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Monday, June 24, 2019 8 comments

Of 9,000 miles in 75 Hours - Monday Musings


Oh this will be a short one as I sit in a Herndon, VA, hotel room at 04:33 with annoying acquaintance, Jet Lag, beside me.
My 3 sleeping boys are in the bed above me as I enjoy the extra blanket and steal the duvet cover (after I missed the part in the booking process that the hotel has no fold-out beds!)

The main point of this post is to share a cool stat: I sincerely love my 3 boys because I'm in the middle of traveling nearly 14,000 km (+/- 9,000 miles) in 75 hours to pick them up and bring them to Spain for a month (and it’s  going to be *so* much fun opening their eyes to the fact there is no GameStop or McDonald's on every 4-way junction:)

One asked if they could have a proper meal before we leave later as "there's no good Spain food" and "could we get face masks because everyone in Spain smokes?"

Er.... No.

Watch this space as 3 beautiful, kind, loving (but oh so terribly spoiled American) boys have the eye-opening time of their lives:)
Wednesday, June 19, 2019 2 comments

Midweek Moments: Heartbeat City - The 12"-inch version


Yes, I know.

I'm pushing the 80's music, but hopefully some will remember this (and future Midweek songs) and smile at the memories.

Taken with my simple, one-push button, but *actual* camera...

Same sexy moon, this time via the camera phone (I never knew!!)

Boys: Just ask. I'll explain :)

*So* out of my OCD must-have-gas-at-all-times comfort zone!

Move #59 begins

A different kind of shopping!

Love how the cat and the pigeon can co-exist - for this moment anyway :)

A man and his busy homing pigeons...

Meanwhile, a man and a relaxed dog...

...plus a glass of Rueda...

...equals easy times for someone!

Monday, June 17, 2019 8 comments

Of Christmas Trees in June...


I was Skyping with my 3 boys the other day when Son #1 asked (in a shocked, capitals-only voice) why was there a CHRISTMAS TREE in the background?

I explained it to him and only took down the Christmas tree only a couple of nights ago because I'm moving at the end of the month. At the current place, I didn't have many personal effects on the walls, but this little plastic Christmas tree meant a lot to me because it was something that Mirjam and I did together.

But, as I was packing away the dusty decorations I thought of Son #1's questions and wondered why don't we use the power of Christmas and its trees more often?

Love Actually is a special, smile-making movie to many people, including myself, because it knocks it out of the park when it comes to feelings of love and family and good times spent together.

We smile, nod and say hello to strangers in December.

Why don't we do it in February?

And, why can't we have "Christmas tree moments" in June, July, March, or even January?

I would love your comments, because I don't have any answers.

All I can say is that happy memories/moments kick the shit out of the crappy doldrums and when I move into my new place, the first thing that's going up is my little Christmas tree that could.

Friday, June 14, 2019 7 comments

Friday's Musings: Of Many Errors & Trials


All I know is that if someone I trusted was to roll on up to me right now and offer one of those perfect, open-arms, no judgment-eyes hugs, I would probably break down and cry my heart out like I've not done in more than a few years.

One thing I supremely detest about social media is that we only post the best news and the most filtered pictures because we're all trying to beat the most recent happiest of happiest of moments on our inner (or Internet) timeline.

God knows (as do my 3.8 followers) that I do it, too, but this little blog of mine that can - especially on Facebook (insert iconic, ironic sound here) - still remains after nearly 8 years a place that my 3 boys can visit later if they want to learn more about me.

So, this is another punch-you-on-the-shoulder love letter to you guys about always being honest. And hey, shit, it's not as if I do it all the time - (see above :) but this is one definitely one of those times, ok?

The other day, I officially announced that my six-month job working at a commission-only, Spanish real estate agency hadn't worked as hoped and I'd landed in a deep, deep financial, friendship, family and relationship hole.

As I spoke aloud of all the shitty things that were happening all at the same time, of course (!!) I was in simple awe as I listened to myself verbalize how much I've fucked up my life.

