.Following my Dream.

“To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, remove things every day.” – Lao Tzu

I did it again. I quit another secure job with great benefits, great opportunities and great everything else. It was not easy and there were many thoughts involved that kept me up all night. I went to university to study and finish a Masters degree with no sense of a destination but doubled down on an anxiety attack shuffled with a somewhat mental playlist of worries on repeat all. “I do not want to burn down this bridge. This job gives me security and safety (no pun intended) and a good pension. I should go back to New York “, I said to myself over and over even though I know deep inside that I am not certain if I will even receive my pension in the end when I am like 65. I am German: security, safety and worrying about everything is very important to us. Quitting my job? A nightmare for many or just a dream? Quitting a job is not the end. One door closes and many others open. 

What makes me really happy? Is it a job like this? Is it “big money”? Is it working in a cubicle from 9-5? The answer is no. After I resigned I felt I lost what had rooted me for so long even though I was on “Leave without pay”. What gave me security and to break down this bridge was definitely not easy for me. Initially, I felt small, alone and unsteady, un/and insecure in a way. But, I also realized that I am on a path to something new. Something better maybe and if it even just a clean slate to a fresh start in a new country. So I have done this major step of resigning and now it feels normal. It feels somewhat good and I am content with my decision. I am starting to adapt to something new while continuing to appreciate the simple things.

My living habits have changed even more. I live simpler which makes me happier. I also cleaned my house and sold a ton of stuff that was useless to me and just sat around collecting dust.  For now, I am not defined by my former job anymore and I recently discover a somehow dormant resilience I thought I forgot completely.  Simplicity overall. 

So what actually happened when I quit my job and followed my dream? 

I realized what is really important. It is not money. It is not security because anything can happen anytime. But love for myself first is salient. Next is love for my family and to find fulfillment in what I am doing on a daily basis. It is all so surreal but I see the bigger picture already since I know what I really want to do, what this dream of mine is and I just have to simply move forward to achieve it. I asked myself what would really make me happy. I left my job to make my own. I want to be a full-time writer and my book manuscript is edited and ready to go. I would also love to own a small bookstore with a café selling used books and some homemade pastries and good coffee. Does this all sound too surreal? I don’t think so! Until I open my bookstore I know I will have to find another job which I am applying for and I have some great opportunities coming up. I am not daydreaming, waiting for something to magically happen and relying on ze husband to support me forever. I am grateful, however, that I am able to follow my dream because he supported me so far. Studying overseas as an international student is not cheap so I thank him for that. 

These days I find myself sitting at a café in the morning or in the library working on my projects that I truly love until the afternoon when I have to pick up my son. My schedule is pretty flexible and I love it. That would have been not possible before. Now I have this amount of freedom that feels great but is also terrifying and exciting. Am I eventually going to make enough money to cover our living costs and maintain the standard we have? Making money by solely writing is tough. Since I started this blog, I removed all the advertisement that I initially installed because I don’t want to distract the reader which also means zero dollars for me. This does not matter for now because I created this lifestyle with less stuff and spending by kicking consumerism habits which conveniently added more space and time in my life. Throughout my time away from a “real job” and a lot of thinking I realized that I cannot chase happiness by acquiring stuff. 

I did not rush this decision to resign but thought this step through for many weeks and months and in the end, I have to say that it brings me one step closer to my vision of what I really want to do and our long-term goals as a family which is first to live intentionally. One small decision after the other to change something and aligning them with my daily actions works pretty well so far. 

.diets and health.

So, here is the thing. I love to eat. I love good food. I love comfort food even though I usually feel bad, stuffed and gross after eating it. I also admit that I have tried many different diets throughout my life and changed them up; especially in my 20s but these days I am more into a holistic approach to food and life which makes the most sense to me. Whenever something new came out like raw food, paleo, vegan, gluten-free and whatnot, I gave it a try and pretty quickly realized that this is not “it” either. I don’t want my diet to tell me what I can or cannot eat on a daily basis. When I really listen to my body, I know what I need. I also don’t think that my overall well-being improves if I just eat vegan for one week and then go back to piling up my plate with meat. 

