. “You should have X, Y and Z by now. You are 36.

I heart the question, “what do you really want, Daniela?; “what do you really need, Daniela? or “really think about it hard, will you” more than one million times in the last couple of days. Also, don’t tell me what I should have, lady at Joel’s school. Thinking about it now though and being constantly reminded, I decided to make a list (I love lists) of things I have accomplished, things that make me me and some random stuff I through in here and there. 

I almost have my Masters degree in my hand. I can basically feel it but I cannot change the damn filter in my vacuum cleaner. I want a new expensive German brand vacuum cleaner that actually cleans my house. I should call the BELL phone person back but I hate being put on hold for ten hours. I should also call the university to ask if they received the cheque. My son almost mentally killed me in the last four days being at home but I love him unconditionally. In addition, I think he might have given me his cold by now, damn. I almost cried at a commercial for cat food the other day. Or at the look of my neighbour’s cat that has diabetes and dementia. I still cannot decide if Yoga pants are pants to wear on a daily basis with other clothing or just to actually work out. Then again, I am a student. 

I love my men-Birkenstocks sandals. So comfortable. My schedule is full of things to do but I procrastinate. I hope this pumpkin pie my friend Joanne dropped of today doesn’t have as many calories as I think it does. I love blueberries. And pie. 

My voicemail has 5,874 unanswered calls by now since I don’t listen to them anymore. Thank you, BELL phone company. I also cannot remember the password. I still buy fish sticks, the ones for kids and I eat them with mashed potatoes. I love to listen to “This American Life” while walking to school. I thought I have been in love a bunch of times, but wasn’t really. I love tomatoes. I love grapefruit but not the grapefruit-diet. 

And apples.

And coffee. Always coffee.

I love cooking and baking things and believe that it is important what is on the plate instead of how expensive the plate was. I made a chocolate tarte and Knaeckebrot and Hummus two days ago, just because. 

Zero fat scares me as well as food labels and ingredients lists. Butter for flavour and taste on everything. Reading is my passion. Nora Ephron and Joan Didion make me laugh, hard. I have given up on Sudoku. My iPhone fell on the floor last year and still has a huge crack on the screen. I removed all the splinters stuck in my finger(s) when swiping and still use it one year after. I definitely need to take it easy on myself and stop stressing so much. I need to start practicing Yoga again on a daily basis. I need to stick to a budget list for now to track expenses. I cannot make crêpe as thin as it is supposed to be. Love terrifies me. I love my son but I think one baby for me is enough. I can never fold fitted sheets. I hate jealousy. I don’t ever want to get Crohn’s disease. I am scared of the dentist and move around on the chair all the time so they cannot get things done. I have a tooth implant that cost me $4500 put in by a dentist who basically stood with one foot on my chest while the other leg was steady on the chair and he tried to drill this metal object into my mouth (sounds like something kinky on pornhub, I know). I love to watch the movie The Dentist before actually going to get a “deep” teeth cleaning done at my dentist’s office. Or Jaws. I love watching Jaws. 

I need to publish my book. I have to go to bed earlier and get some more sleep. I want a baby panda or a puppy. I want a coffee machine that makes awesome coffee at home so I never have to leave the house. I am very comfortable by myself at home. No music, just a book, coffee and couch. I want to spend an entire weekend in bed eating Captain Crunch Berries and Netflix and chill. I want to go dancing. I want to go to a reading again. Or a jazz concert. I want to see Joan Didion’s documentray that will come out on October 11th (Yay, tomorrow!). I think about getting a fancy skin cream and make-up but then don’t use anything but water and my skin is awesome. I love peace and quiet. I want my family around and not 8000 km away. I would move above a pho place and help out in the kitchen. I want to own a bookstore. I want to tell all women who want to have a child to babysit my son for one week whenever he has a tantrum phase, growth spurt, is sick, mean or is simply an asshole for no reason. I want to tell women to look for a partner who reads books. Not magazines. Books! Or studies. Anything that makes their brain work and one can have a decent, intellectual conversation about something awesome once in a while. Also, this person should own a passport and love road trips. The partner should have a bank account by the time he is 30 with savings in it. This partner should also not play games, makes one wonder who he is texting at night in the bathroom with, why he has a “secret” Facebook account with the name Mike Myers or lie. A partner who is nice doesn’t have to be weak. Nice doesn’t mean weak but dangerous and exciting usually means “mean”. I want to tell women they want a partner who doesn’t come home at 6 am on Mother’s day drunk if he/she promised to take care of the kids so you can chill. 

I should sort out some stuff in my life. I should stop cutting my hair at this point (especially my bangs). I should listen to my voicemail and get a new password. I should stop wasting all this money on Starbucks lattes and the damn egg white flatbread. I should throw away my 10,000 year-old black jeans that my mom stitched up pretty well but they ripped on the other side now. I should stop buying things at the University Bookstore (so tempting). I should read all the books I haven’t read in my bookshelf before purchasing another one. 

.the reason I am poor.

