For to be free is not to merely cast off one's chains,
but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.
- Nelson Mandela -

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Just goes to show...

I have to humbly withdraw my words about being strong and healthy, and I will be even more careful what I wish for from now on...
I went to bed after writing the previous post and was up again three hours later, sick as a parrot. A nasty stomach bug has caught up with me and I'm completely empty now, with pain in muscles I'd forgotten I had.
But truth be told, I've pulled out all the plugs today, stayed in bed and everyone has been really nice and caring to me.
Ken's just brought me my laptop, so I'm lying in bed with a purring cat and a laptop with internet, typing with one finger and counting my blessings, yet again. Because I dread to think what it would've been like if I'd been this sick in the Vicarage. It was bad enough with my body emptying itself uncontrolably from every possible opening, but at least I now had my own - warm! - bathroom with toilet and functioning shower two steps away from my bed!
Eventhough the convulsions are a lot less and manageable, I might just stay in bed for one more day... it's very tempting...

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Back online, at last

We're back online!

A mere 28 days after the day they promised us our broadband would be up and running, the little light finally came on. Incredible. I don't think I'd get away with letting them wait the same amount of time for their money. But we don't intend to let them get away with it just like that. Ken is already busy compiling a list of all the time and costs we've had to make to attach to the official complaint and already they've credited the moving costs.

I've missed the internet and I haven't. I suppose it wasn't all that bad to be without for a while. I did have a dial up connection, so that at least I could pick up my emails and read my favourite blogs. That made a big difference, of course :).

The time and energy consuming act of moving house ensured that I didn't get withdrawal symptoms and life in general left me little opportunity to feel anything resembling boredom.

The terrible flu hit our household big time. Ken was most affected by it, but everybody has been down for a couple of days. Except me. Somehow I managed to keep going. I felt rough and horrible at times and most of all I felt sorry for myself. In an ambiguous kind of way. On one hand it's wonderful to know that I'm strong and healthy enough to keep going when no-one else can, on the other hand I can't help wanting to be the one who's being looked after, cared for, mollycoddled... Just to be able to pull out the plugs, to give in to illness, not to be responsible...
Mind, I should have been more careful what I wished for, because I'll be getting some lying down and doing nothing time when I'll have to go into hospital for some repair work in the pelvic area (doesn't that sound ominous?), probably somewhere around March.

It was slightly nerve-racking when Myrna lost her voice and it still wasn't back the week before she was due to sing solo in the Lanercost Christmas Concert. My Mum was coming over from Holland, especially for that occasion, the programme was all set and printed, and it was quite a major thing, really. I suppose her voice was more or less back at the dress rehearsal, but then the pressure got to her and she went all flat and squeaky. And being the perfectionist she is, she beat herself up about it and became even more anxious. At that moment I started to lose my usual cool. I felt I had to do something, but I just didn't know what. Should I encourage her or just cancel the whole thing? Should I make her practice even more? Should I advice her not to sing at all until the big day? I just didn't know.
Obviously, my unrest unsettled Myrna even further and I knew I had to detach and leave supporting and advising Myrna to her singing teacher, Mrs Y. I've probably sang her praise before on this blog, because I think she is another one of those Great Teachers. She did her magic with Myrna so that her confidence was back in time for the concert, allowing her to shine like a star and allowing me to be a proud Mum, nothing less, nothing more.

Another major event was AL's 18th Birthday Party.
The one she'd intended to have in Holland. But this time she's allowed herself to change her mind and to more or less go with the flow. I'm sure she still misses Holland a lot and she's still not one hundred percent sure that she wants to stay in this country, but having seen her on this fabulous Birthday Party - I was only allowed in for a very short time - I'm also sure that she's finally making space for the idea that staying here isn't all bad. It was absolutely wonderful to see her surrounded by so many nice friends and I could see she genuinely enjoyed it.
In spite of illness and everything we managed to move out of the temporary house just in time so that she could have her party there and people could stay over in 'her' house.

Now we're more or less settled into our new home. And not a day has gone by without me waking up in the morning and feeling so utterly grateful for finding this house. That feeling continues throughout the day and I'm afraid I really bore people with telling them over and again how happy I am, how happy we are to live here. I am still amazed at how far away this house is from everything I'd ever imagined as our new home. It's a constant reminder of how incredibly important it is to have Faith and to trust the Process.

This year has been amazing. Intense. Crazy. Unimaginable. Magical. Horrible and terrible at times. Emotional. Revealing. Full, very full. It has been a year of immense growth and increasing awareness of the greatness of All that Is.
I had my fiftiest birthday this year.
We didn't celebrate it as such, because it was the day Ken's father was cremated.
But in spite of the fact that I'm still - and probably will remain for a while - extremely tired, life is very much a celebration and I am thoroughly enjoying it.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

In transition again

Just a very brief post to let you know there's lots to tell, but courtesy of BT and Sky we don't have broadband at the moment and dial up costs an arm and a leg, so we've decided only to go onto the internet in dire emergencies. Like this one. To let you know I'll not be posting for a week, or maybe - probably - two weeks. If it takes any longer I - or a member of my family - might make the news because of action undertaken against Sky and or BT.
Hopefully broadband is reconnected before it comes to that.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The new man in my life

I suppose telling people on the FOC list was the first step towards coming out with this not very well hidden secret of mine. People around me have been wondering what's kept me going in the past couple of months and I've been attracting comments about this glow in my eyes, the blush on my cheeks and the happiness that I'm apparently radiating.
So here it is.
Yes, there's a new source of inspiration, a new man in my life. I thought it was impossible for anything or anybody to penetrate the mist of tiredness and lacklustreness (is that not a word, dear spell checker??) around me, but this hot blooded macho Mexican managed to go right through it and hit me in the core of my being. He speaks the words of truth that I've been yearning to hear for such a long time, he is passionate and he is so in touch with nature. He inspires me to an entirely natural approach of problems and trauma's and he teaches me a whole new way of being. Our relationship has empowered me and given a new shine to my life.

I adore him.
Best of all, our relationship is one hundred percent virtual. Very convenient for me. I can just about manage to watch him on telly, visit his website and read his inspirational writings. More physical input would spoil it all, assuming I could muster the energy in the first place. It's ideal the way it is.
His name reflects the powerful leader that he is.
Cesar.
Hail Cesar.
I'm at your feet.

Fortunately, the children have taken to him from the very first moment they laid eyes on him. And Ken cannot but agree that Cesar is the missing link in my life. And he cannot but like the guy, too. I think the family members, or to use Cesar's terminology, the pack members benefitting most from the new man in my life are my dogs. Within the space of one single week we (as a family) have managed to take on the role of leaders and they have become the followers they need to be. They are so much more balanced, there is no more rivalry between them, we are not constantly trying to work out which one of them is the alpha dog, because that's no longer the question. We're in charge. We're the pack leaders. And they are very happy and willing followers.

By watching his dvd's and programme (National Geographic Channel or Sky3) practically every day, and by reading his books, he has become an integral part of our natural curriculum. He teaches us about behaviour and psychology in dogs, but also in humans. We learn how important it is to live in the present, to be calm and assertive, and to be respectful and non-judgmental, all at the same time.
To me, Cesar is another one of these very special teachers.
In my opinion he is what Soul in Education is all about.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Mastering maths and science

