How happy are you with your sleep?

Enjoying a good night’s sleep is important. Arianna Huffington, the founder of the Huffington Post has made it her mission to advocate sleeping better. Better quality sleep, more hours. She talks about actively showing more respect for our human needs. She has even created a website Thrive, dedicated to wisdom and well-being. She is very successful in the business world and is not afraid to speak about sleep, meditation, inspiration and personal purpose.

Are you happy with your sleep? I wish I could say yes. Moreover I wish I could do more and sleep more – both on the same day. Every day has 24 hours for all of us. We have to do our best with those hours. It is not often I feel very successful. More often than not, I do have a lot more to do on my list when the time comes to go to bed, when my body and mind stop cooperating with my list.

Here you will find four tips for sleeping better. Sleep helps your body and mind recover from the stress of everyday life. Better sleep is associated with a better mood and a better disposition, even with a better performance at work. For whichever reason, we should probably follow this advice and make the most of our sleep. We cant live without it anyway.

Turn off the lights

Even with our eyes closed, the lights can keep our nervous system alert. Let’s make sure all the lights in the room are off, even the small lights of the electrical devices.

Eat early

According to healthy diet advice it is best to avoid rich foods before bed. Eat something light and healthy preferably two to three hours before bed. This way food can get digested without putting a strain on the body overnight.

Tidy your bedroom

A clean and tidy room can be your haven, a space of peace and calm to recover from the strains of the day. Change your sheets and your sleepwear regularly. Make sure the temperature is comfortable and the air is fresh.

Manage stress

Meditation or breathing techniques can help you lower stress levels and prepare your body for sleeping. Stress should not be allowed in the bedroom, and it is best to avoid thinking about problems before going to bed. Try and concentrate on happy and purposeful thoughts and leave your mind free to dream and relax.

Are you happy with your sleep? Should we really do something about that? Let me know in your reply.

Time for some optimism and faith

Following a couple of heavy posts I feel it’s time to talk about optimism and faith.

Life has a habit of throwing things at you when you least expect them; things you never imagined. Despite the fact that you spend an incredible amount of time thinking about worst case scenarios and doom and gloom. Those stories never materialise. Others do. The ones you never thought of.

At what time in our lives do we get to realise that? When does our intellectual yet primitive brain accept the fact that fear generated from our own thoughts isn’t really helping? That the stories our mind plots to warn us and protect us, are themselves the source of stress and unhappiness?

Protect us from what? How? Have you seen the stars in the sky? Or the pictures of the universe that NASA publishes ever so often? What is each and everyone of us but a dot in the sky? The Earth itself is nothing but a dot in the sky.

If there is one thing we can master, that would be our mind, our thoughts. Maybe. Outside events are haphazard and unpredictable and random and good and bad. Anything goes. But our reaction we can control. Only that. Our actions, our decisions in response to whatever life throws at us. Good or bad.

And when its bad lets remember to put faith in the mix. Faith hat we can make a wise decision, faith that things will go well at the end. Faith that yes we can determine the outcome with our actions, faith that there is a new day coming tomorrow and the sun is definitely coming out. NASA said.



Can we really find the right balance in life?

Everybody talks about work – life balance. It is a popular discussion with numerous answers and different approaches all over the public domain. It is addressed both practically and spiritually.

“Everything in moderation” or “Pan metron ariston” said Cleobulus, one of the Seven Sages of Greece. He talked about finding balance in the 6th century BC. Today we still struggle to achieve this. Can we ever achieve the perfect balance? What is it all about? Is it about the destination, or about the journey?

I do believe that finding balance is not limited to the dipole between the personal and the professional. Finding balance is relevant to all aspects of our lives, anything that involves decision making and relations with others. No event is ever all black or all white, hardly ever is someone completely right or completely wrong. We constantly need to find balance and peace in our relationships with friends, colleagues, family, even with ourselves. Perhaps most importantly with ourselves.

Balance is about peace and fairness. A state where all elements have been considered; all the different facts and opinions and feelings.

