The teenage daughter

A few weeks before her 16th birthday, I sensed something was wrong. She went to school and dance class, she did her homework, but somewhere there was a dark cloud hanging over her head. I couldn’t see it, but I could really feel it. Questions like “is there something wrong?” or “how do you feel” are of no help, I know. Still, I suggested them. Telling her afterwards that if she wants to talk, and when she is ready to share it with me, that I am there for her.
Days passed. One Sunday evening, after dinner, her father went to watch sports and the two of us stayed with the last bites. Just when I was about to clear the plates it came. Sadness, confusion, stress, nostalgia, discomfort, pain, even tears. Her stories came to me like foaming waves. There she sat, opposite me, like an Atlas next to a raging sea, carrying her entire world and that of everyone around her on her shoulders. A world that also keep getting bigger and more complicated at her age.
None of what she said was foreign to me. Now that I am an adult I can still be very depressed and find the world around me confusing. But everything hits you so hard and all at once when you are an adolescent. I remember that very well, I could see myself lost and hurting as an adolescent. I looked at her, I listened to her words, I almost felt her pain. It hurt me too, as a parent you want nothing less than to relieve your child, to help, to soothe. What I especially didn’t do is say that everything will be fine and thereby not taken her pain serious. Also I refrained from telling her what to do. When I was her age that didn’t work for either. I took a deep breath in and out. I listened, really listened and most of all I let her talk. Every now and then I asked questions. No advice, no solutions. Juts listen. Try to understand. Give her plenty of space. And she kept talking, and she kept sharing, and with every sentence she uttered, she grew a little closer to herself. And to me.
Being an adolescent is quite a challenge. You try to find your place in the world, you walk the hazy path between childhood and adulthood, you push your own boundaries and you figure out how to live your life. As a parent you can only do one thing now; assist in the transition to the next stage of life. And I believe that you do that mainly by being there for your child. You are and will remain the parent, but you also increasingly become a friend in some ways. Someone who listens, is compassionate and understanding. At least, I do try to be such a parent.
Her stories like waves of sorrow, calmed down. We hugged each other. The dark cloud was gone. And then my daughter told that she felt she can really talk to me, she could spill her guts. Somewhere deep down I was as proud as a parade. When I was her age, upset with myself and the whole world around me, my parents never gave me the space to just spill. Before I even started to tell my story, I was bombarded with solutions and advice and especially the words “we know better, we’ve been there”. As a result, I closed off more and more and the bond between my parents and I became increasingly looser. Later in life, I went into therapy, studied counseling and coaching, and read a lot about psychology and family relationships. I discovered intergenerational patterns that were often passed on very unconsciously. I saw those patterns in the relationship between my mother and my grandmother, for example, and even between my grandmother and her mother. In my journey to personal growth and development I knew one thing I definitely wanted to achieve. Breaking some patterns and getting closer to my daughter.
That Sunday evening, at the end of our conversation, I watched my daughter. Her face lit up again, she moved more freely. As if that enormous burden had slipped off her Atlas shoulders. I had just stood next to her, watching her letting go off her worries and burdens one by one. Some turned out not to be real worries. Others remained unsolved and it will be a while before they unwind. But that night my daughter and I got a lot closer. And although I mainly see her growing before my eyes, I now also saw how much I have grown.

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The parents are all right!

It takes a world pandemic to get me writing my blog again. Well, sometimes that is what it takes.

It has been more than three weeks sinds we are in isolation here in The Netherlands. This means that we can get out. Every event has been cancelled, all the cafes and restaurants are closed, most shops too. We stay inside. But we can get out, inhale fresh air, do groceries shopping, walk the dog.  Of course when the whole country (world, I know) is kept inside by the corona virus, the weather in The Netherlands is perfect. Sunny, clear blue skies, warmer every day. This spring would have been otherwise one where the terraces would be full with people having laud conversations while drinking beer and wine. The irony of it, some said, we are being punishes to stay inside in this beautiful spring weather. But really, this is a blessing. Imagine staying inside when everything is grey and dark and wet outside. I am pretty sure the number of depressed people  would be sky high. Now I am enjoying the pots with flowers and the sunbathing on our roof-terrace.

When this started, I would see how all my gigs, workshops and trainings were being cancelled. That was it. It didn’t come as a surprise, the days prior to that decision were hitting towards the quarantine. I accepted it quite well. But when they announced that the schools would close too, I got a bit freaky. How would that be? It’s not a holiday, but homeschooling a teenager seemed challenging.

I was not the only one. Friends with children immediately started sending messages in whatsapp groups. There was a mixture of light panicking and feeling relieved. Many parents wanted to keep their kids safe at home, so that is where the feeling of relief came from. But then that feeling of panic took a bit over. How to do all this? This totally new thing, and that for a whole three weeks, as that was the time frame we all got to hear the first time. We now know it’s at least 8 weeks.

We do live in 2020 so the panicking has no borders. My friends from Romania, Maroc, USA, Belgium and so on are at exactly the same spot.  The first picture I got and then shared was that with the mum working from home with her three boys being duck taped on the floor. Seeing that picture made me smile. I knew exactly who to share it with. I actually have three  mum friends with three boys. But after that I shared it with other parents. Long live whatsapp and whatsapp groups, because images of kids behaving like little despots and parents being exhausted started pouring in.

Pictures of glasses of wine, like every day now. Or maybe two glasses at least. Cheers for us!

Kids making pizza. Kids shredding the pizza in a fight.

A friend who celebrated her birthday went grocery shopping for half a day. That was her gift. A selfie at the shopping mall with a big grin. I got that! We had some good laughs.

