“One Night in Rio” – Inspiration out of Left Field

dh7afsOne thing you may not know about me is that I am passionate about football. The game with 22 players also known as soccer.

I’m not talking about the kind of passion that allows me to engage in endless conversations about technicalities, quoting the rulebook without batting an eyelash.

I’m talking about the kind of passion that rises up every two years when I watch the German National Team play the European and World Cups. It’s the only time my nationality gets the better of me.


My passion for football on an international level is one of the many things that mystify my husband.

I am therefore doubly delighted when I receive a photography anthology as a birthday present from an equally football-devoted friend. Surely nothing goes together less than “football” and “coffee table book” but that’s exactly what it is. In 403 glorious colour pages, One Night in Rio details the German Team winning the 2014 World Cup from the final whistle to partying on South American soil to traveling home to celebrate with their fans. A book of pictures telling an emotional victory beyond what words can capture.


But what strikes me more than all the photographs is a transcript inconspicuously tucked away at the very end of the book. It bears no explanation. It is an email sent by photographer Paul Ripke to the manager of the German Team the day after the iconic semi-final win over the host country Brazil. A plea to be allowed to document the team’s final win – a game that is yet to be played.

Now I’m well familiar with the feeling of wanting something so much that you’d do no matter what to get it. Problem is, I have not truly connected to that feeling in a rather long time. Instead, I have been hanging out in what Dr Seuss calls “The Waiting Place”. Waiting for one project in my life to “work out” before fully committing to others.

Mesmerized, I read and reread the words.

In a nutshell, Ripke outlines his desire to visually commemorate the German World Cup win. “This is going to be a moment that none of us will ever forget, and I could never forgive myself if it wasn’t adequately captured in images”, he says.

He goes on to list and refute a number of possible objections, including travel, accommodation (“I will bring a tent”), meals (“I won’t eat, I need to lose weight anyway”) and other logistics. Lastly, he says, “If it is a matter of my looks, I will shave and get the haircut of your choosing.”



That email gets the desired reply:

Dear Paul,

Relax. Leave your hair as is and come.

We shoot the goals, you the pictures.


I search online for the full story. Basically the compilation that is my gift was made possible by the tenacity of one photographer pursuing his dream to capture the German Team’s World Cup celebrations for posterity. Pictures taken for the sake of memories. He wasn’t there on a press assignment. He wasn’t taking images for social media, or even for creating the very book I am holding in my hands. And because he wasn’t any of that, he was treated like a member of the team, getting access to players and situations that where far out of the reach of other photographers and journalists.

Most importantly, Ripke did whatever he could to pursue his dream, including offering to travel and work at his own expense.

Including sending that one last email after previous, presumably unanswered or unfavourable attempts.

Now THAT is inspiring.


Little did my friend know he was giving me a present much beyond the good memories of a great tournament.

Thank you Peter!


Images: neoseeker.com, 11freunde.de


“Black Belt in Bin Bags” – The KonMari Method, Part II

flying bin bag

I have been giving an army of black bin bags their marching orders.

By now I have progressed from my wardrobe to invading every other part of the house. Including the outside storage shed, which was full of things I intended to sell AFTER we moved in. When things settled down, you know.

This discovery reminded me how, at one very recent point, the energy in this most beautiful house felt so stifling that I thought we might have to move. I am sure my husband will be relieved to know that now the house is once again looking as light and airy as it did in its unoccupied state, the requirement for relocation has been lifted.


In order to comprehend the full volume of what we own, Kondo advocates decluttering by category, in the following order:

  • Clothes
  • Books
  • Komono (miscellany aka everything else)
  • Photos
  • Memorabilia

Once I had mastered clothes, books were a breeze and a glance through my personal papers quickly made it apparent that most were way past their date of use(fullness). Still, whilst the purging process felt far less excruciating than in the apparel category, the energy contained within my rapidly diminishing filing system was every bit as emotionally and physically draining, quite literally leading to tears, tantrums and threats of divorce. I’m not a natural drama queen so I can only suppose that there were levels of unconscious letting go and processing at play here.

Once I had moved beyond these personal effects, things mercifully lightened up and clearing through our open plan living and kitchen area was easy as child’s play – as was the child’s playroom, much to my surprise.

