December 2018, Traditions.

‘I think that somehow, we learn who we really are and then live with that decision.’ ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Guten tag,

The clock hasn’t yet struck midnight on 2018 for us in the Northern Hemisphere. It will soon and the fire works will explode! As I lay here in my bed, in the dark, in a hotel room with a snoring six year old next to me – I think I drew the long straw!

Hubby and the older kids have walked into the old town of Salzburg to see the fireworks as they blast off the mighty Hohensalzburg Fortress when midnight strikes. It will be spectacular – I imagine. But you know what you don’t go to, you don’t know you’ve missed. The pure joy of missing out (JOMO) I’m ALL about that. And you never know I might get a little crazy! I could get myself another cup of herb tea from the bar. Nah. I just had a better idea! I’ll cut myself a piece of apple strudel AND because I am letting it all hang out (New Years and all) I will also have a piece of the cheese strudel type cake that’s sitting next to the apple strudel.

We are having a mini break in Salzburg and it is good for the soul. A last minute booking when the fares dropped. Flying on New Year’s Day it seems is an excellent way to save $$. I am completely taken with this city. Falling more in love with it each day.

We are moseying without ambitious plans. The Hohensalzburg Fortress was awe inspiring. So many footsteps, so much history and being the rebel that I am I was intrigued to learn about the 16th century revolt of the peasant farmers against unfair high taxes. I too would have been a peasant farmer just a few centuries ago. Many of us would I dare say.

Remember last month I started listening to Mozart (randomly it started – my interest in composers) … imagine that this week I found myself in the room he was born in! I was completely taken with Mozart and the life he lived. His mother had seven children he was one of the two that lived. Do you know how long he lived? He lived until thirty five years of age and of course so much more interesting’ness. My mind was blown.

Mind blown coincidences and jokes aside (not about the strudel – I never joke about strudel) I am quite chuffed to have this quiet space to tap out this month’s letter to you. And in keeping with this month’s theme is seems this has become a tradition I quite enjoy. And aren’t traditions about enjoyment? The marking of a time, an achievement or perhaps simply ‘celebrations of life’?

I was chuffed this month to find a garlic purveyor at my local market selling French garlic. Unlike Australia I’m not sure we have the climate in The Netherlands to grow garlic so France doesn’t seem too far for the garlic to travel from. It sure beats the bleached imported garlic that haunts the supermarkets. It’s ‘sterk en flavoirsome’ the Dutch stall holder told me. This translates to strong and flavoursome and I know he said more but I couldn’t quite catch it. Lucky I start my free Dutch course next week (compliments of the local council)!

Did you know that among other things garlic is also one of nature’s antibiotics? Now where am I going with all this garlic talk … I’m distracted the fireworks are popping (the six year old is still snoring) it must be the NY … right we’ve just rung the new year in here friends. Happy New Year! Now where was I? Garlic! Yes. Right. Strong, flavorsome and it helps ward of lurgy and other undesirable stuff … it’s a protective thing. A bit like traditions are hey?

Traditions are a part of the Dutch culture that I love the most. There’s the one where you see a school bag hanging off the front of house that tells you someone has just finished their final high school exams. And the one where on the King’s birthday the country goes into party mode wearing the national colour – orange. The Dutch royal family hails from the house of Orange. In the morning on that party day children across the country set up flea market stalls in front their houses to sell their old toys. Honestly I could write a book about traditions in this country. And in keeping with the Dutch persona they are all very practical and a resourceful!

This month we started with the tradition of surprizoes! I’m not sure where the word comes from but it means surprises. In class the children are given a name from a hat, a bit like a Kris Kringle. Instead of simply buying a gift they are also given a list of some of the person’s likes. With this in mind they write a poem for their person and create a surprizo – something to house a small €3 gift in. It’s a lot of fun and so beautifully personal and thoughtful. It’s not only schools, families and friends also do it.

The Dutch celebrate Saint Nicholas who comes on the eve of the 5th of December. A knock at the front door tells you he has been. The children excitedly open the door to find a bag with a gift each. The build up towards this evening is filled with songs and stories. It’s a sweet time and I surprised myself this year with my own excitement and desire to opt in. Normally I run a mile at Christmas time … literally! As soon as the final school bell sounded in Oz and the summer break began we were out of the madness and onto a campsite somewhere. I like this singing and story telling backdrop – it truly has brought the joy back to Christmas for me.

