Friday, April 18, 2014

Goede vrijdag

Today is Good Friday (or in Dutch, Goede vrijdag).  We're starting out with sunny weather, but it's supposed to turn to rain.  How fitting.  Today is also my birthday.  I'm forgoing any celebrations to honour our Lord's death instead, and I'm okay with that.  I'm listening to Taize songs, what they would be singing back in Canada.  I always loved Easter weekend at church, it's such beautiful music.  I don't care so much for the songs we're singing now.  Besides not understanding them too much yet, they just don't have the solemn 'feel' to them like Taize has.  We have no soloists.

I was a bit sad the other day about missing normal Easter routine at church, but while I was sitting in church Thrusday night, I got to witness new routines.  Our church is the diocesan church and we had like, 12 priests there AND the bishop, several altar servers, even a female deacon (I think? I'm presuming her position) and incense up the wazoo (it was fantastic).  It's always such a sight to witness such a gathering.

So I'm very curious about tonight's service.  I liked Good Friday service the best at COOL; I think they conducted and arranged it very well.  (A small note to anyone reading from COOL.. I can only imagine how stressed out J. is right now, thus stressing everyone else out.  Try not to kill anyone, eh. Hold fast, it's almost over) ;)

In other news... I have my first client!  A friend of mine has asked me to make brownies for her son's birthday on Monday.  Woot!  I just might throw in something a little extra for the "thanks for having faith in me".  :)

Remember how I said the recipes I'm doing are read by like.. 3000 or so people?  Yeah.. no.  Turns out the magazine doesn't have circulation in the whole town (short of volunteers to deliver).  So it's only read by 1800 people.  Wanna hear something, though?  One of the members of the editors team went to interview the other lady who also submits recipes (has been doing it for years, writes cookbooks and stuff) had my breadpudding recipe page open and the recipe made on the counter!  I couldn't believe it!  And then I worry, right.  Inner diaglogue: "Omg, I hope I gave correct measurements." "What if it turns out differently for her? (and not in a good way)" "What if.. " "What if... "  Bah.  I finally let it go and hoped for the best.

Taxes.  Oh, hateful taxes.  Do not move to another country and do your previous country's taxes.  It's hell.  Hell I tell you!  I can't file electronically, I have to do it by mail.  Which I haven't done yet.  Cause I'm still researching..stuff (best way to go about it, etc).  That will be my focus over the next couple days.

Stuff to do, so I best get to it.  I'm attending my first Stations of the Cross this afternoon (better late than never?).  Won't understand it much, but it'll be nice to see.  Then a choir member invited me over for dinner before we have to go back to sing tonight.  That was sweet :)

Oh.. remind me to tell you about how they celebrate birthdays in the Netherlands, later. :)

May you find time to reflect today and remain in prayer.  Peace be with you.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Thinky Thoughts

I have a few thoughts that have been building up for a while.  Or that.. my frustration has built up and I'm about to pop my top.  I have all of this... stuff... building up, like un-used energy, and I don't know what to do with it. Let's see what this blog post can do.

An observation I've had of late, is the word 'sorry'.  Europeans don't say it as much as we do.  Not half as much.  That's the one thing I (well, both W. and I, actually) noticed when I first came here, was how often I said 'sorry'.  We interject it into sentences or situations so smoothly and stealth-like.  I won't go so far as to say it's lost it's meaning.  I don't think it has.  I just think that we are short of taking ownership of it or our actions and over-using it.  (Addendum: when I say 'we' I mean Canadians. Americans use it a lot too, but I don't think as much as us, really.)  It came to the point that I would be out and about and maybe accidentally bump into someone at the store.  I would say 'sorry', cause that's what we do.  But when someone bumps into me, they don't say sorry.  I would have a knee-jerk reaction of thinking it was rude of them not to.  Okay, perhaps that's a bad example.  Or they'll cut ahead of you in an isle.  They don't apologize for that, either.  I view it as rude, they view it as simply taking their place.  They all do it and we both approach it with a completely different mentality.  One day a Dutch person said sorry to me and I had to turn around and look at them twice, it was so weird.  Now, don't go thinkin' Dutch people are rude.  They're not.  They're some of the kindest and nicest people I've met.  They just.. approach life a little differently.

