This is who I really am…

Hensel FamilyIt’s been 6 years now since I last updated my About page on this blog. It’s not like nothing happened in the past 6 years. I would love to share with you what has made me to who I am today. Here it goes:

I’m a risk taker, a challenger and a hard working idealist.

I’m happily married with Rutger since 2000 in the Las Vegas. Rutger was a pilot at the time, and I was a college student, that just came back from studying in Sao Paulo, Brazil and doing an internship at Mercedes Benz do Brasil. In August 2002, our son Joep was born. In October 2004 Ciaran came to live in our house, who is now officially adopted. He was born to Rutger’s brother and his girlfriend at the time on November 2003. Ciaran’s parents weren’t able to take care of him, Ciaran’s biological father passed away in 2009. We are grateful to take care of this happy and sweet boy. In March 2005, our third son was born: Pim.

Our boys don’t go to school, they are unschooled. A kind of homeschooling, where kids don’t learn from books, or have to do daily work that an adult tells them to do, but rather follow their passions and interests. They play a lot! And they all have ideas on what businesses to start. Joep is currently working on developing a collectible card game, Ciaran wants to start a massage business and is also interested in programming, Pim wants to start a restaurant and loves serving people. They all love to play MineCraft.

In 2003, my mom passed away of breast cancer, she was 49 years old. My sister, Heleen died March 2006, she was 18 years old. She decided to end her life, as she expierenced life as painful and difficult, especially after loosing our mother, school not working out and a relationship that had ended. My sister has been bullied through her elementary school years and that has done a lot to her self esteem. I am grateful to have a loving dad and brother Meine, who both are working in moving companies. Meine is happily married with Hilde.

In 2005 we moved from Emmen to Amsterdam  (I love that city!) in The Netherlands, but with all the sadness it was hard to look hopeful to the future. I felt the need to work on becoming strong again for my 3 little kids and focus on having a good time and becoming strong again as a family, and we decided to go to the Unites States for a 3 month sabbatical. We rented a double hotel room for 3 months at a long term stay hotel near Disneyland, and left in January 2007 for 3 months with our lil’ family to California. Where the weather was good, we bought a Disneyland and Legoland membership and spend 2-3 days a week at either park. I also started going to grief recovery programs, to work on myself and become strong again.

Most important steps I have done in those three months, but grief is not a 3 month process, and currently I feel I am in a good place to live with my losses, but it has taken me a few years with periods of being depressed and hard times. We as a family went through a lot, but I have always had a great husband on my side, and I am very thankful for that!

We are on the waiting list for adopting a child through the Orange County Social Services. In 2012 we fostered 3 little girls for 6 months, who were 1, 2 and 4 years old. They were cute and sweet, unfortunately for us, but fortunately for the family they got reunited with their mother. And we were back to our family size of 5. We are currently on the waiting list again for another little one or little ones to join our family.

Next to my personal life, what I also do:

I run Branding Personality, a digital marketing agency. We work with consumer brands and create fresh content, manage their social media and increase their exposure on Google through optimization, and do search marketing campaigns. All of this with a focus to connect brands better with their target audience and attract sales. I love digital marketing, and helping companies grow.

I also run Cowork+Play, a community for entrepreneurs and professionals that share a workspace to collaborate and perform better. We help each other running our own business. We host many different events and Meetups at our space, including Weekly entrepreneurs lunch, PHP (programming) Meetups, Social Media Campfires (for social media professionals), PechaKucha nights, and more.

Since October 2012 we have opened up an additional 1500 sq ft space that is the PLAY part of Coworking. This is for kids where we are having Labs for Minecraft, create your own website, design & build machines, lego club, programming and more for kids 5-12 years old. Also, we hope to open the space soon for temporary on-site daycare. This is a for our coworkers who want to bring their kids to work but still be able to have work done. It’s better than working at home, as there is someone who can take care of your child so you can actually get work done. We currently are slowly introducing new classes for kids.

I also am part of a startup The Open School, which is a new form of education, a school where kids can follow their passions and interests to learn and explore their curiosities to be ready for live. To learn to understand who they are, and can make self aware choices about the future. This school is scheduled to open in the fall of 2015 in Orange County. Because of this we are trying to bring people together to discuss education who want to revolutionize education, either in their own home or on a broader scale and host a Meetup for it.

Other things I love doing: Even though I haven’t really practiced synchronized swimming for years, when I am in a pool, I always have to try a few figures. 🙂 My favorite thing to do is playing boardgames, I am a hardcore gamer, and host board game nights every Monday night without fail since 2008 in my office, I visit board game conferences, and I also host Werewolf nights, a psychological game that makes your mind boggle.

And when I feel sad (like after we lost the girls), my best form of therapy is painting, and I am talking walls, second hand furniture, etc. It makes me feel good. You should really try it! 🙂

  • Wow, what tough times you’ve had and how blessed you are with your husband.
    I’m fascinated how you unschool your boys – it sounds fabulous. I’m thinking of homeschooling mine for a year to travel and explore etc.

    Hope you get some additions to your family soon, all kids need lots of love and you and Rutger have lots to give.

  • Thanks Sarah! We hope we’ll get an addition soon too. 🙂 Let me know when you start homeschooling, its really the best we have done for our family. Life is so much more relaxed, far less nagging. As there is no homework, there is no stress time in the morning to get to school on time. I really enjoy it, and my kids never want to go back. 🙂

  • Marc Mullendore

    Thanks for sharing that Marieke. It must have been so difficult to handle your losses. You truly are an inspiration and are an example of how important positive thinking, hard work and perseverance are in living a full life. I hope you get a new addition to your family soon–a child will be blessed to be a part of your family. I am honored to know you and Rutger! 🙂