Having watched me clear for a week or so at this point, I sat down on the floor to re-explain the process in toddler-friendly terms (not that they vary greatly from the adult instructions):

So you hold each item in your hand and ask your body whether it brings you joy. If the answer is yes, we keep it. If the answer is no, we put it here to give to another child.

Frankly, I am ashamed of giving my child so little credit. I expected just about EVERYTHING to be kept. Instead I was thoroughly impressed by the swift and intuitive decision making of a 3.5 year old, including disposing of several items that I still had attachments to. Blessedly I had the good sense to shut up, dutifully depositing them into the “to go” pile and keeping myself from sabotaging her decisions.


All that sorting accomplished, there remained “only” the final task: storing.

Again, Kondo’s method is fairly intuitive:

In order to know what to keep, ask your heart. In order to know where to store it, ask your house.

(This is not a verbatim quote as, true to form, I have already passed the book on.)

Simples, right? Well, almost. My house’s answers involved a lot of running up and down stairs.


The criticallly important question of course is, can it last?

Kondo claims to never have had any of her clients rebound into a life of needless excess. I sure as heck ain’t planning on being the first. Anyway, as she is quick to remind us,

The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.

Purging possesions that no longer serve us then is simply the foundation of physical and mental space that allows us to create the lifestyle that truly serves our bigger vision. Which pretty much sums up why I embarked on this whole process in the first place.

After all, it seemed mighty ironic that I travelled all the way to the vastness of the African bush to create a big life vision, only to come back home and find there was no space for that vision in my everyday habitat.

Skylions 2015-44Skylions 2015-482Skylions 2015-489

That’s a long way to go to find out I had too much stuff. Maybe you only have to go as far as your local bookstore.

Trust me, it’s a lot cheaper…


Images: wewanttolearn.wordpress.com, Ann Wilson @ thewealthchef.com

“You’re Not The Boss of Me” – The KonMari Method, Part I

konmariI moved eight months ago. I wanted a shamanic house clearing but my desired practictioner remained elusive so I resorted to saging every corner of my new house, a process which I have since repeated. Frequently.

Let’s face it: I am a serial sager.

I’m also the self-proclaimed Queen of Decluttering… or so I thought. Turns out that no amount of smudging is going to unpack bags loitering in random corners, nor release energy tied up in general excess. So move over me and enter Marie Kondo, whose popularity as Japan’s decluttering expert is currently surging far outside her native land.

Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying is certainly not a title I would have been drawn to without repeated recommendation. Anyway, what could she possibly teach me?

As it turns out, A LOT.

I’m not a serial hoarder but I’m certainly no minimalist – at least not yet. And whilst I did a fairly good job getting rid of stuff in the moving process, there were still plenty of things I clung on to even though I knew they weren’t exactly serving me.


Kondo’s philosophy is deceptively simple:

  1. Discard
  2. Store

Her main method for deciding what stays and what goes boils down to physically holding each item while asking the question

“Does this spark joy?”

If the answer is no, it goes. If the answer is yes, it stays.

This is an uncompromising process relying on intuition and bodily response alone. Logic has no voting right.


Kondo suggests starting with your wardrobe, as clothes have low replacement value as compared to, say, your grandmother’s wedding china.

As a clothing aficionado, that turned out to be a HARD place to begin. I arrogantly began by congratulating myself on my swift disposal technique, when in reality I was only chucking what should never have moved with me in the first place. As someone prone to monetizing my decluttering efforts, I also fell prey to setting aside numerous items with perceived cash value, shuddering at Kondo’s suggestion of shoving every unwanted piece into a black bin bag.

After two days of hapless sorting, I re-arranged my pristinely folded clothes into drawers and cupboards (Kondo advocates very specific ways of folding and storing items) and soon had to face the ugly truth: there was still too much stuff.

And frankly, the growing mound of sale items zapped my energy at the very thought of spending days on eBay.


I am slightly embarrassed to admit that it quite literally cost me a sleepless night or two to get to grips with the fact that the only way forward was to indeed ditch everything. It was hard. The process brought up a whole host of value and self judgements, such as

“OMG, how can I have acquired so many things?”

