.New Directions.

“If you follow the classical pattern, you are understanding the routine, the tradition… you are not understanding yourself.” – Bruce Lee

It is not unheard of that in any career, creative practice or life stage, it may be rather difficult to know the next step, in which direction to go. All these things can feel like impossible tasks. Maybe they are. Many times we make decisions and rarely know where they will lead us and we cannot predict what kind of career ladder will reveal itself as we take our first steps into new territory. To just focus on goals or long-term plans that seem to work can many times rather prove futile. As comedian Tim Minchin put it, “If you focus too far in front of you, you won’t see the shiny things out the corner of your eye.

Following a classical pattern or how things are supposed to be closed me off from pursuing what truly drives and excites me. So, I want to take the next step simply from a desire to upskill, from this restlessness for months now and the feeling of being stuck. This moment before taking action left me feeling uncertain, indecisive, confused and even fearful. I asked myself many times if I am ready or simply restless because, whenever things are uncertain all I crave is certainty. I know I cannot speed up time to get desired answers or shut off what is happening right now but what I can do is to focus and develop a passionate dedication to the pursuit of short-term goals that make sense for now. I simply have to work with whatever is right in front of me. Whenever I do not know what steps to take next, I take a break and then start with the smallest steps first to look out for opportunities that may appear. Because it is okay and maybe sometimes even beneficial to take a break instead of a step. I took some time off now to fill up my tanks and I am ready for new chapters in my life.

I started by asking myself questions. What is it I really want? What makes me happy? Such questions are important to determine what the self really wants. I really checked in with myself. It is safety I need? Is it a secure job and the security it gives me? So, I came up with the idea to step outside my present settings and asked if a new environment may bring clarity. Last weekend at the cottage I was able to reflect and get clarity on where I am going and why I do want to go in this direction.

Long story short, I figured out what I want. I want to take a leap in different directions. I want to go to the next stage and challenge but I do not know what that looks like quite yet for one way even though I have articulated it in my head. One direction is crystal clear and I know what I get myself into because I have been there and this is actually what I want and need in my life right now. I cannot be stuck in my head anymore trying to figure things out that may never work out.

Currently, I am accepting that there is always a waiting period and impatience can rear its head when I am feeling stuck after I have done everything possible. Everything will eventually unfold and when one door closes, another one opens. I also know that taking the next step won’t magically change everything in my life but I still have certain expectations that I want to meet. I trust myself while putting and throwing myself in these new situations and will see what happens. I know I can put my son and myself where we need to be. I feel that I need to follow these directions because this time I am trusting my gut and believe in myself. This way I celebrate my achievements as I go and remind myself of them if I start feeling a bit wobbly and just keep going.

I am still sad and excited simultaneiously but it is time to start fresh because my life simply cannot go on like this. Nothing has changed here for me which makes it easier to move on. Most importantly, I need to give myself time to heal. I follow my heart and gut and I know that after a lot of stress, I deserve to be happy while everything is lining up for me. When I feel sad that I left, I feel excited, too. I know that I will be connected to my family and friends in Canada at a very deep level.

However will we cope without you. I guess we will find out“. How do you know it is true love? Because you feel free and at home at the same time. From my heart to yours.

Part 2: Nutrition & the Environment and what it all boils down to.

via The New Yorker

What are food additives and why are they used?

Food additives are chemicals added to our food. Reasons for use are to improve shelf life/storage time. To make food more available. To increase nutritional value. To improve the flavor of food. To make food easier to prepare. To improve customer acceptance. Scary fact: The average person may be eating up to 5 kg of artificial food additives per year!

Flavors- Artificial and “Natural: When “flavor” is listed as an ingredient, we have no idea what is in that product. The term refers to “flavor” but also covers any “incidental additives”, such as solvents, emulsifiers, and preservatives. It is sometimes a mix of up to 100 chemicals. An artificial flavor must be comprised of one of the nearly 700 FDA-allowed flavoring chemicals or food additives categorized as “genrally recognized as safe”, or any of 2000 other chemicals not directly regulated by FDA but sanctioned for use by an industry group, the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association of the United States.

Artificial colors: In Canada, eight artificial dyes are permitted in food, with the others for restricted use only, labeling only required to list “color”. Many are derived from coal-tar and petrochemicals. Studies have found links between artificial food additives and hyperactivity, allergies (eczema, asthma) and cancers. Many European countries ban them and brands make the same products free of these additives for their market.

