Weeks Eighty through Eighty-Five

 But I never made it to Budapest. It was time to go. The countdown clock was slamming every second in my ear and each morning felt like a mad dash to plan out: Things to do, People to see, and Places to go. I barely ate, I barely slept, adrenaline coursed through me to the point I’d randomly start to shake. There wasn’t enough time.

In all the other places I had lived, saying goodbye was pretty easy. Hugs, a dinner, good lucks and wish we could have hung out mores. But saying goodbye here was gut wrenching and created a vacuumed-out hollow hole in the middle of my chest.
I aced my Psychology of Adjustment course in college so, (un?)fortunately I was conscientiously aware of every step taking place inside of me. Fear, Anger, Bartering, Denial, Acceptance, Remorse, Numbness…any thought that flew through my mind fit into a category and I systematically dealt with them. I should have paid myself.

But I took action. I tried to live every minute as fully as I could and just continue on being me. But visions of the present were already slipping into the past. Sitting at an outdoor cafe, wondering what to order from the non-existant waiter, among the symphony of the urban street, every moment felt like an art-house film noir.

Summer was in full swing, complete with the amazonian sized mosquitos that were plaguing our house. (poor girl) But school was out and we had to fill up the day. Honestly it was so I could avoid the 100 question repeat that I had to answer daily. (Where are we going, where’s my stuff, why did you give away the iron)

The kids and I headed to Gouda in The Netherlands to meet up with some friends for their cheese festival.


We had a good time but it was unseasonably warm and the smell of cheese and heat isn’t a very good one.

Zane wanted this picture and set it up.

Would you look at those hydrangeas. At 6 dollars a stem in the USA, this is a gold mine.

You know you are in The Netherlands when all of a sudden the GPS lady in your car says, Turn right onto the Ferry.

We went to go visit the old windmills. Quite historical, somewhat interesting, really hot.

I didn’t even think about how this rickety wooden pier probably wasn’t safe for all these kids jumping up and down on it. Oh well, the water was shallow anyway.

Days were met with heart-wrenching things like this. Lily tried to bribe us into staying by delivering this note under my door. (Emma & Emily were her Pre-K teachers)

And nights were filled with hanging out with our friends as much as possible. We spent a fortune in babysitters but there really was no other option.

Around every turn, I took a second to look at what I was leaving behind. Not in an angry sense but in a mental photograph sort of way. Soon my daily views would turn into master planned communities and “old buildings” that were constructed in the 1990s.

Trying to remain positive. We had to. I never made it to Croatia.

During our vacation to Germany, I decided to go to Nice overnight. Friends had rented a house there for the month and I’m pretty sure everyone knows if you invite me to something, I’m going to show up.

It was 36 hours of pure fun.

We beached, we ate, we danced.

The bar was constantly being lit on fire. (if you don’t know about my affinity for all things pyro, you should by now)

We had a great time. I never saw Portugal.

When I returned back to Brussels the reality was really hitting. I remembered how I felt after I had been in Brussels for 5 months and still had not really found any friends and how all that had instantly changed the moment my kids started school in September.  I wanted to scream WHERE HAVE YOU PEOPLE BEEN!  The International School of Brussels introduced me to life long friends and for that I will always remain grateful.

And the same goes for my kids. You couldn’t ask for a better set of children that you would want your kids to grow up around.


As the days counted down we said goodbye to neighbors and friends. Exchanging small gifts and tokens with promises to visit in the future. I think they all know better that that is not just fluff talk for me. You should see what I have mentally planned for 2014. I didn’t see Athens.

The hardest part (when I was able to see outside my own sadness) was the kids. They are at an age now where they understand what it means to leave, to move. This was my day to day life. Jason was traveling on business and I was left to get the house in order, coordinate the packer/movers, and all the while help these two cope with what was going on. I was beyond mentally exhausted but had to establish the balance of letting them feel the real emotions of life, but also help them work through them.

Lily got to close the door on our house for the final time. I didn’t even realize it until I took this picture the day the kids and I left it. Lily never saw the Eiffel Tower.



We traded our house for room service and breakfast in bed. Not too awful.
But what was awful was checking into the hotel. We had to check in with Bailey. My cat hates travel and the poor thing has lived in 10 places in her 12 year life. You would think she’d be used to her carrier, airplane and car travel by now. She is not.
As we closed up our house, I loaded Bailey into the car. She started screaming like normal. But then as we are about to pull up to the hotel a horrific smell hits me and I realize that she has gone to the bathroom in her carrier. Not something solid and removable but nervous, sprayed, liquified devil potion. It was all over my front seat and the valet was walking up to open my door. The kids were yelling typical 5 year old comments and I was frozen with “what the hell do I do.”
I grabbed a plastic sack from the back and wrapped the bad end of the carrier, I threw a shirt down from my luggage onto the front seat and handed the keys to valet with an “I’m so sorry” look. My car was being sold the very next day but I couldn’t even think about that right now.
I entered the hotel lobby, with its beautiful marble and travertine floors while my kids continued to giggle and laugh loudly. My daughter informed me it was dripping on to the ground and I continued to walk as fast as possible. I checked into the front desk and apologized to the lady, explaining my cat had had an accident. You could instantly tell she was not only horrified, but not a cat-person.
We dove into the elevator, got into our hotel room and I dropped the cat in the carrier straight into the bathtub and slammed the door. The bellman brought in our bags and Zane proceeded to tell him in detail that they cat had pooped all over the place. I tipped heavily and got him out as soon as possible.
I spent the next hour cleaning up my cat, the soft sided fabric airline approved carrier and my embarrassment. Jason wasn’t even in the country but somehow dammit this was all his fault and I think crushed a few soap boxes with rage.