My reality is a bit different. I have only one child and she is 15. And actually life is not that bad at the moment. She might be a teenager full on, but she is ok. She has lots of homework, I help out. (My husbands does that too when he is at home, he is not working from home). We watch Netflix together. We walk the dog. We do some crafting. There is drawing, and piano playing, and cooking, and reading and video calling with friends and more. We are giggling and talking, we share house chores and we talk some more. She shows me funny videos. I have all the time in the world to watch them now. Even the annoying ones. I make her watch some documentaries and she has to admit that she likes them. It’s all good, actually…

But then I do some video calling with friends with more and smaller kids. With more, I mean two or three, I am not really friends with people who have more. I always thought that two or three are really manageable. But today I chatted with a friend with a four and a six year old. I asked how is life with the two kids at home. He replied with: “if you can have them for just one day, I will do everything for you!”


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Nieuwjaarsdag / New Year’s Day

(For English please scroll down)

Ze zitten op een kluitje bij elkaar. Drie meisjes, alle drie een andere kleur blond, alle drie hun pyjama nog aan. Mijn eigen dochter in het midden, de twee zusjes om haar heen. En rondom, op de bank, stapels fotoalbums. De nieuwe, digitale, liggen dun en sierlijk op elkaar gestapeld. De oude, dikke, plompe fotoalbums, zuchten van gewicht en vallen bijna van de bank. Op tafel kijken de vette, overgebleven oliebollen ons nog aan. Ik hou een kop thee in mijn hand en probeer wakker te worden.

De twee zussen kijken naar de foto’s uit het jaar waarin hun ouders getrouwd waren. Vooral de oudste kijkt nadrukkelijk naar haar ouders. Hun gezichten, open en gelukzalig, hun verliefdheid, de hoopvolle vreugde bij iedereen op de foto’s. Mijn blik valt op haar gezicht, haar expressie, de glinstering in haar ogen. En ik zie daarna de onzichtbare sluier van ontgoocheling als de betovering weer verbroken is. Ze zegt niks, maar ik vraag me toch af hoe het is om zo klein te zijn en gevangen te zitten tussen twee ouders die niet eens meer met elkaar kunnen praten. Mijn dochter, opmerkzaam als altijd, zegt hardop “wat waren jullie jong en mooi daar”. En nadat het kwaad geschiede probeert ze uit alle macht het goed te maken door te roepen “maar dat ben je nog steeds mama, echt”. Nou ja, toen ik zo oud was vond ik iemand van 30 al stokoud. Ik voel me echt niet aangesproken.

“Hoe hebben jullie elkaar eigenlijk leren kennen?” Ik kijk mijn vriendin aan, en voordat ik iets kan zeggen barst ze in een waterval van woorden uit.
“Oh, maar dat was ook op een oud en nieuw feest! Het millennium feest, de overgang van 1999 naar 2000, weet je. Dat was toen echt heel wat, overal fantastische feesten! En de angst voor de millennium bug, weet je nog. En “Waiting for Tonight” glitter! Ik had net een paar maanden verkering met je vader, en toen gingen we naar dat feest. Zoveel mensen bij elkaar. Gekkenhuis. Maar goed, toen kwam ik Oriana tegen.”

Dan valt ze even stil. “Het jaar 2000, lijkt niet zo lang geleden”.

“Jee, dat is dus 19 jaar geleden”, reageer ik alsof ik een moeilijke rekensom had opgelost. En bijna vol eerbied kijken we elkaar aan, beide bezig om te laten bezinken wat deze rekensom voor waarde heeft.

Na heel veel gehang en sloom ontwaken, en een ontbijttafel rond lunchtijd, gaan we naar buiten met z’n allen. We kletsen een hoop, we bespreken plannen voor dit jaar, of maken we een paar nieuwe ad-hoc. Maar mijn gedachtes stromen verder geruisloos door mijn hoofd. Het jaar 2000. Toen ik zo klein was leek dat een magisch getal. Niet alleen voor mij, voor iedereen. Het was een soort adagium in gesprekken over de toekomst. Het 1999 van Prince was echt toekomstmuziek. Ik had het al heel vroeg uitgerekend, in het jaar 2000 zou ik 23 worden. Dat leek me echt al heel volwassen. Ik had mijn mijlpalen geslagen. Sweet 16 worden, want dat klinkt zo leuk. 18, klaar met school en eindelijk op kamers. 21 omdat ik op de 21ste jarig ben, en dus dubbelfeest. En dan het magische jaar 2000. Daarna waren er geen mijlpalen. Daarna was het maar de vraag of we met z’n allen de Enterprise op moesten en misschien na een rood, gloeiend, Total Recall oord zouden moeten verkassen. Het gat in de ozonlaag was dreigend.

Het Millennium was daar ineens. Enkele minuten vuurwerk, vervoering en extase. Daarna kwam de rest, de afgelopen 19 jaar. Met een hoop nooit gedachte mijlpalen. Ik kijk naar onze kinderen, die er toen bij lange na er niet waren. In ieder geval een van hen is gevangen in hetzelfde hersenspinsel web. “Maar dat was wel echt heel bijzonder, toch”?!, zegt een van de meisjes. “Het jaar 2000. Zo’n rond getal. Zo anders. We zullen nooit het jaar 3000 meemaken”. Je ziet iedereen nadenken. Nee, dat is waar ook.

Eindelijk buiten. Het voelt heerlijk fris, droog en niet echt koud aan. Het voelt in ieder geval niet echt als winter. De kinderen rennen opgelucht rond. Mijn zware hoofd lijkt een lichte kater te dragen. Of ik word toch echt verkouden. En dan begint iemand te gillen: “wow, echt, wooooow, moet je kijken, een gigantische regenboog”. We rennen allemaal naar dat plek, draaien ons om en kijken naar de hemel. Daar, in felle, scherpe kleuren, strak getekend op de grijsblauwe lucht, zo dichtbij dat je er bijna naar toe kan hollen: een heel regenboog. Twee potjes met goud. De oo’s en aa’s worden een paar seconden later vervangen door mobieltjes die de lucht in schieten. En dan breekt de zon door terwijl het tegelijkertijd ook begint te miezeren. Ik probeer pedagogisch uit te leggen hoe een regenboog zich vormt als ik ook ga gillen: “ twee regenbogen, kijk, kijk, een dubbele regenboog”. De opwinding neemt toe. Maar de zonnestralen ook. En binnen enkele seconden, beginnen beide regenbogen snel te vervagen.

