Author Archives: bettinabennett2014

Art!

So we’re filling our days appreciating nature-made and man-made art. We spent a night at a quaint seaside town in the Netherlands just so we could finally visit Keukenhof, an amusement park for flowers, mostly tulips.

Although a seaside town in April is still cold — beautiful but chilly.

The one-night trip was exactly what we needed, and the park did not disappoint (although after awhile you’re exhausted from all that color). I nabbed Joe’s phone and snapped way too many photos.

Get ready to feast your eyes on some flower power

I paint flowers so they will not die.” Frida Kahlo

Sadly all those blooms will be gone soon, and visitors will have to wait until Spring 2023 to see their offspring. But, that’s okay because there’s always plenty else to see. This past weekend we hopped on a train after work and spent the weekend in Paris, just so I could finally visit Musee d’ Orsay.

I didn’t snap too many pictures because I was getting lost in all the art. Of course I love the Impressionist wing, but it was also packed with rude folk. I totally get that people want their selfies in front of a famous piece of work, and I have no beef with that. But, there are also people who are there to actually look at those paintings. I try my best to not obstruct someone’s view; I wait my turn, and then I like to get lost in whatever I’m looking at. I’m cool with others standing next to me to do the same. Other folk actually know about the paint strokes and the craft, and they too like to look at it. And, then we’re bumped or pushed out of the way so people can do their Insta thing. It happens at all the big museums that allow photography, so there’s my rant for the day. Take your pics, but for the love of art take a moment to appreciate it too (and allow others to do the same). There are also plenty of rooms the crowds don’t flock to, and I treasured those. Plus, I bought a book loaded with pics of the museum’s collection — way better photos than I would have been able to take.

If you do get to go, don’t miss out on the top floor cafe/bar before entering the Impressionist wing. It is beautiful and totally worth the extra euros you’ll pay for your sip of wine or beer.

We were also lucky that the weather was great, so we did lots of strolling and sipping (and nibbling), which is the absolute best way to enjoy Paris (or any place for that matter).

Basically I’m winding down this school year taking in all that is near me. I’m also stressed because we’re in the beginning phase of getting things ready for our big move. I try to balance it out with planning more trips, so the next two months are going to be a see saw of “why is this so difficult” and “why is that so amazing.”

As always it will all work out in the end. Today I’m grateful that it’s Friday. There’s a beer festival and ‘street party’ going on at the Grand Place this weekend, so I’m sure we’ll find some other versions of art to enjoy in just a few hours. Bonne Weekend!

Oh Macarena and Jesus too

Sagrada Familia Barcelona

I’m going to preface this all with a. I’m not Spanish, b. I’m not Catholic, and c. I’m not always in tune with Christianity. I’m so bad at the Christianity thing that I didn’t even think about Easter during my vacation planning; I especially didn’t consider the implications of touring Seville on Palm Sunday. Holy cone heads, chafed nether regions and blistered calluses it’s a big deal. Swarms of people dressed in their Sunday best ( by puritanical standards there were some outfits that would have melted a few holy wafers) descend upon the city to parade with repenters adorned in medieval hoods, and to applaud gilded floats carrying village statues of Macarena (the virgin Mary) and Jesus. I don’t know which was more shocking to us —- the medieval garb (which was apparently mimicked by the KKK) or the amount of women in pantyhose, shorts (or short, tight skirts) and heels high and sharp enough to ward off evil spirits. The devotion is real because when the Macarena or Jesus make their appearance all hush (and rude tourists who don’t know any better are immediately shushed). The faith is real because apparently the Covid aint got a chance during this crusade (please let that be so!). I haven’t been this close to this many people in a very long time.

The parades go on all day and much of the night, and while we were totally overwhelmed by the crowds, we are incredibly grateful to have been able to witness this treasured bit of Spanish culture.

I will also now forever think of Spain when I smell incense and orange blossoms (with maybe a tinge of lilac — oh and lets not forget grilled meat, yum). It’s everywhere and heavenly.

I wrote above early last week, and then got busy with my vacation in Spain, which began in Barcelona and ended in Madrid. Sevilla was our second stop on our train rides throughout the country. I highly recommend using Renfe, their high-speed line. Fast, efficient and comfortable, plus you get to whiz through more of the country and see cattle and sheep grazing amongst old villages and steep hills.

Today is Easter, and we’re back home. It’s sunny, and I’ll be busy cooking and visiting family (online of course), so sadly I’m going to rush through the rest of this blog with quick snapshots of our fantastic trip.

Bodacious Barcelona

We stayed in the Montjuïc area of the city, which is lovely. Our hotel was steps from a metro station (so easy and cheap to use!) and an easy walk to the ‘magic fountains,’ which was perfect for our first night there. We walked up to a platform where a lovely woman made us Sangria. The absolute best way to begin our vacation, sipping while surrounded by amazing architecture, water fountains and flowers — and great people watching to boot.

