My 2022 Birthday Celebrations

In one of her Writer’s Workshop writing prompts for this week, Mama Kat asks us to share about something we celebrated recently. Of course, it was my birthday last Monday and I haven’t yet told you all everything about it, so here goes.

The celebrations started on Saturday with me arriving in Lobith by taxi at around noon. My husband gave me my first present after we’d had lunch. According to him, I’d been nagging him about the Cernit matt polymer clay varnish being sold out everywhere. Indeed, I had mentioned this to him (not exactly nagging, in my opinion), to which he’d replied with a challenge for me to find where it’d been allegedly sold out. I found out that a Bol.com (a Dutch site much like Amazon but more expensive) partner still had some in stock. He then asked me whether I wanted it for my birthday. I said yes. So that’s what I got. I got two 30ml pots of it, because according to my husband a Danish vendor had it in stock at half the Bol.com price including shipping.

At around 2:30PM, my parents arrived. They gave me strawberries that they’d bought from a street vendor across the German border. They also gave me German tea, which I ended up giving to my husband, since it was black tea and I only drink green tea and the occasional herbal tea. My main birthday gift was a huge box full of plastic cookie cutters to use with my polymer clay. There are 75 cutters in the box, ranging from animals to vehicles and from a few Christmas-themed and sports-themed ones to dinosaurs. The box also included cutters for all letters and numbers except for I (the box recommended cutting off a piece of the L for that). I also got a huge jar filled with beads that my parents bought at a thrift store. Lastly, I got a kit for making magnetic bracelets.

After we’d had coffee and apple pie, we chatted some. Then, it was time to leave for the restaurant my husband and I had picked out. The restaurant was called “De Revolutie” (“The Revolution”) and we’d somehow gotten the impression it was a Cuban-style restaurant. That had appealed to my husband and me, because my parents are leftists.

When we arrived, we soon figured out it was indeed hard to comprehend which revolution the restaurant was referring to. We’d hoped for pictures of Che Guevara, but there were none. I had already discovered that, what the restaurant had on the menu, definitely wasn’t Cuban cuisine, as most of its meals include beef and that’s hardly consumed in Cuba (or so Google tells me). I didn’t care though.

I chose shrimp in garlic oil as my appetizer, which was really good. My husband chose nachos and was given a huge bowl of them. I ate some of his. Then I went for a burger for my main course, while my husband chose a stew. His was a relatively small serving, while mine was quite large. I liked my burger, but had hoped for a spicier version.

After we’d finished our meal, my parents left and my husband and I drove back to our house in Lobith. The next day, we drove to my in-laws’ house, where only my mother-in-law was at the time. My mother-in-law gave me a clay extruder as a present, which I love but only figured out how to work today.

On Monday, my actual birthday, I didn’t do much out of the ordinary. I treated myself to a sausage roll for lunch, but that was it. I also tried to find ready-made cookie dough to make cookies from to give as a treat to my fellow residents. It turned out the supermarket was no longer selling this, so I went back on Tuesday to get ice cream after all.

I had decided this year that I don’t want a present from my staff, since technically you (or your family) pay for it yourself anyway. However, yesterday the new student staff brought me some plunger fondant cutters to use with my polymer clay. They weren’t even really intended as presents, but I appreciate them very much.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Joy in June

Hi all! Here I am with my monthly update on my 2022 word of the year: JOY. I am joining the Word of the Year linky and Lisa’s One Word linky.

Last year, the month of June was rather tumultuous. This year was no different at first. It started with the manager telling me that temp workers had to be put in place to work in my home more often than usual and this would mean I would get temping staff to work my one-on-one shifts too. I wasn’t amused and this caused me to be rather stubborn and strong-willed at first.

I can’t say that working with temp staff has gotten easier over the month. All I can hope for is that, by summer’s end, enough regular staff will have been hired.

Thankfully, there were a couple of extraordinarily fantastical experiences that helped me find joy this month. One was seeing my assigned staff’s pet hedgehog on the 13th. Of course, when picking my word, I intended to enjoy the ordinary. I do that, too.

That being said, I do need to practise being grateful in my heart with any blessings coming my way. My birthday celebrations this weekend show this: my parents gave me presents they’d gotten at the thrift store and, while I was genuinely happy with one of them, I wasn’t with the rest. Of course, I tried not to show it, but I need to work on cultivating a grateful heart even in this situation.