There are so many opposites to consider:

  • Caring for looks VS caring for education.
  • Working towards goals VS watching TV all the time
  • Being a fashion victim VS not caring about image
  • Being hysterical about how things are done VS being without concern, care, interest
  • Being a liar and a hypocrite VS being brutally honest
  • Being superficial VS taking everything close to heart, being super sensitive

Considering all of the above, it is so easy to give the answer: find the golden rule, the happy medium, the middle ground. Who would disagree? But what does this really mean?

It is so important that we are in peace with ourselves. I strongly feel the need to be in peace with myself, in my effort to be a good person.

  • I want to eat the cake, but be thin as well
  • I want to party all the time, but read all the books as well
  • I want to have a killer career, but never get out of bed
  • I also want a super healthy body, but never set foot in the gym

Easy, huh?

It took me years of conflict, to realize that yes, I can have it all. We can have it all; it’s all about balance. Give and take.

  • Eat cake ever so often and not with each meal
  • Stay in bed longer during weekends and not every day
  • Visit the dreaded gym twice a week, not every day
  • Read the self – development book with all the wonderful tips about time management – even if it is for 15 min in the evening. By the way, 15min is still a lot more than nothing!

Wouldn’t it be great if we could be in peace with our inner demons and the unfulfilled dreams and expectations, we all deal with? Let’s just be realistic for a moment, understand and respect the choices that led us to where we are today.

All we want is to be better isn’t it?

I cannot really decide which is more difficult:  peace with ourselves or peace with the others? Peace inside would probably be a good starting point, I think.

We need to explore the middle ground that leaves enough room for both sides.  When others are involved, we need to leave them room to breathe and maintain their self-respect. By all means, set a boundary but be equally prepared to respect the individuality of the other person – no matter what their role in your life.

I believe that the main idea, the underlying principle is to find our own personal position, our own personal happy place, the perfect analogy for our identity, our personality, our choices, our circumstances. To define the person we want to be and treasure it.

I would love to read your thoughts on this. Send me a reply if you would like to share.

Do parents know better? A family story revisited

This is about family moments, about parents and children, about communication and respect. Being a parent is not easy. Sadly it doesn’t come with instructions. Our only hope is love. And laughing together.

This is my family’s Ketchup story which I first published a few days ago. Listening to the suggestions of friends I decided to rewrite it in a more dramatic way that doesn’t give away the outcome so quickly. This is my effort to rewrite the sequence in a more structured way, which is ultimately more enjoyable to read. I hope. Here it goes:

It’s Saturday morning and the family decided to go shopping. No shortage of needs in a house with two teenagers. At lunch time after all the absolutely, definitely, necessary items were bought, we go to their favourite restaurant for a quick lunch. Burgers all around.

And my husband decides it is best he handles the ketchup bottle so that the kids don’t make a mess.

And he shakes the Ketchup bottle while open. Why, I do not know. Why would anyone shake a ketchup bottle? Let’s just assume he thought this would make the sauce come out easier. And it did! All over the place! Not only on the plates but also on the table, the cutlery, the glasses.

The trajectory of the movement was marked in red. Thick red sauce. Only, we soon realised, the traces weren’t stopping at the edge of our table, rather they were visible on the floor leading to a shopping bag by the next table. The family sitting there didn’t realise what happened, but when I saw the red marks inside their bag, I just looked at my husband with eyes wide open. I couldn’t stop laughing despite the embarrassment!

Why on Earth did he think he could do this better that the kids?

Why assume they would make a mess and he wouldn’t? They are teenagers not toddlers.

Whatever possesses us parents and makes us believe we know better than them? About everything, not just ketchup. I will always remember that story for two reasons. First, I laughed a lot! Second, it made me think about our role as parents. We don’t always know better, and even if we do, we still make mistakes. And one more thing: Always ensure ketchup bottle is closed before shaking it! Or rather don’t shake it.

Is is a successful attempt? I’d love to know what you think in your reply.

My Inspiration for 2019: Judith Kerr

A creative woman at the age of 95

Most of this post is an excerpt from my Diary, from the pages where I tell myself how to plan my future. New Year’s Day post is dedicated to true role models and genuine inspiration.

