December 9, 2016

Going Paleo & Feeling Better!

Paleo Stuffed Mushrooms
About a month or so ago, I decided to go full blown paleo. 
It happened after suffering from a frozen shoulder for over 6 months. As you may have read, in some of my earlier posts, I have tried a few different things, even though the doctors said, "it's a matter of time," and that it wasn't clear what has caused this. (Hint: STRESS).

I just want to say a big THANK YOU to all the Paleo bloggers out there, who have made my transition from 'I'll eat anything' to Paleo both easy and even quite fun: Here are two who I especially appreciate, for their plentiful and easy recipes!

Elana - from Elana's Pantry
Ciarra - who I just today discovered via her blog on

I sometimes post my Paleo food online on Instagram: AudreyCreativity - Instagram.

My family thought it was just a little craze, a fad I was going through, so I had to sit them down and tell them to help me, and they did! And yes, I'll cook up pasta for them to add to my slow cooked stews, or whole rice (which I help myself to also sometimes).  It's not so hard, except when I have a craving for something special, and some starch that isn't orange colored!

But the good news, and I'll end with this, is that about one week into eating Paleo, my pain levels decreased so much that I went totally off any pain medication, I started to sleep through the night again, and even enrolled at the gym recently. My physiotherapist (manual therapist) is seeing me only once every two weeks now, instead of weekly. I'm on the mend, my friends! Yippee!

November 20, 2016

Trees and Trumps - 10 min rant

10 min personal challenge. How much can I write in 10 minutes? I have fallen off the writing wagon for a few months now, and now that my shoulder is slowly improving, I feel the need to get back on, to start being creative again.

It's a windy day outside. Not windy, that word doesn't describe the howling that I can hear via the air vent in the bathroom, the leaves and branching swooshing with each strong gust, the beech tree in the neighbor's backyard, that reaches high above our houses, with its few yellow leaves still clinging on, rocking back and forth. As I drove my daughter to work earlier, we saw a tree that had fallen, luckily not into the road, and luckily not into the building it was next to. Still, the cracked stump of the tree, like a wounded animal with a broken leg was a sad sight.

The Dutch are not immune to awe nature.

October 5, 2016

Do you trust other people? Happiness & Fulfillment #5

by Dion Damen

In general, do you think other people can be trusted? The answer to this question varies a lot from country to country, as you might have guessed already. However, did you also know that research proved that overall, countries are happier when people’s trust levels are higher. So, interpersonal trust is a big determinant of happiness. 

Why trust is historically ingrained in us

Steven Pinker states in his book ‘How the mind works’, that the reason why trusting others is so important is because trust played a big role in our evolutionarily past. Because in the past, people often needed to work together in order to survive. What if you can’t trust your neighbor that has borrowed meat and vegetables from you, that he won’t give it back. Not trusting others means to constantly look over your shoulder to possible threats. Nobody wants to live like that.

In order to determine my own trust level, Dr Raj. gave us another survey to complete. My trust levels were higher than average. I was really glad about my results because Dr Raj. had mentioned before the test that almost everybody will score beneath the average trust levels, unless you have thought about this topic before. And I guess I have thought about it before.

How I have learned to trust

As Dr. Raj. explained all the benefits of trusting others I understood that I had realized many of them already. Working in the bookshop/post office contributed to this a lot. We have a very pleasant working environment where the relationship between us and the customers is nice, friendly and informal. A part of the environment is that we trust the customer, and the customer trusts us.
For example, if someone did not bring enough money, we often tell them to bring the rest of the money another time. In 9 out of 10 situations, people actually return later that day, or even another day, to pay off the rest. I have experienced that in situations where people trust each other, both sides have a smile on their face, and so have increased their happiness.

Why you should trust more:

I recommend to everyone who wants to be a more trustworthy towards others to consider two things: 
  •  The first thing to consider is that even though, we hear a lot of the negative stories every day from the media about untrustworthy behavior of people, many studies have proved people to be more trustworthy than we actually think them to be. One of these studies was done in Toronto, where 20 wallets were ‘left behind’ on the streets, including cash and the name and address of the fictive owner of the wallet. You might not have guessed it, but 16 out of the 20 wallets were returned to their original owner.
  • Another thing to really understand about trusting others is that there are a lot of ‘hidden’ benefits when you are trusting someone. You do not instantly 'get' the results when trusting someone, however there definitely are benefits.

