Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A book?

Dear sisters,

Now that we have the drama of the shaving of the head out of the way -do you realize you are all carrying a superfluous amount of hair on your heads?- I can get back back to the order of the day. Like writing a book in a month.

E. convinced me with one measly word to sign up for
national novel writing month with her.

The idea, which is to write a novel during the month of November, is of course ludicrous.

Writing a book in thirty days, a book meaning a lengthy work of fiction of 50,000 words, that is just under 2000 words a day, is no mean feat. Writing a book in a month, of which half that time my chemo brain will not tolerate anything other than re-reuns of 'America's next top model', does not give great prospects for success.

But it sounds like fun to me.

I just need a little inspiration.
(Relax, mam I will not do a "Richard Billingham" " of our family. Maybe just a few bits and pieces here and there.)



Saturday, October 27, 2007

The deed is done

Typing with hairs on my keyboard was starting to get annoying. Playing "pulling mama's hair out" wasn't so much fun after all. The time had come to do the deed. This afternoon, round about noon, all my hair came off. I now look the part.

I always wanted to know what it would look like, although only for five minutes. The alien look takes a little bit of getting used to but, after a little cry last night, it is a relief it is off. I don't think my children are going to be too traumatized by the event. They spent the afternoon gleefully chasing each other with my hair on their head.

And here, as mentioned before, my latex leggings and ostrich feathered coat. Now with the added bonus of no hair. Just before popping off to the supermarket.



Thursday, October 25, 2007

introducing the ballerina bear

Yes sisters this is what i looked like one year ago when i was in the dance school
i was accused of dancing ballet like a bear but little did they know i was starting a new art movement
all my love and lots of bear hugs

advance is written on my basketball tshirt

dearest sisters I send you here another visual poem
i am thinking of you both intensely sending you positive vibes from Prague
am drawing everyday and trying to get my fingers loose and free to create
once a week i have to play basketball in the school team and im the only girl
but the guys pass me the ball occasionally and i jump higher than Michael Jordan
i need to let off steam and between you and me i think im the best player there
Tomorrow i am going to take my camera to school and i will pretend to be a little british spy
and i will document my surroundings for you
so expect a visual diary update very soon
i love you both very much and i hug you bigbearballet

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Frequently asked questions

Dear sisters,

The first most frequently asked question, when telling people I was going to have chemotherapy, was:

Can you drink alcohol during treatment?

Well, lately the thought of alcohol has been far from my mind, like coffee, but no one wants to know if I can drink coffee.

I have looked it up, as I didn't think to ask. One or two drinks are probably okay, as it could relax you and increase appetite (not exactly necessary in my case), but obviously the less the better. Yet again, like during pregnancy.

The second question, asked by those living in San Franciscio, is whether I am eligble for a marjiuana card.

The same people all tell of someone they know, or have heard of, that inhaled marijiana ("which is natural and must be better than all those pills") and did not have ANY bad side effects from chemo. This sounds good. On the internet you can also find many studies that have found that marijiuna can reduce the side effects of chemotherapy dramatically. It sounds like it's worth a try at least.

In San Francisco you can get a marijuana card if you have a medical reason for needing it. With this card you can buy marijuiana at so called weed clubs spread across the city. There are a lot of people with back pain in SF, I can tell you that, as there are more weed clubs than Burger Kings and McDonalds put together in this city, or so I have been told.

Cancer is on the list of eligble diseases. I looked it up. But you need a doctor to sign off for you, and mine won't. I asked.

So I am pushed into the arms of the underworld for this experiment- or maybe just a phone call to a friend, who shall remain anonymous, who knows someone with really bad packpain..

I will keep you informed.


you that tall


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Chemo # 2

Hello, dear sisters,

I am here, on the other side of chemo session #2. It went smoothly. It makes a difference when you know what to expect.
I have strange tingly feeling all over my body and a bit of a headache, but none of the dreaded nausea yet.
Kids are still spread across town, waiting to be picked up by A.
A parent from Rosie's school just dropped off a meal for us, which (for now) smells really good.

This will be the session that makes my hair fall out. They are already fallling strand by strand, but nothing major yet.
To compensate I have bought a second hand ostrich feather coat. I will wear it with my latex leggings.