I remember, when I picked “joy” as my word of the year, being in doubt about possibly choosing a word such as “creative”. That, though, sounded too easy. Indeed, most joy I’ve found over the month of June has been with the creative process. Over the past several weeks, I’ve been genuinely enjoying the polymer clay craft in particular. I have a couple pieces that still need a few coats of glaze, but which then I’m eager to show you all.

With respect to finding daily notes or reminders of my word, in the form of quotes, Bible verses, etc., I haven’t been doing so well. I collected a few but then stopped. I might want to collect reminders of my word whenever I see them rather than focusing on one per day as a requirement.

Overall, the month ended better than it started. This may be because this weekend is my birthday weekend (tomorrow is my actual birthday). Then again, I think I said this in April and May too, so maybe the fact that I’m writing my monthly updates later in the month, makes me remember the joys of the last part of the month better, since they’re more recent.

How was your June?

#WeekendCoffeeShare (June 11, 2022)

Hi everyone. I’m joining #WeekendCoffeeShare again today. Grab a cup of coffee, herbal tea or I could even make you strawberry infused water, since I bought some strawberries at the supermarket yesterday and I still have a water bottle with a fruit infusion thingy that I got for my birthday two years ago and hardly even ever use. I guess I’m going to make some for myself now, so be right back. Anyway, let’s have a drink and let’s catch up.

If we were having coffee, first I’d ask about your weather. Ours has been mixed this past week. Early in the week, it was quite chilly and rainy, but today we’re having sunny weather and daytime temperatures of up to 22°C. It’s a little windy, but still lovely!

If we were having coffee, I would share that the orthopedic shoemaker came by on Tuesday to do the final tweaking to my right semi-orthopedic shoe. It’s now fine or so it seems, but the left one, the one with the ankle-foot orthosis in it, is now giving me issues again. I don’t get blisters, but it does feel as though I’m getting slight pressure where the edge of the AFO touches my foot. To be honest, I am currently undecided as to which shoes I like better: my regular shoes or the semi-orthopedic shoes with the AFO. Neither is giving me the comfort I’d like and I’ve more or less lost my walking mojo altogether.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I’ve been experimenting with methods of trying to make the perfect polymer clay earrings all week. I haven’t found the perfect method yet, but today’s would-be earrings are at least better than Thursday’s, which were so curved that I threw them in the trash.

If we were having coffee, lastly I’d share that I’ve been making plans for my birthday with my parents, husband and mother-in-law. I initially invited my parents to the care facility, but, after talking it over with my husband, decided it’s better to invite them to Lobith. They will be there on the 25th (my birthday is on the 27th). My husband suggested we eat at a Cuban restaurant called “De Revolutie” (“The Revolution”). I love Latin American food, so that’s awesome. Besides, my parents are quite outspoken leftists, so I bet they can appreciate it.

Then the next day we’ll pay a visit to my mother-in-law (my father-in-law will be on vacation then). I haven’t yet decided whether to do anything special on the 27th itself. I actually have a nurse practitioner’s appt on that day and, since my appt this week got canceled too, I really don’t want to cancel. My staff suggested going out for lunch afterwards, so that’s an idea.

How have you been?

The Wednesday HodgePodge (June 8, 2022)

Hi all! Today I’m once again joining the Wednesday HodgePodge. Here goes.

1. “A daughter’s a daughter all her life, but a son’s a son til he takes a wife.” What say you? Elaborate.
In my personal life, the exact opposite is true, in that my parents were very clear that, once I was an adult (ie. once I’d turned eighteen), I had to fend for myself. My contact with them lessened even more once I got married. My husband, on the other hand, sees his parents almost on a weekly basis. I am honestly much closer with my in-laws now than with my own parents, to the point where I’ve appointed my mother-in-law as my informal representative should I become incapacitated.

2. Something you’ve seen recently that was “cuter than a June bug”?
Hmmm, I’m obviously supposed to say little Wolke, my baby niece, but to be honest I don’t really care for babies all that much. I don’t really like children in general, but I’m going with her older sister anyway. She will be three in September and talks up a storm already.