“How wasteful to throw these beautiful things away without at least trying to make some money.”

and a plethora of other unhelpful emotions. Even the hard-fought acknowledgment that these very things were actually holding me hostage simply fuelled the fire.

What eased the pressure in the end was a return to Kondo’s suggestion to thank each discarded item for having served me, and to let it go into the void of the black bin bag with love and gratitude. Including clothes I liked rather than loved.

(Disclaimer: They will of course be going to charity shops so ultimately benefiting others in one materialistic form or another.)


I am proud to say that the sum total of my clothes now fits into one wardrobe and four drawers. That’s everything – including underwear, outerwear, sleepwear, footwear. All seasons and all occasions.

konmari method

And the energy freed up in just this one area of my home is already AMAZING. There is room for breath and flow and it is a joy to walk into, and sleep in, a welcoming peaceful space.

It may just turn out I am performing my own shamanic house clearing by simply ditching that which does not spark joy.

Not the sage, though.


Images: Amazon.co.uk, author’s own

What Do you DO? Or “Lessons in Self Worth”

handI hate this question.

Of course I have only grown to hate it once I no longer had the predictable, and socially acceptable, answer up my sleeve. You know, the-“I’m a doctor, engineer, hotelier, accountant”-type reply.

To be fair, I never really liked being defined by what I did in exchange for a salary. But it was easy enough cocktail conversation.

I was first confronted with the uncomfortable silence engendered by an arbitrary answer at a networking meeting a few months after I started university at age 37. Even in a room full of entrepreneurs and business owners, the proud response “I’m a student” was not something that people knew how to handle. The stillness was almost as deafening as when I would later say “I’m a stay at home mum”, though I have to admit I myself was never quite satisfied with that answer. But that’s another post…

I was reminded of all of this during a recent conversation with a friend. Because it’s not just mums who find it difficult to cough up the right retort, it’s just about anybody who has given up the traditional 9-5. I have seen it with women of all ages, exiting the workplace to start their own business, to travel, or to take a longed for sabbatical.

Sadly we still buy into the fallacy that having a job or title equals our identity and therefore equals our worthiness, and our self-worth.


The conflicting ideas around needing to be “something” begin in childhood: One the one hand, we very much want our children to be loved for simply being themselves, whilst on the other the popular question of “What do you want to be when you grow up?” still abounds. The inevitable irony is of course that as adults, we then find it difficult to love ourselves, or even others, simply for who we are rather than for the elevator pitch we present to the world.

At the other end of the life spectrum, you never hear people in hospices regretting not spending more time with loved ones, not making human interaction count for enough.

In my own experience, going through the identify shift from a label or role to just allowing myself to be comfortable in my own skin is much like an addict learning to live without their favourite fix.




So what’s a better answer then?

I believe rather than needing a new mold, we actually need a lack of it.

I know a lot of people are boldly stepping out and sharing their light and gifts in new and exciting ways.

But still, rather than new answers, what we really need are new questions.

Instead of being asked what I “do”, I would much prefer to be asked about what I love, about my favourite people and passions.


What question(s) would YOU like to be asked so people can learn more about what makes you light up, about your true essence rather than simply what you do for a living?

(Although in an ideal world, there would be rather a lot of overlap in his area!)


I recently experimented by asking Lilly the question “Why do I love you?”

She looked up from her cereal bowl with a big smile, confidently stating “Because!”

That’s the kind of stuff I am talking about. I pray that she retains this knowing of being utterly loved for who, not what, she is forever. (It’s unlikely which is precisely why the situation requires divine support)


And if you ever want to combine the inevitable uncomfortable silence with an internal chuckle, you could always try one of these approaches:

assasin 4d458e14a8b78d4cd73163aa63edf8eeLet me know how you get on…!



Images: blog.timesunion.com, pikecountymom.com, abravelife.com, cdn.smartphowned.hollywood.com

The Letter

For most of my teenage years, I felt like I was standing on the sidelines, watching. I felt shy, awkward and like I didn’t really belong.

When I was seventeen, I had the chance to go on a school exchange to the United States for a month. I struck a deal with my Dad – he paid half and I paid half from the earnings of an after-school job.  My mother hated my gut for going, or probably more accurately for having the independent means to contribute to the project.

