.YOU HAVE TO WATCH THIS.

I was at a friend’s party the other day and the following conversation occurred:

A friend (AF): Have you been watching ….. TV show?

Me: Nope, I don’t watch a lot of series.

AF: Oh, my gosh, you have to. We are so addicted, Wait, you are kidding – you haven’t??? You would love it!!!! Michael, how far in are are you and Julia? Are you all caught up? I am dyyyyyying to hear what you thought of the recent episode when the Secondary Character and the Main Character finally made out!!! Sorry, Daniela, you don’t know what we are talking about but you really would love this show. I, like, kind of want to send you home to watch it. Let’s check out the pilot and trailer now. I would totally watch the entire season again. Chris, can you put it on? Thanks, babe. Here, Daniela, take the best seat. I want you to have a good view and this chair is the best spot. The last time, when Chris started it, he was like, “YOU have to watch this, “but I didn’t get into it at first, even though everyone in the room said they loved it. You really have to stick with it. The first three episodes kind of suck but you have to stick with it. Don’t walk out of the room to get things out of the kitchen or something. Don’t do laundry. YOU HAVE TO SEE THE WHOLE THING. Right Michael? That’s what I was going to say! It picks up around the fourth or fifth episode after they kill off the character everybody thought was going to be the main character in the next season.

Me: Okay. [They turn on Season 1, Episode 1]

AF: [Five minutes into Season 1, Episode 1]. Okay, so, I know that right now it is hard to keep all the characters straight, but they develop so much it is amazing. It is amazing to see that the main character’s sister hooks up with the character who the main character used to date years ago. Then she got pregnant and OHMYGOD. You won’t believe it – they now work together. They have a really cool dynamic that you will feel when you watch the entire season. Then Nick gets introduced to her at the bar. Then things will spice up again. Insane. He is so dumb, too. Not that that matters but I mean it is weird because she is actually in love with Mitch.

Me: Okay. [Sipping on my wine while looking for my phone in my purse]

AF: G-SUS, DANIELA! WHY ARE YOU LOOKING AT YOUR PHONE? Sorry, I didn’t mean to yell but I don’t want you to miss anything. You have to watch eight seasons and 24 episodes each. Isn’t that awesome hahaha? We can watch some tonight!

Me: Thinking if it is possible to fake a sudden blindness #readthebookblindnessbyJoséSaragamo

AF: Wait, Chris, my love, did you see that? When we first saw it you didn’t think of the controversial episode? Yeah when we first saw it, we couldn’t decide either. Like, the entire time I kept asking myself, WHY am I watching this garbage but it is so catching and we are so desensitized to violence, but this is how it was throughout that time I guess. I saw that a lot of the critics were saying it was gratuitous, however, I don’t really agree. I think they actually ask us the really hard questions with this show. Like the questions that go to the bottom of things. Like deep. Daniela? Why are you getting up? You aren’t feeling comfortable? I am not letting you leave until we get through the first episode at least.

Me: I just wanted to get another glass of wine from the kitchen. [Thinking about how to escape]

AF: Wait, Daniela, don’t get up. Chris,l can open another bottle of wine if we all want some. Yes? Everyone? Michael, let’s do the Merlot. Everybody wants to watch the show now, right? You know, I have read that this is actually what professional acting is all about. There was a thing in The New York Times about how they observed how the actors on the show lived their private life. Hey Chris, babe, can you grab the Nachos while you are in the kitchen? I SAID, CAN YOU GRAB THE – yep, those. Thanks!

Me: ……[thinking: I don’t want to be here anymore]

AF: I just love destroyed female characters with insomnia. How they are depicted in the show is amazing. You guys like the wine and nachos? Arent’s those good? We just found this “wine guy” who occasionally travels to France and brings back the best Merlot. Anyway, we have another case in the basement. Yeah, Chris, no, I know what you are going to say, but the treatment of women characters in the show isn’t as bad as on “that other show”. Chris and I loved that one, too, even though it is kind of our guilty pleasure for a Sunday evening.

Me: I am tired. It was a rough day. I think I will go home.

AF: Really? Don’t you think the humor is really great and smart? Not everyone gets it right away but it is actually, like, laugh-out-loud funny so many times. I read somewhere that the director was really influenced by The Sopranos and I think I can really feel that, too. Chris and I usually get into fights all the times about patriarch characters. Well, not a fight but rather a discussion or argument. We barely fight. Haha. But I hated him when he said that the main character was “not complicated, and was ultimately doing the right thing in the relationship but his girlfriend would never shut up and narrate and just regurgitate garbage that makes no sense and blow things completely out of proportion”. I was like, Chris, it is not that easy. Keep in mind that the main character really wanted to relax about the entire situation if her partner would have been more of a family person. Then she decided to get a divorce because he chose to go on a Safari to Nairobi to relax.

