.Valentine’s Day.

This is an article I have written in February 2019 and slightly changed. It is still so accurate that I would love to share it again. Enjoy!

“He who has no house will not build one now. He who is alone will be alone for some time. Will be wakeful, will read, will write long letters and will wander restlessly along the lanes when the leaves fall.” – Rainer Maria Rilke (originally in German “Herbsttag”)

I had a discussion about “husbands” with a friend the other day. She told me that it felt odd to be married. What is a husband, anyway? As the author André Alex questions: is it someone with whom you have a relationship, a relationship that evolves because time passes and one changes? I would answer: Certainly. But in some way, I could say the same thing about a house or a dog, even (if only instinctively), I feel that a husband is more than a house or more than a dog. So my question is: Is a husband desire or love? Desire and love are way too inconstant to make anything at all, right?! I mean it in the sense that today, for example, my version of love and desire may include my husband, but tomorrow it may not. The next day they will, and then they will not. She did not want to continue the conversation further and switched to “Valentine’s Day” and what she should buy for her husband. Also, she actually does not need or want anything from him, but that he will suffer for at least one week if he does not come home with at least chocolate.

The New Yorker

Today, I will have the most amazing dinner-date at an Italian restaurant with my six-year-old son whom I love so much. As far as relationships, I believe, a partner does not need to be a constant presence, a shadow, or a version of myself but rather an equal, not an idea, a nuisance or habit to fix or constantly nourish (a project), but rather someone who can challenge me on an intellectual level, a shoulder to lean on, someone who has no fear of change, has confidence, spontaneously invites me to a romantic dinner, has good and not only one-sided conversations with me, plans a fancy night out but is also comfortable talking on the couch with a cup of tea, has good emotional intelligence, has a sense of self-awareness, someone who can make me laugh and has similar goals and dreams, invites to spontaneous bookstore dates and at the bookstore comes up with the idea to pick a book for each other – that element of serendipity and then we go out for dinner to talk about all things bookish. Someone who is curious and is willing to read aloud to me (especially when I cannot sleep). The basics. In my head, a couple is made up of two opposites, centered around some passion and attraction that mystery causes. Both are curious about and drawn to each other because of their dissimilarities to ourselves. In a healthy relationship, I am fascinated by my counterpart, and I can learn a lot by spending time together. If I do not feel this, I have to move on. Firstly and more important, however, is self-love and the relationship I have with myself before I can fully open up to someone else.

In addition, it is important to learn to argue properly. We all get annoyed and stressed out from time to time. We can be nagging, grumpy, irritated, stressed out or all of the above simultaneously. No couple is perfect, even if some try to make us believe it by posting “happy couple” pictures on Facebook or Instagram. The key is to argue in style with no tension left afterward. No name-calling, no dishes throwing. I want to add to also be apologizing and forgiving. This way it is easy to move on. The air is clean. Overall, having the same rhythm is more important than I often realized. Going to the gym together, or climbing, or jogging. Having the same sleep/read cycle or how both get inspired by the same author. Whatever it may be for you; just feel the same beat. And if you don’t, then sometimes leaving is the only reasonable thing to do and to give energy to relationships that are deserving of it instead of draining.

I celebrate Valentine’s Day every day so this day has no significance to me. But today is the actual Valentine’s Day and if you are freaking out because you do not have anything for the love of your life or you forgot this day altogether, I have some emergency tips for you to make up for it tomorrow.

Take them for a long walk to reconnect. Look at things together. Go to a museum. Talk. Laugh. Get coffee or tea. Surprise them with a little gift just because it is NOT Valentine’s Day anymore. Read together or to each other. Suggest and start a project together, i.e. train for the half-marathon or any other adventure. Sit them down on the kitchen counter. Pour them a glass of wine and kiss. Put on some Jazz. Cook dinner. Repeat every two weeks. SHOW them you love them. Telling/writing is not enough. Give HER a “Sunday”: A whole day carefully planned, no kid(s), Spa, brunch, wine and a movie at night on the couch. Be generous: with money, with matters of the heart and with time. Conquer the world together.

Or alone.

.Tales Of A Six-Year-Old.

Recently, my son has more questions than usual. I like it. Sometimes it is just pure cuteness, sometimes baffling and other days absurd. Some days I am prepared, other days I am not when he gives me pieces of his inquisitive mind. Curious by nature, this child likes to explore and seek answers to appease his infinite curiosity. Again, I find all this very interesting. Especially the fact that children perceive everything through a viewpoint that is entirely different from an adult’s. I love his innocence which allows him to observe and learn things his own way, too. And with him, things can really get hilariously surprising when he starts sharing his insights and uncorrupted wisdom.

So, these days my son starts questioning the current ways of life as he tries to understand the reason behind everything. In other words, this is the phase when he starts bugging me with endless questions about random things. And if he is not satisfied with the answer, he will tell me exactly what is on his mind. Most of the time, his philosophical perception can really take me by surprise. If you also have a six-year-old, you will most certainly understand the challenge of dealing with their impeccable sagacity. If your child is younger, you have something to look forward to. Ha! Real below my son’s latest tales and questions if you would like. This is why I always carry my Moleskine notebook. And why I love him so much.

