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Living 10,000 Miles Away From the Grandparents

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I signaled to Margo (7) to close her eyes and go back to sleep. Then, I heard a whimper that quickly turned into a full blown sob. I sat down next to her stroking her forehead. For ten minutes, she blubbered, “I miss grandma and poppop!”. I miss them too sweetie…

After an action packed two week visit from my parents, Margo and my husband had just come back from dropping them off at the airport in Brisbane. We were all so tired from running around with them for the last two weeks, that we all had a big mid-day nap. When we woke (and after Margo’s cry) we spent the rest of the afternoon and evening, in mourning, while we watched the online flight tracker take my mom and dad, in a perfect little trajectory, far away from us, across the Pacific Ocean.

It’s a loooong flight to LA… then it’s another six hours to Newark.

Back to the weekly Skype calls. Back to the three or four packages a year full of goodies from America. Back to no more hugs or books or meals together or drawing together… boo… hoo…

We’re not forced to live where we do. When my husband and I came to Australia, nine years ago, on my student visa, we had no clue we would end up loving it so much here and wanting to stay. Life just sort of happened (as it does) and in no time at all, we found ourselves with good jobs, three kids, a house, and a lifestyle that suits us perfectly. A lifestyle that would be impossible to recreate if we moved back to the east coast of the USA, where we both grew up.

Because of how far we live, it’s not exactly easy to hop on a plane back to visit all too often. We’ve done it twice in nine years, it’s exhausting. Buying plane tickets for a whole family while living on a reduced income is the limiting factor. One time, we went five years without seeing them! That was a tough one.

So, after years of bugging them, they finally came!!! For the first time since having children, I had some sort of extended family in MY home. It was so awesome. We drove each other nuts at times and did way too much sightseeing. The kid’s schedule was completely out of whack, and we were all tired, but it was also so good. They rented a holiday apartment in the same building as ours, just upstairs, so the kids and everyone could run back and forth.

It’s pretty crazy how efficient you get at surviving without the grandparents around. Now that I’ve had a taste, it makes me sad to think that it can’t happen more often. It’s nice to just have someone there. Another outlet of energy for the kids. A different adult to interact with. Of course, having my mama and daddy around is pretty cool too… even though I haven’t seen them much in the past decade, who knows you better then your own parents?

Oh yeah… we were all so so sad when they left. It hurt, there were lots of tears.

I think it’s human nature to be on the move and to want to find a place to live that suits your needs. Our ancestors populated the planet somehow, and that would have been done by leaving ‘home‘. I always think of my husband’s grandmother, who came alone to America from Russia in the early 1900’s. It was a one way ticket back then. No hoping on a plane to visit your parents for the holidays. No Skype. If you were lucky, a letter here and there, until the wars came and you never heard from your parents or extended family again. So… we are lucky in this day and age that we can visit and stay in close contact. Moving to the other side of the globe is not the end of the story these days!

The one good thing about having a condensed visit was that everyone cleared their schedule (almost) and we all had nothing to do except hang out with each other. We probably had more quality family time in two weeks than we would have had in an entire year, had we been living only a few hours away. And, since we rarely get to see each other, everyone was on their best behavior to make the time as enjoyable as possible. We all had so much fun because we had to make every day, minute and second count!

While it is sad living so far away, it’s definitely possible. You have to sort of create your own family for the times when you can’t have your real family around. And, when you do get the chance to see your family, it’s usually short and sweet!

Clean As You Go People… I Can Never Be Like You

imageMy husband can’t understand the disaster zone I create after every meal. To start, I DO clean as I go. A little. Trust me, you would see the difference if I didn’t tidy a few things while I cook.

Let me help you understand. Have you ever seen a toddler in the middle of his imaginary play stop what he was doing to pack away?

Nope.

Would you stop in the middle of your run to take a shower because you’re sweaty?

No!

You would logically wait until the activity is over.

Can’t you see that I’m CREATING something?! Something that you will eat and something that will be exposed to your judgement?!

One simply does not stop to ‘tidy up‘ whilst cooking. Cleaning up while cooking, to me, is like getting stuck in traffic.

Plus, I’m probably starving, and for all I know, YOU might be starving too! I don’t want you to starve to death just for the sake of cleaning while I go. I’m a Jewish mother, my DNA requires me to worry that your tummy should be full before you even know that you’re hungry.

