What to do during a sabbatical?

Today is the last day of my seven-week sabbatical. I quit my job two months ago and although I already had a new one, I decided to take a break to get rid of all the stress in my body and mind.

I had only been working at my job for 5 months when I quit. It just didn’t work for me. It was a sales job and even though I loved visiting clients and finding out what their problems were and which of my products best fit their needs, I just didn’t want to play the financial poker game. I am not good at poker, so after 5 months I called it a day.

money and coins

My new job is as a policy officer at a university of applied sciences where I am to be a consultant to advise the different education programs on internationalization of their curricula. This suits my background much better. 🙂 I have worked at a university of technology for 12 years doing similar things; consultancy I know and love. I love helping people, and as a consultant I get to do just that.

But what do you do when you suddenly have a sabbatical of 7 weeks on your hands! First of all, don’t panic 😀

Make a list of everything you want to do

I started by making a long list of all those things I wanted to do but somehow never got round to doing. I purposefully made a list because this helped me to clear my mind. I was continuously thinking ‘I need to do this’, ‘I need to do that’…. This way I was never at rest. By making the list it gave my mind rest. Plus it is o so satisfactory to tick things off that list! My list was very dynamic. Things got added and ticked off all the time, but at the end of the day there were about 120 items on my list. Not bad, huh? I’d like to share some of the things I did from my list.

make a to do list

Bake cakes

I love baking and making things that other enjoy. Somehow with all the stress of the last months I had stopped making delicious things. I started by making an incredibly good chocolate cake. You could only eat a small piece because if you had more it just dropped like a stone in your stomach. I backed a New York cheese cake and a wonderful carrot cake, off course with carrots from MyVegi garden. I baked banana bread and oatmeal muffins and warm puddings and lots of things that are generally not good for your weight. Mr. It’s all in a Nutshell said at a certain point ‘You’re back’, which made me feel real good.

CAL which from now on stands for Crochet A Lot 🙂

Obviously I did a LOT of crocheting. I made a granny square blanket for a lady who designed my new logo for my blog. I made the last of the Sophie’s Universe CAL videos. I made all the videos for the Scheepjes Flight of Fancy CAL. I made a cushion from my Ebony & Ivory Sophie’s Garden. I made a start on the videos for a new, still secret CAL that starts in August and I made the first video for the Circles of the Sun CAL. But I also crochet just for fun. I particularly like working on the T&J Dutch CAL 2015.

afgan blanket scheepjes crochet along CAL 2014 in blue colors    scheepjes cal 2015 flight of fancy      sophie's universe        

I also did some miscellaneous crochet stuff like FINALLY organizing my yarn labels and buying new yarn. And I wrote about all these things on my blog. I have really come to love blogging. It gives me such energy when I see that you love my work.

Travel

My husband and I took a long weekend of, had grandpa and grandma over to stay with the kids, and we went to visit Riga in Latvia. An absolutely lovely city. Seriously, if you are ever in that part of the world, it is an absolute must-visit. I will write you soon about my stay there. I bought some great yarn (of course) 😀

Wear no make-up

I know this sounds crazy, but I have not worn any make-up for the past 7 weeks (except for great grandma’s 90th birthday party), and it is awesome. My skin is in such great condition! I just felt that this was time for me and I couldn’t care less what people thought of my ‘natural’ appearance. I just didn’t feel like going through the hassle of getting foundation on, eye shadow, mascara, lip gloss, the works. It is strangely therapeutic. No make-up gives you a feeling of this-is-who-i-am-and-just-accept-me-as-i-am. No more pretending to be something you’re not.

Help out at my kids’ school

One thing that I really miss is that I usually cannot help out at my  kids’ school because I work a full time job. But in this 7 week break I could catch up. I helped out at various school activities and my boys loved it. During these activities I got confirmation that I am not made to be a primary school teacher. Being a primary school teacher is a calling in my opinion. I am not made to cope with 30 kids at the same time. Respect for all those teachers out there!

empty kinder garden classroom

Help out at my local animal shelter

I had the great fortune that my sabbatical coincided with the start of kitten season. I was like stalking the shelter. I wanted foster kittens so badly because I had all the time in the world to cuddle and care for them. I was one of the first called when the first stray kittens were brought in. I have been caring for Aries and Juno with great pleasure over the past weeks. Will post you some pics soon!

