Tuesday, November 11, 2014


We decided to buy a cat. we've had him for over a week now. He's pretty lame to be honest. Squeeky toys, bell toys, beeping toys and even a laser light, it all sends him hiding underneath the couch. His sanctuary. Birds scare him like they are bears, and he hunts insects as if they are birds. Hopefully he'll manifest some courage eventually. At least he (sometimes) likes to cuddle.

It was a good rescue though, he'd been there since he was a kitten. He got adopted, and then at some point given to a different animal shelter. That shelter gave him back to the original one. He's about 2 years old now. He was up for adoption for 4 months, living with his foster parent. Every Saturday the cats and dogs get brought to the pet store: Pet Smart, in the hope off finding a forever home. But Stormie HATED being at PetSmart (because he's a little pussy) and because of this he'd go to his "away place". Translating into a sad, still and curled up cat not responsive to anyone.

Now he has a forever home where he plays and cuddles. But he IS a little wimp.

Also, I've been trying to find the best cat food for Stormie. We're currently using science direct, but I'd like to switch to something better. I want it to resemble the natural diet of cats, or as close as we can get to it. The first ingredient must be a named meat, and I'd like to have at least 3/4 (75%) of the food to be meat.

Does anyone have any suggestions on which cat food would be good?

Monday, September 8, 2014

New house

The new house is amaaaazing. I love the vibe and the spaciousness of it. I'm also dedicated to keeping it super clean, and so far I've been holding up quite well. Because it's not cluttered the cleanliness of my house matters more to me. I've even been making the bed everyday! Who'd have known?

My sister... is coming to the States to visit me! She's coming with Thanksgiving and I'm sooo excited to show her around and hang out with her. She's going to love the Thanksgiving, because Michael's family is pretty awesome and very southern like people. My sister likes to immerse her self in the local culture so this is perfect! Of course she is reasonably familiar with it since she lived a year in Florida in her teens, but still! And I can't wait to share all the horsey stuff in my life. We had riding lessons together for 4 years, so it's really a hobby we share.

Job hunting goes on pretty well. I narrowed down what I am really looking, outside job, working with animals, for so now my hesitancy is gone. In my free time I make sure I clean some of the house to keep up and I try to go the barn as much as I can. That usually results in 3 times a week, sometimes 4 if I'm lucky. It's a long drive though, and even though the gas prices in USA are way cheaper than Europe, it's significant for your bank account.

In less than 2 weeks Michael and I have our camping trip! I'm so excited. I'm really hoping Michael will fall in love with hiking and we will do it more often. However, knowing Michael... it won't really be his thing. But I'm already grateful he's willing to try.

Since my life has a pretty good routine going right now I will post some pictures for a more complete overview. You'll notice they are only Doni/Horse pictures, but that's because Michael doesn't really like to be on photo's or take them.

I'm wearing the purple shirt, helping raise jumps

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Things and stuffs

The job hunt is going well. I'm being very picky where I apply and get responses quite quickly! I think it is just a matter of time before I find the right fit for me.

There was a thunder storm here, and I got to enjoy it on our balcony. It was very impressive and I made a video for my Dutch people who I bet will enjoy it as much as I did.

Michael and I have just planned our first holiday together since I moved here! The original plan was a sort of honey moon, but it got delayed and delayed. But finally we got it planned. We will go hiking in the Smoky Mountains in the last week of September. We got all our equipment except Michael's shoes. The tents, the mats, the backpacks, sleeping bags, maps, emergency kit, water filter and pans. Whatever we are missing we have plenty of time to purchase.

I was really pushing Michael for doing a back country trip, where you have to take your gear with you in your backpack instead of doing day-hikes from one location. He wasn't really feeling it, but puppy eyes mixed with glares and reasonable arguments finally convinced him! Woohoo! We will take it really easy, and hike a very low amount of miles each day to ease ourselves into it. The first day is very easy and lovely, with swimming holes and beautiful waterfalls, and almost no ascension. That's about 6 miles and we will get to our lovely camp ground with plenty of day light left. This is mainly to warm us up, and make sure Michael will enjoy the hike. If I'd spring a heavy hike on him immediately, he will not think it is fun at all! Now the second day is a little bit rougher for us beginners. We will have an ascension of 2500 ft and horizontally hike 7 miles. My estimate is that it will take us 8.5 hours with breaks and a leisurely pace. Here we will see if Michael is cut out for back country hiking. I really hope he is, but if it is no fun for him I shall have to accept it.

