Friday, February 29, 2008

And some more ...

Spring portraiture ii, originally uploaded by - di.

Feel the fear and do it anyway.

Spring portraiture, originally uploaded by - di.

When I photographed this self-confessed camera-hating woman, I didn't expect to find so many photographs that simply delighted me.

Congratulations, my very brave friend.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Exhausted by BBC's Masterchef.

Gert and I just sat through the finals of BBC's Masterchef and it has really been one of those series where these last few shows have been nailbiting ... and I'm not a foodie.

The talent and development of that talent was stunning.

The final 3 amateur chefs were set tasks like catering for a wedding party of 120 in Blenheim Palace and then, same day, cooking for 9 of the world's top chefs.

They were flown to South America to cook for the army in the most primitive of conditions and sent to Michelin restaurants to cook not only for the clients but they were then set the task of cooking each of the restaurant's signature dish for the owner.

We survived the viewing, absolutely delighted James won, wishing there was a way he could have shared the top prize with 19 year old Emily too.

Ufff! If you have the opportunity to catch up with Masterchef 2008, you might want to check it out ... writes the non-foodie creature.

5 things to know about laptop searches at U.S. borders

We think people should know that they basically are leaving their right to privacy at the door when they cross the U.S. border. There is no assumption of privacy [at a port of entry].
Susan Gurley, executive director of the Association of Corporate Travel Executives

Gert came home stunned today ...

A newsletter had been circulated, reminding people traveling to the States that they should be aware of what can happen to their laptops and usb sticks ...
The Association of Corporate Travel Executives have an interesting 3 page article.

Reading further, having not really taken me seriously when I mentioned people losing their laptops when entering America, he discovered the article I took my title from - 5 things to know laptop searches at U.S. borders.

1. No evidence needed to take your laptop ... follow the above link to read more

2. Anything can be searched: Everything on an electronic device is open to search. This includes personal photographs, personal banking, any business documents and stored or unopened e-mail, Gurley said.

3. Your PC might not be returned right away: Seized devices may be kept for an indefinite period of time.

4. Don't take anything you don't want to share.

5. Be cooperative:Cooperate with customs officials. Ask for a receipt and a badge number if your computer is seized. Try and get whatever information you can on the reason why it was seized.

Staceyann Chin, Poet

I was channel-surfing while eating lunch and caught the end of an Oprah interview with poet, Staceyann Chin.

Her story and her poetry impressed me ...

Lee Camp asks Fox News the tough questions

This little gem was in Belgium's De Standaard newspaper this morning.
Lee's MySpace page can be viewed here.
Friends are kisses blown to us by angels.
Author unknown.

Borrowed from Kim.

Yannick Haenel talks to Cafe Babel

I love Cafe Babel's Brunch With section. Today I found an interesting interview by Nathalie Six with Yannick Haenel on the subject of his seventh and latest literary venture, Cercle ('Circle', 2007).

She writes: There was the surprise: enchantment, stupefaction - I found myself shaken and entranced at the very core of my being by a prose which resembled no other; simultaneously poetic, erotic and serious, multiplied by a subject without forgetting that it is neither ordinary nor vapid. The book in a few words - a man refuses to commute on the RER train into the suburbs at 08.07 in the morning. By this simple act of refusal, he rocks in another dimension where literature, dance and eroticism would be the keys to understanding the world. An odyssey, sometimes nightmarish, from Paris to Berlin, a European quest of the senses. The pages unfolded at an uncanny speed.

Seems like a book that one must read ...

Nina Matvienko

I've been unsettled this week, a little lost, working on photographs in the evenings, on a to-do list for my day in Brussels, working through the details of photographing the conference in March ... not sure what to do with my days as everything feels like it's somehow on hold until payday.

Anyway, there has been more blogging and web-wandering as a result and I can't regret that. I was over on Neeka's Backlog blog and found this rather beautiful Ukrainian lullaby sung by Nina Matvienko.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Know, first, who you are; and then adorn yourself accordingly.

Loved this quote I found over on Abby tries again blog.

I've been making do for a while now.
Back in New Zealand, my final few years there were spent as a solo mother working hard, studying at university - spectacularly broke most of the time.

In Istanbul, I had a little more money but clothes were notoriously difficult for tall foreigners to find as the Turkish women my age were oftentimes tiny, even my tall and slender American friend felt like a giant in that world.

Then Belgium, where I couldn't earn money till recently and so ... I've had time to learn myself and now, poised on the brink of a few new pieces of clothing and a real haircut and some colour at a real hairdressers (the first since Istanbul), I'm thinking I know myself well enough to adorn myself.

Let's see how it goes.

Grand Central Station Freeze

Ren posted this and I had to too ...

The Door Game ...

I found this interesting game over on Laura's website.
It left me thinking.

Christine Mason Miller and Twenty Two Fourteen

I am bathed in sunlight as I sit here at my desk this morning. It's stunning - terrible for processing the last of my 5 photo shoots, grand for this human creature.

I was web-wandering and found my way to Christine Mason Miller's site where this beautiful piece of music was playing as her photographs slid by. I had to go searching for the music called twenty two fourteen by the album leaf and here is the music and the site that so inspired me this morning.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

My personal legend has always been to become a writer. I’m glad I can say that I’m fulfilling my dream. But this must not be interpreted as "the end of the line"—on the contrary, I have to commit every day in order to stay in this path that I’ve chosen. One is constantly challenged—even by success.
Paulo Coelho, from an interview on

Mathieu recently introduced me to Good via his blog.

Furiousball followed up asking if I was a member not long after - both bloggers are readers I respect so I went wandering.

