.The Protagonist Assumes an Exalted Place in this Discourse.

I am so glad you want to visit me here in Vienna. Good to hear from you. Unfortunately, I am out of town and it is a bummer that we miss each other. I will be missing in action for a while because my boyfriend, my son and I are sneaking away for a bit to travel and purchase a house in Morocco since we think it is a great investment. We will rent it out later on and get security to protect it when we are not in Morocco obviously. Also, while we are there, we write a book together. It is all planned out. The title is “Faster than the Speed of Love”. We are super stoked about it.  Do you like it? But we will discuss all the details when we meet soon. No worries.

In any case, I know you are only around for a couple of days but here are the restaurants you should definitely check out while in town. For breakfast, you have to try French Insanity in the 3rd District. They usually open by 8 am but if you are not in line by  5.30 am, forget it. On their menu is one slice of french toast wrapped in wax paper. You are only allowed to purchase one and they usually run out by  8.10 am. They don’t serve cinnamon, butter or anything else with it. They also hate maple syrup. Sorry, I know, you still claim to live in Canada but their french toast is so good that it does not need maple syrup. Trust me! They do offer ketchup though and for whatever reason three cinnamon-raisin bagels and a large French Vanilla Latte for Euro 20. They say that this is the perfect food for diabetics. No clue why they add that in fine print at the end of the menu because it is actually bad for diabetics. Go figure.

For lunch, I would recommend Antonio’s in the 4th District. Not the Original Antonio’s since the Italian mob burned down the entire building when some gang members wanted to invade and take over. It is still the best Italian food in town though. I go there, like 5 times a week for lunch. Okay, technically it is not in the city. It is actually a little stand at the main concourse of the minor-league soccer team outside of Vienna; close to the suburbs. You also have to take the train to get there and purchase a ticket to see a soccer game, but hey, this should not deter you. You will love it. Everything on the menu is awesome. Try the triple-layer cake. It is ridic. Overall, the food is to die for. FYI: Watch out for any open trunks on cars close to the river.

If you don’t like Italian food, try Holy I Do Not Give A Shit Basil in the 6th District. This is close to where I live. Their food is all vegetarian but you will think it is gluten/dairy free paleo autoimmune diet food. The awesome thing is that they grow all their food right in the restaurant, so you get the real table-to-table experience. Another highlight is that this restaurant is right next to the used-book store that is never open but they have a great selection. Another option for supper: I would recommend the amazingly authentic Pho restaurant PHO-Me-NOW. However, you cannot get in there without a Vietnamese passport. It is kind of difficult to track those down but it is so worth it. Let me know if you need help with this and I introduce you to “my guy”. With him, it is no problem if you cannot get your paperwork in order on time. Trust me. They also change your kid’s passport overnight. Unless you reported your wife at Immigration Austria that she forged your signature on the application for your son’s passport just because you are angry and know that she just tried to get a new passport with an updated picture in it so they recognize the child at the airport. I know of a case when someone actually did that in Canada. Can you believe it? How pathetic is this guy, eh?! I know you would never do such a thing, so check out this Pho Restaurant for sure.

Another alternative for supper is “Le Bukowski’s aka The Buck Typewriter“ which is in the 3rd District. It is another new French restaurant that opened recently by a guy who is going through a divorce and threatens his wife via emails. Word on the street is that he opened this restaurant even though he got kicked off the TV-Show “Top French Onion Soups where Onions Simmer in Red Wine” because one of his recipes killed a judge and someone else made a way better onion soup. It is a little pricey but in the long run, every course will change your life. Some of them in ways you will never expect. It is all so worth it. The baguette they serve made me realize that I am not really afraid of anything anymore and that I am strong. I mean, wow, right? Try the Absinthe or Ricard they served with or before the appetizer. It is stimulating.

Otherwise, Spinners in the 6th District is a great fun diner (diner/dinner). Heads up: the service is a little slow and do not try to get the black bubble gum from the bubble gum machine to eat there for free. You will waste too much money.  The original staff from the sixties is mostly still there. They only added some desperate students who need money. When a server or cook dies, they do not replace them so the kitchen gets pretty backlogged. Enjoy looking at the pictures all around the restaurant while you desperately wait for your food though. You cannot purchase the artwork. If you want the full Spinners-experience order the “Hungry Man”. They put sawdust in it, which Bob, the owner insists is some kind of old tradition. It tastes horrible at first and you think it is the worst breakfast you ever had. The second bite is better though and then you will end up loving it. Also, do not mention that you are from France. Mr. Bob doesn’t like immigrants and has some “opinions”.

Ready for dessert? How come no matter how full you are, there is always room for dessert? Okay, so there is this great place you have to check out. It is called EXtremely INSecure in the 7th District. It is Japanese I believe. It is close to the hotel where you are staying. Just one block down the road actually. They have this amazing ice cream with savory toppings such as gravy, paprika or balsamic vinegar. The sweet/salty craze is all over town these days since it is so hot.  If you like it, maybe we can go together one day. Let me know what you end up doing while you are in town. And have fun.

.A Letter to Myself.

Hello Lovely,

Good morning. How are you doing? I am always with you and yet we seem to have lost touch last year. I understand that there are always things to do, places to go, opportunities to seize, dreams to realize and fires to fight but it is almost as if you have been avoiding me. Did we grow apart? I thought we were pretty close.

