Advice I’d Give My Younger Self

In today’s Sunday Poser, Sadje asks what advice you’d give your younger self. Like in her case, for me it would be different depending on my age.

For example, I could have advised my twelve-year-old self not to be so loyal to her parents’wish to have her go to mainstream grammar school. However, rebellion in a young adolescent is rarely seen as a positive thing and even much less taken seriously. Preteens are expected to be loyal to their parents.

Besides, as someone who had hardly any social contact outside of the home, I didn’t know what was “normal” other than what I saw in the house – which in hindsight was far from normal.

For this reason, I am not really sure what advice to give my childhood self other than to savor the few friendships she did have.

To my teenage self, I would give the advice of standing up for herself more but in a kind way. Then again, this is basically the advice I’d give any younger version of myself and even present-day me, but I have little idea of how to go about actually doing it. I mean, I feel like I’m a doormat that can be walked over and a bed of nails at the same time.

I wish I could give myself the advice not to let others make decisions for me, but the two times I sort of made the decision to move somewhere on my own initiative, both went horribly wrong: my move to the psych hospital in Wolfheze in 2013 and my move to my current care home. For this reason, I’m still unsure I can trust my own decision-making. In truth, of course, I was misinformed in the latter case and not given enough time to process the decision in the former, so it’s not entirely my fault.

I guess, after all, there’s one piece of advice I’d give my younger self. It’d be for my nineteen-year-old self in April of 2006, when my parents threatened to abandon me because I was delaying going to university for another year in order to prolong my training home stay. The advice I’d give her is to let them have their way and not allow the training home coordinator to mediate. This, after all, led to the training home being pressured to require me to live completely independently and go to university after completing the program, something I never even wanted.

I know it’d take immense courage for me at that age to be disloyal to my parents, but had I been completely honest about my needs back in 2006, I would most likely not have ended up in my current care home now and wouldn’t even have needed as much care as I do now.

A Child Called “Baby”

Today, Emilia of My Inner MishMash asks us about our name. How do you feel about it? Do you know where yours came from or why your parents picked it?

I probably shared this before. In fact, I did indeed write about this topic in 2019. I didn’t bother to actually look up the post until finishing this one though, so well, here’s the story again through a 2023 lens.

When I was born, my parents didn’t have a name picked for me yet. The reason is the fact that I was born three months prematurely. As a result, for a few hours, the name plate on my incubator read “Baby Van Woerkom”. According to my mother, my father was so displeased with this that he quickly came up with a name (or picked one from the names they’d been discussing among each other). And thus I was named Astrid.

Of course, my parents do have a story of why they named me Astrid. Apparently, I am named after Swedish author Astrid Lindgren. Similarly, my sister was named after Sigrid Undset.

I do like my name, sort of. I like its relative uniqueness. I don’t like the fact that it’s hard to pronounce in English, but I do like the fact that in English-language literature for this reason I hardly come across characters named Astrid. I avoid books when I know they have a character named Astrid in them.

I don’t have a middle name and yet, I always wanted one. As a teen, I’d pick random middle names that bore neither an etymological nor a linguistic similarity to “Astrid”, such as “Elena”. Now if I had to choose a middle name, I’d go with something that also has its origin in northern Europe but is relatively easy to spell and pronounce in Dutch and English, such as “Kirsten”. I liked that one back as a teen too but didn’t use it as often. The name “Kirsten” is Christian in nature though, while “Astrid” has Pagan connotations. However, I don’t really care. The combination might actually signify the importance of the Christ, as the name “Astrid” means something like “beautiful God”.

The Wednesday HodgePodge (December 14, 2022)

Hi everyone. It’s Wednesday again, so I’m participating in the Wednesday HodgePodge. Not that I do so each Wednesday or that Joyce even hosts them every single week. For example, next week there won’t be one. This week’s HodgePodge is mostly Christmas-themed. Here goes.

1. What does Christmas mean to you?
The birth of Jesus Christ, of course. I am a progressive Jesus follower. That being said, I don’t follow the faith nearly as deeply as I should. Each year around Christmas time, I usually experience a deepened connection with God, but I’m not feeling it this year yet, for which I’m sad.

