… Hello 2017

Originally I had planned to write something about the New Year on January 1st. But then I thought, maybe that is not really fair. Maybe I should give the New Year a couple of days to make itself at home before I start questioning it. I mean, is there anyone out there who feels great on January 1st? Come on, be honest! I bet almost everyone feels either hangover or tired or both. I normally feel very, very tired. Staying up late just it not good for me. But of course I stay up until midnight for the count down and the fireworks, and then, when I would like to go to sleep, I can’t, because this is the Netherlands and everyone keeps on shooting fireworks until at least 2 o’clock. So I never get to sleep until around half past two. And then, thanks to my little ones, the night is over in a wink. And I get up, look at the reflection of myself in the mirror and say “oh yes, you definitely look one year older than yesterday, my dear”. So the whole day I am feeling like I have clouds of tiredness in my head. It usually gets better in the evening, and when it is bed time, I am almost awake again. Then I of course stay up a bit longer to enjoy the lovely feeling of not being tired. Which leads to more tired cloudiness in the morning…

To cut a long rant short, the first days of the New Year are generally not my best. It feels a bit like a jet-lag – maybe that’s what it is: I am jet-lagged from the Old Year and need to get accustomed to the new one. Something like that.

But now the New Year has had a whole week to gently pull me into its own timezone, and I am getting the feeling I have finally arrived in 2017.

So, let’s have a look.

The newspapers thankfully have also recovered from looking back into 2016 and start to center their attention on present times again. Or rather, on the future – elections and other milestones of the coming months. But they do look at the present state of our society too, trying to analyse it from new angles. Maybe that is the best thing about starting a new year: everyone feels they can put aside old habits and ideas and start with a fresh sheet of paper. And although it is quite common to sneer at all the resolutions and plans, and make jokes about how everything will be back to normal again in a few weeks time – I still think we all have the chance to change things this year. Maybe not be completely different, being an “all new person”, but doing a few steps in new directions, hopping out of the comfort zone for a bit. Have a fresh look at old things. Maybe being a bit more open to other people, listen not only to what they say, but also to what they mean.

Maybe, if we all try to get rid of those clouds in our heads – clouds of tiredness, clouds of prejudice, of resentment and the dense fog of distrust, maybe we can keep the feeling of a fresh start for a little longer. And then, at the end of this year, maybe the newspapers won’t be all centred on the bad things – on the other hand, they probably will be anyway, because newspapers live on bad news, but maybe more people will say: “Hey, they got it all wrong, 2017 was a great year, actually.”

I choose to try.

What about you?

🙂

 

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Good Bye 2016 …

It is New Year’s Eve and like the previous years, I am sitting in the living room with my laptop, the Christmas tree in view, the sound of fireworks in my ears (although it is only around 22.30, but that’s the Netherlands for you), thinking and typing away.

2016. What a year. Loads of controversy, debates, violence, without doubt.

And if you believe the newspapers, 2016 was dominated by all these negative things. My newspaper had a special section today that – pages after pages – looked at all the people that have died in 2016. The VIPs of course, not the countless victims of war in Syria and likewise. I leafed through it and thought, guys, can you stop doing this? Are we really going to define this year by the prominent deaths that happened? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I do understand that the deaths of these people feel important for some. But do we have to define a year by them? In 2015 one of my favourite authors, Terry Pratchett, died. I was sad, very sad, but I would not have dreamed of calling 2015 “the year when Pratchett died”. – Who knows what great minds have been born in 2016, we just don’t know it yet, because they are still busy drinking milk and having naps.

So, can we not define this year by death please?

As for the political things that went wrong this year, yes, there are quite a few. As for terror, yes, we cannot deny it is here, in our midst.

But.

But does it really help to make a list of only the bad things? Does it make us feel better? Does it help the victims? Does it un-do the political change that happened? It cannot, of course. So what do we hope to achieve by colouring a whole year black?

