Tuesday, December 31, 2013

On NEW New Year's Resolutions

Most people my age have all but given up on new years resolutions. There is a certain degree of cynicism or sense of defeat. The belief that things are set in stone and barr someone who has the willpower of a saint,  we can’t change anymore, so what is the point of starting the year off by setting your self up for failure?

Recent research indicates that a) you can change and b) you are more likely to do so if you try on new years. For more on that  click here.

Further, other (probably not hugely scientific) research shows that the best way to make changes is in small steps, and past (personal) experience has shown that even small periods of change can have an impact. So why not give it a go?

I for one am unable to go the middle ground. It’s all or nothing, but  an indefinite “all” feels all  too daunting. So here is my proposal: write down those things you’ve been wanting to change. In my case that would be:

-       Eat healthy: no dairy, no gluten, no sugar (ouch)
     No alcohol
-       Exercise twice a week (ideally more, but trying to go for something realistic…)
-       Go to bed max 11:30 (if I can’t eat sweets that should be easier)

And your new New Years resolutions  will be to do this, ALL of this, the full monty, FOR ONE MONTH ONLY. I strongly believe that the one month goal line  is going to help, and we get to experience what being that perfect us would feel like. Worst case scenario we detox from the holidays. 

Personally, I’m going to start January 6th and carry on til February 6th , because we   all know that January 1st doesn’t count.  This means I am off the hook for valentines. 

and then, after a month, we'll see what happens...

join me?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

December Challenge: 1,000 words

There's the old saying that a photo is worth 1,000 words.  Give us a photo with that impact. A photo  that sums up some significant event  of your 2013 … or  1,000 words about a pivotal moment in 2013.
this isn't a pivotal moment, but it was special. having just moved back to the us, as spring approached so did the fireflies. the year before I had told the princess there were fairies in the garden. She was 6 going on 15 so she gave me that "there are no such thing as fairies mom, what do you think I am, five?" look, but you can imagine her face  when  we went outside and these little flying things started to shine
- "are they really fairies mommy?"

the face was priceless. so as our second year here approached, I looked up from my desk to see the fairies were back. Kids were in bed but I thought this is just one of those moment. so I took them out from bed, we ran to the garden with a blanket to lie on the grass and look at the fairies.  of course, it quickly turned into a fairy hunt, as they ran around giggling and trying to catch them. 

these are the moments that make the routine and everything else worth it. These are the moments I know I will look back on in old age and say, "I'm glad I got them out of bed for that"

what "magic" photos and moments did you have this year?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

DECEMBER CHALLENGE- revel in the senses

This is the window of the car in afterschool traffic, coming back from guitar recital.

We are constantly surrounded by magic, all it takes is a magic wand to see it, which I am giving you today. Your challenge,  at least til next tuesday, is to see the magic. use your camera phone to capture it, post it on the onSanity facebook page, or don't, but do it. be present, be aware, don't let it slip by you unnoticed.

capture the magic surrounds your every day...

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

December Challenge, keeping a sense of wonder

I hate the cold, but snow… snow is a different story. Snow is magical. It is beautiful and covers everything with a blanket of peace and quiet. Filled with giggling  children, also enchanted by this most ethereal and fleeting of toys.

It's been snowing all morning and I just can't stop looking out the window. It almost makes me think I might  see Santa's sled go by. I just can't get tired of it.

Monday, December 9, 2013

December challenge #3: be a fruitloop in a world of cheerios

I love this one. so, go on, your challenge today is to go out there, into the world, with something outside your comfort zone. make the colors brighter, the skirt shorter, the heels weirder, your hair purple... go on!

orange and red nails, at my age!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

December challenge: one word

Encapsulate the year 2013 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2014 for you? (Gwen Bell)
This is one of the original challenge questions, and I've been asking it every year. For this challenge I decided to go back and look at what I’d written other years:

My word for 2010 would be “Busy”
I took on too much. Too many things and projects that I love, but I’ve come to realize that loving what you do is not enough. Apparently you can’t have everything, so next year I want my word to be “balance”. I hope next year I get it right.

To describe 2011, I have to go with love.  
Its been busy, there has been chaos and madness,  but the bottom line is that I am constantly and continuously surrounded by love.  My kids, my husband, my parents, my mother in law, my sisters, my brother, my grandma, my nephews, my cousins.... they were there for me, they are there for me, and that -as the Mastercard add puts it- is priceless.

