Adventures in Belgium, 1st Balloon Convention TMJ Part 6


It is Day 6, Wednesday Nov 11th.

I got 4 hrs. of sleep and head back to the Jam Room and get there at 9 a.m. I decide whatever happens, I am just going to work on my piece until 2 p.m. and call it done because I would like attend some workshops and I have already missed out on a full day of workshops the previous day.

I get to making the Little Girl in Mourning part and get she and the tombstone going. I am exhausted and extremely homesick at this point. People are really into what I am making and they start taking pictures with it and pictures of me with it and pictures of themselves with me with it.

(Photos below courtesy of Elizabeth Jacob)



(Photo below Courtesy of Daniel Jefferson)


I met some super fans too which was so cool, I have super fans?! They knew who I was and follow my blog and my work on FB. It was very touching, they were excited to see me and meet me and took pictures with me.

I had really powerful exchanges with people as they would tell me about losing their mother when they were a little kid and how my piece really resonated with them. I was amazed at how people got the story, I didn’t have to explain anything. I would hear people explaining the story to other people and it was amazing. “The little girl’s mother died and was buried and then the mother became a tree and is watching over her little girl.” I even saw a mother and father explaining what was happening to their small children!

Graham breaks up the seriousness by putting a couple Panda’s he made with the flowers on my Tree Lady piece, lol. He was very obsessed with making pandas. You know how some people are alcoholics? Well I think he may be a Pandaholic, lol.

Trivia time!  Panda’s poop 100 times a day. No seriously, I saw this posted on an information sign at the Atlanta Zoo in Georgia.

I have friends coming up to me and telling me things “big name people” are saying are about the piece and it was very complimentary and I was very touched. I was just like, wow, this isn’t even as good as the first one, I wish they could see me when I am truly inspired and in the zone.

I am hobbling around still as my feet are still full of blisters. I have big blisters on the bottom of both feet, about 6 in all and I am super sore and tired and in a ton of pain.

I barely get done and then rush to see what the Russian instructors are teaching. I watch them for a little while but I am so exhausted and the place is so packed and I have nowhere to sit. I can’t take it physically so I pop in to see what Ken Stillman is doing and catch the rest of his Balloon Beads class.

He is a neat guy, I really liked getting to meet Ken. I love how he teaches too, he is an excellent communicator and very fun loving and a guy who can laugh at himself and laugh at life. Good sense of humor and doesn’t take himself  and life too seriously. He seems like a guy just enjoying the ride of life and he just seemed very appreciative, he had a heart of gratitude that really stood out. I liked him a lot.

After that it was time to move the Tree Lady into the room where all the contests pieces were held. It was very much of a “drop your stuff off and please get out a.s.a.p. because we have a ton of crap to do” environment, lol. This Tree Lady piece was taller than me,  wider than the double doors and a monster to move. She was getting pretty banged up and I didn’t think she would make it.

I tried to get her adjusted but I didn’t mess with her face. I didn’t like how her face got jumbled during the move but I was so terrified to touch her that I didn’t even really look at her. It was a very strange moment. I didn’t want to look at her face. I felt uneasy about her even being there.  I liked her better in the Jam room before she got moved. I felt ashamed of her being in this new room.

Maybe subconsciously I felt like I was prostituting my piece. I just felt shame, shame for not being able to re-create the magic I had during the first time I made her and now shame that I moved her into this room that felt so cold and lonely to me.

I wasn’t allowed to take pictures of her or anything in the contest room and I never did get any pics of her. Thank goodness other people did!

(Photo below courtesy of Tanya Kemp)



That evening I had dinner with Graham, Thelma and Brian Asman! We walked like 20 minutes off resort site to a local Chinese restaurant. More like they walked and I hobbled. I was like something from a Halloween movie, lol.  Brian is a neat guy, he is very smiley and has a joyful spirit and you could tell very much enjoyed his time there.