However, a small piece of me knows I'm down on my knees for a reason that will make sense one day. (It's just no fun living the longest day that's cost so much.)

But I'll never quit on myself - or Spain.

I still have my faith, and the saddest thing is that I listened to Christian music as I wrote this and I belted out the words to so many songs (like You are Holy by Michael W. Smith) but haven't listened to for so long, because I thought I knew best.

Silly Koopmans.

PS: Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol is another great song, but if you're ever lucky to listen to this one with your girl leaning or sleeping against your shoulder while on a road trip... life will never be the same again. 

(An hour later, and I'm already more positive than I've felt in a long time. Music is powerful, as is a positive message, something I've been lacking in for quite a while.)

Yes, I accept and take full responsibility for the choices I've made and will live through them and turn the corner whenever that comes because this, too, shall pass. I've never been so humbled as I have been lately and perhaps I had it coming because things were running so smoothly and pride definitely goes before the falleth, but like I said, I'll never quit, nor give up.

Can't wait to see you 3 boys in nine days. You are, as always, but especially at this moment, the shining light in my tunnel.

I love you guys.

PS: These last 7 months are definitely getting their own chapter in the memoir/WIP :)
Wednesday, May 22, 2019 7 comments

Midweek Moments: Of *Casera* Chips and Crispy Cars...


I've been a slacker this week, and didn't have enough pictures to fill the post, so I delved back a few weeks to supplement the current crop.

Most of these were taken in Antwerp on May Day, and if you don't mind me saying, Belgium is where the best chips/fries come from -- and I'm most definitely in Belgium's camp when it comes to the age-old question re. who invented French fries...

So sexy to turn a corner in my town and see an old Roller relaxing between two palm trees...

Though grumpy about flying so damn early, can't ever miss the chance to snap a sunrise :)

Yeah, I'd scarper and hide in the shade if I was you, too, Mrs. Fiat

Oh, you silly people!!

My *Hero* sign. Now I *know* Belgium beer is better/stronger than mere Alcohol :)

But why?? (At least the numbers are sequential. I miss my Spanish door numbers!)

Yuh, this ain't Walmart/Giant/Albertsons/Publix :)

I guess the owner of the 4th house from the left lost the bet...

When time passes slowly...

Calm before the storm?

Like I said, Belgium invented fries!

... and a few sauces, too :)

Here's to you, Antwerp, you supreme chip-maker you!

"You see, officer, I lost me plane, but when I saw the sign pointing me in the right direction, I knew all was well..."

So sad to turn a corner in a neighboring town and see this new car abandoned...

Monday, May 20, 2019 5 comments

Monday Music/Musings: Wicked Game by Chris Isaak


Not quite sure where I'm going with this one yet, which I suppose makes for good musing notes.

The main reason for this blog is to give my three boys more insights (in the future) into what makes/made me tick, especially when I'm not around to look them in the eye when they roll their own eyes and ask me the why's questions.

And, while fun travel posts are easy to write, today's post caused a little heartburn as I ate a huge piece of humble pie Sunday.

The details will be in a future post... Hell, I'm not going to make it too easy for you boys, (don't Google it lads, click through and read the next few posts:) but I've had a few non-health-related wake-up alarms these last weeks and months, and Friday I answered the call.

Funny thing is, and forgive the mysterious clumsiness (the humble pie remains stuck in the old craw) but I process everything in my own way and time. I'm a huge pushover, but don't push me toward "your way," as I will gleefully do exactly the opposite -- unless I believe in the cause -- and then, I'm your presidential campaign manager.

Anyway, focus Mark, focus.... dear Lord...

So, yeah I stepped way out of my comfort zone and took care of some shit I had to take care of, and the results weren't half as bad as expected.

I guess the easiest way to explain without explaining is to say I rolled the dice six months ago on a project and while it hasn't worked out professionally, I now move forward knowing I did every-damn-thing I could to be successful, but when it comes to sales, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.