2. What’s your favorite cozy holiday activity?
Eating cinnamon stars near the Christmas tree. Cinnamon stars, a type of cookies, are my absolute favorite Christmas treats. Last year, I got four packets of them from my day activities staff and used up the last of them in early March.

3. Is all your shopping-wrapping-baking done? Tell us about your holiday plans.
Yes or no, depending on your perspective. After all, we don’t really do Christmas presents in my husband’s family and I don’t see my own family for the holidays at all. I don’t usually send out Christmas cards either, although my husband does on my behalf too.

For Christmas, my husband is going to pick me up at the institution and take me to my in-laws’ house near dinnertime. That way, I hopefully won’t have to endure too much of the Christmassy buzz but my husband’s family will be able to enjoy my company. My sisters-in-law will likely be joining us for dinner too. Then, I’ll spend the night at my husband’s.

4. If you were Santa what treat would you like to have left for you (it doesn’t have to be milk and cookies!) What sweet or savory treat do you most look forward to indulging in around the holidays?
Leave me with some hot wings please, yum! As for my most looked forward to holiday treat, other than the aforementioned cinnamon stars, I love oliebollen at New Year’s. Do those count? By the way, for my American/English-speaking readers, oliebollen may look like what’s left over when making holes in donuts, but they taste very differently.

5. Next Wednesday is the first official day of winter (in the northern hemisphere). How does that make you feel? Tell us what you love most about winter?
I don’t like winter, the cold, shorter days or snow for that matter, so the official start of winter to me signifies the shortest day of the year and hence the fact that days are getting longer from then on. The one thing I do love about winter are its associated holidays, such as St. Nicholas, Christmas and New Year’s and the opportunity to indulge in special holiday treats these occasions provide.

6. Insert your own random thought here.
I got a lovely Christmas hamper full of sweets, cookies and chips from the care agency this evening. There was no room in my bin in the locked storage room for it, so I have everything with me now. Let’s hope this doesn’t end in a massive binge.

The Wednesday HodgePodge (November 2, 2022)

Hi everyone. Wow, I don’t think I’ve gone this long without blogging since I started this blog! Over the past week and a half, I didn’t have much to share except for how depressing and frustrating my new care home situation was, something I don’t really want to bother you all with. It seems it might be improving slightly, so I’m back on the blog. I don’t really want to share details though, so instead I’m joining in with the Wednesday HodgePodge. Here goes.

1. What about your upbringing are you most grateful for?
Hmmm, this is a hard one, since I endured quite a lot of childhood trauma. I’m going to say the fact that my parents, particularly my father, taught me a lot of academic skills.

2. What are two or three things that bring you comfort?
Essential oils, my weighted blanket, soothing music.

3. Something beautiful you saw today? (or yesterday depending on when it is you’re answering this question)
I am blind, so I don’t technically see anything, but something beautiful I got to experience today was to feel a cosmea flower.

4. Have you ever used a typewriter? Tell us a memory associated with that.
Yes I have. In the fourth grade, I started learning to touch type and we started out on a typewriter even though computers existed back then (1995). The reasoning was, or so I remember, that you can’t correct typeos on a typewriter. I hated learning to type, whether it was on a typewriter or computer.

5. Something you are grateful for today.
Another long walk with a fellow client and staff much like the one we went on two weeks ago. This time, just one staff went with us. This was a little scary for me, especially because the other client can talk triggering topics at times, but the staff cut her off when she did. This walk was also when the staff picked the cosmea flower for me.

6. Insert your own random thought here.
On Monday and yesterday again, I finally was able to be crafty again for the first time since getting into the new care home. Not polymer clay – that for now takes too long -, but I made a bracelet for the staff who were with me those evenings. I unfortunately forgot to take pictures.

Visiting Extended Family

Hi all. Today’s topic for Throwback Thursday is contact with extended family and especially the coming together and leaving.

