Blog Archives

Welcome to the waves

Back in the days when I could travel: Dec 2016 Cyprus

We are in the midst of wave two. Belgium is expected to reach an average of 20,000 new positive cases a day before the end of this week. It’s at the top two list of worst affected countries in the EU, but that doesn’t really matter anymore because most EU countries are red according to whatever thing they use to measure our misery. Belgium is doing everything it can to not have a full lockdown, but the numbers of hospital admissions is alarming.

Bars and restaurants are closed again, only one close contact is allowed to visit your home, masks are mandatory (they pretty much have been for months now), there’s a curfew from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., universities are mostly remote, many jobs are remote, people are encouraged to stay home as much as possible. Elementary and secondary schools are still open. There’s more I’d like to say about this, but it just isn’t healthy for me to vent about what I cannot control.

This time around I also can no longer claim that I don’t know anyone who has had the virus. I know several people (and I’m blasting them with every ounce of healthy that I can). Luckily Joe, I and my adult children remain healthy. I’m taking advantage of more at-home time to clean, organize and plan my lessons. I’m switching my pacing a bit and will do units on dystopian fiction; it feels appropriate right now.

I have many flaws, but one of my few talents is embracing the positives in life (lol although I don’t know that dystopian fiction will help me with that right now). And after going through a rightful funk, Badger and I took a nice walk today — mainly because he let me know, “Bitch, I gotta poo.”

I needed this walk since I’m really grappling with not being able to see my own children. Needless to say it’s really hard to be so far away from them when it feels like everything is going to shit.

My favorite pic of my babies when they were little heathens

Badger and I were blessed with sun (it won’t last long) and dying leaves surrendering to the wind. Mons is built by so many layers of art and architecture — by nature as well as man. I forget how magnifique it is while holed up in my apartment. The mold and mortar have so many stories to tell if only we knew how to listen.

Last year’s leaves bathing in a canal … didn’t have a phone on me while walking earlier. Today they took their final twirls in the air, just as magical.

It’s such a gift to be reminded that there’s much more to our history in the making than our most recent layers of crud. Yes, it’s disturbing to hear the ambulance sirens (three screeched at us during our 45 minute walk), but we were also treated to the Belfry’s hourly bells and the occasional Bon Jour by fellow humans and dogs. It is amazing how much good our helloes do for us. Life demands we see all of her, especially those little things we don’t always realize are as vital as the air we breathe.

So today’s post is all about remembering to stay safe while also embracing the good that is ours to hold. Yes, wine, gin and home-made meals help a lot with remaining indoors, but a good walk outdoors (ahem while masked!) is damn good medicine too. Hang in there people. We can get past this despite the idiotocracy that also surrounds us.

And remember our children’s children are keeping up our family legacies. LOL in my case it’s this scowl whenever a mama wants to capture her cutie. There’s a reason above pic is my fave — there are hundreds more that share the below “do I have to pose again?” face.

Cannot wait to chase this terror all over the place.

And here’s Badger’s take on the day, but I warn you he now has a Cannabis prescription, so lol not much to share with you. Badger’s link

Rage, rage against the dying of the light

One of my purchases from the Sunday Market. It’ll cheer up my desk a bit.

While rightfully angry souls march the streets to protest racism and brutality, others march for the titillation of mayhem, and others gang together to protest mask wearing. It’s an angry effing world out there and humanity is boiling with all its levels of discontent. On a bad day it feels as if the rage is dimming our light.

I miss my own children and my grandson so damned much. Thanks to social media (which I also curse for how quickly it helps spread hate and misinformation) I am able to ‘visit’ them for bits here and there. I don’t know when I’ll actually get to hold any of them again (fingers crossed: next summer?). These times are tough, and I get why we’re oh so angry. We should be. I’m angry too. We piss me off.

But, we are also blessed with so much good in our lives as well. My family and I still have our health — on a mental level, I’m not so sure, but our bodies are holding up.

While I hate being so very far away from my children, I do still love where I live. This morning I walked to the Sunday market for the first time since Covid hit. It’s been running for quite a few weeks now, but I’ve been hesitant to go because, you know, crowds. Today, I was serenaded by the baritone bong of St. Wadru’s bells. On my walk home she treated me to the angelic notes of her choir.

It’s gray and cool outside, but walking up cobblestone hills with a mask on keeps you sweating. The market itself was loaded with all of its scents and sounds, but our exchanges were muffled because of our masks, and the police with their dogs joined the stream of pedestrians — just our friendly reminder to keep those masks and our peaceful sides in check.

Mons has truly done a lot to keep us happy and entertained. They keep moving the collection of artsy elephants around, so that we’re pleasantly surprised when we run into them unexpectedly.

I ran into this one cutting through our park this morning.

We’re still treated to live music on the streets. Yesterday, we thought we somehow ended up in New Orleans when a marching band belted out When the Saints Come Marching In. Badger was disappointed they did not have a violinist. We’ve pretty much started up a pension for the guy who plays at the Grand Place since Badger pulls us to him each and every time. Me thinks that dog will strum strings in his next life.