3. “You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy ice cream and that’s pretty much the same thing.” Agree or disagree? Last time you had a serving of happiness ice cream? Dish-cone-milkshake-sundae…which one do you choose?
Disagree with the saying. Though I do like ice cream on occasion, it’s not at all my favorite treat. I don’t actually really have a sweet tooth since recovering from my overeating. Give me chips instead.

As for my favorite ice cream, it’s probably a cone, although I like sundaes and milkshakes too. I can’t remember when I last had ice cream. A milkshake though, yes, I do remember, but it was far from good. We got it with a paper straw, as plastic straws are banned in the EU, and it was too thick to drink with that but too thin to eat with a spoon.

4. What is one way/area in which you’re currently “swimming against the tide”?
I don’t do social media much at all. I mean, I do still have a Facebook, Twitter and Instagram account, but I hardly ever use them.

5. Three things you’re looking forward to this summer?
My birthday at the end of this month. Other than that, I don’t really know. My husband and I originally thought of taking a few days out by train, since Lobith is close by the German border and Germany’s public transportation is nearly free during the summer months. However, he found out that trains are already so packed that the police had to come out to remove some of the people. Not my idea of a holiday.

6. Insert your own random thought here.
I have been obsessing over crafty stuff again. I am really looking forward to doing some polymer clay work again, but can’t decide what to make, honestly. Yesterday, I tried my hand at another pair of earrings, but the slab was a true lint magnet and I was too lazy to get alcohol to remove it. I wasn’t too inspired as to what to make out of the slab anyway. Any ideas?

A Few Pretty Intense Days

Hi everyone. It’s been a few days since I wrote on my blog and I didn’t even check my feed reader yesterday at all. The last few days have been rather intense emotionally.

First, on Sunday, my husband picked me up at 8:30AM to drive to my sister and her family, who live across the country. Little Wolke, my baby niece, was, well, a baby. She didn’t really interact at all. Neither at first did Janneke, my older niece, who will be three in September. My sister did explain that “auntie Astrid’s eyes don’t work” so that’s why I can’t look at her, but she was still shy. Once my sister had taken the polymer clay bear I’d created for Janneke and let her undo the wrapping, she was a little more engaging. I did feel bad that, when she said the bear wanted a kiss, I told her not to (since I keep hearing mixed things about the safety of polymer clay in this respect). I did worry for a while that maybe Janneke was a bit too young for the bear, but my sister said she doesn’t put things in her mouth anymore and my husband said she has to learn.

My brother-in-law kept my husband occupied with the same old stories and jokes he tells each time we see each other. Meanwhile, Janneke warmed up to me and started inviting me in to her play. Janneke had hip dysplasia, for which she needed surgery last September. She still remembers in a way or so I think, as all her dolls needed to go to the doctor and get fitted with a cast (or have the cast sawn off).

At one point, my sister did start talking about needing to get rid of her pregnancy pounds. I felt a little uncomfortable about that, as she’s quite thin and I am still overweight. Then she started telling me about her career plans.

Overall, I did notice that my sister only talked about herself (and her kids). This is okay with me, but it does remind me of my parents often telling professionals that I am only able to talk about myself. It makes me feel as though the reason I’m not allowed to talk about myself is not that it’s about myself, but the fact that I don’t live a “normal” life. In other words, the contents of what I tell my parents makes them uncomfortable more so than the fact that it’s about me. Either that or my sister is somehow a lot more reciprocal with my parents than with me.

I do think I like Janneke after all though. Last time I saw her was at my birthday almost a year ago. My sister prompted her to give me her present, but she said: “No auntie Astrid not nice.” I felt that was both cute and a tiny bit upsetting.

Thankfully, my husband was able to drop me off in Raalte again in the afternoon. I arrived here with half an hour to spare before we’d eat dinner, which was Chinese takeout.

Then yesterday, which was a bank holiday, I spent most of the morning in bed, because a temp worker was assigned my one-on-one shift and the two most recently employed staff, neither of whom I know well, were working the regular shift. The temp worker tried to get me to go out of bed at first, but she had no idea about the activities I normally do during the day and I didn’t have the energy to explain them to her. Overall, I felt really powerless and like I’d rather not have someone there at all. Thankfully, today we’re more or less back to normal.

Sunday Ramble: Childhood Memories

Hi everyone. I’m participating in E.M.’s Sunday Ramble again. Today’s topic is childhood memories. Here are the questions.

