Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Just Call Me Coach

It was bound to happen sooner or later. After a year of settling in (?), recovering from our last posting (?), just focusing on my own family (?), a combination of all three and then some (?), I've finally jumped back into the fray. What fray you ask? The one of volunteering and getting involved in my community. Perhaps too involved but involved none the less.

After almost three intense years in Albania, I arrived in Belgium tired. Tired and burned out. So rather than jumping in with both feet the way I previously have done, I sat things out. I was still willing to help out if needed and specifically asked, but I no longer wanted to be in charge of things. I would contribute to the bake sale if asked or would provide treats for the class party but I didn't want to be the one organizing these activities. I dutifully brought Sidney to all of his activities but then I sat on the sidelines until it was time to leave. At first I felt bad about not actively participating but after a friend reassured me that I had "done my time" and that it was now someone else's turn to step up the the plate, I was determined to enjoy participating with out leading. And I did. Initially it was nice; I had time to do all of those things I had never had time for before. I went to the gym, took painting classes and French lessons and honed my cooking and baking skills. I took Sidney to soccer practice, swim lessons and play dates; we explored our neighborhood and went to the weekly story time at the library; we found the best playgrounds in the area and Sidney was introduced to the art of Tae Kwan Do. But gradually, despite all of this activity, it felt as though something was missing. I was going through all of the motions yet feeling oddly detached from it all. And that leads me to where I am today.

Sidney loved playing soccer last fall but as a parent, my frustrations with the way his team was organized drove me crazy. There were no shows, last minute cancellations and chaotic practices where the kids spent more time staring at the airplanes in the sky than they did kicking the ball. Sidney began to complain that it was boring and I repeatedly found myself thinking that I could organize the practices better. But, I stopped myself from complaining too much (or at least out loud) since the volunteer coaches had stepped forward to take the lead whereas I had deliberately decided not to. As someone who has organized my share of events and activities where people complained yet no one volunteered, I knew I was in no position to complain when I wasn't willing to do it myself.

Fast forward to spring soccer season --or spring football as they call it here--and I am now a coach. More specifically a friend and I are coaching our sons on their 4 and 5 year old developmental soccer team. I don't profess to know a whole lot about soccer but at this age understanding the intricacies of the game are less important than reliability, teaching good sportsmanship and having fun. Its sort of like herding cats but our little team of boys and a couple of girls are excited to be there. I'm excited to be on the field as well. The other parents seem relieved that some other parent has stepped up to the plate. But most importantly, Sidney is excited that I am there. He calls me "Coach Mom" and is thrilled to be back on the field and playing. I'm the proud owner of Soccer For Dummies, I've spend hours scouring the Internet for age appropriate drills and we're stumbling through. Its exhausting yet exhilarating and I'm having a great time.

So yes, I'm back in the game. Literally and figuratively. And as if this isn't enough of a challenge, I'm also volunteering with a couple of other new to me activities that excite me. But those stories are a blog entry for another day.

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Venetian Masks Of Shkoder

I was recently digging through old pictures from our time in Albania and was reminded of a surprising place that while I posted pictures of, I never blogged about in detail at the time. So there is no better time than now to write about the Venetian masks that are made in the city of Shkoder, Albania. (Yes, you read that correctly, there really is a mask factory in Albania and it is pretty darn neat).

I've always been fascinated by the intricate details and bright colors of Venetian masks and while we were in Albania, I had the opportunity to see them being made. And like so many places in Albania, what you see on the outside can be so deceiving about what is hidden behind the walls.

Tucked away on a back road in a warehouse off of the main road in Shkoder sits the Venetian Arts Mask Factory. A small shop sits below the factory--which in reality is more like a large open warehouse--itself. The upper floor consists of an expansive space with individual work stations spread throughout the light filled room. This is where each mask is carefully crafted by hand. Tables are filled with colorful bobbles, feathers and beads waiting to be affixed to masks. No detail is too small as the masks are first hand painted with a brightly colored base coat then set out to dry. Next other colors were added to the base with the fine details being painted freehand-- making each mask a truly unique piece of art. Later in the process pieces of glitter and beading are individually placed on the masks. It was such fun to watch a simple mask be transformed into something special and unique. The entire process of creating a mask takes days so it is no wonder that they are so treasured and expensive when purchased in Venetian markets. By coming to the source you can not only see how they are produced but can purchase your own mask at a greatly reduced price.