We can’t make the two-hour drive to Paris or Amsterdam on the weekends now (until we manage to all get out of code red and orange), but we’re happy to rest and shop here on the weekends. I type this as the Belfry plays its weekly bell concert in the background.

I’ve also successfully completed my third week back to school (second week with kids), and we’re figuring it out. It’s not easy, but the kids and I are settling into a groove. We’re enjoying learning together, and we’ve figured out our own ways to have meaningful discussions (lol and sometimes not) while social distancing. My poor babies struggle understanding English without reading our lips, and we struggle understanding them with their accents (and not being able to read their lips).

I have learned there is a huge difference between wearing a mask most of the day and being inconvenienced for the 30 minutes you’re in the grocery store. By my second day of teaching and wearing a mask for four hours straight, I realized I might need to buy diaper rash cream for my face. I’ve learned that one should not eat curry for lunch. Pointy masks are better than flat masks because that little air pocket makes all the difference. A wise teacher brings more than one mask to school because we apparently spit a lot when we talk. It’s truly disgusting how wet my masks can get. I am one gross saliva spreader.

Dress code reminders used to be me whispering to a girl to pull her shirt up, now it’s all about me saying to both genders “don’t show me your nose.”

The last five minutes of class are all about giving kids disinfectant wipes and having them wipe down their work areas, so it’s all nice and clean for the next batch of kids (I like this part). And, all day long, I have to remind myself to not get too close to a kid or to wash my hands because I touched someone’s paper. Alllll day long: do you have any idea how many times a day we’re near a student because he or she needs our help? I can’t correct syntax six feet away.

There’s no sharing of resources either. When I give a kid a marker to write something on the board, I collect that marker and sanitize it before another student can touch it. I am literally wiping off teenage kooties right before their eyes now. It’s a new world for us where, basically, we’re all considered unsafe, unclean.

But, omg, I still get high working with them. I can’t see their smiles, but I so see them working hard and trying — which makes me try harder too. Online teaching will never compare to face to face (even this very filtered form of it), and I am so very lucky that I get to do this. Am I worried that we’ll get sick? Oh god, yes. Every tickle in my throat, or every gasp of air because I’ve sucked in my mask, makes me think, “oh shit do I have the Covid?”

But, I keep masking up, washing my hands, and doing the social-distance-santize dance. It’s clunky, uncomfortable AF and awkward, but we’re doing our part to fight the dying of the light.

Here’s to all of us for doing the best we can during the most effed up year of the decade.

Have AWD, will travel

LOL Badger and me having our romantic couple’s shot while cooling off in the Ardennes

We had our first 100 degree day last Friday, and it looks like we’ll have our second today. We have been so lucky this summer because, for the most part, our temps have been great. So, we can’t complain about the current heatwave, but we’re human, so we will. It’s supposed to stay in the 90s until around Thursday next week, which sucks when you’re in a country that doesn’t consider A/C important — until we hit these days and folks flock to the hardware stores desperately searching for portable units.

Luckily, Lorayne sold us her unit (looks like R2D2), which we use in the spare bedroom to cool off. Our apartment has a great cross breeze between the front and back windows, so it’s not as bad as you would think, BUT it does get warm and stuffy.

The best, however, is our new vehicle because it can take us anywhere, so last week we did our first off-road adventure and loved getting lost in the forest.

One of the coolest and saddest things about Belgium is that you run into war memorials all over the country. We were literally in the middle of nowhere, and we came across this celebration of an American soldier’s bravery. Joe googled him, and it turns out he stopped the German’s Panzer division by blowing up their lead tank with a bazooka, which also took him out and earned him this tribute that reminds us hikers to thank those who fought for the lives we have today.

We’ve also spent the week touring towns and breweries. I’d show you pictures, but the camera on my phone isn’t working, so I take snaps with Joe’s, but lol it’s a pain to send to me to upload, etc. etc. Just know we’ve had lots of lovely trips checking out all the good Belgium has to offer. Yesterday we escaped to Maredsou Abbey with friends.

Badger appreciates the shaded walks

Today, we’re staying in Mons, but we’ll find shaded cafes to sip and dine with friends, so all is good. Mons also is doing its best to keep our spirits up despite this damned pandemic, which just won’t go away.

There are new murals and 31 elephants placed around the city, so it’s fun to walk and find these treasures. The musicians are out playing, and we’ve discovered that Badger loves the violin. Last week, there was a parade of puppet animals. They looked so real. I wonder what fun things we’ll witness this weekend.

Badger has also been totally loving our new car and our trips. He has some cute pics on his blog. Click here to see him all woodsy and what not.

On Monday I go back to work. I’m not as excited this year as I normally am. I do still love my job, and I do so look forward to seeing students again, but, well, you know, the pandemic. There are just too many unknowns right now, and we’re all feeling it. We all want to do the best that we can do, but we all also do not want to get sick, so there’s lots of uncertainty. But, we will get past this as well. The kids and I will figure out how to make it work, and fingers crossed we will all continue to stay healthy. That said I’m not looking forward to training and classroom prep with no a/c next week — tis a good thing the kids don’t arrive until the following week because I’m going to be pretty stinky and sweaty. I’m amazed the ring around my mouth hasn’t broken out from all the mask sweat.