GoodReads invites me to be a little more organised in my reading and write about the books that pass through my hands but that's not all. Today I received a Goodreads newsletter in my inbox and it held other delights ... an interview with Paulo Coelho, a poem and they have a blog too.

If you're a reader, I really recommend checking it out.

Thanks guys

And other times ...

event photography iii, originally uploaded by - di.

It means that you're just there to the side when a New Zealand war veteran poses for a photograph with one of New Zealand's most famous singers and the Prime Minister of NZ.

And then ...

candid, originally uploaded by - di.

There's always the risk of standing next to me while I'm wanting to test the quality of the light ...

Stillness is clearly an invitation to be photographed.

Or ...

event photography ii, originally uploaded by - di.

You are free to capture the image of a British Member of the European Parliament looking thoughtful.

Event photography

event photography, originally uploaded by - di.

Every month or so I get a call to go out and photograph an event, an opportunity I truly relish.

My favourite lens is a 75-300mm lens, everything else feels ordinary after using it. This photograph, taken while the subject was talking and quite unaware of me, is one of my favourites.

Laughter at the breakfast table with little Miss 3

It went like this ...

Good morning Sahara-banana

I'm not a narna. I'm Hara!

Noooooooooo, you're Sahara-banana. Don't you remember when I used to talk to you on the phone and call you Sahara-banana?

No I'm Hara! I'm not a narna!
Pointing to her forehead ... See, I dot no sticker on my head.

Monday, February 25, 2008

A title change ...

An innocent, I wandered over to the blog of Baroness La Gatita the Ceaseless of Midhoop St Giggleswich and returned forever changed.

My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
Lady Di the Ineffable of Helions Bumpstead
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title
For those of you who, like me, are a little uncertain about the precise meaning of ineffable, read on ... not to be spoken because of its sacredness; unutterable: the ineffable name of the deity.

Littlebird Studio

I was catching up on Paris Parfait's blog and discovered the beautiful jewellery she was writing about at Littlebird Studio.

I wanted to stay and play there a while ...
We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the life that is waiting for us.
Joseph Campbell

Borrowed from Schmoopy.

I don't know, I just liked them ...

brussels sprouts, originally uploaded by - di.

I was trailing behind Lut and Gert who were talking of political things ... I oftentimes trail when my camera is with me and I spotted this sprout and did a 'drive-by' shoot.

A bit of a chat

pony, originally uploaded by - di.

Lut and the pony belonging to this pretty little nose had a bit of a chat about the grass out of his reach.

She obliged.

Lately ...

More than a few people have talked of my book ... the one that I'm writing soon, so they tell me.

I've started books in the past; a half-finished manuscript of interviews with New Zealand climbers that made it through two publishing meetings, only to be rejected based on the predicted lack of a huge audience.

A few years later and mountain stuff began to enter the public sphere, I was simply too early and by then I had signed up as a 'mature' student at university, my mother had died, my marriage was ending ... I had stuff going on.

I have at least 11,000 words in a fictional piece, something I rework as my life and experience of life changes. I'm not sure what that's about but it's there and I play with it.

These days, if I wrote, I think it would be more about my strange and unpredictable life. I have been a daughter, a wife, a mother and grandmother, I've worked for photographers, lawyers, a jeweler and in the office of a New Zealand government corporation. I've been a really bad waitress, a teacher and of course, all the way through there was always photography as my passion.

I've lived around New Zealand in 4 very different locations, been the wife of a teacher and an airforce officer (same man, his midlife crisis), the wife of a Belgian civil servant who works two very different jobs at the same time.

I've lived in Turkey and here in Belgium, traveled to America, been stranded in Fiji, stayed in Australia, fallen in love with Italy, wandered through France, Germany, Holland, adored Spain too.

There was the woman who fell past my balcony, the motorbike crash at more than 100kms. There was me shaking over the opportunity to photograph the Queen of England located across a small stretch of empty grass, being tasked to spend the day following a famous Canadian actor, being asked to photograph New Zealand's prime minister, a Victoria Cross winner and so many other interesting people.

Now there's this part-time job in communications in Brussels and I'm loving it and the worlds it's exposing me too.

My business is launched and that's okay too.

But there was never a plan ... school reports always said 'Diane could do better', even while I was sailing along in the top class groups.

I've been a swimmer, a badminton and hockey player, I've ridden horses and sped across a winter lake ice-skating with friends, racing towards the final somersaulting moment into deep snow because I have this weird mix of risk-manager and adrenalin junkie (if really pushed).

I've read by the light of the moon until the book was finished ... regularly, fallen in love and out of love with Cadburys chocolate because of Belgian chocolate. I'm still waiting for that moment when I stop loving red wine.

I love coffee but it doesn't like me, although I persevere with the relationship, oftentimes wishing I hadn't.

Materially, I adore my camera, my laptop and little plastic mp3 player.

Hmmmm, no need for that book ... tis done.

Peta Mathias, a New Zealander

Go back and look at your old school reports I say. I learned that from a book somebody gave me called What Colour Is My Parachute. If you don't know where to go next in your career, go back and see what you were good at in school. My parents sent them to me from Australia in a big box. Can you imagine how weird it is to look at your school reports when you are 50? I just sat on the floor and wept. There was this girl that I knew nothing about. I remembered I was very good at writing, and English and French. I thought,I have to write.

I loved this interview with Peta and thought I would post it for future inspiration ...

You have to burn the bridge - you have to be prepared to drown. There must be danger, or you won't change. It's not easy if you have a family to support, but you have to be a risk taker. You must leverage things, create action. Just do it!

A question of safety

“Barack scares those of us who think of the possibility of an assassination in a different way,” Mr. Posner said. “He represents so much hope and change. That is exactly what was taken away from us in the 1960s.”

