.What Feels Right – One Week Birthday Aftermath.

I recently turned 37, still studying and unemployed in this awesome country I want to make my new home. When I decided (twice) to leave my stable, full-time jobs to enter into the unpredictable world of academia, research, studying, freelancing and occasionally working at a bookstore, I knew deep down that this was the right decision. My gut told me to go for it while my brain desperately tried to hold on to security, safety, routine, and comfort. Some “friends” told me that I am completely nuts for taking this step while others encouraged me and mentioned that they are proud of me for leaving something I struggled with and made me unhappy to pursue what I am passionate about.

It is all about choices in life. Choices to leave partners and find others. The choice to leave a job that did not fulfill me to find something different even if it means the start will be tougher and uncertain. However, it is something I am exploring and that I really want to do so I step outside of my comfort zone and go for it. Believe me, it is/was hard at points since I am not alone. I have an almost 5-year-old to raise and feed.

I am taking a professional skills development course this semester (best one so far!) and the instructor Lisa J. Weiss (coincidence?) told me things that I have been trying to tell myself on a daily basis for the last couple of months. It was only when she said it to me and showed me new ways to redefine my life by leading from within that it really, truly hit home. If I am being completely honest, the past couple of months have been pretty tough. I have been struggling with my marriage, divorce, and the question where I “should” be in life, what is expected of me, and where I “need” to be and what I actually want. Turning 37 was nothing big for me in terms of feeling sad. It is just a number and another day. The little parties I have had with people I treasure dearly were awesome. However, what has been completely throwing me off recently is choosing to change my career path.

Most days are awesome but others have my metabolism completely drop off the face of this earth and anxiety starts to creep in making me question my choices and life trajectories. Sort of like, “Daniela, you are 37. You should have a house or cottage, duh! (half paid off) and two garages at this point. Your property should be protected by a white wooden fence. There have to be two garages at least, a dog, a cat, two kids (boy and girl) and the occasional Friday-night babysitter on speed-dial who comes over so you and your partner can enjoy a night out. Also, get used to working 9-5 (don’t think you get out by 5 pm though!) and climb the corporate ladder as soon as possible. All this for three weeks vacation a year! Don’t sleep your way up either!”

This all made me think about societal norms and pressures and those expectations others have; but more so, the expectations we set for ourselves. This society wants people to go to school, study, get degrees, then get a job, get married, have children and buy a house. All this btw should be achieved by the time you are 30. If you really think about it, aren’t those acts nothing but a cultural representation of our primal instincts to easier adapt to the environment, pro-create and succeed? Seems pretty lame and boring to me. If it works for you, great. I asked myself a simple question, “Would I rather make decent money and work a job you hate or pretend to be an author, bookstore owner and student for life and be broke for  a while but really loving it?” The answer was immediately clear to me: I chose the latter. Thinking about it, if I try this new lifestyle and fail in a couple of years, I will have to get a real job eventually anyway. Will I have lost anything really? No. I can always add a ton of experience to my résumé and actually enjoy living life in the meantime.

I do not think it is healthy to have humans stare at computer screens crammed in a small, individual cubicle for 8+ hours every day. Are you reading this from your cubicle with a weak internet connection but you are not supposed to use the work computer for personal use anyway? Your office is outdated (Windows or Dell Computers and Windows 98 Software), and you are just sad and hate your life?

Then again, all workplaces are different. You also could watch a pirate copy (in-house made!) while sitting (when you were supposed to stand) on an assigned post. You could work double paid overtime in a greasy phone booth wearing three pairs of pants and a Russian hat while heating your rear with a fire hazard electric coil device. If this is your thing, good! Whatever makes you happy. Deep inside, you know when it is time to leave and change. Whatever bothers you in life try to leave behind. Time is not waiting. But that’s also the beauty of it all, no? Just do something about it, stop complaining and become more self-aware. Also, quit comparing yourself to others. We only have this one life. Do whatever feels right by listening to your gut, then repeat.

.37.

Every year I have mixed feelings about my birthday. Maybe because this number is changing so quickly and a 4 is in near sight. Or because my son asked me the other day, “Mommy how old are you going to be on Thursday?” Me, “37, Joel”. Joel, “Wow, this is very old, mommy. Like dinosaur-old”. Crickets and silence on my end. Then again, it is just a number. It dawned on me however that I spend a ridiculous amount of energy every year to decide whether I am comfortable with my approaching non-problematic birthday or not.

Is birthday anxiety a thing? Kind of how I don’t like Valentine’s Day? Or how I don’t really care about New Year’s Eve? Deep inside, the optimist in me believes that each and every birthday is going to be a memorable event. Yet, the misanthrope in me thinks that is it silly to place any type of significance on it at all since it is just a day like any other. Just a day on the calendar. Or is it the best day of the year? This is when I was born, on a Sunday at 11.30am, 37 years ago. Some birthdays in the past I do remember clearly while others are simply hazy memories. But maybe this year will be different? Am I trapped in a contradictory hoop of insanity, cynicism or hope? I am an analyst so I thought I give this birthday mystery a little bit of a stirrup by giving my birthday a little neurotic psychological spin by asking the questions, “Does my birthday make me sad?”

