Here comes the light!

Winter Landscape with a Bird Trap

Winter Landscape with a Bird Trap (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The winter solstice has past, meaning the sun is on its return! Though I enjoy being indoors with my husband, cozy and warm in our house, I prefer the days to be longer. Many of you will probably experience the same problems I have getting out of bed in the morning. In summer, I can be up at 7 (not that I do), but in winter I have to get up at 8 and I’m still sluggish at 9. All creatures seem to have that, though, saving energy. When I’m snug in my bed, I can totally imagine retreating for the winter.

But, on the other hand, it’s so nice outside! The most beautiful images of the dawn with the sun so low. When we have snow (which we haven’t had yet and probably only will have in the new year), it’s a winter wonderland outside. It reminds me of paintings by Pieter de Bruegel. I want to go ice skating, build a snowman, throw snowballs and really generally have a good time! Which I will, no matter what.

The best part of Yule and Christmas alike is spending time with your family. Tightening the bonds whilst sitting together by the Christmas tree. Exchanging gifts and (for us) celebrating my grandmother’s birthday. Enjoying the food everyone brought, but not for the food itself, but for it being made by your family and eaten together.

So light the candles and enjoy the season! Brightest blessings!

Children: what I want to do exactly the same as my mom

Your mother is the woman who carried you, birthed you and nursed you. No matter what happens, she’ll always stay very close to you. I have to admit I was a father’s child, but I connected with my mom at a completely different level. We were so alike! We could talk about korfball, we could both lose ourselves in books and we both didn’t really care about how other people saw us. Of course we were also different. My mother had a terrible fear of heights, and I loved climbing trees…

When I was younger, I experienced my mother as being overprotective at times. Climbing trees was something she definitely didn’t allow if she saw it, she believed it was way too dangerous (she has never known I fell out once… which is good). At all times, she was afraid we might get hurt. She once took me out of a match when I was injured, but after I screamed and yelled and cried she decided to let me handle injuries and stepping out of matches by myself. My brother never had anything to handle anything by himself. He was always in trouble, often through his own mistakes, but my mother was the one protecting him, making amends and saying that it were often the other boys as well, but he was the only one to get caught. As a mother’s child and being protected like that all his life, it was really hard on him when she died, cause he’d never learned to handle his own things.

This protective behaviour was not only about dangers, it was an expression of her caring. She wanted to take care of us so much, I always felt cared for and soothed. Up until I was 15 and told her I could do it myself, she made my sandwiches for lunch at school. It was hard for her to let go.

Most of all, I experienced my mother as happy. Quite a few embarrassing moments have occurred because  she just did what she liked. Dancing in the middle of the room (any idea how embarrassing that is when you have friends over?!). Running over the field, chased by a teammate who wanted to throw lemonade over her (as a repercussion, she started it). Close, sexy dancing with my dad when my brother and I were present (ieuw). Enjoying a glass of wine every now and then (once leading to her standing drunkenly and sick at the front door after mixing different wines…). She enjoyed life to the full.

And that’s what I want to do exactly the same when my husband and I have kids. Teach them they can freely express themselves, showing them that life is fun and full of opportunities. Enjoy every single day. Thanks mom, for teaching me that.

The thrill of a rollercoaster

It must have been years since I went to an amusement park, though I always enjoy them very much. I have soothing childhood memories of going to Drievliet and the Efteling with my mom and dad and little brother. My mother was afraid of heights – she once saw me climb a tree out back and I’d never seen her that angry – let alone rollercoaster rides. So my brother and I used to fight over who could sit next to dad, as there were usually only two seats together. Most of the time we went twice or my dad ended the discussion in a fair way: I was older, so I could sit alone. After a while I was actually proud of that and didn’t mind so much.
It was a joy when we found something mom was willing to do as well. A water track (where we were all soaked, naturally) or slower moving attractions were things she could fortunately stomach. We were so very different! My brother and I wanted to try everything, though he also backed out when I wanted to try bungee jumping. Not that I was allowed to do it, but I thought about it.

Goliath, the fastest rollercoaster in Walibi Holland

Goliath, the fastest rollercoaster in Walibi Holland

The same happened today. My husband and I went to Walibi and decided to try out all the rollercoasters. Goliath, which reaches 104 km/h peak speed was most exciting, despite the lack of loops. The Condor, where you are in a hanging seat was most intense, and the Speed of Sound which also goes backwards was very enjoyable. Apart from the roller coasters and water attractions, however, my husband refused to join me for some other rides. He claimed he would be nauseous.
Admittedly, he is afraid of heights, though less than mom used to be, but enough for parts of the rollercoaster rides to be very scary. We don’t get into the same ride twice, also for that reason. But we enjoy the exhillarating rides together, and when we have kids, they won’t have to fight, because they won’t have to sit alone. We will enjoy the thrill of rollercoaster rides together, as a family.

