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Anorexia is just another word for nothing left to lose - Joy Behar

>> 27 September 2007

Today I saw a shocking newsflash (in French) which brings the sadness and desperation of anorexia to the frontline.
A controversial ad compaign was launched during the Milan Fashion Week. The ads are aimed at raising awareness about eating disorders and show Isabelle Caro a 27 year old woman weighing only 31 kilos.
The ads were shot for clothing breand NO.l.ita by photographer Oliviero Toscani (known for his controversial photos taken for Benetton) who wanted "to use that naked body to show everyone the reality of this illness, caused in most cases by the stereotypes imposed by the world of fashion."

I think this campaign is very brave and find it difficult to look at. The woman reminds me of pictures of starving kids in Africa. If it can raise awareness about the seriousness of this illness, fine. Will it cure it? I doubt it. I do believe though that today's fashion, media and showbusiness have all contributed to the fact that today's girls want to be skinny. Although it is true that even people who take no notice of fashion get anorexia, it is the overall image of what a woman should look like that is given to young girls that is the cause here.

What do you think? Would such a campaign be allowed in the USA?

I much prefer campaigns that are less shocking but still very much to the point such as the Dove Evolution film. I admit that this is (also) a smart and sneaky way to do marketing, but at least it's telling the truth as it is and showing us real women.

Interesting read on the subject:
The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf


10 questions with MindFul MiMi

>> 19 September 2007

BlogsWeLuv have quite an interesting concept of promoting blogs 'that deserve a little love'. They ask you 10 thoughtful questions.
To see mine, visit their site.


Delay gratification in the short term and enjoy greater rewards in the long term

>> 17 September 2007

The ability to discipline yourself to delay gratification in the short term in order to enjoy greater rewards in the long term is the indispensable pre-requisite for success - Brian Tracy

If you put a marshmallow in front of your 4-year old and said that he could eat it immediately or wait until you returned and he'd get another one, what would he do?

My son is not 4 years old yet - but maybe I will do the test with him to find out what his behaviour tells me about his possible future.
Walter Mischel did this test with several hundreds of 4-year olds. They videotaped the kid's reactions. Some of them gobbled up the marshmallow immediately; some looked at it, smelled it, touched it but didn't eat it. Others started walking around, humming songs to distract themselves. One even licked the space on the table surrounding the marshmallow.
Fourteen years later, these kids are grown and the findings are quite dramatic.
  • Kids who did not eat the marshmallow immediately but waited for the tester to return (and were thus gratified with a second marshmallow) seemed to show many more skills that make for success. They had many of the "habits of successful people": confidence, persistence, capacity to cope with frustration. The "waiters" were more socially competent and self-assertive, trustworthy, dependable and more academically successful.
  • On the other hand, the kids who gobbled the treat immediately showed trouble subordinating immediate impulses to achieve long-range goals. When it was time to study for the big test, they tended to get distracted into listening to a favourite TV programs.
So what are "marshmallows" in our professional and personal lives? They are the activities which give us immediate gratification but undermine longer-range benefits. The desire to please everyone is a big "marshmallow".

It seems that the ability to delay gratification is a master skill, a triumph of the reasoning brain over the impulsive one. It is a sign, in short, of emotional intelligence (Definition according to Mayer, J.D. & Salovey, P. (1997): "The ability to perceive emotion, integrate emotion to facilitate thought, understand emotions, and to regulate emotions to promote personal growth").
And it doesn't show up on an IQ test.

Take the Emotional IQ test.

If there is a cornerstone to emotional intelligence on which most other emotional skills depend, it is a sense of self-awareness, of being smart about what we feel. Scientists refer to "metamood," the ability to pull back and recognize that "what I'm feeling is anger," or sorrow, or shame.

Metamood is a difficult skill because most of the time our emotions appear in disguise (the mourner is sad but may also be angry at the person for dying - the parent of a child who ran across the street is angry at the child for disobedience but may also experience fear of what could have happened).

Self-awareness is perhaps the most crucial ability because it allows us to exercise some self-control. The idea is not to repress feeling but rather to do what Aristotle considered the hard work of the will. As he puts it in the Nicomachean Ethics : "Anyone can become angry - that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way - this is not easy."

Some impulses are easier to overcome than others. Anger, not surprisingly, is one of the hardest, perhaps because of its evolutionary value in priming people to action. The more stressed one is, the lower the threshold for release. Anxiety is another typical one.

Given sufficient self-awareness, people develop coping mechanisms. Sadness and discouragement, for instance, are "low arousal" states. If you go out for a run you are triggering a high arousal state that is incompatible with staying blue. Relaxation works better for high-energy moods like anger or anxiety.

Either way,
Be an optimist : When an optimist fails, he attributes the failure to something he can change, not some innate weakness that he is helpless to overcome.