So, onward and upward I go (again,) and with several irons in the fire, including one that would completely freak me out if  it were to come to pass... a very slimmish chance to have the dream writing job I thought had passed me by. (Even if I don't get it now, I'm super stoked to have gotten even a sideways glance.)

PS: That song? Check it out if you don't know it. It's one of my absolute favorites and today it fits like a snug bug in a dodgy rug.
Wednesday, May 15, 2019 6 comments

Midweek Moments: Pix Mix!


Most of these are from the last week, as is my general rule, but keep an eye on the last one :)

Called the Jumbo Floating Restaurant, but I don't get it. Didn't even see one elephant.

Lucky to be the only ones on our sampan boat, no harm in a dodgy touristy pic then :)

They use bamboo for scaffolding in Hong Kong...

The old lettuce patch is now home to a BBQ grill & pizza oven. Noah wants cheese, hold the onion!

European elections are scheduled for May 24...

...Some candidates have *dedicated* volunteers!

Everyone's just making sure the banner doesn't fall :)

Met some clients at their hotel... Wasn't jealous at all!

How cool is this for a livingroom light fixture!

Skyping with Son #3... all I asked was if he could see me? :)

Monday, May 13, 2019 7 comments

Koopmans' Travel Disaster #4,817


OK, so maybe I have focus issues sometimes [looks up to watch a butterfly flying around] however, it's not as if I wake up planning the latest Koopmans Travel Disaster.

Can I blame it on now being AARP-eligible? :)

This particular KTD marinated itself for more than a week and began when I met up with Mirjam ahead of our trip to Hong Kong. I knew something was wrong when  her first words were, "You checked-in a suitcase??"

"Uh-huh." (Followed swiftly by an internal "oh-oh.")

"Why did you do that?"

"I thought that's what we were both doing," I whined in a manly man way. "I'm bringing lots of different clothes, as I've got no idea what to expect."

Mirjam sighed, but off we went and had a wonderful, amazing and delicious trip.

However, my dratted checked-in bag went around the back of my mind like (dare I say it) a baggage carrousel, mainly as I hadn't judged the transfer times of my second, connecting flight from Holland to Spain. As I was flying two separate airlines with no bag-stuff agreement, I only had 60 minutes to:

  • Get off the plane
  • Walk to, line up and go through passport control
  • Wait and get my bag
  • Exit arrivals
  • Enter and find the right departure zone
  • Check in the bag
  • Get to the gate
  • Board the plane
Easy peasy it wouldn't be, but I felt like shit that I'd missed the whole point when Mirjam suggested we use carry-ons -- for this specific, time-issue reason.

Therefore, a back-up plan was needed! (And, what could go wrong when I'm involved?)

We walked through one of the many local markets and bargained for two cheap carry-on sized cases (that was fun.) I filled both with all me dirty pants, sweaty t-shirts, plus some dodgy souvenirs.

The plan was I would check in the now-empty big suitcase to Amsterdam, and when we arrived, I'd grab it and run! per the above list. If not, Mirjam would take it with her and return the suitcase on her next visit, but in the first scenario, I'd be able to wash me undies when I got home.

I checked in the one suitcase and walked over to Hong Kong passport control with my two, new carry-ons. Only I didn't know they have a specific "1-person, 1 carry-on" policy. Bloody hell😳. Thank God we'd had lots of extra time on the way out.

Back I go to the KLM counter and check in a second bag. Then, back to passport control I go. This time, not a bother and off we eventually flew.

11 hours, 38 minutes later, we landed at Amsterdam, and ten minutes early! I had 70 minutes before the second flight closed for boarding.

10 minutes later, the plane made it to the jetway. Drat. Lost me 10 extra minutes. 60 to go.

Lucky to disembark nearly first, we soon came to a junction. Transfer passengers to the right... baggage claim and exit to the left. I looked at Mirjam and so didn't want her to deal with two suitcases. I felt guilty enough. "OK, I'm going for it," and turned left.

