.Consistency.

I mentioned this in previous posts but I have to say it again. This year has been one of the most challenging ones for me for sure. A lot of things changed. My environment and a lot of feel-good moments and habits just went out of the window. Add a ton of unnecessary stress, and the picture is perfect. After a while, this began to take a toll on my wellbeing. I reckon, there is only so much a person can take while keep moving forward. A little while ago, I made a couple of promises to myself that this insanity cannot bring me down and nobody can make my world fall apart or my empire crumble. I am strong. I promised myself that I will meditate every day, eat healthy and fresh food 95% of the time, to move my body and sweat, and to rest and sleep enough. This changed my life and eventually turned into a daily ritual. I would like to share how these little promises have kept me accountable and how I have been able to stay consistent over the last couple of months.

First, it is important to be realistic. It is easy to come up with goals in our head that we constantly repeat to ourselves. Some goals are often very big and rather discouraging from taking even the first step. I will graduate from The Institute of Holistic Nutrition soon and healthy living is obviously important to me. I also know that recommending clients to switch their diet and cut out everything they love to eat won’t work. Baby steps. For example, if you want to change your diet, cut out all refined sugars for a start. This is more than enough for most people.

I started meditating for 5 minutes initially. An hour might be unrealistic as a starting goal. Set goals that are easy to accomplish or alter them slightly to fit your needs. Listen to your body. Rest and say no when your body tells you.

Make time and prioritize. My little personal wellness rituals do not take away from my social time either. If I have dinner plans with friends for the evening but I haven’t eaten anything healthy all day, I may either go with them anyway and eat better the next day or I invite them over and we cook something healthy together. Or I will have herbal tea instead of coffee. Or an apple instead of a glass of wine (Yeah, right. There is no way those two cannot co-exist. It is the only way to make it sustainable!)

What it all boils down to is mindset and to be realistic. And the truth is, that accomplishing big goals just simply does not happen overnight. Usually, there is pretty hard work involved. I used to think all or nothing which usually stopped me from starting in the first place or made me quit shortly after. Things have gotten better as soon as I changed my mindset and recognized that everything counts towards the bigger picture. These days, one of my goals is to save money and rather invest in experiences than materialistic things. My friend is really good at saving money and I learned that finance is the best way to realize how every little thing counts. He saved that $1 the tooth fairy brought while I bought bubble gum. Oh, my son is about to lose his first tooth. Sigh! Playground talk: The tooth fairy rate is $5 or a small toy. When did that happen?

Staying consistent with my goals is of course not easy but I have created these promises from a place of self-love. It might sound cheesy but if the goals I am setting do not evolve from a loving place, I know I will end up hating myself if I do not measure up to perfection some day. There are of course also times when I over-spend, when I eat unhealthy food like nachos. There are also times when I do not have the best workout, especially not after those nachos but I forgive myself and promise to do better the next day. I have learned to fuel my rituals with compassion, love, and kindness because frankly, this is the only way to get to where I want to be. Self-hate prioritizes self-destructive activities over self-improvement.

.Limited but Tenacious Thinking .

You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching,
Love like you’ll never be hurt,
Sing like there’s nobody listening,
And live like it’s heaven on earth. – William W. Purkey

I am here at my desk, the cursor patiently blinking while I stare at the screen. Hey, now, after I typed a couple of words, it is a slightly less blank page in front of me. Scrolling through my website after almost three years of initial daily then once/twice -a -week-blogging I find it still amazing how much fun I have with it all. Sometimes, it takes me a while to get started even though I have the concept all laid out in my head. Even the most mangled piece of writing if less intimidating than the empty sheet, right? In these moments when I type, the possibilities are infinite, and that is scary. Writing for me is not easy. First of all, English is not my first language and even though I have a plethora of idea, it takes time to type it all out to make sense. Publishing my book was also a struggle and for some reason, I thought that writing would get easier over time. But it has not and this is what I really want to write about. What I want to say here is that I am not a great writer and I am fine writing or saying this.

Know that it is not out of self-deprecation that I suggest this. You may have come to this conclusion on your own already, in which case, I am glad we are on the same page. I am also not saying this out of a lack of positive affirmation, or a fake-it-til-you-make-it attitude. I got all this down. I am an overall positive person who feels incredibly blessed in so many ways.

My readers have to understand that when I started writing in English and in a formalized educational setting, I found it incredibly frustrating to craft sentences and paragraphs that properly reflected my feelings towards what I wanted to say in German but that needed to be translated in my head into English. Small inflections and emotions were completely lost on my attempt at a long-form written piece. It sort of almost always fell flat. I felt like my essays would miss an entire element of what I am actually trying to say (in German). I have known this all along, but what has me in a strange conundrum is that my book is selling like crazy after just two months of publication which makes me so happy. People love to read what I have to say, even if English is not my first language.