Funny story; I was writing a recipe for the magazine and at one point I said (translated), "Feel free to add x, y or z to the recipe as other options." W. chuckles and calls me over and he said, "Um, honey.. this part here where you tell people to "feel free"?  Yeah, we don't say that.  You don't tell people here to 'feel free' to do anything. We were occuppied for 5 years... we just do it." Touche.  Fair statement.  After a bit of a laugh and feeling a little lot bad for potentially offending my fellow Dutchies, we removed it :)

So that's a classic example of their mentality, if it helps you at all.  I can't say I'd act any differently.

I find myself saying more and more that things are different here.  A part of me still expects some things to be the same.  Mass, for one, confession for another (these are just a couple examples off the top of my head).  I think these little 'changes' or frustrations are piling up and I'm not sure how I'm processing them in my head.  Holidays are different.  I've already said they don't have the same "whooplah" that we have for holidays back home.  Things aren't as commercialized here and maybe advertised a week or two ahead of the occassion (not 2 months).  My birthday is this coming Friday and I wanted to celebrate but a) I'm not going to celebrate it on Good Friday and b) this is Easter weekend.  Not a lot of people celebrate Easter (at least, not in our circle) but they may be out if the weather is nice.  I haven't bothered to ask for people over for a gathering, really, because I can't decide what I want to do or when I want to do it.  We also had plans to go away, but since then they have been cancelled.  This weekend is so much up in the air, it's making my OCD twitchy.  The only plans we have is his parents want to take us out for dinner (celebrating a double birthday; his dad's was Sunday) Saturday night.  Mind you, it's at one of my favourite restaurants, so it makes me happy :)  I really want to ask myself what I want and what's important to me.  Sure, there are a few kitchen gadgets I'd love to have (as I say half-jokingly), but I have everything I want; I'm where I want to be with who I want to be with and with a roof over our head.  What more can I ask for?  If I was back in Canada I would be having celebrations (multiple dinners, teas, coffees, visits) with the people I cared most about, but things are a lot different here.  It's rare to go out for dinner or tea or coffee.  If I really want to break it down (and be honest), I think I'm used to the anti-clamatic build up to events, and I'm not getting that here.  It's funny how much you notice it when it doesn't happen.  It's become so cyclical that it feels like something's missing when it doesn't happen.  So then I feel a bit down and dispirited.. and I'm not sure how to process it.

I'm not sure what to do for Easter Sunday.  Usually I would make a nice meal for a friend or two or three after a very full (in attendance) and joyful Easter Mass.  I would bake something special (Dulce des Tres Leche cake, anyone?).  There would be socializing.  And now... W. doesn't care 'cause he doesn't celebrate Easter, and if he's not ramped up about something, it's hard for me to get half as excited.  All of our inner circle doesn't celebrate Easter, so aside from (both of us) going to Mass, I'm on my own.  I have one friend who does celebrate it, but she'll be with her family (and please don't suggest I spend it with them).  I just don't know how to move forward right now.  I miss making a big deal of things.

Well, this post has taken a downturn.  Perhaps I should get up and get something done, move my right hip a bit (have been having problems).  The dishes don't do themselves, unfortunately.

I will talk to W. tonight though, and let him know my thoughts.  It's so easy to stay in your head about things sometimes that it's easy to pass over the fact that your other half can actually help you get over hurdles.  Even if it's just voicing your thoughts, it's nice to have them out in the open and not locked up.  It's easy to become independent (or for me, go back to my old ways), when we're really there for the other person to lean on.  And you know what, it's been a looooooooong time since I've said a prayer.  Perhaps I'll do that in my chores tonight.

