The Book Review: “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki” by Haruki Murakami

“Some things in life are too complicated to explain in any language” – Haruki Murakami. 

Murakami – I have read three books by him so far (this, this and that) and I must say I am impressed with “Colorless Tsukuro Tazaki” because it is simply so different from everything else I have read by him. It is just written under a complete different light; however, it possesses most of Murakami’s essentials. If you are a Murakami fan you know what I mean: the sexual fantasies, consciousness and subconsciousness of the characters, real symbolic dreams and of course a lot of classical music and jazz. 

The story: Tsukuru Tasaki is part of a group of five friends who all represent a color [their Japanese names], a talent or a quality. Except for Tsukuru [who is just ‘the builder’] – or this is how he feels almost throughout the book. An event happens and none of his friends want to see or talk to him again without explaining to him why. He is very affected by this, depressed and suicidal and decides to leave to Tokyo where he starts school to become an engineer to build train stations which is his true passion.

“Because I have no sense of self. I have no personality, no brilliant color. I have nothing to offer. That’s always been my problem. I feel like an empty vessel. I have a shape, I guess, as a container, but there’s nothing inside….” 

It seems throughout the book that he did not only lose his four friends but that he is also unable to make new friendships simply because he is afraid of rejection. So he lives his days by going to work and back home, following a somewhat steady routine. So far it made me think if there was a time in my own life when I struggled to fit in. When I had this feeling of not belonging or this feeling that I am not good enough for this group of “friends” I was part of. It reminded me of a particular time in high school so I could relate to Tsukuru and his struggles.  When I started the book I was shocked how simple the story and language are; there was just nothing complex in it at all. But I think that it is not so much about the plot or said language. It is more about making the reader feel how Tsukuru suffered. How lonely and desperate he felt up to the point of wanting to killing himself. When you read the book you do not have to overanalyze or try to find explanations for everything. Reading the book makes you go with the flow of this relaxing soft melody that continues throughout the book and lets you experience Tsukuru’s misery, feelings, thoughts and love. 

I mentioned jazz and classical music before which are so significant for Murakami work. Throughout the book he mentions this classical piece by Franz Liszt called “Years of Pilgrimage – Le mal du pays”.  Usually when I read a book and the author mentions a song I google it and let it play in the background while I read this certain passage. I did the same with this book. It is magical. This is how the author felt when he wrote this part of the book or this is how the person described in the book feels right here and now I believe. 

One thing I want to mention without giving too much of the story away is that besides depression and loneliness Tsukuru met Sara, who becomes a really good friend, guide and someone who makes him realize that he can love and trust again and open his hearts to something new even though he has been hurt so badly. Sara helped him to confront his fears which was a wonderful thing to read. What was also beautiful is how he describes Finland – yes, he travels there but you have to find out for yourself why. (It definitely makes me want to fly there and discover this awesome country where it is still bright outside at 10pm). 

“The air felt purer here than in Helsinki, like it was freshly made. A gentle breeze rusted the leaves of the white birches, and the boat made an occasional clatter as it slapped again the pier. Birds cried out somewhere, with clear, concise calls”. 

Murakami is in my opinion a genius writing about all these emotions that make you suffer with Tsukuru. I don’t know what color I would represent in Murakami’s book but I do know that life is just this continuous search of experiences and dreams to make our life on this planet earth as colorful and awesome as possible. 

 

On managing time.

“The trouble is, you think you have time” – Buddha

This post was written because a reader wants to know how I manage my time and money. I need to tell you that I am no expert in either thing. I am just trying and testing things out and apply what works for me and my family.  I made it my passion to write my blog but being a single parent these days it is quite tough. I walked by a daycare place the other day close to our house. They told me I can drop my son off just for a day if I need to get things done. This is great and very helpful. I would not really use it to write, but maybe if I have to drive to New York for appointments which is a hassle with a toddler for sure. When it comes to money management… well, definitely NOT an expert even though I am trying to live as minimalistic as possible. I have done it all, from debt to debt-free and I have learned along the way. Then again, there are certain things that I do buy for myself or my son at points that are not necessary but I know he or I will enjoy it. Sometimes there is no reason to be 100% this or that way. I try to find balance in life. More on money management soon. 

