Saturday, 25 August 2018

Dear 41

Dear 41 Year Old

Here's another birthday you were not looking forward to.  Being 41 brings another fresh new batch of feelings you don't like.  It reaffirms that you haven't met some of your goals and you have so much more to do to be happy and "healthier". 

Then you woke up this morning and you feel very happy.  It's like you just need a little sadness and a "feel sorry for yourself" moment and then you can realize all of your blessings.  There are so many.

Being 41 is just a number but you know that.  You just don't like that number very much.  You haven't accepted that you are not some young chick anymore with loads of energy.  You hoped to start embracing this age, but, well, you are waiting for those feelings to begin... maybe today. 

At 41 you thought you would be happier in your body.  By 41 you thought you wouldn't have financial worries.  You had hoped that you would be excited about your career(s) and be moving towards some exciting prospects.  You also thought at 41 you would have travelled more.  At 41 you thought you would have a solid group of friends that you could call upon at any moment and not worry about bothering them.  You also thought your marriage would be rock solid with no challenge that couldn't waiver you. 

It turns out that doesn't always happen.  It turns out that you can move into your 40s and still feel insecure.  Well that wasn't what you were expecting as a 41 year old.  I am sorry about that.

Keep going though.  Maybe this is just a blip before something amazing will happen.  Maybe something amazing won't happen in one big shot but maybe it's the little things.  Maybe you need to love yourself more just like the people around you do. 

Dear 41 Year Old, don't worry that this letter sounds sad and negative because your life is what you make it.  If you want to be happy, then just be happy.  If you want to make some changes, then do it... it's super scary to disappoint others but maybe you will be surprised that by your happiness you will make others around you happier to.  Maybe life is a journey not a destination where all your dreams come true.  Some dreams will come true and be thankful for that but some won't... hold on to the ones around you that love you.  Hold on tight.  Give yourself grace... and find your passion.  I have a feeling you already know your passion just don't be scared of it.  Don't be scared of what you love to do and don't be scared of failure.  Continue to surround yourself with the people that lift you up and give others a break.  You don't need to be close to everyone but be kind to everyone.  Continue to keep the mantra "there is only love"... ahh there you go... that's the good stuff.  There is only love.

So this letter didn't end up being so sad.  Love is all you need to move forward. 

Love Me.

Monday, 23 July 2018

Happy 14th Birthday to Grace

Grace (our oldest) just turned 14 years old.  It actually seems like she has been 14 years old for a while now... mature and ready to move on to bigger opportunities.  I try hard to remember her as this cute, sweet girl of mine...

She has been mature for her age her whole life.  Always pushing herself to be better and to accomplish her goals.  Rarely do we have to nudge or push her along... she is self-driven towards her own goals.  I know her high school years are going to fly by... 

My hopes and dreams for her for the next few years is that she can find her own people that will support and love her (other than her family of cheerleaders, of which she has many).  I hope she goes after all the opportunities that give her excitement and that we can support her journey... and maybe even follow along a few times.  I often say I don't want my children to go very far but honestly I want them to soar and find their way and it doesn't really matter where they end up as long as they are happy there.  It's amazing how different all three of our children are... Grace wants to do so many things.  She is adventurous and independent.  How awesome is that?  

There are two lasting things we can give our children; one is roots and the other is wings.

A Quilt for My Son... The Good Old Hockey Game

One day I came across this pattern seeing it on Mad About Patchwork's instagram feed.  They were hosting a class to make this quilt but I wasn't able to go.  My friend went and she finished her quilt quickly and it inspired me to just try to make it myself... I had never sewn circles or any kind of curve before but I felt I could attempt it because I knew where to go for help.

Once I got the hard part done (the rink) I could personalize it with the borders I wanted.  Green, yellow and black are our son's hockey team colours and #12 is his jersey number.  Once I finished the top, he asked me to add his name and number... I knew it would look nice but I was ready for it to be DONE!  No regrets though... it turned out really nice.

I originally thought I would quilt it myself on my domestic machine (Pfaff Expression 2.0) but decided that I might be happier with it if I rented a longarm quilting machine.  I found a great little shop near Carleton Place, Happy Wife Quilting, who offered this service and I really enjoyed the time with her using her machine.  It turned out really, really nice.  I backed the quilt in flannel which I used for the binding as well.  

This quilt might be my best finished quilt so far... I learned a lot and was making it for someone I love very much (and he was so excited about it).  It covers his double bed nicely and it's very cozy.  The last step (and a scary step) is washing... I need to find some colour-catchers for the washing machine because I will cry if the colours run.  