We will hike to the top of a mountain and camp there. The views are supposed to be amaaaazing. I can't wait. Then the third day is all down hill and a little boring, but gets us back to the car.

right up is our door!
On another note; we just moved! Our apartment is smaller but it feels so much more like home. It's nicer and feels roomier. I will definitely post pictures when we are done decorating, but here are the pictures of when the place was empty.

living room, kitchen and dining area



living room

A thunder storm outside, our balcony is the perfect
place to watch it.

watching the thunder storm

Monday, August 4, 2014


I have received my work authorization card! It took a long time, 7 months. Much longer than I anticipated, since my worst case scenario estimate was 6 months. But here it is, finally. And just in time too. Our car has died and a very costly reparation has pretty much emptied my bank account. We will also be moving starting August 18th, and security deposits and double rents do not help my cause.

Thus it is time to find a job. But what I have always been struggling with is the question of what I want to do. Initially I thought I could get away with a low paid job that I enjoyed, but reality is different. I will need to work full-time or close to full-time in order to have enough funds to get around.

Which probably means getting a soul-killing office job. Ideally I'd like to use my Bachelors degree, but living in a college town kind of lowers the value of a degree. Also, the degrees in the States are much, much easier to obtain than in Europe. So the employers wouldn't understand the value of my European degree. Any job regarding the environment is almost impossible to find for 2 reasons. #1 is that if you use the word environment, all you get is cleaning jobs. #2 is that the USA does not care about the environment, and thus there are almost no jobs in this area.

The government itself has some cool park jobs, but I do not qualify because they require the people to be citizens to apply for those particular jobs.

The search is officially on now though. So whatever I'll decide, I'll have to decide soon.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Wrong Check

Here I was thinking the application of the visa and working permit was all over and it was just waiting now. Michael was freaking out because it had been at least a month since I sent it, and we hadn't heard anything. After a week of not checking the mail because we weren't expecting any, he decided to check. There he found the full application package returned. The problem? The check was dated for 2013, instead of 2014. You had one job, husband!

I don't mind too much though, it's not like I am jumping up and down to get back to work. That would be Michael instead. He shot himself in the foot with that tiny mistake and this 1.5 month delay. I mailed the application again start this week with a correct check. I hope it will be cashed by Monday and that this whole process will hurry up.

Today I was added to our lease. This is necessary if I want to get my Florida drivers license. The requirement is to have 2 official-ish papers that show where you live. A copy of the lease would be accepted, and mail from the government to your address. I need my drivers license not only to drive, but it is necessary to open a bank account in Florida. According to other expats, Florida is one of the more difficult states to get a bank account. Here I was thinking the bank account would be the least of my problems.

My boss Regina had free tickets for a horse event; Gala of the Royal Horses. It is a relatively popular event in Europe and I had heard of it before. I had really wanted to go but I knew Michael wouldn't like it and I didn't think I had to luxury of spending that money. Now I got to go with all kinds of amazing horse people who could actually appreciate it! I had a blast.

It has been quite hot here lately, and even though it was very humid, there was a dry-spell. Now the clouds have finally gotten heavy enough and we have a week of non-stop rain and floods. I suppose it feels a lot cooler, but I could really use some waterproof boots!

Tomorrow I am going to volunteer at a dressage competition. Equine competitions are always looking for volunteers and I never experienced a competition before. This is a great opportunity! I do have to get up really early on a Saturday and I HATE that. Sacrifices must be made I'm afraid.
It better be fun.

Monday, April 14, 2014

It has been a month

A long time since I have last updated my blog. But fear not! Everything is going very well here. I suppose I could say that the reason I have not written in so long, is that I am amusing myself very much. As I expected of myself before I emigrated, I have been busy and occupied myself with fun things.