An interesting article in the NY Times.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

I just thought ...

an imperfect gardenshed door, originally uploaded by - di.

that this was astoundingly ugly beautiful.

In the gardens of the people

In de volkstuin, originally uploaded by - di.

The equivalent of the allotment garden in England.

It was so peaceful there, strolling in the sunshine, talking and taking photographs ...

In de volkstuin...

welkom in mijn tuin, originally uploaded by - di.

Lut took us wandering today, following up on a theme for the art exhibition I'm taking part in in September.

So, let us begin with ... Welcome in my Garden.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Taylor Mali, an interesting man.

I was curious about the youtube I posted a few days ago and went searching for information about Taylor Mali . I found his website and understood his youtube in context.
As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.

Borrowed from sparkletopia.

A story from the New York Times

I liked this one ...

Jonathan Dunham is walking the earth . Assisting him in this endeavor is his donkey, named Judas.

Friday was a good day here in the flatlands

You know those sublime days when you're asked to consider being the photographer at a European conference in the morning and then late afternoon you're invited as both friend and photographer to a wedding in Berlin described like this: It is a kind of Jewish-Muslim wedding in a very colorful Marrokan restaurant with Balkan and tango music

Yesterday was a good day.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Permeke's Kubus Cafe, Antwerpen

If you're a local in Antwerpen, or passing through, and you want to enjoy some good food and free wifi (and I think there are desktop computers upstairs) then I have to recommend the Kubus Permeke Cafe.

It's on De Conickplein 25 and is open from 9am on Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, 11.30am on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Upstairs you have the armchairs you see on the link, downstairs it's all wooden tables, windows and lovely staff. The wine's not bad and the food is lovely - both presentation and taste-wise.

Mmm indeed, I returned my library books before they were overdue (no mean feat for this creative type who has been known to bargain with library staff in the past ... if I create my own time and space am I still subject to book loan timeframes?

I stopped off here for a glass of red wine, the first in what seems like a long time and alles goed.

Stuff ...

I worked yesterday and just by the way, I'm loving the 40 minutes on the train ... I'm reading again.

Just finished the must-read (if you're curious about European football) A Season with Verona, by Tim Parks. I came away with a deeper understanding of this game that isn't rugby(and enough offensive Italian sayings to get myself into terrible trouble should I ever use them).

I'm now re-reading On Foot Through Africa by Ffyona Campbell.

Last night, coming home late from work, I ran into the unusual problem of all the electronic noticeboards being out at South Station in Brussels. So I found the where and the when from Information and smsed Gert, asking had he ever?.

THEN a whole group of policemen and women came onto our platform looking all very serious. I smsed Gert again ... and now there are police.

Home without incident though, lost in my book.

Last week I received word of a tiny inheritance from my mum's aunt and so it looks like going home is finally back on the agenda YAY!!!

Today I received work email, asking if I can photograph a European conference ... so things are happening.

And this week we launch the advertising for Di Mackey Word & Image, a new combination of the possibilities open to me if I'm to be self-employed here in Belgium.

Did I mention the 600euro social security bill ...
It's a huge challenge to stay solvent in this world so let's see if I can 'pull it off' (as we say back home in New Zealand).

Have camera, will travel ...

For the teachers ...

Simon sent me this youtube and having spent 2 years as a teacher in Istanbul, and having lived with a teacher for 16 years, I have to say, I liked it.
Thanks to Eric too, the original find-ee of the funny.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Sean & Andrea Nix Fine, War/Dance - a film

War/Dance uncovers a deeper truth: that kids broken by trauma can make a decision to let the genie of their talent come pouring out.

I was reading about the winner of the 2007 Sundance Documentary Directing award .

Sean and Andrea Nix Fine made a film about Patongo ... similar to a refugee camp, not of exiles but of Ugandans who had lost homes and family to murders and violence by rebel soldiers.

Andrea is recorded as saying that the kids are not wildly special. “They need something special just to survive.” That is music. And so the Fines challenge their audiences by making beauty a character in their story — the gorgeousness of the landscape and the heart-punch thrill of the music.

The Fines hypnotize audiences into imagining the camp’s huts are a Four Seasons compound. Why shouldn’t there be beauty in horrors? That is the undersong of War/Dance.

Their approach has so disconcerted critics that they have challenged the Fines on whether horrors and atrocities should be filmed in images of beauty. The Fines deplore these criticisms: “To say that a child’s face is too beautiful is just ridiculous,” Andrea says.

Sometimes ...

the photo-shoot, originally uploaded by - di.

if you're lucky, you find a small fairy-creature in the corner.

Re: Cheese Sandwich Posts

Mark informed me that I've been guilty of writing cheese sandwich posts lately.

Mark is always the first to accuse me of writing generic blog posts that say very little about the actual state of my life although, even before the blog I had other close friends who were frustrated by my generic emails home ...

One of the things I love about writing is that no matter what insanities or challenges are going on, I can create some kind of order when I write.

So I told Mark the story of 'lately in Di's life' and barely scratched the surface ...

My life seems to be one of those lives that are destined to wander down unpredicted roads on a weekly, if not daily basis. Maybe Belgian television will phone me to ask if I might take part in their small documentary about foreigners living in blended language families as I arrive at a party in Holland, or perhaps my student loan will turn into one of the biggest disasters of my life or I'll find myself photographing New Zealand's prime minister while she chats with one of NZ's famous singers or I'll be offered the opportunity to pop over to London and take photographs for a really exciting new book or I will spend a couple of hours photographing a truly beautiful Belgian woman days before she begins the last possible treatment left in her battle with cancer.

