Across the pond…

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Image: Chiromancer 2018

It’s been a while since I packed passport, arranged a visa and hot-footed it somewhere else for work.  This week took me to New York for a new assignment.  In my previous, pre-stepmom life, this would have been an ordinary trip. I travelled a lot. For work. For pleasure.  I used to do a lot of other things…a lot. Now that I’m married to the Belgian – and stepmom to his boys – this trip adopted new significance.

Being alone in NYC as a kick-ass consultant reminded me of my days when I really was kick-ass, no-kids. No husband.  Fun. Me. Just me. Me…alone. This time, being alone in New York also reminded me that I have some boys at home who might be missing me. Turns out they did…even Watson, our cat was happy to see me…But, it also reminded me that I’m good at what I do, that in my professional life, I am respected, valued and rewarded as…me! Sometimes this is hard to know when your role is being a stepmom and wife to boys who are from a different culture.  Sometimes a different planet…

Change – which I do for a living – is not rocket science , but somehow, having to change my life from careerista singleton to married stepmom was harder than I expected. Not so much science as a rocket up my butt!  Ouch! Much harder! Now don’t get me wrong, I love the Belgian and I would not swap my current life for the world, but it’s nice to be myself – just me,myself, I – for a change.  For a change…being a working woman alone in New York meant I could order juice for breakfast, spend hours blowdrying my hair, explore the city after hours and catch up on some much needed sleep.

Sometimes you have to go back, to see how far you have journeyed…

 

 

 

How to be a grown up…

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Image: Copyright Oleg Dudko | Dreamstime.com

A few years ago, I wrote a post called The Year of Living Dangerously – about using the New Year to live fully in the moment, and to dispense with things that no longer served me.  What I did not know at the time was that 2015 would be the year I met The Belgian and began to write my own happy ever after.

Three years later, it’s been a fairy tale with it’s own peculiar array of villains and heroes. We’ve had the best of times, and we’ve had the worst of times, which is why as this New Year begins, I was tempted to call this blog The Year of Living Sensibly

A few days before Christmas, I had a high-speed blow-out in my car, lost control of the vehicle and ended up trapped against the central reservation – in the fast lane!   Clearly not the sort of dangerous living I’d recommend!  Luckily for me the emergency services arrived in time. Luckily for me, no one else was involved and I walked away with minor injuries.  It was a sobering experience.

It’s made me reflect that perhaps the universe isn’t quite finished with me yet…and that if I am to set a New Year’s manifesto for 2018, it has to be about courage and commitment.  Being brave enough to make the life changes I need, and showing up as a fully fledged grown up – and I don’t just mean with my hair brushed and my laces tied!  

The reality is that no matter how magic the fairy tale ending, Cinderella still needs to do the dishes, Snow White has to deal with her wicked stepchildren and Prince Charming steals the duvet and farts in public. Yes, really!  Adult is the only antidote here.

So here are my resolutions for the New Year. In 2018, being grown up will be about striking a balance between acceptance –  not wasting energy on things I cannot change – and ownership, which means taking mindful charge of my goals, setting firm emotional and spiritual boundaries and putting my well-being first.  Dishes or not!

Happy New Year. May 2018 bring you a sprinkling of fairy dust.

 

Christmas, present…

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Image | Copyright Chiromancer 2017

I have always loved Christmas, even though I’m a grown up and don’t quite believe in Santa any more – well, a little bit of me does, so I always leave a carrot out for the reindeer, but that is another story!

I love the sparkly lights, I adore the shiny decorations, I sing along to cheesy Christmas songs. Most of all, I love Christmas dinner.  Well, everything except the Brussels Sprouts! Since I grew up in the Southern Hemisphere, we always had dinner on Christmas Eve –  doing a roast with all the trimmings on the day is a bit hectic when it’s 30 degrees celsius outside and you are dying for a swim instead of turkey with stuffing!

This year, my Christmas will be special.  My mom and middle sister are joining us – me, The Belgian & his 2 reindeer – for a continental Christmas. I feel so grateful we have this chance to connect and spend concentrated time together.  It’s been over a year since we’ve seen each other, and several years since we’ve had a family Christmas.  This brings a whole new set of blended traditions – crackers, trifle, hapjes and kroketten – unfortunately for me, I’m outnumbered by the Anglo-Belgian mini cabbage-lovers! 

One thing I do know – there will be loads of food, laughter and warm memories made. It’s the best present I could hope for. So…here’s my present for you –  wherever and however you choose to celebrate – I wish you peace, I wish you light, I wish you hope. Merry Christmas 2017!

Garden…

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Image: Alexey Khromushin | Dreamstime.com

I spent love and a fortune on renovating my old house. It was to be my ‘forever’ home. But the universe had other plans...I met The Belgian and life became a trans-continental juggle. The garden, which of course the builders had trashed, lay dormant.

2016 was one of those horrid years, where the bad news kept coming and the good stuff got lost in the haze. My garden got lost in the weeds, along with my good intentions for landscaping the plot. And yes, the universe had other plans…

Periodically, I made futile attempts to weed and plant, but to be honest my heart was not in it. Which is strange, because I love gardening. The plans of the universe?…Not so much. The task ahead seemed too daunting, too much just another thing on the ‘to do’ list of my life.

