I originally started blogging in order to create a helpful and informative TAPIF blog as well as to record my travels during my “Year in France”. However, as time has passed on, the style and purpose of my blog has shifted. I have also realized that I simply like having a dedicated space where records of my life have been documented over the past few years. One of my favorite parts of this blog is going back and reading my old stories, glancing through old photos, and seeing how I’ve evolved. Although this blog holds (many) of the bigger events in my life, I’d like to start recording the little, daily things that make me, well, me: books I’m reading, restaurants I’m trying, TV shows I’m watching, and things I’m doing.
With my third (and smoothest!) rentrée successfully behind me, I was so ready for fall. Autumn is my favorite time of year, because for me, September has always felt a bit more about new beginnings, as it coincides with the new school year. Additionally, the weather is still nice, but it is a bit chillier (and cozier!) towards the end of the month! Finally, September is also a chance for me to revamp my routines as well as my teaching practices; to improve and try new things and figure out what works for me.
Wellbeing and Mental Health:
Year 3 has been the easiest rentrée yet. For the most part, I’ve been able to stay ahead of the game in regards to lesson planning, and marking. For the first time ever, I now actually have time to go to the gym (and to watch television, to read a book, to go to bed at a reasonable hour!) I’ve noticed that I have become so much more confident in my teaching abilities, as well as in my decisions and judgements when it comes to classroom management, grading, parents, etc. Overall, I am less anxious and less stressed, despite having had other ups and downs this past summer. I’m currently exploring insecurity and where it stems from, how it plays a role in my life and how I can recognize and tackle it.
There’ve also been several difficult adjustments in regards to my personal life (which from discussing with a few wiser friends, is sometimes bound to happen in one’s late twenties), so that has also been tough (especially when you live so far away from family and you have to count on your friends and colleagues to be your community). The silver lining has been being able to recognize and then channel my energies into people and things that matter. (When all else fails, I’ve found that a healthy dose of meditation and This is Us or Harry Potter will usually fill any empty void).
In regards to physical health, I’ve been on the rise. I’m on my way to being completely vegetarian (give or take some fish now and then) as well as switching out most dairy products from my diet–with the exception of ice cream, sometimes. Making these small changes has made a noticeable difference! For example, I feel far less bloated, I’ve lost some weight (although not nearly as much as I would like- but some of my pants fit me much better than they did in August). The best part- I’m also sleeping deeper and better. I fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and wake up feeling more rested. I no longer feel continuously exhausted during the day, and I have more energy overall. Over the past few months I’ve become very attentive and intentional about my body’s wellbeing and how it reacts to different foods, exercise, and practices. (I also wonder if my overall improved mental health and investment in therapy has contributed to this change). I’m looking forward to seeing what else is in store as 2018 comes to a close!
Fun fact: I never had any wisdom teeth until last summer, when three of them randomly turned up (one had descended, two were impacted). I had the operation under full anesthesia to have them removed over the October holidays so I am currently on the mend. A huge shot out to my friends Amber and Fred, whom took me in for two days- driving to and from the hospital and letting me stay at theirs while I recovered from anesthesia. We also carved pumpkins to celebrate Halloween.
I’ve been working hard to make small changes in my daily life and to go totally waste-free. It feels good to be doing more for the environment and I’m working hard to continue to do what I can to combat climate change and my own personal carbon footprint. It’s amazing because once you really start paying attention, it’s difficult to NOT notice everything you are doing as an individual. I’m already an avid user of the Diva Cup, which means I produce very little waste when it comes to feminine hygiene products. (It takes me about 6-8 months to use up a package of panty liners / sanitary pads, and when I finish this current bunch I plan to switch over and invest in Thinx panties, which work as reusable pads.)
As stated above, I’ve also gone vegetarian and have made a point to eliminate single-use plastic from my life. I now have invested in glass jars or containers for all of my food and have started going to a store in Lille to refill my plastic containers with rice, noodles, lentils, oats, muesli, etc. My friend Florine recently taught me how to make my own laundry detergent, and there is another store where I can go with my empty bottle to refill with dish soap, laundry detergent, and cleaning supplies (instead of consistently buying new plastic bottles).