Three months out: “Awesome, it is my sister’s birthday on April 4th which means it is exactly 100 days until it’s my big day. Whoohoo. Maybe I should start planning something special like a one-week trip just by myself. Without my son. Maybe a retreat. Or travel somewhere with someone special?”

Two months out: “Okay, maybe this trip idea was a bit crazy. I mean, going somewhere over the weekend, maybe. It would also be cool to get my closest friends together for dinner and drinks.”

One month out: “I don’t even care about my birthday at all. Maybe I just don’t do anything. It is just another day. Maybe nobody remembers. Let me take my birthday date off on Facebook.”

Three weeks out: “Okay, I am just going to chill. Birthdays are completely overrated. I don’t care about mine. Whatever happens, happens.”

Two weeks out: ” Maybe someone is secretly planning a party or something special for me. That would be so sweet. Maybe they are just not telling me about it.  Then again, I hate surprises. ”

Nine days out: “Okay, obviously nobody dropped any hints about a secret birthday party. Just my son who asked if I invite him to my birthday party. Duh. To fully skip my birthday makes me feel weird, too. I will just plan a nice dinner with one or two friends.”

One week out: “Okay, a small dinner sounds kind of sad. Maybe I just invite a bunch of people to a big birthday dinner celebration. Whoever wants to come can come. And maybe we can all go out after? I get a babysitter. Maybe we can do it on Friday since my birthday is actually on a Thursday this year?”

Five days out: (putting the Facebook birthday notification back on. I am pathetic) “Formally asking people to celebrate with me makes me feel kind of weird. Also, most of my friends here have kids, so they won’t have time anyway. Babysitters are so expensive after all. And then how would they get along since many of them are from different backgrounds.”

Four days out: “Okay, do I even have friends? Like real friends? Maybe five really good ones. Okay, maybe just two. Or I invite everybody over to my new place/house occupied by Carleton University professors only,  to help me move furniture and decorate all night long. Maybe not a good idea. But we could spy on Erik Karlsson. Maybe also not a good idea.”

Three days out: “It is ridiculous at this point. F*** it. I am literally not doing anything on my birthday. It is on a Thursday, so nobody wants to hang out anyway. Also not on Friday.”

Two days out: “Shit, I think I actually do care about my birthday. Nobody will remember it. I have no friends.”

One day out: “I don’t know what is sadder: Not even mentioning my birthday at all, telling everyone or doing something awkward. Option number one. This is the best. Then I will enjoy a glass of red wine by myself tomorrow night.”

Actual BIRTHDAY: “It is my birthday, bitches. The world is my oyster. I tell everyone and everybody is supposed to treat me like a queen. Birthdays are so awesome. Awesome dinner, awesome conversations, and cheesecake with the ones who are very close! My psychology professor would be very proud of me.”

Let’s see what will happen within in the next year but some awesome things are already lined up. I am not setting unreachable targets and goals and just share some things I want to focus on. Firstly, I will start with things that are actually achievable or doable.

I will get into more detail but my book is in its final stages. About one or two more months before it gets published. It was a lot of work, editing, and public relations issues to deal with but I am very proud of myself.

My life is great these days even though the last couple of months were rough. I am not living in the past anymore. The past is over and I am moving on pretty nicely.  I stopped comparing myself to others and enjoy what I am doing.  I will look back at all this and think about what I have learned from that experience. Most importantly, however, I will treat myself with kindness and focus on my health. Welcome, 37!

.Beth & Jason.

I have written enough blog posts about heartbreak by now. It is time to move on and to leave the past behind. An interesting reader question to one of my last posts was, “How do you know when a relationship is right?”

The other day, my son and I took a walk at the Rideau River in the evening. He played with sticks and looked for ghosts while I just enjoyed the sound of the cicadas.  Shortly after,  I came across an “Ottawa moment” I will never forget. I spotted a couple having a candlelit picnic just at the river. They dined in grey lawn chairs pulled up to a fold-out camping table. As we passed them, they were just talking about the sunset and how awesome the food tasted. On the little fold-out table they had two glasses of wine, cheese, bread and a big salad. They smiled at my son and I so I introduced myself to Beth and Jason.

It was the most pleasant conversation. While my son played they asked me to join them for a glass of wine. Just like that. They told me that they have been watching the sunset every “nice and comfortable” night for over 28 years since they moved to Old Ottawa South.  After a certain amount of dates, they thought it would be great to bring some wine or beer. Neighbors asked them many times, “You guys are still going down to the river to watch the sunset?” Beth answered, “We have never stopped. This is our paradise.”

I asked them what their favorite supper conversation is and if they ever run out of things to discuss. Jane smiled and said, “We do not run out of things to discuss. The longer we are together, the more we have to talk about. We have more experiences, more friends in common, stories about people and plans for the future. We are planning our upcoming vacations and where we would love to travel to.” “Did anyone ever join you for your supper, ” I asked. Jason smiled this time and said, “Well, you just did. And so did many others. A musician came by here once. He brought his guitar and played some songs during our dinner. It was great. We shared out food with him.”

