins her tale when Heathcliff first arrived as a child... and goes up to present day.
After that, Mr. Lockwood decides to leave the area for awhile. When he comes back, about six months later, there have been some developments in the story of Heathcliff. Nelly is no longer working at Thrushcross Grange, but is at Wuthering Heights. Mr. Lockwood goes to see her and she tells him what has transpired in the past few months. Mr. Lockwood gives up Thrushcross Grange, and everything ends as happily as is possible with such a dark book.
I absolutely LOVE books that have narratives like that - stories within stories. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is like that. So is Canterbury Tales (though Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is much better than Canterbury Tales).

The characters... like I said before, I really hate most of them.
Heathcliff is probably THE WORST man in the entire fictional world. He is mean, nasty, revengeful, selfish, and just plain evil. Okay, okay... so it probably has something to do with the fact that he was abandoned as a child, and that Hindley - his adopted brother - hated him and abused him... and that Catherine, the girl he loved, left him for another man... BUT STILL. Everything in life is a choice. Heathcliff had a choice to forgive Hindley, to let Catherine go, to enjoy life, to be happy... but instead he let revenge take over his life. He wanted revenge on Hindley, so, like Hindley abused him, he abused Hindley's son Hareton. He wanted revenge on Edgar for marrying Catherine, so he married Edgar's sister Isabella, and made Cathy II, Edgar's daughter, marry his own son Linton.
He also had an obsession with Catherine. I think Edward Cullen took creepy lessons from Heathcliff. Sure, Edward Cullen may have crawled into Bella's room while she was sleeping... but Heathcliff dug up Catherine's grave to have one last look at her dead face.
Speaking of Catherine... She is one of the most self-centered characters I have ever read about. She hopes to keep the love of Heathcliff, while entertaining the hopes of Edgar. She eventually goes slightly mad and always throws a fuss when things don't work out her way.
Cathy II is a little bit the same way, but she's a lot better than her mother. It's only when she is introduced to her cousin Linton and her uncle Heathcliff that she starts down a bad path. By the end of the book, thankfully, she is a lot better off.
Cousin Linton is a disgrace. He's a wimp and just plain mean. His father manipulates him and uses him to do and say awful things, especially to Cathy II.
Hareton is also manipulated by Heathcliff and worked as a slave.
Edgar is also rather wimpy... He didn't make a very good decision by marrying Catherine. I feel a bit sorry for him.
I think the reason I enjoyed this book so much was because of the conflict between everyone. As I said before, I wanted to know what happened next. The story intrigued me. How could someone be as malicious as Heathcliff? What would have happened if he and Catherine had gotten married?
Which brings me to an interesting point... Through the whole book, even after Catherine dies, Heathcliff lusts after her. I wonder, if they had gotten married, how long would it have lasted? Both were intolerably self-centered and prone to anger if they didn't get their ways. How long would they have been able to tolerate each other before they started getting on each other's nerves? Was Heathcliff in love with Catherine, or a manifestation of his 'perfect woman'?
Anyway... this book gives further evidence that man should not be alone. I believe that when people are solitary for too long, their focus shifts off others, and turns solely on themselves. Imaginary problems start popping up, and eventually, a person becomes completely self-centered. This is what happens to many of the characters in Wuthering Heights. The two families are self-contained. For however many years, they only interacted with each other. Therefore, they had their own self-contained and self-centered world.
I wonder if this was reflective of Emily Bronte, the author, and her family's environment? I'm pretty sure the Bronte children were the ones who created the antisocial homeschooler myth. They were an odd family who, like the characters in Wuthering Heights, lived on a moor, and were very secluded. The children - especially Emily - were shy and not very adept in social situations. This obviously had an impact on their writing.
And perhaps that is the ultimate reason I enjoyed Wuthering Heights. I love finding connections between Author and Novel. That's why I think it's so important to study not only the work, but the person behind the work as well. You can find insight into the work, which you wouldn't have caught before, and you can find insight into the author. It adds another layer to the work which fascinates me. People fascinate me. Human nature, why people do what they do, the reasons behind things.
Wuthering Heights and Emily Bronte, I believe, do an excellent job of this.

Would I recommend it? Yes! I think this is a book that everyone should study at least once in their life.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Day 5: Amsterdam

But first a funny story.
When we came into the London airport, the line at customs was longer than the Lord of the Rings trilogy and, since my grandma couldn't stand that long, we put her in a wheelchair and started wheeling her towards the line. Before we could get there, however, an angry-looking man stopped us and informed us that we could go to a different line - a line for the elderly, the newborn, and others who need help - a line which only had a few people in it. We gladly took this express lane and were out of customs in about ten minutes!
We thought that a wheelchair might just help us through the airport in London, going to the Netherlands, as well. So we went and requested one... Instead of letting us take one ourselves, we had to wait... and wait... and wait... for an attendant to attend to us. Finally, someone came after about 20 minutes
When we got to the security lines, all of them had about the same amount of people in them. If any line had more people than the rest, it was probably the special needs line! So we waited some more and eventually made it into the wide open spaces of the Airport. Then came another problem. We were so early, our flight hadn't been assigned a place yet! So our attendant took us to the waiting area where he thought the plane would come in, and we waited there.
Moral of the story: It's okay to take advantage of your grandmother's status as an 'elderly person,' but sometimes it doesn't really work out all that well. :P

