.ScreenPlay: Just Buy the Shiny SaucePan.

ScreenPlay: Katarina (K) and Christian (C) sit on a bench at the playground. They both constantly gaze into their phones. Their kids play.

K: On my walk home from work I.....
C: Yeah?
K: I heard that...
C: Yeah, I am listening.
K: I heard an intersting podcast.
C: What about?
K: I don't know. It was Esther Perel talking about saving relationships or something. The way people deal with "issues".
C: Esther Perel? No clue who that is.
K: She is a therapist who works with couples to fix their relationshps.
C: Oh....okay. I listened to a documentary today about the Neolithic or Stone Age. They had copper. Like a copper axe.
K: That sounds nice.
C: Yeah. Didn't we want to order this fancy pan that is made of copper?
K: You ordered it?
C: Yeah.
K: I thought we decided not to order it. Or move in together or buy this house.
C: We said if it was reduced; which it was.
K: It is still money. Is this about the house or the pan?
C: You were the one who wanted it. Both. The pan and the house.
K: I know.
C: It was reduced. I was going to surprise you.
K: That's sweet. I am just wondering if we really need a copper pan.
C: Should we get the axe instead?

[They both sip on their coffees and gaze into their phones]

K: [playing some weird "sending-off-planes-to-countries" game] Ha! My God! That's amazing! I got all the coins. But I need passengers!!
C: What is it?
K: Nothing. Where are you sending those planes?
C: What?
K: Nothing.
C: Oh.

[Five minutes later one child arrived to ask for cookies and something to drink. The child left and they gazed at the phones again; C receives a phonecall]

C (talking on the phone and walks away but K can still hear him because he screams in the phone. Maybe K should tell him that this is a telephone and not a megaphone): "Finally I received it. That was my point. The contracts cannot go out until Sabrina looks at them. Where is Sabrina? (Pause). Are you sure? (Pause). That doesn't make sense. She usually goes for a run and then to the bakery and right back to work (Pause). Do you think it is weird that I know this? (Pause). I don't think it is weird that I know this (Pause). I am her damn supervisor. Yeah, both of them. I knew this will happen. Look, I have got to go. Again, yeah, both of them." [He hangs up]
K: What was that all about? Do you need anything? Don't you have clients today?
C: Nothing. Will you do me a favor?
K: Of course.
C: I need to be alone right now.
K: I guess anything is possible.
C: Okay, are you leaving?
K: I will go for a walk now.
C: You always go for walks. Always running away! Are you running away from us?
K: You told me you want to be alone right now! And now, yes, I am running away from you. You suck!
C: Is it even safe to be out there so much? I mean, there is still this virus. The kids may spread it like crazy. This virus is so much bigger than us, you know. Don't forget your FFP2 mask.
K: Okaaaaaaaaay. Are you f***ing kidding me? What is wrong with you? [rolling her eyes and thinks about getting that axe to kill him]
C: You should go. I will stay here with the kids. We need wine. [He looks down at his phone again and received a Zoom call] Hi, Sarah. Hi, Patrick. Hi, Julia. The contracts are on the way I think. Oh, really? So, no contracts? What do you mean no contracts? We will talk later. Not now. I am at the playground. Talk later. [He hangs up and looks annoyed at his wife]
K: Okay, I will go to the store. See you at home. Don't forget to bring the kids.

[Scene: K left. C is again making phonecalls while screaming]
C: Just fire the others!!!! Enough is enough! [hangs up and curses nonstop]

[C calls K]

C: When is dinner? JULIAN AND ELLA, STOP THAT. STOP HITTING OTHER KIDS AND THROWING SAND! What time is it? I will order some food to go. I will pick it up.
K: I can pick it up, too. And I got the wine.
C: I love you. I just realized and I hate to say it but I am grateful. Bad as everything is, we are doing better than most. We have a roof over our head and food. And I am grateful to have you. I mean that. You are a good person, you know!? I will see you at home then. Oh, also, I got laid off just now.
C: We all did. Sarah, Julia, Patrick, and I.

[They are all together at home and it is evening. Everyone is in the kitchen, the food, the wine, the kids, and the conversation. Then the doorbell rings.]

C: Didn't you hear the doorbell? This package just got delivered.
K: Can I open it? (C openes the package and takes out a copper saucepan). Shiny. I like it. This would look good in the new kitchen in that house we looked at. But let's not rush into anything.
C: I think so, too.
K: I love you. We will get through this. Everything will be okay. We will figure this out. We can figure anyting out. If we want.
C: I agree. Together, forever, my love. Off to the next chapter and challenge. Life is not easy.

.Strawberry Swing.

