Monday, 18 December 2017

Online and on paper

In May 2012 I elected to start blogging. My intention was to note down something every day of my 60th year. Well, a hard act to follow. It didn't happen every day. Pity but practically it just wasn't 'do-able'. Still, we are quite a few years on and I do manage to post a blog at regular intervals. Some pauzes wider than others but I do try to keep the momenten going. Occasionally I re-visit the previously posted blogs. I re-read about events, thoughts and even long held beliefs. Interesting. Some thoughts and ideals were obviously raw, long held or newly formed. I can see changes here and there too

My writing style could be described and 'verbal'. I tend to hold a conversation in my mind and place those words on paper, so to speak. Well not only so to speak. I do actually commit my blogs to print. So much joy and pride in receiving my books when they reach my mailbox. I have quite a few blog books adorning my shelves now. The process isn't hard, the prices even for me, as non earner, within reach. The satisfaction I experience is priceless.

Recently I 'went to print' not wanting to wait before I closed off the year. Felt bit fake to write just for the sake of writing so I could print my work. The program I use for this is available to many blog programs. It is called Blog2Print. Not sure whether there are other options available. I've even lent the books out to friends who aren't very internet minded but still want to read the fruits of my imagination. Very flattering.

The shortest day is approaching as is the feast of Christmas and the leap over into a New Year. Both these festive moments have reached their fair share of doom and gloom. My mother dying in the first hour of 2011 and my dear sweet father in law dying 19th December and not being able to be laid to rest till after Boxing Day. It has taken some time to regain that child like enthusiasm to freely and with unbridled joy celebrate these days. This year, which is one of few, I won't be cooking for Christmas dinner being happily tempted to eat out. With my children en grandchildren half a world removed from mine, missing family somehow affects me more than most days ( except for their birthdays when all I want to do is cuddle them and be physically part of the celebrations).

Despite the "missing them" I am surround by others whom I also care deeply about. Yesterday our home was filled with laughter, chatter and lots of noise. It was 'cousins' day. My husband and brother in law have a close family bond with these cousins. We decided to invite them to dinner. Feeding 16? Some thought it a chore to avoid, be afraid of or not even entertain. I reveled in the preparations, the oohs and aahs when they saw the buffet loaded with dishes. Ending 2017 on a high note- well this was certainly one I wouldn't have wanted to miss.

Time has flown. It has been a full on year with lots happening. We celebrated New Year with friends over from Scotland. My brother in law kicked off 2017 by deciding to purchase an other apartment and now lives in the same building as we do. I travelled to see my children and grandchildren in New Zealand and Australia. We, hubby and I, made a trip in the MG to Italy. Most memorable. I am involved in a training for become a Nature Guide for school groups who want to visit our National Park. Hours and hours of our time was spent helping paint, pack, sort out and help brother in law get settled into his new home. I can honestly say, 2017 was full of surprises, joys and sorrows and some events planned but altered at the last moment. It also brought good news and sad! A dear friend has been told that treatment is no longer an option, another is in hospital and my dear, darling, love her to bits aunt died in September.  I also discovered that a friend from years gone by had died at an early age quite affecting me more than I thought possible. Death, when it comes to those close, has a habit of emphasizing one's vulnerability.

But is wasn't all bad news. My grandson from Australia is preparing to visit for 2 months this coming year and a friend from New Zealand is arriving mid June. After a wee while here she and I are off to Wales. My hubby and I have a special celebration in the offing and my 65th birthday is happening while my grandson is here. With all these events in the planning I will have lots to look forward to, share and write about.

This is my last blog for the year 2017. Not quite one a week, 40 in total. Who knows whether I'll meet my weekly target next year. Time will tell.

Wishing you all every joy, fun, laughter, friendship and love this season and the year 2018 to come. Thank you for reading my stories, sending messages and somehow being part of this wonderfully colourful life of mine. Blessings to you all.


Sunday, 26 November 2017

Lots of the same - lots different.

I have 2 places I can call home. My country of birth where I once again reside, and the country I learnt to call home, where my 3 children were born and was my home for 30 years.

In the country of my birth I have been to primary school, had my first job and have a wonderful group of friends. Not to mention all the family connections. I can visit my birthplace and that of both my parents and 3 out of 4 of my siblings. I celebrate the cultural and national festivities and enjoy a wintery Christmas where hot chocolate, oliebollen and fairy lights spread their cheer everywhere you look. Public transport is a much used asset of getting from A to B - and anything more than 35-50 km away is considered a world trip. However, that traveling a certain distance does mean you may need your pasport as the borders of Germany and Belgium are easily reached. The culinary delights of smoked eel, raw herring, zuurkool met worst, stroopwafels and sate met pindasaus are a delight to my palet. My expanded food knowledge and experiences from my adopted homeland have extended my dishes here back home. Gladly some things have changed and informal visits to friends and family are no longer frowned upon or found to be awkward and uncomfortable - impromptu visits are more acceptable and a welcome change to the formal approach from yesteryear and have improved the less impulsive 'drop in anytime' mentality.

In my adopted home country I also enjoyed the fruits of education at both primary and tertiary levels. I completed a university degree and experienced a professional development which has helped form me and paved the way to a rewarding job. When visiting I can pay homage to my parents by visiting their final resting place, visit family and enjoy the memories of a time gone by. My youngest sibling's birthplace is in the 'new homeland' something that cements our family's connection to the new land. I can visit the cities where my children were born and grew up, I am able to shop at familiar stores and frequent shopping malls some refurbished and expanded but I still feel 'at home'. I have a wide circle of friends- wide also in terms of widely spread throughout the country. I do not however miss the hot Christmases but do miss the ease at which I could acces and walk barefoot along the beach. The bonds of friendships formed are that strong that when we meet up - we pick up where we left off. The scenery between A and B, no matter where one travels, is breathtaking! The changes appearing after each bend. I love the gingernuts my biggest coffee/tea accompaniment "I miss them heaps". I also miss the 'real' brown and icing sugar. The taste and result after use of these just aren't the same at home. Oh and being able to purchase a piece of pork - as large as you like without having to go to a specialised butcher......! Need I say more.

Lots of the same - lots different. I feel extremely blessed to have had the life I've lived so far. Not that it all went according to plan. My childhood dreams haven't all turned out to be how I imagined. Even though I've enjoyed huge highs and joys- the sorrows were trials to battle through and survive. Re-reading this it only underlines once again my blessings and richness of the privileges I've had. The choices, were at times, inevitable given the circumstances and while it hasn't been an easy ride, I stand by my decisions knowing I did the best I could during those moments.

Leaving one's homeland, one's safety net, one's cocoon is not something one does lightly. There are many who have no choice in this - being forced away due to war, drought, famine or persecution. I feel for those being violently uprooted and replanted in a world so alien to their customs and lifestyles. I cannot begin to fathom how lonely they must feel.

Friday, 3 November 2017

Looking at life from a different angle

Tino and Angela on Facebook
In August I wrote about a young couple ( Dutch Nomad Couple)who decided to follow their bliss and discover the world beyond their own horizon. Their commitment, enthusiasm and almost enviable conviction that this was their way to go and would succeed in realising their ambitions was cause of great admiration from my point of view. How many of us are that steadfast and committed to making dreams come true?

There were hurdles to overcome, farewelling a lifestyle that brought comfort and pleasurable moments. Financial security was let go and swapped for the freedom and self supporting lifestyle they had embraced. I am sure they felt moments of doubt quickly to be erased by the prospect of all that awaited them- known and unknown. Leaving their families behind wasn't easy - but each and everyone of them realised that there was no stopping them, nor did they want to. Everyone has a right to their own dream. As parent myself I could so identify with the emotions that they ( the parents) must felt when the day dawned when the adventure truly began.