Once the tour was complete we returned downstairs to browse through the masks that were available to purchase. The options were unlimited and I debated for quite some time before choosing one. I have yet to wear mine to a masquerade but when the opportunity arises, I will be ready. In the meantime my mask sits on a mantle as a fond memory of our time in Albania.

So when you visit, bring cash and take your time picking out a mask or two. There are so many options that it is hard to pick just one.

If you go:

Venetian Arts Mask Factory
Rrugga Lin Delia
Shkoder, Albania
+355 68 204 72 91
Open daily 09.00-16.00, closed Sundays

Saturday, March 21, 2015

La Fete du Chocolat

Its chocolate weekend here in Mons. This year its still cool but the rain is holding off but because this is Belgium, the weather really doesn't matter. What does is that Mons is once again celebrating one of the things that Belgium is famous for. Chocolate. And who doesn't love chocolate? We certainly do so this is where we will be this weekend. 

So in honor of the weekend, here's a repost from last year:

One of the great things about our new neighborhood is its proximity to the city's pedestrian zone and the Grand Place. While everyone who doesn't live in the neighborhood must drive and struggle to find parking, we have the luxury of walking two blocks then being in the center of the action. And this past weekend the action revolved around the chocolate festival. Somehow it is completely appropriate that the first festival we attended here in Belgium was Le Fete du Chocolat or the Chocolate Festival. And it was even more appropriate that it was raining. After all two of the first things I think of when I hear "Belgium" is chocolate and rain. But because it was Belgian chocolate it was good. Really good. So good that it was nothing a few (or more) raindrops could ruin. And we weren't the only ones who felt this way.

On an overcast and sometimes rainy Saturday afternoon the pedestrian zone was lined with booths and stalls touting Belgian chocolate in all forms. As we approached the street the air was filled with the distinctive aroma of chocolate. From bite sized gourmet truffles and chocolate filled waffles to chocolate bunnies (after all, Easter is rapidly approaching), fudge, and ice cream, it was all for the eating and buying. Some chocolatiers paired their chocolates with champagne while another sold chocolate infused coffees and teas. There were pastry shops selling both chocolate items as well as local fruit filled specialities which were welcome reprieves from the chocolate. (Yes, there really can be too much of a good thing). As an added incentive to lure people in, most vendors provided free samples.

Chocolate cookies

Chocolate samples anyone?

We had wandered about halfway through the festival when the sky opened up and it began to pour. My first inclination was to run for cover but in looking around I noticed that no one else was dashing towards the nearest vestibule. Instead, people were lifting their hoods or raising their umbrellas and continuing on their way. So we joined the locals and did the same. Sidney loved splashing in the puddles and the rain did little to detract from the festivities. Sure we got wet but it was just a part of the experience. (Prior to our arriving in Belgium Glenn had boldly declared that we wouldn't let the rain stop us from venturing out so we didn't). But as is the case most days the rain was short lived. By the time we headed home the rain had stopped and before we reached our doorstep the sky was bright blue and the sun was shining. We were almost tempted to turn around and go back. But instead we brewed ourselves some of our new mocha coffee and drank it with chocolate macaroons. Life in Belgium is turning out to be pretty darn sweet.

If you go:
La Fete du Chocolate a Mons
Grand Place & la Rue Pietonne
Mons, Belgium 7000

March 21 & 22, 2015 from 10.00-18.00
Admission is free

Friday, March 20, 2015

Beauty In A Box

February's box

I am totally not a beauty product junkie. During my teen years I experimented with the latest fads but by hair was simply too heavy for the feathered big bang look of the 1980s and brightly colored eye shadowed always left me looking like I had two black eyes. I quickly decided that it was all too much effort for such disappointing results. As an adult, even before I became a mother I could never be bothered with high maintenance, time consuming routines. And after motherhood? I have even less time to deal with a  laborious routine. Easy was and is key and for more years that I want to admit, this tactic has worked. Until it didn't any more.

And that is because Belgium, combined with the inevitable aging process, has been brutal to my skin and hair. Hard water, raw air that is damp yet skin drying and cold temperatures are doing a number on me. So much so that for the first time in my life I've found myself trolling beauty counters, online stores and even home based beauty consultants in the desperate need for beauty products that will do the trick. It has all been so hit or miss--with more misses than hits--and as anyone who purchases beauty products knows, expensive if you aren't sure you want to commit to a new product. Everything claims to be the best, cure the biggest problems the fastest and leave you looking and feeling beautiful. Umm....that is simply not the case. So what is a girl to do?

