Jun Dishes

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15 Minute Blog

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I have 15 minutes to tell you what I’d tell my therapist, if I had a therapist, because I’ve had them before sporadically, I just don’t have one now at this point in my life.

And it took me three minutes to formulate that first sentence so I’m doing a bad job right now.

By therapist, I very broadly mean someone you pay to talk to, degreed or not. Because here in Belgium you don’t need any official or specified academic degree to be a therapist. But if I had a therapist to talk to for, now, 7 minutes and counting…I’d say:

Today I’m feeling, overall, misunderstood and defeated, disrespected and devalued. Maybe by one specific person and maybe by more or a mob or maybe because I’m not allowed to feel like everyone else around me because I’m so different, so none of my feelings actually matter to anyone but me. Having left America and its culture to live in Belgium enveloped in its culture while never having fully ever left behind Korea and its culture, makes me different. Life doesn’t stop, your past follows you. It is you. So today, mentally and emotionally and physically too, I’m sore, but I refuse to roll over for anyone. I will not live my life, overall, being misunderstood or defeated or disrespected or devalued. Fuck no.

My brother is getting married in three months and as his sister I have things I must do, as a Korean and as an American-once-a-New Yorker-always-a-New Yorker, and the part of me that is now Belgian too. I return to New York City after a four-year separation.

I carry three identities yet everybody wants me to conform to one boring box. No.

And that’s what I’d tell my therapist, if I had one, today. In about 300 words. Not much for 15 minutes. But enough too.

Because I have too much shit to do, so blogging just has to wait.

Sighhhhhh…

~

Coming up in February though I do have a guest blog in the works.

Stay tuned.

Always dishing,

Jun

 

Furniture and Life: Into 2016

PostPhotoShoot

I took some pictures of some big changes in my home as of late. Our home, mine and Davy’s and Noah’s and Sushi’s, which has changed in big and small ways and functionally too.

In our living room, we adopted a green leather double recliner sofa. A couch. But nobody here calls it a couch and so I’ve started referring to it less and less as one too. It kills me to do so, but alas, when in Belgium…

image

The new green sofa is pretty massive and adds a big new color to the room, green, found before only in traces in the paintings hanging above it. Davy’s been wanting a “gaming chair” for a while now for his PlayStation fix. And though I don’t love-love this new sofa of ours, it stays.

For now.

And pictured above, truly is the state of our living on any given day. A small mountain of clean laundry needing folding, our coffee table covered with remnants of the day’s events, and Noah’s toys. Even Furby sleeps soundly amidst the mess. It used to be worse. There used to be bigger messes all the time, and mostly because of Noah.

So where did the loveseat go?

The loveseat is now in a part of the house which was once known as the dining room. Half the dining room is for dining and the other half is now basically Noah’s playroom.

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Our dining playroom.

According to Feng Shui, this is just where a “children’s area” should go so it all somehow works out I guess…

BaguaBlueprintOrange

The loveseat has already proven to be a success and quite a cushy spot for reading or Skyping with Halmuhnee or having a snack from our “real” kitchen, versus the kitchen in Noah’s restaurant right next door to the loveseat…

And at the kitchen in Rice House, there will be changes too. Not in furnishings, but in opening hours in the new year. Davy and I have decided that Rice House will be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays and Wednesdays instead of just Mondays and Tuesdays, simply because Wednesdays are half-days in the Belgian school system. Noah could use some more time with me, whether it’s to hang around in PJs or get dressed up and silly.

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And we can afford it, so we decided to go ahead and make the change. I believe our family will benefit greatly from the change.

I’m excited.

A place for everything and everything in its place, and here we gooooooo…veering into 2016.

There are some of us wishing 2015 never happened, or at the least wishing we could forget parts of it. Some of us are dreading 2016 even though it might have crept into our dreams once or twice, what life might look like in the new year. But we are still here. For whatever the reason we live another day and we are still here, and about to step into a new year together as a world.

That’s a big thing to have in common with anyone in the world, if you really think about it. If only it could be enough. If only it would bring more of us together.

The New Year’s Eve festivities in the city centre in Brussels are cancelled this year, because there exists injustice and sadness everywhere all over the globe…in parts we’ve never even heard of..but we, are still here.

Here’s to hoping 2016 unifies many who need it most.

Thank you for sticking with me another year.

Always dishing,

Jun

Big Brother 20: Initial Thoughts

BBMOMS

I’ve never written fan fiction. I’m not sure that I’ve ever even read it. But I’m certainly a fan of Big Brother, and I like to write, so I’ll try.

The Cast:

BBMOMS

Some initial thoughts…


FinallyPlural

I could retire from Big Brother happy, knowing three living souls of three black women lived under one roof playing for $500,000 one summer. This alliance would be pretty strong but we all know Danielle would flip first and hard because she doesn’t give a shit what color your skin is, which is just one of the things I love about her.

 

BlackandYellow

Black and yellow, black and yellow…because it just needs to happen. Our choices in choice women of color are limited, sadly, but that doesn’t mean this alliance shouldn’t and couldn’t happen. Especially if Trump starts promising to keep a database on black and yellow and nuns.

 

BigBrotherFourFinalTwo

You know it would happen. Ali and I are the only ones who get each other’s evil. I bet she’s very much the same since she lost to me in 2003, as she should be, much like how much I’m very much the same, in some ways. We’d be archenemies working together all over again showing no mercy just like the first time around, but as moms.

