Simplify your life.

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I have been reading quite a lot on minimalism and simplifying these days. It is a great time to start decluttering a house or apartment now that spring is here. If you look around your house and see all your stuff you will find things you use a lot, items that are just handy or useful or many products you cannot live without or cannot get by without. Also clothes you wear all the time. However, there will also be a lot of junk. Well, you do not go out to buy junk obviously so at the time when you purchased it it was necessary for something but now it is in bags in the garage, in some drawers or closets and maybe even covered in spiderwebs and dust.

Look in your closet. Honestly, isn’t it always the same you wear? Your favorite pieces? And how much stuff hangs in there that you never wore – sometimes the tag is still attached. I know all this because this was my situation. Most important is to realize that there is nothing special about any brand name. Most of the time the clothes are produced in the same factories in Bangladesh/China you name it and it is just cheap quality even though you pay a fortune. Always remember, your clothes do not define you! I always had this feeling that I was how I looked; I was what I wore but this is not true. The idea is not necessarily to have less clothing (even though this is the goal in the long run) but to question yourself why you have the clothing you have. Do you need ALL these jeans, pants, skirts? The problem is that we hang on to a lot of things because maybe we fit in these clothes again, or we need these jars, boxes, cans at some point again.

Less is usually more – even though all you see on a daily basis is that the only sure sign of success is having more. A fancier car, a bigger TV, a bigger house to put even more stuff in or a bigger car. The list is endless.

I remember the time when I arrived in New York to start my “new life”. My entire life fit in two suitcases but I was happy. Of course I had no apartment at that time but it was fine. The realization that I could just pack my little most valuable things and go was awesome. Now with a baby however it is not that easy anymore. But we still manage with ONE suitcase when we travel.

Some people do wake up at a point and see that we are just part of a system. In the “developed world” it usually goes like this: You usually go to school for a certain number of years. Then you get a job, find a partner and then you settle down to raise a family. But in all this time you become a dedicated consumer and you raise other, smaller consumers who will follow in your footstep. I thought about this the other day looking at my son’s toys. He does not have too many because I am aware of the fact that he wants something in the store sooooo badly but plays with it for one or two days and then it is with all the other toys and he does not look at it anymore. What he loves the most is to play with things we work with and use on a daily basis. So why buy him a “kids vacuum cleaner” when he can play with a real one for example?

You go to a store to buy an endless series of so many things that matter to you and you pay carful attention to the brands, things and products that you believe define you and you feel sooooo much better after you walked out of the store with a huge bag of stuff but does all this make you really happy in the long run? Think about if you really need these things. Here I came up with some tips that were helpful for me. Stop buying new stuff. Stop replacing old stuff with new. Just buy less. Ask yourself every time you want to purchase something in a store: “Do I really need this”? Also: Go through all your old stuff first and see what you really need. Do wear ALL your clothes you have in your closet first. Look at all the stuff you have not worn yet. Declutter. I have started by decluttering one item a day. However, maybe you have to start with more. It depends how much stuff you have piled up everywhere. See what you really want to keep – toss the rest. Declutter the easy stuff first. Your closet. Clothing that you do not wear anymore. (clothing you have not worm for one year – toss it! Or clothing you think you might fit in again at some point – toss them! If you fit in a smaller size again you can guy small size clothing) Over-equipping your house. Be realistic about your needs. How many linen, towels, dishes do you need? In the event of an unusually large number of family members or guest arriving you can borrow from friends or family – even neighbors. My husband and I are planning to build our own house and I know exactly how it is supposed to look. Simple, clean and minimalistic. With a lot of wood, windows, air and space.

The Book Review: “Platform” by Michel Houellebecq

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These days I spent my nights with another man. Michel Houellebecq. I love his writing. I finished this book a couple of weeks ago.I believe that the book is a brilliant commentary on the intersection of globalization and sexuality, or whatever is left of it in western culture.