And it snowed this month. Just once but we’ve now woken to experience snow this year. Complete with a street snow ball fight.

If rituals are what help give us flow in our daily lives then I think traditions are what keep us in joy. Those things that mean a little more than a routine. Aside from the obvious ones there are they even more beautiful ones …. our personal traditions. Like the weekly tradition of sitting down to enjoy Sunday brunch with its own tempo, of sitting at the dinner table, the first morning coffee, of sharing our favourite part of the day, the weekly phone call with a parent, the six monthly phone call with a dear friend, Friday night popcorn and a movie on the couch (with a doona of course), a long bath (with a book), Sunday baking, after school banana bread and that extra important delicious one of creating some space and freedom to get lost in a creative pursuit.

‘As for accomplishments, I just did what I had to do as things came along.’ ~ Eleanor Roosevelt.

Tradition is everywhere in our lives, scattered in amongst all that we do. The more I start noticing ours the more intentional and fierce I am becoming about protecting and nurturing them. The Sunday brunch is one I grew up with and this little exercise reminded me of how much I love it. When I suggested we bring it into our home my husband knew exactly what it was. A long breakfast, a European style buffet on the table! Breads, cheeses, meats, cereal, fruits and boiled eggs. And coffee, naturally. But the main ingredients are easy and conviviality. Nothing hard, just the eating and the chatting. He (hubby) shared many at my family home before we created our own family.

Yes they’re the good stuff traditions. Just like garlic! I keep mine (the garlic) within easy reach – in sits my window sill reminding me to use it. And now it reminds me of traditions.

This month I have been having a Thai massage once a week. A luxury – yes I know! But I justify it with the fact that I don’t fill a car with petrol each week. Funny how we always need justification or make apologies for the things we do for ourselves isn’t it? I’ve hit the middle age you see and things hurt. I also had quite a lot of stress in the past year and I have the feeling it is stored in my body … it has to go somewhere right? I know this because every time I walk home from my massage I feel lighter and free’er – there has been a release. And when there is a release there is space for something to unfold.

I definitely have an affinity with hard yakka physically! I can hike miles (as you know). The intensity of deep tissue massage is also something my body responds to. I don’t mind the pain. Today I wondered if it was because I come from farming stock. My ancestors all worked the land and my muscles have DNA imprinted of those who came before me. Interestingly they were also all Dutch … and here I am.

Yes here I am living in The Netherlands … unfolding into the space and life we’re creating.

This month marked two years since we left the Australian shores. We set of on an adventure, an adventure that had no expiry date. Sometimes I’ve looked at those who come for adventures and gone back home with a little melancholy. I’ve wondered if going home would have been easier … easier than creating a whole new home, a whole new life. I am not convinced it would have been. Our minds follow us don’t they. And all of my adventuring friends have all had their own re-settling adjustments to make.

When we finished travelling we weren’t sure of anything anymore! It is an absolute culture shock to have to deal with people again, people who don’t understand what you’re doing  – people who aren’t really your people but are inextricably all of a sudden in your life.

Part of this story I’m writing here is my re-entry! After weathering the first year and a half of re-settling I need to feel that I have my own deep life. Not only in my home but also when I step out of the front door. There have been storms, thunderous confusing storms but there are always rainbows and the seasons they always come and go. People too. Sometimes we (I, I say we but I am always talking about myself) dive into opportunities, ideas, thoughts on tangents and relationships only to find the air is wrong. If we are not breathing the right air we get locked. Locked isn’t something I can do … so I change things up … move towards a different way, or rearrange things. Again maybe the farmers stock – replanting in the spring, moving the cows to a new paddock??

A month is a long time in life! One of the things I am loving about writing to you each month is that SO much can happen. None of us are the same as when we started the month. We see things, hear things, feel things and do things – so many things. Millions of moments adding up to life. And life is on my mind, the fragility of it particularly. On my mind because these past few months my core has been rocked with how unfair and unpredictable life is. It is something that I always feel when I’ve travelled in old cities but lately it has been personal. And I’m recognising how easily these feelings are transferred into fear, but I don’t want to go there. Fear is not a friend of mine. Not if I want a life with curiosity, possibility and vitality.

‘Ambition is pitiless. Any merit that it cannot use it finds despicable.’ ~ Eleanor Roosevelt.

