Friday, September 14, 2007

Retirement notice: The Clog Files

The Clog files will be retired... Yes, since singlehood is in the past, some of the tools of that part of my life will be depreciated as well. I won't be deleting this blog, but any future updates will be posted on our family blog:

Hope to see you all there...


Monday, August 13, 2007

A married man now... changes are coming ;-)

Since July 29, 2007 I'm a married man. In Jen I found my soulmate and friend for life. This will have also have an effect on the virtual life...

The Clog Files will start to see less and less action until the new site 'Forever de Jong' is fully up-and-running. At that time also the '' site will be depreciated in favor of the new (family) blog.

Announcements around the new websites will be made well in advance so you have time to update your bookmarks.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Bad Whirlpool Customer Service

Today I experienced one of the rare days that I'm ticked-off. All who know me know that days like that don't come along very often. What happened?

I just got of the phone with Whirlpool Support. I bought a microwave in late February this year (about 5 months ago) and it started failing this week. After entering the cook time and hitting 'Start' it just 'clicks' and kicks-off the timer, but doesn't start to cook.

So, as a dilligent consumer I arranged for a service call on Monday July 23 as the Whirlpool service website indicated as available. I got a call today from their 3rd party service provider 'Total Appliance' that they can't come out until July 26.

Since I'm going to pickup the Dutch Contingent (first 6 of them) for our wedding on Sunday July 29 we have a bit of a need for a working Microwave.

So I called Whirlpool support to make alternate arrangements. Well, apparently no alternate arrangements were possible. The Whirlpool representative only re-iterated that they only do repairs and nobody could indeed come out until at least July 26. And this could be a diagnosis-only visit since if they'd have to order parts I'll be out of a working Microwave even longer.

Mentioning that I have 10 people at the house for a week and an open-house on Sat July 28 with about 50 people for my WEDDING didn't make a difference. The Whirlpool representative was unwilling / unable to help me.

Since we do delivery for Whirlpool I'm in a unique position to spread the word fast about this very rigid, very un-cooperative stance of a respected company like Whirlpool.

I'm telling (through this post and verbally) my co-workers and friends that Whirlpool makes great products, but to hope nothing goes wrong with it, since the service is far below what you'd expect.

I'm off to Home Depot to buy a Sharp (the brand I had before for 10 years without any problems). Sorry Whirlpool, but I expected better from you.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Check the wedding blog for updates

With the wedding being only days away, most updates are posted on the wedding blog. Check it out at:


Monday, June 25, 2007

Home is where the heart is...

In February 2007 I bought a house that is to become the 'De Jong residence'. Slowly, but surely its is becoming more and more like 'home'. First my things got moved in from Cleveland, then Jen's things got moved in from Grand Rapids and even though all the boxes weren't even unpacked more and more 'stuff' was being moved in.

So now we have a lot of stuff in a house. That doesn't make it a home. What makes it a home is the feelings you're having when you're in it and with whom you'll be in it.

Well, you all know what the 'with whom' part of my story is, but the feeling you're having is a little more difficult. One of the things we're both bringing in is a a sense of starting over.
For Jen it is finally giving the word 'family' and 'marriage' a new and meaningfull feeling, for me it is an end to the process of moving from my parents place, through my first 'house' in Belgium' and my apartment in Cleveland to having my own 'home'.

The first 'house' (which I did own, but didn't really make it home) was more of a learning experience, the first time from underneath the protection of the parents. The apartment was rented, so never really was 'home'. And then I met Jen...

I was finally ready to settle down again and buy my own house again. It is amazing how a girl can be the catalyst for some things every man (at least most of us) have inside, but are kind of keeping under wraps.
At our Michigan shower Beth, one of our friends wrote down a quote for us that really hit 'home':" The most precious possession that ever comes to a man in this world is a woman's heart." It is by Joshua Holland and couldn't be more true and I'm so glad Jen came around for me and that I now have a 'home' to start a family in.

To sum it up, just look at the picture. Jen was taking it and bought the flag, I put it up and -while having some reservations putting up a Dutch flag in a rural Mid-western US town - after it was up it made it more like home since I was now putting a bit of my old 'home' into my new 'home' inspired by my STB wife Jen.

So, I guess it is true 'Home is where the heart is...'

Friday, June 15, 2007

Where did we go wrong?

Jason, one of the two MC's at our wedding commented on the Kellogs announcement below. I found his rebutal very powerful and would like to share it with all of you. The annoucement is in Italic, Jason's reponse is in a regular font.

WASHINGTON - Kellogg Co., the world's largest cereal maker, has agreed to raise the nutritional value of cereals and snacks it markets to children.

The Battle Creek, Mich., company avoided a lawsuit threatened by parents and nutrition advocacy groups worried about increasing child obesity. Kellogg intends to formally announce its decision Thursday.

The company said it won't promote foods in TV, radio, print or Web site ads that reach audiences at least half of whom are under age 12 unless a single serving of the product meets these standards:

_No more than 200 calories.

_No trans fat and no more than 2 grams of saturated fat.

_No more than 230 milligrams of sodium, except for Eggo frozen waffles.

_No more than 12 grams of sugar, not counting sugar from fruit, dairy and vegetables.

Kellogg said it would reformulate products to meet these criteria or stop marketing them to children under 12 by the end of 2008.

"By committing to these nutrition standards and marketing reforms, Kellogg has vaulted over the rest of the food industry," said Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. "This commitment means that parents will find it a little easier to steer their children toward healthy food choices — especially if other food manufacturers and broadcasters follow Kellogg's lead."

Jacobson's nutrition advocacy group, along with two Massachusetts parents and the Boston-based Campaign For A Commercial-Free Childhood, had served notice in January 2006 of intent to sue Kellogg and the Nickelodeon cable TV network under a Massachusetts law to stop them from marketing junk food to kids.

Center spokesman Jeff Cronin said Kellogg contacted the plaintiffs shortly thereafter and began negotiating the new standards, so the lawsuit was not filed and will not be filed.

Did you read the bold sections? "A lawsuit by parents about THEIR kids obesity"!!! And "parents will find it A LITTLE EASIER to STEER kids toward healthy food"!!! Good night!

So…my question is this: WHEN DID PARENTS START LETTING KIDS DICTATE WHAT THEY ARE GOING TO EAT? Since when do kids have a choice in what they get for dinner? Or breakfast? Are kids running the parents? Shoot…as kids, if we wanted something specific, we were lucky to get it. We weren't spoiled like today's kids! And if parents are worried about obesity, then they need to get their kids away from the tv, computer, playstation, xbox, gameboy, etc. and outside where kids belong. Kids are made to grow and that means they need exercise. Not just moving there lil fingers to mash buttons all day.

Look. If anyone reading this knows me, I'm one of the biggest fans of eating. But I also like to eat healthy. It's a choice people. You have to watch what you eat and how much you eat. That's common sense. I'm not against food companies making their foods healthier. I'm ALL for that! But to sue companies because your kids are getting fat from eating foods that YOU gave them probably because they saw it on a tv commercial in front of YOUR tv…come on!

