Happiness

This week was an odd week. I am currently home from a work related accident. Wrecked my back, so I need to take it easy. (Easier said than done with two kids). I also had a funeral to go to. As I come from a family which is tough as nails, funerals are not a common affair. But, in the end, they do happen. So, you can imagine, this week wasn’t the grand finale of my year so far. My mood was in a bit of a funk. And still….I had several people, independently, come up to me to say I look so happy.

“Happy”. It is a word which is quite strange to me. Because happiness itself has been a stranger to me for such a long time. I can so vividly remember the times I felt sick to the stomach because I was unhappy. Physically shutting doors and windows. Barricading myself inside the house, away from anything and everyone. These times seem so nearby, yet so far away now. They have changed me. They changed the way I view people. They changed my priorities, they changed the way I see myself. I became a new and improved version of myself. But…..to call myself “happy”, well, that’s a whole other kettle of fish.

So, when these people I talked to this week complimented me, I had found myself thinking. Why were they so generous with their compliments? Nothing has changed in me. I am still me. Still mum to 2 beautiful children, still struggling to make ends meet. Still fighting the good fight on social issues, which I find important. Still searching for answers….I am JUST buggering on. Or am I!?

And then I thought….no, there must be something they see. Something not apparent to me. What is it? What could it be? They see beauty and strenght apparently. But, I think it is something else. I believe, people are seeing I am happy. Happy with who I am, happy in myself, happy with the past (present and future). In peace with what has happened and content with how it all worked out. The years of my depression are a long way behind me now. I have recovered and finally it is showing. And now, I am getting compliments in return. I am not used to them though. However, this is also something I will learn to accept over time!

Seats for sale: and how it angered me

This morning I was angry. ANGRY! Fuuuuuuu-ming. I have been upset before when it comes to institutionalized religion, but this time I read the story of all stories, coming from the church (this time around: Church of England).

Why, you ask? Well, better read the following letter first:

http://forrichardteam.tumblr.com/post/96482820232/the-letter-re-seats-for-sale

As you all might know, I have always been interested by history. So, it will be no surprise to you, I was over the moon when The University of Leicester announced they found the remains of a King, who passed away over 500 years ago. Richard III, last of the Plantagenet brothers, last king to die in battle. Found in a carpark. Even a scriptwriter couldn’t make this up!

After a lot of scientific research, which is already debatable and a legal battle where to re-bury Richard III, on the 7th August (yes, I do remember this date by heart as it is the same date Henry Tudor arrived at Milford Haven 529 years ago) Leicester Cathedral announced the reburial date of the late King. Via twitter, Leicester Cathedral mentioned to me seats within the Cathedral at the burial where “by invitation of the Dean only”.
Little did I realise, this invitation came with a pricetag. The church calls the buying of these seats a “donation”. 100k has been raised so far by the cathedral, to fund their new ambulatory.

I have read another blogpost stating it was very normal for churches in Richard’s time to make money out of such affairs. And yes, granted, once upon a time you could wash away your sins by giving money to your church. Pay as you go!

However, people, newsflash. First of all: welcome to the 21st century. Morals have changed. What was correct then, might actually not be now. Second of all: Richard’s church was not the church we know now: Church of England. When Richard (catholic) died, Henry VII became king, who in turn fathered the son (Henry VIII) who separated himself totally from Rome and the pope. In essence, he founded the Anglican church and his daughter Elizabeth and later James I pushed forward with the Anglican agenda. What is so very important about protestantism/Anglicanism was the fact that people adhering to this branch of Christianity, were sick and tired of all the wealth, pomp, malpractices, money grabbing, etc etc. A pure faith, back to the essence of believing, giving, caring, for the community.

You see, THAT is exactly what made me so angry this morning. What the C of E is doing, is so far away from the core business a church should be doing. Caring for its community. They sell seats in order to improve their own interior, they USE an annointed King as a cash cow to make the church look wealthier?

So yes, pretty and properly pissy I was today. But I thought, hang on, online ranting is all good and well, but can’t I use this frustration (Leicester Cathedral is good at frustrating people, let me assure you) to do something good? I have seen so many reports and interviews about the English poor. I have visited Leicester and have seen first hand the community there is in dire need of help. Beggars on the streets, and so on. I am sure this only scrapes the surface. So, I went to look for the local foodbank. And you know what? They are located around the corner from the Leicester Cathedral.

The lovely Rachel Markham, communications and fundraising officer at Charity link, emailed me with a few suggestions on how to donate! You can also find these suggestions here: http://www.charity-link.org/get-involved

I donated a few ££, I don’t have much, but I did this to honour a King who was denied a proper burial. A King who was denied his version of the story and a King who now will be used as a money generator for the already well off. I donated because I feel the Leicester community is currently let down by the one authority who, in essence, should care most of all. If even a church doesn’t step up to do the right thing, we should all show them the “path of righteousness.”