We loved Barcelona. The people, sights and food were wonderful. We didn’t go to the beach, but we did stroll through park Gruel, Sagrada Familia, the Gothic area and the boardwalk near the Christopher Columbus statue. We ate and sipped our way through so much. Our hotel also had a lovely rooftop terrace where we could sip our wine and watch the city lights.

Above is just a quick flash of some of the amazing things we got to see. I had issues uploading photos (and I’m still using my broken phone, so many are taken from Joe’s phone.).

Stunning Sevilla

Barcelona has everything, including all we fascinated tourists, Seville has seduction. She is breath taking with her river walks, churches, parks and palaces. There’s also flamenco dancing, sunshine and so many flowers. With a friend, we rented a lovely Airbnb that had TWO rooftop terraces. One with lots of space to sit and a hot tub, and another higher up with a view of the river and city. It was amazing. On top of witnessing all the Palm Sunday processions, we also took a hop on hop off tour, which gave us glimpses of city highlights, and we toured the bull fighting museum and Alcazar. All of it was incredibly beautiful, and we couldn’t have asked for better weather.

Charming Cordoba

Joe and I spent the night in Cordoba just so I could walk the halls of its Mosque-Cathedral, which dates back to the 6th century and has served God under the Catholic and Islamic realm and shows off the beauty of Spain’s many layers of history. Cordoba itself was a bigger city than we expected, but of course nowhere near as large as Barcelona or Seville, but we only stayed in the historic area. The weather wasn’t on our side, but it didn’t matter because we had amazing tapas and drinks everywhere we went. As with everywhere else in Spain, people were friendly and accommodating. What more could a girl ask for?

Merciful Madrid

We didn’t do Madrid justice because we were wore out by the time we arrived, and while we had a lovely time in Cordoba, our hotel room was awful (imagine how much sleep we got in a moldy room with a window-front view of a busy, graffiti-scarred alleyway). So, we were exhausted, and very happy that we booked our last two nights at the Hard Rock hotel in Madrid because it was just a few minutes walk from the train station, it was clean and vibrant, and it had everything we needed. This room had a view of the hotel atrium, but lol nothing closed curtains didn’t fix, and we liked any music we heard so all was well.

The only things we toured in Madrid were the nearby botanical gardens (lovely) and the Prada museum. The Sofia was just across the street from us, but we just didn’t have it in us. That said I thoroughly enjoyed what we did see, and we took our time — no rush, no stress, just art, flowers and rest.

Several of Prada’s paintings or sculptures pulled me into their stories. There was a room dedicated to Charles II, which caused me to google him later because he was such an odd-looking king. Turns out he’s the final Habsburg ruler of Spain, and his death brought on a 12-year war since he had no heir. Long story short poor guy is the poster child for why inbreeding is not a good idea. There was also a statue of a mother who had killed her son and then stabbed herself in the heart because she didn’t want them to be ravaged by the Corinthians. It pulled me in and wrecked me, and then there was the painting near it of men awaiting execution for some rebellion or other, and the portraits of the young girls in the process of being betrothed — they were so young. There were also lovely portraits of fruit, wine and cheese that said eat me! And plenty more of the Virgin Mary and all her stages of wonder and grief.

So, for a haphazard Christian, I was blessed with the sights and sounds of the many ways of who we are during the holiest of weeks for Spain.

And that is my way-too-quick rundown on our trip. It was so much better than my words convey, but I’m in a rush (ugh).

Regardless of your faith (and whether you’re good at practicing it or not) I hope you have a lovely holiday and imbibe in as much sun, flavor and zest for life as we were lucky to do this past week.

Spring Breaaakkkkkk! April is awesome.

Above slide show is an assortment of pics from places I’ve visited in April. It’s by no means all of the places I’ve been to during spring break. But, it has some goodies. I’m on spring break, and this year’s trip doesn’t begin until tomorrow. We’re headed to Spain where it is, hopefully, warmer and sunnier. Just this past Friday we had snow — our first snowfall this winter, but not our first cold or gray day.

My overseas life has blessed me with so many adventures and discoveries. A facebook memory from my spring break trip to Sri Lanka (sadly none of those pics are in the slide show, apparently my blog library deletes images after a certain amount of time — bummer) prompted me to check out all of my April posts. Had someone told me in 2013 that 2014 would be the beginning of so much new, I would’ve laughed. Don’t get me wrong, my life then was amazing too. I’ve always been blessed with the most wonderful people in my life who’d find adventure with me anywhere in the world, lol including our own backyards. And, I so miss that time as well. Alas, there is a gypsy in me who is always hungry to find more magic. Despite the fact that I have loved every place I called home.

I’ve been trying to work my way back to the states, so that I could be closer to my children and grandson, but another opportunity came up, and to be honest, the gypsy isn’t finished feeding yet. This might be her last hurrah though — then again who knows?