Parents, it's time that WE (not the food manufactures) start watching what our kids eat. And what they watch. And what they do with their free time. We cannot place blame on the food companies when it's our responsibility! Geeze man. What are we doing to this country?! Obesity in kids? When we were kids, we were yelled at all the time for being skinny! The "fat" kid was the oddball. Times have changed my foot. WE'RE LAZY!!! It's time we start spending time with our kids instead of sitting them in front of the tube and keeping them occupied and brainwashed. Come on, dvd players in cars? What happened to actually, OH MY GOSH, talking to our kids! Or even just singing songs? So they get a little anxious. This is NOT A-D-D people! THEY ARE KIDS! Little balls of growing energy. Maybe we need to plan the trip to take (wow) breaks so you can get out and play with them along the way, instead of thinking that they can sit still for hours on end. You were a kid once, remember? Or is that the point? Have we forgotten how to enjoy life? What is most important to you? Our kids are growing up around us. Are we too busy to notice? Or take a part in it?

Perhaps instead of blaming companies or even the kids, we need to look at OUR food choices. Kids can only eat what is in the house. Take charge and act like responsible adults and parents. You want to know where obesity from eating the wrong foods comes from…look in the mirror. No one forces you to eat what you don't want to (not in this country anyway). So stop blaming anyone but yourself and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!

(oh…and the answer to that is NOT to sue anyone by the way. I think the judge would throw you out of court if you tried to sue yourself!)
(and if this offends anyone...sorry...but this is downright ridiculous and it just shows where our country is going unless we take action)

Thanks to Jason for sharing this powerful piece!

Monday, May 07, 2007

Happy Birthday, Mom

Today, 59 years ago, a wonderful event happened: my mother was born in the town of Hilversum in the Netherlands!

Happy birthday, mom!

Jen and Niels

Prayer answered: 'Our' MI condo is rented !!

Well, finally some good news to report on the MI condo. We got renters!! Yes!!

Through Jen's Small Group we found a young couple that is in need of proper housing. They are about to get married and have a baby on the way. They are both in school and don't have a lot of disposable income. Jen and I were talking on our way up to MI on what to do about 'tithing' in our current situation and one of the things we talked about was doing some 'subsidized' renting of the condo.

In a true answer to prayer - while at KCC - the mother of the bride approached us and asked if the house was sold yet. With a sigh Jen answered 'No' and the mother asked if we were open to renting it. How awesome is that... but wait... at the same time, the neighbors daughter Beth just told us that all the 'staging' furniture they put in the house got sold in the garage sale, so the condo was empty and ready to be moved-in... Thank you, God! Perfect timing, as always... ;-)

During the drive home the mother and bride went over (the neighbors have been graciously acting as the 'landlord') for a 'showing' and they liked it. Yes!!

So, as of May 25 we have it rented. It is below market-value, but since we are now helping the young couple to get a good head start and are supporting our friends Gabe and Emily in their quest to become full-time State-side missionaries at Campus Crusade we have now reached our goal of tithing (giving away 10 or more % of our 'income' to God's causes) for this year AND have the condo rented!!

We serve an awesome God!

Another weekend, another trip

We just got back from another weekend trip. We're making a lot of those. This time we went (back) to Jen's former stomping grounds of Grand Rapids, MI.

The 'official' cause was a baby-shower for one of Jen's good friend Melissa, but other reasons were to visit my friends Deb and Jon in Holland, MI. Plus, this time of year (early May) is prime tourist season for Holland, MI as it is time for the annual Tulip Time festival.

So we enjoyed a leisurely drive up on Friday after work. Jen drove to Beachwood, parked her car and the three of us (Jen, Bailey and me) were off to GR. Very uneventful drive (finally, no snowstorms or other freak weather patterns for a change!) we got in at 10.30pm - actually right on-time...

We dropped Bailey off at the (former) neighbors, said hello to them and did a quick inspection of 'our' MI house. Besides a completely deflated blow-up bed everything looked fine. We blew it back up and headed for Hotel Van de Vegte where we had 'reserved' our 'usual' rooms and made sure we had a guaranteed late-arrival. It took us all but 5 mins to fall asleep.

On Saturday we had plans to be in Holland, MI at about 10am so an early rise was needed. I, however, procrastinated a bit in the shower and after a stop at the Post Office we got into Holland at around 10.20am. Not bad...

Deb and Jon were in the garden and after the 'hello's' we set out to the arts and craft fair and took some pictures in front of the tulips. How 'Dutch'! We ate some delicious 'Elephant ears' and on the way back to Deb and Jon's house we actually met some 'real Dutch' singers. Guess we are in Holland ;-) So it was not surprising that there where some clog-dancers, almost a 1000! Funny to see Americans do the 'Dutch-inspired' customs and dances...

Since we had to be back in GR at 2pm we set out on a quest for some Dutch food and headed for the Marktplaats (Market Square). However, arrived there we found that there was still a Latin-festival and the Dutch food wouldn't be there until next Tuesday... bummer, again no Oliebollen!!!

Back in GR - only 20mins late - Jen went to the Baby shower. I went outside to help Rich build a deck... much more fun then figuring out how many diapers a baby goes through in a year!! - for those of you who thought 1000, well that times 7 !! -

For the evening we went to KCC and a after a quick stop at our friend Erin (who bought us 'Trivial Pursuit - booklovers edition') we picked-up 'Night at the Museum' and some snack-food at Meijers and wound down in front of the TV.

Sunday was nice and relaxing... Slept in late, sat outside in the sun, had some lunch (remember... Slept in late... ;-), did some planning for the MI wedding shower, did some exercises (Jen) and some babysitting and web-surfing (Niels) and left for Ohio again around 5.30pm.

Again an uneventful drive, well, not quite... More about that in the next post!

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Month of April

Okay... we're breathing again... Wow, this was a month that has been CRAZY busy. It's the 23th now and this is the first time I'm actually able to sit down and write a blog-update. So what all happened:
1) Moved my apartment over to the Arlington house
2) Moved Jen's house over to the Arlington house
3) Hosted friends on 2 weekends
4) Unpacked many a box
5) Got a lawn-mower
6) Changed many a light bulbs
Oh yeah, and I actually worked a couple days as well ;-)

My move went relatively smooth, with a much appreciated visit of my best man and his wife, Joel and Carolyn. Love you guys!! No major issues, quick in-and-out, pretty much according to plan. Jen's move, well... that was another story. It was one of those weekends you just don't wanna have.

Jen went up to Michigan on the Monday before the move for some appointments and to pack. She also had a speaking gig on the Friday before the move. On that same Friday I got up at 5.30am to goto work and left work around 4pm. I went over to Crocker Park in Westlake to meet-up with my moving crew for dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. Everything was still nice and smooth...

We left around 6.30pm heading for a 10.30pm ETA in Grand Rapids. I called Jen to let her know we were on our way and she told me she had just one of days where nothing kinda went the way she wanted. Time was her enemy and the hand-outs of the speaking gig were the first victim. The next victim was herself, since due to rising stress-levels she couldn't find the location the first time around, so she actually was over an hour late... and hadn't eaten yet... Anyway, that all turned out well in the end and it was a VERY satisfying gig for her.