My word for 2012 has to be "marathon."
It just felt like one constant run where I barely got a change to come up for air. There was just too much stuff going on. A lot of great stuff, some bad stuff too, but most of the time life looked out of focus, with the background sound being "pant, pant, pant". For 2013 the word I would choose is "transformation." I've reached a point where the status quo does not suit me anymore. I need change, I need to move on to the next step, a new step, a new layer.   It's time to rock things up. 

 * * *

See a pattern? I do, because before I went back to read what I wrote the years before, I definitely would have gone for “marathon” this year too. But then again, we did buy a house, do it up and move in, all the while continuing to hold down the job and run a family. Continuing to hold down the job seemed particularly easy this year. Work kept rolling in, which –when you are freelance- is quite an achievement. And having a house of our own, as nomads, has long been a dream of ours.

So for my 2013 word I am going to with “achieve” because I achieved two dreams on my list: to own a place to call my own, and to finally feel established in my own business.

For 2014 you ask? … I’m so tired I want to say “sleep” but maybe I should go with something more zen. I still want a transformation (which, although much slower than I would have liked, it does seem to be taking place) but I’m going to go with “calm”. This year I want to breath more, walk slower. Get places early. have more breaks between jobs to do homework and more afternoons where we can go have hot chocolate and discuss our lives.


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

December Challenge day 1: what was your favourite part?

Every day when the kids get home from school I ask them
“what was the best thing that happened today?”

when we go away for a holiday or have a special outing I ask them
“what was your favourite part?”

It’s a habit that is hard to loose. I do it automatically, without thinking,

Many moons ago I studied to be a psychologist. Around that time my hormones were a lot more disorganized, and so was the world and my place in it. Or so it seemed. One particularly hard summer I remember reading about a  tool that is used with depressed patients. They are asked to record at the end of every day three good things. They don’t have to be huge, or important, they just have to be good. The idea is that depression is addictive. When you are there you kind of want to stay there, even if you don’t. You wallow in the bad and forget about everything else. You keep digging downwards, and it keeps getting harder to get up. This mechanism makes you remember not everything was bad. So I started doing that myself.

To my surprise this was indeed the fact. Everyday I could easily find 3 good things to focus on. They were often not life changing, but then again, neither were the things that made me unhappy.  It just forced me to change my focus. It also forced me to be grateful for the things I had, instead of focusing on the meaning of life (or lack of) and other things outside my control. I regularly found myself smiling over things like an afternoon  coffee I’d had with someone, something I normally would  not have even given a second thought to, but thinking about it made me realize that -although it was in fact meaningless, it was also very special.  I had a friend, who cared. I’d had some good laughs.

Some days it was particularly hard, the good things I could find were really meanial, but they were there. They were always there, and remembering this helped.

So it kind of just  stayed with me. This little habit of thinking:
“what was the best part?”
“what did you enjoy most?”

and that is why I wanted to start this now mellower version of the December challenge with the same question: What was  your favourite part of 2013? What did you enjoy most, why?

For me, if I think about it, it has been a particularly hectic and somewhat stressful year. Mostly for good reasons but, never the less, it felt like a constant marathon. But you know what I think about when I look back? that through that marathon there was this inner  peace amidst the chaos. I was protected by this bubble we’ve created we call family which  embraces you, holds you up, keeps you going,  smiles back and giggles when you think you are at the end of your tether,  or just cooks  you a nice meal. They phone or text,  even when they know you are terrible on the phone, or pass you a ladder when you just can't reach. It's  much appreciated. 

what about you? what was your favorite part of 2013? what are 3 things that happened to you today or yesterday that are good, but you probably would not have given a second thought to if I hadn't asked?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

when humanitarian work breaks you

There comes a point when reality and fiction come together. When after long talks you finally come face to face with the face behind the numbers, and it’s the one of a 15 year old girl  covered in bright make up. Wearing little more than clothes and a kind smile. No pride or self worth to  shelter under. And then your soul cracks. A quiet dry break slithers from the bone through the ice, from the core to the surface, where belief in justice and order used to beat.  Certainty pulled  from underneath your feet. Solid ground turned into glass. You don’t fall in, you are still privileged, but you now get to see the abyss underneath. Your breath stops and fear grips your lungs. Nothing is where it was, where it used to be, how it was meant to be, how they explained it you and how you explained it back.

