Archive for January 2013

Asking celebrities for an RT in order to sell your house. Do or Don’t?

Today I saw someone on Twitter asking for an RT. He was asking a celebrity to RT a link to his house in order to sell.
And it got me thinking. Is this the way to sell your house? I know the housing market is still under a lot of stress. Especially now that the dutch government, instead of helping (first time) buyers, is discouraging them with laws that make it harder to get a mortgage.

House sold

But asking a celebrity for an RT in order to sell your house? I really don’t get that.
I can understand Becky Beau asking this to make people more aware of the possibility of young people having strokes. I can understand myself doing it when I wrote a blog post about Escape To The Country. But to do it because you want to sell your house?
A celebrity is being followed by thousands of people. Asking them for an RT is a great way to get exposure. But do you really want to do that with your house?

The person I saw asking it did this under his own name. His own Twitter profile. In which he describes himself as an Apple fanboy. Great! Now we know he’s got some pretty nice gadgets that can be sold on quicker than you can say Steve Jobs. He’s also talking about going on a ski trip in 3 weeks time. Nice! Now we know exactly when he’s away.
We can look up his house on the estate agents site, look at the photo’s  and see he’s got an antique clock. Not too big, so it can be taken easily. We can see that his house can be approached from the back without anyone seeing you. And while the car is not on the pictures I see car keys with a pretty high end german brand. Which means he has an expensive car. Going to Google Earth and looking at the address I can clearly see that high end German car in front of the house. It’s a relatively new model, but the keys are on a table close to the front door. So if I want to I’ll bust in the front door, grab the keys and I can be off before the guy even realises what happened.

So, in a nutshell, if you want to sell your house via Twitter, think about the consequences it might have. Think about making a new account for the house itself. I know you probably have more followers than a new account has, but trying to get an RT under your own name, for your own property might not be such a good idea…

Oh, how I wish…

For years I’ve been going up and down these steep streets. For years I’ve dreamed about what’s on the other side. When I go down I can see the sea in the far distance. Can I go there? Can I play in the sand? Can I feel the water surrounding me as I dive in? How does that feel? Does it feel like the rain that comes after the months of drought? The rain that makes me spotless again. Does it feel like that?

I’ve heard the sea is so big no-one knows exactly how big it is. I heard the sea covers 71% of the planet. But how big is the planet? And how much is 71%? I’ve never been further than this street, so I wouldn’t know.

Don’t get me wrong. I love this street. I love going up and down. Seeing the people, the animals, the houses. But sometimes it bores me. I want to see more of the world. What is on the other side of the houses?
I’m jealous of the people I see. They can go wherever they like. The can just walk to where they want to go. How I wish to do that.
But I’m stuck on this track.

couple-embrace

Photo courtesy of Cheri Lucas.

For more posts in the Weekly Writing Challenge, please go here.

Through the Window

As I look through the window I see the damp and dreary place that is my garden.

The chrysanthemum that has been flowering for months has lost its flowers and leaves and the storm that was raging last night has made it topple over. As did the Christmas tree that I want to try to keep for next Christmas.
The orange dish I used for the birds is filled with water and a bit of bread crumbs. The back looks like a wasteland of dirt and some pretty persistent weeds.

Next summer that part will hopefully be a veggie patch with berry bushes, strawberry, lettuce, potatoes, onions, bell-peppers, tomatoes and whatever you want.

The place is looking nothing like the bird haven that it was just a couple of days ago. The ground was covered in a light, white dust of snow that just about covered the grass. There were so many birds, fighting for the food I put out. When the bread dish was empty, a brave blackbird knocked on the window. Making it pretty clear he was hungry and wanted food. The magpies were stealing sunflower seeds from the great tits and the blue tits. The starlings were fighting each other trying to get hold of the suet balls. Why I have no idea, because there were more than enough for all of them. We had bush tits, great tits, house sparrows, robins, blue tits, a great spotted woodpecker, thrushes, blackbirds, starlings, doves, magpies, herons, Eurasian jays and even a nightingale.