Hope your world is treating you well.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

Well, the sad fact is that I'm house-bound today.  My chronic health issues have caught up with me and I'm having a bit of a pain day.  On the upside, I have enough energy to be in the kitchen in spurts (though I may need to lay down later), so I'm making grain-free crackers.  They're super easy and very good.  A guilt-free snack.  If you're interested, message me and I'll forward you the page/recipe.

W and I have changed our eating habits and have gone GF and lactose-free.  Basically it's the same diet I tried a year and a half ago.  Except this time.. it isn't going so well.  The more I think though, the more I remember it didn't go so easily in the beginning that time, either.  Still, I don't remember being in this much pain last time.  We've just been in this 2 weeks, so it's still early.  I need to persevere.  All of this is mostly what my blog title is about today.

I have been having a problem deciding what to write about.  A lot and a little has happened since I last wrote and most of the thoughts I have that I think I want to blog about, happen usually while I'm out and not near a pen and paper to write them down.  I always think I'll remember them and I never do.

Life in Dutch-land is good.  Spring has been here for a couple weeks, with the temperatures and greenery to show for it.  With the warm winter, I'm not sure what that'll mean for our summer.  We're getting lots of sun now (I think I heard March was a record) and it's nice to be outside.  I'm slowly putting pots out on the balcony (making sure we won't get anymore frost).

Choir is going well, when I'm able to go.  I'm sick (colds, etc) often since I moved, so I'm not there every week.

As I pass my time here I still can't believe how nice people are (usually, though there have a couple exceptions). I've been excercising my language muscles when I'm out more now. I've been developing more ideas for my business and will slowly start putting them into play. I'm happy I have developed a clearer vision.

Hmm.. I really don't have a lot to write about today.  Perhaps I'll pick another day when I can write something more specific.  I know it's been a while, so I wanted to at least show I was still alive :)  How is your spring going?  Your Lent?  Your diet?  Your friendships and relationships?  I hope you are taking care of yourself and all that is attached to you by faith, love or mind.

Friday, February 28, 2014

This Is Not the Movies (long post)

Warning: some language.

Let's be honest, this blog is my therapy.  Sure it's nice to write and catch you up on stuff, but it also helps me to talk about things that happen.  Like last night.  Sooo.... I'm gonna start out with the not so good.

The not so good: I was at choir last night for practice and already for the first song I was a bit overwhelmed.  Remember I'm learning new music to new words in a new section (alto).  Not only on top of having to pay attention to all of that, I have to *try* to understand what the director is saying (thank goodness for hand gestures).  Oh and hey, did I mention the song we were working on changed time like.. 5 times?  3/2, 4/4, 3/4, 5/8 and hey, let's bring it back to 3/2 time again.  I almost lost my shit.  Okay, so mostly I just listen and word-follow until I get the hang of it.  We're on a small break between songs and this old man behind me taps me on the shoulder and starts saying something in Dutch at like, 100 mph.  My head kind of spins at that point and I say with a smile, "Woa, sorry sweetheart, you're gonna have to say that in English." "You're going to have to learn Dutch!" he says.  I want to burst into tears.  Instead, I pull myself together in a micro-second and say pleasantly with a smile, "I am!" He received that well and continued to tell me he could put a 'map' together for me if I'd like (map in Dutch = folder in English).  I said that would be wonderful and anything will help.

I was 'off' the rest of the practice.  I wanted to walk away, do an ugly cry and sit in that church and ask God why the HELL I'm even here.  So I did that, at coffee break (where we practice is a separate room from the nave of the church).  I didn't really feel like conversing with anyone else, so The Big Guy and I had a few words.  I stood facing the altar.  Well, perhaps I was more upset and angry and maybe doing a, "I've gotten myself into this, please help me get out of it" stare.  I took a breath and returned to practice, fighting back tears and asking myself the entire time, "Why am I even here?" & angry at the man's remarks.  I knew it was going to take one asshole to make a comment like that, I'm just surprised it took so long.

