Monday, 12 August 2013

An anniversary and a new detour within the detour

On a day like today, 11 years ago, I arrived in Europe for my "Living in Europe" experience. It was supposed to only last a couple of years (or until I would run out of money) Ended up continuing until today; transforming itself along the way. Eleven years ago I did not know, of course, that I would en up meeting (and later marrying) Mr M, or having Bibu and Pingu (yes, dear reader, little after 37 plus weeks I did bring our little baby to the world, but that's another story), finding a job, then another, and making lots of friends on the side. Belgium became my place in the world and it's definitely the place I miss when I want to "go home".

I started this blog around the time Bibu was 1 year old and Mr M got a job offer in the land of the rising sun, in Tokyo. I had never envisaged moving to exotic Belgium and  marrying a local, so you would imagine how crazy and unique it felt when we packed up and went to live, albeit for two years, on the other side of the world, quite literally, from Argentina, where I'm originally from.

After the Japan experience, we returned to our lives and jobs in Belgium and got on with life, then went through a very difficult pregnancy which thankfully had a happy ending in the shape of Pingu, who is now 13 months. After his birth I went into maternity leave and decided I would make the most of it and enjoy it as much as possible, so I took the maximum legal, which in Belgium is about 7 months.

And then, after months of speculation, comings and goings, in April this year, when I was about to return to the office, I got the confirmation that I was being made redundant in a collective dismissal process, due to restructuring, blah, blah, blah.

The fact that I was kind of expecting it and that I was not that happy at work did indeed soften the blow. In fact, it did not feel as a blow at all. Financially, thank God, we are not at a place yet where losing one income would send us into the abyss or anything. Plus, my parents were about to arrive for a 6 week visit and the summer holidays were getting close, so I have to say, bar the one week where I had to negotiate my leaving package, it was a stress-free period.

Well, I have to report that after the grandparents visit and the summer holidays in Spain came and went, the panic feeling has started to seep in. I have had a  few episodes of insomnia where I toss and turn for 2 hours thinking non stop about the job situation and when am I going to get a new job, should I go back to full time or try part-time? Or should I just try becoming an independent?

Now, I've been in this situation before and I know it's not the end. In fact, it may very well be the beginning of something much, much better. I would probably never have left Argentina and pursued my European dream, were it not for being made redundant all those years ago.

But now, I don"t know if it's because I am older and have two kids, a husband and debts, or simply because I forgot how I felt in 2002 when I decided to take all my life savings and take a plane (and a train) to Antwerp, Belgium, but I feel very chicken. I'm applying to jobs and have been to a couple of interviews already. Not that I expect to land the first job I apply to, but I cannot help feeling too old and overqualified for some things and not enough for others. I read job descriptions and it seems they're looking for Einstein, Steve Jobs and Wonder Woman rolled into one. Do these people actually exist?

Anyway, after over a year of not blogging, and this anniversary of sorts coming along, I realised that life does not have one but many detours. You choose some of them, but mostly is what life is about. The key, as usual, is what to do about it.

And I decided that, yes, I can take another turn in my detour. I'm still scared and chickeny, but I'm a coward who runs forward. So here I go.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Plan? What plan?

I had a post lined up talking about ethe uselessness of maternity-wear in the last few weeks of pregnancy, as in "nothing fits anymore unless it's a tent we're talking about". Had it almost ready to post when everything went out the window.

Just over two weeks ago, Mr M and I went out for a romantic dinner to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary. Bibu stayed with the Belgian grandparents for the night, so we could have some time for the two of us. Nice restaurant, nice food, followed by a nice breakfast the morning after at our usual Sunday morning cafe. At one point, though, I started to have pain which immediatelly reminded me of the kind of pains I had before leaving to the hospital to have Bibu, so we finished our croissants in a hurry and we went to the hospital, just to be sure it wasn't the real thing coming already.

