Saturday, July 31, 2010

Cowardly lion?

Have you ever seen a kitten discover it's own reflection?  Quite amusing to watch, as they puff up in shock, arch their backs and try to intimidate this strange 'new cat.'

I'm a little like that at times.  Like the kitten in front of the mirror, I in front of my own thoughts seem nothing more than a complete spazz, at least lately when I'm facing my fears.

Thinking about it now with a cooler head, I'm sorting through what should be of legitimate concern and what is more a matter of me letting fear get in the way.  Both need to be dealt with.

I do remember, at some point, packing along my courage to take with me when I came here...

Friday, July 30, 2010

Things I definitely did not do today.

I did not suggest to a loved one that they medicate themselves, despite knowing in the long run it's not what they need or should do.

I did not roll out of bed at 11am.

I did not eat cold pizza for lunch.

I did not consider for a second what exactly, would fit into my 2 suitcases and what I might leave behind.

I did not, for a moment, reflect upon all the potentials and talents I have which I have (almost stubbornly) refused to use for my benefit, throughout my life.

I did not face my fear of failure, or of being judged harshly.

I did not eat about 200g of dark chocolate for an afternoon binge snack.

I did not think about marriage.

I definitely did not spend a moment considering the lyrics to a Key$ha song.

I did not ask myself, even once, if the very best place (considering everyone) for me to 'be' was alone.

Monday, July 26, 2010


Things are just this lately; languid.  I've felt little pressure to write (well, to blog,) and I've been enjoying my days off at my pace.  I haven't ceased to be productive, but I haven't really felt much pressure to getitalldoneinoneday.  I may have picked up, finally, a bit of the Belgian slower-pace of things, or the idea that summer is for enjoyment and repose.  Even while my mother was here the days ended up being far more restful than I'd envisioned, mind you we were both exhausted by the end, anyway.  I blame all the beer, wine, delicious food and sangria (poor dears, we were.)

So the mother-stuff, briefly:  It was lovely to have her around for a bit.  She never really did manage to master her body clock, which made the excursions fewer and closer to home, (other than the weekend in Paris,) but also made her vacation overall more relaxed I think.  Seeing her trying to soak everything in along with watching her face light up while she met the city of lights, and as we barely scratched the surface of Liège and Belgium was truly worth the trip, even if her trying to absorb as much of the experience as possible may have been quite tiring for her.  Her enthusiasm was adorable.

Though she doesn't read this (I don't think,) I'll thank her now too for the Crest White Strips.  My poor teeth have dealt rather well with my love for espresso, but they need a little outside help every year or so, what with how very much I love espresso.  I've used them before with happy results, and I'll start them as soon as we've finished the last bits of coffee in the house - the same day I'll inevitably suffer a horrible withdrawal headache, I'm sure.  I figure at the very least if I don't drink coffee during the time I'm using them, they can get right in there and do the best possible job of brightening up my teeth a bit without hindering interference from me.  I freely admit I have my vanities.  I do not need blank-page-white-teeth, but I do like them to be closer in tone to the whites of my eyes than they presently are.

I received a package the day before my mother arrived, containing both Eat, Pray, Love as well as the book written after it, Committed.  Eat, Pray, Love had been recommended to me a few times and was on the list of 'to reads', but moved up after I read a description of Committed, which was more immediately interesting to me.  I waited patiently until my mother had safely touched ground in Toronto again, and then devoured both books in 3 days.  I tend to do that with books unless they are more emotionally heavy or deeply technical, just rip right through them.  I will say that Eat, Pray, Love offers a lot to a lot of people, but they probably won't really 'get it' (the best of what the book offers) through the upcoming movie version, which I fear is doomed to be very much a 'chick-flick'.

I won't specifically recommend either book, since I think people should read them only if they find the concepts interesting to begin with, and I'm not on-fire jumping up and down about either.  The author's writing style is easy and conversational, but I wouldn't say it's necessarily compelling or profound, as some authors can be when they adopt a conversational tone.  I found that in parts of both books, we dwell a little too long on certain issues, which the author is honest about having along with her tendency to dwell on them, so fair enough I guess.  I am glad I read them, but then, both applied to me a little to begin with.  They certainly haven't wowed me like some other works I've picked up lately, but if you see an element of yourself in the ideas of either book, then I'd tell you you'll probably enjoy the read.