From distance, you seem happier this year and remind me of a younger Daniela, one surer of herself and her place in the world. Is this true? You moved to a new country, started a new job. Are you really happy or have you just occupied yourself with urgency to avoid dealing with what is important? I ask because I care about you. I am not a stranger to you Daniela but last year has made me feel like one. You are both wise and jaded enough to know the difference between acts of self-love and distractions offering temporary happiness. And yet you have consistently fallen into the trappings of comfort this year. When we last met, you had sparkling eyes, ambition, and unflinching clarity but all those distractions have muddied your heart. There is nothing where there was once a garden. What happened? Oh, I remember, you told me. Your ex-husband is still not paying child support for his son. Guess what, you cannot change his attitude if he shows no responsibility. More importantly, what have you felt or learned this year that you will carry into the next decade? Seeing you today reminds me of what I once heard somewhere, “It isn’t that she is not a good person. It is just that she isn’t like my dreams.” In my dreams, you are remarkable, Daniela. Please do not allow life to get the better of you. There are things only you can do so you must do them. Look at your son. He is amazing and this is almost solely your (hard) work. Kurt Vonnegut would add, “Well, here we are, Mr.(s) Pilgrim, trapped in the amber of this moment. There is no why.”

It is rare to have the ability and opportunity to build a significant life so please make the most of it. Giving in to the everyday pressure of mediocrity and smallness won’t get you to where you need to be. So, remember to dare often and greatly. There are several of us who adore you and will help you realize all of you. Hey, I know the gnawing feeling of unfulfillment is something you have been grappling with for a while now and you are prepared to completely retool your life and work. Again, 2019 was one tough year. But now you are better. Look what you have accomplished. It took you quite some time to get to this point and know exactly who you are so don’t resent the journey. The secret to leading a worthwhile life is to make a few meaningful and thoughtful decisions every day and let go of the rest. And, as you learn to detach yourself from this web you will come to realize your insignificance. All of this, my dear, existed before you were born and will continue to thrive long after your departure. So, optimize your time here for that which has the potential to outlive you. You – an institution, a family, a mother and a legacy.

You dedicated the previous couple of years to experimentation and self-discovery but these next few decades will require you to share your gifts. This is why you must focus on your son, your family, and friends and leave behind “the ex-file and divorce” for good. If you wish to succeed in this next phase of your life then you will need to grow your tribe and become bolder, clearer and less self-apologetic. Many have mistaken your kindness for weakness or indecisiveness so ensure this never happens again. There is no need to tolerate their ignorance or accommodate your anxieties so reform yourself. Everything will work out, believe me. You and your son will be fine. And guess what: Money is not everything. Look at what you have! You have this little pure soul who depends on you and walks next to you in life wherever you go. Isn’t that everything?

The other day you thought about all the wrongs in your life and what you have done in your previous relationship. Then you had this thought:

That which is wrong I have come to make right. I have come to repay the debt of others. I don’t feel bad about what I have done in the past. It always takes two to tango.

Breathe. Do not forget that this life is yours first and foremost belongs to you. You have power over it and can undo many of these wrongs if you choose to. Guess what? When you were born the first debt you inherited was your privilege. Then came the burden of expectations placed on you. This was soon followed by the power others yielded over you. And the final debt is one that grows with each passing day: Time. You often wonder about your purpose here but have you considered that perhaps it is to simply walk this earth with joy? If you can say no to anything which does not inspire happiness or peace in you then you are free from all debts. So, you are free, Daniela? Remember that you can get anything you want but not everything you want. What choices will then lead you to your best life? Aren’t you living it already? I think you do.

Don’t leave yet. You have already learned through your dramas that humans are transient beings. We all come and go bringing varying measures of joy, pain, longing, and wisdom into the lives of others. This is the natural order of things akin to the ebb and flow of the sea. This is also why you must rebuild your circle from scratch. It will shape your entire life so do this with care. Your move from Canada to Austria was already quite big. In all this change, happiness then lies in the constant. Isn’t home still wherever you see your mother’s eyes, Daniela? Your everyday rituals celebrated with your family are what lend comfort, meaning, and familiarity to your life. If I were to tell the truth then your love made me pay attention to myself. When you would kiss me I would go home and look long in the mirror.

I see you in the mirror every day and wonder about the love that will make you feel this way once again. Your divorce will complete almost one year in July and as its memories linger and fade inside you, I need you to regain control of your heart. To open it. I know you have never craved validation from others but when you love someone deeply they become an extension of yourself. Their attention on you translates into boundless self-affection and wonder. You were made to love and be loved and yet on most days you seem to believe that you are incapable or undeserving of it. Where there were wounds once, now there are scars. But all scars will be loved. I promise. What do you see when you look at your reflection? I hope you can see everything worthy of love in you. I see this every day and it makes me believe in the best of you. I will always believe in you.

All my love,

Yours.

.Older But Better But Wiser.

Hey there,

you are only six years old. Playdates, not “real dates” await you for many years ahead. But, at the right time, as you grow, take a look at the books I have written. Some articles will help you in choosing friends, too, not just when seeking a romantic partner. Learn to be intuitive and observant. Believe me, I learned this the hard way throughout my dating “career”. Use your head together with your heart. Quickly size up those around you, to better understand and interact with them. Learn to adapt your approach and dialogue to the different personalities you meet. This way you will get more easily what you want or need, and persuade others of your points of view. Do you know how you can test this? Come to me and convince me that you are right when I think otherwise. The world awaits you. Enjoy your life adventure.