I loved seeing all the birds in the garden. And while I’m looking out into that dreary place that is now my garden I push myself a little closer to the central heating. For just a moment I let the thing warm me. And just as I want to turn around to go and write this post a robin flies up to the window bird feeder. He looks right at me, his little head tilted a bit as if he wants to tell me he’s still here and he still needs the food I put out…

For more posts on this Daily Prompt, please go here.

The girl in the photograph

Annie was one half of identical twins. Her mother didn’t know she was carrying twins. Annie was born on the first day of spring, early 1950s.  Her sister had died weeks before, her body poisoning the amniotic fluid. After she was born Annie’s mother was told Annie wouldn’t live very long. It may be days, may be weeks, but she was told not to expect her daughter making it through the first year.

After the twins birth the hospital chaplain came to christen Annie, for she may not survive very long. Despite church (and hospital) policies the chaplain christened the stillborn as well. So they could be together in death. This meant the stillborn girl could be buried in the family grave.

Despite what the doctors had said, Annie turned out to be stronger than anyone thought. She survived her first few days, weeks and even months. She lived to celebrate her first and second birthday. On her third birthday she was in hospital.
The photograph shows a tiny little girl in a hospital bed way too big for her. On the bedside table is a piece of cake with three candles burning. Annie is looking into the camera with a laugh on her face. Her heart-shaped face, surrounded by blonde curly hair is glowing with excitement. But her body lies stiff, she’s unable to move anything but her head.

About five months after the photograph was taken Annie’s tiny body gave up. Her mother held her in her arms when she died. Annie’s body was buried in the same grave as her sisters four days later.

The photograph clearly shows a little angel. An angel too beautiful and too good to ever stay long on this earth.

This story is a mixture of facts and fiction. The photograph exists, the girl in it died very young. She really was an angel, the photographs show that very clearly. But her name is not Annie.
I wrote this post for the Daily Post Writing Challenge.

Sweet 16

When you were 16, what did you think your life would look like? Does it look like that? Is that a good thing?

Are you serious? When I was 16 my life couldn’t possibly be worse than it was. I didn’t think too much about the future as I had way too much to deal with at the time.

My parents relationship was miserable (it ended in divorce about a year later). My uncle was tied to a hospital bed. One of the teachers in my school did everything to get me to fail. I was constantly bullied by some brats. My brother (lovely boy) had psychological problems. I had a job where a guy thought he was allowed to touch me whenever he could.

I did not think about the future. At all… Sweet 16? Don’t get me started…

sweet16

For more entries on Sweet Sixteen, click here.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Beyond

Masts

For more entries for this weeks’ photo challenge, click here.

Elfstedentocht

As some of you know, I live in Fryslân. This is one of the most northerly provinces in the Netherlands.
Fryslân has 11 cities and many, many more villages.
All cities are linked through canals and waterways and you can get from one town to another quite quickly on skates.

Elfstedentocht-Plaatsnamen

Picture courtesy of wikipedia.

Ever since the 1700s people have been doing a skating tour through all 11 cities (200 km). In 1909 the first organised tour was held. After that race an association was established.
Ever since then, when there’s enough ice (20 cm over the whole length of the track) the race and tour have been held for members of the Vereniging De Friese Elfsteden (Association of the Eleven Frisian Cities).
Since then there have been 15 races.
Last year at the last possible moment the race did not happen. The whole province was ready, the whole country was ready. But the ice wasn’t. So they didn’t think it was safe to go ahead with the race.

But last week it starting freezing again. And while the water was fairly warm, and the ice didn’t form as quickly as we all would have liked, weathermen and women say the frost is most likely going to stay and the chances of the Elfstedentocht happening have not been so good since 1997, when the last race was organized.

I know the weather is unpredictable and I know it s still a long way away. But the excitement within me is growing. And I can’t help but think back to 1997, when we had a wonderful time.
So I got my skates from the attic and brought them to a shop to get them sharpened, Not that I’m planning on doing a 200 km skating tour, but I’d like to do a portion of it again. like last year.

