We, the fortunate ones

There are things you know on a theoretical basis, they are like a background, just part of your general view of the world. But sometimes, the reality of them hits you in an instant. I just had one of these moments.

Husband and I were sitting in the kitchen and enjoying the laziness of a Saturday morning. We had just finished breakfast, but lingered on, with a last cup of tea and the morning paper. Entrance Older Boy, telling us about some science news he heard – the theory how the moon used to be a part of Earth and was “born” when another planet hit Earth. As we talked about it, the word “isotopes” fell and needed to be explained. When I got up from the table, Husband and Older Boy were bent over a picture of the periodic table. I left the kitchen smiling.

And then the thoughts came: How fortunate we are. I mean, between Husband and me, we got the world pretty much covered. At least the world that needs to be explained to children up to teenage level. Very cliché, Husband will do better with mathematical and scientific topics (although I am not a complete loser in that area either), while I can provide a lot of info about things like literature, history and art (and fairness commands to add that Husband does know his share here too). Issues of current politics and society we try to do together.

My point is: our children can come to us with their questions. We are fortunate enough to have the knowledge and the urge to explain, to show and to teach. What we do not know (loads of things, of course), we can look up in an instant. In this house, ordinary homework often sparks discussions growing wider and wider circles.

But how many children are left alone with their questions? How many, if they don’t understand what they read in their school books, can only ask their teacher (which does not mean that asking your teacher is a bad thing!)? Even in our privileged world I can sometimes see it in the homework projects other children bring to school. You can tell it where the parents are involved and where the children plod on their own. (Not that I mean the parents should do their kids homework, or even help too much. But you can see in which families the whole project was discussed broadly, ideas shared, alternatives offered. You just see it.)

I am happy and grateful we have the means and the time to do this. I love to explain the world to my kids. But today I am also very aware that we are living in a bubble. I love my bubble – but oh would it be wonderful to let it expand over the whole world.

 

Everyone out there in the snowstorm – hang on!

This is really weird: I walked around in sunshine and mild temperatures today – the little bit of “winter” we had in the Netherlands (meaning a few degrees below 0 Celsius) was washed away by the rain yesterday. The birds are singing, there are loads of green buds in my garden, and I have the feeling that spring is on its way.

And then I switch on my laptop and look at the news: snowstorm in the US…. definitely not looking like spring over there.

So, everyone across the Atlantic, hang on tight! If I could, I would sent you some warm weather to make all that snow melt… but as it is I can only send some warm thoughts.

Take care and be save!

Autumn Thoughts

Last weekend, autumn showed itself from its best side in the Netherlands. Many people see it as a sort of hobby to complain about Dutch weather, but last Saturday I think even the most dedicated critics were silent. The sun was shining in a clear blue sky, there as almost no wind, the temperature was mild. I went for a walk in the park and was surrounded by colour.

Leaves everywhere, a lot still on the trees, but also masses of them covering the ground like a carpet. Yellow ones, some with green bits, some with red, orange ones, dark caramel ones, fiery red ones. I started picking some up, feeling like a child again.

As so very often when I am walking on my own, my thoughts started to fan out. I thought about the seasons, how good it was to experience different ones. I love spring, I adore summer, but constant summer, no. There is much to be said about autumn and winter too. And what about the seasons of a person’s life? Isn’t it good to have them too? I certainly would not like to be stuck in a constant spring. Being a teenager forever? Not thank you. Summer is great, but what about autumn and winter?

So what age rage would I assign to the seasons? 20 years a season would make calculating really easy, but that would mean summer would end with 40 and winter would start with 60, which does not feel right. (Might also be influenced by the fact that with this range, I would have entered “autumn” last year, and I am not so sure about that yet…) So, what about spring until 25, summer until 50, autumn until 75 and winter from there on? Feels about right. That way, not only I can assign myself a couple of more years of summer 😉 but also my parents-in-law would still be in autumn, which does seem to be the case, active as they are. My mum would be in winter, and I guess that is correct too.

So, what is the point of all this? I am not sure there is.

Does one always have to have a point? Maybe not. This blog being what it is – a home for my random thoughts, a place for them to settle down instead of humming around in my head – I can just leave it like this.

But maybe, if there is a point, it might be this: Walking through this park, enjoying the beauty of autumn, I felt not only good about the seasons in the outside world, but also about the seasons in me. Even if I still place myself in summer, just to be sure. 😉

A feeling of gratitude

Today I took my bike, rode to the beach and had a quick walk. It was one of these spur-of-a-moment things: the sun was shining, the sky clear, just a bit of wind, Dutch autumn as beautiful as you can get. Even the North Sea was blue. (An Italian friend of mine once stated that the North Sea was no proper sea, not being blue but mostly brownish, quite an unfair statement, I felt today.)