Monday, October 22, 2007

Linguistically unemployable?

well dear sisters, another reality sets in. It always does. After a whirlwind year of unexpected travel (often amazingly paid for by others) it is now time to cultivate some stability both in personal affairs and in terms of some structure by which to survive. Not just financially, but also in terms of time economy. You cannot forever restless be.

I applied for a job. I can imagine you do not see me in clinical business office surroundings; nor do I. So it is no surprise that I felt a tad out of place at the equity firm on the fifth floor of a tiny, but shiny, office building, where everything was in gracious, spacious white. It felt like I had wandered onto a film set. It seemed to float. It smelt of nothing. The windows made the space feel like a very well aerated fish tank. I was given a clear bottle of water (and a glass, which was 100% full of something)and entered into conversation with the two interviewing staff members, who must have been the investors. In itself the conversation was not unpleasant. They were friendly. They looked over my CV as if I had just descended from outer space. I felt in fact as if they had just lifted me into space. Like that scene in A matter of life and death, one of my favourite movies of all times, where time stops and heaven is populated by office clerks who really want to be there.

I think I scared them when I mentioned I didn't like frilly designs. Yet their website was anonymous as can be; so straight and classical as to be...unoffensive. There were moments I had to try to stop myself laughing during the interview. I think the burst out laugh was successfully downsized to a hint of a sparkle in my eye. It takes self control. I detected some sparkles in their eyes too. They were not unfriendly. It felt like a grown up, respectful conversation. Still, it felt like I was pretending, whereas I was just trying to be myself. Myself. Is that hard to place? I don't think so. The job would be...scanning bills, emailing them, opening doors to people, answering the phone. Being polite. Serving drinks. That's a hard one.

"So you don't mind doing menial tasks like this?" "No, I'd want nothing better, it makes sense in the overall picture I have in mind" You know, balance. Work for three hours, and then paint. Every day. They'd get the translation skills -and believe me, they don't come cheap- for free!

We wandered about the office; we saw the kitchen, which looked just like the meeting room, except for some apples, oranges and bananas in a bowl; we saw more gleaming white offices with..no pictures on the walls. White streamlined cupboards. The only, shall we say, decoration, were some plexiglass plaques with the emblems of the companies they invest in emblazoned upon them lined up like behind each other like gleaming, see-thru, miniature tombstones (core interests lay in aging populations, please note, which is a cunning one) in the most anonymous way possible. It was...as if.. they were selling AIR. I say this with the upmost respect of course. The world needs investors, too.

They didn't take me. The woman at the temping agency said it was for two reasons, although their impressions were overall positive: 1. she comes from another sector. Well, fair enough. Might as well say another planet. and 2. she has.... now get ready for this....a slight English accent!

Now I told the lady, fine for point one, but point two doesn't exactly come out in the wash, see? Now if I were making grammatical mistakes all the time, perhaps, yes, I'd understand, but my Dutch is often better than many native speakers in terms of spelling and things. I said to the lady, "don't you think that smacks of something?", the lady said, "no of course not, we are very politically correct".. I said... "would they sell that argument to a Moroccan candidate about their accent?" "Yes, they probably would".

Interesting. In a country where women are not allowed to wear headscarves to many instances of work, (which I think is a crying shame), I get told, for this is not the first time, that the precise hint or flavour of my deafeningly exotic accent might scare clients away. The last time that happened it was for a job answering the telephone for a company selling coffee near Brussels. "Yes, she participated very well in the interview, no we don't want her because she sounds slightly Dutch and that might scare the customers away"...and this was a famous Dutch coffee company speaking, by the way, our favourite family home brand if you see what I mean.

So. Back to the drawing board. Or shall I say, back to the canvas. Socially all kinds of things are blowing up in my face at the moment too, so this little alienette is going to lie low for a while. Just.. wait till the full moon has passed, hide under the covers, and remember, there are more serious and important things to be sending positive energy to right now. It comes as some consolation to know that even a double pHd and a stellar career behind you won't get you a basic job when you really need one, just because the path you have chosen to take is not the most conventional one. Or it is worrying, more worrying still.

