Friday, November 30, 2018

A Scam

For years I have wanted to express my opinion of the Music Department of The American School of The Hague. Well, now, here it is. 

Back in the late 1980’s a couple of guys took over both the instrumental as well as vocal portions of the middle school and high school music education at the prestigious American School of The Hague. The school was first located in Scheveningen, The Netherlands, but in 1990 moved to the impressive blue wave building in neighboring Wassenaar. 

I was always quite suspicious and even envious of the interest that my middle school students showed toward the music teachers and the music program. Our school of grades pre-k through 12th grade students prospered over the years I was there (1980-2006), and it seemed that the music department did also. Don’t get me wrong, I did not see any evidence of monetary embezzlement made by the personnel involved in that element of the school. But I feel that families and students were far too often encouraged to hire “so-called music tutors” to teach our students during after school hours to play musical instruments. For some reason this just did not fit. 

As an English teacher for over 26 years at that same school, I rarely recommended to a parent to hire a tutor to teach what I had not taught the students myself in my classroom. I realize that teaching an English lesson to 25+ students per class is not the same as directing the band or chorus. But if you are hired to teach, you teach. I never felt that there was much teaching going on in either the middle or high school band or choral departments. The actual teaching was left up to inexperienced, mostly young musicians/tutors who had found a great source for earning money that they received “under the table.”

The cost of attending such a prestigious educational institution in an ideal location has always been an eye-opener for me as a former teacher, as well as others. But to realize that one area of that school was able for years to scam and bamboozle the parents is still amazing me. Was I the only one who saw this? I doubt it.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Linda’s Sweet Potato Pie

On Wednesday we had about 15 neighbors from our Dutch apartment over for a chili dinner, and I made a sweet potato pie for dessert. Since I will be making this pie again in the future, I thought that I should save my recipe here on my blog.


Linda’s Sweet Potato Pie

Ingredients 
Pie Filling
2 1/2 cups baked sweet potatoes (mashed by hand or mixer)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs (beaten)
3/4 cup evaporated milk or light cream
4 tablespoons melted salted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons flour
1 unbaked pie crust 9 inches (I used a Lidl sweet crust)

Walnut or Pecan Topping
1/3 cup salted butter
1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped nuts

Ice cream or whipped cream for serving

Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425F.
  2. In a bowl, stir together the sugars, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat together eggs, evaporated milk, and vanilla.
  4. Pour the sugar mixture into the egg mixture and whisk to combine.
  5. Stir in the mashed sweet potatoes and beat until combined. The mixture may be thin.
  6. Place pie shell into pie dish and press to seal.
  7. Pour sweet potato mixture into unbaked pie shell.
  8. Bake on center rack in oven at 425 F for 15 minutes. 
  9. Reduce heat to 350F and bake for an additional 30 minutes.
  10. While pie is baking, make the nut crumble topping. Use your fingers to create a crumble with all of the ingredients. They don’t need to be smooth. Set aside.
  11. Remove pie from the oven and sprinkle with crumble topping.
  12. Bake 15 minutes or until topping is golden brown.
  13. Allow to cool and serve with ice cream or whipped cream.
  14. Enjoy❣️

Sunday, November 4, 2018

The Jewelry Store—My Biggest Nightmare

The Jewelry Store-My Biggest Nightmare 

We really wanted me to wear the jewelry that has been hiding away in our safe for almost 40 years. In the beginning, I was told to keep some of it hidden from some family members. After all these years, I am not sure what piece or pieces had to be hidden from whom. And as I am one of the last and oldest living relatives from that time period, I guess that there is no one left to hide any jewelry from. So here we go.

This trip to The Netherlands we brought back with us a couple of bracelets and a necklace to have repaired so that I could safely wear them. In fact, we brought back four items. The largest item was a golden cuff that the Dutch jeweler said could not be repaired since it was copper and anyway “it was too heavy for gold.” I was beginning to believe him until yesterday. But more on that later. At least he showed me how to open the clasp which I was sure was broken.

The next piece was a lovely silver bracelet that my husband gave me when we first got together. It came with a matching necklace that I really like to wear. The clasp on the bracelet was also jammed shut, and the jeweler charged us an arm and a leg to open and repair that. He even said that he should have charged more. 

The third piece was a golden (yes, the real thing) Dutch guilder coin that had been made into a charm for a chain necklace. Although the coin itself has lost much value having been turned into a charm, I wanted to make sure that the jump ring and eye on the charm would hold up to hanging on a chain. So the jeweler reinforced the eye and added a new jump ring.