Much to my surprise I have taken a step that I never imagined I would take and signed up for a monthly Birch Box subscription. I filled out a questionnaire and for a nominal cost each month without fail a box of beauty product samples shows up in my mailbox. In my questionnaire I identified skin and hair as being my primary concerns (or at least the ones I wanted to address) so to date all of my samples have been products focusing on these areas. The marketing around this idea is all rather ingenious since I've found myself following through and buying full sized versions of the products I like. Yes it has sucked me in but that is OK because finally I feel as though my dry skin and hair are becoming a thing of the past.

March's box

Each month a pretty little box arrives in the mail filled with little things that are just for me to enjoy. Some items are a hit and others are misses. I'm still a novice since sometimes items arrive that I'm simply unsure how to use. This past month's box included a small bottle that looked like nail polish and had an applicator like nail polish but didn't smell like nail polish. Besides, I know that I can't receive nail polish through the mail. I was stumped and had to look on line to see what I had actually received. It turned out to be a liquid face highlighter. I tried it but quickly relegated it to the "miss" category. You do win some and you loose some.

But for a mere $10.00 a month I'm expanding my horizons. And you can too. They even have boxes for men. Simply click here to see what it is all about.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Online Personas

I've written about this before but it is still so relevant. When will we learn? Or is that we simply don't we care?

The internet, and and social media forums like Facebook are a pretty amazing thing. Where else can you research the most inane questions, reconnect with old friends and meet new ones all without leaving the comfort of your own home? There is a whole virtual world out there to be discovered. But unlike in real life where what you see is more often than not, what you get, in a virtual world it is possible to create new personas. A shy person can become outgoing online and vice versa without anyone being the wiser. Recently I've been wondering how often people do this and whether their actions are intentional or unintentional. So is the way you act online the same way you behave in real life? Yes, no, maybe, sometimes???
Lets take Facebook for example. I have my share of friends and know all but a handful in real life. I know some better than others and have found in most cases that their real life personalities are the same as their virtual ones. Those that complain, whine and have a lot of drama in their real lives tend to have the same when online. And my more mild mannered and even keeled ones? Their virtual lives tend to look the same; its all pretty predictable.

But what I really wonder about is those people that I've never met. Take Facebook groups as an example. Because I'm selective about the groups I join I tend to belong ones that are interest or demographic based; shared hobbies, alumnae of the same schools, members of the same military communities, etc. These groups can have a handful or several thousand members. Fellow members aren't my friends per se but because we belong to the same groups I feel like I know many of them. If they are regular posters their faces and stories become familiar and I feel like I've met them. In just about every group I am a member of there are people who are active and always chiming in. Their responses to questions are often rapid fire and immediate making me wonder if they do nothing other than stalk Facebook at all hours of the day. Sometimes they add useful information to the conversation but many times I feel as though they don't. While these groups can provide a wealth of information and needed opinions, if a question about an opening time has been posed then answered is it really necessary for ten other people to chime in with the same information? Then there are the people who come across as experts on every subject matter; regardless of the question they always have a definitive answer and have no qualms about arguing with anyone who dares to disagree or present an differing opinion. Personally I am quite private when it comes to posting in these groups. I think twice before sharing a tale of woe and only jump into the conversations if I have something new and meaningful to contribute. (But when thinking about it, this is the way I am in real life as well). But not everyone feels the same way. I know more about people's marital and in-law problems, dislike of their jobs and bosses and disputes with their neighbors than I want or need to. Really.

The longer I am a part of these groups the more I get to "know" these people. Some people I immediately like, others I find funny or I grow to be annoyed by. A few I find myself disliking but the majority of them I am indifferent to. But every once in a while I actually meet and get to know these people in real life. This tends to happen most often with the military spouse groups that I belong to. And you know what? The ones I liked online I find myself liking in person. If you don't have a filter in your virtual life it is doubtful that you have one in real life either. The ones whose comments I avoid reading and generally disliked when on Facebook are the same ones I feel the urge to run from when I see them in person. Annoying online is annoying in person; funny behind the keyboard usually means funny in person. And the similarities just go on. So is the internet "real life" or just a mirror image of it?

And all of this makes me feel like my online persona pretty much mirrors the real life me. But then again, I'm pretty biased so who am I to judge?

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Botanical Garden At The Wilhelma Zoo

This time of year is tough weather wise. Days are more apt to be gray and dreary than they are sun filled, trees are still barren and a few select flowers may have begun to tentatively pop up from the ground. Come March I find myself in desperate need of a pick-me-up and this past weekend I found just that in Stuttgart, Germany (of all places). I spent the day at the Wilhelma Zoo and Botanical Garden and experienced the boost of spring I so desperately needed.