Organize my administration

Something that I have been meaning to do for like a year is clear up my administration. I have bank statements and other paperwork going as far back as 1992. Seriously! It was time to clear them out. No way am I ever going to need them again. I spend days pushing everything through the shredder (no way is that personal stuff leaving my house readable) and threw away 8 big boxes stuffed with paper shreds. With all the room cleared up I should be able to store more yarn, right 😉

shredded paper

Work in MyVegi garden

Accidentally my sabbatical also coincided with strawberry season. You don’t wanna know how many pots of jam I made! Or how many buckets of weeds I removed from MyVegi garden. Sometimes my fingertips hurt from all the rummaging in the soil. But I love it! There is nothing like seeing the fruits of your labor, literally 😀

Bits and bobs

Looking back you could say that in general I just spend a lot of time rummaging through the house doing odd jobs, cleaning, doing the laundry. You know, house-stuff. And I loved every moment of it. There is nothing like organizing your house. An organized house is an organized mind I always say. 😀

So after all that doing ‘nothing’, I’m off to start a new adventure at my new job.

full logo it's all in a nutshell

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Foster kittens

Hi everyone,

It’s the end of the year and time for a reflective moment about my volunteer work at my local animal shelter. We fostered 6 kittens at our house this year, not that much as there are volunteers that foster up to 25 kittens a year, but for us 6 to 8 kittens a year is a manageable amount. I usually don’t have more than two foster kittens at a time to keep things doable although we did have 4 at one point and that was a bit hectic, so no more than 2 at a time for next year 🙂

All the kittens brought to the shelter have issues, either with their health or their behavior or both. Sometimes they are found by members of the public or they are caught with traps set out by the animal ambulance. Adult, feral cats which are un-adoptable are sterilized and released where they were caught. This way they will not produce more offspring but do get to live their lives naturally. My shelter does not euthanize a healthy animal; ever; full stop. Kittens that are caught are often in bad shape and need medical attention and socialization. If they are caught young enough they can become great pets. About 3 months of age is a critical point. If they are caught at a later age they are often too wild already and cannot be socialized. Pregnant cats are kept until they give birth. If the mother allows people close to her kittens, she can stay with her babies, but if she is too feral she is separated from her babies, sterilized and placed back in the wild. The babies are then hand reared by volunteers. If mom is okay with people, she stays and rears her babies until they are old enough for adoption. Mom is then also sterilized and put up for adoption.

Apollo

The first kitten of the year was Apollo. He was a handsome young man but very uncertain about people. He did not hiss or anything, he just preferred running away and staying under the couch all day. For this kind of kitten I have a trick, I put on a tightfitting sweater and keep them under my shirt all day while I go about my business around the house. This way they are forced to get used to people and after a day of two of having a strange hump on one side of my body, 🙂 they usually reach a point where they realize that I am not going to hurt them and people are maybe not so bad after all. Apollo had a VERY VERY bad flea problem, which meant I had a flea infestation in my house, which meant I had to seriously clean and vacuum and clean and vacuum my house. 😦 Luckily I caught it early enough. Apollo stayed with us for about 4 weeks before being adopted to a lovely family.

Venus

A little later we fostered Venus. Now she was a handful! She was VERY scared of people when she came to us. She was spitting and hissing at everything that moved. Not that I even pay the least little bit of attention to that. The more they hiss, the more you need to cuddle them, and indeed with a lot of TLC she turned around completely. We did have some trouble finding her a good home though because of her personality. She is extremely bossy, even to such a degree that we could not have her in the same room with other foster kittens because she bullied them. She jumped on top of them and used them as punching bags. Really, she does not quite live up to her name 🙂 She also did not like my children at all. This meant she could best go to a home without small children and pets. Tall order. She was with us for almost 5 months, and then the most perfect old lady came to the shelter looking for a kitten and she just fell in love with Venus. It was a perfect match. She had no children living at home and no pets. She loved that Venus had so much energy as it would liven up her quiet house. I will be honest, I was not sad to see Venus go. Having to uphold an apartheid regime in my house to protect other kittens from her over-playfulness was not ideal.