I thought this might be a good moment to update you on our home ed activities. I just typed that down to see what it looks like and what it feels like to give it that name. Because it certainly feels strange to think about it as such. I don't consider anything we do not to be a home ed activity, really. For a while I tried to uphold the opinion that watching television and playing games on the computer weren't real activities, let alone educational ones. My children have taught me how wrong I was about that. For weeks at an end both Myrna and Owen took the trouble to list everything they'd learned from these 'square activities' and I must admit, I was impressed.
I wasn't the only one impressed. Since a few weeks we have a real and proper tutor coming to our house, Mr R. He's a retired maths and science teacher and he comes every other Thursday morning to do these subjects with Myrna and Owen. They'd both expressed a desire to 'do more maths and science' and Myrna even wants to work towards a GCSE. I've
blogged before about this growing interest and about me feeling inadequate to offer them sufficient challenges and support.
I asked a friend of mine, who's a teacher at one of the colleges in this area, whether she knew somebody with 'soul for science' and she introduced me to Mr R.
He's everything you'd want a teacher to be, most of all flexible and able to go with the questions of the children, without losing his own focus. He has a true love for anything to do with science, biology being his favourite subject. Which resonates one hundred percent with my two, especially Myrna.
The first time he came they did maths, because he wanted to get an idea where they were, how much they knew, so that he could work out what to offer them.
I sat in, of course. Don't want to miss a chance to get a little wiser myself. And I was so amazed to see how little time it took them to convert their practical knowledge into sums. The other good thing about Mr R is that he has a sense of humour that matches that of Owen. When he asked: "If you divide a pizza up into eight equal parts, what do you call one of those parts?" Owen replied: "Too small", Mr R couldn't stop laughing. And to "What do you get when you want to give eight men and their wives an equal part of the pizza?" Owen knew the answer too: "Sixteen hungry people."
I could see these answers coming from a mile away, but Mr R obviously heard them for the first time...
Last week they did biology. Mr R had brought a microscope that was at least a hundred years old and they had to assemble it. Meanwhile he was asking questions about all the individual parts, and to his and my amazement they knew literally everything. What the parts were called, how lenses were made, why you needed light, and much more complicated stuff. Then they went into detail about cells and DNA and that kind of complicated matters, of which I must admit I know very little. So whatever they know, they certainly haven't learned it from me.
Mr R was obviously impressed and asked how they knew so much. Myrna just shrugged and said: "Well, we go to museums, we watch documentaries and films on television and if we want to know more we just look it up on the internet or in a book."
The last half hour of each session Mr R spends with me, to explain the things where the kids and he went too fast for me :) and to give me some guidance so I can help the kids with their homework (hahaha).
Even though I am one hundred percent convinced that what we do is the best for us, for our children, I secretly felt very proud when Mr R said he hadn't expected so much knowledge with Myrna and Owen (because I'd told him we hadn't done any formal curriculum education) and that he really enjoyed their open and inquisitive minds. He also said that after the first session he realised that he needed to prepare these 'lessons' in a different way, because he'd done more in one session than he would have done in three weeks in school.
It's great to see the enthusiasm in the children, too. They are genuinely looking forward to their sessions with Mr R and have asked if we could do them on a weekly instead of a fortnightly basis. I'm afraid that for now it's just not feasible financially, but maybe once the house move (and the double rent) is behind us it could be an option.
Mr R must be genuine about enjoying it, because he's offered to lower his hourly rate if we want to go to weekly sessions. When they were doing maths he spent quite a bit of time trying to understand how Myrna did her calculations (I think they were multiplying fractions). She has her very special own way of doing these things and apparently Ken and I aren't the only ones finding it difficult to follow. But Mr R persisted and let her explain again and again, until he understood. Now he's telling everyone about the extraordinary way she's taught herself to do these sums. It's a prime example of lateral thinking, according to him.
It's wonderful to see how they inspire each other, how teaching can also be learning and vice versa.
In preparation of next Thursday the kids have been gathering everything they could find about the human skeleton. They even had to sit and watch one of these pathology programmes, bless them... The sacrifices one has to make in order to obtain proper education...

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Moving forward

Today we've signed the tenancy agreement on the new house. Which from now on I'm going to call our house. And even though the original idea was to move in on the 1st of December, we've decided to start moving in as soon as possible. As in now. Well, tomorrow.
I suppose in the back of my mind I was somehow still expecting something to go wrong. Stupid, I know. Not very positive thinking and all that. But that's just how it was. I found it very difficult to believe my luck. There's always this little voice in me that keeps wondering out loud why on earth I think I am deserving of this all. So I was holding back. Bracing myself.
And then we couldn't use the shower in this temporary house for more than a week because there was a leakage. So we phoned our new landlord to ask if it was okay to use the shower in that house, and he said: "Sure, it's your house now, you're free to do what you want." As he'd said before, when he gave us the key and told us he wouldn't start charging rent until the 1st of December because we couldn't get out of the six months contract for this house.
Ah, the Great Distributor at CSC is really showing me in all kinds of ways that the house is ours, in every sense of the word. And that we'll be alright. Looked after. I just have to repeat that to myself. And writing it down helps, too.

So onwards we go! Today I've polished the laminate floor and I've cleaned all the windows. Ken and Owen have moved the freezer out of storage into the garage and have made a start with putting cupboards and storage shelves in place in the (double!) garage. Myrna's new bed is up in her new room. It's one of these with bookshelves and allsorts attached to it, and she's already put all her books in it. It's becoming more and more our house. Every time I walk in there it feels as if the house breathes "welcome". I want to be in there by the end of next week.

I have found a good use for this temporary house while we still have to pay the rent on it. It's our eighteen's birthday present to Anna Lynn that she can stay and live in it until the end of the tenancy. She is absolutely over the moon with it and can't wait for us to move out. It's one of those presents that makes both giver and receiver happy, because for us it means she gets to stay close to us for a bit longer. We're delighted that it looks like she's staying in England for a while. That'll be good for all of us. She's even said that if she hasn't found a place of her own by March next year, she'll want to move into the caravan that we've now got parked next to our house. Lucky us!

The other good thing that needs mentioning is that Ken has made it through to the next round in applying for a really nice IT job and I'm keeping everything crossed that he gets it. That would be so good! He would be bringing in the money then and I could concentrate on the children, the household and I could still write if I want to (and I do so want to!). But there wouldn't be this constant pressure of deadlines on one side and children asking presence and guidance on the other side.
Also, I think this house is just a bit too small for two adults, two teenagers, two dogs and two cats. Especially if they're all members of this here family, all needing and claiming their own substantial space.

But I have a really good feeling about this job for Ken, and - more importantly - so does he. Plus I have genuine faith in the Great Distributor, who I'm sure will send us all the necessary bits of the jigsaw. All we need to do is gracefully receive and put them together.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Dog tired

Ken, Owen and Myrna have just left for badminton and some socialising.
AL is at work.
The dogs and cats have curled up as close to me as possible and are peacefully snoring away.
There's a fresh cup of Rooibos tea on one side of me, a bit of dark chocolate on the other.
I've got a nice silky scarf around my neck and my Uggy boots on my feet.
Apart from the snoring of the animals, all I can hear is the humming and clicking of my laptop.
No music, no talking, no shouting, no laughing, no nothing.
It's hardly ever quiet in this house, but now it is.
Finally, time to hear my own thoughs, time for reflection.
Pure Bliss.

I was absolutely stressed out before and that kind of energy just seems to bounce around the house and hit everybody. At one point Ken and Myrna were screaming at each other, the dogs were barking and the cats were running around like crazy.
It's moments like that when I feel totally inadequate. How did I ever think it would be possible to home educate my children, to be together with my dh 24/7 and to be able to produce some work, all at the same time. I'm totally failing to do any of those three things successfully, let alone happily.

It's not helped by the fact I haven't had a chance to recover from my tiredness, because I haven't had a proper night sleep since we moved in here on the 1st of September. I haven't been able to figure out why, but every night without fail the dogs start barking like mad, always at a different time. And because I don't want them to wake anybody up, especially not neighbours, I ended up sleeping on the sofa in the living room. Because they then don't bark at all, or if they do I can catch and correct them at the first whimper, and because I nearly fell down the stairs one night because I was so tired, I actually didn't even go up to my/our own bed anymore. I did get a few nights good sleep that way, and so did the dogs. But hey, I didn't marry the dogs and I miss my memory foam mattrass and my hubby (is that the right order?).
If my brain would be functioning normally I'd be wrecking it to find a solution, but as it is I'm clueless. Owen has offered to sleep downstairs for a few nights, so I can get some sleep and I think I'll take him up on his offer. Only thing is it is absolutely essential that when sleeping downstairs he can't pay any attention to the dogs. No eye contact, no talking, no allowing them to sleep next to him. We don't want to reward and encourage their barking anymore than we probably already do by sleeping downstairs. And I don't know if he can manage that... But I'm happy to give it a try. Anything for a good, undisturbed night sleep.

Then, it would help if I could get myself to concentrate on my work and get this translation finished. I've been good today, because I've already done 3000 words, even with all the mayhem going on around me and I'm sure I can get at least half of the remaining 35 pages done before the end of the day. But I'm struggling and not enjoying it, and that's causing part of the stress. I don't want to be working, I want to be doing things with the children, offer them challenging new things, go places with them and then at the end of the day slouch on the couch and watch a film with them.

