Monday Notes: 4 Weeks in the Netherlands

On Friday, May the 13th, Dwight and I ventured off to breakfast. I checked my workout pants pocket: phone, ID, no debit card. 

“I left my card at home,” I said.

But when I returned home, my debit card wasn’t inside the deep pocket of my travel backpack where I’ve kept it since we’d left the States. I’d lost it. 

I checked my bank account: 

$-52.67 (Spar City Witte)

$-52.67 (Spar City Witte)

$-39.60 (Spar City Witte)

Someone found my card and had repeatedly used it at a corner store (where I probably dropped it). It had only been an hour. 


This incident describes part of how I’d felt while vacationing in the Netherlands for four weeks. 

It was an explicit balance of stress and relaxation. 

The stress began week one when I found out there was no clothes dryer. I would have to hang clothes on a five-foot clothes rack. This may not sound stressful to you, but for someone like me, who successfully washes, dries, folds, and puts clothes away every Sunday, this immediately interrupted my carefully organized routine that I maintain to avoid stress. By week two, I realized it would take three days to use a small European washer and several clothes hangers to achieve what I usually did in one day. 

Stress compounded week two when we didn’t grocery shop for the week. No groceries meant no food, and no food meant buying food at restaurants for breakfast, lunch, and dinner or multiple runs to the grocery store. Consequently, because Dwight worked from one to ten at night, if I wanted groceries, I’d have to do it alone. Shopping by myself wasn’t an issue; fitting this into my existing schedule was.

These new stressors occurred in between finishing Spring semester, starting Summer semester, agreeing to be on a work committee, and taking on an editing client—all manageable tasks when I’m completing household tasks under normal structured circumstances.

But these weren’t normal or structured circumstances.

I needed to rely on strategies so the stress wouldn’t build up in my body and turn into uncontrollable anxiety. I immediately scheduled a virtual yoga class with a studio in Jacksonville. Unlike being in Costa Rica, where the serenity of the mountains calmed me, in Rotterdam, I needed an organized practice once a week. 

Because I’d been working hard on balancing my microbiome in relation to my digestion system, I noticed when I was eating too much sugar or too little fiber. Unlike in Panamá, I didn’t have to wait until my belly was bloated to know when I’d gone too far. Instead, I began no-weight workouts with an exercise app; I had to meditate to stay calm; I had to journal. I had to work hard to be balanced in this new environment.

Without these practices already in place, it would have been easy to spiral when I lost my debit card, and I almost did. I was angry at myself for being careless in another country. But you know what? I first settled something in my mind, and then, out loud:

“I am not about to let this f**k up my day!” I said to Dwight but more so to myself. “I’m going to get my nails done.” 

Did I choke back tears when the bank representative asked me where I was located and then the country and then my zip code—twice? Yep. Did I wallow? Nope. 

Instead of spiraling into an abyss of anger after playing twenty-one questions with customer service, I thought rationally. I am not without. I have another bank account to transfer and use money. I am not lacking because of a mistake, and I’m not some sort of dolt because I made an error. 


The reality is in between dealing with the stress of unexpected events, I’ve done the following:

  • eaten authentic Belgian waffles in Brussels, the way Belgians intended, 
  • tried premier chocolate from a chocolatier in Brussels,
  • visited Gieethorn, a wealthy town built around a canal, 
  • watched sex workers solicit clients in Amsterdam, 
  • drank shots at the nine degree below Ice Bar
  • viewed Jesus’s (alleged) blood captured in a capsule, 
  • toured the city where In Bruges was filmed, 
  • eaten at a myriad of outdoor cafes, 
  • photographed tulips on the last day of tulip season, and
  • walked an average of six miles per day. 

It’s super easy to get caught up in one or two bad events, right? But we can’t let a few negative encounters dictate our entire experience. Overall, I’ve enjoyed living in the Netherlands. Sure, there were unexpected cultural shifts for living our lives; however, there were more “good” days than “bad” days. Was washing clothes half the week a pain? YEP! Was eating an authentic Belgian waffle worth it? ABSOLUTELY!

I’ll check back in once we leave our next destination: Croatia. Until then, I hope you enjoy these photos.



Monday Notes: HAPPY BIRTHDAY to ME

Hey Ya’ll! At first, I wasn’t gonna post today, because it’s my birthday. But then, I was like … it’s #MondayNotes aaand my birthday! I have to share something! Plus, I love social media birthdays. They’re the most positive thing about any social media platform.

But enough about me.

Last year, a group of high school friends and I began giving each other money for our birthdays. Last year, I also met a lady named Crystal Parks, the founder of the Diaper Bank for Northeast Florida. Even though there were diaper banks in other Florida cities, there wasn’t one in Jacksonville, so Crystal created one to alleviate diaper need in the Northeast Florida community. Isn’t that cool? Consequently, I thought it would be nice for my high school friends to give money to the Diaper Bank for Northeast Florida for my birthday, instead of me. Now, I’m opening it up to you.

Please feel no pressure. I will be just as satisfied if you simply wish me a happy birthday. However, if you are so inclined to give, then please do so here: Diaper Bank for Northeast Florida.

Writer’s Workshop: 3 Reasons Why you Should Consider a Blogging Series

If you blog on a schedule (i.e., every Tuesday at 11:00a), then you already use this feature. If you blog about one topic on a schedule (Writer’s Workshop), then that qualifies as a series as well. However, the type of series I’m referring to is the kind I shared a couple weeks ago reflecting on my travels. This type of series is more like Netflix. There are at least three posts, and they are serialized to come one right after the other. Once you’re done, you return to your regular posting schedule.