This is a video of the town where I lived back in 1997. I hope you enjoy it.

More on last years skating can be found here.

Lifebook

When my grandmother went to a carehome my dad got asked to make a lifebook for her. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s’ and the book would be a great way for staff to get to know her a bit better. And for her to look back on her life.

I’m writing this blog post in hopes to help people who are looking into making such a book for their relative.

What would be included in a lifebook?

  • Full name and preferred name (if needed)
  • Date of birth and place of birth
  • Photos and names (and birth dates/death dates) of other family members
  • Family tree
  • Photos of schooldays (if possible)
  • Photos and name (again with dates) of the spouse and children from the marriage
  • Places and houses the person has lived in (photos, maps)
  • Photos and names of much-loved pets
  • anecdotes about their life
  • Occupation of the person
  • Photos and names of friends
  • Hobbies and interests
  • Birth certificate can be included too
  • Favourite music
  • Letters

Why is all this important?

The full name and preferred would be already in the files of the nursing home where your relative is staying. But sometimes your relative will only listen to a pet name from their childhood. Many times that name is not recorded in the files. Make sure you included that name.

Date of birth and place of birth should, again, be in the files. But sometimes it’s hard to find out the exact place of birth. Maybe the village doesn’t exist anymore. Or maybe the records don’t show the right place of birth (it happens).

Photos and names of other family members are important. A person with Alzheimer’s travels back in time. They’ll start asking about people who have long since died. It’s nice to have photos and names at hand. A family tree will come handy for carers, as they can see how people relate to your relative.

Schooldays are a really important part of a person’s life. Teachers have probably had a great impact on a person’s life. Photos will bring your relative back to those days.

One of the most important days of your life. That’s how almost everyone describes their wedding day. Almost anyone has at least one picture of their wedding day. Makes sure not only to include pictures from the spouse (if not alive anymore) later on in life. They won’t recognize them anymore. Harsh but true. But they’ll know that boy in the soldier uniform or the lovely girl in the long dress is the person they are going to get married to. These picture are very important.
As for the children. If you are visiting and you tell your mother/father you are his/her daughter or son, it might happen that they don’t remember you. This will hurt, a lot. Talk to the carers about it. You’ll find they are talking about you when you’re not around. They see you as the little boy/girl you once were. the grown person who stands in front of them doesn’t look familiar. Although they won’t mind a cuddle, as they somehow know you are close to them. How they know? They have no idea, but they feel love if you’re around.

Include photos of much-loved houses your relative has lived in. Have they moved like a 100 times in their life? What would they choose as the most important place they lived in. Think the house they bought when they first got married, the house the children were born in. The house the last lived in.

Pets are a very important part of life. Don’t think about the guard dog that wasn’t allowed in the house, think of the cat whose kittens were born in front of the stove in the kitchen. Think of the lamb that had to be bottle fed every few hours. Those are the important ones.

anecdotes, things your relative might suddenly start talking about. My grandmother suddenly started talking about a family where she had worked when she was about 14. Nobody remembered anything about that family, only her youngest sister did. She shed some light on my grandmother’s  behaviour when she talked about this family. This family had a massive (negative) influence on her. She hadn’t talked about them for over 70 years, but she remembered.

I think you’ve now got a pretty good picture of the important things that might help your relative to remember. And help the carers to care for your relative even more.

I can’t do this alone. Who can help me?

Ask help from friends and family. As I stated above, asking your aunts and uncles is a great way to find anecdotes from their childhood. Things they might have never talked about. Ask the nursing home if other families have made lifebooks. Ask them if you can view those for ideas. Nowadays you can make great photo books online. Use those services to your advantage.

Maybe there are volunteers in your local area who can help you. Or maybe there are organisations that can help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. A lifebook isn’t something easy to make. It’s hard.

If you think you’re done, ask someone to go over your work. Ask them for input. It’s easy to include too much information. Maybe you’ve included stories that are important to you, but aren’t so much to your relative.

