Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Permanent Resident and Citizenship

After our announcement that I've received my Green Card a.k.a. Permanent Resident Card we've seen that it's not always clear what that means, so here is a brief explanation:

  • If you are a temporary worker/student under a work of student-visa you are considered a 'non-immigrant' since it's temporary and you have the intention to move back to your homeland.

  • If you want to settle in the United States and the petition is granted you are an immigrant and considered a 'permanent resident' and you receive the well-known 'Green Card'.

  • If you want to become a United States citizen you have to live in the United States as a 'permanent resident' for at least 3 and usually 5 years.

The biggest difference between a Permanent Residency and Citizenship is that with the latter you can't be deported, can vote in ALL elections, run for office (except the Presidency) and it can't be taken away from you.

I will apply for Citizenship in 3 years, but since both the US and the Netherlands allow it, I will retain my Dutch Citizenship and will have dual US and Dutch Citizenship.

Hope that clears it up a little... ;-)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Green Card has been received!

The end of a number of years of visa-issues (at least for the next 2 years) is here. Earlier today when I got the mail (which I maybe did 5 times over the last 9 months) there was a very nondescript envelope without any markings. When I opened it I did a little dance of joy... It was my I-551 Permanent Resident Card, a.k.a. the Green Card. Finally! I'm now officially a permanent resident of the United States.

Well... 'conditional' permanent resident. Since we filed within 2 years of getting married I have to file a petition to remove the condition. We have to do that within the 90 days before 3/22/2010 and basically 'prove' the on-going marriage relationship through various records (joint tax returns, jointly held assets, bills, etc...). We are actually hoping to send some birth certificate(s) from children born, but that is up to the Lord... ;-)

Anyway, I'm here to stay!

Friday, March 21, 2008

de Jongs are Deflated about de 'Dogs from Des Moines

Our good Friday week of good things has taken a turn for the worse. Niels and I were just returned from Damon's where we had the whole bar cheering for my alma mater, the Drake Bulldogs, in the NCAA tournament. (I was wearing my Drake alumni t-shirt). Alas, in overtime, with no time remaining, some guy from the other team (Western Kentucky) nailed a 3-pointer to win the game 101-99. Sigh...Maybe they'll make it back in another 37 years.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Go Drake!

My alma mater is not particular known for its athletic program. Despite being a division I school, the focus has always been first and foremost, academics. Made up mostly of walk-ons with 3.0 or higher GPAs, the Bulldogs stunned everyone this year by winning the conference championship. So it's a pretty cool thing that this year Drake's student-athletes were invited the Big Dance, aka March Madness, aka, NCAA Men's Basketball tournament.

Tipoff for Drake v. Western Kentucky is at 12:30pm tomorrow, Good Friday. In our week of Good Things, we're hoping for a win.

Here's ESPN's take on Drake's success.

ST. LOUIS -- It's natural to assume there's something magical about Drake, hidden inside Keno Davis' brain, Adam Emmenecker's body or Dolph Pulliam's blue leather suit.

Adam Emmenecker's rise to Valley MVP has been just as impressive as Drake's season. Emmenecker was a three-year walk-on until this season.

When a team wins 11 more games than the year before, jumps six spots in the Missouri Valley standings, redrafts the school record book, reaches the NCAA tournament for the first time in 37 years -- earning a No. 5 seed in the West Region -- and yet still claims it doesn't know how everything went down, it might be time to check for pixie dust. Patience and persistence just don't seem like enough, especially with a roster of never-beens and never-would-bes.

But at Drake (28-4), it was enough. It had to be enough.

"When your academic standards are so high, there is not a quick fix," said Davis, the first-year Drake coach who succeeded his famous father, Dr. Tom Davis. "It's going to happen by bringing in the right type of athletes and then letting them progress over three, four, five years. You have to be patient.

"It's arguably the toughest job in this league, but it's very rewarding when you prove you can win."

Drake proved it could win this season, and the rewards have been invaluable. The Bulldogs won a school-record 28 games, capturing their first regular-season conference title since 1971, their first-ever Valley tournament title and their first postseason berth since 1986.

They did so behind a group that not long ago looked better suited for the scout team than the starting lineup:

• Emmenecker, a former walk-on who earned a scholarship the day before school started last fall, became the Valley's MVP.

• Forward Jonathan "Bucky" Cox, a former walk-on, earned second-team all-league honors.

• Guard Leonard Houston, a career reserve who had scored 193 points in three seasons, became the league's seventh-leading scorer (14 ppg).

• Wing Klayton Korver, known mainly for his bum knee and for being Kyle's little brother, ranked fourth in the league in 3-pointers made (77).

• Leading scorer Josh Young, who amassed 30 scholarship offers from mid-majors but none from the bigwigs, is considered the team's only find.