The most visible emotional skills, the ones we recognize most readily, are the "people skills" like empathy, graciousness, the ability to read a social situation. Researchers believe that about 90% of emotional communication is nonverbal.
If you have a good ability to read emotional cues, you most likely tend to be more successful in your work and relationships.

In the corporate world, according to personnel executives, IQ gets you hired, but EQ gets you promoted.

So next time someone wiggles a marshmallow in front of your nose (or a carrot, or a special deal,...), think about it twice, breathe,...

Time Reports - Understanding Psychology
Non-verbal communication


On raising bilingual children

When I was pregnant with our first baby an important question popped up. How do we raise our kid language-wise. I am a native Dutch speaker, my other half is a native French speaker. Together we speak French and we live in a country that has another, third language: Luxembourgish.

After some research and reading of books, I came to the conclusion that information contained on the web and in books is helpful but that each situation is different and particular. Hence, there is no one-solution-fit-all.

I was born and raised in Luxembourg but up until the age of 4 only spoke Dutch at home. Getting to Kindergarten I did not understand a word of what the kids were saying. Back then (early seventies) the community was much less international than it is now, so I was the minority. I do not remember feeling left out for long though. I do not remember having any difficulty language-wise.

The particularity about Luxembourg is that Luxembourgish is only an official language since the 80ies and that French and German are the norm when it comes to written language. Our schoolbooks were in German, so after learning to speak Luxembourgish, German was the next (at age 6) and French shortly thereafter (at age 7). I had no problem with German, as all the books were in German, Luxembourgish (in which I was by then fluent) is very close to it and most television was in German. I had a bit more difficulties with French, but so did everyone else. Eventually English was added (at age 13) with which I had very few problems compared to my fellow students. Later, during my career, I also came to learn Italian and Spanish.

When asked which language is my mothertongue I have a hard time choosing between Dutch and Luxembourgish. Dutch because it was my first language - but I never poperly learned how to write it and being a kid of expatriats, the language the parent's speak is not always up to date. Luxembourgish because it is the language I was most immersed in during childhood (I count and most of the time think in Luxembourgish) but it was never taught in writing and there is hardly what can be called literature available in that language.

Over the years my brain has gotten so used to all the languages that switching from one to the other is not a big deal. I speak much more English and French nowadays than I do Luxembourgish so I find myself thinking in the language I speak.

We have decided to raise our son with the OPOL method: One Parent, One Language. I speak Dutch to him, my other half French. My parents, who watch him a lot too speak Dutch to him as well which means that currently his most strong language is Dutch and his first words (he is almost 16 months now) are mainly Dutch. But he understands my other half perfectly and the daycare speaks French to him too so the first French words are coming as well. When he goes to school (at the age of 3) he will be immersed into the Luxembourgish environment (as I was when I was little) and will learn Germand in primary school. He will already have perfect knowledge of French by the time his friends are starting to learn it - so that's one less to worry about.

What we do still not know is how we deal with education after primary school. Luxembourg has a variety of schools on offer (European School, International School, French School) - all of which are far away from where we live. So logistically it would be a drag. Financially they are also quite a burden. And to top it, these schools are hard to get into because priority is given to European Community workers, French Nationals etc.

We do think however, that higher education focused more on one language (French for example), with books, teachers, literature in that language (instead of German and French and English etc) would be an advantage.

We believe that raising a bilingual kid is easy on the homefront but difficult in an international environment where the school system does not have a primary language focus.

I'd be glad to hear your experiences in this area. Email me.


Raising Bilingual Children by Marsha Rosenberg



Schools in Luxembourg:


GUEST POST: The only thing we have to fear is fear itself - Franklin D. Roosevelt

>> 12 September 2007

Indie from The Synchronicity of Indeterminacy has allowed me to guest post his thoughts on a quote from F.D. Roosevelt. Thanks for your contribution Indie.

If you have a favorite quote and something to say about it, please feel free to submit it for placement as a guest post.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt stated in his 1933 inaugural address "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." These words were uttered during the height of the Great Depression, a period of intense upheaval and fear. The statement is inspirational because it rejects the easy exploitation of a situation in which people will, out of fear, rally behind anyone offering easy solutions and answers to difficult problems. Whereas Roosevelt called for an intelligent, considered response in reaction to a situation in which we were immobilized by fear, the rise of Hitler and Mussolini represents the opposite type of reaction.

Sane ideas such as these do not repeat themselves in history as often as their antithesis. The period of anti-communist hysteria of the late 1940's and early 1950's (McCarthyism) is a dark example of our inability to deal with fear in an intelligent manner. I have read several books documenting the period of McCarthyism. Needless to say, many innocent people from the left, actors, writers, artists, etc. were destroyed by the unfounded charges against them, and American culture since then has been all the poorer because of it. One of the books I read wonders dryly whether McCarthyism, by some wild coincidence, had actually managed to expose even a single communist among the people it singled out. Norman Corwin in "Trivializing America" (1983) quotes Gore Vidal stating that McCarthyism so weakened the left, that it paved the way for the Viet Nam war in the 1960's.