Joel: What is a Moleskine notebook?

Me: It is just a brand/a name of a journal or notebook.

Joel: Do they kill moles to make this journal? [gets watery eyes]

———

Joel: Do you know what I love?

Me: What, my love?

Joel: That every pencil has an eraser attached. Like they expect you to make mistakes which is kind of cool

———

Joel: I am too tired for this!

Me: For what?

Joel: [Points vaguely at a pile of toys I asked him to clean up]

———

Joel: May I have some apple juice?

Me: What are the magic words?

Joel: I can get it myself.

Me: there you go

———

Me: Joel, how do you think you could survive a bear attack?

Joel: I would try to be his friend and cuddle.

———

Joel: Mom, can I have a snack?

Me: Sure! Any fruit.

Joel: Strawberry icecream

Me: Try again.

Joel: Banana split

————

Me: sitting in the kitchen

[Dinosaur sound. Enraged death screech. Laser sound.]

Me: WHAT ARE YOU DOING JOEL?

Joel: Taking a bath. Why?

———-

Joel: By the way, I broke up with my girlfriend.

Me: Everything ok?

Joel: Yep. We just realized we like different things. She likes to chat with girls and play with dolls and I like to build things and run around outside. So we decided to just be friends.

————-

Joel toothbrush has a suction cup on the bottom so he stuck it on the tile wall and tried brushing hands-free. Classic.

————

Me: Do NOT lick the cat.

Joel: But she licked me.

———–

Joel: I am so happy it’s the weekend tomorrow.

Me: Me too. Finally!

Joel: I can totally sleep in. Like until SEVEN!!!!

Me: ….

————-

Joel: I cannot find my stuffed animal.

Me: [1 minute later] Here it is.

Joel: HOW did you find it?

Me: I looked.

Joel: …..

——-

Me: Ready for school, Joel?

Joel: [in only underwear and his jeans wrapped around his neck like a scarf]. Almost.

——–

I was on the phone with a friend discussing dinner plants when my son said: “Salad is ruining my life!”

——–

Being a parent teaches you a lot about yourself. For example, my son told me this morning that I am not as funny as I think I am.

———-

Joel: Why do bad guys always try to take over everything?

Me: They want to be in charge and make all the rules I guess.

Joel: Why don’t they become moms then?

———

Joel: What’s a humanitarian?

Joel’s friend Simon: It is like a vegetarian but they eat humans.

.7/11.

The story starts over twenty years ago in a small town in Bavaria/Germany. This is where he grew up. The protagonist. I suppose every goddamn town around Munich is small as far as towns go. Barely sixty kids in his graduating class and you know what that means. Everyone knew everyone’s damn business. Everyone dated the same people, went to the same lame parties, ate at the same local Asian Restaurant. There was a bank, a post office, a library, a supermarket, and a small old, dirty movie theater. Hey, at least that. No mall, no good restaurant, no hospital. Nothing to do really. The most fun you could have was floating down the small river on a boat with some whiskey or beer. He didn’t have much of a choice now did he, because he was born there. He asked himself many times why people choose this town as a vacation spot.

He didn’t exactly excel at school. He was more interested in girls and listening to music. And writing and reading. The only class he really paid any attention to was English and German because reading and writing came naturally. The rest was basically struggling or of zero interest. Especially maths. Most kids were into sports but that also wasn’t his scene. A lot of his friends got out of town after graduating High school but he was stuck. Everything happened rather quickly. Days turned into weeks, then weeks into months, then months into years and time just flew by. Now, here he is, thirty-two, unemployed, depressed from a recent breakup, and living in his childhood bedroom with his parents. You think pathetic? He wouldn’t disagree.

There were some rather fortunate events, and he came across some money from publishing his first book. He was about to leave his mother’s house. His mother never had a lot of money, but she was able to take care of both of them over the years. The money he received was not a lot but it was a nice little amount enough to help him get his own place but not enough to live comfortably. That’s why he was on his way to apply for a job at the local 7/11 supermarket. He needed something. Anything. And this small town wasn’t really the land of opportunities. Bagging groceries and refilling shelves isn’t the most ideal situation, but it was real life, and that is what he was looking for at this point in his life.

So, he was on his way to the supermarket. He read an ad in the local newspaper that the store is hiring. He knew it because he wrote it down in his Moleskine notebook. It was 10 am exactly. That notebook was beat to hell but it has become his best friend. Everywhere he went, the Moleskine came along. He stood in front of the supermarket and entered. Inside the place looked like your typical supermarket. Tiled floor, jammed-up carts inside and outside and aisles and aisles or neatly and nicely stacked food. He walked through the front to pass the checkout area and make his way to the service desk where he met a middle-aged woman. Slightly overweight. Her name was Ronda [as written on her name tag]. Sassy attitude, lowered eyelids, and judgemental aura but basing a first impression on her physical appearance was not a fair thing to do. How can you judge someone simply by….. he thought.