Are you overwhelmed with stores opening again? With masses of people everywhere? Don’t get me wrong. I love that life gets somewhat back to “normal” but all these people everywhere freak me out a bit. I got used to “quiet” and am looking for alternative ways to live. Is that weird? To me, it is important to encompass all the fundamental values that help my son and I live a more wholehearted life, from being connected to the present moment to appreciate the little things and taking time to enjoy and celebrate life. Of course, life is life, and there are many things that try to hinder me on my quest to live more in the present, including the glorification of being busy, consumer culture and materialism, our digital age, and virtual consumption.

What does society tell us? That there is an association of being “busy” and being successful which is a dangerous equivalence. We cannot be busy every hour of every day, so when do we stop? How do I know when I have reached the limit of my busyness and the peak of my success? And if I am not achieving anything, for example workwise, does that mean I am failing?

For some, there is a deep fear that if they stop being busy, for just a moment, they could be confronted with silence, and even more terrifying, we would have to face the fact that perhaps what we are “busy” doing isn’t actually that important at all. Think about this for a moment.

It is important to remember that success does not just have to be defined by the big moments in my life or by collecting material possessions. There can be great significance in the small, quiet moments and in life’s little details. Just stop to think about it, there are other ways to evaluate how successful our lives are. For example, the connection with others, how much love and happiness I inspire, the impact I have on my surroundings.

How we shop and consume things has changed dramatically over the last years, with shopping and buying material items becoming entangles with our identities and social statuses. We are used to consuming things at a rapid rate, not only in terms of our shopping habits and the products we buy but also in how we consume information. Pretty much anything is available at all hours of the day but if it is no longer cool or relevant it simply goes out of style. Whether or not an item is “in fashion” or “in style” remains the driving force behind consumerism. One of the reasons that consumerism has become such a fundamental part of our society is the fact that shopping and buying things gives us a sense of identity, and most importantly, our sense of worth comes from the “stuff” we consume. Often, this is fueled by the idea that something is lacking from within, and whatever we consume can fill that void and fix us. it is also apparent in the way women and men are marketed and portrayed in magazines. Magazines are good at showing impossibly perfect ideals and with the turn of a page, showing products that will help attain this unrealistic definition of “beauty”, whether it is clothing, beauty products, or home decor. Did I get off on a tangent here? 🙂

It is so easy to get caught in the loop of working to earn money, to buy material possessions, to improve social status and happiness. But, of course, material possessions and consuming things don’t actually do this. I keep repeating this but for me, experiences, not things, make me happy. Buying stuff can be fun (books), but it is important to notice what is motivating me to shop and consume. Whether I am buying something because it is an essential item or whether it is a treat or luxury, providing a boost for my sense of identity and self-worth. It is also important to realize that even essential purchases are still wrapped up with my sense of self. Actually, separating my consumer choices from my sense of identity is difficult, but having an awareness of the industry and how we are marketed gives me the understanding to make more conscious choices.

And, there are always things to look forward to. They do not need to be big or extraordinary events but can be really simple pleasures such as cooking dinner and having friends over. Also, spring is around the corner. And summer. And beach. And lake. And BBQs. And strawberry-picking. Just a little reminder in case you forgot. Oh, you are welcome.

.Corona with a Grain of Sarcasm.

“So don’t let time and space confuse you. And don’t let name and form abuse you. In the light of the sun you can see how they run.” – Terry Callier, Ordinary Joe

This was the first week back to “normal” school for my son. On day one, I forgot to print the consent form that he can administer the Corona test himself. I figured that it is self-explanatory that he can take this test since I dropped him off in the morning. Wrong! Here in Austria, you need to return the consent form if you want your child to attend class but there is also the option that your kid is not tested. In this case, homeschooling it is. Do not get me wrong. I understand this virus exists and it is dangerous for some. But I do not understand some of the changes, restrains, rules and regulations anymore. Why are the restaurants still closed? Why can I travel on a packed subway every morning (with no social distancing possible) but I need a negative Corona test (which I need to pay for) to get a haircut? Last summer it was fine to just wear a mask or go eat at a restaurant with a mask when entering. Why does my seven-year-old son need to administer the test himself while the teacher cannot do it and I sign for all this? Oooooh, yeah, if something happens with their little noses or when they poke it all the way up their brain for fun to see what happens, it is my fault, I get it. Will the vaccine be mandatory soon? And if we decide not to get it, will we be being able to leave the country, eat at restaurants, or worse, be able to work anymore? Or will the lockdown be extended in Germany until December? But which year?

With this back and forth madness I want to give it all a little sarcastic twist so this knot in my chest loosens up a bit. I hope you are staying well throughout this pandemic! Enjoy this little Corona Quiz and then pick a school for your child.

How would you describe the homeschooling
experience for your family?

1. Streamlined and efficient, just a welcome break!
2. Reminiscent of scenes from Home Alone
3. Reminiscent of scenes from Contagion
4. A madness and I want to hang myself.

