zondag 25 september 2016

Still Falling For You

Many of you know that I am a teacher.  Also do many know that I teach in a very international setting.  For the moment do run over 70 nationalities around in my educational hotspot.  Oh yes, I drive every weekday into a habitat that is very colorful in many ways.  It is surely what I have dreamed of for many years.  The day that I found that one mail in my mailbox that I got hired was one of my best days ever.  My life has surely changed since that day.  Not a single regret on that frontier.

It have been already very challenging years since I joined the staff.  A school is not a static place.  Educators will for sure know that a learning environment is very fragile when it comes down to changes.  Not a single year or even a day is the same.  IT and administration and many stakeholders have made education so much more intense and I have to admit even tiresome.  The moment you think you got your head around everything there will pop up a new educational innovation that you are politely asked to integrate into your daily job. 

Now the core business of a teacher should not be writing perfect planning papers, filling out tons of assessments or other official documents. Do not get me wrong these are all very important but they do take a lot of time to get them in order.  Before you get to the effective teaching most teachers have already spend some time outside the classroom preparing, justifying, assessing, grading, analyzing, creating, programming, anticipating, downloading, etc.   These are all verbs and need action and take up already some of your energy.  As I have said out here before the automatic pilot is non existing in a classroom. 

So yes, the best part of my job is the teaching bit. It is that part where all the other things I had to do sometimes seem to fall in to place.  A bad day on paper can suddenly turn out to be best lesson of the week.  That this is due to my target group, the students is not a surprise.  They are my jury and it is thanks to them that I need to stay focused and open minded.

The new academic year is now 3 weeks old/fresh and have to say that it already has been quite nice out there in the classroom.  Surely, coworkers still have to deal with my notorious morning mood. This year also a new chapter started for me as a teacher due to some changes in my job description. My target group of students is slightly a bit different.  The subject is still the same and that is the super cool language Dutch.  Undoubtedly have most of you never ever spoken a word of Dutch in their life and most of you never ever will feel the necessity of doing so. 

It is not a very ‘sexy’ language and most of the students I teach will admit that they will move in the years to come and never ever will use the language actively in the far future.  Plus that also not all students are blessed with a talent for picking up easily foreign languages.  Some of my students even come into school not knowing one word of English. These students go into a kind of crash course of English with some of the best teachers we have at our school. It is amazing to hear the progress they make in one year. 

The big difference between those oscar worthy teachers and me is gigantic.  The fact is that I teach a one hour subject in a primary school and that is the same number of hours as music.  Once a week I walk into classrooms with only 1 mission and that is to teach the world Dutch. Nope this is not a piece of cake.  Even in secondary I noticed that if students had to make up their minds my mother tongue did not stood a chance to poetic French, businesslike German and the so sexy Spanish. 

An other handicap I face is that some of students are very outspoken that they do not feel the need to learn an other language.  English does make the world go round in the life of many of my students.  When I try to explain to them why it can be useful to learn any language they sometimes stare at me like I come from Mars. When I try to defend my case students come up with many reasons why Dutch is waste of time.  Like once a student said:’I already know 7 languages! I think that is already enough, don’t you think?’ I stood there and was speechless.   The next few lessons this student went on a strike. It felt like I had to win this kid over why it was useful to dive for the eight time into an unknown language and facing a move in the unknown near or far future.  In the end it worked out for the two of us but it did cost time and patience.

I can assure you that the battles I fight inside of a classroom are not that always easy. Yes, I even admit that I loose sometimes some of them.  Not that I am happy about it but it is reality.  So this means that I also feel a bit like the ambassador of the Dutch language in my school.  A job I take serious and I still not give up on. 

The thing is that this year I am given the opportunity to focus on the mother tongue students and the ones that have a talent for languages.  Something that makes my job a bit less complicated.  I still have to motivate many of them because as the language teachers amongst us must know is that the school language is the dominant language in their life.  Many of my students even speak at home an other language than English. 

Trying to maintain all those languages is hard work and let us be honest a primary child needs space and time to be a child.  Plus that not all students learn in the same manner what even makes it a bit more challenging.  Over the last ten years I have surely discovered that learning is very fascinating and that there is not one straight forward manual to guide your class through the process. 

Plus that it is very important that you as a teacher keep an open mind about all learners in your room. I have to say that when you suddenly find the right route for one your learner after a serious detour that this is an ace feeling.  About a week ago I had the privilege to witness such a moment. Seeing a student suddenly coping with the learning, taking initiative and applying correctly what you have been pushing into their system is so intense. It is like they cross the finish line in a personal best time.  It gives me shivers down my spine.  Suddenly I am for two seconds in a bubble where I only have eye for that one student.  High in the sky and in teacher heaven!

Students are blank canvases when they walk into your classroom but we tend to pick out the colors rather quickly they are allowed to use to create their personal learning journey.  Okay, the box filled up with colours does not contain an endless combinations of colours.  Many of teachers have to make do with what they have been given.  Creative thinking can help us in many situations but when you run out of resources or your patience.

So when I am questioned what the outcome of my learning I do sometimes panic because to be honest students all have their own way of learning.  I can assure that I did witness my Y3 students using their Dutch correctly in an active way outside the school and that is the ultimate sensation.  The thing is that it is so unpredictable and in some case you do wonder if it even makes sense to some of them. 

The odds are sometimes against me, but the days that I am winning and foremost my students are gaining confidence, independency, self confidence, are resilient, dare to take risks and are willingly to go on the learning journey with me I am a very content teacher.  The ones that leave my classroom with a smile also make my day brighter.  Yes, after all these years I am still falling for you….

zondag 4 september 2016

Believe Own Way

Going back is never easy… it even feels a bit like cold turkey… my body and mind are then suddenly using all their resistance.  Surely, teachers are blessed with a very long Summer and that is so nice.  Still believe me that having to get back into the saddle can be sometimes rather painful.  Not that I could function optimal without a classroom but this year my mind had decided that it needed more time to get completely disconnected. 

