31 December, 2016

Tar Barrel in Dale

A few years back I wrote about the group Unthanks and their New Year's song Tar Barrel in Dale. The song is lovely and inspiring...

"Throughout the year
When we sing this song
Old friends and new friends
Sing along.
May good fortune be with you,
From all sorrows refrain
Till that happy 
When we all meet again."

It is lovely to see the band has continued to grow and grow.

Happy New Year to all!


It has not been an easy year, this 2016! Last year a friend of mine, who knows something about Chinese Horoscope, said 2016 the Year of the Monkey, would mean a lot of trouble. And that is how it turned out!

2017 year is the Year of the Rooster. I am a rooster and so, I thought... hey, sounds good. But, after a perfunctory search, I found out this year does not bode well

So, instead of brooding about whether the next year is going to be unlucky, I decided rather to express my gratitude for all those persons and events that have made 2016 a better place to live.

I am so grateful..for my life companion (husband): you are the foundation of all my love and joy / to my son: who I am so proud of and wishing a good start in his first job after graduation, to my daughter: you are the sunshine of my existence and the bravest woman I know / Shae: so happy to be a part of your journey / 

friends: those near that lovingly share my day-to-day existence and those far (tiny island in the Philippines, Auckland, Singapore (now Sydney), Willimanstown, Montreal, Vancouver) who reach out over skype and bring joy from all over the world / to my refugee ladies: every conversation we have makes my heart grow / to Joan and Catalina: your art changed my thinking about what is possible and how even something temporary can be eternal / 

for the many trips I took this year / 

and lastly, to myself for being such a good Rooster (we are said to be beautiful, kind-hearted, hard-working, courageous, independent, humorous and honest.)

And to each and every one of you who read this post and have been such dear loyal readers all these years. A very very Happy New Year 2017!

21 December, 2016


Our (grown) daughter and son are both making their way home for the holidays from various parts of Germany!

No snow here in the north, but plenty of good cheer.

We've decided on doing a radically low-key Christmas this year. Parents get no presents. Children get three presents (one from mom, dad, and sibling). No tree. A few candles. Very few decorations. And plenty of music.

It's going to be fun to see if we still experience the Christmas spirit.

17 December, 2016

Walkie Talkie

Years ago, when the children were small, I had this need to escape the chaos of the house on occasion. Inevitably, I would end up calling a friend of mine who lived around the corner and ask her whether she wanted to go for a walk. My husband called what we did, walkie talkies, because there was a fair amount of both of these activities going on.

Here we are now, over twenty years later still sharing the daily going-ons. What a treasure a long friendship is.

(The photo above is taken just around the corner from where we live in the city.)

10 December, 2016

Everyone should be a mentor

I met Marie thirteen years ago, when I was working as a researcher at a university computer science research institute. She was 22 years old and she was very very pregnant. She was looking for a supervisor for her Diplom thesis (similar to a Master's).

I was delighted she asked me to be her mentor, but felt a bit of trepidation as to whether she could meet all the challenges of the next months. Four days later, she gave birth to her daughter. A further three weeks on, she successfully wrote all her final exams. She worked hard and completed her thesis with the highest mark a few months down the line.

Marie came to work with me on the project I was working on for a few years. She was amazing: diligent, flexible, pragmatic, but with a healthy portion of fantasy and silliness. It was a joy to work with her.

Eventually, she decided to move to Denmark with her partner and daughter, so her partner could do his PhD. She was 7 months pregnant at that time.  Within weeks, she found a job working as a researcher to help support the family. (Only in Denmark do they hire pregnant women!)  She gave birth to her second daughter. Continued to work and eventually started working on her own PhD.

Marie came to me whenever she needed some advice or a technical editor for her scientific papers. There were a lot of ups and downs in her life, which occasionally made it hard for her to keep her eye on completing her thesis.

Last week, she stayed with me for a few days, so I could help her prepare the defense of her doctorate. It is hard to describe the sense of fierce pride I felt when she called me a few days later to say she has it in the bag!