A few days ago, I read one of the most inspiring articles ever. The interview of a lady at 95 who still writes or draws for two hours every morning so that she feels that the day “isn’t wasted”! I love Judith Kerr. She’s lived a creative life and continues to do so. She walks to the river for inspiration, she enjoys wonderful meals at the Savoy. Clearly, she has a mindset of usefulness and productivity. And she started writing and drawing in her forties. Which is excellent. Which means I can do this too.

That is what I dream of for myself. A full life where I forever create something useful, have a distinct reason for waking up every morning and lead an interesting life. She is active and alert and optimistic and quality driven. That is my role model. A 95 years old lady who still produces work and eats lobster at the Savoy while being interviewed for the Guardian

I love her energy, and the fact that she is happy about her grandchildren living in Rome, because that gives her an excuse to go to Rome. She loves that when they come to London they are excited about visiting places. I love her spirit, her mindset, her point of view. I love that she is alive and finds sincere and deep beauty in everything.

I want to become such a woman. A creative person, in peace with myself, in peace with my creativity and my desire to be useful. So, I too want to create something beautiful, and useful and interesting. I want to be that person that is calm and creative and respected and enjoys life and actively creates beauty! A person that has something to contribute to the world.

I’m so excited about Judith Kerr. That she exists is testament that I can make my dreams come true. That it is possible and feasible and real. I know it isn’t going to be easy. I don’t want it to be easy.

I wish everyone a HAPPY NEW YEAR full of LOVE and INSPIRATION!

I’d love to read about your inspiration. Send me a reply and let me know.

My funny story: The family at the restaurant

As it is Christmas time it feels appropriate to share a funny story. It is a true family story that happened a while ago but stuck with us. It makes us all laugh every time we remember it. I hope you will enjoy reading it!

Well, once upon a time …

On a typical Saturday morning, the whole family decided to go shopping. No shortage of needs in a house with two teenage girls. The morning at the stores went more or less as expected. After all the absolutely definitely necessary items were bought, which was about lunch time, we decided to go to their favourite restaurant for a quick bite. Favourite restaurant for teenagers means noise, excitement, crowds. It means food that arrives late, a table near a birthday gathering, teenagers arguing about silly things and parents trying to survive the experience.

Heinz tomato ketchup bottle on the table
Are you sure you want ketchup?

Despite all this, my husband and I wanted to be part of this liveliness, plus we enjoy the taste of this food. So we are all at the table and plates arrive. Burgers all around. And my husband decides it’s best he handles the ketchup bottle so that the kids don’t make a mess. And he shakes the bottle while it is open. And ketchup sauce ends up not only at our table, but also inside the shopping bag of a lady sitting at the next table. So embarrassing! Just picture our faces looking at the traces of ketchup. Eyes wide open and mouths without words. What was worse I do not know; that he thought he could do this better than the kids, or that he spoiled the white garment inside the bag.

A disaster on all accounts that gave real pleasure to our girls. Yes, parents aren’t perfect. What came next was a frantic effort to clean everything up, finish food and go as soon as possible. Lesson learned: Always ensure ketchup bottle is closed before shaking it!

And another lesson: trust your kids to know a thing or two. I just hope and wish we all enjoy a lot of wonderful moments with them. Moments that we will remember and cherish for many years to come!

I’d live to read your funny story! Send me a reply and let me know.

My Christmas story: The day a squirrel bit me

Honestly, a squirrel! It was at the University park on a cold yet lovely day. The sun was shining, and the atmosphere was crystal clear. I was there with a friend enjoying the scenery, the beautiful English nature.  There is a lake and swans and trees and plenty of squirrels running around. They are used to students visiting so they were not afraid of us.  Lovely English park.

I’m not used to seeing squirrels running around so I was very excited and decided to give them some nuts I had bought for myself. It was a nice big bag full of walnuts, and peanuts and hazelnuts. I put one at the tip of my finger extended my hand and waited. They looked at it rather sceptically, indecisive at first. Until a brave little guy made the first move. Once suitability and tastiness were verified all of them helped themselves from my hand. Lovely creatures.

