Why won’t you be a dear?

What I’ve noticed from living in Canada, Spain and the Netherlands is that kindness is expressed differently in all places. On the other side kindness is universal and speaks one language. To me kindness also means letting other people live their lives. For example you don’t complain and are not bothered immediately if your neighbor plays loud music once.

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How did I experience kindness in these three countries? Well I must admit the rumor about the Canadians is true. They are indeed very kind and easygoing people. No stress about pointless topics. My Spanish friends don’t stress easily either. If it’s not done today, it will be tomorrow. A social talk with a stranger is common and getting up for an elderly person in the bus as well. Complaining isn’t expressed directly there, although the police can be called if you throw a loud party. Trust me, that just happend to my friends and me once.

And even though I’m Dutch I was surprised to see how many people complain immediately about useless things back home. I guess you notice the differences better after being away for a long time. I learned that it’s better to just let it go. If you want to point out everything that is wrong, you’re finger is going to get tired from all the pointing. And I’m sure this happens in all countries and cultures in some way. Don’t be scared now, us Dutchies are very nice people too.

Perhaps it’s naive, but sometimes I feel that we forget we’re in this together. We share this world, our home, with each other. And what is needed when you live together? Comprises. Be nice, don’t worry too much and accept that everyone is unique. The way you think might not be exactly as how somebody else thinks. Both can be right. It’s just another point of view and not worth getting angry about.

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What I do find difficult is how to deal with the negativity, since I simply don’t understand it. If you had two ways of looking through a window and there was an unwashed side and a washed side. Which side would you use? I think complaining works contagiously and I think being kind also works contagiously. So the choice is yours.

Something else to consider is we must think of how we want to be and see ourselves. Do you want to be the person who’s cranky all of the time? Or the one who never wants to help someone? And the key point here is to be honest with yourself. When you look into the mirror what do you see? Every day you can choose how you want to be. When you do, well why don´t choose to be a dear and hold the door. And if you can’t do that, then maybe you can be a deer instead.

On to the next phase

So I guess this usually starts when you’re in your mid/late-twenties. I remember thinking for a long time that I wanted to start a family as soon as possible. That was until my nephew was born. Don’t be mistaken I adore my nephew, but when I saw him for the first time I realized that I wasn’t ready for that kind of responsibility. I was twenty-three so there was no rush for me to start either.

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I don’t know what happens when you turn twenty-five, but out of nowhere everyone around you is having babies. Ok, some of my friends who started having families were a bit older than me, but still it makes you think. When also my father was having babies again it really made me feel I was falling behind. Then again I travelled, lived in several countries and speak multiple languages, still no rush. I’m ok.

It’s when your best friends are moving on to the next phase of their lives that you will change too. You’re preparing a babyshower and the talks are about which baby clothes will  look good, no longer which dress to go out in. Of course that can still happen too, but the change is also kind of beautiful. And you suddenly feel like such a grown up. Baby talk, who would’ve guess that five years ago?! Now one of my best friends is almost ready to have her first baby and I can’t wait to become an aunty. I also can’t wait to see how our friendship will evolve having this new miracle added in the middle.

One of my other best friends is getting married next year. Another exciting event I can’t wait for to happen. We already went dress shopping and I’m sure she will look amazing and will be a very beautiful bride. I’ve never been a bridesmaid, but now I will be. We already had a meeting with my friend the bride and the other bridesmaid. No longer talks about nights in the club, but talks about the bride maids dress and the bachelorette party. So that phase will be ended with a sparkling boom.

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And what about me? Well I’m not getting married yet and not having a baby either. I do have two dogs who are like children to me. Does that count? Well to me it does, so I guess that’s all that matters. I’m getting tired of the question though when I’ll have babies. So please don’t ask me that again. Just because I’m twenty-seven and a woman doesn’t mean I want to answer to that question all of the time. If you do ask me, I might just answer that I have two sons. Yes they’re adopted and a bit hairy, but who cares?