What is your favorite:

1. In-person learning, and constant fear
2. Hybrid learning, mixing constant fear with a bit of logistical chaos
3. Remote learning, marrying logistical chaos with devastating isolation
4. Moving to the outskirts and launching your own homeschool.

Pick One School For Your Child

“Normal” School:

If you have ever wondered how to combine pure hopelessness with the ambiance of Alcatraz in its prime, this option might be for you. Rest assured that your child’s teacher will suffer from crippling anxiety while seamlessly policing masked and self-tested children/students, overseeing a rigorous schedule of hand-washing, and ensuring that children remain confined to a two-meter distance at all times. Despite this, they do aim to create a robust learning environment where your child will also absorb the finer elements of sitting in place. They forgot during Lockdown 3298. Note that your child’s temperature will be taken every hour, and students will vacate the building approximately every 20 minutes for a thorough deep-cleaning with new, fast-tracked chemicals. Students must be tested for COVID at the first sign of illness; please return your child to us in six weeks or when results come back, whichever comes first. Stay quarantined with your child(ren). There will be no Karate, Basketball, or anything you initially signed your kid up for. They may go out for a walk a play a bit in the nearby park. FFP2 Masks made in China must be used even in the classroom while the windows are open. Kids may keep their coats, hats, and mittens on if they are cold. Also, don’t wonder why Austria cannot produce their own masks or why they need to order them from China.

Hybrid School:

This model will combine the key elements of in-person school (see above) with remote learning, which we hopefully perfected this spring or the latest in spring 2025. Your child will be divided into a group (A, B, AB, BC, CC, XVY, MCXLVII, and Depeche Mode) based on careful consideration of his or her learning style, social-emotional needs, friendships, and an algorithm our intern designed this summer. You will need a reliable Internet connection, a work schedule that follows no concrete pattern (or no work at all), a forgiving supervisor, independent wealth, or a Xanax prescription. You can contact the school nurse for the latter. But bring a negative Corona test. Not older than 48 hours.

Remote School:

I recognize that many families are naturally uncomfortable sending their child back to school given the virus’s uncertainty. Why this fear? Swine flu, the “normal flu” (that seems not to exist anymore) existed before and nobody ever spoke about it. If you felt sick you stayed home. If you had a fever you stayed home. No big deal. No testing required. And people died of the flu. As such, I have also designed a remote learning option in conjunction with an outside vendor who specializes in emailing non-working links to YouTube videos, as we realize that Google and Teams Classrooms posed technological challenges. Your child should expect to sit in front of a screen for roughly eight to ten hours per day, with allowances for quick movement breaks, meals, and the occasional primal scream.

Rest assured that no matter how you respond, it won’t matter whatsoever. We’ll come up with a completely different plan in consultation with an anonymous team of stakeholders, three renowned local astrologists, a haphazard compendium of tweets, and a seance that will be held over Zoom (please find the login and password on page 576 of the new Covid-19 law). We will also hold a listening session in ten minutes if anyone’s around. Expect a link to be emailed shortly; please check your spam.

Also, don’t question why people wear the mask while being alone in the car or while walking outside ALONE or even with someone. Wear that mask no matter what. It does not matter that nobody understands you anymore or you get dizzy. Stay tuned for unannounced overnight Covid “law” changes at all times. Then adapt. Let’s take this one day at a time and with a grain of sarcasm.

Stay sane. Stay healthy. And happy.

.Control that Chaos.

My son and I went out for our daily walk when we got caught in the middle of a huge “Anti-Corona-Demonstration” in Vienna. Thousands of people screamed, music, whistles, climbing on things, beer, burning trash cans, smoking, and telling the world how fed up they are with this lockdown and the virus while using curse words from A to Z. Oh, this weird lingering uncertain situation since November 2020. Many lost everything. Many will never recover from this. What will happen to the economy and how and when will it be back to “normal”? One man screamed into a megaphone, “I want my control back. I want to be free and make my own decisions again!”

There are times in our lives when we are confronted with the reality that we are not in control of the world around us. As hard as we try, and as much as we would like to think we are in control, the reality is, we are not. We never were, we never will be. And there are seasons and circumstances that remind us of that fact. For example, a government telling us that the lockdown will be extended and certain stores and restaurants will remain closed. Or you are desperately waiting for your appointment to finally get divorced and the judge is sick. A natural disaster, a terminal diagnosis, an unexpected layoff, a store closure, and many more. At this current moment in time, almost everyone in the world, simultaneously, is being confronted with the reality of lost control through the spread of this damn virus. A tiny virus, invisible to the naked eye, has brought the world to a screeching halt, disrupting everything in its path. Our control has been upended. No doubt about it.