Also, it’s almost garunteed that I will barely have enough time to cook before some small child needs my attention. The eating part has to happen in a timely fashion. The cleaning part can wait.

After the meal, then we can clean. Anyway, isn’t the person who cooked not supposed to clean? (Ahem) Ok, that doesn’t always work in our house. My precious family runs away from the kitchen table as soon as they eat their last bite. I have to remind them every stinking time to at least put their bowls near the sink (the kids are still little, ok). Then, I usually end up cleaning anyway (we don’t have a dishwasher *yet*). An hour later, I look in the kitchen and think, “Wow, who cleaned up?” One hundred percent forgetting that it was actually I who cleaned. Seriously, that happens to me a lot. #babybrain So, either way, I do end up cleaning, and I’d much rather do it after my belly is full.

Anyway, I know YOU can clean as you go, you have some special quality that allows you to stop and go, dividing your attention between creating and maintenance. But, I don’t posses that trait. I’ve thought about it… I’ve TRIED it… I really have! But… I just cannot..

We’re All Weird, Deal With It

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

How weird would your life seem to a stranger, if they could live a day in your shoes.

I was at the park a while ago and this was how a conversation went:

Me: “We  homeschool.

Mum at the park: “Oh, just be careful, those homeschoolers can be WEIRD!

That’s funny” I thought to myself, “I was just thinking that you’re pretty weird yourself.”

Seriously, we’re all weird. Read the rest of this entry

Stop Thinking Everyone Is Judging You!

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Judging

What makes you so sure that people are sitting around thinking about you?

I saw a friend walking out of the grocery store. I was so happy to see her and we stood around to chat for a while. As we said goodbye, she said, “Oh, and please don’t judge me for using plastic shopping bags, I know how bad they are for the environment.” I was like, “REALLY?! Seriously?!” Hey, I know plastic shopping bags are bad, but I forget my re-usable ones all the time. I hadn’t even stopped once to think about the plastic bags in her shopping trolley. Read the rest of this entry

What Your Nose Tells You About Your Brain… And It’s So Cool!

It's really hard to take a serious picture of your nose...

It’s really hard to take a serious picture of your nose…

Stand still or sit down.

Put you finger under one nostril like I’m doing in the picture, breath in and breath out. Put your finger under your other nostril, breath in and breath out again.

Which one was more clear, or less blocked?

If your left nostril was more clear, don’t bother reading this post (joking, just read it anyway).

If your right nostril is more clear, then you’re in luck. When your right nostril is more clear, the left side of your brain, which is the academic/logic part of the mind, is functioning better at that moment. So, comprehending this post will probably be much easier. Your metabolism and digestion is also working faster.

If your left nostril is more clear, the right side of your brain is functioning better. The right side of your brain is the more creative and artistic part of the brain. Ever noticed how sometimes, no matter how many times you read a block of text, the information just doesn’t seem to be sinking in? It’s probably because the left nostril/right side of the brain was dominant at that moment.

If both are completely equal and stay that way for a while, then maybe you’re an enlightened yogi, because it’s very rare.

There are certain activities that are better to do, depending on the nostril that is dominant.

Activities You Should Do If Your Right Nostril is Dominant

  • Read/write
  • Study
  • Giving speeches/talking in public/teaching
  • Sign important documents
  • Eat (or at least after you eat the right should be more clear to indicate good digestion)
  • Exercise, be active

Activities You Should Do If Your Left Nostril is Dominant

  • Listen to Music
  • Meditate
  • Being with friends and relax
  • Do leisure activities and do creative hobbies

But, what if you need your right nostril clear, so you can think? 

Let’s say you HAVE to pay attention at a lecture or meeting or something and the information is going in one ear and out the other. There are a few things that can help.

Casually lean to the LEFT to clear your RIGHT nostril, so you can pay attention better. Nobody will even notice what you’re doing. Like this:

I know, I know, it looks like I'm leaning over to fart... People, I know you can do it better than me in real life.

I know, I know, it looks like I’m leaning over to fart… People, I know you can do it better than me in real life because I can win awards for being most un-photogenic.

If you really don’t care what people think, you can actually stick your hand under your left armpit, there are certain energy points there that help clear the right nostril. Looks like this, minus the silly posed look on your face.

Nothing going on here, folks.

Nothing going on here, folks. I’m just terrible at having photos taken of myself.