There were not many people around, it being a normal workday and not much of a tourist season either. A few mothers with small children walked around, I saw a few couples and some happy dog owners who claimed the beach again with their pets on this 1st of October (from May to September dogs are banned from most of the beach areas… everyone can guess why…).

I thought, yes, this is my beach again. And suddenly I felt a huge wave of gratitude. Gratitude for this life I am living here, this happy, sheltered life with a family I love, in a beautiful surrounding.

Maybe it is because of all the hard news I am reading every day. You hear about the refugees, about conflicts and chaos in so many countries. We are truly privileged to live here (and with here, I do not only mean the Netherlands, I mean Western Europe, or maybe even all “safe parts of the world”, wherever they may be). It is not as if I earned this in any way. I just had the unbelievable luck of being born in the right part of the world at the right time, being born into a loving family that could afford raising me, giving me all the chances I needed.

It would sound arrogant if I said I try to live up to this lucky start. Because I could never reach that goal. But – especially on days like this – I try to keep the thankfulness in mind and just do what I can to give a little bit back.

 

When the choices get bigger – for all of us

Sometimes, when you are busy in your own little world, happily spinning in your comfy cocoon, something happens in the world that wakes you up, pulls you out, gets you to start thinking again.

While I spent a carefree summer in Austria, watching the boys play in grandma’s garden, a lot of other people where on the journey of their lives. A journey that might end their lives or maybe give them a chance for a new one.

While I was lying in the hammock under the trees, a few white clouds sailing a happy blue summer sky, people sailed and drove and walked towards Europe. Some of them died, and we heard about it on the news, shook our heads and went on with our daily doings. It seemed far away, sad as it was.

But it got closer. Now there are thousands arriving every day at our borders, my borders. I see pictures of overflowing camps in Austria – my country. I see borders opened and closed again, trains and busses arriving, people camping on train stations because there are not enough means of transportation. I hear what the politicians say, the Hungarians, the Austrians, the Germans.

And I also see and hear about people helping – bringing food, clothes, toys, opening their houses. I see sign “refugees welcome”.

And the other ones, who think “the boat is full”, which is a especially ironic comment considering all those people on the little boats that sometimes  sink.

These are the big choices we are facing now:

What will we do? What will Europe do, its politicians, its people?

Will we face this together – that was the whole point of the EU right? – or will we revert to guarding our own little countries again, shutting the doors to the problems of the world and our neighbours?

Will we find a way of helping these people without tearing ourselves apart, without deepening the crevice that already runs through our society?

Back in the Netherlands, I am sitting at my desk, wondering. This might be the biggest challenge Europe has been facing since it managed to rise again after the horrors of World War II.

Let’s hope we are up to it.

 

 

 

 

 

Another lesson learned

I have already mentioned earlier that my stupid eye trouble taught me a few lessons (see “Lessons Learned”). Now I have come to the conclusion that these months have taught me something else, a bit disturbing, but still valuable.

Looking back at last November, December and even part of January, I see a different me than I normally am. I spent a lot of time lying on the couch, eyes closed. I meant, there were perfectly good reasons for that – my eye hurt a lot, or the stupid lens was misbehaving, and the only thing to make it better was put some drops in and give it some rest. But all this time of almost dozing off on my couch, with not much light around me – because it was a) wintertime, so not much light from outside, and b) bright light was not nice for my eye – did something to my mood, to my thoughts, to my normally quite energetic being. I seemed to be tired a lot, lost my drive, did not want to do anything anymore. Of course I had the perfect excuse – my eye. But I could have switched the radio on, listened to music, make plans in my head for my writing. I almost never did these kind of things. I just drifted away. After a while I would pull myself together, took care of the necessary things in the house. I would wash and clean and cook for my family, but besides that everything was on hold.

I think that for the first time in my life I came close to being something you could call “depressed”. Not my kind of thing at all, I would have told you before. I am either happy or angry or sad, but always with lots of emotion involved. I am not the passive type at all. But during this winter, I just let things happen to me. I let my eye trouble control me, instead the other way round. I waited for suggestions from the doctor, instead of researching myself, instead of demanding solutions. I just waited and hoped that everything would be over soon.

But when it took so much longer than I had expected, at one point I decided it needed to stop. Something needed to change. Luckily at that time I also saw a doctor who sympathised and talked and thought about how she could help, which gave me some sort of boost. Her idea of putting in much more drops (just moisturising ones, not medication) helped a lot to stabilise the lens that bothered me. Which resulted in me seeing better, having less problems. So my mind finally stopped going in circles around my eye trouble and starting thinking other thoughts again. And I finally got off that couch and into action again.

Now the lens has been removed for almost two months and my eye, while not completely back to normal, is behaving reasonably well.

