Daily Walk Post

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As Hamish and I did our almost daily walk around Margit Island today, I was thinking about how I had not written a post in awhile. From that point on, I pondered this post.

First I thought about some of the things that had been happening lately and what I had been doing. One of the big things was a trip home in May. It was a good and difficult trip home. I was going back to see my family for the first time after the tragedy of the accident and my mom’s funeral. I felt a strong desire to go home but I wasn’t sure for what exactly. But as I have found out, in grief, there isn’t always a way to explain things. So I picked a time when my brother would be home as well so the whole family would be together and went. It was hard to be home because my family and I, we are all still very raw and grieving. Despite the tragedy, the same joys, but also the same tensions still exist and are even somewhat amplified due to the raw emotions. It was also very good to be a part of being home again. There is something comforting about it.

While I was home, we went through all my mom’s belongings, clothes, jewellery, shoes, etc. My sisters, my dad, and I sorted, removed, kept, and cried. It was stressful but also healing. There is healing in being able to let go. We kept a few things that we each felt were special or important. There is sadness but also healing in remembering Mom in her favourite sweater or necklace. It felt good to be close to her that way. But also be able to let her go in a small way, knowing she wouldn’t need those things anymore because she is rejoicing in heaven.

While I was home, there was a wonderful trip to Niagara Falls with some amazing friends. There were six of us. We ate and drank, we laughed and cried, we played and had lots of fun! It was both light hearted and deep. It is amazing to be together with friends who know me and who I know so well.

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Then it was time to go home again. Back to my husband and my puppy. To get back on a plane again and do the jet lag all over again. I was not eager to do that but I was eager to get home. To be with my family and see my Budapest “family” and friends. And to stop travelling for a little while.

Although I am very thankful that, as humans, we have the ability to fly on airplanes. I appreciate that I can live far away from my home and still be able to go there occasionally. But after so many years of flying long flights and jet lag, I hope to avoid travelling on a plane for awhile. If I could avoid it for at least the next 6-12 months that would be amazing! It would also be weird but I think I would just be so glad.

Since being back home for the past month, I have been enjoying the quietness and peace of my daily life. I walk our puppy and then I come home and I clean the house and I make dinner. And I love it! Last night, Niall came home late from an event he had, and I had been home most of the day. By about 4 or 5pm, I felt like I had done everything that I needed to do that day and I almost felt bored! It was a strange but kind of nice feeling. I usually have so many things to do that I never feel bored! I don’t think I will always want to feel bored but for that moment it was okay.

Summer is coming and we have a mostly quiet summer ahead. We both have some work to do on courses we are taking. We will spend some time vacationing in nearby Croatia. We will have a few visitors to Budapest throughout the summer. And we will celebrate our first wedding anniversary. Every day I am thankful for our amazing, wonderful wedding that we had last summer. And every day I am thankful that it is done. I am thankful that I don’t have to do wedding planning and think about avoiding tan lines. I am thankful that I feel such peace and relaxation and I pray it will continue throughout the summer!

 

Slowing Down

I feel like a reset button was pressed in my life just over two months ago and now nothing will ever quite be the same. The accident, now a defining point in life, was a terrible shock for us. The loss of my mom is always there. I think about it more on some days than on others. Sometimes, I will all of sudden be reminded that she is gone. It takes a minute to fully realize it because it still doesn’t seem real.

Some things just don’t seem important anymore. It is hard to care about the little things.  It has been difficult to figure out what to write on this blog. How do I put anything into words anymore? At first it was really hard to interact with other people, even close friends. What do I say? How can I articulate in a short conversation how terrible it has been? How can I also say that there is hope, despite the shock and chaos? Sometimes it was easier just to avoid talking about it.

The thoughts I have been having the past few days have been about slowing down my life. Because now it just doesn’t seem so important to live that fast-paced, always-on-the-go kind of life. It feels more important to make sure there is quality in my life and that there is time to enjoy.

Some of the practical things I have done to slow down:

1. I avoid making a to-do list. If I have to make a list of reminders, it is never more than the things I need to and can do the next day. If it isn’t something I can do soon, then it doesn’t go on on the list. If that thing is important, than I will remember it eventually.

2. It is okay to have nothing to do. This can be kind of hard when I have usually had a long to-do list! There was never any relief. There was always something hanging over my head. And I am a literal kind of person so as soon as it was on the to-do list then I had to do it. Now, without a to-do list, sometimes there are times when I can sit down and think about what I want to do next. Not something I have to get done, but something I can do because I want to.