One of the hidden benefits of trusting others is that when trusting someone, a hormone ‘oxytocin’ is released. This hormone is also released when two people are in love, or when a mother feeds her baby.   

Another hidden benefit is that you are contributing to "upliftment" in society. This is because if you trust someone, they in turn are trustworthy back. Which also means they are more trustworthy towards others in society.

So, by trusting others, you are actually contributing to society. Making people feel connected with one another. And this connection between one another is in turn something which everybody (sometimes unknowingly) wants.

Want to find out your own trust level? Do the test here.

September 28, 2016

Happiness & Fulfillment #4 Waiting in lines

by Dion Damen

Everybody wants to have some control over his or her own life, right? It is very normal for people to search for some control over their own lives. People who have control over their own lives are generally happier than people who do not have control. However, some people are taking the control of their lives a little bit too far and tend to become overly control seeking. 

Luckily for me, I am quite the opposite. I do not feel the need to control everything in my life. In fact, I actually like it sometimes to not be in control and to accept the uncertainty life gives me. I do not like to have my life planned out and to be in control of what is going to happen.
Being overly control seeking really can affect your happiness because of a few reasons. The most important one is that people that are overly controlling are more frustrated when things don’t turn out as they have planned them to go. 

With my work in a bookshop/post office, I get to interact with so many different types of people in one day. Since the start of this course I have been observing every customer’s behavior and connecting that to how happy they looked from the outside. Of course this is not a scientific experiment, however, it did show me that people who are overly control seeking look less happy than people who do not care much about controlling every situation.
A perfect example, I think, is the different ways of how people are waiting in line for the register. Especially during busy hours, the people who are overly control seeking cannot control the queue, and therefore are often very agitated and in a rush when finally arriving at the register. So, this means they do not look happy, whereas people who do not feel the need to control the queue and accept that they have to wait are much more relaxed and friendly. 

Now, you can say that these people were just in a rush or slightly agitated from another incident. However, at our shop we have a lot of customers who come every week. Having worked there for about 4 years now allowed me to become quite familiarized with a lot of the customers. And I can now conclude that a lot of the customers who I have ‘labeled’ as overly control seeking, generally look less happy. 

What I would like to convince to overly controlling people, is that you simply cannot control your life. You have to accept that some things in life can’t be controlled. You have to accept the uncertainties that can happen in life, and even better, appreciate those uncertainties. Isn’t it a beautiful thing that in everyone’s life, something amazing can happen that you have not planned?

I am concluding this blog with an experiment that has been done, which I really liked. Imagine in which of the following situations you would feel the happiest on Saturday.

Situation 1: if you know beforehand that upcoming Saturday, you will receive $30.
Situation 2: next Saturday you are given $30, which you did not know beforehand.

Studies have shown that uncertain positive occasions increase happiness more than when people know about the occasion beforehand. Even if the money given to the people in the uncertain situation is lower than that of people who knew before that they were going to receive money, the ‘surprised’ group was still happier. Think about that.

September 25, 2016

Happiness & Fulfilment #3 Be loving

Looking back

Week two of the course, where Dr. Raj. talked about chasing superiority was quite interesting to me, however, I felt this did not really apply to my own life. I cannot remember to have ever tried to be better than others. I feel like this has a lot to do with the way I have been raised as a child. My parents have taught me that everybody is equal, and showed me to treat everybody the same. 

Getting love as a child

This is a personal example about a topic that Dr. Raj. also briefly talks about; the way a child is raised. Many people, and sadly many parents as well, have no idea what impact a lack of love and affection can have on a baby’s life later on. The lack of love and affection received as a child, or a very bad childhood in general, is actually a very common cause of the 3rd deadly happiness sin: the need to be loved or the need to go at it alone.

Belonging vs Independence

The fact is: everybody has a deep feeling to belong to other people. The key to success, for me, is to find a healthy way where you are independent enough to stand on your own, with the right number of people surrounding you that love and care for you. 

by Dion Damen (HvA AMSIB student)

During the lessons of this week I could do a test which showed whether you are a person that needs to be loved, or a person that wants to go at it alone. My results showed that I was a person that leaned a little bit towards wanting to go at it alone. I could find myself in this result, and I even predicted it beforehand. Even though the fact that I tend to go at it alone did not bother me in my life, I did follow Dr. Raj’s. instructions in order to improve myself.

