I learned a lot this week

I’ve had a really intense week – I was co-hosting a 3-day training on participatory leadership, which is all about changing mindsets and requires full emotional involvement; I received training on welcoming newcomers to the institution I work for, and another training on clear legal writing for my main job as editor; I had the end-of-year evaluation for the creative therapy course I am taking, in Dutch, a language I don’t really speak; and I  prepared for and took part in some auditions for a local production of Evita.


It was long, it was intense and it involved a steep learning curve. Here are a couple of things I learned:

  • Think before you speak and only speak with intention. Speak from your heart, not just your mind.
  • When in conversation, listen to the other person or people and be conscious of where the conversation is going. Don’t hijack the conversation.
  • Even when not in a conversation, don’t do stuff on automatic pilot, you are not a robot.
  • Not every comment made needs a response from me, especially if it’s negative. Sometimes it’s simply not worth engaging in what will become an argument that nobody wins. In fact, nobody needs to win and we don’t need to argue. We don’t need to be on the defensive all the time.
  • Brings everything back to ‘need’ – we do not live in a vacuum. As in, do we need to keep working on this project? Why did we start it in the first place?
  • Loads of people around the world are doing great things. Tune in.
  • Don’t be scared of having conversations about difficult things. Apparently, the Queen of Denmark once asked: What if some of the things that are wrong with the world are that way because of conversations that didn’t happen?
  • It is possible to be afraid of success. In fact, I am afraid of success and that fear is holding me back.
  • You have to let some order into chaos and some chaos into order to create anything new. The balance is not defined, it is rather a dance between the two, continuous movement.

What did you learn this week?

On the importance of every day

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the things I do every day, how important they are, and whether they make my life better or contribute to my happiness. I was inspired by one of the lessons in Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, that what you do every day matters more, makes more of a difference, than what you do once in a while.

This is serious, turning-my-life-up-side-down stuff. I mean, my life is pretty good, but if I look at what I do every single day, it’s pretty depressing, especially if I compare it with the list of things that I would like to be doing regularly. Basically, my days involve rushing around between work and home responsibilities, spending time with my family, reading (on my commute) and watching TV. I do loads of other things occasionally, maybe once or twice a week – I excercise, I write, I paint or do other creative projects. But I don’t do them regularly and I always feel disappointed that they’re not bringing me the benefits I expected them to.

I decided that it’s the TV-watching that’s a problem, even though I am a proud TV-series fan and definitely don’t think that watching TV series is a waste of time. But even if it’s not, even if it’s fun, do I need to be doing it every single day? Wouldn’t it be better if, say, I went for a walk every single day and only watched a little bit of TV? Or went for a walk every single day, did something creative every other day, and only watched TV every other day?

Thing is, after all that rushing around between home and work stuff, I’m so tired that all I want to do is veg on the couch and have someone entertain me with a good story. So introducing changes had to involve some extra thinking.

I thought about the way I wanted to feel every day. I want to feel energised, inspired, productive, calm and happy. I can get 4 out of 5 of those out of something I picked up in the past year, though haven’t been doing regularly. Yoga. The fifth, feeling productive, can easily be a product of the others. I know I accomplish more if am energised and calm.

So there it is, my transformation of the every day. I added yoga to my days and so far, so good. Yesterday, I also added meditation, because I’ve been talking about it for ages and, having done it regularly before, am perfectly aware of the benefits it brings.

If you’re on a similar track, I can recommend the yoga books by Tara Stiles, because they have 10-15 minute routines for specific things that may be troubling you. For meditation, I started Deepak Chopra’s 21-day meditation challenge, available as an iPad app. Each meditation has a different focus and I’m enjoying it so far. Both the books and the app were recommended by my friend Agnieszka, let’s see if she still reads this blog! 🙂

For extra inspiration, read this article on Brain Pickings.

How about you? Are you happy with your every day? What would you like to fit in more regularly?

Sunday Salon: Blogging, reading and mood

It’s been a long time since I blogged, I completely lost my blogging mojo. I have been reading, some, but not as much as in previous months and it got me thinking about how my mood influences everything.