It is a nice feeling though that everything is falling in to place. My friends are settling down and I’m back in the Netherlands, so I can witness it all up close. And I’m so happy that my friends are happy and that we’ve grown from teenagers into real mature adults. I can’t wait to see what happens when the babies are growing up and another phase will start. First we need to turn thirty though. Another milestone that deserves a celebration.

How I suddenly had two dogs

When I got Igor he was a bit scared at first, which is normal when your life is turned upside down. He was ten months old and was in a “foster” home with another dog and eight cats. Suddenly it was just him and me. Luckily after bonding for one night, he started loving me. Ok he didn’t tell me out loud, but I could see it in his eyes. And actions speak louder than words. He also wanted to cuddle, which I took as a sign.

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Igor and I got our own routine and he also made a friend Gordo (my friends dog). We would go for walks on the beach, in the forest and Igor loved to sit on my lap while watching a movie. I must say Igor wasn’t the bravest dog. He looks adorable, but according to some seems a bit like a softy. He did make dog-friends easily. We had a good thing going on..

One day after work I took Igor out for a walk. At that moment it was about 4 pm and I didn’t have lunch yet, so I was getting a bit “hangry”. You know when you’re hungry and it makes you moody. We were strolling in the park behind my house and Igor started playing with a dog. The dog seemed nice, but I noticed there was no collar. Unfortunately stray dogs aren’t uncommon in Spain, so I started looking around for an owner. I must’ve asked everyone there including a homeless man if the dog was theirs.

The stray dog was running around and almost got hit by bicycles and cars. After that he curled up in a corner and was falling a sleep. Well he tried to stay awake, but you know when you don’t want to sleep but your head gets too heavy? That’s what was happening to him. I decided I couldn’t leave him there. I had to check if he was lost or alone or both.

Trying to catch him by myself wasn’t a success and I started crying out of frustration. Yes I really cried, but remember I was already hangry. I called a friend to please help me. He did and we caught the dog. The vet was closed due to the siesta, so we went home with Igor and the dog. He had to have a name, even it was just for a few hours. Since he was kind of blond my friend and I named him Rubio, which means blond in Spanish.

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Rubio seemed to feel at home immediately. He was sweet and cuddly and finally got some sleep. After the siesta we went to the vet and it turned out three times really is a charm. I was the third person to take him to the vet and the third person to be told he wasn’t chipped. The two people before me decided to let hem wander on the streets again, but I couldn’t do that. I did try to find his owner for a while or a new owner, since I was scared two dogs was too much in a small apartment. In the end it was clear. Rubio belonged with me and with Igor. He wasn’t going anywhere.

In the beginning Igor wasn’t so charmed by having our new member added to our little family. He looked at me like “what the hell did you do to me”. They got along fine, but as I mentioned before Igor was a softy and Rubio definitely wasn’t. My little stray was a strong and a bit dominant dog. So Igor had to learn to be stronger too. Quite soon they found their way and Igor even defended Rubio when he was attacked one day.

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Since I suddenly had two dogs in my small apartment I started thinking about going back to the Netherlands. I knew my hometown would be more dog-friendly. So that’s what happend.. I flew the dogs to the Netherlands and I can’t imagine my life without either one of them. People actually ask me frequently if they’re brothers. What I tell them? Of course they are brothers, but then adopted ones.

Do you appreciate what you have?

Well consciously thinking about appreciating what you have is also scary. Why? Now it makes me think about losing what I have all the time too. It might sound familiar or weird, but I am constantly scared to lose the people I care about. And that’s something else you need to learn to deal with.

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My grandmother is eighty-five years old and she is awesome, but she was also under the weather lately. She had the weirdest pains and no doctor figured out what she had. Finally two weeks later they found out she had tears in her bones in her back. Quite a shock and apparently due to arthrosis. I know my grandmother doesn’t have the eternal life and that she is quite of age, but still.. she is my grandmother. And whomever it is, you never want to lose someone you love.

Growing up I remember my mom telling me that she wished she would’ve had more time with her grandparents. Her saying that got stuck in my mind and drove me to do things in a different way. Well, maybe a precautionary way. I figured that I should enjoy my loved ones, such as my grandparents, as much as possible. In this way I could never think ‘I should’ve spent more time with them’ or ‘I wish I told them that I loved them more’.