Catching title, eh? Let me back up a little bit before I get into the meaty things I want to write about.  I am living a pretty minimalistic lifestyle. I don’t own a lot of stuff and like it like that. I moved out of my parent’s house when I was 17 years old to join police academy and earned my own money ever since. It happened once that I maxed out my bank account since Euro 50 pocket money versus Euro 1000 salary a month at police academy gave me the feeling that I rule the world and can buy whatever I feel like. Wrong! My parents helped me out and I felt pretty embarrassed. Needless to say, money problems like this never happened to me again. 

Also, to my detriment, I have been solely responsible for my finances since about that age. I had my own apartment when I was 21. And a motorcycle. And a car. I traveled. I spent money. I would say, I kept this little ship afloat pretty well throughout the years. When I moved to the U.S. I learned what IRS fraud is. Also what a 1099 or a 401K is. Or bankruptcy. I learned what dead-beat dad means. Let’s just say, I met a lot of different people. Some who thought it is okay to have $19 in the savings account by the end of the month. Like every month. All these things were tiny lectures in life I paid attention to. I learned. I thought I am prepared for whatever comes my way. 

Needless to say, things don’t always run that smoothly. Recently, one payment after the other arrived and when I thought I see the light at the end of the tunnel, another huge payment and deadline appeared out of nowhere. I realized that I needed to start paying more attention to my money and what I spend it on. Step 1: I downloaded a budget plan to document every little thing I spend money on for one week. A friend at university told me the other day, “this totally worked for me. You see everything nicely outlined in front of you and can then track down where your money goes and where you have been pissing money away. Then you can start making changes and like put whatever you saved in a …. what is this called… savings account, I think!” 

Okay, I am going to do this. It cannot be that hard, right? Since I am a minimalist and whatnot. The agreement I had with myself was to 1) not to alter my spending habits throughout the week and 2) not to lie about any spendings. Easy. In a nutshell: 

  1. Write down every little thing I spend throughout the day. 
  2. Save the receipts to write down exactly what I purchased at the grocery store. I cannot write “Farm Boy $150” (this became to annoying!) 
  3. Try not to suffer endless depression writing all this stuff down (so annoying when a $180 phone bill arrives out of nowhere. HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO KNOW THAT I CANNOT LISTEN TO MY VOICEMAIL FOR FREE WHEN MY GRANDMOTHER FROM GERMANY CALLS TO SAY Hi BUT I WAS TO BUSY WRITING DOWN MY SPENDINGS NOT PICKING UP THE PHONE!)
  4. By day 2 I messed up my list already since I forgot to write down a Kindersurprise egg for my son —-> $2.25! Really? IT IS A TINY EGG OUT OF CHOCOLATE WITH A STUPID USELESS TOY IN IT! 
  5. I then randomly wrote things down because honestly, this all got a little embarrassing

This is how my list looked:

Monday

  • Staples $45 for pens, pencil, crayons and stuff for my son 
  • Starbucks $4.80 (damn you, grande latte! At least I did not get the egg-white spinach flatbread thing!)
  • Phone bill $180! (damn you, BELL!)
  • Gas for car $80! (damn oil companies) 
  • Sushi Restaurant with my friend (free, he paid!) 😀 

Tuesday

  • University tuition $2500 (this is only one of several payments! Shouldn’t education be free or at least not THAT expensive? If I would be president I would make some serious changes and make the U.S. “grate” again! Grate what? Cheese? I am not funny, someone told me! ) 
  • Starbucks $ 4.80 (you know for what!)
  • Dollar Store $20: air pump, bottle cleaning brush, tiny shovel and broom which makes a total of $4, right? Four things= $4? Life is not fair! 
  • Dinner: Pho  $35 (but really awesome company!) 

Wednesday

  • Loblaws: Grocery shopping for about one week $135 (see how listing everything becomes annoying) 
  • Bookstore(s): 1! book $8.99 …. okay, two but they are used. 3! I rest my case. 
  • Beach: Fries and ice cream for Joel $10 (wtf) 
  • Amazon: Nora Ephron Documentary $9

Thursday

  • $0: got creative and just cooked whatever I found in the fridge. Then spent the afternoon outside exploring 

Friday

  • Starbucks: $4.80 ( I swear, this stuff adds up. Also, in the summer semester, it was $4.60!) 
  • Liquor store: $20 bottle of Sake and wine. So good. And, it is the weekend after all 
  • BookBazaar: $10 book (c’mooooon, it is my passion!) “Necessity is the mother of invention” 
  • Flower store: $15 plant that is indestructible (according to salesperson). Venus fly trap died! 

Saturday

  • Pharmacy: $5.99 Advil (happy pills for a crazy headache! It is not your fault Sake…. wine is for Judith!) 
  • Black Squirrel Bookstore: $4.60 for a latte to go 
  • Grocery store: $35 (milk, cheese: why is the cheese so damn expensive here?, broccoli, Kindersurprise, Chocolate for Judith, ingredients to make a chocolate cake from scratch. Screw you, Betty Crocker!) 