3. I try to be careful with information overload. Between email, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and blogs I have access to a lot of information. There is a Facebook page for almost any topic that you might want to know about. I support this, I like to learn. But sometimes it can be too much. So I try to cut down on how much I subscribe to and how many times I check my email.

4. Discipline is important, but stressing myself by trying to be too disciplined in not helpful to me. I let myself do things or don’t do things with feeling guilty about it. If I feel like I need to be more disciplined, then I give myself a couple of goals to work toward. Even if I slip while working towards a goal, that’s okay and I keep trying. This is especially important for me related to eating well and working out. I have very high expectations for myself and then I often don’t meet those expectations, so I need to give myself a break.

5. Dealing with the people around you who are stressful or fast-paced can be difficult. Some would recommend surrounding yourself with positive people. I agree. I personally have to keep my distance from others who are not a good support or influence for me. It is too easy to get wound up in other people’s difficulties. But this is also something I am still working on because I can’t just make distance with people that I care about. It is a bit of a conundrum and I am not always sure what to do.

6. Writing in a journal has been very helpful for me, as has writing this blog. It helps to organize and slow down my thoughts, which can be going at a pretty high speed sometimes, usually when I am trying to fall asleep, of course!

7. Final step to slow down: Get a puppy! Ok, this is a suggestion that might not be possible for everyone but I would suggest doing something in your life that might force you to slow down. For me, getting a puppy has forced to me to go for walk every day for 1-2 hours, which means I am outside and enjoying the beautiful city I live in and I am slowing down. I can’t really do anything else at the same time. It also means I need to give my puppy cuddles and attention, which is good for me too.

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These are just a few of the things that I have done and am doing to slow down. They are not possible for everyone, but they have worked for me. There are lots of people who love the fast pace and that works for them. Personally, I will continue to slow down because it works for me. I like it. Thanks for reading!

A Message to You: Thank You Again

I just read this article, Technology and Grief, and I can relate to the author and her connection to Facebook in her time of grief. The messages and love that my family and I received through social media in our initial time of grief (and shock and disbelief) was amazing. I still feel overwhelmed from the support. Every time I read another message, I cried and felt comfort.

To our friends and family from around the world who wrote messages, who sent flowers, who sent a care package full of our favourite treats, who drove long distances to see us, who gave gifts for comfort, who gave donations that honoured my Mom because she would have loved to know that others are being helped…thank you. You have given us so much comfort and love and support.

To our church community who cooked meals, who shovelled the snow off the driveway, who cleaned the house, who visited and continue to visit Dad, who supported us financially, who prayed and prayed and still pray for us, who did more than we can know because we were in such a fog of disbelief…thank you. We would not have made it through that time or continue to make it through as ‘well’ as we are without you.

To our friends in Budapest who offered to take care of our puppy and take us to the airport and help us as we rushed to the airport, who made meals, and who sent flowers and cards, and who are sharing our lives and grief with us now…thank you.

Thank you.

My Mom

It has been a month since that day that it happened. I never thought it could happen to me. But it did. I got that phone call saying it happened. It was a terrible car accident. Mom didn’t make it and dad is in the hospital. Shock, disbelief, denial. Not possible.

There has been some time now for it to sink in. But it doesn’t really sink in, just a little bit sometimes. And that’s enough sadness until the next time it sinks in. 

Here is a video made as a memorial to Mom. She has a beautiful smile that reaches her eyes. 

Mom’s Moments

My brother, Tim, said this at Mom’s funeral:

Early Years

The early years of our family involved a lot of change. Mom and dad shared a love for travel, adventure, and helping peopleAfter their marriage in 1969 they spent 2 years in Sierra Leone and several years later, 6 months in Bangladesh. During those early years, there were also stints in Hamilton, Nova Scotia, and Guelph before we ‘settled’ as a family in the Stratford area. I use the term ‘settled’ somewhat loosely as I recall moving 5 times as a kid just within the Stratford areaRegardless of where they went, they were able to quickly absorb themselves into new communities, in large part because of mom’s outgoing and friendly nature. 

As our family continued to increase our roster up to 7 children, including 2 foster kids, life in the Van Dijk household could be described as ranging anywhere between lively and chaotic. 