Last night they graced our dinner table. The stories, their experiences their hopes and plans. It all passed the review. But they weren't just full of their own story. Interested in people and their lives, Tino and Angela have a way of stimulating the conversation in all directions, wanting everyone to be able to share their thoughts. A lovely, enthusiastic, openminded and thoughtful couple who make this world a more beautiful planet to be part of.

After our guests left, my husband and I re-lived some of the conversation. We are in no way jealous of this lifestyle - but in awe and have respect for the decision for this couple to have gotten rid of 90% of their possessions, freed themselves of the shackles that wearied them and tied them down. We, hubby and I are approaching retirement. We have about 3 years to go before the pension replaces the wages. It will also provide us with freedom of movement without having to schedule holidays between jobs. Our destination wishes aren't at great distance. The wishes we have are modest - it is health that is our number one priority in as far as we ourselves are responsible. Exceptions are or could be the rule. I do however aspire to visit Down Under at the regular intervals I have been these past 17 years. My children and grandchildren are still a source of great joy for me and while I am able, those trips stay on my 'to-do' list.

Shortly Tino and Angela leave these familiar shores again exchanging the known for the unknown. We wish them well, and will certainly be stopping by on their YouTube channel to follow them on their travels. It is one way of getting to see places in the world we will never physically frequent.

Bon Voyage you two, travel safe!

Do you want to travel with Angela and Tino, then click on this YouTube link and enjoy the sights.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Double dipping

I'm bi-lingual. Born in Nederland and at the age of 8 went with my parents and siblings to start a new life in Aotearoa/ New Zealand. I had already been privy to being a student at primary school in Nederland, and can honestly say, that I had a reasonably extended vocabulary for my age group. My only English words I learnt prior to leaving were, 'Yes, no and please'. Things like 'My name is..' were easily learnt as they sound almost the same in dutch ( mijn naam is..)! One could almost 'cheat' as the difference in pronunciation is slight.

I was 8 years old and very uncertain of myself. To actually communicate with classmates was unthinkable. I was scared of saying the wrong things, expressing myself with words unfamiliar was a definite no-no! I coped, I grew, I learnt. Many will have helped me along the way, both teachers and fellow students alike,  to come to grips with my new language. My parents were advised to not speak dutch at home- so we children and obviously they too, would blend in and become the model new citizens we needed to become.

I picked up the kiwi accent without any bother at all. The 'th' sound gave rise to some teasing. That, I have to say, was probably the hardest part of learning to get it right. And, following the advise my parents were given- dutch was almost never used at home. I say almost, as we still communicated by letter with family and friends- so we received letters in dutch. We had a few dutch friends - and it made for comfortable coffee and tea sessions for my parents. As children we tended to communicate in English only but we could easily understand the Dutch language.

Then we moved back to Nederland. To re-learn one's native tongue is quite a challenge. It fits like a glove- yet is feels as if one is swimming in the wrong pool.  You know you can - but you doubt your ability to stay afloat. The languages mingled and became entangled. The 'new' words, the extended vocabulary, hadn't grown in the years we had been away. I had matured but my language skills hadn't. Catch up time. Does one think translate - or think in the language one speaks? I have come to realise my method is to think English and speak English when visiting Down Under. And I reverse this process when back in Nederland. I am told I have no accent in either language- which is quite a compliment. Not sure why that is- maybe the secret is, that I don't translate in my head. I use one language at a time.

From my experiences, the to-ing and fro-ing between New Zealand and Nederland ( I returned again staying almost 30 years this time), I now understand the inner conflict many refugees have when settling in a safer environment with the possibility of being repatriated at a later date. How deeply ought they to immerse themselves in the new language, customs and history of this new but maybe temporary homeland? For the children it is a given, they will adapt. Give them the opportunity to speak or at least understand their own mother tongue - they will pick up the verbal aspect again when placed back in their old surroundings. I would make a plea however for the parents- learn the language of your new homeland - and become enriched by it's customs. When and if you return to your country of your birth you will be the richer for it.

I know my parents felt more part of the community as a whole by embracing the language - yet never forsaking their language by birthright. Your language: It is who you are. There is no escaping it. And why should you want to? By becoming bi-lingual it broadens one's horizon, extends one's vision and helps you understand the world around you. I work hard at keeping both languages alive. It has enriched my life in so many ways. Not to mention that my children and grandchildren all communicate in English - and not in Dutch. Next year I will have the opportunity to teach one of my grandchildren more about his heritage when he comes to visit his oma. And yes, there will be the odd Dutch language sessions to help him feel comfortable in company - so he can in some small way feel more part of the group and less and outsider.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Life is like that.....

A change in seasons. We here in the Northern Hemisphere see the leaves turning every shade of autumn one can imagine. I have banned my summery dresses to the back of the wardrobe and even though we are still privi to some sunny and balmy days, the real summer is well and truly behind us. Change happens.

I look back with much appreciation to the last rays of summer warmth. As far as I am concerned my days were wonderful, cheerful, eventful en worth repeating. All in all a good summer. My hubby agrees. No matter where we were, the good weather followed or went before us. Yes, we had rain too, thankfully. The plants also need the nourishment as do the trees, insects and birds. Humans too can't do without the wet.

Unfortunately some don't agree with me. They moan about a washed out summer. True some of the school holiday weeks weren't as dry as they might have liked- but I thought summer was longer than just those 6 weeks! Anyway, enough about the moaners. Life is too short....!

Autumn. How absolutely charming, enchanting and refreshing. I love the colour scheme, the vivid orange colours and the leaves that gently float down to the earth where they will decay and nourish the ground.

Autumn, a time to allow the body to cool down after the warm months. A time to take stock, reminisce on the summer escapades. Create dreams for the coming months to fill the longer evenings. Candle light, warm rug on the couch. Soup and toast, hearty meals to ward off the winter chills that await around the corner.

I love salads and light meals- to a point. Now the weather is changing and other vegetables are abundant a change of dishes appear on the table. I tend to use more eastern spices and herbs to fill the air with warm scents wafting out the kitchen. Other cakes on the menu now - the 'fluffy' stuff can wait till next year - I'm now into Lemon meringue pies, Walnut and caramel cake, apple crumble. All things that make a smile appear on hubby's face just hearing about them!

It's good to get some of my warmer clothing out again. Forgot what I had. I'm quite warm blooded and prefer still to wear things with short sleeves. Can always add a cardi or jacket if I get cold. That's a problem in summer. I get so warm I need to put my feet in a bucket of cold water or hold my head under the cold tap. Now I can dress to keep my body temp comfortable. I am sure y skin sighs with relief.

As our days shorten, and the clock will be turned back an hour next weekend I look ahead and feel content. Changes happen. So too will this season make way for more changes... and so the cycle continues. I live for the moment. And that moment in NOW.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Smile and experience the happy moments

Tuesday- 10th October

- 1st Happy moment today was sharing breakfast time 🍴with my hubby
- 2nd Happy moment was seeing the 🌞 break through after 4 days ☔. I was going to accompany/escort a class of young children in our National Park. Theme 'Autumn'.
- After a splendid morning I managed to complete 3 blogs - I had run out of time in the weekend.
- Tried a new recipe 🍲 today. It was worth the effort. 👍

# Best happy moment was seeing a video clip of my 4 year old grandson on his skateboard - like a pro! 😍😍😍😍😍

Not bad all those happy moments. Then things got a bit more blurry. I'd not been feeling that bright and perky for a couple of days. Now the 'not so perky' dropped to feeling lousy. It was almost like I'd tempted fate by saying there were so many happy things to be grateful for that I was going to have to work harder to experience them. So even in the extreme down times there were things to be happy about. I was in a warm environment. I didn't have to do school runs or kindy pick ups. The cupboards were stocked, the washing was done. I could actually feel lousy and have a clean house and filled pantry. The most important thing was- I had no appointments to cancel or rearrange - which can cause hassles and delays at the best of times.

