Monday, May 27, 2013

A new curve in my life

All the paths are not straight in one's life. Curves happen all the time and we walk and drive them with caution. My Bijou shop is closing in a few days. New owners taking over the building and we are at a loss to know what will happen next.

I had just been working like a beaver this week to make several new creations but that is not a loss.
I am looking forward to find a new place with lots and lots of traffic. Lots of clients with money in the pocket.

I have opened and closed shops most of my adult life so this is not new to me.
I just hate to have to depend on help now to move and carry boxes.
Not to mention display cases.

Perhaps I should try Etsy and see what that gives. I know people do like my work so I should not give up and it is not in my nature.

On to new beginnings.....

Saturday, May 18, 2013


My children know it, some friends know it, more important I KNOW IT.
I have become Greta Garbo and want to be alone.

I have to make an effort to go out to get groceries with my designated driver or to go out to eat or even to go and buy flowers,

I have dear friends , I have known them for over 40 years. They do not stop to invite me to weekly luncheons.
I have used all the excuses and I am running out of new ones. Every time the day of the engagement comes I am waiting for the phone to ring so that they will tell me that they can't make it.
I stew about what to wear. I have enough to fill a large closet so not to worry about that.
When I am finally dressed another 1/2 hour and a dozen earrings and none I like.
I drag my feet and watch the clock. They are enormously punctual. I start to be very anxious.
I do not want to go out. This house is such a safe place for me. I do not need anything else anymore.
I have accepted that I am alone, that old Bob will not come back. No longer the rides in the mountains on a moments notice. No longer surprise visits to and from kids.
Things are regulated now and I have to know when to be ready.

Son has agoraphia, he can't leave this house, he has his space and I mine but now and then he reminds me :"Mom, do you know how happy I would be to be able to go out to lunch or shopping? Do not become like me!"

My friends picked me up today and once I see them I am happy to be with them.
I can't hear a lot of their conversation so I end up taking the 1 1/2 hour we are together.
They know all the ins and outs of my kids, my situation and they listen quietly.
No judgment, no suggestions, they just listened to what must be the most boring lunch time they have every week. When we walk out the Catholic guilt enters and I think to myself :"what did I do now" same as last week. Verbal overload. Guilty.
They drop me off at my castle and I figure that I had a very nice lunch and look what I would have missed.
I would have missed seeing them healthy and ready for summer trips and a very business life they lead yet still I know they will call again and I will go the round again saying I truly do not want to do that.

Mussels from only wish

My mother had strict rules about eating mussels.
Never in the months without an "R".
Best to go to Holland and get them fresh there, not very far from our location.
But that was in later years.
When I was young the month with an R had something to do with mating season (I think they pulled my leg and I am too tired to Google it).
Now that they are raised in controlled beds everything changed that. Or did it?
Not so many years ago Sabrina with me in Belgium decided to have mussels.
Her Meme said "NO NO NO" it is July.
BUT....said the stubborn babe, they have them in every restaurant.
So she ate them.
Next day a bus trip to Paris all paid for and Brie in bed looking green and yellow  (no kidding)
she had food poisoning. She was quite sick for 3 or more days of our vacation.
Then we read in the paper that a lot of tourist were sick from the mussels important from Ireland.
Somewhere along the route they did not have the right refrigeration.
Enters the month of May 2013 and me walking into the Aldi...snooping at the goodies they often have something only for a week or two and I spot :"Frozen mussels in garlic butter sauce".
What Belgian even as an American can resist that?
So that is what I ate tonight and if you never see me again on this site then the mussels did it.

Where did they come from? You ask. The  Ocean is 5 hours away so it could  not be that bad
surely they have mussel beds there too? They came from Chile!!!

My mother is watching and not very happy with me right now.
I did love the mussels all 30 of them.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


Just a year ago our lives began to have a bit of "normal" to return since Grandpa passed away.
We had all been involved in his 13 year long journey with dementia/Alzheimer.

I was hoping for a trip again to Myrtle Beach with the Fisher/Kensinger clan. I travel well with my daughter, son in law and my grandson.