Despite the number of kids, we were not restricted (actually required to) be involved in various extracurricular activities that included skating lessons, hockey, soccer, baseball, piano lessons, 4H club, church groups, among other things.  Our parents wanted us to stay busy and develop our talents as much as possible. 

Mom tried to instill in us a good work ethic. We were expected to do our share of work around the house and were given our lists of chores – yard work, gardening, house cleaning, shoe polishing, dish washing, barn chores, etcBut she also did a lot herself by going non-stop with housework and errands from morning to evening. In addition to being a stay-at-home mom, she supported dad with his business, drove us around to all of our activities, was involved with various volunteer activities with the church and Christian school, and also made time to connect with and help out various people that she got to know along the way

She was always out running around doing her various errandsOne problem she had was staying on schedule, or you could also say that she operated on her own schedule. In grade 3, Shanti wrote an essay about her mom which included a comment that said “I never know when mom is going to get home.” Part of the reason for this is that she would take the time to have a conversation with everyone that she encountered during her running around. This habit never changed as many people here today will know. This is what she enjoyed the most – being able to connect with people and build relationships, either meeting new people or getting up to date with old acquaintances and friends.  

Sports was a big part of our family activities. Mom was the anomaly in that regard as she had little interest or ability in athletics. When she did try sports like skiing, tennis, and skating, they were quickly ended by injuries. But she went into everything with total exuberance and perhaps a bit of recklessness. She was our biggest supporter when it came to our participation in sports – she would come to our games and cheer us on loudly and enthusiastically even if she wasn’t quite sure what was going on. A year ago at Christmas, we had a family road hockey game and mom was one of the goalies. She was by far the most animated participant, yelling encouragement at everyone from beginning to end of the game. 

Mom thrived on having gettogethers with family and friends, whether it was a one-on-one cup of coffee with a friend or a large group event. She really enjoyed attending large events like weddings and reunions as it allowed her to interact most efficiently with a lot of people. She was a great facilitator and organized many family reunions and get-togethers, updated contact lists and did what she could to ensure that everyone could stay in touch with each other. 

Another characteristic of mom was frugality. She never threw anything away that could possibly have a use one day. If we needed something fairly random such as a neon shoelace, she would conduct a quick search and come up with the required item. Nothing was wasted. Growing up, the use of luxury food items such as jam, honey, cheese, bacon, etc was tightly regulated, tea bags were reused, and leftovers was a weekly meal. I have to admit that although I don’t reuse tea bags, I’m still very careful about the amount of honey I put on my toast. If something in the fridge looked like was about to turn bad, it was just cooked a bit longer. We had a laugh this week when we pulled frozen leftovers out of the freezer that was stored in a ziplock bag for men’s long johns.  

Later Years

In 2000, my parents returned to Ontario from Newfoundland, and this marked a new phase in their lives. All the children had left the house and they were returning ‘home’ in a sense. This also marked a new phase as they began to dedicate more of their time and energy towards overseas ministry and aid work, particularly in Sierra Leone which was emerging from a civil war. They went into this together, dad focusing more on the agricultural side and mom helping out with the Orphanage and coordinating the mass shipment of items to Sierra Leona by shipping container.  The shipping container projects fit perfectly with her personality in that:

1. She was able to help people. 
2. It allowed her to organize and run around collecting items from various people, which gave her lots of opportunity to interact with many different people and get them involved.  
3. Allowed her to prevent many unneeded and obsolete items from going to waste, which fits with her trait of not throwing anything out.  

Mom was very thoughtful towards people in addition to just being social. I’ve heard more than a few stories in the past few days about mom stopping by unexpectedly to give someone a gift or a card even if they weren’t particularly close. She liked to make people feel good. When talking to people, she genuinely wanted to know how they and their family were doing. During conversations with us kids, she would provide detailed updates on so-and-so’s nephew’s sister-in-law’s wedding who she had just heard about even though we had no idea who she was talking about. 

Despite her seemingly boundless energy and enthusiasm, she did at times get overwhelmed and frustrated by the constant hustle and challenges. She was human after all. During times like this, she leaned more heavily on her faith in God.  Faith was an integral part of her life and she continued to be inspired and grow in her faith – this is evident by the amount of literature, posters, and notes of inspirational messages and reminders that can be found throughout the house. 

Conclusion

In short, one could summarize the most important things in her life as faith, family, and friends. She forgave, she loved, and she gave of herself.  She was not always graceful but she was always full of grace. 