 

NoMoneyBack

This is the other side of the spectrum. The white triumvirate and example of Big Brother’s no money back policy. Finally Plural and No Money Back and a few shades in between… No Money Back and Finally Plural would divide Twitter in half.

 

ReillySquared

The two-headed monster with the strongest by blood bond in the house. Ain’t nobody gonna get between Rachel and her sis. Emotions will be at an all-time cycling hormonal high.

~

Imagine all that. I did. And I wrote it down to share.

Let’s discuss! Even the people who say this sucks yet return to comment!

Always dishing,

Jun

Just For Fun: Big Brother 20

BBMOMS

Just for fun let’s say this happened for Big Brother 20:

1. Big Brother Moms: Tag Team Edition

All-women’s season consisting of some of Big Brother’s most memorable moms, those who were already moms when they first went on the show and those who became moms after. One from each group is paired with one from the other, and they play as duos. Throughout the season and up until jury, the pairs are allowed to tag in and out of the game, kinda like the Nolan twins did last season except better (because you can only go up from there). And obviously we’re not talking twins here so everything is transparent yet not completely vapid from the beginning.

If one of the two are voted out, both are evicted. This continues UP UNTIL JURY. Once it gets down to jury, there is no more “tag team” action but stipends are doubled from that point on, until the end of the season. Everyone plays as individuals as usual from there…

Sure it would be easy to just pit one crew against the other, but we all know the new moms would slaughter the already moms. Or would they?

So the tag team season it is:

BBMOMS

Tonya / Rachel – Because, obvious.

Danielle / Aaryn – Because this needs to happen.

Shelly / Ali – Because, I don’t know, they’re both white.

Jodi / Janelle – Let’s see what happens.

Elissa / Natalie BB9 – Crazy is as crazy does.

Helen / Jun – Because, I don’t know, we’re both not white.

Brittany / Britney – Because they have the same name just spelled differently.

Da’Vonne / Natalie – Because, politics.

~

Thoughts? Would this work with the BB men? Who? Paired with whom? Let’s discuss.

Update: Leave your final two prediction in the comments if you’d like. And remember, the game ends as individuals so final two may not necessarily be a pair…

Always dishing,

Jun

Living In The Land Of

Windmills

…fill in the blank.

Living in the Land of _________.

Some of you may have chosen windmills or make-believe or “milk and honey” or plenty or penis or pussy or sushi, or whatever you love so much that you’d love to live in a land of it. Now imagine you don’t love it but you actually feel meh about it. Meh.

Because I live in the land of chocolate. Belgium. Chocolate is everywhere. Everywhere. There is no escaping it.

I get asked by chocoholic tweeters every day how much I love living in the land of chocolate. I’m just like meh. Meh!

But I don’t say meh because you just don’t say it in a land so proud of it. Sigh.

And I never actually loved chocolate. I only liked it. It’s sweet and melts in your mouth and sometimes has nuts. All meh.

But mostly, I just don’t have a major sweet tooth, unless the gates of menstrual hell are being unleashed or I’m stuck in a house of lunatics who want to take $500,000 away from me and I’m just, well, stressed. I’m a savory kinda girl.

So I’m sorry to all the boyfriends and other gifters who ever gifted me chocolate and I faked joy. I was happy about the thought put into it, but I have never felt joy receiving chocolate. So there. There’s something I needed to get off my chest obviously.

Interestingly enough. My little Noah’s not a chocoholic either. He’ll pick shortbreads or vanilla or hazelnut wafer cookies (like me) over chocolate ones. Hmmm. It’s one of our little things. I like sharing it with him because I don’t have to live alone feeling meh about chocolate in Belgium.

Though it means less cookies for me because Noah will kindly offer everyone a chocolate cookie until he has all the non-chocolates to himself. The force is strong in him. It would be cool to watch him win Big Brother one day.

Sigh.

Always dishing,

Jun

Confronting

Wishlist

Mama, that boy has girls’ shoes on.”

“No dear, that is a girl.”

“But she has no hair, like a boy.”

“Because she is also sick like you and she lost her hair. And you will lose yours too, like her one day, because that’s what will happen.”

“But Mama, I don’t want to lose all my hair.”

~

How is a mother to respond to such a plea?

And what of the angst, when this child pleas with her mother and father that she doesn’t want to feel the cold and relentless prick of a needle in her arm? That pain and discomfort, all too familiar now, as she endures such steps in this many years’ journey that has just begun. This little girl, so charming and so smart, as smart as a slap to the face of reality that so many lives have changed overnight. Because, that’s what really happens when cancer hits close to home. Maybe you have cancer now, or your spouse or child, or you had it or know someone who did, however close or far the relationship. Maybe I’m just late to writing about cancer, but as much of a challenge it is, it brings together people who truly care about people. People.

We lose people in the news headlines every day it seems, that it’s an everyday occurrence that social media is filled with loss every day. And then the countless lives lost that don’t even make it to the ugly pretty news. Lives that are never even mentioned but are lost all the same.