1. What is your first good memory from your childhood? (If this is a trigger question for you, tell me how your day is and what the best thing is about today.)
My third birthday. My grandma visited and gifted me a doll she’d bought in Berlin, Germany. Either she or my father explained that, in German, the word for doll is “Puppe”, which is pronounced the same as the Dutch word for “poo”. Of course, me being three and my sister being one, we laughed our butts off.

2. Name 3 things that you loved when you were just a youngster?
Playing with PlayMobil®. Swinging on the swings. Making mud pies.

3. What did you dislike, or even hate, when you were growing up?
A lot of things, as my childhood wasn’t the best. However, I’ll keep this non-triggering. I hated it when my sister was singing or humming.

4. If you could go give your younger self one piece of advice, what would you tell them?
You have absolutely zero obligation to prove your worth to your parents or anyone else.

5. What kind of celebrations did you enjoy when you were little, and do you still like those celebrations now that you are grown?
I had a love/hate relationship with all kinds of celebrations. I loved getting presents and special treats, but hated the social obligations involved. When I was a child and teen, we celebrated St. Nicholas. This involves pretending that St. Nick gave us presents. Once I no longer believed in St. Nicholas, I greatly struggled to play along and this led to some frustration among my sister and parents. Needless to say, now that I’m an adult, we no longer celebrate St. Nicholas. My sister and her family do celebrate it with my parents though.

I felt similarly about my birthday, loving the presents but not liking the social aspects. Same now that I’m an adult and more so with my family of origin, because, well, we don’t have the best relationship. With my husband and in-laws, I do like being together for my birthday.

6. Bonus Question: What commercial did you always wait for to come on television as a child? (If you didn’t like commercials or television, what event did you wait for to come about when you were a kid?)
I didn’t really enjoy commercials, although I liked Loeki the Lion, who came on inbetween commercials on public television. He was recently reintroduced after an absence of over twenty years I believe.

With respect to TV shows in general, as a child I loved a show called Droomshow (Dream Show), in which a pair of girls competed against a pair of boys in all kinds of candy-related games and the winning team had to shoot for prizes while the losing team got the “shitty shower”.

What was your first good childhood memory?

The Wednesday HodgePodge (May 18, 2022)

Hi everyone. Joyce has prepared some fun questions for the Wednesday HodgePodge this week, so I’m joining in again. Here goes.

1. What’s something that makes you feel stressed? How do you cope?
Uhm, me, stressed? 😉 Seriously though, there are a lot of things that make me stressed. The most likely stressors for me are when my routine gets disrupted and when I get frustrated during a craft project or other activity that’s important to me.

As for how I cope, well, usually, uhm, I don’t. I do try to calm down by reminding myself that whatever’s going on isn’t the end of the world. However, most of the time I need someone else to sort out the problem I’m facing for me before I can calm down.

2. What’s a food you eat that evokes a memory? Explain.
I honestly don’t know, since I don’t eat most foods from my childhood anymore (or at least not in the form my parents used to cook them). I also don’t have many memories attached to foods I do currently eat. I mean, I clearly remember the licorice “pie” my staff and fellow patients at the psych hospital made for my wedding, but I haven’t eaten that brand of licorice in years.

3. This week’s Hodgepodge lands on National Visit Your Relatives Day. Will you celebrate by visiting a relative? If so is travel involved? Geographically, who is your nearest relative (not counting those living in your own house)?
I had no idea this holiday even existed, so no, I won’t be celebrating and no, I didn’t happen to visit a relative today anyway.

I am not sure whether in-laws count as relatives. If they don’t, my parents are my closest relatives geographically. They live a little over an hour’s drive and about 100km away. If in-laws count too, my sisters-in-law are probably my nearest relatives geographically. They are about an hour’s drive but only about 60km away. Both live in the same town but not in the same house.

4. What’s your most frequently used emoji? Do you make more phone calls, send more emails, or mainly text to communicate with friends and family?
My most frequently used emoji is the slightly smiling emoji followed by either the purple heart or the laughing emoji.

I mainly text to communicate with my husband, although we do talk on the phone nearly everyday too. With other family, well, I call or text them every once in a while but I wouldn’t say either is frequent. E-mail is used for discussion lists and contact with my staff mostly.