My lower back played up too - and I had the fortune of having the bathroom to myself for long hot showers which eased the tense muscles. Hubby, his brother and a friend had taken themselves off for a few days R & R. Kitchen duties were dispensed with till further notice or should the urge to cook arise. I was inundated with happy moments. Because I was alone there was no-one to moan to! So no, I didn't become a grump. Yippee!

The sun shone, the outside temperatures were lovely despite us already being well into Autumn. Laying on the couch on the balcony, cup of tea at my elbow, pillow in my back, iPad om my lap and music gentle filling the air through our outdoor speakers. How awesome - being quite unwell and being comfortable at the same time. I also slept many a daylight hour and it didn't interfere with anyone's plans or wishes.

Keeping track of happy moments is in fact quite revealing. What constitutes a happy moment? I guess it's having that peace of mind and insight that any given situation has benefits - and if you allow them to be larger than life, the negatives go unnoticed or at best disappear.

My week of 'happy spotting' has also made me aware at how little I took notice of them before. Not that I ignored them. But I didn't celebrate them like I ought. Being aware of this and also knowing that one's view of the world at large becomes clearer and prettier when the attention goes to the happy moments, I'm working on it to stay alert and more appreciative of the little things in life. Being happy is a state of mind!

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Name one thing that made you smile/happy today.

When I opened my Facebook the other morning, the name of one of my nieces appeared on screen. She had placed a reaction on a message. Now, I don't follow everything- and certainly not all messages or page posts. Every now and then I look on personal pages just to see if there are some startling, funny or eventful happenings on someone's page. I am selective what I spend my time on dependent on how much I have to spare.

"Write down one thing that made you smile/ happy today!" and her response was " What only one?"
A girl after my own heart. Certainly also the same reaction I would have given had I receive that request. My belie fis, that a person tends to gloss over the good bits in relation to maybe one or possibly two downers that may happen in a day.

It set me thinking. Sometimes on Facebook there are challenges with Photography for instance - place for 7 days a Nature photo, or share happy moments for the next 7 days. Or the request to state daily a place one would like to visit. That sort of thing. The question raised - 'happy moments in a day' inspired me to challenge myself to write down happy moments. Not just one...but all moments in a day that made me smile, or gave me a 'happy feel' or a success moment. And not just once or for one day - but I'm going to see how long I can keep this up. My first timeline is for 2 weeks.

At the end of each week I'll make a 'report' of my happy moments... and maybe illustrate it's effect or explain why that minuut moment was so special. Or why I had a smile on my dial all day!

I'm smiling now at the thought. A challenge, for which I am responsible in both design and execution. I'll be my conscience and cheer leader. Now if that isn't a challenge, I don't know what is.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Yippee it's Monday

Yes, you read right. Yippee for Monday. Well actually, yippee for every day I'm given. That I awake to face the events of the day- be they challenging or a breeze. It actually doesn't matter to me what name the day has, as long as I make full use of the time I'm given to 'use it'.

I've started claiming Monday as my 'at home day'. The weekend is reasonably hectic and full, the weekdays just disappear faster than the Ice cap. I somehow didn't get enough 'at home time' in to do those things a home needs to keep functioning properly. So although I'm flexible, I want to have some form of routine in my week.

 Here my activities of Monday just gone! In general terms- this is how my Mondays take shape.

- up at 7:30 am - I checked my messages ( I sleep while Down Under is awake) from my children, grandchildren and friends

- Made breakfast (mine) consisting of yoghurt, walnuts, apple, cinnamon, ground ginger and sultanas and on the side a cup of tea.

- Hubby has been downstairs to get the newspaper from the letterbox in the lobby while I turned the washing machine on. White wash for my first load.

- Breakfast and paper, a joint exercise.

- Dishwasher on and stripped bed.

- First load out, dark load in - hung out on balcony

- Bathroom and toilet from top to bottom. Tiled walls and floor. Mirror too.

- Dusted in every room

- Vacuum cleaner over floors

- Hung out dark load

- Bedding in machine and emptied dishwasher

- Washed floors

- Time for coffee at neighbour's place ( letting floors dry 😉  )

- Swept gallery, watered plants ( live on the third floor of apartment building). Three bedroomed house.

- Made shopping list

- Hung out bedding

- Shopping ( 1:15 minutes)

- Emptied fridge/freezer ( a long awaited goal- desperately needed to be done)

- Prepared dinner

- Wrote Kitchen blog- yet to be completed

- Baked 30 'Eierkoeken' ( light as air saucer sized 'biscuit) for Nature Guide group evening

3 eggs, lemon zest one lemon and 150 gr sugar
Beat till fluffy ( 5 minutes on high)
Fold in 150 gr flour with 3/4 tsp B powder and 1/2 tsp B Soda

Place on baking tray* in large spoonful lots giving plenty of space ( they are rather large 9 per tray)
Bake for 10-11 minutes on ( 190 fan). Remove from baking tray with slice onto wire rack
Makes 15- super fast, super yum!
* Baking tray- place baking paper and lightly butter and flour the surface or the 'biscuits' will stick when baked.

- Computer time, made teaching resource for school groups who visit our National Park where I function as guide.

- Feet up! Day done. Yippeeeee, that was Monday.

How was your day?

Thursday, 5 October 2017

When it isn't easy to be kind

The neighbours down the road have been going through a rough patch. You know this via the local 'grapevine' and want to ease their pain. You bake a cake, leave flowers at the door, offer to be chauffeur. Anyone of these 'do good deeds ' and probably much needed assistance comes naturally. Although not on daily speaking terms or even never having spent time together, you somehow know, " these people are ok people". Their children attend the same school as your children, you see each other at the local playground and exchange pleasantries. The children, when outside, enjoy each others' company. So, it feels good to help or be supportive to some degree in their time of need.

As you walk the dog every day, you pass the house on the corner. An elderly couple live there. Generally the place looks a bit 'tired'. The garden not kept tidy, the curtains don't appear to really 'fit' the windows and the interior looks neglected - from where you stand. Often you hear the elderly lady yelling at her husband. The windows are open, you have already noted on many occasions that they could do with a wash, and sound travels. You can't really hear what is being said, but you assume things aren't all glossy in their world. Some of the neighbours have dubbed this couple, Mr and Mrs Grump. By all accounts, this couple don't seem to be inundated with visitors. At best once a month someone from the local church pops in - just to keep an eye on them. You think twice about knocking on their door......

I'm highlighting these two cases because recently something similar happened locally.  Well it isn't new but appears to happen more and more in the current society we seem to be developing. How much easier it is to give a second hand out of style winter coat away. How much easier it is to help a neighbour who appears to be approachable. Not that cranky uncaring elderly man or woman down the road or even next door. I bet that approachable family have many who come to their aid when the need must - but how many rally round that cranky person?

Don't get me wrong. I also make that same analyses. I too have moments where I choose. Or at least, to what extent I assist of give. When there is a dilemma, it gnaws at my conscious and a feeling of discomfort takes hold. That doesn't normally subside till I find all sorts of excuses and reasons why I did what I did, to justify to myself that my actions are "acceptable."

For some reason which I cannot fathom there is a 'brake' or a barrier which allows some good samaritan stuff to be 'ok' and sometimes not. My dad and I had a common biblical phrase we try to live by. We would discuss this often. He isn't here to support me anymore in this but I do know what he would expect of me;

Micah 6:8-10 New International Version (NIV)

8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love tenderly/with mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

I don't live alone, there are more to whom and with whom I have a responsibility and am answerable to. This sometimes influences my decisions. Maybe I just don't want to justify the things I do or choose to do. For whatever reason, there must be an answer for me to remove the 'difference'. Help where help is needed. I think about this a lot. I'm going to work at it - overcoming my instinct to 'select'. Hopefully I can 'be more' in many ways than I am at this point in time.