And somehow you forget or maybe overlook the little victories, about people who live and survive, like a beautiful little girl who is taking well to the chemotherapy and eating and enjoying all the things children are supposed to enjoy. She may look different on the outside but she is the same spritely and joyous soul in a little body. Davy and I got to spend some time last week with Noah’s friend, Farah. She is just short of two months into treatment for leukemia. I’ve written about her before, and her parents Houda and Daan and baby sister Lynah.

Last week was emotional but we had fun that night with Farah in our presence. It was so very special. We did not bring Noah with us. One day when it’s possible we will.

But Davy and I saw Farah and she was as sweet and girly as ever, her eyes twinkled as always. She was her coy self and talkative in spurts, when I sat with her. We had blankets beneath us. We laughed, trying to get a video up on the iPad, because she wanted to show me something in English because she knows it is a language I speak.

Farah’s spirit sparkles and she is still everything good and right with the world, though her little body has been through many changes from head to toe already. And I wished I could take away as many daily dilemnas and pains as I could for Farah, as a mother and as a friend to Houda.

I say Houda is one strong woman. No matter how weak Houda may think she’s being at times. But she should never think herself weak. Houda keeps it together and she lets go when she has to. There is no shame in that. You must cry and lose your shit, in life, because it keeps you balanced and human and honest. But it takes a strong person to keep that balance. And I think Houda is really cool. That’s a rarity these days, sadly. But it makes you cherish it when you find it.

Since we last saw Farah, Houda and Daan have had to make the tough decision to cut her hair very short, because she started losing it at an alarming rate.

~

Since we were all last together, there has been one word that’s been stuck in my head because Houda kept using it in conversation. Confronting.

Confronting, as it relates to seeing your child go through drastic and sometimes overnight changes, and to be able to handle that kind of change. How you handle it truly shows what you are made of as an adult, as a parent.

Confronting. It’s actually the perfect word, and maybe often not used enough. Because sometimes shocking isn’t the right word but we use it, because I feel like I can’t use confronting because what I feel is not the same as Houda’s. But we are both mothers so I know well where Houda is. And she’s so honest about it it’s something to truly respect.

It must be indeed confronting. And maybe lonely. Because how many parents do you know in your immediate and one degree of separation’s away radius, whose child was just diagnosed with cancer?

Confronting. Even though you may tell your child, during chemotherapy, that this will inevitably happen. Maybe that conversation happened just a week ago, and it’s a most difficult reality to swallow for everyone. But I truly appreciate Houda entrusting me with her family. I try to balance what is customary here with who I am as a person.

Since then I’ve been wearing half my clothes inside-out some days, because so much has happened while my brain is trying to catch up with it all. Davy has since the last blog basically changed “bosses” at the Port of Ghent, where he’s a heavy machinery dockworker. So there’s a whole new hierarchy of authority for me to get to know, as “a docker’s wife.”

And Noah, he deserves all the love and attention he gets from those who love him, as he should.

The Little Shop

Noah takes very seriously his “little shop” where he parks his stroller outside and tends to business selling me croissants and cakes. He grows by leaps and bounds faster than my iPhone can capture, but I try. He is unabashedly wiser than his years but frolicking his childhood away. We have much to be thankful for every day, but especially cognizant of Thanksgiving coming up…

Memory

Noah also takes seriously indulging my mother in New York, when we all Skype after school. Lately we’ve been playing some of Noah’s simplest games and it gets pretty intense and very funny watching the whole thing unfold. There’s lots of love  not to be taken for granted at this pace of life we all fall into place in. We hope to, in the future, Skype with Farah, as both she and Noah both have already agreed happily to a date.

And…

Wishlist

This

This is a photo of love and support sent from many parts of the world to be donated to the children’s cancer ward of UZ Gent, the hospital where Farah is currently receiving her care and treatment. Cancer has far too many faces.

At first Davy and I were piling boxes into the dining room but then the boxes transformed into just outpouring of love. Even the always cynical Davy was touched by the immediate response from so many of you. It’s right there in our personal space, it can’t be missed.

Thank you to everyone who has given their words of wisdom and love and support, and those who were able to give through the Farah’s World wishlist and fund. Your cash donations will be matched and the wishlist fulfilled. I had no idea what to expect, and the boxes of love keep coming.

It’s not really done here. Fundraising and donations, mostly because civil and social functions in Belgium are well-funded. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a need, even at basic humanitarian levels just to bring smiles to children’s faces. I struggle with riding the line between who I am and stopping myself because “it’s not really done here.” Because I don’t want to change too much while adjusting to life here. Since starting the wishlist of animal blankets, I have talked to parents and grandparents and friends and fans who have all been touched, in some way.

Thank you. For whatever your reason for being kind today, it has made a difference in someone’s day. That’s a good thing, still, that nobody can take away.

Always dishing,

Jun

 

 

Here I Come, From The United States

HomeFrontHall

Recorded in / Translated from Dutch: Libelle Magazine

(Nr. 45/3645 – November 5, 2015

Reporter: Karolien Joniaux. Photos: Ann De Wulf.)

~

Here I come from – The United States

pp 78-79

Libelle

 

Jun (40) swapped out the bustle of the big city for the peace and warmth of Flemish village life.

Jun lived from thrill to thrill. She had a rough time at first, with the slow pace here. Then she realized how much pleasure was to be had with a life like this.

Who is Jun Song?