We, of course, never had as much control over our lives and the world as we thought we did, but still, it is hard to lose the little that we had. Like simply deciding to go to a restaurant. Remember a “restaurant“? That was a place where we used to go to to eat. We dressed up sometimes. Like make-up and nice clothing. I know, it was a long time ago so here is a little reminder in case you forgot. What is a restaurant you may ask? Words in italics are important for possible future use if these facilities will open again.

A “restaurant” is a place where you were able to sit down with other people at the SAME table. No (FFP2) masks, no hand sanitizing. When you sat down, you could order something from a, wait…. what was the word…. a “menu“. A “waiter” came to your table to take your order. Then the waiter would write your order down and tell the “cook in the kitchen” to prepare it for you. Amazing, right?! And so surreal! Then the “waiter” would bring the food and drinks to your table where you sat and had a great time with your “friends“. Laughing and singing was allowed. You were able to sit in this “restaurant” until 1 a.m. and talk and talk and have a great time. Sometimes, you and your friends went out “dancing” after to a “bar” or “club” where “a band” on occasion played “live music“.

The world, it feels, has spun into chaos, riots, demonstrations, and more uncertainty. So how do we respond when the world is in chaos? How do we begin to move forward? For one, we take back control of what we can control. Even in the smallest of ways. We have been reminded that we are not in ultimate control of the universe. But that does not mean we have lost all ability to maintain control over our lives. Even if our usual day-to-day opportunities have been taken from us by others, there is still much we can control.

We can always love our family and friends and meet them. Even if it is outside sometimes.

We can wait for another appointment for our divorce and have fun in the meantime.

We can choose to be afraid of this virus and the news or not.

We can choose to not wear this damn uncomfortable FFP2 mask when we are outside, or in the car. WHY are people wearing this mask when they are outside or driving a car?

We can control what time we wake up in the morning and are even more fortunate if we still have a workplace to go to.

We can still choose to get ready in the morning for the day ahead. No need to wear sweatpants and let yourself go.

We can eat and live healthy. We can remain physically active and fit.

We can read and be creative.

We can make our bed in the morning, and have a clean and comfortable home.

We can rearrange, donate, and enjoy our stuff and things. I have never sat in my reading chair as much as during this lockdown.

We can enjoy the things we have and haven’t had time to focus on.

We can choose what we watch and listen to, and we can control what time we turn off the news.

We can buy what we want even if online. We can always buy food. And toilet paper.

We can always control our attitude and our response to the people and events around us.

We can choose kind words in conversations and offer help to others who are in need.

We can declutter our apartments and houses.

We can think about all the things we used to do all the time and if they are still meaningful and necessary.

If you are faithful, you can choose to rely upon it during this time. Or meditate. Whatever helps you.

We can still decide to make the most of each day in front of us.

Controlling what you can might not seem like much, but it is something. Actually, it is a lot more than just something. It is an essential strategy for each of us going forward. It is the first step in moving from a reactive life to a proactive one. And it is the first step in making the most of our current circumstances. So, focus your energy there, even if it seems like very little. When the world is in chaos, control what you can.

Stay healthy, stay sane, and stay focused. We will all get through this.

.Muffin Crime Scene Investigation.

The idea: I said to my son, “Let’s make some chocolate muffins. You know how to do it!” We love to cook and bake things. Something you probably don’t know about me: I am a Certified Holistic Nutritionist (CNP) who can practice in Canada and the U.S. but not (yet) in Europe. I will share an article about it all when appropriate.

The scene & utensils: Kitchen, table, large bowl, and a hand-held mixer (since when do I have a hand-held mixer, mom?)

The ingredients: 2 eggs, flour, baking soda, milk, butter, cacao, chocolate sprinkles, and Agave syrup instead of sugar.

The instructions: Place all the ingredients on the table, measure everything with a “food” scale (again, mom?!), and add to bowl. This is where my son comes in. He is in charge of mixing everything together. Here we go:

  1. Every single surface of the room is sticky and coated with a fine, white powder within two minutes.
  2. I said, “Please don’t touch that! Bag that up right now! Bag! It! Up!” and his name at least a dozen times in the past forty-five minutes. Then I shouted, “Be careful with the mixer!”
  3. My mood and attitude are completely at odds with the loud, cheerful music at this radio station mixed with more horrifying Corona news that serves as the soundtrack for our activities. “Ask Alexa to play Best of Patti Smith!”
  4. The baking partner assigned to me is covered in flour and chocolate and is constantly asking questions.
  5. I think I may be too old for this shit. As a colleague at work said, “Just buy the damn muffins!”
  6. My son’s baking methods would be roundly criticized by any fire marshall with half a brain in his head, but it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission.
  7. The whole apartment is covered in fingerprints.
  8. I have said, “Did you wash your hands? DID YOU? Wash! Your! Hands!” at least a million times in the past forty-five minutes.
  9. I have shed a few tears while I clean up. It’s not like I am made of stone. This Corona-virus-s*** is getting to me hard but I want to make my son feel good. If I don’t let this stuff out once in a while, it’ll turn me into a monster.
  10. He moves things around before I can take photos (to send to my parents). Wait. Is this a Lego figure in the dough and who put it in?
  11. Somehow, I have to mold these doughy elements into a cohesive whole — something I can tuck into a neat and tidy box and tie-up with a bow to give some to my neighbor. Something the outside world will accept.
  12. Is this chocolate, maybe blood, Lego figures, or PlayDoh?
  13. We did it. The muffins look okay. I don’t expect any thanks for what I did and do on a daily basis in this Pandemic. I am also a hairdresser and a teacher now. I can do it all. I can cut my own and my son’s hair. I am also able to teach first-grade mathematics, reading, and writing, art, sports, you name it. Corona made it all possible.
  14. Oh, by the way, no one’s getting through this day without a tummy ache because there were indeed tiny pieces of Lego in it. Just get the Corona vaccine and turn into a giant Lego Zombie.

