Friday, October 12, 2012

Loneliness or Solitude?

Wednesday, Nick left for the US and will not be coming home, Dutch home, until Oct 21st. He is visiting with his family and attending his best friend Ty's wedding. Both of which are very important and he really needed to do. He hasn't been home for over a year. He was really excited and I was happy to see him take a break from work. He never really does that. Unfortunately, because of my work commitments and the cost of flights I was unable to make the trip. So, I will be holding it down here for 11-days, on my own. Well Pumpkin, Gizmo, Maggie and me.

I know that many people embrace alone time and some have even said I must be happy to have a little time to myself when I told them I was flying solo. To be honest, I've always been a person who preferred the company of others and have avoided being on my own. So after some self reflection I have realized that it isn't that I'm not self reliant or that I need others to take care of me, if anything I like to feel independent and pride myself on being an independent lady. But rather I think it is that I don't like to feel lonely. I don't like the feeling of missing out on something and I don't always like being in my own head for too long. I think that often we can get stuck on the feeling of loneliness but I was thinking what if we used the word solitude instead of lonely. Language, has created the word "loneliness" to express the pain of being alone and it has created the word "solitude" to express the glory of being alone. So I've decided that these 11-days of flying solo will be filled with solitude and not loneliness. I have decided to embrace this time on my own. To do some things I want to do. Run, paint, learn to knit, cook a new recipe, girls night. Of course I will miss Nick and he never prevents me from doing the things I want but when he is here I will bounce things off of him instead of thinking them through on my own. It isn't always fair that I don't filter things or that I make him do my thinking for me. It is wonderful that I get to think about only myself and what I want to do and what I want to eat and that I get to work on thinking through things on my own. 
I feel like Macauley Caulkin in Home Alone when he realizes his whole family is gone. I'm kind of excited!!!! I'm sure by the end of the 11-days I will be wishing for Nick to come back just like he wished for his family to reappear :) Now I'm excited for Christmas!!!!!!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Canadian Girl in Maastricht: Take 2, Year Two!

Well, my one year anniversary of living in the Netherlands has come and gone and Nick and I are still holding it down Dutch style. I know it has been a while but life has been crazy. Maastricht is continuing to treat us well and the adventure continues! Nick is applying for jobs as they come up and I am working part time at Maastricht University. I was offered a contract for 20-hours a week with UM SPORT and I am doing special projects as they come up.  Which has proven to be more frequent then I originally thought :) I have my little business that I am doing on the side, a few patients each week and I am teaching Yoga and Bodyshape classes at Zenden as well. It is nice to have regular work and the flexibility to continue to study Osteopathy. I have two courses this year in May and June and my third year exam on my birthday :(

That should be good luck, right??!?!?!

I was really busy in the spring of this last year with a pilot programme I developed for employee health at the University as well as settling in after the move and just life in general and decided to take my last two courses and exam this year instead. I am still loving my osteo and I have developed a love of studying holistic nutrition as well. One of my most favourite things to do on the weekends is to try recipes and take instagram sister Leigh says this is weird but hey she above all people should know, I am weird!

My cats are thriving over here (still a crazy cat lady) and I feel like I am in a better place "psychologically" then I was when I first got here. I have come to realize that it is ok to miss home, it is ok to miss my old life but that this moment is pretty good too! With a clear mind I hope to get even more out of this European adventure.

Nick's birthday is coming up this Sunday and we have planned a trip to Tongeren, Belgium to the antique markets. Nick loves that show "American Pickers" so we will be North American Picking in Tongeren. Tongeren is the oldest city in Belgium so I am looking forward to a day filled with history and cool antiques. A Belgian beer with lunch sounds pretty good as well. There is a small antique market held here in Maastricht every Saturday, when the weather permits, by the train station. Nick loves to "wheel and deal" and has made some neat purchases. We will have to see what transport of these items back to North America entails. Hopefully, it isn't too crazy because we love collecting memories this way.
An antique coffee grinder. My grandpa always had one and my mom loves them. Notice the Al Cappuchino art work in the back ground. The artist was making them and selling them in the city centre. He lives in Maastricht.
Yes, I actually let Nick put this up!
This is red delft instead of the usual blue and Amstel is a very common beer here.
A WWII plate. Notice the horse stomping on the nazi symbol and the American flag on the right hand side. Nick had to have this and blew the days 20 euro budget on it :) He got home and checked it out online. It was valued at 30. We would be kicking butt on American Pickers!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Another Relaxing Weekend

It's Sunday night and Nick and I are just relaxing and watching the Olympics. Another relaxing weekend, just the two of us. This past week was pretty eventful so I was happy to just chill out. Last Friday we went to the Frape, a little local watering hole that Nick has become obsessed with. He loves to try new beers and Peter the owner is an awesome 'ol guy'. Nick always orders cheese with mustard and Bitterbolen. The atmosphere is pretty cool but after the weekend, usually by Monday evening, Nick starts talking about going again and by the time Friday arrives he can barely contain his excitement. For those who know Nick you know that super excited means he says in a relaxed voice with a big smile - I am looking forward to going to the Frape. He doesn't really get super excited the way I do.
This past Friday we went with friends - Imre, Silvie, JW, Ben and Mandy. Nick tried the Dark Damn Nation and LOVED it! His other favorite beer is the Black Albert. I really think it's largely because of the names that Nick orders these beers. On Saturday we went to our friends Richard and Laura's wedding party. It was a great evening and I was sorry we had to leave early so I could teach the next morning.
This week was an emotional one with one of my closest friends, Laura, heading home to Canada on Thursday :( I sure will miss her! Good news is I will be heading home for a visit in two weeks and maybe I will see her when I'm there. I am really looking forward to my visit. I haven't seen my dad in over a year. Time sure has passed quickly. I am looking forward to seeing my mom, dad, sisters Char and Leigh, my nephews, my friends and their BABIES... so many babies...there is a lot to do. I hope I am able to fit it all in and still find some time to relax.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Ladies of Leisure Living Large