Here are three reasons you may consider this type of blogging style:

#1 Your post is too long. Most blogging “gurus” will suggest you write under 750 words. I agree. Anything longer, and you run the risk of losing your reader. The first blogging series I did was when my father died. I needed to write about my experiences with him; however, it ended up being a three-thousand-word document. I knew that was way too long…no matter how captivating I thought the story was. So, I broke up one essay into five and shared one a day leading up to his funeral. By that Saturday, people were invested in the narrative and genuinely offered me some much-needed support.

#2 You want to delve into a topic. Although I hate the phrase deep dive, deep diving aptly describes my purpose for blogging. If I want to remain surface level about a subject, then I use social media, like Twitter or IG, but when I wanna get deep—I blog. With the travel series, the only way I could fit everything in one post would have been to use bullet points with little explanation. Bullet points work, but the format wouldn’t have served my purpose if I really wanted you to lean into the story and the lessons with me. So, I opted for a series.

#3 You want feedback for a publication. I never write a series for this reason, but it is a thing. When I published the series about my father, another blogger provided some advice. “Flesh out your father’s character, and make him seem more multidimensional,” she said. Later, I had the inclination to publish this story in its entirety as a creative nonfiction work, and in addition to her feedback, a friend of mine also suggested adding some details to my father’s character.

Similarly, you can use the statistics feature that WordPress offers to understand which parts of the series garner the most attention. This may lead you to develop the best parts into a publication.

I know there are more reasons for writing a series that are focused on marketing (e.g., gaining more followers, etc.), but those don’t fit my personality or rationale.

Have you ever written a series? If so, feel free to share how it’s helped you in some way.



Monday Notes: 4 Takeaways from a Writer’s Residency

Last week, I explained that I’ve been in Monson, Maine for two weeks participating in a writer’s residency. As promised, here are four takeaways from my time there:

Clearing space is important.

Before I flew to Maine, I knew it was necessary to clear space in several ways to make room for writing. I suspended all editing services and didn’t accept any new clients; I stopped judging essays for the Florida Writers Association; and I stopped writing new blogs. I focused on my actual job for one hour a day—don’t tell my director. Also worth mentioning, is that I’d already cleared space in other, more personal ways when I decided to release specific angst about people. I’m confident I couldn’t have done this if I was still worried about who was visiting, calling, or maintaining contact with me. It was taking up too much real estate in my head, which I believe can affect your creativity. Clearing space helped me to center my attention solely on my new project. While I was in Monson, I wrote for five or six hours straight, with the exception of eating meals and taking bathroom breaks. 

There’s a difference between grind and flow.

One of the other writers and I had a great conversation about the difference between grinding and flowing. Grinding can occur when you’re worried about the goal; flowing is akin to floating with no worries, yet somehow accomplishing the goal. If you’re doing something you love, but you find yourself stressed about it, then that is the opposite energy you probably want to have. Grinding can manifest in several ways. For me, I developed a headache and felt lethargic. (Remember, my body clearly talks to me). Once I sat down and evaluated why this could be, I determined it was not only because I’d been staring at my laptop too long, but also because I’d been thinking deeply about narrative and research connections too long. I was straining my brain. Even if you love something and are in the flow, you can still overdo it. I needed to not write for an entire day to remove the grind mentality.

Being around like minded people is pertinent.

I really enjoyed being around other artists. On day three and nine, we had to do an artists share. I listened to and viewed some very interesting projects. Artists, no matter the medium, are different. They see life differently, and being around them felt as if I wasn’t in the real world. For example, no one called anyone’s project outlandish, no matter what the idea was. No one was negative or judgmental. Each person was supportive of whatever they heard. This warm response is different from how people interact outside of residencies. In my experience, non-artists always have a lot of questions, like why would you do that? What is that supposed to be? Why don’t you do it this way? There’s nothing wrong with constructive criticism, but I’ve noticed these questions are usually rooted in a lot of judgment. We’d all do better to take a page out of artists’ ways of functioning and simply head nod and find something nice to say about one another and our ideas.

I need more freedom than I thought.

Every time I leave my house for an extended period of time, I realize freedom is top priority for me. But this time, being away from everyone and everything solidified it. From day one, I was hella excited to wake up whenever I wanted, with nothing to do for the day, except whatever I conjured up. Even though it was nineteen degrees one day, I bundled up and started walking toward the Appalachian trail. Another day, I made up my own yoga routine, and another day, I stayed in bed all day and wrote. No one questioned my safety when I was walking, my sanity when I stayed in bed , or my decision making when I decided to finish my book. My life and time were mine to create. If you’re thinking these seem like small things, you’re right. But guess what? If you’re not careful, then small things add up to one big ball of resentment. For me, I’ve realized I have to build a sense of freedom into my regular life. It’s mandatory.


Turning Page Farm

Participating in this residency is one of the few places I’ve gone in my lifetime where I felt as if I belonged. I didn’t expect to find a sense of belonging among people who, at first, seemed so unlike me. But as time wore on, I saw it clearly. There was an energy that bound us together. I understood when my housemate, who is a visual artist, didn’t wake until ten, spent the day in her studio until two in the morning, and then came home. Likewise, others understood when I closed the door, skipped lunch, and didn’t socialize sometimes. Other than having beer with goats, no one tried to guilt me into hanging out. There was a mutual understanding for artist’s behavior, and quite honestly, after getting to know each person, a common liberalism that superseded race, age, gender, or sexual identity constructs emerged. While I get along with mostly anyone because I love people and socializing, this residency showed me who my people are.