But we had a nice private balcony. Always a favorite.


Even though we were in a hotel, goodbye’s continued and without my car or the house everyday echoed Mr. Norman’s words, the clock moves so slowly but time goes fast. I never made it to Madrid.
I had promised to take a shot of an infamous Australian Rum. It pretty much stripped my esophagus but didn’t taste half bad.

Then we set it on fire.

Zane took this picture with added screen effects.


Yasmine, my first friend and the best language tutor on the planet.  I stepped into her office on a freezing January day, probably still jet-lagged, and in less than 18 months regained a harness on the French language.

The next few days I met friends for lunch and with the added ability to walk to all my favorite places, I re-realized how in love I was with Brussels. Auschwitz was a two hour travel away, I didn’t get to visit.

I’m so fortunate to have had made such a great group of friends there. While I was busy trying to hold my family up during the move, I needed people to hold me up. They were there every step of the way.

This was our final dinner in Brussels. And of all places, The Hard Rock Cafe of Brussels located on The Grand Place. We had never been! But we got to share it with one of the loveliest families you will ever meet.

I still miss the cold Belgian beer…

And the random things you can see daily if you just open your eyes and walk around. I wanted to buy that house in the south of Belgium.

We hit the airport for an uneventful flight. Jason and the kids were up in Business class and I was in Coach. Cats aren’t allowed to fly Business. If it weren’t for FAA regulations I probably could have bribed someone to take the cat under their seat allowing me up front. It was probably better that I was by myself. I spent a lot of the flight time in a not so very good place.

Without a wink of sleep, we arrived in Texas and I drowned my sorrows. We were fortunate though to be taken in with family hospitality so that in the following weeks, while I searched for a house and cars we didn’t have to live in a temporary apartment.

The kids enjoyed being back with family and it seemed that they were slowly forgetting what had just happened the day before.

I spent a large majority of my time sitting at these chairs on the back porch. I wasn’t used to air conditioning yet and sitting inside or going into Target caused my skin to prickle up and my arms to fold inward. I remember the swans walking across the frozen pond across from my house.

Day and night I sat searching for houses, cars, furniture, my new life. I tried to stay off of Facebook but could not. I selfishly didn’t want to see (my) life continuing on overseas. Yet anytime I felt my pity-party putting on the party-hat I tossed it aside and did something else, something more productive.

Like drinking Shiner and eating Freebirds.

Going to see the Astros and friends we hadn’t visited in a long time.

Celebrating my friends and what is going on in their lives.

Re-entering life after Belgium. I wish I would have taken that day trip to Venice.

After only being back in Texas a short while, Zane, Lily and I packed up and took the yearly vacation to Destin, Florida with Nana & PawPaw.

The house was beautiful and perfect for our large party as always.

Luckily my kids are roadtrip pros and the long drive didn’t even phase them. Have mini-ipad, will travel.

They enjoyed spending time with their cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents

And I needed the time. Lily sneakily snapped this picture of me as I was sitting alone, on the beach, at dusk, staring at the ocean. Even typing that out sounds so melodramatic, but hey, it’s a process. I never made it to Scotland.





We had fun, made memories and it was a week worth doing.

And when you don’t have that many responsibilities, you can end up in a situation where you’ve poured yourself two drinks and didn’t even realize. Switchoff.

I’m closing it up there. I wish I would have made it to 104 weeks (and beyond) but you get what you get and don’t get upset. The process of separation is still ongoing, some doors need to close, some will always remain unlocked but luckily with fantastic inventions like, airplanes and the internet, no one is really ever that far away. This move hurt. It hurt a lot. It will hurt so many of my friends someday too but I’m thankful I got to go through it before a lot of them so I will know how to help them heal when their day comes.
I’m so happy about all who have kept up with this blog, your comments, emails and enthusiasm for it kept me going every week. This makes my 4th blog and the 5th will be starting up shortly. I hope that you will continue to stay tuned and find out what’s next in my life. I’d really like to know too but you can’t have everything when, how, and exactly how you want it, shucks.
Until then, thank you Brussels.


Remember when we moved there?

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4 Responses to Weeks Eighty through Eighty-Five

  1. Shirley Logan Branham says:

    Val, this is beautiful! I, too will miss your being in Brussels, as I have lived vicariously through “104 Weeks” with you. Thank you for making this happen. It has been a great ride! Still hoping to see you soon!

  2. Elpida says:

    Wonderful! Thank you!
    And: when are you coming back in 2014, since I understand we need to schedule holidays in Greece right?! I’ll be happy to be your guide in Athens 🙂

  3. Wendy V. says:

    I’ll miss 104 Weeks. I miss you here. Looking forward to seeing life unfold for you in Texas. Big hugs!

  4. Martha says:

    Great entry! No comment.

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