Sunday

  • $0 Joel and I spent the day outside on experiences and  just with ourselves  at the beach/park/playground and brought our picnic 

Let’s stop here for the week, eh.  Looking at this list and eyeballing it, it is kind of depressing. Also, keeping track of every little thing is so exhausting. My brother would have calculated the amount I spent in this week in a second in his head. I don’t even bother taking out my calculator since by just looking at this list it is clear that I spent approximately five billion dollars in one single week. All for stuff that I don’t really need. And what’s with the lattes? It is just ridiculous. Also, no rent paid yet since it is not time yet. Shaking my head. Looking at my fridge I realize that this damn thing is almost empty again. My son is in some sort of growth spurt and eats me poor. Seriously, no joke. He eats more than I sometimes. My mom would say now, “Well, you have no food in your fridge but you have books, a plant that is about to die soon, coffee and alcohol!” 

Despite the fact that I am depressed about my spending habits looking at this list, I am fully aware that it is the beginning of October with another three weeks left to shame myself while money is flowing out of my bank account. On the flip side, I am not that bad, right? Didn’t even buy clothing or purses. I actually sold a purse! I don’t need all this stuff. Giving our time, our precious time, to things that give us  nothing in return but temporary satisfaction is not worth it to me. Balance is key and moderation is my friend. Sometimes. 

.slowing down.

The last two weeks were very difficult for me and I asked myself the question, “When does it all stop being so complicated”? Most of the day I felt like curling up somewhere to sleep. I was mentally and physically exhausted. It all started with one email about a big decision in life I will have to make pretty soon. This is on my mind constantly but life goes on with a fast pace. Work for school needs to be done and assignments are piling up. It never stops just there. More phone calls and emails came in and every time I heard that annoying ping-noise of incoming bad news on my computer, I cringed inside. I changed the sound but the emails kept coming. 

When I was about to figure things out, another email arrived to tell me that I have to pay a large amount of money soon (deadline highlighted in bold that seemed to yell at me “pay NOW”). I closed the computer and looked out the window. The river next to my house is so calm. The water just keeps running down the stream. It just goes and goes. I stared at the water for a while since this seems to calm me down when it started to rain; just about when it was time to pick up my son from school. “Of course it has to start raining now”, I reckoned while I searched for my umbrella. By this time, it did not rain, it poured like the world is coming to an end. (Insert annoying face emoji here) 

I dragged my tired body to the car and drove to school. No parking. The children waited patiently to be picked up when I spotted my son covered in mud and tears holding his teacher’s hand. I illegally parked at the bus stop to rush out quickly to get him. By this time, more rain. His teacher told me that my son had a very bad day, cried a lot, had a fight with a six year-old girl and hit her. I nodded my head blankly while I thought about my illegal parking spot. We ran through the rain and back to the car when an officer gave me a ticket and screamed at me that there is “no way you can ever EVER park here again”! Did I scream at my son for misbehaving at school? Nope. 

These days I am worrying a lot more than actually to live and enjoy myself. This grey cloud keeps floating above my head though. The quicker I try to run away, the faster it follows me. There is no escape it seems. 

Then I stopped to hustle, slowed down and gave my current situation some serious thought. What good does it do me to be stressed out like this? The only thing I will suffer from is a major headache, burnout and this feeling that I cannot function properly. What really matters to me is myself and my son at this point. What is best for me and what is best for him. First, tackle one issue at the time. What has the most priority and then take it from there. Sleep and rest!  Also, I started to put my energy into things that really matters which is to find solutions for certain things instead of whining about them and being stressed out and depressed. 

I also spent time outlining all my projects I want to complete with realistic expectations in mind. I tend to do a lot more than I can possibly accomplish in a short time and I end up frustrated, unhappy and disappointed in myself. By now, my anxiety is under control and I see a light at the end of the tunnel. I am less stressed about the work and major decisions that are ahead of me. By saying no to one thing I am saying yes to something else. By saying no to this one path in my life I am saying yes to myself and a new path that is very exciting indeed. Me, myself and I will create something pretty amazing. When one door closes, another one opens. 

And I am back to what I love the most: writing and maintaining this blog. 

.momiforms.

This could be me after I dropped off my son enjoying a book and cup of coffee on the porch. 

When I walked home from school today to pick up my son I realized the colour-changing of the leaves and thought that the new school-thing is already in full swing and two weeks old. This made me think of a podcast I listened to the other day when I heard the term “momiform”  for the first time. Things just pop in my head out of nowhere. I am weird. I know. This word basically means this dress code (official or unofficial) that is supposed to communicate a certain statement to other moms. Almost like an unspoken rule. 