Belgium has given me many brilliant opportunities, and I am sure it still will. It probably is for the best! Wouldn't want me getting stuck in a withering white specialised in aging space vortex now would we? I think I shall lap me some white dollops of paint on some paper and let it all run out...

Love to you both, strength for the process tomorrow, dear sister uno, thinking of you! And sister two, thanks for the postcard from Venice! I must get back into paper writing sometime.


Saturday, October 20, 2007

Venice in June

dear sisters,
yes, I didn't quite get around to telling you about the wonderful tales of Venice in June this year. It was quite an experience.

It is a magical city, on this we agree. We worked on the catalogue for Artempo, a magical concoction involving ancient, modern, ethnic and contemporary art and some pieces of furniture. The task involved lots of checking: spell checking, image checking, date checking, etc... This happened in heavy work sessions, in a team in Ghent first of all and then with a smaller team surrounded by other teams in Venice, we made the signage. I was flown in to do the editing of the signage in English seeing as everything changed at the last moment. When we got there it turned out they had decided only to do the signs in Italian. So I was left twiddling my fingers with a guilty conscience and then all of a sudden they said they needed someone to write lettering on the walls. So that's how that happened. I didn't get to choose the texts but it all had to do with TIME.

The Palazzo degli Orfeii, otherwise known as the Fortuny Museum, a civic museum of Venice, is a tantalizing place. There I sat on the balcony with its floor sunken in a beautiful concave curve by time in a restful moment and disappeared into the sunlight for a minute or eight... Mariano Fortuny had bought the place appartment by appartment (the Palazzo in the 20th century had long been split up into separate housing) until he had it all: you can still see the traces of the removed walls on the supporting, remaining ones. He had a studio on one floor, and sold fabric and all manner of other lovely things on others. There was a funny workman who kept crying out: "ah! che creatura divina!!!!" as if he was in pain and then tried to grab my legs and said he was going to kidnap me.
The catering was excellent, and during the press preview days as I was painting my walls in a feat of 1. challenge (try pleasing two curators who don't know what they want) and 2. endurance, a lot of these people (some 363 press people if my memory is correct) traipsed past me in my work and thought I was part of the exhibition, which in a round about kind of way, I was. I made some friends then. I actually felt like a bird in a golden cage because we were working while the Biennale was opening.
This we made up for at night and many nights ended near the Rialto bridge with an involtino (that's heavenly rolled up pizza to you) with gorgonzola and ruccola and other mouthwatering things in it, watching the sun rise. Someone said he hadn't seen the man selling the involtini smile in over twenty years. I took the challenge and succeeded in making him smile, of course!!! There was also a dancing waiter and that beautiful, sweet couple from Hawaii going on their first ever cruise with their one year old son..

I am pretty sure Mariano Fortuny had cast a spell on us since strange and extraordinary things happened.

One of the highlights of the week must have been the day the outdoor signs arrived. The printer had misread mm for cm... This was a 500 euro mistake that in the greater scheme of things was probably worth it in terms of stress management because everybody laughed so much when they arrived.

There was a snobby studio manager of a famous UK based artist up his own bottom who didn't want to speak to me until he needed my Italian language skills to help with his reservations. There was a curator who shall have no name who manages to make everyone he speaks to, whom he doesn't think important, feel like he just robbed them of their worth and dignity, just by the way he looks at them, and the man who invites you and your best friend to dinner one day and pretends not to remember a thing about it the next. Missing a dinner date because you were working for the person who has invited you, trying to get things done in time for the next day.. All things in due course, of course. One night you can be sitting at a banquet table, the next you are drinking beers under a tree with hordes of belgians visiting the biennale, and peeing in catharsis on the gracious city, or you can be skidding across the Lido looking up at the starry skies making wishes you normally wouldn't even dare to wish and then you are at a party with only cultural belgians who you see every week around your corner, lounging in beach chairs. In all it was a wonderful time and I wouldn't have missed it for the world. I probably could have slept more.

We had an interesting sound scape around the appartment where we were sleeping. There was a woman and a man making love, loudly, and she was supplicating her lover to 'do this, do that, keep doing the same, yes that's good'. This lasted all night, every night. Until the last. That was when I heard her sobbing. We left at five that morning by water taxi, in itself unforgettable, as over the quiet waters we sped towards the airport, leaving the two kind waifs and strays behind at the Rialto bridge where we had found one of them - the one with the sprained ankle and the teary cheeks - and they had found each other.

