Saturday, 23 May 2015

MAIN EVENT of the YEAR coming up!

I'm meant to be practising for my piano exam on Wednesday. I have given up. Babes has gone off for the weekend with Jack, and he has left me my two littlest ones. Even when they are a whole floor and several closed doors removed from me, they cannot be quiet and leave me for a minute. Instead of asking them every five minutes to go away and let me concentrate on the music, I thought I would just let them have a good Saturday. They are not going to leave me alone anyway. This way we are all happier.

And we are. Charlie is doing a jigsaw and making up songs right next to the piano, and Marie has just taken off her rollerblades to come and tell me she is hungry... That huge Caesar salad I made for our late lunch was obviously not enough to last her all the way to whatever meal I will improvise next. (The Caesar salad, my favourite, was amazingly tasty - really, best meal I ever made: the eggs were the perfect one second away from still runny.) I'm going to get my knitting out soon.

I must think of a brilliant plan for tonight, so I can get Charlie in bed and asleep, and Marie comfortable with her pillow and duvet in the sofa, but with not too many foodstuffs so that I don't undo the healthy effects of that salad, before the MAIN EVENT of the YEAR which is EUROVISION! I may need a beer. Or a glass of that Chenin Blanc Babes left me. I looked in the TV guide, and all the European channels are showing THE AWESOMENESS. What none of the politicians can manage - European togetherness - a bunch of singers in sparkly clothes do every year. How hard can it be then? It's Marie's first time to stay up for it (I think she watched it taped last year), so proper mother-daughter bonding coming up! Who's excited? That would be me.

We have a long weekend in Belgium - another Catholic reason to have Monday off - and it's promising to be lovely. Tomorrow, we have breakfast and a walk in the park to see the rhododendrons bloom with one of my dearest friends. Monday we are planning a trip to a local-ish abbey to walk, and then to stick the children in the abbey playground while Babes and I celebrate his return with abbey cheese and abbey beer.

Have a good weekend yourselves, and enjoy Eurovision! (GO-O-O Belgium! GO-O-O Loïc!)

Friday, 22 May 2015

Marketing adultery

A Dutch Christian political party has decided to advertise on behalf of faithfulness in relationships. They are doing this in response to long-running adverts on radio and tv that promote infidelity. We get them in Belgium as well: a husky woman's voice asks 'Are you happily married? So am I...", and then follows the name of a website to find other married people to copulate with. I don't want to give them more airtime, but the name is too clever to keep from you: secondlove - clever, and devious.

You, my dear readers, know that I'd be the last to come at you with fundamentalist Christian teachings, but secretly I'm quite happy that they want to put some balance out there. To show that loyalty is at least an option. I would never say anyone should stay in an unhappy marriage. I would never blame anyone for splitting up. I would, however, like it if someone was fighting my corner if I want to keep my marriage going without either of us shagging anyone else.

They should choose different images for their moralistic campaign. One of them, a sad child with the text 'The price of adultery'? Not cool. There's no need to make anyone feel guilty. That's just below the belt. The best one they've come up with says 'Love... Your family.' I can just about handle that. I'd be happier if they made the family in the photo less obviously white and heterosexual.

I'm not sure if I want balance and free speech, or if I want the law to forbid anyone from putting silly ideas in my pure and innocent husband's mind. - Okay, okay, I want freedom, bla bla bla - you know I do - but I also want my man's thoughts unsullied. Luckily, I'm certain that he's too lovely and loyal to even consider the offer. Phew!

Tell me, because I don't know how this goes around the world: where you are, do you get adultery adverts on tv and radio, in the middle of the day? What do you think about this?

Thursday, 21 May 2015


The economic model underpinning this family is fundamentally detrimental to its social cohesion.

Or: it's not fair that I only get to see him when he's exhausted. It's not fair that he doesn't get to be here for swimming lessons, birthday parties, and shoe shopping. It's not fair that I don't know the colleagues he spends his days with. It's not fair that we used to have everything in common, and now we struggle to find words to meet in the middle.


Tuesday, 19 May 2015


Out on my run today, I discovered I was making plans for where I want to be by the time I turn forty. I wanted to be able to run 10k comfortably, have something published, play the piano to a higher standard, maybe polish up my Spanish a bit. It wasn't even planning consciously - it was what was going on in the back of my wandering mind. I could have been looking at the gorgeous flowers, the squirrel running up a tree, or the older runner coming towards me at a most impressive speed. Instead, my mind was making a list of all the ways I fall short, and should improve.

When I finally noticed what I was doing, I saw the ridiculousness of it all. There I was, running 4.5k happily and comfortably, in a beautiful park. I have three amazing children I get to take care of every day. I'm the fittest I've ever been, and the happiest, if you don't count the times when I had a baby in my belly, or one on my boob. I play music daily, sing with my choir every week, and I write when I feel the need to express myself.

This is it. This is what I have been improving myself for. I should allow myself a breather, a little pat on the back, or at least a pause on the 'faults scan' constantly running in the background of my brain. Life won't get much better than this, and, as a human in progress, I'm probably about done. From here on, I can change what I do, but it's a bit late to change what I am. It's time to accept what I've become, warts and all. (Hurray! I don't even have any literal warts! Plenty of metaphorical ones, but hey who doesn't?)

It's like this: I think I've studied easily 14 languages in my lifetime, if not more - always chasing the next one. I only have any useful knowledge left of, say, seven of them. Maybe six. Self-improvement only works up to a point. After that, the container is full. My container is full. I know all the languages I'm going to know. I've improved myself as much as I'm going to. I'm done.