But I keep thinking: wow. Is it that easy to loose yourself in grey thoughts? Is it that easy to let go, that easy to turn into someone you never thought you’d be?

I hope it makes me more alert, more aware the importance of staying active, both bodily and in your mind.

It certainly made me more sympathetic towards people who suffer from “grey mood” more often.

It certainly gave me a lot to think about.

Is it really April already?

I cannot believe more than a quarter of 2015 has passed already. It still seems the year has just started. And although I never intended to turn this blog into some sort of personal health rambling, I feel I need to somehow recapture the last months. Just to somehow bundle them up together for myself.

Ok. January. Started nice with watching fireworks on our balcony with the boys sitting on older one’s loft bed, staring out of the windows and pointing out the details to each other. “Look, the red one over there.” “There, the sparkly one!” “Wow, gold!” – But somehow in the course of the next day, I matched to catch the mother of all colds that kept me snotty and coughing and weak for almost the rest of the month. Small consolation that it seemed the whole of this country got the same and the many of the people I talked to where of worse, with fever and such. But still, I spent loads of the time on the sofa again sipping tea. (That sofa was bought as a cuddly reading sofa, not as a constant recovery site!)

When January and my cold where finally over, something new poked up its head: The umbilical hernia (needed to look up that one in the dictionary!) I have been living with since the last pregnancy suddenly turned from being a small beauty issue (a blotched belly button… who cares!) into a major pain. Literally. Hurt and was swollen. So I went to my GP, who sent me to the hospital, where I spent the entire afternoon waiting at the emergency help (don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining – it was very busy there and I obviously was not at the point of dying). They finally managed to sort of push the thingy back again and by that unblocking whatever was blocked. Pain gone. Relief. But they told me it needed surgery to not happen again. So, beginning of February I had my first “real” surgery with general anaesthetic. I have to admit I was a bit nervous, but it all went fine and I felt pretty good pretty quickly again. Two more days on that sofa… but in no time I was up again, just not allowed to carry anything more than my tea pot (ok, I made that one up – but in the beginning I really did not carry anything). Which was at least one opportunity to teach the boys to carry their own stuff, instead of dropping everything on the floor and letting Mummy be the family donkey.

In between of course my eye called for a bit of attention here and there, I experimented with different types of drops to keep it moist and happy, counting the days until that stupid bandage lens finally would come out. I know it was supposed to help my eye to heal, but in the end it was more of a trouble maker instead. The eye was much drier with it, and when it got too dry the lens started to either scratch or move around so that I could not see properly.

BUT: End of March finally came and the doctor removed the lens (I was so nervous … afraid he would say it needed to stay in longer…)! Yippee!!

First it felt like he had not taken something out but put something in. An additional eye lash for example that was facing the wrong way. But I told myself to be patient. After more than half a year of wearing the lens, it was logical the eye needed some time to adapt to its “freedom”.

And it slowly does. I am still putting in some drops to keep it happy, but it is needing less and less of them. The sun glasses, my constant companion since last summer, stay in my pocket more and more. I read more. I use the computer more. I start watching movies on the tv more. (Have not dared to go to the movie theatre yet, but that will come too.) Still it feels tired and grumpy sometimes, and I am very careful to react quickly to that. I really don’t want to get a relapse.

But I am hopeful.

And YES, my eye-sight is good again! I guess most of the feeling of short-sightedness was caused by the lens being dirty or making the eye dry so that it had not enough moisture for seeing properly or whatever.

And it is spring in my garden, the leaves come out, the clematis has started to climb again and yesterday the first three blossoms on the plum tree have opened – immediately visited by at least one excited hungry bee.

So, yes, I am happy.

(But I will resist the temptation of starting to read my favourite blogs today, on top of writing this post. Not too much too quickly. One thing at a time.)

Have a nice sunny week, everyone!

Eye Trouble Continued – My endless story

Isn’t it ironic? Roughly two months ago I happily announced my blog anniversary, stating how much I like the whole blogging thing and that I would definitely go on.

A few days later my stupid eye injury raised its ugly head again, so I cut down on screen time. Obviously this blog is the first to feel it – I do rely on email for a lot of daily communication, but blogging is something that is not strictly necessary. As is reading books and writing … all the things I love to do. You can imagine my humour dropped.

November was not great, but December was worse. I spent a lot of time lying on the couch with my eyes closed. I managed to attend all the important pre-Christmas events at school (Christmas concerts, Christmas dinner for the children), we spent Christmas at the in-laws (saved me some cooking at least), but looking back now it all seems a blur.

It slowly got better and the last few days I started feeling like me again – the active me with plans and ideas, running up and down the stairs in my house (yep, we are back home again), tackling the chaos, shopping for groceries, that kind of stuff. I actually opened the book I got for Christmas from my mother-in-law, and yes, I dare look at the computer screen for more than a few minutes in a row.