Me: …..sigh

Michael and his girlfriend: I think my girlfriend and I are tired, too and we will leave now.

AF: Nooooooo, you guys all have to stay. The entire show is like that. The writing is so good, the conversations are epic. You just have to go with the flow. Chris, more Nachos and wine, please. Don’t you see the bowls are empty? G-sus, I am telling you guys, sometimes I would love to kill him, too. [laughs] Michael and Julia: Sh…..h………! No talking, guys. This part is so great. Michael, can you actually stuff a handkerchief in Julia’s mouth and add some duct tape? Hahhaha, just kidding. Anybody wants more Merlot?

.Clichés.

Google defines cliché as “a phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought,” which is why starting this piece with a definition makes me want to fire myself. I have a lot of opinions about clichés in that I believe most are objectively bad, many are annoyingly true, and a few are real diamonds in the rough. In this piece, I want to get into clichéd language. The topic of cliches has been on my mind since I read about the project The Afterglow; a totally charming exploration of still-operational New York institutions, places, and people.

It got me thinking about what I would want to write about if I contributed, and after a couple of days I realized that most of my ideas had a lot to do with, of course, language. As a writer, I love to listen to people and this is why I write at a café or bar because these are places for great observations.

Every place offers its own classic scenario: from local families celebrating birthdays, to financial meetings to a couple slurping spaghetti with meat sauce while the wife stares sadly in the middle distance looking for the exit sign. Maybe these people have constructed an airtight facade to protect themselves from questions or simply to advertise some message about what they would love to talk about if someone would stop and listen. Maybe they are just lonely. But, if you label someone a cliché, it does not mean you are right, or particularly perceptive. It means you have not bothered to do the work of finding out what lies deeper.

“They are not clichés, they are hard-barked people in retreat from the sweetness of their souls” – Amy Hempel

Writing is usually a lonely pursuit, and clichés are the brief moments during which our need to be unique is trumped by our need to be understood. After all, I am not a linguist right, right? – elbow into the side to make sure we are all on the same page here. I am sitting at a restaurant with a glass of Chinati and octopus fusilli, and clichés are exactly what I am into and all around me. Let’s unpack some word clichés that are my favorite while I order my second glass.

“Can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Yes, you can but what is better than an old dog? Tricks are for show-offs anyway. But in any case, this cliché works well when my nephew tries to teach me how to use Snapchat.

“Don’t go to bed angry.” I think this is a mediocre cliché because as advice, it sucks. Not because it does not contain some valuable advice, but when that advice does not suit the situation, valuable sleep is lost at the hands of something inconsequential. Like when it is 11.30 pm and a male friend tells me that The Notebook is his favourite movie of all times.

“Time flies when you are having fun.” I think this cliché is just plain truth but rude and fails for displeasing me on a personal level.

“He is a bad egg.” A fun and useful cliché indeed. What’s a more visceral metaphor than a single egg cracked in a carton of otherwise perfectly smooth ones? I think this cliché does a lot of work in four words, with the additive charm of comparing people to eggs. I know some bad eggs.

“Sitting around with my thumb up my ass.” Isn’t this a nightmare and truely the worst cliché? Please don’t make me think about your thumb lodged in your rectum. It is also very okay to just say you were simply doing nothing.

“See the forest for the trees.” I use this cliché a lot with my son and every time I say it I trip up on the word “for” because my (German) mouth wants to say “through” which makes no sense. I looked up the etymology and it apparently dates back to the 16th century when some guy named Haywood wrote: “Plentie is nodeintie, ye see not your owne ease. I see, ye can not see the wood for trees.” (Sigh). Per this website, this expression could be read as, “Cannot see the forest because of the trees, “which might be the first time I have acutally understood it.

I am done with my wine and pasta. I want my cake and eat it too but I don’t drink like a fish or go bananas because I am cool like a cucumber. This is why I am going home now because I still have bigger fish to fry. Make sure you take all this with a grain of salt.

.Litte Fires Everywhere.

I love lists. Writing them has something satisfying so I will share one of my latest ones here with you but first something pretty big happened in my life the other day which will push me in a new direction. I have always been a person who embraces life and rolls with its punches but the last year and trip around the sun was a rather difficult one for me to swallow. This summer especially has been an interesting, albeit emotional, yet somewhat beautiful season for my son and I but now it is time to move in a new direction.