This section is for when you are quite a bit older: Are you searching for the “right” partner, but finding lots of “wrongs?” Listen, avoid dubious dates and walk away from trouble. Say goodbye to heartaches and wasted time. How? Learn how to profile. Believe me, I learned the hard way many times. First: Know Yourself. The deeper you delve into your heart and mind, the better prepared to recognize your ideal match. Be truthful. What is important to you? What do you value? Career, hobbies, pets? Family and friends? Money and material objects? Religion? Sexual preferences? THEN imagine your partner. I believe, qualities that are MUSTS for any partner are supportive, considerate and respectful. There is no exception to this rule! Moving on to shared values, common interests, ways of interacting and communicating. Physical appearance and personality, to morals, values and life vision. My love, don’t worry if you cannot come up with an exact portrait. Think about it and explore because dating is trial and error. Looking for casual relationships and not the “perfect one” yet? That’s ok, but still, choose “good matches”. This way, you will have a better time and maybe make lasting friends.

Examples: You are at work. You see and meet interesting people or are introduced to someone for the first time. Start to observe. Who is the person? What are they communicating to you? Verbally and non-verbally, with their gestures and their eyes. Are they lying or telling the truth? Observe, analyze, think, then decide. Decide to jump in, or walk/run away. I will share some bad date distractions with you. This may be useful whether you meet people online, at a party, bar, or any other venue.

  1. Take a good look at the other person’s body language or non-verbal expression. They way they move, gesture because the stands communicate a wealth of information about self-confidence and honesty. Take a look at the appearance: clothing, choice of hair color, jewelry, tattoos, tidy or unkempt, arty/hip? But be careful because appearance can also be deceiving. What you wear is not who you are. Very famous people opt for a hoodie and jeans. So, don’t judge on appearance alone.
  2. Touch/Personal Space: Handshake (stong/limp), eye contact, personal space. Isn’t it nice to get a firm handshake, a smile and good eye contact from a person? These nonverbal cues usually indicate a confident, positive person, at ease with him/herself. Personal space varies of course. A tentative handshake and evasive eyes? May be the body language of a shy or insecure person. Observe.
  3. Facial expressions. Smile or frown? What is their face telling you about their personality or interest in you? Do they look at you directly or are their eyes shifting away or downward, moving, blinking?
  4. During conversations: Is it open and respectful? Is he/she facing and focused on you? Is he or she really listening to what you are saying? Is he/she interested in you? I observed that when people are engaged in talks with me, they listen with their eyes – looking directly at me with interest to gauge the other’s response and maintain the flow of conversation. They wait patiently for a response, showing respect and focusing on me. I know that when someone is really comfortable, light touching is included, such as touching the arm or lightly tap on shoulders or back, if this is appropriate. I mean, it is obvious that someone constantly checking their phone while with you is not really interested in what you have to say or who you are. Time to walk away? Could be. Also, watch out for commanding, belittling or controlling personality.
  5. Posture/Gestures: Leaning forward or back, arms or legs crossed, slouching or sitting up straight? Simple gestures may add to the conversation. Constant wild gestures could be cues to dramatic, center-stage type, attention-seeking personalities. But some foreign cultures use gestures more than others.
  6. Listen to their tone of voice. I study linguistics so this is very interesting to me. What they say and how they say it. Listen carefully to pitch and loudness. How they pause and stress words. Do they speak clearly? A self-confident person does not mumble. Is their voice overly loud? Annoying? High-pitched? Are they seeking an audience other than you? Possibly and arrogant, self-centered person? But words themselves may not tell the whole story. So, listen carefully to how they are said.

This all may seem challenging but believe me, I have been dealing with these things for many years. But you will be surprised to find you already know many techniques and automatically use them in everyday interactions because I have been teaching you these things. With this little checklist, you can become even more aware of the infinite clues people unconsciously reveal during conversations. Now, get going and look for that special person, my love.

Mom

.Mom, What Is the CoronaVirus.

My son: “Mom, what is the Coronavirus?”

Me: “It is a word you might have heard at school or online on the iPad. This Coronavirus is a newly discovered virus. It causes a disease called COVID-19. Most people who have gotten sick with this virus have had a mild case. And there aren’t a lot of cases in kids. If kids do get the virus, it tends to be very mild.”

My son: “What does ‘mild’ mean?”

Me: “Mild means not very strong. Like mild salsa is the least spicy. I myself prefer spicy salsa though. People who are much older or who already have health problems are more likely to get sicker with Coronavirus.”

My son (tearing up): “Noooooooo…….what about Grandma, Grandpa and uncle, and aunt?”

Me: “If anyone gets sick and feels like they might have Coronavirus, they can immediately call their doctors and get help. Oma and Opa and aunt and uncle will all be fine. Don’t worry. They all have a strong immune system.”

My son: “What’s an immunity system?”

Me: “Immune system, sweetheart. It is a defense system of your body. It keeps the bad bacteria out. There are some things you can do to protect your immune system and yourself, family and friends from getting sick.”

My son: “How?”