“Beth and Jason, how did you meet?”, I asked thinking that their marriage is so awesome. Jason told me that they initially met in Highschool, then did not see each other for a couple of years and met again in graduate school at Carleton University. He proposed marriage three months later. I asked Beth how she knew they were meant to be. She said that one night when she was feeling sick he walked through meters of snow (Damn, Canadian winter) to get her her favorite book from the Black Squirrel Bookstore to read her to sleep. He also made an awesome chicken broth that night.

“What’s the key to a good marriage?”, I asked. Apparently, I don’t know. Both answered pretty much at the same time saying that connecting again at the end of every single day, sitting down without distractions and talking is the most important thing. A connection is key and enjoying each others company as well as how to talk to each other and discussing, sharing and analyzing things. The advice they gave to me is that everything is easier when you are in a good mood, spend time together, have fun, be generous to another and apologize. They both added, that each partner is responsible for their own happiness because you cannot rely on your significant other to always entertain you.

They wanted to share their supper with my son and I but we decided to walk back home. While we packed sticks, water bottles, and ghost detectors, Jason took me aside and asked me, “You know what is also important?” I just stared at him and he continued, “This is for your brain on the way home:  In a relationship, it is important to laugh at each other’s jokes. Nobody has ever made me laugh as much as Beth. We are each other’s ideal audience. We had this ‘knowing’ feeling.  It wasn’t love at first sight but rather this strong feeling of ‘but of course this feels right in a good way’. I just had this feeling that this person is very important in my life. Then we became a team. We were initially just together but then we gradually solidified into a team. Then out of a sudden, we were in love. She made everything better. Being with her felt like being on vacation from real life. Disagreements did never threaten to end in a divorce. I always had the feeling we would keep going. We make plans. We keep it interesting. We do not spend too much time apart from each other.” He dropped a pebble in the water and made it dance, wiped his hands clean on his pants and smiled at me.

It has gotten dark by now. We packed our things to leave for good this time while their little candle shone brightly at the camping table.  Beth said “I could not imagine my life without him. It is all about choice. We choose to be together, nobody forces us. However, there are times when I am not entirely sure how things will evolve. We, like all couples, argue and fight at points and then there was/is doubt. Doubt is a part of life. But I believe in us, in our marriage because of the small things we do for another every day and what we have been through. We just have this energy together. He is the one.”

We said goodnight and left. There was so much positivity and thought on my mind while we walked home. I took a closer look at my life and the people who are in it and everything feels okay. Just the way it is. I am moving on.

.My Friend got Diagnosed with Hashimoto Thyroiditis.

A couple of months ago I had coffee with a friend and our usual light, happy conversations were accompanied by a dark cloud that seemed to linger over her head. “What is wrong, ” I asked her. She seemed very tired, exhausted and stressed. I know that she always put a lot of pressure on herself to accomplish a lot, very fast and very well. 

She told me that initially, she started to feel weird because pressuring herself and rushing around simply stopped working so well; she simply could not fulfill requests quickly and sufficiently enough anymore. She felt sluggish, tired and to some extend strangely separated from her mind. I told her that I felt like this a couple of months ago, too. I had so much stress and things I worried about that it became difficult to organize my thoughts. The mind is so powerful. 

She started seeing doctors and added a growing list of symptoms to her chart every time she saw him. Anxiety, infections, insomnia, food allergies, food intolerance, eczema and weird acne, weight gain followed by weight loss and crazy mood swings. The worst for her was low energy since she could not perform at her job anymore. The initial idea was to take medical leave to focus on herself to rest and heal. However, more symptoms seemed to accumulate while others could even be traced way back to her childhood such as lack of self-confidence, self-love and this feeling that she could never really live herself or be free. She however always tried to convince herself that those symptoms were just byproducts of regular life and that stress at work does that to a person so one has to deal with it. [One of my professors/doctors at school told me that autoimmune diseases are somewhat directly or indirectly connected to a lack of self-love and self-confidence]

My friend has seen several doctors over a couple of months but after seeing a naturopathic doctor she was finally diagnosed with the autoimmune disorder called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. I learned in my course at school that autoimmune diseases are conditions wherein the body attacks its own healthy cells. In the case of Hashimoto’s, the body built up antibodies against the thyroid gland. The what? The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the neck that secretes hormones, regulates a person’s reaction to stress, growth, cognizance of satiety and hunger, muscle control, sleep quality and so much more. Hormones are so interesting! When something is wrong with the thyroid it disrupts many bodily functions and can cause a plethora of other disconnecting symptoms, since everything is always connected. 