JunLibelle

Jun Song was born in 1975 in South Korea, but starting at the age of four, grew up in New York where her parents owned a fruit and vegetable store. In her 20s, she climbed the ladder in the banking sector on Wall Street and even acquired some national fame being on Big Brother – eventually winning. Five years ago she met Flemish Davy, and it turned her world upside down as she traded in her busy single life in a cosmopolitan city for a rural storybook life in Evergem. Three years ago, their son Noah was born.

She has 25,000 followers on Twitter – a result of her time on Big Brother which gave her a glimpse of the American celebrity life. And yet lives Jun (pronounced ‘June’) in all peace and anonymity now. In our country. “What’s great about Belgium is that no one can cares that I was on some tv program. And so it should be. My time Big Brother encompasses but three months in my entire life. It is but one experience in so many.”

How did your ‘ordinary’ life in America look like?

“As a child I was given a strict Korean upbringing. My father embraced life in the US with open arms, but my mother still held on to her homeland. At home I was raised in the Korean language and Christian religion, and Korean rules had a prominent place. In my adolescence, I tried to rebel against my Korean roots and tried to even turn my back on it. When I moved out of my parents’ home when I was nineteen, it was considered a disgrace to the family. You just don’t do that, especially as a girl. But for me it felt like a statement. I wanted my parents understand that I did not fall under just one flag. I did not want to be seen as just Korean or American, but as an independent woman.”

You went to work on Wall Street, the symbol of capitalist America. Was that a part of your rebellion?

“I chose indeed the radical ‘American way’. In the 90s, when I first started working, the banking sector really was full of the stereotypes you saw on television. It was a really a man’s world where money, cigars and sexual harassment were the norm. I knew that I, as one of the few Asian women in the banking industry, was seen as sex symbol, but it didn’t bother me at that time. I was taking part in meetings with some of the best brains in the financial world, and meeting people who had more money than I could have ever imagined. I jumped from one adrenaline rush to the other. I really liked that world.”

And yet you finally chose a different road.

“As a result of the financial crisis of 2008, I lost my job. I decided to change my life’s direction: perhaps teaching English in Paris? Or perhaps enrolling in culinary school? I was up for anything. But then in my travels I met Davy, and this was something I had no planned at all. As soon as I saw him, I knew that he was the one.”

Did you settle immediately into a life in Belgium?

“To be honest, I knew nothing about Belgium. I only knew about ‘Belgian waffles’. I even had to look at a map to know exactly where it was (laughs). But as soon as I saw how small your country was, I got excited. This is what I wanted: To depart from New York – not because I hated the city, but because I had done everything I wanted, and I was ready for a new adventure.”

Your new life is the complete opposite of the old. Big city to small village.

“After living my whole life in apartment buildings, this was refreshing. As a child I had always fantasized: ‘When I grow up and get married, I’ll live in a house with a cute garden’. My own fairy tale. In the matter of one day everything just fell into place.”

~

pp 80-81

libelle - page 2

HOME IN KOREA, NEW YORK AND EVERGEM

Can the reality match the fantasy?

“I always remain realistic. Davy was no knight on the white horse (laughs). At the time I left New York behind me, I knew it would not be so simple to go from my single ‘Sex and the City’ -life to family life. And indeed, there were times when I had doubts: Can I be a good wife? Can I adjust to life here? And ultimately, can I live a Belgian lifestyle?

Does it differ so much from the American lifestyle?

“Yes of course. In particular, the slow pace of life here is what I had to get used to. I remember the first time at the bakery where everyone waited single file until it was their turn. I thought: What is this? What’s taking so long? In New York you just barge your way to the counter and whoever gets there first ‘wins’. If you go somewhere and have to wait too long, you call for the manager and demand an explanation. When I first got here, I thought constantly ‘Come on, let’s go!’ but then one day I realized: Why the hurry? I’m not actually in a rush? Nowadays, I enjoy taking the time to talk to the baker about how our weekends were, and how my son this year started kindergarten. I can do this.”

Do you get more done in a day in New York than you do in a day in Evergem?

“Actually less, and that it is surprising. It’s as if time itself slows. In other parts in the US it might be different, but if you live in the city that never sleeps, it is totally normal to get shopping done at eleven o’clock at night, or answer emails in the dead of the night. Day and night, in the week and weekend, running into people other a lot more. Of course here there are also people who work at night, but generally there is more structure in the days and it pays off. You get the most important things done. Although I have seen in the last five years changes that are happening: things like Panos or Starbucks give you the feeling that you must always be on the go, always busy and rushed. Little by little, Belgium is becoming more like the US.”

Is that a good thing or not?

“On the one hand, it is super easy to, at any time to find what you need. I remember when I was pregnant and at night I’d have a sudden craving for a milk shake. In New York all you’d have to do is run to the corner and buy what you want, or you order it online and within an hour it’s at your door. Not so here in Belgium. In the middle of the night I had to make my own milkshakes (laughs). But these things that I missed in the beginning, I now cherish: The fact that people have the opportunity to sleep at night, the quieter pace, the quality time available for friends and family. It’s as if the priorities are different. So. No, I do not want Belgium to be more like The U.S. There is really something special to this country.”

To what extent do you instill American tradition in your son?

Typical holidays like the 4th of July, Halloween and Thanksgiving have a permanent place in our life. Noah is now three and he understands the significance of Thanksgiving already. And he knows perfectly that he must find the wishbone in our stuffed turkey. I find it really important to pass on both American and Korean traditions too. And because we are the only ones who celebrate them around here, it feels like our own personal holidays.