Now don't get me wrong, I sing with very pleasant people.  This is just a man who didn't bother to think before he spoke; I've been to like, 4 practices, I've been in the country 8 months, I'm not fluent yet.. and you can't start rambling to me out of nowhere at 100 mph thinking I'm going to understand you.  This is me being defensive.  If I'm going to be proper about it, maybe I need to take ownership of what I said, and maybe he was the one being defensive.  Maybe I could have worded what I said differently.  This isn't the first time.  Maybe I need to acknowledge this instance shook me to my core because he hit a nerve.  If I'm *really* honest, I need to acknowledge I haven't been pushing myself as hard as I a) should be and b) normally would to learn the language.  Why?  Multiple reasons I guess, but it doesn't matter right now.

When you see Julia Roberts (Eat, Pray, Love) move to Italy, practicing the language, speaking fluently without any negative responses or heartache, it lends romanticism to being in a new country.

Nothing prepares you for this transition.  Absolutely nothing.  I walked into this knowing there would be hard days, I knew it wouldn't always be easy and romantic.  But some days just drop kick you out of nowhere and you're lying on the ground with cartoon stars and exclamation points shaking your head wondering wtf.

Don't get me wrong, I still want to be here.  I still want to continue living and creating a life here.  When you ask me how I'm doing, I'll say fantastic.  That's 'cause the good out-weighs the bad ten-fold.  I don't know what these days do.  I guess they sort of keep me in check, remind me (like I needed it) that I'm the foreigner, keep me grounded, that with 1 person who doesn't understand, there are 20 who do. I've been out of my comfort zone for 8 months.  Do I even have a comfort zone here?  I don't know what defines that, yet. Also, I think your perception of inhabiting a country is different for when you just visit, or move there permanently.

Bah.  Enough of that stuff.  I need to catch you up on the good.

The great: I went to the retirement home a few weeks ago and had a meeting.  It went fantastic!  In a strange twist of fate, I went in inquiring about socializing with the residents, but once she heard about my food/kitchen experience, she was on me like white on rice to volunteer in the kitchen.  I don't think I could have said no if I wanted to :P  She told me they barely use their kitchen anymore (they bring food in).  Maybe basic things like soup or stamppot.  There's an oven there that's barely being used.  "Oh, that's so sad!" I said. "It is!" she returned.  So she was going to talk to her collegue and get back to me.  We now have a meeting next Thursday.  Dude... a kitchen all to myself.  I can't even wrap my head around it.  She took me for a tour and indeed, it was pretty empty.  That lonely oven was just sitting there, calling to me :P  So we'll see what they need me for and how else I can contribute.  The cogs are already turning.

I've created a Facebook page for my "business" (I still use the term loosely as I'm not fully developed yet), FKNL (Food Knows No Language).  Please go 'like' it if you haven't yet!  And W and I were looking at web hosting sites to see who we should go with, to make a webpage.  I still have to price my recipes, order packaging, make sure I have an extensive list of what I want to sell.  These are all tedious things and I keep putting them off.  When we create the webpage, I'll publish it here so you can take a look!

We've had great weather lately.  Temperatures have been hovering around 10 degrees C lately (aside from today and the next few).  Still, being so close to the sea it's cool and often windy.  Doesn't feel as nice as 10 degrees should.  I hear you're still getting hammered with snow back in Canada.  You must be sick of it.  Hang in there, March is just around the corner.

Busy day today so I'm going to get moving.  Not many plans for the weekend; W works tomorrow so I'm not sure how I'm going to fill my time.  I have a chat date in the afternoon though, that I'm highly looking forward to.  Sunday we've asked W's parents over for breakfast (pancakes - Canada style).  Maybe I'll go to market tomorrow morning, if the weather is pleasant (read: not raining).

Hope you have a great weekend!  Have fun!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Jobs? What Jobs?

So.. I'm really not 100% happy with yesterday's post.  I had a mix-mash of thoughts/emotions and I couldn't quite get them out and be as articulate as I would have preferred.  Yet it was a start and I think it's helped force me make more decisions (mentally) about letting go of this 'protection dome' I've created around myself.  I really need to let down all my defences (eek!) and get more involved in life.  This is my silent battle.