Verrukt, opgewonden, euforisch, blij. We trekken de conclusie dat dit een teken was. Dit moet een heel goed jaar worden. Vol met goeie moed en goeie zin lopen we terug naar de auto. Het jaar 2019 is nu echt begonnen.

IMG_0570 (1)

They are sitting close to each other. Three girls, all three of them a different shade of blond, all three still in their pyjama’s. My own daughter in the middle, the two sisters each on one side of her. And around them, on the sofa, stacks of photo albums. The new, digital ones, are stacked thinly and gracefully on each other. The old, fat, plump photo albums, are suffering from overweight and almost falling off the sofa. On the table the remaining greasy “oliebollen” (typically new year’s Dutch kind of donuts) are staring at us. I hold a cup of tea in my hand and try to wake up.

The two sisters look at the photos from the year in which their parents were married. Especially the eldest looks attentively at her parents. Their faces, open and blissful, the look of love, the hopefulness and joy of everyone in the picture. My gaze falls on her face, her expression, the sparkle in her eyes. And then I see the invisible veil of disenchantment when the spell is broken. She does not say anything, but I wonder how it is to be so small and trapped between two parents who can not even speak with each other. My daughter, attentive as always, says aloud ” you were so young and beautiful back then”. And after the harm is done, she tries to make up for it by saying “but you’re still mommy, really”. Well, when I was her age, I thought a 30 year old was old. I really do not feel insulted.

“How did you actually get to know each other?” I look at my friend, and before I can say something she bursts into a waterfall of words.
“Oh, but that was also at a New Year´s party! The millennium party, the transition from 1999 to 2000, you know. That was really a big fuss, fantastic parties everywhere! And the fear of the millennium bug, do you remember? And “Waiting for Tonight” glitters! I was dating your father just a few months, and then we went to that party. So many people together. Madness. Anyway, there I came across Oriana”.

Then she stops for a moment. “The year 2000, it doesn`t seem that long ago”.

“Yes, it´s 19 years ago”, I react as if I had solved a difficult calculation. And almost full of reverence we look at each other, both trying to figure out what the value of this calculation is.

After a lot of hanging around, and a breakfast table at noon, we finally go outside. All this time, we chat a lot, we discuss plans for this year, or we make a few new ones ad hoc. But my head is quietly overflown by through. The year 2000. When I was so small, it seemed like a magical number. Not just for me, for everyone. It was a kind of adagium in conversations about the future. Prince’s 1999 was truly music of the future. Very early on I did the math, in the year 2000 I would turn 23. That really seemed very mature to me. I had planned my milestones ahead. Sweet 16, because that sounds so nice. 18, finished with school and finally in moving out. 21 because my birthday is on a 21st, and therefore a double party. And then the magical year 2000. Then there were no milestones. After that, the question was whether we should all get on the Enterprise and maybe look for a red, glowing, Total Recall like resort. The hole in the ozone layer was imminent.

The Millennium was suddenly there. A few minutes of fireworks, ecstasy and excitement. Then came the rest, the past 19 years. With a lot of never thought milestones. I look at our children, who were not in the stars yet. At least one of them is trapped in the same web of thoughts. “But that was really special, right?”, says one of the girls. “The year 2000. Such a round number. So different. We will never experience the year 3000 “. You see everyone letting this new discovery sink in. Indeed.

Finally outside. It feels wonderfully fresh, dry and not really cold. In any case, it does not really feel like winter. The children run around relieved. My heavy head seems to be fighting a hangover. Or I am really getting a cold. And then someone begins to scream: “wow, really, wooooow, come and see, a gigantic rainbow”. We all run to that place, turn around and look at the sky. There it is, bright, sharp colors, tightly drawn on the gray-blue sky, so close to us that you can almost run towards it. An entire rainbow. Two pots of gold. The O´s and A´s are replaced a few seconds later by mobile phones that shoot into the air. And then the sun breaks through while it starts to drizzles. I try to explain pedagogically how a rainbow works when I start screaming myself: “two rainbows, look, look, a double rainbow”. The excitement is increasing. But the sun’s rays too. And within seconds, both rainbows start to fade away.

Delighted, excited, euphoric, happy. We conclude that this was a sign. This must be a very good year. Hopeful and full of good cheer we walk back to the car. The year 2019 has really begun.

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Being 13 again in 2018

(For English please scroll down)

Je kan het soms niet helpen. Dezelfde glimlach, dezelfde onhandigheid, dezelfde liefde voor huisdieren.  Als je kind nog klein is, is het vaak op je gevoel afgaan; je kunt je immers weinig herinneren van hoe je echt was toen je bijvoorbeeld 4 was. Je moet het doen met wat er over je vertelt wordt. Maar hoe ouder je kind wordt, hoe meer ook je herinneringen aan jezelf echter worden. Helderder. Gevoelens en emoties van toen herleven. Toen je je eerste melktand verloor. De eerste keer alleen in de bus. Die heftige ruzie tussen je ouders. Je kijkt naar je kind en je ziet jezelf erin terug.

Ik weet dat 2017 eindigde een beetje confuus. Het was het jaar geweest waarin ik mooi en intiem vierde dat ik 40 werd, en mijn dochter werd 13. Voor de rest was 2017 het jaar waarin ik erg zoekende was wat ik nu wilde doen met mijn bedrijf, interesses en talenten. Ik maakte op de valreep kennis met storytelling en wist meteen dat ik er meer mee wilde doen.

2018 was een gek jaar voor mij. Ik heb mezelf uitgedaagd om eens echt te doen wat ik wilde en mezelf niet steeds te saboteren. Het was een jaar van toegeven en zelfacceptatie. Toegeven dat ik echt van schrijven hou, en van taal, van geschiedenis, van verhalen, van delen, van vertellen. En van kwetsbaarheid tonen. En van openlijk en persoonlijk spreken. En hoe meer ik deed wat ik echt leuk vind, hoe meer succes ik had en hoe gelukkiger ik werd. Tevreden. En vol met positieve energie. Ik bleef af en toe zoeken links en rechts, maar leerde snel “nee” te zeggen tegen wat niet bij mij past. Mijn intuïtie volgen. Mijn zelfacceptatie gaf me vleugels.

