How Brain Surgery Affected My Everyday Life . . .

Copenhagen TreesTwo months have passed since my last post. Getting back into teaching has been a real challenge physically. But going back to work has also put things into perspective and it has made me realize how much the brain surgery has changed my outlook, my mood, and my demeanor. I have been thinking about this post for a while now and I am finally ready to share part of it. There are some lessons that I have learned from having my brain surgery, lessons that have made a profound impact on how I look at life, and I feel the need to share them . . .

DSCN06081. I am more sensitive . . .

I have heard that going through any major surgery can leave people feeling pretty emotional. I had my share of depression and anxiety which has led me to meet with a psychiatrist. While these emotions are thankfully under control, I have found that I have been and still am extremely sensitive since the surgery. Maybe that will slowly go away, but for now I have a delicate appreciation for both my feelings and the feelings of those around me. Some days I find myself feeling quite fragile. I guess having someone cut open and peel back your scalp to break open your scull will leave you feeling that way. Some days all I need is for Scott to hold me, or to just sit and look at the ocean, or close my eyes and listen to simple piano melodies. There are no reasons for feeling this fragile (besides the surgery), but it has been a huge reminder to me of how fragile we all are. We all need each other, and we all need to remember to look out for one another.

DSCN0090This surgery has made me more sympathetic and more open hearted. Some see sensitivity as a weakness, but I think it is one of our best human traits. To be able to look at another person and feel their pain, to reach out and offer someone another chance, and to look someone in the eye with a willingness to feel what they feel is the most powerful thing we can do. Because at the end of the day, we are here for each other.

DSCN0327Each day, at some point, this crosses my mind: how I can brighten the day of those around me? How can I ease the pain of others? Because each of us is carrying something. We ultimately do not know how long we will be around each other, or how long we will be alive. We only have a few moments with each person we interact with – shouldn’t we try to encourage each other and sympathize with one another instead of comparing, condemning, or criticizing. Don’t get me wrong, no one is perfect and we all lose our temper and get selfish, but I mean, at the end of the day shouldn’t that be our goal – to bring joy, happiness, and kindness to those we interact with? Shouldn’t we allow ourselves to be more sensitive?

DSCN1435This is only one of many things that have been running through my mind, quite frequently, since the surgery. I plan to share more soon . . .

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New Abayas!

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AbayaSad to say that I have lived in the UAE for two years and only now I am buying some abayas! At my new school most of the teachers wear abayas which I love, so I decided to buy some of my own. For those of you living in Abu Dhabi, I went to Blue Diamond near Abu Dhabi Mall. The prices are great and the guys working there are super helpful. I ended up buying four abayas and had another tailored. What I liked the best is that they will order one if they don’t have your size and then he will tailor it to fit you. He also offered many suggestions based on the ones I liked. If you go, make sure to try each one on as they all fit a little differently.

Abaya 1Like many people before coming here, I had assumed that abayas were just all black, that’s it. But after coming here there is a lot of fashion and style that comes with abayas. At a quick glance, the abayas I am wearing above are “just black” but they are also embroidered and detailed with lace and beads. The sleeves can be puffy, fitted, or open. Some abayas even have colors added to them – gold, green, pink, purple, burgundy etc. The thing I like the best is that each morning I can wake up and put one of these on and not worry about being modest. In my opinion, they are the most comfortable thing I can wear while teaching, plus they are just plain beautiful.  Already looking forward to my next paycheck when I can buy a few more!

Abaya 2

New School, New Year, New Goals

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This will be my third year teaching in the UAE, and this year I will be at a new school. I am excited and hopeful, but also nervous . . .

IMG_20140506_081326[1]I’m sad to be leaving the wonderful students at Nahel School and all the staff I got to know – some of my colleagues became like close friends and provided such support, especially from the time I found out about my aneurysm to having the surgery. One really close friend brought flowers to school for me after I found out and while recovering a group of teachers even came to my house to visit me.  The class I taught last year included some of the most sincere and caring students I have ever taught.

My girls threw me a good luck party before my surgery - they showered me with cards and flowers and food. Too sweet.