"We have a lot of overachievers," Emmenecker said.

At Drake, success wouldn't come any other way.

Raising the bar

Tom Davis saw this coming. Sort of.

At Drake's golf outing last spring, shortly after he had turned the program over to Keno, Dr. Tom made a speech. He praised a strong core of returning players who could help fill the gaps left by four graduating starters. He lauded Drake's 3-point shooting, its passing ability and its chemistry. Then, he handed the mic to Keno.

"Now he's retiring, and he's telling everybody how great we're going to be," the younger Davis joked.

"I thought, 'God, he's right. I've got to go back into coach-speak,'" Tom Davis said. "He put me in my place."

The father unintentionally raised the bar for his son, but deep down, Tom knew Keno could reach it.

Dr. Tom Davis got the job started at Drake. His son, Keno, has taken the Bulldogs to a record-setting season.

Keno had served as Tom's assistant for the previous four seasons at Drake. Unofficially, their coaching connection stretched back decades.

"He was on my bench literally from the time he could walk," Tom Davis said. "He'd been working on this in his mind for a lot of years. There isn't much that I'm going to say that he doesn't already know. But if you're going to be really good as a head coach, you can't try to copy anybody else."

Keno tweaked Drake's defense, using four variations before settling on a 3-2 matchup zone in early December. Drake still drills man-to-man during extended breaks to emphasize weakside help and movement, but during games it's all zone, with Emmenecker or Houston at the top.

After finishing last in the league in scoring defense (74.2 ppg) last season, Drake improved to fourth (60.9 ppg).

"It's shocking to me," said Davis, the Valley's coach of the year. "I thought we needed to change things up, but we got really good in that one defense."

With a surplus of shooters and no true post player, Davis implemented an up-tempo offense that has few confines. Besides Emmenecker, who is 0-for-2 from behind the arc, Bulldogs players spot up from just about anywhere. Young leads the league in 3-point shooting (44.6 percent) and Cox ranks fourth (42.6 percent).

"We made a deal with them," said associate head coach Chris Davis (no relation). "We would not get on them about shot selection or the quickness of a shot. We'd get on them about not playing defense because defense is effort, and we'd get on them about not rebounding. Other than that, we let them play."

Keno, 36, still collaborates with his dad, who tries to stay backstage. Tom only attends Drake home contests and will watch the NCAA tournament from his couch.

"I have to pry the advice out of him," Keno said. "I'm not going to take all of his advice, but I'm going to listen to it all."

Resurrecting the program

After posting a mind-boggling double-double (13 points, career-high 10 rebounds) in the Valley tournament quarterfinals, Emmenecker sat in Drake's empty locker room, shivering as he spoke.

A trip to the cold tub had finally cooled off the Valley's hottest player.

"It's kind of a dream," Emmenecker said. "You come in as a walk-on and you hope for the chance to have a scholarship and maybe a chance to play."

That's all Keno Davis promised when he gave Emmenecker a scholarship. No guarantee to start. No guarantee even to play.

"Obviously," Emmenecker said, "things have changed a little bit."

Emmenecker has started all 32 games and played a team-high 1,049 minutes. The senior leads the league in assists (199) and remarkably ranks 20th in rebounds (4.6 rpg), but he wasn't named MVP for his numbers.

"I knew he'd be a leader for us whether he was playing 10 minutes a game or 30," Davis said. "And we knew quite early that Adam was going to be in that starting position. But MVP of the conference? That's about as wild as Drake winning the conference."

Tom Davis admits he never had a walk-on become league MVP, but he encouraged walk-ons at Drake, much like he had at previous coaching stops.

Emmenecker had no Division I scholarship offers and nearly went to play baseball at Boston College before he rerouted to Drake. Cox, a junior, surveyed a bare scholarship landscape out of high school and elected to walk on for the Bulldogs.

"Recruiting sometimes spoils kids," Tom Davis said. "The walk-on is so appreciative to get a uniform, to make the travel squad, to get a chance."

All of Drake's players are making the most of theirs.

"We have a lot of guys who weren't handed anything when they got here," said Korver, who missed the 2005-06 season after undergoing microfracture surgery on his knee. "Guys were walk-ons, I had the knee injuries. I'm glad we're able to leave a legacy and kind of resurrect a program that was once one of the best in the country."


Dolph Pulliam was part of that program.

He played on Drake's 1969 Final Four team, the first of three consecutive squads to reach the NCAA tournament. But after coach Maury John left Drake for Iowa State in 1971, the team never made it back.

"We did not take care of the program," said Pulliam, now a radio analyst for the team. "And once we started to lose, it just [went] right on downhill. A lot of folks have said, 'Dolph, we will never get back to an NCAA tournament. We'll never win the Missouri Valley Conference again.'"