I ordered a water and they give me this super tiny and thin cup of water with no ice. I mean it was tiny! I am exhausted and thirsty as could be. I ask for another and another and another and after the 5th one, Graham chimes in and educates me that water is not free in restaurants in Belgium, nor are the refills. They pour out bottled water into your glass and charge you $2.40 Euros! You cannot even order tap water, it isn’t even an option. In the UK, you can opt to get tap water for free but you have to specify. And they serve water in bigger glasses and with ice.

I tell Graham, “Thanks! Now you tell me!?”, and teased him about his timing of information. The water was as much as the food, lol.

I am sure that to anyone who spent any time with me, I seemed like I had just crawled out of a cave from the Appalachian Mountains as so much was so new to me. The food was served on silver warming thingies that stayed on your table. I had never seen a restaurant give you warming thingies to keep your food warm and hot. They gave us hot towels at the end. I had never before been served a hot towel and I didn’t know what to do with it. Graham and Thelma made fun of me and showed me what to do. The Chinese food was super different than back home. The sauce was very weak, and you know how I feel about sauce! I liked it okay but prefer to what I am accustomed.

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I took pictures of everything and Graham made fun of me for it. “Here’s a Belgian fork Tricia, you want to take a picture of that?” Yes! Yes I do! And I did by Jove!

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Later I had some Bailey’s Irish cream and let me just tell you, I loved it. It is like drinking melted candy. Then I had some beer while watching the Stage Competition. No food or water in between, you can imagine what happens next.

The Stage Competition was amazing, I wish I could describe it to you but I just can’t. My mind was BLOWN! Afterwards, I was in agony. My stomach felt like it was going to explode or self implode. I felt horrible. I started feeling a panic attack coming on and then that really had me freaking out. I didn’t want to hyperventilate and faint. I fell down on the floor near the restrooms in the hallway.

I had 3 separate panic attacks on 3 different days in September. They have been attributed to severe sleep apnea that went undiagnosed for several years. Panic attacks feel just like heart attacks and I thought I was having heart attacks and was rushed to the emergency room. It is especially scary when you don’t understand why things like this keep happening. I kept having them and had no idea why. I went through all kinds of medical tests, & tests and tests and it turns out I have a really bad case of sleep apnea and that is believed to be the cause. After the panic attacks I  haven’t been the same.  Constant anxiety issues, discomfort when breathing as my body wants to hyperventilate all the time, easy to faint, extreme weakness and soreness and exhaustion. Treatment for apnea and everything I will not get until I get back home after the convention.

I haven’t had real rest in several years and the sleep deprivation reached critical mass and my body started losing it and freaking out on me. Sleep Apnea can cause strokes, heart attacks, or simply death from not breathing. If your body doesn’t wake itself up when you stop breathing, which I do constantly through the night, then you simply die in your sleep. It is serious stuff. Your body never really heals or restores itself either because you never really sleep and don’t get enough oxygen. I kept feeling more and more exhausted all the time but I just thought it was because of the business and being a mom.

I start balling and crying there in the hallway for all to see. This wonderful lady named Melissa gave me lots of crackers and water to drink and Tanya, Liz and Clare tended to me.  They informed me that you never mix drinks and that was why my stomach was in so much pain. I really would have had a panic attack if it weren’t for them. They kept me calm and took great care of me.

Phileas Flash even saw me and gave me a pep talk. He knelt down and gave a very passionate speech. I apologized for crying so much, I felt embarrassed, and he just empathized and let me know that he’s been there too. He knew I didn’t get much sleep and encouraged me to get sleep and take care of myself and he just let me know that it isn’t uncommon for people to emotionally and physically crash at conventions, especially if you have worked really hard on a piece for an event.

He is very intense and really whole hearted when he talks to me. I again loved how all feeling he is.

Everyone around me is just super supportive and encouraging and nurturing. I wouldn’t have made it through the night without these people and I would have had a full blown panic attack without them, I have no doubt.

Thank you guys. You saved me that day, you really did.


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