All was well and everybody was happy until the bag got empty. Party suddenly over! But I didn’t want it to end, and my little brave friend didn’t want it to end either. It  stood there waiting for more. There was no more nuts but I was enjoying the game and so I extended my arm without a nut on my finger. Happy and excited once again, it opened its mouth to grab the nut but failed to sense something crunchy and tasteful. Its teeth grabbed something soft, tasteless and non-detachable, the tip of my finger. Its teeth got stuck either side of my nail and the little guy was more surprised than I was. Pain was far less important than surprise! For a few seconds I was looking at it trying to run away but not being able to. The tiny teeth anchored on my finger. It took e few seconds to realise that it needed to open its mouth widely to free itself. Then it run away, never looking back.

The scene ended with quite some blood coming from my finger and a visit to the local pharmacist for a tetanus shot, just in case.

I have to say this is one of the happiest moments in my life. The interaction with the little guy, the serene environment of the park, the laughs of my friend who couldn’t believe that a squirrel could actually bite a human. Well, it was accidental; the tip of my finger does look like a hazelnut.

I can smell the soil and the trees and the leaves on the ground. They make musical sounds that celebrate the connection to the Earth. The sun is there shining through the branches and the leaves. Humidity is there to protect and nourish the fragility and beauty of English greenery. And I see the main building of the University of Nottingham in the distance. How I wish to go back! How I wish to be the victim of a human-biting squirrel again!

Merry Christmas!

No more “How to …” posts! What do you think?

Yes, Internet is a tool. It can help us connect and learn and communicate. We use it to find information, to amuse ourselves, to do our job. And we use it because we want to learn more things, new things, better things.

I want to learn how to improve my writing. How to better communicate with my tribe and share my thoughts. I am trying to find out the right tone of voice, the right topic, the best way to put my words in a line so people can understand me. And help me.

In my effort to achieve this I have been bombarded by “how to …” posts. There are hundreds of them on any topic, often entailing conflicting guidelines.

Do write often – Do not write often

Do write for content mills – Do not write for content mills

Do share personal staff – Do not share personal staff

There is lists and lists of “how to …” and “what to do …” everywhere online. And once they find out you are interested, they overwhelm you with e-mails and webinars and magical documents that solve everything.

My problem is, I am starting to feel they are lacking in honesty. Somebody somewhere decided that this type of posts and articles interest people. That they draw traffic and establish platforms. And maybe they do. I don’t know. So many websites are doing this, I guess it must be working!

But those writers, do they really think about me when they write? Do they think of a person, any person, as they write? Or do they follow the rules of success? Make up a list of instructions, make them easy to read and simple and approachable and off it goes. I am starting to feel neglected.

How about we share more truth and less guidelines? The most useful and inspirational piece of content I read online recently was the interview of Judith Kerr in the Guardian. She is a 95 years old woman and every day she writes her books, she draws, she walks to the river. In her interview she simply talks about her life, her choices, her way of doing things. And that is great. She shares her experience with no intention to teach the reader or offer instructions. She just lives the way that is fulfilling for her. I wish to become like that one day. And she simply talks about her life. That is truly inspirational!

Back to the “how to …” content. I think I’ve already had enough. I long to read more true stories, honest stories, human stories about writing, living, learning. And maybe that is the path I am to follow.

What do you think about all those articles offering guidelines? Do you enjoy them or have you also had enough?

Do you think they lack soul?

How to inspire a teenager. Any ideas?

Well, I need some ideas for teenager inspiration. Can you help?

Life is full of surprises, we know that by now. And one thing is absolutely certain, that things change! As I was growing up, I used to think nothing would ever really change. I don’t know why I believed that so firmly.

About a decade ago, the dialing codes in my area were changed. When I first heard of that, I thought it was impossible. How could the telecommunications company change all those numbers? I thought the numbers  would simply stay the same. Needles to say that the numbers did change; at least twice since then. I was so surprised when this first happened. And I was also surprised when Internet arrived at my house. I still remember the sound of the connection the modem made. Loud and strange and it clearly signified that something new was arriving in the room. Obviously I also thought that the mobile phone idea would never catch on…

Today I am a huge fun of connectivity and new technology. I love learning about all the new things that are entering our lives like Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning and Big Data and Internet of Things and so much more. I love all that. I love the tools they provide for change. Because change is here. It always was, and it always will be. I know that now, and I welcome it.