When I started blogging in 2015, I thought the idea was to write a lot, consistently improve my writing as time continued, and then success. I thought I would eventually get better at sharing ideas and thoughts while giving the reader an inside perspective on my experience, all while at the same time crafting beautifully languaged (sp? or did I just create a new word?) word art. Maybe I have gotten better at writing over the last two years or so, but what really ended up happening was that I started comparing my writing to other writers who I deeply respected. Following my blog for some time, you may know by now that I am an avid reader. What I came to view as great writing, was not what I had been doing. I was what they had been doing and continue to do. I do not consider myself to be a competitive person, however, I have continually tried to fit my writing style into what I thought good writing was supposed to be. Hypothetically sort of like, I am the “New Nora Ephron” in some way.

The funny thing is that some of my most popular posts came from a time when I could not have cared less about writing well at all but simply just had this idea to communicate ideas and tell stories without a concept. Initially and back when I did not think anyone was actually reading my writings I was the freest and perhaps that is what mattered most. That is the thing for me when I write. I want you (the reader) on this journey with me and somebody is reading all this, but at the same time, I want to write in a way that is still my speaking voice. I want to reach through this screen and hug your brain with my feelings, thoughts, learnings, and failures while really opening up in a way that should help all of us.

Whenever I am writing, I want to give you the real Daniela, not good-writer Daniela, but just, writer Daniela. So I think that is what this is now, a return to origins, perhaps, a more casual writing style, and more direct access to what I believe is the real me. Authenticity is scary as hell but it is the only way forward. I am authentic and I put myself on the line. Why is it scary? Because as a writer, I have to face the fact that my true self might not be enough to get the job done. That is a risk that I am willing to take though.

I have to keep in mind that expectations and competition can help, but it may be destructive, too. It is great to seek inspiration from those I admire, but I should never let it prevent myself from sharing my own perspective in a way that makes sense to me. The good thing is, everyone is different and that is what makes us great. Realizing all this is incredibly freeing. It releases me from the boundaries of my own expectations. Maybe this little essay encourages you to let go of what you may expect of yourself so you can simply be what you are. You may be surprised by the result. I am far from perfect, and most likely always will be – like everybody and everything.

.The Architect of my Life.

These days my nature is to do the sensible thing. To make the safe choice, keep quiet until I am sure what to say. Not to rush into things anymore. I thought I have seen it all but what I am going through these days is nothing I ever thought I would have to deal with. All I can say is that this is no way to say goodbye. At some point, two people were in love but are no longer due to certain circumstances. Reflecting on how things were a couple of years ago, the thought of being apart was overwhelming at some point. Those times when I drove him to the airport, we parked the car, walked hand in hand to the terminal, he checked in, and our hearts burst while we gazed at each other before we spoke. I remember the conversations almost verbatim. Then he left through the security checkpoint. And was gone.

As some of my readers have noticed, my husband and I have not been together for quite a while now. However, I don’t think it is fair to him to discuss specifics about our relationship on my blog or the internet.  As logical as this is, my initial thought was also to dismiss the suspicion that has built up for some time. Like a whiff of something that is just in my head. Or I just have to duck my head, cover my ears, eyes, and mouth and wait for it to blow over like the tornado in Ottawa last week. Then I can just wrap myself back inside the life that used to fit me so comfortably. And I just keep going because it would be a lot easier than what I am going through right now. But deep inside my body knows the truth, pricking tears into the corners of my eyes whenever I thought of it all, sleepless nights, adrenaline every time I probed a little further, every time I asked more questions. Last year around that time, all I felt was this unbearable hunger to have someone hold my deck of cards in their hands and gently nod in recognition telling me everything will be okay and dealt with because the house always wins.

Regardless, certain things that recently happened caught me by surprise since everything could have been solved a lot easier. I still do not understand why people who have nothing to do with “our issues” need to suffer but I reckon, there are reasons.  When I initially had been confronted with law agencies reports and files, I thought that everything looks blurry. Like I am missing something even though I haven’t lost anything or if I need something even though I have everything I used to need.

I am different now. All this stress made me even stronger. I changed and adjusted. Another piece of the puzzle has just started to crystallize. After all this time of indulging in the misplaced frustration that I was not able to see this insanity earlier, I wanted to find myself since I could not articulate who I was anymore. My life is changing. But it is not a bad thing. I am surrounded by love and the most amazing people after all.

These days I have to go through a lot of paperwork, phone calls and explaining situations, but I do send light and love whenever I think of him and then I drop it. What helped me a lot? Meditation and focusing on mySelf.  Sometimes when I meditate I feel more love than I ever felt before. I learned how to clear out most of the mess that comes in. Most people want things to stay the same way; sometimes even settled in misery because they are afraid of change. But why? Others make the same choices over and over and expect a different result. Or worse, some try to make something work or change a person. What for? If it doesn’t work or feel good, move on and leave.