Well, it WAS the real thing. I was examined by the nurse and told I was 3cm dilated and the monitoring confirmed I was having regular (and rather painful) contractions. Being not even 35 weeks pregnant was not ideal, so they started treatment to stop the labour process. Luckily it worked, but it meant I had to stay in hospital for 4 days and was ordered bedrest for the following two weeks, until week 37 (when all babies are considered "full term").

So, I have been resting at home ever since....... Sure, the first few days after coming back from hospital were nice, but I am now well and trully bored and looking forward to the whole thing being over. I know that every day that I manage to keep our little Penguin inside is good, but I feel tired of being tired, have no energy whatsoever, everything hurts, I can barely sleep or barely find a position I can sleep in. Also, I am very irritable (more than usual) and feel sad, nervous, bored........ Did I mention I was bored already?

I've watched some movies and read a couple of books, but nothing beats the feeling that I have been pregnant for a lifetime, and that my body has been taken away from me....... I know feeling all this is normal, and obviously now we're very close to the date when Penguin will actually come out from hidding, but it is really hard. That, plus starting to think about the whole birth process........It was not an easy affair with Bibu and, although I am hopping for a better performance second time around, I am bracing myself for another long thing.

Anyway, my parents are here since a few days and that helps. They get on my nerves a bit, but it has always been like that, but they try to do their best and are certainly giving me a big helping hand with Bibu, who deserves a fun summer too and not one where his mum cannot do anything as is scotched to the sofa.

Tomorrow I will be 37 weeks pregnant, have stopped the medication already, so things should progress soon, I guess. Next post will surely be a post-birth one. I just needed to rant a bit.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Here we go again

So, last year I posted a blog entitled 2011 starts on the 10 of January. This year, judging by the frequency of my posting, clearly starts on the 31st of May.

In fact, now that I think of it, it’s not such a bad idea to black out the autumn/ winter months, like they never existed, and start the year when spring is definitely becoming summer. It’s not that nothing happened in these 7 months since my last post. On the contrary, a lot has happened, but big parts of it I’d rather leave out of this blog.

Since my last post in November 2011, there were happy times, learning that after our second IVF attempt I was pregnant, and with twins. This was quickly followed by extremely sad times, as we lost one of the babies in the process. As I said before, I will not go into the details, but let’s just say that end of the year did not bring me the usual feeling of starting with a blank sheet, a brand new year full of promise round the corner. It was a very bittersweet affair, only made bearable by spending New Year’s Eve surrounded by friends, Mr M and Bibu. They were a saving force, and I feel so grateful for having them in my life.

January and February were a few tough months. They now seem like a blur, but I think of it sometimes and they were definitely some of the toughest weeks of my life. Little by little, though, the light started to shine at the end of the seemingly endless tunnel and worry and grief started giving space for hope, for the little boy that is growing inside me and who will be here in a few more weeks (I’m now 32 weeks pregnant)

Yes, it’s a another boy! I would have been happy either way, but I always pictured myself more as a mother of boys than girls. Girls are super cute and delicate, but I find them a bit alien. I am quite happy with a house full of boys. Bibu is very happy and proud of becoming the “big brother” and he promises he will help take care of the baby. Let’s see when Penguin (as we call our little bundle) is out of the belly and jealousy kicks in, but so far is all love and kisses in my belly from Bibu.

Taking about Bibu, he has grown so big! He just turned 4 last week and he’s going through a growth spurt, as he looks so tall and definitely not baby-like anymore. He’s a true boy, full of energy and with a special talent for making holes on his trousers’ knees. He has his character too and is super expressive. He reminds me of somebody, hahaha…..

Mr M is a sweetie, as ever. I have probably repeated this a few times in this blog, but I am so happy he’s in my life. We have gone through extremely difficult times together this year and we faced the odds together, as a team. Love is in the big things and in the small things, like offering to move my car at 7 in the morning to a place where I can actually park. That’s love!