She was not someone who was easily forgotten in lifeOur hope is that she will continue to be remembered and that her positive impact on the people around her will be celebrated. 





Being Sensitive is Hard, but there is Relief

My friend, Kim, wrote a blog post recently called “Why I want to want to be last“. She writes a blog called Mom’s First Cup. She writes so well and she always speaks about things that stab me right in the heart, in a good-ish way. She recently wrote about sensitivity and what that looks like for her. I am pretty sure she can read my thoughts exactly because she wrote it how it is (for me).

Here are some excerpts from her post:

“Sensitive is seeing things that aren’t always even there.  Sensitive is assigning malicious motives to a less-than-enthusiastic hello or a preemptive goodbye.  Sensitive is torturous reflections about what did they mean and were they talking about me.  Sensitive is soft and tender easily turned hard and prideful. Because what they said or what they didn’t say or what they might have said if they had the guts is so painful because it makes us feel less right.  Less heard.  Less understood. And my immediate reaction to feeling these things is to make myself more right.  More heard. More understood.

It’s why I have lengthy, eloquent arguments in my head ALL THE TIME.  And honestly, I sound so good in these arguments.  So incredibly right.  I can’t recall if the other person talks at all.  But if they do I am sure they speak words of repentance, and understanding, and wow, I didn’t realize how right you were. And then after the imaginary arguments don’t make me feel any better I turn to Joel (husband) for validation.  I ask him, do you think this person meant this by saying or not saying this, or by doing or not doing that, and he looks at me carefully and says, I don’t know.

At which point I insist that the person did mean what I thought they meant.  And now that we’ve established that we can move on to talk about just how wrong they are.  And just how right I am.  And all of the very valid reasons why I am so right.  And also, do you think I’m right? He usually advises me at this point to talk to the person if it’s really bothering me.  Which is funny because, come on, who really does that? So in the end Joel doesn’t make me feel better.  And I’m left with a frightening choice. Decide to assume the best about others and, particularly, their feelings towards me.  Decide to admit that I might not be right.  Or decide, in the end, that it just doesn’t matter.

That even if they meant the thing that I thought they meant or even if they completely misunderstood me and I was totally in the right, or even if there was a grain of truth to what they said or didn’t say and deep down I have to admit I wasn’t as right as I wanted to believe…. that even then, it doesn’t really matter. I don’t have to defend myself.  I don’t have to prove myself.  I don’t have to show anyone how right I am, or how worthy.”

“In defense of my absolute rightness. I waste a lot of time worrying. And sometimes it does take a hard conversation.  It takes choking down my fear of confrontation and saying, this is how your words made me feel. It can go both ways from there, which can be really scary.  But in the chance that it could save a friendship, it’s worth it. But oftentimes it’s not a friendship at stake.  It’s my own pride.  It’s my own voice inside saying, they don’t understand, they’re judging you, and they’re WRONG. It’s all about how I look to the person who said or didn’t say, who did or didn’t do.  And deep, deep down, I want to look good. But what if it didn’t matter to me?  Feeling misunderstood.  Feeling judged.  Feeling last. In fact, what if I sought to be last? I’m reading a book by Jen Hatmaker right now, Interrupted.  In one chapter she talks about her choice to stop climbing to the top, whatever the top is, and instead to descend, right to the bottom.

She says this… “…once you hit bottom and recover somewhat from the descent, it is shockingly peaceful down there.  It’s much quieter.  The chaos of ego and pride recedes.  It’s, well, kind of still and beautiful.  I find myself exhaling and thinking less about the race going on up higher.  Releasing the compulsion to be right, to be respected, to be understood, to be winning – if not natural, it’s certainly a relief.”

What if I let you believe whatever you want to believe about me, as long as it doesn’t hurt someone? What if I even let you think that I might be wrong?  And what if I admit to myself that I, in fact, might be wrong? What if I stop fighting for my position, and let myself be last? It’s easier said than done, I’m sure.  But I practiced it recently and, you know what?  It felt really good. I let go of my need to be right.  To be heard.  To be understood.  And the voices in my head finally quieted down.  My racing heart slowed a bit.  I was able to focus on my family and not on the person and the thing that was said or not said. ”

“Anyhow, all this to say, maybe last isn’t so bad.  Maybe last leaves us more concerned with the people in front of us, and less obsessed with the finish line. Maybe choosing last can set us free from having to be first.”