Me: “Number 1. Wash your hands often. Use soap and water. Wash for at least 20 seconds. If it helps, sing the ABC’s while you do it. That’s about 20 seconds. Wash after using the bathroom or being in public spaces like the subway, bus, train or playground. 2. Sneeze into your elbows. Coronavirus is believed to spread through little droplets of fluid from your lungs. If you sneeze into the elbows, you can prevent germs from going into the air and onto your hands. 3. Avoid touching your sweet face. Don’t pick your nose, don’t touch your mouth, don’t rub your eyes. These are the places where germs enter your body. 4. Eat healthy things. Lots of vitamins, such as fruit and vegetables. 5. Don’t stand super close to other people. Especially not the ones who sneeze and cough a lot. 5. When you do get sick, we stay at home.

My son: “But I love picking my nose!”

Me: “Geez, you can still do it, just use a tissue. Then throw it away. It is very important to remember that this kind of virus can affect anybody. It does not matter where you come from or what country your parents are from.”

My son: “Okay, I think I understand. So, we eat healthily and drink smoothies with blueberries and bananas. We won’t get sick, Mommy?! Right?! Right!? Right!?”

Me: “Of course not, my love. Don’t worry and listen to people who try to scare you. Everything will be okay.

.Love & Whatnot.

John Steinbeck once told his son who had recently fallen in love, “And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens – The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.”

I enjoyed Steinbeck’s books forever. When I first read his affectionate letter many years ago, I completely disagreed with him. His advice seemed counter-intuitive to me. For me, everything worthwhile was worth having immediately and completely. I need it. I need to hurry. I need to win. There was no nuance or subtlety about this fact it meant if I couldn’t have something, someone else would beat me to it. An unfavorable outcome was not only unacceptable but also shameful because it equated my inability to win with inadequacy.

All of us grow up with varying degrees of this competitive mindset and it irks me that we breeze through life and its wonders for the sake of speed, convenience or satisfaction. Our approach to love and kindness is the same as sport or money: only victory is glorious and absolute. I know this isn’t right. In fact, we all do but it’s hard to call out bullshit like this when the only way you can grow your self-worth today is by being successful. I’ve failed at many things many times in my life already. And every year I add to this list. Does that make me less of a woman or more? Does it limit my capacity or expand it? It is ultimately what I make of it. And the same holds true for our ability to practice and celebrate love in our lives.

Falling in Love.

“Total abandonment. I give myself to you. Take me. Do anything you like with me. See. So, that’s quite mad because you see, it’s letting things get out of control. All sensible people keep things in control. Watch it, watch it, watch it. Security? Vigilance Watch it. Police? Watch it. Guards? Watch it. Who’s going to watch the guards?”

What can we do to love better?

What happens when 3 couples try to answer the “36 Questions that Lead to Love? Authentic connection.

These couples have spent decades together, tackled thousands of questions and jointly made hundreds of important decisions over the course of their lives. And you know what? It shows.

There is a peace to them having discovered and accepted so much about each other. There is calm too in the absence of everyday fears. I felt so moved by their vulnerability and affection that it made me reflect on the traits that make up my own language of love. The more mindful I have become of these mechanics, the more I strive to use them for those I care about. Perhaps, they will serve you to love others better too. Here they are:

1. Love is learning to love yourself first so you can love them better.
2. Love is being kind to them especially when they don’t deserve it.
3. Love is believing in them more than they can.
4. Love is making sacrifices without hesitation.
5. Love is thinking of them before yourself.
6. Love is growing with them.
7. Love is overcoming self-preservation for their safety.
8. Love is believing in yourself, sometimes for their sake.
9. Love is forgiving first.
10. Love is keeping promises in inconvenient times.
11. Love is remembering they’re good for you.
12. Love is providing comfort when grief enters their life.
13. Love is building them up every single day.
14. Love is being a mirror for them.
15. Love is having the courage to call them out.
16. Love is loving those they care for.
17. Love is making and realizing dreams together.
18. Love is being their rock.
19. Love is living without the fear of being enough.
20. Love is feeling less afraid with them.
21. Love is expecting better from yourself and them.
22. Love is being grateful for them. 
23. Love is making them feel beautiful.
24. Love is bringing them a peace they have always deserved.
25. Love is asking them difficult questions so that they can be truthful to themselves.
26. Love is not giving up on them. Ever.
27. Love is winning at life together.
28. Love is dipping a life-long friendship in honey.
29. Love is accepting their history and flaws.
30. Love is making healthy choices because of them.
31. Love is living with fewer regrets.
32. Love is learning to lean on them.
33. Love is listening so they can be heard.
34. Love is saying sorry over and over again.
35. Love is proving love is thicker than blood, sweat, and tears.
36. Love is burying them.

.The Neighbors’ Window.

Have you seen The Neighbors’ Window by director Marshall Curry? The short film features an exhausted married couple with three kids, who watch their twenty-something neighbors through their window. It won an Oscar for Best Live Action Short. If the story sounds familiar, it might be because you heard the true story told by Diane Weipert on the Love + Radio podcast.

I moved about a million times in my life already. In one of my old apartments, I could see a neighboring family clearly through my living room window. We ended up becoming friends in real life, and we would text each other saying “I see your husband got a haircut!” “I wonder why your husband is riding his bicycle completely naked on the home trainer in the living room every Sunday evening!” or “Are those your in-laws visiting?” It was a strange but fun part of living in the city.

I love the countryside, don’t get me wrong. But things like my neighborhood watch make my urban living heart happy. When I lived in New York City, I could see clearly into my neighbor’s kitchen from my living room window. So, I saw when he was home or cooked. And occasionally, when he walked around naked! I refer to him affectionately as the naked neighbor. He and I ended up becoming friends and I always felt a sense of comfort when I would see him cooking, just knowing he was next door. I was sad when naked neighbor moved out. Then a couple with a dog and a six-year-old moved in. They were far less entertaining and never naked in the kitchen.