She told me that after seeing a naturopathic doctor and felt so much better. “The conventional doctors I have seen previously just did not care about where this disease (“dis-ease”) came from initially but rather prescribed medication pretty quickly”, she said. My friend is on medication (that she hopes she may be able to stop taking at some point again) but she also changed her lifestyle, meditates, cut out anti-inflammatory foods like gluten and dairy while adding others such as seafood, kelp, dulse or fish oil. Add the herbs curcumin mixed with black pepper to your diet. More plant-based fats. Rainbow-colored vegetables. Anything that improves digestion will reduce inflammation in the body. Probiotics, for example, or enzymes (“Wobenzym”).  She added that working with a therapist on building her self-confidence and yoga is so helpful and important to her, too. Additionally, she avoids purchasing all synthetic “beauty products” that she was using for so many years after she read an article that those ingredients may cause Hashimoto’s as well. Switching to natural products is not that bad. Check out my blog under the category “beauty & food for inspiration.

I do not know my path on my holistic nutritionist journey and what to do with all this new knowledge I accumulated since January when I signed up to study at The Institute of Holistic Nutrition. It is definitely a great alternative to conventional medicine (I do not label conventional medicine as bad, however. It is good and necessary in many ways!) and was so helpful for me and my son already. It is just good to know that there are alternatives out there. They may be more expensive but it is wise to seek out for doctors who listen, understand and even order several comprehensive tests and blood work that needs to be done and maybe reveal significant deficiencies in for example minerals and vitamins (lack of iodine would be one if you are interested!) that are a direct cause for Hashimoto’s. 

Initially, my friend’s doctor handed her a prescription for antidepressants with unlimited refill and sent her home. This reminded me of my own story when I had this insane pain in my right upper quadrant (liver/gallbladder area) and I actually had three gallstones but the doctor sent me home with over-the-counter heartburn medication. In my case, I had this feeling that my doctor doubted the validity of my symptoms while arching a suspicious brow thinking I may want to skip class at university. It is important to do research without getting lost in the world wide web and believing everything Dr. Google says. However, in my opinion, it is worthwhile to additionally continue a somewhat independent research and seek alternatives even though there are really good doctors out there who will advocate for patients who advocate for themselves. After all, health is the most important assets we have. 

.(Dis)Honesty.

I watched the documentary (Dis)Honesty and had the urge to talk about it – why do we lie? If you haven’t seen the documentary, watch it. It highlights some great points about rationalization, cheating, dishonesty and to be able to look at ourselves in the mirror. One of my favorite authors, Joan Didion, said, “we tell ourselves stories in order to live, ” but I do believe that some stories people throw out there are exactly those things that keep them from living. A good example is Facebook posts and tons of pictures and videos that mask insecurity, try to impress, pretend or show people what a wonderful life one is living and in the meantime their life is empty, filled with sadness, lies, and dishonesty. 
I can pretty much map the trajectory of certain people’s lives building a huge mountain of lies and uncertainties, and every single time I discover a new lie, it feels like another push to move forward and away to a better, happier life.
I told myself a couple of years ago that certain decisions I made were the smartest choices but in hindsight, they were rather the dumbest. Rushing into things, trying to have everything at once never works. When I applied to become a police officer, I told myself that I like this kind of work. I liked the paycheck, but many times I did not really stand 100% behind what I was supposed to do. When I applied for my Bachelor to get a degree in Forensic Psychology I thought I would end up studying psychology in depth and become a therapist. I didn’t. When I told myself I can make this marriage work, it was already over a long time ago. 
Strangely, the older I get the more I believe that (mental) growth is simply dismantling lies I previously believed. I used to believe certain lies about myself or recent ones I just discovered because someone told me it was true, such as that I agreed to certain things or I forgot X, Y, and Z while I initially doubted my sanity. I even told others (or myself) certain lies about someone over and over contrary to the evidence but to simply make them look good and pretend I am in a “good relationship”. 
Another example I heard of is that someone who was committed elsewhere fell in “unconditional” love (faster than the speed of love) with someone and decided they cannot live without each other. They started to write a book together. They traveled and spent more time with each other which lead to a romantic crescendo of delusion or illusions and eating sausages (duh!) and drinking wine together. To justify their actions and to simply enable both of them to remain secure in their “logic”, they said they are not technically cheating because they tried to change things in their marriages with their partners many times. Those partners, however, did so many things wrong and treated them badly over the years that they simply fell in love. Does this justify cheating? 
I have not been surprised that many modern love stories within my circle of friends dance around the same issues; sort of as if sexual contact is unquestioningly more serious than everything that precedes it. By now, I am not trying to analyze marriages or commitments through the detective lens of loopholes since love, whatever this is and means, is not a contract. People change. Emotions change. All this is normal but people should have the balls to talk about those things before they cheat. Another example is a father I met at the playground who told me that he loves to take other mom’s out for drinks with “open end”. “Is this considered cheating?” I asked packing my book and bag to put my feet in the sand somewhere else. He replied, “I don’t think it really matters because it is not cheating in my mind. Plus, we have not been together recently in thought or action”.  I left. 
However, this sentence stuck with me strangely like annoying heartburn. He simply believes that everybody should just live by his or her own moral compass; easy as that. While I built a sandcastle with my son I thought about how under-examined this grey area of cheating in our culture really is. I want to find passionate, honesty, monogamous couples who really believe in love and stay together while making the relationship work no matter how difficult something seems to be. Talking about issues that bother the partner is important and so much better than having to debate those bounds in the aftermath of a betrayal. 
My friend told me not too long ago that it is not important to put a label on a relationship. He said, “We get to decide what does and does not define us. That is totally up to us.” For me, I never thought of it that way because I simply accepted, without question, what I thought it means to be together. Rushing into things, moving in together too quickly, making promises. Shouldn’t a  relationship be more like an emotional yet mutual contract that the partners map out together?   Being cheated on hurts. Trust and honesty are gone. These days I focus on what I want and need. I will be okay. I hope he finds what he is looking for – with someone else. 