Mijn richting werd steeds duidelijker, maar ook de connecties met het verleden ook.  Ik zag weer waarom ik talen was gaan studeren, en waarom antropologie vakken me zo aangesproken hebben. En waarom ik ooit volkscultuur als specialisatie koos, ook al dacht ik toen er nooit een droog boterham mee te kunnen verdienen. En waarom ik communicatie, zeker ook vanuit je eigen culturele perspectief, zo belangrijk vind.

Het grootste gedeelte van 2018 was mijn dochter 13 jaar oud. Ik zag haar. En ik zag mezelf. Ooit was ik net als zij, een jonge, kinderlijke 13 jarige. Nog heel groen, nog half in de sprookjes wereld. En toch zo anders. Daar waar zij onbevangen over de landgrenzen heen sjeest om vrienden in het buitenland te bezoeken, groeide ik op in hermetisch afgesloten, communistisch Roemenië, Daar waar zij leert  te vertrouwen en haar mening te uiten, leerde ik op mijn woorden te letten, bang voor de geheime dienst. Daar waar ze op haar 13de plechtig de mede-verantwoordelijkheid krijgt over een hond, belandde ik op mijn 13de in een asielzoekerscentrum in Nederland, met alle onuitgesproken verantwoordelijkheden van een migrantenkind. Ik weet dus nog heel goed hoe het voelde om 13 te zijn.

Martina Bertola deed afgelopen zomer een oproep voor een fotografie project “growing up with you”. Prachtige portretten van ouder en kind, die door ze naast elkaar te leggen zowel de overeenkomsten als de verschillen onderstrepen. Mijn dochter en ik deden mee. Zij was 13. Net als ik, toen, bleef het door mijn hoofd spoken.

In 2019 heb ik zoveel concrete en creatieve plannen, dat ik soms uit mijn voegen barst. Die zal ik tzt een voor een gaan onthullen. Maar tot die tijd kan ik alleen zeggen dat in sommige plannen mijn 13 jarige zelf er in rol in gaat spelen. En toevallig, of niet, Martina heeft een nieuwe website en die heet “Get out there photography”. Nou, in 2019, I am gonna get out there for sure!

Maud e madre 2
(photo credit Martina Bertola)

You can not help it sometimes. The same smile, the same awkwardness, the same love for pets. When your child is still small, you have to trust your gut; after all, you can hardly remember how you really were when you were 4, for example. You have to do it with what is being told about you. But the older your child gets, the more your memories of yourself become more clear. Brighter. The feelings and emotions of that time revive. When you lost your first milk tooth. The first time alone in a bus. That fierce argument between your parents. You look at your child and you see yourself in her.

I know that 2017 ended a bit confused. It was the year in which I celebrated nicely and intimately that I turned 40, and my daughter turned 13. For the rest, 2017 was the year in which I was searching for what I wanted to do now with my company, interests and talents. I became acquainted with storytelling end of the year and immediately knew that I wanted to do more with it.

2018 was a crazy year for me. I challenged myself to really do what I wanted and not to sabotage myself all the time. It was a year of admitting and self-acceptance. Admit that I really love writing, and language, history, stories, sharing, speaking. And showing vulnerability. And speaking openly and personally. And the more I did what I really like, the more success I had and the happier I became. Satisfied. And full of positive energy. I kept looking around from time to time, but quickly learned to say “no” to what did not suit me. To follow my intuition. My self-acceptance gave me wings.

My direction became clearer, but also the connections with the past. I saw again why I had started studying languages, and why anthropology appealed to me back then. And why I once chose folklore culture as a specialization, even though I never thought I could earn a penny with it. And why I think communication, especially from your own cultural perspective, it is so important.

The biggest part of 2018 my daughter was 13 years old. I saw her. And I also saw myself. Once I was like her, a young, childish 13 year old. Still innocent, half in the fairytale world. And yet so different. Where now she is free to cross country borders to visit friends abroad, I grew up in hermetically closed, communist Romania. Where she learns to trust and express her opinion, I learned to watch my words, afraid of the Secret Service. Where at the age of 13 she solemnly gets co-responsibility for having a dog, I ended up at the age of 13 in an asylum seeker center in the Netherlands, with all the unspoken responsibilities of a migrant child. So I remenber very well what it felt like to be 13.

Last summer Martina Bertola called out for a photography project “growing up with you”. Beautiful portraits of parent and child, which by juxtaposing them underline both the similarities and the differences. My daughter and I participated. She was 13. Just like me back then; this thought kept appearing in my mind.

In 2019 I have so many concrete and creative plans that I sometimes get a bit too excited about it. I will reveal them one by one in due time. But until that time I can only say that in some plans my 13 year old self will play a role in it. And coincidentally, or not, Martina has a new website that is called “Get out there photography”. Well, in 2019, I am going to get out there for sure!


Filed under Little moments, mindset, Storytelling, Training and coaching, writing

Meer in mezelf vertrouwen / Trusting myself more

(For English please scroll down)

“Storytelling”, zei ze, en ze dacht even na. “Zou jij niet een storytellingavond willen organiseren? Na de zomer? Je mag het helemaal zelf invullen”. Ik weet nog dat ik haar een beetje verrast aankeek. En dat mijn eerste reactie, zoals zo vaak, eentje was van mezelf beperkingen leggen: ik heb er geen ervaring mee, ik kom net om de hoek kijken, etc. En ik voelde meteen dat ik er spijt van had. Dus toen de programmeur van Theater de Generator nogmaals aangaf dat ze het wel zag zitten, zei ik wel volmondig ja.