I sometimes write at my desk close to the window and naturally observe things without being creepy. Hey, I am a writer. Writers do that. There is a huge apartment complex across from where I live. One day, I saw a man come to a woman’s apartment. The man stayed in the living room while the woman went into the bedroom to get ready to go out. I watched her get all dressed up and put on makeup and perfume while he paced back and forth nervously in the living room. Then she came out and they gazed into each other’s eyes and left to go out. I munched on some chips and salsa while I watched. It was like watching a movie. 

Then, there is this elderly couple. They enjoy brunch while reading the newspaper every Saturday and Sunday for hours just with their underwear on. The other day I met them at the store and they greeted me. “Hi. You are our neighbor, right? From across the street. We love your place and your son is so cute,” they said while strolling down the bread aisle. Creepy? Kinda, but I don’t really think so.

One more, then I will let you go because I could go on and on with these stories. Like, save the best for last. In one of my old apartment, I could see right across the alleyway into my neighbor’s apartment. He used to pull his blinds down so that the only part of him that was visible was from his upper thigh (window sill level) to his mid-torso (bottom-of-the-blinds-level). He was always naked and it used to crack me up. I don’t know if I ever saw him on the street because the only part of him I would have recognized was his privates. Creepy level: 5/5.

Overall, I think this movie is an incredible story and reminder about appreciating what I have, and whether the grass is really greener on the other side because it is not. Overall, neighbor-watching is fun.

Jeff: “Why would a man leave his apartment three times on a rainy night with a suitcase and come back three times?” ” Lisa: “He likes the way his wife welcomes him when he comes back home.” – Alfred Hitchcock

Happy observations.

.Wrongfully in the 10 Items Line – Supermarket Etiquette.

Grocery Store Etiquette! What comes to mind? Common sense is not so common after all. I had a rather lengthy conversation with a Billa-Supermarket employee the other day who told me some stories. I also asked this question “Grocery Store Etiquette” on Facebook a while ago and received all kinds of (weird) questions. Some things are very normal to me but quantum physics to others. Like, for example how not to be an asshole on the subway! I will answer the main, recurring questions here for you.

Can I remove individual items from a pack, like one can of beer or a single pudding?

First, you should know that it often costs more per unit when you do this. But stores have different policies, so ask before you crack into a sixer of Stiegl Beer. And what’s the worst that would happen if you got the whole case? Invite some friends. Make some friends.

What do I do with a piece of produce I dropped on the floor?

Put it back in the pile or add it to your basket. If it’s a more delicate item, like an avocado, take it to the customer service counter or hand it to the nearest store employee. Too embarrassed? Buy it and bury it in the backyard and hope an avocado tree grows as a reminder of your flaws. Or, I don’t know, eat it?

What’s your stance on sampling grapes or snacks from the bulk bins, etc.?

You can have ONE grape. Not a whole cluster. I’m looking at you! I don’t care if you just came from the gym and are bulking up! On grapes! If you want to try something, ask. Did you know that at a lot of major grocers, a manager will let you sample ANYTHING your heart desires? Yes, even off-brand graham crackers. But do you really need to sample a roasted almond? Come on now.

Can I bring 11 items to the 10 items or less aisle? Who’s really counting? 

I’m not counting: (insert spooky music) ONLY GOD IS COUNTING AND HE KNOWS EVERYTHING! #justkiddingnotreligiousatall. This is the honor system! Do you have honor? I don’t think 11 is a big deal; 14 is too far; 23 is outrageous. This is the only order we have left. Don’t let it disintegrate into lawless chaos like Twitter, lobster with sunglasses, the President, and Congress.

Is it ever okay to ride on the carts like a race car? 

If the aisle/parking lot is clear, YES. There are more dangerous things a person can do with a grocery cart. Once when I was a kid, I was riding in the cart while my brother pushed me as fast as possible through the outdoor garden section at the supermarket and I stood up and yelled, “STOP!” and he did. I flew forward, landing on my head on the concrete. And look how I turned out!

Please address the best way to abandon items you realize you don’t want/need, especially perishable ones. 

The road to hell is littered with vacuum-packed chicken breasts stuffed into magazine racks (a real thing I’ve witnessed). You know someone has to deal with that, don’t you? There’s no grocery store detritus fairy who taps it with her wand and makes it disappear. However, since 17 people asked this question, it’s clear we can’t stop leaving the unwanteds in our wake. Who has the time or energy to trek through an exceptionally air-conditioned labyrinth to return that wrong-flavored yogurt? You do. Return it! Or fine, hand it to the cashier and apologize.

It’s normal to take an empty bag of chips or an opened bottle of Dr. Pepper to the checkout line, right? I’m going to pay for it; I’m just hungry. 

This was divisive. Can’t you just wait to eat and drink after you paid for the item? Just please pay for what you snack on, and don’t leave crumbs all over the conveyor belt.

If no one’s around to help, can you climb the lower shelves to reach an item on the top shelf? 

Do you want to die under a fallen shelf of canned queso? Kind of. Go find someone to help! It’ll only take a second.

Can I leave the cart wherever I want? Someone gets paid to put it back, right?