On the way back from the speaking gig, she called us for directions since the signs for Grand Rapids weren't around as plentiful as desired. I kinda told her where to go since we were still driving ourselves. We actually arrived earlier around 11pm and called her to guide her in. Around 11.45pm she was finally in and I was out... ;-)

Yeah, right... still had to drive Jason and myself to the boys' hotel (the vV's, thanks for letting us use your house...) since the girls (Rachel, Natalie and Jen) were staying at Jen's house. We finally hit the sack around 2am. The end of a 21hr day. And that was only day 1...

Day 2 ment we got up at 8.30am to head over to Krispy Kream and Starbucks for breakfast (drive-through for all of us) before we were allowed back into Jen's house. We dropped-off the food and headed over to Penske for the truck. Around 10.30am we parked the truck in front of the garage (and blocked the rest of the road...) and the planning was to be done around 2pm since Jen had neatly packed everything up in boxes and only the big-ticket items remained.

Well, as you might have guessed it, it didn't really work out like that. She had a few more things than originally planned, so half-way through we had to re-pack the truck before the other half fitted. A few other things took longer than expected, like removing the feet from the couches which was a royal... Thank you Gabe for helping with that.

So, 4.30pm came around and we were able to leave the house for the first leg of the drive to Ohio, Panera's which is only about 5 min away, for some much needed food. We finally left Grand Rapids around 6pm and we actually had a nice drive (short of the tears by Jen and the incredible noise of the truck). Rachel and Natalie drove my car, Jason and Bailey drove Jen's car. No issues so far... until we hit the Ohio Turnpike.

Mid April, nice and warm in Michigan and around 9pm in Ohio we end-up in a major... SNOW-STORM!!! Hello, Mid April... We had to slow down to 35mph on a day that already was running far longer as intended. Nice! By the time we found a decent place to stop (read: service plaza) the snow was tapering off, but it was already after 10pm and we were still on the Turnpike... yaiks.

Finally, a little after midnight we parked the truck in our drive-way, with room to spare... love that!! We all packed into my car to first drop-off Rachel and Natalie before heading over to Jason and Tony's house for some much anticipated hot-tub time. So we soaked from 2 to 3am and stayed over (read: out-of-juice!!!)

Next morning at 8.30am (and another 5-hour night) we went back to the house to unpack the truck. Thank God for friends, since otherwise we would have never had it empty by 1pm, but with the help of the Tinnins, Jason, Corey and Fantasia we actually did it. In time even to make it to Church. Well, sorta, since Jen crashed after 11am. She was on 'reserve' for a day-and-a-half, so I was very pleasantly surprised she lasted that long.

I was kinda running on fumes myself and finally around 2.30pm I hit empty and fell asleep on the coach in the basement of the Prices. I woke up at 5pm, still groggy, but at least a bit better. I headed back to the house and didn't do anything more than just watch a movie with Jen before we were finally able to get some actual sleep.

I was actually able to get to work on Monday, but Jen's crash took a few more days, but after Wednesday she also kinda regained consciousness... ;-)

Needless to say we didn't do much the next couple of days and this past weekend we actually were able to do some fun things with our guests Gabe and Emily. We visited the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Highly recommended as a 'thing-to-do' during the wedding visits... ;-)

Yesterday, we actually had our first day of Summer, with 75F / 25C weather and a nice sunshine that allowed us to use the grill... It was about time. We really enjoyed it all and instantly forgot the snow of last week, yes only last week.

Anyway, gotta run... time for bed. G'night all!!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Pictures of the move and Catan

For the pictures belonging to the last two posts: The House With Niels' Things

First Church service in the new house

On Sunday April 1, 2007 (no joke) we hosted the house church for the first time in our new house. For the regular readers of this blog, yes 1 day after we moved my things in.

The drive-way, not the smallest, was a bit crowded as was the overflow... but everybody was able to park.

We had a great lent-service hosted by Tony (thanks for the last minute change!!) and we had my friends Joel and Carolyn vistiting as well as Natalie, one of the girls from Wide Eyed Life.

Before and after the service we all went out on the deck as the weather was gorgeous. The Lord was shining upon us... ;-)

Anyway after everybody left Jen and I played some Catan, the original German version, and guess what... I won !!

So you see, a lot can happen in week. Unfortunately I had to take Monday off since it kinda hit my a little bit harder than I thought. I even missed a turn-opver test-session for work (thank you Jeff for covering and caring).

House update

The past week - directly after the Europe trip - we started working on the house since most of my things were to be moved on Saturday Mar 31, 2007. So we did some painting. Ahum, some...

Some means the whole first floor (short of the back living room) which includes the front living room, the dining room, the kitchen, the hall way and the laundry room. Oh and don't forget the master bedroom and the guest bedroom on the 2nd floor as well... (for the Dutch readers: begane grond en de 1e verdieping... ;-))

Fortunately all painting was ready on Friday night, short of a 2nd coat for the laundry room and afterwards a bit of cleaning. Well, Jen kinda got an old-fashioned 2nd wind and wasnt' done until 5.30am on Saturday... the day of the move !!!

My friends Joel and Carolyn came over on Friday night to see the house and help out with the move. With Jen pretty much out for Saturday we all got up around 9am for some breakfast and to get the truck since around 10am the rest of the movers were to show up.

Come 11am we got everybody lined-up. Jen and Tina were staying at the house, the rest (Trevor, Tyler, Tony, Jared, Doug, Natalie, Joel, Carolyn and me) were to be the movers and either were already in Cleveland or drove up following a big yellow Penske truck (he, what else would you expect...)

We didn't reserve any elevator time, but with the big group we had the apartment empty in about 90 minutes and loaded in the truck. After a small after-party involving some hilarious beer-scenes in the apartment kitchen we closed-up and left for North Canton.

The unloading went as quick as the loading, with the exception of the office desk which - in its assembled state - couldn't make the turns on the landing and had to be dissasembled on the spot. Since that was the only thing you can imagine that the unloading didn't take all that long either.

Mission accomplished.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Our Europe Trip - Part VIII - The Voyage Home

The last days of a vacation... Always the ones you don't really want to experience. You start to feel the drag of the every day life again and the first days of the vacation are still too fresh to let go just yet.

However, those days always come and we actually used them well. On Friday we didn't do a whole lot. We started making some adjustments to the many, many pictures we took. Started the initial keep vs. discard procedure and still ended up with about 1000 pictures. That happens in photograpy families. Just part of the deal.

We did drive up to Zeist to meet one of my groomsmen, Pascal, his wife Climmy and their son Ramon. We talked about the upcoming weeks and looked at their wedding pictures. I was even in a few of the shots... ;-) We went out for dinner at a local Chinese restaurant. Very good food, but I do have a whole new appreciation for non-smoking laws in restaurants and public places. Especially since it affects Jen like a bad hay-fever day.

We talked a bit more after dinner and had a nice drive back home where my parents were still up so we talked a bit more before we decided to call it a day.

On Saturday we went to the market in Helmond. Always a great experience to visit a local market wherever you travel. This time we just shopped for dinner, but I did buy Jen a beautiful bouquet of flowers filled with daisies, calla-lillies and roses. I love being able to buy those kind of things without taking a serious bite out of your budget. Flowers are so much cheaper in Holland, it's almost criminal... ;-)

Saturday night we had an engagement-party for my part of the family. Since most of them won't make it to the wedding in the States it was a great way for the family to congratulate us and to meet Jen (and vise-versa of course).