My boss and his wife I got to know better and showed themselves to be so kind. The other assistant who told me his stories as we walked through the city at night. The renaissance scholar in his brilliance, who accused me of being a plenist because I said the glass is always full (if not water it is always full of something...-forgive me I become pedantic)! And the Brazillian editor and his wife and their daugter who charmed me with their colour schemes...the assistants who showed un-asked for acts of kindness or slowly opened up to me..

I will also not forget the kind Italian gentleman who took me out to lunch on the friday and made me feel very special and very myself, as it was such a delightful, peaceful moment. Nor will I forget the kind lady I met at the same restaurant on the Piazza Santangelo telling me her wisdoms of life. She was wearing two rings: both of them set in gold with petal cut amathyst arranged in flower shapes. Two rings, on one finger. "Van Cleef, you know", she said. "I thought, why wear only one, when you can wear two?" One learns to pick out the people who really matter.

kisses from s2!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Over the horizon the meaning of life dooms once more, and why I can quit chemotherapy.

So this second week, I have been feeling like the San Francisco weather; foggy with sunny patches. However, this week a simple painkiller and prune juice were generally sufficient to help relieve my symptoms, you will be glad to hear. The nausea has gone, which makes so much difference. The fatigue, on the other hand, keeps taking me by surprise.

If it wasn't raining I would go for a walk and have to rest on a bench every so often. I feel like an old woman. If I pretend everything is normal in the morning, I will sleep for hours in the afternoon.

(I sometimes took my camera on my walks.)

The parents- in- law were here and took over. No thinking about cooking, washing, or picking up kids. They played snakes and ladders with Jip a hundred times and ran races with Rosie around the room. Each night Bertus cooked a (cancer fighting) spicy meal, until other diners complained that not everything had to contain pepper. Now I get my own bottle of jalepeno sauce.

The grandparents have left for two nights away with the grandchildren, leaving me and A. kidfree, yet again, in our own house. I am intending on enjoying this last weekend before treatment #2. It will start with a take out from Eric's, our local Chinese, which, in our humble opinion, on its own merits a visit to this city.

Do you think I will get an opportunity to wear my black latex leggings I bought on a naseous whim? Yes, I will wear them to the cinema.

So, next treatment is on Tuesday. I might have to call the doctors to tell them it's not necessary. Because I received your parcel, S3, with the rainbow maker and the magnetic head relaxer, shown here. The rainbow maker spreads rainbows around the front room, when we have a sunny patch in the weather and Rosie tries to catch them, and I wear my head relaxer all the time, as you can see. Thank you.



some colours from Venice

This is me jumping into the Venice sea, no not really but it is something i felt like doing whilst visiting this amazing mystical crystal city. I was very lucky to get the very last ticket of the three day and two night school trip to visit the art biennale. Two days before the destined departure i went to a little office with a runny nose and paid 6O euros in cash , ten hour bus ride travel, three star camping site, breakfast and art event included; amazing. I would say an occasion one can simply not miss.
As you might have noticed i am very happy to finally be able to share snapshots with you , but i still havent figured out how to put the writing between the images , so just take it as a visual poem. I am also very glad and proud to say that i visited the exhibition that sister two had installed and written about in a previous blog. It was truely magical to see this mind blowing exhibition where time literally stood still and it felt like i was captured in a timeless jewellery box lined with deep velvet filled with treasures and stories. I could feel our sisters presence around the light filled palace and i was very proud to tell my new sparkling school mates that it was my sister who had painted the words on the staircase. They were very impressed and said she is very talented but that we all knew already.
We also went to lots of beautiful little and big churches, lots of shining candles and peacefulness inside.
I am thinking of you a lot sending you all my strength sister one, did you receive the rainbow maker yet ?
I am now drawing from life model every morning from 9 to 12 and every evening from 5 to 8 , so my hands are aching a bit from all the drawing but i am enjoying it immensely. Next week we are starting to print, so expect an artwork in the post soon!
I send you all my love
hugs galore
love S3