Anyway, all this to say, “I’m back”. I recently got to re-read my old posts and thought of giving this blog another chance. Watch this space!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

It's all on the perspective

So, what a lousy week. Last Sunday I managed to catch the cold/ throat and ear infection that Bibu enjoyed during the Toussaint school holidays. So feeling miserable was the order of the week, coupled with the fact that i had a long winded meeting on Monday and Tuesday that I could not NOT attend and the fact that my boss was on holidays for three weeks. She's in the Bahamas now, by the way. Yeah, I could really hate her but she's a very cool boss, so no.

So have been feeling crap all week. Friday was a public holiday and I spent it at home doing pretty much nothing. Felt much better for it and I am not decidedly on the mend, albeit with a very stuffed nose and cracked lips for breathing through my mouth all the time. The house is tissue central.

This cold situation is coupled with another health-related item that is going on and all that has really affected me. It's funny how we always notice how good it is to be healthy when you have been feeling miserable for a while. And, it's only a cold, but it does enough to tint everything around you with a dark cloud layer. Or maybe it's just me.

For the first time since I got back to work just over a couple of months ago, last week I really did not feel like doing anything at all. Not going to work, not cooking, not answering calls from friends, nada. I have also been sleeping very badly for the last few weeks. I am super tired, but then lie in bed for hours thinking about all the things that could go wrong, all the things I am not good at, etc.

And then I watched a couple of documentaries on TV that got me thinking. the first one was a documentary on Flemish TV on a journalist visiting present-day Somalia and showing how life equals to pretty much nothing there, people roaming the destroyed streets of Mogadishu and living in the rubble, risking their lives with every step. Definitely something that we are not very often confronted with. As people living in the "first world" (whatever that might mean) we have a vague idea that there are people in least fortunate countries living in war, poverty and hunger. But it's all so theoretical, so far removed from us. It doesn't stop us from spending money on things we don't need or in wasting things life food and water, which might mean life or death to others.

The second one, on the famous French ENVOYE SPECIAL programme, was a report on the food waste generated by supermarkets, how in most cases all things which are deemed not for sale are thrown into the garbage bin. And how increasing numbers of people are living off this "garbage" which is still in quite good condition. I used to think that opening garbage bags to feed yourself was the lowest you could go and that it was something you would only see in underdeveloped countries, but in fact, the reality is more about how we as a society are buying too much, then throwing away perfectly OK food.

So I been thinking about perspectives. Yes, I was feeling like crap this past week, miserable and anxious about a few things that are going on in my life today, but compared to these things, it's nothing. My life is not perfect by no means, but I realised how privileged I am in the life I lead, how I can have anything I need and lots of things I don't actually need, with astounding ease. Once again I was focusing on the negative and forgeting about the positive: the great things that I have in the shape of a family that I love and that loves me, Bibu, Mr M, my friends, a job, a house.......... the list could go on a on.

Anyway, now re-reading this post seems like a badly written new age thing, but it's just this small realisation that most of us are really spoilt for choice. We have too much, we don't value what we have and we worry too much about stupid things.

The writer of one of the blogs I follow, who is going through an unbelievably sad family time, but with awe-inspiring humanity and resilience, had one of the best closing lines on a post today. I am stealing it now with pride:

"Don't go to bed angry with anyone tonight. Big hugs all around"

I"ll second that!

Have a great week, whoever you are who's reading this.

Monday, 3 October 2011

D-day + 1 month

How did this happen?

Well, yes, D-day came and went, and here I am, one month later and nothing to show for it?

Yep, I am busy-busy-busy. Work is gathering pace. Immediately I was thrown into a one cool project that was launched a couple of weeks after returning and that has kept me, and continues to keep me, rather busy; Days at the office seem to fly by, which is a good sign, I think. Bored I am not.