This topic has been mulling for a while- needed to get it out into the open....! Do you recognise any of this in yourself? Or am I alone in my soul searching?

Monday, 2 October 2017

Letting go

September was quite an emotional month with the death of my very special tante ( aunt) Alie. Now I realise that death is the only guarantee we have in life and it comes to us all. It isn't new to me, losing someone very near and dear. Yet the ache, the 'missing you' and the unfathomable sadness that comes with the letting go is something I struggle with each re-occurring time.

While I was in New Zealand on holiday visiting my children I was kept updated on my tante's failing health situation by my cousin, tante's youngest daughter. For some reason she and I are close and enjoy a special friendship. We have had regular contact over the years and a special bond has developed. My tante had a stroke. Her left side was mostly effected. She lost the ability to be independent. It crushed her. She felt so useless and devoid of any form of quality of life that it made her extremely sad. Yet her character wouldn't allow her to give up. She fought the illness with determination and dignity. The desired improvements however, just didn't materialise. Her dependency only increased. Tante Alie and the family held many a conference with the medical team around her. Strong willed as she was, tante's energy was zapped, her level of care was high, her improvements minimalistic.

After my return home I made my way to visit her in the hospital. How sad to see her so changed. So feeble and listless. Prior to my trip I visited my tante and oom ( uncle). She made me my coffee and brought the cake to the table. Although she needed her walker for outside the apartment- inside she managed well just with going from furniture to door etc. She coped well. To see this change in her was hard to take. I wished I had a magic wand to make her well again.

The decision to halt all treatment came from her. It took so much out of her that it didn't weigh up against the improvements. My tante was transfereed to the 'in care' ward of the care centre where she and oom lived in an apartment. My oom was capable of still living independently. With tante under the same roof- they were able to spend time together during the day. When I spent time with them one Saturday, first Mass in the chapel then coffee in the communal lounge, I could see that tante Alie's health had taken so many beatings, she barely had the energy to cope with each new day.

Two weeks after my last visit, tante Alie found her final rest. In the presence of her husband to whom she had been married for 63 and1/2 years, her two daughters and their spouses, tante Alie breathed her last. Peacefully and thankfully.

Her passing hit me hard. We had such a close and loving relationship. She knew all my secrets, my hurts and dreams. Tante was a matter of fact person. She listened. Never once did she say " do this or you  must do that". She listened- said what she thought was helpful to me and didn't force her own opinion ever.

At the farewell I was privileged to share some words- also bringing into the 'space' we were in, those relations ( including her brother) who live Down Under. They too were hurting. Loss at such a distance without being able to physically say goodbye, is extremely painful. I know this from personal experience.

My memories are stored, and I reach out to them regularly and cherish them. Her name will be on my lips, and her love and care for me are my precious legacies, worth their presence in gold.

Rest peacefully dearest tante Alie, rest peacefully.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Just a wee escape

On a Tuesday a couple of weeks ago my husband and I took the train to Rotterdam. We played hooky. It was a spur of the moment decision. Hubby works from home - so that makes this an easier pasttime to undertake. The sun shone it's autumn strength rays and the clouds, although greyish, appeared harmless. Well for the time being anyway.

Right outside our front door, we only need to cross the road, is the bus stop. A shortish wait of about 5 minutes and away we went. "Good morning bus driver," said hubby sounding very chirpy. I was pleasantly surprised. That's because he had been semi grumpy since waking. The thought of wagging work cheered him up no end.

The shortish train ride and arrival at our destination, Blaak in Rotterdam couldn't have been simpler. We stepped out of the station and walked straight into one of the largest weekday markets held in Rotterdam ( or anywhere in Nederland for that matter). Unplanned expeditions like this somehow create a more exciting feeling.
Markthal Rotterdam

A leisurely stroll past many many food stalls ( there was market on the square), inquisitive peeks at the Bric @ brac, sniffing past the food stalls. We were so enthralled by it all. People bustling around, groups standing in the middle of the pathways reacquainting themselves and updating events extremely publicly ( loudly 😉 )! Mothers with babies, grandparents with babies, dads with babies. Some, like us, just browsing, others hustling and bustling in their haste gathering wares, food and other necessary items found at this huge market.

My noisy grumbling tummy was a sign that lunchtime was well and truly past - but the lunch itself hadn't been eaten as yet. We chose to eave the noisy crowd and went into the hugely tourist style Markt Hall. What a contrast. The nostalgic markets with shouting stall holders trying to sell their wares - to this monumentally large glass building all glitz and glamour.

A feast for 2
Our choice fell on a Greek Restaurant. Their 'example' platters displayed outside their store appealed enormously to our taste buds. Having used public transport I could also have a wine with lunch, not a frequent happening by any stretch of the imagination.

Time to go home. Back to the reality of work and chores. What a different mindset. Not that the enthusiasm poured out of our pores, but none the less, resuming our responsibilities flowed naturally and without the negative emotions that hung in the air upon waking. Happy days!

Must do this more often......!

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

It is always TODAY!

Many, many, many years ago I read a short article in the Reader's Digest about someone who focussed on 'the last time'. Not out of a sad and pessimistic point of view, but a reality many of us, certainly me, didn't (or don't) pay much attention to.

I even think that I have mentioned this before. Still, it obviously weighed a lot and I have stored that item in my mind - to occasionally haul back to the foreground of my memory. As it happened again this morning.

In my direct circle of family and friends there a a few people struggling with ill health. So much struggle that there is reason to believe that these people may, in the short term, leave this world and therefor leave gaps in my list of 'loved ones'. Now, this could happen to any of us. We are all flowers that bloom just one more day. No-one is guaranteed any amount of years. We get what we get.

I'm not mentioning this because I feel deflated, depressed, sad or negative. I just want to revive a thought, an idea that was brought to my intention years ago and it keeps fading into the background.

The idea that I may be sitting here at my desk for the last time. That I may have had coffee with my dear friend for the last time. That I may have slept next to my hubby for the last time. That I may have waved to my neighbour the last time. That I may have baked my last cake, cooked my last meal, read my last newspaper. Or it could be my husband, any one of my children grandchildren( heaven forbid) It has happened before. Who says it can't happen again?  In fact all those I know and love. Who knows what the next minute, hour or day will bring?

NO, I am not negative or a doom thinker. I think actually this thought, this awareness may just help me appreciate my loves and my daily 'doing's in a much more positive light.

Imagine your 1 year old taking her first steps! What a celebration. However, that cute crawl style she had that everyone ooohed and aahed over- is gone forever! Can you even remember how it looked, how she moved across the floor with such grace? Did you realise this might be gone forever? The last cuddle in bed, the last tooth that the fairy pulled, the last.........!

I guess what I am trying to say is, ENJOY EVERY MOMENT. Love those you love, give them your time, affection, understanding, space. Even if they are unaware or don't understand your efforts. Don't look too far ahead to what tomorrow may bring. Tomorrow never actually comes. It is ALWAYS TODAY!

CARPE DIEM - Seize the day. With both hands. Grab it, use it, fill it with love and kindness. That memory will stay forever. Even when it fades into nothingness, something will bring it back.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Transition time- autumn here we come!