Time with friends and family

Yule and Christmas traditionally stand for the return of light and hope to the world. Candles are lit, songs are sung and we feel happy because the longest night has passed and the days will lengthen again.

For me, part of the tradition is to spend time with family and friends. Enjoying eachothers company, sitting cozily together with the light of candles and small lights in the Christmas tree. Eating together, all different dishes in a variety of settings. Yesterday we had dinner with three teams of my club, where 2 of us cooked the entire meal. They have been doing this for 6 years, and traditionally, the food is only just edible. In the invitation therefore, they refer to it as a ‘contingency plan’. Yesterday was no different. The two ladies had made paella, but as I don’t like fish, I got macaroni instead, which was cooked to a mash. Dessert was OK, though it didn’t work out exactly the way they planned. Yet, even though the food wasn’t very good, we all had a great time dining together, talking and laughing all night.

Today I will dine with my in-laws. I have no idea what we will get on our plate, as my mother-in-law refuses to tell anything, but it will be great. In addition my fiancée and I have bought “the nightmare before Christmas” and we’ll try to convince everyone it is fun to watch 🙂 Christmas day we’ll spend time together at home and gourmet with my little brother (yes, little, even though he is way taller than me by now and likes to call me ‘dwarf’) and my grandmother. The 26th we’ll all make something nice and spend time with the family, unwrapping gifts and hopefully eating nice things.

Lots of things planned around Christmas, but all around a central theme: spending time with family and friends. I hope you will all have a great time! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Another story of cancer

This night, my grandfather died. Of cancer. He was diagnosed with stomach cancer some month ago and decided not to undergo any treatment. He was 83 years old, the treatment would have left him without a stomach, depending on liquid food for the remainder of his life and with heavy chemotherapy. That is if he would have survived surgery. So he decided not to do anything about it.

My grandfather was a very active man, though that became less when he moved from the house where he had lived with his wife to a new room in nursing home. The emotional value of the house and everything in it was huge, and it cost him so much to work through it and decide which things to keep and which things to throw or give away. One cousin has some paintings, I have his old bed and his books were either donated to the church or given to his (remaining) children.

His collection of Bibles was donated to the church, for example, though he still had plans to start a new Bible study. And he wanted to follow another course at the University of Leiden, as he has done before with all different kind of subjects. He enjoyed it so very much in his new home, drinking coffee in the morning with all the other people, delicious warm lunches, friendly nurses and a very nice room. He still had his friends and family coming over and he was happy as can be almost a year ago when we were all there celebrating his birthday. With all the grandchildren we gave him a nice enlarged photo of the five of us. He enjoyed that so much! I think it still hangs in his room, though I can’t be sure as I didn’t visit very often.

I did visit him past Tuesday, after my aunt adviced me to go. She believed it might go very fast, which it did. When I went there with my cousin, he was lying in bed and hadn’t come out in a few days, except to go to the toilet or get washed. He didn’t enjoy lunches with his friends from the nursing home anymore, nor could he read. He was awake when we came and though he claimed not to have much pain, he was not even close to the grandfather I had known in liveliness. When only tired he would normally sit in his chair and simply sleep there, but his staying in bed gave away much.

I’m so glad I went to see him. I don’t think my younger brother did, and he is having a very hard time now, I know so much. We celebrated the birthdays of two cousins yesterday, and one of them stayed with my brother, because he couldn’t be alone. A good thing, I know now, because he would have cracked if there wasn’t anyone with him this morning when he heard the news. For my cousin it must be very difficult as well… He turned 16 today…

My grandfather is the third in the family to die of cancer, though again it was a different kind of cancer. As you will have understood, he was a devout Christian, probably convinced to go to heaven (though I can’t know for sure because we never spoke of it).  It must have been a comfort for him to know he would see his wife again, who died 21 years ago (my mother used to tell me I was her gift on mother’s day, just being born, and she died 2 months after). And he would also see my mother and her sister again, who he has had to bury 4 and 8 years ago. Though he has left us, he has done so peacefully in his sleep, at peace with the situation. 

Though neither he nor my mother will be around when my cousins finish secondary aducation or when I graduate at university or, most important to me, at my wedding day in June, I take comfort in the idea that they are probably together. And they will be there in spirit, as we will never forget them.