Morrie&Me | Cult
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De Amerikaanse Prinses

The American Princess

The American Princess / De Amerikaanse Prinses

written by Annejet van der Zijl, published by Querido
genre literary nonfiction, 280 pages

During an interview on the Dutch television last year, Mrs. Van der Zijl – one the most famous authors of literary nonfiction in the Netherlands – mentioned that she just finished writing this book. She told the presenter how she, like most people, always is searching for something. How the writing of her books, the searching for the stories, keeps bringing adventures, new worlds and beauty into her life. This interview made me curious to read her newest work, a book about the amazing life of a beautiful woman.

 


The story in short

Being the first biography I’ve ever read, ‘De Amerikaanse Prinses’ (the American Princess) totally blew me away. Allene Tew (1872-1955) was a woman who used her limitations as a motivation to give shape to her own life and managed to live the lives of many people in one single lifetime.

Growing up in Jamestown as a descendant of the first settlers in America, Allene was raised in an entrepreneurial environment. This childhood in combination with her good looks and adventurous character, were all that was needed for a life like no other.

Reading her story, we not only get to know a lot about Allene, her family, her friends and the social scenes she was being a part of. The book also tells us a lot about our history and gives an overview of the world as it was during Allenes life; the First and Second World War influencing daily life in both Europe and America, industrial revolutions, technical discoveries and developments and social changes making enormous differences to the lives of the people during the different eras of Allene’s life.

An informative and fascinating biography that tells us the story of a woman that was decades ahead of her time. A woman who despite many disappointments, sadness and difficulties, never let go of her dreams and ambitions. A strong and independent woman who, thanks to her resilience and perseverance, never lost courage and always kept moving on. A woman who can still be an example for women today!

The book was completed with pictures of Allene and her family during different life stages.

 

Allene Tew Hostetter | 1892

 

Why you should read this book

Reading this book was an absolute pleasure. Not only is Allene Tew’s life very intriguing, the way it was written, with all the background information, was as beautifully as the story itself. It could easily have been an overkill of information, a complex and exhausting book to read, but it was not like that at all. As soon as you start reading this book, you just want to know what is going to happen, how the life of this woman evolves, how she deals with the difficulties that come her way and how she keeps standing strong, no matter what.

 

En misschien was dat wel Allenes grootste prestatie – meer nog dan haar rijkdom,
haar titels, haar vele huizen en haar imponerende gastenboek.
Dat ze, wat ze allemaal ook had meegemaakt en doorstaan,
zich nooit het vermogen had laten afpakken om van het leven te genieten
en er dankbaar voor te zijn.” 

– Annejet van der Zijl

 

“Maybe Allenes biggest achievement – even more than her wealth, her titels, her many houses and her imposing guestbook.
Was that she, despite what she had experienced and endured, had never lost the ability to enjoy her life and be grateful for it.”
– Annejet van der Zijl

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Big Magic

Big Magic

Big Magic – Creative living beyond fear

 

written by Elizabeth Gilbert, published by Cargo
genre nonfiction / self-help, 256 pages

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Minimalism

Minimalism – A documentary about the important things

Minimalism – A documentary about the important things

 

starring the Minimalists, directed by Matt D’Avella
launched in 2016, 78 minutes

They say that ideas float through the air and all you have to do is grab them. If you don’t somebody else will, sometimes several people will. When I came across an article in the newspaper about people joining the Tiny House Movement in the Netherlands, in my mind it got immediately linked to the documentary that my boyfriend and I had watched the previous evening. A documentary definitely worth telling you guys about!

‘Minimalism’ is a fascinating documentary about minimizing your life. A life in which less means more. A lifestyle conflicting with the western ideal in which materialism equals happiness. We’ve all heard of Marie-does it spark joy-Kondo who taught us how to get rid off all the stuff that we don’t need. Well, for some people that is only the beginning.

 

“I had everything I ever wanted.
I had everything I was supposed to have.
Everyone around me said: “You’re successful”.
But really, I was miserable.”

– Ryan Nicodemus

 

In this documentary we get to know people that brought minimalism to an even higher level. For example Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Millburn, also known as ‘The Minimalists’.