These days,  I am happy and content. I can now, after all these crazy months finally articulate again who I am and I know for certain that it is something I have never been. Writing always helps me. This tight feeling in my throat when I want to cry and scream (it kind of feels like a lozenge stuck in my throat) usually disappears as soon as I write or when I am at my happy place. The other day, I had a nightmare. I won’t go into details but it was pretty bad. I got up, made myself a cup of tea and fragments of sentences swirled their way around my head and I started to type along. The words patiently waited for me to figure out how to fit them together at 2 am. Well, the positive aspect of all this is that my second book will get published soon if I keep working at this pace.

These days, I can pinpoint who I am and discern who I was, what I felt and why. I am the architect of my life and as confusing as it all seems, as disorienting, frustrating and sad as it feels, a curious thrill pulse is felt in me and my chest. It tells me that I can give myself permission to chase growth over insecurity and lies.

.One Unripe Avocado.

The other day I sent my friend a message: “What do you want to eat tonight?” “I am really not fussy. Do you want me to pick something up?” Me: “If you don’t mind. I will see if they have pretzels. Shrimp? The usual?” His response: “Can you clarify a bit?” – followed by a bunch of question marks.

I have to mention that my friend is very articulate (one of his nicest assets) and uses words that I have to look up sometimes. He would probably send me a message of some sort of straightforward communiqué, saying “I will bring two (2) ripe avocados. Looking forward to seeing you soon” – followed by a cute emoji. It is a simple message and this behavior from him is not exceptional or weird ever; it is standard. He is disciplined, organized, and his messages represent his dedication to details and are a channel for him to get to the point without a lot of fluff. I like that. A lot. It is his art of planning, the art of eating together, and even the art of making plans to eat. Sometimes, there are different lenses through which to view my friend’s messages and emails. One might suggest he is a gem of a man: so well-spoken, communicative, handsome, helpful and so clearly looking forward to the visit, the supper, the appetizers! Others may suggest he should be investigated further. But who cares what people say. I listen to my gut and  the man knows how to cook.

When we cook together, I see food as art. Cooking is my meditation and I reflect my own creation by making beautiful yummy things. Some use food as praise since it can be glory to all the senses. Especially when he makes this amazing spicy, garlicky shrimp sauce. Sometimes food is used as a ritual, to glue people and families together (family supper at 6 pm), food to mourn, food to f*** (add some cinnamon) or food to fuel this amazing wonder called the human body. The other side is that this love for food can also get twisted up with pain that we accumulate(d). Some obsess over food; they use it to distract themselves, to patch certain holes in their soul or as a pacifier. Food: we can eat to feel full in our bodies when the work to feel full in our lives seems unattainable or even intangible.

On a side note and just in case you don’t already know: I am studying holistic nutrition for almost 8 months now and having been into food and healthy eating for many years, I feel the need to tell the world that the food industry makes fake food. The food industry color “food” with bright red (*replace red with any color) powdered chemicals, put it in plastic, bleach the bread white, and call it “natural apple flavor”. Food gets thrown in dumpsters when people are hungry or starving. There are wars because of food. “They” poison the water, poison the people, to keep those Granny Smith apples extra shiny, no brown spots, no holes. Burn crops and privatize what naturally grows. We also use food to wage war on our own bodies and when our bodies get sad and full of toxins, we keep eating more toxic shit to silence the sadness. Take an Antacid and put a blanket on the sadness. Go to sleep sadness, sleep….. shhhhh.

I was not always a healthy eater or paid too much attention what the food I ate was made of. But I felt bad after eating certain food and the more I learned about eating healthier, I knew things have to change. There was a time, right after I gave birth, where I would have called myself fluffy. Some people may have thought “fat” would have been the more appropriate term. I gained a lot of weight but I would have considered myself still as healthy fluffy. I had this relationship with food in which I felt I am still the boss ( most of the time at least). When I gave birth to my son, I knew this weight has to go because I did not feel well overall. One positive asset I have is that I am very disciplined. I can pretty much make everything work. So I lost the weight. Through proper nutrition.

How am I doing this? I am using tactics to distract or channel my energy so I can stay committed to, for example, delayed gratification. Or I simply focus on my health and listen to my body. My body usually tells me what is good to eat and what is not. Yeah, we are pretty tight.