I was at school a bit early today and was able to observe other moms and their drop-off rituals. One mom in particular mentioned several times that her son looks especially handsome today since he is wearing his new shoes, pants and t-shirt. “You look great in your CHANEL shirt, ” she said very loud to make sure everyone can hear her clearly while I quizzically stared at her. This alone could be a post on its own but I want to focus on the moms today since this mom triggered this post. She wore high-heels, nothing wrong with that, a super tight mini-skirt and something that I later learned is a “see-through top” that is in style right now revealing her black bra. Her hair done at 8.30 am in the morning and with perfect makeup she dangled her CHANEL purse on her lower arm kissing her son goodbye who quickly wiped away the red lipstick stains on his cheek. She then assembled with moms who dressed and looked like her. Nothing wrong about her clothes. If this makes her happy, cool. But the whole show around it, why?! I turn around to my friend who just arrived and told her that I own one pair of high heels but I haven’t worn them in ages. Maybe I should. 

Now that the fashion week in New York is pretty much over I feel like the runway show is right at my son’s school. This is the scene and each school has its own look I reckon. Drop your child off and a private school and it might even be worse. I don’t want to clothes-or mom shame (did I just invent this term?) anyone because who am I and what do I know about style. Other moms arrive in their pyjamas to drop off their kids while desperately holding a cup of coffee. This is another thing that makes no sense to me. Coming from Europe, this seems so weird. You sit down and drink your coffee. Period. You enjoy it. You take your time. Or you drink it when you get back home AFTER you dropped of your kids. You don’t take a coffee mug, no? Not talking about “to-go Starbucks here”. So mom’s bring their coffee mug with them in pyjamas. Maybe it’s a new thing. 

So basically and in a nutshell, to each his own. These were just observations I made today in ten minutes and I can easily put moms into a bunch of categories like: The cool moms, the mom-moms, the CHANEL moms, the arrogant moms, the know-it-all-way-better-than-you-ar-moms, the soccer/baseball/hockey moms and so on. The CHANEL lady dressed unreasonably in my eyes BUT for her it must have been totally appropriate. Maybe she was in a hurry in the morning, maybe she forgot that she has to drop off her son before going to work or maybe she really wants to wear this outfit. Maybe she is stressed, depressed or needs a mood booster or hates short and long pants. So, who the hell cares. I don’t want to ridicule her or be rude. It was all more about the message she communicated to her son. It is important to look good, be dressed in expensive clothing and blablablab. He was about five years-old. Yeah, because he cares what he is wearing. He is going to be covered in dirt and sand by the time you pick him up. It is just an expensive piece of clothing with because of the name on it but it is also made in China. And most importantly, your son probably doesn’t even care what he wears. I know my son does not. He does not even know what a brand or label is. He likes to be comfortable. 

.transitions.

 The fall semester started at the university, we successfully moved to the new house and Petit Joel is in Junior/Senior Kindergarten. A bunch of changes and transitions happened in a pretty short time and I am dealing with it all one day at a time. 
Kindergarten just blew me away for some reason. Kindergarten? Really? Wasn’t my son just born recently? I cannot believe how quickly time flies. He has been at Daycare for one year already and has been doing really well. I took him out for our Europe trip two months ago and he enjoyed the summer off with Oma and Opa in Germany. This is his first week at his new school and he is doing a great job. No crying, no whining and all he really wants to do and talks about is to play with this amazing marble machine they have in his classroom. 
It is a bit more work for me since I have to pack his lunch and a snack for the afternoon but we figured all this out by now, too. I have to admit that dropping him off on his first day was sort of emotional. Not like breaking into tears emotional but realizing that this is another important step he is taking. Transitions like no more diapers during the day to no more diapers during the night to going to the bathroom on his own all the time. Everything seems to happen so quickly lately. He will turn four in October and this stage and age is so much fun. He can articulate what he wants and wow, I do love our conversations. His long explanations, opinions on everything and anything and the questions are just awesome. Also, his first week in Kindergarten seems to provide so many great new challenges and adventures in his life. When I pick him up in the afternoon he seems to be buzzing with so much new information, songs, words and is very excited to tell me ALL about it. His little mouth does not stop but who cares. It is fun. He has French language days on Monday, Wednesday and sometimes even onFriday which is so neat. He tells me about volcanos in French and comes down to breakfast in the morning saying, “Bonjour, mommy!” Trilingual child in the making: check. 
Looking at him I realize that I would love to keep him at this stage forever. That he remains this cute, friendly, curious, kind and inquisitive. When he was three years-old and I initially dropped him off for the first time at Daycare I thought that it is kind of hard to let this little guy out into the real world. Is he ready? Was he ready? Was I ready? Did I give him enough guidance, love or did I prepare him enough for Daycare or now for Kindergarten? I reckon I did since he is doing so well even though it hits me from time to time thinking that we are already at this stage. I just nursed him, right?! Petit Joel asked me the other day if he can have a desk in his new room so he can draw and start doing his homework. Sigh! Sniff! 
 