And now, this said and with my attentions wandering off again in my current summery lightness of mind (and my constant attention deficit,) I go back to the doings of other things.   ^_^

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The mother has landed

My mom is here.  I picked her up at Lièges train station Thursday after work, where she patiently waited after arriving early.  While in the station she did two things that surprised me: she saw someone eating a pain au saucisse from the Point Chaud there, and decided to get one herself figuring somewhat correctly that this is sort of a local thing.  Mind you, pain au saucisse from Point Chaud... meh.

She also dealt surprisingly well with the various weirdos who approached her asking for money or something to eat.  Or at least the way she describes it she did... for all I know she could have made a high-pitched whining sound, swatting at them girlishly like they were bees.  I don't know, really so I'll have to trust her.  She has just about zero french accent, so hearing her say things like "Liège" and "Point Chaud" is trop chouette for me.

She warned us her first night that she is an early riser.  She is too, and I say this being someone who regularly is up around 5am.  But you know how travel can be tiring, and how jet-lag works, and so there I was at 11am Friday morning, enjoying the quiet of the house, on my second coffee and thinking about what we should do for lunch (brunch I guess, for her.)

Her initial observations:

- The streets are narrow
- People are kinder to beggars who ask for food, she watched one score two sandwiches in Point Chaud while she waited for me to come get her.
- People here move slower, the pace of life seems a little less pressured than in North America.
- Like me, she is puzzled as to why window-screens are not a standard part of window fixtures in Belgium.  She asked me "so what, are they pro-fly?"
- Her first beer here has been Orval, and we are pleased that she likes it.

Today we are off to Paris.  I wonder how I'll fare in the car, given the slightly leaden-head I have this morning - the result of 2 bottles of wine we 3 shared over dinner and peket (a local alcohol that is delicious but traitorous,) we had after.  She seems to be excited, as she's asked me what I'm wearing there about 10 times in the past 24 hours.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


I had a great run last night.  11 km total.  It was actually just after I'd finished that I hurt myself.  I stepped onto the grass beside the track to enjoy the cushioned turf, ran a few happy strides and out of nowhere, *crunch* I put my foot onto what may have been a terribly uneven piece of turf, or perhaps I just wasn't paying close enough attention to what I was doing and voila, a beautiful sprain.  It was painful enough and I couldn't put any pressure on it initially.  I sat down for a quick assessment and knew that it was neither severe (that's happened to me before with this ankle... crutches for weeks & hobbling for weeks after that!) nor mild, and that I was likely screwed for the next little bit, as far as mobility goes.  It is a "level 2 sprain", meaning there is some torn tissue and some loss of stability.  Where exactly in the level 2 category it falls though, I've yet to find out.  Today it is still too angry, bruised and swollen, and I am trying my best to get it better as soon as possible.  I don't really have time for reduced mobility right now.

Last night was my first visit to a Belgian emergency ward.  It was... a disappointing first impression, I must say.  I've heard mostly good things about the medical system here, so I'm hoping that this experience was an exception, and not the norm.  I'll start by saying that I cannot imagine what this particular hospital would do if, for example, TWO significantly bad emergencies were to occur at once, what with there seeming to be only one doctor working and the rest on summer vacation.  We waited for more than an hour in the preliminary waiting room with several people, including a couple who had already been there 2 hours.  When we heard the couple had already been there that long, (the woman had something more deserving of quick attention than I,) we decided we were going to leave, because by our basic calculations, it'd probably be 3 hours before we'd be seen.

Oddly, when you go to the admittance counter and tell them you're going to leave because it's evident that the people in front of you have already been waiting awhile, and you fear you'll have to wait equally long if not longer, everyone waiting in the emergency department suddenly gets service.  It wasn't even a complaint we made, we were just letting them know we were going, and then just like that, all the people who'd been waiting, some even closer to 3 hours and us (1 hour at that point) got diverted into our various departments of need and seen.  Bizarre, and questionable.