We follow Ryan and Joshua on their tour through America. A tour on which they try to introduce this ideal of living a minimalistic lifestyle to as many people as possible. They go to conferences, give presentations and take part on radio and tv shows to talk about the significant difference changing from a consumeristic lifestyle to a minimalistic lifestyle has made. Both men are now feeling so much happier, no longer working long days to earn a lot of money to buy things they don’t really want or need.

 

Trailer ‘Minimalism – A documentary about the important things’

 

The documentary introduces not just Ryan and Joshua’s version of a minimal lifestyle, but many more people that at a certain point in their life decided to take back control and live life differently.

What really inspires me is how they all explain that living a less excessive life makes life so much easier and enjoyable. There is no more worrying about what to wear when you can choose between five first choice-sweaters instead of a hundred seconds. Something simple like owning less clothes would surely make the morning ritual of many men and women much less stressful (not even mentioning what this would mean for our natural environment and the people working in all those mass production processes.)

Having watched this documentary and having read the article really helps and inspires me to keep focusing on the important things in life. To keep living my life intentionally, to make decisions that will increase mine and other people’s happiness, not just the number on my bank account. When living a more minimal life, life won’t be perfect, nor easy, but it will be simple.

 

“Love people and use things, because the opposite never works.”

– Joshua Fields Millburn

 

To learn more about the minimalists, have a look at their website.

How to become a Buddha in five weeks

How to become a buddha in 5 weeks

How to become a buddha in 5 weeks – The Simple Way to Self-realization

written by Giulio Cesare Giacobbe, published by Mana
genre educational, 160 pages

As a yoga and pilates practitioner, I’ve always considered following meditation lessons as well. But I either couldn’t find the time or the right meditation class to actually do so. When my colleague, who’s an even more fanatic yogi, told me about this book, about the lessons it teaches you and how much it had brought her, I simply couldn’t wait to read it and start the course myself.

 


The story in short

Giulio’s son Yuri was a Bodhisattva, a reincarnation of the Buddha. When Yuri was only 27 he past away and transferred his buddhism to his father. A man who unlike his son, considered himself to be an old sinner. But Giulio changed into a buddha. He found enlightenment and realized that it’s possible for everybody to become a buddha too. Buddhism no longer was just a theory to him, it became something real and finally resulted in this book.

Even though what you’re reading now is a book review. It would be more correct to call this a short course for getting a buddhist state of mind, in the form of a book. The book not only provides us with a clear and easy to understand explanation of the base principles on which a buddhistic mindset can be build. These principles have also been translated into a 5 week course that can be followed and completed by everybody who’s open and willing to do so.

It is not a book about religion. It’s a book about a psychological method with a practical goal; to end your mental suffering and achieve a permanent state of serenity. Perhaps this all might sound complicated or maybe even a bit far fetched. But don’t worry, it really isn’t. The writer explains the essence of a buddhistic mind in a very clear and easy to understand way. And the five assignments derive from this explanation very naturally. Really everybody can do this.

 

Why you should read this book

Reading the book is only the beginning. The writer proposes you first read the book completely, before starting the assignments that each take at least a week. I’ve read the book twice but haven’t finished all the courses yet. I prefer to take more time for each assignment and really let it sink in. But I’m sure that in some weeks, I as well will reach the ultimate goal and become a buddha. Wouldn’t you like to give it a try?

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Factor 25

Factor 25

Factor 25

written by Eva Daeleman, published by Manteau
genre autobiography, 239 pages

My friend Katrien, with whom I travelled through Australia after meeting her in New Zealand, told me: “I’ve read an amazing book and you just have to read it!” And so I did. I read this Dutch – Flemish actually – book and have to admit; after reading Eva’s travel stories, I can’t wait to book my next journey. Adventure is calling, again!

 


The story in short

Eva Daeleman, a 24 year old Belgian radio and tv presenter, decides she needs a break from the rat race her ‘perfect life’ has become. She wants to travel, alone. And so her adventure takes-off. An adventure that will last 7 weeks in Vietnam and Thailand and many, many more weeks back at home.