Anyway, once again I’m at that limbo phase in the overseas life. Our new jobs never happen over night. They always include a lot of paperwork and steps to go through before one can begin the new. This is my third time going through this, and it never gets easier. I am fully aware of how lucky I am to be where I am now, and I am inhaling every moment of it. I am melancholic because once again I realize that home will soon be a memory, and the job that I love will also become a memory. That said one of my personal mantras is to always move on before a job becomes just a job, and while that is not the case today; it will be tomorrow if I don’t move toward something else. So, I am. And oh my goodness I’m excited about it. Nervous? yep. Apprehensive because what if it’s not what I thought? yep. Torn? Most definitely. A risk worth taking? Absolutely (although is it really a risk?). So was the UAE eight years ago (although that job was certainly my most challenging). I’m having all the same feels as I did way back then, except the fear of the unknown. That’s something expats adapt to thrive on. We don’t fear the unknown, we embrace it (sometimes with a grimace). So that’s cool and all, but yeah I’m back to the bipolar part of being incredibly excited and incredibly sad at the same time. Perhaps those of us who live this kind of life are also just a little bit broken, but it’s who I am, so I’m cool with it.

Once again, I can’t share the details until all that paperwork is wrapped up, but I can say holy hell this time next year I have no idea what my home will look, feel, smell like — but I do know it’ll have its own adventures. And, my kids are looking forward to a new place to visit. My daughter helped me come to grips with this when she said it’s only a few years, and that when I retire, I’ll be 100 percent full-time Oma and mom. And, she’s right. LOL my retirement dream includes a compound of the coolest folk filled with wine, cheese, an amazing firepit and hot tub with a view, and lots and lots of story telling and laughs.

Until then I take in the new. Happy Spring Break everyone. This time tomorrow I see sangria and sunshine!

Missing my baby’s baby (and my babies)

Oh how I miss this monster and his passion for frites!

Pairi Daiza, is an amazing zoo not too far from where I live, so Joe and I bought season passes to it. Once a week I walk it after work with friends. Of course we brought Torin to it when he and his mom visited us a few weeks ago. Today, I decided to give it a stroll and soooooo missed my little buddy. Oh my goodness he loved it here. He pretty much loved everywhere we brought him: a train museum in Brussels, a day in the Ardennes and an old abby, a transportation museum in Germany, several cities and villages in Germany’s Black Forest (including a hike that included snow, which, of course he loved!), and a castle tour in Luxembourg.

The first week they were here, I was still working, but oh my goodness I loved coming home to his “Oma, you’re home!’ And then we’d play a bit, he’d help me cook dinner, and then tv/bed time. I so hope he remembers these visits and how much he is adored by his mother’s parents. My neighbors downstairs, however, must be glad to no longer hear the pounding of his feet as he runs from one end of the apartment to the other. Who knew tiny feet could hit the ground so hard.

I loved showing off some of Germany, Luxembourg, the Alsace region in France and Belgium to him and Kaylene. I loved our family time at night and in the mornings even more.

Most of all I loved his crawling into my bed in the morning to watch me watch him — and snuggle and beat me up.

It is my hope this child grows to be in continuous awe of this world, and that he goes forth and discovers so much more — with, of course, a lot more memorable family trips in the near future.

The absolute most difficult part about living overseas is being so darn far from my children and their growing families. But, my kids assure me that they too dig the places I live, especially when they get to visit, and that it’s only a few more years of this life, and then I’ll be back to spoiling the next generation of my clan while embracing the adults my children have become.

Until then I have a few more adventures and discoveries of my own to make. I’m still growing and learning too, so it’s time for me to make some tea and inhale my time here while it lasts.

And enjoy the views from my current window.

And break down and buy a new phone, so that I can take my own pictures versus depending on shots from everyone else. The few photos on this post taken by me were via Whatsapp camera. The rest are pics from either Kaylene or Joe.

Cheers to those who bring light into our world

Mons Belfroi sending love to Ukraine

Most of us are living a surreal but sort-of normal reality (or is it?).  Life is going on as usual, Covid restrictions are shedding away, and, despite the cold, Spring is coming.  That said we are all fully aware of what is going on in Ukraine.  

Imagine hearing your ministry of defense urge residents to make firebombs to help protect their home.  I repeat:  people, like you and me, are being asked to defend their city.  Perhaps the people of Ukraine have prepared for this, but if you were to ask Joe and me to defend Mons, we’d fight with Jupiler cans, wine bottles and hours-old baguettes.  That sounds like an insensitive joke, but I’m being serious.  We, like our Ukrainian brethren, do not know the first thing about military might. 

And yet the people of Kyiv are using whatever they can find (including weapons supplied by their government) to hold their city.  When needed they retreat to basements and subway tunnels for refuge.  I said a little cheer for them this morning when I saw in the headlines that despite Russia’s enormous military advantage, Ukrainians still have their capital city.

On Thursday, the first email at work that I opened was one that told me a former Ukrainian student and her family were safe. Everyone who’s had the pleasure of working with her let out a sigh of relief because she is one of the students you remember long past retirement – the child (now young adult) who pushed her elders to teach more because we wanted to feed her insatiable hunger for knowledge.  She’s a hardworking, incredibly bright, proud soul who lit up when given the chance to share her country’s culture.  Through her I learned that Ukrainian heritage goes back eons, and their passion for democracy is as strong as it was with America, way back when we wanted the same. Her love of learning and her desire to promote all that is good with humanity motivated me to push harder, to do better to prepare tomorrow’s leaders. 