As a mom, I am also thinking about bullying and whatnot. I know children can be cruel sometimes. I remember when I went to Kindergarten they taught us what physical harm is and that it is not okay when somebody slams others into lockers, beats up “nerds”, threatens, humiliates, any type of name-calling or takes food and things that do not belong to them. They basically told us how not to behave in a simple understandable way. It worked. Of course, there were the occasional fights at the school playground or in the hallway but overall, it was good. This was a looooooong time ago. In the 80s. This world is different now. Now they have signs and posters with a suicide hotline speed-dial number to call on the walls leading to the children’s classrooms. I binge-watched 13 Reasons Why, I was a Police Officer, in suicide prevention and in law enforcement since I am 17 years-old so I know what I am talking about. I read a suicide note written by a little nine year-old boy who hung himself in the garage because of bullying. 
As a mom, I obviously don’t want anything to happen to my child. Since I am stuck with the law enforcement background I have I teach him that he can come to me with anything and everything that bothers him or that happens at school. Anything he needs assistance with and any problem that needs to be addressed. By simply observing him, I can tell that something is not right. Sometimes the key is to just listen to him and pay attention. Nothing else. Many time in my life I was naïve and I usually learned the hard way. I want to spare him some experiences if possible. Maybe I can, maybe I cannot. There is only so much you can do as a parent. But one thing I will always do: Love him unconditionally no matter what. 
This morning I still stood at the fence at the school after I dropped him off. He hugged and kissed me goodbye. He took his tiny backpack with his lunch and things and put it where his group is supposed to assemble before they go to their classroom. He did not cry and climbed up the ladder to go down the slide. I turned around and tried to balance feelings of awkward purgatory and eventually got back on my bicycle to ride to school. I wiped away a tiny tear that just popped up on the side of my eye.  

Scale or No Scale.

One afternoon ze husband came home with a fancy “this-thing-literally-can-do-anything-even-bake-me-a-cake” scale. Apparently it can be controlled through his phone, watch and whatnot and monitors the exact calorie intake vs what he burns throughout the day (It can feed you too, I reckon). Do I need a scale like this? Hell no! I am definitely not the person who steps on a scale first thing in the morning and let this thing rule my day or mood. When ze husband went on the mission to Somalia, that scale went down in the garage (nope, I did not throw it out – yet!) to just prove a point. He is gone and so is this scale. Since we are moving soon, I found this high-tech thing again waiting patiently in the corner, collecting dust but silently invited me to step on it. “Step on me, I know you care, ” the things seemed to whisper. 

I am not attached to the scale anymore since I figured out how to measure and monitor my weight differently. I have this one pair of jeans that fits nicely when I am let’s say around 67 kg. As soon as my weight goes over this number, I know I have to take it easy on the chocolate cakes. 

These numbers on the scale hold little significance to me and I won’t get emotional. I think I am in control of my body (am I really?) but tracking calories on a daily basis, no thank you. Life is too short. There was a time in my teenage years when weight mattered to me. I was never obsesses but indeed stepped on my parents’ scale for weight management 101 every single morning and was in a good mood when the weight was “okay” and in a bad mood all day long when it wasn’t. Eventually, I stopped since I did not want to mentally chain me to measurements and numbers. It exhausted me to the point that I was close to an eating disorder. 

Frankly, it is basically common sense how to lose weight; not so common for some people so here is food for thought: 1) I have to eat less; 2) eat healthy and 3) exercise. Done! Well, or get surgery. I can read a ton of magazines about losing weight, exercising and getting all the gadgets (food diary and whatnot) the industry tells me to. But basically, all that is necessary is a pair of good sneakers and a park. No expensive gym membership either. It is all about finally “doing” it and moving around. I figured out that fast paced walking is way better for my joints than jogging. 

Food-wise: All these zero-fat products don’t work. Either I eat my veggies and then put on my sneakers and move around or I don’t. In case of the latter, the weight will most likely stay the same. Also, crazy dieting turns some people into insolent, crabby ass*****.  On the other hand, people who lost a lot of weight and are now “experts on nutrition and health” and preach what they “know” are pretty annoying as well. Why I did not become a nutritionist? Honestly, one day someone tells you chia seeds or coconut oil are the best thing to eat and the next day, this food is very bad for you. Every human being is different and for example raw food is not ideal for everyone. Paleo diet and whatnot, same thing. 

“It is so very important to eat a big healthy breakfast that is full of ONLY healthy fats, whole grains and chia seeds. Also make sure you skip snacking by taking your own food to work. AND THEN use the stairs instead of the elevator all the time. Also, eat eggs. But not the yellow part. ONLY the egg white.  Since I AM doing all this I am feeling sooooo much better, ” a friend told me not too long ago. I don’t actually want to hear this when I think about to rub “Häagen-Dasz chocolate chip cookie dough” all over myself. Also, whenever I bring lunch to work, it looks sad and not like the amazing dinner I had the lunch before. 

One more thing about sports and working out: I tried it all. From gym membership, (im)personal trainer who just hit on me, Zumba, QiGong, Karate, Handball, Volleyball, Basketball (I don’t like these kind of team-games). Working out for me means being by myself, with music (optional) in the woods or in the park. My mom told me about AROHA which is huge in Germany for whatever reason and that she is totally into it. I looked at her and asked, “What are they doing? What is this? I thought AROHA is a part of Hawaii”. She looked at me puzzled and I shrugged it off. 