Myrna had one of her teenager outbursts this morning. Now, she's got an extremely powerful voice which makes it really hard to listen to her once she starts going, but I must admit that she had some very valid points about lack of commitment and attention from our side. We managed to turn the volume down after a while, but her frustration definitely matches mine, so I can see where she's coming from. She is right that for the past six months I've constantly been postponing and keeping things at bay. First finding a new house, then the moving, then preparing for another move, and now it's the book that has to be finished before the 1st of November... She feels there's always something that needs to be done before it's her turn. Obviously that's not entirely true and I have done a lot with her, with them. But she is very accurately reflecting my guilty feelings, my feelings of shortcoming, my frustration of having to work whilst I'd rather be doing the home ed and the household.

Gosh, that all sounds as if I'm having a horrible time. Where in actual fact I'm quite happy to be where we are, and I am really looking forward to moving to our more permanent house across the road in a few weeks time. I think what it is, is that I'm genuinely longing to settle down, to get into a more or less structured routine for myself, in which I am able to balance kids, pets, marriage and work. And I just haven't had enough of these quiet moments, such as the one I'm having now.

I'd better make the best of the moment now, then. Well, I feel that I'm already doing that. Typing away all these troublesome thoughts into my blog has helped me clear my head a little. My head was pounding before, but now I'm relaxing and I feel the headache slowly ebbing away. Just a few more days... and then the book is finished... and we can start preparing to move house again...

Never a dull moment.
Whoops, did I just say that?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Who'd have guessed...

that I would stay away from my blog this long?
Not me, that's for sure. I usually write to keep track of myself. To stay in control, I think.
But for many, many reasons it hasn't worked like that in the past two months.
Obviously time, or lack of it, was one reason.
There was constantly something going on. It was a massive exercise (and that's an understatement) to empty the Vicarage, to get everything sorted and packed up, to decide what was going to the new house, what was to go to storage, what was to go to FreeShare and what was to be thrown out. Actually, I rather not think back on those days, although it would be interesting to find out just how I managed to survive. And how others managed to survive my murderous tendencies... I suppose I was just too bleeping tired to pose a serious threat.

On the last day in the Vicarage my computer seized up on me, just before I had everything transferred to the laptop that I was given as an advance birthday present from my Mum.
And I finally found out why so many people are constantly complaining about BT and Sky. It took over one month (!!) before we had all our electronic communicative systems up and running properly again. What a disgrace! Maybe just as well I wasn't writing at that time, because I would have been polluting cyberspace.

Moving into this house was a ultimately thrilling experience. First of all, it's warm here. All the time. And the first couple of weeks we haven't even had the central heating on. But it's double glazed, there are no gaps in the walls and the doors actually fill the holes in the wall when they're shut. Then, there's a lot of daylight coming into the house, where the Vicarage was overall quite dark.
I thought I would get claustrophobic here and miss all the space the Vicarage held, but funnily enough the size of this house suits me fine. It took a while before we all felt comfortable with seeing so much of each other ;), but by now we've worked it out rather well.
And - oh my, I never thought I'd ever say anything like this - the fact that this house is so easy to keep clean makes a huge, huge difference. No more coal dust wherever you look. No having to wipe the table every time you want to use it. We can even see the original colours of our kitchen appliances again, all day through. It takes all of us no more than three hours on a Monday morning to create a clean and shining house. Obviously, with two cats, two dogs and at least five people walking around a lot, we still have to hoover and dust daily, but hey, that only takes something like half an hour.
And then living in town. Me. Every house I visualised was at least ten miles away from civilisation and had tuns of space and trees around it. Lots of outhouses, too. A small village, that's as far as my mental pictures would go. Well, regular readers of this blog have seen the house I'd been dreaming of for such a long time.
But not a town house. No way.
And yet, here we are. In a modern town house. Only five minutes away from the centre. A busstop around the corner. Shops and facilities within walking distance. But also a three minutes walk away from a beautiful footpath along the river, where I can walk the dogs for hours at an end, and - to make it even more perfect - off the lead! We're in a very quiet cul-de-sac, with seven houses and no through traffic at all.
Never in my wildest dreams could I have visualised a house like this, in a location like this.
But to be honest, it's exactly what we needed and we are all very happy to be here.
The only thing I really miss are the birds. Seagulls, blackbirds and crows. That's all we see here. I miss going out into the yard or the garden at night and listen to the owls. I miss looking out of the window from my workspot and seeing all kinds of different birds on the feeders. I miss the sound of the birds when I walk the dogs, because even along the river there aren't very many.
But even after thinking really hard I can't come up with other drawbacks.
I mean, we save about fifty pounds a week on petrol and loads and loads of time.
We don't even need a quarter of the energy to keep this house warm and comfortable.
It's so much easier for the children to get to their clubs and activities and I don't always have to be thinking about the logistic planning of it all.
It's even quite pleasant to be 'amongst people' again. In the little time we've lived here I've spoken to more people than I have even met up there. And up to now they've all been very friendly. Everybody has their own life, most people are older than we are, there are no kids in the houses in this cul-de-sac, but everybody is friendly.

That's how we found out about the house just opposite us.
When I told our next door neighbour that unfortunately we were only here temporarily she said that house was coming up for rent, too. And she knew the owner was tired of the short term lettings through agencies that he'd had and that had cost him a lot of aggro, so now he was looking to let it long term.
Well, to cut a long and magical story short - I will probably blog about the wonderfulness of it later - within two weeks of living here we knew that we'd be moving again before the end of the year! Another thing that was definitely not in my planning. I didn't even want to think about moving again before Christmas.
Unfortunately we have a six months contract on the house we're in now, but the new landlord has agreed to officially let us have the new house per the 1st of December, so that we have 'only' three months double rent to overcome. But we'll find a way to deal with that, I have no doubt about that.
Because he didn't like the house to be empty too long, the owner has already given us the keys so that we can start moving stuff from the storage into the garage and the attic, if we want.
The house itself looks almost the same as the one we're in now, from the outside, but is completely different from the inside. That's also a subject I'll come back to in later blogs, I think. Suffice to say for now that we think we're going to be very, very happy in there.

And then, in the middle of all this, Ken's father died on September 18. Not unexpectedly, but still. It obviously took over everything for a couple of weeks and even though we were all glad that there was an end to his suffering, his passing away also puts an end to lots of other things. My children now don't have a grandfather anymore, as my own father died over fourteen years ago. And Ken had finally made his peace with his father after a lifetime of struggle and strive. But at least they had these last few years in love and peace together.

As it's already way over my bedtime and I desperately need a beauty sleep I am closing down now. There's lots more to tell and to share. I have no idea when I'll post again, but my intentions are to do it within the next few days.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Moving times

The biggest challenge at this moment is that the new house doesn’t have half the space that we have now. I think I’ve mentioned that before.

Here we have a garage, a huge boiler room, a huge utility room, a huge kitchen, a large living room, a spacious bedroom / office, a big computer / educational room, a king size pantry and a cloak room with storage space. Upstairs there are 3 huge bedrooms, a single bedroom, three massive walk-in cupboards and a bathroom with a storage room behind it.
The new house has a spacious garage, a large living room, a dining room, a kitchen, a downstairs toilet and a Harry Potter cupboard under the stairs. Upstairs there are three double bedrooms, one boxroom, an airing cupboard and a bathroom with bath, toilet and shower.

In the course of the thirty years that Ken and I are together we’ve gathered an incredible amount of stuff. And every time we moved, we moved to a bigger house. When we moved from Holland to here we threw and gave so much stuff away it was almost embarrassing. Still, we needed a fifty cubic meter removal van to shift what was left over. But all those fifty cubic meters easily fitted into this vicarage. However, in the past four and a half years we’ve somehow managed to fill the place to the rim.

By all standards the new house is classed as big. Also, the garden is fenced off and has plenty space for both dogs and trampoline. It’s good to look at all that and realise that this new house has everything we need.
The only conclusion I can come to is that we have (far) more than we need.

That’s all very easy to type down, but downsizing within the space of a few days isn’t easy at all. Especially as we've already been chucking things out in a big way. Now, I’m going through everything again. Do we really need this? And if yes, where can it go? There is of course the storage. But the reality is that our next - and hopefully more permanent - house is unlikely to be much bigger than the one we’re moving to now so I want to make as little use of the storage as possible.

As usual, I have a plan. And as it happens, it’s quite educational ;).
We’ve drawn a floor plan of the new house on squared paper. Then we’ve measured all the furniture, drawn that on the same scale and cut it all out. Next everybody has been looking at what they wanted in their rooms and how much would fit in. Over the past two days Myrna and Owen have packed up their stuff and we’ve moved as much as would fit into Old Faithful (his third house move and he’s still going strong!). The big things will be done by the official movers, later. I’ve done most of the kitchen and I’ve created storage space in the garage.