What a wonderful few months weather I've had. I say I, because there are a few 'moaners' who disagree. Seems a few rainy days just aren't permitted in summer. I certainly enjoyed the cooling down moments. Can't stay too hot, dry and arid for too long. Those poor birds, fish and plants need some relief too.
Anyway, I have enjoyed these past months enormously. 😎

Today, September the 1st. A new season almost upon us. Here in Europe we are preparing for autumn. The evenings are shorter. Last night we drove home at 9pm and it was almost dark. Those long balmy evenings are now a thing of the past- well for now anyway. Time passes so quickly- they'll be back before I know it. One thing for sure- I will still make use of our 'partially protected from the elements' balcony with heater if needed. Love being outside. A remnant from my New Zealand years. Walks on the beach, mowing large lawns and spending 3/4 of the year outside have spoilt me. 😊

Each morning when I awake I throw open the balcony door, much to my European weathered husband. There is nothing as wonderful as morning's fresh air. Well, that's what I call it. Most of my friends call it draught, or cold, or call me weird! I say 'they know not what they miss'! 😉

This weekend I will be emptying my planter boxes and refilling them with autumn colours. The strawberry plants have done extremely well, my herbs too. There wasn't much time for anything else as I was away during spring when I needed to plant my seedlings for lettuce, mini tomatoes and capsicum. The balcony is large and gets plenty of sunshine. The planter boxes are a Garden of Eden in miniature.

September, how amazingly close the end of 2017 now sounds. I can so easily still recall New Year's festivities and the wonderful company of our Scottish family members. Yes, the whiskey flowed freely as it just might again this year.

I'm looking forward to the season that's in the offing. More memories to create, more experiences to have, more fun to enjoy.

To close I've added a link to a lovely Eric Clapton song : Autumn Leaves

He sings about a his 'darling' having left and the days being long. Well, here an ode to the long summer days which now have gone. Thank you Summer. It was wonderful having you here.

To those of you heading towards Spring- Enjoy!

Friday, 1 September 2017

In a land that made me!

Take a break, make a cuppa, a brew or pour yourself a wine.

Read this carefully and let your memory unfold.

I have no idea who created this masterpiece - and I felt it deserved to be spread around.

This piece was written by someone who was born and raised in New Zealand.

I can claim some of that heritage as I spend half my life there.
So the shaping of me is also due to these memorable events.

Read and enjoy!

It is a long read , but soooo good for those of us born at the right time!

In the land that made me.

Long ago and far away, in a land that time forgot,
Before the days of Dylan , or the dawn of Camelot.
There lived a race of innocents, and they were you and me,
For Menzies was in the Parliament in that land where we were born,
Where navels were for oranges, and Peyton Place was porn.
We longed for love and romance, and waited for our Prince,
Eddie Fisher married Liz, and no one's seen him since.
We danced to 'Little Darlin,' and sang to 'Stagger Lee'
And cried for Buddy Holly in the Land That Made Me, me. 

Only girls wore earrings then, and 3 was one too many,
And only boys wore flat-top cuts, except for Jean McKinney.
And only in our wildest dreams did we expect to see
A boy named George with Lipstick, in the Land That Made Me, me. 

We fell for Frankie Avalon, Annette was oh, so nice,
And when they made a movie, they never made it twice.
We didn't have a Star Trek Five, or Psycho Two and Three,
Or Rocky-Rambo Twenty in the Land That Made Me, me. 

Miss Kitty had a heart of gold, and Chester had a limp,
And Tarzan was a loner whose co-star was a chimp.
We had a Mr. Wizard, but not a Mr. T,
And Oprah couldn't talk yet, in the Land That Made Me, me. 

We had our share of heroes, we never thought they'd go,
At least not Bobby Darin, or Marilyn Monroe.
For youth was still eternal, and life was yet to be,
And Elvis was forever in the Land That Made Me, Me. 

We'd never seen the rock band that was Grateful to be Dead,
And Aeroplanes weren't named Jefferson , and Zeppelins were not Led.
And Beatles lived in gardens then, and Monkeys lived in trees,
Madonna was Mary in the Land That Made Me, me.

We'd never heard of microwaves, or telephones in cars,
And babies might be bottle-fed, but they were not grown in jars.
And pumping iron got wrinkles out, and 'gay' meant fancy-free,
And dorms were never co-Ed in the Land That Made Me, me.

We hadn't seen enough of jets to talk about the lag,
And microchips were what was left at the bottom of the bag.
And hardware was a box of nails, and bytes came from a flea,
And rocket ships were fiction in the Land That Made Me, me. 

T-Birds came with portholes, and side shows came with freaks,
And bathing suits came big enough to cover both your cheeks.
And Coke came just in bottles, and skirts below the knee,
And Castro came to power near the Land That Made Me, me. 

We had no Crest with Fluoride, we had no Hill Street Blues,
We had no patterned pantihose or Lipton herbal tea
Or prime-time ads for those dysfunctions in the Land That Made Me, me

There were no golden arches, no Perrier to chill,
And fish were not called Wanda, and cats were not called Bill.
And middle-aged was 35 and old was forty-three,
And ancients were our parents in the Land That Made Me, me. 

But all things have a season, or so we've heard them say,
And now instead of Maybelline we swear by Retin-A.
They send us invitations to join AARP,
We've come a long way, baby, from the Land That Made Me, me.

So now we face a brave new world in slightly larger jeans,
And wonder why they're using smaller print in magazines.
And we tell our children's children of the way it used to be,
Long ago and far away in the Land That Made Me, me.
Those who didn't grow up in the fifties, have missed a great time in history...
Hope you enjoyed this read as much as I did... If So - PLEASE FORWARD it to someone who you think will appreciate it!

Sunday, 13 August 2017

A special relationship

"Don't keep holding that door open. Come on, let's go! Hurry up will you. We haven't got all day!" This is the conversation I heard as I walked down the stairs in our apartment building. As I approached ground level where the lift is, I saw my elderly neighbours. She, in the lift giving orders- with a voice that accepts no arguing against. He, frail and polite holding the lift door open. " But there is someone coming. They may also want to take the lift," says he also determined. Always the gentleman - correct in manners, dress and language. Sort of posh but down to earth. The gentleman who holds doors open for women. Letting them and others go first. Whether entering a building, lift or home or just outside walking along the footpath. He wears a hat. A gentleman's hat. Not a cap, not a beret but proper gentleman's headwear. In one hand generally a walking stick. " To ward off the dogs you know. They tend to jump up and if I don't ward them off I'll fall over." The thing is, he is frail, and old and still a regular stroller around the park.

"Shut the door and hurry. I can't stand here all day. My legs hurt. We will send the lift back down." The lift door shuts. She, tall, 7 years his junior but also frail. Her spine has decided to slowly decline. She walks bent over and shuffles her feet over the flooring. No real shoes but those moccasins, rough leather slippers with a sort sheepskin inner. Even though she sounds stronger than she looks, her determination is as strong as ever. It pains her that she has recently had to succumb to the pressure. No more cooking. Her back and legs just can't stand the pressure anymore. Frozen meals are brought once a week for 4 evenings. Once a week it's soup brought by a neighbour, one night left overs and one night Chinese 'from that lovely lady next to the supermarket'. Pity. She LOVED to cook. I believe she was a real whizz in the kitchen all those years ago.

It is 6:15am. The doorbell goes. We both are wide awake within seconds. A doorbell at that time of day can't be good news. She, is a right state, " so sorry to wake you but he has fallen while leaving the toilet. Hurt his back. I can't lift him. Can you please help." How sad. At approx 4 am he went to the toilet, while leaving, the door gave way and he fell. Apparently he must have fallen backwards onto the rim of the toilet bowl. Crawling back to his room and bed- he tried lifting himself up. Didn't work. Too much pain. She, propping a pillow under his head, duvet over his shivering body- kept vigil. Too early to wake the neighbours.

The doctor was called- who in turn decided an ambulance was in order. Admission to hospital. Total confusion. She was in a right state. No children, never married- always friends. Have grown so dependent on each other to give form to their day. Both their own routines -  23 years to date. They niggle and nag each other. They mumble and mutter. They hold hands, they reminisce. They laugh and they share concerns. Now what- how will this end?

It has been 3 weeks of to-ing and fro-ing to hospital. She, no longer coping behind the wheel finally allowing the niece and nephew to dispose of the car. Having to ask, to depend on others for all their wishes and needs. Home help and other necessary organisations have been given the green light. They shrug their shoulders and look sip and sad. She, not now understanding her role in this whole affair - he, wondering how long his body will cope.