Mainly; horses.

For those of you who have me on Facebook, you probably see a dozen of horse pictures cruise by your news page. Yup, I'm that person. Instead of smothering everyone with a hundred pictures of my ugly baby in yet another outfit, I spew forth a constant stream of horse pictures. Doni sitting on a horse, Doni and horse jumping, horse face, horse butt, horse baby. Horse, horse, horse. My apologies friendly, loving and amazing readers. I'm afraid I really, really like horses.

My jump face is dreadful

Not only do I volunteer at Haile Equestrian and Eclipse Sporthorses (both owned by the same person), I ride twice a week. This puts me around horses on 3 fixed days. Tuesday (volunteer work in the midday/evening), Wednessday (volunteer work in the morning and riding lesson in the evening) and Friday (early afternoon riding lesson). However, I also often cover shifts for my fellow volunteers. I figure, better save up some brownie points now when I do not have a job, and cash them back in when I do have a job.

Ah yes, you wonder about the job situation? The work permit request has been filed. The government is not known for their fast and thorough work, so it will probably be a couple of months. I have not yet received notification that they have started to work on my request.

Back to the main subject.

Ricki and Gia, the horse I do groundwork with.
They are both 3 years old.

So I am around horses 3 days a week. But since the owner has given me permission to do some groundwork with the horses, whenever I want, I find myself almost 5 days a week at the barn. I will drop Michael off at work and drive straight on to the barn. There I will play/work with the horses, and chill out in the sun and talk with whoever is hanging out at the barn.

It is absolutely amazing. Being outside makes me happy. Sunshine makes me happy. Nature makes me happy. Horses make me happy. And I have it all! I come home exhausted and feeling great. I dread the time when I have to go back to work and give up these amazing moments. I cherish every moment I have right now.

Michael and I play a lot of Diablo 3 the expansion. Because I entertain myself so thoroughly while Michael is at work, I don't drag him on walks and hikes as much as in the beginning. This way, Michael gets to spend his non working time the way he really wants to. Playing games and watching shows. We don't solely play Diablo though. Jessica and Harm have given me Rivals of Catan, the card game for 2, for my birthday! That game is awesome. It has so many levels of depth and strategy in it that we keep playing. Michael has lost a couple of games though, so now he refuses to play unless he is fully sober and alert. He desperately wants to win this next game, "to put me in my place".

Gotta love it.

Monday, March 10, 2014

First riding lesson in over 2 months

Finally I had my first riding lesson. The lesson was half flat, half jumping. To my surprise, the jumping was sorta? fun. I rode a gigantic horse named Pedro who had the sweetest facial expression. I suppose I should have taken a picture, but I don't think of these things. The riding went well, I wasn't as rusty as I thought I would be. The adjusting to a new instructor always takes some getting used to. But in principal, every instructor tells you the same, but describes it very different. Once you get what they mean and can translate it to what you already know, it all flows easy.

The instructor today was very nice, I liked her way of teaching. She was patient with me, noticed I was a little insecure about the jumping and thus made sure the jumps weren't too challenging. We were supposed to be with 3 riders (including me) but one girl didn't show up. Pretty much a private lesson I'd say!

We started out just riding around warming up, just like I'm used to. Only less focused on the figures. Direction and figures are up to the rider, but I think - not sure about this - that the pace is determined by the instructor. She made sure I was riding like a frog, perching on top of my saddle. I felt ridiculous, but I suppose that's normal in the jumping world.

Right off the bat I did a double jump. Not having successfully done a double jump yet, I was a little nervous. You had to stop (halt) at the end of the jumps to make sure you have the horse under control. The arena looked like this:
blue = water (it had been raining) brown is other jumps we didn't use
So the first one was a horizontal jump of maybe up to my knees and the second one a cross. The first time I went over it I was a little wobbly but it went well. I went 3 times total. After that a third jump was added.
And it wasn't even that difficult. Apparently the key to jumping is the horse. You need to have a horse that wants to jump and is build for it. Then all you have to do it stay out of it's way! That makes jumping a whole lot more fun in my opinion. There is a lot to work on though. My balance could be better, I don't put enough pressure on my stirrups and as a result my heels are not low enough. And once I start jumping higher I need to crouch down lower.

