Happy with a touch of sadness

This story has to happen… I started in July after visiting friends from a former life in Canada. In November I was talking to a new friend in  South Africa. She was feeling very insecure, very unhappy with her life. We all are at this stage at one point. But beautiful red poppies grow in disturbed earth.

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A lot of my holidays are visits to see friends. I am blessed having friends living in all corners of the world. Of course, it helped having lived on 3 continents too. My early twenties were definitely the best years, the party years, the years without a worry. Of course I did not know it then, as I did have my struggles moving to different countries, dealing with immigration issues, looking for a job, moving to another apartment, … But I was only responsible for myself. I truly lived from day to day. Or from party to party! But I built some very strong friendships. People I eventually lost contact with as there was no email or Facebook at that time. Just good old fashioned postal mail and the telephone.

Often I wonder: What have I done with my life? I have made mistakes, quite a few of them. But they are part of my path of life. I am where I am now, because of those mistakes. When I think back to 1989, I should have accepted that job offer as a marketing manager for the head office in Montréal, but I wanted to stay in Toronto… And I didn’t get the work permit I needed.
In a whim, I decided to move to the French Riviera (thanks to Dirty Rotten Scroundels!) where eventually I would meet the father of my children. That of course is the major event in my life. My kids. I cannot change that. They just fill my heart with this special kind of love. Raising them on my own has been hard. So often I just wanted someone to lean on, to share it all with me. I still do, and I know it will not happen. That is my sadness. But my happiness is having two lovely children, as a friend who cannot have kids, pointed out to me. She has the happy marriage. And the career.
Then back to Belgium, the place I never wanted to be again. Still, many positive things have happened here.  I have finally found my passion, doing creative work. Wild flowers grow anywhere, and will not be stopped!

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Is Canada still home for you?, one friend asked. As it was very much home in 1990. Mmmm, I had to think about that. But 3 weeks later, I could say: “Yes it still feels like home.” As an eternal traveler, home is where my friends are.

I have two beautiful children. I am finally taking my design work seriously, and trying to make a career out of it. I love what I am doing!

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that hold your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?”
Kahlil Gibran – The Prophet

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 I am truly happy, with a touch of sadness.

 

P.S. If you have been following my blog: on the 24th of December (I really did not want to postpone the appointment anymore) my neurologist told me there is no growth on my spine. I cried from happiness. All that tension from the weeks before just flowed out of me!

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Dit is mijn hoofd niet meer (or is it?)

2 weeks ago, the neurologist casually mentions, whilst he is copying the MRI report at my request, “Oh, by the way, you might have a meningioma!” And with that information I left his office, to spend my weekend on the internet googling what the hell that thing is (what else did he expect?). It is a most likely benign tumor, growing on the brain or spinal cord (as in my case), and that is where the problem lies. It might crush a nerve, the bone marrow, or whatever (hell, I don’t know!) and do some serious damage.  Today, I still don’t know what the dark spot on my T2-T3 spine is. A year-old CAT-Scan has been has been put on their server (after my insistence) to compare (as it might be another (pain-free) hernia). But fuck (excuse my language, but fuck, I cannot find a better word), don’t you know that having a hernia or having a potentially very harmful tumor is something completely different? How much longer do I have to wait for the answer? All I think now is: “How much longer of quality life do I have before a potentially very risky and harmful operation of which no one will be able to tell the result in advance?” When I got back in my car after the neurologist appointment, first thing I did was google that word. (yes, I finally got mobile internet). And one of the first sites that showed up was: “Dit is mijn hoofd niet meer” – This is not my head any more… About a person whose spine was so badly crushed by the tumor they had to operate immediately. She survived the operation, at a price. A damaged brain. Short term memory loss. Extreme fatigue. Your life just changes… I’ve had my share of shit over the past few years. I can accept I don’t have Hercules power anymore, and will have to count on other people to take care of my moving boxes (yes, I move just a bit too often). But then I decided to get rid of a lot of superfluous stuff. My next move will be swift (the last one was around 70m3). I don’t like window cleaning, so when my chiropractor said: “Don’t do windows!” I said: “Yeaaaaaah!!! I realise the C5-C6 hernia is giving me more & more serious problems. Repetitive strain injury inclusive (added to a carpal tunnel syndrome, damn, I am fucked up!). The furniture making classes are slowly getting pushed to the back. My creative energies will have to go where there is less strain on my body. All I can think now is: to be pain-free (or nearly), to be able to do everyday physical activity (forget about the window cleaning, I can live with dirty windows!) and to ride my bike…