I've been to the hospital previously in Canada for the same injury to the same ankle, so I know roughly the drill as to how things are supposed to go.  Here we had one quick and inattentive assessment by what must have been an intern, (he hurriedly asked questions, not really listening very well, asking for information I'd already given him, and in the end I believe marked the wrong side of the ankle for the sprain in the documents.) This was followed by a lightening quick set of x-rays (seemingly again, for the wrong side of the ankle), and an improperly done wrapping from a nurse (applying the pressure and support to the wrong sides of the ankle given the sort of sprain I had.)  We were out with a medical certificate for my work, a tube of ketaprofen (pain killing anti-inflammatory) gel and a fairly nice compression bandage after about 4 hours total.  I was unimpressed with the hospital, overall, as was boyfriend.  Not a terribly well-kept environment combined with a seeming lack of organization / attention to detail / providing proper service to patients.  I guess it's better to find that out now though with a minor injury rather than with a truly serious problem.  Next time we have to go to the hospital, we'll be trying out CHU, and not Bois de L'Abbaye.

Today I'm missing work and I'm supposed to be resting with foot up.  It's not an easy thing for me, to stay immobile.  I know it's crucial in the first 24 hours after a sprain though, to do this as best as possible in order to assure quicker healing and so I'm trying to do it in spells that are broken up every hour or two by putting in a load of laundry, tidying a few things in preparation for the mother-visit (she arrives tomorrow!), getting something to drink and something new to keep busy while immobile once more.  2 hours of nothing followed by 15 minutes of something.  It's a challenge for me.  My medical certificate says I can have up to 3 days off work, but I've convinced myself that provided I do a good job of resting and caring for the joint today and wrap it really well tomorrow morning, that should be able to gimp my way through work tomorrow.  Not the smartest thing, but I know I can't stay still like this for 2 days in a row.  I figure at the very least (worst?) that putting it through it's paces a bit while working will allow me to gauge exactly how bad it is.  Even if it's horrible, I'll have 6 days off in a row after that, so if it's really more messed up than I thought and I have to baby it, I'll have the chance and can hopefully go back to work after the time off in a more normal, properly functional condition.

Still, I can't help but think that the timing is terrible.  For starters I don't like missing work, it's frustrating not to be able to do much around here either, and to top it all, my mom will be arriving tomorrow.  She won't be here for very long, and I don't want to be the person that slows her down in seeing what she can while she's here.

No pun intended, but this is seriously lame.

Monday, July 12, 2010


It is *still* hot in Belgium.  A true joy for me.  We've had two weeks of gorgeously tropical weather and while I am in heaven, most of the natives are with every other breath telling me they may fall over and melt any second.  It's marvellous.  The whole weekend has been rather blissful in fact.

Saturday I was granted a surprise entry into Les Ardentes.  Though I am not a big Ben Harper fan, I must say the man is a hell of a musician, as are all members of his touring band.  The last half hour of his set (the crowd called him out for an encore,) put my hairs on end, it was that good.  After meeting him on the street in Liège the day before, and then seeing his performance the next day, Boyfriend now has a little "Ben" on the brain, and is trying to find a proper concert of his to attend.  After Ben's set was done we made our way to other parts of the festival to dance like crazy people to drum & bass and it was there I discovered that the universe had conspired to undress me.  My shirt would not stay put, with straps falling down regularly, frequently posing the real risk of boob-exposure.  My pants, which normally sit on my hips took the hot weather badly and joined forces with the weight of my pocketed cellphone and keys in downwardly oriented retaliation.  I'm sure about half the room saw my already low-rise underwear peeking out at some point or another as my pants tried to creep their way off of me.  It was a fashionable but disastrous ensemble.  It might have frustrated me if it weren't so funny how much a part of my dancing that evening involved trying to keep my clothes from abandoning and exposing me.  Dignity?  Haha!  What dignity?

Sunday we took the car and a blanket to a little-known place by the river Ourthe to relish the sunshine and possibly to venture into the water, and discovered that the place is now known.  There was a scouting event going on, with little people rock-climbing and learning archery and occasionally chanting things in unison.  There were a few other small groups of people in the river or sunning on the banks.  Alright too though.  We found a place where we weren't too close to anyone, put a blanket down and I proceeded to do my very best impression of a solar-panel, while marvelling at the tiny communities of ants, beatles and other minute life that went about their business in the grass just off the border of the blanket.