You smile back. Forever broken. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

you are my wild

need I say more?
Fossil, magnifying glass, x-ray vision machine and other necessary tools for modern paleontology. Need I say more?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

on two dimensional planning and 3D slap backs

I always joke that I pull a superman when I go on my work trips. I go into the airport dressed up as mommy, and –like superman- change into my super aid worker costume (only using the bathroom as opposed to the phone booth, which no longer exists and could get me arrested).

While no actual change in clothing happens, there is a shift in my head which takes place sometime in the process. The airplane acting as a time capsule of sorts takes me away from my reality, and eventually brings me back.

This last trip entailed a family stop over, so it was hard knowing what to turn into at the airport. I had a few somewhat surreal days in Lima, a gift of time with those close to my heart, but too far for my hectic schedule and anorexic wallet. Much like a dream it ended abruptly when I found myself on a plane headed for a place were I’d once spent a romantic holiday, back when theone was still only maybe. I’d had no time to morph and was still struggling to see what is somehow home as the target country. Which already says miles about what the aid industry can do to your mind map of the world. 

As we approached the mountain range for landing, the sunset’s golden light and heavy clouds gave way to a striking landscape. Only then did I remember that this is the imperial city, once capital of the Inca empire, home to one of the most spectacular temples, world heritage by excellence, a spiritual place and axis of the earth’s energy to many. I was reminded of another gift I was being handed, that of time, in this magical place, alone. And so right there on the plane I decided I would make the best of it. By day I would tend to my duties, but outside working hours, now freed of any family commitments, I would spend my time feeding my spirit and its temple. I would find yoga classes to attend, for sure available in this Mecca for hippies. Fill my empty hours with meditation, and take in the energy from this sacred place.

Next thing I know the pilot is informing us that those beautiful thick layer of white clouds won’t let us in, we are flying back. Years ago the gods had made it impossible for me to reach machu picchu.  Now it seemed like Cuzco was also resisting.

I spent the night in a cold damp three star hotel. Which was fine because I had to get up at 3am to be picked up in time for the first morning flight, but annoying because my bus did two previous stops to drop other passengers at gorgeous five star hotels.

The next day we attempted to beat the sun and the clouds. As soon as reports of clear skies came through we set sail, and after one failed first attempt we managed to land. Finally.  The humid cold air creeped into my bones as soon as I set foot on land. I’ve forgotten half of my clothes back at grandma’s and can only wear skirts for the next 5 days. The cold and  high altitude keep my fingers paper white and ice cold. It would take me almost a day to finally thaw them.  Fast forward to the end of a first productive day  of work to find me bending over  the office bin vomiting, documents and purse in one hand, a can of oxygen in the other. My grown-up dressed-up look completely ruined.   Maybe the gods are taking the demons out the old fashioned way, no yoga or meditation required. Maybe even the best laid out plans are just that, plans, wishful thinking, na├»ve two dimensional visions of what always turns out to be a complex 3D reality, coming right at ya when and how you least expect it. Maybe that was the lesson the gods chose to share with me.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

RIP Dear Lou

I got to meet the legend exactly one year ago. He came down to Brooklyn to read from his new book of poems, and very quickly became the best (and only) idea for a Christmas present for my husband.

It was mid week and they barely gave us any notice. They always do that when  big celebrity is coming, but still, the house was packed.  He read from  his book  with his rough, deep, broken voice. You could hear the passion behind the project, he would stop and relish on the drawings that accompanied it and the man who had made them. It was towards the end, for the Q&A, when the Lou we all expected came out, clearly annoyed with us for being there at all,  slamming down  his fans who so  eagerly struggled to come up  with an interesting question to make to their idol:

fan- "what do you consider was  your greatest achievement"
Lou- "I'm not dead yet"

Some people just don't get to die. His music will continue to be heard and cherished by generations to come, and I can make my claim to fame: I spoke to one of the gods, and managed to annoy the hell out of him.

PS I recorded the whole reading. If he'd known that he probably would have been even more annoyed

Friday, October 25, 2013


casually left behind after the fairies and midgets had the bed time bath. magic.