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Not being able to ride my bike is hard. It is a joy to go out there, enjoy the fresh air, the sunshine on my face (yes, it does happen once in a while in Belgium!), the country side, the fields, the forest, the lovely smell after the rain, even biking whilst it rains  – because I can!- , the energy I get from it, my mind that just goes elsewhere (it’s always in overdrive), and of course, the joy of all those calories spent. I know I can go for a walk. But it’s not the same. It’s sloooooooooooooooow. I don’t always want slow. Biking is just the right speed. Walking one hour takes me around the block. A 40 minute bike ride takes me to Scherpenheuvel  ( a major pilgrimage town in Belgium). I think that after  3 months of no biking, it is time for a trial ride. Aim for Scherpenheuvel by the end of the year (if the sun keeps on shining!). Light a candle. I’m not religious. But I am grateful. Grateful for every day that I can live a normal life. It’s something you should think about. Be grateful for physically walking the path of life. Be grateful for seeing the  beauty of this world. Be grateful for your brain that shoots crazy but luminous ideas at you. Don’t clutter your life too much, it will just make it all harder! Clutter-free… enlightened… grateful! Yep, just keep pushing forward :)

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My apologies

My apologies, I’m so busy, I forgot I was writing a post here, and had it published by accident… Just a draft. Be patient, it will happen one day! I’m just s busy with lots of projects. Doing great. And that is what counts!

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10 people, living or dead, I want to have dinner with – Part I

Yes, that question that I always hoped no one would ever ask me. And this morning in my bed, still half asleep, it dawned on me. I want to have dinner with Tiziano Terzani! Last week I started reading my favourite book for the umpteenth time: A Fortune-Teller told me  – Earthbound Travels in the Far East.

The first sentence of the book says it all: Life is full of opportunities. Of course, you have to recognize them and then take the challenge. Which he did. What really marked the story, is his discovery the a fearful wave of materialism is engulfing everything and everyone. But where is happiness in all this? Tiziano Terzano was a German correspondent living in the Far East. I discovered his book many years ago on a trip to Singapore & Thailand. And I’ve been promoting it ever since! Since my original copy disappeared, my advice now is: Buy your own copy!  He also wrote the very controversial book: “Letters against the war” after spending time in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The book was born as a response to the anti-Islamic invectives published by the Italian journalist and author Oriana Fallaci on the daily Il Corriere Della Sera on 29 September 2001. It was so controversial that no publishing house in the Anglo-Saxon  world wanted to touch it, because they are so pro-war… Only a publisher in New Delhi decided to take it on. But you can download the book for free (legally!) Letters against the war. I believe it is a must read. Unfortunately Tiziano died in 2004. But I would have loved to meet him and talk with about, yes, how this world is changing. How we are losing values and traditions, replaced by greed and materialism.

 Paul Theroux who wrote “The Great Railway Bazaar”, is the next one on my list. He was away for all those months, writing his first travel book, making a fabulous journey, and he came home to an unfaithful wife with a live-in lover who refused to leave. Aiai. When he decided to go back in his own foots steps, 33 years later, in Ghost Train to the Eastern Star he had a faithful wife, happily waiting for him at home while he had his adventure (traveling, not cheating!). I love this quote from the book:

“So what do you think?”
“I think if you’re a good person, you don’t need religion.”

A famous fiction book he wrote is “The Mosquito Coast” about a totally whacky, increasingly erratic and agressive father, who moves his family from the US to find a happier and simpler life in the jungle of South America. The man is an inventor. Harrison Ford stars in the movie, alongside Hellen Mirren and River Phoenix. But honestly, don’t bother with the movie. Read the book! It will keep you enthralled. 