The first weeks of July my mind was playing tricks on me and did I still woke up at the exact time that I had to wake up in order to get ready for work.  Plus Freud would have had a great field day with me on his coach and hearing all the insane dreams and nightmares that invaded my mind during my power nap.  Stallie was not close to a mental break what so ever by the 2nd week of July.  Why?  Well, last school year something was taken away from me that I just adore.   Something that surely makes me love my job even more so interesting and challenging.   It is now a thing of the past and chances are very unlikely that I will ever get such an opportunity but sometimes life serves you lemons. 

Now, I do know that you then need to make some lemonade and find the silver lining in all of this. Yes, I am very much aware of that but it just did not work.  Like mentioned in  a previous post I have been crying a lot, screaming internal, cursing at many, running out of patience and foremost I have been taking it very personal.  That is me, 200% and I know so well that I then can act like a drama queen.  Still it was a very deep cut and it did not stop bleeding as fast as I wished for.  

Now over the last 6 months I did talk with many and some people have been very clear about my options.  A few even have pointed out to me that this is a new opportunity, others have tried to calm me down and tried to make me look at the half empty class as being rather half full.  P has demonstrated a lot of understanding and was even able to tell me that it would take some time to feel back a bit like the ‘old’ Stallie.  The thing is that P is everything so much faster than I am.   Plus I feel amputated in a way.  That is what it feels like and it is hard to replace that one limb that has given you so much joy and has pushed you over the edge professional.  

So yes, when it happened I did something else that is so not me, I did then book that one trip to Japan.  Now this entry is not the one I wish to get further into that trip. I promise that I will post a Japan entry very soon because on that trip I was granted what I did need so desperately. It has happened before.  On Mount Nebo, while looking over the Gran Canyon, on the top of World Trade Center, waking up in Yosemite Park and many other placed but believe me this time it was so much more intense. Even mindblowing!  Nothing is the same anymore since. 

Yes, I have been granted a very intense moment in Japan and I will never ever forget that exact moment. It can still give me shivers down my spine because I knew that the power of mindfulness can do miracles but still I had never experienced at full power.  There is even a picture of the setting shortly before it took place. I faced the worst Stallie in Japan and the one I so much wish to be when I tackling life in these heck of the woods.  One look at that picture and I am back…. I hold on that picture dearly… can you blame me? Hopefully not!

I was told that going back to work would be harder this time and so I tried to face the music with a smile.  About 120 seconds I was able to keep up appearances.  I am told to be an open book although there is a part of me that only a select group of people is allowed access to because they will take me off guard.   Plus I listen also very carefully when these people talk to me and so I was warned what was about to happen.  So yes, Stallie was not a happy  bunny when she had to unpack for the third time boxes in one year.  

That I had to move from A to B and then quite quickly to C and then 6 months later to D created havoc and chaos in my mind that was already in overdrive.  The thing is in order to function optimal I need a quiet office space to retreat to once in a while.  Coffee and a biscuit won’t do the trick. It is the silence in the morning and the first 30 minutes after school when I am all by myself that I am able to reset my mind or that I try very hard to put things in a perspective.  Now I was facing a mind that I just could not reset at any point.  During lunch time I felt broken en disconnected.  Like I did not fit in anymore.  The rest of the day I spend in a bubble and even took a few serious blows right in my face. 

Best part of that day the chat I had with my head of department.  She sincerely asked me how my day went although she already had seen what it had been like.  In those 15 minutes we talked I spilled all the beans.  Her smile and her eyes communicated that force that made me calm down.  She then asked me a few questions.  Simple questions with very easy answers.  Next she told me to go home and have a gin and tonic.  What I had not seen before or had forgotten about was suddenly visible.  Still it did not take the feeling away that this day had been a waste for me. 

So I drove home with a splitting headache and all I longed for was my bed. Yes, all the demons were back and I still wondered if I was in the wrong profession.   A gin&tonic was very tempting but then my brain was communicating only five letters: S L E E P.  Yes, Stallie went to bed shortly after nine.  What is extremely early for my personal standards. P must have been relieved at that stage because it meant that he was freed from a very dark Stallie.  It took me about 1 hour to find my way to the land of the dreams.

Sleep can be powerful and yes I had hoped that it would work. Fortunately it did.  That the sun was out as well and that I did mange to get into our new parking lot without hitting anything or getting stuck between the automatic doors.  The whole day I did manage to keep up my more positive outlook on the situation.  All went smoother and I even got into that one state of mind that I need to perform optimal my profession.  The sparks were there and made me feel more adequate than the day before. 

Satisfied is Stallie not… Not that comes as a surprise.   This teacher is after fireworks when it comes down to her job. A job I take very seriously.  Perfection I still strive for and we all knew that that is something not easily to obtain.  But I still aim for it… knowing that I will never ever be 100% good enough.  This school year will be challenging, no doubt about that.  That I on Friday did experience that brand new feeling that I created while I was in Japan getting lost and then found then seconds later something that gave me energy boost is certainly one big step forwards. 

Tomorrow students are expected back at the educational hotspot and I will be ready.  The cookies tin is filled up again till the brim and I have a brand new coffee mug.  Empty but very colorful folders that are screaming to be filled up with new ideas and a ‘new’ office that also will be my classroom where I do hope to educate and entertain my students. 

Yes, Stallie is ready. There will be days that the darkness will be looming around the corner and then please bear with me.  I promise that on the teaching frontier I still only go for the highest standards. I am not about 19 years in the teaching profession and not one single year has been the same.  Bored I have never been in all those years.  So bring it on the academic year 2016-2017.  We are back in business!  And I do believe my own way is the right way to walk when it comes down to my profession. 

PS: While being in Japan I found these boys and girls popping up on my Spotify.  Yes, they do sound rather tacky but once you have been in Japan it all makes more sense.  Even the music this nation listens to.  In a way they remind me of Steps.  More about Japan in the following posts. For now I can only say that there is a Stallie before and a Stallie after Japan. AAA will help to remind me of that.  No doubt about that!  I believe in myself, my students and the school I teach at.... that is all it takes to have that awesome and incredible academic school year I am after.  And to those all educators out there who also are about to kick off or already did for some time: I believe in all of you!!!! Please believe in your way!!! Your students also believe....