Anyhoo, the point of this post was to show you what I'm up against for jobs.  I believe when I first got here I told you I wasn't accepted for a job due to my age. This poster in a floral shop at the station is a prime example. Click to enlarge.

It says, "We are looking for an enthusiastic sales person/flower arranger (for lack of better translation), for 20 hours a week, must live in Leeuwarden. Age +/- 16 up to 19 years. Interested? Contact... yada yada yada.. "
 
Bah.  It's all crap.  Everyone around here is used to it but I sure as hell ain't yet.  It's all about money. Just wanted to show you that so you see for yourself that I'm not crazy :) 
 
I'm heading to the gym after lunch, coming home, having a quick shower and heading to the retirement home after.  Wish me luck!
 



Tuesday, February 4, 2014

More Confessions (a long, rambling post)

I remember a quote that has stuck with me from many years ago, "Face fear with fear." I might have challenged the phrase a bit in my head now and then, but for some reason it always stuck with me.  Or perhaps you've heard,"There's nothing to fear but fear itself." That one is easy - fear can cripple you and incapacitate you.  Sometimes we give our fears too much of a voice and they take centre stage.  Sometimes we actually get to play the main character and tell fear to f*ck off.  I'm trying to make today one of those days.

In usual fashion, I'm voicing things outloud here that I haven't fully given voice to otherwise.  I think it's something I need to write down to make more tangible instead of continuously kicking it around in my head.  I think today I am ready. 

When I was at my 6-month mark here (Jan 4th) I felt a sort of shift; I became a bit more comfortable, a bit more settled.  Not completely, of course, but a new sort of settled than I was before.  The past month (wow, it actually has been a month as of today; I am now here 7 months) I've done a bit more shifting, a bit more... remembering how I would like things to be (instead of always feeling overwhelm or just trying to figure shit out or plan my future for the next 6 months).  This is good because it helps shift my perspective.  I think I've become a little self-absorbed (not in a way that affects others, in fact I have kept this persona very quiet and personal) when instead I need to be self-absorbed but in a, "I need to do .. whatever action... for my own benefit and productivity" sort of way.  I don't know if that makes sense?  Anyways, I'm getting off on a tangent.

I've neglected to inquire at the local seniors centre for volunteering because I know immediately there will be a language barrier.  Sometimes I get so (mentally) exhausted having to translate things in my head (rather what they're saying to me or what I need to say to them) that I just want to throw in the towel at the end of the day and not even try and just take a break.  I don't want to deal with puzzled looks, hesitations, fumbling.  It really is exhausting.  Even thinking about it exhausts me and causes anxiety.  But, I signed up for it, so I suppose I should suck it up.  Anyways, fear of a few things has prohibited me from speaking to anyone at the retirement home and I've just kept putting it off.  In fact, I originally had the plan of a girlfriend to come with me for support; she would do intro discussion and I didn't mind carrying on the rest, with some translation help of course.  She's incredibly busy, though, and getting together is difficult.  I haven't been ready to go it alone.  Until this week.  I don't want to wait anymore.  My desire to volunteer there because it's something I know I enjoy doing is starting to outweigh my fears of putting it off.  So I'm going to try to take my fear - the part of me that paralyzes me and incapacitates me - and go speak to someone at the home.  The worst that can happen?  We don't understand each other and I go back with my friend, or W. The best thing that could happen?  It gets the ball rolling right away.  I think that's  part of what scares me, too; that it's going to force me more interaction into people/society than I've had yet (which involves of course, more puzzled looks, more translations, more hesitations.. more exhaustion) but I have to treat this the way I did with choir; maybe my fears are bigger than reality.  Maybe I will be well received, even speaking mostly English, and I'll actually get along okay.