And it was the same back in Turkey. There was the woman who fell past my 5th floor balcony, and the wheel that fell off the taxi, the taxi driver who invited me to travel to Iran with him, and the gunman who took hostages in the school I was teaching at - the school that sent us out to our classes, without actually reassuring us that the gunman and his hostages were contained while hysterical parents and television crews gathered below at the gates.

And that's how it is ... when life gets a little bit challenging, I prefer to select and order the chaos. I'm not sure what this blog would be like if I just wrote life as it really is, not sure at all.

Cheesepost sandwiches ... I need to think about that.

Any opinons?

Monday, February 18, 2008


I'm working on the images taken while walking with a man, his dog and the birds and I pulled this slice of flight out of a larger photograph. I need to go back to the park and work on the idea ...

Sandra Boynton, Artist & Etc

“I love what I do, I love the people I work with, I care very much about the value of the work I create, and I don’t need more money than I have. This is not revolutionary philosophy. It’s just common sense.”

There's an interesting article about Sandra Boynton in the New York Times. Sandra's an entrepreneur who maintains a firm grasp on market realities and her finances, but she says she has succeeded by refusing to make money her main objective. Instead, she says, she has focused on the creative process, her artistic autonomy, her relationships and how she uses her time.

“I don’t do things differently to be different; I do what works for me,” she says. “To me, the commodity that we consistently overvalue is money, and what we undervalue is our precious and irreplaceable time. Though, of course, to the extent that money can save you time or make it easier to accomplish things, it’s a wonderful thing.”

Sunday, February 17, 2008

This weekend ...

beautiful people, originally uploaded by - di.

It was a good weekend.

I spent 24 hours with a Brussels-based friend and took endless photographs of her, talking over wine and dinner, then breakfast this morning ... before taking even more photographs.

And then today I had the privilege spending time with a Belgian couple who knew my photographs were about capturing the best of them for the time being, as one of them begins a harsh new treatment for cancer.

We called in on Lut and picked up another bag of prei (dank u wel) as her and her man clear their garden for spring planting. Then onwards and out to Lier for another mind-blowingly expensive round of family birthdays - a blow softened by an excellent game of ping-pong and the company of my Belgian brother in law who has the gift of humour.

Exhausted I am.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Maya Stein, Poet

...She didn't think she could love more than this.
She had bought furniture, had made a thousand breakfasts,
had placed her fingertips on another's skin, memorizing each inch.
She had found new words to assign to things, had discovered
a metaphor for marigolds, for deer, for wind, for the purr of a car.

She didn't think she could love more than this.
But even mountains, in their ageless, intractable design,
manage a few centimeters each year, croaking a little movement
from their bones, as if they haven't quite finished telling their own story.

Her love is a mountain, pushing forward by degrees,
resolute in the certainty that there is still more ground to cover.
And even though she didn't think she could love more than this,
she has. And she will.

Maya Stein, extract from her love is a mountain (for e.)

All bouncy today ...

The day that I work is a little stressful, as I dress in a way that I haven't had to in a long time and then make my way to Brussels via the tram, a train and the metro but it's such an interesting job with good people that I come home smiling.

I've already been out this morning ... twice to the bank, with one more visit required today. My paperwork issues have always been fraught in the lowlands and today was no exception. They're working on a solution to a situation created by me needing a business bank account to register for a V.A.T number and a V.A.T number to get the business bank account.

Our creative solution has now caused an interesting hiccup but in an odd way it seems normal in my experience of Belgium so far however the Belgians are incredibly adept at negotiating these 'situations' and they've been good to me.

Two photo sittings this weekend. I'm looking forward to both. One is with another lovely American friend who is abandoning me when she flies home in theahead and then there is the husband and wife I've wanted to photograph for simply ages. We'll be talking about the September art exhibition too.

Sunshine today after a couple of days of thick fog.
Everything seems possible!

Tot straks from the kiwi.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A day of study

Today has been about reading and researching the new job ... hours of reading, following links and making sure I understand all the new acronyms raining down on me.

I've wandered in a world where an integrated and inclusive Europe is part of the goal, smiling over the fact that, just a few years ago, I was sitting in a university classroom listening to Professor Douglas Holmes as he lectured us on Europe in my political anthropology classes ... along similar lines to this course but different, based more on his book.

I was fortunate and managed more than one semester with him before his ground-breaking multi-sited ethnography meant that he was lured back to the States.

I keep think my life changes hugely but not really ... there are themes that seem to be here to stay for now.

Dr. Eric Maisel, The Van Gogh Blues

If you're living a creative life or would like to live a creative life, then you might enjoy Laura's interview with Dr. Eric Maisel about his new book The Van Gogh Blues.

Laura captured my attention with her introduction: The Van Gogh Blues has impressed me as a book worthy of your attention for a number of reasons. I appreciated Dr. Maisel's frank discussion of traditional psychology and how it has and has not served the creative person well. His normalizing of the existential depression that many creatives experience, how this is a distinct experience from what we commonly call clinical depression, and how this existential depression can be engaged and worked with in a productive manner resonated with me personally and called to mind many of the individuals I coach. If you appreciate the breathe of fresh air that comes from reading authors who admit life has challenges, that they generally don't end, that there aren't 3 Simple Steps to Everlasting Bliss AND who manage to leave you feeling solid, validated, hopeful, focused and ready to roll up your sleeves despite all that, I do recommend you check out this worthy read.
Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplacable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach, check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desire can be won. It exists, it is real, it is possible, it is yours.
Ayn Rand

Found over at Sparkletopia.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Out wandering ...

photographing a photographer, originally uploaded by - di.

I'll be allowed to post this for as long as it takes to be discovered ... ;)

Sculpture II, Middelheim

Sculpture II, Middelheim, originally uploaded by - di.