Is it really worth it to include negative parts of my relative’s life?

Yes, it is! Negative events are just as important as positive events. Let me tell you a short story.

In a nursing home where I worked was a woman who had severe dementia. The last few weeks of her life, when she was in bed, she was screaming and crying. The only thing we could understand were the words: “Don’t take him, don’t take him.” We had no idea what triggered this. And the only way to get her quiet was to give her a babydoll. When she didn’t have the babydoll in bed with her she would try to get out. We found her on the floor, on her hands and knees more than once, trying to get her babydoll.
We asked her daughters, she had 3 girls,  what she might be talking about. They had no idea and didn’t ask other family members for clues, despite us asking them to do so.
After the woman died, her brother dropped a bombshell on her daughters. It turned out that she had gotten pregnant when she was just 15 and had a baby boy in a home. That boy had been taken away from her right after birth. She had never spoken of this. Right until she died. When one of her daughters told us this news, we could finally understand her erratic behaviour towards the babydoll, who was, coincidentally, dressed in a blue jumper.

If the daughters had asked their uncle if he could shed some light on the womans behaviour this story would have reached us much sooner and we could have made sure she had that babydoll with her at all times. We might have been able to give it a name with her, making her feel more comfortable with this sad story. Sadly they didn’t and we tried to get that doll away from her on multiple occasions, for example when we needed to wash her or give her food. Which made her even more upset without us knowing.

So yes, negative details of someone life are important. Of course you don’t want the whole book to become negative, so don’t include too much.

I really hope this will help you make that lifebook for your relative. If you have tips, don’t be afraid to share them in the comments. I’d love to get as much feedback and tips as possible!

This post has been inspired by yesterdays Daily Prompt.

Which flavour is the best?

What flavour is your favourite? Is what the Daily Prompt wants to know.Lemon
Now the first thing that popped into my mind was: Lemon!
I love lemon ice cream. Simply can’t get enough of it. Every time we walk into an ice shop I get lemon flavoured ice cream. I don’t even want it in a cone, the cone distracts from the flavour.

But then I thought, wait a minute, while the address bar suggests it’s about ice cream, the post doesn’t specify what food this is about. And there’s so many flavours that I like. Granted, lemon is my favourite in pies, in a good tonic even, but there’s so much more.

Chocolate for instance. I love dark chocolate, preferably extra dark. The Côte d’Or Sensations 86% is my favourite. But their BonBonBloc dark is great is well.

Then there’s the drinks. I’m a big fan of Dr Pepper. DrPepperBut there’s only one flavour sold in all the supermarkets I visited so far. And that’s the regular. So I have no idea what the vanilla, the cherry, the diet or every other flavour out there tastes like. I never tasted them.
I know I like Cherry Coke, but Coca Cola isn’t my brand. I got stomach aches from it. So I don’t buy it all that much.

Then there’s the tea. I know the Netherlands is one of the few countries that sells lots of flavoured teas. We have it all, strawberry, cinnamon, vanilla, lemon, orange, cherry, raspberry, forest fruit, tropical fruit, you name, we can get it. The one that I like most is the Rooibos Vanilla flavoured tea. I like almost all teas, but this one is my favourite.

For fragrance oils I like vanilla best. But green apple is also very nice. I ‘m not too keen on other fragrances as they make me ill most of the time. They’re too heavy for my liking.

And don’t get me started on spices. I love spices, they smell so good. The ones I use most are PiriPiri for my pizzas, a mix called Cajun for my BBQ meat and  a mix called Stroganoff for my Goulash. (recipes for goulash and pizza are found under the recipes tab on the top of the page).

So yeah, if we are talking about ice cream, it’s Lemon all the way. But if we are talking about other flavours it’s way more complicated then that.
What are your favourite flavours?

Photos courtesy of:
bogdansuditu
The Pack

Never ever be the smart one in class…

Reading through so many posts regarding yesterday’s Daily Prompt, reminded me of a less enjoyable experience with one of my teachers.