Caramel: Caramel is derived from allergens (corn, soy, wheat, dairy) and source not listed in the ingredients list because it is used as a color. Found in Cola, brown bread, chocolate, vinegar, gravy, donuts etc. Has been linked to lowered immune function in rats. Four different processing methods, two of them use ammonia that caused cancer in rats. Ammonia-caramel coloring listed as a carcinogen under California’s Proposition 65.

Nitrates & Nitrites: Sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite are two food preservatives used to preserve meat, kill bacteria and give meat its characteristic pink color. These are compounds found naturally in some foods (like vegetables) but also added to processed foods (like bacon) as a preservative. Nitrates are relatively inert until they are turned into nitrites by bacteria in the mouth or enzymes in the body. Nitrites can either turn into Nitric Oxide (good) or nitrosamines (bad) depending on your microbiome. Nitric oxide is important to make blood vessels dilate and blood pressure lower. Nitrosamines are also more likely to form when exposed to high heat (meats). They are carcinogenic.

BHA & BHT (butylated hydroxyanisole and butylated bydroxytoluene): BHA and BHT are preservatives derived from petrochemicals used to prevent rancidity of fats in foods and cosmetics. BHA linked to cancer in animal studies, the European Union classifies it as an endocrine disrupter (hormones!). BHT causes developmental effects and thyroid change in animal studies. Commonly found in potato chips, gum, cereal, meats, and candy. Found in most processed foods. BHA banned in cosmetics in Europe and labeled in California as a suspected carcinogen.

Sulfites: Preservatives and antioxidants found in wine, dried fruit, fruit juice concentrate, and many pharmaceuticals to help preserve and prevent browning. Reduce levels of important nutrients, such as beta-carotene, B-complex and calcium. Can cause headache, nausea, diarrhea, irrigated membranes, abdominal pain, rashes, and trigger asthma. The average intake is 2-3 mg/day, wine & beer drinkers 10 mg/day, restaurant frequenters 150mg/day.

MSG (monosodium glutamate): Is a flavor enhancer. Sodium salt or glutamic acid found in many proteins. Can be labeled as “hydrolyzed protein”, “natural flavoring” or yeast extract. Acute reactions include headache, agitation, increased heart rate, numbness, tingling. Linked with obesity, diabetes, ADD, allergies, IBS and depression. Studies show varying results, however.

Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO): Is an emulsifier and clouding agent in soft drinks. It helps to suspend flavors in citrus-flavored beverages. Bromates used in flour to condition dough (not always listed). BVO is very poorly tested and safety concerns have led to a ban in EU, Japan, and India; many soft drink companies replacing it. BVO is the same chemical family as flame-retardants. Early studies suggest that flame-retardant chemicals disrupt normal hormone function, leading to problems with brain development in children, fertility, thyroid function, and possibly cancer. Some people have acute reactions, including food poisoning symptoms, memory loss, and neurological symptoms.

Is there anything that I can still eat? What about salt?

Ingredient Order: Ingredients are shown in descending order, except spices, seasoning, herbs (except salt!), natural and artificial flavors, flavor enhancers, food additives (except ingredients of food additives preparations), vitamins, soalts and derivatives of vitamins, mineral nutrients, salts of mineral nutrients.

This is a lot of information, I know. But maybe you keep some of it in mind when you shop for food. Read the labels and if you are not sure about some ingredients the EWG’S Food Score App may be helpful.

Part 3 about toxic exposure in cleaning and personal care products will be published soon.

Stay Happy. Stay Healthy.

.38.

Photo of Marilyn Monroe via MuseIcon.

Tomorrow is my 38th birthday and I am thrilled because it is a celebration all about me. Another year is over and another chapter opens already. Things I want to do for myself even more in the next year is to take good care of myself, exercise, me-time, eating good healthy food and sleep better.

When I commence a new decade in my life, on the one hand, I can view it as meaningless because age is just a number. On the other hand, I can view a number as a marker. Uncertainty means that there is always a blank canvas in front of me and this new year will help me to put a frame around it.

As much as I want to arrange or plan my life year by year, decade by decade, I am shaped by what happens around me, the opportunities I seize, the people I encounter, the places I stay or leave. Moving into my new year, instead of viewing this decade as a chance to start anew, change or improve, I want to see it as a chance to be here, and finally getting started.

I know I might not be able to control all events or the outcome of my efforts, but I can put myself in the world and in the center of life and take note of what I learn along the way.

