Monday, August 25, 2008

more surprise birthday party photos

Surprise 40th birthday party...

I have been an enthusiastic participant of several surprise parties over the years and have always sworn to kill anybody that would ever do such a cruel thing to me....
Well, I was the totally 100% innocent, non-suspect recipient of a surprise early 40th birthday party yesterday afternoon at Greet's (my eldest sister) house.
I didn't quite get it for a mili-second or so, just thinking how weird it was to see my aunt and godmother (tante Paula) sitting next to one of my friends Froggy (Patrick in real life); it would have to be some event of some kind for that happen..... I guess it's less morbid than a good friend of mine whose first spontaneous thought at her surprise 55th birthday party was "Wow, those are all the people that would really want to come to my funeral".
As I don't want to spent the rest of my living years in prison for the triple murder of my siblings -or rather 5 murders, including brother- and sister-in-law- and as I would also hate to upset my parents and leave my nieces and nephew parent-less, I won't plan some sinister murder plot ;-)!!!!
And to be perfectly honest :-), it was great and a lot of fun to have about 25 people; close family, friends from high school, PT school and others all there for some great food, drinks and especially stories..... There's always too little time but we all spent a good 5-6 hours doing just that... How great is it, considering I haven't even lived here in almost 17 years!!!!
I have to post this picture, not many were taken but this is my first reaction walking into the living room:

Friday, August 22, 2008


We hiked lots (one day even 42 km -I'm not doing that again any time soon!!-), pick-nick'd, barbequed, ate lots and drank even more, picked berries and made jam, played cards and read some good books,..... all the things we don't normally get 'round to doing....






Ben is all action, all the time... He's a climber like his dad (my brother Jef) and that's not where the resemblance stops....

Some pictures of the kids

I am posting some pictures of my nieces and nephew; There were 100's made, digital camera's were flashing everywhere, anytime...
Ben will be 6 in a few weeks, Elisabeth just turned 6, Anne-Lin is 9.5 and Katrien will be 9 in December. They all get along well, most of the time ;-).

vacation highlights

The highlight of staying on the farm this year was NO DOUBT the puppies. They have 4 huge Bernese mountain dogs and 2 of them had puppies. I could never quite figure out who belonged to whom but apparently there was a litter of 6 who were 6 weeks old and a litter of 5 who were 8 weeks old. All I can say is that they were everywhere and lots of them. The kids just loved them, played with them and hauled them around non-stop every free moment. I can guarantee they can advertise them for sale as 'very well socialized and used to interaction with children'.

Monday, August 18, 2008


I am on vacation and it feels great! It took me forever to get back home to Belgium but as I'm here now it's easy to forget the nazi-flight attendant and the super-talkative romanian sailer next to me on the 9 hour flight to Frankfurt. I still have a headache just thinking about it!!
My whole family (12 of us total) are staying in a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. The wireless connection is trying so I'm not getting far untill I'm back home at my parents' on Friday night. I'll post lots of pictures and stories than.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Weekend events

This was my last weekend in St. Louis and I had a wonderful one. The hectic start on Friday night finishing off paperwork until almost 9 pm was in stark contrast to the rest of the weekend. It started leisurely on Saturday morning with coffee, decorating the patio outside with Tibetan prayer flags, some yard work and a lot of time just chatting. Christy came over and showed me the ins and outs of my new ipod and with the patience of a saint -I am technologically challenged- taught me at least the basics.

A quick run to Trader Joes and than Lisa and I stopped at her parent's house as her mom fractured her patella last Thursday and is in a long leg cast. I had a little opportunity to practice my 'adult PT' skills so we both benefited ;-) !
We than drove down to MABA in Augusta for an overnight stay at the Buddhist temple. I just have to post pictures as it was so beautiful out there and there is no way my descriptions could ever do it justice. The flower and vegetable gardens were in full bloom, the grapevines were heavy with deliciously sweet yellow grapes and sour but tasty blue grapes.

We worked a little on the grounds pulling weeds (not my favorite past-time but great for practicing patience!!!), had a lovely dinner with the nuns and another family at their house and stayed at the barn. In the morning we joined the nuns again for a delicious breakfast and walked the grounds. I still had some of Rob's ashes and spread them out at the Guanyin Pavilion that sits on top of the hill overlooking the lake. It's described as a place of peace and compassion and I feel good about them being in such a great environment. I don't think I know of another place I've ever visited that is more conducive to calmness and mindfullness.

The rest of the morning we meditated, listened to Master JiRu's talk -what an amazing presence and energy!!!-, spent some time visiting with other people over lunch and drove back mid afternoon feeling relaxed, re-energized and rested.