Het lijkt mijn default setting te zijn geweest: limiting beliefs. Steeds denken dat ik er ergens niet klaar voor ben. Dat ik eerst nog van alles moet doen of studeren of ervaren voordat ik iets “echt” kan. Het schijnt dat vrouwen daar vaker last van hebben. Maar ik weet zeker dat ik nogal de kroon spaan daarmee. Hoe vaak heb ik coaching klanten of vrienden niet aangespoord zichzelf niet te saboteren? En wat deed ik? Juist. Mezelf saboteren. Ik weet heel goed dat die beren op de weg niet helemaal uit te niets verschenen zijn. Het is een patroon uit mijn jeugd die ik onbewust had doorgezet en tot kunst had verheven.

Maar dat patroon begon af te brokkelen toen ik een jaar geleden een cursus storytelling deed. Mijn hoofd, mijn hart, mijn hele wezen zat daarna zo vol met verhalen, dat ze er echt uit moesten. De eerste keer op een podium voelde surrealistisch spannend. En de keren daarna ook, maar ik ging door. Ervaren en doen. En steeds scherper een visie krijgen wat ik met storytelling uiteindelijk wil doen. Het werd me duidelijk, het is niet alleen een hobby, het is meer dan dat.

Toen ik met het organiseren van de storytellingavond “Tell Me More” begon wist ik eigenlijk al gelijk hoe ik het wilde hebben. Welke sfeer, wat voor een vertellers, welke (muzikale) aankleding. Alleen op de eerste avond zelf was ik natuurlijk super zenuwachtig. Wat als er bijna niemand komt? Wat als ik de avond niet leuk aan elkaar praat? Toen de zaal van het theater vol stroomde met mensen en ik om me heen keek voelde ik een soort rust. De ruimte die volop in de verbouwing zat had iets bijzonders; de steiger was net een decorstuk, de houten planken meubilair. De familiariteit van mijn eigen kussens en dekens maakte alles heel vertrouwd. De muzikanten vulden de ruimte met magie en de vertellers deden ieder op hun eigen manier daar een schepje bovenop. Na afloop was ik euforisch. En de complimenten voelden zo fijn.


Of de tweede avond weer zo goed zou lopen was bijna nog spannender. De eerste keer kon immers beginnersgeluk zijn. Dagen van te voren was ik bezig met hoe ik de vertellers zou introduceren, en hoe ik de verhalen aan elkaar zou verbinden. Hoe ik weer het voor elkaar zou krijgen om weer een mooie sfeer te creëren. Vol verbazing waren we toen we hoorden dat er een recensent van de Theaterkrant zou komen. Voor Theater de Generator als voor mij zelf was dat toch best wel een big deal. Maar op de avond zelf vergat ik dat helemaal. De zaal stroomde weer vol, de sfeer zat weer er goed in. Het werd een prachtige avond! Tevreden en trots dat het weer geluk was ging ik naar huis.

Een dag later stond het al online. Een recensie in de Theaterkrant. En wat voor een! Positief en bemoedigend. Ik kon het bijna niet geloven, ik was nog geen jaar geleden begonnen met storytelling en ik had nu een recensie. Even een wow-momentje. Maar ook vooral een momentje om te beseffen dat ik echt veel meer kan dan ik altijd mezelf dat heb toegestaan. Natuurlijk heb ik ervaring in evenementen organiseren, maar ik heb meer dan dat. Ik heb een visie, ik kan sfeer creëren, ik kan vertellen en ik kan mensen met elkaar verbinden. Dat is niet niks. Ik moet meer in mezelf geloven en mijn ideeën uitvoeren. En dat zouden meer vrouwen moeten doen.

“Storytelling,” she said, and she thought for a moment. “Would don’t you organize a storytelling evening? After the summer, you can do it as you wish”. I remember that I looked at her a bit surprised. And that my first reaction, as usual, was one of limiting myself: I have no experience with it, I just started, etc. And I immediately regretted it. So when the programmer of Theater de Generator once again sayd that she really ment it, I said yes.

It seems to have been my default setting: limiting beliefs. Always thinking that I’m not ready for something. That I first have to do more or study more or experience more before I can ” really” do something. It seems that women are more likely to suffer from this self-doubt. But I am sure that I have to hand it to myself. How often have I encouraged my coachees or friends not to self-sabotage themselves? And what did I do? Right. Self-sabotage myself. I know very well that those bumps in the road did not appear completely out of nowhere. It is a pattern from my childhood that I have subconsciously elevated into an art form.

But that pattern started to fall apart when I did a storytelling course a year ago. My head, my heart, my whole being was so full of stories afterwards, that I really needed to do something about it. The first time on a stage felt surrealistically exciting. And the next time too, but I went on. Experiencing and doing it. And getting a sharper vision of what I wanted to do with storytelling. It became clear to me that it is not just a hobby, it is more than that.

When I started organizing the storytelling evening “Tell Me More” I already knew how I wanted it to be. How the atmosphere should be, what kind of storytellers to invite, which (musical) stage setting to have. The first evening I was of course nervous. What if no one shows up? What if I do not host the evening well? But when the theater filled up with people, I looked around and I felt calm. The space that was still being renovated had a special feeling; the scaffold was just a piece of decor, the wooden planks looked like furniture. The familiarity of my own pillows and blankets made everything very homely. The musicians filled the room with magic and the storytellers each went a step further with their stories. Afterwards I felt euphoric! And the compliments felt so good.

Whether the second storytelling evening would be as succesful as the first one was even more exciting. The first could have been beginners luck. Days in advance I was working on how I would introduce the storytellers, how to connect the stories to each other. And how to create a beautiful atmosphere again. We were amazed when we heard that a reviewer of the Dutch Theater Paper would come. For Theater de Generator and for me too, that was quite a big deal. But on the night itself I completely forgot about it. The room was full again, the atmosphere was fantastic again. It was a beautiful evening! Satisfied and proud that it went well again, I went home.