I struggle with the idea of putting my copyright mark on these photographs of other peoples art work so I'll leave them free.

This is a piece of art I could spend hours photographing ... the results are always different.

Another Antwerpen Day

Sculpture, Middelheim, originally uploaded by - di.

Jessie and I set out for the bus ... Rivierenhof perhaps but maybe the port area and a wander through the back streets into the city.

Somehow, and neither of us can recall the conversation precisely but we ended up on Bus 33 bound for MIddelheim - my favourite open-air sculpture park in the world.

I can't help myself, no matter how many times I go wandering there, there are always new photographs found.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Sunshine and Blue Skies in Belgie

We're into our 4th day of blue skies and sunshine ... I'm bathed in it as I sit here next to the big window in the lounge.

The down side is the inversion layer over us.
Hot air above the cold air of our beautiful frosty morning ... an inversion layer that traps the mega-ton of pollution that is the reality of a life lived on the crossroads of Europe.

Never-the-mind, the sunshine feels like an incredible rebirth after a long grey winter (a winter which will undoubtedly return) but I'm going to enjoy this for now.

As soon as the weather is warm enough, all doors and windows are thrown open at my place and so they are today. Ella Fitgerald and Louis Armstrong are up loud and keeping me company and I have two more big sets of photographs to process, as well as a series of small jobs in the city.

I'm thinking that Gert might enjoy lunch with me, despite the fact he forgot to suggest it before leaving. Tsk tsk tsk ...

Anyway, I hope your day is a good one.

Tot ziens.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


Wablief?, originally uploaded by - di.

En ...

Nen hele dikke merci, Maurice.

De hond

gizmo, originally uploaded by - di.

Taking a moment to pose for the foreigner following him on his morning constitutional.

So this morning ...

a morning walk, antwerpen, originally uploaded by - di.

I was picked up at 9.45 and we were off wandering.

I had a photo date with a man, his dog and some birds and was escorted by the ever lovely Lut.

It's stunning out there ; a frost, a deep blue sky and just the right temperature for this girl from 'the' land down under.

A good way to start a day.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

16.8 degrees celsius

Belgium's hottest February 9 on record today.

Almost Spring ...

Rivierenhof, Antwerpen, originally uploaded by - di.

There we were at the park and I spotted this ...

I said 'What is it?'
Gert replied, I don't know.
'How can you not know, it's in Belgium and you're Belgian?'

He gave me that look he gives me sometimes.

I should know what it is really but it's this thing that we do.

Nice sky though ...

Been so busy ...

I've had a staggeringly diverse and busy two days, with so much in my life changing and becoming more established here in Belgie.

Thursday was orientation day on the new job, a day that made me think that this new opportunity is one that I will enjoy immensely, with room for both personal growth and professional development.

I've been hired as a communications assistant and will be working on the NGO's website, newsletters, creating press releases, with some photography thrown in for good measure.

And so for the next 5 months I'll be in Brussels one day every week, working with a team of people who charmed me with their office atmosphere on day one.

Taking this job meant that it was time to reexamine my business, leading me to rename and establish myself as Di Mackey - Word & Image, in keeping with the increasingly diverse work I'm beginning to pick up.

Yesterday, in less than two hours, the new business paperwork was completed and paid for, under the watchful eye of Lut who guided me when guidance was needed. Dank u wel Lut! :)

My 'Flemish team' seemed happy when I could answer the laughter-filled question 'How many different governments does Belgium have?' - asked by the-man-who-creates-the-paperwork as he worked away on his papers.

I ended my yesterday with every door and window open here in the apartment while I cleaned, enjoying the blue-sky-sunny-day that we have here again today.

It's almost as if so much has happened that writing of it is all but impossible, so you have the bare bones and I presume normal fluency will return some time soon.

But you know when some theme begins to take over your life, when everything that appears brings you back to some point ...? It's been like that.

In September I have a place in an art exhibition here in Belgium - one of 5 artists working with the theme of tolerance. Tolerance and diversity are also guiding themes at the new job.

Reading through work materials I came upon this Mahatma Ghandhi quote that I've found a few times over this last year and had a quiet moment of 'Yes', feeling relatively certain that I'm on the right path for now.

You must be the change you want to see in the world.

So ummm yes, that's me writing from my corner of the world today.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Day 1, New Job ...

I left the house at 7.30am and arrived home at 8pm having met some superb people during a really good day in the life of Di.

More to follow but orientation days often leave the newly-orientated disorientated ... in case you didn't know already.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

An Interview with August

I took part in Neil's Great Interview Experiment over at his Citizen of the Month blog and my interviewee ended up being the lovely August, from Girl on the Run.

Neil's idea ran like this: Did you ever notice that whenever some expert is being interviewed on Oprah or the Today show, the person just happens to have a book coming out the following week? It’s as if it wasn’t important to tell us the cure for cancer until the guy’s book comes out, and then they don’t even tell you the cure so you have to buy the book. I’ve seen some bloggers being interviewed by other bloggers. It’s usually the same as it is on TV. Those interviewed are persons deemed “worthy” of being asked important questions about the world. They have a popular blog, a project coming out, or a specific expertise. We instantly find these people even MORE interesting because someone took the time to interview them. It’s like Obama’s campaign didn’t even start until Oprah sat down to talk with him. All of a sudden, everyone went, “Wow, she finds him interesting. He MUST be interesting.” I know most of you won’t agree with me, but I think anyone who decides to write about their life online is interesting, even those who may not do the best job yet of conveying that on paper. We all should be interviewed, at least once.