Since I'm getting over (yet another) cold, I went for a walk tonight instead of going to the gym.  It was dusk and there was just enough light to go around the neighbourhood for half an hour.  I was very cognizant of my walking; it was brisk, I was clenched and had irratic breathing.  No.  This was meant to be a relaxing walk.  I had to actually force myself to slow down my pace and breathing.  When more calm, I would still notice feelings of anxiety pop up now and then; I just had to breathe them out.

The theme that's been presented to me the past few days is to "let it go," whatever 'it' happened to be (I can think of a few examples where this applies).  Without going into a long story and making this an even longer post, I have been exhibiting possible personal attributes that are causing me to 'protect myself' (I use the term loosely). Protect myself from what I don't know, but I think being in a new land has affected me on a deeper level than I'm able to realize.  Getting on the plane and coming here was the easy part.  Integrating permanently in a country where you don't speak the language?  Much harder.  Whatever 'it' is that I'm protecting myself from, I need to let go of those fears.  I have to remind myself I'm surrounded by caring friends and family that are hella supportive and will catch me if I fall.  Oh... but what if I succeed.  I think for me that's even scarier.  But that's a whole other post.

So.. onward I go.  That's where my thinking stops, so if I come up with more you can be sure to hear from me. 

Hope the week is treating you well.

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Catch Up, Travels & History

Well, another month has flown by.  You shouldn't be surprised it's taken me this long to write (I am surprised, but that's every time I sit down to write; it's like Groundhog Day).

So much to tell, but where do I start?

Choir - I've gone to 2 practices.  Very nice people, very proper and most of them are older. If someone doesn't recognize me they immediately walk up, shake hands and introduce themselves.  Do I remember names?  Not at all.  I do well to remember names at best when in English, but in new circumstances in Dutch - forget it.  Still, I reply in kind and make it obvious I'm the new Canadian girl.  The lady I sat next to last week though was from New York, so her English was fantastic.  Phew.  I will email her and ask her any questions I have; she seemed to know her stuff and communicating with her will be easy.  It turns out we don't sing every Sunday in church, though.  Not what I'm used to, but given current schedules I welcome it.  We don't sing until Feb 23rd, and that's in another church.  It seems we're the parish choir (which would explain our size; I still haven't counted all the people yet but I'm guessing around 40 or so) and we hop around between 3 churches.

I had my interview for the magazine W. volunteers for and submitted not one, but two recipes.  Read by almost 4000 people, they will learn who I am, why I came here and what brings me into the kitchen so often.  So yeah.  I don't know what I'm expecting from it, or that I'm expecting anything at all, but even when you say you "don't care" there is still a part of you that wishes for feedback or some sort of acknowledgement.  So we'll see.

I had to turn down meeting a friend in Paris the other day.  Seriously?  Who gets to say, "Oh, so sorry, but I can't get to France or Switzerland this weekend." Who says that?!  Apparently I do and it blows my mind.  I consider myself fortunate.

Last weekend (or maybe it was the weekend before) W. and I went to Zwolle; We hadn't travelled in some time and I was gettin' antsy.  For the religious folk, Thomas a Kempis settled here in 1399.  The city centre (centrum) is surrounded by a moat and canals for protection (established in the 17th century) and was also surrounded by town walls (which only survive on the north side of the city now). In the town centre in the Grote Markt is the Grote Kerk where public executions took place (we were both surprised to hear this). Unfortunately the church was closed when we got there so we couldn't go in.    I posted a couple pictures on Facebook, but for those that don't have it, I've included them plus a couple more. Click to enlarge.


The Sassenpoort, from 1409 and it's the town's oldest mediëval gate. The following pictures are beneath the gate.
 
 

 
 

 

 

 



Closer, on the outside
 

Outside

Outside (and W.).
 

Grote Kerk (1614) where the executions took place. The sign reads, "Watch and Pray".
 

Part of the town wall. I believe the steps were added after?  But we're not sure.
 

Town wall.
 

Town wall.
 
 
An old church converted to a bookstore. It was pretty :)
 

Town wall (and W.)
 