So now we have the situation that we more or less have - or know what we want to have - in the new house, but this one is still very full. But knowing that what we really want is already in the new house makes it slightly easier to decide to do with what’s left. There’s still quite a bit to go in storage, but I’ll have another look at it before the movers come. And the rest will go either to friends, to FreeShare, to the carboot sale, on the fire or to the dump.

An important part of this whole process is the cleaning. This house is very difficult to keep clean. It’s old and drafty and then there’s the coal dust from the solid fuel Rayburn throughout the whole house. Obviously, it’s sensible for practical and health reasons to clean things before you pack or move them. But also, by consciously looking at each item again, we get another chance to decide if we want something to remain part of our lives. Or has it served its purpose? Do we still need that particular item to keep a certain memory or has the memory become part of us? The cleaning helps to symbolically prepare for a fresh new start.

Today I did ‘the last round’ in Myrna’s room. I had not been looking forward to it, because her room - like Owen’s - was a tip. The only way I could do it was to switch off my disgust and go into automatic mode. Myrna had done a lot of packing and sorting herself, so I knew that the things she values most were already in the new house. I said to Myrna I’d rather start off by myself and she happily left me to it. After a while I discovered I was quite enjoying it, strangely enough. I managed to gather another two bin bags full of rubbish and I had to change my bucket of soap three times. But now the room looks cleaner than it’s looked for ages and it’s nearly empty.

While I was cleaning away - ”wax on, wax off, Daniel-san” - I discovered I wanted to take charge of the housekeeping duties again. With me writing and translating, it was Ken’s task to see to the daily household duties and it has really done me the world of good not to have to think about it at all and not to interfere. But from the state of Myrna’s room - and I’m mentally preparing for Owen’s room, because I know that’s even worse - it’s obvious that Ken doesn’t take pride in keeping it clean and tidy and I know he hates having to negotiate with the kids about keeping their rooms in an acceptable state.
It’s not my favourite task either, but after seeing what it’s like now and having noticing that Myrna was really pleased I was helping her, I thought we’d all be happier - and healthier probably - if I take on that responsibility again.

Moving into the new house will be a good moment to make new arrangements, to work out new schedules. We will no longer have a separate computer room, so Ken has promised the children they could have their own computers in their rooms. It’s something I’ve managed to avoid up to now and I am still very reluctant. But I’m willing to give it a go, although I have set a few conditions.
First: All computers will have Watchdog and there will be no negotiating about extra time.
Second: Every other Friday we will have ‘room inspection’ and if the rooms aren’t tidy and clean, the computers will be shut down until they are.

I asked Owen how on earth he managed to get a medal in cadet camp for the cleanest and tidiest room.
He said: “Well, I’m a totally different person in the cadets then when I am at home.”
Me: “How do I get you to tidy your room here, then?”
Owen: “Discipline, Mum, discipline.”

So that’s what he’ll get from me from now on. :))

And the difference between these two children became all the more apparent when I talked about it with Myrna. She said: “I like my room a bit messy, but I still want it to be clean. But you need to help me cleaning it, because if you don’t I just get distracted. Cleaning is much nicer when we’re doing it together.”

Another major advantage about the new house is that it is so much easier to keep clean. It has gas central heating (no more coal dust!), double glazing everywhere and it’s well maintained. It’ll be a whole new experience, for instance, to clean the window sills without having to be careful not to wipe the paint off or punch holes into the wood.
Ahh, the more I think about it, the more I am looking forward to moving!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The End of Never

In case you hadn't noticed, I've changed the name of my weblog.
It was a bit of a silly name for a blog of someone who strongly believes that we are the creators of our own reality.
In Steiner Kindergarten they asked parents not to let children wear slippers that looked like tigers or bears or any other animal really. You are what you wear. Of course I severely frowned at that and of course I experimented. Turned out they were right.
Witches say: Careful what you wish for, you might get it.
Quantum physics say: Matters of a similar frequency attract each other, resonate.
Who was it that said: Attention is energy and energy makes things grow.

Anyway, I just knew that if I want my life to become more balanced and stable I should no longer carry the motto 'Never a Dull Moment."

There, that's the last time I've said it.
And I will not wish for the opposite, either.

Factual Update

I have spent the last two days making lists. So here’s another one:

* We are moving soon, real soon. As in starting next Saturday.
* We can rent the house until 15 July 2008, but luckily only the first six months of the rent are fixed, so we can start a new round of house hunting somewhere in February.
* Because we are officially homeless we will be getting help - practical ánd financial! - with the move.
* Our new landlord is a church, again. A different one, though. I think this means that God really wants the best for us and this is His way of saying: Hey, I don't want you guys to become homeless!
* We’ve packed about 100 boxes and I think we’re halfway.
* The new house is about half the size of this one, so the homeless officer (he’s really cute, by the way :) has also arranged storage.
* Ken, Myrna and Owen have gone camping (and I did encourage them to go) and are having a great time and good weather.
* I am intensely enjoying being by myself, with only the cats and dogs here to interrupt my train of thoughts. Oh, and the telephone... But I’ve gone on voicemail now...
* AL is coming back to England on the 4th of September. So just as well we’ve got four bedrooms in this new house. She doesn’t intend to stay, though. Wants to be back in Holland before her 18th birthday. More about that later, probably.
* I’m so tired I don’t know if I’m ever going to feel not tired anymore. So right now I’m going to walk the dogs - my beloved husband took all the torches with him, so it’s just as well it’s such a bright night - have a shower and go to sleep.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Confession Time

We are sorting and dumping and freesharing and packing up.
We are getting ready to move.
So why haven’t I been blogging about our new house, why haven’t I been screaming from the rooftops about it?

No, I haven’t lost my faith. But after four months of riding an emotional storm, going from happy ups to depressive downs, series of disappointments about houses that seemed to be perfect but then just fell through for sometimes incomprehensible reasons, I have become rather cautious.
Yes, we do have a house. We think. The contract hasn’t been signed yet, they’re waiting for the bank references to come through. It’s just a formality, but still... I don’t know if I could bear to endure another major disappointment. So I thought if I don’t allow myself to feel elated and thrilled and it does go pear shaped, that at least I’ll survive... and I’ll be able to deal with the emotional fall out and disappointment from the other family members.
The other reason is the house itself.
It’s fabulous, it really is. It’s exactly right for us, too. It’s on the outskirts of the town where most of our activities, clubs etc are based, so we’ll be saving lots and lots of money and time on transport. It’s in a quiet cul-de-sac, with lovely views onto the Lake District, yet it’s close to amenities and there’s several bus routes nearby. The house itself is even detached! Having the feeling that you're still kind of free and not literally attached to someone else is a true blessing and it will make moving away from this wild and free place in the middle of nowhere easier.

It has the right amount of bedrooms and even a study, big enough for my desk and book cases! It’s the first house we’ve seen where we can move our - huge - four seater settee into, without even having to take doors or windows out. The kitchen is big enough, there’s a bathroom with both a bath AND a separate shower cubicle (!!) and it has a garage. And best of all, the pets were welcome!
So, why am I not jumping up and down with joy and why aren’t there a million photo’s of this new place on my blog?
Because, unfortunately, we can only rent it for eleven months, until 15 July 2008. Also, it's a fixed term contract, so we can't get out of it if we find something else before that date.
And that just sort of puts the dampers on my enthusiasm.

I am still endlessly happy that we will not end up having to go through the whole eviction process and becoming literally homeless, I am eternally grateful that we still have an actual choice about where we are going to live and that it's in a quiet neighbourhood, in a detached and well maintained house.
But the reality is of course that I know exactly how difficult it is to find suitable rented accommodation, where they’ll have both kids and pets.
I am determined to make the most of living there and I will do my utmost to see it as a kind of a holiday, but I haven’t been able to shake that dreaded knowing that we will have to start looking for a new home soon again...

I know it will be different, next time. We have learned so much and I think we are at the beginning of a whole new episode in our lives. Owen seems to be really on his feet and is endlessly happy about a possible career in the TA or the Army. Myrna has been investigating the possibility of going to school. She’s not sure about it yet, she might want to do part time schooling, but it’s obvious that she is going to go through major changes in the near future. AL hasn’t made a definite decision yet, but it looks like she’s staying in Holland if she can find a place to live there. And even if she is going to use her return ticket, I don't think she’ll want to live under the parental roof for very long.
Ken has applied for a job and he is seriously thinking about setting up his own business again if he can't find employment.
So, all in all, things are in full flow.