Can Noah grasp all his different roots? Does he realize that there are more worlds out there than Belgium?

“We Skype in the evenings with my mother and Noah does know that she lives in another country. But next year he will really be aware more than the first time, what the US is, as we’re making a trip for my brother’s wedding. And the next step is a visit to Korea. At this moment we are raising Noah bilingually (Dutch and English), and people ask why we don’t include the Korean language. We will perhaps later, but for me that is not now a priority. I think it is important that he has an idea of his various roots, but above all I want for him to grow up as a Belgian. I would feel awful if he grew up feeling like he was an outsider or a misfit. He must be grounded in his Belgian roots and feel at home here. Later he can spread his wings and move about as he wants.”

And you? Do you feel like you’re an outsider?

“On some days sure. Belgians are very warm and friendly, but at the same time very reserved. They fall back into their small circles, of childhood and lifelong friends, and it is difficult to penetrate. Also, very often, I was seen as someone who was here temporarily. But I followed courses to learn Dutch, and I opened my own business, a Korean takeout restaurant, and try to prove that I’m serious about making a life here.

Your life story reads like a book with different characters: The girl with the strict Korean upbringing, the girl in her 20s with a wild American life and now the mother and her family in Evergem. Which of them is the real Jun?

“At this moment I am more ‘me’ than ever. I have for a long time searched for who I am and what is important to me. In New York I didn’t have enough room to find myself. But that does not mean that I regret anything I’ve done or decisions I have made. On the contrary. I am proud of my previous life. My career on Wall Street, my participation on Big Brother, the move to Belgium, the start-up of my own restaurant… Even though all these choices seem miles apart, there is a common thread: as soon as I see an opportunity, I go for it.”

That is very American, right?

“Absolutely. I’m referred to as the ‘Crazy American’ here (laughs). They say I’m crazy. Firstly, because I am American and Americans are by definition crazy. And then I’m the American who left New York to come and live in Belgium. You have to be pretty crazy (laughs).”

Do you imagine that in the future, you will again change gears completely, and take another big jump in your life?

“My ultimate dream is to be a writer. For years now I’ve been running my own blog, jundishes, and it brings me great joy. If I could just sit and write all day every day then that’s what I would do. Sitting at a desk in Evergem, this would be my ideal spot, I feel good here. I believe that the biggest change in my life is still yet to come, and not in where I am or who I am, but what I will do. And so when I see that opportunity one day, I will seize it.

~

5 QUICK QUESTIONS

 

What did you first notice upon arriving here?

“That people take the time to sit on a terrace for some relaxation and quiet cup of coffee. Everything In New York is ‘to go’.”

What American ways do you hold on to?

“I always make a hot breakfast like ‘bacon and eggs’. Bread smeared with Nutella you won’t see in my home in the mornings. Also, I still keep up with my favorite reality shows.”

What do you miss finding in the supermarket?

“Bagels! And maple syrup for my pancakes. So I just make syrup myself, as I do my own barbecue sauce.”

The most beautiful spot in Belgium?

“The Sint-Michels Bridge in Ghent. I saw the city from that bridge the first time I visited Ghent, and I still get goosebumps. It looks almost fake, kind of like something out of Disney World, with the trees, and the Graslei and the beautiful architecture of buildings behind.”

What is your favorite Dutch word?

“Wablieft – just because it sounds so ugly. And that for such a polite question (“Excuse Me?”)! They should have come up with something a little nicer really.”

~

Recorded in / Translated from Dutch: Libelle Magazine

(Nr. 45/3645 – November 5, 2015,

Reporter: Karolien Joniaux. Photos: Ann De Wulf.)

~

Thanks for reading everyone!

And Thank You Libelle!

Always dishing,

Jun

Fuck Cancer Says This Cat Lady

SushiMac

I actually started writing this blog over two weeks ago on October 20th, and it’s right there in the fancy history-tracking feature on this thing.

Screen Shot 2015-11-06 at 1.56.13 AM

I just didn’t feel much like finishing it, or blogging at all for that matter, since.

I made revision after revision and just couldn’t bring myself to publish any of it, and not because I had a hard time admitting I was officially a cat lady. It was because shortly after finishing what I thought was a great blog, I received some very shocking news and it shook me to my core. It’s been a while since I’ve felt like this. And I’ve been struggling with lots of emotions these last few weeks, both bad and good and the fifty shades of moods in between.

This blog was supposed to be about Sushi, our “new” family cat, who coincidentally sat right next to me when I started typing.

SushiMac

It’s become “our thing.” Every time I sit down with my Mac, Sushi curls up right next to me. He’s nestled up against me right now.

We adopted him from a small family-run shelter close to our home just three short weeks ago (though it feels much longer)…

And yes, we named our cat Sushi.

~

I’m blogging about a cat, therefore I am a cat lady. That’s how it works, right?

~

Then there’s sushi the food, not our cat, as in the sushi that has been flying off my bamboo mats at Rice House and into many homes in our town of Evergem, and other towns both near and far. There’s also the sushi that was made under my guidance and instruction, at the very first sushi workshop Rice House hosted nearly a month ago. I meant to blog about all of this sooner, but my heart just wasn’t in it.