(You can find the translation of that song here: http://www.jpopasia.com/aaa/lyrics/291901/aaa-10th-anniversary-best/believe-own-way/)

maandag 1 augustus 2016

Sweet dreams!!!???

I am leaving in about 11 days for my very longed for trip to a spot that I never imagined to travel to. Thanks to working at an international educational hotspot where lots of people come and go and then are spread out over the whole globe I do end up going to very exotic places.  That is very nice side effect but still there is also a downside to it.  Close friendships are rather surrealistic. As a result most of my close friends or at least who I wish to call close live not close by. Most of the people who know me very well and know my dark spot I might end up seeing not that many times in a decade. 

I miss many and very good friends who have moved away made me feel 'empty and lost'.  I feel mostly like the one who is left behind. That my Christmas card is destinated to go global is surely a nice side effect as well but it is hard. Especially when it comes down to sharing the good and the bad times.  But hey, next week I am boarding a flight to travel to that one spot that hopefully will help me to relocate my zen spot.   Because it is very urgent and I am about to get myself checked in to a psychiatric ward. Yes, believe me that is how bad my mental state is at the moment.

And it even got worse when today shortly after taking one glance at the weekend press I had wished to read up on due to having attended a very nice hen do in the UK (Yeah, I go the distance for my friends) I had a total meltdown. I was about to lighten that bunch of papers and to throw it over the hedge.  The fact is that I am not that handy with matches and I also try to keep our neighbours at peace with us.  Instead I tried very hard to push out all my emotions but the harder I tried the harder my mind went in overdrive.   Not one single article I came across made me put things in perspective.  Nope, I was about to ask for political assylym after my first cup of George Clooney coffee and I am very serious.  It was that bad.   What had triggered it?  Well to be honest that was not even a news article. Not it had been certain words spoken with so much conviction this weekend that I wondered where the world had come to.  It was like that what happened over the weekend was just the tip of the ice berg.

So what happened then? Well, as mentioned I did head out for the UK last weekend for a hen do. No, please do not get carried away it was nothing in the sort of dressing up in an onsie and having cans of Pimms (as much as I love that drink I can only have it after 7 and in the perfect setting so not while walking over the streets and hiding them in a paper bag) for lunch and having gin and tonics in dozens for dinner.  Nope, this lovely bride to be had wished for a rather quiet and stylish hen do. As a result Stallie had to dress up roaring twenties style and pretend to be lady Sue Suspender in a murder mystery. Yes, you can let your imagination get carried away! It is allowed but I won't be posting any pictures on here for you to enjoy.

It was such delight to end up with 18 ladies dressed the part and have fun.  Yes, many outrageous funny, or at least accorrding to us, selfies were taken with our smart phones.  The bride to be was a very happy princess and every time when she saw most of us she almost started to cry.  Certainly she was not your ordinary bridezilla but rather a very sentimental and happy girl who still carries her heart at the right spot.  Lots of emotions passed by that evening.  I started to let my fence down and I felt rather relax.  Our carriage heading back to the hotel even arrived before the Cinderella hour and I was ready for my bed.  Glad that we got to create many new fond memories that I plan to cherish for a long time.  'I can't stop the feeling' by Justin Timberlake made for once this Summer so much more sense and I almost danced into my hotel room.  Picture perfect night, ladies and gentlemen!  Nothing to add!  Well you know what happens sometimes when you are holding on to perfection... Yeah, exactly.....

One moment I was dancing the Charleston and twisting my legs in funny positions and the next I was blocking my hotel door and even did not dare to go to bed. Now I call myself a frequent traveller and I have never ever in my life felt unsafe in a hotel.   Okay there was once this hotel in Turkey (remember N?!)  where only men did hang out in the hotel lobby and we were told to put our suitcases as an extra security tool in front of our doors for just in case. In general I have always felt very safe.   Well, things were about to change soon...

The moment I arrived at my hotel door there was a guy hanging out in the hallway and he asked my friend and me to party along with him.  We both politely declined and then got into our seperate rooms.   Not sure why but my body and mind suddenly went into a mode that I had not experienced ever before.   So I locked my door and put the chain immediately in the lock as well.  These are actions I normally do shortly after brushing my teeth and turning of the lights. In most cases I even forget to lock my door.  Yeah, I trust the hotel to take the security seriously.

Well, seems that man who had invited us for a 'party' decided that he was going to use the hallway for exactly that.  But not a fun party. He started to yell and used very foul language.   While I tried to take off for the land of dreams I was forced to follow along a 'conversation' between a man and a woman that I can only describe as being very abusive.  I had goosebumps all over my body.  First I did think they would settle their argument quite soon but that turned out not to be the case.  No, the moment that they did seem to quiet down the volume went up again.   Doors were slammed, knocking on doors, shouting, loud cries and many more sounds that kept me awake.   Now, I guess that you would have called reception and asked for 'help'.  Well, my brain was screaming out SOS and my body was in lock down.   I have never ever before in my life called reception.  When I need help with something I do prefer to go down and see them face to face.  So I felt reluctant as well to do this but this time there was no way that I was opening my door while the heat was on outside my room.

So why did I not called them?  Well, you know Stallie and at exact that moment her brain went in overdrive. I pictured the security guard coming upstairs saying the following words to our aggressive drunk guest:'Sir, would you mind calming down we just had some complaints.'  'Complaints?  Who complained? I bet it were those ladies that refused to come and have a drink with me.' I pictured him then starting to knock on my door and yelling at me that I was 'white trash'. He had used those words numerous times before and they are still echoing in my head.  The idea that 1 security guard wasn't able to keep 1 hostile guest in check was enough for me to abort my intention to call reception.