I know I'll be keeping a sharper ear and eye open. I know many in our building will do too. We all ask ourselves- how long, what next, will they cope.

He, 94 and counting - she 87 and losing track.

Friday, 4 August 2017

The travel bug - a new lifestyle

Many years ago, while living in NZ, there was a trend amongst youngsters to travel (O E= Overseas Experience). Many had roots in the UK or Europe and the urge to discover and experience cultural aspects of their heritage was one of the driving forces behind this upsurge in young world travellers. Intention being- 2 years OE and then come 'home' to pick up the threads of life and build up something new. The results, new thinking youth, young adults reshaping their world due to their adventures and discoveries.

I don't know whether that has any bearing on the resulting restrictions, rules and other red tape that followed. One would wonder though. Seems to me that more knowledge of other cultures including those in one's own DNA profile might help bring about more unity, understanding and bond between nations. Still, that's another story.

This story is about a young couple adapting their lifestyle to today's opportunities. Where as 'in my time' one completed school, got a job, relationship, home, family. Couples worked towards paying off the mortgage, looked forward to retirement and the pension. A crowning feast celebrating 50 years of marriage as a show of love, stamina and for some possibly endurance. I know, a simple sketch and not so for everyone- but here I am generalising. Just painting a broad picture. We had no car or phone. Not for years. Tv programmes were extremely thin on the ground and even the thought of internet wasn't even imaginable to most.

Times, they are a changing. We don't leave our doors unlocked anymore. Our jobs aren't as safe as they were, golden handshakes and silver watches aren't the norm, again generally speaking. Our pension age has been raised only we aren't 'popular' on the job market, the youth struggle for permanent contracts. Working from home to ease congestion on the roads very appealing and in some instances financially rewarded by corporates.

Angela and Tino are a young dutch couple ( Dutch Nomad Couple) grabbing the new age opportunities with both hands. Leaving behind the 'humdrum' of a permanent residence. Away from the considered norm everyday life. They aren't running away. They are in fact, consciously walking towards a healthier ( for them) lifestyle. Responsibilities can be carried out no matter where you live. Earning a living is no longer dependent on a permanent position behind a desk, in a store, office of factory. The challenges and opportunities have changed.

Months of planning, researching, acting out the steps very concisely they waved their permanent status goodbye in September 2016 and embarked on a world wide adventure. They make use of all the modern facilities, possibilities and allow us homestayers to follow their antics, listen to their stories and not have to leave our armchairs. I listen, look and learn about places and people I never dreamt possible I would visit. Their enthusiasm is catchy. Their awe at what they discover is endearing and worth every respect.

I can go on and on about what I think about this change in lifestyle but I invite you to check it out for yourselves. Angela and Tino love to share their experiences with as many people as possible, hoping they bring some light relief, valuable experiences and insights they encounter on their travels.

Follow Angela and Tino ( Dutch Nomad Couple) on either Facebook or Youtube, or both! You will be most welcome.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Life is all about...

( I was cleaning up some files when I found this unposted blog and am now trying to recapture it's essence. Seems a pity to not finish what I started a few months ago.)

.. yes, life is about what exactly?
I have mentioned my thoughts on the subject before and it appears to be a reoccurring theme: Why are we here, how are we meant to 'be', to live, to behave?

Life, as we know it. We are born, spend a number of years on this planet and then, the only certainty that we have in life, is that we die. We don't have, wel at least not in general terms, a timetable or schedule of events as for when they are to happen. There isn't a clear timetable. We are but mere dots on a very long historical and eventful timeline.

We experience our childhood, grow into adults, select a path as adults to travel as either single or married person. We have/ or don't have children. We work towards retirement ( hopefully) and some of us look forward to the (possible) grandchildren.

Our working experiences, which enables us to finance our lives, also equips us with life's lessons and other talents.

Some write a 'Bucket List' - you know, about the things one still wants to do before one 'kicks' that proverbiaal bucket. I am not a 'bucket list' type of person. I hope my every day is one worthy of a listing on it's own.

Some burn all boats, sell up and live a nomadic existence so as to purge oneself of all possessions and be 'free' of all burdens. My personality needs stability. A place to rest and feel safe and familiar in.

Some just live from day to day, following a pattern of work, eat sleep - occasional play and repeat that pattern which gives regularity to their existence. Not doing anyone, or anything for that matter, any harm. Live a sheltered life, being of no nuisance to anyone, at the same time not having any connection either with those around them. During my early childhood I was quiet and in the background. I did need people though so found my voice. In a crowd or at a large gatehring, I tend to shuffle to the background. Best in the kitchen!

And then there are those with a mission- a mission in life that gives them their sense of purpose. Those who give unselfishly of their time- the time they have been given to BE someone to someone. Those who serve - in any way or form in society to help those less fortunate in either or both physical or emotional means. They have analysed, discovered or identified a just cause or personal quest to fulfill. These people captivate me. I have an immense respect and admiration for the go-getter, the do-er. Find them inspiring and motivating. My contributions however are tiny and in no way match the 'missionaries' amongst them.

In my circle of friends, people I know and mix with, I recognise all these described personalities. Some are even combinations of the afore mentioned. A colourful, interesting and valuable asset which brings in turn, colour to my life.

Life, daily routines, unexpected surprises, adventures to be had, solutions to find, memories to make. Is our road predestined? Is our future already designed and waiting to be lived? Do our challenges match our abilities even before we meet them?

I guess we can all analyse and explain ( or not) what life means to us individually. The outcome may be as diverse as the one I've painted above. Maybe we aren't meant to define life at all- but live it to the best of our ability, grow, learn, improve, challenge, enjoy, achieve, fall, stand tall and be grateful.

I guess the story about the seed says it all. If we choose to grow we need to place ourselves in positions in life to do just that. The experiences and learning moments add fertilizer to our lives enabling us to grow some more.

Should we choose anonymity, a quiet withdrawn and colourless life- we will not achieve the heights we may have been destined for. We may wither away, or be that beautiful flower hidden behind that lush green bush.

A bit deep for a Sunday afternoon, while the sun is creeping in onto my desk...caressing my arm and begging me to come outside and enjoy the fresh air.

I will take this invitation to enjoy those rays. Leaving you, my blog reader, to ponder on how you see your life and to what purpose you may or may not be called. I love life, find it enthralling, challenging and most enjoyable. I wish the same for you.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

#3. Memories of my Motherhood moments- the last edition.

Dark curly hair, gorgeous smile, chubby cheeks, alert, friendly. His eyes were large, dark and shiny. Almost jewels with that wee sparkle. Those dimples in his hands. Strong legs. Gorgeous tan- already at 3 weeks, how much more tanned in the summer would he become!

There he was, our son. Alert and watchful as we 4 eagerly bent over his bassinet. Without a by your leave, my daughter tried to lift him- and the nurse in attendance helped her. She had fallen head in heals in love with this gorgeous human being.

We all had a turn- to hug, hold, love and gently stroke this awesome new gift to our family. We had a 'click' it was noted. That's why we were here. To see if we could bond, like, fall in love with this lovely baby boy who was all of 3 weeks old and placed for adoption.

I have never won a large prize in a lottery- but can in a funny way relate. We had hit the jackpot. Priceless. Which is better than any monetary price we might have won!

Daughter and son were 10 and 8 years old. To no avail had we been able to increase our family size. After nearly 6 years our dream of becoming new parents finally came to fruition. As for not being able to describe the birth emotions, so too is this such an unworldly feeling that overwhelms- the vocabulary in this instance once again falls short.

Within 24 hours of being informed of the arrival of this precious person- we became parents for the 3rd time. A rush of all that happens in 9 months washed over me. Hot, cold, nauseous, shaky, euphoric, disbelief it all showered itself over me. This is the story of the mum in me. Third time round. I cannot speak for how the others felt. Except recall their reactions. That is their experience to recall.