When I was a child, my extended family lived all over the country. For reference, I live in the Netherlands, so “all over the country” means anyone was still within a three-hour driving distance. However, we didn’t visit with extended family very often. I rarely saw my aunts and uncles except at my grandparents’ house. As for those, we visited my maternal grandparents several times a year even though they lived closer by where I lived as a young child than my paternal grandmother. My paternal grandmother, we saw most often and had sleepovers with each summer and sometimes at Christmas too.

I don’t think we had any rituals for the coming together. For leaving, my paternal grandmother wanted to give everyone a kiss on the cheek. I didn’t mind and hardly even noticed it until she wanted to give my husband a kiss when we last saw her in 2016. My husband politely refused.

Like I said, my sister and I had regular sleepovers at my paternal grandmother’s house. We always slept on thick matresses on the floor, but they felt pretty comfy nonetheless. My grandmother made her own quilts, so she probably lay one of them over us as a duvet.

As for my paternal grandfather, I only ever visited him for day trips, but my sister once went on a week-long trip on my grandfather’s powerboat with him. They actually slept on board.

I can’t remember whether I found saying goodbye to extended family after a visit was over difficult or not. It probably depended on how well I liked said family member.

That brings me to the question of which family member I would like to bring back to life for a visit. I’d certainly choose my paternal grandmother. I have talked positively about her many times before. She declined a lot both cognitively and physically over the last few years of her life and I didn’t feel comfortable visiting her anymore during the last eighteen months she lived. Even so, I know she remained resilient up till the end and, when she could no longer take it, I know she had seriously exhausted all possibilities of remaining optimistic. She died during palliative sedation on May 12, 2018. If I could bring her back to life for a visit, I’d tell her I’m still happily married to Jeroen. For those who don’t know, my paternal grandmother was my official witness during the wedding ceremony.

The Wednesday HodgePodge (October 19, 2022)

Hi all. I’m joining the Wednesday HodgePodge again. This week’s questions are truly random or at least I cannot see a common theme to them. I don’t mind though. Here goes.

1. What’s something you wish you’d figured out sooner?
That I am the beloved of God and that it really doesn’t matter what my family or anyone else thinks of me in the end, God will ultimately judge my heart.

2. Something from childhood you still enjoy today?
Swimming, playground equipment (when it’s strong enough to carry adult me, such as here at the institution), children’s books.

3. Are you a fidgeter? What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word fidget?
I am a definite fidgeter! The first thing that comes to mind is hair twirling. I’ve done it since adolescence. When I was 21, my autism diagnosing psychologist in fact told me I really had to unlearn it because it was a “serious social handicap”. Thankfully, the only people who agreed were my immediate family, who had more or less abandoned me by this time anyway.

4. Your favorite fall vegetable? How do you like it prepared?
Broccoli! In fact, about a month ago, I was discussing with a former staff what vegetable I’d choose if I could eat only one for the rest of my life and I picked broccoli. It is such a versatile vegetable. I love it cooked plain or with a creamy sauce, stir-fried or even raw in a salad. Next up are carrots. I eat them raw as a side to my lunch almost everyday.

5. What’s something you find mildly annoying, but not annoying enough to actually do anything about? Might you now?
My headphones (the cheap Chinese brand ones I bought six months ago as a replacement for the Bose QuietComfort 45 ones that broke within three weeks of me having bought them) being basically useless as wireless headphones due to the battery draining very quickly. I have been intending to replace them for a few weeks, but can’t decide for sure on a new model. For now, I’m using my AirPods with my iPhone, but this is indeed slightly annoying.

6. Insert your own random thought here.
I’ve been in the main institution care home for two weeks today and it’s going pretty well. We had some issues early on, among other things with my medication, but all has been sorted now.

TGIF: October

Hi all. It’s the last day of September (duh!) and I haven’t written enough posts this month. That is, if I want to aim for 300 posts in 2022, I’ll need to have written 225 now. I’m not sure that’s entirely true, since both October and December have 31 days and September has only 30, but oh well.