A day later it was already online. A review in the Theater Paper. And what a review! A positive and encouraging one. I almost could not believe it, I had started storytelling less than a year ago and I now had a review. A little wow-moment. But also a moment to especially realize that I really can do a lot more than I have always allowed myself to. Of course I have experience in organizing events, but I have more than that. I have a vision, I can create a great atmosphere, I can tell stories and I can connect people. That is not nothing. I must believe more in myself and put my ideas into practice. And actually more women should do that.

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Filed under English, Little moments, mindset, Nederlands, Storytelling, Uncategorized


When I was a teanager I was for a while obsessed with things like astrology and spirituality. I remember reading about the meaning of number 7. In almost every culture and religion 7 is given a mystical importance. 7 capital sins, 7 chakras, 7 world wonders, 7 years itch, 7 good years, 7 bad years…. It seems that there are these cycles in our lives, and that if you pay good attention, you will see that this cycles are more or less about 7 years.

7 years ago today the sun was shining. The sky was blue and the leaves were as colourful and wonderful as they are today. I remember driving to the hospital in the morning and letting myself getting soaked with all this beauty and being angry at it the same time. I remember being angry an the weather. It felt so wrong as beautiful as it was. I wished for rain.

7 years ago today we held our dead born baby boy into our arms. I remember feeling nothing, absolutely nothing. Numbed. So tired. Dead tired. Felix looked so fragile, beautiful, 10 fingers, 10 toes, tiny. We both saw the resemblance with our daughter when she was born. He was one of us.

The tears came back later. They never left.

This morning, my daughter was very excited and careful with the breakfast table. Candles, food, Felix’s box. His playlist on. The tears were there, unannounced, because they belong. There was so much bonding in sharing those moments. There is a crazy thing to realise how much love is there in pain, in missing, in unfairness. We sometimes get so focused on happiness, joy, fun. But that is so hallow. We need the contrasts in order to really feel the love, see the beauty.

7 years have passed. I get to appreciate more and more what Felix meant for me, for us. No matter the fact that sometimes I get angry at life or jealous of others. I get to understand his gift, even if I will never understand the reason why. Soon I will be 6 times 7 myself. And for 1/7 of my life, missing him is a part of who I am.

And one more thing. I am also so grateful for the weather that day, 7 years ago. Because every, sunny, colourful autumn day, when the leaves start to fall…. reminds me of the beauty of life!


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Een eeuw leven/Living a century 2

(Living a century: Fathers. (English version: please scroll down)

“Heeft u het gehoord, van de laatste paters”? Natuurlijk heeft ze het al lang gehoord. Ze leest de krant, ze kijkt naar het journaal. Ze is helemaal bij met alles. Onlangs, is er met een tentoonstelling afscheid genomen van de laatste twee pater Jezuïeten die het langst verbonden waren aan het Stanislas college. Ik heb iets met paters en nonnen en de romantiek van oude meisjesboeken. Ik heb zelfs ooit op de middelbare school een werkstuk gemaakt over meisjeskostscholen in Limburg. De nonnen bleken vaak te streng en vervelend. Ik had teveel ouderwetse boeken gelezen. Ik wilde alleen de romantiek ervan inzien en ben eigenlijk nog steeds fan van The Sound of Music.

“O ja, het is ongelofelijk. Ik weet nog wanneer ze het opgericht hebben. Dat was wat, de enige jezuïetenschool van Nederland waren ze. Heel bijzonder. En zeer goed. Mijn zoons, die al gepensioneerd zijn, zeggen nog steeds: mam, wat hebben we fantastisch goed onderwijs gehad. En dat hadden ze. Heel degelijk en heel serieus. Het is nu anders. Denk ik dan. Ach ja… Weet je, heel veel paters waren heel aardig, gaven vaak bijlessen, in hun eigen tijd. Ze hadden het daar maar druk mee. Maar ja, en ze lacht, die mannen hadden ook niks, geen vrouw, geen gezin, ze leefden voor hun werk, de kinderen. En voor het onderwijs. Het was mooi. Mijn zoons hebben geluk gehad”.

Mijn bijna 100 jaar oude buurvrouw vouwt haar gerimpelde handen op en vertelt verder. Hoe ze het gebouw aan het Westplantsoen gebouwd heeft zien worden. Dat haar eerste kinderen eerst op andere locaties zaten en later pas aan het park. Ik loop iedere dag met mijn hond door het aan het Stanislas grenzende park. Regelmatig zie ik leerlingen vuilnis opruimen en het in een plastic zak doen. Ik weet inmiddels dat dat leerlingen zijn die straf hebben. Best een mooie straf. Zouden de paters dat bedacht hebben?

Ze nipt aan haar wijntje en vervolgt. “ Weet je, mijn eerste zonen zaten de eerste jaren alleen met jongens op school. Dat was ook wat, ineens mochten de meisje er ook bij. Zij hebben echt meegemaakt hoe gemengd onderwijs gemeengoed werd, de meisjes druppelden er een voor een binnen, in het eerste jaar. Zo gek eigenlijk”.

Ik wil vragen wat er gek aan is, dat meisjes mee deden, of dat het daarvoor gescheiden was. Ik denk weer aan mijn boeken over meisjeskostscholen en aan het moderne appél om weer gescheiden onderwijs in te voeren. En ik weet het niet. Ik neem afscheid en ga maar weer eens mijn hond uitlaten.

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Living a century: Fathers

“Did you hear about the last fathers”? Of course she has heard it already. She reads the newspaper, she watches the news. She is completely up to date with everything. Recently, the last two Fathers Jesuits who were the longest involved in the Stanislas College were bid farewell with an exhibition. I have a thing with fathers and nuns and the romance of old girl books. I even once wrote a paper in secondary school about girls’ boarding schools in Limburg. The nuns were often too strikt and annoying. I had read too many old-fashioned books. I only wanted to see the romance of it and I am still a fan of The Sound of Music.