Grandson was 16 and was soon going to give up going on vacation with us, yet he always had a friend with him and we just saw him when it was "feeding time".  I so enjoyed how he could get the largest platter of a variety of shrimp, crabs and lobster claws. The butter dripping down his fingers and a smile on his dimpled face, he loved food. He was and is still a giant of a guy. He was then looking forward to his last year in High School and had finally given in to the coaches to play football. His passion then was to get his drivers license and get his own truck. Life was good.

By accident his mother saw a lump on his inner thigh. He said that it had been there for awhile and "no biggie" it will go away. Mother knows best so she had him checked. Prognosis at the ER was that he probably had some sort of cyst. Better to have it removed was the suggestion.

By May 31st the wheels were in motion for the surgery and no one was hearing any danger bells so we all were mostly relaxed. This surgery went well and fast. The test results however did not come for a few weeks and Sabrina started to be quite upset. Finally she was sent to an uncologist who gave her the horrific news.

She called me and since I hardly hear on the phone it sounded like she was stressed and told me something about "..........Sarcoma" I heard "coma" . Say what? "Like the people in Dallas , Mom. E W I N G".
My son had taken over the phone and told me he would explain later...back on the horn I heard her say"Mom, it is a cancer!"

Someone or something surely hit me in the stomach right then and there. I felt the air just leaving my lungs and could not understand what I just heard. It was too much.

Sabrina has a great blog which she started from the get go. His journey and that of the family , friends, and strangers is well reported so I will not go into the details of this year.

Of course, no school anymore, no football, no visitors unless they are very healthy.
Treatments left and right almost every day or ever other day then weeks in the hospital too.
When I saw the schedule I thought he could not survive this.
He fooled us all, he finished school at home, he became an example in the hospital and cancer center on how to behave and not complain and whine.

Today, in fact, is his last chemo treatment scheduled under the protocol which was very strictly followed.
Today is a red letter day.
Tomorrow he will find out if he needs more blood or platelets. In a few weeks or so they may remove the port inserted in his chest to get easy access to the needed fluids.

This giant  man/boy was to be seen in the hallways of the cancer center and pediatric floor in Mission Hospital (Asheville), he mixed in with tiny babies, girls and boys milling around holding a tube of this or that fluid. Most already had lost their hair. One not used to this first enters the floor sees the first girl with enormous blue eyes, no eyebrows, no hair. You try to turn to look into her eyes and she looks at you, she already knows that you saw first. She smiles and you try hard not to cry and smile back, ask her name, and tell her that you have never seen eyes like hers. So gorgeous. A lady follows and whispers "Say "thank you" Anna!' . You feel like your heart will burst.

Each time you visit you see people around beds with children of all ages, some babies are crying, some are checking out the toys on the beds and try to ignore all the visitors. It is a difficult world out here.

All of this I am writing because we need more funding, more research, a lot more work to be done for these kids. They barely have learned how to be a human being in this world and now they have to fight for their life already. I am not against all the breast cancer research but I strongly feel the children are lost in between the cracks.

Be an alert person, it is simple, check out the site which reports on all the charities. Check how much is donated THEN check how much the CEO gets out of that pile. You may be shocked at some of the figures.
Children with cancer need to be remembered every day. Research should be happening in all areas, I agree, but how many of you ever heard of Ewing Sarcoma Cancer????Often in adolescents, often in the bones and amputations needed. Did you know about this?

My grandson had so many blood transfusions and platelets that we lost count.
His mother now very aware of all that was done to him now gives blood as often as allowed and platelets.
She is telling everyone within her voice to go and do that right now. Be a donor.
I wish I could but my health issues do not allow me. I think if anyone had cancer they no longer take your blood.

This has been an eye opening year for all of us involved. Zack will be tested again soon but the doctors feel confident that he is still cancer free like he was after the surgery. This is a fast moving cel and all precautions have to be taken that it does not return, hence the year treatments.

Zack will graduate with his class this month and go on to Automotive School. He went into this year a teen ager and has come out a man, an adult. The change in him is enormous, we are very proud of him and we all hope that in the tomorrows this cancer will be vanished and in the meantime lets help the children, lets support the research for children, support the hospital Danny Thomas started, St Jude were kids and treated every hour of the day and night fighting cancer.