I would like to share a couple of tricks and tips that have worked for me so far managing time. Maybe you get a little inspiration for your life. 

Planning: I started making lists. For example on a Sunday I make a shopping list of what I have to cook the next week. Shopping, major shopping for something and meal plans for us. This made me save a lot of money because if I have an exact list of what I want to cook during the week and a shopping list of what I need. This way I don’t run around in the supermarket and buy way too much and don’t even use half of it. I keep my list on the fridge and look at it every time I open the fridge to just add things for the next week.

An example for a meal plan for the week:

Monday: Vegetable soup served with toasted bread

Tuesday: Pizzas with salad

Wednesday: Pasta with Pesto

Thursday: Rice, salmon and spinach

Friday: Homemade French fries, burgers and salad

Usually ingredients overlap so you save money here as well. Simple as that. When it comes to blogging I purchased this planner and I am in love with it. It organizes all my writings and keeps me informed what I have to add or work on next.

On my fridge I have a visual erasable planner board to put things down that need to get done during the week besides shopping. Doctor appointments, dentist, yoga practice, bills that are due, people I need to call etc. 

Me-time: I have found that is the most important to have “me-time”. Even when my husband was still here we used to all have dinner together and then everyone was off on his own for a couple of hours doing whatever we needed to get done. Usually for me it was bringing my son to bed and then start writing and working on my website. For him, surfing the internet and researching for our projects. I love this time for myself – just blogging or even reading in bed is great. After a long day these are the things that relax me. Usually at some point my husband and I find each other again on the couch and watch something before we go to bed. I think it is essential to make time for yourself to stay motivated in life, to relax, to just don’t hear and see anything else but what you love to do. Especially now that I am alone with my son.

Cleaning: There is nothing worse for me than a house all messy and things all over the place. I want it nice, clean and in order. (A German thing!)  Every Friday I clean both bathrooms and if I have time left I clean the living room as well. During the week I vacuum my son’s room and our bedroom and the kitchen is being done well almost daily. I don’t clean the floor every day, but the counter and things I use obviously get cleaned after I am done cooking. So this keeps me in check of not living in a messy cluttered house. 

Overall it is just such a great feeling to know you are on top of things. Everything that needed to get paid is paid, grocery shopping for the week is done and you will realize how much time you have left to do what you really love. I was always pretty organized in life (Hi mom!) and I made a folder for every damn thing. You will get used to being organized and put together and it will soon become a habit that you enjoy. If you are a student it will make your life very easy to simply start out with a planner. To schedule time is key because guess what, it is not about having time, it is about making time. 

Five Things.

This week was all about running around getting thing done. We need vaccinations to visit my husband in Kinshasa/Congo which needs to be scheduled after a ton of paperwork has been filled out. Visa applications, phone calls to make, places to go and of course many playgrounds to check out. 

First I want to share a playground that my son and I visited which is really great. 

  1. Playing around: Cherry Lawn Park in Darien/Norwalk. This park is for now definitely #1 on our list. You can find tennis courts, basketball courts, a big community garden and a wonderful playground area which my son loved. He is not even two years old and he did it all… slides,towers, climbing everything, playing in the sand and many toys that always remain at the playground. We spent two hours there and time flew by. He was so exhausted that all he needed was a light dinner, shower, two stories I had to read to him and he was out – perfect.  Another great part about this park is that there are clean public restrooms, even with changing areas. 

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2. Reading: This awesome book by Haruki Murakami: “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his years of pilgrimage.”  Book Review will be out on Sunday. Also read this article if you like –  Agatha Christie at The New Yorker:  Agatha Christie – The Queen of Crime

3. Watching: This.  Because all you need is love. Period! And this. As a huge Michel Houellebecq lover this documentary is a must. It is in English with German subtitles. 