Prickly garden
Now the zoo was nice, much nicer in fact than many zoos I have visited, but it was the arboretums and greenhouses that really make this zoo so special. Located on the outskirts of Stuttgart, and like many European zoos and botanical gardens, and sharing a similar history with Berlin's zoo, this zoo's grounds were originally designed as a private royal retreat for Swabian King Wilhelm I. The buildings and grounds were designed with a Moorish style, which was popular with royal families during the mid 19th Century. The grounds encompass 70 acres, contains original gardens and structures as well as new ones and has numerous glass houses which hold the lush greenhouses and tropical gardens. It is the only zoo and botanical garden in Germany and welcomes over 2.1 million visitors each year.

Visiting in March, the grounds were well manicured but lacked the vivid colors and lush foliage that summer blooms would bring. But all was not lost. By stepping inside one of the many indoor tropical glass houses, I was greeted with the warmth, humidity and lush colors that I was looking for. While I don't have a green thumb--a black thumb is more like it--I've always been a fan of greenhouses of all kinds. Whether it is the greenhouses with budding seedlings found at your local garden shop or elaborate arboretums at botanical gardens, there is something about the earthy smell and steamy humidity that just relaxes my body and my soul. And the steamy and lush glass houses at this botanical garden were no exception.

Strolling through the azaleas

Bloom ready to burst open
We wandered from one glass house to another taking in the greenery and flowers. There was the glass house which while still warm was more arid. This one was home to amazing prickly cacti and hearty aloe plants. More tropical environments contained soaring palm trees and plants more reminiscent of the tropics rather than Germany. There were tiny ponds, moss covered expanses and even a citrus grove complete with lemons and oranges. An entire house filled with blooming azalea bushes reminded me of our old azalea filled neighborhood back in Norfolk. I had forgotten how much the bright pinks and reds filled me with cheer, Then there was the Amazon house, located in the lower "new" glass house. Here we found not only giant snakes and a crocodile but the birds and plants that go along with the environment.

Yes, the color is real

All of this was a wee bit of welcome paradise that was just what I needed to drive away the late winter blues. And judging but the manicured grounds and carefully pruned trees outside of the glass houses, I can only imagine how beautiful the entire grounds must be in the midst of summer. I dare say that they warrant a return trip to Stuttgart.

Lush foliage and steamy temperatures provides a brief respite from the
raw weather outside

If you go:
Wilhelma Zoo & Botanical Garden
Wilhelmaplatz 13
70376 Stuttgart, Germany
+49 711 54020
16 Euro for adults, 8 Euro children, ages 6 and under are free
Open daily from 08:15; closing times vary throughout the year

Sunday, March 15, 2015

A Contrast In Cultures: The Military Cemeteries Of Luxembourg

Probably the most well known soldier
buried at the cemetery. The only thing that
sets his gravestone apart from everyone else's
is its location.
Cemeteries are probably not the first place most people plan to visit while on vacation. After all, walking amongst gravestones is hardly an uplifting experience. But it is the very solemness of these final resting places than makes them emotionally moving places to visit. And this is especially so when the cemetery in question is one of the many American military cemeteries that are located around the globe. It doesn't matter how many military cemeteries I visit; whether it be the final resting place for the thousands of young men who lost their lives on the beaches of Normandy, France during World War II, the earlier generation of Americans whose final resting place is in Flanders Field or America's own Arlington National Cemetery, where veterans of every American war lie in their final resting place across the river from the nation's capitol; the emotions that are invoked are the same. The white marble cross--and occasional Stars of David-- headstones are etched with the names, home state, rank and date of death. For an organization where rank matters, death serves as the great equalizer with the fallen systematically buried in perfect military precision regardless of the stars and stripes on their uniforms with officers lying next to the enlisted, Christians next to Jews, young men barely out of boot camp next to veterans of several wars. It is impossible to visit a military cemetery and not feel humbled. These are truly solemn grounds.

Luxembourg American Cemetery
Given all of this, it made perfect sense for us to visit the Luxembourg American Cemetery located just outside of Luxembourg City during our recent visit to this little Grand Duchy. The cemetery is the final resting place of General George S. Patton Jr. and 5,075 other soldiers, most of whom lost their lives during the infamous Battle of the Bulge during the final days of World War II. The cemetery is set on 17 acres of meticulously manicured grass--which even in the middle of the winter appeared green. It was established in December of 1944 and dedicated in 1960 as a tribute to all who had lost their lives. The cemetery includes a chapel, fountains and memorial pylons depicting troop movements through the region and the names of 371 men who were lost in action during the battles. With the American flags flying proudly over the grounds it is a fitting tribute to the men who fought and gave their lives in the name of freedom. But as I soon realized, not all military cemeteries are created the same.