Well, sometimes it is hard to follow an narrator who has got such a pessimistic worldview and who loves a good disaffected misanthrope but this book really opens up after a while. I really like to read Houellebecq because he seems to dislike many things I am not fond of either. Materialism, politics, world view, religion and there is plenty of bitter social critique as well. His realization that we in the West are like the declining Roman Empire is what I like. He is able to articulate this thesis through his characters but also through interjections on social theory. The central themes are uniquely provocative, and not in a leftist or right-wing way. Reading this book was fun, in a kind of infuriating way. I read on the passenger seat on my way to Canada with my husband. My baby in the back seat making some noise did not really bother me while devouring this book.

I believe that the author is the protagonist in some kind of way – who enjoys just about nothing other than sex, and he feels numb still in the end. The main plot involves him being in love, but he and his love interests (a women who always has a cup of coffee for him after his morning blowjob) never seem to do much talking, or sharing their lives. The love here seems more like a sort of warm fellow-feeling. Well, I would say that Platform is a warm up for “The Possibility of an Island” and “The Map and the Territory”. It provides a nice overview or “platform” for his philosophy. In my opinion he is not the transgressive and sexist novelist whom many critics make him out to be.

“She was one of those creatures who are capable of devoting their lives to someone else’s happiness, of making that alone their goal. This phenomenon is a mystery. Happiness, simplicity, and joy lie within them, but I still do not know how or why it occurs. And if I haven’t understood love, what use is it to me to have understood the rest? To the end, I will remain a child of Europe, of worry and of shame. I have no message of hope to deliver. For the west, I do not feel hatred. At most I feel a great contempt. I know only that every single one of us reeks of selfishness, masochism, and death. We have created a system in which it has simply become impossible to live, and what’s more, we continue to export it.”

I believe that this is a pretty harsh condemnation of the capital system. Michel Houellebecq, like Blake, wants us to dream up new systems to the beyond those that we as westerners have created. As Houellebecq reiterates, it is unfortunate but possibly true  that these new systems may be nightmares, and we should do our best be people who are “capable of devoting [our or] there lives to someone else’s happiness.” In a way he is annoying, lovable, funny, disgusting and sexy. There is a resemblance to Camus and Celine and I did shed one or two tears in the end.

Dreaming

I have been dreaming and getting all starry-eyed talking about this little dream I have with my husband. (Especially after we had a couple glasses of wine, then anything sounds like the world’s best idea.) We talk about me opening an independent bookstore somewhere. We do not know where or when (maybe when Barnes and Noble are bankrupt and borders and amazon and all the other ones) but it sounds so awesome and makes me very happy.

My dreams goes like this:

We rent a space preferably in a little old house like pictured above. (Source MorBCN). This would be perfect as a vintage bookstore. Then we would fill this store with many used books and plenty of new books as well so that everyone who comes in can find what they are looking for.

I am into vintage clothing so I would put in a rack of clothes for sale as well. I would also put some sort of children’s section with toys where my son can play independently most of the day. Many parents would come to our store and bring their kids and they would all play and buy plenty of books. My son will read fluently by the time he is three years old. To take my dream even further, I would get some studying done, maybe add some raw food food sampling section with tea, smoothies and raw cakes, coffee you name it. My son would cheerfully greet our many paying customers and I would have all the time left to read mostly all of the books in my store.

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My son would grow up in our awesome little vintage bookstore and he will be happy, content and totally into books and become a writer and will tell everyone that his parents are the absolute best.

The end. <3

On feeling old and motherhood

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I have to start this post by first explaining a bit why I am living in Germany and why I am a stay-at-home mom raising my son basically on my own. (with help from my parents of course). My husband is currently working for the United Nations and is stationed in Mali. We do live in Connecticut; however, my parents and I came to the conclusion that it is best for the baby and I to have some extra help and come “home” to Germany.