My girls threw me a good luck party before my surgery – they showered me with cards and flowers and food. Too sweet.

Because of the surgery we have now moved to Abu Dhabi. So far this move has brought Scott and I such renewed energy for life. We feel hopeful again, positive again, and ready to enjoy life again. But, we are nervous about our new schools. In the course of my teaching career, I have taught in 5 different schools and that first day I always feel so awkward. I look forward to the time when a new place becomes familiar and has routines. Being in the Emirates has taught me to be flexible and go with the flow.

The day it rained and classes were cancelled

The day classes were cancelled due to rain – sometimes its easy to go with the flow!

Because of the surgery I have not taught since the first week in May. I am of course worried about how I will process so many new things with my brain still healing. Since the surgery, I have noticed that multitasking is really difficult for me – can cause headaches and cause my thinking to just shut down. Teaching might be a challenge for me at first, but I am confident that my brain will continue to heal and grow and adapt. I hope it’s just like “riding a bike again.” I have done so much teaching throughout my life, I know it’s something that will come back to me, even if I’m a bit rusty at first.

One of the rare days when the projector actually worked! Had to take a picture to remember!

With all that said we are very excited about this change. We will be going from a common cycle (grades 1-12 in the same building) to an only cycle 3 (high school) settings. I look forward to being around colleagues who all have a similar focus and are all dealing with the same age group. We will have the first week to get organized before the students report, and I can’t wait to meet my new colleagues and see my new school. So, my goals for this school year? Honestly it’s a simple as this: I want to enjoy my job – connect with my students, create thought-provoking lessons, and become a part of this new school’s community! Wish me luck!

The End of Our Trip – Days 9-12

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So we arrived back safe and sound the other day from our trip around Paris and Belgium. Both Scott and I feel so refreshed from our time away. I feel stronger, happier, more peaceful, and more centered. My anxiety and depression do not linger so close and I hope it stays that way. So let me recap for you our last couple days . . .

Day 9: August 9 had the prompt of “in my bag.” Below is a picture of what I always carry with me while traveling abroad, or anywhere new:

IMG_20140810_092942[1]I always have my camera and my gorilla pod. I love taking low light pictures and can use it to get pictures of both Scott and I together – you never know when you’ll need it! Also chap stick and hand sanitizer are a must. And always, without fail, small papers and nicknacks find their way into my purse while we travel. I love getting home and finding out what has found its way into my bag. At this point in the trip I have a La Chouffe label, flags from breweries we visited that were used in the cheese we ordered, maps, and brochures from Bruges, Ghent, and Paris.

Day 10: On August 10 the prompt was “Drink.” As you already know we were touring many breweries – one of which was La Chouffe (one of my all time favorites!). On this particular weekend, La Chouffe was having their annual Choufferie! An all day event full of food, bands, beer, and fun! All their labels and marketing includes different gnomes – and their McChouffe is a Scottish gnome! It’s kind of their thing. While at the Choufferie, you could buy a hat and be a gnome yourself! Well, you know I wasn’t passing that up!

IMAG1104[1]But, remember, the prompt was drink. While at the brewery I found out that they make a cream liqueur which I had to try! So here is the drink and some other goodies we got at the Choufferie . . .

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Day 11: August 11. At this point we had made it back to Paris. While driving from AChouffe to Paris the GPS took us off of the highway for a while. We were pleasantly surprised when we came across and huge tractor parade in a small town in Belgium! Seriously there were more than 50 tractors – all different models, some even looked almost antique and all with families sitting on top enjoying the day! Even the rain didn’t spoil any smiles!

IMG_20140810_180856[1]This of course made me homesick. As some of you know I have lots of farmers in my family and I can honestly say they are the most hardworking and dedicated people I have ever known! I like to think that my family back home was thinking of me on that day, cause I know I was certainly thinking of them. I kept thinking I would see my uncles, or cousins, or grandpa coming around the next bend!