Curious to take part in Neil's experiment I wrote to August as per Neil's instructions (and was interviewed in turn by Tatiana, who made the whole experience so much fun, asking one question at a time and letting me get to know her some as I replied. Thanks Tatiana!)

Anyway, the interview:

1. You wrote a list of what you would like to be ... from that list, what are your top 3 goals and how will you go about achieving them?
I guess from that list, my top 3 goals currently are:
1) I would like to be a better teacher to my kids.
Sometimes I'm so caught up in my own dreams that I feel I have been selfish, like I am taking time away from my children's' dreams. I feel like I personally was not taught or encouraged by my parents, to realize and pursue my dreams and it has negatively affected me in my later years. Because of that, I try to pay close attention to my children's' likes and then I encourage them to take classes to develop their interests. For example, I have enrolled my son in theater camp every summer since he was 5. He loves it and he's a natural. He wants to try tap classes next and I have every intention of letting him. My 3 year old has always loved climbing the windows and so I enrolled her in gymnastics. She also loves dancing and singing so we will be exploring that soon too. Both of them also love to read and I intend to spend more time reading with them. Most importantly, I have a strong belief in God and I want to help them learn about Him and make Him real to them.

2) I would like to be more scheduled.
Schedules are overwhelming to me because life is constantly changing, but I believe they are vital to accomplish the most in life. Especially for someone like me who has to divide her time among her family, friends and self. I actually just spent the day on Friday, making up a daily schedule for each day of the week and filling in all the time slots with things I am already required to do. Every night before bed, I plan to look at the next days template, and add to it, things that can be done from my running "to do" list and to see where desired projects can fit in to the day. My big cleaning day is on Monday, and I even went as far as to write out a cleaning schedule that lists everything to do on a weekly schedule, and in what order, in hopes that it cuts down on my cleaning time, leaving more time for projects, time for my kids, and personal creativity.

3) I would like to be fitter.
Is that a word? haha. I have always been somewhat thin but I do notice that as I get older, eating anything I want is catching up with me. I have been working out for about 11 years but nothing too disciplined. For the last ten years, I have been about the same weight. Even when I started running, I never shed a pound. I knew that my diet has always been horrible. I literally have always eaten what I wanted and I never could eat low-fat or low-sugar. I have only tried one diet in my life and that was the South Beach Diet, but it was too restrictive and I couldn't stick with it past the 2 week initial period. I have been looking for some guidelines on how to eat healthy and in my search, I found the Abs Diet for Women, where you eat 6 meals a day and the only real restriction is to cut out High Fructose Corn Syrups, Trans Fats and cut way back on saturated fats. I have been following this way of eating now for the last 5 weeks and I love it. I can truly see myself doing this for life. Following this way of eating in addition to my morning workouts, I am actually seeing results in the form of a tighter midsection. I am not at my goal yet but I am determined to keep this up for life. It's not all about how I look (ok, it's a lot about that) but it's the part about taking care of my body and my health, that really keeps me motivated.

2. What was your favourite subject in school and what did you dream of being when you were a kid? Has that dream changed or are you still on track?
My favorite subjects in school were art and science. I have always liked a challenge.
When I was a kid I dreamed of being 3 things; 1) an architect 2) an interior designer and 3) a marine biologist. I hate to pass blame but a college education was not encouraged as a child and when I found out that these jobs not only required at least 8 years of intense schooling, but also a lifetime dedication along with being in a very competitive field, I backed down on my dreams and pretty much no longer knew what I was going to be.

I think that's why now, even though I'm not required to work secularly, I still crave a need to express my creativity, but have no real focus on how to go about doing so.

3. What do you do to nurture your creativity these days?
My problem in nurturing my creativity is that I have so many areas which I want to learn to express myself. Despite the fact that my list is quite definitive, I have no particular focus and so in the end, I never really accomplish anything.

The most I have done to nurture myself is by reading about the subjects I'm interested in. It's not odd to find me surrounded by 40 books at a time on a subject or 3. Currently, I'm realizing this more and more and have been taking steps to schedule my time better and to focus on one area at a time to develop myself creatively.

I'm also determined not to let myself be intimidated by the thoughts of not being good enough. I will never know unless I try. My current mantra is to just go for it. So what if I screw it up. I'm trying to let go of the perfectionist inside of me. If I don't, I will always be a dreamer, but never a doer.

4. You surprised me with your blogged words 'I'm not a good writer, but always a writer at heart'. Did you know writers are their own toughest critics? How do you satisfy the writer in you these days?
Why did that surprise you? Oh wait, I'm the one being interviewed ;) I don't consider myself a "real writer" since I've never been formally educated (past high school) in the art of writing. The most I've done is to read books on writing and utilizing writing workbooks. I tend to negatively compare myself to those I consider to be good writers.

I think I consider myself a writer at heart though, because I have always instinctively used writing as a sort of therapy. I kept journals to "let out" my deepest and most innermost feelings. I wrote stories to work out problems or anxieties in my life. And I've always made lists to help myself set goals and plans to accomplish things. I thought it would also be fun to let you know that I even drew comics about boyfriends when they became ex-boyfriends. I still have a lot of these in a big rubber maid box and they still make me laugh when I go through them.

I have recently been encouraged by a writer friend of mine to dig up some children's stories I wrote long ago, and just send them off to some publishers. I'll never know until I try, right?

5. How did you get into running? You talk of your running parents - are they a support team and are you still running?
When I was in elementary school, I detested running. I remember scheming with a friend or two in gym class on days we had to run the track, to run slowly with me so I wouldn't be the last person to cross the finish line. They would agree but then always ended up taking off ahead of me. Because I dreaded the thought of being LAST, I would kick up my pace and run as fast as I could possibly go. When I finally got to the end, still coming in last, I would keel over in the grass, grasping my chest for dear life.