Because also good things happened. Try it for yourself: type “good things that happened in 2016” in Google, and see the lists coming up. Some are long, some are shorter, a lot of them are rather silly, others are heartwarming. The important thing is: there are loads of them. My personal favourite is this one:

The 99 best things that happened in 2016, from Ebola’s eradication in West Africa to saving the manatees

It gives you the feeling that not all was lost in 2016. And I think we really need to hold on to that idea. Yes, terrible things happened in 2016. Some of the political decisions seem like a big step backwards, a step in the wrong direction. But some right steps have been taken too. People died, but people also were saved. People were born, people grew a little older, who might change things in a positive way in the future. We should not close our eyes to the bad things, but we should do our best not to let them define us. Because then they have won.

So let us take in that year, with all the good and bad, try to balance it in our mind. Let us think about what we can learn from it. Let us think what good things we can take from it. And then, let us turn around, face 2017. Let us make it a good one. I still believe we can.

Happy New Year.

🙂

Here it is – 2016

Yesterday shortly after 11 pm, Husband and I set out for the beach. We walked there – taking the car would have been outright silly and we thought it would be too crowed to sensibly bike there (in the end, I guess biking would have been ok, but walking was still nicer). Even though it was an hour before midnight, we could already see at lot of fireworks. (What happened to the idea of actually greeting the new year with fireworks when it was really there, not hours before? But ok, it did look cool and it gave us something to watch on our way.) On the beach they had erected a huge bonfire over the last few days (actually there were two – one one either side of the harbour entrance). At midnight, the real fireworks started (meaning it got really loud and really colourful) and then the bonfire got lit. It looked good, with a very showy flame, helped along by the right amount of wind. Shortly after that a faint drizzle started that sort of spoiled the whole thing a bit – you could see many people starting to head home, us included, me having made the same mistake I always make at these occasions: dressing too lightly. I had thought, oh, it is so mild anyway, without thinking of a) the wind b) the fact we would be standing still for some time. So I already was slightly cold and did not need to add being completely wet. When we arrived home, Granny had already tugged the boys in (who had watched the fireworks from the big windows upstairs). We stayed a bit longer, as you cannot really sleep before 2 a.m. anyway, when noise from all those fire crackers starts to fade.

I got up this morning with my usual first-of-January-feeling: very tired (did not manage to fall asleep until long after 3 a.m.), slightly grumpy about being tired, slightly feeling strange because it is supposed to be a new year but really only is a new day, but with a new way to write the date. Usually it takes some time until I can write the proper year without flinching. (So, let’s practice: 2016, 2016, 2016….) But the sun was shining, which was good, and the boys were reasonably friendly with each other, which always helps.

After lunch I decided it was time for a Zen moment, took my bike and headed off for the beach again. It had gotten colder, like it often does after new year (funny, does the weather have a calendar too?), but this time I had dressed more sensibly. The first thing I noticed was how empty the streets around our house were. Everyone seemed to be either still having lunch or taking a nap. The second thing I noticed was the dirt that was lying around in front of many houses: the remnants of the fireworks, sticks and paper wrappers and stuff. Some spots were covered with red cracker wrappers. Normally I would not describe our area as dirty, but today many streets were outright filthy. What happened to cleaning up after yourself? I mean, even if you are too tired in the evening or claim it is too dark, why can’t people pick up a broom in the morning and clean up the mess they made? Fireworks are not really environment friendly anyway, but at least you could try to limit the damage. Oh well.

When I came closer to the beach, I realised where all the people where: there. The beach is still big enough that it did not look crowded, but the streets were. It always amazes me how many people still try to take their car to the beach on days like this. I mean: public holiday, clear sky, sunshine… not a good idea to take the car there. There are enough parking spots now I guess, but the streets leading to and from the area had sprouted traffic jams. I weaved through them with my bike, locked it next to loads of other bikes on the boulevard and started my walk on the sand.

The big bonfire had burned down to a big heap of ashes, still producing smoke. Some diggers were busy transferring the ashes on trucks. Every time they dug into the ashes, thick dark smoke came out, twice I could even still see a flame. It must still have been very hot in there.