“You apply for a job dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, baby,” she asked. “No, well, Ronda, I came here to fill out the application first. I didn’t plan on sitting down for an interview, ” he answered. He needed this job. The store manager looked at him, asked him some questions and the job was his without talking much about anything. “I have a good feeling about you. I believe in your energy, ” the manager said. “Well, thanks. How much money would I be making and what would I have to do,” he asked. “Ten euros an hour and you would be the floater”, the store manager answered. “I will be what?” “I will explain everything later but basically, you will be used for everything. See you at nine Monday morning. Bye.” On my way out he saw Ronda. “Bye Ronda, see you on Monday.” “Mmmmmmmmm-hmmmmmmmm,” Ronda replied with her fierce, strong, attitude. He loved her attitude because she gave no fucks and he adored her for it.

It all felt like a blink of an eye and there was Monday. The usual weekend-feeling. There he was and stood in front of the supermarket not sure what to expect from his first day. He was just happy to have a job and ready to get going. The first person he ran into upon entering was Wade. “Hello there. Good morning, Lady, ” Wade said to the first female customer after checking her out from head to toe. He was not sure what annoyed him more. The way Wade did this or his smile that was so constant that the front row of his teeth had become a permanent substitute for his lips. No one could be that happy all the time. Impossible. Unless you are on drugs. There has to be something dark lurking behind that grin.

Something was off with Wade, especially after he explained to him how he has to work on the different stations throughout the store. He was just a little bit too much into his job. Kinda like when you work a job in your teens and really give it your all and everything? When you really go above and beyond and take pride in what you are doing… .until four weeks in. Then you realize your job is completely demeaning. That your sole purpose is to blindly serve people who don’t give two shits about your happiness or future. Well, theeeeen your work ethic starts to slide. You walk into the break room asking yourself what you are doing here. Who the hell cares how fast you can change the oil at the local garage or who you impress by memorizing the entire menu at the Blue Oyster Seafood Restaurant? The store manager told him to start in Aisle 6: Cereal.

At Aisle 6: Here he met Roger. Roger is the guy who has been working twenty years not only at the same chain, but at the same godamn place, and he is still only assistant manager. For fuck’s sake, he thinks he is not even manager! Let alone the regional manager. Or director at this point. Just think about this for a second. He spent twenty years at this place and he doesn’t own it by now? Roger is the guy who wants to go nowhere but he will hate it when others get promoted. He never did what he really wanted to do in life. He is also the one who always makes excuses about how he would do something else, but he had other obligations, but money was tight, but this, or but that, or but you know how it is. And this is where people usually fuck up. As soon as they give a reason for why they cannot do something, they are already defeated.

“What are your dreams, Roger”, he asked him. “I have none. I will work here until I retire. Nothing special planned,” he replied while staring into the distance. “Are you serious? How the hell can you say this? You don’t have dreams? Places you want to visit, things you want to do,” he asked. “I do have dreams. I would love to travel. But how am I going to do all this,” Roger questioned. “By using your head! This thing on top of your neck? You can do anything you want in life as long as you believe it. It just takes persistence, determination, realism, and wanting success, ” he would tell him.

Then Roger looked at him and asked, “Dude, I asked you where the cereal aisle is to check if you already know, so, uh, how did we get into all this?” Then Roger stared at him blankly and walked away. He was reminded again that all this shit he just philosophized goes down the drain when he is surrounded by someone like Roger and the scary reality of working at this goddamn supermarket. The next moment he was back at stocking shelves with boxes of pasta. Penne, ziti, spaghetti. Pasta for weeks. While stacking, screams on the intercom. “FLOATER TO BAKERY SECTION ASAP!” He is a floater. As a floater, he didn’t exactly have a post or job. He did not mind because it gave him more ground to cover and keep things varied and interesting. For day one, this was all a bit much for him.

In the “break room”: He took notes in his Moleskine notebook. Observations. He is working on his third book. This keeps him sane. When he looked back up, everyone else stared at him. “New guy is a weirdo, huh? We have a writer here, Roger!” Ronda says out loud. Maybe he was. But he didn’t mind. He will always have books, writing, and reading and knowing just that, let’s him deal with anything. As a writer, being surrounded by literature made him feel at home. “Hey weirdo, did you read Lord of the Rings? Fantasy and shit,” Ronda asked. “Yeah, I read it,” he answered. Honestly, he cannot stand it. Let’s be real here; he knows the book is a masterpiece and motion picture and whatnot. Tolkien goes into sooooo much detail and has created an entire world with various races and whatnot. But fuck, by page ninety he was like, “Shit, couldn’t you have said this in like ten pages, dude!” The same goes for authors like Murakami. But see, this is the type of reader he is. He needs adventure, he needs something fun and fast-paced. He needs the pages to turn – suspense, sex, drama, violence, murder whatever it takes but just keep it moving.

Let’s get back to aisle six, shall we? Break is over. Ronda re-applied her red lipstick and put on a sweater. It looked like she knitted it herself.

.The morning chill on his skin made her tremble.