So, once we arrived in Paris we headed straight for the relaxing Jardin du Luxembourg and caught the lovely evening glow:

IMG_20140810_225226[1]But of course none of these pictures or events related to that day’s prompt, which was “handwriting.” While in Paris, I stopped in at the famed “Shakespeare and Co” bookstore, and like any tourist who is visiting Paris and an English major, I had to purchase a copy of Ernest Hemingway’s book “A Moveable Feast.” Published posthumously, this novel is Hemingway’s recount of his time living in Paris in the 1920s. We stayed right in the area where he lived so I was constantly reading about places I was seeing and knowing that Hemingway had once walking those same streets. He wrote a lot about his writing style in the book as well. So for this prompt I decided to write down one of my favorite quotes from the book so far:

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My other favorite quote from the book: “We ate well and cheaply and drank well and cheaply and slept well and warm together and loved each other.” Really enjoyed reading this book!

Day 12: August 12 – our last day in Paris. We visited various sights and did a lot of walking. We wanted to soak in all of Paris one more time before going home . . .

IMG_20140811_184957[1] IMG_20140812_200608[1]Honestly our favorite way to enjoy Paris was in the parks – especially the Jardin des Tuilieries that extends from the Louvre. I remember, back in 2007 when me and my friend Heather visited, this was also one of our favorite places. We spent a lot of time in front of the Louvre and in the gardens – it’s a peaceful place buzzing with life and nature. I had to include this throwback picture for you all – we were so happy to be exploring and taking in all of life – two good friends seeing the world together . . .

Paris. . . and I am so happy that Paris still holds the same wonder and excitement as it did back then! The prompt for our last day in Paris was “on the table.” Often while in Paris a table for Scott and I consisted of using one of the iconic green garden chairs. We would have our morning coffee and pastry in the gardens, and sometimes a lunch or dinner on these chairs. A good way to soak in life – and the best way I could capture Day 12’s prompt:

IMG_20140812_195450[1]Sadly that ends our trip in Paris and Belgium. If you want to continue to see what’s happening with the daily August Break prompts, feel free to follow me on Instagram – and it’s not to late to join in yourself! I am planning on doing a couple more detailed posts about our trip. Before I go I will leave you with one last picture of Scott and I waiting early in the morning to take a train to the airport and then fly home to the UAE. This was the first time in our two years of living in the UAE that I was excited about returning. Our new apartment is a new home for us and we are so hopeful about this next chapter in our lives . . .

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Days 6-8: Reflection, Today is . . ., and Selfie

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So our last hotel didn’t have the best connection, making blogging a bit more difficult. But I seem to have a better connection now so let me catch you up on the last 3 days . . .

Day 6 (August 6th), we arrived in Brussels. It was a bit rainy but that didn’t stop us from exploring a bit. The word for this day was “reflection.” We were tired from driving and the rain seemed to lull so we grabbed some coffee and homemade waffles right in the main square and sat down to relax. While enjoying the moment, I noticed that the reflection of Brussels city hall was in the window of the cafe:

2014-08-06 13.28.25-1We enjoyed the rest of our evening with a long dinner and a visit to the famous Delirium Cafe! It did not disappoint and the tap list was endless! Plus the atmosphere couldn’t be beat.

2014-08-06 19.24.20Day 7 (August 7th): We enjoyed the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Brussles which included the Magritte Museum – which was the highlight of the museum. The museum went through his life and all the different styles he experimented with, plus some of his more famous works. I couldn’t help but snap this pic while outside the museum shop:

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After once again we just enjoyed wandering the city. The photo prompt for August 7th was “Today is” and I chose to call that day blues skies, city walks, museums, and parks:

2014-08-07 15.35.46-1Day 8 (August 8th): We left Brussles and drove on towards Antwerp. Along the way we stopped for a tour of Duvel Brewery, and for dinner we found oursleves at the Westmalle Trappist Brewery. Trappist breweries have been my favorite so far to tour. There are 6 Trappist breweries in Belgium (8 in the world) and we have been to 4 of them on this trip alone (and planning on visiting another tomorrow!). Of course you cannot go inside the abbey, but most have a cafe where you can sample their beers and get some food and also you can walk through the outer grounds of the monestary. So after enjoying your meal you can go for a walk and soak up nature. A perfect way to spend the day if you ask me and yesterday felt almost magical.  The rain from the day finally let up so Scott and I walked around the abbey grounds of Westmalle. The evening sun had finally broken through the storm clouds. My photo prompt for yesterday was “selfie” and I couldn’t think of a better time for a selfie than here:

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2014-08-08 20.01.14-1Hope to post more really soon! But before i go – if you had to take a selfie which moment of your day would you choose to capture?