I suppose I am just very, very tired and it takes a lot of willpower to just hang on in there and not give in to that craving to just roll up and go to sleep in a quiet corner...
And it isn’t as if I can leave things to Ken, bless him.
He is of good intentions but in times like this his ADHD and Asperger Syndrome are all too obvious. The only way for me not to loose it completely with him is to be one hundred percent practical and structured about it. Make lists for him to work to. Try and avoid any situation that may cause arguments and discussions. Keep him as busy as possible, without loading too much responsibility onto him.
It sounds awful and unloving, but I know - after nearly thirty years - that this is the only way I can uphold my love and respect for him. And he knows it, too. We both have learned to accept that this is the way it is, this is the only way our relationship works and will stay intact. We are complementary, in a very extreme sense of the word. We are the ultimate challenge in each other’s life.
And after all this time, many many frustrating moments and much pain, we both know that it's absolutely worth every little shred of effort we've put into it. For ourselves and for our children.

I think it was Shukr who said on EF’s blog:
“Overcoming difficulties is one the best lessons we can teach.”
I agree with that, wholeheartedly.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Structured autonomy

Owen is back from cadet camp.
Even in the first year after AL was born I learned that whatever principles, ideals, scruples or opinions I might have had, they were all going to be turned around, thrown out the window, forgotten or trampled upon. Challenged, at the very least.
My children - and I’m very much including my clan children in this - taught me that expectations were no more than obstacles, blinkers, causes of pain, hurt pride and desillusion.
I’ve learned to be ready for the unexpected.
Well, there’s definitely no way I was prepared to experience what I felt today.
This huge sense of gratitude for the British Army.
For the fact that they gave my son a chance to discover the best in himself.
It has been a long, long time since I’ve seen Owen as happy and content as I’ve seen him today. He looks radiant. Self confident. Proud of himself. Bronzed and muscled. A Young Man.

It is more than obvious that these twelve days of discipline, structured and organized physical activities, learning and excelling in all kind of skills, being appreciated for his willingness to take part, being given responsibilities for overseeable tasks, being seen as one of the team (not only men! I hasten to add!), being able to talk about things that are important to him and share them with others, has done him the world of good.

So this is what it’s about, I think. I feel. Autonomy. It isn’t about structured or unstructured. It isn’t about learning from books or from life, in school or at home. It’s nothing to do with veganism, homeopathy, Zen, spirituality, religion or atheism.
It’s everything to do with freedom. Freedom of choice. And being given a total and unconditional freedom of choice. Being able to genuinely follow your heart’s choice.

Owen has made a choice. He hasn’t discussed it at length with me, with us. Because he just doesn’t do the verbal thing, the putting feelings into words. Although, when he does he is so crystal clear it is practically impossible to misunderstand him. But after having had the chance to try out both the structured and the unstructured, after having tried out both the self directed learning and the instructed learning, he chooses to join the cadets and he is determined to join the army.

I realise that I expected to feel sad and troubled about that. And in a way I do. I cannot imagine any mother in these times not feeling troubled about her child wanting to join the army. But strangely enough I most of all feel happy. I haven’t been able to wipe the grin of my face since I saw him get off that bus.
He was in here just a minute ago to sit on my lap for a second (any longer and he would have crushed me) and hug me intensely. He is so happy. So how could I not be?

He hasn’t changed. But he has found the ultimate way to be who he is. And he has most definitely found it all by himself.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Return of the Black Cat

Charlie is back!
I can barely believe it!
At the very moment I was reading Ruth’s comment on my previous post I heard a loud mewing and before I knew it he came walking into the wide open door and when I held my hands out to him, he more or less jumped into my arms!
You were right, Ruth!
He’s skinny as a rake, but looks healthy and dry. All his claws and teeth are still intact, no injuries, no messed up fur. I guess he’s been locked in somewhere.
Aw, I’m so hoping Owen phones from camp soon, so we can tell him the good news.
We have a telephone number for him, but that’s only for emergencies. If we phone now we’re more likely to upset him than anything else. He promised he’d phone home a few times and I think the conversation will go as follows:

”Hi Mum, is Charlie back yet?”
”Yes Owen, he came back on Sunday night!”
”I told you he’d come back, didn’t I?”
“Yes darling, and you were right.”

Right now Charlie is back in his usual place, behind me, on top of the cupboard. He’s just had a little talk with Asha, so she’ll probably know what we never will. He doesn’t look traumatised or shocked or anything else than hungry and tired. Actually, he looks quite content. And I love him more than ever!

And I am still grateful for the insights he helped me acquire. He is, after all, our black cat. He does represent the wild, natural and free part of us. The part we managed to reclaim by coming to this country and by living here, in this house.
And it was that part of me that was afraid to move away from this place, afraid that it couldn’t survive if it had to go back to the ‘civilized world’. By coming back Charlie has shown me that I can take that part of me - that we can take that part of us - with us. Wherever we go.

I was reminded of the saying:

If you love something, set it free.
If it comes back to you, it’s yours.
If it doesn’t, it never was.

I’ve always had my doubts about that last sentence, but in this case I can even see the wisdom in that. It is so True.
My Wild Witch is part of me, and always will be. I can let go of the fear of losing her. By letting go of that fear I have set her free. And now I can take her with me, wherever I go.

Again I’m experiencing how valuable it is to consciously feel everything I feel, to accept all those feelings, however irrational, conflicting or contradicting they may seem. And then to take a step back and not only experience the process but observe it, too. Writing helps me to do that. It helps me to not get lost in my emotions. It helps me make the circle round. It helps me being who I am.

Charlie McGregor


Charlie came to our house last November, together with Asha. We’d just lost our much beloved black cats Joey and Gimli and the house was simply too empty. When we went looking for a new cat in the rescue centre, Charlie came straight at us, which - turned out later - was quite unusual, because he was very withdrawn and shy. He took to Owen immediately and it was love from both sides. “This one belongs with us,” Owen said and he named him, Charlie McGregor.
It wasn’t until we got him home that we found out how timid and traumatized he really was. It took weeks and weeks before he didn’t pull back or run away when we approached him. It hasn’t been that long that he’d let himself be picked up. First only by Owen, but slowly but surely he was actually convinced that we were trustworthy.
The big change in him came when we started to let them go outside, in March of this year. We’d kept them inside all that time, mainly because Owen couldn’t bear the thought of losing another cat - Gimli fell prey to a badger, managed to drag himself home, but we still had to have him put to sleep and Joey just never came back. Also, Asha and Charlie seemed totally happy inside. But then it started getting warmer and windows and doors would be open more often and I just didn’t want to have to watch out for the cats not going outside all the time. Besides, I think it’s a bit unnatural to keep cats indoors, especially when you live where we do... at the moment...
Within days of being let outside, Charlie was a completely different cat. So much more confident, so much more happy. He’d let himself be stroked by us, he’d come running towards us, even outside. He loved to sit on the yard wall for hours at an end, or to go off for a wander in the woods, he’d play in the garden with Asha, he’d sit with us when we were doing things in the yard. And he was catching mice by the dozens. I don’t think he ever went very far, because whenever we’d call his name he’d be there within a few minutes. Of course, he was very fond of his food and we’d feed him as soon as he came home. Every night we’d make sure the cats were in before dark and then they’d stay in till the next morning.

Last Friday night we sort of all forgot to close the upstairs window, where the cats go in and out of the house. They’d been fed at nine o’clock and after that Charlie must have gone out. When Owen found out that at 11 o’clock the window was still open, he panicked and as it turned out, with reason. Asha was inside, but Charlie wasn’t and he didn’t come when we called for him. We all went out, searching, but couldn’t find Charlie. We left the back door open, so he could go into the utility room in case he came back in the night, but when we got up really early on Saturday morning, he still wasn’t there.

Ken and the kids went out looking again, but I didn’t. In my heart of hearts I knew he wasn’t coming back. Only the day before I was stroking him when he was in his usual place, on top of the cupboard behind my computer, and Myrna and I were saying how unhappy moving house would make Charlie. It would take him such a long time to get used to a new house again and suppose, just suppose we’d find a house in a built-up area, or even in town, we would have to keep him inside and that would be so sad.

When he didn’t come back on the Friday night I drew a Tarot Card, asking why he had disappeared like that. I got Ten of Swords. I had the feeling my heart broke and I cried and cried. In short, Ten of Swords stands for definite farewells in order to make space for new beginnings. And the whole conversation I had with Myrna and Charlie the day before came back to me. And I just knew. He didn’t want to move away from this place.