My friend Laura has recently wrapped up her post doctoral fellowship at the University and we regularly joke about being "ladies of leisure". Laura has kept herself  busy with planning her wedding, her move back to Canada at the end of the month and writing her book. She is preparing to go back to school in the fall to the Naturopathic College in Toronto. She is so smart - she will be a Dr, Dr when she is done :) and more importantly she is awesome because she is going after her dreams.
I keep myself busy as well - teaching, studying, writing, cooking and yes taking care of Pumpkin, Gizmo and Maggie. We joke but on more then one occasion I have caught myself making comments about not doing anything or enough, not contributing to the world and my job being a stay at home mom for our cats. I catch myself under valuing my contribution to the world. Shame on me!
Since I've moved to the Netherlands something is different. Obviously my surroundings, but also something within me. I don't know what it is exactly but something in me has changed. I can't quite put my finger on it but I have noticed I have a harder time opening up to people. A harder time sharing my thoughts. It's almost like an uncomfortable feeling of heartbreak that I don't want to burden others with or perhaps, on a sub-conscious level I think that if I share it, it makes this whole thing real. Am I grieving the death of my former workaholic self, an identity I strived so hard to achieve, or is it the fear that my previous life was as good as it was going to get?!?!?! I call bull-shit on that!
Of course I share my thoughts, concerns and questions with Nick but not so freely with others. I'm getting brave and I have decided to share it with you. I'm doing a whole lot more observing and am reluctant to jump into things as I would have so easily in the past. Maybe this is me growing up and choosing to spend my time on things that I truly love as opposed to having my schedule reflect a more, is better philosophy. Maybe this is me protecting my heart. Fate stepped in and forced this change upon me: be it fate, destiny, a higher power...change came. After much reflection, I think this is a positive thing. I am more protective of myself, my time and my focus on doing and being the best at the things I really love. Honoring my authentic self! Whatever it is, it's different. With challenges come change and this is definitely a change I was not expecting
Today, I made a list of my goals for the upcoming year and I am really excited about pursuing my dream of becoming an Osteopath. I will be working part time and teaching classes which will be the perfect balance for my study schedule. Without the universe stepping in and relocating us here I don't know if I would have made the change on my own. Focusing on these goals is so important to achieving what I want. Keep your dreams big and your beliefs in your dreams even bigger. A wise person once said;

There are two kinds of people:  Those who say, “I will believe it when I see it.” And those who say,“To see it, I know I must believe it.”  
    Ladies of Leisure Living Large in Ireland :)

Monday, June 25, 2012

MIA...Ibiza, Visitors, Anniversary and Birthday...

The last month has been busy to say the least. I was busy and I was all up in my brain trying to figure things out. Sorry that I have been MIA. Did you miss me?????
My sister Leigh came to visit to keep me company while Nick was in San Francisco for our 1-year anniversary :( We really should have chosen a different weekend to get married because ACSM is always going to conflict and I know who wins that war every time. I understood that he had to be there and he spoiled me to make up for it. I got a sweet ipad with a pink cover!!! He knows me well.
It was wonderful to spend time with Leigh and she made my anniversary more then special. Thank you, thank you thank you doll!!!!! She came to Maastricht and we spent two days visiting with Nick, touring the city, going for runs and hanging out with my friends.

I am so lucky to have had my mom and sister Charlotte come visit and then Leigh. The ladies in my life are too good to me :)

It was Sunday when Nick left for San Francisco for his conference and Leigh and I spent the day hanging out and then caught the train to the Amsterdam airport. Our flight from Amsterdam to Barcelona was easy but we had a 13-hour wait over until we flew to Ibiza in the morning. Being the wild women that we are we decided to take a shuttle to La Rambla and pull an all night'r; eating tapas, drinking beer and dancing the night away, before our early morning flight. What a crazy night!!! Leigh is a party machine. Needless to say when we arrived in Ibiza we didn't need much convincing to slip into our bathing suits and sleep for the afternoon by the pool. I realized right away that this was a place where the culture is for women to tan topless. I never realized how shy I was about this. I am very comfortable with the human body and am not offended by others but exposing my chest was just not going to happen. I thought about how liberating this could be but never gathered the gumption to go for it. These bad boys have never seen the sun and I wasn't about to start now. Ibiza was beautiful and our hotel, Ibiza Corso, was spectacular. Not in the same was as some of the lush tropical vacation spots I've been to but in an arid and authentic/ lived in kind of way. There was a fantastic DJ who would come and spin by the pool in the afternoon and it was perfection.
We had a wonderful three days of lounging by the pool, walking the beach, exploring old Ibiza, marathon hikes, crazy workouts, amazing food and LIO! LIO was the coolest restaurant/ bar that I have ever been to. This place was better then all of Vegas. The food was AMAZING and the atmosphere was like nothing I have ever experienced. There was a cabaret show throughout the evening and the people watching was insane. These could not have been real people. If you go to Ibiza I cannot stress more how much you need to go to this place. AMAZE-balls!!!!!! Leigh and I celebrated my 1-year anniversary at a quaint little authentic italian trattoria on the water with a glass of champagne and a delicious dessert. I missed Nick with all my heart but felt very lucky to have a sister who came across the world to spend it with me :) We spent one night in Amsterdam where we stayed at the Pulitzer and had a room service picnic watching the Matrix. Not what we had planned but it turned out to be perfect. That bed was unreal and the couple next door sounded like they really enjoyed it as well ;)
After our trip, lots of deep sister talks and five days of total relaxation I came home to settle back in for a few days before Nick came home. When Nick arrived home we had some serious discussions about the future and we finally came to the decision that I would be staying here with him. I contacted my boss, Debbie, at McMaster to let her know I would not be back in August. It was a really tough decision but I felt as though a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I shed a few tears but then tried to smile because it was amazing while it lasted. There is nothing left to do but move forward now and not look back. Scary!!!! I mean EXCITING!!!!
To top it all off I celebrated my 31st Birthday on June 19th. I'm getting old...but man I look good :) ahahhaha

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Laura, Pettie, Dalai!