One beautiful but chilly July morning, on her way back home, she walked past the 100% perfect man. In her hand, a bag of oranges to make juice. Tell you the truth, he is not that good looking. He does not stand out in any way. His clothes are not special. The back of his hair is still messed up from sleep. She guessed it was a long night. But still, she knew from far away: He is the perfect man for her. The moment she saw him, there was a rumbling in her chest and her mouth was as dry as a desert. Not dessert. She wished she could talk to him. Half an hour would have been plenty: just ask him about himself, tell him about herself, and what she would really like to do, explain to him the complexities of fate that had led to their passing each other on a side street this morning. After talking, they would have had brunch somewhere, maybe seen a Woody Allen movie, stopped by a hotel bar for brunch. Potentiality knocked on the door of her heart. Now the distance between them had narrowed to ten meters.

How can she approach him? What would she say? Good morning. Do you think you could spare half an hour for a little conversation? No, ridiculous. This sounds like an insurance salesman or the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Maybe just the simple truth would do: Good morning. You are the perfect man for me.

They passed in front of a flower shop. A wisp of air touched her skin. The asphalt was damp, and she caught the scent of lavender. She could not bring herself to speak to him. He wore a black sweater, and in his right hand, he held a white envelope lacking only a stamp. So: He has written somebody a letter, maybe spent the whole night writing, to judge from the sleepy look in his eyes. The envelope could possibly contain every secret he has ever had. He took a few more looks at his watch and turned: He was lost in the crowd. He is gone. Her bag of oranges ripped at the bottom. She rolled her eyes. Now, of course, she knew exactly what she should have said to him. It would have been a long speech, though, far too long for her to have delivered it properly. Usually, the ideas she comes up with are never very practical. Oh well. It would have started like “Once upon a time” and ended “A sad story, don’t you think? Remember when the bag with the oranges ripped?” “But, he smiled at me,” she whispered.

Once upon a time, there lived a boy and a girl. The boy was eighteen and the girl seventeen. He was not unusually handsome, and she was not especially beautiful. They were just an ordinary boy and an ordinary girl. But they believed in miracles. One day the two came upon each other on the corner of a street. There was a lamp post. They walked a bit and then sat on a bench in the park and talked, however, a tiny sliver of doubt root in their hearts: This was perfect. Was it really all right for one’s dream to come true so easily? Could this be it? And so, when their conversation stopped for a bit, the boy said to the girl, “Let’s test ourselves. If we really are each meant to be together, then sometime, somewhere, we will meet again. And when that happens, and we know that we are the perfect ones, we will marry then and there. What do you think?” She said, “Sure, let’s do this. We are still so young. There is still so much out there to explore.”

And so they parted. The test they had agreed upon was totally unnecessary of course. They should have never agreed to something dumb like this because they knew and felt that they are meant for each other. It was a miracle that they have even met. But it was impossible for them to know this, young as they were. Then life happened. They didn’t see each other for years. They were two bright, determined young people, studied, wrote dissertations, made good money, got married, got divorced, had children and lived in the same city all those years. They became members of society and started families. Maybe they actually become citizens who know how to figure out the subway lines in a heartbeat and can send special-delivery letters at the post office. The ones when a signature and another document needs to be filled out and is required.

Time passed with shocking swiftness, and soon the boy was forty-two and the girl was thirty-eight. One beautiful July morning, in search of a cup of coffee and the post office, the boy walked from west to east, while the girl walked from east to west, both along the same narrow road. They passed each other in the very center of the street. The faintest gleam of their lost memories glimmered for the briefest moment in their hearts. Each of them felt a rumbling in their hearts and they knew. He/she is the one.

But the glow of their memories was too weak, and their thoughts no longer had the clarity of all those years ago. Without a word but with a smile they passed each other and disappeared into the crowd. Maybe this time forever. But nobody really knows.

She then picked up the oranges and walked home.

.The Calm The F*** Down and Breathe – Method.

I am not your typical mom. Far from it actually. Parenting at points still seems strange to me and most of the time I am attempting to figure out what I will do next. There are so many parenting trends, advice and books to get lost in. I know many people who want to stay current with the latest parenting trends. These days, the hype is “attachment parenting”, “minimalist parenting”, “tiger mother parenting and so much more insanity (#eyeroll). A really good friend of mine and I stumbled upon a new technique that will guarantee your child grows up to be an exemplary student and citizen. It is called CTFD(AB), which stands for “Calm The F*** Down (and Breathe).” Don’t freak out yet. This is not a message to give to your kid. It is just for you.

When using this technique you will be assured that whichever way you choose to parent, Mrs. Tiger Mom, your child will be fine as long as you don’t eat them of course. To see it in action, my friend and I came up with some sample parenting scenarios and how CTFD can be employed. It is super easy, I promise.

Are you worried your friend’s child has mastered writing, the alphabet, reading or maths quicker than your child? CALM THE F*** DOWN.

Are you scared you are not imparting the wisdom your child will need to survive in school and beyond? That you did not do enough? That you should do more? Sign up your child for more classes after a full day of school? Tennis, Yoga, Tutoring? They are tired after school. So are you after eight hours of work. So, CALM THE F*** DOWN.

Are you concerned that you are not the type of parent you thought you would be? That your child does watch TV, plays games on the iPad and eats other things than gluten/lactose-free, vegan organic blueberry muffins even though you never wanted to raise a child like this? CALM THE F*** DOWN.