“Oh yes, it is unbelievable. I remember when they started the school. That was something, they were the only Jesuit school in the Netherlands. Very special. And excellent. My sons, who are already retired, still say: Mom, we have had fantastic education. And sure they did. Very solid and very serious. It is different now. I think. Ah yes … You know, many fathers were very nice, often gave tutoring, in their own time. They were very busy with that. But yes, and she laughs, those men did not have anything else to do, no wife, no family, they lived for their work, the children. And for education. It was beautiful. My sons have been lucky “.

My almost 100-year-old neighbor folds her wrinkled hands and continues. How she has seen the school being built on the Westplantsoen. That her first children were at first located in other buildings and later next to the park. I walk with my dog every day through the park next to the Stanislas. I regularly see pupils cleaning up garbage and putting it in a plastic bag. I now know that naughty students get this task as a punishment. A rather nice punishment. Would the fathers have come up with that idea?

She sips her wine and continues. “You know, my first sons spent the first years only between boys at school. That was also something, suddenly girls were allowed too. They really experienced how mixed education became commonplace, the girls joined one at a time in the first year. So crazy actually”.

I want to ask what is so crazy about it, that girls were allowed, or the fact that boys and girls had separate education. I think again about the books about girls’ boarding schools and the modern appeal to reintroduce separate single-sex education again. And I do not know. I’m saying good bye and go to take my dog to a walk in the park again.

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Een eeuw leven/Living a century 1

Een eeuw leven: 75 jaar in Delft (For English: scroll down please)

Ze zat in de tuin met een glas witte wijn. Veilig in de schaduw. “Tot een paar jaar terug zat ik gewoon lekker in het zonnetje, aan de voorkant. Maar daar kan ik nu niet meer tegen.” zei ze, terwijl ik naast haar ging zetten en een glas wijn voor mezelf inschonk. Mijn buurvrouw wordt dit jaar 100, woont zelfstandig, leest zonder leesbril en drinkt elke dag wijn. En ze kan dus niet meer zo goed tegen de zon.
“Het is wat, 100 worden. Maar weet je dat ik ook 75 jaar in de stad woon? Ik trouwde op mijn 25ste, tot die tijd woonde ik op de boerderij. En ik kende Delft alleen van als we af en toe eens gingen winkelen….”
Ik ging eens lekker in mijn stoel zitten, nipte aan mijn wijn en hoefde niet veel te zeggen. De herinneringen kwamen vanzelf. Hoe ze vroeger samen met haar moeder het paard voor de wagen moest spannen om naar de stad te komen. Lopen was echt te ver vanuit Westland. Een fiets was luxe. Hoe ze in Delft eerst over het spoor moesten rijden om de stad in de komen. In het voorjaar gingen ze kijken naar de jonge dieren markt op de Boterbrug. Hoe lief ze waren: de kuikentjes, de schattige roze varkentjes, de zachte lammetjes, de zoete konijntjes. Ik zag, terwijl mijn bijna 100 jarige buurvrouw praatte, in de glinstering van haar ogen een klein meisje, verrukt van alle jonge diertjes. Of misschien was het het zachte verlangen naar vervlogen tijden.
“Dat ik 100 word, is al zo moeilijk te bevatten. In een zucht… Maar dat ik ook 75 jaar hier woon, dat is toch ook ongelofelijk. En wat is er veel veranderd. Ook heel veel moois en goeds. Vroeger was het echt niet altijd beter. Het was zoals het was, de goede en de slechte dingen. Het zijn nu andere tijden en dat is ook goed.”
Ik woon dit jaar 5 jaar in Delft. Ik probeer 75 jaar te bevatten. Of 100. Ik knijp een beetje mijn ogen dicht als ik naar haar wijze woorden luister. En uit het niets zeg ik “mag ik sommige verhalen opschrijven in mijn blog?”. Ze denkt even na. “Ja, dat mag, maar zonder naam en toenaam.”
Verhalen, vooral persoonlijke, raken mij zo. De hele menselijkheid zit verspreid over al onze persoonlijke verhalen. En met zo’n bijzondere buurvrouw als bron naast mij, wil ik niets liever dan een paar verhalen opvangen en ze weer de wereld in te sturen. Dit is deel een van dit reeks.

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Photo by Thomas Martinsen on Unsplash

Living a century: 75 years in Delft

She sat in the garden with a glass of white wine. Safely in the shade. “Until a few years ago I loved sitting in the sun, in the front of the house. But I can not stand it anymore.” she said, as I sat next to her and poured a glass of wine for myself. My neighbour turns 100 this year, lives on her own, reads without reading glasses and drinks wine every day. And she can’t sit in the sun anymore.
“Turning hundred is something. But do you know that I also live in this city for 75 years? I got married at the age of 25, until then I lived on the farm. And I only knew Delft from when we went shopping once in a while. …. ”
I sat confortably in my chair, sipped my wine and didn’t have to say much. The memories came naturally. How she and her mother used to tug the horse in front of the cart to get to the city. Walking was really too far from Westland. A bicycle was luxurious. How they first had to cross the railway in Delft to get into the city. At springtime they went to watch the young animals market on the Boterbrug. How sweet they were: the chicks, the cute pink pigs, the soft lambs, the sweet bunnies. I saw, while my almost 100-year-old neighbour was talking, in the glint of her eyes a little girl, delighted with all the young animals. Or maybe it was endearment for times gone by.
“It’s already so hard to comprehend that I am turning100. In a sigh … But that I also live here for 75 years, that is also unbelievable.” And the city has changed a lot, also a lot of beautiful and good changes. The olden times were not always good, it was the way it was, the good and the bad things. It’s different times now and that’s good too”.
This year I’ll be living for 5 years in Delft. I try to imagine 75 years. Or a 100. I close my eyes a little when I listen to her wise words. And out of nowhere I say “can I write down some stories in my blog?”. She thinks for a moment. “Yes, you can, but without names and such.”
Stories, especially personal ones, always touch me. All of the humanity is spread over all of our personal stories. And with such a special neighbour as a source next to me, I want nothing more than to collect a few stories and send them back into the world. This is part one of this series.