Only minutes after arriving in Vietnam, Eva finds out that traveling alone is something completely different to being on a holiday. Quickly Eva ends up in her own personal roller coaster, consisting of a spinning head, a bleeding heart and a country that’s so different from home. During her journey, many tears will be shed and courage and insights will be gained.
At the same time Eva discovers that traveling alone brings many joys and pleasures. Next to getting to know herself better than ever, she meets interesting people and makes new friends for life.

A journey that starts chaotically; with Eva’s thoughts and feelings almost exploding within her. A journey that ends peacefully; as the weeks pass by, Eva starts to finally find confidence, peace and pleasure with who she really is.

 

Why you should read this book

When I started reading this book, it was a bit hard for me to get used to the short sentences and ever changing subjects that fill the pages. But after getting used to her writing, reading her story gave me the feeling that I was there, in Eva’s head, during her journey through Asia.

What I loved about the book is Eva’s openness and honesty. Especially considering the fact that she is a famous person and has to deal with people’s opinions and criticism every single day. I think the fact that a celebrity who’s life seems to be perfect, is willing to open up and show the world her deepest insecurities, is probably the most valuable aspect of this book.

What I did miss was a deeper layer to the story. To me it maybe was a bit too personal, like reading someone’s diary instead of a well thought out story. Nevertheless did I have a good time reading this book, especially because her struggling while traveling alone was very recognizable to me and I’m sure to everybody who’s ever traveled on his/her own.

 

“Ik heb het gevoel dat de grond onder mijn voeten is verdwenen.
Dat ik als een vis op het droge lig te spartelen en snak naar water.
Al is het maar een druppel. Eén druppel herkenbaarheid.
Alles is hier anders, zelfs ik.” 

– Eva Daeleman


“I feel like the earth is disappearing from under me.
Like a fish on the land, longing for water.
Just one drop. One drop of recognition.
Everything is different here, including me.”
– Eva Daeleman

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De Domijnen Sittard

Over de Grens

Over de Grens / Crossing Borders

 

March 5th  ’till May 28th 2017 – De Domijnen, Sittard NL
featuring works of: Brele Scholz, Jaap de Ruig, Roy Villevoye & Jan Dietvorst

 

Last weekend my friend Suzanne and I visited museum De Domijnen in Sittard (NL). Since I did go to high school in Sittard and I always had an interest in culture and history, I’d been in the Domijnen many times. But times are a changing and the museum got a new site, being a part of a newly build cultural house that hosts not only exhibitions but also the library, a small cinema, theatre, bar and a school.

We hadn’t checked the exhibition beforehand, but the theme could not have been more relevant for the current developments around the world. The exhibit ‘Over de grens’ which means ‘Crossing borders’, featured work of artists who are looking for connections with people from other cultures, seeking contact with and opening up towards others.

What mostly spoke to me were the sculptures by German artist Brele Scholz. The faces of her ‘Umgebaute Europäer’ (Converted Europeans) can literally be opened up to see what’s going on inside somebody else’s head.

 

‘Umgebaute Europäer’ by Brele Scholz

 

Let’s hope artworks like Brele’s will be an inspiration to cross those borders, to open up to each other and be curious about what’s going on inside somebody else’s head.

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Vele hemels boven de zevende

Vele hemels boven de zevende

Vele hemels boven de zevende / Beyond cloud nine

written by Griet op de Beeck, published by Prometheus
genre psychological novel, 272 pages

Griet op de Beeck is a very famous Belgian writer. Her novel ‘Kom hier dat ik u kus’ (So I may kiss you) was a major success and also her debut novel ‘Vele hemels boven de zevende’ (Beyond cloud nine) was very well received. Hearing so many positive responses made me curious for her work and I decided to start with her debut.

 

 

The story in short

The main character of the story is Eva, a 36-year-old strong, single, loyal and loving woman. The people surrounding Eva are mostly her family, friends and some clients from work.