08 November, 2016

Dear American voters...

All the people in the world are sitting at the edge of our seats, hoping beyond home you make a momentous decision to elect the best qualified, highly dedicated, candidate out there. Please think about it...

03 November, 2016

A rogue ripple turned tidal wave...

We are all waiting on bated breath for the US to make a sensible decision. All of us living outside of the States, are sitting here helplessly and hoping beyond hope...

I have not wanted to post too many posts during this election. There has been such a glut of impassioned, hateful, hilarious reportage to choose from, but their message appeals to the more base side of my nature. So, I chose to watch passively for the tidal wave to pass over our heads.

Then I listened to this beautiful song written by Sara Bareilles and realised how important it is for us to get her message out there. She writes a story, as President Obama, about this historical moment in time. What an amazing storyteller she is. Please listen closely to the words she weaves so eloquently and Leslie Odom, Jr. sings as magic. 

We all, whether American or not, need to ask ourselves the question, "Is this the best we can be?". 

02 November, 2016

It's exciting to have the first mother in the White House

If you vote for Hilary you are ...

If you vote for Trump you are ...

If you don't vote for anybody, you are ...

14 October, 2016

A slow study of elegance

I don't often publish speeches from politicians or political figures on this blog. But, I enthusiastically do so this morning.

These last weeks and months have been scary ones. We are all waiting with trepidation for Americans to end this electoral escapade. We are hoping they will out-trump Trump, by voting Ms. Clinton into the presidency.

I don't believe the hate-mongering, misogyny, xenophobia, will then come to an end. Rather, the new government will have to face these forces face on. Every single day from now on.

Michelle Obama manages to appeal to our common need for decency and tell us that we need to refocus our efforts. I can not say how touched I was listening to her words. Her speech is not a confabulation of 140-characters of sound bites, but a slow study of elegance.

11 October, 2016

Dear Mister Shakespeare

"Phoebe Boswell riffs on her conflicted attitudes towards Othello in Dear MrShakespeare, which co-stars Ashley Thomas aka Bashy."

Do watch the other seven films in the British Council’s series Shakespeare Lives 2016. All are highly entertaining.

10 October, 2016

DB Blogger in residence

Any one who has read this blog knows I am a long time fan of the Deutsche Bundesbahn (DB for short). It is a running joke in my family, my unerring loyalty to the German train company, but they also joke about how I possess good DB karma. When it comes to the DB, my belief in its greatness has been reinforced a thousand times.

My son sent me this article about how Amarak in the States is now installing writers in residence in their trains. Isn't that the most brilliant idea!

I came up with an idea of becoming DB blogger in residence. I could write posts about traveling around Germany in trains. I could entertain foreign travellers with stories of places I visit, people I meet along the way. 

I  could describe the different types of trains that run north to south and east to west; from the super sonic to the meandering milk runs. Then there are the cultural intricacies such as: why Germans pack a lunch whenever they take the train: football, rowdies and police crowd control with the DB: bilingual announcements during train trips: Oktoberfest and funny looking passengers...  The list goes on and on.

Now all I have to do is figure out how to make this dream job come true!

Suggestions appreciated...

There is no single solution

Prince Ea combines history, science, and personal opinion to talk (rant) about our the short-comings of our educational system. Please watch. It is really a really satisfying rant and one that hopefully inspires you towards discourse.

09 October, 2016

I continued to fight...

"I continued to fight. That is what saved me."
Adolfo Kaminksy

This touching video is an adaptation from the book, Adolfo Kaminsky: A Forger's Life It is written by Mr. Kaminsky's daughter Susan, who is also in the film. You can find out more The Times.

There is such a need at the moment for all of us, in whatever way possible, to fight for the refugees needing a safe haven. It is inspiring to know Mr. Kaminsky never stopped fighting to make sure the words, "all humans are created equal", are not empty words.  

