.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.

.Things I Hate.

I received an email from a reader who asked me if I could write about things I hate. Well, I don’t really hate anything. Hate is such a strong word. I usually replace hate with the word dislike but for this post, I will stick with it.

Here is my list of things I “hate”: 

    1. I hate high pitched voice and when people use like and you know all the time.
    2. I hate polyester in clothing and how it smells when people wear it.
    3. I hate the skin that forms on the top of pudding. But I love the skin on top of crème brûlée.
    4. I hate the time I found my first grey hair. I named and removed it. It has the same name as my ex.
    5. I hate super high-speed bumps.
    6. I hate that all the food and drinks at the movie theater are so expensive.
    7.  I hate that movie popcorn smells and tastes so good.
    8. I hate when popcorn gets jammed in my gums.
    9. I hate remote controls. Especially the ones with one million buttons. Also, I hate that it sometimes takes three or four remotes to turn the TV on. Then again, I have no TV.
    10. I hate watching a movie with someone who has already seen it and comments all the time.
    11. I hate the change from fall to winter and that it is dark outside at 4 pm.
    12. I hate BMW, Porsche or Mercedes (or any) drivers who think they own the road.
    13. I hate that Smurfette was the only female Smurf.
    14. I hate when I am late even though I left super early.
    15. I hate wasting time.
    16. I hate paying so much for parking (at a museum).
    17. I hate that female bully who beat me up in third grade. I hate all bullies.
    18. I hate when my initial monthly phone bill is $35 and then the tax fee of $17.99 is added.
    19. I hate it when people always have the latest gadgets and brag about them. I wish I would still have my walkman and tapes. Those were epic.
    20. I hate the feeling when I put a finger in my belly button.
    21.  I hate when people don’t tell me when there is something stuck in my teeth and I walk around with it for a while (of course smiling and talking to others who also don’t tell me that there is something stuck in my teeth).
    22. I hate fake smiles.
    23.  I hate big, flat feet.
    24. I hate that not everybody has the opportunity to migrate to the south for the winter. Like birds.
    25.  I hate silent letters in words such as sa(l)mon. I want to pronounce it. Why are these letters in words?
    26.   I hate that I cannot find out what is happening at Area 51.
    27.  I hate that nobody has caught the Loch Ness Monster yet.
    28.  I hate washing my hands at a public restroom, then opening the filthy door.
    29.  I hate when people keep birds as pets.
    30.  I hate (and actually gag) smelling expired milk.
    31.  I hate sunburn.
    32.  I hate when people update every single step they take, the food they make or eat or 1000000 memes they share on Facebook. Who cares!
    33.  I hate kitten calendars.
    34. I hate it when people catch me wearing socks with holes in them.
    35.  I hate broken crayons or pencils.
    36. I hate that stringy stuff in the inside of a banana. And I hate that brown thing at the bottom of the banana.
    37.   I hate the carpet styles in casinos.
    38.  I hate super soft towels.
    39.  I hate super soft mattresses.
    40.   I hate that dust bunnies (in German: mice/Mäuse) gather under beds or in corners.
    41.   I hate that lighting bugs don’t stay lit.
    42.  I hate that superheroes don’t really exist but villains do.
    43.   I hate killing or eating a whole fresh lobster.  Those sad eyes staring at me. But it is so damn good.
    44.  I hate laziness.
    45.   I hate superstitions.
    46.  I hate using someone else’s soap.
    47.  I hate when people don’t clean the toilet bowl ring. (Klobrille, “toilet glasses” in German!)
    48.  I hate those strands of hair that cling to the shower wall or in the bathtub. Or on the floor.
    49.  I hate that stores put out back-to-school supplies in mid-July.
    50.   I hate that Halloween decoration is available by mid-August. I can go on with this.
    51.  I hate that tissue paper that people put in a gift bag. What is the purpose of it? It neither hides anything nor looks good.
    52.  I hate when reused gift bags have someone else’s name on them.
    53.  I hate that bigger is not always better.
    54.   I hate burning my mouth but I never wait when food is super hot.
    55.  I hate stepping on scales. I don’t have one. 
    56.   I hate losing buttons.
    57.   I hate missing garbage day.
    58.  I hate that I don’t get lollipops in banks anymore but my son does.
    59.   I hate when PEOPLE YELL AT ME IN ALL CAPS.
    60.  I hate when parents give their three-year-old child five-minute time warnings. They have no clue what five minutes even means. Or ten minutes.
    61.  I hate tolls.
    62.  I hate that I don’t have magic beans.
    63.  I hate that there is no magic genie inside my lamp but I keep rubbing it regardless.
    64.  I hate that most kids are scared to death when I tell them German Fairytales.
    65.  I hate when someone invents something that I thought of first. 
    66.  I hate that the really cool stuff to see is usually always on the other side of the plane, bus or car.
    67.  I hate that Rose in Titanic said she would not let go… but she did. She could have clearly saved Leo. I hate that she did not make room on that board for him.
    68.  I hate that they didn’t see that iceberg any sooner. Again, I could go on forever.
    69. I hate kids. Except for my son. And Leos. And my sister’s kids and some selected others.
    70.   I hate when people use the word ginormous or ridic.
    71.  I hate international student fees. Or all student fees.
    72.  I hate not knowing everything. I hate that my son knows everything.
    73.  I hate combination locks on lockers.
    74.   I hate the locker room or gym smell.
    75.   I hate dumb, overpriced souvenirs.
    76.  I hate when people don’t bring me back a souvenir.
    77.   I hate cruise ships. Titanic traumatized me for life.
    78.  I hate when I have to get up to pee at night.
    79.  I hate daylight-savings and losing an hour of sleep.
    80.   I hate insomnia.
    81.   I hate that software needs updates and then at some point I need to purchase a new computer because it is old.  This goes for pretty much all electrical gadgets.
    82.  I hate junk mail.
    83.   I hate licking envelopes.
    84.   I hate missing the mailman. I see him carrying the package from my mom to the door because I am working at my desk. He rings the doorbell and waits ONE second, then leaves with the package. I yell out the window that I am coming down but he is long gone.
    85.   I hate global warming.
    86.  I hate leaf blowers and the sound they make. Just horrible. Especially early on a Saturday morning.
    87.   I hate when people cannot say croissant properly when ordering one at the café.
    88.  I hate saving a good bottle of wine for a special occasion. I hate when people have a basement full of wine but don’t drink it.
    89.  I hate nasty, dumb divorces and fights over nothing.
    90.  I hate that I was too blind, rushed into things and did not see all the alarm signs and signals earlier.