Eva’s older sister Elsie is trying to escape her not-so-happy marriage by starting an affair with Casper, a friend of Eva whom she meets at the opening of his exhibition. Elsies daughter Lou is, just like Eva, very good at observing people and situations. Which makes her a sensitive and shy girl and gives her trouble making friends at high school. Jos, Eva’s father, is having a hard time hiding his alcohol addiction and keeping a secret he’s been living with for many years.

Five very different characters. All looking for love and happiness but struggling with the fear of change, fear of hurting others and fear of hurting themselves. The question is; will they have the guts to follow their hearts and make the jump. Or will they continue living their lives the way they always have.

 

Why you should read this book

The theme and the characters of this story are very real and recognizable; everybody knows how it feels to struggle with these questions. The unexpected ending of the story was in a way very sad but also very courageous and exactly what the story needed.
This is one of those books that you read within just a couple of hours but that will stay with you for a much longer time!

 

“Hoe dat precies moet, leven, daar ben ik nog niet helemaal achter,
maar ik kan redelijk goed doen alsof.” 
– Eva

 

“How to actually live life, I don’t really have a clue, but I’m pretty good at pretending that I do.” – Eva

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Miss yellow hair, hello!

Miss yellow hair, Hello! 

Miss yellow hair, Hello! – The adventures of an unstoppable world traveler

written by Iris Hannema, published by Arbeiderspers
genre non fiction / travel, 213 page
s

As a digital nomad, the Dutch Iris Hannema travels the world while writing articles for newspapers and magazines such as National Geographic. The combination of a job as a (traveling) journalist/photographer, her humour and adventurous mind, makes that she ends up in unfamiliar places and the craziest of circumstances. Therefore this young woman has countless of stories to tell and already published two books that are filled with her experiences. Stumbling across her first book ‘Miss yellow hair, Hello!’ in the local library left me with no other option; this book had to be read.

 


The story in short

If you want to read a book about traveling, the real traveling, ‘Miss yellow hair, hello!’ is the book you should read. This collection of short stories that take place all over the world, might be the ultimate inspiration source to go and explore the world yourself, or it might help you to decide to rather stay home and enjoy all the comforts that come with that.

There really isn’t a subject that has been overlooked in this book. Iris dares to share with us very personal and sometimes even shameful experiences and is brutally honest about the pleasures and pains traveling can entail. She is funny and practical and shares handy tips and tricks that we might be thankful for one day, when we find ourselves somewhere far from home. The addition of the pictures she took during those travels and refers to in some of the stories, only makes reading her stories more fun and real.

I think her Dutch mentality can easily be detected while reading the book. Iris is in no aspects subtle or subdued and goes for what she wants, the good way or the bad. That might seem a bit offensive to some readers, but I personally thought her way of dealing with the diverse and absurd situations was not only amusing, but mostly very human.

 

Why you should read this book

This book is easy to read because of the variety of stories and the personal tone of voice. Iris turns out to be a raw and realistic traveller and isn’t scared to share with us the funniest, dirtiest and sometimes painfully honest details of the crazy reality a traveller has to deal with. I really liked that she makes fun of herself and dares to acknowledge some of her weaknesses (especially when it comes to men) and at the same time turns out to be a very brave and adventurous woman.

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Barcelona City Guide

What to do when you’re in Barcelona

What to do when you’re in Barcelona

 

Last summer my friend Katrien and I, both in desperate need of inspiration and adventure, went on a city trip to Barcelona. Barcelona had been on my ‘places I definitely have to visit-list’ for a really long time so I was curious whether it would meet my expectations. Well, it for sure did! I’ve been to amazing cities, walked on beautiful beaches, visited historic sites and seen many churches, Barcelona has it all and on top of that also houses some of the most wonderful buildings I’ve ever seen, thanks to mister Antoni Gaudi.

What to do & see in Barcelona

Although there really is so much one can do and see in this fantastic city, I couldn’t stop myself from making a short list of some of the must do’s for whoever is about to visit to Barca and can use a bit of inspiration and advise.