5. Tell us the story behind a favorite piece of furniture.
Okay, I’m going with the desk I have my computer and phone on right now. This one, my father bought for me on a marketplace site in like 2006. I think the person selling it was located in Fryslân in the north of the country, about a two-hour drive from my family home. The desk isn’t too large, but it cannot be taken apart. My father drove an older Nissan Micra, so a small car. The desk just about exactly fit inside the back of the car. Or actually, just about exactly didn’t fit. As a result, my father had to drive while the back of his car was open. This was quite an interesting ride. That being said, I’ll still have to ask my father how he got my tandem bike from their home to the psych hospital in Nijmegen, either in or on that same Nissan Micra or on a train.

6. Insert your own random thought here.
All this talk of relatives and family makes me want to talk to my sister. She’s expecting a baby. That is, unless she’s left me out of the loop, the baby’s still inside of her even though she’s past her due date. She said she’d probably let loose what she’ll be calling the child already. I’ve heard two names so far, one of which I like and one of which I, well, dislike quite a bit. I’m just hoping mother and baby will be well and that my sister can have a home birth, as that’s what she’s wished for all along. With her other daughter (she’s expecting a girl again), she did give birth at home but the child had to be taken to hospital a few hours later anyway.

All this is making me feel all sorts of feelings. In a sense, I wish I were closer to my family of origin, but I know they don’t agree with the choices I needed to make (ie. going into long-term care). My sister also lives about two hours and 180km away from me. It’s all rather sad really.

Early Experiences With Medical and Dental Care

Today’s topic for Throwback Thursday is doctors’ or dental visits. I have many early memories of medical care, probably because I, being multiply-disabled, often had to visit the doctor. Until I was about nine, that is, when my parents, my sister and I moved across the country and my parents stopped taking me to doctors altogether except when I had everyday ailments.

An interesting question Lauren asks in her original post, is whether your parents were scared of doctors or dentists. Well, truthfully, yes, mine are. My mother had her own fair share of traumatic experiences involving doctors, among which a situation that would’ve been considered medical malpractice had it been in the U.S. surrounding my premature birth. My father, I don’t know. He probably feels he’s smarter than most doctors and hence considers spending time with them a waste of his own time.

All that being said, up till the age of about nine, I was taken for medical care when I needed it. I don’t think I was really taken for health checks except those part of preemie follow-up. I don’t remember most of these visits, except the ones to the eye doctor. My eye doctor was always, and I mean literally always running at least two hours behind schedule. Waiting in the waiting room for her was the worst. Well, no, the second worst: the absolute worst was waiting for her to come back after she’d put dilation drops into my eyes.

I don’t think I was very afraid of needles as a child. In fact, when I needed to be put under general anesthesia for my various surgeries, as soon as my parents allowed me to make the decision myself between the anesthetic mask and the injection, I always chose the injection. I remember being horribly afraid that I would get the mask when I had to have cataract surgery in 2013, even though I’m not even sure they do this on adults.

One thing I did always remember was that the hospital staff would stick me in my toes rather than my fingers for finger pricks, because the nerves in my fingers should not be damaged because of the fact that I read Braille. I had to have a finger prick last year and told the medical assistant that she was supposed to stick the needle in my toe. She explained that she couldn’t, so I reluctantly agreed to have her stick the needle into the side of a finger I hardly use for reading.

As for dental care, I think I did have proper dental check-ups when I was young. I didn’t have problems with my teeth until I was about eleven and fell and a bit of one of my front teeth broke off. That was the first time I started worrying about my teeth. I did need braces, which was quite an ordeal as the orthodontist never explained properly what I could and couldn’t eat, so there were always parts of my braces getting loose.

I am not very scared of doctors. Dentists though, well, it’s complicated. I am scared of dentists, but also scared of losing my teeth. This has led to some rather odd situations in which I sought out dental care that I might not have needed and didn’t seek out dental care that I did need. Thankfully, now that I live in long-term care, I do get regular dental check-ups and the staff and dentist do try their best to make me feel as comfortable as possible.

Learning to Swim

Today’s topic for Throwback Thursday is “learning to swim”. There are no specific questions, but we are allowed to interpret the topic as we see fit. Here goes.