I am finding middle age to be quite character building on account of its challenges. Damn it! I thought I had build all my resilience dealing with that awful transition from teenager to adult to motherhood. I don’t have the energy for ambition and yet I don’t want to live an apathetic life. It is becoming clearer to me that what I want … what I want is simply to live meaningfully with confidence. Don’t we all? So I know what I need to do this month, what my focus is but I’ll get to that shortly.

Other news …. I am taking weekly driving lessons. I know right. So many bad driving habits to unlearn. I will take the practical test in February. I decided that I just need to suck it up and do it! There is no point being annoyed or bitter about my Aussie licence not being recognised here … I simply have to get on with it. Bitter that’s an interesting word don’t you think? I am on the look out for it. In me, situations, conversations and in others. It is not for me – not if I want peace. And if I’m honest it has actually completely flipped a few situations for me these past months. Yes digging into bitter has been somewhat life altering.

What else? Aaaah my book. Well zero writing this month. Not that I have been blocked just that there was no flow! The kids are home and it’s been a month to be immersed in the traditions of Christmas. I will get back to it.

I am also thinking about possibly putting together a picture book with my photos and poems about the camino. I’ve been asked to go and speak at a gathering about my camino for One Girl – perhaps this is a way to create something with that opportunity?

And of course there is my new adventure Home to Rome! I think you will all know about this as you follow me on Slower Family Travels (SFT). It is a wonderful slow way for me to ground myself this year. A walk that will take many years I imagine. It is very me and it feels like the camino I was searching for these past months. I joined the camino ways forum (not something I usually do) but wow there are some nice people out there. There are more people for me to meet in this life I’m sure of it. It is also the perfect way for me to take the purpose of SFT and my work with One Girl forward.

‘No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.’ Eleanor Roosevelt

I have a new month to live. Rituals are falling into place as life begins to settle into our new ‘normal’. The best friend and husband is back in the office and travelling for work. Me trying to walk each day. The kids growing and weaving themselves into their ‘Dutch’ life. The kids are amazing actually – they have been completely adaptable. We did this for us but also for them, to give them different life to the one we were living. I think they adapt because it is in fact a life that is more in tune with who we are.

Build on the traditions that bind us (old and new) taking centre stage in the every day moments. So where did this delving into tradition lead me?

Closer to myself of course. If we are focused on building relationships, the one with ourselves and the ones with those who are part of us. The special ones, the ones who we can trust with our heart and soul (however conventional and unconventional those friendships may look), and by choosing to notice and find the stories rather that spin around on a bitter record or simply trying to please others – we come home. Home where our heart lives, not just home where the four walls are.

So this month I want to cleanse. I need to let go of some of the things I think about and the time I spend thinking about people or in the lives of other people who’s values differ. I want to be kind to this body of mine and cleanse it with water – gallons of water. I want to consider the ways in which I allow some of my thoughts and ideas about myself spin around the merry go around in this noggin of mine. I’d like to loose the guilt of saying no. I’d like to walk through all of that (literally walk). I guess I want to start digging in the self sabotage and cement my life in this deeper inner world, with confidence. Confidence requires strength. Strength to do some cleansing, some letting go. Basically drop some baggage.

And with that I’ll leave it there friends. It’s time for a magnesium salt bath and a 1.5L of water to drink … and perhaps a book. Something fiction, something light. Any suggestions? I’ve not read this month.

Auf Wiedersehen dear ones! How has December been for you?

Fran xx

‘People grow through experience if they meet life honestly and courageously. This is how character is built.’ ~ Elenor Roosevelt.

2 Replies to “December 2018, Traditions.”

  1. Happy New Year Fran. We are back home … (only just feeling like I can say that now) after two weeks down South. Family Xmas, then a few days in Castlemaine then Nagambie. Way to much food and wine was had. Exercise class starts tomorrow! And a water detox sounds like a grand idea especially given the sweltering heat we have had. Lots of glorious rain now.
    Have you read Burial rites by Hannah Kent? I think you would like it. Brillant writer.
    Lizzy xxx


    1. Yay HOME! Glad.

      The heat and water seem to fit … I struggle in this cooler climate to guzzle it down.

      Cleansing has started with a family bout of gastro! Nothing like gastro making its way through the house for a forced spring clean of bedding, walls and floors.

      I started that book, my sister loved her other book. I think it is still on my kindle will give it another go. You know when your a bit stuck for a good read and you need to switch it up a bit. I’m there.

      Enjoy those beach walks now you’re home 😉

      F xx


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