In any case, today’s optional theme for Paula’s TGIF is “October”. Paula asks us what our plans are for the month.

Of course, October’s main theme for me is moving to the main institution care home and settling in there. Today, I packed my first box. I also told all fellow residents I’m close to. The one in my own home at first hardly reacted, but now seems to understand to some degree. The woman in the care home down the road became a little emotional. I gave her a matching necklace and bracelet. The guy in the care home next to mine, the one with the chickens, reacted understandingly when I explained that the people in my new home are of a higher intellectual level. “So more like you and me?” he inquired. Yes, like that. I gave him the polymer clay sun, because he’s usually in a sunny mood. He gave me an egg he’d collected from one of his chickens this morning.

I already have two visits from my family planned in the first week of my stay at the new home. On October 8, my sister and her family will be coming by and my mother-in-law will visit me on October 11.

Besides settling into the new home, October will be a busy blogging month. I am participating in the 31-day writing challenge once again, although I won’t even attempt to do a landing page this time around. I usually just sign up for the prompts and to have some reason to blog everyday, even though I haven’t completed the challenge in years. There is of course also Blogtober, for which there are prompts this year too. I am not sure what I’ll do with those. All this to say, my cares about not having written enough during September, are really not all that important. Besides, no-one is going to come after me if I don’t write 300 posts in 2022.

Joy in September

Hi everyone. How is it the end of September already? I pretty much forgot the month is almost over, but since it is, it’s time for me to write an update on my word of the year: “JOY”. I am linking up with Lisa’s One Word linky. I am also joining the Word of the Year linky.

September started out with good news, as, on the very first day of the month, I heard that I was first on the waiting list for what I now refer to as the prospective new care home. This gave me some renewed energy, but also stress. I was warned that the wait might still be six months or so. “That’s super quick,” my husband said. Well, those who’ve read my blog over the past couple of weeks, know that it’s gone even quicker: tomorrow, I am to decide whether I want to move to the home and, if I want to (which I do), I’ll move next Wednesday, October 5.

Considering this, the whole month of September flew by in a bit of a haze, in which I was both hyper with excitement and overwhelmed with worry. I am still both as I type this post, in fact. Consequently, I hardly found any clear moments of joy that were just that. After all, things I did feel delight or joy over, were also laden with some level of anxiety or anticipation. For example, at my husband’s and my visit to Ikea, I was thinking about what to buy for the new home.

The month of September, of course, was also the month my iPhone and Apple Watch got their updates and I got really used to my Apple Watch. For the first few weeks of the month, I was compulsively moving to get far beyond my activity goals. This past Friday, my dietitian did caution me against it. The next day, with some emotional struggle, I let a day go by when I didn’t fill all my rings. That seems to have broken the cycle, as I’m now able to be a bit easier on myself. For example, yesterday I was sick to my stomach all day, so really didn’t feel like exercising. I am relieved I am able to permit myself these days now too.

For the month of October, I am of course looking forward to enjoying real food, as the staff at the new home cook homemade meals everyday there. I am also hoping to enjoy visits from family, as I have a few planned already for the first week at my new home. Other than that, I am expecting to have a lot of getting used to at the new home, so I’m just hoping to enjoy some everyday pleasures.

How I Was Disciplined As a Child

Hi everyone. Today’s topic for Throwback Thursday is “rules and discipline”. I am going to try to keep this post as non-triggering as possible, but if you endured childhood abuse, you might want to skip this post. Then again, maybe what I endured wasn’t abuse at all? Well, in that case actual survivors might want to skip it because it might come across as invalidating.

My parents rarely set clear rules when I was a child or teen. I can’t remember having curfews and, even at ten-years-old, I was allowed to stay awake in my room for as long as I wanted provided I didn’t wake anybody else.

In this sense, none of the provided questions in Maggie’s original post made much sense. I mean, I was often sent to my room as punishment, but I cannot remember what for. I also was never told how long to stay in my room, so I usually stayed for about an hour then slowly re-emerged.