Thursday my friends Laura, Andrew and I went on a great adventure. There was; lattes, kiwi's, dribblers, smiles, grapevines, loving kindness, underwear flags, irish jigs, popcicles, and smiles from ear to ear.
We went to see the Dalai Lama! Our adventure started with a 9:30am meeting at coffeelovers so Laura and I could cafinate in preparation for the big day. We took our lattes to go and made our way to the train station to make our way to Huy, Belgium. Laura and I are hard core planners but we through caution to the wind and only planned things on a minor level ;) We hopped on the train in Maastricht and when we arrived in Liege we choreographed a flash mob dance routine including grapevines, jigs and shuffles. A few New Zealanders heard us speaking English on the platform and introduced themselves, Henry and ????? Laura help me out! They were on their way to see the Dalai Lama as well. If you think of every stereotype possible about kiwi's it was embodied in these two characters. We only needed to strap sheep to their backs :) Conversation lead to them asking how old we were and when we said "thirty" they both said "wow, that's old...and quickly followed up with you don't look that old". That's a good thing, right? When we got to Huy we saw signs to catch a shuttle bus to take us to the temple the Dalai Lama was blessing and where he would be making his talk on "Loving Kindness". We had a bit of time so we followed the Kiwi's until they found a group of 4-girls and started kissing. They told us we had to kiss them too because it is not polite not to kiss people in this culture. I thought that we should take this opportunity to do our own thing, Laura agreed and Andrew was quickly convinced, we didn't want the rest of the trip to go "cock up". The kiwi's introduced me to this term. Thanks Henry and ?????
It was a really hot day (26+ degrees) and for some reason Andrew decided to wear his thermal underwear. As we made our way to the bus Andrew thought it would be the smartest choice to remove his thermal underwear or risk hyperthermia. He ran off to the bathroom and shortly after the bus pulled up to the curb. Laura and I stood in the door of the bus hoping to buy time for Andrew. It was a close call but we made it. When they dropped us off at the entrance to the grounds and we had to walk through the surrounding community and across beautiful parks to find a spot on the grass in front of where the Dalai Lama would be speaking. We found a great spot in the shade and grabbed some lunch. Andrew decided to do some exploring and said he would wave his underwear, as a flag when he found something cool. Then he actually did it! Oh, Andrew! The Dalai Lama was amazing when he spoke. He was funny, happy, smiling and his message was simple. He spoke about all of us being human beings. No one better or more important then anyone else. He spoke about many of the positive things that different religious groups have done for their fellow man. He said that no religion is above another but that we must focus on the future, confidence, the education of children about morals and ethics and the power of taking action in conjunction with prayer. I thought he was wonderful!!! At the end their was a question period and I think the most memorable thing he said for me was when he was asked if he remembers his previous life and where he would like to be born again. He said "...sometimes I don't remember yesterday...and he would like to be born where he can be of service to his fellow man". It was brilliant because it was simple and he made himself very relatable. I really appreciated the experience.
We decided to walk back to the train instead of taking the buses. We weren't sure of the way back but Laura's "spidy" senses kicked in, I hadn't even loaned her my costume :) We got the best popsicles ever and caught the train home. The dribbler made an appearance at the train further comment and we shared an amaze-balls ride home :) Thank you to my wonderful friends and for this perfect adventure!

Monday, May 14, 2012

I'm Obsessed with TED Talks

After the first few days of being ill and being confined to my bed I started to get stir crazy. I had watched every episode of the Kardashians and Fashion Police and felt like I had almost no viable brain cells left. With my last few surviving brain cells I thought to myself - I should be learning and engaging what is left of my sickness ravaged self. Did I mention I am a huge wimp when I get sick???? I didn't feel like reading my text books, they are so heavy and I couldn't muster the strength to hold them up, so I decided I should check out some TED talks and see if there was anything of interest. In the past some friends had posted lectures or said I had to watch one they had seen but I never really got into it. Good thing, because once I got started, I couldn't stop! I watched TED talks for the better part of a day. One right after the other. I laughed, I cried, I said "you're right" and "I never thought of it that way" out loud by myself. Can you say weirdo!?!!?! I blame it on the fever :) I watched talks about politics, about the environment, about life, about cancer, about feminism. The topics were diverse, engaging, some profound and some really hit home. I couldn't get over how much great information is out there; inspiration, motivation, education, different perspectives and talks that tugged on my heart strings. I thought to myself - this freedom of information is so wonderful. I would never have had the opportunity to hear these original lectures or to see these speakers if not for TED. I love you TED talks! Please see attached a few of my favorite TED Talks. These are three that really spoke to me at this time in my life. I hope you enjoy them too :)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Mom and Char Visit the Netherlands :)

Well, they have come and gone and I've finally found the time to write about it. April was a crazy month! I wrapped up the Fitter Together Program, my step father in law was here for a week and my mom and sister were here for 10-days and 3-days ago I got sick. This flu is really kicking my butt! I didn't even get out of bed yesterday and those who know me know how difficult it is for me to sit for very long :( I'm hoping that tomorrow I am up and around again.
The Fitter Together program went really well. It was an employee health and fitness promotion program that I developed for Maastricht University. It was the first time this program has ever run and we had over 130-employees participate in the 1-month program. I had great support from my colleague at UM Sport, Netty. She was awesome and really helped my vision to become a reality.
Harold, Nick's step dad, visited us for a week and we showed him the sites. We visited Amsterdam, Valkenburg and Maastricht. He was a walking machine. I think he really enjoyed his visit and he was a wonderful guest.  The day that it was just Harold and I, we went on a boat cruise of the Meuse River and a walking tour of the St Pietersberg caves. The boat cruise was relaxing, except for all the smoking teens, and the caves were amazing. We carried a lantern, heard the history, and saw the art that depicted that time in history. Very cool!!!!
On April 25th my mom and sister came to visit for 10-days. I was so excited I was pacing around our apartment all morning. This is the longest/ furthest flight that they have ever taken and my mom has COPD so I was nervous about how it would go. They arrived safe and sound and it was wonderful to see them. My mom had a really difficult time with all the walking. The walking in the airport, the walk up the stairs to our apartment (4 flights), the walk to get anywhere we need to go. Here we use three modes of transport; walking, biking or taking the train. It was hard for me to see how much she struggled with this. I think it really showed my mom what she is capable of and what she needs to do. In North America it is really easy to avoid physical activity and active living really is a choice. We definitely saw improvements in mom's walking over the 10-days and I think it has inspired her to get more active which is all I can hope for. I showed them Maastricht; the bakery, the market square, the Vijhof square, a boat tour of the Meuse, they tried stroop waffles, vlaai and a waffle from Pinky's in the city centre. We celebrated the Queens Birthday and checked out the city wide flea market. Char and I took a day and went to Paris. We got up bright and early and took the train, first class - oops! We were there for 10-hours and it was a crazy 10-hours. We saw everything. Char really enjoyed Paris and I think she will try to get there again at some point. The next day we went to Amsterdam and did the boat tour of the Canals, what a great way to see the city. We stayed at a really funky boutique hotel and then took the train to Alkmaar to visit my 87-year old, great Aunt Teny. It was wonderful to spend the afternoon with her. She showed us pictures and told us stories about the family and the war. Nick and I will definitely try to get back to visit her. The 10-days flew by, there were tears shed on their arrival and tears on their last day. It is so hard to be so far from family. I don't know what I would do without email and skype. My Auntie Lana is right when she says "All guests start to get old after 3-days". I think my mom and Char were thinking the same thing about the hostess ;) It was difficult because we have such a small space which allows for zero privacy but we got through it and overall we had a wonderful visit.
I think May will be a busy month as well. We have three visitors coming. Nick's friend Andy, our friend Pettit and my older sister Leigh at the end of the month. We are so blessed to have people who are willing to fly across the world to see us :)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Getting Hitched Dutch Style