I am devastated by the loss of him and most of all my heart bleeds for Owen, for losing another cat. For a moment I was afraid it would have such a great impact on him that he wouldn’t go on summer camp with the cadets. But he did. He left this morning and he was looking forward to it. Glad to be away from the sadness, glad to be away from the house hunting, the insecurity, the house full of boxes. I am sure when he comes back he will still have to do some grieving for Charlie, but I also know that in this case the blisfullness of Aspergers is that once the black isn’t black anymore, it most likely is white.

I strongly believe that every animal we share our lives with, mirrors certain parts of ourselves, of our souls. And as far as cats are concerned, I think they more than other animals reflect the changes in our lives. So I’m sure Charlie didn’t just disappear for no reason, at this particular moment. And I know there is a message in this for me, too, and it has to do with the way we’re looking for a new house. There will have to be definite farewells in order to make space for new beginnings.

Thank you, Charlie McGregor.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Cat-ching up

I am craving for normality.
So instead of the umptiest post about my quest for whatever it is that a new home represents, I am going to do some cat-ching up on some of the more ‘normal’ things in our lives.

I could of course do a full report on the excitement about the latest HP film - Ken and the kids went to see it today! - or about the trance-like state that everybody in this household has gone into since the arrival of the new HP book, but I’m sure that most of you have similar experiences. Or have read enough about it. So I’ll just skip that. For now.

Instead I am really dying to show you our educational project of the past couple of weeks. After all, I would like to make it clear that in spite of everything going on, providing an adequate education for our children is still our top priority. Of course. For this particular project we invited a team of teachers to our house. Allow me to introduce:

from left to right: Rosie, Tilly, Jack, Shadow, Jamie and Misty:



These six sweeties lost their mother when they were four days old. The mother was a stray cat, but luckily someone had seen her go into his shed and was aware of her having kittens. So when he found her body by the road, he went looking for them and took them to cat protection. They took the litter to a foster home, where they were hand reared and bottle fed. These fosterers are friends of ours and Myrna goes there quite regularly to help out. Of course she was there nearly every day when this lot came in and she was given the delightful task of naming them all.

After kindly checking with me if we were alright with it, Mrs D asked Myrna if she would like to look after them at home for a weekend once they were big enough to go through the night without being fed. You can guess what the answer was. It was an excellent incentive for Myrna to tidy up her room, by the way... And she started to keep a diary on everything she learned about kittens, how to feed them of course, but also the pretty realistic stuff about what risks there are with littles ones like that, what diseases or ailments they can get, how to make them pee and poo, etcetera.

The first time they came to stay they were four weeks old and needed to be fed, cleaned and toiletted every three hours. We all helped, but Myrna insisted they stayed in her room. After two nights she agreed that maybe next time they’d better stay in the spare room or in the living room... if only because of the smell... But they were so gorgeous and already they all had their own little characters. I enjoyed sitting there and just observing them for times at an end.

Their second visit was two weeks later, after Myrna’s music exams. This time they stayed for a whole four nights... in the spare room. The main purpose of this visit - apart from enjoyment for all - was to get the kittens used to dogs. So Bobby and Lagsi also got involved into this major educational project. Myrna and I both kept notes about everything we observed and learned and we made a little diary with photo’s for Mr and Mrs D, and possibly for potential new owners. Yes, yes, I know... people don’t own cats, cats allow people to feed and house them...

Let me indulge and show you some more photo's from the diary:


These were taken at the foster home when they were just one week old. 1. Rosie, the runt of the litter. 2. Misty being bottle-fed and 3. The whole litter with their artificial mother, a clever thing with a beating heart and a hot water bottle inside to keep the little ones warm.

Their first visit to our house, at four weeks old. 1. Myrna with Tilly, Misty and Shadow. 2. Little Rosie, hasn't she grown! 3. Jamie loves to go to sleep on the nice and warm power supply of Myrna's keyboard.

1. Lagsi, patiently but eagerly waiting for me to allow him to go and have a sniff. The kittens first hissed and spat at him, but after a short while and in the safety of Myrna's arms they were soon alright. Misty was the first to make nose contact (2). 3. Shadow just loved to cuddle up in Myrna's neck, he loved it even better than playing with his siblings!

Their most recent visit, at six weeks old. 1. They don't need bottle feeding anymore, and they are litter trained. Wow, what a difference! 2. Rosie is so absolutely adorable, but no longer the runt of the litter. She eats for England and is the biggest of the three girls now. 3. Lean on me! Isn't it wonderful to have a supportive big brother? Tilly and Shadow. 4. Jack has the most beautiful eyes.

1. We created a dog-free zone in the living room and it took the kittens a whole five minutes to figure out exactly to where they could go and still be 'safe' from the dogs.
2 and 3. The art these creatures master - and teach - more than anything else: relaxing.
They gave some very special private lessons on that subject, on which the male members of our family scored highest marks (4 and 5). Myrna couldn't resist stroking them... (6)

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Still here

Yesterday morning I spoke to the estate agent who deals with the house by the river. We have a definite answer and it’s a no. No real explanation, this is the owner’s decision.
Strange, actually. I realise that with putting this post on my blog the photo’s of the house will now disappear off the first page.
Gone. Into the archives.
Another strange thing was my own response. After the very brief conversation I put the phone down and sat there, more or less waiting for some emotional tidal wave to hit me.
But it didn’t.
To my own surpise I was feeling a quiet sense of relief. Can you belief that? We’re a week away from officially being declared homeless and I feel relieved when I hear we’re not going to get the house I’ve dreamt of all that time.
I carefully examined myself, did some serious soul searching. Was I in denial? Trying to soften the blow? Was this feeling of relief some sort of natural defense against total devastation?
But I could only come to one conclusion: It’s a genuine feeling.

Over the past few weeks, while I was envisaging our family in that house, I’ve had some moments of serious doubt. First of all about the money. Although a definite rental price has never been mentioned, we knew it wasn’t going to be cheap and it would also cost a lot to keep warm.
Now, especially with all this business of overpayment going on, Ken still being jobless, me trying to deal with an attack of writer’s block and other, more physical impediments, our financial situation is far from stable. Also, I was aware of the effort it would take to upkeep a house and a garden like that, and I know I couldn’t possibly deal with that all by myself.
I also know that between Ken and me, I’m the one who usually sees what kind of work needs to be done and he’s a master in putting as much effort as possible into doing as little as possible. So I could just envisage some potentially very frustrating scenes there.
So I suppose the relief is caused by not having to carry such a heavy burden.
But still, I know that if it would have been a yes, I would have gladly taken on that burden. It wouldn’t be the first heavy burden I’ve coped with in my life.

Or should I assume that the time has come to stop taking on heavy burdens and start making choices that allow a more easy going life? If that’s the case, the Universe has rather a heavy handed way of telling me that. Or is the solution right there in front of me, but am I too stubborn, too short sighted to see it? Too caught up in looking the wrong way, perhaps?

Oh Heavens, I really don’t know what to do or what to think next.
The only choice left now is to Have Faith. I know. And most of the time I Have Faith.

But now, at this particular moment, I can only feel my intense desperation...

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Life in limbo

Never thought the church, any church, would have a major influence on me.
Well, with their Notice Seeking Possession the Church of England has definitely made a dramatic impact on my life.

It is increasingly difficult to Hold the Vision and to have Faith.
And as for Fun... I’m struggling...

I haven’t been able to write, I haven’t been able to blog, although I desperately wanted to. But I just couldn’t find the space in myself to create words, to transform my thoughts into words. Or maybe I simply didn’t have the energy. Again, time is undefinable. It seems to rest heavily on my shoulders while simultanously it runs out.
Forty days until the expiry date of the Notice. Forty days!!

In the past forty days AL quit her college course and went back to Holland, where she's doing her work placement and trying to find a job; Myrna sang in three concerts and did her grade 5 exam; Owen joined the Army Cadets and now goes there twice a week and will even go on Summer Camp with them (gasp); we found out that we weren’t only overpaid Child Benefit, but also Carer’s Allowance, Housing Benefit and possible Tax Credits, so consequently I’ve spent days and days at the CAB and on the phone and writing letters trying to get a grip on things only to find out that we are definitely not in the best possible financial position to move house; Ken’s father came out of hospital because there’s nothing more they can do for him and now he’s getting cared for at home, where we try and visit him as often as possible; we’ve had a gang of six really tiny kittens staying over several times, they were three days old when their mother was run over and we’re helping to foster them; we’ve done a lot more sorting out and packing up and the spare room is full with boxes already; I’ve phoned up about at least fifty houses for rent, only to find out that at least 90 percent of them wouldn’t take pets; we’ve been to see the remaining 10 percent to find out that they were either too far away, all extra costs considered too expensive, absolutely too small, would only take one small dog, were already promised to people without pets or children...; and all the while home ed has been going on as usual, although with less creative input from me, I must confess.