So the party was the final link in an impressive 10-day vacation which will be remembered forever. What a great time we had, and thanks to the blogs, we'll have a record of it as well. Sometimes IT actually is a good thing. The last couple posts are the proof...

Thanks for all the comments on the previous posts. We loved reading them!!

P.S.: Feel free to comment some more... I promise we keep loving to read them...

Friday, March 23, 2007

Our Europe Trip - Part VII

Another day, another post. The last few days have been a bit more relaxed. Here's a recap of them:

Wed 21-Mar-2007: We did the tour of me. We went to some of the places where I grew-up in and around Helmond. The hospital where I was born, the places where I lived, the places where I went to school, but also the places where mom and dad got married (he, that's part of my history as well ;-) ).

We also trekked-up to Son and Breugel where I lived for 5 years and a city that has an IKEA-store. Since Jen is an IKEA-newbie (never been to an IKEA before...) I had to show her one. Back in the States the closest one is in Pittsburgh, PA so this was a nice opportunity. We loved the storage-solutions they have and we will incorporate a few of them into our new house. Well, it should be my house until the wedding, but everybody knows that such a distinction is a technical one only... ;-)

We had to be home by 7pm since my parents had arranged a wonderful dinner at a Chinese and Japanese restaurant. Having been to China Jen actually found a few inconsistencies with the decor (e.g. the lions weren't positioned correctly), but besides that the food was AMAZING and the ice-cream was a sight to behold since it was served steaming... I think they used frozen nitrogen or some icy substance that steams. Whoever knows it, please let me know the science behind it and I'll adapt the story.

Thu 22-Mar-2007: Today we decided to do some touristy things. Plan was to go see some windmills, the 'Keukenhof' and the beach. We were able to do all three by checking out the windmill inside the 'Keukenhof'.

From Wikipedia: The Keukenhof, also known as the Garden of Europe, is the world's largest flower garden. Keukenhof is open from the last week of March to mid-May. The flower garden was the idea in 1949 by the then-mayor of Lisse, a small town south of Amsterdam. The idea was to have a flower exhibit where growers from all over the Netherlands and Europe could show off their hybrids. Keukenhof has been the world's largest flower garden that runs throughout spring for over fifty years.

We took a stroll through the park and took many a picture of beautiful flowers and just as important some cute pictures of Jen and I. We laid behind flowers, put her ring inside some flowers (amazing pictures!) and we took some funny shots in the playground. Hey, we still know where to find the kid inside when we see a cool playground... ;-) Looking forward to seeing those pictures since dad has most of them on his camera.

We had made plans to go out to dinner with my sister Ingrid and her boyfriend Bart at 7pm close to Helmond so we left the Keukenhof at 4pm and quickly checked-out the beach before we headed south again. Well, it wasn't enough. The 160 somewhat kilometers (about 100 miles) took us about 3,5 hours thanks to the Dutch traffic jams.

We did finally make it and had some amazing pancakes the size of a large Domino pizza. With all the toppings you'd think of and then some... Very good. Thanks Ingrid and Bart, it was delicious.

For Friday we have nothing planned except dinner with one of my groomsmen, Pascal Bloemers. So a nice and relaxing day we hope to use to get a CD together of all the pictures so far and maybe we can even upload a few of them ;-)

De groeten uit Nederland!

Our Europe Trip - Engagement pictures!!

Here are a few of the pictures from our Paris engagement! According to Jen I'm such a romantic... ;-)

Monday, March 19, 2007

Our Europe Trip - Part VI (the MAIN event)

It’s official! We’re engaged!!!

Today was a day I've waited for all my life, but with special anticipation over the last few months. I asked Jen to marry me and she said YES! :-D

I can’t say that my secret was kept particularly well. Especially since we have already confirmed the following:
• The date (July 29, 2007)
• The time (1:30pm--thanks, mom)
• The place (Lakeside Banquet Center in Navarre, OH—thanks, Colemans)
• Jen tells me there is dress that is white and pretty. I believe her.
• Bridesmaids and Groomsmen and Ushers…oh my!
• The photographer (No, not my dad)
• The guest hotels
• The wedding night hotel (No, not for public disclosure)
• The honeymoon (in Curacao)
• I have a ring (actually, Jen has it)
• And as of this evening, Jen has an engagement ring on her finger!

For those who would appreciate a non-bullet description, this is for you:

We woke up this morning filled with anticipation of this day. Jen knew I was planning to propose, but she didn’t know the details. I enjoyed keeping a least a little bit to myself as she is thoroughly enjoying taunting me by showing everyone around me her “white and pretty” dress.

She was a bit hard to rouse, as she often is after a big day, but I knew she’d get up for this day. We quickly got ready and loaded the car for our five hour trip to Paris. The trip was fairly uneventful, short of a little freak hail and we were grateful to be on the other end of a major accident that closed two of the three lanes in the other direction.

I had planned for my Dad to drive so that I could work on my speech—I am proposing to a writer, after all. But Dad had a headache, so I took the wheel. We arrived in Paris around 5 and Dad and I went to check in while Mom and Jen stayed in the car. I got a slight scare when the front desk said I only had one room at the great rate we found on Priceline. Dad fetched the confirmation from the car and we quickly had both rooms, at an even better price! Kinda nice chance of pace with all the money we’ve had to spend on wedding and house stuff lately.

We got settled into our rooms and I told Jen she could finally put on her dressy clothes. While Jen was getting even more beautiful, my mom was causing a ruckus. Dad and I joked that we would have to tell Jen not to get into the mini-bar because the hotel has an auto bill system where if you pick anything up, you get charged. (Jen likes to touch things). Apparently we should have been more concerned about Mom because she lifted up the entire mini bar, looking for the prices on each item. The hotel must be used to these kinds of things because they were kind enough to take off the 80 Euros worth of charges Mom racked up in less than two minutes.

Our bill back to normal, we headed out toward the Eiffel Tower. Paris in spring time is a bit overrated since it was cold, windy and rainy…with occasional hail. (American Mom, you still wanna go???) Fortunately Jen had a great attitude and just smiled and said she always wanted a picture of Paris in the rain. What a great girl!!

The original plan was to go up to the top of the Eiffel Tower at sunset, but the before-mentioned less-than-great weather situation caused me to change my plans on the spot. The great thing about Paris is that it is Paris, so the next opportunity was just a few yards (sorry, meters) away in the form of a beautiful flower garden with – surprise, surprise - purple flowers. I decided that that would work just fine. Especially with the Eiffel Tower in the background.

I looked at her, she looked at me and I spoke some kind words (sorry, private for now) and got down on my knee (more about that on some future post) and got out the ring. Oh, yeah… I know Jen is the one with the head-injury, but I almost forgot the ring in the States and again this morning. Thanks to Jen and dad for remembering. Sometimes I can be such a nutty professor!

I think you know the next part… she said YES! Yay! I finally landed my dreamgirl.

When I first had the idea of going to Paris, Jen asked if my parents could be there. That turned out the be the best idea of the day since we now have both excellent video and picture coverage of our most important day so far.