What are things you hate?

.Time, Lies and Leftovers.

(Artwork by Mamma Andersson, “Leftovers”)

For some reason, there is this sweet restorative innocence to waking up in the morning after a good sleep and discovering that something has changed overnight. It may be the avocado that ripened overnight after I placed it in a paper bag. Or the change of weather when it gets chillier and then super humid again. Or when thoughts have changed because they are allowed to do so. Like avocados. Or when dreams change and bad ones are replaced for good. 

These days, my son and I established a morning ritual that works really well for us. We speak about the dreams we had and in the evening while having supper we talk about the day and what happened. I realized that whenever I ask him what he did in school there is usually the same response every single day. “Nothing”, he responds. But when I ask him what was the most exciting thing and the saddest thing that happened he goes on and on and talks for a long time giving me all the details. (Find out more reading this book) 

There are many times in the evening when I sit patiently next to him on the couch and listen to more stories when he should be in bed already. Then he usually asks me what day it is tomorrow. The other day I told him, “Tomorrow is Thursday. Two more days and it is the weekend. It might rain again tomorrow but who cares because we have our umbrellas and rain boots. Then we may have a playdate with your friend. Then I make us supper and you can play with your trains. My son is always very calm when he knows what is going on; what is going to happen, what is planned and how we spend our time.

I don’t lie to him (except white-lies once in a while; they do not count), but the biggest lie I eve told him or even myself is that there would be time. A couple of years ago I received a message from my good friend in New York: “My husband is in intensive care and about to pass away after a motorcycle accident”, it said. Or my other friend who survived TWO cardiac arrests. Who survives TWO cardiac arrests? It was completely unexpected and I felt how I was about to collapse right there. It made me realize again that everything can end in one single second. Just the thought gave me mild panic attacks. 

So, everything I thought I knew about time changed right there and then. I also thought a lot about the word “forever” or “never” and I still think constantly about them. The odd thing is that as soon as some time has passed the thought of “everything could be over in one second” is not so present anymore. Life continues and everyday duties take over and time no longer feels mercurial, yet consistently urgent.

There is always tomorrow, I told myself. 