On Friday I attended my first Dutch wedding. My wonderful friends Sandra and Stefan invited me to share their special day and I was truly excited to share it with them. The weather was perfect, which was a miracle, given all the rain and cool temperatures we've had. I thought the spring in the Netherlands was supposed to be beautiful. I'm still waiting for the sun.
I was really excited for Sandra and Stefan and was really looking forward to experiencing a traditional Dutch wedding. In the Netherlands, people must get married at the city. Church ceremonies are only ceremonial and are not recognized by the government. They did have the Church ceremony at 12pm and I was invited to attend. The little chapel was beautiful and was built in 1530. Crazy!!!!!! They didn't have bridal parties like we do in Canada. Just a flower girl and ring bearer. The dress was far less formal and relaxed. Sandra was an absolutely beautiful bride. She glowed with happiness. Her dress complimented her perfectly and had a Spanish flair with a slit up the front and layers of tule. Stefan was rocking his euro suit complete with blue laces and tie. The ceremony was conducted entirely in Dutch so I can't say much about that but the music and singing was wonderful. I cried even though I couldn't understand. After the ceremony the bride and groom enjoy an afternoon with their families and closest friends and then at night, they party!!! What an awesome party! They did a choreographed dance routine that was worthy of dancing with the stars....not the ones who get cut early, I'm talking finalists here :)
There were a few firsts for me. I heard Dutch rave music and local style Maastricht music as well as the classic wedding music I am familiar with. Bruce Springsteen and the likes. A colleague from work, Netty and her husband, invited me to attend with them as Nick left for California that morning. They were very kind to include me and it meant a lot to me to be invited. We danced and enjoyed food and drink into the wee hours of the morning. So, although some of the formalities are different the foundation of love is universal. It made me think about Nick and my special day. I can't believe that it has almost been a year. Time sure does fly.

Did I mention they are dance machines?? Check it out!!!!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Busy, Busy, Bunny!

I have been really busy the last few weeks. It reminds me a little of the old days :)
Just after Christmas I presented a proposal for Maastricht University to offer a health and fitness promotion program for employees. They had never offered anything like this before but were very enthusiastic about my idea. After much deliberation it was approved in March and I have been running around ever since to get everything in order to run the program for the month of April. The theme of the program is Fitter Together and we are encouraging employees to; ride their bikes or walk to work, walk on their lunch hour, take the stairs or attend free health and fitness events and classes. They receive points for participating that get added to their faculty or service areas total to announce at the end of the program who has the fittest faculty or sportiest service centre. I was really excited that they were able to provide us with technical support so we have a website and an interactive system for participants to log their points. Energizer breaks on video are available for viewing so that people who can't leave their desks can still be active. Employees have the opportunity to earn fit points for participating and bonus points when they participate with their colleagues. So far we have over 100 employees registered in the program. I am very excited about the opportunity and hope that it is something they will continue to offer on an annual basis. I am experiencing my first taste of celebrity as well. I demonstrate the energizer breaks in the videos and people have recognized me on campus. I almost feel like a Kardashian ;) Check it out!!! and click on take 5 and feel alive.
With all this running around, March came and went and now it's Easter. The time is flying! Gelukkig Paasfest or Happy Easter to everyone! We are expecting our first visitor from home today. Nick's step dad Harold is coming all the way from Ohio and will be staying with us for a week. We are really looking forward to seeing him and showing him around :) He has never been to Europe before so this is going to be a great experience for him. Nick has a day trip planned to Amsterdam tomorrow and I am taking Harold on a boat cruise of the Maas river and maybe a walking tour of the St Pieter's caves. You really could spend a whole week in Maastricht but we will try to take a few day trips as well depending what he feels up to with the jet lag.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Hoe gaat het? Het is mooi weer!