I read an article in The New Yorker recently that a woman tried to live on the “baby-food diet”. Not kidding! This is “a thing”. Other live by eating carrots only with the negative side effect that their skin turns orange. Sometimes when I dieted, the reason was weight loss and I thought that working out like crazy and eating two apples a day will turn me into a new person. Well, it did. I felt miserable and hungry. I thought about all these diets I have been through in my life and will highlight the best, most effective ones for me here while I keep experimenting with my overall health. 

I had been diagnosed with gallstones last autumn and did a juice/gallbladder cleanse on my own which I DO NOT recommend because it is VERY painful. I should have contacted someone who knows more about how to get rid of gallstones naturally. The doctors, however, told me instantly to get the gallbladder removed since it is “useless and the body does not need it”. In any case, I kinda like my gallbladder and what it does, so no removal. I got rid of all three gallstones by drinking freshly squeezed green juice only for about three weeks. It was not easy but I did it. The hunger is initially insane but stops after three days and then it just felt good before I felt really bad again when my body got rid of the gallstones. For more details on how I did it and what books I read, email me. 

At some point in my life, I thought, the Paleo Diet is the thing but I did not last longer than one week. The initial concept is okay; to detox from sugar but I just cannot eat meat in some form every single day or every other day. My son and I eat meat maybe once a week in form of chicken or chicken stock in a soup. I had a crazy amount of energy which was awesome; I blame the tons of veggies for that rather than the meat. The diet is also pretty expensive. All the meat…and I like pasta, so I quit. 

The diet that stuck with me for the longest is probably veganism, yet I do not practice it 100% either. I don’t eat soy products simply because I don’t like the taste of it. Soy products made me feel the worst physically. I tried all types of tofu in all sort of variations but c’mon: SOY CHICKEN or Cashew Cheese? How can I use this in a French Onion Soup? Right! Not at all. Vegan Chicken Wings? Buffalo Cauliflower? Zucchini pasta is okay but not always. On the socially fancy side, this diet is great. I went out, flipped my hair and asked for a “soy latte” or if they have “alternatives and vegan options”. [So annoying, I know.] This diet is not cheap either. 

I tried Gluten-free. Fuck it. Nothing needs to be added here. 

So this is what I am sticking with: Intermittent Fasting. How I apply it to myself is that I just don’t eat for about 16 hours straight three times a week. The awesome thing is, that I can enjoy my French Onion Soup or the occasional muffin and chocolate. I just give my organs rest and this feels so good. I usually eat supper at around 6 pm and then nothing anymore for 16 hours. Breakfast at around 10 am doesn’t sound so too bad, does it? And be aware, I don’t do this every single day. By practicing this diet overnight, I don’t run around like a sad, weak, hungry version of myself and I can still enjoy all this good food that is out there. We only live once, right? And, honestly, whenever I have two or three slices of pizza for supper, I am not hungry at all the next morning so I skip breakfast and have something later. 

Food for thought: Overall, I learned that no diet changed my life so far and I love to eat and enjoy trying new things. I realized that a good night’s sleep combined with the intermitted fasting makes me feel good on a daily basis.  I also love and want wine and Camembert. And dark chocolate. 

.Where Should I Begin.

I had a pretty productive day today. Finished some important work for my research and course and edited my book manuscript that I will hopefully publish soon. I have been a hermit for the last couple of days/weeks and either hid at home in my office or at the library to get as much work done as possible. Not much human contact at all besides spending time with Petit Joel. When it was about time to pick him up from school today I thought he would be really happy to eat a cake pop so I headed to the nearby coffee shop. The little things. 