The gravestone of four German soldiers killed during
the Battle of the Bulge
Located just a mere couple of kilometers down the road from the American cemetery lies the Sandweiler German War Cemetery. Here 10,931 German servicemen lie in double or even triple graves with a single squat, dark head stone marking the names of up to six soldiers buried beneath. Over half of these graves were dug and the bodies buried by the neighboring American War Graves Service who was simultaneously establishing the Luxembourg American Cemetery. After the war, an agreement was reached between the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and the Federal Republic of Germany to move German soldiers who were buried in 150 smaller cemeteries throughout the country and to reinter them into a single burial ground. In 1955, ten years after the conclusion of war, the dedication ceremony was attended by over 2,000 relatives of the dead. The site also contains a memorial plaque listing the names of each buried and missing soldier.

Inside looking out at the entrance to the Sandweiler German
War Cemetery
The contrast between these two cemeteries couldn't be more different. Whereas the entrance to the American cemetery is open and airy, the German cemetery lies across a small moat and at the end of a narrow and heavily shaded path. Even without knowing the history I would have had the sense of walking towards defeat as I approached the entrance. After walking through the narrow doorway of a low stone building housing a tiny chapel visitors step into a sea of squat dark crosses sitting amongst unkempt grass. The mood is definitely solemn in a way that is completely different than the humbling yet airy environment of the neighboring American cemetery. I was immediately struck by the fact that the face of each grave marker bore the
A portion of the commemorative list of
Germany's dead
names of two or three soldiers and to my further surprise the back of each stone revealed an additional two or three names. This compact space contains twice as many graves as the American cemetery yet sits on a plot of land half of the size.

The stark differences in these two burial grounds made me think long and hard about how a country, especially a defeated one, mourns and honors their dead. Both are solemn places of remembrance and reflection and are worth visiting when you find yourself passing through Luxembourg. Don't visit one without stopping at the other because each experience only deepens the meaning of what the other one.

If you go:

Luxembourg American Cemetery
50 Val du Scheid
Luxembourg (Hamm)
+352 43 17 27
Open daily from 09.00-17.00 every day except for Christmas and New Years Day
Free Admission

Sandweiler German War Cemetery
Rue d'Itzig
Sandweiler, Luxembourg
+352 35 50 07
Free Admission

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Dating Game

Friends. How does one find them...especially as an adult? There is something to be said for children; they seem to befriend and be befriended where ever they go. Whether it is on the playground, in the neighborhood or at school, kids seem to naturally gravitate towards the other little people around them. Language, skin color and gender are all but irrelevant when it comes to making friends. These friendships come fast and furious; on more than one occasion Sidney has gone to a playground and left with an invitation to go home with another child or he himself has issued such an invitation to a virtual stranger. Many of these friendships peter out as quickly as they came on but others last much longer and become what I would consider true and lasting relationships.

So how do adults make friends? Instead of playgrounds we have offices and work spaces where we spend the day toiling alongside co-workers. We have the gym, volunteer activities and perhaps neighbors that provide us with opportunities to meet and interact with other adults. We may or may not have anything beyond work or a shared location in common with our adult peers and are apt to enter into relationships with other adults with a world weary skepticism. Sometimes we click and other times we don't; peers may become friends, remain acquaintances or be moved onto the do not call list. Add in the transient nature of military families, where everyone is always coming and going, and the whole process becomes speed dating since time is so limited.

But because life tends to come full circle, the playground still does come into play when it comes to adult friendships. Enter the parents of your children's friends. Anyone who is a parent knows what I'm talking about; the other adults who sit on the benches along the soccer field, hold the coats and bags while counting down the remaining minutes of play at the playground and stand in the hallways at school waiting for dismissal. Small talk usually ensues and sometimes full fledge conversations develop since these are the people you (at least I do) see day in and day out on a routine that is predictable as the week itself. Sometimes I find myself looking forward to and hoping a particular parent will be there while other times my thoughts drift in the opposite direction. And it all moves forward from there.