There’s not much more for me to share other than stay safe, and that I hope you’re all enjoying your little bits of joy as much as I am. Please keep masking up despite the discomfort. I want to be able to fly home next summer and see this cutie pie (who turns two this month! And, he’s such a responsible toddler).

Smile … it’s summer!

The weather in our corner of Europe has been so lovely. Mostly sunshine, cool breezes and temps that don’t make us fantasize about air conditioning. So, we’ve been enjoying a lot of outdoor time.

Yesterday, while sipping some Maredsous at our favorite cafe pub, just loving life the way we do, nature bitch slapped us a little reminder. A flock of pigeons played chicken with our allegedly slow-moving traffic since it’s right near where diners and sippers sit. One got its neck snapped by an overzealous driver (Joe says his wife was arguing with him — I’m ignoring that hint). Another driver, got out, gingerly picked up the bird and scooped her to the side where she sadly twitched until she died. It was awful, but around 10 minutes later another pigeon flew to her side. He squawked and pecked to make her move.

“Aw look it’s her mate,” I cooed. “How sad, he’s trying to wake her.”

Then the bird jumps up and down on the carcass, feathers flying, but still no movement, so I shit you not: he humps his dead mate. What in the effity eff is that? Joe is dying; Badger is fascinated; I’m again mortified. Satisfied, Mr. Peckity Pecker flies off, a few minutes later another bird lands and does the same exact thing. This happens until another human kindly picks up the de-fowled carcass and throws it away.

This, my friends, is when I learn that a. pigeons are as messed up and cruel as we are (who knew necrophilia was a cross-species thing?), and b. that dead bird pretty much sums up 2020. Just when you think it’s bad; it gets more freaky.

Belgium, along with much of Europe, is battling the beginnings of our second wave. We now have to wear a mask pretty much everywhere (which I’m okay with) and keep our social circle to no more than 5 for the next 4 weeks. They are trying to avoid a complete lockdown, but our numbers are quickly rising. Within this timeframe, I’m going back to work — allegedly in the classroom with students, but I guess we shall see what the great pigeons in the sky have to say about that.

My sexy beasts a few minutes prior to settling down with the pigeons

Despite this being probably the worst year in a long time, Joe, Badger and I have managed to tune out the nasties going on in our world and mostly enjoy our summer. Our first stop was in wine country, Germany where we hiked grape-laced hills and sipped along romantic riverbanks.

We were off to a great start, until the Polezei pulled us over. Turns out our temporary tags on the new car expired (guess we should have looked!). Long story short: I talked my way out of getting our car impounded, and promised we’d manage a way back to Belgium to get our permanent tags. In the middle of the night, we ran like the bandits that we are and drove praying like mad that we’d make it to the Belgium border without another encounter with the law: whew! we did. But, we had to cancel our Black Forest and Austrian alps portion of our trip. It’s all good since the lady who owns the alps cabin said we could come during my next vacation instead, so no money lost there.

Once our tags came in, we got back on the road and visited friends in Bavaria, where we hiked and sipped some more.

Click here to see Badger’s pics and thoughts on our hikes.

After having fun with our friends there, we took off to spend a few nights in Poland (with friends) where we supported local artists by buying pottery (so much so, on my end, that lol I had to buy a cart to store some of it) and hiked some more. Our adorable rental also had an inflatable jacuzzi out back, so we got to sip outside and soothe our sore muscles at the same time. Perfection! Our hostess also suggested we take a dip in the “little lake” (a rock quarry) just a few minutes away. It’s mineral water, she said, so it would take 10 years off our age, so heck yeah despite the slippery climb down and the cold water, we dove in. Um, on our way out we saw the No Swimming sign — too late, party of 30 and 40 somethings (ahem) on their way to the jacuzzi.

We loved touring Grodziec Castle, it’s like a jungle gym for adults. Lots of towers and tunnels to climb through and plenty of fairy tale trails to get lost in, plus the museum end of it where you can pretend you’re a knight or princess. Next summer we’d like to tour more of Poland. The people are great, food is hearty and comforting, beer is good, and it’s surrounded by so much beauty. So, yeah Poland we heart you.

Of course we also love Germany; I’m still hoping I one day get a post there. But all is also well in Belgium.

The virus may be doing its damage, but Mons is still doing its best to spruce the place up for summer. No festivals or big parties, but they did decorate the Grand Place to make it beachy.

Temps are supposed to be in the nineties on Friday, so we’re contemplating another Ardennes trip since it’ll be cooler there, and we love it there too. What’s not to love about castles, woodsy hikes and beer. We wanted to go back to the Netherlands for a bit before I go back to work, but we’re afraid to cross borders right now. No sense in tempting fate in case they do close again, plus, to be honest, we’re just better off hunkering down in Mons. There’s plenty here to keep us amused.

And that’s about it on our end. Hopefully, the next time I pop in I can tell you all about how we managed to dodge a second wave.

Effen Rona…

Mons Dou Dou week 2018

For those of you just clicking on my blog, I live in Mons, Belgium, which has loads of stories to share, but it’s all-time favorite celebration is the Ducasse, or as it’s commonly called: Dou Dou fest.