Yes, I did not understand why at this moment nobody else had called yet.  My friend was the only one who I knew was unable to call the reception due to the fact that her phone was not working.   Still the hotel seemed to be fully booked. We were surely not the only people trying to sleep.  Well, you know how it goes you just keep low at such moments and hope that it does pass as soon possible.   So I then decided to get my Kindle out and tried to dive into Outlander, part 3.  In the hope that fierce and determinted looking men in kilts would help me to ignore all the action that was going on.   For once Jamie Fraser and Claire Randall seemed to be outwitted by 1 very loud drunk English man.  Normally those two can take on every Red Coat.  Not this time and they had to get the white flag out.

There I sat then in my 'sweet bed' (I am serious that is what the beds are called at this hotel chain) wide awake and my heartbeat went wild, my skin did not cool down either, my brain was all over the place....By now it was close to 3.30 and I wondered if I would even dare to sleep.  I was scared to even sleep.   Still I did finaly managed to close my eyes and I did fall asleep.   Rude awakenings we all know what they feel like and that was what I experienced about 3 hours later. Yes, I did have a headache and no that was not alcohol related.  Stallie felt and looked also like a zombie. This was rather due to my biological clock that got messsed up since having a son.

Over breakfast I found out that my friend was not a happy camper either due to what had been going on.  We then both went up to see the receptionist. Now at this stage of the story I need to point out that this friendly person seemed to be a very hardworking man who had to do more than cheking in&out guests and settling bills.   This was a individual who did not seem to take it easy, seemed to be rather on his own most of the time and so he mastered multi tasking.   But still dealing with complaints comes along with his jobdescription as well. Or am I already wrong to assume this?

So we went up to see him and told him our nightly adventure. And as expected he did then wonder why none of us had called.  Now I was not hoping he would offer us a free night. Nope, that was not what I was after. I wanted him to take us serious.  We told him in what room the loud and aggressive sounding guest was staying.  By the way, this guy had the 'do not disturb' sign out in the morning and that had made me almost scream and knock on his door very loudly.  But I did restrain myself and did try to tell myself that ladies do not behave in such ways.  The message we tried to get across was that we had not felt safe and that we wondered what they were going to do about it in the future when it would happen again to other guests.  At this point some other people were standing next to us and overheard us taking.  'Oh, we did hear that as well going on.', was their input.  I then did wonder:'So at least we are not making this up.  So why did you not call then?'   They did hang out with us for the rest of the conversation but not made any active contribution.  Not that they looked like happy bunnies either but they kept rather quiet.

When my friend had ended her story I then kept my fingers crossed that the nice looking fellow would come up with some sane sounding reply.  The four of us looked at him and he must have felt that the pressure was on.  'I am sorry.  But what do you want me to do about it?  This is Britain.  It is out of my hands.'  And then it happened... right there in a hotel lobby in Yorkshire I lost the plot.  I wanted to jump across the reception desk (would have broken my personal record high jump by doing so) and plaster the guy against the wall and strangle him.

My innerself was screaming:'WHAT THE FUCK!!! (pardon, my French) I CAN NOT BELIEVE WHAT YOU JUST SAID.  ARE YOU EVEN SERIOUS?  IS THIS WHERE THE WORLD HAS COME TO?  DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU ARE IMPLYING?......'  I went in total over drive and was so angry, upset, sadd, dissapointed, furious and some more negative sounding words.   Why you might wonder?  He had said sorry. Yeah, he had but he should have sticked to that one word that had been the safer option.  Because it were all the other words he had used.  Those made me furious for so many reasons.

It seemed like he was passing on an other message and a very negative one. One that I am trying to stay away from whatever the cost is.  But now this person had expressed that I was to suppose to give up and settling for this situation.  That this was normal in nowdays society and that he as an individual could not do anything about it.  So that I had to get used to feeling unsafe even in a hotel where I paid for my service.  That 1 drunk person has got more power than a whole hotel and the management. That Britain is a nation where people like this are common and that I better get used to it. EXCUSE ME!!!!???? COME AGAIN!!!! 

On top of that I had just started to read Bill Bryson his newest book about this 'small island' called 'The Road to Little Dribbling'.  It is the sequel to his best seller 'Notes From a Small Island.'  The people who know Bryson his work know what makes him such a well received author. His witty writing style and story telling can make you LOL numerous times.  The UK he so skillful describes that is what I am after and have already experienced, that is the nation that I love and hate, that is what I think of when I hear the letters UK.  Bryson nails again in this one and had already gotten under my skin before the hotel incident. But now I was in serious doubt and did wonder if all what was going on in the world (yes including Brexit!) was something I had to get used to and was the new 'normal' and most importantly 'out of my hands'?  It was like this hotel receptionist had 'killed' Bill Bryson his vision.  And not just that nation but to me he did even question an other human being who once said:'Ask not what your country, ask what you can do for your country.'  Bryson even mentions this fellow in this book and so that is why that receptionist got so much under my skin.  This is one of my mantras I live by and do strongely believe in those words.  After all fear is a bad councelor. 
ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/johnfkenn109213.html
ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/johnfkenn109213.html

I felt defeated and on my train ride home the lack for sleep did kick in and I did wonder if this was the summer that I had to exchange my Bill Bryson book for a survival guide after a nuclear disaster.  Fear after all is an excelent salesperson.  A certain Republican nominee who is running for president masters this skill masterfully.  Many others seem as well to be able to spread fear into our evereyday society like a very aggressive form of cancer.  I see, hear, read and experience on a daily basis what fear can do and it seems that yesterday a friendly but rather helpless sounding hotel receptionist had already given up.