48 minutes to go.... I'm standing at the baggage claim and the sign flashes up: "Baggage from Hong Kong expected in 13 minutes. Crap!!! But, I can still make it.

38 minutes: Mirjam mapped where my departure check-in area was, and it looked to be a good bit away. She told me to go, so I went, feeling pretty shitty.

30 minutes: I stood by the check-in desk, desperately trying to stay in text-contact with Mirjam, but the free WiFi kept dropping.

28 minutes: I get a message. Mirjam's got the first bag. Oh boy. C'mon, c'mon second bag...

25 minutes: Mirjam has the second bag. OK, I can still do this, people! She's on the way and I'm jumping up and down like I need to pee, trying to see which direction she'll come.

20 minutes: There's Mirjam! She'd thrown the carry-on inside the large suitcase. All I had to do was get to the desk and check in one bag, as planned.

18 minutes: I totally (but very politely) cut the small line, with permission from those in front of me. I triumphantly stand in front of the check-in lady - who promptly took a call on her work phone.

17 minutes: I slide over to her colleague who clicks and clacks on the keyboard and informs me the flight has already closed.

"No!" I say, "There's still 17," -- I look down at my phone -- "16 minutes to go... Please can you do anything? Something? For the children?"

15 minutes: Two phone calls later, and God bless her, the check-in lady found a supervisor who gave me the green light. The most beautiful check-in label ever printed was soon attached to the suitcase. I gave a thumbs up to Mirjam, who was also transferring, but had extra time.

(I was so happy she didn't have to lug around my luggage for a week. Seriously, there's love and true love, but she didn't need to be dealing with my dirty knickers!)

14 minutes: I grabbed my boarding pass, got a "Hope you make your flight, dude!!" from the guys who let me go first and off I ran toward the departure gates.

13 minutes, 50 seconds: I hear people shouting at me.

13 minutes, 30 seconds: I turn around and run, this time, in the right direction.

9 minutes: I've got a backpack on and a carry-on that's got 4 wheelies going in 23 directions. Instead of running like the wind, I'm more like meandering in a light breeze.

5 minutes: (my gate, of course, was at the other end of the airport) I arrive at the gate, met by a smiling check-in guy who's genuinely happy to see me. "You made it. Well done." I'm so knackered that all I can do is moan and drag more oxygen into my middle-aged lungs.

3 minutes: I'm at the end of the jetway, with a couple of people behind me. Ha! I so made it.

1 minute: I slide/pour/fall into my aisle seat, praising the airline gods that there was no one in the middle seat. I was sweating like a trooper and didn't have a spare bottle of deodorant on me.

0 minutes: An announcement from the cockpit:

"Hi folks, your captain here. We're continuing to fuel up, so please keep your seat belts off and your window blinds up. We're sorry for the delay, but should be ready to depart in about 15-20 minutes..."

Tuesday, May 7, 2019 6 comments

Midweek Moments - Hong Kong 3: Amazing Food


One reoccurring theme, at least per the photos Mirjam and I have taken, is the sheer variety and deliciousness of Hong Kong's amazing food choices.

We've been blessed to experience and enjoy Michelin-starred restaurants, street vendors and everything in between, including a local 24-hour diner who offered us a first pot of hot tea -- not to drink -- but to wash our chopsticks, bowls and plates with!

The second pot of tea was for drinking, but it was fun interacting with the two old servers who knew we were clueless on what to do, but helped us, as has everyone else we've met over here, with bright smiles and lots of international hand gestures, head-nodding and lots and lots of pointing at menu pictures that may (or sometimes not) look like the actual food once it's delivered to the table.

Here's some pictures and the diet begins next week!

Before it hits the restaurant and/or family table...

...There are literally dozens of outdoor food markets selling everything from scallops...

...To meats of all sorts, and while it may jar the senses of what's usual (neatly packed and processed foods need not apply!)...

...The end results have been nothing short of absolutely delicious...

... and as fresh and organic as any "normal" store where I've eb bought seafood or steaks.

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