– See more at: http://momsfirstcup.blogspot.hu/2015/01/why-i-want-to-want-to-be-last.html#sthash.ZwQMo5tv.dpuf

After reading this post, I felt such relief. Relief about the conflict I have in my own head as it is being described and resolved. Relief because I don’t need to prove myself or make sure I am heard. Relief in being able to my pride go and focus on loving and being kind to others.

My Perfect Marriage

Our perfect wedding day!

This blog is about my perfect marriage. My perfect husband and I have been married for 6 months. We love each other so much and we never fight. We support each completely and we are going to live happily ever after.

Ok, so now I will tell the truth. I love my husband and I know he loves me. We do not always get along perfectly and we do not have a perfect marriage. Instead this post will be about letting go of my ideal of the “perfect” marriage.

If you have seen a couple recent posts I have written, you may have noticed my attempt at being disciplined in my life. Although this is not easy, it seems to be something I strive for in most parts of my life. I like to attempt to have control. This includes my relationship with my husband. I think I believe that things will only be good if we do everything we are supposed to do for a perfect marriage. What is the this list of things we are supposed to do? 1. Communicate about all important and unimportant things in our lives 2. Read the Bible and pray everyday and go to church every Sunday 3. Have dinner together everyday at the table 4. Never get upset with each other 5. Have a date night every week 6. Have a hobby that we can do together 7. Always take turns caring for the the dog 8. If we have children, we must never disagree about how to raise them 9. We must never disagree in front of the children and 10. Never forget our anniversary or any other special dates in our relationship. And so if we follow this list of 10 things then we will always have the perfect marriage.

I have now learned that is not the case. We cannot perfectly follow a list of 10 rules and we will not now and not ever have the perfect marriage. We will serve each other and we will be selfish. We will communicate and we will not talk to each other. We will agree and we will disagree. We will have ideals and we will fail to meet our ideals. Ultimately, we love each other and our love will grow in the many years we have together. Our love is not perfect and it will not ever be perfect.

But there is hope. We will struggle through our failures in our marriage. I know I need to let go of my ideals and my expectations of a perfect marriage. (I was reassured in this by this blog post.) We need to do what works for us. I need to let go of expecting my husband of being and doing something he is not. I need to let of expecting myself of being and doing something I am not. This is so hard when everyone else seems to be able to keep up and do everything and seemingly have perfect marriages and relationships. I also need to let go of comparing myself to everyone else!

Love looks different now then it did in the beginning of our relationship. I learned about how love looks in this blog post. In the beginning, we spent all our spare time together. We connected and we learned about each other. We watched movies and went out for dinner. Now we spend time discussing finances and cleaning up dog poo together. How our relationship has grown! Love looks different and that’s okay.

And finally, we must respect and reverence each other. This is not always easy. This is almost never easy. There are verses in the Bible that refer to the need for the wife to respect and reverence her husband (see this post). Although society might not agree, I need to respect my husband completely.  Even though I have to fight all the urges that I have to demand respect for myself only, I need to respect my husband always. Even as I write this, I am not exactly sure what that looks like. How can I respect my husband more? This is what I will spend some time working on.

I just finished reading comedian, writer, and actor Mindy Kaling’s book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? In it, she talked about her parents and their relationship. There was something about the way she described her parents as “pals”.  “My parents get along because they are pals. They’re not big on analyzing their relationship. What do I mean by pals? It means they mostly want to talk about the same stuff all the time. In my parents’ case, it’s essentially rose bushes, mulch, and placement of shrubs. They love gardening.” I like this. I like it because I like to over-analyze my whole life, which includes my marriage. She goes on to discuss the struggles between spouses and the work of marriage, “I don’t want to hear about the endless struggles to keep sex exciting, or the work it takes to plan a date night….I want to see you guys high-five each other like teammates on a recreational softball team you both do for fun….Maybe the point is that any marriage is work, but you may as well pick work that you like.” I like this too. Maybe it is simplistic and there is probably more to it but it’s true.

A Weekend in Barcelona

You may have noticed some changes to the blog. It is getting a new look and a new name. Hope you like it!

Last weekend, I had an amazing time in Barcelona with 3 wonderful girl friends. One of our first stops was the food market with fresh juice, meat, fresh fruit, breads, and other delicious treats.

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We some amazing sites in Barcelona on a beautiful sunny day: Park Guell, Sagrada Familia, Los Ramblos, Gaudi’s art and the beach.

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What a great time! Delicious food, great friends, warm sun and a beautiful sunset.

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