I work at an international school on a NATO base.  Many of my students come from countries that border Ukraine, because borders are man made, many have relatives and history well into territory at war now.  We’ve also had students from countries that ally with Russia, students I also adored, and it is their faces I see too (and I do not want to see harm come to their families either).  All of my students have a parent who in one way or another is associated with NATO.

The stress among these kids now is palpable.  Throughout our time together they’ve shared bits and pieces of their homes, their passions, their fears.  Their stories stick with me, and like the stories from students before them, they remind me of the many different layers that make up our species.  Some of our kids will be going back to their countries, so that their parents can do what it is they’re expected to do.  Other kids will join us, so that their family members can do what they need to do.  War is work.

I want to hug them all and tell them that everything is going to be okay, but they deserve more than a lie and something that will make me feel better.  They deserve a world where we don’t destroy one another for someone else’s version of power, but we just haven’t gotten to that point yet.  

Teaching and learning is also work. We have the next week off, but when we come back, despite whatever the next few days brings us, we will get back to work. We will escape into the words of those who saw the world before us and see what we can glean from them. We will make our connections, and we will find what light we can. They will take all of this and use it to become the adults they are growing into. Some of them will grow into public figures who will make the decisions that none of us feel we have any control over. If the teenagers they are today reflect the leaders they will become then I still have faith. But, we still have a lot of work to do. We adults have to model critical and objective thinking (and decision making), we have to model a desire to compromise, we have to model progress despite our setbacks and, yes, idiocracy. We have to want to build for all versus destroying to gain for a few. We have to get over ourselves and face our damned fears and bouts of superiority. We are all woven from the same thread, which takes off into our unique styles and patterns.

Of course a world without war seems impossible. Winning independence against an empire was impossible. Flying was impossible. Being able to breathe underwater? Impossible. Shutting down entire economies to fight a virus was, at one time, impossible. Why should figuring out a way not to war be unreachable? If my hormonal, moody, and sometimes lazy teenagers can continue to do the work despite all the horrors that are happening too close for comfort, then so can we adults.

Peace, or maybe that’s too lofty, how about cohesion is work.

Salty Sunday Cerebrations…

Welcome to the land of rain, fog and dreary days sans le snow. To be fair we did have sunny weather yesterday, which Joe and I used to stroll the streets of Brussels. The wind and rain came back last night. It was so windy, it sounded like we were sleeping in an ocean-front apartment. It is the perfect day to sip and stare with the Olympics playing in the background. I’m snuggled up on my yellow, window-seat chair too lazy to clean or read, so I figured what the hell? Let’s try to write something.

Work has been busy; life has been good. Last weekend we whooped it up in Lille with friends.

LOL where we stayed at a cool hotel.
And played darts at a cool bar with lyric neon lights

Next weekend, Joe and I are going to Tongeren where I hope to find an antique something or other to buy him for his birthday. And then the weekend after that my daughter and her little heathen arrive for a three-week visit. I’m so excited about this. We have all sorts of family fun planned, plus our cherished Mama/Daughter couch/wine time. Fingers crossed we even get a snow day or two, but that hasn’t been our reality yet this winter.

Mostly though (when I’m not working or exploring my corner of the world), I find myself sipping and staring and wondering what tomorrow will bring: Something I imagine we all find ourselves doing during February, that time post holidays, pre Spring and summer fun.

One of the perks of my job is that I bring someone else’s words to life and try to make them relevant to the souls in my room, who are still trying to figure out what to do with their today yet alone contemplate tomorrow. In teacher talk we do this via our essential questions. My 9th graders are reading Elie Wiesel’s Night, and I began the week asking them how we are witnesses to history and messengers to humanity. Our conversation wasn’t earth shattering, but it did the trick, and we made the connections we needed to make, etc. etc. But, I keep finding myself pondering the question. What messages are we sending to our future selves? And are we listening to those of our beforeigners (haven’t watched that show, but LOVE this word)?

Among we teacherly types, the essential question is more along the lines of WTF? We’re astounded to see so much censorship taking place and so much I can’t even think of the right terminology here, so much finger pointing, so little reflection going on. Critical thinking is not taking place where decisions about what and how to teach seem to be taking place. It feels like open discourse is quickly becoming a dinosaur.

There is no hidden agenda in exposing students to multiple views and to the stories of our past, and, yes, that includes how we have manipulated those histories with our words. There is, however, a very blatant agenda when you conceal or sanitize the uglies that are part of our story while vilifying those who do not fit your mold of what is right and what is wrong. To not explore or discuss what makes us uncomfortable is to establish a norm that is akin to burying our heads in the sand while the world around us continues to blow up — or progress without us.