4. Enjoying: Watching my son plays with his latest toy. He is occupied with this toy for up to 45 minutes which is great. 

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Another add- on to the “enjoying-section”: SUSHI. Lots of sushi. I know the oceans are polluted, the fish is probably not as fresh as it is supposed to be and maybe it is not even healthy but sometimes I just love to have it so I do. Simple as that. The sushi at Oishi Sushi & Izakaya in Norwalk CT was indeed very fresh and delicious. My son and I ate there during lunchtime and the restaurant was not packed but not empty either. Just comfortable. The staff was very friendly by being attentive but not overly on top and stopping by every five minutes to ask if we want anything else. The selection is plentiful. Check their menu before you go there. For lunch I had: edamame salmon avocado roll, uni sashimi, tuna and salmon sashimi and a Dragon Roll. My son had: Butternut squash soup and a bowl of plain rice. I highly recommend this restaurant.

5. Listening to: This song.  So whenever I feel lonely or sad I listen to this song. My husband and I made this ‘our’ song. 🙂 Feel free to make it yours. 

Have a great weekend.

On how blogging has changed me.

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” ― Ernest Hemingway

Six months ago I started this blog and to sit down every morning or evening to write has been a constant in my life ever since. I try to write an article every day if time permits it. I have a plethora of ideas but time management is something different these days. I spend my afternoons at the playground, at the aquarium or at the park these days which is okay. If you love writing so much you will find time or will make time somehow to make writing possible for you. Easy as that. Looking at my blog editorial planner I have planned a lot of fun stuff so far for my readers. I just enjoy what writing has meant to me on a personal level. It just makes me happy on a daily basis. Everything I basically do could be a possible article. All the books I read are going to be book reviews (unless they suck – well even then I will write about them so you might not consider buying them ha!). Things I buy, things I love, things we do together, things I cook – there is simply so much for me to share. 

Blogging has changed me and writing has forced some sort of discipline in my life. I know I do “have” to sit down and write something because people love to read my stuff and I want to share what I experienced and live. In the beginning I thought I can have a glass of wine while writing (or two) and have some music playing in the background. Well what it all boiled down to is that I have to sit quietly on my chair usually all alone with nobody to disturb me in front of a white page blog screen. This is where and how it all starts. I read this quote by Dawson Trotman once which said, “The greatest time wasted is the time getting started.” Well, I have to say he was right. I spend so much time trying to figure out how to articulate my opinions that I was literally wasting time. Now all I do is write down what comes to my mind – sometimes research it or change it if necessary. The key is to write things down as I observe them. I do it the old fashioned way and keep pencil and paper with me usually at all times. Hey, you never know. 😀 

I like how I personally grow through writing and how I learn new things about it on a daily basis. I have “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk usually opened up right next to me while I write. This book has been recommended to me by my Literature professor in college and it was and still is very helpful to me. Looking back through all my posts I can see how my writing has already changed and more how I have changed. There is still so much room for improvement and so much more to accomplish that I keep looking forward to new writing adventures and challenges. 

On what love is.

Last night my son woke up and cried. He rarely does so it must have been all the impressions from the playground or just a bad dream. (Can they possibly have bad dreams already?) I took him to bed with me. All snuggled up against me, he fell asleep again for a bit. It is early in the morning I think. I don’t want to check what time it is so he won’t wake up. My eyelids are heavy  because I have been working on my website for way too long and my eyes are just begging to close for just a little longer. My son turns around again, wiggles in his little sleeping sack and I say to myself I will close my yes for one more minute. When I open them however the sun has changed the light of the room by being stronger and warmer and shining through the blinds. My son and I wake up. He looks at me with his beautiful brown eyes and says “Mama”. My heart melts. We snuggle for a while and play and he gets hungry and thirsty and wants his breakfast.