Many tied the losing to lofty academic standards, particularly the 2.0 rule. Every Drake student, athlete or non-athlete, is required to maintain a 2.0 GPA to participate in extracurricular activities.

Sandy Hatfield Clubb heard the gripes about grades when she arrived as athletic director in 2006.

"I told people if we're recruiting against Creighton and somebody says, 'Why do you guys have the 2.0 rule?' my response would be, 'Did you ask them why they don't?'" Hatfield Clubb said. "This is the minimum standard, not a high expectation."

But the expectation among fans remained low. Before she'd seen a game in the Knapp Center, Hatfield Clubb heard all about the dim lighting, the bad sound system and the quiet crowds.

Tom Davis felt the negativity, too, but Drake fans saw hope in him.

"They knew that I'd won," Tom Davis said. "They were at least open to it."

Winning has sold them.

At the Valley tournament, Bulldogs fans donning "Believe" buttons filled the Scottrade Center. Many crowded around Pulliam, touching the blue leather suit he wore for every game during Drake's 21-game win streak.

Drake never compromised its standards, and as this season showed, it didn't need to. Led by Emmenecker, who has a 3.97 GPA and four majors, nine Bulldogs players carry GPAs of 3.0 or higher.

"This is the story of Drake University, who we are," Pulliam said. "Our student-athletes mirror who our students are. They get a great education, and these kids compete.

"It's been our success story."

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


I woke up this morning to the sound of rain beating against the house. Since Princess Bailey of Arlington does not like to go outside in the rain (because she doesn't like to have wet paws), she let me sleep in. Sweet sleep.

The rain today is fitting because it was raining one year ago today when Niels and I were in Paris, where he proposed to me in a flower garden at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. Sigh... We found a print of the Eiffel Towel, taken close to "our" spot. Across the street you can see the carousel we rode just after we were engaged. We were giddy and gave Dutch dad and mom much to laugh at. It's not quite the same, but with our print and today's rain, I still have my rainy Paris in the springtime. But best of all, Niels is no longer my fiance...he's my amazing HUSBAND!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Paddy's Day

Friday, March 14, 2008

We Do Wall

Last Sunday, Niels surprised me with a roadtrip to Mansfield, Ohio--about 90 minutes away. Our destination? MEIJER!!! The Target Greatland/SuperWalmart-like mecca is based in Grand Rapids and one of our good friends works there. It was founded by a Dutch immigrant in 1934 and the facades of some of the stores feature Dutch architecture. Inside, the international aisle features all sorts of Dutch goodies--hard to find in our neck of the woods. Meijer stores are found throughout the Midwest, but sadly, not in Canton. (Erin, can you work on that?!?) My astute husband sensed I was feeling a little homesick for GR so he decided to take me to the nearest store to us.

One of our recent addictions has been watching HGTV to get ideas for our house. We've decided on colors for each room, and as we have a little money we've been completing different projects. Something I've wanted for a while is a nice shelf for our master bedroom. Our colors are brown, green and white, but our shelf is a carry-over from my condo, a nice pine which will look better in the office/hopefully nursery.

We found a shelf we both liked at Meijer and Niels spend an evening putting it together. He's a talented craftsman...see for yourself!

In the beginning....

Where Jen would have given up...

Hard at work, with his supervisor, Bailey

The final result! The "We Do" letters were on the cake table. Eventaully, we'll put a wedding picture on the shelf as well. (The quilt and rack to the left was a gift from my stepdad and his wife. They made both items themselves, amazingly, without even knowing the colors of our room!)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Happy 39th Birthday, Chris

This handsome guy is my big brother, Chris, who is celebrating his 39th birthday today. Chris was the family usher for our wedding. I believe this was the second time in his life that he wore a tux. He didn't even wear one for his own wedding! When we were making plans, I actually asked his wife first if she thought he would wear one for our big day. She said she'd make sure he would. Then after he picked up his tux, she said to me, "Purple? You can just kill him now!" But he wore it with a smile, and got compliments all night long! Personally, I think he liked it!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Happy Anniversary, Carisa and Andy!

It's another year of wedded bliss for my little sister, Carisa and her uber-cool husband, Andy. Carisa and Andy were in Amsterdam with us last year (almost a year ago!) where we introduced them to the yumminess of stroopwafels!

Monday, March 10, 2008

BIG Day!

Throughout our seven months of marriage, and the ten months of dating before that, most big appointments had to do with me--mostly doctor appointments, it seems. But today was a Niels-driven day, but very important for both of us. USCIS Interview Day!