Ah, it’s good to sum it all up, knowing that I’ve probably not even mentioned half of what went on in those past forty days. And looking at what I’ve listed I can understand and forgive myself for feeling absolutely exhausted and drained...
At the same time this list shows that yes, a lot can happen in forty days.

We still haven’t had a definite answer about the house by the river. And there’s another house, just over the border in Scotland... One of the estate agents I am now stalking on a regular basis thought that they might take pets and it seems to have enough rooms and even a garden... But here, too, we’re waiting to hear from the landlord.

Another big AAAHHHH.... Just now something is slowly making its way into my conscious brain... Forty days and forty nights... a biblical phrase... time of transition, time to reach major insights... 40 days of discernment... I must look into that...

Still, although I can truly see the learning curve in this whole process, I have definitely reached the point where I am longing for my life - for our life - to come out of limbo. I am genuinely grateful for everything I’ve learned and am still about to learn from this all, but I am mainly tired. Worn out, to be precise. And I want to literally know where we’re going. I want an end to uncertainty, to insecurity. I want a place to live where we can all be happy and where we can restart our lives. I want a new home. Please. Please! Now.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Quiet reappearance

Carefully, very carefully, I am trying out how it feels to be blogging again.
I can’t even begin to describe how the past month has been. Suffice to say it has been one of the most intense periods of time in my life.

I’ve had a tiny glimpse at just how big and great the universe is.
I’ve experienced the wonderfulness of interconnectedness.
I’ve felt the power of magic and the miracle of unconditional love.
I’ve discovered so much about myself, especially in relationship to my loved ones, my family.
I’ve gone from the highest high to the lowest low.
I’ve been bursting with energy and I’ve been so tired that even crying was too much effort.

But we haven’t got a new house yet.

So when people ask if there’s any news about a house yet, I have to say no.
But that just seems to be such an insufficient answer. It suggests that nothing has happened. Whereas I have the feeling that everything has changed and that the only thing left now is for us to find our new home.

There was this house we went to see the day before Myrna’s birthday party. And it was ours if we wanted it. The only thing we needed to get was a bank reference, and we couldn’t get that until after the bank holiday weekend. But the man said it wasn’t a problem, and he said we should take a few days to make up our minds.
That same day we had a phone call from JC: The church had, in response to my letter, agreed to give us an extra two months.
The other news she had for us was that the other people interested in the house by the river had withdrawn and we were now first on the list.
So there we were: Two extra months, and more or less two houses to choose from.
I literally collapsed after JC’s phone call.
I just couldn’t believe that it was happening, that all I had wished for was there in front of me and it was up to me to choose, to do something with it.
I cannot remember much of what happened the rest of that day, because I was literally beside or outside myself. At one point I realised that I was experiencing exactly what I had wondered about in a previous post: I was in different realities at the same time. It was scary and bizar and magical at the same time.
Ken and Owen were at Kielder that day and AL and Myrna were having a pyjama day in their rooms, so I was all by myself. The only thing I could think of to do was to phone my sister. Luckily she immediately realised what was happening and she talked me through it, until I was grounded again. More or less back in my own body.
It’s not something that I would want to happen again. But at the same time I know it happened because I had genuinely opened myself to miracles, to magic.

I somehow got through that day, thanks to AL, who seemed to realise I was ‘out of it’ and completely took over all the preparations for Myrna’s birthday party. Without her, I don’t know what I’d have done. And Myrna wouldn’t have had the wonderful Day of Celebration that she had. A lovely day, with such a nice bunch of happy faced girls and laughter and good fun.
That whole bank holiday weekend we lived on a high. It felt as if after a month of struggling through a desert we had come to an oasis. And we thoroughly enjoyed it.
The bizar thing is that in the end we followed our hearts and said no to ‘the other house’. Ken and I had both, separately, come to the conclusion that we would rather take the gamble and wait to see if we could get the house by the river. Up to now it hasn’t materialised. We had a meeting with the owner and his estate agent. Genuinely nice people. It’s just that we found out the house was coming up for rent before they’d actually decided what to do with it. Let it with or without outbuildings. Commercial or residential. Also, the house needed more renovating. All reasons why we still don’t know whether we’re going to get it or not.
However, they’ve promised us that we’d have a definite yes or no before the end of the month. And that’s in two days time.

We’ve been looking at other houses, too. I’d never imagined that so many landlords don’t want pets. It’s really depressing. Myrna said today that she want a house, any house, as long as we know we’re going to have a roof over our heads. She wants to start moving. Get on with her life. I have come to the same point, really.
However much I want the house by the river, the process of the past month has taught me that there is so much more than I can possibly envision.
And of one thing I am now more sure than ever before: We are loved. We are cared for. And All is Well.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Time Out

I've said it before, writing this blog is inspirational. And educational.
The time has come to walk the talk, to do what I wrote about in my previous posts.
Take time for living.
Focus and prioritize.
Today is Myrna's 12th birthday. A day she's been looking forward to for at least three months, a day we had so many plans for. But somehow it went differently. She has more or less accepted that, she knows what's on our plates at the moment. But I'm not happy about it.
I know when she went down with terrible stomach pains last week it wasn't just because of the usual pre-birthday nerves. It was also because she struggles with big heavy things that maybe I could make lighter for her, without taking her Self away.
So, I'm going to give myself a chance to catch up and make up and focus on the Pink Theme Party she's got organised for next Saturday.
I'm determined to help her make it a Day of Celebration.

Tomorrow we are going to look - for the second time - at another house than the house by the river. It's in the same area, it's a semi-detached with four bedrooms, they'll have pets, and it's available from next week, probably. We are not the only ones interested, so it's exciting - and nerve wrecking. Also, we haven't had a definite yes or no about the first house.
If we say yes to this one, it just might mean we miss out on the house by the river.
If we don't say yes to this one, it might mean we miss out on both.
It seems a simple choice, but it really isn't.
I have spent the last 24 hours more or less withdrawn into myself, trying to determine what to do.
And I realised I was afraid to say yes to this house, because it would mean I'd definitely give up on the house by the river.
But I've weighed all the pro's and con's very carefully and I've come to the conclusion that if I do get the chance to say yes tomorrow, that's what I'll do.

I'll not go into all the details now, because I am just too tired and my body desperately needs a rest from typing, from computer. Also, I want to focus on Myrna's birthday and party, on creating a new home for myself and my family, and on staying sane and healthy. That feels like enough work as it is, really.

I'll blog if there's news to report and who knows I'll need the therapeutical help of blogging before long... but for now the focus will be elsewhere.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Time flies like an arrow - Fruit flies like a banana

I like that quote from Groucho Marx. I first saw it in Newcastle Airport, on the wall of the waiting area. Just the right place for it.

Time has always fascinated me. I can remember that even when I was very young I’d be lying in bed, contemplating the strangeness of time.
I remember trying to figure out how it was possible that something that was measured so precisely still felt differently all the time.
Waiting five minutes for the schoolbus in the pouring rain felt like an eternity, but the same five minutes were just not time enough when I had to get ready to go. Five minutes of practising my scales on the piano were endless, as opposed to five minutes of listening to music before having to go to bed. And even at a young age I wondered if time maybe existed in different realities, simultaneous time zones. When, much much later, I read Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials I immediately thought that he must have been thinking along the same lines.

This past week has been a good example of the tricks time can play on you.
I can’t believe that it’s been more than a week since my previous blog on here. But I do know it took a lot of patience getting through those seven days waiting for news from the estate agent. So how come I was screaming out for more hours in the day to get my work done in time? When I sign a contract to translate a book the deadline always seems reasonably far away, but somehow the closer I get to that deadline, the faster time seems to go...

When I attended the “Soul in Education Conference” in Findhorn (2000) one of the many valuable lessons I learned that week was from
Satish Kumar. The essence of his message was:
‘When God made time, he made plenty of it.’
I remind myself quite often of these words and I find that just by saying them out loud I am creating breathing space. Also, it is a healthy counterweight for our modern day creed ‘Time is Money’ that has taken control of our lives, of our world. Your success in the world seems to be measured by the amount of things you can cram into a day. Quantity determines quality.