Now the last straw. Oops, I mean the last piece. I am pretty sure that this is the piece that I was supposed to hide from other family members back 35 years ago. Well, around noon yesterday anyone in the family could have had the damned thing. Here is why: When we took in the jewelry three weeks ago, this gold chain bracelet with five gold (yes, the real thing) Dutch guilder coins needed checking to see if it was safe to wear without losing any coins or even losing the bracelet. The female jeweler said that someone would notify us of the cost of reparations before beginning work on it. We agreed and left the bracelet with the other items. Last week when we picked up the first three items, the charm bracelet was not with them. My husband explained that we were waiting for a phone call to inform us of the estimated cost to repair it. The male jeweler said he did not know what the actual “appointment “ was, but that we would get a call. Well, we received a call on Tuesday that the charm bracelet need a few hundred Euros worth of reinforcement and repair. (I immediately said WTF.)No, actually I said, “No, we aren’t doing that.” The jeweler said it was worth the cost, but we still said, “No.” Then he said that we would be notified when to pick up the “bracelet.” And that next phone call came on Friday night late that we could pick up the “bracelet” on Saturday.

Now the shocking part of this long story. Saturday at midday I dropped by the jewelry store to retrieve my golden coin charm bracelet. After waiting patiently in line (never have seen lines in jewelry stores before), I showed my receipt ticket and asked for my bracelet. The young girl went back in another room and brought back a small gray paper envelope and dumped out three (yes, three) tiny ziplock bags. One for the chain bracelet. One for the golden coins. And one for the damaged golden jump rings. I wish that I had said what I had wanted to say. (WHAT THE FUCK!) Instead I asked, “What am I supposed to do with this?” She looked as shocked as I was. She tried to get the attention of her father to ask what to do. He at first pretended to not hear her, but she was persistent since I said a few more things which I can’t even remember since I was furious and reacting in a foreign language. I could hear customers behind me laughing (probably at poor Dutch coming from an old white American lady), and we waited for the male jeweler to finish up with his customer. Then he picked up the three bags and said, “die rot jongens.” In other words, the goldsmiths had taken the bracelet apart and just left it that way when I did not agree to the price of the reparations. Then the jeweler mumbled something about he would have to put it back together and solder the jump rings. I asked when it would be ready. Next Saturday. I also had to ask for my receipt back so I could prove that bracelet was mine. Both he and I kept saying this was terrible (in Dutch). Then as I left the shop full of customers he shouted in Dutch, “In either case, have a good weekend.”


Nowwwwww!

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Stalked

Having never really dated in high school, being secretly stalked during my first semester of college was a bit of a thrill. To have someone be interested enough in me to actually write me letters and have them sent to my campus mailbox perhaps cured my homesickness and opened up a world I wasn’t quite prepared for.

Back in the late 1960’s not many parents prepared their daughters or sons for sex and relationships. That is evidenced by the thousands of unplanned pregnancies of that era. You can blame that on the “sexual revolution” or hippies, but I blame it on the lack of sex education.

But back to stalking. As an entering college freshman in September of 1966, I had embraced the meeting of new friends far (two hours) away from home. There were lots of new “girl” friends in my dormitory, but there was one special “boy” friend that I had met at a back-to-campus dance. He was handsome, attentive, and nicknamed “Skip.” How much more 1960’s could you get?

Skip and I never really had a date that I can remember, but we saw each other on campus and at the Student Union. I don’t even remember even ever holding his hand or kissing him. But we kept in touch. It was a small campus and paths that crossed. 

During that first semester, Skip got a job as radio disc jockey at a local radio station, so I did phone him a couple of times to make record requests. Sometime during that first year at university (college at that time),  someone began sending cards and sweet letters to me by college mail. The letters were always signed by a post office box number, and I kind of fell into responding to those letters. It was fun getting mail, but even more intriguing knowing that someone was following me without me really knowing who it was. Eventually somehow or other Skip or his best friend revealed that Skip had been sending the letters. The intrigue was over and so was my contact with him. His “real” girlfriend was pregnant, and there was a wedding in the planning.

Date life picked up a bit for me, but most relationships stayed in the platonic sphere. When things got too serious, I would shy away. One fellow even told me that he asked me to go on a date because he had heard that I had broken my back in an automobile accident in August 1967. And he had never dated a girl with a broken back. Nice guy, that John. Wonder what ever happened to him after I gave back his fraternity pin and got back my favorite portrait?

Then I dated a few nice fellows and kept my social calendar pretty full, but none of the guys were interesting enough to set up a commitment. They weren’t ready either. 

By my Junior year I had gotten deep into my major field of English Education, and the guys I met in those classes were nice but real “bookworms .” One guy named John Perry became extremely interested in me for some reason. Maybe it was the short skirts that my mom made for me. Whatever. I remember that he asked me out, and I said, “No.” Well, John Perry did not stop there. He asked again and again. And each time I declined. Then he began writing me letters professing his admiration for me. He even had his sister phone me to beg me to go out with him. She accused me of “leading him on.” I laughed and told her to tell her brother to leave me alone. He didn’t. I received more letters, and they were signed with RIP. I had to “Webster” that to find out that it meant Rest In Peace. Now that was frightening. Finally John Perry gave up.

Senior year finally arrived, and stalking took on a whole other angle. I began student teaching at a local high school, and a 16 year old boy (not even in my student teaching class) began phoning me and stalking me. His father had given him a Corvette as a 16th birthday present, and he drove it through Northeast campus looking for me. He said that he liked me because I didn’t act dumb like the girls in his class and that I did not wear make-up three inches thick like they did. I guess that I told him to “go away” enough times that he finally got tired of it. 