Advice for those who are "too" independent

One of the pieces of advice he gave for the people who feel the need to go at it alone (avoidant attitude), is to show more emotions. I really had the idea that this is something I could improve on. This is because I have been told before that I do not often show my emotions, and I knew this was true. However, I did not know about the consequences that can arise from not showing emotions. 

Dr. Raj. explains that people who do not show emotions are difficult to relate to for other people. This is because other people cannot see what you are feeling at that moment. This results in less co-operation from others. 

After Dr. Raj. explained this, I realized why it is so important to show emotions. Mainly because, when showing emotions, other people can relate to you and this in turn really increases the personal contact, which is needed in order to feel connected with someone. 

My personal experience by showing more emotion is very positive. I noticed right away that it is easier to interact with other people and therefore feeling more connected. This is a positive change because I feel the interaction with others increases my happiness. 

At first I did have some problems with showing my emotions, because I am used to not showing them. In order to improve this about myself, I thought to myself logically about what emotions were and what they did. And I decided for myself that emotions were a way for humans to nonverbally communicate with each other, and that everybody had them. Realizing and accepting this made it for me a lot easier to show them today. It is amazing to see how such a small change in behavior can bring so much more benefits to your life.

September 12, 2016

Week 2 of Happiness and Fulfillment

by Dion Damen

Entering week two into the course, ‘A Life of Happiness and fulfilment,’ I was very curious about what Dr Raj. would talk about this week. The starting week was already a big eye-opener for me because, I was confronted with the fact that I, among many other people, devaluated happiness for the sake of something else. With that somewhat confronting discovery in the back of my head I started week two of the course and came to find out about the second deadly happiness sin.

Chasing superiority
Dr Raj. called the second sin ‘chasing superiority’. This second sin is a lot more straightforward to me than the first one, which made it very easy to understand. People seek for superiority because people want other people’s approval. People have always dreamed about being the best at something and to be admired by others. Look at athletes who are admired by so many people. Everybody would wish to be as skilled and as famous as them, right?

Why it doesn't work
What surprises me about the sin ‘chasing superiority’, is that many people think they need to actually achieve superiority in order to become happy. However, the opposite is often true. Since the act of chasing superiority often goes hand in hand with a few side-effects that actually lowers people’s happiness.
There are 3 reasons why chasing superiority lowers people’s happiness.
  1. People who seek superiority constantly compare themselves to other people’s looks, money, success etc. This constant comparison and observation about others is actually very pernicious as it separates the you from other people.
  2. People that seek superiority are often very materialistic. This is because out of everything you can compare between people, materialistic comparison is the easiest to compare. Materialism eventually will also lead to separation from others. 
  3. The third reason why chasing superiority lowers your happiness is because people do not like people who strive for superiority. This as well results in isolation.

The irony
What I find very fascinating about chasing superiority, is that people often do it for the fame and the feeling of being admired by others. You would think that people who reached superiority would be surrounded by people and friends. However, the opposite is true. Chasing superiority makes people very lonely and separates them from others.

I guess that is where the expression ‘it’s lonely at the top’ comes from.

September 8, 2016

How to find Happiness and Fulfillment!

by Dion Damen, 4th year student at AMSIB*

Two weeks ago I started an online course on named 'A life of Happiness and Fulfillment'. The reason why I started this course is because attaining happiness is something everybody is aiming for. Even though the world is full of different nationalities, cultures, and people, in the end, (arguably) every human being on earth is aiming for a happy life. I wanted to increase my knowledge about this topic because everybody aims for happiness, yet not everybody knows the theory behind achieving it.

The course is divided over 6 weeks. In each week the teacher (Dr. Rajagopal Raghunathan) explains 1 of the 7 sins of happiness. These sins are common factors that people do that stand in the way of people's happiness without them realizing that. 

The first sin of happiness was the devaluing of happiness. This means that people tend to sacrifice happiness for the sake of other things. When I first heard about this sin I thought to myself 'people who do that are crazy!'. However, after Dr Raj. explained this sin more, I realized; I devaluated my happiness as well...
I found out I sometimes devaluate my own happiness for the sake of being right.

August 10, 2016

My Frozen Shoulder - Kvetch and Solutions?

At the risk of sounding like a grumpy old lady, I thought to share my woeful story of my frozen shoulder - mainly since I too have been searching online for various solutions. 

So, way back in April was when I first posted about my shoulder problem. And now it's August and guess what? Physiotherapy might help - but only partially. 