If you’ve just eaten a big meal, you want to make sure your right nostril is more clear for better digestion. If your right isn’t clear, just after eating, you can also lean to the left or even recline or lay down on your left side to help the digestion thing start to happen. Sometimes you can actually feel the shift, like this big lump moving from one side of your sinuses to the other. Gross. Cool.

Some people have ‘chronic’ nostril dominance

The nostril that is more clear, should shift every couple hours or so. But, sometimes, you’ll find that it doesn’t and one tends to be more dominant throughout the day. To make it extremely simplified, if our nostrils don’t balance regularly, that’s an indicator that there’s some sort of imbalance in our systems. Luckily, there are some things you can do to help (important stuff people!).

If Your Right Nostril Seems to Be More Dominant, you may find your body and mind are overactive or your may have trouble sleeping. To help:

  • Fall asleep on your RIGHT side when you go to bed.
  • Do alternate nostril breathing, a breathing technique which balances the brain, releases stress and tension and impression on the mind, for about 5 minutes, twice a day. Here’s a link from the Art of Living Foundation on how to do it and the benefits and the video is below.

If Your Left Nostril Seems to Be More Dominant, you may find that your digestion is sluggish, you often feel ‘spacey‘, have trouble making decisions. To help:

  • Fall asleep on your LEFT side when you go to bed.
  • Do alternate nostril breathing, a breathing technique which balances the brain, releases stress and tension and impression on the mind, for about 5 minutes. Here’s a link from the Art of Living Foundation on how to do it and the benefits and the video is below.

How to Do Alternate Nostril Breathing

Twelve years ago, I was at a public talk by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, and he had us all put our finger under our noses to check which nostril was dominant. I found that part of the talk fascinating and I’ve been paying attention to my nostrils ever since. I’ve been practicing about 14 years of yoga and meditation and observing the breath as well as been involved with teaching and learning in a classroom environment. From countless experiences, I’ve found that it’s very VERY interesting to put a little awareness into your snout!

If you have time, watch this video on the mind, by brain researcher, Jill Taylor, it is AMAZING. It ties in with the side of the nose that is dominant (even though she doesn’t talk about the nostril dominance thing specifically).

Staying Happy, When Everyone Else is Doing it ‘Better’

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The truth is that they’re not doing it better. They’re doing it different. A day after David Bowie’s death, the radio played a snippet of one of his interviews. Bowie talked about how his most successful albums were his least favorite to create. He only made them because he thought that was what everyone wanted. Those albums WERE what the fans wanted, but it didn’t make David Bowie feel satisfied.

As a blogger, I used to get this feeling of needing to write something that would be huge, that everyone would want to read. I’ve only been writing for a few years, so the whole writing thing was new to me. Somewhere along the line, I had almost 2 million people so far, read my articles! Two million reads seems pretty awesome to the non-writer me of a few years ago. Yet, somewhere out there, in the land of blog writers (and that land is vast), I see that somebody is always getting more likes, views and shares on their posts. There’s always somebody out there who is writing stuff that’s funnier, more well researched, more sappy, sweary, is juicy, more articulate, or somehow appeals to the greater public more than my writing does.

And, what if I tried to write like those people? Would it get me more attention? Yes. Believe me, I’ve tried it. It worked! I got lots of attention and I knew exactly who I would submit these attention grabbing articles to. But, it wasn’t me. It didn’t match the core values that I hold so dear to myself.

Thinking that everyone is doing it better than you applies to ALL areas of our lives. Our jobs, our choice of partner, number of children, house, car, what we do in our spare time, hobbies, etc. We’re all doing the best we can, but we think that others are doing it better. In reality, we don’t want ANY of these things… we just want to be happy, right?

Social media is the worst for smearing ‘I have a perfect life‘ phoniness all over the place. Don’t believe it when it looks like ‘everyone‘ is doing it better. In fact, I just took a trip to America and it was awful. I was really sick almost the whole time and had major culture shock (even though I am American). Yet, when people asked about my trip, they said, “It looked like you had a fantastic time in America, tell me all about it!” I had been posting a bunch of smiley pictures with national icons in the background and people perceived this perfect little family holiday. Wrong. You can’t judge what is going on from internet-space.

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Looks like a nice picture, right? WRONG! I was so sick, I felt like I could fall on my face. The deception on social media is real!