Penske Logistics brought Niels to the States a few years ago from their Maastrict office in The Netherlands. Before he met me, he made plans to file for Permanent Residency through based on his work Visa (I-140). He can tell you the more official terms (Niels' comment: L1b Visa) but basically he's so stinkin' smart that he passed the Labor Certification step for the work visa with ease and the Labor department said that he was more qualified than an American for his particular job. But then he met me and we decided that he wanted to apply for permanent residency through the family status (I-130), this time on account of being my husband, and we would really rather not be separated by continents at any point in our marriage.

We started the process in November with a TON of paperwork and documentation. In January, Niels had to go to the federal building in Cleveland for his biometrics--fingerprinting, background check, etc. Of course, anyone who knew my dating criteria should not be surprised to learn that he passed with flying colors! Then last month we received the letter informing of us of our mandatory joint interview. Again, we had to compile a long list of documents, including "photographic evidence to substantiate our relationship." If you've seen the movie Green Cardyou'll have an idea of what we had in store for us.

Today was the day of our interview, and it went surprisingly well. It was fun, kind of like our own personal Newlywed Game. Our agent was really nice and seems pretty pleased with our "evidence!"

They'll do one more background check on Niels and then we should expect to get a very important piece of paper in the mail! For more info on it, check out the Wiki-page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Permanent_Resident_Card

UPDATE: tonight at 7.30 we got the message from USCIS that the petition has been approved and the notice had been mailed. We'll await the instructions on the mailing, but we're APPROVED !!!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Snowy, snowy day

Well, yesterday when the snow started we made it home, to the Visellis and back home without major issues. Today it's a different story...

For starters I had to dig out the drive way. We had about 12 to 16 inches (30 to 40 cm) and the snow is still coming down. The 3+ hours of shoveling our 2 lane, 4 car length driveway + turnaround has resulted into snowbanks a couple of feet high all around it. Before the day is over I might have to shovel another 5 inches and by tomorrow another 5 to 7. Yes, we have some snow.

The road in front of our house has been closed since last night 5pm. Before the closure the snowplows came through every 30 minutes to plow and salt, but cars kept slipping and sliding down the hill and slipping going up the hill. For those that don't know, the road in front of our house has a 7% grade and an S-curve in the middle. Good thing they closed it. Today even some 4x4s had issues getting up the hill.

We just got word that RiverTree is closed as well, so we don't have to go out today or tomorrow-morning. Not that we'd be able to go anywhere, even if we wanted to ... ;-)

Once the snow lets up I'll try to get some pictures. Right now the visibility is down to maybe 600 ft / 200 m and with the snowflakes falling the pictures I did take don't really show anything. We have heat, electricity, water and cable as well as food so we'll be fine for the remainder of the storm.

We'll keep you posted from the white city of Green, OH.

UPDATE: we ended up going to bed early on Saturday, exhausted and were happy to see that the night didn't bring as much as forecasted. We ended up with 18 inches and only another dusting on our shoveled drive-way. We were able to go to the Sunday service at the Tree and had to relieve Dave from running both the Video-feed and the lights by running lights since some people scheduled to run the tech-side of the service were still snowed-in. Now we are a week later and all but the snowbanks has melted. We're seeing green grass and after we built our snow(wo)man we are officially looking forward to spring. One more week... ;-)

Saturday, March 1, 2008

GR Trip Highlight #1

Going back to Grand Rapids is always a highlight for me (Jen) since I have so many friends and happy memories of my eight years there. While Niels loves my friends and appreciates my memories, I think the real highlight for him is that it's a little like home.

West Michigan has the highest per capita Dutch population of anywhere in the United States, and was the first American city he ever visited (even before I moved there). There are two great Dutch stores, VanderVeen's and deReuze (which means The Giant), both filled with all sorts of Dutch treats and housewares.

Of course, the homegrown "Target"-type store is Meijer, which our Dutch readers will readily recognize as a thoroughly Dutch name. Most groceries stores have an international aisle, and the grocery section of Meijer is no different. What is different, however, is that in addition to the typical Asian, Italian and Mexican sections, Meijer has a generous selection of Dutch foods, as shown above. So even when we don't have time to visit VanderVeen's or deReuze to stock up on stroopwafels, hagelslag, or drop (nasty double salt licorice), we can still stop by the ubiquitous Meijer for our fill.

Just before we took this picture, a woman approached the aisle and expressed surprise at the price of hagelslag. Turns out she is a Dutch citizen, here on vacation, shocked by the imported prices. Niels was able to have a nice conversation with her and her husband. Though I was able to get the general gist of the conversation, I mostly stood by and looked pretty. Still working on my Dutch lessons. Niels says I'm about a five year old now! :-)

Hopefully, we'll be making another trip to GR soon to close on the condo! Tot ziens, Grand Rapids!