People were walking on the beach, alone, in pairs, in groups, with children or dogs or both. Quite a lot of surfers where out too. I could feel the sun in my face, amazing that it has some strength even in January. In spite of all the people, I still managed to keep my feeling of being on my own. My beach, my sea, my sky. Briefly I considered dropping in at one of the cafes for coffee, but I did not feel like speaking. Plus when I passed them I saw how crowded they where, so I just enjoyed the smell of fresh coffee coming from there and walked on.

When I pedalled home on my bike later, a saw a girl, maybe thirteen, fourteen years old, blond hair, cleaning the street in front of her house with a broom. I smiled at her, but she was too busy to notice me. She had a look of serious concentration on her face.

Faith in humankind restored. We can do this. 🙂

Welcome, 2016. We may have greeted you in a way that was showy but messy, but we can still make it good.

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!

 

Random New Year Thoughts

Could it possibly be that the special New Year’s Feeling everyone is talking about is just a huge wave of tiredness?

When I woke up yesterday morning (it being January 1st) my first thoughts were something along the lines of “ooooohhhh I am tired”. You see, I did not simply wake up, I was woken up by Younger Son. And although it was a really merciful hour (8.30 – everyone with young kids will agree that this great!), still all I could think was “oh nooooo”.

We did not even have a party on New Year’s Eve, no crazy stuff. Husband and I spent a quiet evening reading, writing, tinkering, listening to music. But of course we stayed up until midnight, event though at 21.30 I thought how nice it would be just to fall asleep on the sofa and miss the whole stuff. Around 23.30 I felt rather awake again though, so we fetched the bubbly drink, followed the countdown on Husband’s phone (you would not believe it, but the radio station we were listening to switched from music to commercials for the last two minutes of 2013, followed by the news – at least they had the decency to wish everyone a Happy New Year before they started to read the news) – then we had a kiss and a drink 🙂

Afterwards we ventured upstairs, having promised the boys to wake them for the fireworks. This was the first time Younger Son had requested this and I had my doubts he would wake up happily at this hour. On the stairs we were greeted by Older Son in his pyjamas, with ruffled hair, blinking sleepily without his glasses, looking unbelievably cute. We asked him how he had managed to wake up at exactly the right moment. He just smiled. Younger Son was remarkably easy to wake, and soon all four of us were settled on the the sofa in Older Son’s room, looking out of the big window. Husband and I each had a cuddly son wrapped in his blanket sitting on our laps, and so we watched as outside a beautiful show on the sky unfolded.

I have to say I am sort of ambivalent about the whole concept of fireworks. On the one hand I see all the news articles about children (and adults) getting hurt when shooting stuff into the sky, plus it creates an immense amount of dirt, plus I won’t event think about the billions of Euros that are just sent puff into nothingness – but it does look pretty. (I only like the colourful ones… I really hate the loud crackers that only go boom and scare everyone to bits.) So the idea that has been discussed here, that instead of private fireworks there should only be ‘official’ fireworks organised by the cities, that one does not sounds too bad for me. But the league of fireworks lovers shout out in despair, since they love to do their own stuff. Oh well, I guess there won’t be any change here soon. I just wish those kids would be more careful (my boys luckily are very nervous around fireworks until now… they won’t go near it).

When the lights in the sky got less and less, we managed to get two happy boys back to their beds – Younger Son went out like a light, the older one took a while to settle back to sleep. Husband and I stayed awake for a little longer, lingering in the living room, having a late night snack. So it got really late in the end – thus my feeling of “ohhhhh I am tired” next morning.

After a cup of tea my thoughts managed to go a bit further. I still felt tired like anything, and the whole concept of having a whole new year in front of me somehow seemed a lot. But in the end it was just another day, as usual. On Monday school will start again for the boys, and it won’t be “new” at all – no new school year, just a new term, same teachers, same friends, same routine.

So what did I get out of the whole ado around the concept of “New Year”?

I got 45 minutes of sitting there with my family in the dark, watching the sky turn into our own private light show, watching the boys go “ooohhh” and “aahh”, seeing them pointing out especially nice ones to each other. Feeling them cuddle against me, listening to them comparing the colours and effects. It was for sure the cosiest New Year’s Eve I have ever had.

That’s a lot to be happy about, isn’t it?