Posts Filed Under Netherlands

Hey, I’m alive! And my body mostly works!

by renegademama

I really want to tell you all the things going on in great detail but these fucking pain medications remove my brain. I’m nodding off or irritable as hell or sitting here staring at a wall. This appears to be my full range of options.

Lies. All hail Netflix.

It’s like somebody has taken a thick sheet of fog and just stuck it over the parts of brain that feel things and produce thoughts. See? Even my metaphors suck. In other news, been seriously wondering how the hell artists made music and wrote books on opiates. HOW. It must have taken so much more work, to push through the fog, to power through the misery. It almost breaks my heart more, and I’m taking only a tiny portion of what an addict takes. HOW THE FUCK.

Anyway, I can’t formulate complex thoughts but I can probably just list random shit that’s happening. So let’s do that.

  1. For those of you who don’t follow me on social media, my back exploded (perhaps not the official term but it’s the one my surgeon used and it’s definitely what it felt like) into my spinal column, crushing the nerves running down my spine, resulting in a five-day hospital stay and emergency spinal surgery. I’m three weeks out now, and walking better, but still limp and my left leg is mostly numb and tingling, which is fun.
  2. It’s not actually fun.
  3. Because God is hilarious or things are just this way, we were in the final week of moving out of our house when I was admitted to the hospital. You know the hellish stage when you’re just gathering shit by the arm-full and throwing it into boxes thinking surely it will never end and there’s no hope ever anywhere? Yeah, Mac got to do that alone, while I was an hour away in the hospital.
  4. So when I got out, we were living in my mother’s house. That was strange.
  5. Also, I have to say, though I didn’t talk about it online really at all (another topic to discuss, probably), I had chronic back pain for about five years before this. It got worse every year and before the disc blew, I THOUGHT I was in the most pain I’d ever been in. And then it blew and I really understood what pain is. Anyway, a couple of weeks after the surgery, I got up and took a shower and got dressed and made my kids lunches then drove them to school and the pain I knew like air, the one I had to breathe through every day just to make it through my morning, the one that sometimes, randomly, brought me to sobs while my kids looked on and I felt like I just couldn’t to do it anymore, was gone. I put my socks on and my underwear on and bent down to help Arlo with his pants and it didn’t hurt. I sat in my car near the school parking lot and cried. Hope comes in the strangest ways, doesn’t it? That was the worst part of that pain: THERE WAS NO WAY OUT. And here I am, mostly out. There’s residual sciatica pain, but compared to how I lived before, gimme a fuckin break.
  6. We are selling the best, warmest, most perfect and cozy home we’ve ever had. It feels surreal and sort of nuts to walk away from a home like that. We knew it was too small when we bought it five years ago, yet somehow leaving it never felt real. And it’s breaking our hearts. A few days ago I went back there alone, to say goodbye, and I cried and kissed its walls and said “thank you,” and I looked at the walls that held my family. I could still feel us there, laughing and crying and yelling. It was where Arlo was born. It was where George was a toddler and Ava and Rocket became teenagers. It was where we held each other after my grandmother was murdered. It was where our dog died, and we wept again. But that home? Fuck. I never passed a day there wishing I wasn’t there. I never walked in and thought, “Oh, this place again.” It will always, always be our family’s home, and I imagine it will be the place we all remember when thinking of the wild, young, growing days of our family. “Thank you,” indeed.
  7. And yet, we look forward to what’s to come, and that’s getting so fucking real too. We have settled on living in Haarlem, which is about a fifteen-minute train ride from Amsterdam. We have the kids enrolled in schools there. IT IS SO FUCKING WEIRD THAT IT IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING. Every now and then Mac and I look at each other and say, “Can you believe we’re really doing this?” It was a pipe-dream for so long. A fantasy. “Let’s move to Europe.”
  8. And now it’s real, but the details aren’t. Sure, we know what city we’re going to live in, but we don’t know much of anything else. He and I are going over there April 29 – May 8 to hopefully find housing and check out the schools in person, but holy hell. WE JUST SHOW UP AND THEN WE FILL OUT OUR APPLICATION FOR A RESIDENCY PERMIT WTF.
  9. That’s the process. Speaking of cool, weird shit, I’m doing two book events while we’re over there: One on May 3 in Amsterdam at the American Book Center and one on May 6 at the American Women’s Club in The Hague. Please, please come see Mac and me if you’re around.
  10. We are planning on leaving America in early July, and until then, we’re staying with my mom. She’s an absolute saint and we all get along, I mean, as much as families “get along,” but seven people in a three-bedroom house is rather interesting.
  11. The six-years of chronic pain culminating in a blown disc and subsequent surgery, the recovery, house-selling, transitional housing, move to the Netherlands, it’s all wild and weird and wonderful and what I’m learning – again, because sure as hell isn’t the first time – is that sometimes things have to blow up to be rebuilt. They just have to be fucking decimated before the new can rise. Someday when my head is clearer and I’ve had some space from it, I’ll write about all I’ve learned from this back injury, surgery, and recovery. I’ve spent my life powering through – just do it no matter what – and I’m pretty sure the lesson here for me is that I need to slow the hell down, listen to my body, accept help, take some fucking better care of my mind and body.
  12. Oh, and Rocket spent three weeks in Paris, visiting also Edinburgh and southern France. He watched Notre Dame burn, and met his new baby cousin. What a strange world all this is, huh?

