Monday, I watched a friends golden retriever, and I was struck how seemingly perfect these dogs are and then I started thinking about perfection. Obviously golden retrievers are not the perfect dog, but they ARE close, (literally almost perfect) because they shed like crazy! It’s their big flaw. One I’m happy to live with, but a flaw nonetheless. Isn’t he great? His name is Vino and he reminds me so much of my beloved Jasper! He’s inspired my new dog sitting business out of my home! I have my first paying customer this weekend, actually! Do what you love, and all that. 🙂


There is the whole, “too much perfection” component here. In reality, nothing in this world is perfect but God, but we often try to achieve this. We cannot, and that would be boring anyway, but it got me thinking……

Hey Everyone! The weather here has once again turned cold, and I’ve once again turned into a hermit. It’s hard for me to admit that the cold keeps me home because I believe I love the seasons, but I have put my heavy clothing away, and lets be honest here……I do not want to bike in windy chilly weather with my spring coat. So, now, it’s more a, “I’m going to read in front of the fireplace with a glass of wine” mentality than an, “I’m going to sit outside at a cafe and read with a glass of wine”. Ha!

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Hello everyone! I’m actually not going to write too much on this post, as the pictures will show it all perfectly! For about 8 weeks each spring, the Keukenhof (which means “kitchen garden” opens in Holland to showcase the floricultural sector of the area. It’s AMAZING!

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This was our first King’s Day celebration in Amsterdam and it was a really fun day and a great experience. I had never heard of King’s Day before. Reading up on it, I’ve discovered that it USED to be Queen’s Day and was changed in 2014 after King Willem-Alexander was inaugurated. The first time this holiday was celebrated was in 1885 to honor the birth of Queen Wilhelmina.

I’m so thrilled to write this post, as I can’t even believe that any of this happened. Dragan and I were able to meet our beloved dog, Jasper’s family! Many of you know he died a few months ago very unexpectedly at 18 months from cancer. It was so devastating for us, and for me especially. I didn’t know what to do with myself, so to hide my grief, I started to do research on golden retrievers in The Netherlands. I found looking at the photos of puppies healing. Silly maybe, but any time we had a movie or tv on, that is what I was doing.

Furniture shopping here in Amsterdam, has been……well, interesting. the city is full of artistic talent and there is a huge interior design scene here, and that can come at a cost. I spent many weeks walking around to the best stores wondering if it was possible to down a couch for less than 4,000 Euros. 

The other difficult thing for me, as an American, is that you most likely cannot return any furniture once you have purchased it, and if by chance they WILL accept the piece back, you can only get store credit. I should have checked first, but I’m kind of a “buy, take it home, see if I like it, and if I don’t, return it” gal, and this really through me for a loop at first……especially when I realized I was stuck with an expensive piece I don’t love. Ahhhh……c’est la vie. 

   
  

  
    
    

 Today was a perfect sunny day here in Amsterdam. Living here is like living on a popular cul de sac, as all day there are children playing and running and people are out in general. I can hear them and watch them out my window. Living here is not for those who need perfect quiet in their homes, but then, no city really is good for that. Amsterdam is a village full of life and children. Unfortunately, my grief has hit me full in the face since returning, and I don’t want much of it! I went into the canals that I normally find so inspiring and I felt nothing but melancholy. 

The thing about grieving an animal is that I feel it can be isolating. Not everyone can understand how sad and devastated a person can feel as not everyone sees animals like family members. When you love your pet like a family member, the loss is deep. We came here as 3, and now we are 2, and I’m finding it hard to accept. We never got to know Jasper as an adult dog. He was still not 2 years old. When does the pain subside? When will I feel normal again? 