So, guess what?  My friend showed up with only one (1) unripe avocado. We did not make guacamole, which was on my mind as soon as I read two (2) ripe avocados, but he made the best salad ever. The avocado is still sitting around on the counter unused but who cares. The way he chopped those veggies and sautéed the shrimp in garlic and onion,  I am convinced he enjoys food twice as much as I am. I celebrate him for that and I am grateful he is in my life. I invited him in. He is here – in my life and in my head. He is crazy, as am I. We love food.  We want to eat. And then talk about how good it tasted. And then look forward to the next time we can enjoy it together. We are always choosing.

.The Story I am Telling in my Head is…”

I overheard this conversation the other day at a coffee shop:

-Tell me about us!

-About us?

-Tell me as if I would be a person you have never met.

– Well, we were lovers at first, then got married, then had a child, then another.

– And then? Did we take care of each other?

– What do you mean? Yes, we did. I provided for this family.

– But then one day….

– Then one day what?

– Can you tell me what happened so I can understand?

– I don’t think I can. No, I don’t want to.

– Do you want me to tell it instead? Then I most certainly will.

The couple started to fight and left shortly after. I love to listen to people’s conversations. Occasionally at the playground, I hear stories about seemingly harmonious and conflict-free marriages and how everything is so “wonderful all the time”. Part of me cannot help it but be suspicious of such accounts, trying to figure out if they are curated or selective images. What I have seen so far and experienced with either marriages or relationships is that both are most certainly not always easy, harmonious and conflict-free. Just think about it: How can it ever be? Two completely separate people with different personalities, preferences, sometimes nationalities, family backgrounds are forming a life together where things need to be negotiated on a daily basis. This person next to me is supposed to be my partner in crime, my lover, my personal chef, my mentor, my best friend, best listener and vice versa. I think it is impossible for one person to fulfill all these tasks.

These days I believe that the happiest and strongest relationships are not those conflict-free-perfect-look-how-much-in-love-we-are-ones. I reckon those relationships are the ones where partners have the most struggles and drama and cannot work through an argument or conflict at all since it is just a show. What I learned is that good relationships or marriages are created and nurtured and not automatic. Good things take time, long good conversations and by giving it this important time, things will nourish. Like raising anything that is alive – form a child to a pet to a plant, we must tend to it constantly.

Whenever there is a conflict, it is the working and tending through it that trip most people up. Tending and conflict resolution? Tending and conflict resolution comes in the form of spending quality time together, being honest and empathetic, communication, playfulness, independent inner growth, philosophizing, support, self-awareness and this sweet extending forgiveness for little things that either of the partners does wrong. In any case, communication is key, silence is not. In addition to these somewhat basic relationship hacks of tending and conflict resolution, I have discovered some ways that turn out pretty helpful when I am at my limit.

We all know these moments when fair-arguing or reasoning is just not possible with the partner. I want to share what came in handy for me in those last couple of weeks of insanity, what I learned, what saved my day(s), what kept me sane and how I have been able to defuse my piercing anger and somehow infuse me with a sweet spirit of generosity in the midst of an emotional nuclear meltdown.

Making a Positive/Negative List. Making a list of all the moments in your relationship that confirmed for you that you wanted to be in all this and how much you loved the person for certain qualities. This list obviously can include a wide range of things such as first love letters, first dates, conversations that were special, movies watched together, food shared, restaurants, concerts, trips. Then write or think about what happened along the way that started to change things. Maybe your partner has entitlement issues that exude a delusional degree of self-confidence which can be alluring to you or others at least for a little while. Mark Manson said that “in some instances, the entitled person’s delusional level of confidence can become contagious and help the people around the entitled person feel more confident in themselves too. Any attempt to reason with them is seen as simply another ‘threat’ to their superiority by another person who ‘can’t handle’ how smart/talented/good-looking/successful they are'”. Mark Manson adds that “Entitlement is impervious. People who feel entitled view every occurrence in their life as either an affirmation of or a threat to, their own greatness. If something good happens to them, it’s because of some amazing feat they accomplished. They keep their mental façade standing at all costs, even if it sometimes requires being physically or emotionally abusive to those around them”. But guess what? Entitlement is a failed strategy. It is just another high but it is not happiness. Entitled people are incapable of improving their lives in any lasting or meaningful way because all they have to do is “chasing high after high and accumulating greater and greater levels of denial”.

What I learned is that entitled people hide from their problems by making up imagined successes for themselves at every turn. And because they cannot face their problems, no matter how good they feel about themselves, they are weak. A person who actually has a high self-worth is able to look at the negative parts of their life and admit, “Yes, I messed up here”, or “Yes, I cheated”, and “Yes, sometimes I exaggerate my own success and what I have achieved or what I can do”. Guess what? Eventually, reality hits.

Remember, these items on your lists can be as dumb or meaningful as you want them to be. These are the things you write; things that only matter to you. They are reminders of why you love or don’t love this person, or why you chose to leave him or her. Once the lists are written, they are great tools to question things or to be reminded how much you love your partner and appreciate all those times he/she can still give you butterflies when thinking of them.