Are you upset that your child does not show interest in certain areas such as art, museums, opera, ballet, etc. at age two/three/four/five? They are still small. Is your child like Mozart? If not, CALM THE F*** DOWN.

Are you stressed that your child exhibits behavior in public you find embarrassing? Tantrums, does not listen, runs away and takes all the chocolate covered almonds out of the dispenser in the store while you are already at the register? You get the point by now. Just CALM THE F*** DOWN. Don’t forget to breathe extra deeply in the chocolate/almond scenario. Or tantrums.

So, yes, using the CTFD method, you will instantly find the pressure lifted and realize your child loves you no matter what, even if they have not yet mastered the alphabet. It is also a fact that whether or not you are the best parent in the world, as long as you love your child, they will think you are and that’s what matters the most. Another great side-effect using this method is that it makes you immune to those that prey upon the fears of new parents, like helicopter parents. Yikes. Ignore all those other parenting trends and fully commit to CTFD. I guarantee you, you will be glad you did and so will your kid(s). No need to make parenting more complicated as it already is. You are welcome.

To use CTFD, just follow these simple steps:

  1. CALM THE F*** DOWN.
  2. There is no second step.

.The Turkey is in the Oven, but the Husband is Out the Door.

“Love is a seeking for a way of life; the way that cannot be followed alone; the resonance of all spiritual and physical things.” – Ansel Adams

Many marriages grind slowly to a halt. Hers exploded midflight, like a space shuttle torn asunder in the blue sky as the stunned crowd watches in disbelief. And then, over years, the hazardous debris from the catastrophe just keeps raining down. It was late October, still warm but way past the last stretch of the Indian summer. She had waited for a day cool enough to roast a turkey for her husband and her son. By the time she pulled it out, she found out her husband had left a long time ago and he imaginably stuffed his suitcases with clothes slipping off their hangers. Her son did not notice. But later he asked “What’s wrong, Mom? Are you okay?” and came over to give her a hug. She literally smiled through her tears.

It was her call to the bank to check their balance that caused one of the fatal blow-ups. Although her husband’s destructive compulsions with money had threatened their marriage before, she believed those days were long behind. But that afternoon, without even trying to, she discovered the truth: far from changing his ways, he had simply become more secretive. She confronted him and asked about certain expenses. Nobody touched the turkey that night. Nobody dressed up in a Halloween costume.

She is a well-educated woman, smart, with a decent work history, who actually made more money than her husband when they got married. She prided herself on being self-sufficient. But they both wanted someone to be home with the child and decided it would be her, so she stopped working and let him support them. And now she ended up in the same vulnerable position she once thought was the fate only of women who married straight out of high school, with no job experience beyond summer gigs a the local newspaper or the café around the corner.

She has valued the time with her son more than any other experience she has ever had. But for a stay-at-home mom like her, divorce isn’t just divorce. It is more like divorce plus being fired from a job because you can no longer afford to keep your job at home, the one you have up your career for. She started to work again which financially saved them. Her husband chooses to pay no child support and she wonders almost daily how he can live like this knowing that there is his own flesh and blood on this planet and to show zero responsibility. To her, her son is the major thing on earth. Her everything. His little hand in hers needs a lot of support.

Divorce is its own job, with its course of study, its manuals. It is nerve-wracking. But time heals all wounds. She has overcome so much. Struggled so much. For her, grief was like a house. One day she was in the room of sorrow and the next day she might be in anger room. Then in the grief room again followed by taking a break in the “fuck-you” room. At Mother’s or Father’s Day at school, she is stoic, detached, nodding philosophically as a married mother would. She goes to both events. “Mommy, I want you to be like THIS mom. She has superpowers,” one kid said.

She kept it a secret but eventually she had to tell people. Everyone who hasn’t heard through the grapevine. Some people get the “whole story” and some just get the abridged “we are separated/divorced” version. She avoids the “whole story version” because it is exhausting. At first, it is all re-lief and adrenaline as she recounts the moment she realized the shuttle was breaking apart. But then, she is overwhelmed with dread as she comes to understand how many whole-story people there are in her life. Still ahead are countless oh-my-god-I-cannot-believe-he-does-not-pay-for-his-child and I -am- so sorry’s and You-must-be-kiddings. She hears sympathetic and understandable questions coming at her, and her tongue grows thick and unfamiliar forming all those words one more time.

Then the day of the divorce. He chose not to attend court. Why doesn’t he care? In the end, she got sole-custody. While the judge read the transcript, she remembered spending time with him. Hanging at restaurants all night while talking. Living together. Then, everything turns blank. Like a white sheet.

When she took off her wedding ring, her finger had atrophied underneath in a manner that seems excessively symbolic. For some time, she protected this white band with her thumb like a wound. She looked at other women’s ring fingers: gold, diamond, simple solitaires. At this point, the fact that they all have managed to keep those rings in place seems miraculous to her. When she wore her engagement and wedding ring, she was a different person, emboldened in the way one can be in a Halloween custome. She was married. Someone loved her or so she thought.