Other things I learned in the past year are to hold plans lightly but if the time is right to just go for it because it feels right. I am not afraid to experiment with something and change course if something is not for me. Sometimes, taking action is more important than figuring out the right decision. Sometimes, it is important to stop letting people tell you who I am. I learned to notice when I am caught up with a fantasy. I learned to understand when it is time to say goodbye and how to “celebrate closure” with very good friends. I learned that my head would say, “it was for the best” but my heart would keep me stuck in the past. I don’t want to miss what is here for me now because I am chasing a fantasy. I learned that if I can’t find the job I want, I have to create it and have back-up plans always. I don’t wait anymore for someone to hand me an opportunity because I make it myself. I am not ahead and not behind. I am my own measure.

“You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there is still going to be someone who hates peaches.” – Dita von Teese

I learned that I cannot control how people think of me, so I might as well show up as myself without being fake. I learned that people care less about what I do for a living and more about how I make them feel. I see what I have not done yet as a possibility, not a failure. I know now that everything on my list is a possibility, it is exciting to have ideas and things to look forward to. There are always new opportunities. I learned that even if I thought I have no tears left to cry, there are still more.

“Every opportunity is attached to a person. Opportunities do not float like clouds in the sky. They’re attached to people. If you’re looking for an opportunity you’re really looking for a person.” – Ben Casnocha

I learned that nobody knows what they are doing. I learned that everybody has sleepless nights, dull days, abandoned projects, new projects that seem not to work out and battles with self-doubt. Everybody struggles. Nothing is perfect. I learned to protect my solitude and alone time. My weaknesses are my strength or in Leonard Cohen words, “There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in”.

With all this in mind, Happy Birthday to me. Off to new adventures.

.Part 1: Nutrition & the Environment and what it all boils down to

via The New Yorker

Why is organic expensive and why buy it?

Organic products are more expensive because of higher production costs. These include the cost of organic seeds and fertilizers, labor, lower yields of certain crops, and marketing. Organic products are also not subsidized by the government, as are commercially produced products. The growing of organic products prevents soil depletion and contributes to maintaining water quality; it uses less energy and keeps harmful and unnecessary chemicals off our plates. Organic products are not exposed to antibiotics: buying them means you help protect farm workers and support an economy that promotes biodiversity. Most importantly, the taste and flavor are so much better.

It is also wise to avoid crops that have been grown with genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Check the source of the meat, eggs, and dairy you buy; milk, cheese, eggs, meat, and poultry could all come from animals that were given GMO feed. If you are concerned, choose organic or non-GMO verified. Certified organic products do NOT contain GMOs. Look for the no-GMO label. The five most prevalent GMO crops – corn, canola, soy, cotton, and sugar beets – end up as hidden additives in all kinds of prepared foods including corn syrup, oil, sugar, flavoring agents, thickeners and hundreds of other foods.

Feel good about frozen: most frozen fruit and vegetables are non-GMO unless they are one of these five high-risk crops: corn, Hawaiian papaya, edamame (soybeans), zucchini and yellow summer squash. Choose organic or non-GMO verified for those five and watch out for other ingredients that might be from a high-risk crop. Choosing dried beans, grains, nuts and seeds, while avoiding corn and soy, is a great way to go non-GMO.

How do I eat more sustainably?

Support local and organic when you can. Shop at farmer’s markets whenever you can. Buy directly from an organic farm (great for meat, apples, pears, berries – things that freeze and store well). Join a Food Coop, e.g. the Ontario Natural Food Coop. Support Community Shared Agriculture. Join a community garden or grow your own; a window and pot are enough to get started. Use the Dirty Dozen & Clean 15 lists as a reference. Use the Environmental Working Group’s website as a reference.

via food network

How do I save money and eat well?

Plan your meals. Buy in bulk. Batch cook. Make your own stock, milk, nut/seed butter, dips, and dressings. Buy local and in season. Preserve the harvest (freeze, dry, ferment). Eat and cook meals at home. Eat cheaper cuts of meat (organ meat, ground meat, soup chickens). Support the Ugly Food Movement; apples with brown spots can still be eaten.

Get in the habit of eating everything you buy. Older vegetables and leftover cooked rice or quinoa can make a great soup or a hearty casserole. Leftover bread can be made into croutons or frozen and saved for a yummy bread pudding. Borderline fruit can be put in the blender and either put in smoothies or frozen for another use.

What are the impacts of Climate Change?

Environmental impacts/What to expect according to research: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (ICCP) predicts:

a rise in sea levels of up to 2 feet by 2100. Loss of freshwater (reduced snowmelt and saltwater intrusion), extreme weather patterns (hurricanes, droughts and extreme heat, floods, blizzards, tornados), forest loss due to fire and the spread of disease, oceanic acidification and dead zones, habitat change (cold – and vulnerable species) and potential mass extinction, and changing migration patterns.