A very successful day. I still have a big preference for dressage though. The jumping is fun, but I rather work on the horse. Have the focus on it's body and what's happening underneath me. Hopefully the dressage lessons will start soon, they are working on it!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Updates with a little more detail

A lot has been going on lately. I got married, Michael's best friend died and my volunteer work finally got rolling. Obviously some things have more of an impact on my life than others, but I feel that I shouldn't neglect writing about the other sides of my life.

First of all, I don't like to wear rings for long periods of time. I'm not a ring person. Unfortunately, when you get married, you are supposed to wear that ring forever. The fact that it scares away harassing males is the best thing about the ring, but it being on my finger is the worst. It gives me calluses when I shovel, it makes loud noises when I put my hand on things and when Michael is holding my hand and squeezes it, it hurts like hell.

My last name is still Planken. I planned to have it as Planken-Reeves. But when Michael said he wouldn't (hypothetically) be willing to take my name and understand if I didn't want to change mine, I decided to keep my own. Marriage is not something I put a lot of value in, and frankly, I find it a little archaic that women still change their name. It is annoying that everyone assumes I'm now Doni Reeves though. Do I correct them, or just let them think it and hope they don't feel deceived if they find out I'm still Planken?

For Michael marriage seems to make a big difference. His whole attitude slightly changed toward more serious and husbandly. Not a bad change, but a surprising one for sure. We'll see if it stays. I have my doubts.

I have volunteered 3 times this week (and 2 times in the other weeks) at the horse farm. My training is now complete and I can start reaping the benefits. The owner actually didn't need more volunteers at the barn I was trained, but she has 3 "barns" total and her breeding/quality horse facility needed one. She said Wednesday morning and Friday evening were open. I am hesitant to sacrifice a Friday evening, I told her Wednesday was not a problem but Friday I would have to discuss at home. She ended up switching a girl from the Riding Barn to the Breeding Barn (she wanted that anyway) and I'll take her shift on Tuesday from 3 to 7. Sounds perfect to me together with the Wed. morning one in the Breeding Barn. Furthermore, I now get 2 free riding lessons a week. There are 4 options throughout the week, she signed me up for all of them so I can see which ones suits me best.

4 lessons next week, I'm going to feel so violated.

The Breeding Barn has different tasks than the Riding Barn. For one, you work alone (that's a plus for me). Second, you feed them, bring the horses who were on the pastures at night in the stalls, and those who were in the stalls at night out to the pastures (but the horses do all have their own stall, they don't share). Then you clean out the stables of the horses who are now in the pastures and refill them. Put some hay in the stalls and then put all the mucked out manure in a sort cart that you drive with a mini/4 quad car and spread out over the terrain.

It doesn't sound much, but we were with 3 people and it took 2.5h! I can imagine I will take 4-5 hours the first time I will do it by myself. But on the bright side, when you are done you are done. The Riding Barn needs you to stay from x to x time, for children need supervision, so this is a big difference.

Concerning the demise of Michael's best friend; it has been in the news. However, the story doesn't quite add up and everyone is trying to figure out what really happened. I ask you to remain sceptical and draw your own conclusions. Please accept that his friend was a highly intelligent and rational person who always has been very empathetic towards others. Do not blindly believe what the media/government tells you and keep your eyes open. I doubt the full truth will ever be known about what really happened that day. But I know this story has too many holes to bring anyone closure.

And that doesn't make it any easier.

Initial article: http://www.gainesville.com/article/20140303/ARTICLES/140309941?tc=cr
Update: http://www.gainesville.com/article/20140306/ARTICLES/140309747

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Dark grey

Yes, I got married Friday. Unfortunately, that is the last thing on the minds of me, Michael and his friends and family. Yesterday Michael's best friend died. Enough to say this is a tough and trying time. I'm just glad I can be there for him.