Sometimes, lying in bed at night, she thinks of this divorce business as something like the flu. The feverish beginnings, as miserable and sweaty as they are, are somehow easier to get through. Then the many half-well, half-sick days that follow, days when one is not sure what to do. One is well to lie in bed watching Netflix but too sick to go out and do all the things well people are expected to do. Then her son wakes up. He has to go to the bathroom and on the way back curls up in bed next to her. Which is nice.

She then fell asleep easily and sleeps deeply. Just before, she resorted to the old routine of counting her blessings. She counted her family, her son, health, happiness, and work. She knows now that it is up to her to hunt, to gather, and to always keep the shelter warm. And she will. Because she is strong and full of wonders.

.Boring in a benign way, like peeing without being on Instagram.

And you who loiter around these graves think you know life.” – Edgar Lee Masters

There was this idea to start a Ph.D. at the University of Vienna. There was this idea to start working again at my former job. There was this idea to move back to Europe. There was this idea to turn things around and end 2019 in style to start fresh. So I did. I found an apartment and moved (with child) from Canada to Austria. If one door closes, I will open it again because I have the keys. After five months in this beautiful country and city, I can say that studies are going well, work is awesome and things are turning the way they should.

On my new apartment and living in Vienna.

I moved to the heart of the city and love it. I can scream my food order through the open window and the Sushi Restaurant will deliver it within five minutes. But, looking out the window at the neighbors across the street with whom I share a not-entirely-consenting proximity, I felt a twinge of claustrophobia. City life at its best. For a second I thought there is something wrong here and things need to change but then my son said, out of the blue, he wants to decorate the bookshelf. He knows how to make me happy.

On decorating an apartment with books and bookshelves.

My son and I are crazy about putting books everywhere. Mostly because, well, we have lots of them. I moved many times in my life and every time I had a ton of books that somehow found new homes with friends. My favorite ones traveled with me wherever I went. I picked up a lot (for free) while walking around in Vienna. I have a complete hardback volume set of Shakespeare that I found on the sidewalk on my way home from work. I was like, “Oh my God, this is free!” And we had bags of groceries with us and my son was like, “Are you serious? We have groceries,” and I was like, “We’re carrying them home!” And we did. So the books take on their own special meaning after a while. To me, they’re an important design element because they somewhat define who I am. When you see what I read, you kind of understand what I am all about.

On Vienna and nature.

Without going all the way back to Darwin, as a human being in touch with my animal side, I know I came from nature and need nature. I cannot compare Vienna and Midtown New York City where I also lived for many years. But amid the greyness of New York’s concrete jungle, I was able to find my current apartment near a park this time to quench my vital need for chlorophyll. Nature is not far away. Just a couple of subway stops and if I choose to, I can be really in touch with it and not only through the mint in my mojito.

I grew up in the countryside and I love(d) it. But, what about deciding to go to a party or a movie on the spur of the moment, art shows, my little neighborhood Sushi place, see La Boheme at the Wiener Staatsoper on a Friday night? I kinda love to have all these opportunities available in the blink of an eye.

Of course, a place with a clear view (minus half-naked neighbors) and sunlight filtering through some leaves would greatly impact the quality of my life. But, taking a look at a few listings of apartments outside of the city, I quickly hit a snag. For the same square footage I have, prices have gone through the roof. Getting a little closer to a tree trunk has the same effect on prices as having a room with a view in a five-star-hotel. The countryside is sometimes still tempting when imagining all those brunches I could have outside, the dog I could adopt, the walks in the forest, mushroom picking, and when I get back home after work I light a fire at my fireplace. I could plant flowers, start a vegetable garden, eat what I grow which would, of course, be all real organic produce. I could live that dream.

I would need to buy a car, wake up earlier but doesn’t the early bird catch the worm? I could leave my bike at the station and ride to work; nothing better than a little exercise. My complexion would be rosy, my legs firm, my biorhythm boosted and my red blood cell levels would match those of my son. Green with envy of my new life and body, my friends and colleagues would start searching for their own little Eden and join the countryside-movement. Maybe I will consider this one day.

On Vienna and Unwinding.

From the outside, my apartment building does not look special but upon entering it seems like traveling back to the early 1900s in Vienna. I am a tall person, just about to brush six feet, and the first thing that drew me to this apartment is that the ceilings are close to 4 meters tall. I love the generosity of the space. It is incredibly open and intimate at the same time. But to me, an apartment or house isn’t a home until I have friends come over. Many people I love do spend time here and give this apartment its soul.

The possibilities in Vienna are endless. One breathtaking museum next to the other. Readings, lectures, university life, (vintage) bookstores and so much more. I do love the countryside but I enjoy this feeling of “everything is available most of the time” in the city. But I need some plants. I also don’t accept defeat. With my eye on the prize and being so fortunate to live here, I head down to the florist and come bounding back up the stairs with four little potted plants to set on my windowsill: basil, thyme, mint, and parsley. I don’t have the greenest thumb but I have to start somewhere. And this is here. A new chapter. In Vienna.

.Things I Told Myself I Would Never Say or Do.

“Sit up properly in your chair.”

I cry every time I watch Out of Africa, still hoping Robert Redford’s plane won’t take off.