03 October, 2016

Mother to her daughter

It saddens me greatly to see what an impossibly hard time Ms. Clinton has had during this campaign to be recognised as a strong candidate for president. As far as my memory goes, there has never been a presidential candidate in the last 30 years who has as much political experience and insight as she does. Not only does she understand what true challenges lie ahead of her as president, she has the connections and relationships to world leaders, and their respect, to handle the difficult years ahead.

It saddens me further to know how difficult it is for her and other women of power to make their true selves be known.

26 September, 2016

One more time

Clinton = Aspects were complicated, but not illegal
Trump = Unethically unprecedentedly compromised

May Americans please stop for one moment and listen one more time about the scandals following Clinton and those that should leave massive holes of doubt about Trump.

25 September, 2016

Late autumn sunshine

Precious, precious days of
Beauty and magnificence.
Late autumn sunshine,
Brings both sweet yearning
And tender melancholy
For all those moments gone.

21 September, 2016

Just think twice about the logic

Would it be possible for the US government to just think twice about what is wrong with their logic for refusing refugees entry into the US? You are talking about people whose lives have been devastated. People who have lost everything.

It is as if the US had said after WWII, they would not accept any survivors of German concentration camps because maybe some Nazis could slip in as well.

Sorry, I usually don't react so impulsively, but after listing to John Oliver's critique, I couldn't resist.

16 September, 2016

Making a proper cup of tea

“Hold the sadness and pain of samsara in your heart and at the same time the power and vision of the Great Eastern Sun. Then the warrior can make a proper cup of tea.”
― Chögyam Trungpa

I just finished having a lovely conversation with a dear friend who lives in the Philippines. We "meet" every Thursday early in the morning (my time) for a cup of tea and philosophy.

This morning's conversation was about finding ways to wrestle with our internal struggles and how to face external demands. This year has been full of difficulties / changes / challenges for both of us and so we try to figure out where we are at the moment. This often leads to insightful discourse. Sometimes though our conversations just lead to a useful quote that acts as a salve.

11 September, 2016

This common and shared plight

My forefathers left Their Ireland
In dire times, surviving the long
Arduous journey in hope
Of fertile farm land
And freedom from poverty
The Canadian government made promises.
Falsely. They found only stones and stumps
Left behind by other poor immigrants
Who gave up the struggle and left for the cities,
In hope of jobs. In vain. In deep poverty.
What little one person earned
Was shared by all. There was never just
One day of fasting a week. Daily mass
Was part redemption, part plea bargaining.

The misery, the misery, seeped into their bones
And was passed on to the following generations
The misery sits deep in our morrow even today.

We are all survivors, witnesses, culprits
To those drowning in the Mediterranean Sea.
How is it we do not offer them consolation
And comfort? How is it possible that
A hundred-years goes by without human beings
Becoming more human, more understanding
Of this common and shared plight?

03 September, 2016

We dehumanize people when we reduce them to a single thing.

You, everyone, reallyreally must watch Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie giving her speech on World Humanitarian Day 2016 at the United Nations. This speech should be listened to, studied, and discussed vigorously. It is a marvelous feast for thought.

Ngozi Adichie says, “We dehumanize people when we reduce them to a single thing.” She persuasively talks about how insidious and unconscious this systemic process is. Living in our world today, and particularly in Germany, the practice of media and people to refer to those in great tragic need for shelter only as refugees is systemic. We do them a disservice by reducing them to this label. They have so much to say. We should be listening to their stories. We should be opening our minds and borders to their dilemma.

Shamefully, I have heard heated discussion among friends and acquaintances about the refugee situation, questioning whether those who have been admitted entry into this country are “real” refugees and “not real” refugees. The media and people insist on differentiating between war refugees and those how have flown their countries out of dire situations caused by sociopolitical, economic or climate change disasters.