I got my first swimming lessons at the special school for the visually impaired I attended from first up to third grade. I, however, was very scared of the water and particularly of the deeper end. I vividly remember my teacher taking me to the deep end and my anxiously asking her if she could stand there. She was quite tall, but even so, she couldn’t. That scared me intensely.

According to my parents, my teachers were just overprotective, so my parents put me in swimming lessons at the pool close by their home. I didn’t need to start at the really shallow end, as I had had some swimming experience already, but could start at the 90cm deep second pool. Within a week, I was moved to the 110cm deep third pool, even though I think I protested.

It took me several more years before I earned my first swimming diploma. This first diploma at the time required students to be able to do breaststroke and backstroke, to swim one pool length with loose-fitting clothing, to tread water, etc., but it did not require students to swim underwater.

By the time I got my diploma, I had transferred to another school for the blind, where I had once again been put into the relatively shallow pool. I proudly showed my teachers my swimming diploma that I’d earned at home and was reluctantly transferred to the deep end.

From earning my first swimming diploma to my second, it took me only about eight months. The second diploma required students to swim 7m underwater. There was no way I could see whether I’d passed the 7m mark, so I had to guess. According to my parents, I swam about 11m.

After that, I had swimming lessons for the next three years that I was at various schools for the blind, but I never earned any more diplomas or certificates. The reason was, once again, the fact that my fear started to act up. After all, I wouldn’t swim under a mat. My parents, however, were okay with it this time. After all, my sister never moved beyond her second swimming diploma either.

I now can swim in a pool or lake. When my parents took me and my sister on vacation to Vlieland, I would also sometimes swim in the North Sea. I doubt I’d be able to save myself should I get underwater unintendedly though.

Illness or Injury

Today’s topic for Throwback Thursday is, as Lauren describes it, “Ouchies, owies and boo boos”. In other words, we’re asked to share our experiences of illness or injury when we were growing up. Now is an interesting time for this, as I’ve just recovered from the worst symptoms of COVID. Even though I had a mild case of it, I am tempted to take back my assertion that it’s “just a bad cold” even in my case. I’m still exhausted by 9PM, or at least was yesterday, and today just a walk around the day center had me horribly out of breath. Forget the elliptical, which I told my husband yesterday that I’d try to go onto today. Anyway, that’s as far as my current state of illness is concerned. Now, let me share about my childhood illnesses and injuries.

As a young child, until I had my tonsils and adenoids out as a Kindergartner, I was prone to colds and the flu. I can’t remember whether my parents let me stay home for most of these illnesses. Later though, we clearly had the rule that, if I ran a fever, I was sick and had to stay home. Otherwise, I wasn’t sick and had to go to school. Not that I remember ever “playing sick”.

I don’t think I was ever given medicine, such as painkillers, unless it was obvious from outward signs that I was sick either. I mean, I do remember having to take paracetamol as a child, but not for a headache or toothache. We did have a licorice-flavored cough syrup, but I only took it when my parents directed me to. In fact, it wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties that I first learned to ask for medication myself. For the brief time that I lived independently and could take over-the-counter medications when I felt like it, I didn’t either unless a support worker directed me to. In fact, I remember buying a talking thermometer back then because I was feeling weak often and, relying on my parents’ rule that you had to have a fever to be sick, I wanted to know my body temp.

Similarly, I wasn’t taken to the doctor for minor illnesses or injuries usually, unless my parents decided they were enough of an outward abnormality to be taken seriously. I remember my father took me to the doctor one day when I was about fourteen because I had bad eczema on my neck. I didn’t see the need, but apparently it was so ugly that my father wanted me to get treated.

When I was about seventeen, I made my first appointment to see my GP by myself. I had a horrible earache, which turned out nothing to be the doctor could do much about, by the way. However, my parents said I also had to ask about getting treatment for my toenail fungus, which I didn’t consider particularly bothersome at the time. To be fair, I do now see they were right to be worried about my toenail fungus, even though it took me fifteen more years to finally get it treated properly. However, overall, I’d had it with their message that my outward appearance alone dictates when I should get help (medical or otherwise) and this was probably my first small act of rebellion. I never quite learned to gauge when I can trust my body’s signals (or my mind’s interpretation of them) and when I can’t. I’m finding that, for this reason, even up till this day, I rely mostly on other people’s judgment.