About that same time, Skip (remember him from Freshman mailbox stalking?) began phoning me again. He had continued his radio disc jockeying while being married to his old high school girlfriend, but was now divorced and “practicing” to become a pastor of a small Methodist church. Although no longer a college student, he, too, had been driving through Northeast campus hoping to get a glimpse of me. WTH? He never asked for a date. He just called to talk. I even heard from Skip several years after I graduated from college. He somehow found my parents’ phone number and called to say that he was homeless and a bum. Bizarre !

After I graduated from college in May 1970 and spent the summer at the Methodist Home Hospital where L. was born, I returned home to find a teaching job in a local middle school. That is when another stalking began. One day while practicing for a holiday program with a group of students in the school gym, I was told that a “male visitor” had dropped by my classroom to check on me. My students described him in detail, but to this day I have no clue who that stalker might have been. “High water” pants? Now, really, who dressed like that in 1971?

I was still living with my parents that school year. Suddenly I began getting phone calls from some fellow who did not identify himself by name but said we had met at a local bar during the summer of 1970. As that was virtually impossible since I spent that summer in New Orleans, I couldn’t imagine who this guy might be. One afternoon he happened to call just as we were preparing to go out to the ballpark to watch my youngest brother play baseball. I boldly made an appointment to meet this stalker at the ballpark. My dad said I was nuts, but I knew I would not be alone. Plus I wanted to put a “face” on this stalker. 

My parents and I went to the park, and I sat in the bleachers and waited. Eventually a lone man walked by the stands and scanned through the fans, but he never looked at me. Whether that was the weirdo or not, I will never know. After I moved to my own apartment, I still received strange phone calls with heavy breathing at odd times. Almost every single time, the call came just as I had entered my apartment. Now this was the early 1970’s before cell phones, so this was too weird. That meant that my stalker was somewhere near where I lived. Could that have been my prinicipal or other colleague from the school where I taught? I just lived across the street from that school.

I eventually got fed up with the teaching atmosphere at that school and moved to a bigger city. Just before I moved, one last stalker got my phone number. Back in the early 1970’s, getting phone numbers was really easy. No one had even thought of Privacy Acts. Anyway, the birthfather of L contacted me after not having heard from him since early 1970 when he called to asked if he had left a pair of dress pants at my parents’ home back at New Years.  For the next 4-5 years he called me at the least expected times. Mostly at night after I had been asleep for a few hours. The stalking from him stopped when I moved and eventually left the US. 

My husband and I sometimes received “empty” phone calls up until about a year ago. Thankfully those have ended. Now to figure out how to stop the “student loan” Ashley and “credit card” whoever who call way too often. Those are stalkers, too, aren’t they?




Sunday, October 7, 2018

I Don’t Believe

I Don’t Believe

I don’t believe that anyone except a sexual assault survivor can actually understand what it feels like to have those who have always trusted and loved you to not believe you.

I don’t believe that I will ever be able to discuss my sexual assault or anyone else’s without being ready to fight for the survivor.

Sexual assault is wrong. If it does not mess up your life, it can still mess up your mind.


#Ibelievesurvivors

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

What I Am (Part 3)

What I am (part 3)

Not a nice person sometimes. (And that is okay, too.)

Not feeling sorry for myself. (Just telling it like it is.)

Not full of  pretenses.  (What you see is what you get.)

Not  planning to MLGA/make Linda great again. (I’ve “been around the block” a few times in my 70 years. Maybe even been a little great a few times.)

Finally fed up with this “what I am NOT” stuff. 

That is what I am❣️


Monday, August 20, 2018

What I Am (Part 2)

What I am (part 2)

Not a good sleeper. (As I have gotten old/older, I can not quite just crash when I am tired. A glass of milk sometimes helps me out in the middle of the night.)

Not a good listener. (My mind is sometimes focused on what I will say next as a response, and I miss the other person’s message.)

Not a lover of extremely hot weather. (How I ever ended up way down here is still a mystery to me. I hate to sweat. I hate to get sunburnt. I hate having showers several times a day. I hate the heat.)

Not a finisher. (I have loads of WIP that I started but never got back to finishing. But no regrets. I just lost interest.)

Not an idle person. (My Dutch mother-in-law said that my hands were never idle, and her husband said that washing clothes was my hobby. Being retired the last ten years has been a challenge. I am always looking for a new hobby.)

Not a good friend. (My dad always said to make friends and influence people. Actually, I would rather not do either.)

Not a reader of books. (Gosh that is hard to admit, since I taught English and reading for 37 years. Ten years ago I stopped reading books, but I still plod my way through at least a couple each year. 😴)

Not a great writer. ( I never even knew how to write an essay until I began teaching my students how to write. Perhaps I learned from them instead of them from me.)


Not a great ender. (I am sure there will be a part three of this.)