It was all terribly exciting, going on my first flight, going to the States and going away from home for that length of time. I stayed with a family of five in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania  – three boys and two girls (although the oldest two had flown the nest by then). My host parents were quick to joke that I was the girl to even out the gender imbalance in their family. I was welcomed with open arms and I got a glimpse of a family life that was rather different from my customary surroundings. The words ‘I Love You’ were readily spoken between parents and children, and not in the superficial way that Americans are often accused of. I am sure everyday life wasn’t a happily-ever-after fairy tale but still, I soaked it all up and loved being part of it.

After I came back home to Germany, a letter arrived in the post. My host father, a very busy lawyer, had taken the time to sit down and write to my parents. It was a handwritten letter on that thin, parchment-like pale blue airmail paper. It said lovely things about me. I can’t remember exactly what they were… something along the lines of me being a clever, worthwhile and confident person who was a joy to be around. The details don’t really matter. All I know is that letter said things I didn’t believe about myself. My mother didn’t either, and was quick to tell me so. It was kinda like reading about another person, but one you would like to grow up to be. Reading that letter made me feel important and hopeful that if somebody saw all these things in me, then maybe I could one day be them.

My dad kept the letter in a filing cabinet in his office. Ever so often, I would root through stacks of paper to find and read it again. My dad’s office has now been dismantled for a great many years, and I no longer have access to that letter. I guess a long time ago, someone threw it away along with the stacks of paper that surrounded it.

Still, I cherish that letter. Even now, more than twenty years later. I love that my host father stepped away from his busy work and family life long enough to write it. To him, it may have been a very small thing. To me, it meant the world.

Thank you, Mr Kaufman.


Pack Your Bags and Go!

I love traveling.

Most of my childhood vacations in the 70s and 80s were the then-typical three week summer holidays where we piled our family into a tightly packed car and drove off into the sunset. The sun set in Austria for the first ten years of my life, and along the North Sea coast thereafter. I guess my parents liked the predictability of going to the same places year after year.

As a teenager, I caught on to the concept of travel as an escape. New horizons, new adventures and the fringe benefit of getting away from all the same old stuff. School exchange programs and class trips were obvious first ‘safe’ choices, although I couldn’t wait to start traveling on my own!

One of these school trips was to the United States, and I often mused that I might spent a year or so there after graduating from High School, maybe as part of a university exchange. I couldn’t wait to get away and experience life in different places. Little did I know that once I left Germany, I was never to return. Well, not permanently, anyway.

I spent a year in Spain before moving to the US. Not just for a measly year at uni, but for six years in Nashville, TN, followed by two more in Atlanta, GA. I worked in hotels in just about every capacity except catering and cleaning rooms. The job that mostly defined my hospitality career was Revenue Management, which is basically playing a huge game of Monopoly with real money. I ‘revenue managed’ in individual hotels and on corporate level for Starwood, Hilton and Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG). I moved to London, and then to Brussels. I got to travel for work all over Europe, and still found time to travel for fun. For five years, I had a house in France.

Despite the fact that by star sign I’m a cancer, I am not terribly good at staying in one place for too long. I’ve now been back in London since 2007. To me, that’s a VERY LONG time.

A friend in the States once called me peripatetic.

Traveling from place to place, esp. working or based in various places for relatively short periods.

Can’t argue with that. I love the word, even though  I think he used it as an excuse for not dating me. His loss… although quite possibly his life is a whole lot quieter for it.

So anyway, rather than a faint moan of ‘Are we nearly there yet?’ from the back seat, my favourite question tends to be a curious and excited:

‘So, where are we going next?’

Except when I travel these days, I am hauling a whole lot more stuff…

If It’s Not One Thing, It’s Your Mother

Every time I start writing my story, I get stuck on this childhood thing.

Part of me wants to launch into it full steam ahead while another part of me is just so bored with it all. I mean, really, who cares about that shit anyway?

After many false starts, it finally dawned on me why this part of my story is important. In storytelling terms, it’s the beginning that sets the scene for what is to come after. Every story has a beginning, middle and end. Maybe not necessarily in that order, but you kinda can’t get away with skipping the beginning altogether.