And, I have been DRIVING for over one month already. The first few days I was actually more worried about the driving to and from the office that of going back to work in itself. And although the pararlel parking bit is still not my forte and I can only manage it in about 5 to 6 movements as oposed to the official 3, I can honestly say that I am begining to enjoy it. Sitting in the traffic jams is not nice, but from everything I take a lesson.

This afternoon, for example, as there was already a long queue in the street next to my office in the direction I usually take, so I decided to try a new way home. It was quite good, albeit a bit nerve-wracking at times, as I was not familiar with the turning areas, etc. At one point I did indeed turn on the wrong street, too early, and had to make a detour and lost a few minutes returning to the avenue where I was supposed to be. But, hey, it's another feather on my bow.

All practice is good, before I sit for the practical exam sometime in November (aggggg, trying not to think about it too much)

Other than the working and the driving, another novelty of this past month is how tired I am. It's running from home to work to Bibu's school to pick him up, back to home the whole day. I can tell you, by 10pm I am ready to go to sleep.............and do it all over the next day, starting at 6:30.

But hey, cannot complain to much, really. The transition has been quite smooth and slowly the pieces of the puzzle are coming together.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

D-day minus 2

In two days............ I'm going back to work! Yep, it's been 28 months of a sort of 'sabbatical' during which I moved with Bibu and Mr M to Tokyo and experienced the expat-wife life in all it's Asian glory. There was also that earth-moving thingy that happened back in March this year, but let's not spoil the memories.

I guess, however, that come Thursday, the one thing I will be asked over and over at the office will be 'how was living through an earthquake'. But well, cannot complain. The hype of me returning to the office will probably wither out after a few days. Will make sure I milk the prodigal daughter thing as much as I can. I am even considering baking some apple and cinnamon muffins, see? They will love me, hahaha.........

September 1st will also mark the return to school for Bibu. I have been mentioning this event to him a few times over the last few days, along with the fact that from now on I will also work. I wonder how it would be like. Hopefully the change to longer days will not be too tough on him. We'll see.

In the countdown to the D Day, things are pretty tame at home. Weather is Belgian crapitude at its best, cold as winter and grey, grey, grey............. Not much going on except trips to the supermarket intertwined with stops in the park, at the pet shop, at the toy shop, at the book shop............. and so on. Plus long indulgent afternoon naps. All that will change soon, so might as well enjoy it, right?

Ta-dah for now !

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Easy Sunday in Brussels

So, yes, we're back in Brussels. In fact, we've been back for over three months, writing in my blog not being an obvious priority, obviously.

Anyway, been back, my parents came in late April to visit and stayed for over 5 weeks. Bibu had his first stint at a Belgian pre-school during June. I enrolled and completed a 20-hour driving course at a very cool driving school. Visited the Antwerpen Zoo and Planckendael about 4657313644360 times already this summer. Went an incredible three times to the movies (OK, one was to watch Cars 2 with Bibu, so that probably doesn't count) and even managed to meet up regularly with friends.

Today, in view of the totally impredictable and now frankly crazy weather we are having in good old Brussels, I arranged to meet up for brunch with my boss (who's also a friend). She's not from Brussels, so I decided to show her the bringht lights of the city (ha-ha) and we went to this place in Brugman square. It has a terrace where one a sunny day you almost need to fight with your teeth to get a table. But today, we had a good sense to look for a place inside, which quickly became more crowded than outside. Anyway, had a nice chat on all things work and gossip, dusted with a bit of our personal lives quests and challenges. It was really nice. After brunch, emboldened by the few rays of sunshine coming through, we went for a little walk in the nearby park Tenbosh, which is one of my favourite parks in Brussels.

After that, I arrived home to a very silent house. Bibu and Mr M were sleeping the siesta very sweetly, so I let them be. I retired to tackle more earthly matters, like the Kilimanjaro of ironing that has been waiting for me for over two weeks.

And so, that was my Sunday. Nothing too earth-shattering, but a nice girly chat and some plain domesticity. Sometimes, it's all one needs.