It’s an ancient tradition that goes back to the mid 1300s. It began as a procession of carting the city’s patron saint Wadru (a woman, woo hoo) relics around the city to protect it from the plague. Legend has it that as long as the chariot with the relics makes it up the big hill, bad luck like the plague won’t happen. Throughout the years it evolved into a week-long fest that includes religious ceremonies, parties galore, parades, its own song (which is sung over and over again) and a dragon slaying. It is everything to the citizens of Mons, and it has only been cancelled during the French Revolution and both world wars — until Corona. It’s part Mardi Gras, part medieval lore, and all Montois. The irony of it being cancelled because of a pandemic must truly sting.

The streets of Mons today. This time last year there’s no way I could have gotten this close.
This is what it’s supposed to look like (pic taken from the Dou Dou Mons Facebook page)

In the overall scope of this year’s challenges, it’s not a big deal, I know. And it’s not completely forgotten.

The dou dou song is playing, people are flying the Dou Dou flags, and locals are doing their own thing. Hahaha like this family, who decided to parade their own dragon for slaying.

Police are patrolling on foot and horse to ensure social distancing is in place. The Belfry is now also playing the Dou Dou song. The Collegial (St. Wadru’s cathedral) is also ringing bells, so despite it all, Mons is still cheering on its tradition the best it can — without all the hoopla and people, but it will happen again.

Badger is smitten with the horse patrol

And life is slowly resuming back to normal. Tomorrow we enter another phase of post lockdown. Cafes, bars and restaurants can reopen with strict guidelines. On June 15, our borders open to neighboring countries. We’re planning whatever safe summertime fun we can get in.

On the 18th we’re going to spend 5 nights at a lovely cabin in the Ardennes (with its own swimming pool!). A friend is retiring and moving back to the states, so she’ll spend the last week of June staying with us, which will include some last-minute day trips. We’re bringing her animals to Amsterdam to be shipped back, so that means another few nights in the Netherlands (checking out cottages to book now), and then we have a few nights booked at a campground in Luxembourg. We hope to do a little camping and touring in Germany and Poland, but none of that has been booked yet. It’s difficult because we have to follow local mandates, and they’re just working all that out.

Basically, we’re trying to book in some peace and serenity while the world shakes around us. We’re also still waiting on the arrival of our new car, so there’s new and old mixing in with all the different levels of uncertainty and upheaval.

Happy Sunday everyone! And Bon Ducasse to the people of Mons.

Week: what week is this?

Time to garden…

It’s the final day of my spring break, and now it feels like it went by as quickly as it always does.  We’re still on lockdown.  It’s been extended to May 3, our travel ban (from work) has been extended to June 30, with the statement that it could change for better or worse.  Some restrictions are lifting:  more stores are allowed to open, provided distancing measures are taken, and work is discussing post-lockdown strategies, but, of course, none of us knows how long any of this will last.  What we do know is it’s not ending tomorrow.

Belgium’s daily hospital admittance numbers are going down (whew!), but people are still dying.  As of noon today, our numbers are:  38,496 confirmed cases, 5,683 dead.  That’s a lot more than where we were just a month ago, but for the past few days more Coronavirus patients have left the hospital (healed) than have entered, so that’s a very good sign — one we all want to see continue.

I post those numbers for posterity’s sake — one day I’ll look back at this and either go whew! we did okay (relatively speaking; I’m sure those left mourning disagree), or shit that was just phase one.  Only time will tell.  It’s a waste for me to bitch about what frustrates me most about where things are today, but I do want to say to those people at home who are protesting stay-at-home measures or flocking to beaches — stay the eff away from my loved ones. I totally get your frustrations, and I type this knowing I’m lucky that financially I have not yet been bit by this bug (except for my retirement savings plans), but for God’s sake rallying in a crowd isn’t going to help anyone.  Oh I so badly want to vent about the politics of our pandemic, but that is where we are at this phase in our evolution and you guys don’t need me adding any more frustrated venting to it all.  May we all (idiots included) get through this.

Okay enough on what I cannot control. Let’s get back to Spring and pretty things.   This is my happy place, so poof away to the uglies.

I’ve been a productive little beaver and a total couch potato at the same time.  In the past two weeks, I’ve polished off two three credit literature courses.  I’ve read Mark Twain’s Huck Finn, Theodore Sizer’s Horace’s Compromise (an education reform book), Virginia Woolf’s Orlando and Jenette Winterson’s Written on the Body, completed a massive amount of reading comprehension questions, written a few essays and completed a week’s worth of lessons for a book I will not teach this year (maybe next year).  I am done with being a student, and my students will be spared essays for the next week or two — but poor babies will get work.  Well, I’m not completely done because I’ve also joined an online class for teachers going online (see the different layers this corona world is taking us!).