Diana, Cleopatra and Hercules

Later on, when we still had Venus, 3 little balls of fur came to stay for a while. I named them Diana, Cleopatra and Hercules. Especially Hercules was the sweetest thing you could imagine. The smallest of the three, but not scared to fight with his bigger sisters for food or attention. They were part of a litter of 7 identical kittens found on the streets and brought to the shelter at just 5 weeks old. They were all severely underweight and looked more like 3 weeks old. I had nail polish on their ears to so that I knew who was who 😀 These lovely little balls had some issues with eating independently and I had to feed them by hand because they could not get the hang of eating cat food at first. They also had the usual issues: worms, flees and eye infections. After a few weeks of groceries they were up on their weight and ready to go to a home. Because they were so young they were used to people in a jiffy. They found a home incredibly fast, it’s just amazing really. They were put online at 11am and by 3pm they had all found a home. I was dazed by how fast it went, especially considering that at that point Venus had already been on the shelter’s website for 6 weeks.

Phoebe

Our last kitten of the year was Phoebe. She was SO sweet. Seriously, if we had not already adopted Jack, I would most probably have kept her. She had all the makings of a lap cat and needed no socialization what so ever. We just needed to foster her because she was too small for adoption just yet. (The shelter has strict rules on when a kitten is allowed to go up for adoption). She was running round the house all day, following me like a puppy and got stepped on a few times because I didn’t see her between my feet, and the moment I sat down she was on my lap. However, only till my husband was around because she loved him the most. Isn’t that just typical! I spend all my energy making her better because she had a bad respiratory infection that needed antibiotics as well as the usual issues with eyes and worms, but absolutely no appreciation whatsoever! Apparently forcing antibiotics down a cat’s throat does not make them love you 😉 Phoebe found a good home with a loving family with 3 girls who had lost their cat earlier in the year at the age of 18. The girls just loved Phoebe to bits on sight.

I’m not sure how we are going to do more fostering because I have a new job starting January. I will be working more hours and from experience I know that sometimes you need to take a sick kitten to the veterinary clinic at the most inconvenient of times, like Sunday evening for example because you’re not sure she’s going to make it to Monday morning. We’ll see. If it’s in any way possible to keep doing this work I really want to because it is SO rewarding to see a kitten who came into your house as a small, scared ball of fur straight of the street leave as a healthy and socialized kitten to a good home.

 

squirrel_doorzichtig

Jack the pirate

We have a new housemate, one-eyed Jack the pirate. His looks work against him because he really is the sweetest thing. He just loves to be around people and comes for hugs and kisses all the time. He is about 12 years old and we adopted him from our local shelter. This is the risk of volunteering at an animal shelter, sometimes you just fall in love with an animal.

We know little about him. He was brought in by the animal ambulance with an eye missing and just generally in bad shape. He had his eye surgically closed and he was treated for a respiratory infection. He was also severely underweight. A problem he does not have anymore 😀

I have always had cats and unfortunately I had to find Hera, my last cat, a new home because she was terrorizing the neighborhood. She loved to catch the wild rabbits and left the dead carcasses in my neighbors’ gardens. Needless to say this was not appreciated. Since Hera has gone to live with my mother we have been pet-less for a couple of months now. And to tell you the truth, it has been pretty quiet sometimes. Of course, my house is never quiet with two young boys running around like crazy, but you know what I mean.

So now when I sit on the couch I have a huge black cat on my lap. He’s slightly overweight from lack of exercise as he has been in the shelter for 6 months. Our shelter does not euthanize healthy animals. Ever. Period. This means that sometimes animals are there for a really long time before they find a home. But this old man has found a good home to spend the last of his days. And he can spend all of those days on my lap if he wants to 😉