When I decided to move back to Germany it was one of the greatest birthday gifts I could have given myself. I spent my days walking, meeting friends, popping into my favorite bookstore and discovering new ones. I spent my time reading and soaking up the sun whenever I got a chance. I had no expectations, nowhere to be, and no commitments in place even though my brain worked, in a seemingly relaxed stage, to figure things out for the future. Does this sound like a dream to you? It truly felt like one. This time away from Canada helped me settle much of my pain, stress, worry-state of mind or whatever that was and pushed me forward to say: bring it on, I am ready! Are you curious what else I did? I am learning a new language and will publish my second book in a week or two. Superwoman with superpowers? You bet!

And here is my latest survival list for you if you would like to read:

  1. Mental clarity: Drink a lot of water. Get sun. Practise Yoga. Be nice to the neighbors. Cook from home as often as possible. Read and buy more books. Take care of your skin and go to bed early.
  2. Work hard. Play hard. Work harder. Play harder. In that exact order.
  3. Do things that scare you and make you step out of your comfort zone because this is how you grow.
  4. Whenever in doubt, throw on jeans, a white t-shirt, and TOMS shoes. Done.
  5. Take your time. Relax.
  6. Always go with your guts!
  7. Choose your friends wisely. Surround yourself with people who make you happy.
  8. Singing and dancing to your favorite song will cure any bad mood.
  9. Do not wear too much make-up. It will dry out your skin.
  10. It is okay to admit that you are wrong.
  11. Educate yourself. Pay attention to what is going on in the world around you and form educated opinions. Help others. Donate your time. Sign up for programs at universities.
  12. A hangover is not really worth it but sometimes the party is just too good.
  13. Don’t compare yourself to others.
  14. Get off your stupid phone, go outside, play and live your life.
  15. Learn how to cook and know at least three delicious recipes by heart.
  16. Wear whatever you damn well please and what makes you happy.
  17. Never rub your eyes after chopping jalapeños.
  18. Call your parents/grandparents and tell them you love them.
  19. Keep in mind that the most interesting thing about you is how you look and stop counting calories. Invest in health and wisdom.
  20. The skeletons from your past made you who you are. Don’t regret.
  21. It does not matter what other people think of you.
  22. Don’t ever piss off people who bring you cold, heat, mail or food.
  23. Every woman should own a vibrator.
  24. Try that thing you are curious about no matter what it may be: a new food, a new style, a new hair color, a new hobby, a new career path.
  25. Always speak to your children the way you would like to be spoken to.
  26. Fall down, get up, move on. Rinse, lather, but don’t necessarily repeat.
  27. Live debt-free. The feeling is amazing.
  28. Find the humor in the situation.
  29. Focus on your values instead of your fears.
  30. Accept the past, but fight for the future.

.Thoughts on Separation and Divorce.

“When someone tells me they are getting a divorce, I say, ‘CONGRATULATIONS!’ If you’re doing it, I guess you needed it. It was the best thing that could have happened to me. The best thing that could have happened for my kids. And the best thing that could have happened to my ex. Everyone in my family became who they needed to be from this situation. We all became the heroes of our own journey.” – Eat Pray Love

Many of my readers have noticed that I am divorced. It is not a secret. I do not think it is fair to my ex to discuss specifics on the internet. I also wanted to wait until the divorce was finalized to let my readers know about it here. I want to write this post because many of you have followed our lives from the beginning and because I know some of my friends are going through separations and divorces.

I want to write this post in a way so it may help other women who are going through the same decision-making process. Keep in mind that is is not worth it to spend your life with someone who you don’t love and who doesn’t make you happy for any reason, emotional, financial, kids, cheater, abusive relationship etc.

First of all, no decision to separate a marriage or a long term relationship is easy. And I have to admit that I agonized over it for quite some time but certain things that happened pointed me in that direction that it is the best for myself and my son. While it was a very hard decision, I have to say I have not been this happy with my life for a very long time. It is hard, and it is frustrating at times, but I have a free, happy feeling inside of me that I haven’t felt in years. And it certainly gets projected onto my son.

“Neither of us is happy but neither of us wants to leave so we keep breaking one another and calling it love” – Rumi Kaur

For me, the realization that I was not happy in my marriage came on slowly. I did not know or rather did not want to see what was wrong at first. I felt like I was trapped with no way out and simply unhappy and I wanted something more; something different. It took me months to understand what I was feeling and what it was connected to. And then more time to make a solid decision that I didn’t want to go back and forth anymore. Again, I don’t want to discuss the whys here because it would not be fair to my son’s father. However, the decision felt right. I learned that there is a huge difference between someone telling you they love you and them actually loving you.

At this point in my life, I do not blame anyone and just feel it was for the better. I realized that what I needed to grow and to be a better person and to achieve something in my life wasn’t what I had or what I wanted anymore. Too many things have happened. But in a divorce, especially whenever children are involved, it is important to at least try to agree and stay amicable about everything.