My family and friends might think I’m naturally a hugger or just crazy about telling them I love them, all the time. But honestly it is also because I’m scared and I want to appreciate the time I have with them. So yes, I hug them a lot, maybe up to the point that it gets annoying. I know guys, sorry about that, but I can’t help myself.

You might wonder how did I live so far apart from my family for years? Missing them was the hardest part, but since I have a great connection with them, I could do it. I talked to my parents, grandparents and friends all the time. I also tried to go back home every three to four months. Plus my family and my best friends also came to see me regularly.

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Someone once told me in Spain that I couldn’t be close to my family if I was living so far away. What?! No way, because I am close them I knew they would support me no matter what. And with the technology nowadays it is so much easier to stay in touch. I must admit though that it feels a lot better living in the same city again. Now I can just hop on my bicycle and go visit anyone I want.

What I’ve also learned from spending years apart from family, is that I appreciate them even more. Better said I appreciate the time I’m with them more. I enjoy the fact that I can spontaneously decide to go for a coffee with my mom, visit my father, go to the movies with my cousin or have a chat with my aunt.

So in case you’re not sure if you appreciate the people around you enough, you can do what I did. Just to warn you, don’t take it to an extreme. So, I like I did. Now I have to learn not to be stressing out about not having enough time with them. Wether it’s your family or friends that you want to spend time with, enjoy it to the fullest. Because you never know what happens next. Do what you think is right and live with a heart filled with love. And for the sake of it, I’ll just keep on giving extra hugs.

Surprise, Surprise

Since I was a little girl I loved unexpected trips, gifts and visits. I also liked doing little things for my friends and family. Just a little ‘surprise’ to make them happy. My mom though was a hard one to surprise. She always figured everything out. So, for mothers day one year I decided to give her a plant. But I had to hide it from her, so I stuck it underneath my bed. You might guess what happend.. My mom obviously knew about the plant and the poor thing didn’t survive.

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Those little surprises or acts of kindness don’t need a whole lot of processing. They just give you instant joy. But some unexpected events do need a bit more time to grasp. Imagine for example that you are twenty-six years old and have an older brother. Becoming an aunt or uncle is something you can expect, right? So that part already happend in my case. What I didn’t expect was the next news..

It was New Years Eve and about to become 2017. I was sitting at home in my apartment in Spain. Are you already wondering what’s happening next? I got a call from my father and he said: ‘I have to tell you something.’ First I got scared. Please don’t let it be bad news. Then I realized that nobody would give bad news on New Years Eve. I think I was quiet for a few seconds after hearing what followed. ‘You’re going to be a big sister.’ Say what? ‘ Oh and there’s more.’ There’s more? What do you mean there’s more? Twins?

So, I definitely didn’t see that one coming. On my wish list or ‘expected to be happening-list’ for 2017 wasn’t becoming a big sister. I mean killing a plant accidentally was an easier surprise to process. I must admit that I was a bit shocked at first hearing about the twins. After dealing with that for a second, I was thrilled. Babies are such a joy and I’d never been a big sister. My baby brother and sister are a handful, literally, but still a very happy surprise. And if you’re wondering how it is biologically possible. Yes we share the same father, not the same mother.

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I do think I will keep it to the small surprises for now. Any big and to me ‘unexpected’ events can wait until next year. The little things can keep on coming. This week for example I had an amazing surprise in my mailbox. My favorite flowers, little pink roses, were sent to me. That present made me smile for the whole night. It still does actually. At work I got to surprise someone too with a goodbye-cake I made. And the giving part makes me smile just as much.

What I’ve learned from all of this? Most surprises are good surprises. Sometimes you just need a bit more time to understand it all. And when you do, you can feel the happiness. In the meantime I’ll enjoy all those little thoughtful gestures happening around me. I will also dress real nice, every day. You know, just in case, somebody does throw me a surprise party.

Feeling like a butterfly?