Speaking of which… my mom has fallen asleep while we were typing this up. I think that’s my cue to head back to my room – where dad is probably cutting down a forest – and call it a day. And what a day it was!!

Lord, please continue to bless this union as we are preparing for the next big step. Only 131 days to go…

The Europe Trip - Part V (the uncensored version)

So...if you read my post yesterday, you know that I had some serious business in Amsterdam. Our whole trip to Europe started as a joke when Jen found out that her dad, two sisters, and brother-in-law had a nine hour layover in Amsterdam on their way to Israel to meet up with her sister's inlaws. Jen said, "I don't think it's fair that my dad gets to see Holland before I do." Of course, that sent me to look up inexpensive fares to Holland for Jen and I. That led to my idea of meeting her dad, when after being away from her for three weeks, led to me to thinking I didn't ever want to be away from her, which led to me thinking that a trip to Holland to ask for her dad's blessing would be a pretty good idea.

So, as you may have figured out. He gave it. And he did it in a really cool way.

But took awhile to find the family because they didn't leave the transit area, which is behind security, but we quickly fixed that and were able to make introductions. We made our way to the train ticket area and purchased tickets to downtown Amsterdam.

Once we made it to city center, we took a canal boat tour. Jen and her family really enjoyed the Dutch architecture and historical information spoken in English. (I enjoyed the Dutch, German and French versions, as well). Once the ride was complete, we walked around like tourists and did a little shopping. Of course, Jen was with us, so we made the obligatory stop at a bookstore where we found a Dutch children’s Bible and prayer book. My dad insisted on paying for them, which we thought was really cool because while I’ll use them to teach Jen Dutch now, it will also be our (God willing) child(ren)’s first Bible and prayer book from their Opa. I was able to spent some Euros however, by paying the toilet fees for Jen and her sisters when they didn’t realize you have to pay to use the restrooms!

During lunch we had a chance to record a digital version of our “how we met” story. Perhaps we’ll create a blog about that sometime. In the meantime, American readers can contact Jen’s dad, and European readers can contact my dad for the video. (Just checking to see if our dads are really reading this!)

After lunch, I ditched Jen so I could walk alone with her Dad. Like guys we kinda got down to business pretty quick. He had some idea where the conversation was heading so it made it a lot easier for me… ;-) He asked me what would be an appropriate gift, but that was obviously after he responded that he would gladly give Jen away… and yes, he meant it in the best possible way!! Several things came to mind, but I didn’t give the right answer so I had to wait.

With the serious business out of the way, we went back on tourist mode, heading to the Anne Frank house. Unfortunately, the long line put us in danger of not getting back to the airport in time, so we settled for walking to the Anne Frank house, where we took some pictures of the outside. All of us were humbled by the memories of what happened in that house.

Our day was slightly dampened by some unexpected rain and wind, but we were troopers and had a great time together anyway. It meant a lot to Jen that her dad and sisters (and Andy too) were able to meet me and that I was able to get her dad’s blessing face-to-face. Seeing how much it meant to Jen meant the most to me.

Time was running short so we took the train back to the airport. I had a rare directional alert when I thought I got us all on the wrong train, but alas, I was mistaken and we were on the right track. During the ride back, Jen’s family peppered me with questions from my favorite color to what do I like most about Jen (her sparkling eyes). Jen also entertained us all (and by all, I mean everyone on the train) by reading her Dutch prayer aloud with her own unique Dutch accent.

We decided to load up on a little caffeine before parting ways, so we found a private spot in one of the airport restaurants. Jen’s dad led the conversation by asking me if I remembered the question. I did, but wasn’t sure of his answer. So he pulled out a brown envelope with my name on it. The first thing he took out was a box of SweetHeart candies, little heart shaped confections with phrases on them. He told me that when Jen was young (not so long ago, of course), he would give those to her each Valentine’s day and she would paste the hearts on paper in order to make sentences. She must have played around with them a lot because she’s an amazing writer today. The next thing he gave me was completely unexpected, but really, really, cool, especially because Jen had recently shown me the journal her mom and dad kept while they were married. After her mom left, her dad continued to write in it, and his entries were directed toward God as he read his new daily Bible. The gift her dad gave me was that very worn, very used, very special Bible. Inside, he wrote a special message just for me. Jen’s sister Liz was bawling! Carisa’s well was flowing as well. I think Jen and I were both so shocked we didn’t know what to do. What an amazing, incredible gift. I can’t wait to fix it up a little (it needs some tape) and start the tradition myself.

We finished and took a few pictures before we left. One moment that will stay with me is seeing my mom hug Jen’s dad. That was when I understood how much the day meant to my parents. I know she was shedding tears of joy, but I know she had some sadness as well because I—sorry, we--live so far away.

We got Jen’s family back to the customs line and we headed off for some food before the drive back to Helmond where I started planning for our big day in Paris.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Europe Trip - Part V

The last post was about our relaxing day, today it was serious business. What business? Not going to tell you, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah... ;-) Maybe, just maybe, tomorrow's blog would shed some light on "the business".

Anyway, we went to Amsterdam and we did a canal-boat tour and nearly got blown into a canal by the fierce wind. Oh, I can tell Jen's mind is clearing up since she had the marvelous idea of somehow using the wind to create energy. Who knows, the world might actually "warm" up to that idea ;-) Maybe if they'd mill it around in their minds first... Any thoughts?

In Amsterdam we met up with some of our friends and we had a great time showing them around in their - little - time they had on a flight-layover. They even thought of bringing a gift for us. Very nice!!

We had some Dutch Chinese for dinner (very nice) and on the drive back (we had my parents with us) we kinda chatted about life and other things before we both tuckered-out.


The Europe Trip - Part IV

Another two days have past since the last blogpost. Two very different days to say the least. Saturday was a nice relaxing day of doing basically nothing. We slept in until about 1pm and then slowly got some breakfast and went to check-out a local grocery store. After buying some apple-flavored soda, licorice, ceasar dressing and a few other knick-knacks we wanted to walk to some more stores, but it started to rain so we opted for the car. Too long in the States already ;-)

We found a bookstore (... oy, those stores are going to do me in good some day...) and we found some interesting magazines. We also went to another grocery store and took some pictures of "interesting" items labeled as "American" (until we upload pix, see Jen's Blog).

In the evening we had a nice Dutch dinner; gourmet-style. Again, see Jen's blog...

More in part V.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Europe Trip - Part III

After arriving on Cologne airport (2nd country in 24 hours) we were planning to goto a beautiful German castle in the Moselle region, famous for its castles, wines and the river Moselle. However, the castle 'Burg Eltz' is only open from March 31 through October 31 so it was closed. The drive to it was very nice through lots of small towns, with small, small roads and we stopped at a beautiful vista overlooking the valley with the castle. So after a couple pictures (will be uploaded later) we went looking for a place to get some breakfast (it was only 9am...)

We found a very nice hotel with a restaurant that was open and set down overlooking the Moselle river. We had a very friendly German owner and a delicious breakfast. My Dad and me had a Schnitzel (Country fried steak) and Jen had something that was a mix between waffles and pancakes. Both were very, very good!! After driving through Cochem (a tourist town completely overrun by tourists in the summer) we decided to press on to Luxembourg (3rd country in 24 hours).