.Goodbye Old Ottawa South.

…. but we won’t be far away. My son and I are moving and I am leaving this area with one happy and one sad eye. In this post, I want to highlight the places we/I enjoyed the most; just awesome places in Old Ottawa South Guide to hang out. 

I live in Old Ottawa South since September 2016 and it has been very exciting to watch it become a real foodie and cultural destination; this spring/summer, however, some other exciting things are happening for us a bit further away. 

Oat Couture

Oat Couture, located at Bank and Glen is amazing. Firstly, they serve awesome coffee and the two swings are a great way to keep children entertained while parents talk. Oat Couture serves and celebrates all things made of oats and sell bowls, shakes, granola, baked goods, coffee, tea, and other non-alcoholic drinks. I stopped there with my son once for breakfast; I had a coffee, and we enjoyed delicious bowls of oatmeal with blueberries and lemon curds. 

The Cameron & The Belmont

The man behind The Belmont on Bank Street, (a tiny 30 seat restaurant) is Adrian Vezina who has taken his creativity in a whole new direction. At The Belmont, I enjoyed the Baked Spaetzle and a Lomo’s Limousine Cocktail for supper recently which was awesome but also dug into a huge plate of Huevos Rancheros for Brunch on a Sunday morning. Adrian has taken his creativity in a whole new direction however when he partnered up with the Ottawa Tennis and Lawn Bowling Club to turn the club’s second floor into The Cameron. This is an awesome place to watch a tennis tournament, meet new people, hang out at Brewer Park & Playground after or enjoy the Kid’s Movie Night on Fridays. 

Korean Restaurant “Table Sodam”

This place is a hidden gem. It just opened in May 2018 but changed my world. I never had Korean food before and got inspired when I took a food preparation and cooking course toward my degree as a holistic nutritionist with Dr. Joël Villeneuve, ND. It did not take my taste buds long to adjust. Table Sodam is definitely not an average restaurant. Keep in mind that the seating area is pretty small and that they do not take reservations. First come, first serve. I have seen lines outside at 5 pm when they open for supper. Their traditional Bibimbap is to die for but so is (according to my son) their fried chicken. They have so much more on their menu, however that looks delicious, flavourful and made me want to come back for more soon. 

The Black Squirrel Bookstore (My all-time favorite!)

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
― Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

The bookstore specializes in academic non-fiction, in buying and selling used books of merit but there are many different genres available. You will find books on History, Art, Biographies, Fiction, Sociology, Children’s books, Manga’s, Psychology, Philosophy and so much more. 

I love the unique and cozy setup by only somewhat separating the books and the café area. Comfortable arm seat reading chairs located close to the entrance/window area let you take advantage of reading close to a bookshelf (to simply grab another book) and people watch while sipping a cup of latte. This simplicity yet the pretty array of decorations found throughout the bookstore make it feel like I am at home and just give this comfortable feeling to stay here forever and never leave. I wrote a blog post about The Black Squirrel here. Also, check out their website. 

Patty’s Pub

Patty’s Pub is simply great, fast and serves comfort food. I love the steak and fries. The fries are cooked to perfection and Monday Burger Nights offer a variety of creative burger toppings. Taking my son to an Irish pub was a first, but it worked out since we were there in the afternoon. They obviously have regulations for the evening when you cannot bring kids. 🙂 

Burrito Shack 

Great burritos, salads, fries, large portions and fresh ingredients. Open until 10.30 pm on Friday and Saturday and during the week until 9 pm. My son who is part of the testing and tasting added that “if you do not want the fries super spicy, you have to tell the man behind the counter because otherwise he puts the spices on and it will burn your mouth”. 

Vietnamese  Kitchen

 

Not my “go to place” for pho which is definitely Chinatown but The Vietnamese Kitchen is great. Whenever I am feeling under the weather, this place is just conveniently close. My son and I enjoyed their vegetarian Moo Shu Pancakes and of course their Pho. He is almost five years old and eats comfortably with chopsticks – lots of practice at pho restaurants I reckon. They also serve French Fries and a variety of rice dishes which was great because my picky-eater-son was addicted to this type of food. 

Life of Pie 

Life of Pie offers awesome coffee, pastries (chocolate cake!), and bread (their fresh baguette is to die for!). Their breakfast biscuit with egg and sausage is just what one needs for brunch after a Friday or Saturday night well spent! 🙂  They have a bunch of board games that entertain and occupy kids if needed so the parents can actually have a conversation. 