I think that most of us probably at some point have the feeling that life is passing by. Well not just passing, racing by. You want to do so many things and there is so little time. When I was little my mom often told me that it seemed I wanted to live ten lives instead of one.

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I think that most of us probably at some point have the feeling that life is passing by. Well not just passing, racing by. You want to do so many things and there is so little time. As a child my mom often told me that it seemed I wanted to live ten lives instead of one.

And it might be true. I liked doing many things and having many hobbies. I mean, I don’t want to waste my time, right? But since I couldn’t do literally everything at the same time, my mom had to slow me down. I was a natural butterfly and needed to learn to be a snail at times.. Well maybe not a snail..anyway I needed to learn to take it slow sometimes. One thing had a time.

Sometimes it’s also about making choices and sometimes about being overly excited. When I was six I was in a dancing class, but I also wanted to be a ballerina, go horseback riding, play the piano and.. oh I wanted to be a writer too. You might guess it, but my parents didn’t allow me to take on everything. So, I sticked with the dancing class and a few years later I switched to a new hobby and when I was fifteen I finally went horseback riding. There is a time for everything, but not all at the same time.

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How does this compare to a butterfly? Well, these wonderful creatures don’t rest. I guess since they don’t live that long, they don’t want to stop. It was actually hard to capture them on camera properly. And it reminded me of what a teacher once told me..that I had to choose and focus on how I wanted to approach my writing. I was too much of a butterfly.

That advice stuck and now I try to apply it to all aspects of my life. Wait and wonder and don’t fly on to the next thing right away. Of course my mom has also tried to make that clear to me for years. Sometimes you need to hear it from a stranger to actually listen. And I still need to stop myself at times. To take a moment and rest and not run around filling my day with all the things I want to do.

So that is also why I try not to plan too much in my free time. I want to do so many things like see my family, meet my friends, go running, walk my dogs and watch a movie. And now I try to not be such a butterfly every day. It’s also too exhausting. Some days it’s ok if I run around and do everything on my daily bucket list. Other days I just want to relax and do tops one activity.

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I still love butterflies and I admire how they freely fly around filling their days. But I also think it’s ok to not worry about your life racing by. Since we don’t have time to do everything, we should enjoy the things we do even more. You know the famous quotes like ‘Live in the moment’ and ‘Be present’ and I add one more ‘Don’t worry about what you can’t do, be happy with what you are doing.’  Being free like a butterfly also means being free of time. Don’t let time trap you and make you feel anxious about it. At least that’s what I’m trying to do. 

Don´t worry, be happy

Since I was a little child I would worry about intense topics. It probably started when I was around five years old and I thought I could save the world from all its miseries. When I realized a few years later that I couldn’t do that on my own, I was devastated. Actually devastated. I remember crying realizing that just me wouldn’t do the trick. So yeah, I guess it’s in my nature to worry more than the average person should.

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In some ways worrying can also be a good thing. For example I always brought a second pair of gym clothes to school. I mean, what if my gym clothes would suddenly break or tear and I wouldn’t have anything to wear during gym class? A normal person might think, well then you skip gym class. An insanely overthinking type of person like me, always carried extra gym clothes. They actually came in handy and were used most of the classes. Well, not by me. Usually by a classmate who forgot their own clothes.

Over the years I did learn to relax a bit more and not worry so much. Carrying heavy handbags were actually starting to hurt my shoulder. Cause the bigger the bag the more stuff I would carry. You know, the stuff you might need, just in case.. In my handbag I learned to narrow it down to the highly essential objects. All the other things, like extra clothes or even shoes, should be left at home. No more extra weight. Because apart of the actual weight, the thinking of everything started to be a burden that was weighing on me mentally.

It was time for some yoga and meditation. No more worrying about what if this or that goes wrong. In the end what could really happen? What if it goes wrong? There is always a solution, nothing you can’t handle. Definitely nothing that could have been ‘saved’ by something in my handbag. You might laugh, but the yoga really did help. The breathing in and breathing out has some use to it. Even the dogs seemed to like my meditation pillow. I imagine total relaxation is what all minds need at times.