Social impact: Coastal and island nations are at risk. Drought, crop disease, lack of water and food in vulnerable areas. Climate refugees and climate migrants have no international legal protection – 26 million people worldwide are displaced annually due to environmental disasters. Land grabs, land prices, global poverty, hunger, and increased social tension all contribute to the social impact of climate change.

Human impacts: Lack of food/diversity of food. Heat exhaustion. Nutrient deficiencies. Mental health. Crop failure due to extreme weather and rising temperatures. Lack of fresh water. Spread of tropical diseases such as malaria, dengue fever. A rise in insect-borne illnesses such as Lyme. Exacerbation of smog conditions such as asthma.

What can be done? Consume less. Buy better: Think locally, act globally. Support organizations that campaign to protect the climate. Recognize the connection of food to climate: we can make a difference! Get indoor plants. The top five houseplants that filter air are: Spider Plants, Peace Lilly, Mother-in-Law’s Tongue, Golden Pothos, and Aloe Vera!

Now, go outside and play.

Stay happy. Stay healthy. Part 2 is coming soon.

.The Uncertainly Principle and then there is always Ice Cream.

Big chapters in my life are closing while new ones open up. In the meantime, the summer approaches. I anticipate the best for me and my son to an unreasonable degree. My heart, body, and mind enjoy the idyllic weather every day, awesome music (Jazz festival) that makes me feel like being in a Chaka Khan video. If I were to reflect on memories and events of the past couple of months, there would only be one overwhelming theme: uncertainty.

For me, this spring and summer is just ripe with big hopes, changes, and set up with high expectations that won’t end with “if onlys” anymore. I was long overdue to release emotional pressure and uncertainty and these days it is clearly easier to find the light when the sun stays up past 8 p.m. I called this perfect summer into existence by checking off a couple of things on my to-do list. One was, to take my final exam at the Institute of Holistic Nutrition today, hand in the last assignment and become a Certified Nutritional Practitioner (CNP). Also, to just enjoy the simple things after a long harsh winter such as to sit outside at a fireplace until last at night, roast marshmallows, swim in the lake, enjoy Cottage-time, drink beer with a lime in it, endless conversations, read stories to my son and help him to learn to swim without his life vest.

Now that his school year and mine comes to an end, I feel like time is slipping through my fingers. This past year went by in a heartbeat. My birthday is around the corner, and I always expect that as I get older and wiser I become less interested in staying up past 1 a.m., but this won’t happen. I love my life. Every single second of it. All the ups and downs, sleepless nights spent with a good book, long conversations with friends, good and bad decisions were all part of the journey that got me where I am today. Reassessing the last year, I have to say that I truly made the most possible of every single month. All it sometimes takes is just a simple mindset-shift.

This morning, my son and I walked to school together. I dropped him off and realized that something new is around the corner for him, too. One last walk, one more time at his playground, one more time with his friends who accompanied him for one year. And he is excited about his new chapter of uncertainty while looking at it all with a playful approach. And so should we all. When I realized, I walked out of my school for the last time, it did it with a bit of emotions that made my heart heavy. But as my son says, “It is all good!”

I am excited for us and ready for it. And if I am being honest, I am not nervous because I have been working hard on my self and the future and what is best for us. As we walked across the street together he grabbed my hand. We walked into this new and foreign space full of uncertainty but as he grabbed my hand, the feeling that came over me what happiness. I know as long as I can hold his tiny hand, everything will be okay. We love each other unconditionally and give each other strength. Suddenly, he let go of my hand and I know that he will need me less and less by his side. He has grown up so much.

I am grateful for it all because I know I do not have much time left to hold his tiny hand. It is just a matter of time before his hand outgrows mine. It is inevitable. I cannot stop it. But I also would not want to if I could. So every feeling of surprise is matched with a feeling of gratitude. Watching him, by my side growing into his own independent, self-sufficient, amazing person is the sweetest gift I could have asked for. Regardless, now or later, if he needs my hand, is will be there.

Together we walk to new adventures. Time is too short and flies by. We might as well enjoy the sweet stuff while having a summer night of celebrations, putting our feet in the grass and having an impromptu ice cream. Because this is excatly what we need.

Stay happy. Stay healthy.

.Ask Sometimes Raw.

I receive quite an amount of emails/requests asking for advice on different topics. Initially, I thought, “Who do I think I am giving other people advice? I am not qualified for this! I don’t even have it all figured out. What the f*** am I doing?” Even when I sit down and work on my book or write an essay, the blank page mocks me. “What could you possibly have to say?” the cursor asks me while patiently blinking. The blank page is an asshole sometimes. Still, I think I want to try this because writing brings me happiness. There is a magic that comes from reaching out. I don’t believe in many things, but I believe in that with all my heart. Do you have something on your mind that troubles you and you need some uplift? Send me an email and we will help each other and figure things out together.