When I arrived in the Netherlands I wanted to try to learn a bit of the language if I was able to. I registered at the city for Dutch lessons in August. I was told that the courses offered through the University weren't great and that if I was able to afford private lessons or a private school I should do that. So when I got the call that I had been selected and I wasn't going to have to pay I was super excited. The process of being examined for placement, going for interviews and finally getting placed in a school has taken this long. I was beginning to wonder if it was ever going to happen. But today was finally the day. I was both nervous and excited. Nervous because I am starting from absolute zero and excited because the only place to go is up :) When I arrived in the classroom there were only three other students; Jordan from Bulgaria, Jing from China and Victor from Russia. Victor had on a hockey Canada hat so we started chatting right away when he saw my hockey Canada bag. Jordan speaks 4-languages and this will be his 5th. People here are so much further ahead when it comes to learning languages.
My teacher was a friendly looking lady with a big smile and a distinct euro style of dress. Her name is Nicky and she is wonderful. Right from the beginning she expressed that she would only be speaking in Dutch because that is the best way to learn to speak a language. I started to sweat, I felt like I was in over my head and this was never going to work. I started to get embarrassed of my lack of understanding when I thought to myself we are all here to learn and if I'm willing to support others they should be willing to support me and they were. We jumped into it and you know what, it wasn't so bad. It's amazing what you are able to understand when someone speaks slowly, repeats and couples the language with non-verbal communication as well. Today we learned how to greet people; hoi, dag, hallo and goedemorgen. We also learned how to introduce ourselves; Mijn naam is Alana, ik ben Alana and ik heet Alana. We also "loop door de klas. Geef en hand." We walked around the classroom and practiced while we shook hands with our colleagues. I've decided that I am going to be patient, work at my own pace and enjoy this experience. NO PRESSURE! I'm really excited that I get the opportunity to learn and be able to participate in conversations with Dutch friends and most of all to know when people are talking about me ;)

Friday, March 16, 2012

My Emotions Manifest in my Body

During my Osteopathy course in February I had the opportunity to receive a treatment from my teacher. It was like winning the lottery! Our teachers are great instructors but more then that they are exceptional practitioners. They are the best of the best in our field and as part of our Osteopathic learning experience we have the opportunity to receive a treatment from a teacher at some point in our 5-years of formal schooling. Every student in our class is put on "the List" and each course you cycle through the list. As you can imagine the list is long and in the end you are lucky if you get treated twice during your five years of study. Some students in class have never seen an Osteopath and treatment at school and from our teachers is their only reference. When I was at home I would see MY Osteopath, Dave Murray, every 8-weeks or so. Spoiled!!!!! I haven't been treated since I got here so when I was told I was next on the list I was SUPER excited. I didn't have any pressing concerns but treatment is always beneficial and there are always things to work on. When I was asked what my primary concern was I expressed that when I was doing some overhead squats a week earlier I had some numbness into my thumb and pointer finger and was worried I might be developing thoracic outlet or potentially it might be a restriction in my pec or scalene, a rib or cervical vertebrae that was out - oh and I had rolled an ankle about 4-weeks previous to that. I wasn't too worried about anything, just thought I should give some things to keep him busy for the hour :)
I consider myself to be a very health person; I sleep a minimum of 8-hours a night, I exercise daily, I eat healthfully - 90% of the time, I drink water, I take a multi vitamin, I rarely drink, I have never get the idea! So during my assessment when my teacher said "You have very little vitality" I couldn't believe my ears. The competitive person in me was almost a little offended, what does he know - I'm oozing vitality! He said that there was so much to treat he didn't even know where to start. He adjusted my feet, my sacrum, hip, my diaphragm but when he got to my kidney - things got crazy. He asked if I had recently been deeply afraid of something. He said my Kidney was restricted because it is the organ that holds fear. I had been thinking about leaving Nick next year and the future and I was afraid! How could he know this??? I didn't realize the fear was manifesting as a kidney restriction. He treated my kidney and my entire body changed. He treated my pericardial ligament and sternum and I felt like someone had lifted a 20lb bag of sand off my chest. I felt like I was taking my first deep breaths in months. Osteopathy is amazing! I hope that some day I am half the Osteopath that my teacher is.
I am constantly in awe of the human body; its strength, its adaptability, its ability to tell a story and an Osteopaths ability to read that story. Previously, I had my liver treated and learned that it is the organ of frustration and anger. No wonder I was grumpy! I will have to tell Nick that next time I am grumpy it is because I have a restriction in my liver ;) I am so lucky to have the opportunity to learn and experience Osteopathy. I have no words except, AMAZING!

Monday, March 5, 2012


I have always been someone who quickly forgives. Early in my life I thought this was because I was a wimp but I just felt better when I had resolved things and forgiven myself and/or the other person. I have never had the tendency to get mad at people. If anything, I would get sad at them. Which, many people have found to be more difficult to deal with. I have never been someone who holds on to anger or has a desire to get back at those who have wronged me and I have a hard time relating to those who do. I think when people have that "eye for an eye" mentality it's because of ignorance or emotional immaturity or there is something within them that they feel they themselves don't deserve forgiveness. When I was younger and my sisters and I would argue I felt, in that moment, I would never forgive them and our relationship would never be the same - but family is family and we always forgave. My mother and father are both people who forgive quickly and give the benefit of the doubt and I think this is something that I learned from them. This isn't to say that people don't lose their tempers (all of us) and say things they regret (me) but in our family there is no shame in an apology. My family definitely believes in turning the other cheek and giving people the benefit of the doubt. Our family does have its differences and disagreements but at the foundation of our family is unconditional love. I remember a time in my life when I made a mistake - what I thought was a BIG ONE - and I thought that my mom was going to be ashamed of me and never forgive me. When I finally told her what I had done she said "I love you no matter what. If you killed a man I would love you and stand by you. My love is unconditional.", now that is some serious love. I have come to recognize that not all people live their lives this way and I know that some people may even see our quickness to forgive as a weakness. They see that opening yourself up for hurt is a sign of vulnerability but I truly believe that it takes strength, integrity and a respect for self and for humanity to forgive. Forgiveness is not forgetting but it is believing that all people can learn and grow and be better then they have been before. I believe that a willingness to forgive and to show compassion is the only way to live a rewarding life. Through my studies in yoga I have learned a lot about myself and what I believe. I strongly align myself with the belief that when you forgive you are able to cultivate love for yourself and for others and to foster love in those around you. Showing forgiveness and compassion for others and yourself is the path to enlightenment. When you forgive, you are forgiven! Forgiveness means that you do not have negative feeling towards others and that you recognize that a person today is not the same person they were yesterday. Everyday we are different; we learn, we experience, we grow, we change. It doesn't mean that you don't take action but it means that you take action free of hatred and with emotional intelligence.
So the message today is practice forgiveness, compassion and love for yourself and your fellow man. We get one chance at this life and the more time we can spend living happily and peacefully the more enlightened our life can be. I will forgive Nick and hold no resentment toward him for opening a new tube of toothpaste before the old one was finished, man that bugs me, but life is too short and if that's the only thing I have to be upset about things are pretty darn good:) Love ya!!!!!!!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Switzerland...again :)