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It also helped to be strict with myself. Whenever I started to worry about something useless I stopped myself. Like actually say ‘stop’ to yourself. It might seem ridiculous, but whatever does the trick, right? And if you do that often enough, suddenly you notice you don’t worry about those silly things anymore. You don’t need an extra pair of shoes, sweater, scarf, gym clothes or whatever in your bag. Also you don’t need to check if the lights are out ten times before leaving the house. Or if you really closed the bedroom window.

The last hurdle to tackle is to not worry in my sleep. In my sleep? Yeah, that’s exactly what I mean. During your sleep you dream to process everything that happens during the day. Well, I learned a lot of people don’t remember their dreams or don’t dream at all. I dream every night and up to five dreams a night. During college I would actually solve issues I was studying for in my dream. I would wake up with the answer that I needed for a paper or a test I had to take. Sounds exhausting.. I know.. it was useful, but exhausting.

So now I try to use my yoga and meditation also before going to sleep. I haven’t found the key answer for the dreaming issue yet, but one step at a time. At least I tackled the continuously worrying throughout the day problem. And I must say, I am a lot happier and I literally feel a lot lighter without the overthinking things. Because a wise man once said: ‘Don’t worry, be happy’. I’ll just try to follow that philosophy.

When you have a bad week…

Now you might think.. what’s a ‘recovery plan’? Is this girl crazy? Let me explain. It’s my own personalized plan to get out of that bad funk I’m in. What about these three ingredients? Well here they are:

  1. Me-time: I need some time to pamper myself, relax, think, analyze, exercise and chill on the couch.
  2. Family: this one was difficult living far away, but now that I have my family close, this one is the best. Just some time to be surrounded by the people who love you no matter what.
  3. Friends: and last but definitely not least I need my friends. My friends are the best to give me perspective and when we’re done with that, they make me laugh. 

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And what happened last time I had a bad week? On the first day I had a huge discussion with someone I cared about and I saw no way how to solve it. On the second day, after sleeping quite decent and that’s actually exceptional for me, I had a slower start. When getting my bicycle I started putting the lock on.. instead of getting the bike out of the shed.. I know not a huge shocker, but I’m a morning person and it just indicates how my mind was not there.

On the third day the discussion continued and it was clear that there was no happy outcome. It was solved, but not the way I hoped. Luckily ingredient number two came to the rescue, my mom. I came home to some beautiful flowers left on my kitchen table with a note from my mom. That softened the blow just a bit.

Sometimes it might be hard to get out of bed when you’re feeling low and on the fourth day even my dogs were affected. Ok, my doggy Igor was affected and yes he’s always lazy, but on this day I had to convince him to go for a walk. His laziness did help me, cause it definitely made me laugh how he was struggling to get out of bed. Usually during a ‘bad’ week going to work is also the last thing on your mind. However the friendly barista at the office helped me once again with a positive start of my day. The extra cookie I got, added just the bit of sweetness I craved for.

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I think the main point to remember when you’re down is that there are good things happening too. Sometimes it’s harder to notice them or you need an extra dose of goodness, but it is there. That’s why I have my ‘recovery plan’ in place. During my bad moments I need some extra tender, love and care. And when I’m feeling on top I can give some extra to someone else in need. That’s how we can all work together and maybe make things just a bit less sour.

My kind of time

Well in other words ‘mañana mañana’ means ‘I’ll see whenever I feel like doing that’. Another typical ‘rule’  in Spain is also that it’s ok to arrive late. Of course this is stereotyping, but I must say I live up to the stereotype.

I used to be great at planning my free time. Better said, I loved planning my free time. There was always something to do and I was always on time. Very Dutch of me.. That all changed when I arrived in Spain. You might wonder why? Well, because one needs to adapt itself to a new situation. And no, not everyone in Spain arrives late, but my friends definitely did.

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So what happened in the beginning? I arrived on time and at the agreed location. Twenty minutes later I was still standing there, waiting. And how much I liked planning my free time, I hated waiting. Five minutes was acceptable, but ten minutes got annoying, imagine twenty. I had one simple solution, arrive late myself. I must tell you, that was the perfect solution. From then on I arrived between ten and fifteen minutes late and sometimes I still had to wait for my friends.