Here is one of the emails I received:

Hey Sometimes Raw,

I love your no-bs posts and thought it is a good idea to give you a new idea for a blog post. The subject of my email is that I am cheating on my wife. I am sick and tired of feeling guilty about wanting to, but deep inside I think that it might be helpful for our marriage and maybe improve the chances to have a happy home for our daughter. Here are some supporting facts: My wife is no longer interested in sex. Before our daughter was born we had the best sex ever. Men do have a higher sex drive I guess. This is the case for me. I do find my wife sexy, but I also find other women sexy and those women will have sex with me. When I have sex with these women, it will relieve much of the emotional resentment I have against my wife for her sexual indifference. I guess we will have a better relationship because the lack of sex is no longer a source of conflict. I feel physically better because I can release some of this insane lust that is buzzing in my pants. My wife is an awesome mother and my best friend. I have tried to speak to my wife about my “issues” to rekindle her sexual passions but it did not work. I think deep down she would actually tolerate my affair(s) as long as I would continue to be a good husband and father to our daughter. Open marriage is nothing she ever wants though. She told me. Affairs with other women will never change my love for her. Do you think I should pursue outside affairs in the interest of my family’s happiness?

Thank you,

Cheating Husband


Dear Cheating Husband,

Cheating is called cheating for a reason because the issue on the table is honesty, not sex my friend. If the lack of sex in your marriage poses a serious threat to your relationship, you should sit down with your wife and tell her that. Go to couple counseling together. Let her know that you need her to commit to some concrete plan for changing things between you. Work on a concrete plan! Get a babysitter, go out together and such so you can have time together. Tell her that you need to know that things are going to change because you are frustrated and powerless in this area and these things affect your life and marriage.

Here is what you should not do: Assume that your wife is fine with you discreetly running around fucking other women. Because I can fucking guarantee you, your wife would rather talk about it and find a solution. She is not remotely okay with you fucking around. Making this argument for fucking other women on a sneak is a pretty elaborate way to justify something that is unjustifiable. It is the kind of thing that will lead to you, alone, in a one-bedroom apartment, while your sexy, wonderful wife hangs out with some handsome, loyal and honest person who makes his desires known.

When you cheat on someone, you betray their trust, you rip apart their heart and love for you, you embarrass and depress them (in this case, when there is your daughter who depends on her and she can’t really afford to be depressed beyond belief), and most importantly, you permanently alter their ability to respect you.

To me, what works is when you have someone on your side, who would never do anything to hurt you. When that person betrays you, it is hard to get that feeling back. And when a child is involved, it is intoxicating, really. Having that support and trust and care ripped from you, when there are children in the picture, could make someone feel sad and very restless than you can possibly imagine.

What you really want is to feel desired and adored by your wife because you love her so much, right?! You feel invisible and maybe even feel that she does not want or even love you anymore. What can you do in this situation? Your challenge here is to show up and make yourself vulnerable, but don’t disappear and force her into an inherently vulnerable position. If she does not want to listen to you, don’t accept that. Make her understand that this is very important to you. I guess you have put in some work to make this appear harmless and logical, but I know that this is about you feeling hurt and neglected and too powerless to change it. Powerless and insecure are the keywords here if you want to hashtag anything.

So, when you feel hurt and vulnerable (and you can actually show and admit this) and you are willing to talk openly about it all, then there is an opportunity for your marriage to grow into something more beautiful than it was before. Just don’t run away, protect yourself and lie and hide and fuck yourself and your child over in the process. That may be the easy way out in the short term but in the long term, you will drop a bomb in the middle of your life, and you won’t be able to pick up the pieces once it goes off.

How about, spend more time with your daughter? I suggest that you get to know your child a little better. Spend some time thinking about what is best for your child, so the burden of stress does not always rest on your wife. Her interest in giving you a blow-job may experience an uptick under those circumstances. Your wife takes care of your daughter all the time so maybe you get off your ass and get involved in family life instead of sitting back and watching her doing it all. Find out how you can do more around the house, to help your wife. Meditate. Work out more and eat less so you burn off all that sex-lust and fat. Most importantly, learn to speak honestly to your wife. Ask her what her minimum needs are to feel happy.

You say you love her but if you are contemplating cheating as much as you seem to be, then you will be doing her and you a big favor by just getting a divorce. Make your current outlook very, very clear to her. She needs to meet you halfway. You need to meet her halfway. It seems like you keep a bit part of who you are hidden.