Then he is up all day long, running around, playground, discovering and exploring things and it is time for dinner. And then bedtime again. My son is tired when he gets these dark circles under his eyes, does not want to play anymore and just gets way to quiet. 🙂 He is not taking any naps during the day so at 8-9pm he is exhausted and I put him down. Then it is time to rest for me. Quiet time, me time. I love these hours of solitude, being able to do whatever I want. Reading, writing, researching – it is my time. Before I go to bed I usually talk or write to my husband again online. (Five hours time difference). We talk about how lucky we are to live this life we are living, about the past, about our son and of course the future and all the plans we have. All the new adventures that are about to happen.

Since my husband left about a week ago our world has been flipped upside down. We did not have any schedules really but everything is just weird and strange without my husband being here physically. Soon, we will resume everyday life again and it will be all okay but for now everything feels out of place. What I love about the whole “husband is gone thing” is that my son thinks he is the man in the house. Kind of like we have to take care of each other and just silently wait for a new routine to evolve. Currently we are learning how to manage this family of two and just being alone. Before, my parents were a great help but now I am on my own. Some sort of balance will come and it will be all okay.

For now we live this simple life – just the two of us discovering Connecticut and New York which is sometimes very challenging but great. We are just taking every moment, one day at a time. All we have to do is really just have to live and enjoy every day doing something awesome. My husband has to work, makes the money for this family of ours for now and we are able to stay home and I do appreciate this on a daily basis. My son is able to stay home with me, does not have to be in any daycare place and can enjoy this peace of family, rest, home-cooked fresh food and play in our house and garden. Just be!

Even though my husband cannot be physically here right now – this is our family. This is our story and our love. We fill it with laughter, joy and conversations every day and night until my son falls asleep in my arms again.

 

Are you you ? Diving deep.

This is a question I would love to discuss with my friend Patrick Aigner from Sunnyside Café in Coburg. Check this place out whenever you are in Coburg/Germany –  it is magically special. As a book lover I think it is great that you are able to order your books through them (Amina & Patrick) at the café or on their website. Good coffee, cake, choices of breakfasts or snacks, and an awesome selection of books (from spiritual to Bukowski and back to spiritual) and simply a place to rest, think and stay awhile.

So, I walked the streets of Paris the night before my birthday and saw this sticker at one of the poles on the street. “Are you you?” I had to stop and take a picture while wondering who I really am and why I am born in this place and time and not another. Why not 400 years ago or even 500 years in the future? Maybe there is the possibility that I would not have been born at all? Do you think these questions make sense?

These questions are just big to me because it  addresses a fundamental aspect of being and so much more. So who am I really? Am I really one person? Maybe we are are all just characters (well, some of us are for sure!) in a novel or some story written down somewhere. Or we are just part of a dream or movie? How do we know all this around us is really there? Or why are we this particular person instead of another?

I personally think that these questions make a lot of sense and I have my own thoughts and ideas on all this. I think it all depends on how you describe “you”. I think you can be your story, your memories or your body. Then it is pretty clear. Then you are not someone else because nobody else is connected physically to your brain. The other take is the philosophical one when you think of “you” as the consciousness. Then you can say that you are you I believe. That you are unique sort of because you think. (“And therefore you are” – René Descartes)

I believe that there is just no way to be 100% sure that I am who I am. Simply because there is no way to tell if I am born only in this place and time. There is just no proof that I have not lived at any other point.  Isn’t it simply a miracle that one single tiny sperm is the fastest and creates life? Like WHY this one? Why am I me? Or why is my son my son? It could easily be that another sperm would have won this race to reach the egg no? Is it all meaningless? Is this just life?

Or is it possible that two or even more people have the same consciousness but we do not know it because we are not connected?

Philosophy Tuesday I guess 😀

Let me know your thoughts!

 

How to: Blueberries, Spinach and lots of cheese on a Sandwich? Yes!

