Today I planned a day out with a girlfriend. For Christmas, I bought her a surprise of High Tea and we just got around to going. She had no clue what our plans were which I always find even more fun. I picked her up and off we went.

I discovered that since my accident and having no current driving experience, I am not nearly as good a driver as I used to be. I think I really need to get out and drive more to gain back some confidence on the road.

Today was the first time I have driven any distance, and I got the okay from my therapist as long as I didn't overdo it to my hand. But what I wasn't prepared for was how much effort it took to drive. Watching everything going on around me, seeing bikers coming at me, one way streets and railroad tracks. It was a bit overwhelming, and by the time we reached our destination, I couldn't wait to get out of the car. Something I used to love and would take any chance to do just doesn't hold the same appeal for me now. Too bad.

Before we reached the safety of the parking spot, I needed to turn around. I pulled into a driveway to do so, backed out, slowed down to allow a biker to pass, and then rammed right into the back of a parked car. On my first day driving in two years. It really shook me up. The lady who saw it happen told me there was no damage as I was getting out of the car to check it out. As I have had no accident in Belgium/Holland, I wasn't quite sure what the procedure was. When she cleared me to go, I asked if she was sure and when she gave me the go ahead, we continued on our way, my hands shaking fiercely.

After our high tea, which was lovely but not quite as spectacular as I had hoped, and definitely not good value for money, I went back to have another look at the car. It was an older Volvo with a rusted bumper and I don't think it did any damage. My car had one small knick on the bumper as well as some paint on the tow hitch. Nothing serious, but enough to scare me about my driving ability. I realise why I wasn't allowed to drive earlier. I know that driving isn't just the physical ability, but also the mental capability.

I need more driving practice before I take on another 'long' trip. My hand feels the workout, but my soul feels just a little more battered than either of the vehicles involved.


Real Women

I discovered something about myself this weekend. I attended a 40th birthday party for one of our aquaintances through soccer, as well as the dad of one of Jari's friends. Erwin plannede to back out, but I felt we should go. He didn't give, so I decided to go it alone. I am glad I did, as I had a really good time. I also discovered a few things about myself which surfaced during this course of events.

The day of the party, I began mentally going through my closet. What would I wear, how should I do my hair, what did other people wear to such a party? About two hours before the party, I started thinking I should get ready. But an hour before I changed my mind and decided not to go...I had a headache. Erwin told me if I wasn't going to go, I should have cancelled. He was right. I decided to go for a couple hours, just to show my presence and support.

I tore through my closet 10 minutes before arrival time. I have never been to an event of this sort in Belgium before and was unsure how it would go. I decided to go for a slightly dressed up version of typical me. All black for the skinny effect of course. I came downstairs looking nice enough but nerves jittering through me. Kissed everyone goodbye and tore off before I changed my mind again.

I arrived on scene. The entire soccer club was there with exception of one couple, so I was immediately grateful I didn't check out. I signed the card, handed over my money, and glanced at all the moms around me. Some were dressed casually, some sexily, some contemporary...and all held umbrellas, except for me with rain sticking in my hair. I felt comfortable and at ease as we all walked in the party quarters together.

I am a chicken shit. That's what I learned. I have difficulty just being myself. I don't like to stand out at all. And so I do what I have to do to just blend in. And usually I do and I am just fine.

However, the people I most like and who I can truly relate to and enjoy being around are those women who just be themselves. They don't care what they are wearing or what they say, but just blurt out whatever comes and dress to their own level of comfort. They drink three times as much wine as the rest and don't mind getting out there on the dance floor and sincerely letting loose. As other women giggle at their actions, roll eyes when they turn their back, these women just choose to be who they are.

I talked with a lot of people that night. There were some serious conversations, lots of jokes, and talk about our kids, soccer, everyday life. But when two of the women I really like chugged down another glass of wine and started hopping to the music out alone on the dance floor, I chose to join them. It was a party, afterall, and I was in a plce I didn't have to drive and with people I didn't have to impress.

I danced and I drank and I let loose, after my initial looking around to see what others would think of me. When I decided I didn't care, I turned into me...someone free to be who she is, proud of what she is and who she has become. I told some jokes, put my arms in the air and let the music and the liquor take me wherever it wanted to lead.

Many people commented on a side of me they have not yet seen. I realized I have been too careful, too cautious, too much of a follower blending in with the crowd. There are times for that woman, times when you should blend in and not cause a scene. Times when you should be proper and a lady. I can be those things, that person. But it isn't the true me. The true me likes to laugh and smile and have fun. I have broken out, for the first time since living in Belgium. And I am free to be me.

I like the women who don't succomb to social norms. I hope they'll appreciate me too. The real me. Not the one they thought they knew. Becuase though she will still make an appearance, she may decide to break out of the mold from time to time and just party...just be.


Good Morning

The little king leaves our bed
It's just you and me
The sun shining through the window
Morning wakes us gently.

I reach out to touch you
Feel your skin beneath my hand
The warmth overcomes me
As it begins to expand.

It isn't just how much I love you
Or a good morning kiss
Your touch brings me closer
Do they call this wedded bliss?

I hear the day beginning
Outside our warm nest
Car motors running, people talking
Yet I forget all the rest.

Your hands encase me tightly
I feel happiness begin to spread
This is the way to start the morning
Two hearts dancing in our bed.

The alarm clock shrills out the time
Turn it off, I can't let go
I don't want to lose the warmth
This feeling all aglow.

Yet the sun shines now brighter
It's time to start the day
Hesitantly with a final sigh
The pleasure falls away.