All the best and stop cheating,

Sometimes Raw

.Eat this: Salmon Veggie Bowl.

It is finally warm(er) in Canada which means for me, I want to eat light. One of my favorite things to prepare is (local, wild, Canadian) salmon. It is simple, delicious, quick and healthy. I fill my salad bowl with bright and fresh vegetables full of nutrients that my son enjoys as well. Feel free to adapt the recipe and include whatever you have on hand. Many veggies can be prepped ahead of time, so you can easily assemble your bowls on the fly when you come home late from the pool ha! Enjoy!

Salmon Veggie Bowl

Ingredients: yields one portion

3 oz. wild caught salmon
sweet paprika
dill, thyme
zucchini
cucumber
purple cabbage
lemon
fresh mint
olive oil
apple cider vinegar

How to:  

Wash veggies (actually, always wash all your veggies!). Chop carrots and cucumber or spiral your veggies. Chop or slice the purple cabbage and mint. Prepare vegetables any way you prefer. Mix in a bowl and set aside. Preheat over to 400 degrees.

While the oven is preheating, place salmon skin side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Put a little olive or avocado oil under salmon if you’d like to so the skin won’t stick to the parchment paper. Or don’t, if you prefer the salmon without the skin.

Squeeze lemon over salmon and then season with sweet paprika, dill, thyme, salt, and pepper. Bake salmon for 12-15 minutes. Place desired amount of prepped veggies into a bowl. I like to chop a lot extra to use the veggies for quick meals over the next few days and they keep nicely in the fridge. Use a dressing of choice or use a drizzle of apple cider vinegar and olive oil. Once salmon is done baking, place it on top of veggies and enjoy!

I added sliced radishes, pickled onions, and sesame, ginger, carrots to my bowl (you can really add anything to your dish: sliced avocado, roasted veggies, brown rice, etc.).

.Life Itself: You are going to die.

“There is a limit to the time assigned to you, and if you don’t use it to free yourself it will be gone and never return” – Marcus Aurelius

Maybe you have had many ups and downs in your life lately. For me, last week was rather overwhelming and packed with events, changes, and adjustments. I am strong. I can deal with it all. Until I just cannot. I was near tears the other day when I entered the Yoga studio for my morning class. It was absurd to cry, I knew that, and yet I felt it in my throat and eyes: the beginning of tears forming and a whimper, which I tried to let out undetectably and quietly but it then began to pace. I do not want to narrate too much about the cause of my state but in addition to my struggles, another 25 little things had gone wrong that day and it was not even 10 am. I just felt like crying and screaming.

My favourite Yoga instructor gave me a hug and said in her rather harsh voice, “Daniela, all this does not matter because don’t forget, you are going to die. We all will eventually. Now wipe away those tears!” I froze, sniffled and considered her point. I saw the days of my life and struggles stretched out in a long, looping sort of domino trail; some happy, some sad, but all lined up nicely in pursuit of a finite conclusion in the end: death. And guess what? My shoulders released. I exhaled. Who cares if X, Y, and Z happened and if A, B, and C will ever happen.

One thing I know about my life. I tend to get caught up in things that do not matter. I may get caught up in some angry thought, voice or in minutiae or in stress or in tons of things that ultimately are not that important. This reminder of my teacher made me take a deep breath and I realized that everything is and will be fine. I don’t have to engage in certain thoughts because I don’t have time for this. I just move on.

Yeah, but the problems are still there, you may say. Yep, you are right and it is not that being angry does not matter, or that bad luck is not important. It is just that death puts all those things that we think matter in perspective when they are pumping cortisol through my veins (which ironically can kill us) like there is no tomorrow.

When I got this reminder today that I am here for just a limited time it was startling and sobering. It also loosened the knot in my chest, dwarfed it with eternity, and made this moment at the Yoga studio just very even sweet. My Yoga instructor encouraged me to just soak it all in, to pause and consider whether what I am doing is in pursuit of something that matters to me. I guess it is somewhat a litmus test for internal alignment rather than Downward Facing Dog.

Life itself is our most unreliable narrator. No one knows where the story is going nor who the heroes in it are going to be; if there are too many or maybe just a few. This is life. And this is what it does. Sometimes, life brings you to your knees. It sometimes brings you lower than you can think you know. But if you stand back up and move forward, if you go just a little further, you will always find love. Life is full of surprises. Every single day and whatever worries us today, will too pass. Nothing really matters anyway.

Fun fact: If you don’t have a spiritual Yoga teacher as I do, there is actually an app you can download that reminds you that you are going to die, ha! It is called WeCroak. Get it here.