I just arrived in Switzerland for my course on the Upper Extremity and Lymphatics. Another fun filled 5-days in Herstenstein. I got up at 3:30am this morning to make the shuttle to the airport and after walking for 3-days in Paris I'm really feeling all this traveling. I am beat! Not complaining and nothing a good nights sleep can't fix but I was passing out hard on the train. I was lucky I got to spend most of the day on Wednesday at home getting things in order so I could leave again so I got some much needed quality time with my furry babies. I am missing them already. I usually don't start to miss them until I've been here for 3-days but I guess I didn't get caught up on my kitty time after Paris.
Did I mention I miss Nick too???? I do!
Laura was amazing and took care of them for us while we were in Paris. They love their Auntie Laura. She was even so kind as to do a photo shoot and here are a few of the spectacular shots that she got. Pumpkin looks like she just finished dinner and is tidying up. Maggie has the cleanest face she has ever had in her entire life...what's your secret Laura??? Also note the animal doll Nick got for them at the grocery store. When I introduced it to them they were deathly afraid and after one evening with Nick it is now their favorite toy. Gizmo looks like she is screaming "I want my mother" or maybe that's just what I need to believe. Thanks for taking great care of the babies Laura!!!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

J'Adore Paris!

Nick and I just got back from three fantastic days in Paris. I know that Paris sounds a little cliche but it was anything but. It was beautiful, it was historic, it was clean, it was cultured, it was WONDERFUL!
It was an easy 2-hour train ride to Paris and we arrived at the Gare Nord at 10am. We caught a taxi and zipped through the streets of Paris. Some of my french came flooding back, not much but enough :) Our hotel was called the Hotel Elysees Mermoz, and it is a boutique hotel just off the Champs Elysees. Our check in was not until 2pm so we dropped off our bags and headed out to check out our surroundings. As soon as we stepped out to the Champs Elysees we saw the Eiffel Tower. Yeah!!!! We're really here. We grabbed some Starbucks, I know we were in Paris but we don't have Starbucks in the Netherlands and it's one of my favourites. I love my skinny half sweet vanilla latte :)
We decided to do a really nice dinner our first night and to enjoy some of the cafes and more relaxed spots for the rest of our meals. We ate at a really nice little restaurant that we passed on our way back to the hotel. We popped in and made a reservation. We had tuna steak, vegetables and fresh bread. The server recommended a delicious bordeaux and it was perfect. That night we hit the pit early and I bribed Nick into another full day of walking with a foot rub. Yes, he is spoiled! We had perfect weather a sunny 6 degrees for our entire trip. It was so sunny Nick had to buy cheap shades because he had forgotten to pack his. I think they looked good but he thought he looked funny.
If I can make any suggestions to improve a tourists experience it is to get yourself a copy of Lonely Planet. My friend Laura let us borrow hers and it was wonderful to read about the history, culture, and must see attractions. We walked the Champs Elysees, toured the Arc De Triomphe, the Grand Palais, the Petit Palais, and the Muse dela Defense. We stopped for lunch and then headed back to the hotel to freshen up. Later that day we walked to the square where they used the guillotine to publicly behead people. It is now a peace square. I wanted to wait until the evening to go to the Eiffel Tower but I
couldn't wait. It was breathtaking! From a distance it was neat to see but up close it blew me away. It is beautiful! I am a proud Canadian but the Eiffel Tower kicks the CN towers butt...if it had one :)
On day two we got up early and had a fantastic breakfast, we went for a run on our tired feet and then headed to the Jardin des Tuileries and the Louvre. People were out sunning themselves in the gardens and again I was blown away by the Louvre. It was spectacular! After touring the outside we headed on to Notre Dame. We crossed over the love lock bridge and past streets with artists, old books and collectibles. This was a spot that left me a little underwhelmed. The architecture was beautiful but I found it sad how they have commercialized the building. Selling collectables at the door just seemed wrong. I guess that to stay alive even the church feels they need to conform. We had dinner at a cute cafe; yummy soup, salad and fresh bread. Nick and I stopped at a bakery and Igot an amazing french pastry. Delicious!!!! That evening we went to the Lafyette Gallery to check out the shopping. We saw Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Dior, and Christian Louboutin. Amazing!!!
On day three we went back to the Eiffel Tower and checked out the Military Academy where Napolean went to school, the Mars Park and the modern peace installation. On the way back we stopped for photos at the Canadian Embassy :)
We saw so many more things then I can mention in my blog but I have to say Paris is now my favourite. I highly recommend a visit. I know I say this every time we go somewhere new but I really mean it this time :)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Foundation of Happiness is Health

Since my presentation at UM Sport on Feb 5th, a number of other projects have come up. Sometimes a foot in the door is all you need to get the ball rolling! I am currently organizing a health promotion event for the month of April for all employees of Maastricht University. The photo I put up is the employee health committees logo.
When I worked as a corporate health and fitness consultant for Trifit when I first graduated from University I had the chance to develop a number of these types of health promotion programs and when I was hired at McMaster I joined the Healthy Workplace Group so that I could continue to share the importance of healthy living with the community.
I am really excited about this opportunity. It gives me the chance to marry many of my passions and interests. I get to be creative, meet new people and inspire others to become more physically active. I have also been invited to facilitate some physical activity events for international students. What can I say, when it rains, it pours! This weekend Nick and I will celebrate our first Carnaval and then we are headed to Paris Sunday to Tuesday. Paris is a city that I have always wanted to see and I'm excited to share my first visit with Nick. There is so much to be happy about :)
The title of my blog today "The Foundation of Happiness is Health" comes from my recent self reflections on happiness. According to an article posted by Lululemon, we can start to control happiness by coming back to its three measured components: pleasure, meaning and participation in life. When I first arrived here I felt a little lost and there were some days that my emotions got the better of me. I was missing my family, my community and my sense of belonging. I feel like I have settled in and am hitting my stride largely because of my connection and passion for health. My regular participation in a variety physical activities and having fitness classes to teach gave me a sense of connection. I felt better about myself because I was doing something positive for my health and I was getting to know my community through exploring running trails and trying different activities offered in Maastricht. Teaching classes gave me a schedule and allowed me to connect with others by sharing knowledge and my love of exercise. Teaching fitness gave me purpose and meaning. I had a place to be and people who relied one me. I have participated in local races, connected with the University staff and students as well as the Maastricht community because of my teaching. Health really has been the foundation of my happiness here. My advice is to firstly, find pleasure in everything – big and small. Whether it be running and enjoying the scenery in a new place or learning to count in Dutch in a fitness class. There is always something to be excited about. Secondly, search for understanding and discover meaning and purpose. There is a reason you are where you are and a purpose for every opportunity that presents itself. Thirdly, commit to and participate in your life. Don't count down the minutes, make the minutes count. Seek out opportunities and embrace new relationships. In the end, what you get out of an experience is up to you. Embrace it and enjoy it :)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Alana Harris - International Health and Fitness Presenter