Paul Theroux’s 5 year plan is one I like: “What has been foretold probably won’t happen. What is going to happen is something unimaginable. Either much better or much worse or stranger than you ever ever imagined. In Africa they say: What comes doesn’t beat a drum.” Which brings me to a quote from the movie: The Exotic Marigold Hotel:

“Will you stay?”
“I’m not sure what I should do,  nothing here has worked out quite as I expected.”
“Most things don’t, so sometimes what happens instead is the good stuff.”


Life is never what you expect it to be. But remember: what happens in stead could be the good stuff! So yes, I want Paul Theroux at my table.


Nelson Mandela
is my next guest. My children are South African, but even without that fact, this man is an icon, a hero, an inspiration to all.

“If there are dreams about a beautiful South Africa, there are also roads that lead to their goal. Two of these roads could be named Goodness and Forgiveness. ”

Just imagine what a great place the world would be if we all practiced Goodness and Forgiveness! I hope his legacy will live on long after he will be gone. And that he keeps on inspiring people of what great things are possible if we work together.

Maya Angelou What an amazing woman! If you have never heard her speak, you must listen to her on Youtube: Still I rise
Still I Rise is about overcoming oppression with grace and pride, having no sympathy for the oppressors and giving to validity to the reasons for oppression. I just loooove how she laughs while she recites the poem, how she laughs at her own sassiness. Because that is what the oppressor doesn’t like: a sassy person! Oh yes, I still kick ass, just try and stop me! You don’t like it? Too bad, because I will gladly turn my back to you. Maya Angelou is a great voice, spreading legendary wisdom.  She has so much charisma. I think I could just listen in awe all night!

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Audrey Hepburn Leading female actor of the 1950s and 60s. Audrey Hepburn defined feminine glamour and dignity, and was later voted as most beautiful women of the twentieth century. After her acting career ended in the mid 1960s, she devoted the remaining period of her life to humanitarian work with UNICEF. She was such a humble, simple person with a huge heart. I would have loved to work by her side on UNICEF projects.

But also, Audrey Hepburn was an introvert, just as I am. And this extroverted world, we are not always understood.

“I’m an introvert… I love being by myself, love being outdoors, love taking a long walk with my dogs and looking at the trees, flowers, the sky.”

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I would have loved to work by her side on UNICEF projects. and as true introverts, this would be done in total silence. Or with just the necessary amount of words. 

Well, there is room for 5 more people at my dinner table. As usual, the names will come to me when I am in between a dream & reality. The magical moment of inspiration. In the mean time, continue to be amazing. And please let me know who you would like at your dinner table. I promise I will come & cook the dinner for you and your guests. (It’s pretty safe, someone once told me I should get a Michelin star ***)

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From scrap to awesome

In September 2011 I wrote: Is scrap crap? So here I am: No, it’s not! This is the second year I am taking woodworking classes. At the end of class, I always dive in the big wood waste bin and collect whatever is in there for my fire place. Then I started looking at those pieces of wood, and some are actually quite nice. My student collegues have now started donating their scrap wood: “We thought you would like this!” Wonderful oak. And all of a sudden, in my mind, I had a small table with imperfect pieces of wood that no one wanted. Because they want perfect furniture… I aligned the pieces, made sure the sides were properly planed so I could glue them.

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Once glued, I cut it straight and started sanding. A smooth top, just enough to put a glass on it (of course!) but still showing all the imperfections of the saw blades, cracks, torn pieces, … I want this table to be really glam. And as I have a big stock of lead-free pewter, ready to be recycled, I decided to give sand casting another try.

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The set up was not easy. The pewter needed to fit around the wooden edge, so I had to make space, not only on the side, but also underneath in my big tub of sand. As I work alone, and do not have a helper to hold the piece whilst I am pouring liquid pewter, I had to invent a set up that would keep it just floating above the sand.

The result was great!

A few hours of sanding & polishing this to a smooth and shiny semi-precious metal gave this awesome result:

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As you can imagine, I am very happy with my most perfect imperfect table! Just remember, it’s the little flaws that make you unique.

“Why fit in when you were born to stand out” – Dr Seuss

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