Even though this is only anecdotal, all those I have met who have flown from Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, Iraq, or Eritrea have done so at great risk to their lives. They have suffered beyond belief. Not one did so out of self-service or a wish to profit from our social services. Not one hasn’t suffered or lost dear ones to hunger, in disease-ridden camps, through corporal punishment inflicted by police or government officials, in the waters of the Mediterranean Sea, or under unbearable conditions of overland transport. They have lost everything.

In my opinion, future generations will look back at this point in history and judge us according to how we have acted during this great humanitarian crisis and not whether some hatemonger gets elected as President of the United States. Shouldn’t we all, including the media, concentrate our focus on this ongoing disaster? As Ngozi Adichie says, “We cannot measure our humanity, but can act upon it.”

02 September, 2016

Nomad office and working holidays

I don't know if I mentioned this before, but I have been experimenting with different work models over the last six years of being self-employed. I started working at home, which proved a bit difficult since the children were still living with us.

Then I tried a marvelous co-working space in the middle of the city and not far from where we lived. This worked very well for a few years. It is a good community of people and the work environment inspired me. Over time though, for whatever reason, my interest to participate waned.

I am not sure it had anything to do with the community, but rather to do with the changing circumstances of the work I was doing and the children leaving home to go off to university. I was doing a lot of in-house training and coaching and felt that I was having to interact with enough people on a day-to-day basis. When I was not doing training, I was creating e-learning and blended-learning material for companies. This required a lot of peace and quiet and that is not always available in the co-working office.

For the last two years I have, what I call, a nomad office. All the materials I need to work are in a small roller suitcase. I go off in the morning into town and spend the day going from one place to another and working. I have a long list of cafés, public sitting areas, libraries, and park benches (if the weather is good) where I while away my time.

I love working this way. It is easy to work with concentration for about an hour or two and then I leave, go for a walk and then change locations and continue working on a task. If the task needs extreme focus or concentration, I do it at home in my living room.

Alternatively, I have been taking working holidays. Visiting friends and asking them whether I can work at their places during the day when they are at work. The photo above was my office space this week. Amazing, isn't it!

So far this year, I have taken working holidays in Amsterdam, Montreal, and now, Wischhafen (a small village on the North Sea). If all goes well, I will also be in Heidelberg later in the year.  

07 August, 2016

Rainer Maria Rilke and Street Art

I went and talked to Joan in the studio he was working in today. The one portrait is nearly finished of a school child (my daughter) on her first day of school. 

The words above her silhouette are taken from my favourite poem from Rainer Maria Rilke, Ich lebe mein Leben in wachsenden Ringen. Here is a pretty good translation of the poem:

I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one
but I give myself to it.

I circle around God, around the primordial tower.
I've been circling for thousands of years
and I still don't know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?

~ Ranier Maria Rilke ~

The reason I chose those words is because I believe that all children and particularly my children have been the greatest blessing I have received in my life. So the answer to the question is "a great song" when it comes to what their presence means in my life.

06 August, 2016

Early morning battle

I have been participating in a wonderful street art project. The street artist, Joan Aguiló from Mallorca, is in Lübeck for two weeks trying to portrait the essence of this beautiful city by creating portraits of the local residents on walls throughout the city.

In the photo above he is making up a drawing of my daughter on her first day of school. His street art is often on paper, which he glues on walls. Weather and vandals influence the condition and length of stay of his street art.

This is the story behind the story of this photo.

Early morning battle

When I was a child, my sisters and I wore the clothes our mother chose for us to wear, especially when it came to special occasions. To my chagrin, my daughter had a different idea from the moment she was old enough to stand on her own feet and open up her cupboard door. She was the master of her wardrobe and the decider of her fashion statement. Every morning she and I entered into a battle over what she would wear that day. Her fashion choice was one of serendipity and did not take into account weather or practicality. It was a battle I nearly always lost because of her tenaciousness and our immediate need to get her dressed and out the door to her kindergarten. On the morning of her first school day ceremony, we had a battle of monumental proportions.