Being a stay-at-home mom was the loneliest kind of lonely, in which she was always and never by herself. Days and days, hours and hours within them, and days within weeks, at the end of which she might not ever have gotten completely dressed or read any word larger than Chex, any word not ending in -os, formed a sentence or brushed her teeth or left a single footprint outside the house. Just motherhood, with its routine costs of providing a largesse, that outstripped her physical dimensions. —from Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior

This quote I read a long time ago, but I think it fits for this post. I asked myself many times if I will ever be “young” again or will I ever be cool again? After a couple of months of constantly and solely breastfeeding my mom said once: “Hey, do you want to go to a Spa, sauna, massage…. the whole thing – and I take care of the baby?” (I believe I left the house in five minutes max and I must have looked like a complete mess). Once at the Spa I felt lighter and freer. I felt like me. On my way back home it started raining. Dark sky and silence as I was swallowed up by the rain and storm I suddenly felt angry about this insane responsibility I have created in my life. This lifelong responsibility for a child and probably for the first time it really hit me.

I was not aware that I inadvertently would eliminate all my “me and free time” from my life. At least for quite some time. Even though I am fortunate to have help in my life. But the feeling and thoughts like: “I hope he is ok, I hope he is not screaming his little head off, I hope my parents can handle him” will always be on my mind wherever I am and try to relax. It has gotten better now that he is 17 months old but these thoughts still do pop up obviously. In the beginning I cut out spontaneity for sure and I did not think that it would be all back at some point. Slowly but surely. I have to admit that I felt bad sometimes on how happy I was and still am when I have a small slice of time to myself but I love those times. There are days where I am grumpy (and try not to let it out on my husband), short-tempered and resentful. I was just sad of the loss of my freedom. Thinking back on the vacations I used to take with my husband, the dates, restaurant and even hangovers I used to sleep off. We had a lot of fun. It feels almost like one part of your life is over and another one begins.

I must also mention that I am crying around here but my son is a pretty easy child. He was this little colicky guy for three months as a newborn but this stopped. Of course the sleepless, teething nights but he is just easy to deal with. He is lovely, sweet and now a pretty good sleeper all things considered. I love him so much that sometimes I actually start crying a bit when he does something really sweet. Me and my weird self. I cannot wait to see who he will become, how he grows up.

Many times it hits me and I am just so overwhelmed by the responsibly I have for this little guy for forever. When he will become a teenager, tantrums, smoking, drinking, I find myself wanting to moan, “AAAAAAAAhhhhh, my live is sooooo O-V-E-R!”

And then of course there are moments like this:

A couple of nights ago, putting my son to bed, we curled up and snuggled and he folded his little arm around my neck and I felt his warm body. I told him: “I love you. Give mommy a kiss.” And he did it. With his little breath. And then my eyes got wet, and I hugged him tighter to me. I believe that motherhood is the most bittersweet thing I know. I love how carefree my son is, how content – I just try to be like him. Be a kid again inside. I just cannot let the weight of responsibility drag me down as it does sometimes. But we all live and learn. All I really have to do is try to live my life the way I used to, but include this little guy in everything. (well not the boozing in bars obviously – but since becoming a mom, this is not fun anymore). So I started traveling again, with him. Difficult at first but it does get easier and easier and it is a lot of fun. We do travel quite a lot due to my husbands situation and just because we love it. Road trips were and are our all-time favorite. My son loves sitting in his car seat so no complaints here.

Motherhood is challenging, exciting, difficult at times but in the end it is all worth it. My son makes my life complete. I cannot imagine life without him.

On reading

So, this is my son’s favorite book.

I love reading, always loved books, smelling books, buying books and most of all being in bookstores or libraries. I remember when my mom took me to the library multiple times a week allowing to check out stacks and stacks of books at a time.

I devoured books, and they were my favorite thing growing up besides sports and later professional dancing. My love for reading has only grown over the years and I still walk into a bookstore and feel like I am home -smelling the books, reading, losing track of time. For as early as I can remember the library was a huge part of my life and I was involved in the summer book club, weekly readings and all kind of contests they had.

So now I go to my “old” library with my son. Because reading was such a huge part of my life, when I happen to stumble upon an old book in my library that I once love, I am flooded with memories upon memories. I am taken back to when I was a kid, sitting in that exact spot that my son is sitting and looking at books; I can see every detail, the smell of the old books, the sometimes yellowed pages, the hushed quietness that pervaded every nook and cranny of that magical place.