Days 4-5: Orange and Three

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Wow sorry, I somehow forgot to post yesterday so let me catch up . . .

Yesterday was assigned the color “orange.” It worked out perfectly. While doing a tour of the brewery Halve Maan, we were able to go on the roof and get a magnificent view of the city and its orange roof tops . . .

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2014-08-04 12.28.46After exploring Bruges some more and even seeing two windmills . . .

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. . . The next morning (aka today) it was then off to Ghent, where the word was “three.” Ghent is a cute, unassuming city, so it was easy to explore and wander through. There are churches and  castles and lots of medieval architecture. So here is what I saw today in sets of three . . .

2014-08-05 16.04.16-12014-08-05 16.06.32-1And like that another day ends. Tomorrow we are headed off to Brussels for a couple nights. I have to say, I’m loving every minute in Belgium – the friendly people, the countryside, the city centers, all of it!

 

 

August Break Day 3: Window

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Today we arrived in Bruges, Belgium. This old, historical town is covered in charm. I loved each side street and canal. It wasn’t hard for me to find a window with character. Soon enough, Scott and I found ourselves in The Old Chocolate House – enjoying coffee, hot chocolate, and gingerbread. And all of it next to this window:

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The hot chocolate was a great and delicious experience.  The waitress brought out a mug, the size of my face, full of hot, steamed milk with a whisk inside. Next to the cup was a small chocolate dish of quality chocolate chips. I then had to add my desired amount of chocolate and whisk it with the milk – a most delicious experience:

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Wandering around Bruges was so fun. It is one of those cities you just want to get lost in. Everywhere I looked I found more and more windows I wanted to photograph for today’s challenge. Especially these enchanting buildings right on the canal:

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To end, all I have left to say is that I hope the view out of your window is an inspiring and relaxing one! Whether it be nature, the bustle of life, or the gentle hum of traffic, I hope it brings you comfort.

August Break Day 2: Pattern

The word for today was pattern. Our hotel, Le Grand Rêve,  in Chimay, Belgium was really well designed. The tiles, the furniture, and even the wall paper were full of patterns and style.

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I really liked this topic because I found that once I started looking for patterns they were easy to find. For example, even while touring St. Bernardus brewery today . . .

2014-08-02 09.53.47-1I just love their logo! So, what patterns can you find today?

August Break: Lunch

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Today is August 1st and that marks the start of August Break 2014. For today the word was lunch. This morning we drove from Paris, France to Chimay, Belgium.  Along the way we stopped for lunch and enjoyed our sandwiches at a quiet park . . .

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Well, since we are talking about lunch, I want to add a bit about our dinner. We stopped at the Chimay restaurant for a nice dinner and beer tasting. For those of you who might not know, Chimay is a trappist brewery – meaning their quality is great and it is brewed by monks. After dinner we were graciously invited to sing at an evening service at the monestary by one of the monks. It was beautiful – it was all in French but I love how God transends language. So, here is another snapshot for you . . .

2014-08-01 20.30.49So wherever you find yourself today for lunch, I hope you find yourself with a good meal, friends, and a prayer in your heart.

 

Paris is Always More Magical at Night

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When in Paris back 2007, me and my friend Heather loved Paris at night, all lit up and glowing. One of my all time favorite places is the Louvre, at night. There are small fountains that reflect the light of the pyramid and lovely surrounding architecture.  This place brings me peace and rest. The pic I snapped was on my phone so I apologize for the low quality. But picture yourself here – the buzz of the people, the trickle of the fountains, and the glow of the lights . . .

Louvre at night