When I was 20, my little sister who was always more athletic than me, would ask me to go for runs with her. She lived in an area called Little Italy, which had this massive hill that I couldn't even walk up without taking several breaks to catch my breath.

When I was 25, one of my managers at work asked me to run the Cleveland Marathon with a team he was putting together. It was 5 months away and I laughed in his face. He told me that despite the fact that I had never run before, 5 months was enough time to train. For some reason, I believed him. I started training around my neighborhood and was determined to do it. In the meantime, I got information on 5Ks. About 3 months into my training, I found out I was pregnant with my first child. My manager still believed that I could do the marathon while early in my pregnancy because of a woman he knew who did it 5 months pregnant. I got sick very early on though and gave up.

As time went on, my sister and other friends from work were running races. I told them that I might do it someday. My first race was going to be the Turkey Trot in Nov of 2006, but I have a herniated disk that started acting up a month before so I had to cancel. My doctor said running is not good for anyone, especially someone with a herniated disk but I didn't believe him. I wanted to prove him wrong. Finally, last spring. I started observing two people at my gym, John and Sue. They ran everyday before heading up to the weight room. I noticed the different race shirts they wore everyday and so I would ask them questions about races. I then learned that Sue had been through chemo once for cancer and would soon be going through it again for breast cancer. I admired her strength as she kept up running even throughout her treatments. I kept thinking "if they can do it, I could too". One day, John brought me a race form for a local 5K being hosted by my sons elementary school. I decided this was going to be my first race.

The day of the race, I had a bad chest cold, but I didn't want to miss another "first race" so I went anyway. I got my race packet, placed my bibb on my chest and looked around at all the other runners. I was impressed. I never knew there were so many "runners" in my neighborhood. I live in a small town that has no healthy restaurants or gyms and so I figured it was because nobody around here really cares about thier well being.

I started running slow and soon, my 2 inspirations were far ahead of me. It kind of hurt to run. Before the first mile, I already began walking. I was happy to know that I wasn't last though as they put the walkers behind the runners. When I would catch my breath, I would start running again. The 3.1 miles felt like an eternity but I enjoyed the moral support of neighbors standing outside cheering us on. As I ran, I thought "this is crazy... I can never do this again". As I neared the finish line, Sue, who had long been at the finish, ran up behind me and cheered me on all way to the end "go go go... you're almost there, give it your all!" My friends all met me with big hugs and high 5's. It was such a great feeling of accomplishment that the first words out of my mouth were "when is our next race?"

John was so proud of himself for getting me running that he said "See Sue, we have ourselves another child" as in another person they inspired to run. That's why I call them my "running parents". I try not to say that in front of Sue though because I think it makes her feel old.

Anyway, last summer I did 5 more 5Ks and improved my time by 6.5 minutes (for the entire race, not per mile.) I even got my hubby to do a couple races with me. I got out of running as winter approached but with spring coming, I am really looking forward to another great year of races.

6. Favorite comfort food?
OOoooh, if you had asked me this several months ago, I could have whipped out 5, without even thinking of it. Now I'm on the Abs Diet, which is not a horrible thing. The Abs Diet has really changed my thinking about what I put into my body. Hmmm, 5 months ago I would have said "boneless hot wings, mocha lattes, sweet and spicy calamari and shrimp tempura maki rolls".

Now, right off the top of my head, I will have to say: Sushi, especially spicy tuna maki rolls and pasta, especially if the pasta is whole wheat and has some kind of creamy sauce over it. Mmmmm.

7. If you could travel to anyplace in the world, where would you go and why?
Believe it or not, this was one of the hardest questions to answer but it shouldn't be. I have a list and I can't decide on just one or put them in a specific order.

I would love to visit Spain, Italy, France and Greece just to experience the culture firsthand and because each area has been highly reccomended by friends that have been there themselves.

I have traveled all over the US but I have never been to Hawaii or California. I would love to drive along the CA coast since I have already experienced the beauty of driving along the East Coast from as far North as Portland, Maine, all the way to West Palm Beach Florida. I also want to check out San Francisco while I'm there.

8. You list accounting as your 'industry'. What did you do before children, and will you go back to it or are you already back at it?
I have "accounting" as my industry? I think that's a mistake. I majored in accounting in college and worked in accounting for a couple years but actually, my last job was working with digital data for an insurance company. You know those messages that "this call may be monitored for quality assurance?" Well, I managed the storage of the tapes that those calls were recorded on offsite and onsite.

I was told by my managers that I have a job when I'm ready to return, and I always thought I would. But now that almost 4 years have passed, I can't see myself returning to the corporate world. I would really like to finally focus on some aspect of my creative brain, be it writing childrens books, illustrating, sewing or something else (maybe photography... got any advice?), and make that my career. We've been able to live comfortably on one income all these years, so why not take a chance on something I actually enjoy doing?

9. Could explain the difference between Blogging Geek and Blogging Queen? And did you change the way you write once you knew your uncle was reading your blog?
Well... I call myself a blogging nerd because none of my real life friends get blogging. A few of them have tried it on Yahoo 360 but I am the only one who regularly blogs with them over there. They read and make fun of me. Actually, I think they are the ones who dubbed me the "blogging nerd" in so many words.

I also have a blog on myspace which is mostly to let my family know what's up with my life. That's where my uncle reads up and has named me the queen.

And then I have this blog which I basically write for strangers eyes only, although, I've made, what I consider, to be real friends via this platform.

It sounds like a lot of blogging, but honestly, I mostly copy and paste the same posts. I do, however, consider my audience in each venue and edit as neccessary. I used to have another blog that I ended up telling a few real life friends about because I was all excited one day when MSNBC quoted a post I wrote about the Britney Spears/Matt Lauer interview.