When I was a kid I would sit on the short stools used for shelving books, leaning up against the stacks, and read and read. Now with my son I do the same. Then he walks through the aisles, looks at books, takes them out, opens them, looks at them. My mom let us stay for as long as we wanted, and she put no limit on the amount of books we were allowed to take home.

I let my son experience the same thing. He grows up surrounded by books and reading. And he likes it.

How to: On flying with a baby

It has been on my mind for a while to write a “Flying with a baby” post. First of all, flying with a baby was never as difficult as I imagined it would be – alone or with my husband. Of course any help is great but I managed on my own as well. Initially when I flew to Germany my mother helped me on the plane which was awesome. My son was only five weeks old. However, the flight – piece of cake.

It was just my baby and I for our second international flight when he was  four months old and I was scared. (As my husband always says: “Stop being scared and stop worrying about things you don’t know. See how it works out first!”) Our flight was from Frankfurt International Airport to JFK New York which is usually a 8-9 hour ordeal. This is a long time for a four months old baby on a plane. I mean, honestly, it is never that comfortable for myself when I fly alone either. I wish I could say that he slept the entire time – unfortunately the opposite was true. He was awake for the majority of the trip and he wanted to be entertained. When he was four months old he was easily entertained with a spoon, with his favorite toy or just by people around us. He hated lying down, so the bassinet the airline offered was pretty useless. We also took a flight in the morning so he was up anyway. (A little side-note on that: We are frequent flyers by now and I find the the best time to fly with a baby is in the morning. This way the baby slept at night usually in the environment he is used to, then gets up and you drive to the airport. He is not disturbed too much in his normal rhythm which is key! Basically it has to be as comfortable for him as possible)

On my first flight alone with him I was fortunate enough to have three seats in a row for myself plus the seats with the extra legroom. This you should consider as well. Leg room is key!  I kept him on my lap most of the time. Sat him on the tray table with some toys etc. He found the plastic cups they hand out on the plane the most entertaining.

When he wanted to nap he slept ON me the entire time. Not so comfortable for mommy, but the baby was quiet. As soon as he was asleep I tried putting him in the bassinet – forgetaboutit! Screaming… the whole thing. So he slept on me for two! hours.

I was worried before the flight that he would disturb other passengers and we would be “those people”. He cried at points, but it was not a problem really. People were nice, they understood. They played with him. The one time he freaked out a bit I just took him and did the whole walk up – and- down the aisle thing. Most of the time all they need is a little change of scenery and they are fine again.

There are a few things I figured out before and after flying that I would like to share:

1. Passports/Identification/Paperwork: Always keep all your paperwork handy. You have a lot of things to take in your hand luggage in the first place so make sure you do not have to go through all your stuff when it comes to checking in. I usually keep mine in a separate tiny bag in my huge bag with all the baby stuff; however, easy to reach.

2. Stroller: Do take a foldable stroller with you to the airport as soon as the baby can walk. It is a lot easier. Most airlines allow you to take the stroller up tot he gate where they will check it for you and put it on the plane free-of-charge. This makes it also easier if you have layovers.  Usually you have to wait a bit for the stroller upon arrival but not long. The stroller makes it also easier if you need to store things underneath. I mean we are packed like crazy already no? Otherwise carry the baby in a baby carrier on your. (ergo baby) One more inside: I have been using my Louis Vuitton “Neverfull” most of the time but I believe a larger backpack is the key!

3. Baby’s Ears: These little guys do not know how to pop their ears on their own so the change in pressure during take-off and landing makes it hard on them. I breastfed my son during take-off and landing and he was fine. Otherwise you might want to use a pacifier or something else to chew on for the baby. Now, my son is 17 months old, I give him something to chew on. Bread, a cookie, or something to drink (always bring plenty of water!). On a little side-note: Use the aisle seat or the window seat with a  baby when flying alone? Well, if you breastfeed and the baby is still tiny and does not walk around take the window seat. The aisle seat is not comfortable for you or the baby to breastfeed! If he walks already take the aisle seat for sure!)