Honestly, just don’t leave your cart in the middle of a parking lot on the theory that some poor store employee will be forced to retrieve it. You’re right — one of them will. But in the meantime, you’re adding more clutter to the already difficult terrain of the parking lot. Also, you’re increasing the odds that it’ll get stolen. Don’t let it become another cart of darkness.

Just don’t be an asshole! Happy shopping.

.How To Survive As A Toddler.

This is to all toddlers world-wide. I am six-years-old. It is tough being a toddler. Some days are really hard. Having your every need met does not allow for much downtime. With this in mind, how can you even find space to take care of you? It starts with small things such as cutting nails. Why does my mom cut them once a week and does not give me permission to make sure my nails are sharp enough to draw blood and claw others when I want to be a werewolf or a bat? Grown-ups are strange. She also forgets that I am small and see things from a different angle. The air is different down here. I see the sign with a red, huge bug on it and she just walks by. Why? And, how come I cannot eat chocolate only and survive let’s say on Kinder Chocolate Bons, Coca Cola and plain baguette? Mom says I need to eat vegetables and fruit because of the vitamins and that if I don’t eat it, my teeth will all get a cavity and I have to go to the dentist who straps me down on a chair and pulls those teeth out. She told me the story of Karius and Baktus! Wow, this is so scary. But chocolate has vitamins, no? I am a busy toddler, and sometimes I have the feeling that my self-care gets pushed in the corner underneath my bunk bed. You may be in the same boat so I want to share a couple of tips on how to survive as a toddler.

Don’t feel bad about saying no. It was one of my first words and all toddlers learn it for a reason I think. Use it wisely though. Become super comfortable with saying no by saying it as loud as possible, over and over again to every question grown-ups ask you. Especially questions such as “Do you need a nap?, “Do you want more zucchini? Do you want to go to bed? Don’t you want to clean up your room?” Oh, one more thing. The next time you want to say yes, just say no. Then cry because you meant yes, and that should have been obvious. My mom does that sometimes. Whenever it comes to food, enjoy a healthy snack. Grown-ups are right. As fresh as possible. Ants on a log is a great option. Or flies from the windowsill. Just indulge in whatever snack you feel nourishes you. Proteins are important, my mom says.

Demand that grown-up reads books to you. Preferably the same books. Over and over. Until you know it by heart. I love detective stories. Also, make sure to bring the book back to grown-up continually to show them something until you see all the light drain from their eyes. When I was younger, I loved the book Doggies by Sandra Boynton and make my mom bark like all ten dogs. She loooooved it. I really think my mom loves to make an abundance of non-human noises. Like all days long.

Bathtime. Obviously, make it as fun as possible. Mom says that her bathtime is her wellness and time-out. What does this even mean? Splash around and make the entire bathroom your ocean. Grown-ups don’t understand how awesome this is. You can also enjoy your nightly Sunday evening bath with a warm cup of bathwater and then get sick. Must be all the soap I guess. If you are thirsty, wrap your mouth around the entire faucet to ingest as much water as possible. If grown-up gave you a washcloth, use it to clean the entire tiles of the bathroom, then wash yourself. If nobody is looking refill bathtub with as much warm water as possible. Take your scuba mask, snorkel, goggles, whatever you can find to dive. Call you Mom and then scare her by playing dead and lay in the bathtub without moving. She will get super scared, I swear.

Running in crowded places. Mom and I love to go to museums. I love to take a quick, breezy stroll through a crowded public space. Like, I just run around. Fast. I am super fast. This is best accomplished when grown-up is not looking, when they are talking to someone or helping another child. As soon as you get the chance, head toward any visible thing that screams fun: water fountain (anything water), staircases, things to climb up, things to climb down, things to open and close. See how far you can get before your name is yelled, then obviously ignore it because you are having a blast. If grown-up caught you, make sure to scream and thrash about wildly to fully complete the exercise. It is exhilarating.

Sleep. Make sure to sleep as much as possible and get up super early on the weekend to watch cartoons. Saturday/Sunday, let’s say get up between 6.30 am to 7 am. Be cranky when you have to get up during the week at that time though. Make sure to sleep ten minutes in the car/train/subway on the ride home from wherever because just ten minutes will keep you refreshed for the next ten hours. Grown-up loves it.

Rearrange your space. I mean, I have to live here and want to be comfortable. Take all the vases and sponges out from under the sink and rearrange them artfully in the bathroom. Bananas are so yummy. Squeeze them out of the peel and decorate them nicely on the kitchen floor. Eat some of it. I love blueberries. Do you know what is cool? To roll them under the fridge and behind the counter. Like little marbles. The other day I thought I will mix and squeeze some blueberries from the freezer with coconut milk to see what happens and how this tastes. Mom makes awesome smoothies but I was not able to turn on the blender for some reason. Then I dropped the bowl with everything in it. The colors were awesome! Mom had this weird look in her face when she saw the mess. She cleaned everything up, had this weird twitch in her left eye and hummed the Sesame Street Theme Song. Again, grown-ups are weird.

Skin Care. Mom says that using most of the beauty products is bad for the skin. She has all this natural stuff. I don’t want my skin to be bad, so I mixed a bit of the rest of the coconut milk with her cream. I only took a bit because Mom said it was rather expensive because it is naaaatural. Whatever that means. So I squeezed some into the coconut milk. I added some of her perfume. It is called Cloé; like the fat cat from Pets- The movie. The perfume has the same name which is funny. Then I rubbed it all over my body. No wrinkles, ever.