Angry, but redirected to do something positive. Fellow Ricardians, friends, followers on twitter. I know times are hard for many of you. But if you can spare a few pounds, this foodbank changes lives. And I tell you from the bottom of my heart: as a single parent of two, who used a similar foodbank, it really is the truth. For England, for Richard?

Wie heeft het recht om depressief te zijn?

Koning Albert is depressief. Prins Laurent is met depressie en een longonsteking omgenomen in het ziekenhuis.

*laat het hoongelach beginnen*.

Twitter en andere sociale media staat er vandaag vol van! “Hoe hebben ZIJ het recht om depressief te zijn?” “Waarvan kunnen ZIJ nu depressief zijn?” “ZIJ hebben toch geen enkele reden om depressief te zijn, met AL HUN GELD”

Veel geld heb ik niet. Ik kom op een maand net (soms niet) rond. Een halftijdse zware baan combineer ik met mijn gezinsleven als alleenstaande mama van twee kinderen. Ik kan me niet inleven hoe het zou zijn om elke maand “royaal” te kunnen leven.
En toch, als ik de reacties van de bevolking zie op twee zieke mensen, dan stemt me dat erg droef. Want ik weet wat depressie is. Drie jaar lang rondzwalpend in een draaikolk van emoties, of juist zo emotieloos zijn, waardoor niks of niemand nog tot je door kan dringen. Depressie, het zwarte beest, dat ik moedig bevochten en overwonnen heb.
Depressie is een ziekte die iedereen kan overkomen. Welke achtergrond je ook hebt. Misschien ben je een alleenstaande ouder, misschien ben je een businessman die 80 uur per week werkt, misschien ben je een koning. Depressie discrimineert niet. En eens het je in zijn grip heeft, eet het je ziel op. Knagend, als een allesverterende, vleesetende ziekte.

Wie zijn wij dan om te zeggen wie al dan niet depressief mag zijn? Gaan we tegen iemand, die een ski ongeval heeft gehad zeggen: “goh, eigen fout, je moest maar niet gaan skieën, stop maar met dat gebroken been gedoe van je.”

Ik kan me niet in de plaats stellen, van een koning of van een prins. Maar ik kan me wel in de plaats stellen van Albert en Laurent, als mensen. Als medemens wens ik hen spoedig beterschap. Wat nu zwart en onbeklimbaar lijkt, wordt wit en doenbaar.

En tegen de rest van de bevolking: when you give good karma, you receive good karma. Beetje compassie kan op tijd en stond geen kwaad. Wie weet wie de volgende gaat zijn die getroffen wordt door deze vreselijke ziekte!? Jij misschien?

A thank you

When New Years hit this year, I didn’t expect it to become a bit of a rollercoaster in the first few months. Everything seemed to settle into place one way or another. I found a job, I started my own business as well. And, I started dating. Most people know, I have been on a datingsite for a bit now, but nobody actually caught my proper attention. Until last month, that is. I was single for the grand total of 4 years and 6 weeks! And then I met this utterly wonderful, handsome and amazing man.

You probably wonder why I was single for so long? Well, I went through 3 long relationships, which didn’t succeed. Three failures, which properly shattered my heart…..and soul….and body in the process. Their legacy, a broken woman, with 2 tiny children. My decision to stay single was one of pure conviction nobody could ever touch me emotionally again. Because I wouldn’t let him. But, as the grand old cliché says: “time heals all wounds”. Time does that, you know. I went from broken, to a fixer upper, to fixed, to fully well balanced and happy in those four years. It took a psychiater, a psychologist, a ton of medication, a period of selfharm, 2 kids and some wonderful friends to make me the person I am now.
And then, when I felt I could take on the world once more, the universe threw someone at me who’d put the Berlin wall, The Chinese Wall and the Wailing Wall combined to shame. Obviously I am not into any position to go into details, but we had a rather good talk this evening. And that talk, made me start to ponder. My mind likes to do that….

I have learnt so much from my depression. And one of those things is to not give up what you believe in. A few years ago I believed things would get better if I willed them so. I believed I would heal, if I worked hard at it. Needless to say, it was an up and down affair from beginning to end. But I never gave up, not for one second. I retreated to my cave when the need was highest, and I sought help when all felt lost. I don’t think I could be taught a greater lesson than that at the time of my depression.

So, when I met this guy, I felt there was something special about him. For me, it clicked, and apparently the feeling was/is mutual. After talking today, I also realise this is not an ordinary man, in many ways. Some good, some bad. Today, I could have said: “I am sorry, but life has dealt me enough and I can’t take more”. However, I replied differently (which shocked myself mostly I think). I replied: “I feel you are worth putting energy and effort into and that is exactly what I will do, regardless of the outcome, cause I am not a quitter. I fight for what I believe in”.

