Thursday, 26 December 2013

Pictures of Lente

Isn't he Beautiful?


Some of you may have wondered why this blog is called 'Altijd-Lente', and what 'Altijd-Lente' means…

Lente is Dutch for Spring. Altijd is Dutch for 'always' or 'forever'.

Lente was also the name of one of the sweetest cats I have ever known.

In time I will share more about him. He died a week before Christmas is 2010, aged 15, after having spent nearly five years with me.

He came from the Amsterdam Animal Shelter, where he was left by people who had found him on the pavement, in the rain, shivering and frightened and wet. He was just lying there, and had given up on life.

A few weeks before the shelter placed an ad about him in the local newspaper, I started having dreams about a group of cats sitting in front of our apartment building. Sometimes they were sitting on the pavement on the opposite side of the street, sometimes they were in a builders container.

But in each dream, one of the cats, a white one with some black spots, would leave the group and approach me.

In the dream my neighbours and I would wonder how the cats got there, and where they came from, as they all looked healthy and well-fed.

When I had dreamt(/dreamed?) the same dream for the third time, I started to wonder if it might be the right time to start thinking about adopting another cat (my last cat had died five months before).

About a week later I came home one day feeling very, very tired, and I sat down on the couch and leafed through the local paper, which I hardly ever read. And there it was: a photograph of the exact same cat I had been dreaming about… in the animal shelter ad! He had been living in the shelter for eight months, and really needed a home.

That same afternoon, I took him home.

He was so frightened the first two days, that he would stand on his hind legs against the wall in a corner of the living room, pushing his little head agains the wall, trying to disappear into it. It was such a very sad sight.

Little by little he began to trust me. But he had lots of behavorial problems, he was very scared and would hiss and lash out at me for no reason, and he would scratch himself so much that he created a large open wound on his back. It turned out this scratching was caused by a chip under his skin that he was allergic to. But after it had been removed, the scratching continued.

He had to be kept in bandages for weeks for the wound to heal. And when the bandage was removed, he would immediately start scratching again until the wound was as bad as it was before.

After about a year of this, I finally called in the help of an animal behavioural therapist. She confirmed what the vet and I thought, that it was mainly due to stress, and that he had been mistreated for years, perhaps even for his entire adult life (he was about nine years old when he was brought to the shelter).

The vet had already discovered that all his molars had broken off just above the roots, which must have been caused by a fall, a kick, or being thrown at or out of something.

It took about two years for him to heal his psychological wounds. He needed a lot of love and patience. I also had to teach him tricks to help him bond with me.

This was the time of my burn out, so I was home a lot anyway, and Lente became my best friend. By the time I moved from Amsterdam to where I live now, we loved one another to bits. He was such a sweet and gentle natured cat. And so glad that he had found a home.

When he came to live with me, he would crouch low to the ground when he moved around the house.

After he had begun to trust me, he walked differently, there was a spring in his step, and he stood tall, and proud, his ears pricked, his whiskers curled forward. 'Bright eyed and bushy tailed'.

A year after moving house, I had the garden enclosed, so he could go outside (when I took him home from the shelter, I had to promise to let him out only in a secluded environment). A few months later, in the autumn of 2010, when we were taking our daily walk in the garden, he suddenly started whimpering and lying down every few steps he took.

I took him to the vet. Poor Lente was bleeding internally and had to stay in hospital overnight. Tests and scans showed he had a very large malignant liver tumor.

It was attached to a large blood vessel, and could not be removed.

Because I had had him insured, we could afford to give him radio-active treatment. It was the only chance he had to prolong his life and give him a good quality of life at the same time.

It worked, the tumor shrunk dramatically, and we had high hopes that he might live another year.

And then, on Sunday a week before Christmas, he started to throw up violently. He could not hold down food or water, and deteriorated rapidly. We called the clinic for advice. It turned out that what remained of the tumor was pressing against his gall bladder, and this was causing his nausea. There was nothing that could be done for him, and he was put to sleep the same day.

It was awful, having to say goodbye to my very sweet, very brave little friend, who had had such a long life filled with misery. He had had only a few years of true happiness. And he had deserved so many more.

We had him cremated, and his ashes put in a little urn, so I could take him home.

I keep him on the top shelf of the bookcase in his favourite room, where he belongs.

Pauline Agnew's Pop-Up Open Studio Weekend

Here are the results of my 'mark making to Vivaldi', the Open Studio assignment. 

Thank you, Frida, who shared this event with me...

It was a really fun thing to do!


Claire from Another Deep Day ( published a 'Shelfie'. and asked us to do the same. 

Here is mine! 

The idea of a Shelfie came from the Guardian:

Thursday, 19 December 2013

How to Make 100% recycled Art Journal from Cereal Boxes

This could be a fun project for LifeBook14: quick and easy art books, just messing about with paint.