The progression:

Soon after we moved to our new house, (which I why I ignored the pain for a while), at the end of February, the problem began - 

  • with a growing pain in my shoulder, which turned into 

April 20, 2016

#Renovation 4: #Bruynzeel kitchen cabinets, anyone?

J* (Read footnote below!)
- the Maintenance Man
J entered my house, his eyes round and wide, and offered me his limp hand to shake.  I shook it, best I could, and ushered him in, ready to finally have my kitchen cabinet doors fixed.

Like a missing tooth
It doesn’t bother me now, but when I first walked into the house, the gap in the kitchen where the cabinet door should have been drew me towards it like a black hole. On closer inspection, the

April 7, 2016

Does physiotherapy actually help?

The pain:
The ache in my right shoulder started sometime in between my wedding towards the end of December and moving day in late February.

At first I thought I had just bumped it (on what? walking down to the toilet in the middle of the night?), and that it would go away on it's own, but slowly it grew in intensity until I could no longer sleep on that side. 

The denial:
Between the wedding our move, we also had great fun decluttering and packing and then there was a gigantic renovation in between (see various blogs of mine on that topic!), so it was no surprise that I ignored the pain until it spread down to my elbow and then to my wrist, making any computer work virtually impossible.

The solution?
About 2 weeks ago, I finally took myself to my doctor.

April 5, 2016

Appreciation #2: Gusto Di Casto Gelderlandplein

The best sandwiches in town
"Mom, I finished my run around the lake in less than 20 minutes!"
"Super!" I said, with what I hoped was the right degree of encouragement and enthusiasm. I had no idea if that was a good time, but he sounded happy, so I hoped I had gotten it right.
"So..." he continued, "I was thinking of those sandwiches at the Gelderlandplein. As a kind of reward, what'ya think?"
My mouth drooled. I hadn't had lunch. I'd been pretty good about my expenses this month. 
"You know what?" I replied. "let's go!" We hopped onto our bikes and yes, in 10 minutes (now everything is close by!!!), we were there - Gusto di Casto!

Better than new
The place has been renovated (last October, the guy told me), and the food is as good as it's always been. The juicy spinach salad, the marinated artichokes, the olive rolls (freshly baked), etc. Of course, the coffee is delicious too, (it's Italian!), and yes, they have soya milk, so I could have a cappuccino!
We peeked upstairs where there's now a whole floor of tables, and sat down below on a comfy sofa facing the door. The atmosphere was upscale and relaxed. The place is open from 8 am. to 19:30 or 20:00 some days. We may have to return for a pasta breakfast another time, I thought.

Any room for improvement?
Well, like I hinted at above, you really do have to pay for the amazing sandwiches, but they are worth every cent. And they are big enough to save half for later, so you can enjoy them doubly! 

While we were there, we also got a language lesson! "Prego," the waiter /cook/owner? said, as he gave us our food. "Gracias?" I answered hesitantly, and he promptly corrected me, "Grazie, otherwise, it's Spanish." Later, I asked him to spell it out for me. And now I know. Grazie! It was delicious!

April 4, 2016

Appreciation #1: Wildschut Cafe Amsterdam

Better get better!
A few days ago, I asked some friends on my Facebook page, how I could possibly enhance the customer service experience at restaurants in Amsterdam and Amstelveen. 

I had been all set to start blogging nasty, shameful things about the crappy service, (yes, that's correct, crappy is a 'nice' word compared to some of the service I have received),  I have had the joy to experience here in the country I now call home.

Be constructive, they said...
But the responses of my friends were, on the whole, oh so kind, and positive that I reconsidered, and decided, instead, to write about the places I appreciate. (I guess you now know what kind of friends I have!) While a little disappointed, I had to admit that I too, am actually a strong advocate of positive psychology, and while I love to improve things when I can, I hate seeing myself as a 'complainer.' 

So, here goes!
Yesterday we ate a quick dinner at Cafe Wildschut, located a 6 min bike ride from the place I'll be hanging out a lot at for the next 3 months, Boekhandel van Rossum. (teaser alert!)

"You left a tip?" my husband asked, with slightly raised eyebrows.
"Sure," I answered, "and not only that, I thanked our waiter."
"What'd he do?" hubby asked, which was actually a good question, since we hardly even saw him during our meal.
"Aha," I said. "Sometimes it's not about what you do, but what you don't do. He didn't piss me off. He must have worked hard, since you yourself mentioned that this place was packed up until sunset, half an hour ago, but he showed up at our table with a smile, minutes after we arrived, to take our orders."