In many ways I am a very spiritual person. I reckon the universe only gives that which you can handle. If you give good karma, help people, be kind and good, you will be on the receiving end of the same. Did the universe send me this person for a reason? I believe so! Will it test my patience? Hell yes! Will it up my frustration level? Probably to no extent. Will I learn from it? Undoubtably. I have actually already learned one thing: to look a man straight in the eyes again. To really look at a man once more, without the fear of being hurt.

Sometimes you could wish for a chrystal ball, to see what the future will be. I don’t know if this “relationship” will ever hit the ground running. The will to try is there, from both sides. However, even if it doesn’t work, I will get something valuable out of it. Because it means I have finally closed the darkest chapter of my life and started a new one. And I have this man to thank for it. If you read this….and I hope you do….thank you!

Midnight conversation with my cat

2 AM

Me (waking up): “Cat, what are you doing?”

Cat: *lick, lick lick, lick* “I am licking your hair, can’t you tell?”

Me: “I can, you woke me up!”

Cat:*lick, lick* “it is NICE, what is it?”

Me: “it is called shampoo, I wash my hair with it. Would you please stop now?”

Cat: “no” *lick*

Me: “I REALLY need to sleep now, cat, STOP IT”

Cat:*lick* “OK, O K, bossypants”

Me: “thank you!”

Cat:*lick*

Me: “what are you doing!?”

Cat: “whoaaaaaa, this is sooooo tasty!” [licks forehead] “what did you use HERE?? *lickilicklicklick*

Me: *sigh* “that is moisturiser, GO TO SLEEP ALREADY ANIMAL”

Cat: “FINE” *gets up and moves about*

Me: “cat!”

Cat: “what what?”

Me: “you are sleeping ON my head!”

Cat: “ofcourse, I cleaned it, it is miiiiiiine” *pppppuuuuurrrrrrs*

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Sinterklaas ~ Saint Nicolas

Today we celebrate a very special evening. Because today it is pakjesavond. Or in English: “presents evening. Pakjesavond is the evening before the birthday of Saint Nicolas. Saint Nicolas or as we call him “Sinterklaas” was a 4th century Greek bishop, who was known for secret gift giving. For the full historic background, you might want to read this wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Nicholas.

You know Santa Claus has his roots in the Sinterklaas tradition? Sinterklaas/Santa Claus, sounds similar doesn’t it? Well, tonight, we (in Belgium and The Netherlands) do Sinterklaas! For every family it is slightly different. Some parents display toys in the living room on the table, so the children wake up to gifts and sweets the next day. There are also parents who make someone come and knock on the window and put a bag of toys outside the door!

There has been talk about this wonderful tradition across the world when this lady, Verene Shepherd, a UN consultant, called the tradition of Sinterklaas and Black Pete (his helpers) a racist tradition. Although I don’t want to fuel this discussion, I want to show some perspective from people who actually celebrate it. The children!

This year my children have really grown into the Sinterklaas tradition. They are both old enough to understand who Sinterklaas is and what he does. They have memorized the songs and they have drawn pictures for him. But they are still young enough to do all of this in amazement, reverence and generally a lot of AWE. For them it really is a time of magic.

In my family we watch the Saint Nicolas News They start broadcasting a few weeks before the big event! And then we also watch the Saint Nicolas Homecoming

And when the Big Man is in town, we obviously also go and meet him!

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For the children it is a time of happiness. It is a time of believing the world is a good place. My children are in awe of the Black Pete's. They are smart, funny, they each have their own special capabilities. There is a "listen Pete"(he listens at the doors of homes to hear which gifts the children would like), and there is a "House Pete" (he ensures the good running of the household). My favourite is “Panicky Pete” (Pietje Paniek). You see, for us, it isn’t racism: it is about giving the children a lovely, wonderful childhood, with great memories. Which, hopefully, they can pass on to their own kids. And when you wonder why the Pete’s are black? Ever tried crawling into a chimney!?

Remember remember

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“Remember Remember the Fifth of November. Gunpowder, Treason and Plot. I see no reason why Gunpowder, Treason and plot should every be forgot”.

408 years ago, to the day, the Gunpowder plot was foiled. Parliament and King James were saved and Guy Fawkes was arrested. Nobody ever forgot the Fifth of November and to this day it is still remembered by fireworks up and down Britain.

6 years ago, on the Fifth of November 2007, I was in the last stages of labour, when I heard fireworks going off above Kingston On Thames. At 19.33 Elizabeth was born. I always tell her she had a real sense of drama, as she literally wanted to be born with a BANG. Little did I realise then my life would change forever. A mere few weeks later I became a single parent and everything I did, I did for my beautiful little baby.

Now we are 6 years down the line. And I keep thinking what a splendid job I have done so far. It was, and still is, hard work, every single day. But when I look at Elizabeth, I can’t feel anything else but utter pride. She is the sunshine at the start of the day and a little raincloud at intervals. She is the quiet before the storm and the raindrops after a spring shower. She is my everything.

Happy birthday, gorgeous girl. You teach me so much everyday and I love you with all my heart. Remember remember the Fifth of November. Thanks to you I will always remember!