  1. Antoni Gaudi : Barcelona has Gaudi’s handwriting all over it. Some of the buildings and areas that he designed can only be seen from the outside, others can also be visited. We decided to visit Palau Güell, the Güell family home, of which you probably recognize the beautiful mosaic chimneys, Park Güell (in case you want to sit on the benches and see ‘El Drac’, the famous dragon, make sure to buy your tickets beforehand) and the Sagrada Familia (also make sure to buy tickets online). But there are many more options.
  2. Mies van der Rohe Pavilion : originally designed and build in 1929 for the Barcelona International Exposition, the pavilion got disassembled shortly after the expo was over but got resurrected at its original spot in the 1980’s. If you’re interested in architecture and design, this building and of course the Barcelona chairs that were designed for the expo as well, won’t be a disappointment! To see and read more about the pavilion, have a look here.
  3. CaixaForum : right across the street from the Mies van der Rohe Pavilion you’ll find the CaixaForum. This museum and cultural centre offers a wide range of events such as exhibitions of ancient, modern and contemporary artists, concerts, lectures and more. The museum is located in a former textile mill that was completed in 1911. After the factory closed its doors in 1918, the building was used as a warehouse and a police station and finally transformed into a museum in 2002. You can visit the CaixaForum website here.
  4. Even though the current exhibition at the MACBA (Museu d’Art Contemporary de Barcelona) didn’t allure us to pay the museum a visit, the mural by Keith Harring at the left side of the building made it all up for us. MACBA website for more info.
  5. Tiles : this might seem a bit odd, but walking through the city I found the different tiles that were covering the streets of the city very charming. Some of them even made it to my Barcelona moodboard.
  6. Tapas : although I’m not that interested in food and being a vegetarian sometimes have to miss out on local dishes, in Barcelona I had the option of trying all kinds of different tapas. These typical Spanish appetizers can be found everywhere. There are so many options that there’s something for everybody. My advise would be to try as much tapas as you can.
  7. Sagrada Familia : even though the Sagrada Familia was already mentioned in the Gaudi-chapter on this list, this church deserves it’s own attention. There are simply no words to describe this mind blowingly beautiful building. It is the most amazing church I have ever seen and the only thing I can say about it is to, when you go to Barcelona, not forget to pay it a visit. I promise you won’t be disappointed! For tickets and more info have a look at the Sagrada Familia website.

 

Of course my short list doesn’t cover it all and many other interesting sites and options could have been mentioned. But I hope this will give you an impression of my visit to this wonderful city and maybe even inspire you to go and discover Barcelona yourself!

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Brooklyn

Brooklyn

Brooklyn

 

written by Colm Tóibín, published by Penguin
genre novel, 252 pages

The first time I saw Colm Tóibín’s novel Brooklyn, I was looking into the books of a bookshop at Dublin Airport, while waiting for my plane to go back home. I was immediately drawn to the title, as only a few weeks earlier I had spend a couple of weeks in Brooklyn, celebrating Christmas and NYE with the man I was dating at the moment, a man who lives in Brooklyn.

 

 

The story in short

Brooklyn is a novel that follows the life of Eilis Lacey. The story takes off in Ireland in the 1950’s. Eilis, a young girl living with her mother and older sister Rose in the small town she grew up in, studies bookkeeping. Despite her excellent qualifications she cannot find a decent job and when her sister Rose arranges an opportunity for her to leave Ireland and go work and live in Brooklyn, Eilis knows that there’s no other option than to go.

For Eilis, who is leaving her home and family for the first time, crossing the ocean and moving to a big city on the other side of the world is a big adventure. Even though her new life is quite different from the life she had in Ireland and despite feeling homesick every now and then, Eilis starts to feel more at home as the months pass. And when she finds love with Tony, her future in America certainly begins to take shape.

Devastating news from Ireland forces her to go back home, where Eilis awaits an alternative path for the future. Thorn between two different lives and responsibilities, Eilis once more has to make a major decision; will she go back to Brooklyn or stay at home where new opportunities are rising…

 

Why you should read this book

I can only say that I loved this book from the moment I started reading it. Not only does it tell us the story of a young girl coming of age, dealing with new responsibilities and falling in love for the first time. It’s mostly the adventure of a life time, all the insecurities and opportunities that come with emigrating to the other side of the world, that makes this story so appealing.