One more relationship hack I would like to share is to let go of “your victim story”. We all have been through some rough times. We all have a story. But many times it is the same story that repeats itself. He is late again, she ignores me, he cheated again. Each time your partner does whatever it is that you are super sensitive to, your brain goes on auto-pilot and endorses that narrative you initially created about the person. To constantly tell an “entitled person” for example what they did wrong leads nowhere. Constantly telling your partner that they are this or that, they may even start acting in ways that confirm your ideas of them because of the things you are saying. Lastly, always telling your partner they did X, Y and Z wrong are usually self-created narratives that don’t usually have anything to do with your partner. It has to do with you and your own fears and insecurities that are magnified as you misinterpret your spouses’ behavior and actions. Isn’t it that oftentimes, you are the one who has issues and you subconsciously choose external evidence to prove what you are afraid of rather than looking inward and critically examining those fears and insecurities.

Always keep in mind that these strategies or tips don’t mean you won’t get hurt. For as long as you are together with someone, from time to time, they will disappoint, hurt and enrage you. It is important to feel those emotions, talk about it and accept the pain in the situation. Just drop the bullshit. Feel the feelings, drop the story and deal with the actual issue at hand rather than going down a rabbit hole of imaginative narratives and paranoia.

Thoughts on Humor.

My friend Julia from Germany told me that despite everything that is happening in my life these days, I still keep my humor. “How do you do it,” she asked.  This made me think about humor. For example, why is a funny, shirtless drunk bachelor party dance hysterical but a funny sailor dance confusing? Why is a clown funny at a kid’s birthday party but a  clown showing up with balloons in a sewer trying to give you back your little floating boat terrifying? Is it funnier if you know the person who is sinking in quicksand rather than if it is a stranger? Why is it funny to read Captain Underpants stories and the mischief these boys do to my son but not Struwwelpeter?

How long should you laugh at your boss’s joke? One minute or half an hour? Should you keep mentioning the joke throughout the day? What does it mean to have a sense of humor? Can this be taught or learned? In theaters and movies: Must there always be a tragedy when it is a comedy? It is tragic when someone gets struck by lightning and dies. But if your friend would be struck by lightning and he would be okay but his hair is smoking, would it be okay to laugh? Why does my son laugh every single time I drop something and it breaks? Why does he usually never laugh when he drops something and it breaks? Why does he also laugh every time I put on a t-shirt with a logo backward but he never laughs but gets frustrated when he puts his t-shirts on backward and upside down?

Why is it boring or disturbing when your friend Brian tells you that his wife left him but you are laughing when you find out that she left him for another man called Brian? Did Vikings tell each other jokes and were they gentle? Do Danish or Norwegian people have humorous (freaking scary) fairy tales like Germans do? Does it come naturally that we laugh and point at something or do we learn this from our parents? On the other hand, can somebody with no sense of humor be taught humor? Why is it so embarrassing when my son laughs at an elderly man who lost his wig and looks like Captain Underpants?

Is there humor on other planets or are these aliens so advanced that they simply laugh at how dumb we are and what we do to our planet? Why is it funny if someone slips on a banana peel but not if someone chokes on a banana peel? Would it be funny if someone, instead of finding a message in a bottle finds a tiny clown with balloons? Or a banana peel? Are there examples of something true and funny at the same time? Kinda like, “Dude, your head looks like a watermelon today?” Should a stand-up comedian who tells jokes and nobody laughs be entitled to drink for free that night? Is it funnier to observe a father trying to get a kite up with his son when there is no wind or is it funnier to see him trying to get the kite down from a tree with a stick while standing on a ladder destroying it? It is funnier to watch a family trying to put up a beach tent when there is strong wind or watching the tent fly into the lake with pizza cartons in it? Do bees have a sense of humor? Is their punch line stinging people?

I am wondering if there will ever be a time when we won’t have this feeling to laugh anymore. Will this time ever come? Then again, if Frodo can get the ring to Mordor, I can stay positive and funny throughout all this mess I am dealing with, too. And keep smiling at it all. This is important.

A friend just sent me this link and I wiped away a tear or two.

 

 

.Seasons.

When I was seventeen, I joined the Federal German Police; this one in all its seriousness seemed more finite than continuing school or bartending for pocket-money and tips. After I graduated from Police Academy and patrolled the streets of Munich for a couple of years, the days felt meaningless and unending sort of like I signed my life away for this job I was not happy at. A friend told me with exasperation and compassion that, “This is not your whole life. This is just a season in your life. In a couple of years, we will say ‘Remember that weird time you worked for the German Police and you were not happy?'”