I thought Easter would be a bit of a bummer, but it turned out to be a nice day. We baked a ham, roasted garlic potatoes, made cornbread and ate in the balcony room.  Afterwards we watched Andrea Bocelli’s Easter concert on Youtube, and to keep things classy we watched the Tiger King extra episode — no way near as touching as Bocelli’s music to the backdrop of empty cities around the world, but I’m glad to see the characters I liked seemed to all be doing well, but ahem so were the losers (well except for Mr. Fancy Pants whose still in jail).  To top it all off we got to video conference with all three of my kids, and I got to see Torin tearing up his parents living room.  I am so bummed I won’t get to chase that little monster around the pool this summer, but we’ll play again soon.

We’re also still doing things with friends, but differently.  One friend loves to bake and then bring us treats, another loves to barbecue and bring us brisket, others are cooking a Thai feast next weekend, so we walk our little portion of the hood, hang out our windows to yell small talk, and bring each other treats.  It’s our own version of Halloween and Hollywood Squares.

A perk to the pandemic is that we’re discovering Mons more.  Thanks to friends of ours we’ve found our way to pastoral hills and country walks.  A 15-minute walk takes you to a whole other side of the non-city portion, and it’s loaded with trails and trees. It’s been amazing walking and enjoying these trails.  We’ve also walked around the nearby lake and canals, which I’ll include in my next blog post.  But, for now, I’ll leave with you some pics of the beauty that surrounds the city.  Dinner is almost done, so time for me to go and feast.  Oh, Badger also had some words to share on his blog.  If you’re bored go to BadgerDoesBelgium.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week 3

Rue du Onze Novembre applauding the essentials.  I don’t know why it’s sideways.

It’s Friday — woo hoo, so what.  Yesterday I completed my 10th day of online classes. The kids and I are making the best out of it, but of course it’s not the same. I did get to have a few educator friends join my classes for a fun guest day (so that was cool).  Today is a meeting/office day, meaning I catch up on meetings with colleagues and students who need extra help.  My front guest room AKA my closet (with a daybed for when I need all 4 bedrooms) is now my classroom.  It won’t be next week because it’s cramped and uncomfortable.  That was part of my plan, so I’d move around more in between virtual sessions.  But, I quickly grew to dread going in there as much as I used to dread waking up Monday mornings.

If the kids only knew what I looked like from the neck down

Oh wait … next week is Spring Break.  Normally, I’m so excited for my two-week escape from it all, but now I’m here, in my apartment (thank God it’s a lovely place).  We’d escape to the Ardennes or a Belgian beach, but that’s also not allowed (and they have the police and fines to back it up).  Technically, I should be writing this from my hotel room in Ireland since I should have landed there late last night.  Good news is no hangover for me today, which I’m almost certain would have been the case as well.

Again I’m very well aware that I am one of the lucky ones.  Belgium’s numbers are now 16,770 confirmed; 1,143 dead, including a 12-year old girl.  As you all know globally there have now been more than one million confirmed cases and more than 54,000 deaths.  The U.S. and Europe are racking up some numbers, and it looks like it’s only going to get worse before it gets better.

Joe and I, our loved ones and our friends are all still healthy — a bit more pudgy with less muscle tone, but healthy nonetheless — and we have plenty of food, water, toilet paper and internet to keep us going.  I’m also finally working on two online classes I signed up for last school year.  I’ll finish one of them this weekend, and then I’ll dive into the other.  There’s another course I’ve also signed up for, so I’ll be busy building those last few credits I need for a bit of a bump in my salary.  Oh and that’s another thing I’m super grateful for:  I’m still getting paid.

My big plans for this weekend are to take more silly pics of Badger, so that I can finally post something new on his blog. A friend is loaning us her car (ours is so lonely at the mechanic’s), so that Joe can go to the commissary to buy more American comfort food.  We’re also planning on a long walk around the lake near Mons on Sunday.  We’re hoping Badger can do this — he has his good and bad days, so we’ll see. Since we’re not allowed to use park benches anymore (the parks and benches were sealed off with police tape last weekend) there will be no more sit and rest breaks for the poor boy.  The weather has been beautiful.  This past week was cold, below freezing at night, but oh my goodness the sun has been out every damned day. She just waves at us while we drool on our windows.  Our local memes remind us that as soon as the lockdown is over we’ll go back to rainy days.

While it’s awesome that we’re allowed to go for walks and runs, it’s, sadly, not as enjoyable as you would think.  It’s good to get out, don’t get me wrong.  But, every time we leave the house the threat of coming into contact with the virus is very real.  Sometimes strangers just come up too close to you — it’s rare, but it happens.  Sometimes we touch things and forget to wash our hands before touching our face.  Sometimes we bring the groceries into the house and remember oh shit we should have washed off the packaging before putting food away.

I’d also give anything for a case of lysol disinfectant spray, so that I could de-germinize my couches.  Hell, Badger is one big swifty mop every time he goes for a walk.  How much is attaching itself to him? He coughed the other day and we were all oh no, did we give him the virus?  Turns out the hoover choked on his own hair and doggy biscuits.  These are the things we stress over now (again no where near the truly horrible things others must stress over).

On the bright side there are the 8 pm applauses on the street, my teddy lamb is in the window for any kids who might look up to the third floor, happy hour video chats are happening, and I’m reading/philosophizing the fuck out of my reading corner.  So all is well, even if one day is beginning to blend into the other — technically that’s always been the case; I was just always too busy to notice before.