WELL, I REFUSE!  I STILL DO.   That I did already dare to tell him that I felt unsafe in his hotel was already one step further than I normaly would have taken on this road.  As a result I did then decide that I had to give Bill Bryson a hand and that I could not leave this great nation with some extra help and I did then decide to buy the newest Harry Potter story.  So before jumping on the Eurostar I got my hands on copy of the recent published 'Harry Potter and the cursed child'.   That the story deals with a thirty something Harry who is close to having a burnout and wonders if he has made the right decissions in his life I forgive the author for.  JK Rowling ('We've got both light and dark inside of us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That is who we really are.')  and Bill Bryson (That's the trouble with loosing your mind; by the time it is gone, it's too late to get it back.') that should do the trick and will surely make my mornings more magical than reading the newspaper, don't you think?  Reading a newspaper should come with a healh warning.  And next time when I travelling to the UK I book a room at Hogwarts. I already now where platform 9 3/4 is located. The rest should be child's play during my next journey. 


PS: In case you wonder if there will be any further action concerning the hotel with the 'sweet bed': Yes but that will mostly take place on paper and won't be directed to the nice hotel receptionist who seems to need a hand because I do believe him that he can't fix this on his own.

vrijdag 15 juli 2016

Nice and beyond....

There are many reasons why someone who loves to write suddenly decides not to write.   I have wondered why now and then that happens to me.   More and more I wake up in the morning feeling the urge to write something down.  The drive is still there and the therapeutic power of my keyboard has already proven its strength. No doubts on that frontier.  Inspiration enough out there to use for many entries.  The world seems in over drive in many ways and as an individual who tries to make her life worthwhile in many ways it gives me a lot of food for thought.  No missing stepping stone and I surely still have the power to write.  There is something else at work which the last 18 months has made it so much more challenging.  What?  Well let me try to explain it to you.  The positive flow I feel when I wake up is killed by the time I put toothpaste on my electric toothbrush and try to get rid of the creepy bacteria.  It is when I stare in to the mirror that it happens. That it the moment that all my creativity and urge to write is killed!   Fear then takes over. More and more I am scared to write something that others might hurt.   

Let us be honest 2016 has not be kind to us so far. It is not the year we can and will be able to boast about in glossy magazines.  So many events have ‘killed’ something or someone. Ideology and ideas seem to be rather the force of destruction.  I have never felt so helpless due to what is happening in the world.  Even rather naive.  The people that shortly after an other destructive event post messages of love on their social media accounts are easy to find.  Yes, Stallie believes in the power of love and compassion. The problem is that I dare not to write about it for the moment. Like I feel jinxed.

I have cried a lot in the last few months. Not that I have that many personal reasons to do so. My family, friends and I are in good health,  I have a very challenging job that I still love, I still can enjoy all the things that I need in order to stay in balance.  Above all, I live in a nation where there is ‘freedom’ and where the human rights are taken very serious.  I don’t take all of that for granted.  So...but still...I feel so empty, lost, flying blind into a world that less and less makes sense. 

Today someone told me that the closer it happens to home the more you feel connected with it. I could not deny that.  That is how it works.  Something that you experience skin to skin you will never ever forget. It becomes part of you, your personality and it shapes you.  It has found a way into your body and mind. Chances are very likely that it will influence your way of life and the decisions you make.  In the 21st century we are in many ways connected.  Modern technology has helped us to find old friends we lost track of and science surely benefits of progress.  I can’t deny that I experience this myself. My smartphone has given me access to a world that about 2 decades ago was harder to enter.  My blog also has given me a lot over the years and that I am still very grateful for. Nope, I don’t care that much about the number of people who read this.  Wait, I do care but it is not the number that I care about but rather the people itself. 

Why? Well, we are all different and we all have got our own priorities, dreams, wishes, hopes and motivations that push us forwards.  Thank the Lord for diversity.  At work I see daily the force of it at work. Still, it also does create friction and tension.  It causes pain and it can even you push into the direction of the red button. It makes you tip over and going totally ballistic.  If chocolate and George Clooney would not be close by then I don’t know where my mind would take me.  Being the analyst of words and loving to read between the lines has tired me out this year.  It got that far that I do not dare to express my own opinion out here.  P, my family and some good friends know that I am holding back and that I do not wish to hurt anyone in the process of creation.

I now read and read and just swallow… I now sit here and feel empty… I stare at my screen and search for hope but do not find that much of that out there…it is like I feel more and more the elephant in the room.  When someone tells their story and their opinion I do care and I know now after 4 decades that I am like a sponge.  My skin is not thick and I do feel responsible in many ways when something happens like in Nice, Istanbul, Brussels, London, Madrid, Atlanta,  Lesbos, Aleppo, Bagdad, Dallas and many more places where this year something happened that made life come to a total stand still.  Sorry, if I have forgotten that one spot close your heart. Believe me that I do not do that consciously but these are just a few places that jump to my mind and have actually hold me back of writing.  You see why it is holding me back?  Is it clear? Do you get the message?  Please tell, me that you do!

Others have done that job for me and they have done that with conviction and very loud voices.  Many have created something with words, images, pictures and songs that carry out their opinion about what is going on.  Thank you all for sharing your opinions and stories.  Truly I appreciate that but the problem is that I not always fully agree with you.  But what I am after more and more is peace of mind.  I do no wish to be judged by the color of my skin, my race, my religion, the politicians I voted for (obligated to do so)…let us face the fact that the last ones I mentioned hardly ever do what they promise and make many things even worse.

None of us wishes to be judged by those things.  We hope that our personality, good nature, character and values are what matters. Now, many of those things are embedded in the religion that is passed on to us by our parents. Please, do not feel offended that you might be an agnostic or an atheist.  Do not worry, I respect your choice and your conviction and I leave you in peace.   That I not openly practice my religion that is actually something that is very private and my own choice.  I am creating my very intense journey of faith.  It is the deepest layer of my existence and I hardly share it with anyone. Not that I am ashamed of it.  I am not!  But I do not shout if of a roof top and I try to use at it a potential that creates positivity in my own life and that of many others.   It just do that in silence and when I practise it then I do that rather when nobody is looking. You can't see it when I walk over the street or you will not find me in a church every Sunday.  Nope!  Still, I cary my faith very close to my heart.  That it does collide with some individuals and ideologies that now seem to tell me that I am 'wrong', not pure of heart and that I have contributed to wars and killing others, I now fully understand. But still,.....