Stella Luna

Stella Luna is not just for gelato. On Monday through Thursday, you can enjoy small (complimentary) bites such as sandwiches and Quiche, with a purchase of a glass of wine (yay) between 5 pm and 7 pm (Pretty European). Stella Luna is famous for their homemade ice cream which is so good indeed. We tried almost all the flavors but rich, dark chocolate is our all-time favorite. 

House of Targ

We walked to this place randomly on a Saturday late afternoon on our way back home and did not want to leave ever again. We were amazed by 80-style Pinball and Perogies which brings back memories. House Of Targ is the place to hang out. It is a spot like no other, featuring live music, pinball. old school arcade games and a delicious menu including handmade perogies. They serve alcohol and host family parties. 

Mayfair Theater

The Mayfair Theater built in 1932 is one of Ottawa’s two last, oldest and surviving independent neighborhood cinemas. There are no advertisements or commercials before the movie starts which is amazing; they just show pictures of Old Ottawa South and how it looked in 1932, upcoming movies posters on-screen and no trailers. The Mayfair has the distinction of never having been owned by, or affiliated with, any of the major cinema chains which I love so much. I enjoyed the architectural features and the vintage touch that drew me into the world of imagination and memories when I was a teenager and used to go to this tiny movie theater in my hometown Coburg in Germany. 

.Minimalism Update.

My son and I are moving soon. (I have been asked where we are moving to so I want to add that for many great reasons we stay in Canada!) Moving for me means decluttering, selling and getting rid of things. Having less stuff makes me feel good, makes me less distracted, focus on other things that really matter (to me) and embrace a minimalistic mindset. I want to shift my thoughts from materialistic distractions that take way too much of my attention and time to less stress, more free time and flexibility. Essentially, minimalism for me is doing more of what matters – the little things in life. 

Whenever I tell people I embrace a minimalistic lifestyle they ask me things like, “Oh, so you own like 100 items?” Far from it people- I love books!

When it comes to minimalism, there really is no right way to do it. Marie Kondo’s approach, for example, emphasizes that one should get rid of anything that does not spark joy. 

There are many other methods on how to declutter but there is no right way to do it and there is nobody really can say you are doing it wrong. I read an email from a reader the other day saying that he only owns one cup and one plate and that I am not qualified to call myself a minimalist if I own more than that. Duh! I do not need to call myself anything or be recognized as such because it does not define me. I use minimalism as a tool to remove distractions from my life – any distractions that get in the way of doing more of what matters to me. I love to lower my stress levels, spend more quality time with my son, my friend(s) and those things usually never involve too many materialistic things. 

I use the analogy that minimalism is like my camera lens. I am adjusting the lens and pull into focus what I want while I softly blur out everything behind and in the front. This helps me to realize and make decisions on what matters in my life and what does not. Minimalism is not a catch-all problem solver or the final answer, however. It is simply how I use time and space through a minimalistic approach to change my life for the better. These days, my son and I find joy in donating things for example. Toys he does not play with anymore, clothes that don’t fit. There is a lot of money to be made in selling what I don’t need which is a process that gives me clarity and satisfaction. Minimalism does not make my life perfect but it is a catalyst that gets me there one day at a time because I realize how little I actually need to be happy. 

I have mentioned previously that I have had a pretty rough time for the last couple of months but minimalism created a space for me to handle these difficult situations more effectively. Applying a minimalistic mindset, I overcame financial struggles, relationship issues and other hard decisions that I had to make. I am more ready to handle the move because it is so much easier with a lot less stuff. I have fewer expenses which is helpful because I still do not have a job. Most importantly though, I do not have debt since I won’t use my credit cards to purchase things. In the long run, knowing that I do not need much makes me more flexible in my search for a job. 

I believe that there are substantial advantages to buying and owing only what serves me or/and allows me to serve others. Minimalism is not about deprivation, however, having fun is perfectly acceptable. Just by removing distractions I make space for what I want to do. I slowly built habits that reflect the activities and goals that matter to me. In the long run, flow and creativity built upon those foundations of habits and I enjoy a life more based on curiosity than fear. Of course, living creatively looks different for everyone, but I reckon that habits and minimalism can get me there. Minimalism creates this space and habits that let me show up in the way I like to. My framework of minimalism, creativity, habits, and freeing the mind continues to work well for me.

Maybe it helps you to do more of what matters – whatever it may look like for you. 

.Questions About Suicide.

 

It took me several attempts to write this post and gather my words but the tragic death of my favorite chef and author Anthony Bourdain, who died of an apparent suicide attempt last Friday, made me sit down and type. News like this are still shocking to me even though I worked in suicide prevention for quite a while and just finished my research on suicide notes for my Master’s degree in linguistics and discourse studies.  Firstly, I want to emphasize if you are feeling alone, depressed, hopeless or suicidal, know that you are not. Crisis Services Canada launched the first National Suicide Prevention Service in Canada.  Dialing 1-833-456-4566 from anywhere in Canada will seamlessly connect you with a local crisis or distress center 24/7, 365 days of the year. This website may also be helpful: http://www.crisisservicescanada.ca

After I hear of a suicide, the first question that always comes to my mind is why did the person do it. Why didn’t they see a way out? What was so painful that they chose death over life? What drove Kate Spate, the famous fashion designer, or Anthony Bourdain, to commit suicide? Were there any signs or signals these two send out and nobody paid attention? When I worked as a police officer and dealt with a plethora of suicides, the first thing people used to say was, “He seemed so nice. So calm, so content, I don’t understand why he committed suicide”. I am usually not encouraged to question certain paths that people follow and take, so facing suicide still throws me into shock and into pausing, questioning, thinking and asking. 