Honestly, my mind can get really swept away with jealously when I see someone doing it ‘better than me‘. If I can catch myself, I avoid falling into a wallowing pit of ‘poor me‘, by remembering that you can’t take it with you. Everything that brings you joy on this earth can also bring you pain. Money, fame, cars, big houses, clothes, your looks, fancy stuff, number of children, happy marriages, and so on… can be taken away at any moment. Artists, celebrities and politicians are always in trouble. They always dream of being popular, but once they gain the popularity, they get stressed from trying to keep at the top. Just because someone has everything you want, remember that what they have is temporary and if you gained those things, your possession of those things would also be temporary.

So, again, nobody is doing it ‘better‘, they’re just doing it different. If you have something to learn from someone, then take what you need and move on, with no regrets. There are certainly times when we need influence, advice, feedback or direction from someone who has more experience. But don’t sell yourself out. The actions you choose in order to match someone else’s success, will never feel authentic.

We did have some really good times, but I was still SICK! You can't tell, can you?

We did have some really good times, but I was still SICK! You can’t tell, can you?

Success is different to everyone. Some people measure success in attention, money and items. Others measure success in happiness and the ability to positively impact society. Find out what your goals are. What is YOUR vision and why is it important that you do the things you want to do. And, unless someone’s going to pay you millions of dollars for doing something you’re not crazy about (or you’re David Bowie), then stick to your big vision. Drop the feverishness that everything has to be perfect. Accept. Accept. And be happy.

 

What ‘Little Old’ You and I Can Do About Terrorism

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I found myself getting swept away with this feeling that terrorism is a huge unsolvable problem; that only governments with big artilleries and lots of manpower can fight against. For short term solutions, maybe that’s what’s needed. But, terrorism is a grassroots (or sometimes individual) movement. So, the true, long term solution, must also be grassroots. There are only a relative handful of terrorists compared to the BILLIONS of the rest of us kind, friendly and upstanding citizens of the planet. The media is focused on terrorism right now and the biggest danger of all, is thinking that individual people are too small and insignificant to do something about it.

Make Everyone Feel a Sense of Belongingness

Where do you think terrorists recruit their fighters from? Many from our backyard. Why? Because whatever the terrorists are offering to their recruits (acceptance, respect, honor, etc) is more than what they’re being offered here. I’ve taught many bright, educated Muslim boys, and I hope and pray that I don’t see their face on the next suicide bomber news article. These kids are not evil heartless killers, and nor are their families… but the society they live in lets them know that they’re ‘different‘. We need to be friendly to each other and honour our differences. Respect each other’s cultures.

Also remember that terrorists are not just young Muslim boys, they come in every color, race and religion. Creating a sense of belongingness needs to extend to every member of our society. Look into the eyes of any person in the street. Are they really so different from you? No. Reach out to people. Smile. Be friendly. See that they are in the same boat as you. It sounds small, but creating a sense of belongingness is probably one of the most powerful things we can do to end violence in our society.

Uproot Ignorance, Hatred and Prejudice 

If we want them to change, we first have to look at our own actions. Are we smearing hatred, doubt and poking fun of people all over social media and in our daily conversations? That needs to stop. Do we all know little about the different religions and cultures in the world? Are we teaching our children tolerance and acceptance? An education means nothing if the education does not include a little bit about human values, such as love, acceptance, belonging and compassion.

Energy Flows Where Attention Goes

Terrorists have just as much access to social media and the internet as we do. They know the stories that catch the bait. Do you need to go on reading story after story about what happened? It’s not to say that you stick your head in the sand and ignore everything that’s going on. But, the more energy you give to their actions, the more it fuels their fire. Also, the more you read and share these stories over and over, and the more you talk about how the world is an ‘evil‘ place, the more these things start happening. Your mind gets consumed over how ‘bad‘ everything is and you’ll notice that you walk down the street with a frown on your face.

Meditate, Pray, Keep Your Vibrations Positive

We are all connected to each other and feelings and emotions are catching. There are scientific studies to back this up. If you walk into a room with a grumpy miserable person, how do you feel after a few minutes? You’ll most likely also find yourself feeling grumpy. Alternatively, if you walk into a room where everyone is happy, you will also begin to feel happy. The more we keep ourselves happy, the more the people around us will have a better chance of keeping happy… and so on. Our actions affect the people around us. Happy people, connected to the society, don’t kill other people. So, whatever you need to do to keep yourself from brooding over the past or feeling miserable, find a way! It’s our responsibility to this planet to keep our own attitude positive so that we can positively influence others. Of course, we all get down in the dumps sometimes, and it’s not easy to pull yourself up, but we need to find a way to not get stuck in our negative emotions. Whatever it is; meditation, praying, singing, dancing, doing community service… do it! Uplift yourself and those around you.