Pattern:  The Good Old Hockey Game

Monday, 2 April 2018

A New Table Runner

As someone who likes to finish my own quilts (the whole process myself) using my domestic sewing machine (a Pfaff Expression 2.0) the idea of "quilt as you go" has always intrigued me.  I found a great book Quilt As-You-Go Made Modern by Jera Brandvig.  I liked the way she organized her book with general instructions and then patterns... the only downside for me is that the look was very modern.  I like modern but I love when modern and traditional are mixed together... her fabric choices in her book are beautiful which is inspiring.  I found a jelly roll in my own stash and decided to make the first pattern in her book for my new dining table.  It turned out really nice but smaller than I anticipated so I am going to make another one!  The next one will be from her new book, Quilt As-You-Go Made Vintage which has many patterns for quilt blocks that I love!  It even has a few more finishing techniques which I might try.  

Monday, 26 March 2018

Taking On Life

I've given myself the gift of patience these last few weeks.  I am trying to figure myself out; what makes me sad, what makes me happy, what fills me up and what brings me down so low I just don't know where to go.  I find myself wanting to be quiet and immerse myself in myself and learn about ways to be happier.

This was where I was at earlier this year.  The last few years have been tough for me sometimes without me realizing it.  I admitted a few things to myself and others late last fall and started on a new journey.

It's only the end of March and I feel a change has slowly been washing over me.  Sounds silly but that's how I would describe it.  I am far from feeling perfectly content but I have come to the conclusion that I am a work in progress and that's okay with me.  I have bad days but more good days.  I have times I feel low but I now find myself understanding why and I have hope that once I tweak a few parts of my life, I can feel good again.
  • Sleep:  It's the cure for almost everything for me.  Sometimes life throws me short nights or interrupted sleep but I cannot handle too many nights in a row of that.  When I am well-rested, I feel like I can take on my life with a happy disposition.  
  • Limit red wine... especially before bedtime.  Yup... too much of this wonderful stuff causes me to have an awful sleep and mood swings.  I still indulge but try not to have too much before I go to sleep.  
  • Keep up with my "tracker"; I have a list of actions I would like to achieve each day.  It keeps me accountable and I like seeing the boxes all filled in on the paper.
  • Keep a daily gratitude journal:  this keeps me grounded especially when I feel down... making sure I can come up with at least one thing I am grateful for is mood-shifting.  Almost every day I can have no challenges listing numerous items but some days it can be hard.  Those are the days it is the most important.    
  • Talking with a therapist:  This was the hardest (THE HARDEST,) thing to do but might be the most rewarding on so many levels.  Talking with someone who specializes in counselling can really help.  I have people to talk to in my life most importantly my husband but what I needed was someone out of my life to talk to.  She made me visit some tough places but most of the time I leave completely uplifted and in a good place.  She is a good fit for me.
I want to be happier.  Recently I read the "Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin.  It was the PERFECT read for this time of my life.  I want to be a happy person:  happy mom, happy wife, happy friend, happy sister and happy daughter.  I don't want to change my life I just want to be happier in it.  I know that if I am happier than the rest of my family will be to.  It's a big responsibility but one I am going to achieve and already feel well on my way.

When I look back on the last few months, I don't see a lot of accomplishment in my work, home and creating BUT I gave myself permission to work on my mental health instead.  Moving forward, I can see a shift is happening and I am looking forward to what lies ahead... I wasn't feeling so positive a year ago.

I want to feel a smile on my face and hear myself laugh more...  onward and upward.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

The Magic is Alive

It feels like we are living on the cusp of of a big change in our life as a family.  Our oldest is in grade 8 (she is 13 years old), our middle child is 11 years old and our youngest is 9 years old.  My husband and I wondered how this Christmas season would change for us and so far nothing has changed... magic is definitely in the air and it makes my heart happy.  Don't get me wrong, I am sure the doubts are swirling around.  I feel like our middle child has such a strong belief in magic and wants to believe that he just carries on and questions very little despite what the word on the street is at school and on the bus.  Our youngest is very much a believer right now as well.  Our oldest has always questioned more but we just carry on, talking very little about what's real and emphasizing the magical part of the season.  She was 9 years old when she started asking questions and after a few silent tears from me, I told her that magic lives in our home and believing is a choice.  Santa Claus, the North Pole, Reindeer and our Elf are just part of what Christmas is anyways.  We are celebrating the birth of Jesus and that will always remain the centre of our Christmas celebrations.

They each wrote their letter to Santa and Jean and Alex got a swift reply:

It's wonderful to see a personal note at the bottom that relates to their own letter... thank you to all of Santa's elves that take the time to reply to each letter sent to the North Pole.  We are still waiting on the third reply but that letter was sent later than the first two.

Alvin the Elf came into our life quite a few years ago before the elves decided to be in so many homes.  He arrives on December 1 each year and in the mornings he comes back from the North Pole and finds himself in different predicaments.  This little guy is our link to the big guy and Jean and Alex are always excited to find him each morning after they wake up.  On this day he got into the laundry soap area and got himself in a mess (a nice smelling mess though). 