This sandwich was just a creation of things I had left in my refrigerator and some of it was about to turn bad. Also it includes everything I love to eat! Especially blueberries!  It is comforting (yes to cheese!!) and has this nice flavor to it. So stop counting the calories and add some more cheese will you? Plus it is quick to make!

Here is the recipe: 

Baguette (slice in half)

Cheese, a lot! (I used Gruyère and Goat cheese)

Fresh arugula or spinach

1 cup of fresh blueberries (or even more. Can be used as jam for the next couple of days while you keep it in the fridge)

2 tbs balsamic vinegar

2 tbs sugar

 

How to: 

  • Take a small saucepan and combine blueberries, vinegar and sugar and cook on medium heat. It just needs a slow boil. Mix it all up in saucepan. Let it slowly  boil for 5 minutes. Done!

 

  • Now spread blueberries onto the sliced baguette, add cheese, then the spinach or arugula and then of course more cheese!! Add some pepper and then top with other slice of bread and put it all in a grill. (I used a panini maker)

Enjoy!

The Book Review: “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott

“Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” –  E.L. Doctorow

I love to write. English is not my first language but reading a lot and consistently improving by writing a lot is a good training. I have read that “Bird by Bird” is just an awesome book for any writer to get new ideas and inspirations so I purchases it and read it in one sitting.

I was always into writing. As a child I had a diary and wrote something in it daily. I also loved writing assignment and research papers in college. Writing in English however is challenging for me. In my working life I was able for a while to write, analyze and assess but I could not really live out what writing ability I may possess. At some point I thought it give it a try with my own blog. I love to read other blogs and follow some on a daily basis but I thought I could never start my own. Then again, why not? I love to read so I can definitely write a review about any book.  Who else than Anne Lamott can describe and advice how to go about the whole business of writing? I have read many other books on writing but none of them left this deep feeling of “yes, I can do this!” 

I connect with any book I read. Some great books I cannot appreciate however because of where I am in life at that moment but when I read them again under different circumstances it changes my entire take on the book. Do you have this feeling sometimes? I just want to kick my writing up a notch and Lamott helped me just getting more confident. “Bird by Bird” is just full of wisdom if you want to start writing but are afraid of having no ideas or if you are just uncomfortable. She describes and offers advice in a very funny way which I love. She tells you what to do if you are stuck (writers block). Lamott also states that almost all good writers started out terribly. Sometimes I thought that a writer just sits down and types along until the book is done. Of course they all have drafts that they rewrite the next day because it simply sucks. Lamott gives writing lessons as well and this book is basically what she teaches in her class.

She offers a plethora of tips and ideas if you just want to write more generically or don’t want to start out with a novel.  You get a great idea on structure of writing and to simply keep your readers interested and entertained.

Lamott describes how difficult and painful writing really is. It is a lot of fun, don’t get me wrong but it is hard. Especially if you doubt that your stuff you put out there is good. She is a great teacher who lets you know that with a lot of discipline you can do it if your true passion is writing. The book is a pleasure to read if you are feeling depressed or down (about writing.)

Enjoy!

 

On Missing my Family

“Goodbyes are not forever. Goodbyes are not the end. They simply mean I miss you until we meet again.” – Jean-Joseph Henry [my husband says this all the time so it is kind of his quote]

I think it is normal to be homesick. Especially if your family is as awesome as mine and you have been away for quite some time now.  Here in the U.S. anything that reminds me of home triggers a little flash of homesickness. Yesterday I got some errands done with my son and we drove by a huge billboard that invited to the annual Oktoberfest here in Connecticut. Instantly I felt a little sad thinking about my family, the food, the people, the real Oktoberfest in Munich that starts soon. I was so fortunate to have spent a huge amount of time in Germany when my son was a baby and I can say that it was one of the best experiences I have had. Having been away for almost ten years and only visiting my family once or twice a year (and I consider myself very lucky on that one as well) it was great to actually live there again. To be back there and be able to enjoy all the goods and bads. This feeling of joy and comfort being around my entire family was the best.  To see all my good friends again after all this time was great too. (Hello Judith and Kirsten!) It is so much better to meet in real life even though we all have been in touch via Facebook, email and many other tools but you know what I am trying to say here. There is nothing like hugging an old friend at the Christmas Market in Coburg and crying your eyes out. 😀 Classic! In this world where everything is just so fast-paced you isolate yourself very quickly and end up losing touch to certain people if you do not work on it.