And, since I’m eternally optimistic, I do look forward to the fun things I get to do.  Speaking of which it’s about time for me to make a refreshing gin and tonic to get ready for our zoom Friday happy hour.

Bon Weekend!

 

 

Week Two…

The Mons monkey masked up and ready to take on our germs

Well I’m in my second week of self isolation.  Last week began our first week of teaching online.  The goal was for us to teach from school while the kids stayed home.  That changed last Wednesday when Belgium went into lockdown at noon.  By last Thursday we were teaching our first online classes from our living rooms.  By 3 p.m. that Friday our borders closed.  I am now living at a time where the police will pull you over if you have more than one person in a car, and you better have a good reason for being on the road. Fines are steep for those who get caught tempting fate.  Not a problem for us since my car died last week, and, well, it’s now in auto isolation at the mechanic’s until the lockdown phase passes.

It’s all good, we’ve got nowhere to go anyway.  Luckily the grocery store is within walking distance as are the parks, but don’t make the mistake of loitering in the park either.  The police will find and fine you.  People are dying, and Belgium is finally taking this seriously (we were all resistant to doing so at first because hello?  cafe sipping is Life — until it no longer is).

We are allowed to go for a walk or run, and Badger still gets his walks, but we can only go with a person we live with (or alone), and we need to keep our distance from others.  Wouldn’t you know the weather has been sunny — in Belgium where it always rains, so it’s a bit of a bright middle finger from Mother Nature.

Spring says F you Corona!

I’m not complaining.  We’re up to more than 6,200 confirmed cases (in the past 24 hours almost 1,300 people tested positive) and 220 dead, which the news and officials clearly stress is an understatement since they only test the severely ill and medical professionals.  We’re obviously not alone since the whole damned world is shutting down to protect ourselves from this virus.  I worry that too many aren’t taking this seriously enough, and I pray (I’m not even the praying sort of soul) that this whole exponential growth thing doesn’t, you know, grow exponentially.  I’m not a math whiz or scientist, so I can still hold on to my hopes and dreams.

The beginning of last week I was a little excited about the teaching online thing because I mistakenly thought I’d get a lot of work done while in my classroom.  Then I got excited about the idea of teaching from home — look Ma no pants!  But, when we were told to pack up as much as we could because there’s no telling when we’ll be back, the reality of this all set in.  I might be homebound for a lot of weeks (can’t bring myself to type the possibility of months).  The probability of people I care about getting sick is quite high.  I’ve already learned about a few deaths of people who knew people I know — luckily so far no one I’m close to has been confirmed of having it. Yet.

I worry about my children.  I’m too far away from them, and I can’t tell them to come stay with me while we feast on my home cooked meals, watch movies and take dips in the pool (those days and that house are long gone).  I can’t Vics vaporize them if they get ill.  I can’t protect them from any crazy that might ensue, and I cannot pay all of them their missed salaries.  My sons work in the restaurant industry, my daughter has her own small business, and her husband is out in the public risking his health, so that his family can continue to eat.

A few nights ago Joe had a coughing fit; occasionally my head hurts a little bit. We both have runny noses.  Normally neither of these would be a concern.  It’s allergy season.  Joe could have inhaled a bug in his sleep because he hasn’t coughed since.  I’m on the computer too many hours, so hello? of course my head hurts.  I’ll be blind when this is all over with.  But yeah the what if? lingers and embeds itself as tightly as the pestilence that waits for us on door knobs and handrails.

This is what happens when teachers are forced to talk via computer screen

It doesn’t matter that most of us who get sick will recover — if any of us gets sick we will still stress.  Sure most of us will be able to nurse ourselves at home, but what if we’re of that percentage that needs intensive care?  None of us wants to drown in our own mucus, or cry home alone while our loved ones suffer. Joe and I (and many of our friends) have the added perk of not knowing much French, so communicating our ailments won’t be easy.  So yeah it’s a scary time for all, even if we crack jokes and minimalize any potential symptoms we might get.  Plainly put: this sucks.

But, it’s not all bad either.  I do so enjoy my morning commute, and I’m adapting.  My students and I still have our own learning vibe going (I do so miss working face-to-face with them, but their personalities still shine through).  I’m keeping track of the kids that don’t talk so much via our virtual sessions, so that I can check in on them one on one later.  We’re all coming up with ways to make this more fun.  And, we’re remembering to remind people we care and that they matter — and they us.

 

We’re learning how to reevaluate our time, our presence, our what we have.  My favorite memes are the ones that remind us that the only thing we have to do to save the world is to stay home — while still having food, all the joys of the Internet and our creativity (OMG keep it up you silly fools with all your stay-at-home antics.  Have you guys seen the one where a couple does their own thing to a Horse with No Name?).

And Badger is learning Shakespeare!

LOL I’m planning a photo shoot for Badger this weekend, so he can have fun being humiliated on his blog.  A girl has gotta take a break from HBO, video and email chats, and online learning or teaching.