In Luxembourg we went to the capital city named... Luxembourg. We strolled around a bit through the city and did some window shopping and also bought some small souvenirs. Then Jen found a bookstore...

The bookstore only had French-language books and since Jen is looking for a couple of langauge versions of the book 'Goodnight Moon' she went looking for it. They didn't have it. However, they did have a book for little kids telling them about parents getting divorced and how to handle it. So buying that one was a no-brainer.

Then we decided to quickly pop into France to up the country-count for the day (4th country in 24 hours). We didn't do much in France this time (more to follow on Monday and Tuesday) other then to drive into it on the Interstate, turn around at the first intersection and drive back into Luxembourg on our way to another castle in Vianden, Luxembourg. We took some awesome shots and went to visit a big water reservoir on top of a hill. Some exercise on a first day in Europe is good to kinda fight-off jet-leg.
At the reservoir Dad took some funny pictures of us and those will also be uploaded a little later.

Time to move again and this time to Belgium (5th country in 24 hours). Here the plan was to visit a big American WW II cemetery and memorial site. We got there at 5.30pm and since the site was officially closed at 5pm the buildings were closed, but the grounds were still open. We had some good talks between us on how pointless was is most of the time, but how much of the current freedom in Europe is a direct result of that. Dad pointed out that the engraving "In memory of those who fought and died for their country" was actually incorrect. It should have read "In memory of those who fought and died for the European liberation". They weren't defending the USA, but liberating Europe. Countries most of them hardly every heard of. It made the sacrifice all the more meaningful... since the love of Christ for his Church was a sacrificial one...

It was time to add one final country to the list, the Netherlands (6th country in 24 hours). We stopped at a grocery store to buy some local candy and get some cash in order to pay a co-worker who had graciously bought a German version of Catan for us. So nice to have people who wish to do little things for you that mean a lot to you. Thank God we still have those people around in our increasingly self-centered society.

It was getting late and time to head to my parents place. I handed over the wheel to Dad - too tired - and don't remember much of the drive to my parents place. Just a blissful sleep. Very nice!

At Mom and Dad we had a very gracious welcome with a beautiful gift for Jen. My Dad had a hanger made which he designed of two Chinese symbols (we think it means good luck and prosperity). Dan, Sara, after the pictures are up just let us know what it means...

The final part of this long, long day was some home-made, ultra-fresh Dutch Apple Pie. With some tea and honey that was our cue to call it quits... Tomorrow will be a very relaxing day with nothing planned but a family dinner at night.

Good Night!!!

ps.: hanger = necklace (thanks Jeff, sorry to confuse!)

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Europe Trip - Part II

Arrived safe. Did 6 countries in 1 day... Very tired. More news tomorrow!!

Well, it's tomorrow now, still very tired, but since I promised more news, here is some more news...

On Thursday we met with my co-worker Jeff for lunch in Beachwood before we left for the airport. Our flight would leave around 3pm so plenty of time. We got to the airport in time and without any delay we made it to our flight. One amazing thing did happen. The baggage allowance is 50lbs per bag and without a scale or even really thinking about it while packing our bags we had 48 and 49lbs for both are bags... Amazing!

The flight to Newark was pretty non-eventful, but after two holding patterns due to heavy traffic (and a prelude of the winter storm on Friday) we landed in plenty of time to make our connecting flight to Cologne, Germany.

Another rather uneventful flight, but since the window seat was empty we had the whole row to ourselves which greatly helped in finding a position to catch some sleep.

We arrived about 40mins early and my Dad was there to pick us up and we were ready for our European Adventure!!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Europe Trip - Part I

OK, tomorrow we're leaving for Europe. This will be a very important trip for several reasons:
- Our first trip to Europe together
- Jen meeting my parents and family
- I'm meeting Jens dad and sisters (+ significant others)
- ...
- Meeting with a Dutch Christian publisher
- Giving Jen the 'Niels: the early years' tour

Some of you might know what the '...' is, but for those who don't, check back on Wed Mar 21, 2007. It will explain a few things ;-)

Europe, here we come!!

The Moving Chronicles - Part III

OK, we've made it another couple steps. We've moved most of the kitchen things in. With the addition of the microwave and fridge and now with pots, pans, plates and silverware we're having something that resembles a functioning kitchen. We've also moved all of my clothes, the printer and important paperwork over yesterday.

I've also have all my tools at the house and after buying a nice saw and big hammer we might be able to put the mailbox in after we get back from Europe.

We also have some plans to change some of the carpet, but since we haven't even looked at any potential carpets we want, we'll divert that to after the Europe trip as well.

Monday, March 05, 2007

The Moving Chronicles - Part II

Last weekend we moved the Entertainment Center (or Centre pour nous amis Canadienes). That means all the cool stuff from the living room is now in the basement of the new house. The big screen TV and the whole audio-setup is now up-and-running at the house. Yesterday we watched our first movie there; 'March of the Penguins'.

We also bought one of those memory foam mattress toppers... Wow! Amazing stuff. Highly recommended. It makes sleeping a whole different experience.

Today they will be delivering the fridge and the microwave. That will (re-)complete the kitchen as the previous owners took those two appliances with them. Ah well, we got a nice side-by-side fridge and a good microwave.

Another step closer to a livable house...

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Moving Chronicles - Part I

This will probably be the first of many posts on moving houses. It will have three distinct phases:
I. House preparation
II. Me moving into the house
III. Making it a 'home'

We are currently in Phase I from last week Fri through March 31. Phase II will be the weekend of March 31/April 1, Phase III will be from April 2 through eternity (at least for now...)

We got possesion of the house on Fri Feb 23. On Monday we moved a TV into the house in preparation of the Cable and Internet installation. That got hooked-up that day and was completed on Web Feb 28.

We also had a gasline put in for the Gas dryer and while the plummer was at the house had him check the water supply since we noticed some sulfer smells and not real hot water. Turned out the hot water supply was partially shutoff by the previous owner. Everything is up and running now.

Next week Wed Mar 7 the side-by-side (aka double-door) fridge and the microwave will arrive from our friends at Whirlpool to complete the kitchen.

Plenty more to come....

Friday, February 23, 2007

Two Moving Parties - Update

With Jens condo NOT being rented as of next month, my new house is still officially mine (yeah!) we need to organize ONE moving party.

The moving party will be in Cleveland on Sat Mar 31 and will be Saturday only. We need to load my gear into another (Penske...) truck and move it to the house.

Let me know who is willing and able to help us out!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Proud Home Owner

OK, all done now!! House is mine, all mine... at least for now ;-) No issues with any of the inspections and the subsequent closing. Thanks to Jim Pepper from Cutler Homes and Mike Stoffer from Stoffer Mortgage everything went smoothly.

Already looked at appliances and the first thing to get is the fridge. It will be a Whirlpool Side-by-Side in white. Would have preferred a aluminum finish, but since the rest of the appliances are all white (and Whirlpool) we're keeping it the same.

After that will come the washer and dryer, but that will be for early April after we get back from the Holland trip.

Let the bleeding begin... ;-)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentines Day!

To all the love-birds in the world - and one in particular: Happy Valentines Day!!