This morning I went to church at Hillsong and the pastor spoke about how we grow in our maturity in our relationship with God. It was all about breathing in and breathing out and how breathing in is filling your needs and breathing out is giving to others, and that we need both to grow. I kept thinking today about that. I need to breathe in and out. One day at a time. One foot in front of the other. I know hats the truth, but not drowning in one’s feelings is really the battle. I have suffered many losses in my life, and maybe that’s why this is hitting me so hard. Each time, I had to find some healthy way of getting out my feelings and surviving, but THIS time I’m struggling to get to the point of WANTING to do that. Living in and new city and trying to meet new people is difficult when you feel on the verge of tears every moment. Also, who wants to hear other people’s sad stories? We want to be happy as people, not dragged down by the sadness of someone we barely know!  

So many suggestions have come my way. Get another dog! Have a baby! Travel! Travel makes sense as I felt better when we were away from here…….not surrounded by our hopes for the future as a family at every corner. 

The suggestions are great and surely would help, but right now, I just need to feel this deeply. I need to breathe in and out and survive each day. I need to feel cheated and learn how to deal with those feelings. I need to find my way and not get eaten up by my emotions. I suppose these are the great moments that define us, but I do feel I’ve already had my share. I’ve had to rise up before and I know I can do it again. I will lean on my faith and I will grow. One day I will smile and mean it and maybe not feel guilty for laughing, but right now I am just struggling to breathe in and out…….in and out…..in and out. 

This is not a post to sadden, it’s just a real and authentic view into my emotions. Mine aren’t so different than others as we all one day will go through this. 

I remember when I was at my darkest before. In the middle of my divorce, I was living alone on NYC, trying to pull myself out of it. My dad had a massive heart attack, but then he miraculously pulled through it. We were all so relieved. A few weeks later, my brother died unexpectedly. I remember feeling the weight of how unfair life was, and knowing my life and my family would never be the same. Some days I wake up shocked that was 5 years ago, and while we are not the same, it’s true, life must and does go on. I leaned on the love of my dog Bailey in NYC and tried to be there for my parents. They have been the ultimate example of grace through struggle. When Bailey died, I felt the loss of my youth. The only thing that gave me comport was that she had a long life. 

I guess what I’m trying to say, is that with Jasper, my heart has been ripped open yet again, because like Ryan, I feel the loss of time……the suddenness of life’s changes……the reality that you can lose what you love….the understanding that there are no guarantees……and that its all out of our control.  Why are some given such short time here on the Earth? How do we come to terms with the unfairness of this reality. 

How do we open our hearts again when we know the risks? When we have no certainty of time or life? I lean on God and that isn’t easy.  To have faith in the trenches is difficult. Easy to say……difficult to practice.  “There is a blessing in the storm. Sit tight.” My mom sent me that today from Toby Mac. 

My friend, Christi-Anna sent me this today and I leave it with you. I’ve been repeating it all day. 

Matthew 11:28-30

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Have you dealt with a loss like this? 

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I wanted to write a letter to my golden retriever Jasper to let him know how wonderful he was and how much he will be missed. He died too young. I’ve incorporated a few pics and for those who have asked, I am telling the story after the letter of what happened. My only hope is to honor him and show how the love of a dog is a great gift that we should all experience.

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Dear Jasper,

Three days ago we buried you in the garden at my parents’ house, next to sweet Bailey. Today, I left you to head back to our home, which will now feel so quiet and empty. We miss you so much and I’m dreading being back in our new home, where you completed our little family.
I wanted to write you this letter and sent it out to the world, because you brought so much to our lives in your short time and I want to say it aloud.

We got you at a time in our lives when I needed a companion. Desperately. I was living abroad for the first time, I had lost Bailey 6 months before, and Dragan was traveling alot. I needed you as much as you needed me and I was so happy when I saw your cuddly, fluffy face. You were the cutest dog I had ever seen and I started taking you everywhere as I could still carry you and for the first time since I had moved to Europe, people came up to speak to me….to acknowledge my presence. It’s funny how animals bring out the best in people, but they do. People seem so afraid to SPEAK to each other. To reach out to strangers and get to know those in their communities, but when I would have you with me or would be out walking, you helped break that inhibition. Soon, I was practicing my French out at the park daily, and I felt so much pride in my beautiful pup, who helped me bridge a cultural gap that I had been sinking down.