What else was good:
Wildschut had the beer we wanted to order, which shows excellent inventory management at this restaurant, (not to mention an eye for the latest beer trends; IPA Brand, in case you're wondering), and when we asked to share a salad, we didn't get a dirty look. Without even asking, he brought us an extra plate, too.

Could still be a little better:
The truth is, the waiter hadn't been perfect; he'd hidden his yawn not so well, while taking our order, and again while giving me the bill, which I had to get up to go and ask for. So, he himself was a little surprised that I tipped him. Still, I told him that he'd brought the food quickly, and it was tasty, and that he was friendly and kind. His smile showed me that my comments were appreciated. 

Yes, it's possible that some days I'm more forgiving than others when it comes to the service I am willing to put up with, but I'm willing to give this positive feedback thing a go. After all, it's working wonders with my students, so who knows?

March 6, 2016

Renovation #3 -Why every woman should hire a handyman

      It’s just a week past our moving day. The house had been ‘speed renovated’ in the month since we got our key, and before we moved in, but unfortunately there was still some work to be done in the house after the move. As a consequence, Martin, Michael and Przemek, a small part of Darek’s construction crew worked for us for another week, arriving daily at 7:30 a.m. and leaving around 17:00. 

Who are these guys and what are they doing in my house?

Before the move, I would drop by the house nearly daily to see what was going on and correct any mistakes or misunderstandings. I’d learned a few of their names, but all I really saw were a blur of unknown faces, people covered in dust and overalls and shouting to each other from time to time in Polish. Men I couldn’t easily talk to, all managed by their boss – our contractor. I appreciated them collectively and the work they were doing, but didn’t really know them at all.

After the move, the three guys and I spent a lot of time together. I had a week off of work and my main priorities were unpacking, organizing, and cooking. Actually cooking was not a priority, just a fact of life. When you have two teens at home and a husband, then food needs to be on the table every night. Or at least that’s my take on it.

You do your stuff, and I'll do mine

In the beginning, I left Przemek, Michael and Martin to their own devices, seeing as they knew very well what had to be done. But since my husband was away at work, and there were many things to be done by someone handier than I was, I found myself asking for assistance.

It's the little bits that count

“Um, see this filing cabinet? I don’t have the key, and since the move, the drawers won’t come out.” Przemek could easily see that this gigantic ugly cabinet would be better off in the dump. But in order for that to happen, it would have to go downstairs. And none of us wanted to again negotiate the stairs with furniture anytime soon. He took out a drill, and slowly but carefully began drilling out the lock. At first I thought, hmm, does he have experience with this? Good thing I don’t have a safe at home; but then, as he changed drill bits quickly and efficiently, I thought of my dentist and wondered if he’d agree to have Przemek teach him a few tricks. With much drilling and some persuasion, the lock finally gave and the drawers came free.

Let there be...

This was the beginning of the slippery slope. But the beauty of it was that it was mutual. A little while later, Przemek came to me and said, “I have a problem. It’s too dark in the stairs for Martin to paint.”
“I have a solution,” I replied happily and went to the box containing all our light fixtures from the old house, “How about this one?”
Minutes later, (yeah Lord, beat that!), there was light.

This led to me battering my eyelashes and with a smile saying, “It’s rather dark in the living room too, don’t you think?” But this time, Przemek just smiled and continued with the job he was working on at the time.

We were all strangers in a strange land

At lunch, they would take out their sandwiches from home, and sit and eat. I’d feed them as much coffee as I thought their systems would hold, and sometimes cake and cookies, when we had them.
Eventually, we started sitting down to eat at the same time, at the same table.  I asked them about their families. They all had small kids, even though to me, they seemed rather young themselves. Some had their families here, but some had been going back and forth to Poland for 6 years, while leaving their wives and children back home. “That must be hard for you,” I said, and Pzrmek nodded quickly and then packing up his bread, he said, “We go back to work.”
The next day, Przemek arrived much later than usual, around 10:00 a.m, and told us he had found a house where he could live with his wife and 9 month old son. And that was the day that he said to me, “Tell me all the things you want done in the house.”