Snowy days in Cleveland

Winter didn't have much a bite here until the midle of January. After that, oh boy... Arctic temperatures of -8F (BEFORE) windchill and yesterday and today we had a bit of snow... Ahum, a couple feet of snow is more accurate. Combine that with winds of up to 35mph it created VERY dangerous driving conditions.

Yesterday for most people the commute took hours, with completely grid-locked traffic. A co-worker and myself decided to get some food first at the hotel around the corner from the office and were able to make it home in under 50mins at an average speed of aobut 25mph.

Today, I'm working from home since I can't move my car out of the parking lot here yet. Maybe later today the plows can clear enough of the snowbanks (and not put them in front or behind my car) so I might be able to move the car, but for now I'm the Penske Downtown office...

Since my camera is still in Grand Rapids I took this shot with the cellphone. A little off the normal quality of my shots, but good enough to paint the picture...
Be Safe everyone!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Housing update

We have three properties in which we have some vested interest:
  1. Jens house in Grand Rapids, MI
  2. My apartment in Cleveland, OH
  3. My - hopefully - new house in Uniontown, OH

We're trying to sell number 1 (and as of today we have a very serious lead...), get a renter in number 2 for the period between March 31 and August 30 and - Lord willing - closing on number 3 hopefully somewhere next week.

We so hope to have only 1 property to worry about soon, so all efforts to help (spiritually, and if you know somebody for either number 1 or 2, directly) are very much appreciated!!

Since '24' is starting a two-hour episode in 30 minutes and my stomach is growling at me, I'm gonna sign off.

L8r, mi amigos!

Another trip to GR

Last weekend we made another trip to GR (Grand Rapids for newbies...) to visit our friends Jen and Rich and Gabe and Emily.

Jen and Rich have been truly welcoming us every time we go there. Sometimes with a nice sauna - enhanced by the bountiful MI snow - or just with fellowship and generous hospitality. Oh and the Hawaian Coffee is absolutely fantastic!!

After an uneventful drive on Friday we slept in on Saturday and went to 'Van der Veen', a Dutch store in Grand Rapids for some goodies and a few other things. Among those, a nice NL-sticker for Mighty Mouse!

One other thing high on the agenda for a couple trips, but never realized due to timing constraints, was a visit to the Gerald Ford Presidential Museum. I can recommend it. It is a very good collection of the life of - as the people in GR call him - Gerald (ou)R, Ford. Very impressive.

It was quite surreal to learn about his passing when both Jen and me were out of the country. And with the internet being down in China at the time she basically missed the whole thing. We fixed that by buying the DVD of the news coverage by one of the local GR TV stations. Oh and eventough we have some nice outdoor-shots - to be posted later - it was brutally cold that day... go figure...

After Church we had dinner with our friends Gabe and Emily - which are in need of your help to be able to serve at Campus for Christ. We had some awesome conversation on both of our futures.

On the way to church we picked-up two movies to watch; American Dreamz and One Night With The King. Two very different movies, but both recommended. Watch for the small details in American Dreamz, hilarious...

Sunday was a nice relaxing day of just hanging out, doing some finances and a nice relaxing drive back to Cleveland. Home at 9pm, in bed by 10... not a bad way to end it... Sleep is SO under-rated!!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Result of the inspection

On Monday we had the inspection of the house and short of an issue in the water ventilation, a double-wired fuse and a breaker that didn't trip the house is in a very good condition. Insulation is well above the norm and with a high efficiency furnace the heating bill shouldn't cause major heart-attacks. The well and septic tank inspection result should be in today at the latest.

On to the close...

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Inspection scheduled

The home inspector will meet us on Monday, February 5 at 4pm for the home inspection. We will look at the house, the well and the sceptic tank. This is one of the many details to go through in the US before the close and transfer.

In the Netherlands these items are all rolled-up into an appraisal report usually santioned by the mortgage lender. This appraisal is also done in the States, but will only look at the value of the property and doesn't focus on the techinical details of the house.

I'm glad to have Jen, her mom and the realtor as guides on the path to US home-ownership.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

House-hunting update III

I have a house !!!

The offer on 4890 Arlington Road has been accepted today. Hurray !!! Next steps will be to get all the things properly inspected and once that is all good, the bleeding (read: mortgage payments) will begin, but I couldn't be happier. Below you can find some more details on the house...

4890 Arlington Road, Uniontown (Green) OH, 44319
1.362 Acres / 5512 m2

1832 sq ft. / 170 m2 + basement 784 sq ft. / 73 m2
(pictures: click here)

I-77, exit 120, south on Arlington, 2nd house on the right after E Nimisila Road (approx 4 miles / 6 km from the I-77 exit)

Distance from:
Downtown Cleveland: 48 miles
Beachwood: 38 miles

Cleveland International Airport (CLE): 48 miles
Akron Canton Regional Airport (CAK): 5 miles

Mississauga, ON: 306 miles
Niagara Falls: 245 miles

Friday, January 26, 2007

House-hunting update II

After Church Jen and I will be looking at two possible houses on Sunday Jan 28. Last week we had 5 or 6 on our list and after the realtor showed Jen, Angie and Katelyn the houses 2 made the cut that Jen and I will go see.

Here they are, most interesting house first:
- 4890 Arlington Rd, Uniontown
- 1560 Briarwood Way, Uniontown

The first one has plenty of upgraded features, cherry wood cabinets, huge finished basement and hardwood floors on the ground-level. Plus, it has over an acre (> 4000m2) of land.

Keep you posted as always...

Friday, January 19, 2007

House-hunting update

Yesterday I had an appointment with a Mortgage-company in Canton (Stoffer Mortgage) that was recommended by the Prices. He is a very good and down-to-earth guy. He didn't quote me on a maximum amount I could borrow, but on my maximum comfort-level. I like that.

On a personal note: he's an avid fan of Dutch Soccer. Just on that one alone I have to recommend him. Jen also had a conversation with him before (she actually made the appointment) and told me she had a good feeling about him.

With the Soccer-connection it just continues to amaze me how God is raising my comfort-level in this whole process. A few years ago I would have contributed it to fate or luck, but since this isn't the first time things like this happen to me, I believe God has a hand in this.

As an example: when I was looking online for an apartment in Cleveland in the early months of 2003 (before I moved to the States) I was here on a business and house-hunting trip in February. I looked at a few places, but when I got to my current apartment-complex in downtown Cleveland I was greeted by the property manager. Turned out she lived in the Netherlands for a couple of years... Like I said, these kind of things keep happening to me.

So for the sceptics among us... Once might be luck, twice might be chance, three-times might be seen as fate, but when it keeps happening it is obvious to me that there is a Director at work.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

24 is back !!

Season 6 of one of my favorite TV-shows is back with a bang!

This seasons premise: 20 months after last season's shocking season finale, when Jack Bauer was captured by Chinese government agents and taken battered and bloodied to points unknown, a series of horrific terrorist attacks rocks the nation.

You can now order the DVD with the series 6 first 4 episodes from Amazon or just download a single episode. Unfortunately, unlike CBS, you have to pay for these episodes in order to keep the sales of the DVD going. I like that they give you option to see it again, but disapprove of the method. I can only wish Fox will follow the 'Innertube' initiative from CBS.