Children learn from a young age to do as much as possible in as little as possible time. Their lives are lead first by their parents’ diaries and later by the school’s schedules. How often would a young person have to listen to the words: “No, there’s no time for that now.” Or “Come on, hurry up.” No wonder that when they get to the age where they think they’re in control of their own time, a lot of them prefer to do absolutely nothing and resent pressure of any kind.

Looking back, I think one of the first things my children taught me was to forget about time and totally be in the moment. When I first held AL in my arms there was just no before or after. No thinking about what or when to do next. Only utter wonderment, utter love.
Through my children I learned to look at the world and at myself in a new way. Well, no, not new. I went back to looking at things through the unspoiled eyes of a young child.
AL must have been about six months old when she was outside in the garden, in her baby chair, her eyes fixed on a spider weaving its web just above her head. Nothing could distract her from it and I didn’t try, but watched with her. And watched her. Saw how she reached out with her hand, but found it was too high for her to touch. More watching. Then she started to make little shrieking sounds. The spider froze momentarily in its web and then continued. She shrieked again, the spider froze again. And so it went on. I am absolutely positive that she was ‘learning’ that her actions caused a reaction with the spider.

What DO children learn from that continuous time pressure? Well, my youngest daughter told me that. In Holland we quite often went to the Open Air Museum and spend the day there. One nice summerday I’d set up the ‘picknick point’ on one of the benches in the Museum’s playground. Myrna, who must have been seven at the time, was quite happily playing in the sand and AL and Owen were in the farm next to the playground, milking a goat. Because we came there nearly every week the children knew their way around and the staff knew the children, so it was all very safe and relaxed.
Then two busloads of children on a schooltrip were literally unloaded near the playground. There were at least sixty children, age 9-10, and six teachers/adults. The teacher in charge gathered the whole lot by the entrance and shouted: “We will be here for twenty minutes! Don’t take any clothes off and keep your shoes on! Don’t go outside the playground! In twenty minutes precisely everybody has to be back here!”
And then they released these children. Turned them loose. Myrna had already come out of the sandpit and was sitting on my lap, watching and listening in total amazement. The adults all sat together on the bench next to ours, smoking, and casting disdainful glances in our direction. They were chatting amongst themselves, not watching their charges at all. And these children were screaming and swearing and pushing each other off the swings and the climbing rack. The language was absolutely appalling, but it fitted their behaviour.
I felt I had to say something about it to Myrna, so I made a remark about how they weren’t really being nice to each other and how awful it was that they didn’t wait their turn, and more disapproving judgments.
Myrna looked at me as if I was the dumbest person on the planet: “Mum! Did you not hear what that teacher said! They have twenty minutes to play. Twenty minutes! Now, if YOU only have twenty minutes in a playground, you wouldn’t want to waste that with waiting, would you?”

Educating the children outside the school system has given us the freedom to do things in our own time, at our own speed. In Holland, when we had the business and quite a few ‘social obligations’, our life was still very full and busy. Moving to Cumbria, England, gave us the chance to start all over again and to step out of the ratrace. In a sense, I think it was literally life-saving, because Ken was suffering from a severe burn-out and looked as if he could have a heart attack at any moment. It has been absolutely amazing and miraculous to feel and observe the good it has done all of us. Time is a healer, that’s for sure.
With no social or time pressure we were also able to experience autonomous learning to the full, and I have watched in absolute awe how much and how well the children - and Ken and I! - have learned. By just living our lives, listening to our own bodies and souls, and by being in tune with the world around us. We have arrived at a point where our diaries are quite full again, but the difference now is, that the diary is there to serve us and not to rule us. We are the centre of our own world again, we live our own lives. Time is a great teacher.

When you take time for living, learning will follow... naturally.

Have a wonderful time!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Ups and Downs

I need to sit down and empty my head into my blog. Writing can be so therapeutical, because it helps me untangle my thoughts and feelings. I need to do the same with myself as what I’ve written on the notice board in the kitchen for the house: De-clutter, Make Space.
Our pace of life has suddenly changed and I am finding it a big challenge not to panic and not to rush into things. To stay in control, but at the same time in balance. To actually allow all those thoughts and feelings and accept that the seemingly opposite ones can exist simultaneously. In my family and even in myself.
Myrna is full of faith, but lacking patience. Owen is on the verge of a depression and tends to withdraw even more than usual. AL is insecure, nervous about what this means to her future. Ken, bless him, is determined that the house by the river is ours, but worries about our financial situation.
And I recognise all of that, and more, in myself.

Over the years I have learned to trust my first impulses.
And my first impulse when I heard that we’d have to leave our house was: Faith. I know we are going to be alright. We are loved and cared for and we deserve abundance.
That first impulse was reflected by instantly empowering responses. So much support and help from all sides. That house with our name on it, calling out to us. Good people, friendly people. Magic all around us. Without any certainties whatsoever I still felt strong.
Power, Faith, Love.
I’ve saturated my heart and soul with it and imbedded it in my Being.
And Gratitude.
I am overflowing with the feeling of being truly Blessed.

At the same time I am as human as can be.
As time goes by I am experiencing doubt and despair. My head is buzzing with all kinds of questions: Is this not just too good to be true? Am I really deserving to have such a beautiful house in such a beautiful spot? What if we can’t afford the rent? O my goodness, what if we can’t get that house, where are we going to end up? It has taken us such a long time to settle here, for the children to find friends and activities they like, what if we have to uproot all that again? What if... What if...
Also, I realise that all this is happening after I made a conscious decision to ‘come out of my hiding hole and connect with the outside world again’. One side of me is recognising that everything around me is now engaging to make that step possible and real, the other side is wondering if it wouldn’t have been better for all of us to just stay holed up. But there’s no going back.

It doesn’t help that my body has sort of decided it will not be helpful with any physical work. My rheumatism is at a new low and a couple of weeks ago I’ve made the big decision to see our doctor and ask if I can get some help in managing the pain. It was good to talk to him. He took new blood samples to check the level of rheumatoid factors and inflammation. Also, he suggested I’d maybe do a little less working, maybe even apply for DLA for myself, to be able to concentrate on the other demands in my life. He is and always had been very supportive of our home education and appreciates the efforts we put into it. I realise that having him for a doctor is one of the many things to be grateful for.

I suppose the biggest challenge for me personally now is, not to go into fighting mode. And while I’m typing this down I realise that that’s exactly what the past four years have been about. About discovering just how much you can ‘achieve’ and ‘learn’ by just staying in the flow. The peaceful space that surrounds us here has helped us discover the peaceful space within ourselves. And from that inner peace we were able to find our inner strength. And now, from that inner peace and strength, we’ll be able to find our way in the outer world. Without having to fight, without having to go against what we feel is best for us.

The words my dear sister gave me a couple of days ago are becoming more meaningful with the minute. I have contemplated them, meditated on them and they are now the mantra of my heart and soul.

HOLD THE VISION
TRUST THE PROCESS
DO NOTHING

The first two lines were not too hard to understand and integrate. Although I obviously constantly need to repeat them to myself. But I’d already made the picture of the ‘new’ house the background on my desktop and I was waking up in the mornings thinking I was already there.
Trust the process is, to me, all about allowing everything that’s going through my mind to do just that. Trusting that things are happening to make sure that the very best thing for us will come out eventually. And even trusting myself to make the right choices at the right time.
But doing nothing, that to me seemed quite impossible. Would I have to sit still and just wait and see what happened? I am such a strong believer in taking responsibility for your own life. Also, I am a control freak. How can I do nothing?
But I now realise that ‘Do Nothing’ should be seen in the Buddhist way. I shouldn’t do anything that blocks the vision. I shouldn’t do anything that interferes with the process. I think my task now is to tune myself completely into the vision and the process and do absolutely nothing that ‘feels’ unnatural, forced, out of the flow.
I need to stay in touch with that inner strength and peace, that allowed us to grow towards where we are now. I need to stay in the natural flow of that.
Of course I can do things. I can make sure that I know all there is to know about our right to stay in this house until we’ve got a suitable new place. I can do everything within my natural power to ensure a stable financial situation, which might include going for that DLA.
I can arrange to see the owners of the house by the river and make sure they know how wonderful it would be to have us as tenants.
I can start de-cluttering this house, do more clearing out, make sure that the children are involved in a positive way without having to miss out too much on their usual routines and activities.
I can finish the book I’m translating as soon as possible, so that we’ll have a bit more of the much needed money...
There’s so much I can actually do, and still do nothing.