While I waited in this humongously long line to place my order I realized the woman in front of me silently crying. She stared at her phone, scrolled nervously through messages, put it in her jacket pocket to just take it out again two seconds later. Out of the blue and catching me completely off-guard, she suddenly turned around and we started talking. She told me her husband fell in love with someone else and she just found out a couple of days ago. “Do you think this can be fixed? Do you think we have a chance? Do you think he will stop seeing her? How can I ever trust him again”, she asked me while I handed her a napkin from the little service counter where you can add milk to your coffee and get a lid for a coffee-to-go. [Yes, the line was THAT long!] I smiled at her. No clue why, but I did. I reckon, no matter how heartbreaking a situation is I figured what could make her feel better. Maybe a stupid joke (I am good at that, too), something kind, true, funny or wise may help her. She continued talking while we slowly made our way to the counter feeling like I traveled back in time. She went from frustration and despair to hate and back to love. “We have two children! How can he cheat on me? Okay, we haven’t had sex or good sex and conversations for a while but why would he do this to me”, she sobbed. Her tones kept shifting from complete hopelessness back to being hopeful. “This line is very long, eh”, I said while handing her more napkins. 

What do I know about relationships, marriages and all that? I am not a genius, I made and make mistakes but it felt I am giving this woman a private therapy session while waiting in line since I gave her this feeling that I understand what she is talking about. It was just fascinating to witness. She told me so many great things, too and it seemed like she figured things out by talking to me. We spoke for about 15 minutes and I want to share some of the lessons that were most memorable to me. She told me that time won’t heal her but actually what is happening throughout this time. She told me how she tries to build trust and affection back up after her husband has been unfaithful by using time and action wisely. She added that she does not want to end her marriage and wants to work on it. “Time will tell, I need time to move forward with him. Time will put everything back in place. I just need to wait”, she said why I silently hoped that this line will move forward. Don’t get me wrong. This conversation was good but I was late to pick up my son and this woman is crying, devastated and this is most certainly not a good, calm place to talk peacefully since it seemed everybody in the café was listening at this point. Besides this, I told her that she has to give the time meaning and a shape to make this work. 

She told me that there is a difference understanding her husband mentally and emotionally. It is important to really listen to the other person and have a decent communication and trying to understand the partner. She said, “sometimes I talk to him and I have this feeling he does not get it, he does not understand what I try to say, he does not connect or cares about it. He hurt me and I try to understand”. I told her that it seems they are stuck in some argument and discuss this over and over. Maybe it is time to change the approach and see things from a different perspective that could inspire new levels of honesty? The woman felt understood while we made our way to order cake pops. She said that the weirdest thing for her is that her husband constantly talks about what happened to him and why he “needed” to cheat on her but leaves out what he did to her. “He never said I am sorry or I feel bad for you”, she said now with an angry tone. “Maybe you just need some type of acknowledgment of your experience from him rather than an apology”, I suggested. Who am I? A marriage counselor or what? 

Studying linguistics, languages, and discourse I learned how powerful words can be. Sometimes by just changing the tone,  language and the way we speak things experiences look different instantly. Sometimes repeating the same thing over and over does not make sense, is hurtful and useless. It is like running around in circles.

While we were about to order our coffees she told me that she just realized something. “I realize that I never listened to my husband anymore. I did not ask what he wanted or even considered his pleasures, fantasies, ideas, thoughts, and desires. He came home every night from work, we ate supper, talked a bit and he was off doing something. He fell asleep on the couch. No conversations anymore; no being truly intimate adding pleasure. When did we stop listening and hearing each other?”, she added. 

We ordered our coffees and pastries, paid and she thanked me for listening. Then she left. Just like that. I realized that this quick conversation just scratched the surface of her story but I could see this woman and maybe see myself in her a bit which sparked more room for thought and conversations I must have with myself and my life. 

.now – what next.