.Dating Disasters.

Imagine me in my 20s. My self-care routine wasn’t so excellent but I was feeling fine and mostly at peace. I had a great job, I had a car, I lived in New York, money, friends, traveled a lot but there was still one tiny area where I couldn’t seem to make any progress at all: relationships and romance. And every relationship I had been in felt eerily similar. I would find a partner who was either great on paper or was a “project” that I had the urge to fix. He would either have an impressive job or would be someone I thought I should like. But usually, there was so much emotional baggage that our dating would end in disaster. Obviously, we all have our own baggage we carry into relationships, but I sometimes went for guys whose life was on fire. There was one guy who told me, on the first date while we were waiting for our drinks, that his dad murdered someone…but “don’t worry, he committed suicide… in jail…I am just not sure I will ever escape the overwhelming despair I feel!” DON’T WORRY???? Our drinks hadn’t even arrived yet. That is a lot for a first date. It seemed like I was seeking out men who were so damaged, so wrapped up inter past traumas, that they did not have the capacity to be kind or emotionally giving toward themselves or me. I would notoriously ignore all the warning signs that they weren’t a good partner and instead doubt myself, endlessly wondering what I could do to fix them. Then I would be upset when the relationship ended. And it always ended.

This was the time when I started journaling. Journaling about what happens in my life, with men and why I am repeating the same dumb mistakes. One of my entries looked something like this:

Mistake 1: Find someone who is good on paper but bad at life. One step up: Find someone who is bad on paper and bad at life. Look for someone who went to a “good” university, someone with a “good” job, someone I think is ambitious and will “succeed”. If he comes from a “good family,” bonus points! Completely ignore that this person is CLEARLY, FUNDAMENTALLY in an emotional crisis of some kind. Decide that I can fix and change him, or, even better, come to the conclusion that something is actually wrong with me!

Example: He is a successful finance executive who owns his house and is established in his career. BUT upfront he explained that he “must be wasted to enjoy sex, and that won’t change and has many women-friends.” Think to myself: That’s not great, but he hasn’t gotten to know me yet.

Example: He went to Harvard, which must mean he is exceptionally smart. Smart is something I am so attracted to and want in a partner. Forget the fact that someone going to a “smart” school is not the same as them being emotionally intelligent. Shake it off that my “date night” to see a movie turned out to be just a “stop” on his run. When the movie ended, he, dressed in a full work-out ensemble, said, “That was fun; now I have to go back on my run.” WHEN THE MOVIE ENDED, HE SAID, “THAT WAS FUN; NOW I HAVE TO GO BACK ON MY RUN.” Clearly, a winner.

Mistake 2: Get emotionally invested too quickly. Based solely on how good he looks on paper, ignoring the fact that I feel lonely in his company, despite my body screaming, “Noooo, we have been here before!” I give him a chance and convince myself he is someone I want in my life despite all evidence to the contrary. Or maybe I can repair him for further use? Project all of the good qualities I want in a partner onto him. I will make this relationship work, no matter the cost.

Example: After a great date, he asks if I would be interested in going to a Spa the next morning. Could he pick me up at eleven A.M. so I could continue talking about our mutual love of Tokyo? Take this all as a sign that he is open, honest, and not interested in playing games. I mean, a second date, THE VERY NEXT DAY!? Completely ignore the fact that he asked MULTIPLE times to sleep with me, didn’t take no for an answer, and when I finally said, “Listen, I don’t have sex on the first date,” he actually pouted and crossed his arms over his chest like a child who didn’t get the candy he wanted. Pretend that the image of him being angry in his brand-new black BMW didn’t make me vomit in my soul. I can fix this.