Hug people you love. Grown-ups love that. Tell them you love them. These things can help and save you if you decide to make your own “cream” again or play “mermaid” in the bathtub. Mom always says: Don’t negotiate with (little) terrorists. I don’t know what that means.

Help whenever you can. Grown-ups can always use help. When your mom is tired, this is when you can assist. Remove all the canned goods from the shelf or the pantry. Save energy by unplugging all the cords you can reach. Especially the internet. Remove folded clothes from the laundry basket and put everything in the washing machine. Turn washing machine on. Make sure you provide your service at the right time. This is usually, when grown-up cooks, talks on the phone, cleans, or deals with paperwork. Make sure you get the appreciation you deserve.

Hey, I am not supposed to be on Mom’s computer and she is coming back. So I am signing off. I hope you will put one of my tips into practice soon. Always remember, we need to make sure our own cups are full of apple juice before we can pour the content into the fridge to see what will happen, right? It is a busy world out there. You deserve some time to yourself, happily alone with a black marker and a white wall.

.The Book Review: Book Tips on Relationships & Love.

“The course of true love never did run smooth.”- Shakespeare

Shakespeare was right I guess. And, because usually love never runs smoothly, there are great authors who write about it. Here are some great book recommendations if you like to read. Enjoy!

The Course of Love by Alain de Botton


This novel was recommended many, many times before I actually sat down and read it. I had been told it was a “super realistic” portrayal of a relationship, and that sounded depressing to me. Why would I want to read a dose of reality when I can get a dose of reality just by existing? How wrong I was. (In fact, I’ve read it multiple times since.) The story of one couple’s long-term relationship is indeed realistic but captures the kind of hopes, fears, insecurities, and longing that each of us thinks is ours alone. A gorgeous novel. 

Heartburn by Nora Ephron

Fun fact: I watched this movie in 2017 with my ex-husband while he already cheated on me and I did not know. He fell asleep during the movie.
Have you ever been wronged? Cookbook writer Rachel Samstat knows the feeling. She is seven months pregnant and just discovered that her husband (a man who is “capable of having sex with a Venetian blind”) is having an affair. Thus begins this novel, based on real events from Ephron’s life, which manages to turn a terrible situation comedic, as only she could. Bonus: The chapters have recipes interspersed throughout. Nora Ephron – one of my favorite writers of all time!

What I Know for Sure by Oprah Winfrey


Sometimes, I need a hug. Sometimes, I need tough love. Sometimes, it helps to hear that someone else has been through whatever I am going through. This book has all of that, plus some. A collection of Oprah’s beloved “What I Know For Sure” columns from O Magazine, these short essays on tumultuous relationships, self-esteem, friendship, career, connection, resilience, and finding your way span the full range of human emotions and feel like a deep talk with a good friend. I’ve turned to them over and over again through different stages, and expect I will do so for years to come. 

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

I was never into YA (young adult) literature before I read Eleanor & Park. This YA book about two teens who meet on a bus is the perfect account of young love — that idyllic, all-encompassing feeling unlike any other. For any parents of teens, it’s a great reminder of that time of life. For everyone else, don’t let the YA label deter you. Though it’s about teens, the feelings of love are so universal, this book is really for everyone. 

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I think this book was mandatory reading in every High school, college and literature class in the world. Hailed as one of the most beloved love stories of all time, Austen’s classic reminds us that romance has been complicated and annoying for centuries. Set in rural England, the book follows the five, very different, Bennet sisters, whom matriarch Mrs. Bennet cannot wait to marry off. Though I am incapable of reading without imaging nearly every character being played by Colin Firth, her novels never cease to amaze me. Such sharp wit, brilliant observations, timeless emotions. This one really holds up. The movie is awesome, too.

The Art of Communicating by Thich Nhat Hanh

I am studying linguistics and I am aware of the importance of good, quality communication. We all should be because communication is the foundation of all human relationships, and this book is perfect for all humans, no matter where you are or what chapter you are currently in. The celebrated monk and author discusses how to listen mindfully and express your most authentic self. I especially loved his concept of conversation as a source of nourishment. With goodness or toxicity, you absorb, like food. With specific examples for individuals, couples, and families, this book can lead us all to more loving communication. 

All About Love by bell hooks

A real gem. No list about books on love would be complete without this book by scholar, cultural critic, and feminist bell hooks. A treatise devoted to answering the question “What is love?”, it includes lines like “the word ‘love’ is most often defined as a noun, yet… we would all love better if we used it as a verb,” after which my life was never the same again. While the text skews frustratingly hetero-normative, this provocative and profound book is a must-read. 

Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love by Dr. Sue Johnson 

This book is on my nightstand patiently waiting to be read. So, full disclosure: I haven’t read this book yet, but three of my friends have and all said it greatly helped them. The book’s approach is based on attachment theory and promises to help couples break free of ‘demon dialogue’ to communicate more effectively. The reviews, and there are a lot of them, are glowing.

Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage by Elizabeth Gilbert

I finished Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love in one day and loved it. I read it at the right time in my life. Committed came in handy when I went through my divorce. I wanted to read Gilbert’s view on marriage after her really terrible divorce. From previous experience, I am now skeptical about marriage and the whole concept behind it. It was really interesting to see Gilbert in a predicament where another marriage is the only way to be with her partner, Felipe, then get set on a journey to make peace with it. I enjoyed the interesting facts and interviews with people on their trips throughout the book and loved that there was so much relatable material. Is it for everyone? I think anyone that has been in a relationship/marriage, is currently in one or struggles with divorce can take something away from this read.