These past weeks (um, months?) have been very, very busy at work. The job is still new to me, so I have to put in more effort than someone more experienced would. Being new also influences my confidence levels, so I am more conscious about the quality of my work.

The work transition is part of a bigger change in my life,  I am really in a transitional place. This means that mood-wise I’m all about self-improvement, happiness and mindfulness. And this is reflected in my recent reading – and probably my lack of blogging too, since my mind is so all over the place.

So this is what I’ve been reading:

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin – I got this from the library as an e-bbok, read half, loved it and ordered my own copy so that I could see my highlighting better and flip back and forth. I still haven’t finished it, mostly because I’m trying to figure out how best to record the quotes I love and my thoughts as I’m reading. I’ve been experimenting with mind mapping – do you find it useful for projects like this?

Revive by Frank Lipman – A friend who is introducing a number of health-related changes into her life recommended this one, but I got stuck after a few days. I definitely don’t want to follow it exactly, it wouldn’t work with my current lifestyle, but I like some of his ideas. Hmm, it might be another case of figuring out how to capture everything I want to keep filed in my head.

Slim, Calm, Sexy Yoga and Yoga Cures by Tara Stiles – I want to get into the habit of doing yoga every day, even if just for 10 minutes, and these books are really nice for that. Now I’m looking for a book that explains the spiritual and physical benefits of individual yoga poses, so that I understand what I’m doing a bit better.

Green Smoothie Revolution by Victoria Boutenko – I never thought I’d be a green-smoothie person, but I am, I love them! I don’t have them every day, largely because we don’t have many kinds of organic greens available here and I don’t think there’s much sense in making green smoothies with sub-standard ingredients. So I have one maybe once a week with spinach, and have regular fruit smoothies a few more times. If you’ve ever wondered about green smoothies, just try them, they are delicious!

I’ve been reading fiction too, escapist stories so that I don’t have to think too much and reading can be a rest from work. These are the books I finished recently:

Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard
Every Day by David Levithan
Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George
Welcome to the World, Baby Girl by Fannie Flagg

I’m planning on doing some mini-reviews soon!

Have a good Sunday, everyone!

How do you keep your blogging mojo?


I’m back, kind of, of it took a while. I’m not sure what happened. One day it was the week before Easter and I had loads of ideas and blogging energy and now it’s mid-May and I haven’t posted anything. How does that work?

How do you keep yourself blogging?

I know that scheduled breaks are sometimes needed and that’s fine. But I didn’t plan on being away for this long. I think I should have taken advantage of my blogging/writing energy when it was there and should have taken the time to pre-write loads of posts.

Is that what you guys do?

I’m surprised that blogging is just like exercise, which I also lost somewhere on the way. If I skip a few days it’s oh-so-hard to get back into it.

I keep re-considering whether I want to keep blogging at all, but the answer is always ‘yes’. When I do it, I love it. Again, just like exercise.

So, here we go again. I missed you guys!

* photo credit

Sunday Salon: My favorite Irish books

ShamrockHappy Saint Patrick’s Day! I admit that I love this fun green holiday, despite the fact that I think St. Patrick could have left the snakes (i.e. pagans) of Ireland alone. I don’t agree with him, but I do like all things Irish, so to celebrate here are a couple of lists of Irish books.