Popsicles are never better tasting than in 30 degree weather, and so naturally, we had to stop and get some on the way back.  They are always so much better than when the mercury is above 30.

At home, my linguine carbonara and I had a battle of wills, which I won in the end.  I have a great deal of difficulty taking in enough solid food when it's hot.  Boyfriend worries about it more than I do, since I know that a significant portion of my nutrition just shifts over to liquids rather than solids in weather like this.  At any rate, the heat is rare enough here, and the large quantities of cold milk that I drink on days like these should make up for most of the solid food I'm missing.  What?  Milk has carbs, proteins, and fats.  Combined with my other summer love (cold fruits) I'm *totally* covering all the nutritional bases, aren't I?  (shhh.)

Strangely, in the midst of all the heat and lazy joy, things have managed to roll along productively here on the home-front.  This weekend has seen new plants sprouted and watered on the roof, the re-ordering of things in the alcove-of-doom, vigorous and meticulous efforts in the organization and cleaning of things, and several moments where I and my caulking gun reaffirmed to the world what an awesome team we are.  All of these things passed as though they were but a wisp of breath, a heat-induced hallucination.  None of the work about the house that was done this weekend actually feels as though it was done by me, (other than that I feel my minor pride at my acheivements,) or that it was difficult.  It is as though little house-ninjas did all the work while I was out enjoying my weekend.  How perfect.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Toronto g20 disgust

As many know, the g20 was in Toronto recently.  I looked on with curiosity here from Belgium.
As many outside Toronto might think: the protestors were violent and smashed things and burnt cars.

As Torontonians know, the protestors were pretty much all peaceful, with one group of vandals suspiciously allowed to run amok completely unpoliced, given access to bait-police-cars (cars abandoned in middle of street- intersections, unsurveyed by police, with with all equipment removed, windows rolled down, just begging to be burned.)

As individual accounts begin to surface, many Canadians are realizing that our constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms were effectively trampled all over, completely disregarded by our police and government during this time.  And this was done not to people who committed any violence, or posed any threat, it was done to people protesting peacefully, to people who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and even to tourists, bus drivers and restaurant patrons who happened to be in the "wrong places" when police decided to close in on people and detain them in incredibly inhumane manner for no lawful reason.

Amnesty International has called for a public inquiry into how security was handled at the summit.  Canadians and Torontonians are calling for it, more and more of them as more first-hand accounts and media reports emerge.  Stephen Harper (the Prime-Minister of Canada) has said that 99.9% of Canadians were happy with how the g20/g8 was handled.  This statistic, as anyone inside Canada knows is pure bullshit.  The premier of Ontario has been strangely silent about it all.  The mayor of Toronto has said that of course things will be looked into, but that there is no need for a public inquiry.

As I read the reports coming from Toronto during the g20 I was fairly disgusted.  As I read more of the first hand accounts after the fact from accredited media, and regular joes who were caught up in the insanity that was Toronto that weekend, and as I see YouTube footage complete with audio, badge numbers, and cops claiming that they have the right to disregard the charter rights and freedoms of Canadians, because "this isn't Canada" I have had to face the fact that this is a very dark mark on my country.

Who'd have thought this could happen in Canada, and to such an extent?  A country that has always stood up for the basic human rights and freedoms of people, that believes in peace and rational discourse before violence went against all those principles for a weekend, and why?  For what reason?  To make sure the 1.2 billion dollar budget (courtesy of tax-payers) for security was justified? To be extra-sure that there wasn't the slightest of feathers ruffled by a wayward opinion being expressed peacefully, in a country where free speech is fundamental?  I read and watch these reports, knowing that the security personnel are also Canadians, who are seemingly willing to disregard all the values they were raised to value because they are 'just following orders.'  How can you live in your country and simultaneously spit on the system of values that has allowed you to live as you do up to that point?

I can think of other dark times where individuals have claimed they committed horrible acts because of "orders."   Orders over basic reason, compassion, humanity and understanding of what is wrong, wrong, SO wrong in the treatment of other human beings.

I am disgusted, and I am expressing my disgust to all english-speaking people I know who will listen, because essentially, without a word of a lie: Innocent people, including non-protestors were treated like terrorists, detained, deprived of dignity, deprived of their legal right to make a phone-call, deprived of water, food, basic physical comfort and explanations for their detention.  They were cooped like battery chickens out of my government's fear that they *might* express a dissenting opinion.  And many of these people were not, AT ALL involved in any form of protest.  Dinner patrons, tourists, people who believed the mayor that they shouldn't be afraid to go out and spend the night on the town despite the g20 goings-on.