I know that working out can be a total bummer. When I was a police officer I trained for a full marathon and finished it. Never again. Jogging and running was no fun anymore. It simply became a chore I needed to do and I ended up hating it. I am definitely not a gym-person either. Running on the treadmill for 30 minutes  staring at sweating people or posers is not much fun. Or trying to figure the elliptical machine or stair master out while looking like a complete uncoordinated moron, also not my thing. Plus, the smell at the gym. Yuk!  Hold on. What was I even talking about? 

The scale. I do care about my weight. I want to be healthy and I know that if I gain too much weight my joints will hurt and I feel uncomfortable. Whatever I do to keep my weight at a healthy level, I won’t waste an obnoxious amount of valuable energy. I don’t care what other people say about me. Comments, blablabla and whatnot. This society we are living in is so full of BS most of the time anyway and obsessed by measuring the value of a person through and by looks and appearance only. Just in case people forgot: There is more to a person than looks and weight. To be healthy and arrive at a good weight for my body I learned to listen to my body! Really listen. 

Moving, Roommate and Coffee Store Stories.

Everything changes. Nothings stands still. I have moved so many times in my life  that I can pack an entire house into boxes with a smart, efficient system within a very short period of time. My moving-highlight and easiest move “accumulated items-wise” is still from Munich to NYC; the “the city that never sleeps” even though I found that I actually did sleep quite well in Midtown Manhattan. I also lived in New Jersey (sigh!) which is a whole other chapter and story on its own. One gets used to anything? In any case, I moved again, and again, and again. All the way to Canada. 

I have to add that there was also a short time in my life when I used to live with a “roommate” who let me stay at her place. There are always compromises to be made which has its good and bad sides. For example my roommate used to go to bed very early while I am a night owl and my writing “process” usually takes place while staring at a blank word document and waiting for the words and sentences to pop up magically. In the meantime I might drink a glass of wine or two (for inspiration) or eat some dry Captain Crunch cereal by the handful. This for some reason did not work out with my roommate so our ways parted. Before we parted I thought I am able to write and work at a coffee shop since there were quite some nice cozy, relaxing ones around where she lived. But for some reason, writing at a coffee shop never works out for me. 

My attempt to write at coffee shops: I do love Starbucks’ lattes but even with headphones on, I cannot concentrate. There is just so much going on. There is people watching and glancing around wondering what this and that person is working on. I live close to a university so this blue haired girl with her beige cotton pants, tattooed arms and green Greenpeace T-shirt saying “we are all equal” is definitely writing her “term paper on indigenous rights”. I also looked at my “emergency book” that I always carry around just in case. This is the book I read when I have writer’s block while my laptop is seemingly frozen on a blank white word document with the cursor sadly but continuously blinking.

I am on my second cup of grande latte at this point when I pack up all my things because I need to pee. I don’t want anyone to walk out with my laptop but I also have no clue about Starbucks/coffee shop etiquette. I know I won’t trust the guy who is first of all using my outlet to charge his phone and curses the entire time two meters next to me. He types aggressively now (while still cursing) so I won’t ask him to watch or keep an eye on my computer while I am at the restroom for three minutes (two minutes according to my brother!). Is there a moral obligation? I am an anxious, traumatized  PTSD person in general so would I trust anyway taking care of my laptop, my latte or my handbag? Most likely not. 

What’s with people hogging the outlets at coffee shops anyway? They come over and crawl around between my legs to plug-in their cable (sounds weird, I know) without even saying one word. Now I am in this dilemma. I had way too much coffee, I need to pee and I don’t trust anyone to keep an eye on my things. So I take everything with me. The cord dangling from my shoulder, everything else stuffed loosely in my pocketbook while I try to balance my latte cup (grande) to the bathroom like a trophy fumbling for my phone to check if I put in my jeans pocket or if I left it on the table. 

“Where do I put everything now”, I ask myself while looking for a hook on the door to at least put my handbag. I know deep inside that someone took over my awesome table and outlet already. I finish what I needed to do at the bathroom and head back out to the café. I see a guy placing his unpronounceable giant fancy coffee (I understand dark roast but I am rather irritated and confused by most of the coffee combinations and creations they offer) a blueberry muffin and a cake pop (?) nicely, artfully  arranged on “my” table to just instagram it. 

Long story short, having my own place to write and work is awesome, salient and necessary. Moving again will be fun and exciting. I enjoy moving. I can declutter, minimize and rearrange again which is good. 

Also, roommates are okay if you are like 20-something and in college. Moving out and breaking up with someone who doesn’t have his own checking account by the time he is 30 or 40 is only reasonable and necessary. Nobody wants to really live with someone who occasionally gets arrested for X, Y or Z and is brought home by an officer who drives as slowly as if he is in a parade all the way to the front of your house for the neighbours to see who might be sitting in the backseat. 

Moving does not wipe away all the problems but new destinations are great and usually improve or change aspects of my life. I am not sad or anxious about the move. I just do it. Or as my son said the other day, “I am done here”. 