I am so, so grateful for all your kind words and supportive messages. You really are the goddamn best and I feel it.

Here we go.

heavily medicated waiting for surgery. the filter is fixing a lot, here

 

this shit blew my mind.

FIX IT, motherfuckers goddamnit

 

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The paperback version of my book comes out May 7!

So fucking excited to see a physical copy at a lower price ($13.54 most places).

There’s an interview in the back that you may find funny (I fuckin hope). I interviewed myself. I’ll share an excerpt in the next couple days. Wheeee.

(And if you liked my book, please please maybe mention it again to your people, and/or review it on Amazon or Goodreads. Books like mine, that don’t get much media attention, survive fully on word-of-mouth. Thank you thank you thank you.

 

We have some big news. #notababy

by renegademama

Well, I’m just going to say it: We’re moving to the Netherlands.

We are selling our house, getting rid of most of our stuff, and moving to the Netherlands this summer.

I’ve started this blog post about ten times and keep giving up because I know you’re going to ask me “Why?” and I really want to explain why, but it’s hard. We’ve been contemplating this for years and I don’t know how to wrap ten thousand hours of conversation up in a single blog post.

And no matter what I say, out loud or to myself, I am acutely aware of how lucky we are to do this, how we are nowhere near the people threatened by or suffering the most from what’s happening in our country right now, and our reasons for leaving sound a little like a blend of Eat Pray Love (puke) and some sort of DITCH THE CUBICLE FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS weekend workshop in Missouri.

Our reasons are small and material and vast and, dare I say it? Spiritual.

Fuck.

Fine.

We want to live. We want to do something. We want our kids to witness a reality that isn’t American.

Our lives aren’t working. No. They are just working. That’s it. We are surviving. Full stop.

We work and drive and pay and sleep and work and pay and drive and look to the future for relief. Someday. Someday it will get easier and better and we won’t feel like we are spending our ONE SINGLE FUCKING LIFE working and paying and driving in circles, all of it in circles, still living paycheck to paycheck, so we can turn 65 or 70 and maybe retire, hoping we make it that far, ten or twenty years before we die, thinking finally Oh good, now I get to do some shit.

When I say this, I think of how damn near all of us live this way. I feel the privilege of even contemplating a different life. My life as a writer. A house we can sell. No dependents we need to stay and take care of (as in, ailing parents). A family that I’m 99% sure would buy us plane tickets home if we were about to hit the streets of Amsterdam.

I don’t think a life lived in the crushing grind of late-stage capitalism is a wasted life, a life less lived.

What I think is that Mac and I are tired of being trapped in a life that works on the outside but costs us everything we’ve got on the inside.

We want to try something else, somewhere else.

We have always wanted to not live here for some portion of our lives, but when we had kids five minutes after we met, we gave up that dream. When we visited Spain and France in 2017, it re-planted itself in our foreheads and refused to leave. It spun around our brains but always fell dead against another thought: But we can’t do that. How would we do that? We have four kids. We aren’t trust-fund babies.

Eventually, we began to wonder who gets to decide what we can and can’t do with our lives, what’s “immature” and “irresponsible” versus “mature” and “reasonable.”

WHO GETS TO DEFINE WHAT MAKES SENSE IN OUR LIVES?  Who convinced us that this is life? And why and how did we buy so fully into it?

When you’re on your deathbeds, you’ll never regret going. But you may regret not going. Those were the words of my friend Lisa that did us in.

 

We’re going on a freelancer visa. Mac is going to make & sell custom steel and wood furniture (as in, starting a new business) and I’m going to continue writing and teaching.

I don’t think everyone can do this, wants to do this, or needs to do this for “fulfillment.” I don’t think we’re braver or more profound or harder workers than anybody who wants to do something like this but isn’t or can’t. I don’t think we are special and to be quite honest I don’t think I’ve ever felt quite as exposed as I do right now, telling you this, which is why I’ve waited so long.

Because I can’t control what others do with this narrative. Of course I can’t control what the internet does with any of my words, but normally, by the time my fingers hit the keyboard, I know what I think and I know what I want to say and I am prepared to stand in the truth as I see it, knowing, of course, that I could be wrong, but that’s another topic.

Normally, I have considered and thought through and feel comfortable standing by what I say.

But I don’t know shit about this. I don’t know if it’s the “right” decision.

It’s messy and I’m afraid.

And the truth is, if we fail, we’ll move back. What else can we do?

 

And so, here I am, telling you this, and inviting you to hang out with us on this fucking adventure. We are packing and selling our house now. This is the first place I’ve ever felt is a real, real home. That’s another post, but we’re saying goodbye to the happiest home we’ve ever had, the brightest, most comfortable place, even though there’s a triple bunk in one bedroom and Arlo’s dresser is in a hallway.

I don’t know how to leave my parents. I don’t know how to leave my friends. I don’t know how to say goodbye to the roar of the northern California ocean and the redwood trees and Lake Tahoe and the vineyards of Sonoma County. There’s so much here for us.

Mac has never lived outside of this county. Not country. COUNTY. We don’t speak Dutch (I know everyone there speaks English but still).

What if it all goes wrong? What if we just can’t do it?

But what if we didn’t try?

 

the trip that did us in

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If you read my book, you’ll know this was a dream of mine since I lived in Spain in 2000.

Fuck it, here we go.

137 Comments | Posted in .....I make bad decisions..., Netherlands | March 10, 2019