4. Changing the diapers: The changing tables in the tiny restrooms on the plane are fine for tiny babies. With my son, not so easy. I always change him before we board, then 3-4 hours into the flight in the restroom on the plane. Key is to have a changing mat or something to put on this folding table before you put your baby on it. These folding tables are  kinda nasty! Of course if you have 2-3 seats for yourself, you change the baby right there and then. Much easier.

5. Bring enough food: It is very important to have enough food. When I solely breastfed him – piece of cake. Now I pack bread, bananas, cookies, apples and a lot of water. I usually cook fresh for him as much as I can but while traveling the pre-made baby food comes in handy. Ask the stewardess to heat it up a bit, easy!

The time change was not that difficult as well. Germany/USA are 6 hours apart and my son’s sleeping cycle had been completely screwed up. We landed in NY at 8pm; however, he was a trooper. As soon as we got home he passed out after fussing a bit in the car. He slept until 10am the next day – NY time. The first day was pretty tough because he wanted to nap and was fussy but we kept him on US time and he was fine.

Happy flying.

On how to get healthy long strong hair

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I have a lot of hair. Always had. Thick, strong hair. I have done a lot of “experiments” with my hair as well. Dyed it, permed it you name it . I cut my hair really short at some point and I do not regret it, but I wouldn’t do that again since it just does not suit my round face. You live you learn, moving on….

Growing up I was a Pantene and Herbal Essence girl. I just loved the shampoos and conditioners. They made my hair so soft and the smell was great. At some point I started changing my eating habits as well as my habits on what I am putting on my body. I slowly started making the switch to natural and more vegan products.

Before I start I also have to mentioned that the type of water that is in the area you life is a thing to consider. (soft water/hard water). Another thing is that I tried several “natural” shampoos and conditioners as well and they all made my hair look damp and all tangled up. I tried the “vinegar/and baking soda- method” (no-poo method) but it does not work for me. I do not like the smell of vinegar in my hair and I try to go without these products as well.

All I am using now is WATER. The switch has not only made my hair look better but actually made it even thicker. I am well aware that everyone’s hair is different – as well as everyone’s water but this is the most natural way that works for me. I try to keep it natural and balanced as much as I can.

So this is my hair routine: I wash my hair with water ONLY every 5-6 days. I let it air-dry and then comb it. Combing the hair with a boar bristle brush is the key. They are a little expensive but do get a good one. Comb your hair in the beginning 2-3 times a day. The hair has to get used to the whole “no shampoo” thing first.

Your hair will be greasy at first. Get over it. Put your hair up. Keep it up in a bun and wait. It will get better. Think about what you have done to your hair over all these years putting all the chemicals in it constantly.

I am not using any products on my hair but water. I am not against dyes, shampoos and whatever else, ( I would not recommend them) but to each their own, in my world. Using shampoos to strip your hair of oil does not make your hair less oily, in the long run it actually creates more oil. If you think the “water only wash” is disgusting then do not use it. Easy. It does work for me and I am sharing my experience and give food for thought. Constantly stripping your hair of its natural oil, causes your body to make more oil to overcompensate for oil loss. Same with you face by the way. All the hair really wants is natural oil and your body wants balance and not to be tugged and repressed by added hormones and cremes and such.

As I mentioned before the most important thing in the transition as well as after is “brushing your hair”!  Be gentle while you do it. Take your time. I comb my hair out after when I washed it for about five minutes. This is like a massage to the scalp as well. You take your boar-bristle brush and just comb the sebum (from the root of your hair) out into the length. Then sideways, then from the back to the front. It all takes time. Think about how long you have washed your hair with regular shampoo. For years and year. I have done the same thing. If you still want to use shampoo then at least try to avoid: SLS, sulfites and parabens. These are just really bad ingredients. You can also use vinegar if you want to use conditioner. In a jar next to the shower, I have a mixture of 1 part apple cider vinegar to about anywhere between 5 to 8 parts water for a long time before I went for “water only” but I did not like the smell after a while. Or baking soda/water-mix for shampoo. Stick with the same shampoo rules: avoid the bad stuff and buy cruelty free as often as you can.