If You want to Raise a Reader, be a Reader.

We are back in Canada and before I even filled up our fridge I checked out my favourite bookstore in Ottawa for a nice cup of latte, good conversations and great used books. Taking a break from studying, researching and course material, I am happy to read just for pleasure for some time before the new semester starts in September. 

Always with me these days: my son. He is not at daycare anymore (we have both taken the summer off to travel to Europe) and awaits patiently the start of Kindergarten in September since they have a marble machine. I still cannot believe he will be four years-old in October. I have to say that he is into books almost as much as I am by now. Forcing anyone to love books (or anything else) is never a good thing but for him, being around books and me reading all day long  makes it seem natural for him. My favourite time of the day is indeed when he curls up next to me on the couch in the evening and I read to him. We have this special physical closeness that is fantastic. Today, we spent some time at the bookstore too because it rained all day long. Since I love books and reading so much, raising a reader is even more fun.  believe in the importance of reading at any age since it is helpful for the development of the child. I actually read books to him aloud while I nursed him and whenever he had colics it calmed him down. He listened to Jung, Nietzsche, Hemingway, Didion, Philip Roth, David Sedaris and many more. He did not mind. To build a somewhat positive association to books at a very young age worked really well for us. Who knows if it will last for a lifetime but for now, it is great and I initially introduced him to books that I loved as a kid. Now, since he is older, I respect his preference in books. 

I believe starting children  to enjoy books cannot begin early enough. It does not even matter what I read to him when he was very young. But, this way I was able to read my books by reading them out loud without any other distractions. No TV on, no radio etc. since the language has to be directed to child personally. An audiobook never worked and the content never mattered in the beginning. He just loved when I made weird sounds while I read and this even started him “talking” by making noise responses so he communicated with me already at this early age of five weeks. All he wanted was the sound of my voice so I killed two birds with one stone.

I then switched to children’s books once in a while and I don’t even know how many times we read The Hungry Caterpillar and different stories of Maisy Mouse. He and I know the entire stories by heart. I, on the other hand, am crazy about how books smell and how the pages feel so I am using all my senses while reading. Is there a perfume that smells like books? My son is not into smelling books at all. Yet. I guess I am a deeply troubled person. 

My son is a toddler now and my mom hates that term. His interests shifted from hungry caterpillars to volcanos, ghosts, skeletons, the human body and a plethora of “why-questions” on a daily basis like: “Why do we have bones?” I feel that he is at a very important emotional, intellectual and social point in his development right now. He wants to know vocabulary, numbers, the alphabet, colours, shapes and waaaay too many questions on how the world works. We spent a lot of time together and I know him by heart. I sense when he gets tired so our nightly bedtime routine always involves reading. To get him to calm down and relax before bed I create this comfortable atmosphere. We usually eat supper and then curl up on the couch and he chooses what he wants me to read to him. Of course, sometimes he can watch his favourite show and I just read my own book next to him but it is important to create a peaceful, relaxing and soothing atmosphere. This way I can connect to him even though I don’t read to him. 

It is okay that he interrupts while I read. Reading especially to a toddler does not mean to take a book, read it, leave the room and say goodnight. My son has comments and queries. He wants to know things and needs to be engaged and ask what is in the pictures or what he does not understand in the text which in the end expands his view on things. I can also achieve that by choosing diverse books; books that depict children with different skin colours or ethnicities for example. We are living in a diverse world, so exposing him to it at an early stage is important I reckon. I avoid to give my son an e-reader. I know this is probably the future but to hold a physical copy of a book (and to smell it) is so much nicer. Since books are everywhere in our house, this is not a problem. My son’s books are in places in the bookshelf where they are accessibly to him so he can easily pick them up at any time. Most interesting for my son now is whenever a story has bits of adventure, fun and playfulness in it. 

Change is the Only Constant.

The greek philosopher Heraclitus once said that “everything changes and nothing stands still” (my dad’s favourite). Besides Heraclitus’s quote, I don’t even know how many times I heard  “summer is over” in the last couple of days. The summer in Germany was not as great as I thought it would be. There were the occasional awesome days but otherwise I experienced a cold fall/rain mix that weirdly dragged me down. Summer 2017 meant working on my Master’s proposal, literature review and annotated bibliography for my research project. Summer 2017 meant being able to attend and enjoy the Forensic Linguistics Conference in Porto/Portugal. It also meant spending time with family and friends. Also, meeting new friends and spending awesome evenings outside in the garden talking for hours with my brother and sister. There was something definitely different this summer. It was a lot quieter and less hot but nonetheless there were still life-changing events and adventures. There always are. 

The last month and a half were enjoyable, loving and way better than any Canadian winter. However, soon it is time to go back to my beloved Canada. My home. Time for change. Time for something “new” yet I know what I get myself into. There is a lot more 2017 holds for me and that I can look forward to. Writing this way sounds as if I am a little less sad or that I am totally okay thinking about the departure.