The evening before, we hung out two beautiful dresses she could choose from to wear on this special occasion. One dress was a red velvet sparkled with stars. The other one was a blue-and-white striped navy theme. You might be wondering, why two dresses?

This is because it was the only solution for getting my daughter and I out of the department store’s changing room without tears. My tears, not hers. She had been trying on dresses for two hours and her wide selection of possible dress choices had been painstakingly reduced to two, which was when the standstill occurred, thus leading to my buying both.

Dawn comes and we are all running around getting showered and shaved (my husband) and breakfast on the table. I call everyone to the table. Our son, my husband, and I sit down in our dazzling festive outfits and then my daughter comes into the room wearing her favorite old-and-should-have-been-long-ago-put-in-a-garbage-bin cotton leggings and t-shirt. I innocently tell her, she doesn’t have time to play, since we are due at the school in 45 minutes. I ask her to go and get her dress on. She says she wants to wear her leggings and not her dress.

What ensued was not a pretty scene. Lots of arguing back-and-forth. Lots of tears were shed. (My tears.) Lots of exasperation felt towards the other party not seeing reason. (Her exasperation towards me.) No willingness on either side to back down.

As the minutes ticked away and the point-of-no return was rapidly approaching, I made an executive decision and give her an ultimatum. Brandishing a large pair of scissors, I said she could wear her leggings, but if she did, I would cut through her dresses.

I know, not a proud moment. Pedagogically wrong. Complete loss of dignity. Relinquishment of all parental control.

She looked at my face, saw the resolve, turned around and went back to her bedroom.

Five minutes later she came back in the room wearing her beautiful red velvet dress sparkled with stars and walked to her new school with a happy skip in her step.

16 July, 2016

10 things I like to do when I am on my own...

  1. Read, currently:
    A Walk in the Woods (Bill Bryson), Was ich noch sagen wollte (Helmut Schmidt), Third Culture Kids (David C. Pollock), The Heart of Buddha's Teaching (Thich Nhat Hanh), Flying Solo: How To Go It Alone In Business (Rober Gerrish, Same Leader and Peter Crocker), Mistborn Trilogy (Brandon Sanderson), The Quest: Energy, Security and the Remaking of the Modern World (Daniel Yergin)
  2. Sit in a café, current local favourites:
    Vai Bistro, Kaffeewerk, KaffeehausQuartier, and actually a few more. Lübeck is a city filled with wonderful cafés. 
  3. Look at people:
    Best done while sitting in a café.
  4. Go to my strandkorb:Weather hasn't been so good this year to do this. Hopefully, things will change soon!
  5. Go for a long walk
  6. Work on the computer:
    Except I have been doing too much of this over the last months.
  7. Listen to podcasts, current favourites:
    Cortex, Hello Internet, Long Form, On Being, Invisibilia, La nature selon Boucar, Dharmaseed, Soundscapes with Stephen McCauley, Still Untitled, Writers and Company
  8. Travel
    As written last week, this has been a wirlwind time for travel, next I am off to sail with friends in the southern Danish islands.
  9. Go to see a movie:
    No time for that!
  10. Eat at a restaurant:
    Montreal, Amsterdam, and Addis were amazing places to wine and dine in.  

10 July, 2016

Culture shock

culture shock (noun)

the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone when they are suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes.

DEFINITION of 'Culture Shock'

A feeling of uncertainty, confusion or anxiety that people experience when visiting, doing business in or living in a society that is different from their own. Culture shock can arise from a person's unfamiliarity with local customs, language and acceptable behavior, since norms can vary significantly across cultures.

Recently I did an amazing amount of travelling in (for me) a very short period of time. In seven weeks, I traveled to Amsterdam, Montreal (also Ste. Lucie and Warkworth), Addis Ababa, and Bielefeld and Kiel in Germany. The trips to Amsterdam and Montreal were working holidays. The trips to Addis, Bielefeld, and Kiel were work.