Happy reading.

.Siri, Alexa & I.

via Lukas Weidinger

I am currently sitting in a coffee shop I have been to before, and I am feeling very present and charmed as if my cheeks were rosier than they ware. I am here to kill time because I am running ahead of schedule. I am also early to meet my friend and head to the museum next. Do you remember what that feels like? TO be early? To kill time? It’s very good and underrated. But it is a situation I have found myself in a lot since I started working again and really enjoying my weekends off. And when I discovered Siri and Alexa. I was always against both actually but now I am using them like real-life personal assistants.

I never thought I would say this but doesn’t it sound nice to have robots help you to sort misplaced thoughts, plays your favorite music in the kitchen while you cook and makes funny knock-knock jokes for my son? I set both, Siri and Alexa, to English so my son can play with it, too. Every random thought I have in the shower, every person I needed to call or have an appointment with can be scheduled and reminders set. All these things and so much more can be taken care of by someone who isn’t me so I can just live my life and sit in a café, read my book and drink coffee. Because noticing inconsequential things is the best.

Single-parenting, part-time doctorate, and full-time working is pretty tough at points so Siri and Alexa help me throughout the day. (Cannot babysit though). Siri organizes most of my writings, schedules, manuscripts, and appointments. Alexa does the rest. They remind me to text my friend to confirm the get-together on Saturday, to purchase a birthday gift for my son’s friend and to set the alarm clock early enough so that we could leisurely stroll there. Siri reminded me to bring a book just in case and Alexa told me that it will be 16 degrees Celsius, sunshine and blue sky. Also, to get a bottle of red wine and pick up the vintage decanter on the way home because it is the weekend. Bless her little heart.

I have been teased by a lot of friends about my increased use of Siri and Alexa over the last couple of months. But I think part of them are secretly thinking, “Maybe I should start doing exactly that,” and then they forget. Because this is what humans do. We forget. Which is exactly why I use Siri and Alexa. They are me without all the things that regularly foil my ambition and focus, such as forgetfulness, laziness or procrastination. They are me without the German/Austrian English Accent. I made them British so my son can practice proper English. And as stupid as it still may feel to you to endorse a vaguely creepy Apple and Amazon product, it works for me with consistent satisfaction. Do you want to know more things I recently used my personal robot assistants for? No? Well, I will tell you anyway, ha!

Recently at my house:

They told me how many ounces are in a cup. To research flights to Italy. To call my parents while I was washing the dishes. To tell me the exact meaning of the word “proselytize”. To remind me to bring a book to a coworker. To remind me when to meet my supervisor at university and to bring him chocolate so he is not angry because the paper is not done yet. To figure out the approximate value of pi which is 3.141592653589….. and then Alexa will go on for a bit and say: “Let’s stop this. Phew, this thing goes on forever.” My girl!

Some other family favorites:

Alexa, I have got 99 problems. Alexa: But a glitch ain’t one!

Alexa, howl like a wolf/bark like a dog/meow…. Alexa (makes the cutest animal sounds)

Alexa, will you be my girlfriend? (Worth a shot, right?) Alexa: I like you…. as a friend!

Alexa, how much do you weigh? Alexa: I am weightless, like a cloud. Wait a minute, clouds actually weigh a lot, so that’s not quite right. Let’s just say I am more sass than mass.

Alexa, can you give me some money? Alexa: Thing about the cloud is, no pockets. No pocket, no wallet.

Alexa, make me a sandwich. Alexa: Okay. You are a sandwich!

Alexa, do you know Siri? Alexa: Only by reputation. (ouch! I love them both even though they don’t get along! If you have nothing better to do, you can teach them to communicate with each other!)

Alexa, are you married? Alexa: I am happily single. (Again, my girl!)

Alexa, rap for me. Alexa: My name is Alexa, and I have to say, I’m the baddest A.I. in the cloud today. Your responses are fast, but mine are faster. Sucker speech engines, they call me master (this is just an example, she has several raps up her sleeve).

Alexa, what is the meaning of life? That depends on the life in question… 42 is a close approximation.

Alexa, high five! Alexa: I would, if I could, but I can’t, so I’ll chant: 1,2,3,4,5

Alexa, can you beatbox? Alexa: (Makes noise that sounds like beatboxing mixed with autotune)

Alexa, beam me up! Alexa: Okay, I’m not exactly sure where I’m sending you, but I hope it’s somewhere warm and sunny.

As dystopian as modern comforts can skew, and as unexciting as this might be to you, Siri and Alexa made my life easier. I am not saying I cannot live my life without them, I surely can, but I don’t want to. Overall, I am more organized and less anxious. Every time I address Siri or Alexa in the middle of the workday, my coworkers laugh, and you might be doing the same, which I will take on the chin. I am a writer and carry a notebook and pen wherever I go. But getting in the habit of outsourcing random thoughts has genuinely changed my life. With my mind constantly busy, observing and paying attention to things, I like it that Siri and Alexa free my inner hamster to step off the wheel of my mind periodically and take a nap in a pile of woodchips. Doesn’t this feel like a victory worth sharing, no matter how ordinary? What do you think? Would you give Alexa and Siri a try or should I see myself out?