When it was time to say goodbye to my parents on July 10th I was overcome with this huge feeling of sadness. The way we said goodbye was different this time. Not like “Valley of Tears” (Frankfurt Airport) kind of crazy. It was calmer but made my heart hurt all the same. It is natural that we get older and everybody needs to go on their separate paths at some point. I cannot live with my parents for the rest of my life. I had to leave my “home-base” behind. So it is all back to good old Skype and FaceTime and tons of phone calls because I love to stay informed and connected to them and like to hear about their life, their stories, especially any major changes they go through.

This is life. We all make decisions to move in another direction – sometimes even drastically when I moved to New York. I am happy however that my family always supported me and helped me out when I needed them the most. I also know that no matter what happens, my family will always be there for me.

It does not matter where you go in the world as long as you are happy and you love the people you are with. Home is where your heart is, right? It sounds cheesy when I say I go wherever my husband goes but it is true. We will be going to Congo next and I think about it as a great opportunity as well to explore and learn new things. Has it all been worth it? Of course! Has it all been easy? Of course not! But life is not easy, especially if you think you have it all figured out and you found yourself a little routine then life throws you another curveball.

So how do I deal with my homesickness? Well, I consider myself really lucky to have my family in Germany, all alive and healthy. I can talk to them, see them and be with them. They are basically one plane ride away and I have to keep this in mind. I appreciate that I can travel and discover so many things here. And I always have to keep in mind that I chose to leave. The good part about traveling the world is to see and explore and to sort of let go of the past. When I get really really homesick I call my mom. I call her at least once a week (or emails, Skype messages etc.) and this way it is all good. I am up to date on everything, I love talking to her and we usually talk for three hours. Hab dich lieb Mama! <3  She could send me some of her world-best chicken noodle soups once in a while though. <3

You never know where life will take you. If you have been reading my blog from the beginning you know I am the perfect example. It is important to make the right choices for ourselves and go with the flow. To see things in a positive perspective and just don’t be afraid of change. You might miss out on some awesome experiences.

 

 

Five Things.

This heat in Connecticut these past couple of days was just insane. I don’t like it at all – constantly sweating and this humidity that does not let one breathe. I am exited for the change of season, fall, cooler weather, Halloween all this good stuff. I will miss the long hot summer days of course when it gets really cold but hey… these days were just insane and not comfortable anymore. This summer was definitely one for the books! We have been traveling since July 11th to Martinique/France, the U.S. and Canada. But as I said, it is time for a change. Change is good, wanted  and needed.

Here are some things we currently love:

  • What we drink: Well, being married to a Frenchi this is usually easy – Red Wine. I am totally into Médoc these days. Then again, gallons of water with lemon and cucumber. For my son: Water mixed with apple juice – his all-time favorite!
  • Working out and practicing : Me:  yoga and meditation every morning after I wake up.No excuses! And consistently practicing how to improve my writing. My son: Practices Yoga with me. So cute. He tries.
  • What we eat:  Me: Salads and healthy vegetable stuff; usually Tomato and mozzarella salad whenever  it is so hot outside. My son: Anything pasta or rice – mostly plain – he does not want anything added. (WTH?) Then again, I made my own pasta the other day which turned out great and we enjoyed it with Gruyère on top. So simple, so good!  [I will share the recipe soon]
  • Traveling/Thinking: A big dream came true. We finally bought land in Canada so I am looking forward to starting the projects there as soon as possible. Also, I am excited about the ton of traveling and writing about it all I will be doing. Canada, Congo… our journey continuous….

Have a great weekend.