 My only concern is that my children, and all the children, appreciate what is happening. It is important they know that things change, and they need to be ready for it. Strong and prepared and actually looking forward to changing. Not in a bad way but in an exciting way.

And that is why I need your help! How do we motivate them? How do we explain the necessity for readiness? I strongly believe that they need to be inspired, to fall in love with the prospects of our times.

They can instantly communicate with everybody everywhere and learn and play and share and participate. How do we inspire them to enjoy that and not take it for granted? To live their life to the fullest? How do we inspire them to learn, and then learn some more so that they can play an active part in forming their future?

I so want them to be in charge of their lives. To be ready and strong and decisive. To claim their identity, their autonomy, their dreams. No limits, no restrictions in terms of growth and development. Oh, I so want children to grow strong and powerful. To know that it’s up to them to build the person they want to be. To know that they can, and they must. To know that this is their privilege and their destiny. To claim the power to determine their choices, use their successes and their failures to pave their path to their happiness.

Any ideas?

PARISIAN CHIC, all you need to know about style with character

 

PARISIAN CHIC, A Style Guide by Ines de la Fressange with Sophie Gachet, Flammarion, S.A.,Paris, English language edition, 2011

This is a review of my favourite book on style and elegance. I first read it six years ago and still read it for tips, ideas or inspiration. The creator of this book, Ines de la Fressange, is a respected fashion icon since the eighties. In 1983 she was the first model to sign an exclusive contract with an Haute Couture fashion house in Paris, Chanel. Today she is still actively involved in the fashion world, creating her own designs for her store. She has also written Parisian Chic LOOK BOOK – What should I wear today? and The Parisian Field Guide to Men’s Style. She continues to work in collaboration with various fashion houses. Sophie Gachet who worked with her for this book is a fashion journalist.

Style is about attitude

This book covers four main themes, how to dress, how to look beautiful, how to inject style into your house, and what to do when you are in Paris. Every theme contains colourful paragraphs with thoughts, tips and ideas. There is advice on what to do and what not to do! She makes some very specific suggestions for the basic elements of a comprehensive wardrobe and beauty cabinet. She gives lots of addresses of great stores too, both physical and online.

Ines has created herself the illustrations throughout the pages, and her daughter is the model in the fashion shots. This gives a very personal tone to the book.

The heart of this book

This book definitely achieves its goal, and more. It makes you love style, Paris and yourself! The playful approach makes the ideas relatable and easy to read. And it also makes you realize you don’t need to obsess about rules. For a truly Parisian attitude let your spirit free! Love and respect yourself!

The Parisian follows a few golden rules, but she likes to transgress too. It’s part of the style.” (p.11)

I like Parisian Chic because it provides guidance without being restrictive; it provides a starting point but leaves enough room for a personal touch. I enjoyed the ratio of words to images. There is enough text to explain and enough images to visualize and inspire. I love the fact that you can also see the author’s character shine through the pages, confident, unapologetic and radiant.

This book makes sense and it doesn’t lead to vanity. It leads to self reflection. Throughout there are remarks reminding us of the basic rules of taking care of ourselves.

Don’t go bankrupt buying expensive face creams – the best beauty parlor is your local dentist. An attractive smile and great teeth are the best way to forgive and forget the rest!” (p.117)

The message is clear. Don’t try to be someone else; try to be the best version of you. Let yourself shine through understated garments and accessories that function well together. Carefully chosen elements will add finesse to a woman that is oozing confidence and ease.

I first read this book a little after the birth of my youngest daughter. I had just returned to my normal weight and was in need for some new and timeless outfits. In my world, being a mom of two doesn’t allow for extravagant and ephemeral choices; not enough time, not enough money. So I decided to stick to her suggestions and over the years I bought several of those pieces. Her advice never failed me. I managed to accumulate a collection of basic items that can take me everywhere. No need to run around at the last minute. Unless I feel like it!