My friend was right. It was a season. Just a brief, informative season – just a blink of an eye, that ended up having much more significance than I could have predicted. It did not feel like a season at the time; it felt like the rest of my life. I think that is how most seasons feel while you are living (surviving?) them, and then your surroundings transform just as you are getting settled. The winter – to spring shift is slow but dramatic, bringing with it a change of heart and wardrobe. The fall to winter transition is quick, taking place the very minute Santa comes floating by for Christmas. The end of summer is slower. This time of year is precious to everyone. It belongs to the soft cotton part of your heart that never ages past ten years old. You can smell it – fresh pencil shavings have the same effect on me.

Fall is a grieving period. It just is. It is beautiful when the leaves change magically and they have their own dress code, but it is a season all about loss. Even if you are not sad about seeing summer go, fall is still heartbreaking, especially when the sky is grey, it rains and it starts getting colder. More rain sings through empty branches and leaves litter the ground like dusty garnets, waiting to be stuffed in sad brown garbage bags that sit patiently at the side of the curb.

When I was in my twenties, I heard that this is my time to explore. That this is my time to grow and experiment and push my limits. That if I stumble, it is a great sign and that it means I found my edge. My friend (I keep mentioning him lately on the blog because he has a pretty important place in my life for quite some time) said, “Well, you tried something and it did not work out, but now you know.” This insight has somewhat guided me. I have tried a bunch of jobs – jobs that I never thought I would be good at but I learned so much about myself, my interests, how much I am able to take and hidden abilities. Throughout this time, I have dated people I didn’t think would be good for me but some are still my friends and I talk to them occasionally. I have moved to cities I did not think fit my personality and, for the first time in my life found what feels like home in Ottawa, Canada. Yet, I still don’t have a job but I found a “new family” (I deeply wish my family in Germany would live closer or time-traveling would be a thing!!!!) who give me support, love and help me along my journey.

All too often, I was anxious to feel more settled, to have it figured out, to stop learning lessons or to just reap the benefits of those lessons learned. The most helpful way to get over this anxiety was to think about my life as a collection of seasons, rather than as individual steps. It’s tempting at this age to carry around a mental checklist of “Things an Adult Should Have at this Point” and a monthly report card with markings for each life stage. There were so many times I felt like I was sitting around waiting. So man times I was meandering around with a heavy heart, mourning the loss of a happier season without any idea what would come next, and when. I can see now that those were the seasons of loss, my own personal autumn. For now, I just will surrender to the bittersweet everyday life, getting back to my routine and so does my son. We have each other and deep, unconditional love.

Just a few more weeks and there will be yellow and red leaves everywhere. Then those leaves will fall and we are watching naked branches in harsh winds. Soon, there will be cookies made, our favorite TV shows start over, neatly adding regularity to our weeknight, and giving us something new to discuss. We will eat tacos on Friday and homemade pizza on Saturdays. We will all cuddle up on the couch in the living room with hot chocolate, wine, tea, books, and stories.

After that, we start looking forward to Halloween, then Christmas. What follows is a virtual coziness – a couple of lit candles, huddling indoors, fluffy socks and soft blankets. And before we know it, the crisp smell of snow fills the air reminding us that colder days are ahead for quite some more time before trees and flowers sprouting again. Then we say, “Spring has finally sprung” but does this tiny bud know about the power it possesses?

.Small Steps.

I never really knew what I wanted to be. Well, maybe when I was six. I am pretty sure I wanted to be a garbage collector but maybe it was only because I really liked how the garbage men ride the trucks standing on these little boards on the side. I also know that I always loved books and writing and my biggest dream was to publish my own book. It is human nature to focus on the future. We think about who we are going to be maybe once we graduate, once we paid that debt off for good or when we finally get that promotion at work because then things will get better. Or we think about what will happen if we get a job in the first place. We feel like life is usually somewhere over there – metaphorically speaking.

Fortunately, we all have the ability to bring that future into today. A quote by Annie Dillard comes to my mind: “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives”. It truly is the small things that we do each day that become the blur of a life well lived. For example, reading for just five minutes today might not seem like all that much but it is this act repeated that becomes a lifetime of self-directed education and enjoyment. Doing one sit-up might now seem like that much – but one becomes two. Realistically, we just need to do as many as we are willing to do repeatedly over a long period of time. So what’s the rush to do so many all at once? I want to share a couple of tips how I implement some of these things mentioned and how I make them work for me.

Start small. Small actions each day might not seem that much but it all matters over the long-term. Here is what I learned for example from a friend about meditation. We sat at a café and talked about this yoga retreat he went to. Out of a sudden, he looked at me and said, “All you have to do is sit still. Now breathe in and think I am alive. Breathe out and think I am home. I just mediated. See, it is that simple”. It really is all about this moment even if it is small. It is that small action repeated over time that makes a massive difference.