I’m lucky, in my school, I am still allowed to teach a novel about the holocaust, one that eloquently brings forth the questions we need to ask ourselves, and, yes, it also shares the horrors of what we can do to each other. I’m also teaching Catcher in the Rye to my 10th graders, which addresses a multitude of our uncomfortable complexities — issues basically rooted in concealing a truth versus addressing it — and having my 11th and 12th grade students use literary (also called critical) theories to analyze text. [Disclaimer: I don’t teach critical race, but I do teach post colonial, and when it comes time for students to choose their own theories to analyze text with, I would not deter a student from using critical race — caps not included, so that I can remind folk these are methodologies/lenses/NOT official mandates or calls to action]. And while, as of today, there is no pressure for me not to teach these things, I worry that one day in my near future there might be. History has taught me where that kind of censorship will lead. Perhaps what I’m reading and discussing with my colleagues is merely just hype, but the fact it’s even making news is a concern. It is the year 2022, and I find myself closer to 1984 than I care to think.

History has also taught me that where’s there’s strife, there is eventually growth. We need to be challenged to grow. So perhaps where we are now is a mere ripple, and we will resolve this and go back to moving forward. And yeah I know that while I’m warm and well fed (and read) nestled on my comfy chair, the drums of war are beating, the effects of climate change are doing their thing, and winter is not coming for some of us (despite us wanting it to snow so badly lol). It is the way of our lives — we move forward, backward, then forward again, until perhaps we don’t. The good news is living is taking place and despite the uglies, there is always good in that.

And that, my friends, is way more than you wanted to know of what goes through my head when I’m lazy on a rainy day.

Please don’t let me be the fat lady in the window. Thanks Fernando Botero for art that makes me giggle (although not at this painting) and ruminate at the same time, and to Mons for exhibiting his work.

Woo hoo 2021 is almost gone!

I’ve inhaled so much vin rouge that I’m starting to look like grapes. Pic taken in Dusseldorf day before halloween.

Yes I’m still alive and, yes, I’m once again a bad, bad, bad blogger because I haven’t pressed fingertips to keyboard in a very long time. It’s not that I haven’t been doing cool things, I have. I just would rather zombie out in front of the TV or on the Internet than let my writerly self show herself. It’s the same with reading. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to read, but eh I’d rather just sit and stare without the thinking part. That’s not entirely true because I promise you I have (in my head) written several blog posts (lol and created several storyline scenarios, most of which I’m better off not sharing), but for whatever reason I couldn’t muster the energy to bring them to life.

I think that pretty much sums up 2021 for me. It’s not bad, and it’s certainly not NOT living, but it’s been a going-through-the-motions kind of year. Get out and play a bit, but don’t bother processing because some other shit will come around and you’ll then have to process that too. Or something like that. Seeee, I can’t even process my right thought for this paragraph. So, yeah, 2021 be gone with you. You suck empty vaccine vials. And, yes, I’ve seen the memes, so I’m not putting any false hopes into 2022 either. I’m not going to risk blowing it.

And that’s that on my funk. Above all else (despite that I, along with much of mankind, am in one or more of the phases of Covid grief: someone is bound to be doing a study/paper on it) I am still a lover of life, and I do soooooo embrace the good that comes my way. So, here’s a list of the cool shit I’ve done since I last popped in and didn’t take the time to share:

  • We LOVED Malta; had an absolute wonderful time. I’m just going to dump all the pretty pics into one slide show, which is a shame because it truly deserved a blog post. I even sat on the rooftop terrace of our hotel room and wrote some of it, but let’s just start a new verb: I 2021ed it.
  • Dusseldorf with friends was also a lot of fun.
  • A week after Malta, we rented an old farmhouse in Epernay and had a great time with friends. My sister was supposed to visit, but lol she 2021ed it.
  • We did a few more Ardennes weekends with friends; always a great time that includes hikes and taverns — and fireplaces!
  • We had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner where friends feasted in our cramped living room.
  • We toured Christmas markets in Durbuy, Luxembourg, Colmar and Strasbourg — magical despite Covid restrictions. We were going to do Germany too, but we 2021ed it (too many cancelations and rule changes). Oh and the Mons Christmas market (really it’s just another excuse to drink beer) is still going. The one in Brussels was 2021ed.

Above is the Malta photo dump to give you a break from my list of what I didn’t really write about. Malta is a magical place that, for us, was an affordable, much-needed break from our dark-skies reality.

  • Okay back to the list: Joe and I rented an old cottage/cabin/hut for hippie hobbits? in the Alsace region of France. The dwelling was an experience in the middle of a tiny ancient village. I’m amazed we didn’t scrape the sides of our Rav 4 in some of its alleyways (and we live in Europe, so we’re used to tiny, but these ‘streets’ shrink while you’re driving on them). I sooooooo loved it here and want to go back to visit more, especially when one can go wine tasting in the surrounding vineyards. My prized possession from here, however, is my pair of Beauty and The Beast candelabra bought at a little antique store. Oh wait, and I also bought a beautiful Alsatian clay roaster from a potter in another tiny village (but I 2021ed taking a pic of it). Basically if you’re an artist who’ll take the time to chat with me despite our language barrier, I’ll buy your stuff.
I LOVE these bad boys. If only they could flirt with me with their French accent. I bought the actual candles from a candlemaker in Strasbourg, another lovely artist I’m happy to have met. Alas, his work has burned gently into the night.