Mr. H. was my Dutch teacher. He was a giant, with white hair and a comb-over. My mother remembered him from her schooldays. He wasn’t a pleasant man. He had a very high-pitched voice. He had trouble keeping order in his classroom.
On many occasion he caught me reading a book in his class. He did not like that. He wanted us to read, he did, just not when he was teaching us. I didn’t like his lessons, they were too easy for me. So I never paid attention. He tried to let me fail, but I always managed to get good grades.

One time he told us to write a cover letter. Remember, this was in the days that computers weren’t in every household, yet we had a computer. And a printer! A novelty in the early 90s.
I told my dad about this assignment. He worked in a local employment center. He told me to type the letter and print it out. It would show the (fictional) boss that I was capable of using a computer. It made sense to me, so I did.
The next week I brought my letter, complete with typed envelope into class. the whole class left their letters on Mr. H.’s desk. He picked mine out without any problems.

“Ms. M” he said, after opening the letter. “What is this?”
“It’s my cover letter, sir.” I replied, fully knowing something was awfully wrong.
“And why is it typed? Didn’t you understand me when I said to write the letter?” He looked at me with his very blue eyes, making me wish the earth would tear open and swallow me.
“Well, my dad said companies nowadays want typed letters so they know future employees are able to use a computer.” I said, feeling my cheeks getting red.
“Who would know better? Your dad or I, the Dutch teacher?” Mr. H. was practically shouting.
“My dad, sir. He works for the employment center.” I replied, glad to have actually thought up a smart answer…

Boy oh boy… A second later I wished I would never have thought up that answer. Mr. H. practically kicked me out of his class. My classmates were cheering, I had no idea how quick I had to get out. Mr. H. was fuming, his comb-over hanging down on his shoulder.
“Get out! And stay out! You don’t have to come in the next week! And you know what that means! Get your ass to the principal! Right now!”

Oh dear… The principal was a lovely man, who knew me as a diligent student. One who never set a foot wrong. Now I had to tell him what happened.
I went to the principal’s office and knocked on the door.
“Come in.” Mr. J. called.
I stepped in, by now feeling awful.
“Frouk, what are you doing here?” Mr. J. was surprised to see me. “I thought you were in Dutch class.”
“I was. I got kicked out.”
The shock on Mr. J.’s face wasn’t to be missed.
“Sit down and tell me what happened.”
So I sat down and told him everything, including what my dad had said and the reply that got me kicked out of class. I knew it would mean I had to stay late after school, probably even cleaning the toilets.
“So.” Mr. J. paused for a moment. I thought I saw a smile lingering on his lips… That couldn’t be, right?! “That was an awfully smart comment you gave Mr. H.”
“I know.” I said.
“How many classes are you now going to miss?” Mr. J. asked.
“3 sir. The last class tomorrow and thursday and the first class on friday.”
“So I guess you’re having a great week then. getting home early and starting later.” Mr. J told me. “Go to your next class. And don’t tell anyone you don’t have to stay late. I know you’ll be fine even if you miss those classes. And I also know that you didn’t say it to annoy Mr. H.”

I was dumb founded. I got out of Mr. J.’s office as soon as I could, only to bump into Mrs. K. who looked very surprised to see me coming out of the principal’s office. She pulled me into another, empty, office and asked me what happened. I told her the whole story. She almost wet herself laughing.

I never talked about this again with Mr. H. But somehow I felt a spark of respect in his behaviour towards me after the incident. Years later I bumped into him in town and we talked for a bit. He asked me if I remembered the incident and I told him I did, vividly. He told me he had great respect for my answer but couldn’t say so in front of the class. He told me that, after the incident, he had seen me in a different light and that he talked to the principal after that. The principal told him that his reaction had been too harsh and that I had been right in my statement about typed letters.

I admire him for bringing it up years later and telling me he was wrong back then. He’s never been my favourite teacher, but I have always respected him since.