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You were not an easy dog teenager though! You pushed me and rebelled and sometimes I felt I was at my wits end, and in those moments, you taught me what real love means. You taught us both what real love means. You always seemed to realize right when I was at my breaking point, and then you would soften, and give me love. Before you, Dragan (daddy) didn’t think he wanted a dog, and he had never had the pleasure of loving one before. I think he thought I was crazy because I love my animals so much, and he INSISTED you could NEVER get on our bed. We both know that didn’t last long, and you opened his heart and he loved you so deeply. All it took was you jumping up one day and snuggling next to him, that he changed his mind and realized there isn’t much better thing in this world than a snuggle from you beat furry friend. I wanted to tell you thank you for that. You opened our hearts and you paved a path for our relationship to grow.
Before that, we had both been a bit broken from losses in our lives and we struggled with blending our cultural differences. I struggled with moving my life and being far from my family, but taking care of you and having the opportunity to experience your unending, nonstop love and sheer joy in the small things of life, allowed ME to share in that joy and it made me a better person. Not always. Sometimes I snapped at you. After you had surgery and I was scared you were going to get hurt further, or I was in a rush and you wanted to enjoy your walk, or when you went through that terrible phase of laying down when you didn’t want to go home and I couldn’t lift you, or any of he other times that I had my priorities out of order. That is another thing we are grateful to you for giving us……the gift of slowing down and enjoying the small moments in the day. Because i felt bad that we didn’t have a yard and i wanted you to have plenty of time outside, you made me appreciate again the beauty of reading in the park. I have so many great memories of sitting at lake Geneva or the park in Divonne Les Bains watching you play or reading or just breathing and appreciating the gift of life. I was often so homesick and those moments helped me. I’m so sad never to share that again with you!

You also made me feel safe. Once you were over 1, you just became so wonderful. You protected me. I never felt unsafe alone when Dragan traveled or when I walked you at night, because I KNEW you loved me and would protect me. Did you know I needed that?

Did you know when my dad had his major operation and I was waiting for news, and that’s why you stayed close by me all day?

Did you know when I felt alienated by a new culture, or defeated after trying for something that didn’t work out, because you always seemed to know and come put your paw on my shoulder?

I didn’t appreciate the moments all the time, but they helped me in ways you didn’t know. Instead of sulking or feeling bad, I took you out! The fresh air lifted my spirits and I could pour my heart into you. I could also watch Dragan come home from a long day and know that the best way to relieve stress was to take you for a long walk or play. I loved watching the two of you play, as you brought out another side of him, a simplicity with which we all need to remember to anchor our lives.

When you were hit by a car, I remember thinking I didn’t know what I would do of something happened to you and everyday I worried about protecting you as your leg healed. You handled the move to Amsterdam so well! Dragan was gone for a week just a few days after we moved in, and I think, if I hadn’t had you there, I would have been scared. Instead, I met so many people, as they all wanted to come pet you or meet the new dog in the neighborhood. That’s right. The new dog, not the new people! You took care of me and you were my friend during those few weeks of adjusting to yet another culture. I loved seeing you sit outside the bakery or knowing you were waiting for me outside the supermarket. Dragan loved seeing you play in our new garden and taking you for walks to the park. We loved our new city and we loved out family of 3 IN our new city.

We were so happy to find out in mid February that your leg was doing well, and after April 1, we could let you resume your crazy ways. We didn’t know how sick you were. I’m sorry if I missed something. It breaks my heart that I didn’t know and that life can be so unfair. It breaks my heart that you went through so much in your little life, and that I couldn’t protect you and have you as part of our family longer, but thank you for all you gave me. I just keep hoping to see you when I get home. If I could wish for anything, it would be that.