My travels took me from the idyllic surroundings of Ste. Lucie in the Laurentiens mountains north of Montreal. A week spent in nature. A week when I could mix working on my laptop with the pleasure of kayaking every day with the loons swimming right next to me; sitting still and listening to a symphony of frogs. A place where there was no human-made sounds to be heard.

And then in contrast, Addis Ababa… a city steeped in noise and busy-ness and chaos, like I have never experienced before. Admittedly, in the last 20 years or so, I have been mostly travelling in Europe and North America and the Caribbean. Working in Addis allowed me to meet some wonderful people and a new culture that was intensely interesting. (The first visit of many, hopefully.)

Amsterdam was visiting old friends in my most favourite city in the world. Warkworth was meeting new friends in, what seemed to me, a beautiful small town (village) setting from the past.

Even though all the trips went well and I had a fun time, I did experience what I can only describe as culture shock of sorts each time. I say culture shock of sorts because what I experienced was very different to that described in dictionaries. Mine appears on a physiological and sensory level.

My brain goes on overload trying to process the signals my senses are sending it. What is it that I am tasting, smelling, hearing, seeing and feeling (e.g. feeling cold the whole time in Addis because I didn’t bring enough warm clothing). There were numerous times when I questioned my old brain's ability to sort out all this information. Is this a problem a part of growing old?

In younger years, I seemed to be blissfully oblivious to this challenge. Now the first hours, days, or week spent in a new place is not just “getting over” jetlag or a general feeling of disorientation, but recognizing if and when my brain just doesn’t know how to process the information flow.

Why this is, is something I am going to meditate on these next few weeks. Thankfully, I can do this from the luxury and familiarity of my home.

27 May, 2016

Inspired by words

How I would love to be able to write words that have a rhythm both of bounding down of earth and escaping to the heavens.

19 May, 2016

We should have figured this out by now...

Ethically and practically we are at the moment in dark times.

I am trying to figure out a way to create an artistic project which brings stories forward about the experiences of the refugees and immigrants I know. Hearing their stories and befriending them has changed my heart greatly.

15 May, 2016

Meandering back

Drinking a cup of White Moon tea and listening to Soundscapes (fabulous BBC  podcast) all the while looking out at the passing landscape. My idea of happiness.

11 May, 2016

On my way to Amsterdam

Spring arrived last night. The East winds burst through the countryside and shook the budding leaves out of branches. The lilac hedges add bright contrast to the raps fields. I sit in "my" train speeding through the most magnificent landscape and blue skyscape joyously thinking about dinner tonight with dear friends in Amsterdam.

08 May, 2016

Photo/story II

Write the first thing that comes to mind when you see the following photo.

My grandfather’s garden bordered on a wide river near a dam. There were tall grasses on the river banks in his garden leading down. Water lilies carpeted the quiet shallow waters.

The lilies hide the painted turtles from the hot summer sun.

My sisters and I would lie still in the grass trying to sight the turtles. We’d search for their nostrils floating up on the surface of the water.

Occasionally a frog would go plop into the water and scare us with the noise.

17 April, 2016

Grandma's 90th birthday

(not actual postman)

This is a true story that happened to a client of mine...

Date: 14 days before grandma's 90th birthday
To-do: order a family photo album online (ETA 10 day's time), book plane tickets to Athens (where grandma lives)
What happened: confirmation of photo album order (ETA 10 day's time) to arrive at my office building, flights booked

Date: 4 days before flight
To-do: hopefully photo album arrives
What happened: no album

Date: 3 days before flight
To-do: hopefully photo album arrives
What happened: no album

Date: 2 days before flight
To-do: hopefully photo album arrives
What happened: no album

Date: 1 days before flight
To-do: hopefully photo album arrives
What happened: postman comes through the door of my office without package. I break out in tears and tell him about my Greek grandma's 90 birthday and pictures of her children and grandchildren and great grandchildren (who she has never seen). Postman slightly overwhelmed. Asks me when I am flying out tomorrow (12:00). Asks me for my home address.