Town wall, bridge that raises when boats go by in canal.
 

Town wall. Sign out front a restaurant says you're welcome to board on the pannenkoekenship (pancake ship).  Pannenkoeken boats are a Dutch novelty; since the ships aren't used anymore, they're put to use for your eating pleasure.  Not in this visit but a recent one in Leeuwarden, I finally ate at one and it was quite good.  Dutch pannenkoeken (pancakes) are different than North American pancakes (larger and a bit flatter, but not quite a crepe).
 

Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk (Our Lady's Church). They were supposed to be open but opened late, even despite waiting around 20 min for them. Originally a Catholic church (the last sermon was in 1580), the Protestants took it over in the Reformation and finally gave it back in 1809.
 

Entrance to unknown church.  Guessing from the way it's set up, it's not used very often.
 
 
This city was amazing.  I got to geek out in a couple kitchen stores (I will be back!) and I got to touch walls that are 700 years old.  I was out of my head.  Incredibly humbling.  I could imagine those walls have seen a lot and I, in a way, felt my place in the world.  Small, but significant.  Each one of us makes up a whole and contributes to some sort of history. 
 

Phew! That was a lot.  So.. I need to not sit at the computer anymore :)  Hope you enjoyed the pics!  I am going to have lunch, do some cleaning up and organizing and prepping tonight's dinner.  W. has planned a surprise for me for my 6th-month anniversary here (which was actually Jan. 4th).  Can't wait!
 
Doeg!


Friday, December 27, 2013

Fa La La La La, La La La Laaaaaa...

I meant to come on here sooner and wish you a Merry Christmas, but I kind of failed at that.  Sorry!  So Merry belated Christmas.  Hope it was everything you needed and you were bestowed with the blessings that you deserve.

This Christmas was an awkward one.  No familiar faces, weather or traditions. I'll give you a 2-second background.  The Netherlands, as a whole, doesn't celebrate Christmas in any way like we do; there isn't the commercialism like we have back home (which I'm thankful for).  Christmas is for Christians and for going to church.  As far as I understand it, not about presents or things like that (as a rule; but not every house is like this. Some do celebrate and have gatherings!).  So no matter what we did, it didn't feel right.  Which isn't to say I didn't enjoy myself, but just different, y'know?  We opened our presents Christmas Eve evening (I got an mp3 player! It'll help a lot at the gym!) because Christmas Day we got up and out the door for Mass.  Then his parents picked us up at the church and we spent the day with them.  They even added to my snowman collection :)  Best of all, they got us a new toy.  Okay, it was addressed to us, but really it's for me ;)


A Philips (his dad works there) 3-in-1 food processor/blender/grinder.  I was speechless.  I needed these products *so bad*.  In fact, I even hugged the box (they've got a pic of that, conveniently).  I've even contemplated giving it a name.....

Well, not much else to say today.  I've got some organizing to do.  I might start slowly taking decorations off the tree.  We're hosting a brunch Sunday so I have to plan for that to shop for it tomorrow *and* head to IKEA to exchange under-the-cupboard lights.  I swear, we should have stocks in that company by now for the amount of times we're there.

Oh!  I almost forgot.  I met with Father from church (the meeting I mentioned before) and it went well!  In fact, he emailed the choir director introducing me; I wrote her back... and it looks like I'm now in the St. B choir.  Eek!  Next rehersal is Jan 9th, I think.  I asked her if she saw any problems with my low Dutch vocabulary to which I got the response, "Well, learn it!" (So Dutch.)  And I am... but since I've been learning general vocab and food vocab, I now have to learn music vocab.  She said she has an Italian with her and she does fine, so I should be okay.  And it's funny how I'm approaching it; I am resisting change so much and so worried about how I'm not going to understand things and figure I'll get overwhelmed and lose track and.. and... and I never stop to think that maybe people will be patient and understanding and it won't be such a difficult transition after all.  So I'm trying to keep an open mind. 