For the first few days in Holland, we stayed in my great-uncle and aunt's house. They were camping through Italy at the time, so we had their very large house (especially for Holland) to ourselves.
Their son lives only a few blocks away, so he let us into the house. We had another reason to be grateful for him the day we went to Amsterdam...
There are three major modes of transportation in Holland. Biking, is, of course, most prevalent (but more on that in a later blog post). If you are going long distances, there are trains that run all over Holland (how nice that the game Ticket to Ride had a Netherlands expansion!). Lastly, you can drive (more on that in a later post as well).
Because we had been cautioned about finding parking in Amsterdam, we had decided to take the train. For some odd reason, however, the ticket machines only took special pre-bought passes or coins. We didn't have 70 euros worth of coins (each) just lying around in our pockets, so we were a little stuck... And then my dad's cousin showed up! Huzzah! He was able to pay our way with his pass (we paid him back later) and we were able to make the train and get to Amsterdam! Yay!

Straight out of the train station, we went on a canal tour. This one hour tour took us down the major canals of Amsterdam and a voice narrated to us (in three different languages!) what we were seeing.

Some of the sights from the boat:

(Yes, those houses are crooked. Many are, because someone didn't take Matthew 7:24-27 to heart.)
(A Chinese restaurant...)
 (Don't even ask me what that is.)

After the canal tour, we walked to the Rijksmuseum for some culture.

The Rijksmuseum is an art museum, famous for its collection of Rembrandt's - including The Night Watch.

They also had some Vincent Van Gogh paintings:

And some really beautiful paintings of ships on the ocean!

There was also a really cool model ship. The Unicorn?

We walked back to the train station after the museum. 
One of my favorites parts of our time in the Netherlands was just walking through the streets, seeing the Dutch architecture, hearing the Dutch language, and just seeing the Dutchiness of everything.

(Paving the road with cobblestones...)

 (In addition to crooked buildings, in the cities, you see a lot of buildings that lean forward too. Stay tuned for a later blog post to know why!)
(Bike parking lot!)

Live long and prosper!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

An all around update of sorts.

First of all... math is getting ridiculous:

Oh, so now we're dealing with imaginary numbers, are we?

Today I found out that I need my bottom wisdom teeth removed. Instead of coming in right side up, like they are supposed to, they are coming in sideways and at an angle, so they are pushing up against my other molars. Also, the bottom left wisdom tooth is nearly on top of some sort of vocal tube thingy... So, on June 17, I'll have them surgically removed. I'm not looking forward to it, but at least the top ones don't have to come out (yet)!

In February my new story came to a halt. There was an aspect of one of my character's back story that I wasn't comfortable with and it kind of ground the whole story to a standstill. Well, the other day, I had an idea that clears up the back story problem, but allows me to keep the plot in tact too! Huzzah! Hopefully I can start work writing again. I miss it.

I have a summer reading list all written out, which I will post to my blog sometime next week. Last year having a reading list was really fun, and I can't wait to do it again this year! It features three biographies and I'm toying with the idea of adding a fourth...

I can't wait for summer!! And camping! And summer! And August! And reading and writing my way through summer!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Day 4: Wij komt aan Holland

We were up bright(ish) and somewhat early to get to the airport for our afternoon flight to Holland.
We don't normally fly Airbus (Boeing is where it's at) but this was a nice flight. Lots of room between seats... and nice coat hooks...

Huh? I don't recall seeing those before! Or, at least, not for a long, long time.
There was quite a lineup on the runway, so our plane was about an hour late departing.

We're airborne!

(Look, Grama and Grandpa from the Midwest! Wind generators in the ocean!)

The Dutch coastline!

After picking up our rental car and GPS system, we drove out of Amsterdam, where we had landed, and headed towards our first stop.

This is the farmhouse where my great-grandpa (on my mom's side) was born way back in the early 1898! Later, along with his family, he immigrated to the United States and one thing led to another and eventually my mother was born out of the bloodline!
No, the house isn't in an area of prime real estate... Many, if not most, of the houses in Holland's countryside are surrounded by water. 
Here is a picture of the house from 1915!

Dutch drawbridge. There were a lot of these around.

We stopped in Woerden for dinner because by this time, we were all starving. After dinner, we walked around the town for a bit and got our first taste of Dutch culture and architecture.

Woerden's water tower, with the church steeple in the background.

De 'kerk' up close!

(Those ice cream sculptures were in nearly every city - wherever there was an ice cream shop)

(Bikes and a typical Dutch storefront building)

Our first windmill!


An advertisement for Koningsdag... What is Koningsdag, you may ask? You'll just have to stay tuned!