So, all of this will eventually pass, and we will all learn something from it — hopefully more good than bad.  For those of us who will not get through this unscathed, know that we are all rooting for you (and ourselves) and blasting you with healthy, cheery, love-filled vibes.  It’s all we have to offer — along with keeping our fat asses at home on the couch.

Stay safe everyone, and do your best to keep your home filled with positive, cheerful things.  Our grocery store still sells fresh cut flowers, so our dining room table is blooming with life and color.  If I could, I’d buy you all a little of the same.  Hang in there, Humans.  We’ve got this (even if it feels like we don’t).

Day two…

 

Well that’s pretty much what my life will be like the next two months (minus the friends on couch — with social distancing we’ll sit farther apart next time we meet).  Pray my upcoming days won’t include people I know getting ill.  My colleagues, our families and I are on a 60-day travel ban (this comes from our work, not Belgium).  We are not allowed to leave Belgium, and our relatives are not allowed to come in to visit. I’m not complaining.  We all have to do what we all have to do to keep this thing under control.  But, that does mean our spring break trip has been cancelled.  We can’t even drive the 20 minutes it takes to get into France.

We are not in a forced lockdown yet, but precautions are put into place.  Beginning this weekend all bars and restaurants are closed (unless they offer takeaway only), all events cancelled and only grocery stores, street food markets and pharmacies can sell their wares (on weekends; during the week all stores can open). Fritteries, fry shops, remain open (lol you can’t stop the frites!)  All schools are closed Monday, including mine.

We teachers still have to go to work to set up our online materials and teach online from our classrooms unless it gets to a point where we’re told to stay home.  Confirmed cases in Belgium have jumped up to almost 900 — beginning of last week I think we had less than 100 (can’t remember:  a week ago feels so long ago).

I, nor most of my American or Belgium counterparts, am not panicking.  I do have a stash of paper towel and toilet paper, but we always have about that amount saved — my husband has this now-timely fear of running out of paper products. Who knew this would become one of our life-saving moments?

Yes on Friday (when closures were announced) our store aisles were bare, but most of them filled back up yesterday morning, so I think the mass buying will fizzle out here quicker than in the states

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our street is never this empty on a Sunday afternoon, but hey plenty of parking if anyone nearby wants to visit.

I’ve been preparing myself and my students for online learning, so I feel like the transition into that will be easier for us than those who found themselves having to make this shift overnight.

We’ve also got plenty of beer, wine and food stocked, so I plan on making us some great meals.  I also plan on using this time to organize and clean my house and finally focus on two online classes I signed up for almost a year ago.  I have to finish them by May, so giddy up it’s time to read and write the b.s. I’ve been avoiding.  Provided I don’t get ill, I’ve been given precious time to do all those things I keep putting off because I don’t have enough time.

I’m of two halves on this thing.  On the one hand I’m not worried that I’ll get sick, and I know I’m good at keeping my own morale up (not so sure I’m good at doing that with my husband, but whatevs shit will get done in this apartment).  As long as we can, we’ll still meet up with friends in small settings because none of us likes being alone for too long (although this extravert is embracing the notion of some down time).

The other part of me is very aware of the dangers of this damned disease.  Overall, I’m a healthy chunky monkey, so if I were to come down with this I’m pretty sure I’d beat it.  Joe doesn’t fare so well with respiratory stuff (he gets sick way more than I do with those kind of ailments), and he’s a few years older, but while he might bitch and moan about how miserable he is, I sense he too would recover.  BUT, there’s always that small chance that either of us won’t, so yeah that sucks — a shitty reality for all of us right now.

Belgium might become the next Italy or Spain.  Right now we’re good, but it could go to super scary over night, and of course I pray and hope and throw out tons of positive vibes that it won’t.  Universe I hope you’re taking in all that positivity!  But, yeah, we’re all fully aware of the reverse of my good wishes, so we just won’t dwell on that unless we have to, and then we’ll take that one step at a time like every other obstacle that comes our way.

I do not think it’s stupid for all of these closures and cancellations.  I don’t think it’s over reaction.  I do wish our governments would have done it sooner to really wipe this thing out, but only time will tell if their timing wasn’t too late.  I also do get why the waiting happened; closing everything down comes at a very large cost — hopefully, we all remember that it’s a worthwhile one, but again we’re an odd species, so we’ll see where it all goes.

I also worry about my sons who work in the restaurant industry back home.  They’re young and healthy and currently still working, which is great for them financially, but how long will that last?  It’s also affected my daughter’s business.

I worry about the long-term financial impact this will have on us all (and whether it will cause other tensions that lead to nastiness), but again now is not the time for me to focus on the negative, but it is a time to be alert and aware.

There is so much good also coming out of this.  We’re learning how resourceful we can be, and I truly believe more of us are pitching in to do good than to take advantage of the situation (although of course those assholes are out there).  I hope that when we’re collectively wiping our brows and exhaling because we survived this last bout of crisis, we will reflect and realize we can quickly make massive change for the better.

So it seems 2020 is the year of Wash Your Hands, and what a wonderful metaphor that could be for getting rid of all kinds of figurative bacteria that’s been making us ill for too long of a time. If we can close everything (for the betterment of all) and we can quickly realign the way we work and learn, hell’s yeah we could change those things we say are too embedded to change. Let’s remember that when life goes back to normal.