10 recently read books by Irish authors that you should read too

1. Star of the Sea by Joseph O’Connor – This is probably my favorite book by an Irish author. It tells the story of people leaving Ireland and sailing for America in the mid-1800s. A heartbreaking, well-written and historically interesting story.
2. In the Woods and The Likeness by Tana French – Popular mystery series about detectives working in Dublin. Tana French has interesting storylines and characters.
3. P.S. I Love You by Cecilia Ahern – Sometimes one needs some good chicklit and this book has a great story and the Irish setting is a nice change.
4. Brooklyn by Colm Toibin – Another immigrant story, about how a girl who gets the opportunity to go to America and copes with the changes and loneliness.
5. Dracula by Bram Stoker – I didn’t know Bram Stoker was Irish until I read this! Definitely read this if you haven’t already, even if you think you already know the story of Dracula.
6. The Truth About the Leprechaun by Bob Curran – I loved the title so bought this on a whim in a giftshop somewhere in Ireland. Some interesting stuff about the legend of the leprechaun.
7. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne – A unique take on a difficult and painful subject.
8. Dubliners by James Joyce – I read this in high school and remember loving all the stories. Must re-read soon, would anyone be interested in a read-a-long?
9. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer – Lovely book about  a boy who captures a fairy and starts some trouble. I read this and one or two of the next books in the series but I want to re-read them and continue on to read them all.
10. Room by Emma Donoghue – I suppose everyone has at least heard of this one, but if you haven’t then don’t be scared when you read the synopsis. It’s not as gruesome as it seems it should be. The fact that it’s told from the point of view of a 5-year-old makes the tone different to anything you would expect.

6 Books by Irish authors that are sitting on my shelf, unread

1. The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry
2. Redemption Falls by Joseph O’Connor
3. Plugged by Eoin Colfer
4. How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill
5. Sushi for Beginners by Marian Keyes
6. In the Forest by Edna O’Brien

Anything else Irish that I should buy?

* photo credit

5 reasons for why I gave money to the Veronica Mars movie

_veronica_mars_kristen_bell__2_Well, ok, it was only 10 bucks, but it’s still money, so my title holds true. 

(If you don’t know what I’m talking about, google Veronica Mars movie and Kickstarter. If you don’t know who Veronica Mars is this post will probably not interest you. Though you should go get the DVDs and watch it. Possibly tonight.)

I’d never even been on the Kickstarter website until yesterday, so why did I immediately fork over cash?

1.Veronica Mars (played by Kristen Bell) is awesome! She is spunky, intelligent and cute. She cares about her Dad (whom she lives with), she supports the underdogs and she solves crimes. Yep, her Dad has a PI firm and she helps out. Sometimes, she helps out way more than her Dad wants her to and ends up in trouble. But she is perfectly capable of getting herself out of it and she usually makes life better for some other people along the way too. She’s not perfect and she has suffered quite a bit more than many girls her age (oh yeah, she’s still in high school!). Most importantly, she saved me when I didn’t know where to go in TV-land after I finished watching Buffy. She saved me, and now I will help save her.

2. Giving just $10 made me feel like I could do anything. My $10 helped finance a future Veronica Mars movie. Wow, what more could I accomplish? A Buffy movie?  Or even a Spike movie? The possibilities are endless!

3. Why should the big cheeses in Hollywood decide on everything? I think that too many recently released movies are total crap – they all cater to the action-loving viewers. I don’t like gratuitous violence (or sex) in my films, superheroes do nothing for me and I’m too chicken to watch horror movies. I like strong female characters and intelligent, witty writing. If I have to pay to get those kinds of movies made, I’ll do it.

(Please feel free to suggest movies I need to watch based on these criteria! I’m all out of ideas!)

4. Fans, the regular people, are always underestimated. But when they join together they are a huge force! These days, being a fan of something doesn’t mean you join a club and send away for signed postcards. Fans dissect whatever they are passionate about, they re-create the worlds they love, they write fan fiction to extend storylines or take characters on other paths. Fans take the televisions, movies, music they love and build on them, are inspired by them, take creativity to a new level. Why shouldn’t they have a say in what’s being produced?

5. Ummm, because I had just come back from the theatre (we saw Calendar Girls, if you live in Brussels go see it this week!) where I had had 2 glasses of wine and it was past midnight and it seemed like a good idea? I don’t know, I guess I only have 4 reasons, but 5 is a better number for a list!

Reading about the project and about Kickstarter today, I came across various opinions, both positive and negative. My Friend Amy pointed out that some people find it unfair that Warner Brothers won’t have any production costs, but will get all the profits. But honestly, for this particular project, I simply don’t care. I just want to see the movie. This won’t apply to many projects, I can’t think of any others, except for whatever  Joss Whedon comes up with. But it’ll apply to some.

Veronica Mars, I’m glad that I’ll have the chance to spend another couple of hours in your company!

* Photo via Collider