Other lies I used to tell myself were that I have time to do X, Y, and Z. Or that being someone’s someone means I have to delay all my desires and patiently wait. Or that I will really do this or that and be dedicated to getting it done yet postpone it again. These days I am thinking, “now or never” which was replaced by “maybe later”. This newfound knowledge to start and finish things and projects that I postponed, was afraid of or thought can wait, motivates me these days and it feels so good. It is all not as complicated as it sometimes seems. I just cannot lose perspective. It may be a little push in the right direction or the realization that I can accomplish anything when I just focus and stay on track. Other times, there is this pressure that is coupled with a somewhat significant f*****-up-ness of having to start all over again at age 37. I am wisening up, realizing what was and what is. Deep and shallow thoughts are disappearing and no longer compose and court me like deep and shallow breaths. I have avoided and not listened to myself for quite some time with such ease that even when obstacles started to present itself, I did not pay attention. My response usually was to simply adapt around it. Avoidance with a mix of smooth restraint can go very far especially when a partner has an obsessive interest in their own stories more than anything else. 

Looking closely at the bigger picture, this time in my life is another great challenge and learning process leading me in a better direction. Considering how I talk about this certain time now made me realize that I simply should stick to present tense. Today is Saturday. The moon is shining. I am writing. I am happy. After all, I am just here, bungling this imitation of life, trying to find new ways to survive. Don’t we all? 

.It’s All in the Waves.

The other day I sat at the dock and realized something. The air and warmth of the sun changed. It was still very hot but something was different from the last couple of weeks. So far, I had an awesome summer, spent with great people, lots of good food and wine, laughs, tears, star-watching and hours and hours of inspiring conversations. I learned that my favorite thing to do is to spend the evening at the lake, just right before dusk.  When the lake becomes absolutely glass-like, the sun is setting but I can still see the silhouette of trees – all these conical shapes, beautiful reflections on the water with the last bits of sunlight. It was then when I heard the wailing sound of the loons who are most active (or heard) at dusk and dawn.
First, one individual of a pair gives this long wail of sound. It seems to say, “I am here. Where are you?” What a characteristic, evocative sound. A sound that will stick with me for the rest of my life. “OH MY GOD, is this a coyote?”, I asked my friend. Him: “No, Daniela, it is just a loon. Everything is okay. You are safe.”
Just moments later, I could hear a response from a second loon (the partner?) responding and it sounded like, “I am over here. Everything is okay. You are safe.” It just punctuated the fall of night and really set the mood for what followed. The solid calm and peacefulness. It is all wrapped up in this one vocalization. Reading this, one can pretty much assume, I had a perfect weekend again.
Also, summer is not over! I refuse to believe it, even though school is just about to begin again for my son and me in a little bit over two weeks. September means fall is around the corner, homework, leaves falling and colder weather. But also Halloween and all that good stuff, so who cares. All this is just a perfect example of yet another topic that graces my brain quite often. Impermanence. More specifically, I don’t adapt too well to too much change. I am not afraid of it; something ending does not scare me at all. It just makes me a bit uncomfortable. Also, change is a good thing. It means taking risks, and that something new is around the corner that can be discovered.
Some are very judgemental when people change. Nothing ever stays the same. Things are moving, like waves. Constantly. New ideas form that make so much more sense than what was before. Some are very scared that they are changing themselves. Why do they grasp so tightly to the person that they think they are? Why do they repeat the same story and fall victim to their circumstances blaming others? It is all about choices. It always is.
I have done some research recently on impermanence from various religious perspectives. I am not religious at all, rather spiritual and maybe a little philosophical at points but I connected deeply with these two lines:
“According to Hinduism, impermanence can be overcome by locating and uniting with the center of permanence that exists within oneself. This center is the Soul or the Self that is immortal, permanent and ever stable”. 
Ah! I have a Soul. Or energy. I reckon I can be called anything. I was not really aware that I have this energy inside since I began to really meditate a while ago. Yoga also helped but only to a certain degree. To connect with my inner self is so awesome. And this is exactly what I did for the last couple of times at the happy place. The place of calm and peacefulness. This refound soul of mine lets me live more fearlessly. Through meditation, I found out that this energy inside me is my essence and my true self. Whenever I disconnected from this energy, I felt confused, overwhelmed, fearful, anxious, and all those emotions caused me to live in an uncomfortable state. Living in this state is not for me since I am a free spirit, a dreamer, and an overall happy person.
The key is to connect to this energy inside and make peace by sort of befriending it. I reckon, this may look different for everyone but I do it through meditation. By silencing my mind, I can hear my intuition that I often forget I have. I feel at ease, peaceful, fearless, and my dreams not only seem in reach but in fact are not quite big enough.
I swam in the lake. The water was not quite as warm anymore but still very pleasant. I looked at the water glistening in the sun and watched how fast the waves the small boat created moved up and down; so wildly in every direction, it seemed. Water is in a constant state of change. It has no choice but to literally go with the flow. Just as life, I have no control of where situations, people, and things take me. But, if I let the energy inside guide me, I know I will be okay, no matter what happens. See where the waves take me.
We packed out things at the dock and walked up to the cottage. I forgot my book walked back down to look at the sunset one more time. This is when the loons started their conversation.
 