My husband Davy and I had no idea what to expect when we created the sushi workshop event, and booked space enough for at least ten potential students, at our town’s community center (conveniently located just right across the street from Rice House). Would ten people in our tiny town be willing to come out on a Monday night, let alone pay to learn how to make sushi? Would the event be a flop?

Well…

I’m so glad we had such a great turnout…

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Because present on that night,

was a doctor, hairdresser, and pastry chef baker,

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oh, and also among the group,

George.

George

October 12, 2015

George turned out to be the evening’s rockstar, and he held his own and really did roll some tasty maki. I can tell you this first-hand because I sampled some.

And come May, Rice House turns two years old and it really has evolved like a motherfucker.

Hard work can actually pay off. A lot of times, it really can. Legally. Sometimes illegally too. Because…

Don’t knock shit until you’ve tried shit.

~

But we all know there are things that happen in life, that have nothing to do with how hard you work. Or even whether or not you are a good person. I’m talking about cancer.

FUCKING FUCK YOU, CANCER, YOU FUCKING FUCKFACE FUCKHOLE FUCKWAD FUCKING FUCKER, CANCER.

Unfair to everyone it touches, but especially unfair to young children. You don’t have to be a parent to feel this. You just have to be human.

Parents shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not their child will survive childhood. Children shouldn’t have to worry about chemotherapy or needles or why they’re losing their hair, or why they can’t just sleep in their own bed every night like they used to. It’s just not fair.

Yet there is one child in my life (and Davy’s) in particular, Farah, who was recently diagnosed with leukemia. She’s the eldest of two bright and beautiful daughters, of our friends Houda and Daan. And when I say recently, I mean it’s been a month since diagnosis.

My body literally went numb when I was told by Houda, because it was the last thing I’d expected to hear…because what kind of sick fuck actually sits around waiting to hear news like this?

Just like that, Farah’s life is now forever changed, as are Houda’s and Daan’s, and baby Lynah’s too though she’s too young to grasp any of this. And in turn, mine and Davy’s too. Because it’s not the cousin of a friend of a coworker’s child in some wide degree of separation who is sick. It’s closer. And when it’s closer, it hurts that much more.

Noah is yet still too young to understand how sick Farah is, and I have not gone into depth with him because he is not yet even four. But neither is Farah. They’re the same age, and born the same month. Fast friends. But cancer gives zero fucks. It never has.

I waited as long as I could to tell Noah. But he ended up beating me to it, as Fall Break approached, asking me if we were still going to Farah’s house for another family playdate during vakantie (vacation). Because Noah forgets nothing, and he knew very well that we had plans coming up with Farah’s family.

In response I asked him a question. Had he seen Farah in school recently, and he answered no. So I told Noah, simply, that Farah would not be returning to school for a while because she was very sick, and in fact we wouldn’t be able to go to her house either during the break because she needed to rest and get better. I asked him if he’d like to maybe draw a pretty picture for Farah, to make her smile.

He answered quickly in a clear and somewhat serious tone, “Yes mama, I want to draw a picture for Farah and buy her a pink flower because pink is her favorite color.”

And it is. It struck me like a slap in the face that he knew that, or that he even remembered that. Pink. Farah’s favorite color.

FarahNoahAugust, 2015

She was head-to-toe in pink the last time we had her over for a playdate at our home, see-sawing and carefree in the summer’s breeze. She’d even asked specifically for the pink fork and knife from our Ikea kiddie cutlery, when we all sat down for lunch that day… Noah has since asked again when he can bring Farah that pink flower, and I’ve answered that her doctor must say it’s okay for her to have visitors and, “Farah’s mama will tell us when.”

The thing is, I thought Davy had been lucky in a sense, as he’s never actually been this close to fucking cancer. I admit I envied him just a little, because I’ve lost loved ones to cancer. But then I saw how news of Farah shook Davy, badly, and I once again realized that there is no luck when it comes to caring. Or cancer. No rhyme or reason either.

I also realized that I’ve been living in some Belgian bubble these last five years, untouched by what cancer can do. Because this is the first time, since I moved to Belgium, that news like this has hit me about someone close to me. That bubble has now been burst.

Needless to say, I haven’t quite been myself since receiving Farah’s news. I’ve been throwing myself into all sorts of extra work and projects, even staying off Twitter to some degree which is quite epic, trying to cope with the constant flood of emotions. Anger and sadness, frustration and fear, and…wow, even some guilt, all of these to varying degrees. And often all of them in the same day, on any given day as of late.

So I Googled what I could possibly be doing for Farah, and Daan and Houda, and even Lynah. I really wanted to do right by them, and be there for them, all of them. I mean…every parent out there knows that this phenomenon of finding a child who gets along fabulously with your child and who also happens to have cool ass parents that become real friends, just doesn’t occur often enough.

So I did as Google instructed and Davy and I offered, gently, food and favors and specific services…anything that we might be able to do for them that might help, that might free up their time so they can have more of it with their two little girls. But to be honest, it was also because there was this overwhelming sense that I should be doing something other than feeling sorry. And then I made myself feel like shit, feeling selfish for making this about me in any way, because doing something for our friends would somehow make me feel better about all of it? And was I stepping on someone else’s toes? Was this not how Belgians behaved? Was I just being the crazy American again?