Today I fulfilled a lifelong dream! International presenter...check that one off the bucket list :)
Over the years I have come to love sharing my passion for sharing health and fitness related information with others. I love teaching and I love talking about exercise and health so when UM Sport asked me if I would prepare two continuing education workshops for the staff I jumped at the opportunity. Today I taught a workshop on "Running Mechanics - Developing Your Coaching Eye" and a "Mind, Body, Spirit" workshop. I really enjoyed doing the research and thinking about the topics creatively. The Running Mechanics workshop was well received and the group seemed to really appreciate the information that I shared. I did a brief presentation of related theory; the gait cycle, 7 zones to focus your trainers eye, 10 characteristics of efficient running form and I took them through skills and drills to develop efficient running mechanics.
I really enjoyed putting together the Mind, Body, Spirit workshop and thinking outside the box. I had the opportunity to reflect on my own beliefs and values around Sport and Exercise. I changed the title to empower the MIND, train the BODY, awaken the SPIRIT and my approach was that it is a message and not a mode. I think a lot of people get caught up in thinking about Yoga when they hear the topic Mind, Body, Spirit. I think the focus should be on connecting the Mind, Body, Spirit through positive motivational cues, affirmations, visualization, imagery and self love in your classes and coaching. We did an exercise to connect the breath with movement, an introduction to meditation and a biofeedback exercise. I wasn't sure how people would respond but I received a lot of positive feedback. It was a wonderful day and I felt honored to be given the opportunity. Thank you UM Sport!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Can you have too many friends???

"Some of us are lucky enough to be born with sisters and some of us just had to find our own" Anonymous

I think a friendship between girlfriends is special. One of my favorite quotes from Sex and the City was "Maybe our girlfriends can be our soul mates and men can just be people we have fun with". I am lucky enough to have two wonderful sisters and a mother who I can call my friends. I feel comfortable to share everything with them and I hope they feel the same way about me. They say you can choose your friends but you can't choose your family. I feel blessed to be able to say if I had the choice I would have chosen them :)
I have some amazing groups of girlfriends at home in Canada. My grade school and high school girlfriends," the core" as we call ourselves, have been a close knit group of "sisters" for the majority of our lives. The core has been there to support me through all the major events in my life and I have been there for them; heart breaks, parties, boys, school, marriage and now babies. No mom, I'm not pregnant! They've been there for it all! I know in my heart that these friendships are my forever friendships. After a year living across the world I know that as soon as we come together it will be as if we never skipped a beat. My University girlfriends - we B. ROCK'n - are amazing! Strong, confident, intelligent and beautiful women. Man, we've come a long way since DeQew residence! Again, these are forever and for always friends. We took for granted that we got to spend so much time together during our four year degrees and have just now started to put more effort into getting together. I love our girls weekends :) Throughout my post University days I became a workaholic. I'm not proud of this but I am able to acknowledge my mistakes and have made the necessary changes to ensure I do not return to my workaholic ways :) Even with my addiction to work many special people came into my life and left footprints on my heart. I feel like these friendships were ones I was blessed to have because these friends made the effort. I believe in surrounding yourself with people who inspire, motivate and challenge you and these people definitely did that for me.
When I came to the Netherlands I expected to meet many new people but the number of meaningful relationships that i have developed here have been a wonderful surprise. I really believe that the reason I have been able to develop these friendships is because I have time. I have time to be genuinely interested in other people. I go for coffee, I do girls nights, I stay after my fitness classes to talk to the participants. When people talk to me I don't have a million other thoughts in my head and I can just be in the moment. People are awesome! Not all people, some people kind of suck but many people are great if you give them the chance to show themselves to you. So in response to my title, I don't think you can ever have too many friends. Friends will come in and out of your life but if you are able to be present when they need you and they make you a better person then I think the more the merrier. Different friends make you a better person in different ways so let the diversity of your friendships enrich your life and the friendship that you are able to provide to others enrich theirs.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Lunges for a Quarter Mile

"Back in 82' I could throw a pigskin a quarter mile."

Well if you can throw a pigskin a quarter mile why not do lunges for a quarter mile. Eight sets of twenty to be exact!!! Another week in Switzerland for school. What can I say, life is tough!!! At school our classes start at 8:30am and we finish at 6pm. We get 90-minutes for lunch but it takes that much time for them to serve us lunch here. We really savour every bite :) Things are done at a much more leisurely pace then what I am accustomed to. This makes for a very long day with very little movement. As a movement junkie this leaves me in a state of with drawl. I have to move! So I have tried to get creative with my exercise. With a start time of 8:30am it is dark when we start and at 6pm it is still dark as if day never even happend. I have run in the morning with a bike light but realized this wasn't the safest option. I have done aerobics, pilates, body weight exercises and yoga in my room. I have done some long walks with class mates and this morning I thought to myself...I wonder if I can do lunges from the front door of the school all the way to the lake. I decided I would do 20 lunges and then walk for 20-steps. By the third set of 20 lunges my legs were burning, I was sweating and I wasn't even half way! When I arrived at the lake I was so proud of my accomplishment. I lunged for a quarter of a mile :) I got a funny look from the post man and the dog that lives in the barn, I call him Brian. On my walk I found a spot in the village to do pull-ups... there is a trellis with a bench that makes it the perfect height and grip width...we'll see how many I can do tonight! I imagine people will think I look really strange hanging from a trellis in the middle of town :)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