Stay happy. Stay healthy. And smile.

.There is no Planet Earth 2 – The Ecological Footprint.

Ecological footprint! What does this even mean? The ecological footprint measures the amount of nature’s resources an individual, a community, or a country consumes in a given year. Let’s focus on Canada. Here are some numbers for you taken from the WWF Living Planet Report:

As far as energy usage, Canada is ranked third in per capita and ranked in the top ten for Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. The average Canadian household uses 500,000 liters of water annually. Canadian households generate 31 million tons of garbage each year. That is 2.7kg per person per day! Canadians toss more than 140,000 tonnes of electronic waste into landfills each year. Plastic use? Worldwide, over one million plastic bags are used per minute. We throw out 100 million plastic bottles every day! There are roughly 46,000 pieces of plastic in every square mile of the ocean. Sick yet? Let’s talk food.

In Toronto, single-family households discard about 275 kilos of food waste each year. Worldwide, 50% of food produced is wasted! Households waste an average of $1,456 worth of food annually. You like salmon? Over 85% of the world’s fisheries have been pushed to or past the point of collapse. Unsustainable methods such as bottom trawling, drift nets, dynamite, electro and poison fishing are being used.

Fashion? Do you love fast fashion? Consider, water pollution, toxic chemicals, carcinogenic dyes, sweatshops, waste. Have you ever wondered how it is possible to produce a sweater sold for $7,99?

What can be done?

Decrease Your Footprint:

Reduce, reuse, then recycle. Share, DIY, buy used, buy local (farmers market), buy toxin-free. Eat less meat and choose high-quality meant and sustainable seafood. Cook at home. Use less energy, drive less, turn down heat/AC, power down gadgets and standby lights. Get involved. Talk, volunteer, share, lobby, engage store managers, bosses, schools etc.

Buy less stuff! Before you buy, ask yourself: Do I really need this? If it is replacing something, can it be fixed? Can I do without it? Can I make it myself? Can I grow it? Who am I supporting when I buy this (small family business vs multi-national cooperation)? Is there a way to buy this from a local business? Is there a more sustainable option (Fairtrade, organic, recycled, sustainably made)?

Make smarter food choices! According to Statistics Canada, the average Canadian has 26 tsp of sugar daily; teenage boys have 41 tsp! Only 1/4 of Canadian families eat a homemade meal made from scratch every day, compared to half of the families in 1992. On any given day, 1 in every 3 children eats a fast-food meal. Children see 10 million ads a year just ion their ten most visited websites – 90% of those ads are for unhealthy food.

Avoid Farmed Fish! This includes salmon, shrimp, mussels, oysters, trout, bass, and tilapia. The main concerns are: Extreme over-crowding leads to antibiotic use and poor health. Farmed fish is fed with Genetically Modified Organism (GMO)-meal, often with added dye hence the nice pink color. Atlantic salmon is engineered with a growth hormone gene. GM (genetically modified) Atlantic salmon eggs are produced in Prince Edward Island (PEI), shipped to Panama to grow, then to the US for processing and finally back to Canada for sale. Yikes! The problem is the missing transparency in Canadian Regulation of GMOs for example product labeling. To be on the safe side: buy only wild – and not farmed salmon, or no salmon at all unless you really know where it comes from locally.

Meat: Overall, reduce consumption to what your body needs. Find a good farmer for meat, eggs, and dairy. Go to organic butchers that source locally. Emphasize grass-fed, hormone-free, GMO-free feed (the meat tastes so much better!) Did you know that “grass-fed”, “grass finished”, “pasture raised” are not regulated terms? Antiobiotic free means only that the animal didn’t receive antibiotics for a period of time before slaughter. Ethically or humanly raised terms are meaningless. Again, organic meat is best, ideally 100% grass-fed.

Eggs: Try to buy organic feed, animal welfare standards, and local (farmers market!). Do you know what it means when it says Cage-free on the egg carton? Cage-free means that hens are not confined to battery cages (but no access to outdoors and no idea what feed is). Free-run means hens can move around in open-concept barns (may still be overcrowded and may not have access to outdoors). Free-range: Hens can go outdoors. Yay!

Watch this: Michael Pollan’s documentary Cooked (actually, read and watch anything by Michael Pollan!)

“Cooking for yourself is one way to take back control of your diet from the food scientists and food processors” – Michael Pollan

Lifestyle questions to ask yourself:

How far is too far to walk or to cycle? What is the smallest amount of money you could live on for one year? What was the last thing you bought that you really didn’t need? Why did you buy it? Could you live without a car? How would it affect your life? Do you think that the best things in life are free? If you had no money, would you still have the same friends? How do you decide what clothes to buy? Do you know where your food comes from? Are you willing to buy second-hand? Are you comfortable borrowing things?