There was some work to be done at the house, including mowing te lawn..... and to make a long story short, a critically injured bunny diverted the rest of our evening....... A family of bunnies had been living in the front lawn for a few days having build their nest under the grass. Although the lawnmower stayed well clear of that area, somehow a little bunny got underneath it with the very unfortunate result of 2 amputated bleeding ears, a scratch on the head and very shallow breathing resembling shock. Panic at first, than action with some phone calls and a cardboard shoebox with wash cloths.... We made it to the 'wildlife center' in Ballwin within the critical hour (can you tell I work in trauma??) and were happy to hear this morning that 'Bunny Levine' tolerated the medical interventions well, had a good night, and is eating and drinking well. As a health care professional I really wanted to know about bowel habits but ... ;-).
He'll be released back into the wild when they feel he is strong enough to survive in the tough world... I'm glad he made it!

We had a little 'Ben and Jerrys" icecream therapy afterwards which was very healing!

Leaving St. Louis Children's Hospital

Yesterday was my last day at Children's (for a while at least .......), my last commute to the big BJC complex, my last ride on the shuttle bus, my last day treating kids in the 12W gym and on the 4th floor, my last professional interactions with other staff,.... It feels strange after 7 years. I don't feel like I am leaving, I really just feel like I'm going on an exciting long travel-vacation and I'll be back to do what I feel I've always done..... I'm sure my perception will change as my travels take shape.
I feel extremely fortunate to be in a profession where I am able to help families and children through a rough time in their lives, in a relately minor temporary illness or a life altering event that will stay with them forever. It is great to feel like somehow I did make a difference. I have met some wonderful families, some just for a few days or weeks, others I have been involved in their lives for years. It makes me smile to see the resilience in the children and their families, the way they progress, create and continue to pave their own path in life.

I am not sad, nervous or anxious about leaving and moving on. I've had the nicest sent-off from Therapy services, so many 'Best Wishes'- cards and gifts, 2 farewell parties with great turn-out of people, an ipod loaded with great travel music, a nicely served breakfast for rehab-rounds on Friday and more hugs than I could possibly count. One gift especially stands out and I'm posting the pictures below. How creatively made for a chocolate and candy-lover!!

A big THANK YOU to everybody that crossed my path at SLCH!!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

old news ...

These are pictures of the day I became a US citizen. A view from the courthouse and the official acceptance of "the certificate of naturalization" from the judge.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Change is good (I hope)...

The big news of the week? Well, after going back and forth with some recruiters and potential placements and the initial disappointment of the Santa Fe job not working out, I have accepted my first 13 week travel assignment (and have been assured of having first dibs on the Santa Fe job afterwards!). It is in rural (read RURAL) New Mexico; Alamogordo, a town of 30.000, about 3 hours south of Albuquerque and 3 hours north of El Paso, Texas. There is no mall, no Starbucks, not even a Target. Jobwise, it is about as different from my current work as it can be; I will be a generalist PT in a small community hospital with an even smaller therapy department. I interviewed with a PT and an OT; they were so incredibly nice but didn't ask questions for the sake of asking them. They basically wanted to know why the hell I would want to come and work there (worded a little more professionally but still....). I liked them; no B/S, right up front, they just wanted to know what the deal was. I think it will be a great introduction back into adult care but more importantly, it's in outdoor paradise!!!!! At 4300 feet, it's flanked by the Sacramento mountains on the east side (with peaks upto 10.000 feet) and White Sands national park on the west side. There's wonderful hiking, biking, climbing and even skiing. Climate through the fall could not be any better; comfortably warm during the day with great cooldowns at night.
I am incredibly excited about it. It will be a 13-week-dive into 'the simpler life', a great way to start of my adventure. I do wonder about the town being hoosiery and overly conservative with avid Bush supporters and gun-right-bumper stickers all over, but how bad can it be for 3 months...........

Here they are!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Benji and Noah, my room mates

I'm learning a lot about cats. I try to get them outside (in a cage, they are inside cats) as often as I can as they love it (and I can take a shower without being stared down). Benji always appears so incredibly peaceful and calm and Noah, who normally seems to do everything possible to avoid ever achieving calmness, settles down and stops moving for a while.
There are still lots of things I do not understand about cats in general:
First of all: How can they poop so much? It definitely seems like there's a lot more coming out than what is going in. How does that work? All I can say is that if we humans would create that much waste comparatively, they would have invented bigger toilets a long time ago.
Secondly, how can they loose so much hair and still not be bald? I obviously have a lot more body surface area (and you'd be glad to read, am not quite as hairy as the cats) but if I would spontaneously even loose 1% of what they loose, I would never have to wax again!
Thirdly, I don't know if cat psychologists exist, but if they don't, they should create a top-notch PhD/MD program to train some smart people to help the cats out. Dear Noah has no personal boundaries, he feels compelled to occupy the same 2 square feet I am occupying at all times. Also, I'm not sure if he does hear voices in his head or not, but he seems to act on some very odd commands (f.ex. he often runs around the corner at such high speed, he looses his grip on the wooden floors and wipes out like a motorcycle on a Seattle fall day. Seriously, what could possibly be that urgent???). Then there's Benji, who appears to sleep 22 out of 24 hours (and that's a conservative statement!).
I have to admit though, I actually enjoy having them and have quite lengthy conversations with them. If those would be overheard, I'm sure I would be the one getting an urgent referral to a mental health professional!