I know that many women out there feel/felt trapped, unhappy with the person they are with, confused and not sure if there is a way out. I felt all those things for a long time until I started making my way out. Sometimes two people just have to separate and move on. For their own sake, for the sake of the child(ren). In some cases, I know that sometimes happy parents apart are better than lifeless, angry parents together.

Wouldn’t you rather be alone instead of being with someone who does not love you or give you what you need? Take your time, listen to your feelings and prepare for your new life. When people found out that my ex and I separated, they were so confused because we seemed so happy together and indeed we were for many years. But in the last years, there was a deep-seated feeling that something was off and it just grew and grew. Things change, people change, feelings change. In my case, this change is a good chance to newfound independence.

.I don’t know.

A friend told me the other day, “It seems like you always know what is right. You are so strong and you will figure things out in the end.” It seems like it, dear friend, but I do not always know either. Of course, I don’t have the answer to everything but I can admit that. Half of the time I sit down and draw a complete blank but I love feeling my way in the dark, grasping into the void for the things that make sense to me. And I love to look back on difficult times in my life when I felt I did not know anything and remembering what that felt like. Someone whom I love very much said to me, “You just told me what you think. Now tell me how you fell.” The closest thing that felt like feelings to me were more like longings: I wanted a cottage at the lake and watch the sunset. I wanted to sip a beer at the fireplace while sitting in a comfortable lounge chair. I wanted to be surrounded by beautiful things and most importantly, I wanted to be loved.

I had many friends who I liked and a job I liked most of the time. I used to say that I felt grateful for my job, but I didn’t feel grateful. I just knew I should feel grateful for it. I had boyfriends who were nice; I thought I was probably lucky to have them. I didn’t always feel lucky, though. So I got a new boyfriend, and I felt a little luckier, but I still didn’t really know what love is.

I never really know what the future holds for me but I can predict it to some extent. At some point, I wanted a house. Then I wanted a child, then I wanted to get married but just having a child and getting married sounded pretty horrible. I loved some of my boyfriends, I really did but I never thought they can make good husbands or fathers to my child. Actually, being their girlfriend sounded pretty terrible, too. But maybe I was just too negative. I just wasn’t sure. My gut told me no. My problem was that I felt plenty of things but never really trusted my own feelings to guide me. Asking an ex too many questions would mean an argument so it was easier to say nothing because that way at least I would feel safe and secure and nothing would have to change. But this just led to me not trusting myself, because I was mad for not bringing up the subjects that bothered me the most. I also learned not to give myself a hard time about every goddamn thing under the sun. I just think, “I am here, trying. I am a person who tries my best. I do what I fucking can. It is okay to just try.” I teach my son the same.

When I started to accept all this, I was initially overcome with feelings. I sometimes burst into tears but this is a beautiful thing. I thought, ” I am feeling really sad right now, and weak, and beat, and lost, and that is not just okay; it is good. It is exactly how I need to feel in this moment and the sadness does not make me weak. I just find my way in the dark.”

Uncertainty and vulnerability are the guides through this life we are all living. It is a good thing because leaning into not knowing will bring more knowledge and wisdom and understanding than I ever dreamed of. Being truthful and open and honest with yourself means letting in those scary emotions and noticing the angry self-talk and embracing all of it.

What does not feeling and excepting your feelings lead to? It throws you into a defensive, self-attacking stance which sucks because you are miserable, angry and uncomfortable with your own self. This in combination with negative self-talk and powering down of emotions is toxic and can lead to depression.

So, I follow my uncertainty and fear into the darkness, I accept that the darkness will always be a part of me. I am just a person who does not know all the answers and I don’t know what the future will bring but I can close my eyes anytime to feel how good it is to be alive, how good it feels just to breathe. Life is not about knowing but about feeling your way through the dark. I don’t say, “this should be lighter by now, ” because this means I am shutting myself off from my own happiness. I let the darkness be present even if this means that I have to get on my knees to crawl through it. Then I say, “Holy s*** it is dark but look at me crawling. I can crawl like a motherfucker.”

.When in Doubt, Rent a Pedal Boat – It is Fun.

I am writing this from the kitchen table. It is 9am, around 25 degrees celsius and looks like we are in for yet another classic summer day. Note that I am not complaining. I enjoy the summer. I enjoy the change. I enjoy Germany. The weather is similar to what I would be experiencing in Canada. I have been in Germany for two weeks now, and it’s taken that long to feel like I can settle in. That’s nothing good or bad. I needed this time to continue to map out my next steps. Because I grew up here and have been home many times throughout the years, I assumed I would be able to quickly settle into a routine of writing, going for long walks, working out, cooking, meeting all my friends but it turned out that it is not as simple as I wanted it to be.