A very small taste of Luxembourg, Mons and Alsace. My phone still can’t take pics outside of Whatsapp. Random alert: OMG the home we stayed in had a hot tub encased by a plastic igloo with a hanging disco ball, flanked by a massive Buddha. I shit you not. Anyway, I dropped my phone in the hot tub (trying to do a champagne, Whatsapp selfie — with a phone that doesn’t work right, so yeah I’m not bright) AND can you believe the bits of it that work are STILL working. Soooo below pic is all I have of that. A 2022 goal is for me to break down and buy a new phone! And, yeah, I have a real camera that I’ve totally not even bothered to upload pics from — I’m THAT lazy.

BUT wait, who needs pics. Here’s the link to cottage on VRBO
  • On Christmas day, two of our friends came over for dinner, and we had a lovely time. No matter where I am in life, my home is always lit and warm for Christmas, which will stay that way through much of January. I need the lights, people. Same folk and maybe a few more will join us on New Years.
  • I’ve put some of my funk to use and re-worked my resume. I’m not leaving the organization I work for, but it’s time I invested in moving toward something new. I’ve talked about this for a while now, but I’ve finally invested some time in pimping myself out, and that in it’s own way makes me feel good about myself (productive maybe?). So, we shall see where that goes. And, for the record, I do actually enjoy my current job, but it’s nice to invest in oneself and take stock in all that I have managed to do in my work world (so yay me).
  • Oh my goodness we’ve binged so much television this past week. All great stuff, but going back to work on Monday is going to be a harsh reality without subtitles and soundtracks.

And, I think that’s all I can handle putting on the list. I’m sure there’s more — like all the other cool moments with friends or the video chats with my kids (oh how I miss them) — but this feels like a good spot to sign off until the next time I decide to share our bits. I wish you all love and warmth and laughs, lots and lots of laughs! Bonne Annee!

Remember no matter how poorly your plans may go, it’s never as bad as this poor guy ending his year (and um days) in a glass champagne bucket on a bar in Strasbourg. Although we totally get his perspective.

Midnight tomorrow night 2021 you will be 2021ed! Hallelujah!

Hello? Is there anyone out there?

Am I going under?

Before I get into bitch mode and tell you all about how unseen or unheard or whatever I’m feeling, I do need to point out that our weekends have been busy. Before Joe got back from his Arizona trip, I went to Aachen, Spangdhalem, and Mechelen. The weekend he got back we were off to Antwerp, and then my friend Ashley visited, so that included Brussels and Brugge and Dinant (without me on that one — a girl’s gotta work — but Joe and Ashley had fun).

Hey girl! Was soooo good to play with you.

Last weekend we were in Ramstein, shopping our little hearts out. Next weekend we’ll be in Dusseldorf, and then we’re off to Malta for five days. So, I am out and about seeing and doing all sorts of stuff again, and that is freaking wonderful.

But that’s not what this post is all about. It’s about the days in between all the fun stuff: the real-world work days we live in. Is it me? Or, has Covid made us all, well, more invisible? Nothing is easy or seems to happen right the first time around, and communication is not what Websters defines as communication. I mean there are plenty of emails and memos and forms and FML more forms. I just filled out a form to attach to my vaccine card to go with my stack of papers in whatever file cabinet the ‘me’ file goes in. That same vaccine card is in another file cabinet in the nurse’s office, and in the files of the clinic that keeps my medical stuff stashed away. I also have a QR code in my phone that I can show to anyone in the careers of bars to border patrol.

OMG and all the platforms that house these different to-do lists and forms. Whomever invented Teams; I hate you.

There are a lot of words telling me what I need to do, but when it comes to me reaching out for answers, it’s …

I’m going to be good and not tell you all the work to-dos that keep popping up, just know I’m assessed out, and now all I see when the verb assess comes up is my little mental noun the ass. But, I’m doing it. I’m pretty sure most results will show that, get this? Kids need to learn more.

I tried paying back a debt payroll said I owe. It’s a month later, and that money is still in my account. I emailed someone hoping to get an answer, and I almost fell out of the chair when she emailed me back an hour later (If we were in the same country, I would’ve hugged her), but she had to email someone else to see if she could find an answer, so we still don’t know why I’m still in debt because I still have my money. There are a few other things I’m trying to accomplish, but I’m in limbo mode waiting for my emails to be answered.

I wish I could say it was just work where this was happening, but no it’s everywhere. I tried several times to change my checkout date at the hotel we’re staying in Malta. Sadly, I couldn’t find a decent flight home Saturday, so we have to leave a day earlier. I even called the hotel and was told to email a certain address; email sent; no response. I’ll be really pissed if I get there and my entire stay was cancelled. Please oh please travel gods do not let that last sentence come back to haunt me.