Don’t for a second believe that you are not strong enough to do anything about terrorism. You have a heart. You have a brain. You have been blessed with life on this planet. You can make a difference. Be helpful to others. Be friendly. Have compassion. Be aware that your actions affect others.

 

 

 

 

My Family

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I *think*’My Family stickers are going out of style, right? But, I still see them often enough that I have this itch to write about them.

These stickers don’t particularly bother me. I’m actually not jealous or annoyed of the family wanting the world to know about their 6 kids, 4 dogs, 12 cats and 3 guinea pigs. I also have nothing against the girl with a sticker of herself and her pet goldfish. All of us have our own thing going on and it’s fair enough to want to be proud of it.

The thing is… putting My Family stickers on my car seems too small a gesture to me. It’s so limiting. Who is ‘in‘ my family? Is is the people who are related to me? Or, who live under my roof?

No.

I feel a much deeper connection with the other human beings on this planet. How often have you ever felt like you were with family, even though these people were not ‘family’… Even amongst strangers I’ve felt this connection.

My Family stickers don’t sit well with me because I realized that if I wanted to put My Family stickers on the back of my car, I would need a window that could fit 7 billion little white stick figures (plus additional room to fit the billions of animal creatures in the world).

Why are we so limited to the people (or animals) that live under one single roof, or who share the same last name?

Imagine if each and every one of us could feel that the whole world is our family… now that will be something great! How much more peace, harmony and trust would there be in the world, if we all feel that connection.

I could never put a My Family sticker on the back of my car because the whole world is my family, not just the people who live in the same house as me.

“Where Are You From?”

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Does my accent sound a little funny?

Is my skin a different color?

Do I dress differently?

Eat funny food?

Where am I from?

I’m from planet Earth, just like you!

In case you may have forgotten, we all reside on a mini-scopic island, surrounded by an endless sea of space.

It’s innocent small talk, I know. And once we get to know each other, ok, sure, ask away and we can tell stories about what it’s like to live on opposite sides of the world. But don’t let that question be one of the first things to leave your mouth when we meet. That question unintentially divides the human race. Puts categories on belongingness.

No matter where you come from, you should still have the same human values in common. Love and diversity. Compassion and trust.

Do you see me as different when you ask me where I come from? Tell me, what is really so different?

The world has become a small place. It’s no longer strange to see people from other places on your streets. Yet we still ask, as if to say, “You’re different. You don’t belong.

We all eat, breath, sleep, live and die.

You’re from ‘here‘ and so am I.

Is there even such a thing as ‘here‘ and ‘there‘? The entire planet is our home. Nature, the Earth, doesn’t discriminate against you. Categorizing people according to where they come from is a human invention.

There is no ‘here‘. There is no ‘there‘.

There is only one.

You are my family from the human race.  You feel pain, happiness and sorrow, the same way I do.

You belong to me and I belong to you.

I used to ask this question a lot too. But, I can’t ask it anymore. I’d rather enjoy the moment we have together. I don’t need to know where you come from. I’ve gotten really good at guessing  from your accent, but I don’t need to ask because right now, you are here, in front of me, and that’s all that matters.

Photo by Art Baltrotsky crappypics.com

Can You Really Raise Kids in An Apartment?

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First off, let me define the meaning of ‘small living space‘… because I lived in the back of my station wagon/tent, for a year, in my early twenties.

Apartments are relatively huge compared to a station wagon.

Better for the environment
Taking up less space, means… taking up less space. It means you leave more room for nature to be nature. There are 7 billion+ people on this planet, most of them live on top of each other. If we all wanted to live in a house, with a yard, we would all be squashed in an endless sea of tiny fenced in yards. Living in a small space means you use up less resources (building materials, energy for heating/cooling, etc.). When you live in a small space, you are also more conscious of buying unneccesary items (because you have no room). The less ‘stuff‘ we buy, that we don’t *really* need, the better for the environment. The production, the transport, and eventually, the disposal of the items we buy for our house, all have an impact on the world we live in. Read the rest of this entry