Monday, May 6, 2013


    My girls keep asking for me to tell stories about Spain.
We lived there from 1970 - to 1975.
The girls were then teen agers and had a very chaperoned life style.
Most of their friends were from the fishing village we lived in called  "Nerja".
(Now an enormous tourist attraction ).

Oddly enough the first story which came to mind was about a death.
The girls had not understood all the nuances around it and probably do not remember it.

                                                                          TRUE story I swear .                                                      
During the last 2 years in Nerja we "house sat" for the most beautiful villa in the village.
Owned by Americans. They had built it for their retirement years.
From our enormous patio/balcon we not only saw the Meditarenean but on a clear day also Africa.
It was a heavenly place. Came with maid and gardener.

Next door was a Sexy bikini clad Swedish gal in her 60's, she could only talk sex,
the maid cooked, the gardener gave her lots of flowers, the husband ( much older than her)
gave her get the picture.

One night she bangs on our door:
"Jeannot, he is dead!" followed by
"We made the most beautiful love and he died.
Come and see
Come and see"

The poor man looked more than death, he looked exhausted and still  warm.
The maid had followed instructions and put rose petals all over him , and the bed.
At first blush I thought she had killed him and it was all blood.
Uneka, clad in something transparent hung on to my husband who did not know where to
put his arms. It was a scene worthy of an Italian opera....
We tried to calm the lady but all she could talk about was her last scenario with him. After that he just died!                                                   

We called a man who knew a man who picked up bodies.
By the time he came the floor of most of her villa was covered with rose petals, enough to slip and slide
and join good old John.

A small (they were all small in Spain in the 1970's) little van which no doubt was going to get groceries
for the market in the morning , pulled up. Bob and I looked at each other and could hardly stay serious.
They brought a pine box but most men on the Costa del Sol were quite short not like our John who
in better days had played basket ball in his college. This box looked like it was for leprechauns.

They put old John in the box followed by Uneka who gave the details of his passing on
in her broken Spanish , the legs  stuck out of the box and the van,
the man looked at Uneka with desire in his eyes and told her that he would drive slowly.
He would help the senora as much as possible, if she needed anything else just tell Paco.

We went to the funeral , the next day, they do not keep bodies for long on the hot Costa del SOl.
My British friend Helen and her French husband Alfredo came along, they were elderly and very
stoic. Alfredo and I looked at the coffin and concluded that someone had become very short in the
night. Alfredo whispered to me in French "May his penis rest in peace" while Helen kept
whispering "Oh dear, oh dear, she killed him".

Bob did not like funerals and was home, when returned I was hysterical laughing , this indeed
was a funeral I was going to remember and by golly41 years later I still do.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Flemish Gypsy

At some point in Bob's disease I was able to get some help with a daycare via the VA. They liked him there as he did not make a fuss and sat in a corner waiting for a bus. They asked him a bus to go where? He answered Santa Cruz (his birth place) . The workers made a sign and put it on the wall above his chair. The sign read " Bus to Santa Cruz". He loved it and after meals or play time he went for his corner. When the bus driver came to get him home he was easy to get on the vehicle and when he saw me he did not complain.

This made me think that perhaps we always have a desire to go home again. Perhaps it is going back to our childhood. No matter what kind of childhood we had. Is there this yearning to go back because we know the end is near or do we think that this was a good place which we left.

Lately I go back to my own history , 8 decades of it.

We were a dysfunctional family before the word was invented. There was a lot of womanizing on the part of my father. My mother had been raised in a convent till she was 18 and entered into her marriage at 19. Not knowing much about the world at large outside convent walls. To say that she was strict and Victorian is just a tiny bit of her make up. Mother did not know the word "grey". It was white or black. She also had a bit of a temper. My father was cool as a cucumber and calm, always calm but sarcastic and not understanding the word "love". 

Both parents products of WW1. My grandfather Van Melle was a first class musician and was called in to fight but he really conducted the army's band, he directed and did the solos including Mozarts Oboe concerto.( I always saw that man with an oboe in hand, I was small and wondered if he ever ate.    )But he was taken prisoner and his wife was stuck with 8 children. 3 passed on early in life. My father and his little brother learned German very quickly and learned how to steal at the soldiers camps in Hasselt where they had been settled just before the war. 