A friend of a friend has written an account here, after his account he links to other accounts both by accredited media who got caught up in the crackdowns and detentions, and other individuals.  There are far too many stories coming out of the g20, from disparate sources, that all sound the same and I can honestly say that it is this summit which causes me to fear for the future of my country like never before.  There is a man at the helm who doesn't actually care that he governs a country based on the principles he betrayed that weekend.  There are people below him in various positions of power who let him do it, and say little if nothing about it after the fact, in the face of overwhelming reports that surface now.  In the face of looming class-action lawsuits by enraged Canadians.

Given that the democratic channels seem to have failed on this one, I'm hoping the capitalist ones will succeed.  I would love to see a class-action take a huge chunk of money from the various police forces involved in the poor treatment, from those responsible for the organization of the detention centres, and so on.  If their sense of national identity doesn't exist and therefore can't be hurt, maybe they'll at least wise up if they're hit in the pocketbook.

Stephen Harpers Canada is not the Canada I know and love.  If you wonder what can make someone like me make such a declaration, click, read, and pass what you learn on to anyone who will listen and even those you think might not, Canadian or otherwise.  If pressure inside the country regarding this abuse of rights doesn't result in action, maybe pressure from outside the country will.

If you don't want to read, watch these first person testimonials:

or read shorter accounts of disgusting treatment here.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Call for entries

I am supremely lazy today.  Between the heat, work, and the heat while working, my brain seems to have softened somewhat.  It may be melting as we speak.
Typing this is making my wrists warm up slightly, which is rather unpleasant as it says I am exerting myself.  I sympathize entirely with my wilted tomato plants on the roof.  I need your help in order to avoid extreme heat-exhaustion due to doing stuff.

My mother is coming.  She called the other day, and will be popping by for a week starting on the 15th of this month.  I am thrilled, but due to my present condition making a list of possibly attractive to-do's in Belgium or nearby countries is just not happening.

So I'm outsourcing, picking your brains while I occasionally muster up the energy and jot down a point or two of my own on paper.  Here's her profile: 60, and fit to walk for long periods of time.  Though she's a modern, highly educated professional, her only other European experience was a two-week walking-tour of Ireland.  She loves good food, is more interested in flowers than I am, and less seriously interested in art, though she doesn't mind smaller galleries.  Has and regularly rides a motorcycle.  Drinks both beer and a wine.  Tends to enjoy quaint little places and enjoys the beach (so Oostende is also in the plans as long as the weather cooperates.)  She is incredibly well-read.  Though she used to be able to speak French, she hasn't in a reeeeeeaaaaalllly long time, and I don't think she'll have the guts to give it a go (though who knows, maybe she'll surprise me.)  She is very excited about coming.  I'll probably take her to Paris for a day or two and Brussels for a day, but I'm short on time for planning the itinerary.

Does anyone out there know of things happening about these Belgian or slightly-outside-of-Belgian-parts between the 15th and 21st that a lady like this might love to take in?

Please do feel free to offer up your two cents.  Or even one or a halfpenny will do.  Like the little drops of rain that could help my tomato plants to revive (because god knows I don't have the energy to go up there and water them today,) your help may stop my overheated brain from turning into nothing more than a puddle of useless, liquified neurons that sloshes about at the base of my skull.  I'm pretty sure my mom might be happier about that too.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Falling down, all around.

It felt more like floating and flying, though.
That, just up there in the link, is the sort of falling I find quite agreeable, as you can see.  (Go on, give it a click.)  And for me, blissfully, it had nothing to do with fear.  I was happy to finally be trying it, and now that I've done it I can say that I'd certainly be happy to do it again, even to learn how to do it by myself.  Ah yes.  Special thanks to bootube for deciding that I must replace the original audio.

There are the other kinds of falling down too though, and I've been suffering a little from them.  No, it's not the heat, unless existentialist dread counts as a form of oppressive heat.