December can be a very busy and full month.  We try to do as much as possible with all the Christmas preparations and extra events that happen.  I sometimes have to take a step back and watch the magic and excitement in our children's eyes and remember how times will change very soon.  This year the kids wanted to decorate early so we got a fake but beautiful Christmas tree and we had our living room all decked out earlier than usual but the kids want to participate because it's important to them.  I know that someday I will be decorating by myself possibly so I want to savour these moments. 

As I sit here and write this, early in the morning, I wonder where Alvin the Elf is (my memory fails sometimes) and if he will bring a small smile to the little faces here.  Ah yes... hopefully she will open her eyes and see him from where she wakes up.  Tee hee...

Friday, 10 November 2017

Trip to The Netherlands

 All of my grandparents immigrated to Canada from the Netherlands in the early 1950s.  I grew up with thick dutch accents but really didn't hear a lot of dutch, about their childhoods or reasons why they left their home country.  As an adult, I can only imagine how hard it was to leave but the circumstances for leaving were serious and the promise (if you work hard) of a better life was there for them to take.

For many years I have wanted to travel to this land.  My mom had a "special birthday" and I thought maybe that was a good time to travel... I wanted to go with her and once I approached her, we then asked my brother and sister to join us on this adventure.  A year and a half later the time came and off we went... flights were booked months ago, accommodations were arranged and an itinerary was planned.  All of that didn't take away from how much work went into leaving our own little families but we all have amazing spouses who supported our travel dream.  Away we flew!

We arrived to sun and warmth after a long flight (I traveled from Ottawa to Toronto then met them for our flight to Amsterdam).  We found a cafe with a patio (the first of many) and enjoyed just finally being there.  I won't forget the was awesome and we were still only in Schipol Airport!

We picked up our rental car and Ben drove us to Den Haag, where we were staying for the first few days.

Once we settled into our apartment in downtown Den Haag, we went for a walk and to have dinner.  There was a little bit of rain but this was the only time we had rain on our whole trip.

The day after we arrived we met up with our cousins, Jack and Josee.  They live in Canada now but are originally from Holland and happened to also be visiting.  We spent two days with them and they acted as our tour guides.  They took us to the Masdag in downtown Den Haag not far from our apartment, which is an art museum that holds this spectacular panorama... we stood on a platform that showed this scene all around us depicting the town of Scheveningen in as it was in 1880.  This is the area (more or less) where my Grandpa Rimmelzwaan is from.

This trip was filled with wonderful unplanned experiences one of which was the parade we watched not too far from where we were staying.  The Dutch Royal family were participating in the opening of parliament and they held a parade beforehand... so many royal fans were out on the streets.  It was so much fun to watch and learn.

We then drove to where our Grandpa Rimmelzwaan's family lived (until he was about 3 years old).  This was a farm which is now a restaurant and tennis court club.  It is in nice condition and we were able to walk around and then have lunch.  During the war, this was kept intact because the German military used it as a place of recreation.  The Rimmelzwaaan family did not live there at that time.
My grandfather has stories from his childhood of the German occupation.  As a child, I didn't understand but as I adult, I often think about what he told us and cannot imagine that life.  We heard more stories during our travels... fear but bravery is in every story.

This is the view from our rooftop balcony in Den Haag... such a beautiful city.

The following day we drove to Voorburg, about a 20 minute drive that took us a wee bit longer due to unfamiliarity with practically everything related to driving in this country!  On a side note, it took Ben just a few days to become more comfortable and actually started enjoying the tiny streets in our small car.  Thank goodness for small cars!
Voorburg is where my Grandma Bloetjes (Bontje) is from.  Mom didn't know of any living relatives to visit but she did know the church the Bontje's went to and where their house used to be.

Next stop... Pijnaker; a 15 minute drive away from Voorburg.  This is where my Grandma Rimmelzwaan (Kerkvliet) grew up and where her niece, Nicoline and her family live.  I connected with Nicoline on facebook last year after my aunt Susan mentioned that I should.  Nicoline was so so helpful and wonderful during my planning process and was a gracious host when we visited.  Her sister, Helma came for the day to spend time with us as well.  These two ladies are my dad's cousins and it easily felt like family, as did all of our time spent with relatives.  This is where Nicoline lives with her husband, 3 sons and her mom.  It's a beautifully restored place and I am so thankful we could visit.

Nicoline arranged for us to have bikes and we went on tour to Delft.  It was spectacular!

Nicoline took us to her place of work, an orchid greenhouse.  The flower industry is HUGE in the Netherlands.  As a result, buying a stunning bouquet of flowers is easy and affordable in Holland!