To prevent having to download them (either from Amazon or other channels) you can catch new episodes every Monday at 9pm on Fox.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

New year, new layout

A new year, a new look for The Clog Files. To those who've been keeping up the format might look a bit familiar since Jens blog has the same layout/template. I kinda like it since its not too flashy and keeps the focus on the content. I did update the profile and blog mission a bit plus added a picture I deem precious...

I've also updated my personal website and added a number of photo-galeries to it as well. One of them (My Life in Europe) will be the basis for a day or two of our Netherlands trip in March. I'm really looking forward to that trip and hope it will bring us closer together. Plus, I get to show her off to my family... Don't worry sweetie, they already like you.

Off to grab the info for my appointment with the mortgage-advisor tommorow.

Jen in Ohio

Since this weekend my girlfriend is having her main domicile right here in Ohio. One of our friends is graciously hosting her in their house. Unfortunately, her house is still not sold (click here for a link to the Realtor) so we still appreciate your prayers on that.

On Monday Jen and me celebrated her birthday with a good dinner and a fabulous movie 'The Pursuit of Happyness' with Will Smith and his real-life son. It is actually based on a true story. Check out Chris Gardner on Google for more info and you'll be amazed on his perseverance. It would have been even stronger if the divorce-part could have been resolved, but that is more of a personal beef of us than a comment on the movie and its remarkable story.

It is so nice to have her so close and to drive only 45min to go see her instead of 4 to 4,5 hours. Tomorrow we have various appointments, among others with a mortgage advisor to see if my plans of owning a house are feasible. I hope to move closer to my friends and looking at the area from Munroe Falls south to about US-224 on the east-side of Akron. It is still about 40 minutes to work (only 10 to 15min longer than now), but only 10 to 15 minutes to our friends in Canton.

I will keep you posted.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Tracking a passport with visa...

Visa application and approval was pretty standard stuff, except...

... getting my passport and visa physically in hand was not.

After the approval on Tuesday they should sent it within the next 2 business days. That would have been Thursday. However, they already sent it on Monday-afternoon and tried to deliver it (it was registered mail), but since my dads shop was closed that didn't work. Normal procedure is to leave a note saying they will try again tomorrow and if that fails at what post office you can pick it up. However, they never left a note and just dropped it at a post office in Geldrop (where my dads shop is). The result was that we didn't know where my passport was on Friday afternoon... with my flight back home leaving on Saturday.

I first started calling the consulate and got nowhere. Only after I put up my American voice and accent and called the embassy did I get to talk to somebody and found out they already sent it. Next step: getting some info at the parcel company (TNT Express). After two failed attempts, they told me it should be at the post office in Geldrop. So I called the Post office and they told me it wasn't there, but at one of the regional distribution centers of the parcel company. Yeah, right...

Getting a little desperate - and with help from my parents from the shop in Geldrop - and after about 3 hours of tracking we finally found that it was at a different post office in Geldrop.

Finally... and no errors so I could leave on schedule. To compensate things the man upstairs blessed me with smooth sailing at Schiphol and Newark and an upgrade to Business Class on the flight to Cleveland.

Thanks to mom and dad for all their help in calling and tracking down the passport... even if it wasn't in their best interest... ;-)

My Holland trip, part II

The second part of my Holland trip is now complete... sigh... I'm currently waiting on my connecting flight to Cleveland at the Newark Airport.

What all happened the last week... Let's see:

On Tuesday we went to US Consulate (see previous post) and got the L1b visa renewed. On Wednesday I did my prep for the next trip to Holland in March together with Jen. That will be our first major trip together. Very much looking forward to that. So what is the prep? I took pictures of most buildings that played a role in my life.

Took pictures of the Hospital, the first house I lived in with my parents, my kindergarten building (now a gym)and my first elementary school. All of those in Helmond, the city where I was born. Then I took a few pictures in a small village just north of Eindhoven, called 'Son & Breugel', where I lived for 5 years. Again, a picture of the house and the elementary school there. After those 5 years we moved back to Helmond and took pictures of my parents current house, my elementary school, my high school and my community college. Then I moved on to Venlo, where I took a few pictures of my college and the hospital where I got my first full-time job out of college. Final stops where around Maastricht at my house in Gellik and the office on the town-hall square in Maastricht.

On Thursday and Friday I went to work in our Roosendaal office in the south of the Netherlands.

Something else happened on those last two days, but that will be a separate post...

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

L1b (Non-Immigrant) Visa approved

Today I went to the US Consulate in Amsterdam to re-apply for my US Non-Immigrant visa. This is the one that was stuck in the damaged Dutch passport after I had to renew my it. This doesn't have any effect on the Immigrant Visa...

After an early morning rise (left at 5.30am) we arrived in Amsterdam a little after 7am, well ahead of the 8am schedule. After a coffee-break I joined the queue at around 8.15am and got into the Consulate a little after 8.30am.

Full airport security to get in, two times through the metal detector and some paperwork pre-check before you get into the building. The building looks more like Fort Knox so the whole process seems a bit surreal.

After paying the necessary fees and waiting for another 30 minutes inside for my (very brief, < 2min.) interview with the vice-consul he informed me that the visa was approved.

Due to biometric data storage the passport with the visa will be send back in 3 days. Nicely in time for my return-flight to the States on Saturday.

Thanks for all the prayers, since the process went smooth and without a single problem. Now that I can get back into the States for sure... See you all next week!!

Greetings from Holland to all of you.

Monday, January 01, 2007

My Holland Trip, part I

I'm having a blast in Holland. Seeing all the family was a bit overdue... Didn't get to see them all in my last trip in May.

Christmas was awesome. Grandma, Mom and me all went to Church and then later that day all the family from my moms side came over. We went to dinner at a restaurant close by and afterwards had them over again at my parents house. So good to catch up and joke in Dutch... Been a while...

I also went to visit my best friend, his wife and new-born son (well, new-born to me. Ramon is 7 months old now).

I also had some quiet days (hey, it is still my vacation...

For New Years we watched some stand-up comedians on TV, all the fireworks (and lots of it this year) and today we visited both sides of the family, both at the remaining grand-parental unit...

A bit more (serious stuff) on the comedians though... Holland was and still is a very tolerant society and that shows in the performances of those comedians. Compared with the US, they can say pretty much everything and they do!! It is unbelievable what is being broadcasted. Not even so much the profanity as well as the blasting and total disrespect of everything (especially religion, including Christianity) and all people but themselves. Wow! Three years living in the States have given me quite a different perspective on what I feel as appropriate and most of them I would not pay to go see or even recommend. Today however I watch a comedian from neighboring Belgium and the contrast couldn't be bigger... Just as funny, but without all the profanity. Still as critical on certain subjects (as stand-up should be), but much more respectful and more family appropriate (well, for European standards that is...).

OK, on to some lighter notes again...Tomorrow I'm off to the US Consulate for a new visa and Wednesday I'm planning a photo-shoot of my life so far, taking pictures of where I was born, went to school, moved to, etc... in preparation of my next trip to Holland in mid-March, but that will be with... JEN !! Yay !!

Thu and Fri I'm working at one of the Dutch offices of Penske and then (if everything works according to plan with the visa) I'm going home to Cleveland again on Saturday.

Will post a bit more next week. Have a great 2007!