“When I was little, cellphones or the internet did not exist.”

I curse like a truck driver every time a motherfuckin’ piece of shit in a car purposely cuts me off when I try to cross the street.

“Santa Clause won’t be happy…”

“Of course the tooth fairy exists.”

I haven’t read War and Peace, even though I pretend otherwise. Over time, I have learned to talk about it pretty convincingly.

Tracks I still listen to: Run DMC “It’s like that”; Nirvana “Hard-Shaped Box”; Fugees “Killing me Softly”; The Verve “Bitter Sweet Symphony”; Fool’s Garden “Lemon Tree”; Coolio “Gangster’s Paradise”; Rage Against the Machine “Killing in the Name”; Guns N’ Roses “Don’t Cry”; Oasis “Don’t look Back in Anger”

I start believing in God again whenever I need something.

“Your goldfish has gone on a long trip. I am not sure when he is coming back.”

“Now I avoid red wine.”

“Go to the toilet before we leave. Even if you don’t have to. Just a tiny bit.”

“Don’t shout. Mommy is very tired.”

“At six you think you know everything, but at my age, you realize life is a bit more complicated.”

“Enjoy it while it lasts – time flies.”

“If you swallow your chewing gum, it will get stuck to the inside of your stomach.”

“You will learn how to whistle if you eat your carrots.”

“If you are not hungry for your vegetables then you are not hungry for dessert.”

I had so many fears back then that today I am not afraid.

I know that if I don’t reach for it, no one will give it to me. Sometimes all I need is to give myself permission.

I know that I will never regret my misadventures. Sometimes, failures are successes in disguise.

I know that I can take the wrong path and it’s okay. I know to take life one day at a time. Nothing is forever.

I know that sometimes I have to shake things up to avoid repeating the same mistakes. Smiling is one of life’s greatest weapons.

“Something better is always on its way. This too shall pass.”

“That was trendy when I was a teenager. In my day, we invented games all the time and played outside in the dirt.”

“Don’t you think the music is a bit loud?”

I just can’t go out two nights in a row anymore.

“He is a man who lights a flame inside me, without actually setting my house on fire.”

“Selecting my year of birth on a website means scrolling down or up forever.”

“I am an environmentalist.” (I just started recycling and turn off the water when I brush my teeth)

“I am very excited just to go home.”

I tell myself that I am working out when I take the stairs. Or when I dance (while drinking) and I persuade myself that sweating is proof of my muscular exhaustion.

“Just enjoy it. Don’t expect anything. Just see where it all goes and enjoy the ride.”

“I am my own soul mate.”

.A Bowl of Pasta to Regain my Illusion of Control.

Joel: Why do you go to work?

Me: They pay me a salary.

Joel: …..

Me:…..

Joel: I don’t even like celery.

My son eats pretty voraciously: eggs, hummus, even steak but sometimes when I clean up after dinner, I notice the vegetables left on his plates. No tomatoes, no cucumber, no thanks. He is very strong and tall for his age and needs quite an amount of food on a daily basis. I try to change things up as much as possible because I know that nutrition is important; especially at his age. But, when my child asks what’s for dinner, usually, the answer doesn’t matter. Sometimes he reacts like I am about to feed him marinated monkey brains.

A giant tray of roasted vegetables, no matter how expertly cooked and seasoned, will never send my child running to the dinner table. My general philosophy when it comes to feeding him is to cook what I crave, then find ways to add bait that will bring him to the table. For example, a salad with tomatoes, olives, carrots, broccoli, mozzarella, arugula, nuts will be enjoyed when I add salmon, beans or crispy pita bread.

Sure, you are thinking, but it is still a plate of vegetables with some salmon. Hold on! I am not done sprinkling on some more kid bait. First is the aforementioned pita bread, salmon or beans. Those lead me to bait number 2: marketing. When my child asks what’s for dinner, “pita salmon salad” will beat out “healthy winter vegetables” every time. Or I cut zucchini into French fry shapes and call them “zucchini fries.” I rebrand veggies to make them sound yummier or cuter. Brussel sprouts are “baby lettuces”. It will make all the difference. When it comes to food, I like to keep it simple, nutritious, healthy and comforting.

In an effort to make sure he gets all the vitamins he needs, I figured out some other ways to encourage him to eat the good stuff. This is what works for us if you would love to read.

I sometimes serve veggies first. That way, he will eat those before filling up on pasta and bread. With this method, he actually asks for a bowl of cauliflower or broccoli to snack on sometimes. We don’t always eat whole, organic food, but mostly. When it comes to meat, I prefer organic and grass-fed. Balance is key! Mom at the playground: My kids eat organic snacks only. Me: Cool. My son eats candy off the floor. Also, there is little difference in how a horse eats hay and the way my child consumes spaghetti with meat sauce.

My son: How much of this meatball is meat? Me: Probably like 90% because it is organic and grass-fed. Son: So it is 10% balls? Me: spits out food

Or I don’t say anything. A study reveals that serving food “without giving any message about the goal” (health/strong bones, vitamins) maximize the consumption of healthy food. I just put them on the plate and wait, and watch.