And so I struggled, and even avoided, finishing this blog about well, my cat. I felt stupid. I felt frivolous, writing a blog about a cat, and about sushi. How could I put out something so silly when there were bigger things happening around me?

~

But before Sushi or the sushi workshop ever happened, there was still our little Noah. And Davy. And me.

In September, our little family of three, spent half a day with Ann De Wulf, a warm and gifted photographer who was sent to our home by Libelle Magazine, to accompany an interview conducted by one of their editors, Karolien Joniaux. The article was to be about my life here, as an expat, and all its ramifications and comparisons to the U.S., cultural and otherwise.

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September 28, 2015

Ann made us all feel comfortable, as we should have felt in our own home, and at Rice House. She made it easy to pose for hours in front of a camera like we did it on the regular. And Noah’s behavior spoke volumes of Ann’s warmth, and the two quickly became buddies by day’s end.

NoahAnn

By the time we wrapped up, Noah and Davy were exhausted, each taking up their own couch and napping while I snapped photos of them in anticipation of a future blog. None of us knew anything yet of Farah’s condition. I suppose ignorance can indeed provide some degree of bliss.

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Part of me wishes I could just go back to September, before we ever had a cat or put on a sushi workshop or found out about Farah, because I feel like life has been racing along faster than usual. Flying by even, and I can’t seem to slow it down. But I do know that life must go on. And this is something I realized in a big way, this past week, after meeting up for one long drink with Farah’s mom.

After weeks of chatting and text message novels back and forth between our busy schedules, Houda and I were finally able to get together, and just…talk.

It was Houda’s first real time away from Farah in over a month, and she wanted to hear all about how Noah and Sushi were doing.

They’re doing heartwarmingly great by the way…

NoahSushi

Just this afternoon, on my lap, a favorite spot now for both Noah and Sushi

And Houda wanted to know how Rice House was going and how I felt about the Libelle article, which had just come out the day before. I had a million questions I wanted to ask Houda, but I stopped myself. I lived in the moment, sipping my drink slowly, and letting the conversation just flow like it always had between us.

We did of course eventually talk about Farah, and how she’s thankfully taking well to treatment yet beginning to lose some of her hair after a month’s worth of chemotherapy. We talked about her youngest baby girl Lynah, and her husband Daan (who is soon to become Davy’s gym buddy, something Houda and I are equally enthusiastic about), and about their work and time off for Farah, and countless other bullet points. But mostly we talked about Sushi and sushi and Libelle, and sex and gossiped some too. Because that’s what girlfriends do right?

We ended up also talking about what it’s like to be a strong and opinionated woman of color living in Belgium, because this was in fact a topic covered in the Libelle article. Houda actually grew up here and I just got here in comparison, but the colors of our skin make us stand out. We can’t help that. But we can control what people come to know us by, and remember us by. I’m grateful to have found a friend in Houda. I thought I was a strong woman, but she inspires me to be stronger somehow.

But what struck me most while we were talking about some of the more unpleasant details around Farah’s hospital stays, was that Houda stressed repeatedly how much better their circumstances were than that of other families in the children’s ward. And that the hospital is fantastic in all they do, and the Belgian healthcare system leaves little to pay for out-of-pocket,  but that there are still families in great need. Because we all know how everything can cost a little yet add up to a lot. And so with Houda’s blessing I’ll be setting up a small wishlist (Update: Now Final: Farah’s World) on Amazon UK, for anyone who cares to or can gift an item of comfort, going to Farah and other children at the hospital, fighting the tough fight against whatever disease taking hold of their little bodies… All gifts will be collected and delivered to the Children’s Cancer Ward at UZ Gent Hospital.

If you would like to donate a smaller amount, to be matched by me and my husband Davy, please use the “Donate” button on the bottom right of this blog. We are hoping to collect all items from the wishlist for this cause.

~

So it turns out the best thing I could actually do, and that I did, was just being there. Meanwhile all the while I thought I was doing nothing. But what I had done was kept the lines of communication open to remind Houda and Daan that our friendship would always be there. And it will be.

And with Houda’s and Daan’s permission, I’ve finally let it all out, and allowed myself to finish this blog which has turned out to be the length of multiple blogs. If you would like to leave a message of support and understanding for Farah’s family in the comments or share you experiences, please do, but please don’t pass judgements or question anyone else’s intent.

I can’t wait for Noah and Farah to be reunited, and see how much they’ve both grown since this summer.

SweetHug

I’ve said time and time again that Farah is absolutely one of the smartest and most delightful little girls to have crossed Noah’s path, and I look forward to snapping photos again in awe of her playfulness once again.

Thanks for staying with me while I worked through this.

Always dishing,

Jun

My Husband Plays Destiny

GinaTorres

Davy plays Destiny.

It sounds borderline kinky but really it’s a PlayStation game.

Destiny_box_artGuys’ guys play video games.

You can either join them or let them or dump them for it. Guys’ guys who play video games come in those three categories. The ones you join, the ones you let play while you do other things (like blog or catch up on Empire), and the ones you end up dumping because they just play way too fucking much.

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1. Joining them means maybe smoking a joint and playing Bomberman or  Ten Pin Alley, because these are the perfect games to go with a puff with your boyfriend and your friends or his friends and laugh and get the munchies.