Date: 0 days before flight
To-do: given up on photo album arriving
What happened: Postman arrives in his private car (it is his day off) with package. He had gone early morning to central sorting warehouse and found package and drove to our home to deliver it to me. I break out in tears and give him a hug. Postman slightly overwhelmed.

09 April, 2016

Photo/story I

Write the first thing that comes to mind when you see the the following photo.

cc Anders Lejczak

A businessman
With thinning blond hair,
Grey beard, and sporting a pair of
Stylish metal-rimmed glasses,
Stands on the edge
Of the subway platform
And stares down
The tunnel wondering if
His tango partner’s new dance shoes
Are going to give her blisters.

26 March, 2016

Gesture of kindness

A good friend of mine told me this story recently and I thought it would be good to share it with you during Easter weekend.

It was a Friday afternoon and Aalia received the news that she didn't get the job she had interviewed for the week before. Crestfallen, she walked through the city aimlessly trying to find some ray of hope in her heart. None.

Eventually, she goes into her local grocery store to buy some food for the weekend. As she stands in the checkout line, she notices, but doesn't really notice, the young man in front of her looking at her.

The man goes through the check out and selects a bouquet of tulips from the display at the cashier counter and pays for his goods. After he has packed everything into his backpack, he turns to Aalia and gifts her the bouquet of tulips with the words, "A little sunshine for you".  

15 March, 2016

Perfect design

What is your favorite perfectly designed household device or tool? Explain why.

Cable tie is the perfect tool. It is the shark of home repair. It‘s design has not changed since its inception.  Thing that I have used a cable tie for:
  • Hanging curtains
  • Temporarily repairing a muffler in my car
  • Fixing my bra
  • For sealing heavy duty garbage bags during a move
  • Building a cardboard fort for our children

13 March, 2016

Meeting one of my heroes

Managed to go to one of my favourite museums in Hamburg to see an exhibit of one of my favourite artists (heroes). It was fun meeting him, if only through his work hanging on the walls. Christoph Niemann has wit, talent, and an amazing capacity, through his art, to make people stop and think and usually laugh.

 If you are in need of a lift out of the winter doldrums, or you know someone who needs cheering up. Buy one of his books and enjoy the beauty of the Every Day.

The exhibit is really small, but there are a few benches to sit on and spend time with his work. Yesterday, I did just that and then I started watching the faces of the serious museum goers light up and become soft with laughter as they walked around. Such a good way to spend an hour on a cold grey Saturday afternoon.

10 March, 2016

What do you see?

This exercise is also from Austin Kleon's Steal Like An Artist journal. Just draw six circles and write down what you see.

Then the same procedure with six triangles.

27 February, 2016

1 + 1 = 3

This exercise is from Austin Kleon's Steal Like An Artist journal. You must list or name two objects that add together to make something completely new (e.g. flickr + video = youtube).

19 February, 2016

To children who know their parents

Recent conversation with my son...

Him: "I went to see the movie "The Revenant" this week".
Me: "What did you think? Is this the film for which Leonardo DiCaprio will finally win an Oscar?"
Him: "It wasn't bad. Just thought that if there is ever a film you don't want to see, it is this one."
Me: "Too suspenseful?"
Him: "Not really, it is just one of those "No Chance In Hell" films you really don't like. There wasn't one moment when you think... this might turn our all right."

I was touched by the conversation... how well he knows me, how well he makes it funny to have a mother who is chicken to see a movie without hope.

Who tip jar would be filled first?

This exercise is from Austin Kleon's Steal Like An Artist journal.

The idea is to name two persons from somewhat comparable backgrounds or professions.

Then put their names on a label of tip jars.

Which jar do you think you tip in?

Which of the jars do you think would fill first?

07 February, 2016

My heros

This exercise is from Austin Kleon's Steal Like An Artist journal. There were empty picture frames and I filled them up with four of my heroes.