My parents, both of them, also used corporal punishment. However, I get a feeling that they hit me more out of a sense of powerlessness than out of a righteous wish to set me straight. Unfortunately, corporal punishment didn’t stop when I got older. In fact, the last time I was hit, was when my parents more or less kicked me out of the house when I was nineteen. And then I don’t include the time my mother tried to slap away my hand from my hair to prevent me twirling it when I was 23 but I slapped her hand away.

My parents, like I said, didn’t have clear-cut rules, but they did have expectations about socially appropriate behavior. They had their own words for ridiculing me when I “misbehaved”.

The positive side of there not being many clear rules, was that my parents encouraged me to do things most other teens, and certainly disabled teens, would not have been allowed to. I was allowed on a four-week-long summer camp to Russia at age fourteen, being the youngest of the Dutch participants and the only one with a disability (the program officially catered towards the visually impaired). Then again, when I struggled socially in Russia and for this reason wasn’t allowed back the next year, my parents, especially my father, completely guilt-tripped me rather than showing me support.

I was mostly a rule-follower, insofar as there were rules at all. However, as a teen, I became secretive. I actually had my father drive me to a meeting of people with mental illness when I was seventeen, while I’d led him to believe it was a disability meeting (because one of the people there was in a wheelchair). I’m pretty sure he knew, but he never confronted me.

I don’t have children of my own, so I cannot say whether my upbringing influenced the way I discipline them. However, I did find I got easily triggered when I got the impression my sister and brother-in-law used corporal punishment on my older niece (this was before the younger one was born). Thankfully, they were able to reassure me that they didn’t.

The Wednesday HodgePodge (August 3, 2022)

Hello all! It’s Wednesday again and I thought I’d join in with the Wednesday HodgePodge. Here goes.

1. Do you have a sister? Tell us something about her. If you don’t have a sister, tell us about a friend who has been like a sister. Or tell us about a sister-in-law if you have one who is extra special.
I have one sister. She is two years younger than me, although when we were kids, people always thought we were either twins or she was the older one. She always envied me because I got more attention from our parents than she got (though it was mostly negative attention). In terms of the roles often described in dysfunctional families, she was the lost child, while I was a strange mix of scapegoat and golden child.

Currently, she lives in the far northwest of the country, close by the sea, with her husband and two girls. She will be starting training to become a childcare worker soon.

2. Resister, assister, insister, persister…choose one and explain how it relates to you and your life lately.
All of them relate to me in some way. Well, maybe except for “assister”, in that I don’t really assist anyone myself, but rather am on the receiving end of assistance. As for “resister” and “persister”, they usually go hand in hand, in a kind of paradoxical way.

3. Share a favorite song, book, movie, or television program that features sisters.
A book that’s been turned into a movie comes to mind: My Sister’s Keeper by jodi Picoult. It was the first Picoult novel I read, before I knew killing off her characters was her way of writing (oh, sorry if that’s a spoiler, but the book and movie have both been out forever). In this book though, it made sense. In others, not so much.

4. August 3rd is national watermelon day…are you a fan? Do you like watermelon flavored candy? Besides eating the melon as is, do you have a good recipe made with watermelon?
I do like watermelon, but it’s not like I’m a huge fan. I’ve never had watermelon-flavored candy, so no opinions on that. I don’t really know a recipe with watermelon, but I still need to try it in my fruit infusion bottle. I did try a few pieces of a galia melon in it, but that didn’t taste good.

5. ‘Tis August…what are three things you’re looking forward to this month?
Crafting quite a bit. Several fellow clients at the care facility I know well have their birthdays this month and I want to create them a present. Seeing my husband’s new-to-him car, that he will be getting on Saturday. Maybe driving to some nearby town or city we haven’t been to yet with my husband.

6. Insert your own random thought here.
I am so glad that my crafty mojo seems to be returning in time for these fellow residents’ birthdays. Also, if you all have any idea what I could create for my husband’s and my wedding anniversary on September 19, I’d love to know. I bought a heart-shaped canvas that I can decorate with paint, polymer clay and/or other media, but I am truly out of ideas as to what exactly to do.