Within two weeks of being here, I reconnected with someone I met many years ago and our first conversation quickly opened my eyes and shifted one of my priorities. At the same time, it only took one trip to the grocery store and bakery for me to be faced with the truth: Food tastes so much better here and is a lot cheaper. I feel healthier and more comfortable already.

Before I left Germany many years ago, I had coffee with an old friend. When we said goodbye, she hugged me and whispered, “you know you are going to come back changed, right?” This hit me hard, and at that moment it felt like the most honest thing someone had ever said to me. I nodded, and one month later after, I confirmed that she was right. But it is also true that I changed even before I left but I just didn’t know it, until I returned to somewhere I had been before and saw it with new eyes. You know this feeling when you return home from a two-week vacation? Well, try years. I left Germany in 2005 and never regretted the experience of traveling the world.

Anyway, I still have not dug deep enough into those new thoughts and feelings yet to make more sense of them or figure out what is next for me but writing all this down makes me feel good and at ease. The last three years in Canada were good at first, then really bad, then good again but I know I had to leave. There was nothing left for me even though I wish things would have been different. There are days when I wake up and I want to go back because I miss my “family”, friends and all those beautiful experiences and memories. But I know it would not be good at this point in my life. I need to take a different route this time. More adventures to come. Ha!

I compiled a list of 30 thoughts that I would like to share from my first 14 days away.

  1. Sometimes meeting someone one time is good enough. I should leave the memory at that.
  2. I can change a lot in two weeks.
  3. My values can change a lot, too.
  4. The people I can sit in silence with, or quietly read books together with, are special. It is strange how being silent with someone can actually be more memorable than forcing my way through a conversation.
  5. It feels weird when people say they really miss me and don’t talk to me for days. Cannot be that bad then.
  6. It also feels weird that a very close friend won’t read my book or blog.
  7. When I meet someone unexpectantly whom I haven’t seen in ages, it is awesome to make plans and meet the next day.
  8. If I don’t ask, the answer is always no.
  9. There are those who understand and those who never will. I don’t try to force the latter. It is okay if only a few people really understand. It is a gift to have even one.
  10. I don’t owe anyone an interaction.
  11. Being a beginner sucks most of the time until I am no longer a beginner. When I start to see the early signs of my efforts paying off, I am glad I tried something new.
  12. Teaching my son, watching him grow up and adapting to new situations is awesome.
  13. Being self-aware is exhausting sometimes but it is also a gift for myself and everyone who comes into my life.
  14. I love to show my son things I enjoyed as a child when I grew up here.
  15. I now move at the pace that feels natural to me.
  16. I treat everyone I meet like an old friend.
  17. Rejection is not about me. Even if it seems like it is, it is really not.
  18. A breakup or divorce is not the worst thing I have been through. I have survived worse.
  19. The kindest thing I can do is to let someone go on their own journey, even if it does not include me.
  20. I love to tell people what positive impact they have had on me.
  21. I learned that it is important to put myself in someone else’s shoes.
  22. I live according to my values and won’t tolerate bullshit anymore!
  23. If someone would ask me to go on an adventure, I would not ask too many questions. I would say yes, pack (my son), and go.
  24. The state of my space is the state of my mind.
  25. Decluttering is just a tool. I needed to dig up the root(s) cause, so it wouldn’t keep spreading and I have to clean the mess again.
  26. Nothing matters more than the health of myself and my loved ones.
  27. When it comes to big and tough decisions, I take my ego out of the equation and ask myself what I should do.
  28. When in doubt, I rent a pedal boat with my son. It is so much fun.
  29. When in doubt, I go for a long run. Fresh air clears my mind.
  30. Things will always work out in the end. And if they don’t, it is not the end.

.As a Writer.

As a writer, it is normal to be drawn to the written word, to daydream and to write down sentences that begin with the phrase: “as a writer”. These days, my fantasies center around the publication of my second book and what book cover to use. Of course, as a writer, one of my favorite authors is Patti Smith.

Patti’s book Just Kids has become a staple in every hipster-aesthete’s literary arsenal just because the cover is so goddamn awesome. As a writer, I have often pondered what makes a successful book cover these days, especially in the age of e-books and Audible. Would Daniela Henry’s book Sometimes Raw been such a hit without this cover?