Josephine Baker: multi-talented, multi-lingual, fiercely courageous, and magnificently curious

Jane Austen: fundamentally comic, historically significant, and phenomenal storyteller

Mary Magdalene: historically ambivalent, Apostle to the Apostles, and loyal companion

Hildegard von Bingen: hardly know what to say about her because the largeness of her life cannot be contained. For those of you who do not know her... she was a Benedictine abbess, writer, composer, philosopher, Christian mystic, visionary, and polymath. She is considered to be the founder of scientific natural history in Germany.

04 February, 2016

Like being in the middle of an ad

Early this morning as I was getting ready to meditate, I looked out our living room window and there was this delivery truck shinning light out into the dark street. It was like being in the middle of a advertisement.  

23 January, 2016

Word cocktail

One of the creative exercises I wrote (and did) this week is the following:

Draw a the outline of a blender on a piece of paper. Take another piece of paper and write all sorts of words, a) to a particular topic, b) you like the meaning of, or, c) how they sound. Cut the words out and place (glue) them into the blender. Describe what your word cocktail tastes like.

This is my creative endeavour:

My meditation cocktail includes many nuanced words from over the past 30 years of my mediation practice. I have spent endless hours drinking in and digesting their meaning. So my word cocktail tastes comfortingly familiar and tantalizingly unknown all at the same time.

17 January, 2016

10 Things you need to make a perfect cup of tea

  1. Excellent quality of water (spring or Volvic)
  2. Right temperature (black=boiling, green=160-170°C)
  3. Excellent tea leaves (buy at tea shop and not grocery store)
  4. Use beautiful cup (my current favorite above)
  5. Right measure of tea (too much and tea will be bitter)
  6. Warm up cup before pouring water
  7. Always put tea into pot or cup before pouring water
  8. Brew for the right amount of time (3-5 minutes or to your taste)
  9. Time to enjoy it slowly
  10. Good comfy corner with a view

15 January, 2016

Are you non, or are you anti?

Oh, does Marlon James' words travel deep within the heart of matters. What a question to ask, am I non or am I anti? It doesn't seem a brave choice when asked in this matter. It only makes sense to be anti.

10 January, 2016

Who am I?

In this week's creative exercise you are asked to choose the five words that best describe you as a person.

Here are my words: problem-solver, introvert, engineer, storyteller, sailor


I believe there are two types of persons in this world. Those who spend a lot of time and effort talking about problems and all the reasons they exist. And, those of us who try to fix them. Sometimes I lose patience with people who go on and on about the problem they are experiencing. I just want to know what the problem is in 10 words or less and then they should just step aside and let me fix it!


Many people think being shy is the same as being introverted. It’s not. Shy people are shy of talking. Introverts just wait to be asked a question before talking.


I am the third generation of engineer in my family. My son is currently studying engineering and will be the fourth.


Robert Mckee, the legendary screenwriter, believes all business is about persuasion. He says the best way to be persuasive is to tell a story. I often find it useful to tell my business colleagues a story than it is to overwhelm them with too much technical information.


My father was an avid sailor and so we were a sailing family. Sailing taught me a lot about being self-reliant and also, what skills you need to develop to become a good crew member. It's more than a fun past-time, it's a life's philosophy. When I first get to know a new friend, I often ask the question of whether I would like to be marooned on a deserted island with the person. If not, then I inwardly take a small step backwards.

03 January, 2016

5 Things... better and worse...

I'm a great fan of Stephan Dubner and James Altucher's podcast, Question of the Day. Its short, sassy, and, at times, rather provocative episodes are fun to listen to.

My son recently asked the family one of their recent questions:

What are the 5 things you do better than most people and what are the 5 things you do worse than most people?

Here are my answers:

Better than most

  • draw or make simple visualisations
  • remember stories people have told me
  • a master at small talk (or getting people to tell stories)
  • good at making and keeping friends
  • finding a simple solution to a complex problem
Worse than most
  • singing
  • absolutely no sense of direction
  • can not multitask
  • great at worrying too much
  • letting go of things that I need to distance myself from