Those first few days were as if I had become a 'first time mum' again. I had to discover his personality, his needs and references. Changing nappies was something one doesn't unlearn, but cradling and feeding, nurturing such a wee man after so long, it is a huge adjustment in such a short space in time.

Added to that was the existing situation. Two children at school, members of clubs, sports, friends. Our own adult lives and occupations. The home and necessary equipment as cot, bottles, baby essentials. No 9 months to get organised. To prepare. That the nesting syndrome can develop one step at a time. People underestimate adoption I think. I have now experienced both. Once again different and yet the result is the same. A new member of the family. Someone needing nurturing, caring for. Protecting. Loving. Recognisable emotions fizzed and popped to the surface of my motherhood self. Informing family and friends. Receiving visitors, gifts, well wishes, shock, disbelief, also euphoric in their happiness for us.

It is funny really. There is no gene compatibility yet my son has characteristics of those who raised and surrounded him in his formative years. His personality traits differ in lots of ways but there are also as many similarities. His build however does set him apart. He has an athletic build. Also due to years of gymnastics and a natural athletic ability. Because of his heritage he has a lovely tanned golden skin and a creativity that shows itself in his musical and artistic talents. This being accompanied by a fiery nature- yet with a gentleness that belies this. Watching him with his 3 young children- one can't imagine him letting off steam. He has a great sense of humor. Unending energy and if he had his childhood schooling now, probably would be described as having an excess of energy. He has a pride that sometimes gets in the way of accepting help or advice. A self reliant person not always finding the easiest of roads to travel. A heart of gold and helpful to boot. He is aware of his own shortcomings - and can get as mad at himself as others may sometimes also do at him.

It has been such a privilege to have been given the mother role to raise him. Always knowing he originated in another womb. I was as proud to become his mother as I was of my other two children. No differences- no 'other' love. Just a mother's love for the children entrusted to her care.

I stand back now, watching my 3 adults traveling the road I travelled those many years ago. All with their own insights, wisdom, uncertainties and goals.

May their joys be everlasting, their pride never ending and their love for their children the biggest treasure of all.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

#2. Memories of my Motherhood moments, times 2.

Like the song goes, " second verse same as the first". Well no not really.

Everything was different. We lived close to family. I now didn't think I could handle motherhood x2 but knew I could. We did have a phone and to and from family members did happen.

Daughter was approx. 18 months old when it was apparent I was pregnant again. Whereas I had the first 3 months being ill with daughter, I didn't experience that second time round. The 18 months of being mum to a active and energetic daughter had sharpened my perception of what it takes to be mum. A lot of those early months dad was absent- Navy wives ' in my time' got to do lots on their own. Dad's missed out on many 'first time' moments.

The pregnancy can't compare. Everything was different - the birth too. Where I felt the pride and joy and satisfaction of giving birth almost 'textbook style' this story had many hitches, glitches and moments worth remembering but also blotting out. I had 3 attempts at giving birth- third time lucky. Felt such a failure as a woman-mother. "I couldn't even do that properly." Hormones and emotions totally off balance.

It wasn't generally 'done' to check on the gender of the baby before birth. Even if that had been so, I wouldn't have taken that road. The thrill, expectation the long awaited disclosure is something I feel personally, which makes the pregnancy more baby than 'child' oriented. I liked thinking in terms of baby. For me the switch to son/boy or daughter/ girl takes the mystery away. But each to their own. Happily people are allowed and in the position of making their own choices.

And there he was, a healthy baby boy. A son. Again this surge of pride, of protection and nurturing burst forth in me. Another wee person to cherish and care for. Long, skinny, gentle. Content. Times had changed and a long hospital stay was no longer in vogue. I felt great so wanted to go home as soon as an 'all clear' could be given.

The meeting between sister and brother was heartwarming. A touch on the mouth, forehead. "Can I kiss him will he break?" All new and bewitching. A sort of doll but it moved and made noises.

Christmas gifts for our daughter were baby cot, little oven, ironing board, high chair, all home made by her dad. During the pregnancy daughter had shown her affinity with all domestic chores and motherhood. I know it was all very gender oriented- but that's what it was back then. Had she not been affected in that way- it would have been cars and a garage for all we cared. She wanted to bath her baby too.

As the pregnancy was different so was his character and carefree first year. Not sickly but troubled by tonsils and adnoids. Bronchial. And as opposed to his sister, he LOVED to sleep. Lay him down to change a nap, answer the phone, play in the playpen- eyes shut and off to snooze land. Not an early riser. That was so handy and considerate.

With his arrival, and my sister's two boys, my parents had a great time being oma and opa. Even though we lived at some distance 20+ km, it was 'do-able'.

The baby years went fast- lots of happy moments, health issues which caused the odd sleepless night and headaches. Mini accidents, fingers and toes, head bumps, tummy bugs, croup, temperatures. We were no different to the 'normal' family. You took everything in your stride. No special 'father' days. No home help. Just being mum doing 'normal' mum stuff.

The area we lived in was dubbed 'Nappy Valley'. The name says it all. Young families, plenty of children. Also plenty of support. We all were there for one and other. Our two were used to being dropped off at a neighbours if I had a doctor's appointment or whatever and they were also used to having friends over, returning the 'babysit favour'. It was happy, not carefree, but laughter filled time with children developing right under one's nose. Daycare was an oddity and exception to the rule.

With pride I went out and about with my children. Me, a mum of two. People's heads did turn. They were so cute. Both blond as can be. Clear blue eyes. Inquisitive and chirpy. I can with all honesty say that this was one of the most 'joyful periods' I look back on with absolute pride and joy.

The second motherhood experience was so different. One thinks to know what to expect- but nothing is further from the truth. Well, in general terms, but not the reality. Due to the gentleness and contentment of his nature, I had space for the attention my daughter needed.

Placid, easily pleased, non demanding, cheerful, bubbly, quiet, allergic for milk ( oh yes), hospital experience at 9 months, reluctant to part with mum or dad, easy to settle, headstrong - a family trait. Many of those characteristics still present today. A fine man, husband, father and friend as far as a mother can judge that. No, no saint. Can get pretty worked up angry with injustice issues and can raise his voice and get mad as any other person. Just has a tighter control than some. Great sense of humour which he has inherited from his opa. As his build and gait. He walks like my dad... yep he does.

My parenting years are behind me. Yes, there is only a 'I'm here should you need me' task for me now. They are adults in their own right. Being a parent I did my best and being a 'parent on the background' I do what I think is right. It might not be seen that way, but who can say, " I did it perfectly." Is there such a thing- perfect parenting?

The years that followed brought joys and sorrows, worries woes and happiness. Being family is an art. And art has many forms. The shape and form of my family still had one change left to go.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

#1. Memories of my Motherhood moments, first time round.

Memory lane: I have been sorting old photos. Scanning some, deleting others and musing over the rest. Faded memories became clearer, lost ones revived and warm moments relived.

To 'do' something with these memories I have decided to write about my 3 children and the impact their arrival had on me as a mum.

It was 1972 and I was pregnant. Bit young, but I thought I was experienced enough in life to be capable of motherhood and all that it entailed.

Those months of my pregnancy were a challenge - I lived more than 650 kms away from my parents and other family members in New Zealand. And half a world away from those in Nederland. Happily we had some lovely neighbours and one set of parents of friends. The mum was a dutch lady. She became one of my 'warm bath' people. Someone I could talk to, share worries or thoughts with. Those one would normally want to share with a mum. My dear neighbour Val, whom I remember with fondness also a great support and place to go when the emotions got too tough. No internet in those days, we didn't have a phone either. Having a private conversation with my parents just didn't happen.