Some people may read this and not understand. They may not know how sad I am to lose you and that makes me sad. But, I know. To experience the love of a dog, is a wonderful thing. There is no ego or judgment, but rather, kindness and love. Thank you Jasper for giving me that gift. It makes it harder to know I don’t have it anymore, but your dad and I will hold you in our hearts and we will not forget how you changed our lives. You were and will always be our first child. We had hoped to introduce you to our future babies, and to start our family knowing we had a gorgeous and wonderful boy to watch over us, but now we know you are watching over us from somewhere else. I know you are with my brother, Ryan, and that he is taking care of you know.

We love you. You will always be our sweet boo bear.

-Mommy IMG_7287

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For those of you wanting to know the story……

A few weeks ago, we lost of beloved dog Jasper, who was only 18 months old. He had cancer. We found this out roughly 4 days before he died, and we are heartbroken. Everything was going fine and one night, I was watching TV and petting Jasper, when I felt a lump on his spine. It was new, bc I was always feeling for them after he had one removed at 7 months. That was on his side and came back fine. He also had a growth on his side from about 7 months that his vets saw and assured us was nothing. Regardless, I was always checking him. So, I felt the lump on a Monday. I took him by the vet Wednesday and they scheduled him for Friday. They thought it was weird and did a biopsy.

On Sunday night, he woke me at 2am and he had a little blood under his nose. The next day it got worse and by the time they called me in On Tuesday to review the results of the biopsy, it was a fairly steady flow……we were carrying around towels and I had to wipe hip every few minutes. So, when I went, they explained to us the tumor was malignant and they would need to take it out to see how bad it was. They thought the nose bleed was unrelated and that maybe he has sucked up some grass but as there was a lot of blood, they felt they could only fully see by looking up if he were sedated. They couldn’t do it that day, but they could do the surgery the next day and look then. I mentioned the growth on his side, as it just isn’t normal for a pup that age to have SO MANY things going.

The next morning I cuddled him and at 10 we went in for the surgery. The owner of the vet clinic was going to do it, and I asked if I could meet with her. I wanted to make sure she checked his nose, but then I asked her to feel the lump on his side that I had always thought was weird. She immediately showed concern and after a few minutes said she wanted to cancel the surgery and sent him to a specialist in Utrecht, so we went. The specialists office was very good and they did X-rays which showed that the lump on his side was in fact a mass the size of a grapefruit that had formed under his ribs and he was very worried. I just kept asking that he fix the nosebleed as it just was getting worse!He insisted we wait until they could get us in for the CT Scan, which would be Friday and that the nosebleed could wait. Feeling helpless we waited. Thursday I spent the day at home with him as he seemed to be going downhill a bit and his eye started leaking. Still, we sat in the park and went to our favorite places and we even let him run.

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Friday we went in and he was really going downhill. His bad leg seemed to give out and I was crying even BEFORE we went in. We thought the worst was that the mass would be bone cancer and we would only have a few months. We thought that was the WORST case scenario. Alas it was not to be the case. They let me hold him while they sedated him for the CT scan and took him back. The vet came out after a lifetime and seemed grave as he told us what we couldn’t imagine. The cancer had metastasized and was all over his lungs. The nosebleed was being caused by a tumor that was behind his eye that had burst. There was nothing to do. He would have a few days…..weeks at most. They recommended we let him go and we could make the decision. I believe this is the worst part for me. We called our Swiss vets, our regular vet in Amsterdam and my mom. How do you choose a decision? After 30 minutes or so, we needed to decide before they woke him up or we let him go peacefully. We decided to let him go, as he was suffering and they couldn’t stop that damn nosebleed. It was a heartbreaking day that forever changes us.

Thank you for reading.

Sarah

I remember when I moved to NYC, I had never dined alone, and certainly not at a nice restaurant. I had lived there for 2 weeks, not leaving my apartment after 7pm, except to take Bailey for a potty, when I said, “Enough”. I dressed up and took myself out. It wasn’t easy. I remember walking by places, and feeling my courage lagging as I circled around and around thinking, “Will I look stupid?” “I should just go home and eat on the couch!”. Finally I chose a wine bar on the UWS, where I lived, and that night I made friends with the owners, and the rest is history. My confidence went up a few notches BC I did something outside my comfort zone. I went back there often and ended up meeting some of my best friends.