Even though it is a short read, you get to know Eilis very well. And as the story moves on, you notice her changing from a unselfconscious young girl into a smart and confident young woman. The story is very moving and stays with you for a very long time.

*Picture in header is a still from the movie ‘Brooklyn’ based on this book, directed by John Crowly, released in 2015 by Fox Searchlight Pictures

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Morrie Schwartz & Mitch Albom

Tuesdays with Morrie

Tuesdays with Morrie – an old man, a young man and life’s greatest lesson

written by Mitch Albom, published by Doubleday
genre autobiography, 192 pages

A friend warmly recommended Tuesdays with Morrie to me, he said it’s one of the most wonderful and inspiring books he’d ever read. I bought the book and read it within just a couple of hours. That’s how Morrie came into my life, and I’m sure he’ll never leave.

 


The story in short

This book is the final thesis Mitch Albom writes for his old professor Morrie Schwartz. Unfortunately Morrie has ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, and knows the end of his life is nearing. Morrie’s body is getting weaker every day. Despite this horrible disease Morrie focuses on the little joys that are left in his life, he surrounds himself with the people he loves and feels blessed for having the time to say goodbye.

One of his many visitors is Mitch, a former student who accidentally hears about the circumstances of his old professor when Ted Koppel of ABC-tv’s Nightline interviews Morrie for the first time*. After the show Mitch travels to West Newton to say goodbye to his ‘coach’, as he used to call Morrie, not knowing that this visit will be the start of the last class Morrie will ever teach; once a week by a window in his home study, discussing ‘the Meaning of life’. For this class no books are needed, the lessons are taught from experience. The class meets on Tuesdays.

 

Morrie & Mitch | picture by Heather Pillar

 

Of course I’ve never known Morrie personally, but it’s clear to me the book breathes his voice, his passion and his positivism, which makes the content even more inspirational. I guess it’s impossible to honor a man like him and to write a book review that covers all the valuable lessons that can be learned, both from his words and his actions. Therefore I’ll share with you my own five favourite lessons Tuesdays with Morrie has given me about ‘the Meaning of life’:

  • Sometimes you cannot believe what you see, you have to believe what you feel.
  • The culture we have does not make people feel good about themselves. We’re teaching the wrong things.
    Don’t buy it. Create your own culture!
  • Once you learn how to die, you learn how to live : if you accept that you can die at any time, you might not be as ambitious as you are and the things you now spend lots of time on, might not seem as important.
  • Death ends a life, not a relationship : you live on in the hearts of everyone you’ve touched & nurtured while you were here.
  • The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come on.

Morrie teaches us that the way to get meaning into your life is to devote ourself to loving others, devote ourself to your community around us and devote ourself to creating something that gives purpose and meaning.

 

“People see me as a bridge. I’m not as alive as I used to be,
but I’m not yet dead. 
I’m sort of . . . in-between.”
He coughed, then he regained his smile.
“I’m on the last journey here – and people want me to tell them what to pack.”

– Morrie Schwartz

 

Why you should read this book

Tuesdays with Morrie is a very personal and honest story. Actually it’s Mitch telling Morrie’s story; his wisdom and lessons and how the progressive illness he has to deal with impacts Morrie’s life completely. At the same time Mitch tells about his own life, about choices he has made and new insights he gets during his time with Morrie. He describes how the disease and Morrie’s dysfunctional body bring them closer every Tuesday. The book is both easy to read, and at the same time overflowing with life lessons. That’s why you might like to take a little more time to process all of Morrie’s wisdom. Many quotes will stick with you for a very long time, if not forever.

Having read this book, I just couldn’t get enough of Morrie – hence the name of this blog, as an ode to Morrie and all the other inspiring people and writers, who share their often hard-learned lessons and insights with us. While searching on the internet for more Morrie background information, I came across the actual interviews of Ted Koppel with Morrie, of course I have to share this video with you.

It’s funny how somebody you’ve never met, but whose words you’ve read, can feel so familiar and warm. Morrie’s lessons, his passion and his wisdom will live on for ever and ever. He was and still is a teacher. Have you ever had a teacher like this?

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