So although I wanted to write an update about the happy things in my life, that will have to wait. Someone died who was only 28 years old. Who had his whole life ahead of him. A mother lost a son, 2 brothers lost their brother and Michael lost his best friend who he grew up with. The injustice of it is not something anyone can put into words.

I don't like to write about things that I don't really have a right to, so I will not say anything further about this subject. Just enough to let everyone know that we are going through a difficult time right now.
Michael and his best friend

Saturday, February 22, 2014

And the thunder rolls

Awimbawe awimbawe, awimbawe awimbawe, in the jungle the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight!

So I watched the Lion King again. And I watched Tinkerbell and the Secret of the Wings, and rewatched the original first episode of Star Wars where Han Solo shot first!

Why would she waste her time watching these movies you might say? Because Florida FINALLY had some bad weather in store for me. Hurray! Yeah that's a mindfuck isn't it? Especially my darling people in Europe who are just suffering the cold and wet. I feel you, I really do. But if every day is a beautiful day, with a perfect temperature, blue skies where you see hawks flying and trees with squirrels courting, then you feel guilty for not going outside and enjoying it. Every. Single. Day.

How can you not sit by the pool with a cool glass of iced tea and letting the sun vitamins absorb in your body. How can you not go to the lovely park that is a 5 minutes walk from your house, and watch the natural meandering creek flow by with little tiny fish swimming in it, while an owl hoots and slowly glides from tree to tree?

But after a while it gets a little frustrating. Sometimes you just want to sit inside like a hermit in your pyjamas, all windows closed and listening to the rain fall while you read a book. Or watch a movie. Or make some muffins. You get my point.

I couldn't allow myself these luxuries. It would be a waste of this perfect climate. In a couple of weeks this perfect 24 degrees Celsius - with a not a cloud in the sky - will turn into a sweltering sauna with daily thunderstorms (more chance to get hit by lightning than winning the lottery!). As such I obligatory enjoyed all my wonderful days.

And then it started to rain for 2-3 days! Thick dark clouds, rain falling in such an intensity that the Dutch sewer system (or the English) wouldn't be able to handle it. I couldn't have been happier! I made good use of it. Michael also made good use of it. He put together the 2 desks we bought, and my desk chair. We now have a new command center. The place is really starting to come together.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Stable Assistant

I found a stable that had an advert on Craigslist that they were looking for an extra stable assistant. In exchange for a "workday" of 4 hours you would then be able to get a free lesson. I got into contact with them and today I came by to see what was what. Tomorrow I will tag along with an assistant who has volunteered there for a couple of years who will show me the ropes!

Needless to say I'm extremely excited. This was exactly what I was looking for. I'm getting experience in my desired field (for free) AND I get free lessons for every day worked. What more could I want at this moment in my life! My volunteer days will most likely be Wednesday and Thursday, from 2 to 6. Which will be a problem for Michael, because he gets off at 5 and I will have the car. He will either take public transport (a real hassle here and a little unsanitary) or work extra hours. He has been a little inert on the subject of buying a second car, so I'm hoping this will nudge him in the right direction.

My social security number card has arrived in the mail and I am now capable of marrying. In my previous update I wrote that the 14th wouldn't be feasible and that I was looking for another date. We decided on the last day of February. This way, we'll only get it wrong once every 4 years. I'm ready for the marry part to be done. People all want to blow it out of proportion and trying to stuff a ceremony down my throat, but I just want to sign the paper and be done with it. Ring on finger (I don't even like wearing rings to be honest, going to have to get used to that) and chapter closed. It is also time to get the paperwork for my work visa out the door. Things take so loooong.

For the rest, I'm finding my way here relatively easy. I make sure I feel at home and don't get too down. I eat healthy breakfasts and lunch, and run every other day on the treadmill. Michael is having a little trouble adjusting to my presence however. He must have really gotten used to being alone.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

How to feel at home

A little more than a week has passed. I have had time to settle in and get adjusted. The jetlag was not a problem. And by that I mean, said jetlag did not exist. Another surprise was that I did not get sick. So you could say that the literal move from the Netherlands to the United States of America was as successful as one could hope for.