This is always the way it goes for me, actually. I’m terrified of all new things. I have anxiety about failure and I’m ALWAYS worried about what people think of me. So, to combat that natural state of anxiety I feel, I try and make myself so those things anyway. 

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Dining alone is still one of those things that I get nervous about, but WHEN I DO it, I always find I really enjoy the process! To be honest, I haven’t done it much here, but that is my own fault. So, when we were in Amsterdam this past week, I had the perfect opportunity. We were there for 5 nights, Friday-Wednesday, but Monday afternoon Dragan left for NYC, and returned Wednesday morning. Crazy travel schedule, right? So, I had two nights to take care of myself for dinner. The first night, I was really tired from walking around all day, so I went out to maybe have a glass of wine and read my book, and maybe eat something or get something to take back. So, I went out. Almost immediately, my head started to feel full of doubt, and I walked into a place that served to-go food. “I will feel so much better just eating in the room”, I told myself. Then the other side of my brain said, “Get out of here and go sit somewhere nice and stop being such a dork!”. Haha. Also, this city is so nice, who wants to sit inside?!?!   

 

 So I found a great little pasta place where with home cooked noodles. I will tell you though…..I walked past there about 3 times before I had the nerve to do it. Isn’t that silly? Why do we hold ourselves back? There were only couples and groups, but it wasn’t a fancy place, so why was I telling myself lies of self doubt? Why did I think ANYONE in there would even care? In the end, I went in, and had a lovely pasta bolognese and a glass of red wine while I read my book. I felt great and even connected with all the other diners when a mouse ran through the restaurant! 😬

The next day, I was viewing apartments from around 12-6. I finished in the old south part of the city, which is so lovely and the neighborhood of my choice for living. Here are some pics. Isn’t it a adorable? It’s roughly a 10-15 walk from the canals, and it’s full of cafes and bookstores and bikes and boutiques. 

  
   
I had about a 45 minute walk back to the hotel and it was dark and I had bought a new book that day, so I wanted to stop and eat somewhere. Here, the places were a bit nicer though, and STILL I went into the same dilemma. Getting over myself and my fears though, I walked into a really quaint little Italian place (I guess I crave Italian after long days of walking!) and sat at the bar. “Can I eat at the bar?” I asked the waiter. “Yeah, no problem”. Then I thought about how my back was hurting and I was cheapening the experience by eating at the bar, which is easy. So I asked, “Actually, can I have a table?” The waiter said”Alone?” Sigh. Sigh. Sigh. So I responded more confidently than I felt, “OF course!”. In the end, again, I had a GREAT time, although the two girls next to me, for the first 10 minutes, kept staring at me basically. I wonder what they were thinking. I imagine they found me cool and exotic, but probably not! Haha.  So, when I ordered a glass of the house red, and the waitress suggested, if I wanted a better wine, to get the mini bottle, which pours 3 glasses, I said yes. Then I winked at the girls next to me, and they both looked down. Why are we all so uncomfortable around each other?!?! THEN, I stayed for over an hour and a half, reading and watching people and feeling so HAPPY. I DID put my book down when eating, bc hiding behind a book is easy too, and I found it was nice to have a bit of silence in a loud world, where I could by myself and just…..BE. 

I guess I wanted to write this, because it’s often so difficult to do things out of our comfort zones. I really find it difficult. I really encourage you to do it though, because it’s really rewarding. What are we so afraid of in life? Was I really concerned with what all of those perfect strangers thought of me? For me, dining alone is something that is scary but rewarding. Maybe that’s easy for others, but, whatever it is, find your thing! Take a dance class! Take an acting class! Go on a weekend away!  Do it. Anything! Do it by yourself, bc everything is easier with company. It’s so great to get to know oneself and to love and respect yourself! We need to challenge ourselves to grow in our journey of life.  

    

So, I would love to hear from you all! What is something you have done that scared you, and you fell stronger and more empowered after? I’d love to hear!!!! Xoxo,

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Sarah

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