Once we arrived in Delft, we climbed he church tower... not my idea of a good time because the stairs were steep in a tiny space.  I did make it up halfway and turned around to slow my heart rate down.  The rest of my crew went the whole way up!

I took a lot of photos so I cannot share them all here on my blog... it would be way too long BUT this picture speaks to me of Holland.  This view of a canal, flowers, buildings close to water and bicycles is very iconic of the Netherlands.  I love Canada but I fell in love with biking in Holland.

The main reason I wanted to travel to Holland was to experience where my ancestors are from and maybe connect with them a little bit more.  I also love to travel.  
This building below is where the they left from to travel by boat to a new land, Canada.  It must have been frightening to leave... by boat with maybe only one person you knew (your new husband) and set out for a new life.  As we toured the Rotterdam Harbour, these thoughts were in my mind.

After a BIG day of touring... Den Haag to Rotterdam and back... we ended up at this beautiful restaurant where we were treated to lots of wine and really, really good dutch food.  Thank you Jack and Josee for being the most gracious tour guides.  We will never forget this experience.

After 4 nights and 3 full days of busy touring and visiting, we left Den Haag for Hoorn.  We drove about 1 hour from Den Haag (approximately... might have been less) and stopped at Edam.  This was the cutest little village with beautiful streets filled with old charm.  This village is known as a stop for tourists but we enjoyed the small crowds to find cute shops and a good bistro for lunch.
We also stopped at my Great Aunt, Tante Bets' apartment not too far away... she lost her husband just this passed August, my Om Pe.  We had a visit with her and walked around the village she lives in as well.  Mom had a longer visit with her and left with a mantle clock that has been in our family for a long time.  Such a treasure... and it made it home safely to Canada!

By late afternoon we arrived at to our next spot, Hoorn.  This was a nice surprise... a beautiful town and an even more beautiful apartment right downtown.  I planned our accommodations and this one was a great surprise... I would definitely come back here.  Our host, Sophia, was kind and gracious and very happy to provide us with ideas for what to experience while staying here.

The day after we arrived in Hoorn, we decided to relax and just walk around the downtown core and experience the market.  It was busy but really interesting and the shopping was great!  We ate great good, bought some souvenirs for our family and some treats for ourselves.  It was another beautiful day!

On the Sunday, we had a full day planned... we drove to Zaanse Schans, where there was a living museum of windmills profiling what they were used for many years ago.  In the past there were many, many windmills all over the country that were lumber mills or flour mills but now there are very few.  We toured any active lumber mill and walked around the traditional houses and a wooden shoe factory.

After a late lunch, we headed out to find a bike rental shop so we could ride through the countryside... mom had a tour planned for us.  This was my most favourite experience on the whole trip which is funny because I wasn't so sure about it to begin with.  I don't ride a bike very often and 17km sounded like a lot for someone like me.  Give me beautiful scenery and flat roads any day and I would bike a lot more often.  I smiled the whole time...

Many evenings we enjoyed a simple supper just like this... good bread, cheese, meat and wine.  This meal also included some veggies and delicious fig jam.  We would play euchre, chat with our families and head to bed early.

Onto the last part of our trip... Amsterdam.  We left our wonderful spot in Hoorn for a two bedroom suite near Schipol Airport.  We hopped on a shuttle to the airport and then the train into Amsterdam.  We did this two different times which was easy and fun!  This took us right into downtown Amsterdam which was quite a shock to our systems compared to the rest of our trip... crowds and so many different types of people from everywhere!  It also felt less dutch with Starbucks and other chain restaurants dotting the landscape but after walking a few blocks we were back into dutch territory with "coffee shops" on every corner and bridges lined with bikes over the many canals. 
This picture shows part of Dam Square and is a busy spot! 

The first evening here we met up with some Bloetjes cousins which was so much fun!  They took us out for dinner and we had great conversations.  Connecting with cousins was part of our trip that ended up being so much fun and "bucket-filling". 
** Immigration can disconnect families.  This doesn't mean it isn't necessary to make a new start but the downside is that the descendants of that family don't get to know more relatives.  In our case, we have first cousins but nothing beyond that nearby and therefore the family can feel small.  This trip allowed a connection to occur and now I have new relatives to know... mostly via facebook but that's pretty awesome!

We spent a whole day just walking around the downtown portion of the city along the canals.  It was a beautiful day.  We found a great restaurant to relax and eat another good meal and late afternoon we had a reservation for a canal tour with "These Dam Guys Boat Tour".  It was on recommendation that we use this company and it was very fun and informative.  By the end of the day our feet were tired and we were happy to head back to our apartment.

It was a trip of a lifetime and something I will treasure forever.  These people are my own and despite that fact that we live separate lives and far apart, we came together to celebrate our heritage and spend some meaningful time together.  I smile thinking about it.