Love Was The Common Thread

When you are offered an opportunity to travel half-way around the world, expenses paid, to get to meet families that you had a hand in helping to build as well as to meet families waiting to grow through adopting what do you do?? Oh- and where Dutch is the official language, but you only speak English…. well if you are me, you graciously accept and then you freak out! Why- well let me explain- in my 40+ years of life I have never had a passport- never really needed one and never really desired to have one either. Not only that but it scared the bejesus out of me to think about being away from my teenage son- what if something happened while I couldn’t swoop in and act like a helicopter mom- even though I normally don’t do this.
What if I can’t figure out how to read the signs in Dutch and I get lost in a country where I don’t speak the language? How do I figure out euros compared to dollars and what if my cell phone doesn’t work while I am there?? So many questions, so many {irrational} fears, so many amazing opportunities……
So, after months of planning, emails and phone calls with our counterpart in the Netherlands (also sometimes called Holland- depending on who you speak to), constantly checking the weather app to know what to pack, planning flights, train rides, hotel reservations, and finding a speaking/meeting space I am ready- or so I tell myself- for the trip of a lifetime.
I am lucky enough to also be celebrating my 20-year wedding anniversary during the time while I will be there, so with some extra effort we also coordinate for a flight for my husband and as I lovingly tease him, “I allow him to tag along and enjoy Europe with me!” (later I will admit he was my saving grace but let’s not let him in on this secret!)
I planned a trip with spending two days in Nijmegen, where our counterpart is located and where a picnic for families that have adopted from the US would be held. Next would be two days in Utrecht, as it is centrally located, and this would be where I held the informational meeting with prospective adoptive families wanting to work with us, as well as a meet and greet with families currently waiting to be matched through our agency. I then planned to spend the final two days in Amsterdam- the country’s capital, and from what I am told, a city that should be on everyone’s bucket list.
I admit I am a bit of a Pinterest junkie and pinned well over 2 months’ worth of activities and sightseeing opportunities for what I would need to fit into six (yes you read that right, 6) days!    
I admit my husband and I argued a few times before we left as he was in full-on ‘vacation mode’ for weeks before we actually left while I was still very much in ‘work mode’ through the first 4 days of the trip.
I had expectations for my trip- I wanted to be sure I represented the agency the best that I possibly could, I wanted to have up to date information for families, I wanted to have answers for families, and I wanted to enjoy this trip, as it was the first time I was going to be in Europe- and maybe my last I thought while planning (but after going I know this was the first of many!) I was a bit concerned about a few things as I said before… OK- let’s face it, me the perpetual ‘non-planner’ when it comes to vacations typically, was in full on ‘over-thinking mode’ and I was concerned about everything!
Life changed when I got to the Netherlands. Yes, Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam was crazy, we missed the train we were supposed to get on and had to wait 30 minutes for the next one- but after that- life was amazing.
We were greeted at the train station in Nijmegen by the founder of the agency in the Netherlands and she took us to our beautiful bed and breakfast. It was during the climb up the stairs that I realized “We’re not in Florida anymore!” for real. The buildings are narrow, the staircases are even narrower and steeper than anything I have ever seen but the architecture in the city was breathtaking. We intended to take a quick nap to try to ward off jet-lag but after laying down for about 3 minutes my husband and I both felt we needed to go explore! We wandered the streets with no particular place to go. We partook in the local street market and after a couple of hours, we meandered our way back to the hotel to clean up and meet the staff of the Dutch agency for dinner.
Once we met up with them, we sat and had a drink and ate cheese then took a pleasant walk to the restaurant where we ate al fresco. Now, the Netherlands is chilly- to us Floridians, it was downright cold actually- but the restaurant brought out blankets as it got cooler and we continued to enjoy an amazing dinner and fabulous conversation. We ended the evening eager to attend the picnic the next day.
Sunday: I was a bit worried about spending 8 hours at the park but I have to admit now that I could have spent another 8 hours there! We had cheese again, and sausages, and even some drinks.
We talked to families that brought home their little ones 2+ years ago and families that just got back to the Netherlands a few weeks before I arrived. I saw families that have adopted twice from our agency, and families that had adopted from the US, but not through our agency.
It was said that the common thread for these families was adoption through the U.S. but that’s not true--- the common thread was the love all of these families had. Even the families that haven’t yet adopted were full of love. Every one of these families hugged and kissed us, they shared their hopes and dreams with us, they shared their fears and concerns, and we shared tears- both happy and sad. It was interesting to watch the different parenting style of the Netherlands. I have been reading a book about this and thought it was crazy but then saw it in action, and oh my how it was true how different the parenting style is from the U.S, in an absolutely fabulous way!
After the picnic brought a time to have dinner with a few families and what an amazing time this was. It was fabulous to get to enjoy the city with the locals and really get to know these families on a personal level, not just professionally. 
More about the trip in tomorrows blog.