Nope, I do no point the finger at anyone in particular but I have come across a lot of news that has silenced me.  News, opinions, columns, reports, facts and figures, graphics, poems and songs that surely have very much gotten their message across. Believe me, I listen when I am spoken to.  But yes, at the moment I am rather Don Draper. I would now rather like to walk into a pub that is dim lit and where tumblers are filled up with Canadian Club whiskey.  I would then swallow the burning liquid down in the hope that it would numb me for a few precious moments that I don’t feel a thing. I long for that moment… I do because for the moment I don’t know what is the right word to use and to make sure that I not offend one single precious soul.  Seems for the moment that this is rather mission impossible.  I am desperate calling for Ethan Hawke instead of Don Draper. 

Silence is at the moment the loudest message I try to answer with.  Sorry, if you not agree with me but this is my personal reaction.  Deep inside of me there is this sleeping volcano who is desperate to erupt to create a flow of words.  All I can hope for is that the people close to my heart know what I try to tell by not talking.  In case you, like so many, might be wondering ‘Et maitenant?’ I wish to tell you are not the only who then only finds silence.  Many of us are in this together…

dinsdag 29 maart 2016

Live To Tell

So I am back home after 8 days filled up with snow fun.  Stallie mastered once again to stay upright on skis and this time swooshed down mountains while the sun was creating rays of sun light that reflected in her snow googles and did remind her of diamonds.  The wind made a few of strains of her hear go up and down and the mountain air forced me take very deep breaths.  That she one day got lost and ended up on a piste that was so deserted and all that she could hear was my own heart beat and some lost birds was also unforgetable.  It was on that piste that Stallie once again came to my senses.  Mission accomplished!

But coming home is a total different ball game! Since last Tuesday my country is different.   That I found out about the terror attacks by reading a tweet while heading for the gondola that was taking me up in the sky where the snow and fun awaited me was rather surreal.  Still, I will never forget where I was that one day that IS decided that Brussels got hit right in the middle of the heart.   It is one of these moments that will be scratched forever into my brain. It is reality now and that means that my brain needs to deal with something that is very hard to give the space it deserves without paralyzing me. 

In the mountains where I do have the best overview and where my mind gets rid of all the information that was a bit eassier than when I woul have been locked in between four walls of my house but still...  It is out there on a top of mountain that I dare to scream out that I am so pathetic and that I have not a single excuse to try harder.  The moment that I am about to give up and I am so tired it is like the my mind screams out:'Oh no, not today... You have done this before and so the only way is down and upright...we are not going to fall down now... there is a way to find in order to get down in one piece... so of you go... '.  At the end of the day I feel very tired but my body and mind tell me that we are in balance.  I sleep twice as good in the mountains than at home.

But I don't live there and home is Belgium where there are only hills.  So I need to be able to function in total different circumstances.  Now, I have more than once expressed what I do feel for my country and also for my capital.  Yes, I am fully aware that it is not perfect and that politicaly it has a lot of explaining to do.  There is not a single excuse that I can come up with.... And that is also not what I am after.  Since 9/11 I am very aware that I need to cherish what I have.   After Paris I was kind of holding my breath and wondered when 'we' would be next.  Nope, I don't think that there is a secret potion out there to prevent this.  I might be to fatalistic and as much I love my life I am rather down to earth when it comes down to counter terrorism and terror in general.  I preach 'carpe diem' very fiercly and I do cuddle more an more the ones that I desperatedly hold on to.  Also I do miss many who I wish that life treats them all and their family kindly.

 The thing is that I since Tuesday might be the most silent one when people start talking about what happened. Nope, I did not create millions of tweets with updates about my nation.  Oh yes, I read the news report in my hotel room and tried to get my head around what had happened. After all I do use that airport and when I go into Brussels I do pass by Maelbeek Station.   This metro stop stands out because of the lights and the art work by Beno├»t Van Innis painted on portuguese white Azulejo tiles.   I have always liked that stop due to the fact that it kind of brought light after the darkness.

Suddenly I became very aware that not being home at such a moment does make a difference.  I did call P a few times.  Oh yes, he was very down to earth and he did travel into Brussels that day to get to work.  He now admits that he does not like to talk about what happened that day.  He tried to describe me in what state of mind Brussels was.  His hospital did admit about 20 victims and that process he did decribe as going very smoothly and with a lot of discretion.  A sign that whatever procedure is in place for such distasters does work.    He is very aware of the consequences for some of the people who got very severly wounded in this disaster and their lives will never ever be the same again. And numerous families will have to deal with sorrow, pain, grief and in some cases a traumitized person.

Oh yes, my nation has been critized over and over again how it is dealing with this terror.  Some nations even will describe us as a 'failed' state.  I do not wish to go into that for the moment.  It is always very easy to point the finger at others. It happened and now trying to figure out who we could have prevented this is kind of too late.  One fact is undeniable: there is a lot of work to be done.  The politicians voted into office need to be looking ahead and trying plan for the future ahead.   It won't be easy and nobody is perfect.  I do not believe in miracles and unfortunately there will always be the human beings who think that the only way is out violence.  History repeats itself constantly but history also hopes that we learn from it.

I just hope that the people who have got the power to change things take up their responsibility.  Ladies and gentlemen who are voted into office I still grant you the benefit of the doubt.  I still believe that most of you care and deep down wish to do it differently.  The thing is you all are running out of time. In case you wonder what I am trying to do in order to make it work: I educate humans,  I try to be openminded and listen to what their concerns, wishes, frustrations, hopes and dreams are, I try to let them reflect in a safe classroom where I promise them over and over that they will not be judged by the color of their skin, their religion or their looks or what football team they cheer for or what perfume they like.  I try to educate the next generation who needs very clear signals that they are taken serious and that their efforts will pay off if they put in all the positive energy in order to get there.  There is no guarantuee that I will succeed every time.  It takes two to tango (yes, Obama knows this!) and there is no time to waste anymore.  I take my profession very seriously and I do have serious expections about politicians in general.  Is that too much asked? I don't think so.  Afer all this is about so much more than just trying to make sure that next elections your votes are guaranteed and you can stay in office.    Don't we all wish live to tell... So what are you waiting for?