I stand to face the sunshine
A smile on my face
Your touch has brought me closest
To my very favorite place.


Japan and Natural Disasters

I; like so many others, have been watching the video footage of the disaster zone Japan has become. It sits like a pit in my stomach, knowing what the people are going through. Knowing I can't do much more than watch and hope and pray, send my few little dollars to some relief fund.

I have been through disasters in my life. Plenty of them, including natural disasters. I survived the Northridge earthquake in 1994, and from that experience I come away with knowledge of what such circumstances bring to these people. Homelessness, worry, fear. I lost my home, my clothes, my dishes and my mementos. None of them were ever replaced, though with help I moved on and faced life. Granted, I ended up leaving Californai and moving back to my parents for help, but I eventually found my way and made a place for myself in this world.

When I moved on, I slowly replaced all my material possessions. I took new pictures and got a new home. I continued my journey in college and graduated with honors. I had a child and became a teacher. It was what moving on meant. Yet still, to this day, it touches a place inside me when I hear of such news. It brings me back to the night I felt saved by angels, walking out of my apartment alive while walls and streets crumbled around me. My dog and my friends were a saving grace during the period following the earthquake.

I stood in lines for food, I stood in lines to fill out paperwork for a place to live, I stood in lines to find a job, I stood in lines for a place to sleep for a night. FEMA helped with accomodations in a hotel, as well as food vouchers. I was given clothing. All the basic neccessities to live were shared with me, while my innocence and security was lost. It wasn't all bad. As I stood in those lines, people of every culture, color, and religion stood with me, and we made each other feel safe and collected and bound within the group of those suffering the damages of something bigger than us. It made us strong as a group, this suffering and working together to make it work. At the age of 21, it was even a bit of excitement. Though I had lost my home, it wasn't mine that I had worked years to achieve and was ripped form me in the blink of an eye. My apartment was gone, my home still housed in the Wyoming mountains.

I did eventually go home. Finding a job in the face of such chaos proved unfruitful. Finding a home I could afford was also no cup of tea...who would accept my voucher? But always with me is the chaos and destruction that happened the night of the Northridge earhtquake, as well as all that was lost, and all gained during the period following.

The people in Japan are suffering. Their temporary housing and food vouchers can only give them comfort for so long. They have lost and suffer worry, fear, homelessness. Their homes and all the comforts they have known have been stripped from them. As I sit in my home furnished with a computer and cell phones and a new big screen tv and lights and heat and furniture and a few new clothes I bought last week, I think of these people. These peopel, just like me, who have suddenly nothing left, some not even so lucky to have their lives. It sits like a pit in my stomach. What is my responsibility to these people? They are so far away, Japan isn't even on the same continent. What can I do to help ease the burden? What can I do other than offer my prayers, my hopes, and my compassion from afar?


Tea and Comfort

The house is quiet. All I hear is the sound of the tv as I sit back and tune it out. I have a cup of cinnamon apple tea, warm in my hand, and the smell seduces me, causing me every so often to take a sip. It's a comfortable feeling, sitting here alone, knowing everyone is safe and sleeping gently just where they belong. I have gotten up a number of times to turn out the loghts and head to the cozy warmth of my bedroom, but my eyes are as yet not ready to close. They are enjoying this solitude, this peace.

WE have started a new program with Kaeden, coordinating with his home away from home, as they work with us trying to develop a sense of relaxation for all of us when he is at home. It's quite a complicated system, but last weekend, the first weekend we use dit, was the best we have had in a very long time. I know my kid, and I know he gets a thrill out of new things. I know that the level of comfort we all felt last week is most likely a short-lived happiness, but I dare to hope none-the-less. I would give my life to find comfort and peace coexist in our home, just as I feel now, relaxed and content.

Kaeden desires peace in our home. He desires a better relationship with his dad, sharing life with his little brother as only brothers can, having a mama whom doesn't cry everytime her son actually shines in happiness. He wants things to be better, but just as we ask every day of our lives, he also asks the question "How?"

We are starting with aggression. Kaeden has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to violent behavior since last week, and as much as I am happy it exists, I am also scared. What happens when that zero-tolerance is crossed? We have a plan, but can it fall into place? Will he have the ability to stop his behavior and recognize the consequence of his actions? Kaeden must show respect for people and material objects. He must show respect to us as his parents by following our guidance if he begains to sway and fail, and he must recognize when he is becoming angry and leave the scene before he explodes. These are not easy feats, and though our first week went flawless and my pride in my son soared, I worry for the consequences that will follow IF he does fail. It has become a habit, common-place in our home. We have turned rather than faced the problem head-on simply becuase we don't know what to do. WE now have assistance, as well as back-up. Will it be enough? Will it give him the motivation to try to stay in control? To learn to show respect?

We must let the other behaviors slide while we work first on aggression. Will we be able to carry on, to let things slide which are really not okay? Will we have the strength to carry through with zero-tolerance? Will we have the strength to show him praise for simple things which aren't really due praise?

This week we all sent Kaeden a card, thanking him for the terrific weekend, telling him how much we appreciated his effort, and in turn his success. I didn't ask anyone to sign it, but simply told Erwin and Jari I had it and was planning to send it. When I stuck it in the envelope, all three of us had written Kaeden a personal note....without my request. I dare to hope, with a shallow wall protecting my soul. I want to break the wall down, but it's not yet time. The hope is high, the spirit strong, and I am comfortable and cozy in my home. My family is secure and safe and relaxed, and as I drink the last swallow of my tea, I finally feel like this plan, this little piece of help, may be what I need to finally be able to breathe. I pray for our success, each and every one of us.