Mistake 3: Try to persuade the man to like you. I sincerely hope my sister reads this! Obsess over text messages, trying to decipher “what it all means.” Be whatever person I think he will like best, but DO NOT BE MYSELF! Never consider if I actually like him. I am now a new person, the person I think he wants me to be, which is tricky because it always seems to be changing.

Example: He is jealous of EVERY (male) person in my life. So I lie if my best friend David calls and pretend it was someone else. Cut all male friends out of my circle in order to appease the man I have been dating for a month. What if he is the one? I WILL FIGURE THIS OUT LATER. Maybe I can secretly call David once a month? Maybe from my work phone, so there is no evidence. But even then, best to erase my call history! I picked yet another winner.

Well, it turns out, knowing my pattern is a whole hell of a lot different from breaking it. From years of dating experience, here, my common sense list of dating and staying away from certain type of men:

  • Be picky. Don’t settle for anyone if you don’t feel it. Don’t date someone “just because he has a nice ass”.
  • Can you introduce your partner to your parents, friends, and family without being embarrassed?
  • Is there a connection? Is there a spark? Is there an attraction? If there is not a “yes” to any of these questions it is a waste of time to go any further.
  • Is this person kind and thoughtful? Did he ask questions about you? Does he show genuine interest in getting to know you? Don’t feel bad if the answer is “no”. But, again, know it is a GIANT FUCKING WASTE OF TIME to go any further.
  • Does he love your dog more than he loves you?
  • Can this person take care of themselves? Can they handle their own shit? Or do they constantly talk about what a disaster they are, how hard their life has been, and how they have no clue how to fix any of it, before lighting up a second bowl of weed and explaining that they wouldn’t blame you if you left right now. A partner should take responsibility for their own life. End of story.
  • What does your gut say? Check in with yourself. Does this partner only want to impress you with materialistic gifts? “But my gut is all fucked-up from years of following a destructive pattern. Can I even trust myself anymore?”, you may ask. Start with self-love, self-care, self-trust, and keep developing the faith that you know what is right for you.
  • Are there any red flags the person has shown you? Answer honestly. This is not a time to say, “Yes, he mentioned he is completely hung up on how his last girlfriend broke his heart and referred to her as a ‘psychotic bitch,’ but, whatever, let me forget that detail.” Is he broke, has debt? Depressed? Why? Take careful notes. Do not disregard red flags! I did it too many times.
  • Can they meet you where you are? Is this person in a stage of life that is similar to or compliments your own? Can he be present with me? Can I be present with him?
  • Does this person break my pattern? This might be a partner who is not super jealous of all the men in your life. Or maybe it is a guy who is not so busy with his career that the only plans he can make with you are in three weeks when his life “calms down”.

The way a person treats me has almost nothing to do with me. It is about them and their limitations. And I can choose whom I want to spend my time with and when it is time to leave.

Happy dating. Stay healthy. Stay happy.

.My Pandemic Musical in Three Scenes.

But moods, of course, are only points of view.” –Adam Phillips

I relax on the couch and read “The Memory Police” by Yoko Ogawa. (Read this book!) but a friend tries to convince me to write a musical. I don’t write musicals I say. Beside the point he says. He wants it to be about life in my apartment during the pandemic, during the different stages of lockdown, during Christmas time. I picture “code red” going off like a signal in a dark theater, red strobe lights, people running for the exits only to find them locked. My sort of movie that is running in my head. But then I start thinking about it:

My Pandemic Musical

We are eating pasta with a very salty sauce ( I cooked) while he pours me a glass of wine. It has been a sad day. My son cried a lot because he had a bad day at school (school is still a thing these days). I was angry he misbehaved at school. Then I cried a lot because of some pretty bad news I received from back home. My movements are sloppy. I am tired. But the kitchen (my favorite place in the apartment) is warm and our cheeks are flushed from the spicy sauce. “Just picture a simple set, a stage with three rooms. You will come up with something. You are creative.” My friend is animated I guess. “Three characters. There would be the scene where your son has a fight with his puzzle, and then you get a phone call with something else crazy.” Okay, I let it go and start writing:

Scene 1: Weather conditions: Cold, damp, foggy, grey, winter, and no sun. We are stuck in the apartment. Again.

I picture myself as an actor/dancer breaking up a faux fight between my stage son and his puzzle. Stage left: Mother is roused from her stationary position with her book, by the noise of the boy in the other room. A light follows her as she moves towards the commotion. My body would be all elegant and strong, I would position myself between the boy and the puzzle, braving light savers and unpredictable anger, fling my arms out to signal distress, exaggerate my shapes so those in the back of the theater could see. Then I explode and cry. Endless sobbing. Enough is enough. Not another death, I think. Please! I have seen so many people die in my work-career but not privately. Enough! My son says he can calm down, no problem. He will put away his toys. He will behave in school. He hugs me and tells me, “Everything will be okay, mommy. We are together.”