Do not expect me to have long conversations when you land next to me or that I will openly express what I do think about all of this.  It is too complicated and I doubt that I do make sense.  So when these three articles you can find here below showed up in the press I suddenly felt not alone anymore.  Deep down I do grief as much for these humans who got killed in Iraq, Pakistan, Syria or Turkey.  To me violence is never the right response.  But in case you will ask me I will express my love for my country and my capital out loud.   I have read a great deal of opinions the last few days and only a few reflect what I kind of think.  So in case you wonder:




zaterdag 5 maart 2016

Over & Over Again

There is something about me that I not very good at hiding. It is something that I am trying to cope with for as long as I am already alive and kicking.  My parents have tried for years to coach me on that part and when studying abroad others have tried to team up and tame the beast inside of me.  Believe me many have pumped wise advice into this girl but more and more I think I am rather immune to it.  Okay, that I have got a dark side I can live with and most of the time I do manage to stay away from it.  But there are those moments that it just does take over.  

Now I had hoped that by getting older that I would get better at mastering these strong emotions that make me end in a kind of emotional roalercoaster.   Well, was I wrong and it even seems that it will even get even worse.  Not that you will catch me in putting on a Kylo Ren costume and fighting Han Solo.  It is not like that.  It goes beyong light sabers and the Jedi knights code.  It is about me not being totaly in control of something that can mess up my mental make-up.  I even stay away from my mascarra and compact powder when I am in such state.  It is like I have come to terms that it is no advance to hide what I feel like.  It is something anyone will be able to see and hear.

So what is it that then takes me over and all the other skills I master sends of to an exotic island for a long deserved vacation?  Well it is the feeling of injustice is that for the moment so much has taken me hostage.  No, I can't seem to let go and do not get me wrong it is not that I do not try to understand who and what causes this.  I am very aware that it is vital for me to fight back against this energy consuming feeling.  I have seen what it can cause and nope I have no intention to let it have a ball at my expenses.  No way!  That zen and mindfullness seem not to kick in that as fast as they normally do is no surprise.  But still.... At the end of the day I am the only one in charge of my brain if I at least give may around me the benefit of the doubt.  Well, ladies and gentleman the world around me is realy testing me at this stage....

The negative force seems to have taken over of my happy bunny mode.  One that I know long for.  Easter is only a few weeks away and I am longing of chocolate eggs, daffodils, tiny little chicks and lambs who jump around in green pastures and more of these Easter ingredients that create smiles and positive vibes.  Okay, it is lent at the moment and I have banished chocolate out of my life.  With the only exception of Nutella.  But the level of 'real' chocolate inside that guilty pleasure contains is up for the discussion amongst real chocolate lovers.

I am fully aware that I should be counting my blessings and that there are so many others who have more real reasons to complain.  That I feel hurt inside of my core of my existence is rather very personal.  It makes me not that such fun to hang out with.  Sarcasm then takes over. In case you end up close to me at such moments you will notice.  My remarks will not even makes sense and might even surprise you.  Oh I am fully aware of how negative I can be and how I can walk around.  My face is the reflection of the tempest of the century and I seem not to be connected.   Stallie in a very pensive mood at one moment and a few moments I could slam the door right in your face or start to produce tears of anger.   If you then ask me if I am okay be prepared that my answer will not always be straight forward.

That I can not fully explain to you what is going on is due to many reasons.  It is complicated and because I don't think it is very wise to make radical decission while being in the phase of rage I prefer this state of mind.  It is not pleasant and I am so aware of it.   I might be good at acting and at this moment I feel like I am up for an Oscar worhty preformance.  After all I am very cautious about not letting my state of mind interfer with my teaching.  In a way it is even an katalyst.  Oh yes, Stallie has found out in the last 5 years that all she wants to do is teach. I am not going anywhere.  But I do need an international environment in order to function at full speed.  It is where I bloom, where I can feel at home and constantly challenged..

So this lady needs a room filled up with young people to function.  More than ever I am fully convinced that a desk job is not my cup of tea.  As much as I detest the paper work and some other challenges who make my job less straight forward I still know that I want to be inside of a school during working hours.  Yes, I do love my job and it can lift up my spirits.  The # I love my job is so sincere when I use it that when I make a mistake or have failed to deliver that I feel so guilty.

Okay, that my educational hotspot is a very challenging working environment I am fully at ease with. The day I did send in my CV I had already figured that one out.  Lots of jobs are not a walk through the parc anymore and working with living being is very unpredictable.  There are is no guarantee that you  will never walk into something that will make lesson end up being a nightmare.  At this stage of my life I am finding out that sometimes you need to be patient and that letting go is vital.

Well that is something that I suck at.  Not that I not try but it is like that I for the moment I have to go through the different stages of grief.  When looking at the model that Kubler & Ross came up with that at this stage I am hanging out some days in the yellow zone at other days in the orange one. I have so much anger inside of me and it is like it has been bottled up for years.  Oh yes, I know that most of the attempts to find a way out are in vain.   The thing is that I first have to go through all these stages before I can benefit from the last two stages.  I just can not wait for these to arrive.

But for now it seems that I am not there yet and so all I can say it that I am so sorry if you meet up with Kylo Ren and long for the Han Solo.  All I can promise that I am working very hard to speed up te process and trying to find some short cuts... just bear with me that my patience won't be put that much at the test.  Fingers crossed and fortunately it Easter quite soon...

zaterdag 13 februari 2016

Life is a box of chocolates!