I recycle all of the corks and light bulbs and batteries I use (there are plenty of stores in my neighborhood which accept them) and the beer store across the street from my flat gives me 10 cents back for every Belgian beer bottle I return. I already use a to-go coffee cup at work, but I am trying to remember to bring it to Starbucks (and I get 10 cents off my order when I do!) Obviously, I do not own a car and use public transportation / bikes whenever I can; I only use reusable bags and have abstained from using the plastic fruit and veggie bags at the market.
Finally, I am doing my best to buy local– I’ve actually invested in a program with the local farms called BioCabas, where I pick up a bag of locally grown, in season fruits and veggies every week at our market. This has forced me to try out new recipes as well as to eat seasonally (plus, vegetarian!) It’s also helped me immensely with budgeting. Next task to conquer: get serious about composting, as this is where much of my weekly waste comes from.
I’ve stayed put in Lille since my quick jaunt to Brussels at the end of August, which suits me fine. The Lille Braderie took place over the first weekend of September, and the annual Breast Cancer run took place the first weekend of October. My colleagues and I have formed running teams together, which has been a fun collaboration experience and team-building opportunity. Additionally, my parents’ friends passed through Lille on a Sunday afternoon from Brussels in mid-October, and it was such a treat to show them around! Seeing familiar faces is the best way to cure homesickness. Overall, I’ve been enjoying the (unseasonably) beautiful weather in the north. Most importantly, I’m looking forward to heading home to Wisconsin for Christmas in December!
Ruth and I in Lille on a sunny Sunday afternoon
Just for fun- a few photos from Halloween. I went as a Handmaid.
Since Dear Sugars ended, I’ve been trying to find my new go-to Podcast. Cheryl and Steve recommended Terrible, Thanks for Asking, so I’ve been giving it a listen. I was especially moved by this episode, Forever Alone, Part 1. I felt like I was listening to myself. I’ve listed to Chelsea’s story a half a dozen times sense. I know that deep down this issue is where a lot of my current struggles are coming from; it was a revelation to finally find someone who could put my feelings and experiences into words.
This is Us
This is Us Season 3 is back! This is honestly my favorite television program of all time; it brings me so much happiness (and Beth is my favorite character, by the way!)
Eighth Grade by Bo Burnham
My mom recommended this film to me, as did many well-respected celebrities such as the famous Cheryl Strayed. Kayla Day is entering her last week of eighth grade, and the film basically explores the awkwardness of adolescence mixed in with the presence of social media. There were many cringe-worthy moments and I do believe it is an important film for teachers to see (and anyone who has ever been a teenager, male or female).
I’ve certainly been that girl who brought the lame and uncool present to your (way, way) more popular friend’s birthday party (hi, Alyssa!); I’ve certainly been that girl who felt pressured into doing or saying something that made me feel uncomfortable. I’ve certainly been (and maybe, in some ways, still am) that girl/woman who just wanted to fit in- I was the girl with a crazy curly-haired afro and buck teeth, who loved wearing dresses and all things Harry Potter and Christmas music and green apples and High School Musical and American Girl and Little House on the Prairie; and who was really embarrassingly sheltered and inexperienced, who wore white eye shadow and braces with colored bands to match the holidays (orange for October, anyone!), who had a diary and who was just so desperate to be popular and well-liked.
I am so glad that social media only started to become a thing in my sophomore year of high school (Myspace and Facebook).
Black KkKlansman by Spike Lee
I know this film has gotten a lot of mixed reviews, but I really, really enjoyed it. I thought Lee did a fantastic job of combining humor of today and the past as well as the very realness of Donald Trump and the implications / consequences of his presidency.
This month, I’m looking forward to having friends visit from London and celebrating Thanksgiving. What does your November look like?