Life is like a dating game. There are the fellow parents you want to see and those you want to avoid. There are the ones who you only see in the hallway and those that you invite out for coffee after drop off is complete. You tentatively ask your child about a potential friend's child to see if a spark of friendship between the children exists. It is disappointing when it doesn't and I wonder how much prodding of that relationship I should do with the selfish hopes of making my own friend. If there is the potential, play dates between the kids come next while the parents chaperone and forge their own relationships. If all is successful, with fingers crossed, spouses are introduced into the mix, with the overarching hope that we all get along.  Sometimes the child is the one to introduce the play date and us parents (usually the mothers) do our own tentative feeling of each other out with our common bond being our children. I've found that this approach is just as apt to be met with success as it is with failure. The kids get along but the parents might as well be speaking different languages. 

But sometimes it all does work out and when it does it is a wonderful thing. I've met some of my closest friends because of my son's own friends. We've gotten together individually and as families and all enjoyed our time together. These parents become legitimate emergency contacts and even though we may not have known each other for years it feels as though we have. But because we are all military families we know our time is fleeting. If we are lucky we've clicked at the beginning of our tours rather than at the tail end. If not we take advantage of the remaining time we have. 

With each new friendship, however I am repeatedly reminded of how important friends really are. And because of that I vow to take a few cues from my son's approach to making friends--if I see someone I think I might like I need to go for it. Even if I am on the fence I should take the plunge anyway since you never know what lies beneath an appearance and the commonalities we might share. See, it really is like a dating game. If you don't take a chance you have everything to lose while if you do jump in you can emerge a winner.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Breaking The Silence

I'm back; or to be more accurate, the blog is back. With the exception of a few pictures, this site has been pretty quiet for the past couple of months. It wasn't because I didn't want to blog---I did and had so many thoughts and ideas to share---but I just couldn't seem to put words to paper---or fingers to the keyboard. Writers know this as "writer's block". Call it what you will but my inability to put my thoughts down in a coherent manner has been driving me crazy. But this dry spell, I am daring to say, is behind me.

But my silence has been more than writer's block as I've been thinking a lot about this blog and what it means to me. I started blogging in 2011 to document our adventures as we moved from the East Coast of the United States to Tirana, Albania. My intent at the time was to keep family and friends back home up to date with our lives. But over time this blog evolved into so much more. As I continued to write about our adventures I began to write more in more detail about the places we went and the people we met. Perhaps the blog was becoming a travel blog. But I also documented the struggles, joys and head scratching moments I encountered in parenting an inquisitive and ever changing toddler who quickly grew into a pre-schooler who was precocious and wise beyond his years. Was I a mommy blogger? I've documented our dilemmas around being a military family whose future has never truly been entirely in our own control but I as our active duty times reaches its sunset, we've been distancing ourselves from the armed forces community and focusing on what lies ahead. So no, I don't consider myself to be a military spouse blogger. I've never been one to want to create controversy but occasionally I've written about my take on a current event or political issue. Or what I perceive as an injustice taking place around me. And sometimes I've gotten a bit too personal or ruffled a few thin-skinned feathers in the process. That has never been my intent as I neither want to hurt people nor turn this site in a place of controversy. So what is this space and what do I want to put here as I move forward?

This is what I've been thinking about over the past couple of months. I had been wondering whether this blog had served its usefulness and whether it was time to shut it down. But I couldn't quite get myself to pull that trigger. Taking the blog down just seemed too....sad......final.....almost like cutting off a limb. I've met wonderful people through my blogging community and the thought of turning the blog off felt as though I would be severing myself from this group of peers. I contemplated whether the blog simply needed a singular focus rather than being all over the place. After all, a year after starting this blog I started another blog dedicated solely to my adventures in cooking. (And that blog is still alive and well). I toyed with the idea of focusing solely on our travel adventures, or parenting dilemmas, or perhaps the struggle of where we go next and what retirement will look like for  us. But none of these ideas felt quite right on their own. At the end of the day my scattered approach to writing about anything and everything works for me. Because this blog is me, is about me and try as I might, I am really not a singularly focused person.

Over the past week spring has finally begun to emerge here in Belgium. The sun has been making a more regular appearance and despite Daylight Savings Time not springing into effect here in Europe for another couple of weeks, the days are definitely getting longer. There is more light, more sunshine and slightly warmer temperatures. It feels as though a rebirth is underway throughout Belgium so what more appropriate time for my blog to come out of her winter hibernation. Her reemergence is likely to be slow going but I'm sure the pace of my postings will pick up speed as spring fully arrives. After all I have months worth of travel adventures, stories of first loves and painful goodbyes and things that make you go "hmmmmm" to share.

So look out blogging world, I'm back.