Update: So these days I am still mainly washing my hair with water but I am also using these products now and then:

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Khaki Product are quite expensive but you do not use a lot so it works out well – even my hairdresser uses it: www.naturfriseur-nicole-reiter.de

On minimalism and simplifying

Personally, I know that I am the most content when I am with my husband and son at the lake house, enjoying the silence just with a couple of things that we brought along.  Now things are a little different.

I have been busy lately sorting and shifting through some of my things then packing them up, donating or selling them. It feels good to simplify; especially when I sorted through the years of belongings and papers that have been hanging around for no good reason. More so the amount of clothing that just stuffs my closet. Everybody knows the “one pair of jeans that will fit again”. Throw it out. Whatever piece you have not worn in one year and which just sits in your closet “waiting” – donate it. You will not wear it. The feeling to create “space” is great. Bookshelves stuffed with book is nice to look at. However, donate the ones you do not really like anymore to your local library. Create space. And honestly, how many books you own have you read twice? These are the words of a book lover by the way who wanted nothing more than to live in a room stuffed with books only. Now I am keeping the ones that changed my life, my favorite cook books and books by my favorite author that I indeed read over and over. BUT, the book on algebra from 9th grade? Toss it!

Simplifying my life is an urge that I have a couple times a year, especially with the changing season. The main question is: What do we really need? How much do we really need to possess? I discovered some of the utmost useless possessions throughout my goal to simplify and minimize my life. I love getting rid of things I do not need, use or value. Lately I have been reading quite a bit on spiritualism and decluttering my life and the very first epiphany was that there is something powerful about seeing our material belongs in a new light and to recognize that I  have too much stuff. Somehow all these materialistic things ended up running my life – or at least a lot of it. I can even go so far in saying that the things I consumed ended up consuming me. It is very tempting to buy things. We live in a world with 24-hour online shopping opportunities and the next purchase it just one “click” away. To tell the truth: I do like material things as much as anyone and anything that makes life easier. I do like shopping for clothing and all kinds of things. BUT I realize now (and I haven’t done so for years) that after a certain point, material objects crowd out the emotional needs that they are meant to support.

We do know – intuitively – that the best stuff in life isn’t stuff at all and that the best things in life are free. Or to live a meaningful happy life we need to have relationships, work that is satisfying and fulfilling and of course a plethora of experiences.

Living with less is my goal and I am working towards it every day. I want to raise my son the same way. My life is full of love and adventure these days and I know that this endless consumption results in increased unhappiness. De-cluttering brings forth a sense of openness and clarity for me. Nobody says this is easy and the process can indeed be a lengthy one.

My life is big with less. <3

We found each other.

It is late and I still feel I want to write something and officially start my blog. I was just thinking about marriage, and how, when you really think about it, it’s pretty crazy that two people choose just one person to spend all of their life with. I mean it’s not crazy to me on my own personal level, but the whole broader concept is slightly crazy. To find that other person in this big world that just gets you and your weird ways, and you get them and their weird ways, to me that seems like the biggest lottery win ever. Jean and I talk about that often, discussing how wild it is to find your person, out of all the people of the world. Would your person still be your person if your circumstances change? My question is if you would find that person no matter what, or would you never know, and settle into a different life with somebody else, never knowing the difference?

I was just thinking about Jean and all of the little things he does that maybe he does not even notice he does, that mean more than anything to me. I believe that in any good marriage this is how it goes – you just know what the other person needs.

Now that we have been together for a couple of years I finally get it. I understand what it means to be in love and to have found your other better half. more than I ever did before. I always has this feeling that he was the one for me and that I loved him from the beginning in this special way. Now we  have been together awhile and everything that was so fresh and new goes away and life gets tough again. We deal with problems together now and figure out a way to solve them. Together, not alone anymore and there are only solutions.  I never thought anything like this would ever happen to me. Now I see us getting older together and grow together. We became parents and our love grew stronger.  Thank you for encouraging me to start this blog Jean! Let’s start the adventures.  Je t’aime mon amour.