"You left me, sweet, two legacies, -
A legacy of love
A Heavenly Father would content, 
Had he the offer of; 
You left me boundaries of pain; 
Capacious as the sea, 
Between eternity and time, 
Your consciousness and me" - Emily Dickinson 

It is getting cold here, especially in the mornings and at night. Cold, grey and wet. One thing that I have been trying in the last couple of days is getting up earlier than my son, make some tea and have time for myself to read and write. It is such a peaceful way to start the day. My son and I are fighting a pretty bad cold for the past three weeks that seems to linger way too long. Looking out of the window now it is pitch-black. Some cars are driving by on the opposite side of the river and I can see the reflecting lights like tiny sparks of joy dancing on the water. 

I am sitting here, somewhat still besides the occasional cough that makes my lungs hurt. If anyone would ask me right now how I am doing, I would say – “I have been better.” Here I am in this house in Canada while the world is going on and it is not easy to simply step away from the things that feel heavy on me these days but I am getting swept away and occupied with everyone else’s everything else that keeps them busy. It is a somewhat odd sensation to on the one hand feel overwhelmed with happiness and joy when I see my son but also to say goodbye to some people I love without knowing if it is/was the last goodbye. Things happened along the way and I am still sorting out my thoughts and even question if it is my fault that caused it all. I experience many new firsts but also many potential lasts that are very time consuming and keep me not being able to focus on my studies. 

All these new special circumstances, possible lies that have been told, possible truths that cannot be revealed and new scenarios that are being created wear down on me. Am I the one who caused it all? Am I? If I really think about it, isn’t it always the case? It aways takes two? What does it mean to fall in love with someone else? What is love in the first place? Is it just a four-letter word meaning nothing? It is easier not to think about this now, so I don’t. It is a bit easier to paddle on the surface without drowning with just some simple questions and answers. Sometimes I want to go way further in. So far in to let myself feel the things I am not letting myself feel and to just stick my finger in the wound and push a couple of times until it really hurts. “That drive to Portugal came to my mind.” 

For some reason, autumn always transports me back to being and feeling very small and vulnerable. A friends told me it is not getting better, this is just the beginning!”, while I silently hoping he referred to the weather in Canada. When I think I am okay and things settled down in my head bits and pieces somewhere in the back of my memory float and creep silently up to the top. Things that have or have not being said, special moments, memories – oh sweet nostalgia. A couple of days ago I had one of those perfect moments. Those lucky ones where everything seems to be perfect: one is in the right place at the right time and the favourite song is playing on top of it all. That kind of perfect moment I am talking about here. Where you just know, THIS IS IT with an overwhelming feeling. Then one little message made it all crumble. Made my tiny empire, love and family island crack; however, not crash. 

What does my stomach tell me? Or should I abandon my gut and betray the inner voice when it tells me that something needs to change. Closing my eyes to my heart but instead listening to my instincts or logic? My logic tells me I want “Salad” but my gut says “Pasta!” damnit. Or is this something different? Let my head or gut lead? 

I want the before-stage again. I want to hold it so close to my chest and protect every single second of it and make us sweep as far as possible to a place where no bad news exist. Like a safety bubble. Back to reality: I know this is not how it all works. So I am taking this new situation just day by day trying to build onward and upward secretly going through the five-stages of grief but being somewhat stuck between anger and bargaining. While lingering on to the bigger picture and special moments my son comes down with a teddy bear in his arm. He curls and snuggles up next to me on the couch and says he cannot sleep. I touch his head and tell him a story while feeling his warm breath on my arm. Another single car drove by followed by complete darkness while Earth continues to rotate around the sun. 

.honesty – the naked truth.

“Yet down the line, lay clear uncertainties: promises made and promises to keep. Buried ambitions too, beckon and prod us to consider the harvest we’ll reap” 

Everyone makes mistaken, everybody lies but the truth will come out eventually. It is funny but if I am being honest: I lie but I am getting better at avoiding it. I lie about when I am late, I lie sometimes when I say “yes” but I mean “no”. Sometimes I even lie about important things that might potentially hurt feelings in the long run. I consider all those lies “my white lies”. Those are kind of acceptable for me. They are sometimes even kind, fine and appreciated. What do I teach my son though? Rule number one: Do not lie. Rule number two: do not be an asshole. Since number one is pretty straightforward, number two is way more complicated it seems. We also lie when we feel that whenever the truth reveals itself it might be risky. We might lose a lot. We might lose a partner, marriage or relationship. We try to cover things up, test things in secret and see how they evolve slowly. 