It took four tries to get my cable/internet company to reschedule installing their new fiber optic cable, a request originally made by them. First time they came, they couldn’t do it because they needed landlord approval to drill holes in my wall. Next up I went to one of their offices with a French-speaking friend and was told I’d receive an appointment email; I didn’t. Then my husband was on the phone for 45 minutes to try to reschedule. LOL today I got an email that they received my request to reschedule fiber optic at a later date. I responded with a “No. I’m trying to schedule it. Give me a date please.” An hour later they did. Inshallah I’ll have this nifty new cable and the holes in the wall to go with it on Nov 8.

Oh and they too say I owe money for a bill I know I paid, but I was a little worried about it because I had to send it to a different account number. How much you want to bet they attached someone else’s transfer number to my bill? Another phone call I need to make, but when will I have the time? They’re closed by the time I am free.

I seriously could go on and on about the amount of requests/inquiries I have sent out the past few months to various people and businesses to no avail. What in the effity eff is going on? Is there no one on the other end?

I have literally sent emails to myself just to make sure my email receiver wasn’t broken.

I also feel like people are more rude or annoyed in public too. I saw a lady push a kid out of the way in a grocery aisle. The kid was talking to her sibling and didn’t see the obvious VIP barreling down the aisle. Drivers stress me out with their stupidly aggressive moves — do they not see I’m in that lane?

Or, maybe I’m the more rude one now. It could be. I’m always on edge because I must be invisible. That’s gotta be it, right? Or have I truly become so insignificant that no one has got time for me? It’s enough to drive a woman to

Translation: The 11th commandment: drink beer. (a really cool restaurant in Antwerp, where the waiters see, hear and, actually seem to, enjoy you. highly recommend!)

I feel like perhaps Covid is, afterall, turning us into some form of zombies. We’re just sucking up each other’s time and, with it, our brain power.

And that, my friends (if you’re out there), is my vent. I feel better now — if only I could also burn steps while running on this damned insufferable hamster wheel.

Hopefully, my next post will wax poetic over all the cool shit I saw and did in Dusseldorf and Malta, which, by the way, includes the whole hassle of online things called Passenger Locator Forms.

The dance between light and dark

I apologize for skipping the entire month of August. I’ve been happily busy with work and the myriad of fun things my blessed life brings me. Up until yesterday, Badger and I were enjoying our single mom/dog time. Joe is in the states until September 28. Badger loved his sitters who would take care of him while I went to work or on a day trip with friends, and I enjoyed making him his special dinner bowls while I whipped up salads and things Joe would prefer to not eat. We both enjoyed our walks and time with friends on the Place, and of course we missed our Joe too, but we had a good routine going.

That all changed Sunday night. Badger walked more crooked and moved even slower than normal during his before-bed pee. He was antsy and wouldn’t settle down when we went to bed. He went into the living room and made sure I knew he wanted company. From the bedroom I could hear him doing his “bitch where you at” sighs, so I came out to move his doggie bed and water bowl closer to the fan. I told him I was tired, gave him a good night pat and went to bed. A few hours later he started barking. Totally pissed off and annoyed, I came out to snap at him. He was struggling more than normal to get up. He’s an old, old dog (more of a hobbit), so it was normal for his body to betray him. I reluctantly moved my pillow and blanket to the couch (because hello? I’m also not young and I needed my sleep) and massaged his hips until he settled down and went to sleep. Sleep didn’t last long. His bowels gave out next. He freaked out because he could no longer stand. Our dog has never allowed himself to defecate in the house (early puppyhood excluded). Now, he’s shitting himself uncontrollably. I cleaned him as best I could. Then came the vomit and the seizures (they were mild but still troubling to watch). My sweet old dog was stroking out, and there was nothing he nor I could do, so I sat in his excrement and wiped his face and paws with a warm cloth and mumbled stupid things like “it’s okay.” Which, of course, it wasn’t.

He calmed down and was able to regain control of who he was, but he did so by no longer fighting what was happening. He was still in pain, and I’m pretty sure he knew his time was short, so he said fuck it and just let me love him. I got him one of Joe’s pillows because I figured he’d enjoy having Joe’s scent nearby as well, plus Badger has always loved to burrow his snout into a good pillow, which he did. He slept for a bit, woke up a lot, but always calmed down when he saw I was there to soothe and clean the best I could. Even in dying my dog continued to teach me about the depth of being humane. It’s a light that comforts those we are helping as well as ourselves.

A now friend for life (the mom of two of Badger’s sitters) came to the rescue the next day to help me bring Badger to the vet (all of my other friends were at work, and I didn’t want to ask any of them to take time off for this, but I know all of them would have). We managed to get him on a doggy bed and carry him to the car as if he were a prince on a palanquin. And don’t think for a second my dog didn’t eat that shit up. I swear he lounged and let the sun warm him while we fussed over his comfort. As horrible as it was, it was also a beautiful thing.