My childhood memories are dominated by my mother’s addiction to alcohol. There’s lots of other dynamics, of course, but in many ways my relationship with my mother has shaped my past, my present and I am sure will continue to shape my future in some way.

I can’t pretend to understand what it’s like to live with addiction. I only know what it’s like to live with someone who is addicted. To live in a family where addiction is an issue, but bafflingly enough is never mentioned. I mean, looking back now, how on Earth did neither my father, mother, brother nor grandparents (or me, for that matter!) ever think to sit down and TALK about this? I guess talking about things wasn’t our strong point. Neither was talking about how we felt, or daring to show too many of our emotions.

I decided very early on NOT to be like my mother. And when I wasn’t busy NOT being like my mother, I copied bits and pieces from my dad.

And one day in 2005, on an NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) Practitioner qualification training, I found myself sitting in the audience bawling my eyes out for hours listening to the facilitator talk about the dynamics of masculine and feminine energy. It was so bad that a crew member followed me to the bathroom to make sure I wasn’t gonna slit my wrists, or flush myself down the toilet or something. There was just so much I couldn’t relate to because in rejecting one part of my mother’s personality, I had wholesale rejected everything else too.

Only then did it occur to me that the way I chose to relate to her (or more accurately, not relate to her) had influenced the quality of my relationships, friendships and professional interactions up to that point. Choosing to think about her differently has changed a lot of that.  That’s not to say it’s all happy clappy, of course, but different – in a good way! Still, when I was pregnant, I was shocked at the amount of times I would dream about my mother and feel the most intense anger and rage.

The way I grew up makes it all the more important to me now to teach my daughter how to cope with her feelings, and to strive to provide an environment where dialogue is more prominent than sweeping stuff under the carpet.

I have no doubt that one day, when Lilly sits down to write her story, I will be found guilty of many maternal wrongdoings. But I also know that no matter what happens, I will have tried really really hard.

I am sure my mother did too.

Wife and Mother From A Dad’s View

My fabulous wife, Nette, has asked me to write a guest post for her blog, which I am only now managing to fit in between all my work, which is a great position to be in and I’m very grateful to be able to serve people, achieve an excellent result as well as a reasonable reward for doing what I really currently enjoy!

My recollection when we first got together was that neither of us wanted children, although Nette says at some point before our wedding we discussed it and she actually did then want to have children “at some point”.

After 3 stepchildren from my previous marriage in South Africa, I wasn’t keen on the idea, although apparently I “tentatively agreed” or least didn’t dismiss the idea outright. As was the case with our dog, when certain things that I’m not wildly keen upon are “suggested” I tend to say “next year” or some similar far-off future time, perhaps hoping she’ll change her mind or forget… Perish the thought! My lovely wife has an “elephant memory” and a “bulldog determination”, with the end result that she eventually gets what she wished for and I “agreed” to sooner or later 😉

Why I mention this is because my great concern or “fear” was how my (our) life would change, first with the acquisition of the dog and then on a greater scale with the “creation” of a child. In both cases, although my (our) life has changed I really love both the dog, or “hound” as I often call Jack, and even more so our beautiful baby daughter. She is a delight to be around and play with almost all the time – except at night, when only Mommy will do!

During this whole transition it’s been a privilege to watch Nette grow from not just my lovely wife, but also to an amazing Mom, as she continually surprises me with the patience, caring and love she has for Lilly on a daily basis, which I’m sure as any Mum will say, is both rewarding & tiring, often in fluctuating degrees.

It’s not always “perfect sailing” we have our disagreements and different views on things, but one thing is certain, our love and best wishes for Lilly. I will often remark how “lucky” Lilly is to have such a fabulous Mom, and I couldn’t have wished for a better wife and mother to my baby girl. I have a massive appreciation (even if I don’t mention it every single day) for what Nette does each and every day & night.

Sometimes I do feel a little like a bystander watching things unfold, and Nette will sometimes encourage me to “get more involved” with Lilly and I think right now, get involved as best I can for me while balancing my work life is a journey that will evolve as I continue to undertake it… Watch this space!