Stay healthy. Stay happy.

.D as in Domestic Violence.

My coffee is strong, I pour in some milk; the white substance plunges in and reappears in some odd looking pattern. I hold my hands around the cup to warm them. I think about the past, I think about her. Her face is horribly sad and she looks very tired. I have wanted to say something to her for a long time but decided to wait. The only reason I am writing this is that I am worried about her, worried about her wellbeing.

I blow into my cup before taking a sip; perhaps this just makes the time pass, while saying her name inside. I don’t know if this is the right thing to do but I start to write.

D.,

this is a letter to you. You, who is in an abusive relationship. The abuse you are living is verbal, emotional, physical and maybe even sexual. There are some things I want you to know, and the first and most important is that you are loved. The second one is that, even though I am far away, I am here for you. You are a good person. You are wonderful no matter what happened and what has been said. You are you.

You are valuable. Please do not forget that, even though he will try to convince you otherwise. You are stronger than that, do not be frightened by him. You have value and worth that he can neither give nor take away from you. You have a right to your reactions, a right to wear make-up and a skirt if you choose to. You have a right to have a Facebook or Instagram account if you want to. Nobody is allowed to tell you to delete all this just because you start a relationship.

He will make you feel bad. He will tell you that you are wrong and unreasonable and just misunderstood by everyone, including your family. But the family is here for you. Nobody left. He put so much bullshit in your head that you, at this point are probably not even sure anymore what is real. Maybe you feel like you cannot trust your own memories and you ended up agreeing with him. Of course, you must have misunderstood when he told you not to wear that dress to pick up your children from school. How come he beat you up so badly because didn’t he say he loves you? How come he does not let you have your own phone? How come he controls who you talk to and when? How come I cannot ever reach you?

So he tells you more lies and garbage and you end up agreeing with him. Of course, you do. He threatens you with more stuff. You also must have misunderstood when he told you you cannot spend time with your girlfriends anymore. You ask yourself how someone so loving, caring and sweet as he can be sometimes does such hurtful things.

You know why? Because the darkness in your partner won’t go away. No therapy can fix this. Ever. You are not imagining things. You do not have to punish yourself or bring yourself down. You are enough. Good enough. It is your okay to talk to family and friends on YOUR OWN phone. Just because you have some good memories with him does not mean the bad times are worth enduring. Don’t the good times usually always come when you almost had enough? Maybe you don’t see that you are abused or maybe it is hard because you love him but just because there may be love does not mean there isn’t abuse.

Abuse can take many forms and maybe you are too deep in it all to really see and understand. It may even have become normal to you. Even normal to the two of you. When you cry on the phone, when you whisper on the phone, when you have to hang up because he is coming home it is NOT OKAY. When your kids say that you cry a lot and are sad, it is NOT OKAY. When you have to hide things from him because you know it will upset him to the point that the anger terrifies you, it is NOT OKAY. When he does something that hurts you a lot, then apologizes but keep doing it and DOING it over and over again it is NOT OKAY. It is NOT OKAY that he punches you in the face so you have a black eye.

It must be so hard to see what is happening when you live in this abusive relationship and it seems impossible for family and friends to understand because we all just don’t see “his good parts”. But guess what? We all see what is happening. We all see it clearly in ways you cannot right now. This abusive relationship is changing and damaging you. Everyone can see it but you.

You probably still love and see good him. He says he loves you, the bond is deep, the relationship is real and more but that does NOT mean that the way he treats you is acceptable. That does not mean you should stay. Plus, it is not all about you anymore. You have children.

There is support out there! I will support you. We all will. I promise. Things will suck for a while, but it will all get better. So much better. I will help you and hold you up until the ache changes from being intense to dull to manageable and you can stand up on your own again. You also know where you can always find more help, safety and a place to stay.

Remember, abusive behavior is always a choice. He may be troubled but that does not absolve him of responsibility. It is also not your job to fix him. Looking at what you have been through already, it seems that he is just not a good person for you. You cannot change him! Keep that in mind. He won’t change because of you. I know you want to. I know you want to save this relationship because you put so much love into it and he is so nice sometimes. But you CANNOT! No matter how much you love him. No matter how good you try to be so he won’t get mad. NOTHING WILL EVER STOP THE ABUSE. IT WILL GET WORSE.

Talk to me. Let me know about your situation so I can be there to help if you need it. We always used to talk for hours. I do not want to lose you.