Usually, whenever a path changes, I am befuddled but this leads eventually to another path which is better aligned with the new goals I hope to reach. I ask why, determine why, and then, of course, recalibrate my actions around the newly shaped goal or purpose. Some people cannot do this, they do not see a way out. They are stuck. There are no moments of real clarity and revision. 

A couple of years ago, I was crying to my then-husband in the kitchen because I felt a weird sensation of sadness creeping up my back a couple of hours after I got released from the hospital with my newborn son. Postpartum depression with a mix of baby blues at its best – a horrible feeling, but I eventually snapped out of it. What made me snap out of it? My mother. 

What is depression? A friend described her depression as silently drowning in a toilet bowl and someone keeps flushing whenever she tries to crawl up. There is a lot of stress and challenges in my life these days but what is it that keeps me moving forward and getting me back up after being punched? I reckon, my inner incredible strength and my support network. 

However, sometimes this darkness gives me chills, especially when I am very exhausted all day. Then it is hard to make decisions but these feelings pass and I see the dark shadow rolling by smiling at me. These days, I feel it is important and more critical than ever to talk about mental health. I have to admit that even after having studied suicide for a long time, it still seems very hard to fathom. Below I want to share some thoughts and writings I collected that helped me through difficult times and for my research with the suicide notes. 

People who die from suicide don’t want to die.

A person doesn’t try to end her life “because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors.” – David Foster Wallace

Depression is a disease, not a personality trait.

“Even though science has proven it a million times over, our culture doesn’t yet fully recognize that MENTAL ILLNESS IS A BRAIN DISEASE, just like hepatitis is a liver disease. Depression (and bipolar disorder and schizophrenia and everything else) affects our brain — the organ we use to make decisions. If you’re suffering from suicidal depression, it doesn’t matter how beloved you are or how much you love your family or how much money you have, because your brain is telling you that despite all those things, suicide is your only option. (Or that you need to isolate yourself, sleep all day or other behavior that a healthy brain would recognize as bad decisions.) This is one reason mental illness is so deadly: the part of our body that’s affected is the same part that’s responsible for our behavior. It’s like if you broke your leg and then had to use that leg to walk to the hospital… Depression is an ILLNESS. It’s not weakness. It’s not your fault. And it’s impossible to think or reason your way out of it without help, due to the part of your body that’s ill.”  Emily McDowell 

Depression isn’t just sadness.

“[Some] imply that they know what it is like to be depressed because they have gone through a divorce, lost a job, or broken up with someone. But these experiences carry with them feelings. Depression, instead, is flat, hollow and unendurable.” – Kay Redfield Jamison

“It is very hard to explain to people who have never known serious depression or anxiety the sheer continuous intensity of it. There is no off switch.” — Matt Haig

“It feels like I’m desperately homesick, but I’m home.” — Sarah Silverman

“Is there no way out of the mind?” — Sylvia Plath

There’s nothing selfish about suicide.

Some people say that “it’s selfish to leave children, spouses, and other family members behind… What they don’t know is that those very loved ones are the reason many people hang on for just one more day. They do think about the survivors, probably up until the very last moment in many cases. But the soul-crushing depression that envelops them leaves them feeling like there is no alternative. Like the only way to get out is to opt out. And that is a devastating thought to endure.” – Katie Hurley 

People don’t “commit” suicide, they die from suicide.

“This is a much less judgmental, more straightforward way to talk about someone who dies from mental illness. They are not ‘a suicide’ any more than someone who dies from cancer is ‘a cancer.’” – Kelly Williams Brown  

I am sending out love to anyone who needs it – I especially include myself these days. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Things will get better. Please reach out for help if you are in need. 

.Stepping Out.

I had a great conversation with my friend the other day about looking back on the recent past and how not to think of the pain I felt but rather to think of the strength I gained and to simply appreciate how far I have come since then. I have been through a lot and I give myself credit for my resilience and also step forward again with grace. 

Recall: Recently I had to make a couple of major decision that in the long run will move my life forward. When I told my friend that I was worried about taking certain chances and regretting my choices, he simply said, “Trust me, you won’t regret these steps and decisions. If anything, you most likely will kick yourself in the butt for not taking those chances and more on those real and surprisingly very accessible opportunities you have these days.” He then asked me who I would be and what else I could see if I could simply remove all the stuff that is worrying me. 