And I stopped wearing my sun glasses in the house.

I had a chat with my eye-specialist (if you could call it a “chat”: I kept asking questions and he mumbled answers). We agreed to give it one more chance: four more weeks wearing that contact lens for protection, then take it off and see how it goes. If it turns bad again (with or without the lens), I will have another treatment, this time with a laser – apparently the success rate is much higher than with the one I had before, so fingers crossed. (Yes, of course: when I heard that I was thinking: why didn’t we do that in the first place then??? But it is a bit more expensive, and the insurance wants to try the cheaper one first, thank you very much.) If I interpret his mumbling correctly, my eye doctor thinks the cornea does look better and better, so maybe I have a chance to dodge another operation after all. We will see.

So hopefully it continues to go up from here – and I can start thinking and writing about other stuff again. And catch up with my reading… Just thinking of all the cool posts I have missed…. even if I only try to catch up with my four or five favourite blogs, this will mean a lot of work for my eye… But I will try to be patient, finish this post and then go offline again. Start the catching up tomorrow, maybe.

It is almost end of the year. Time to close a few not so nice chapters. Time to move on and concentrate on the nice things. There were a lot of those in 2014 too.

Cheers!

 

Happy Birthday, Blog!

One year ago – after having thought about it for quite a while – I decided to give blogging a try. In the beginning I felt rather shy about it. It took me ages to pick a theme and think of a name for my blog. I tinkered around a lot – not because I am such a perfectionist, but because I did not want to put anything online that looked ridiculous.

I have already mentioned why I started the blog: to give some thoughts a home. And that worked out well. My intitial goal was to post something once a week – no really strict goal, just an idea, a number in my head to prevent me from getting too lazy. After one year this now my 40th post – not a big number, but ok. Especially if you take into account my stupid eye trouble, which reduced my screen time quite a bit.

What took me by surprise was how much I enjoy reading other people’s blogs. I do not follow a lot of blogs regularily, but there are a few I really try to keep up with. It sort of clicked when I read the first posts (with others there was no click at all.) To feel touched by the lives of people you have no other connection with than via their blogs, is special. When I read about their lives, their worries and moments of happiness, I feel worried or happy too. I do care.

So, a big thank you to all of them who share their lives, who have shown me new facets of being. Some of their lives are completely different than the ones I am living, some share some lines. But all of them give me food for thought, a different perspective and sometimes a good laugh.

 

Writing a bit, reading a lot, thinking even more. All in all, this has been a good blog year.

Happy birthday, blog. I will keep coming here.

Project “Smile”

We all know that friendliness can get us a long way, but it is one of these self-evident concepts that are easily forgotten in the daily routine.

But a few days ago I came across an online article about “smiling at strangers”. I would quote it here, but I seem to have lost it, cannot find it back. Anyway, the message was simple: It is amazing how positive people respond to kindness from complete strangers, even it is just a smile. The author states he has made a habit of smiling at all people he comes accross on the street. (Probably not when stuck in a crowdy street, though.)

I think that is a nice idea, although I am sure I won’t manage to smile at really everyone. Not that the people I see in our streets are that hidous, but smiling at complete strangers does feel a bit odd, at least for me. I mean, I very often smile at small children on the street, or at their mothers when the kids are either behaving irrestiably cute or being a real challenge (in the last case the smile is meant as a boost for the mums nerves). I smile and make ‘thank you’ gestures at cars that let me cross a street (or rather at the people sitting in the cars). But smiling at someone just in passing? Not so often. So I tried it when walking back from the shops today. I did not really manage to smile at the middle aged man with the umbrella (he did look so serious – but ouch! I guess I am middle-aged too!). I did look at him in a friendly way though. The next person I came across was an elderly lady with a walking aid and a red wolly hat. This was more easy, I smiled at her, not only with my mouth but with my eyes too. She looked a bit surprised and gave me a tiny, but happy smile back.

So this is my new project then. Trying to smile more at strangers. Being really friendly to people I am interacting with – people I do not know, but who serve me my coffee at the restaurant, who hand me my bread at the bakery, these kinds of things. Which does not mean I have been unfriendly towards them so far. But I think we sometimes wear a frown without even noticing, being deep in thoughts or just living in our own world. I will try to show a happy face to the world – honestly happy, not faking.

(Which means there will be days when I cannot manage because I do feel grumpy or sick with a heavy cold or suchlike. But I will try.)

And when I am already at it, I will try to keep the impatience out of my voice when my boys are in the “we are so busy we cannot be possibly listening to any requests from mum at the moment”-mode. But that is another story.

Have a nice day full of smiles!