I think it is just this weird stage of looking forward to something and trying to hold on to the past while living in an allusive present which is sort of uncomfortable. When I decided to take a summer course at my university I did not know that this sparkling allure of May, June, July and August slightly dims since I am not free from assignments, readings and writings while also taking care of my almost four year-old son. All this while trying to enjoy an adult summer with the same responsibilities, family matters and to-do lists. For my son the summer means that the world is on hold. Everything is awesome, special, he can spend time with Oma and Opa and life is just a 24/7 game. I learn from him and try to adapt. To pretend the real world is on hold seems kind of sweet and awesome. For my son, every day is magic! Then we grow up. We learn what real life is and feels like but I am lucky and able to feel this “kid-summer” of complete magic, being carefree without worrying; just a tiny bit different.

September is around the corner and the “ber-months” are approaching; they are just a couple of days away. September: still this summer feeling but I know I will need a cardigan at the river at night. October is next which always smells like a bottle of autumn perfume with a slight mix of melancholia and Halloween candy. November in Canada means the start of snow, cold and comfort that brings families together to snuggle inside with hot tea and cookies. December is pretty much the same but cozier, colder and more snow (and more cookies). January then is invigorating while February is introverted and one might get slightly depressed. March is sort of hopeful but new snowstorms are approaching.  April: pretty much the same as March but a tiny bit less snow. May: slightly better and the snow starts to melt. Spring is around the corner but then it snows one last time. “Are these actually tiny little tree buds?” 

These months I will study, work and write. We will be wrapped inside for those cold months but it will be all vacuumed away by spring and all the nostalgia and cookie-eating habits will vanish while spring arrives slowly. As usual. Spring always arrives. Life is just this ebb and flow of good and bad things. I appreciate the good things in the meantime and new adventures are just around the corner. 

I want to thank my parents for everything they have done for me. I love them forever unconditionally. “Summer’s not over until we say it’s over”. 

 

Hatsuun jindo. [Parting the clouds, seeking the way]

I ate at a restaurant in the center of Porto/Portugal and skimmed through my book. It was the last day of the conference and my brain was stuffed with new but inspiring information. While I sipped my strong coffee after lunch I thought about one topic that keeps popping up in my mind: weird family matters that seem to go nowhere and I don’t understand why. At the same time, two men talked and discussed their previous Karate lesson and that their teacher reminded them about the importance to always strive to see beyond their immediate problems and obstacles and keep moving forward to clearer skies which is the main challenge. 

I read an article about that it is good and healthy to argue. Further, it is normal to have fights and discrepancies within every family. Not everybody gets along well, nothing is perfect. I have had a couple of relationships in my life and I know that not all arguments are created equally. I also know that it is important to remember that an argument is somewhat a resolution to a conflict. Something happened and I did not agree. However, it is not a tactical outsmarting or some sort of out-talking of “the other” into submission. Emailing back and forth, accusations, he said she said, words getting turned and twisted around, talking in circles for hours or then agreeing to something I don’t even believe in just to keep the peace does not work for me. 

However, it is even worse if and when your “opponents” tell you “everything is okay” and “nothing is wrong” after I asked if I did something wrong to upset them. All I get is a poorly, sad unfair silence treatment and I feel resentment or rather a mild form of irritation. Apparently our communication styles are incompatible and I have to understand this. I also know that I don’t have to love certain people just because they are family. This was important for me to discover since I thought family is sacred and always needs to stick together; especially if the family size is rather small. Every family member makes their own decisions and lives their own life. If there are things in common – great. If not – great. And if I feel treated badly, I will eventually distance myself from certain people since the relationship is for me unproductive, empty, cold and unhealthy. 

The problem with it all is, that I don’t even know what I did wrong. I am attacked as a person instead of attacking and TALKING about the issue. I don’t understand why talking is so difficult for some. The response I receive conveniently distracts from the real subject at hand. Is it unfair? I guess it just is since there are no logical boundaries, it is all ridiculous and I feel like I am talking to my son’s friends at daycare. In the meantime these are adults (I thought) I am dealing with. Usually, if I did X and it was wrong I should be blamed for it. But I then cannot be automatically blamed for everything else. Also, I don’t even know what I did wrong in the first place or if I even did anything wrong. Well I guess this must be true since nobody talks to me anymore. Philosophical reasoning? 

I know that I have to remain objective to describe what the other person did, no finger-pointing etc. but what can I do if the other party just does not talk to me at all anymore and just tells me and acts in front of other people as if everything is okay? Do I need this in my life? The simple answer is: No! I tried to reflect on my own behaviour several times to try to understand what particular action may have upset some people to this extend. I cannot come up with an answer. I know that I only have this one life and I don’t want and need to clutter it with this kind of madness. I reckon that a normal discourse is just not possible with certain people and that is that. Accusations or insults are not my thing since they are usually just a simple way out and  result in becoming illogical and dumb. Making my own conclusions here I have to say that I simply move on as I always do. I move forward to clearer skies and I learn from all this while taking appropriate actions and decision. Life is a challenge.