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“The real marrow of what makes a great cover is looking at an image and it being able to project out the abstract but important ideas or story that book is trying to convey, “explained Abigail Bergstrom, Head of Publishing Gleam Futures. “A lot of my authors have existing communities, so they have a real instinct and intuition on who’s going to buy the book,” she continued. This increase in agency among authors is reflected in their covers. “I think in the non-fiction space it’s very type-led, especially on issues of gender and women’s voices. They’re being taken seriously in the way that they should be and maybe haven’t in the past. Their covers are looking more authoritative — that’s a word I hear a lot of my authors say — they want to look authoritative. Less millennial pink, more authority.”

Bergstrom says that e-book sales have now plateaued, hinting that people still desire the physical object over its digital counterpart. I totally agree with this. People rarely post pictures of their Kindle book and a cup of coffee on Instagram for example. A book is a symbolic object which makes the picture so much more significant. Holding it, smelling it…. You get my point.

So, what draws you to a book? The cover for one because it speaks volumes about not only the content but how we choose to represent ourselves. How do I choose a design? “Really, it’s not about designing a cover that works for Instagram, it’s about designing a cover that’s going to be saleable through the internet,” explains Bergstrom. “Things like thumbnails on Audible — if you’ve got a cover that has really intricate tiny drawings, that’s not going to speak to the reader.” I heard stories from my writer-colleagues who had fights with their publishers over their cover design. How come? “The tug and war of the creative process is helpful,” says Bergstrom. “It really brings to light the positioning of the book and who it’s for…it’s good to have that ironed out and focused so that everybody’s on the same page before we enter the stage of comms and marketing the book.” For me, it is hard to find a suitable cover. Why? Because there is no specific formula for guaranteeing a cover’s success. “A successful book cover properly captures the tone of the book,” says Joan Wong, book designer. “To me, it’s not so much about making sure the book sells as much as it is about doing right by the writing.”

As a writer, I have to tell you that writing a book is not easy. It is hard work but I love it. I also have to tell you that I am in the final stages and just sent my second manuscript to a publisher. I love it at the moment and then I hate it in others and finally, I get used to it. After finishing a book, often an emptiness results and I write nothing. But I have found it is important to just be patient and go about my business and unexpectedly it will happen again. I know it always does. I will sit down again and begin the next book. This way I am never discouraged.

It does not matter if your dreams come true and you do get published, if agents swoon and audiences cheer. Trust me on this: It truly does not matter! What matters is the feeling that you are writing, every day. What matters is the work, diving in, feeling your way in the dark, finding the words, trusting yourself, embracing your weird (german) voice, celebrating your quirks on the page and believing in all of it. What matters is you, all alone on your desk, your favorite place to write, a place where you know who you are and what you are meant to accomplish in this life. Realize that it all depends on you. If you don’t want it, then to hell with it. Reach for what you love with abandon, with hope in your heart, with fragility, without knowing exactly what comes next. Reach and never stop reaching.

One last piece of advice. Whenever you feed your soul and truly savor what you do with your time, it makes it much more likely that your big dreams will come true. Now write and don’t judge the book by its cover.

.Ask Sometimes Raw: “How do I get over a betrayal”?

Hello and Welcome to “Ask Sometimes Raw” where I will answer your burning questions. Ask me a question by sending an email to danielahenry81@gmail.com with the subject line “Ask Sometimes Raw,” or simply leaving one in the comments.

Dear Sometimes Raw,

I married the man I never thought I would meet. It was this kind of man I actually considered having children with and spend the rest of my life being loved by and loving him back. One week into the relationship he told me that he broke up with all his girlfriends. He met so many women because he was single, traveled a lot but now he knows that I AM the one. I felt so good, so special. I thought, “these poor ladies.” One year later we were married (I know, gross), and another year later we had our first child, followed shortly after by our second. He started to work more and spent long hours at the office. Once he returned home, he was usually different, almost absent at times. We had horrible fights, too. We spoke a lot about our problems but I guess not enough because I was always still concerned about the dramatic change in his personality and actions. Certain things seemed to be more important than spending time with the family. Our marriage was not perfect, and in hindsight, there were many things that bothered me but I let it slide hoping it will all get better at some point. He has a huge ego that he uses to mask insecurity and lack of self-confidence but women love it. Eventually, I found out that he cheated on me for quite some time. Of course, I don’t want reconciliation. I filed for divorce because once trust has been broken this marriage ship has sailed. Since then, I have come a long way. I feel so much better and all I would love is some advice on how to move on more easily and heal after this exhausting time.

Sincerely,

New Adventures


Dear New Adventures,

Emergency signs, bells, and alarms are overheard because we are blind and sooooo in love (#eyeroll). But when someone is wrong for you, he is just wrong for you. Sometimes, there is no way to hold things together because you cannot be nicer, more understanding, sexier or whatever. You cannot make your partner more caring, more like a loving father for your children, more loyal or patient. But let’s not barrel down that rageful lane but instead think you need to survey the facts and realize that in the end, you are better of without him. That guy was never going to give you the support and love you and your children deserve. Like ever. I guess that he is not even capable of sticking by someone’s side when the chips are down and times get rough. Some people are just like that. They love you intensely one minute, but as soon as the situation shifts a bit because people change, they get bored and they are out. I bet, if you would have paid close enough attention, you would have seen a few more examples of him backing away from you slowly.