It's not mine, it must be urine

Another eventful weekend here in Maastricht!
On Friday night Nick and I went out with our friends Laura and Richard to our favorite thai restaurant "Pet Thai". Laura and Richard got engaged over Christmas so we were celebrating. Nick bought Richard a celebratory bottle of Wild Turkey - that never ends well, and I bought Laura some organic body products. Vanilla-coconut....smells so good!
I had to teach until 7:15pm so we had a late dinner reservation for 8:30pm. When we arrived Richard and Laura were waiting for us. We quickly joined them and started discussing potential dishes. Suddenly, standing to the left of our table a conversation between the manager and a "gentlemen" I use the term loosely, became quite heated. The whole restaurant got very quiet as the argument escalated, ending about 5-minutes later with the manager escorting the man to the door. When they got to the door things got a bit physical. A few shoves were exchanged and the man was pushed outside. He proceeded to bang and throw himself against the door. It went on like this for some time. Finally, the man left. Minutes later, we heard a bang at the door and the sound of what we found out to be the man urinating against the front door of the restaurant. At this point the manager lost his cool and grabbed a bottle from the bar. He proceeded to run into the street with what seemed to be the goal of beating the man with the bottle. He came back to the restaurant about 10-minutes later with a broken bottle in hand. The manager didn't apologize, he simply walked to the bar and continued on with his business as if nothing had happend. What a strange experience? It was very odd and I felt nervous throughout dinner but we decided that at least it had made for an interesting night. It was really uncomfortable to witness the confrontation because the man was clearly under the influence of drugs or alcohol but the manager fed the fire and instead of deescalating the situation he took it to a whole other level. Needless to say, I think he made it clear that he did not appreciate the manager or the establishment. Sometimes non-verbal forms of communication can be very powerful, yuck!
We walked home with Laura and Richard to enjoy a celebratory taste of the "Thunder Chicken", as Nick likes to call it. It was great to share the tradition of Wild Turkey with two great friends.
On Saturday I taught a class in the morning and had my photo shoot for my website. My friend Sandra mentioned that her fiance Stefan does photography as a hobby and would be happy to take some photos for me.
I was very excited and so thankful that she offered and I quickly recruited her to be in the photos with me. When I arrived at their house I realized he was hardly an amateur, he had all the equipment set-up and special lighting. It was a great experience and he got some wonderful shots. He did a great job making the shoot fun, creative and in line with my vision. He was exceptionally talented! Thanks Sandra and Stefan :)
Saturday night we had a fabulous dinner of Indian food with our friends Ben and Mandy. Homemade curry dishes, one meat dish for Nick and Ben and one veggie dish for Mandy and I...mmmmmm, so good. They did an amazing job! We are so spoiled to have such great friends. We got home around 1am and I had to teach again this morning. I'm lucky I have such a wonderful group on Sunday mornings or I would have had a tough time getting up this morning. I love my 8 hours of sleep! Nick and I spent a relaxing Sunday together. A run before lunch and a walk in the afternoon, chilling on the coach and hanging out with the cats was the extent of our activity today.
It was uneventful and exactly what we needed!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

It's a new beginning..

"Every new beginning comes from some other beginnings end."

Happy New Year!!!! It's a New Year and this is your chance to be a new you, a better version of your wonderful self.
I have always felt that the New Year is an opportunity to start fresh, to have a clean slate, to dream big, set goals and go after the you that you have always wanted to be. Throughout my life I feel as though I have been building, adding or acquiring new responsibilities, new certifications, education, qualifications, belongings..... I feel like I have reached the point when it's time to break down, purge, simplify and let some things go. In order to have a new beginning sometimes something else has to end. So is it true, does this mean less is sometimes more???? Does every new beginning come from some other beginnings end??? In my case, I realize somethings gotta give.
I feel as though the last 12-months have been jam packed with "new". So many new experiences, a brand new place, as a newly married couple to name just a few! New, has proven to be both exciting and scary all at once. Living in Europe has been a wonderful journey - I have enjoyed seeing this part of the world, going to school and having some time away from my busy career but it has also brought to my attention how much I identified myself with my work. I was really comfortable with what I was doing and the people I worked with and the life I had created for myself. So much so that I didn't really have an identity outside of my job and who I was at work.
In the short 6-months that we've been here I feel as though I've grown exponentially as a person. I have taken time to reflect on what things I love to do, what I like to do and what I want to do in the future. I have improved as a teacher and a student. I have taken time for myself; which has been really difficult. There have been moments where I have felt guilty, unworthy and lazy for not being a shadow of the workaholic I once was. But I have also recognized that taking this time has resulted in my most creative and focused efforts in a long time. Instead of spreading myself so thin and getting by with doing enough, I have been able to give 100% of myself. I once received feedback from one of my students at McMaster, she was a fitness instructor on my staff, she said that she felt I did a great job and she enjoyed working with me but that I had more to give. More to give???? At the time I didn't think much of it because I was working as many hours as I possibly could. I thought it was feedback for the sake of feedback but looking back it wasn't about the hours it was about being present. I get that now!!!!
To mark the New Year I have made a few goals and one of the most powerful things that you can do to achieve your goals is to share them with others, so here they are;

1) Improve as a Yoga and Pilates instructor - teach once per week, spend 20-min each morning on my personal practice and attend another teachers class once per week
2) Continue to develop as a fitness and spin instructor - teach my 10-classes each week and take advantage of the opportunity to receive feedback from managers, senior instructors and participants (something coming here has afforded me the opportunity to do)
3) Successfully complete my 3rd year Osteopathy exams - grade of 70% on both the theory and practical
4) Grow my business, empower.ed bodhi, to be self sustaining over the next 3-months
5) Hug Nick, Maggie, Gizmo and Pumpkin everyday :)

Do you believe in me??? I believe in me and I believe in you!