Instead of setting a particular goal just choose a new way to live. It is the small actions that make the biggest impact. Just choose something you want to do over and over that reflects the goal that you eventually have and you are more likely to get there. This was my approach with my first book. I just kept writing, editing and collecting stories that eventually ended at my publisher’s desk. And finally, I learned that I have to let go of the past.  Until someone invents a time machine there is nothing we can do to change it. All I can do is focus on the present and move forward. That is the beauty about the quote “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives”. We really just need to focus on who we are right now and by doing what we want to do at this moment, those small actions that help change our lives in the long term, we fundamentally become a new person. It is that opportunity that we have every single day. And it is a beautiful one.

.Things I Do Not Buy Anymore.

I would like to share with you ten things I no longer buy in an attempt to make my life easier and less cluttered. These are things I stopped buying and of course, you don’t have to stop purchasing those if they make you happy. This is just food for thought and ideas if you are thinking about things you can live without or buy less of. Also, if you intend to save some money,  live a little bit more minimally then hopefully you will resonate with one or two of these things I want to share.

The first thing I no longer buy are clothes that I don’t love. I am shopping with this thought in mind that I want to actually wear this item over and over, regularly and long-term. I really like to have items in my wardrobe that are versatile, and that can be worn in many different ways. Something that I avoid doing is buying clothing that are one-offs or that can be worn only by itself and don’t match other items I own very well. The next items I stopped buying are purses and handbags. I used to love shopping for handbags and had a bunch of them in different sizes, shapes, styles, color, and even expensive brands but I really thought about downsizing and getting one much smaller size purse that fits the simple things that I want to carry around and stick with that. What I love most about having just one small size purse is that I only carry in it what I need which is not a lot. Think about what we really need!  It sort of forces me to take only the essentials like my wallet, a lipstick, my small moleskin journal and a pen. Just the bare necessities and this is what I need and prefer doing.

The next item I stopped buying is a large wallet. All I have is a small, rectangular size wallet for a couple of reasons. I don’t have dozens of cards, credit cards, and point cards, and coupons. I don’t even know what people put in their wallets these days. I am also that type of mother who does not have pictures of her son in her wallet. Is this still a thing? I used to love purchasing wallets, especially the big ones that zip around and hold all my stuff. I just no longer have a use for that or need it. And a larger wallet would not fit in my tiny purse anyway. Another thing I stopped purchasing is jewelry. I no longer buy jewelry the way I used to and I have actually never even been a big jewelry wearer strictly because I don’t find jewelry comfortable, I don’t want things around my neck or wrist and I don’t like earrings dangling on my ears. Sometimes I love to wear a tiny pair of earrings that I have that I got a long time ago but other than that I don’t buy it anymore. Hence, I don’t have a jewelry box that stores tons and tons of pieces in it.

The other thing that I stopped buying is souvenirs,  knick-knacks, and collectibles. Any time I am traveling, I have no interest in stopping at a gift-shop to buy stuff to display in a cabinet or around my house. I don’t even have a cabinet. Or a house. My memories are in my head. And if they are fading or I cannot recall, then they are not that important in the first place. The next things I stopped purchasing are pre-made sauces and dressings. Years ago, I always used to buy those out of convenience, to make salads or to cook with but studying what the ingredients are I rather leave them in the store. I rather prefer to make things homemade because it is so easy to do and I know what is in it. It is also so much better for me because these packaged foods are loaded with ingredients I cannot even pronounce, chemicals, artificial flavors, preservatives and other additives such as colors.

The next thing I have stopped buying are hand/body/face lotions, shaving creams, creams, peelings, toners, and moisturizers. I just use a couple of simple oils such as jojoba oil or argan oil. I add essential oils to some or I buy them in a blend and I use them for all of those things. They work fantastically as a hand cream, facial moisturizer, an all over body moisturizer or work as a shaving cream as well. I sometimes use some coconut oil that I have in my cupboard to cook with and it is just as good. The next item I have also completely stopped buying is body wash. I used to love or actually prefer body wash in plastic containers but I no longer do. What I instead buy now are bars of soap. I really like the company Soapworks because they have all kind of, very simple, clean, different type of soap bars that smell amazing while using organic ingredients.

Another thing I have stopped buying or buying into is sales promotions and coupons. Those things I pretty much never agreed to or sign up for. Any time when I am at a store and they ask me for my email address or phone number to tell me they send me an email for 15% off for my next purchase, I never agree to it. Don’t ever feel obligated to this. I used to. I used to have an email inbox loaded with promotions and discounts that I never needed in the first place.