The miracles just kept on rolling in 

All the lamps went up, as well as the curtain rods, and he even installed the Ikea roll-down curtains in the bathroom so the neighbors would stop getting a free show. The Ikea cabinets for our workspace were put together in less than an hour, and installed on the wall, without any help nor cursing involved. No lamenting about Ikea instructions and their ‘almost perfect system if only I knew where that last, leftover screw went.’ The wooden desktop that needed to be cut by half a centimeter (well, how was I to know that the wall would be plastered before painting?) was sawed to fit and installed as well. Mirrors were placed on the wall, the electricity for the oven was fixed and all with a smile and much ease.

Gratefulness and health

I felt so much gratefulness this week that such a huge amount of to-dos were accomplished that I didn’t even get a headache from the paint fumes that Martin continued to create with the turpentine and oil based paints for the wood and doors. When I was asked what color the door should be painted and I said “Red, like the wall,” there was no rolling of eyes nor any complaining that yes, that color would have to be ordered and bought and who would have time for it. Instead, the next day, Michael was there, with red paint, as if it had been here in the shed all along.

I got to know the guys, I learned to love each of their skills, the hard working and good humored Michael, the patient and perfectionist painter Martin, and the all-capable: electrician, problem solver, handyman, jack-of-all-trades Przemek, (whose name I finally figured out how to write), with his pale thin face and lovely blue eyes. They shook hands warmly with us when they left, and I will actually miss having them under feet all day.

Lessons learned

I learned a few things about husbands too:
1.     A husband doesn’t like to be told what to do, while a handyman loves clarity.
2.     A husband will be inspired (and perhaps even a little positively competitive) when he sees the handyman’s efficiency.
3.     A husband will also feel grateful that the house is falling into place, thus creating an amazing sensation of harmony and peacefulness in the home.

Things I learned about myself:
1.     A little gratefulness goes a long way
2.     When I am frustrated, I need to take a deep breath, count to 10 and hold my tongue.
3.     If you trust people, (husbands and handymen alike), they will repay you with loyalty and excellence.

February 17, 2016

Why a good habit can be bad for you.

Yes, there are some good habits

I don't think Nir Eyal ( will mind if I mention that I read his blog today on one ritual that has brought him much happiness. I'm not sure if I should tell you what it is - (spoiler alert) - but it has to do with adult friendships. It's a good one! Well worth reading! And I agree with him, it's good to get into the habit of... oh no, I'll let you read it for yourself.

He's not the only one to mention how habits can be good for you. I recently had Melissa, (Sorted, by Melissa), an organization specialist, come to my house to help me declutter. She asked me, "How often do you throw stuff away from your school files/desk?" And I looked at her as if she had asked me if I still remembered calculus from university. 
"Throw stuff away regularly?" I repeated dumbly? 
"Like when you go shopping," she said, "and you clear out your fridge, and throw away the packaging from the tomatoes..."

She told me how having a good habit (of tidying up or throwing away things on a regular basis) can clear the brain for more difficult tasks it needs to do in order to get through the day. Apparently, our brains get 'decision fatigue' when we have to make decisions (LIKE I DO), about every single thing in our lives, like: Wake up now, or set the snooze? What should I wear? Eat first, or shower first? Have tea or coffee? What's for breakfast? Sweet or salty? Eggs, oatmeal or smoothy? What, no pancakes? Etc. You can see how fatigued I am by the time I get to work!

So, sometimes, habits can be extremely helpful things to have. Even for us 'questioners' who have to have a reason for everything before we decide if we want to do it. The author of 'Better than Before' Gretchen Rubin has a really fun quiz that will help you figure out why you can or can't keep up good habits.

But habits can be dangerous too!

And then again, today I was driving along, and daydreaming - as I do sometimes while driving down familiar roads - and I thought - 'Wait a minute' - I'm going to try out a new road now. I hooked a left unexpectedly (Luckily no one was behind me), and zigzagged along a new road, until  got to my destination. As I did it, I was no longer daydreaming. I was looking around, checking out the houses, looking at the trees, the bushes, the view from here, that was different from the view from there.

And I remembered how often I have told people, in my workshops, that in order to grow, we have to jump out of our comfort zones. By changing one small habit, like trying to brush your teeth with the wrong hand, you can experience that even such a mundane task can be done in a mindful - 'in the moment' kind of way.

And since we don't know how long our lives will be, but what we do know, is that we are here right now, at this moment, it might be a good thing to stop and just BE in this moment. And sometimes that can only be achieved by changing your habits!