When a pet is euthanized the doctor first gives a sedative and, in Badger’s case, some time for dog and blubbering mom to snuggle and say good bye. The look of relief in his eyes when the pain finally stopped was such a gift. In his own way he let me know he was good, it was time, and then he fell asleep and snored. This is how I would like to die, snoring with my head on a loved one’s lap.

My dog died yesterday, and, yes, I am engulfed with all the layers of sorrow. I’m normally not much of a crier; these past two days I’ve done so much of it I wonder if I’ll run out of tears. But, I am also in wonder and awe at how much my dog has given me in his final moments.

I used to worry that I’d burden my loved ones with the indignity of whatever horrors my own body will release toward my end. I now know that none of that matters. All we have to do is let go and take the love our people want to give us. The dance between our light and dark selves is part of the magic we all bring, and it becomes immortal when we embrace the love that binds us. Should I be denied this chance for whatever reason, I want my loved ones to know that I will remember this lesson, and I will go with their love. How fucking amazing is that?

While I want to picture Badger chasing birds with his animal buddies that passed before him, I also realize it doesn’t matter if there is any form of life after death. There might be; there might not be. Who cares? What matters is what we do with the time we have, and trust me my dog spent his days well. He loved his people, his snacks, his walks, his everything, and he never held a grudge — although he’d totally give you the side eye if you didn’t slide him a snack.

I think the reason we love our pets so much is that they bring out the best in us, even when we don’t want to be that best. I think they teach us so much more about humanity than we teach ourselves, if that makes sense.

Badger has his own blog, which I created, so we could capture his overseas adventures. I will write his final post after Joe returns. I know Joe is burdened with not being here, but he shouldn’t be. He deserves the trip he is currently on, and Badger would much rather have Joe howling in the woods with his buddies versus being sad and lonely in our apartment.

When Joe returns we will bring Badger’s ashes to the Ardennes and sprinkle him along the hiking trails he loved but could no longer walk (oh but how he wanted to). We will also remember him fondly with our friends who also loved him — perhaps dropping an ash or two in the parks he loved to roam, and most certainly on spilled beer at his favorite bar.

Joe and I will embrace our time together and do what any good soul would want us to do — live and, for Dog’s sake, take in the love.

Thank you Badger for giving us so much wonderful!

Doing a whole lot of catching up…

I’ve been busy inhaling summer time freedom. Before taking off to see the fam in Arizona, Joe and I rented a boat and a cabin you could get to only by boat. It was three days of just the two of us living in what felt like the middle of nowhere, but we were hidden off of one of the Netherlands many canals. What a fantastic way to detox from the 2021 school year!

I also did a day trip to Durbuy, so that I could buy some special perfume gifts for Kaylene and the boys’ girlfriends.

We caught Belgium fever and had friends over to watch Belgium play the EuroCup.  Sadly, we watched them lose to Italy while we were in the states.  We got Torin to cheer for them, but it didn’t work this time around.  We’ll cheer harder for next year’s World Cup.

And then finally, we got to fly home!   It was a bit of an ordeal with getting tested and filling out forms and whatnot, but whatever.  It was totally worth any hassle to get back to the states to see my babies (and their babies)!

Our first few days were hectic, but we got to see some of Joe’s family and catch up with some of my crazy friends.  Once again the crew flew in Monica to surprise me with a weekend of debauchery.  Tis a good thing we live so far away from each other now because I don’t think our livers can take much more of our abuse.

And then FINALLY all of my kids and their significant others, Joe and me, and all of our goodies made our way to our vacation rental near Huntington Beach in California, where we spent a glorious 6 days being a family again.  I cannot tell you how much I treasured this time.

Poor Kendra fell during a rock climbing adventure with Kyle, but she was such a trooper riding her scooter or crutches every where we went. Joe and Kaylene planned a family photo shoot with a great photographer.  We’re waiting on the final photos but the group (after the pic below) is a sample of what she caught of us.

I will never get enough of my beautiful family. I’m so happy my children have also found partners that fit right in and help my little adults find their way in this world (and they them).

The day after we returned to Arizona, Joe and I drove up to Prescott to catch up with some Belgium peeps: Mini and Lorayne. Again, fun times were had.

Then Joe had to return to Belgium to take care of Badger, and I soaked up plenty of time with Torin and Kaylene. I’ll fly home with bald spots and bruises thanks to all the wrestling matches with Torin. Never, ever underestimate the force of an almost three-year old’s “Hulk Smash.” He looks harmless in photos, but watch out he’s quick.

I’m in the midst of my last week in Arizona and sad to see that it has flown by so quickly. I have a two-day trip to Vegas to catch up with Jordan and Wilber, then I’m back in Arizona for two days before flying off to Virginia to catch up with folk, and then back to Belgium to continue my adventure there.

Hopefully, the next time I pop in, I’ll have more time to find the right words and pics to share. Right now, I’m too busy doing the family thing to mess with the right words and tones. Do know that my heart and soul are embracing all the love and wonder that comes with being with your tribe. I needed this time so berry, berry much (as Torin the Terror would say).

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