The last thing I stopped buying is things that I have not used up yet. I do think that stocking up certain things or purchasing items in bulk is useful and can actually be a good thing. But generally speaking, I do not like to have more things around than I am actually using or already go at hand. I don’t want to be tempted by a sale or advertisements that make me think I need certain items even though I do not. All this makes me live a more meaningful life with less clutter and fewer things to worry about.

.A Weekly Food Diary – A Holistic Perspective.

I went grocery shopping the other day and at the register, the cashier told me that I cannot use my debit card but have to either use cash or my credit card instead. I never believe(d) in credit cards. I am a cash girl, always and forever. I love to have money in my wallet instead of taking out these plastic cards. My friend lost his walled the other day and we realized that it is crazy to get money without these cards.  He had to cancel his cards and order new ones but in the meantime had no access to money. Then again, carrying too much cash is also not the ideal. I remember the time when I was a child and all my parents had in their wallets was actual money. What I am aiming for is to always carry $60 at all times, “just in case”. Other than that my rather very slim wallet contains 89 cents, a debit card, a credit card that I never use and membership card for museums.

I am a student at The Institute of Holistic Nutrition in Ottawa and not a Holistic Nutritionist yet but my life already revolves around food 98% of the time.  Most of my money these days is spend on food for my son and I. He grew a lot and changes; most of his clothes no longer fit and he eats so much. I included some meat in his diet because he craves it. To make him happy and nutritionally satisfied, I rather put the $60 in cash or any money actually toward organic meat and produce than purchasing clothing or anything for myself. Since we have to calculate and live on a very small budget, there is no way I can splurge too much on books, toys for him and personal things for myself. But there is always the library. And secondhand clothing. And local produce. Besides, I see this time of my life as a challenge which I make fun on a daily basis. My son understands that we have to be more considerate with money these days; he understands because he is a smart kid. Thankfully I was never into fancy handbags, clothing, and shoes. I  share how we shop as healthy and nutritionally- dense as possible in one week; I included some recipes with keeping minimalism and a small budget in mind.

Monday

$ 130 for most of the groceries for the week

This is a pretty standard shopping day for me. I go pretty veggie-heavy at Farmboy for example where I purchase local produce with minimal packaging. I also choose two to three proteins that can be stretched throughout the week (like chicken breast, eggs, turkey or ham). 80% of the produce is local which is important to me. I have to calculate our meals and aim to bring the amount of cost per meals per day for both of us down to $10. These days, I eat less so my son can have more.

Tuesday

Simple is key. For lunch, we had tuna sandwiches on buckwheat bread that I made. His favorite bowl of steamed broccoli not depicted. There was a time when we used to go out for dinner all the time even though my fridge was usually full of organic, healthy food that I purchased at Whole Foods. I have to shamefully admit that I was a huge food waster. These days, I try to save eating at a restaurant for the weekend after I used all my groceries I purchased at the beginning of the week.

Wednesday

For breakfast, we had homemade blueberry/banana buckwheat muffins with my mom’s jam. After, we had to run some errands and came home for lunch. I made us a small salad with homemade bread and cheese. Dinner was organic chicken, roasted asparagus, Brussel sprouts, and quinoa.

Thursday

We both had a banana/blueberry/coconut smoothie for breakfast. For lunch, we each had a Mini Mason Jar Greek Salad with a baguette. Mini Mason Jar WHAT? Put oil in a jar (2Tsp), 2 Tsp of Apple Cider Vinegar, 2 Tsp Maple Syrup, Oregano, Salt, Pepper and shake in a mason jar. Then add sliced cucumber, a sliced hardboiled egg, tomato, tuna, black olives, bell pepper, red onion, feta cheese, avocado or whatever else you feel like. Shake again and enjoy.

Friday

Since it is so hot these days, I prefer to eat light. I made an Avocado Salsa and we had Blue Corn Tortilla chips with it. For the Avocado Salsa: Chop tomatoes, bell pepper, cheese, cilantro, add lime, cumin, salt, pepper, a bit of cayenne pepper, oil (these days I use avocado/coconut oil), cilantro, and avocado. Mix it all up in a bowl. I added shrimp as a good protein source.

Saturday/Sunday

We spent the weekend at the cottage and ate “garlicky bites”, enjoying a cold beer and wine (just me obviously and not my son), steak, potatoes, steamed veggies, omelets with fresh veggies, garlic, and bread. Life is always good a the cottage!

I did not list every single thing my son and I ate in a week but keeping track of my spending while writing down most of the meals we had each day was definitely interesting. It made me think where and if I can save more money somehow by making smarter choices. Keeping a food journal is something most nutritionists recommend to clients and it is definitely helpful in the beginning. I also think it is okay if most of my money goes to quality food that nourishes my son and I and supports small farmers.