I'm not saying I won't be curious any more, won't learn any more, won't want to find out, won't keep running further - only no longer with the aim of 'bettering' myself. I can learn for entertainment. For happiness. For keeping my brain going. Out of interest. I can run to be happy and fit. I have to let go of the idea that I'm not good enough; that after taking one more course, reading one more book, learning one more thing, running one more kilometer, I will measure up. There's nothing to measure. I quit my self-invented competition. I'm done.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Meandering thoughts on weight loss

I am finally, finally, finally losing some weight. It turns out the secret was: eating less. Fancy that. I never would have believed it. Now I'm in the right frame of mind, I can see that I used to eat unnecessary things every day. I used to eat the pieces I cut off the sides of the children's sandwiches when I made them fit to their lunch boxes. I used to have a chocolate with my tea. I used to eat the cakes my (darling) feeder of a husband left when he went to work. I used to have a bit of a snack with the children in the afternoon, and I used to have a glass of wine with my evening meal. All of these things I've cut out. I've stopped having seconds. I've cut breakfast and lunch in half. When we go out, I offer to drive home so I won't drink the calories either. I'm hungry only half the time. (Sigh.)

I still have the odd piece of cake when it's fresh out of the oven. (That darling feeder of a husband deserves that much.) I still have a few (lower fat) crisps and a beer sometimes, when my lunch was at twelve, and I have to wait for my dinner until after seven. It's torture to cook for an hour, being around the food, without a little something for me. I tried raw vegetables and sparkling water, but then I remembered that I don't want to squander this life on not living it.

I use a gem I was taught in mindfulness: The Second Plate is Never as Good. I eat everything I like, and I try to mindfully enjoy the first bites, so I won't be tempted to mindlessly eat more. It works a lot of the time. Not always for beer or wine. The second really is as good. On my (increasingly less frequent) weaker-willed days, I tell myself the third is never as good as the second.

(I make it sound like I was obese and I've halved my weight - we're talking about eight pounds or thereabouts. (Isn't that cunning: I always gain weight in kilos, but I lose it in pounds. It's the benefit of having two cultures: I can pick and choose my measures to suit my vanity.))

All this has made me wonder - how much food do I really need to survive? I've noticed my stomach has been shrinking - I can't physically eat as much as I used to. I feel full quicker. I suspect I should eat a little more during the day than I am doing right now. Lunch some days ends up being an apple and an orange. I don't know - is that okay? I went to a nutritionist once, when I was having trouble with infections in my guts, and she said I should eat avocados. When I saw her the next time, she was in despair because I had eaten a bowl of guacamole and a whole bag of tortillas each day. I stopped going to see her when she told me not to have the tortillas. Who eats only guacamole?

I suppose it makes a difference how much you move. I eat a little more when I'm about to go for a run, or when I'm on my feet with the children all day. I do too many things that require me to sit down: write, play the piano, knit. If I was still teaching, I'm sure I'd burn off a bag of tortillas each day. I'm trying a bodyweight training app I got for my iPad to move more and strengthen my core, but each time I have a session, I am sore with what I'm sure is impending stomach cancer for a week. It keeps me up at night: is this the beginning of my end, or have I just overdone it on the stomach crunches and planks?

(I can hear my inner housewife muttering into my ear: 'If you ever did any housework, you'd be fine. Do some laundry. Get the duster out. Get off your lazy butt. Writing about it won't help. You have a cleaner do all the dirty work for you, and then you complain about your lardy arse.' My inner housewife is a charmer.)

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Happy day

The prime minister of our neighbouring country, Luxemburg, has just married his male partner, who is a Belgian, just like me. Today I love the way our world is changing for the better.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Where I run

After encouragement from Ms. Moon, here's some photos of where I run. I love this place very dearly, not in the least because of this:

See that? No dogs or bikes allowed. Because that is how antisocial I am. I prefer my run without two-wheelers or dog poo to tread in. I have never been jumped by a rottweiler or had my leg ridden by a chihuahua there. Bliss! (I think I just lost half my readers there. Tough potatoes.) (Also no snakes, alligators, vultures, or giant spiders. Very unlike Ms. Moon's walks.)

The start of my run has these to distract me:

and I need distraction, until I finally get to my one kilometer bench. Before that, I'm wondering why the fuck am I out here, about to have a heart attack, and surely there are easier ways to kill myself. After the 1k bench, I'm happily coasting along, listening to music, loving being out and in my park, breathing in deeply - just now I'm breathing mostly yellow rhododendron, as they are in bloom all over (see further down). Next week, I will be breathing purple rhododendron.

1k bench on the right,
left and right windy bits
This is my favourite part of the run. Partly because I will finally find my 'groove' and feel happy, and partly because the path winds through the trees here in the most delightful way.

Ha! Flowers, just because I can:

2k roundabout:

The first time I ran the 2k roundabout 'the far way around' marked the day I first saw myself as 'a runner'.

The yellow rhododendron in bloom:

Forest road. They like to plant trees in neat rows around here:

Amazing red tree, 3k bench in the distance:

Rabbits basking in the sun:

Cow with five crows on its back:

Purple rhododendrons will be everywhere soon. Right now, most of them are still pure potential:

 Rabbit running away from scary camera woman:

End of run:

It was funny. I quite liked being out, taking 530(!) photos. (You thought that was a lot of photos? Just think how bad that could have been.) However, I could not switch my brain off, and felt like I was where I should be exercising, but instead I'm sitting on my knees in front of a patch of pretty flowers. I kept being disappointed that I saw no deer or squirrels to take a photo of. It didn't take me long to realise that I should have been running - then my mind can't stray too far, and I feel like I'm making the most of my time outside the house. Still, interesting experiment, and I may repeat it, on non running days, until I learn to keep my mind stiller and with the images.