I set my first mark in our house by opening my suitcase. A big explosion must have occurred when I wasn’t paying attention, suddenly all my clothes decorated the bedroom as if I was living there for months.

Secondly, Michael and I had ordered poster maps online. They had been waiting for my arrival to adorn the walls. A 24 by 36 inch Lord of the Rings map, a 24 by 36 Game of Thrones map and a 27 by 40 inch map of the world, in antique colors. Two are now decorating our wall. The third frame has a crack and thus will be exchanged for a whole one.

And lastly, it was time for me to put my stamp on the contents of our cabinets, fridge and freezer. A great scouring of Wal-Mart, Target and Wards (local organic supermarket) took care of the severe contentual limitations. Unfortunately I also felt this in my wallet, but sacrifices have to be made for om noms.

Now that all of this has occurred I feel right at home. The only things missing are a hobby sport and some new friends. Both of which I’m working on. I’m looking into volunteer work for an animal shelter or perhaps on a retirement horse farm. Several riding schools have appealed to me, but I haven’t decided if I want to start spending money on a weekly basis when I have nothing coming in. if I manage to get some volunteer work with horses, I don’t mind waiting a couple of months before I start taking lessons again.

As for making new friends, Michael’s RPG group has welcomed me in their midst, so there will be a social outing at least once a week. Furthermore, I have signed up for several meetup groups. My first meetup will be Friday, 7 pm at a Starbucks. This one is of the Yoga meetup group and is to get to know one another. Another is the 26st for a meet, greet and eat. That one is for the ‘Girls just wanna have fun’! Good chances on meeting awesome people.

The first bureaucratic step has been taken today. I applied for my social security number. A helpful site advised immigrants to wait 2 weeks before applying; sometimes it takes a while to get into the system. I took my chances and waited a week. Everything went as it should. Sadly, it takes 10 days before I get my SSN. This translates into; no Valentine day wedding for Michael and I. We now have to think of another date that is super easy to remember.


Monday, January 27, 2014

Mission completed!

Achievement immigration gained! I'm legally in the States on my K-1 visa. As soon as I get my Social Security Number we can apply to get married, and if the time frame allows it, it will be February 14th! Perhaps you would think that is a cheesy or romantic date. However we have chosen this date because both Michael and I are terrible with remembering trivial stuff like events that happened on specific dates. So we figure, let's marry on Valentines day and we'll never forget.

Win all around.

The flight went without a hitch. When I arrived in Minneapolis one of the officers saw me hauling my big brown immigration envelope so I got herded to a way shorter line and within 10 minutes I could go through customs. If you'd seen the line you would know how lucky that was. Then I waited approximately half an hour in a different room. More people waited here, I suppose all immigrants or something like it. 

He called my name, quickly went over with me what the K-1 visa was, and then I was on my way for my second flight! Where I sat right next to an emergency exit (which was kind of scary and a big responsibility) and next to a pilot. Which I thought was very interesting.

Magically Michael was on time with picking me up which pleased me greatly. It's so good to see him again. That day I managed to stay up and sleep around 11-12pm and that way I pretty much took care of my jetlag. All in all, a big success trip.

Success besides leaving my family behind ofcourse. Everyone went to the airport with me to say goodbye. That meant a lot to me and thankfully we all kept it dry or else I'd be crying in the airplane. My sister gave me a photo book of my life with my brother and sister right before I left. That was a good gift with great memories. I'll be looking in that book very often.

Here are some pictures of my day today. It shows what is around where I live. I got a new phone (HTC One) so I hope the pictures are good!

The front door!

Back door! And if you look carefully to the left
you can see the fence of the swimming pool.
Swimming pool from afar.

Swimming pool!
Squirrel by the swimming pool!
Part of the road from the shops to home.
Same road but now with the
car road.
Halfway to the shops! This is btw me walking BACK
to home, so the direction the photo's are facing are to
our appartement.

If you look right on the bridge of
the last photo you see this.

Just a random bush on my walk!
When you open
our front door.

Our command station.