As I say my daily affirmations (I can share those with you would like), I realize that life is about trusting myself, taking certain chances, losing things and finding happiness, definitely learning from experience and accepting the journey while realizing that every single step was necessary (and worth it) to get me to where I am today. The key is that I am willing to take each step by giving myself a fair chance. Usually, I regret chances I did not take or decisions I waited way too long to make by wasting more time, procrastinating and hoping while many important words were left unspoken. Why do I make so many regretful decisions in my life? Why did I hope and thought things may be as they were way back when? 

It took me a while to figure this out but it makes all sense now. Those poor decisions I continuously made, along with the ensuing regrets I faced, were caused not by physical problems in my life, but instead because my mind was weak. Those weaknesses encouraged me to avoid discomfort, change and to maintain a routine or rhythm. I try to avoid any type of pain obviously (who doesn’t), and discomfort is one. Stepping outside my comfort zone used to make me uncomfortable, however, after some time of practice, it feels good now. 

The simple idea of taking charge of my own life again and being free is so great. Focusing on difficult tasks while saying a clear no to certain people was difficult at first but becomes easier every single day. In the last couple of years, I became lazy and used to run from discomfort constantly which was wrong. I should have faced and spoked about things that made me uncomfortable for the longest time.  I silently kept in my comfort zone and missed out on many great life experiences and opportunities. I was stuck in some type of cycle that was comfortable in one way but destructive in another. At some point I was tired of this constant headache, worrying, jealousy and self-doubt that it was me who did everything wrong and caused my marriage to end up like this. It was most certainly NOT only me! 

I knew it was time to break this cycle and to move on since those relationship patterns I lived by and with for so long didn’t really help me but they rather hurt. Life is awesome and so many new doors opened since I am open to change. I realized that it was finally time to learn from my mistakes and stop doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result (insanity?). Didn’t Jung or Freud say that one ultimately becomes what one repeatedly does? It was/is time for a change indeed. 

So, this is where I am now. Things changed significantly and I am on a good path to conquer this discomfort I was dealing with among other certain issues by embracing it. These days, I am leaning into it, showing my teeth while growling and putting myself back in control. This control and power I used to have! One thing I can always do is to choose a mindset that moves me forward. Something positive that changes things from the inside out while at the same time allows me to grow beyond all that BS that I thought I struggle with and cannot control. I choose to face discomfort with courage, help, strength and a change in mindset. 

“See, that wasn’t as bad as you thought…”

.What People Think of Me – A Somewhat Fashion Post.

Cool jeans dress, eh.  And organic ketchup for BBQ later.

Fashion versus Style. I have always been more interested in style versus fashion. I also know that I do not need to spend a lot of time in the morning to get dressed to start my day. When I worked for the German Police, putting on a uniform in the morning made everything so simple. I applied this notion to my everyday style as well; however, added a little style to it since style encompasses everything. It is a mood, it is my clothes, it is time and energy put into it. Afterall, clothes are made to wear and not to wear us. 

My style is very simple. I want comfort, at times cute, sexy to go out and sporty when I work out. For some reason, I combine all this with a bit of hipster even though I do not put a label on myself. When someone has style, you feel it and you know that it is not about the latest fashion or the most expensive designers. I never figured out how anyone is willing to pay these amounts of money for a piece of fabric no matter how nice it looks. Style for me is that I am wearing what I want to wear because I want to wear it. Simple! I add a personal touch and nothing is holding me back; such as other people’s opinions, comments or thoughts that anyone cares how I look or if I am accepted the way I dress. I do my thing and do not care. 

Nobody is perfect, and those who think they are while sashaying around in their designer costumes just try to hide things like fear of being rejected, fear of being unwelcome, fear of not fitting in, fear of not being beautiful or fear of being too big/fat/thin/obese/ugly etc. They forget that they should simply dress for themselves and nobody else because nobody really cares. Just dress like this: 

I would like to share other realizations I have come up with that act as my foundation and are a daily reminder to truly not give a f*** what other people think since again those you think who judge you actually do not even care about you. 

We only have a tiny amount of time on this planet so WHO cares about clothes? There is so much more. When I was a teenager in High School, I spent a bit more time getting ready in the morning. There was even a short time I bothered applying make-up. This soon stopped. I never really cared about those things. It was way more important to chat with my friends, read, write or secretly smoke in the school washrooms. People judged me for wearing a leather jacket I found at a vintage flea market but it looked so epic. Quickly I realized, however, that I do not allow this self-limiting judgment of myself or those of others to affect me and what I wear since this is all such a waste of time and energy.

These days, I also love to dress like this: (It comes in handy if you have a partner who owns a plethora of funky socks) 

So, I usually leave the house wearing something like above. 🙂 What matters is that I am happy with how I look. I learned that whenever I was too fixated on what people think of me, I limited myself. The style is about so much more than clothes; I mean, look at those socks. I have style and have a je ne sais quoi about myself that goes beyond what I am wearing. Isn’t it better to feel good, comfortable, charming and unique and that we do not want to be different? I stopped questioning and over-analyzing my outfits because I know if I lack anything in the outfit, I can make it up in presence, intellect, and conversation anytime. 

The only person who suffers is me whenever I care what other’s think of me; like if I would place my success parameter according to other people’s perceptions. I just do my own thing. The less I care, the more life is opening up.