Oh joy of joys when my daughter was born. I felt soooooo proud, so complete. In fact what I felt was so BIG I cannot to this day describe the emotions and feelings of that moment. Just WOW. My daughter. WOW!

She had huge inquisitive eyes, a bright spark. Her hair had a gingery glow. She was short... little- not tiny but little. Oh I was so in 'new mum' heaven. As I was used to little children having been a babysitter since my early teens, had a brother 13 years younger and my sister had already had her first child, bathing my daughter for the first time didn't scare me. I couldn't wait to truly 'care' for my daughter. The nursing staff were surprised to find the 'chore' done when they came into my room.

Breast feeding was an issue. I tried and tried - and didn't succeed past the first 6 weeks. Topping up each feed with the bottle. A choice had to be made. I switched to bottle feeding. The great part was that daddy could feed his daughter too. I felt quite sad for him all those extra moments I had and all he could do was look on. This seemed much fairer. It is also, my personal opinion, that he and she were able to bond so beautifully. He loved holding her and caring for this new life. We took turns during the night shift feeds.

As I said earlier, a bright spark. Sleep was a useless activity madam decided. It was a long day- being able to finally settle her around 9pm. The short catnaps during the day topped up her energy levels enough to last the distance.

We had a playpen- and she would lie in it at first with rugs and soft toys. It soon became a place to play. At 5 months she pulled herself up on the bars and started 'walking' round holding onto the bars. Yes, I encouraged this. She loved peanut butter sandwiches. I used to feed her through the bars, piece by piece, while she gingerly set the steps to reach the next mouthful. Many a 'expert child rearer' may be horrified at this practice- but what works for one doesn't necessarily work for others. My daughter slept on her tummy, walked early ( wobbly at 9 months and running before her 1st birthday)  and was also early out of nappies.

No, she didn't suffer traumas because of it. She is a well adjusted modern woman and mother of 3 and doing wonderful things in life.

Active, creative, self reliant, independent, private, head strong, confident, daring, challenging, serious, sporty, caring, enthusiastic, vulnerable,  tough, resilient.

We don't always see eye to eye. I can say with all honesty, she runs rings around me as far as activities and challenges are concerned. I cannot keep up with her, nor need I do so. Her life is so different yet paralel with mine way back then. Her challenges seem larger, harder, but times have changed. I am glad I had the moments I've had as a young mum when I did, and look with awe to the challenges spread out before young families today.

My greatest gift was to be a young mum with a daughter who kept me on my toes. My reward is seeing what a strong character she has grown in to be and having the privilege of being oma to her 3 children.

Darling daughter... there are no words to express my feelings and love for you. It is ever present and not a day goes by I don't think of you - so far away and yet close in my heart!

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Sharing memories- the privilege of parenting.

Our summer holiday season is mid way. I have enjoyed 2 wonderful weeks away and have since come back down to earth picking up routines and chores that I had let go so I had the space to recharge my batteries.

This morning my ICT expert assisted me in re-organising my failed Office package. I had also received numerous messages from Apple that my storage was filling up. Time to take charge and tidy up my files.

Well I don't know about you, but when I unearth old photos or letters, I tend to get a bit side tracked. The result this time has been that I have mulled over my motherhood period when my children were little. Actually the pregnancy and early years memories to be exact.

Now, I tend to overload my storage area in my head too. The way to clear it somewhat- not erase, just tidy up, is to put thoughts ''on paper'. That is exactly what I have spent the past couple of hours doing. I typed and typed. Fixed errors ( I hope) and have re-read what I've written. Many many memories remain unwritten- but that's ok. What I've shared I am content with.

As a mum and proud of all 3, I realised I have never shared these thoughts with them or anyone for that matter.

I hope that when they read it, they get to know me better. And for those 'strangers' who read my stories- maybe your own memories will float to the surface- and the knowledge of those moments may just trigger a feeling of nostalgia, pride, joy and possibly also sadness and/or regret. All these emotions are human, necessary and hold healing properties where healing is needed. Life is a combination of good with bad. Believe me, none of us escape that unfortunately. Some more often that others.

I have been privileged to have raised 3 children. They are adults now and raising their own families. May their joys be as abundant as mine were, their recollections heartwarming and their rewards unrestricted.

Parenting, one of life's privileges. And I am grateful I was one of those granted that role in life.

Over the next week or so 3 stories of my experiences will be keep your eye on my blog if you are interested.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Insecurities and expectations

This morning in our newspaper I read an interview article with a tv personality. This young woman is more active behind the scenes in tv land than up front. She has been offered a summertime programme to interview celebs or other prominent people. It is a Summertime special in which the person is interviewed for 3 hours...sort of laid back style, very personal and gives an insight into the person who holds the office or position they occupy in life.

I don't always watch the programme - depends on who the interviewer is- or the subject being interviewed.

The article this morning touched me. Funny. As I am not accustomed to being affected in this way reading about someone unknown and feeling an empathy which was most uncanny. I recognised myself in this person and some of her experiences. Her analyses of why she had developed certain mannerisms and characteristics were so familiar, that it was an eyeopener for me. It explained so much I sort of knew about myself but never acknowledged or thought consciously about. And when I did, I quickly pushed it aside. Not a nice place to visit.

Bullying: A hot item. Just the word alone makes me uncomfortable. Even as an adult it upsets me. Brings a nauseating feeling to the surface. I have no intention of 'going there' but believe me when I say, " I have first hand experience - having been at the receiving end both as a child and later as an adult."

So did the interviewee in the paper. She described some of her mannerisms and ways she had developed characteristics after her negative experiences, that are similar to mine. Always wanting to please, always needed affirmation. Always thinking that, "I am not good enough, try harder to be nicer, give more, take less, shrink don't be so present". At a gathering I would rather be in the kitchen than in the reception area. Give me the sink.... not the stage. If someone doesn't ring or call, I think it is my 'fault'.

 Now that doesn't mean I do not like to 'be nice' or even that I find myself continually in battle with myself. It just means- I have a natural tendency to say yes, to be alert, helpful or bow to other's wishes. Well, generally speaking. As I got older I grew in the need to put my foot down and my own needs came first - but that comes at a cost. I do however struggle with guilt issues when I don't meet a need or disappoint due to other commitments or circumstances where being helpful isn't possible. I enjoy seeing others happy, especially if in some way I have helped bring that about.

As I mentioned, it comes at a cost. Being well willing, comes naturally. Putting my wishes first doesn't. I am in continual battle with myself. I get nervous. Insecure, doubting. My behaviour is at times erratic and nervy. I make mistakes, bad judgements and become dithery. I come across incapable. Mostly because I am afraid of the reactions, judgements or not having pleased someone who might be affected simply because I put my foot down. I have a number of people on pedestals - at heights I can only admire, and with a certain misgiving that I will never be able to match that. It makes me nervous and uncomfortable at the same time.

Sad thing about that is, is that it colours my thinking, my actions and the expectations that others have of me. I want to meet the expectation - then I set the benchmark and I get it wrong.

How to fix something that is broken? This eternal need to please has damaged a few relationships in my time- and I hurt just remembering. Even now I know the relationship between me and a few 'close' people is precarious. Fragile and at a point where I do not know how to fix them. Me, a pleaser.

This is the first time I have put this on paper. I am, as the saying goes, finding a richer wisdom by age. Yet some answers still elude me. Having written this, thought deeply about it and re-read about 10 times, I see and understand more and more about my actions, my emotions, my 'me'.

Right now, this interview, the revelations and the inner soul searching has zapped my energy and left me feeling fragile and bruised. I know and believe that eventually I too will gain more insights to help me repair what needs repairing, adjust what needs adjusting and hopefully level off what needs leveling.

Anything with 'too' in front needs to reduce in size. Too much pleasing can be too much of a good thing. There is only one thing in life that deserves 2 OO's and that's love. One cannot love too much!