Scene 2: Bodies would move between the rooms. And moods would change and we wouldn’t leave the house. My son is annoying because he keeps asking if he can blow out the candles at the table. I tell him, as usual, that I want to keep them burning. There is sauce on his face. He still wants to blow them out. My friend talks over the bickering boy. In the musical version of this, the voices of my family wouldn’t compete but from a coherent song – discord turning into harmony, an appropriate amount of tension mounting and then breaking. A solo ringing out and dissolving into laughter. Voices would fade in and out. “We need jokes to make this work,” I say. “We have to laugh about the whole thing and not take it too seriously. Look, we are healthy, we are financially okay. It is just another lockdown,” he adds.

And here the light and here the dark.” – David Bergen

Scene 3: I miss half of what is being said and move the candles to the center of the table. There is pasta on the floor. I am tired of tension. I am at the same time irritated and turned on by this conversation. How absurdly exaggerated, how ridiculous. How fun, this sense of play. It does feel somewhat invigorating to stray from our standard table talk (which, to be honest, is a bit tiring whenever someone mentions new Corona rules and regulations) into “fantasy territory” that is so real in a couple of days. But I have always found it weird to plan jokes in advance. Isn’t humor necessarily spontaneous? Many think about jokes this way: individual, articulate bites of funny. Things that start as an idea and get fleshed out into full form. A liturgy of humor. I guess I am up for the task of authoring them.

I imagine I would enjoy planning the set. I could make the outer landscape mirror the inner. I am thrilled to picture the control I would have. I would add a happy scene: One in which my son reads by himself, legs entangled, curled up in pillows and blankets, there could be a string of lights, my child’s carefree and artful painting taped up behind him. Later, the audience would recognize the painting as the crumpled ball on the floor and the lights would have become askew, indicating a change in mood, mounting sadness, loneliness, fatigue. No school but homeschooling. He misses his friends. I could manifest our moods, project them into the world. Look, here is where we are bored. Here is where we put on socks. Here is where we rage, see the tossed pillow, the mess, the broken toys? Look at the paper planes everywhere in the apartment. Millions. Here is a half-clothed boy gesturing in front of a mirror. Here is the comedy, the strain, the drollery, and impatience for all this mess to be over. In the end, I would scream: Can somebody please fix this?

The End.


.Yes & No.

“When you say yes to others, make sure you are not saying no to yourself.” – Paulo Coelo.

“Mommy, can we make cookies for my friends in class at school,” my son asked.

Something that can get in the way of me finding rest or having time for the things I really want to do is not knowing how to say no. I personally find it especially difficult to say no when my reason to decline is simply that I want some time for rest or space in my schedule. To me, it doesn’t feel justified to decline someone else (especially my son) because I want time to myself, or want to do nothing, or even tinker with a creative project. It is easier to say no to myself than other people. While being quick to say yes can maybe help me avoid disappointing others, it comes at a cost. Because many times I don’t say no, I wind up feeling resentful, overwhelmed, exhausted, and even jealous of others who can say no with ease.

So, as someone who has felt these consequences of not saying no when I really wanted to, I was drawn to a concept writer and critic Kylie Maslen who introduced me to called “spoon theory”. Spoon theory is a way to create boundaries but also be generous with other people’s energy. As Kylie explained:

“The idea is that everyone has a certain number of spoons in their drawer and as you go throughout the day you will use up those spoons in completing activities… so you learn how to pace yourself and use your energy best in order to make the most of those spoons available.” The community will speak with that shortcut of spoons, adds Kylie. “Often we will say things like, ‘Hey, I don’t have the spoons to go into this right now but I will get back to you when I do.’ Or even when we are asking someone something we will say, ‘When you have the spoons….’ and in saying something like that, it says we understand that we are not going to push someone into acting deciding really quickly.”

What really struck me about spoon theory is that it is not only a helpful way to check in on my own capacity and provide a frame for saying no, but it also encourages generous requests. So before I share a few things I have come across that might help you with saying no, I think generously asking is an important point to consider. How am I asking things of other people? Could it be more generous or flexible? Could I consider their current circumstances? Could there be alternatives? Can I make space for a polite decline? Perhaps by providing the option for others to say no, I can normalize saying no, and maybe unwind from the busyness hamster wheel. Life is continuous learning so here are some approaches I have found helpful to frame saying no.

I listen to my guts. If it feels weird, I say no. A friend sent me a message the other day saying, ” Never beg someone to be in your life. If you text, call, visit and still get ignored, walk away. It is called self-respect”. He is right on.

I practice starting small. I generally find it a lot harder to say no to someone I am close to, so I am practicing with acquaintances or emails from strangers.