I make it a game. I got him to eat certain vegetables by asking him to close his eyes, take a bite and see if he could guess the right color. This way, he would end up eating a bunch of bell peppers in red, yellow and green. I also did this for foods such as cauliflower and peas. Marinated monkey brains come to mind again.

I make sure he is hungry. As Karen Le Billon says, “hunger is the best seasoning.” Also, if I serve a smaller main dish (let’s say, just a bit of pasta), he will eat more of his side dish (say, steamed broccoli) because he will still be hungry. I avoid to let him snack all day long.

I stay at the table longer and we eat together without distractions (phone, TV, etc.). When he is done eating, we usually hang for a while because I want him to know the joys of sitting around the dinner table and chatting. I will start conversations I know he will be interested in (how great it will be to spend time at the beach, to go to the bookstore and which books he will pick). I have noticed that a great side effect is that he often ends up absentmindedly munching the food he had originally refused. We also eat slowly. No need to rush through a meal.

I teach him to avoid emotional eating and treat chocolate and sweets as dessert and something special. As a parent, I am in charge of my son’s food education. I have to teach him what is healthy and what is not; and when to eat and how much. Pizza is fine and so are donuts, but not every day. I asked him the other day if he wants a piece of really good dark chocolate. He nodded so hard that he fell over. So, yes, I am sure he is mine.

One rule is: He has to taste it but he does not have to like or finish it. I want him to enjoy food.

If all fails, I sneak it in. Obviously, I want my son to love, revel and seek fresh vegetables as much as I do. But there is nothing wrong with dropping a few frozen vegetables or mixing them into smoothies.

Currently, I am helping my son search for his chocolate that I ate last night.

Stay happy. Stay healthy.

.Sometimes Hangry – Early lunch at 11.30 am.

“Slowly at first, then all at once”— these Hemingway lines are just one of many literary quotes that I have fallen victim to over-utilization to the point of tedium. But that’s only because it has yet to be associated with the undertaking of routinely eating lunch at 11.30 am or 12:00 p.m. from Monday through Friday. I’m hard-pressed to find a more accurate way to describe the evolution of my weekday meal habits over the past few weeks. What is now one of my most passionate crusade: consuming a salad and soup at the cafeteria with my colleagues and looking forward to having dinner with my son in the evening.

Guided my ambivalence toward the endeavor known as “breakfast” I found myself compelled to skip it accelerate straight for lunch (intermittent fasting) a few hours later. Intermittent fasting feels good to me and I love to do it. When I first sat down again under the glare of super early-morning light in my kitchen I contemplated joining my son having at least for a bowl of cereal because I knew that satiety will await later. But I could not. That early, my digestive system is just on a strike and wishes to sleep a bit longer I guess.

I am a Certified Holistic Nutritionist and before I proselytize further, I must state for the record that I do not recommend skipping breakfast and eating lunch as your first meal of the day if you loooooooveeeeeee breakfast or if you feel like you need it. Some people actually do. I would never dream of convincing you to forgo the sweet pleasure of your daily warm oatmeal or Friday eggs. However, if you, like me, are ambivalent about breakfast but ardently enjoy grilled cheeses, spaghetti with meat sauce, hearty salads, lentil soup, sourdough pretzels, french toast, dinner, snack time, or brunch, then this article has your name written all over it in balsamic vinaigrette. Its benefits are plentiful, but allow me to enumerate some of the most notable benefits to skip breakfast and have an early lunch at 11.30 am instead.

My benefits of an early lunch and skipping breakfast:

I will be hungry but will have given my organs a chance to rest since I did not have eaten anything since dinner last evening. Usually, in my case, this is around 6:00 pm.

I avoid the lunch rush. While the hoards of sweet but foolish innocents cram themselves in line at “normal” lunchtime, I will be in and out of whatever eatery I choose to patron in two shakes of tzatziki. Unless I bring my lunch, in which case, I will be eating even quicker.

I have the opportunity to ingest one of my favorite meals of the day with renewed vigor and enthusiasm, not only because I will be hungrier and therefore equipped to eat more than I usually would for lunch, but also because I will have yet to hit the inevitable midday slump that occurs with regularity at around 1 p.m and riddles any concurrent meal with a sense of sluggishness.

I can get away with eating stuff like eggs and bacon on a bagel without feeling like I am trespassing on Saturday’s territory. Or order 6,000 chicken fajitas just because.

Like I said, I only dabbled in the late morning weekday brunch intermittently, but eventually, it morphed into something I pursued with jubilant deliberateness because of all the reasons listed above. I picked up recruits along the way, too; colleagues who were willing–nay, eager–to join me in my recalibration. Or those who have no choice. I very much advocate for converting others as it’s never easy being ahead of your time–in this case literally–and when it comes to eating roasted cauliflower or broccoli at strange hours of the day, the more the merrier!

Occasionally I will message a regular weekday brunch companion at 11:30 a.m. to see if they’re almost ready to venture forth, and they’ll sheepishly tell me they happened to have eaten breakfast that morning and won’t be hungry until later. At first, it might feel like a particularly piercing betrayal, but after a few disappointments I started to understand: This path isn’t for everyone. It is, in every sense of the word, a calling.