I feel like I am making real progress in my life at about a tenth the speed of a snail, and it's resulting in me feeling a little frustrated and disappointed with myself.  If only all things in life were as quickly done as the decision to jump out of a plane.  I don't know if the disappointment is because my standards for myself and the amount I should be able to accomplish are too high (likely) or if it's because I'm honestly lacking the motivation (also likley.)  Part of me wonders if this is actually what it means to get older... to have a list of things you'd have been able to move along through a hell of a lot faster if you were younger, except now you're getting up there, and time is moving faster than you are.  To be honest, though it doesn't bother me intensely, (yet,) I can't help but feel I'm in a bit of a holding pattern.  It's a little boring, and I'm trying to figure out ways to spice it up.  What's eating me at the end of it all is the question "what are you really doing with yourself right now?  With your LIFE?"  Obviously on a superficial level I know what I'm doing at every moment, but the deeper part of me, the one that wants to carve out something amazing, is nagging.

I am quite aware that I owe you some food porn, but it's just not happening for the moment.  I have a pile of half-written posts with pictures here, but none are done, and don't you know I'd like to at least be doing something right.  Even if it's kind of wrong already because I've broken my promise of getting them up here in June.  Will you forgive me please, since I can't seem to forgive myself for the moment?

And, now that I've shuffled my feet and worked up the courage: the cherry on the cake.  *Things* here are... not fully recovered from the last good row.  There are glimmers of love, signs of indifference, and occasional snarls all bundled into the same day.  It's rather confusing.  There is a grey tinge that hangs around us like a stain you can't get out.  Even when we have a happy moment, our sky still remains overcast, a little ominous.  Is it broken?

We are supposed to talk about goals, but this discussion hasn't gone very far, as it seems (this is just my guess) that both people are terrified of committing to a joint plan and are wondering before they even really open up if what they want is truly compatible with what they have (or think they have.)  Can this other person really compromise?  Really be a team player?  It's fruitless, all this nervous un-talking.  It comes from fear, of course.  Fear of losing what you have.  Fear of only ending up with what you have and nothing more, ever.  Fear of accidentally rending a good thing asunder by tampering with it too soon, pushing it too far too fast.  Fear of having to make more gigantic efforts... because so far we have been anything but ace with each other while under the intense pressure of changing locations, (and we both know already that there will be more location upheavals.  Will we be better at it the next time?  Fear of not having any stability or the support of loved ones.  Fear of not finding a solution that at the very least can give stability - that both people want to work forward to.  We want to be on the same page, but we worry that we may not even be reading the same book!

I worry that we are still too immature or emotionally stunted, or perhaps just plain selfish to really think and talk as a "real couple".  And tonight!  Tonight has given me little hope that we might be closer to improving in this area.

The accountant visited briefly to express his opinion that I should now contribute to pleasant offerings initiated solely by him, made to his family.  I said I had never asked that he contribute to anything I'd given to my family, BUT (and here is where I decided to try and be more 'couple-minded' about things) I said that he should tell me how much he felt I should give him.

So.... how do you get angry when someone is trying to compromise despite differing opinions, someone who wants to come to an understanding and is willing to try and give you what you want?  That was a new one for me... My effort at compromise was scornfully brushed aside because ... because why?  Because I don't think the same way as someone else though I'm willing to compromise?

I still haven't been told any amount, but have been told other things.  All they have helped to do is to make me ever more suspicious that I may be in the boat with someone who would rather fight about principles to the death, than put in the work of putting aside egos and becoming two different people who are good at being together despite their differences.  It was certainly not encouraging.  The wind is a little out of the sails, and for the moment it's me, trying to force optimism on myself, blowing at the sail, trying to spot the oars.  You know, like that proverb: if there is no wind, row.  Because seriously, it is lame that two otherwise intelligent and seemingly compatible beings get tripped up on things like this.  What with his past and mine I can definitely see why this sort of thing is an issue, a potential hot button, but really... we have brains, shouldn't we be able to sort this out?  It is all so, so lame that I feel guilty even bothering the rest of the interwebs with my problems.  I guess I'm asking myself if this whole process we're going through for the moment could be classed as growing pains, or some other, more ominous kind of pain.

And though I'll write about it, I won't fight about it.  It's too ridiculous.  A bit shameful, really.
Ah, and there's the heat I guess.