Cultural Differences: to note (before Christmas is REALLY over); Christmas trees - are (9 times out of 10) decorated with white lights, not Multi-coloured.  Heaven forbid you decorate your tree with coloured lights ("it's not as pretty") or - gasp - twinkling lights.  lol.  Hearing some of their comments make me giggle (though I do like white lights...).   There is your random information of the day.

Up and moving I go!  Hope you're having a great week!


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

There Are Good Days, and Then There Are Bad...

I went to the gym yesterday to meet up with a new friend.  Found her, chatted a bit and started on my workout.  Yesterday was just cardio so I hit the treadmill for a half an hour.  There were two women to my left who seemed to know each other and were talking.  After warming up, I increased my speed and started running for a few minutes.  They seemed amazed (?), said something to each other, then the lady closest to me looked over and said something Friesian with a smile.  I said in response (also with a smile), "Sorry, I only speak English." So she nods, turns around and starts talking to her friend again as if I didn't exist.  I received no acknowledgement at all. 

*blank stare*

Wtf just happened?  I was more put off by her rudeness not acknowledging me, than by her refusal to speak English.  This is what I face here sometimes.  When I say they don't speak English here... THEY DON'T SPEAK ENGLISH HERE. 

When I detach my emotions from the situation, I can tell you she was startled at the English as it's not regularly encountered, probably felt too timid to try and it was just easier to not talk at all (at least, I hope this is it).  Was it rude?  Yes.  Is it a common response?  Not entirely.  When I ask people to say what they said in English, they get put off by it and don't repeat it at all, but at least most continue some form of conversation.  Also, if I step back, I could have approached the situation differently and responded in a way that was more open, and not perhaps closing off the conversation.

By the time I'd gathered myself together and thought of a proper, friendly response, they were done and had walked away.  Fail.

If I put my emotion back into it (like I did last night), I felt shunned, tiny, distant from a place I'm trying to connect, insignificant, like a jerk, wonder why I bother... I could make a list.  It also was a straw that broke the camels back and it felt 10 times worse than the situation actually was. It was another reminder that I'm the minority, this isn't my original home turf and I am of course the one that has to keep adapting, not necessarily them (at least I feel, more so).

My lack of response bothered me.  The past few years and the move especially, I've become this person who doesn't say anything, tries to be the nice guy and let's things just smooth over.  Anyone who knows me knows that's not who I am.  I don't get walked over.  I stand up for moments when I feel I'm being disrespected.  I give my opinion.  I'm a very passionate person.  I'm not a little mouse in the corner, I'm a raging lion.  Only, I know the reactions to the raging lion weren't always great and I have indeed become the little mouse - and now I'm trying to find a happy medium between the two.  So many circumstances have come up lately that this has now become something that I can no longer ignore.  It's time to change. 

How do you see this behaviour when you expected more of yourself and are disappointed on so many levels... and still practice self-compassion?  Brené Brown suggests expressing this intention, "I will talk to myself the same way I talk to the people I love."  When your best friend or partner is beating on themselves for particular behaviour, do you say, "Yeah, you're being a jerk. You really shouldn't have done that. What were you thinking?"  No.  We approach them with love and kindness and give them the best empathetic response we can.  It doesn't make saying that to ourselves any more acceptable. 

I have to practice what I preach.  Which is not easy.

Y'know what?  It really sucks having to be a grown up sometimes.  The only thing I wanted last night was to shut off, escape somewhere where my problems ceased to exist.  I wanted to not make an effort.  I wanted my home, my city, my street, my cat, my friends.  I wanted the familiar.  I am building a (fantastic) friend base here, but it just didn't feel the same to reach out to them.  I wanted to call someone up from back home, go for a coffee and vent it off and go window shopping. 

Instead, I cried it off, called it a day, woke up and brushed myself off and am trying this thing called life integration again.  Hiccups will happen, I know that.  This just reminded me to keep my wits about me and to try and remain more open to those around me who might have a harder time at adjusting to conversation than I do. 

In the end I am thankful I get to learn about myself.  Onward and upward!

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