It is the day before Valentine's Day and you might now think that I will start to moan about red roses, heart shaped boxes filled up with chocolates, champagne bottles with red bows and cheesy Hallmark cards but no worries... Nope, I today decided that I do wish to point out something that I do care tremendously about.   There are all those times that I already have pointed out that I feel very grateful for what I have and that I feel blessed.   It sounds very cheesy and it said by so many. Over the years I have been reminded by many and oh boy, did I sometimes think they kind of used this tagline to make me stop procasteninating. The grass will always be greener at the other side and there will always be people around you who will be able to rain on your parade or make you think that life is unfair.   Nowdays many try to jump on my merry go round and take my brain hostage and plant seeds in there that can so much turn my happy mood arond.  Fear and pessemism are all around and those I do get offered for free and in abundance.

A few years ago my mother had told me that she still had some war correspondance of my grandparents. I was very eager to read those letters but like many people that have experienced the war up, close and personal my grandmother had not been sharing many of her stories with us.   She would rather spoonfeed us with stories and it was rather hard to put the puzzle together.  It did not seem to matter to her and to my mothers family. Likewise on my father's side but we knew that the war had been raging through their lives and had created scars.  Deep ones.   It did seem rather that my family prefered not make the war stand out in their past and surely in ther present.  Hey, you only live once and you better make the best of it most of my family members were communicating by their deeds and thaughts. 

When the educational hotspot where I work started their remembrance celebrations I suddenly was also confrontated with the war stories of my family.   Let us be honest that people around me were able to share those very intense and also painful memories with me by the exhibition of letters written in war time made me long for reading the correspondonce that my grandparents had exchanged during that time.  So I called my mother and asked her politey if she would grand me the opportunity to read them.  She then broke the news to me that she had no clue where these letters where. Oh yes, I was dissapointed because so far I only knew my grandfather from pictures and the few stories that my mother had shared with me.  But hey, it was nothing vital and so I had to let go....

So when my mother yesterday placed a large brown paper bag in front of me I did hold my breath.  'While declutering I also came across these.'  I sat there and suddenly I felt a bit out of place.  Mother had written on that there :'war correspondance between mum and dad'.  I let me hand sink in the bag and the first thing that I noticed was the amount of paper I felt.  'Jezus, this is not just a few letters. This is almost a book.', was my reaction.   Taking out half of the amount of paper I randomly opened one.   On the front of the envelop there was that so well known stamp that told you that Big Brother had been reading along.  This already made me wonder if they both ever had been able to express their real frustration, pain, sadness while being apart... but you I just could not wait to start reading.

What happened during the first lines I got to read I just can not find the exact words for.  It was like I was opening a door that had remained closed for decades. The paper was ofcourse already colored yellow and my mother had warned that some letters might not be readable anymore.   So every single word I was able to read and digest felt like gift.   Ten lines further down the paper something became very clear, life fog suddenly vanished.  

'Mum, you never told us that your dad was gone from home for over 4 years.'  This meant that he had already been imprisoned by the beginning of the war.  I got goosebumps when my grandmother in that same letter broke the news to  my grandfather that his second daughter was born.  She told him that they all were doing fine and that she had received helpt from her mother in law.  Her tone was rather neurtral but if you did read between the lines she foremost tried to sound positive.   Something inside of me got warm and cold at the same time.   'So auntie M was four years old when she for the very first time met her own dad?'  That moment must have been so intense.  There are now snapshots of that homecoming.   My mother has got no recollection of that time because she was born after the war.   

That my grandmother who had been living with us in the last years I still consider a blessing.  I have mentioned in previous blog post what a strong woman I considered her.  I am not going to go back into that.  But after yesterday I so much more became aware that my family history is so much more than meets the eye.   That my grandparents at both sides and most fo my aunts and uncles faced wartime does make them have different conception of happiness.  They master(ed) the art of living that I do think is in a way a life surviving skill and can make the difference in anyone's life.  No expectations and no conditions attached.  Just free fall and the deepgoing trust in a very deep force that can prevail if we try hard and long enought and work very hard.  Foremost never ever give up!

No, I don't think that I will ever fully grasp my family background and many stories will be left untold.  These letters surely are a very nice extra to spice up my own life.  Still, I know so much understand that many of the things I moan or complain about are for sure first world problems.  Yes, the world has become a more complex spot to hang out at but the power of love and hope still prevails.  It is surely something that has been passed on in my family on both sides.

I wish I could let you read along while I am going to dive into these letters but I am not. After all it is my family.  Each has their own story to tell. There are now more than ever the moments that I would have known more then what I know now but that is what life is all about.  Last night while driving back to our house A suddenly said:'I wished I would have known granddad!' Yeah that made me swallow and in a way my heart almost broke.  When I asked why he told me that he thaught that granddad looked like someone very nice.  I could not disagree but ofcourse he is not aware of the whole story.  'Oh I know..... but you know what I also have never known my grandfather and I also wished I had been able to.  Still in many things I do still get to know him.  Do you understand?'  My son did not respond and in a way that was the best answer that a boy close to turning 12 can give his middle aged mother who for a second does not find the right words. 

So on the day before Valentine's day I wish to express my gratitude and love for my family.  People that I will never get to know fully and not always will understand.  The only thing that I know for sure is that I am blessed and that their unconditional love comes in different shapes and forms.   Love is all around and that I surely seem to forget that once in while.   So have yourself a lovely Valentine's Day in what ever shape or form you are going to come across it. It might be already standing next to you or just being one phonecall away or it might already have passed on but have left something behind for you that is much more than a box filled up with chocolates.  But then there was a certain movie character that once said:'My mama always said, life was like a box of chocolates.  You never know what you're going to get.'   So enjoy your box of chocolates and hold it close to your heart to cherish.  One day it might turn out to be your life line.

PS: I did pick out a very cheesy song to go along with this one but I have two very good reasons.  This a cover by Dana Winner who in my honest opinion her voice is a real gem and thanks to program called 'Liefe voor muziek' has kind of made a comeback.  The original in German I can also sing along and the message is timesless.    And the second one is surely an even more cheesy one but on my way home this was on the radio and I do wonder what my grandmother and grandfather must have felt like at the time...