I have had a bunch of relationships in my life and what I have learned is that truth and honesty are the only rules I want from my partner. But, whatever the relationship looked like: platonic, work-related, romantic, sexual, they all made me reconsider and think about my rules however. For me it is so much easier to tell my partner exactly what I want, require, need or expect and be straightforward about it than talking around the subject or lie. Especially, whenever the relationship is complicated in the first place for example when it is a long-distance relationship, certain lies can make everything even messier. It is such a great feeling when partners can talk about anything freely without having tangled up stuff in the back of their mind. Thinking about how to tell my partner the truth without making him angry is not always possible but I aim for it at least. Life happens, love happens, situations and feelings change. We either adapt or we split up and everyone goes their separate ways discovering new things. There is nothing awkward about it. Again, this is life. 

One question that popped up several times in the last couple of days for me was how to be honest after having my feelings hurt. How does someone do it? Let’s say, you have a long-distance relationship (with someone who is in the military for example) which is very, very difficult in the first place and almost never works. Someone feels lonely, in addition they have trouble at home and useless fights and arguments and they meet someone else who they can talk to for hours while discovering each other, realizing after sharing wine, cheese, sausages and making secret plans for the future that this person might be the one. Better than the person waiting at home. They talk more. They become close friends and need to spend more time with each other to cope with certain horrible situations that they have to deal with on a daily basis. Here, I reckon, it is difficult to be honest to your significant other who is waiting at home. Telling the truth could mean that you might lose this partner. I don’t remember where I read it but it went something like this: honesty is an art, you first have to know yourself. 

“But my heart has awakened, trembles, calls. It does not ask for the future ahead; it asks only to be here with you now, in the shortened days, when green leaves turn red” 

Overall, honesty makes life simpler. If I don’t tell person A that X, Y and Z is okay but say that X, Y and Z sucks it might be hurtful in the beginning but it is at least honest. I am not dreading myself through an event with a fake smile looking at my watch waiting for it to end. I want to be honest when I endeavour to understand and listen to my own feelings. My problem sometimes is that I can feel hate and love at the same time. Same goes for anger or gratitude. Life is not simple. We are not simple but I can try to understand and learn the root for my weird emotions and outbursts sometimes. This leads to -> communicating these issues in a normal tone and voice with my partner. Telling the truth means risk, it means being scared, I already mentioned that, which makes me vulnerable but then again, it feels better later on and to be open for the person’s response that might even hurt. Just don’t be an asshole. This is a start. I think. 

Honesty

I expect to feel shock at any moment when you are gone. I think I am ready for it, yet I know I never will be. I do not expect this shock to be obliterative, a feeling that is discounting to mind and body. When I sometimes think how nice it would be for you to just be here and ask me where I put your shoes but I cannot know the unending absence that follows….. the void. The missing you. The sadness. The lonely nights sometimes where I want to curl up having my head touched by you feeling your breath close to me. Considering that  the person I love  most in the world disappearing from my life would be a chapter I do not want to start to write. I don’t want you to become the photograph on the table, the memory, the thought about good times. I cannot fathom this feeling of letting go of you. Or letting you float off with someone else….

There will be time for us to play, to laugh, to wander down the unseen winding ways. And there will be time enough to revel in presence as we pass these autumn days”. 

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

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

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

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

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

And apples.

And coffee. Always coffee.

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

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

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

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

.the reason I am poor.

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

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

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

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

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

This is how my list looked:

Monday

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

Tuesday

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

Wednesday

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

Thursday

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

Friday

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

Saturday

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

Sunday

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

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

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

.slowing down.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

.momiforms.

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

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

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

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

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

.transitions.

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