My husband quickly reminded me that I had ranted about some friends in old posts and I was like "crap" and had to delete the blog to save face. I hadn't said anything too horrible about anyone and I never used their real names, but there was enough detail to have ticked off a few close compadres. Better to be safe than sorry.

I guess I would consider myself a "queen" if I blogged daily and had something interesting enough to blog about that would make me get more than 12 hits a day. I don't blog for hits anymore though. It's just an addiction and like all my writing, be it private or public, I find it very therapeutic.

Laura Young, Dragon Slayer and Wise Woman

Look at what the lovely Laura posted over on her Dragon Slayer's Guide to Life site ...

It's worth checking out all of her site, as there be treasure strewn all about over there ...

The chicken writes from the land of the sudden squalls ...

I wandered out to the supermarket with little Miss 3, who is currently on her kindergarten winter holiday week, and decided that testing my recovery from the flu on a miserable winter's day possibly wasn't the wisest thing to do the day before I start the new job.

But it's so good to feel well. I slept most of yesterday away too then finally, about midnight, I picked up. Lol, you didn't want this much information, did you but it's so good to feel like me again.

I mentioned my plan to head out into the wind and cold to the photo shoot to Gert. He hesitated and asked me if I thought it was the wisest thing to be doing, as the walk from the tram to the park was exposed and if another rainstorm came through ...

I explained I was trying to avoid being a wuss.

So I'll try for the photo-shoot later on Friday, after doing all kinds of other interesting things, including a catch up with Lut.

Side note: I really want a dog. This feeling, that she who has had labrador companions since she was 9 years old must have one again, is growing.

Yael Naim, Singer

It’s a dream I almost gave up on along the way.
Yael Naim.

I've been looking for ways to pick myself up today. I'm better I think and will test it later with a photo session out in the city ... of immigrant women learning to ride bicycles. It promises to be fun.

Anyway, wandering the web and I found Yael Naim via Dancing Mermaid's blog.

Working with musician David Donatien, Yael spent more than two years writing, recording, scrapping, re-recording and building a collection of songs that reflect her heritage (she sings in French, Hebrew and English) and her past struggles. And in doing so, she rediscovered the passion for music that drove her as a child.

"I grew up in Israel [and] had a guitar with me at all times. There was also an old organ in my home, so I was always playing that. When I was 9, I began taking classical piano, and then I discovered artists like the Beatles and Aretha Franklin, who taught me about composition and voice," Naim explained. "That was what made me the person I was, and then I lost that somewhere. When I put out my first record [2001's In a Man's Womb], it was a disappointment for me. I had just come to Paris, and I was too young, and the label was too big, and so I just didn't think I could do this anymore.

"But, when I met David, he was the first one to tell me that I could produce and arrange my own music, and that I didn't need to work with big producers," she continued. "I just needed to come and sit down with him and make the music I loved. And that's how I started to find my direction and my voice and look at things that happened in a funny way, which is what this album is about."

Sheryl Crow, Singer

The NY Times had an interesting article on Sheryl and after reading it, I wandered off to check out some of the music on her new Detours album.

I enjoyed what I found on her website .

The NY Times quoted her on the new album: As for the album, “I just want people to hear it,” she said. “I’m sure I’m going to get hit from a lot of different angles with the album being pointed and political and sardonic and caustic, but I don’t care. I want people to love it or hate it.”

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Borrowed from Boho Girl.

Flu Days

The three kiwis at our place are down with the flu and it doesn't seem keen on letting us go anytime soon. It's a miserable thing ... headache, body ache, nausea, nightmares, sneezing, nose-dripping blah.

The grey skies and rain are adding to the 'ambience'.

I have two days to get well for work starting Thursday.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Every single day do something that makes your heart sing.
Marcia Wieder

Borrowed from Sparkletopia

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Sunday and Improving

Diablo, originally uploaded by - di.

The headache is gone for the first time in 2 days, my body ache is gone and I haven't slept today away ... can't stop sneezing though.

Anyway, I had 3 different sets of photographs needing attention so here I am, working away. I was playing with this one and liked this result ... all random but a little bit magic for me.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Ik ben ziek ...

Or to those more familiar with English, I'm sick and it's rubbish.

I slept most of Friday and woke in a mess Saturday. I'll be back when I'm well again ...

Friday, February 01, 2008

Didier Awadi and his latest album 'Presidents of Africa'

There's an interesting interview with singer Didier Awadi, on political activism and his campaign for a harmonious continent on Cafe Babel.

The Presidents of Africa album, released in January 2008, brings together contributions from African rappers and aims to emphasise the historic heritage common to Africa and the need to unite the continent.

Behind this album, a painstaking task, not only to gather together so many rappers from all over the continent, but also to collect the written records and the video footage of speeches by African leaders that he weaves into different sections of the album.

Among others, these include the very poignant speeches of the first man to become prime minister of Congo in 1960, Patrick Lumumba, who was assassinated in 1961. Joining him is Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso, often considered the African Che Guevara, also assassinated in 1987.

...‘Some say that we don’t have a sense of history and memory in Africa. With this album we will make them think again…’ jokes Awadi, referring to the speech made by the French president Nicolas Sarkozy during a visit to Dakar in July 2007.

The speech was very controversial, mainly due to the small phrase stating: ‘the tragedy of Africa is that the African man has never really entered history.’ Awadi then shows us one of the videos from the album, which incorporates archive images from the day of the discovery of Lucy, the name given to the skeleton dating back around 3.2 millions years and unearthed in Ethiopia in 1974.