After being ‘fully’ adapted to the Spanish lifestyle I decided to go back to the Netherlands. This caused a new problem. I arrived late, for everything, well except for work of course. And trust me, Dutch people don’t like waiting and they’re always on time. Hmm.. that sounds familiar. Wasn’t I like that before?

I realized I had to think of a new solution for the new me. I just got so used to saying ‘Yeah, sure I’m on my way’ which actually meant ‘I’m almost done and I’ll leave in about ten minutes’. I knew that I wasn’t going to make my Dutch friends and family happy arriving late all the time. Even though I think they secretly count on it.. But since I don’t want to be mean I have to fool myself. I’ll tell myself I’m meeting whoever about fifteen minutes earlier than I actually will. Unfortunately that doesn’t always work, because I’ll suddenly need ten minutes more to get ready. No clue what for actually.

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But what do I prefer? Being on time and possibly waiting or arriving late? For sure, the last one and why? Because being in a hurry to arrive on time stresses me out. It always has and I’m pretty sure it always will. It is a hard nut to crack actually, because if I’m running really late, I’ll still stress out. I don’t want other people to be waiting for me either, that would be selfish. I guess that as long as I stay within my acceptable fifteen minutes late, it’s ok. It’s my own buffer zone. And that little trick I learned from my friends in Spain.

Of course for the really important appointments I’ll be on time. I’m even wearing a watch again and I try to follow my agenda. But just in case, count on me arriving a bit late. I, on the other hand will do my best to be punctual. Perhaps after spending four and half years in the Netherlands again, I’ll be like the old me.. I wouldn’t hold my breath though, what if I need more time?

Keep on running..!

You might wonder now.. why would you do that? I wasn’t sure at first, but let’s start at the beginning. A few months ago I decided it was time to get in shape and hit the gym. Before making this decision I was sure I could do that all by myself at home. I was going to watch some ‘Billy’s Bootcamp’ videos and get in shape, just like that. Actually, those videos really work. When I was motivated and disciplined enough to use them a few years back, it did work. I don’t know if got a bit lazier now or if I needed more social contact, but I definitely wasn’t motivated now.

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So, it was time for the gym. My coach at the gym gave me a whole workout schedule that I could easily follow. My active lifestyle had begun. I was hitting the gym about three times a week, but it wasn’t enough. Next to the exercises with weights, I had to start doing cardio. At first it was Zumba class and then I switched over to my greatest fear. The treadmill. I only liked to power walk on the treadmill. Outside I only liked to power walk too. And that´s what I did, power walking all the way.

However.. you might guess this, but I still wasn’t happy with the results. Another factor that contributed to my dissatisfaction is that I felt I was neglecting my dogs. I know, it might be overreacting, but I didn’t like leaving them alone so much. I thought maybe more power walking outside then? When I told my boyfriend about this, he just laughed at me. Apparently running was more effective. Ah no, really? I have to run? That was my reaction to that. But what did I have to lose? Apart from the weight that I wasn’t losing.

It was time to face my fears, for real this time. I started running.. on the treadmill. To my surprise it was so much easier than I remembered. I can run? That’s not possible or is it? After a little while I could run 10 minutes at a time. What an accomplishment right. This had to be tested outside, with my dogs of course.

So, one day I put on my sporting gear and got my dogs ready. Obviously I had to give them a little pep-talk first. After all this would be a first for them too. Not the running part, but the running with me part. They seemed a bit surprised, but then it was me who was surprised. I liked it! Never thought I would see the day that I would like running. And again it was so much easier than I thought it would be. I guess prepping in the gym for a few months did help.

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And now I am one of those people who can run. Ok, I will not exaggerate. At the moment I can run 3,5 kilometers. Please don’t laugh, this is huge for me. But, since I won’t stop, I will keep on improving. Hopefully soon it will 5 kilometers, then 7 and who knows where I’ll end up. I just have one more thing to say. Don’t knock it before you try it. Or before you try it again. So keep on running!