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The best things about having a dog

Today our dog Marley turns 7 month old it will also be a month since he joined our family. And it really feels like he belongs here, with us. Marley is a rescue dog, found as a 3 month old puppy in Bacau, Romania. Sheltered in a dog rescue shelter, brought by the foundation @hulpdoetleven to The Netherlands. Marley is super cute, super smart and super family friendly. It took our two cats only a few days to accept him, and they are getting closer every day. Yeay!

About 6 years ago we said goodbye to our old dog Emma. We raised her as a puppy, she was like our first child, and when we had to put her to sleep when she was 12 our heart broke. We decided not to get another dog. Not only because the emotional attachment to our old dog, but also for the practical reasons which seem very logical: too busy with work, school, it’s time consuming, we don’t need to go outside anymore when it rains, etc. But our daughter who grew up with a dog, kept talking about getting one again. She was often bringing the subject up, trying to persuade us, begging and charming us. It took us about 2-3 years of every now and then discussions until we decided to get another dog. And now that we have had Marley for a month, I can only say that there are just so many benefits of having a dog, and only a few impediments… that really do not count to us.

The best things about having a dog. Well… You go outside much more often and get fresh air; this was the argument our 13-year-old daughter kept using. And she was telling us that she and us would benefit from it and she was of course right. Find some green and walk. We are fortunate enough to live opposite a park. Because we have to walk the dog a few times a day, we simply get more physical exercise. Just one month of having a dog, eating sweets for Saint Nicholas, about 4 Christmas diners and a New Year’s Eve one, and not to forget all the extra alcohol intake, and yet I feel lighter and more fit than a month ago.


There is something in the way a dog wiggles his tale, jumps around, cuddles, runs to play with other dogs, enjoys mud, lies on his back to get more cuddles, looks like he is smiling all the time, and many more of these kind of behaviour, that just increases my mood almost instantly. Cute. Yes. But a dog needs care too. While our daughter wanted a dog very much, and found all sorts of arguments in favour of getting a dog, we did talk also about the responsibilities that go with it. Luckily enough, she is taking care of him, and the cats and goldfish.

So here we are, just a few days in the new year, after many celebrations. The clean sheet of 2018. Although every new day is a new beginning, a new year has something magical. Fresh and full of possibilities. I am not (anymore) a new year resolution type. And I hope you don’t set too high goals to achieve yourself. It’s always tricky, you know. But if you are looking for more social contacts, more exercise, more fresh air, more fun and simply…to experience more moments of joy in your every day life, I wholeheartedly suggest to get a dog!

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Knitting myself healthy

There have been a few hard weeks lately. Nothing came out of my hands. My to do list got longer, my goals fuzzier, my frustrations heavier. I don’t know exactly what hit me. Maybe it’s just a good old autumn depression, I used to be very sensitive to that years ago. I would just crawl up on the sofa after work and try to see as less people as possible in my free time. Maybe this year is dealing with some personal issues a part of it. Maybe it is a combination. But the main thing is that I was mostly feeling down, depressed, lacking energy and just wanting to be left alone. It is still hard to just say it out loud: I am not so well, I am feeling down. Even saying that to yourself is hard, because it means you really have to acknowledge it. And when you do that, when you admit that to yourself, you just took the first towards healing yourself.

And that is what I did. Well, actually saying it was still hard, I texted my husband one tough afternoon and I felt so relieved afterwards. Just by texting that I got a little energy shot through my veins, actually felt is. Next, I talked to a friend. And then to another. And before I knew it I just said to myself I am feeling depressed, I need to find a way to get out of here.

So, how to get out of this? If it would be so simple, I am sure depression wasn’t a thing anymore. But it is, and it is very personal, and there is no one size fits all cure. At first I pushed myself to do more physical exercise. And even though I am jogging, I could not find the energy to do more. Then I pushed myself to maybe study or read more, work related, but that didn’t work either. Then I pushed myself to work more, but even though I had plenty of ideas, everything I was trying to achieve just crumbled down from lack of enthusiasm, inspiration and again lack of energy. I was going round in circles and hated it. I didn’t feel productive, achieving , contributing. Which made me feel even more depressed.

Then I had the epiphany that in order to break this vicious circle, I needed to do whatever really made me happy and would give me energy. Something totally out of my comfort zone. Something new. Something that maybe scared me but that I really wanted to do. But what was that?

The answer came in a Facebook post one day, at random. Someone mentioned that there is a lady who is willing to teach others how to knit. And by reading that, I immediately felt a little outburst of excitement going through my body. If there is something I have always wanted to learn how to do, it was knitting and crocheting. My grandmother used to make us the most beautiful creations when I was young, and I was mesmerised but her skills. But I never learned how to do it. And for years I was talking about learning how to knit, but I was scared I couldn’t. So I never really tried, or gave up after a few attempts. Up until now. I contacted this lady, she started teaching me, and within a few weeks I finished my first knitting project. I couldn’t be more proud!

Knitting is not something I am leaning because I have to. Or because I could make a career out of it and earn more money. I am doing it for me. It gives me satisfaction, which makes me feel good about myself, and that positives feeling gives me back my energy. I have literary something on my hands, I have to concentrate, focus, create, count, make mistakes and fix them, and I get to see how something is growing out of my hands.In the olden days there was popular knowledge that knitting is benefiting your mental health. And today, more and more scientific research shows that the benefits of knitting and other handicrafts goes much further. It’s an anti-stressing activity, your blood pressure goes down, you focus better, it calms you when in crises, it helps slowing the decline of brain function and more. Studies have showed that people with depression start feeling more happiness after learning how to knit and that there is a direct link between our hands and brain that activates the happiness centre in our brain. This article for the New York Times gives a good overview of the latest findings over the Health Benefits of Knitting.

Photo by Imani on Unsplash

And me, I couldn’t agree more. I feel how the fog is being lift, I have more clarity and I slowly have more energy. I am still learning how to knit and I am discovering more and more techniques each step of the way. Although I didn’t start knitting because I was aware of all these benefits, my inner compass guided me. Instinctively, intuitively, I knew its was the right thing to do. It is so worth it.

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