My mom and her sister came out of the convent during the war and fled from one town to the other. She remembers running with a gas mask. All survived but had nothing but stories about "their war". 

Soon I had my own "war".  The grown ups were not convincing me that this too shall pass very quickly. It was more about doom, bombings and being without. Father was a policeman and had joined the underground in 1938 started by one of his officers when he was in the army.

Father had excuses not to be home much.

What in that period would I want to go back too? I can't imagine.

The Americans came and changed my world. Anything American I just loved. If a movie came out we just saved franc by franc so I could see Doris Day, then my idol. I knew I wanted to be in the USA. I thought Errol Flynn would be my lover, he had a reputation of liking young girls. 

I worked early on (15) in my mother's office. I called her the "gendarmerie". She watched me like a ferocious lion. I was the receptionist and I was spoiled by the reps who came in wanting to talk to the engineers and little old me calling all over the plant to make sure they knew someone was waiting. Next visit the rep would come in with a box of chocolates for me. Mother did not like that at all. She said I was young and man looked at me differently. Lucky I had my own office but I just could not wait till I could leave her company. During that period in the early 1950's the only way out was for me to marry. (another prison). So I found a man willing to move away from Ghent. He wanted to go to the Belgian Congo. It was still rich for the Belgians who pretended to work there and had servants and little consideration for the Congolese. I did not understand much about these prospects but I knew I did not want that. I wanted the USA. We married in 1951 and by August 1953 we were on a boat to Canada to wait for a visa for the USA. We had a sponsor willing to sign for us so we would NOT depend on the government. We also could not have TB nor affiliation with communism

My mother was devastated, her only child, how could I? How cruel I was, she would not know her grandchildren, (she did) she would be sick and I would not be there for her.(I was) I was just like my father. Later she said that she wondered if they changed babies and I was a GYPSY!

My cousins did not want to leave Belgium. My aunts had never left. What was wrong with me? They all looked at me figuring that I must be in a bad mental state. An old boyfriend even came to say goodbye to me and my mother chaperoned as I was then a new bride. Jean started to cry and said :I will never see you again. I had a hard time keeping a straight face. He never saw me anyway. Do not know if mother had not arranged this as a last plea.

My journey took me to Montreal, New Brunswick NJ, Milltown NJ, San Jose Cal, Campbell Ca,Brookdale Ca, Boulder Creek Ca. It was in Brookdale that after 17 years of pain that I managed to make a break from my Belgian husband. By then I was an American against his wishes. A divorce followed and I opened a shop with second hand clothing in what I saw as a first indoor art/antique/fleamarket, in Santa Cruz. The angels must have had a concert when I met Bob there, I did not hear their concert, I thought Bob's paintings looked like photos and I did not believe he could paint like that. He had just moved back to S.C from San Francisco.   He was a bachelor. He was 42 and I was 36 with 2 girls. 

He adored the girls and he and I had a relationship which is very rare. We worked together 24/7 in the art and antique business. Some people can't handle breakfast , lunch and dinner with the same person every day and I and him did not want to be apart. Looking back I am thinking how damn lucky I have been. Even when he no longer knew he was married, did not know my name, he would look at me and his eyes all but sparkled. He knew "something". Down deep he knew that he loved this person and I loved him. 


We moved to spain for almost 5 years and after that came by "accident" to NC but always missed California.      We had a son in Malaga but we did forget to put him on the Spanish books (still under Franco regime) and rushed to get an American birth certificate. Our Malaganian was the ice cream on the cake. 

The rest is 42 years of marriage which included sadly enough 13 years of being ill with dementia. 

So I go back to the fact that I am thinking a lot about my home town, I would go back in a nano minute but for the enormous hearing loss (80%) which makes it hard to even understand the announcements in the airport, loud as they are. Having a chaperone is OK and nice but after awhile I am tired of asking:"What did she say?"

So this Flemish Gypsy will be happy to sit in front of the Atlantic Ocean and think that somewhere a boat is going towards Belgium and I am here sitting like a queen and resting, smelling the salt sea with Bijou in my lap. 

Who cares what part of Belgium I truly miss I am in a very good place right now too.