.Sometimes Raw – The Book.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

can I please have your attention for this public service announcement: OH MY GOD, I WROTE A BOOK. 

The title: Sometimes Raw – Balance is key and moderation is my friend. Sometimes. I love that title but I love the cover more. I can finally share all this with my readers since I kept it sort of secret for quite some time. The book was in a very raw stage, many changes needed to be made and I did not find a publisher who would print it the way I wanted. But now the secret is out. I was so thrilled and over the top when the first copy of my book arrived at my new home today, when I had it in front of me, smelled it and flipped back and forth through the pages. It was epic.

What is the book about: 

I have written a bunch of essays on my lifestyle in general, about simplifying life, about being a mother, about creating that life I am passionate about, inspirations, health and being a better version of myself. I just did not want to focus only on one thing but rather cover many aspects of (my) life. I also shared many personal topics by connecting them to my readers. Sort of like memories such as when I discovered something about my life or when I threw out all my childhood diaries and had this urge to start a new folder every time something major happened. Those certain epiphany moments we all know too well and think about it but don’t say it.

The Amazon description I wrote is: 

With poignant candor, humor, and thought-provoking articles, essayist and blogger Daniela Henry writes about emotional and powerful thoughts on parenting, travels, books, and inspiration while chronicling her life with her own ups and downs. Smart, edgy, hilarious, sometimes raw and unabashed raunchy, Henry explodes onto the printed page in her first book. You will learn about minimalism, how not to kill your child(ren), how to save money, about love, about life, and how to be happy because you only have this one life. Sometimes you just have to laugh, even when your life is a complete dumpster fire.

***********

I was very happy and excited about writing the book in the first place and putting it together with my publisher. Definitely, one of the most fun things I have ever done in my life. The reason I wanted this book to be a “real” book instead of publishing digital is that I love the physical copy of a book more than anything else. If you don’t know this by now:  I read a lot, a lot, a lot. Whenever I have the time or wherever I am, a physical version of a book is usually close by. I just love flipping through books, smelling them, touching them; it is an obsession.

What I hope to achieve with my book is that you get comfortable somewhere, have some nice music on, a cup of coffee, eat some chocolate (or don’t do anything at all) and read a copy of Sometimes Raw which may transfer you into a relaxed, thought-provoking or inspirational mode and makes you reflect and think.

Now I am no longer the consumer of books, but I am also the producer which feels pretty awesome. Actually, I am working on my second book already. When I held the first draft in my hand today it felt like giving birth – which it also is in a way. I was nervous but also so excited. Most of you guys know, I love writing. And publishing a book for a writer is a dream come true. Being an avid reader, publishing my own book was on my bucket list for a long time. I tell my son all the time how amazing it would be to see my book on a bookshelf whenever we are at a bookstore.

Now I am a published author. It is just like: check. Off the list. Simple as that. On to the new book. I really want to thank all my blog readers and the support I have gotten to make this happen. If you decide to purchase my book, make sure you read the acknowledgment page first! You may have been mentioned.

My publisher wanted me to highlight that I wrote this book in English, even though this is not my first language. My first language is German. I was always pretty decent at speaking English but writing was a different story. At this point, I also want to say Hi to my English teacher in 5th grade, Mr. Karches, who thought I will never ever be able to master grammar or to write an essay sufficiently in English.

You can order the book here:

Canada: Sometimes Raw – The book 

United States:  Sometimes Raw- The book      

and at Barnes and Noble

Germany: Sometimes Raw – The book. 

UK: Sometimes Raw – The Book (WaterStones) 

on Amazon.uk

Around the world: BookDepository

and Booktopia

or in your favorite bookstore or library. It would make me extra happy to know my book is in more libraries.

I will have a book signing coming up in Ottawa and several copies on display in bookstores worldwide. Announcements and dates will be shared on this website. My publisher and I are working on a “booktour”. How insane is that?!

Honestly, I am still totally overwhelmed in the best way possible right now. Today,  I just spent the day with my son celebrating in style. “Garlicky bites” were involved. It is a milestone I want to remember forever.

Fun fact:  My publisher told me that people have placed orders in 21 countries: Canada, Germany, USA, Mexico, Ireland, England, Scotland, Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, France, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Malaysia, and Singapore. How awesome is that?!