Each time I looked out of the French doors, all I saw was failure. All the things that hadn’t happened in the way I’d planned. All the things that were stuck. ‘You never realise anything’ went the negative refrain in my head as Summer, Autumn and then Winter rain pelted the house and watered the weeds.

I was determined that 2017 would be different. After what seemed like a long wait for January’s ice and frost to clear, I’m pleased to say that the garden is finished.  My contractors came and went in a whirlwind – laying a footpath and shingle, creating raised beds for planting. Ready for a new beginning.  Now when I look out of the French doors, the vista – and my mood – are transformed. Thanks, universe!  I learned a valuable lesson or two…

With the right tools, you can do anything!  One of the worst rows I’ve had with The Belgian came after we’d made a half-baked attempt to lay railway sleepers ourselves.  My garden guys had whacker plates and a digger. Voila! In half a day, they did twice as much as we did on several tiring weekends. And they did it beautifully!

When you are stuck, get help! I’d spent months planning to landscape the garden myself, against a punishing work schedule and planning a wedding to aforementioned Belgian. Crazy!  Asking someone else to carry that load was ultimately the road to sanity, not self-flagellation.

sometimes you have to start over, in order to start right. 

 

Every time we say goodbye…

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I hate goodbye… Whether it’s wishing my far flung family farewell, or saying ‘sayonara’ to someone special…I’m a real wuss when it comes to goodbye.

For the last two and a half years, The Belgian (a.k.a. my lovely husband) and I conducted our courtship across the English Channel. Every other weekend was spent in another country, and since we both work as consultants, our weeks were spent apart.  Long working days, long distance love, and lonely nights… It meant we crammed as much into our weekends as possible, before that dreaded Sunday moment, when – having repacked our respective suitcases – we hugged and hoped that the week would pass quickly so we could see each other again.

This Sunday, The Belgian and I hugged, and said goodbye. As he drove away, I stood in the driveway of our cottage, feeling familiarly sad, but somehow different. As I walked back to the house, I was deep in thought.  Perhaps saying goodbye is not so bad, when you know that you will see each other again. There is fondness in farewell when you realise that time apart brings the opportunity to share your adventures over a glass of wine at the weekend. Next weekend, darling! As that wise philosopher, Pooh Bear once said: ‘how lucky I am to have someone that makes saying goodbye so hard’.

The Year of the Cat…

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Image: Copyright Chiromancer

The cat – as with so many things this year – arrived in an unexpected way. The Belgian and I were enjoying a late-evening aperitif and some ‘hapjes’ (a.k.a. bar snacks) – when a skinny creature made it’s approach, miaowing plaintively.

Since we were living in two places and I was working in a third, pets were not on the agenda.  We had only just had a funeral for the gerbil so I really didn’t need another crash course in  pet care for step-parents!  

 ‘Do not feed the cat!’ I was instructed. Which of course, I was compelled to ignore. Surely a small and surreptitious snack would not do any harm? ‘He won’t leave’ The Belgian muttered. And he was right…the next night the cat arrived for another late night bite.  Clearly the cat was domesticated, so he must be someone’s pet. ‘If he is here again, I’m going to take him to the animal shelter’ said my husband, darkly.

Instead, he took the cat to the vet, got him micro-chipped, vaccinated and issued with a pet passport so he could travel.  The Belgian is nothing if not kind-hearted, and that is why I married him!  We named the cat Watson. He purrs louder than a tractor, and since his batteries must have been removed in one of his previous 9 lives, sleeps 18 hours per day. He is of course, totally perfect for us.

Sometimes in life, you get what you need, but it’s not necessarily what you thought you wanted.  Thanks Watson, for being one of the good things in 2016.

Up-side…down?

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IMAGE: DREAMSTIME

So it’s been a huge year so far, but that is the subject of another blog. Mostly it’s been a bit mixed. As in…Up-side! I finally got to marry The Belgian – on a crisp November day, we tied the knot in front of a select coterie of friends and family who’d travelled from across the globe. Such a happy day.

A week later…downside. I went back to work to discover my contract had been terminated because they’d restructured the project. Major bummer? Erm..no. Up-side! This meant that I could put my affairs in order and bring forward a move to Belgium to be with my husband, who has been extremely patient with his workaholic, long-distance wife.  Trust me when I say that planning a wedding when you are holding down a hectic job and living in three locations is challenging!

A day later…the lump at the back of my ear had turned into a raging case of Shingles. A.K.A. Chickenpox for grown-ups.  On my face. Definitely no up-side!  Well, apart from the fact that I was channelling a look that was the cross between Shrek and the Elephant Woman.  Oh..and the disinfectant powder and red, terminator eye made me look like some sort of crazed Halloween raccoon. Up-side?  That seemed a bit hard to find last week. And yet…

My immune system crashed and burned and the vision in my right eye is impaired. The up-side…well, the upside is that this cosmic siren call is calling time on my hectic lifestyle.  It signals a shift my priorities as much as my perspective – as in ‘work less, play more’. Life is short and we are a long time dead. Lying in a darkened room for 10 days has given me plenty of time to reflect. It’s a bit like the Hanged Man card in the Tarot – a card which in some cultures is thought to represent the Norse god Odin who suspended himself from a tree to gain wisdom. My learning? You see the world differently when your own is upside down.