Ten_Pin_Alley_Coverart

A lifetime ago, in college and after work, I did a lot of this. And I got fat as fuck but I had fun. It was a phase in my life way before I stopped joining them and wanted to just let them, ex-boyfriends and my husband included, let them play their video games. And so I went through all my adults years having boyfriends, live-in or not, who played video games, because I dated mostly guys’ guys.

2. Letting them is basically my life with Davy. He plays video games responsibly and not like a zombie, and I’m basically like go ahead because I’ve got my own shit to do. Relief.

3. Dumping them for it is where shit gets real. These kind of boyfriends are the ones who ruin it for the good video game boyfriends (or husbands). This is why we can’t have nice things. Some dudes just get hooked and they lose girlfriends. I’ve had one of those. And I did not appreciate busting my ass working in banking so he could call in sick to work and stay home and get high and play video games with his friends. And that’s the shit I had to come home to. Fuck no. That shit ended with the quickness.

I’m not saying only guys’ guys or even just guys for that matter are into video games. I’m just saying, I’m a pretty girly girl and I’m just speaking for myself. I know video games will never die,  so I’m not exactly a join them kind of girl anymore, I’m a let them one. When it comes to video games. Not porn, because I’ve joined in on all kinds of porn and still do, but then I also don’t care if Davy watches, with or without me. Just let them. There’s nothing wrong with porn. But that’s a whole other blog.

Let them have their time as long as you get your time.

Davy’s currently playing Destiny and before that he finished Watch Dogs. And before that too, I also pretended to pay attention and act excited about things he would tell me about the levels and storylines and characters. Nothing over the top, but just okay yes I support you playing video games stuff.

Most of the time I forget everything, except maybe a random voice used in the game…usually a celebrity I recognize by voice because maybe it belongs to Gina Torres aka Jessica Pearson in Suits. Love her. That was pretty exciting for me, especially since I can’t see her anymore, even in cameo, as Bella in Hannibal. Boo.

Watch_Dogs_box_art

But if Davy can find me Bomberman, I’ll join him. And we’ll get Noah in on it at some point and it will be gloriously funny to behold. So Davy, if you’re reading…get us Bomberman somehow please and thank you…

Always dishing,

Jun

All Things Related And Unrelated To The Big Brother 17 Finale

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Whether or not I want to admit it, Big Brother 17 was a big part of my life this summer. Having never finished Big Brother 15 and not watched any of Big Brother 16, I threw myself back into Big Brother head-first. The season took forever to end, but…

Goodbye Big Brother 17, although we all know it’s never really goodbye.

James Huling won America’s Favorite Player. Vanessa Rousso took a frustrating third place while Liz Nolan tripped and fell into second place. Steve Moses was crowned winner. Everything fell into place.

I predicted Steve’s win in the “Memo to the New Big Brother Winner: Don’t Be a Fame Whore” for New York Magazine’s Vulture.com series on Life After Reality TV. I’m thrilled for Steve. Had Liz pulled out some fantastic answers to jury questions in the end, and pulled off a win, I would have been happy for her too. Had Vanessa faced the jury and detailed how calculated her moves were, and pulled off a win, I would have been also happy.

But Vanessa didn’t make it there did she? And Liz bombed the jury questions didn’t she?

Liz couldn’t lay out for anyone the path she’d taken all summer to get to where she was in final two. Well then. It’s not that complicated.

I could go into more detail, but I won’t, because Steve outdid anything I could ever say, in his post-show interview with The Hollywood Reporter. Steve could have taken the easy route in the interview but he didn’t. and he acknowledged that Vanessa was no bully, that her behaviors were strategy. If only Vanessa could own up to it.

Sigh.

But James Huling, the forever prankster, took home some much-needed money after winning America’s Favorite player. But truth be told, save for Les Moonves, we could all probably use $25,000 dropping into our lap today. I pulled two names last week, winners of the T-Shirt Giveaway I started in an effort to raise awareness of the charitable work going on as a result of Big Brother 17. Unfortunately one of the winners has not yet come forward. So I have pulled another name:

Rita from California, please give me a holler! You’ve won the second t-shirt! Congrats!

Now I need to get some rest after a busy Friday lunch and dinner at Rice House because tomorrow, my husband Davy and I must have a little chat with our son Noah that may end in tears. Last week, our family of three decided to rescue a kitten from a cat shelter nearby.

 

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We decided on Sushi as a name.

We were scheduled to return tomorrow, Friday, to retrieve Sushi. Davy and Noah and I were excited. Another first for our family of three. But sadly, Little Sushi didn’t make it through the surgery, the anesthesia during sterilization just did not agree. So the sweet kitty cat we were supposed to bring home tomorrow will never make it here.

But Sushi came from a large litter, and tomorrow we will go and acquaint ourselves with one of the siblings.

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Noah’s got his hand covering Sushi’s face in the photo above. You can see the sibling kitty clearly in the background, with a lighter face than Sushi’s, and white paws instead of grey like Sushi’s, but they’re pretty much identical.

We’ll just have to see how Noah takes to the new kitty…

Life goes on. #BrenchelBaby and Derrick’s second baby are baking in their ovens and congratulations are in order. Vanessa is sufficiently medicated and engaged to be married, and cats are being rescued. Just another day in the Big Brother neighborhood…

Always dishing,

Jun