It is important to figure out early on if you can really lean on your partner and trust them that they will be by your side when roads get rough. If a guy seems to love you but his behavior shows an interest in creating greater distances all the time stay away from him. If he constantly fantasizes about more projects, if he is insecure and does not take responsibility for anything he says or does, backs away when you need him most, only talks about himself and how awesome he is, or seems unable or unwilling to get to the bottom of any conflict with you because it is all your fault anyway, your alarm bells should ring and maybe you should not be with that guy. Don’t sign up for a lifetime with this person. Way too many people do, hoping that the partner will change along the way. They rarely do.

I know that it is incredibly hard to raise your two children on your own while dealing with this betrayal. But you can do this. You have come so far. It is time to rid yourself of the aftertaste of his bad decisions once and for all. His choices and actions do not define you. His heartlessness and lack of loyalty and interest in his children have nothing to do with you. That is who he is. That is his reality he believes. He probably blames all this on you but guess what, it always takes two people. Deep down, he is insecure, sad and lonely and he knows that but he masks it well. All you have to do now is to make sure to define your life story in a new way. Reinvent your whole life and make it look beautiful again, whether or not it has a man in it. You have to become strong again, and happier and healthier. File your ex under MR. WRONG permanently with a warning label attached for other women who may fall for his initial charm.

The path from now on is about you, and you alone. Quiet your mind and really see yourself. Start dating and hanging out with yourself. Do the things that make you feel happy, strong and independent. Whatever that entails. Maybe you want to change your hair. Maybe cut it very short. Maybe move to another city or country. Maybe you have to leave people you love behind and maybe you even have to give up some big dreams. You should stop making room in your life for someone else’s love and start making room for your self love instead. Be proud of yourself. Imagine a life without romantic love for now. Love yourself and your children first. Drink their love in. They will be big kids faster than you think so slow down and drink yourself and life in, too. Recognize how much happier and better off you already are without your ex.

As Arthur Ashe once said, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” Remember that there is no injustice in your life anymore. You are healthy and your children are healthy. Love yourself and love them. Think that this is exactly where you are supposed to be at this moment.

Be well,

Sometimes Raw

.Part 3: Nutrition & the Environment: Toxic Exposure; Cleaning and Personal Care Products.

via The New Yorker

How do toxins enter our body?

There are three main ways that toxins enter our body. One is through the lungs via inhalation, for example, exhaust, smog, aerosols, scents, fresheners, and dust. Toxins enter the body through the digestive system via indigestion, for example, food additives and agricultural toxins, toothpaste, mouthwash, residue from dish soap and cosmetics. Toxins also enter the body through our skin via absorption, for example, cosmetics, body care products, oral hygiene products, deodorants and antiperspirant, hair products, cleaning products and the residue of laundry detergent.

What do toxins do in our body?

Toxins work as hormone disruptive chemicals that interfere, block or mimic natural hormones (estrogen, testosterone and thyroid hormones); as carcinogens like cancer-causing or aggravating neurotoxins or as respiratory toxins that affect the respiratory system and may cause bronchitis, emphysema, and other breathing problems.

Clean house sounds good but how clean ?

Advertisements and commercials lead us to believe that we have to kill every germ and should have spotless homes. Anti-bacterial products do not distinguish between the good bacteria and the bad, they kill everything; this suppresses our immune system! Over 95% of bacteria are harmless. We should not disinfect unless someone is ill or if an animal poops inside. If a product has a warning label or skull and crossbones, do you actually really want to you it?

Labelling in Canada

The labeling of household cleaning products in Canada falls under the Consumer Chemicals and Containers Regulations (2001). Under these regulations, all manufacturers, distributors, and importers of cleaning products sold to Canadian consumers must assess the risks of each product they sell, then display hazard symbols, warning statements, instructions and first-aid treatment on their products’ containers. Canadian law does not require cleaning products and many cosmetic to feature a complete ingredient list. It limits the labeling of ingredients to protect the safety of Canadian workers, meaning that only industrial cleaners have to list all their ingredients.

How save are “cleaning” products

In an Environmental Defence study, 14 volunteers homes were tested before and after cleaning with conventional cleaning products. Post-cleaning 12 of the 14 had levels of VOCs that were higher than the German recommended levels for exposure!