 

And thanks to Tracy for the best hand-washing gel a botanical sipper like me could ever scrub her fingers with.

Happy New Year!

It was so good having two of my kids here for the holidays. I sooooo miss living close to them. We had a wonderful Christmas, mostly through the eyes of Torin.

He’s one of us — already begging for beer.

I soooo miss that little wiggle worm! I have to wait at least 6 months before I can see him again.

Day after Christmas we packed up a rental van and drove to Normandy, where we stayed in a renovated farm house and Kelly got to pay homage to all (including his grandfather) who did not get to experience Normandy with the love and warmth we did.

Loved this swing (and playing with my little Mama) in the barn.  This would be the perfect place to spend the summer.

They used airplane toggles for light switches.  How clever!

This bathtub was perfect for Torin (sorry i didn’t get a good shot, but my daughter got a few).  LOL I took a bath in it, and had to do yoga to get back out (I’ve never done yoga before — um a wet, naked me was not a good way to begin).

Joe’s and my bed in the attic room.  I want the world to know that even under the influence of fermented French grapes, my fat ass and weak ankle can still climb the ladder to this comfy bed.  Our first night I fell asleep to the wind howling because it could not budge those stone walls or the tightly fastened roof (Amen to that!).

Thanks to it being unseasonably warm, we ended up stripping down to tank tops just so we could enjoy our last night with a fire and Saving Private Ryan — a must see after visiting all the sites, just to remind us of how awful it all was. May we one day learn to resolve our conflicts without destroying our precious young and land.

Watching the sun rise from my bed in the attic room.  How cool is that?!

Who doesn’t want to um, read in this room?  Another perk:  the floors are heated!  OMG my tootsies love a warm bathroom floor.

And, here are some shots of the fam touring the shores and churches of Normandy.

We lit a candle for peace — oh may it shine brightly.

My little photographer taking all sorts of close ups.  Torin is not amused.

My baby of the group — looks like he belongs here!

I love Torin’s facial expressions, especially in his carrier.  He seems to love the mist on his face, but he’s always “so whatcha up to?”

Kelly with his mom.

Then we came back to Mons and brought in the New Year with fireworks on the Grand Place.  This was the first year they threw a party on New Years, and it was fantastic.  I do so love where I live.  It just seems to get better and better, except for the fact that my kids aren’t here permanently.

It’s all good because my trick to not suffering Empty Nest Syndrome is travel, so on Jan 2 when my kids flew home, Joe and I boarded a plane to Venice, where we spent a lovely long weekend with his sister (since he’s retired, Joe got to spend a few days longer; I’m still jealous).

This is my favorite shot I took during that trip, and I took it from the balcony of Joe’s sister’s apartment.

These two shots are from the windows of our apartment.

It was so cool to sip coffee with that view (fingers crossed I didn’t blind any gondoliers with my no-bra jammies).  We stayed in the San Paulo area, which is where Joe’s sister has been visiting for years (15 I think).  It was so nice to have her as our guide because we got to feast and sip with the friends she’s made there over the years, and we now love it as much as she does.  Thank you Linda for giving us another place to call home!

This shop was our guide to turn onto our street. And just in case you need more pics of Venice, here you go…

I could have sat and sipped here alllllllllllll day long.

Joe and Linda catching up our first night there.  We now know the best time to visit St Marco square is at night, after Christmas.  STILL magical!

But, can you ever get enough gondola shots?

These two dogs waited patiently outside while their owner bought bread.  Going by the amount of people taking pics, I bet they’re international social media stars by now. Badger would love it here since dogs seem to be welcome and adored everywhere.

Gotta post a selfie of us standing on the dock right by our bedroom window.

We had such a wonderful time that we decided to join Linda for Christmas there next year.  I’ll be sure to bring a big suitcase so that I can load up with more glasses and bowls and oh my the shopping!  So many pretty things, but the best — besides the scenery — were the people (food and wine almost tie with them).

As for the new year:  I no longer make resolutions.  However, this year I made one, and that is to upload my photos to this blog as trips are happening.  It takes a ridiculous amount of time to sort through them all and do it on a lazy Sunday (when I also have the pressure of having real work to do — ugh).  It’s quicker uploading via my phone anyway.  So, there you go:  fingers crossed I’ll keep to it.

Before I say chow, here are a few links that might interest you (and no:  I don’t get paid to share other people’s stuff.  lol I don’t get paid for this blog at all).

First one is Badger’s take on my return (poor boy is getting old, which means less trips in 2020 without him):  Badger Does Belgium

Second is a link to our cottage in Normandy.  Know that it’s an hour from most sites, but it has a lovely beach nearby:  Glatigny Farmhouse

Third is a Venetian walking food tour (by American guides) we haven’t taken yet, but we totally plan on bringing friends to Venice to do this (we’ve met the couple who do this and can’t imagine this being anything but fun):  Venice Bites

And that’s it for now.  I’m back in my real world and have a busy few weeks coming up.  Are they ever anything but busy?

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