Great for days when I feel blocked, or scared, or both - which will probably be most days… 

I made a promise to myself that I am going to be Brave! 

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Wild Thing, you make my heart sing...

Sylvester on the roof

Stray cat Sylvester, eager to get into the house

The first time I got close enough to take his picture

He still doesn't trust me...

Monday, 18 November 2013

Blogging from the Heart

Two weeks ago Susannah Conway’s Blogging from the heart finally started (I enrolled for this course in summer – did I tell you?).

Autumn is slowly turning into winter, and here I am, as promised, back for my second blogpost.

Coffee on the table and a cat on my lap…

I have been feeling this itch to blog for years, but every time I sat down to write a post, my mind went blank. Completely. Everything I was going to write about suddenly seemed so pointless, so meaningless. So I would sit and stare at my blogsite for a while, and then leave, feeling frustrated.

But the longing remained.

And when I stumbled upon Susannah Conway’s course, something clicked, and I signed up almost immediately (after sleeping on it).

Then another course crossed my path: Tamara LaPorte’s LifeBook2014. Not about blogging, but a course on mixed media. And as I have been creatively blocked for years, it seemed a very good idea to sign up for that one, too.

And then I found out I could still sign up for the previous two LifeBook courses (LB12 and LB13, LB13 is still running), at a huge discount – and yes, couldn’t help myself: I signed up for those as well.

So, here I was at the beginning of November, suddenly following three courses at the same time, and feeling A Tiny Bit Overwhelmed, I must say.

And still rather clueless about what I was going to blog about exactly.

Until about a week ago, when things started to fall into place:
of course, this was all so easy and obvious: I was going to blog about LifeBook! About my journey back home, about, finally, step by step, finding myself able to create again.

Because this is what is happening. I watched Tams first two lessons of LB12 on video, and watched them a few more times. And then I sort of started to draw. Just like that. And found I rather liked it. After 15 years of total misery, I am starting my journey back home.

Of course it is not easy, and I have had days where I just cried in front of my first sketches, and could do nothing but sit there, feeling miserable. But after a walk, and a cup of tea, I would return to my drawing, and found it to be a little bit less scary. And I would spend 10 minutes or so adding one layer. Just one. And that would be enough.

And that is where I am now:
I started a collage,
I started a drawing, which will eventually become a mixed media project of some sort,
I have been stuck for a week,
and now I am slowly feeling ready to go on and do another tiny bit of work.


Yes, I know, an introduction is supposed to be what you start with. But I like it this way.

This is what I posted on the LifeBook2014 FaceBook Group, to introduce myself:

“Hello everybody!

I just signed up for Life Book 2014 too (and decided to order Life Book 2012 as well, because it looked so good, AND I did not want to wait until January to get started!).

So, let me introduce myself: I am Dutch, in my fifties (I choose not to remember where exactly).

I am not a newbee to the creative world: I did a couple of years of art school when I was in my late twenties, and I am trained as a bookbinder (I LOVE Coptic Bindings, so I was thrilled to read we will use it for our 2014 Life Book!!).

Fifteen years ago I had a major burn out and I have been suffering from a serious Creative Block since.

I start a creative project, do not like my first results (like almost everybody else, and I know that, and it does not help), lose heart, and stop. And then hate myself for my lack of courage, discipline, or whatever, which does not help either.

I now decided to break with this habit, seriously and For Real this time.

And it seemed so fitting that Life Book starts on January 1st, the day of realising our Good Intentions for the New Year.

Therefore I told my therapist (!) - oh, doesn't this make me sound American..! - to supervise me on this, and force me (using whatever methods she deems necessary) to come up with tangible results next year, however awful they may be.

Because my soul is perishing here, without creativity.

See you all next year!”

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Starting my new life as a blogger

Yes, today is the day - I decided to blog. And for real this time. No idea yet what this will be about.

About the things I love, about the things that surprise me. About joy, about fun, about sadness and loss. About life, really.

I am Dutch, but I prefer to write in English, even if this means I will probably make lots of grammatical and idiomatic mistakes. Well, I am not perfect.

Today I have no real subject. Apart from the fact that I wrote a comment on about a book on Tunisian crochet and this turned into a rather nice conversation with someone, and then I promised her that I was going to start a blog after summer. And then I thought, well, why wait, I can start typing today.

So if the lady I was writing to reads this, she will know I keep my promises.

And perhaps she does not read it, and no-one else either, and then it won't matter that I am rambling on without actually saying anything (I call this 'finding my voice') .

But my blog will not always be this way. That is a promise I will keep too.

So, take care of yourself, have a nice day, and I hope you will check in once in a while.

Which reminds me to check if it is possible to leave comments on this blog. Let's see, that will probably under 'options'....

See you next time!