I do not say maybe when I want to say no. Sometimes a maybe is a legitimate maybe and that’s fine, but to spot a no masquerading as a maybe I ask myself if I would say yes if it was tomorrow? I also ask myself if I feel I need to say no out of guilt or fear. For the all or nothing types like me, it can be easier to identify what it is that is contributing to that feeling of overwhelm or resentment and create a rule: I am not adding anything new to my to-do list until next year.

Wait. I have a tendency to rush into a yes to people-please, so I am learning to take some time to sit with a request to determine if it is a yes or a no. Saying no is a delicate and ongoing practice, but one I think can help me hear my own yes…. even if that’s just to have space to yes to my afternoon nap or evening read.

This year, I say no to seeing my parents for Christmas. It will be the first Christmas I spend just with my son. I feel sad but there is nothing I can do about it. We simply cannot travel in peace or at all and there are so many rules and regulations to figure out that keep changing on a daily basis. So, we will make the best of it by saying yes to certain things. Saying yes to staying home, meeting friends in Vienna, spending quality time together, and buying a three-meter tall Christmas tree because I have the four-meter ceilings to accommodate this kind of madness. We will decorate it and hope Santa or the Austrian Christkind will bring many presents. I will make the best of this mess and just say yes to some things I usually would not do. I hope you will too because who knows what tomorrow will hold.

So, I made those cookies even though I was tired and wanted to be on the couch with tea and a book. You should have seen the sparkling in his eyes when he proudly took those cookies to school though. Choices.

Stay happy. Stay sane. Stay healthy.

.How to Survive as a Toddler.

Re-sharing is caring.

This is to all toddlers world-wide. I am seven-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 chocolate, soda, 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 zucchiniDo you want to go to bedDon’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 your 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-ups love 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 on 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. https://www.youtube.com/embed/b2rBhpVDzO8?version=3&rel=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&fs=1&hl=en-US&autohide=2&wmode=transparent

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. 

.A Day of Gratitude.

Can you believe it is December already? The months have just flown by. Regardless, I hope everyone is staying healthy and safe as it has been a crazy year so far.

As we crawl through lockdown 2, I have got to admit, it’s been tough to find motivation. Motivation to stay connected with friends, and motivation for writing and studying. It is cold here in Vienna (not Canada-cold) and dark at 4 p.m. so what motivates me is the thought to go home after work, make hot chocolate and curl up on the couch with a good book. No need to go anywhere since everything is closed anyway. Though I am trying to remain optimistic, staying indoors and everything going on in the world is starting to take a toll on my mind. I am learning to find joy in my routines, but some days are just tougher than others. This uncertainty gets me every time even though I know nothing is certain in life.

Luckily, a few things will start to open up next week, but I am grateful for the time we have been able to spend outside in nature. We have discovered some new spots in Austria to keep our weekends interesting. Austria is one of my favorite places to explore and photograph. The mountains make me feel so small.

If there is anything I have learned in 2020, it is that I don’t have a clear idea or vision of what will happen next in this world. With everything that is going on, from the pandemic to the protests, terrorist attacks, the government “allowing us” to celebrate Christmas with family (which will then lead to another lockdown in January 2021), and the politics around the election in the US, we don’t seem to be getting a break, do we? It is easy to look at our current situation in despair, and experience depression, anxiety, grief, and distress.

I cannot offer any overnight solutions, but my heart keeps tugging me to share something because I know that this year has been difficult and that I am not alone in feeling despair. The many things that have happened this year continue to reflect how broken this world is: the hate, injustice, sickness, and pain.

Amid the chaos that this year continues to bring, the thing that brings me hope is not this world, but a greater, more perfect world to come. I genuinely believe that it is possible to live in a place with no racism, no climate change, no sorrow, no pain, no suffering, no fear. If we all would work a tiny bit together instead of against each other on a daily basis, a big step in the right direction would be made. To find joy in the little things again, to be grateful and appreciate to be alive. I can find peace in that.

It also shouldn’t take the holiday season to remind us to be thankful as we have much to be grateful for every day. Here are a few things I have noticed just today, that made everything just a little bit better as gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings. Keep your head up and may this short and simple list make you realize that there is still good all around us.

  • family
  • a helping hand
  • a loving partner
  • friends
  • warm sheets on a cold morning
  • to be able to get up without any pain, make breakfast, and start the day
  • a new day which brings a clean slate
  • a slow morning with time for reading before I wake up my son
  • the warmth of the sun
  • signs of growth (yourself, plants, your child(ren)
  • a cup of water to quench the thirst
  • the perfect bite of food (especially if someone else cooks for you)
  • that I have more belongings than I will ever need
  • a moment of quiet
  • to see true excitement and happiness in my son’s eyes
  • good, nutritious homemade food
  • a safe home
  • fresh, clean air
  • the morning and afternoon light
  • a quickly cleaned surface
  • playing in the snow
  • the feeling of taking a hot bath or shower
  • peace within

Stay happy. Stay healthy. Stay sane.