A fine balancing act

I would say, since my life is a constant struggle between growth and comfort, that it's a good idea to set some good habits - like my attempting to write a few times a week in order to get into a regular writing habit. I actually felt myself craving doing some writing yesterday!

But it's also a wonderful idea to go crazy once in a while, and try something unexpected, go somewhere new, shake it up a bit! Last night I dreamt I was petting some tame lions. I was sure all was well, but then along came a lion who was rather unfriendly. When I realized I was in danger, I didn't run away (since, duh, lions can run much faster than I can), instead, I used my dream superpower, and took off in flight, right into the sky! (since, duh, lions can't fly, now, can they?).

Happy habit making/breaking!

February 15, 2016

Time Management on Survival Days

How do you do it all? I am a person who has wondered this about others, and mostly I feel that I have no clue at all. That's why I took Katharine Grubb's Time Management Bootcamp, which this week is about managing during "off days." 

Since we are renovating, packing, taking floors out of current house, keeping our jobs, raising our teens, it seems to me that lately, every day is a survival day.

Here's what I do to keep my sanity, and still get some stuff done in these crazy times:

Delegate or die

My dearest darling teens have just done the dishes and somehow, miraculously, the dishwasher is even running right now, as I take time to write this blog. Earlier, I sent my daughter to the garage to get the headlight on the car fixed. She not only did it, but afterwards came back fully energized, decluttered and packed up half her room!

Cooking healthy but fast(er)

Recently, after doing the exercise where I charted what I was spending time on, I realized that I spend far too much time thinking about what to cook for dinner, then shopping a few times a week, then cooking long elaborate meals. So, recently, I have found a few different ways to save time, without compromising on my many self imposed demands: fresh ingredients, warm food, tasty!, interesting and varied.
Chili and Corn bread! 
  •       Hello Fresh (much as I hate to give free publicity), this company has really saved me in the past few months during our busy times. The meals are pretty good – sometimes I have to add a few extra spices, and sometimes we feel they are a little too healthy, but on the whole, they satisfy all requirements. 
  •       An hour of research into “30 min meals” (Yummly ring a bell?)– and making a list in advance of what we’re going to eat that week – then an accompanying shopping list. In the extra busy days, I also delegate here too – both Naomi and Yoav are happy to make things such as Tacos, Pasta Carbonara, Sushi (not cheap but very yummy).
  •       Use local chefs. There’s at least one woman who has saved me more than once and her food is delicious and super fresh as well. Colleen Camastro in Amstelveen. She has a short, private list of customers, so to get in touch with her amazing food, you can ask me, and I’ll ask her…Otherwise, check Facebook: Amstelveen Buy/Swap/Sell site for other home chefs advertising their foods!

Saying “No”

Oh, I’ve become quite good at that. And also apologizing, and also telling people that in advance they should expect very little of me these days. And funnily enough, I still have amazing friends who are willing to come over, help me organize, listen to my kvetching and send me red hearts on whatsapp. It relieves me of so much guilt, that I don’t know why I didn’t start doing it earlier. Even my kids once said to me, “Mom, don’t say, “We’ll see,” cause that gets our hopes up. Just say no, it’s ok, and then we know.”

Being kind to me

Recharging your battery is essential in life. I learned that lesson, even in those hard years when I was caring for Yarden, and many mothers in such a situation would have been glued to his side 24/7.  Then, and now, I have learned that when I am fed (warm and healthy food – see above), have enough sleep and also am allowed some chill-out time, I am a much nicer person to be around. 

What I do to have fun:

When I have ‘no time’ – I still almost have time for these:
  •      An episode of House while making dinner!
  •      Listening to a podcast while on public transport on way to work.
  •       A long shower – often twice a day.
  •      Reading a few pages of a not too demanding book, before bed.
  •      A few minutes on the side of Naomi and/or Yoav’s bed, before they go to sleep. (That usually ensures that I still get a kiss – hard to come by with teens).
  •      Cuddle with my hubby. Usually these days one of us ends up snoring after a few minutes, but we still get all those warm happy feelings from the closeness. 

Bottom line

And yes, setting the timer for 10 minutes (or 30) really does help me sit down to get tasks done. I am a born procrastinator (there, my dirty little secret is out!), so I often have to trick myself to get stuff done.

And finally, THANK GOODNESS for my wonderful husband, Theo, who is an endless energizer bunny – a guy who very rarely complains, and ‘just does it.’ Where would I be without him!?