VOC’s: A large group of carbon-based chemicals that easily evaporate (or “off-gas”) at room temperature. There are thousands of different VOCs – both naturally occurring and human-made. Most scents or odors are made of VOCs. Common VOCs include acetone, benzene, and formaldehyde. In homes, VOCs can emanate from building materials (flooring, paint), furniture (plastic, wood finishes in cheap furniture), exhaled cigarette smoke and products like air fresheners and cleaning supplies. Typically, VOCs have short-term and long-term health effects. Because the concentrations of VOCs are usually relatively low and long-term effects slowly, research on the health impacts of indoor air quality and VOCs is still developing.

Cleaning Products to Avoid

Asthma Triggers

Ammonia compounds (benzalkonium chloride): Found often in fabric softeners and antibacterial cleaners. Ethanolamines in detergents. Bleach and ammonia: separately can trigger asthma, if mixed together create chlorine gas which can cause asthma in a single, large dose

Natural Alternatives

Not all natural products are safe. Do your research and use tools like ewg.org/cleaners and Environmental Defence. Natural and homemade cleaners are just as effective as synthetic chemicals. Not only does this make you healthier, but it also keeps our waterways cleaner. Canadians pour 3 million pounds of household cleaners down the drain every day.

Use these instead: Green Cleaning Recipes

Baking Soda: A fantastic abrasive that won’t scratch the surface, cuts grease, whitens and absorbs bad odors

Washing Soda: More alkaline than baking soda for a stronger cleaning agent. Great for degreasing, removing tough stains and cleaning grout

White vinegar: Antibacterial (kills 80% of germs), cuts through grease, adds shine (great for windows and glass) and deororizes

Hydrogen peroxide: Water with an added oxygen molecule is a strong germ killer. Wipe with hydrogen peroxide (3%), then follow with vinegar spray and leave it to evaporate for strongest germ-killing

Essential oils: Disinfect, deodorize and cut grease. Infuse citrus peels into spray cleaners or fill juiced shell with baking soda for a scrubber

Castile soap: Cuts grease and lifts dirt. Use for dishes, floors, textiles. Is highly concentrated, dilute properly before use (avoid palm oil if possible).

Cosmetics

Women use an average of 15 products; men about 6 or 7. Up to 60% of what you put on your skin is in your bloodstream within 15 minutes! The FDA has authorized the cosmetics industry to police itself through its Cosmetics Ingredient Review (CIP) panel. In its more than 30-year history, the CIR had declared only 11 ingredients or chemical groups to be unsafe. In comparison, the EU had declared thousands. 57% of skincare products contain “penetration enhancers” – chemicals like propylene glycol and sodium lauryl sulfate that bypass the skin and enter the bloodstream. Marketing claims have little meaning. Terms like “natural”, “unsentenced“, “hypoallergenic” and “dermatologist-tested” are meaningless. Even products labeled as organic are not necessarily safe. “Organic” products can contain petrochemicals, and even those “certified organic” can contain as little as 10% organic ingredients by weight or volume. Companies are not required to list ingredients that are “trade secrets”, fragrance components, or nanomaterials.

Dirty Dozen to Avoid and to look out for on labels

Avoid these ingredients in cosmetic products: 1,4 Diozane, Artificial musks, BHA & BHT, Coal-tar derived colour and PPD, Formaldehyde-releasing agents, Triclosane, Petrolatum, Phthalates, Silicon chemicals, Mineral oils, Ethylene oxide, Parabens

Hormone Disrupting Chemicals (EDSs or HDCs)

HDC’s are substances that interfere with the synthesis, secretion, transport, binding, action, or elimination of natural hormones in the body. Hormones are important regulators responsible for the maintenance fo the body’s homeostasis (balance), including optimal metabolism and elimination, reproduction, development and brain and nerve function.

Major Concerns of HDC’s

The main endocrine systems affected are the thyroid, the adrenals and the reproductive glands, resulting in 1) Reprodutive and developmental effects (1 in 6 couples struggle to conceive), 2) Neurological, behavioral and cognitive imbalances, 3) metabloic effects, 4) Immunological and carcinogenic effects, and 5) effects on the stress and sugar metablolism regulation.

Tips: What can be done

Clean indoor air and dust regularly. Eat organic (especially for meats and dairy, choose low mercury fish). Choose natural personal care products. Avoid harmful plastics and BPA. Avoid toxic cleaning products. Avoid toxic lawn care products. Avoid non-stick coatings and get a cast-iron pan to make epic omelets (for the cottage!) instead. Use natural materials for food storage such as wax papers, glass containers, etc. Avoid antibacterial products and cleaners. Avoid stain repellents and flame retardants.

Stay Happy. Stay Healthy.

.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.