The processes of fear and how they can lead to destruction were dramatized by Rod Serling in an episode of the Twilight Zone "The Monsters are Due on Maple Street" - in which residents of a typical street in America find themselves in a situation with an unseen, unspecific enemy. They eventually lose control and destroy themselves - which was exactly what the unseen enemy intended. The story was an allegorical retelling of the lessons to be found in history.

It would be grand if there were no contemporary examples of the negative affects of fear, but that is not the case. In 2003, in an e-mail to a friend, I listed some famous quotes by U.S. presidents, the ones I could remember, and matched them with a pseudo-quote by George W. Bush. If there is one underlying theme to Bush's "presidency" it would be the exact reverse of FDR’s quote. We could sum it up as "We have to fear."

Bush and his neoconservative supporters have manipulated and prolonged the fear arising out of the events of September 11th, 2001. In the immediate aftermath, the cynically named Patriot Act began the demontation of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, a surrender of liberties in exchange for "safety." Over the years we have been reminded of what we must fear: weapons of mass destruction, homemade atomic bombs destroying American cities, and general alerts warning of unspecific attacks of unspecific nature. We see attempts to label patriotic acts of protest and activism as the actions of traitors and terrorists, labels which bear in them the seeds of fear. Or these patriots are accused of directly supporting Al Quaida with their actions. From Bush's point of view, this climate of fear is necessary. There are still enough legal protections to prevent Bush from acting openly against those voices which speak out against him. But there is little that can be done against a terrified mob reacting to fear, trampling the voices of sanity.


Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime - Chinese proverb

>> 6 September 2007

Today I guess is the day I need to talk about wonderful women. After the tractor journey to the South Pole, here is the story of another initiative. A colleague of mine told me about his daughter Mirjam's (founder of the Tara Initiative) travel to Nepal to start work with local orphanages. Tara's initiative is special because it does not simply build an orphanage, but goes furher toward the root of the problem.

Now you can't change the country, but you can change the people and by building a training center to teach orphanage personnel in areas such as hygiene, financial management and pedagogy, the Tara Initiative makes sure that typical problems of local orphanages can be dealt with by the local personnel.

Research in Katmandu's orphanages showed that:

  • On average there are 27 children in an orphanage and 3-4 adults work there who are on average 27 years old
  • In 80% of the orphanages there is no running water - in 96% there is no shower. No orphanage has sufficient toilets and beds.
  • The orphanages have few medecines at their disposal and medical knowledge and administration are minimal.
  • 93% of respondents say that they would like to follow a training - a mere 3% say they can pay for it.
  • 81% says they have a need for exchange of experience with other orphanage workers and another 36% say they would like to meet people from other orphanages.

The Tara Initiative tries to improve the situation of the orphanage workers who will in turn be more capable of helping the children in need.

And as the Chinese proverb says, teaching someone something, instead of just giving it to him, gets a lifetime reward.


Tara Initiative


On a tractor to the South Pole

So one day you wake up with a plan to make a journey. To the end of the world. And where would that be? The South Pole. And to do things completely out of the ordinary, why not make this journey on a tractor?

Manon Ossevoort has done it. She started her journey in the summer of 2005 leaving The Netherlands and has since travelled all the way to Africa from where, after a short break, she will resume her journey at the beginning of October.

Besides the fun (?) of driving around in a tractor, Manon's goal is also to give attention to special projects of Non Governmental Organisations such as War Child, Unicef and small local initiatives which deserve attention because they show faith, courage, endurance and love. With her journey Manon wants to involve and inspire and generate a lot of positive engery.

On her way she collects dreams and wishes of people she meets which she plans on planting in the belly of a big snowman at the South Pole.



You can never have enough of nature!

>> 4 September 2007

Although people are part of nature:

  1. On average, members of contemporary society spend over 95% of their time indoors, separated from nature.
  2. How we think and feel shapes our destiny. During our lifetime, on average, over 99% of our sensing, thinking and feeling is disconnected from nature and its balancing, restorative powers.
Are you nature-deprived? Answer these questions to find out.

The challenge of TOO MUCH:
  • too much to do
  • too much to cope with
  • too much distraction
  • too much noise
  • too much demanding our attention
Typical responses to this are stress, panic, overwork, disillusionment and distraction.

First it was necessary to civilize man in relation to man. Now it is
necessary to civilize man in relation to nature and the animals. - Victor Hugo

RECREATION: play amusement, entertainment, diversion, fun, sport
The word recreation comes from root words meaning 'to restore to health', 'to refresh' and 'to create anew'. Sometimes we need to refresh and restore ourselves. Reflection doesn't have to be a serious endeavour. It can be recreative, in the most original sense of this word, and fun.
The best way for some people to reflect is to immerse themselves in a recreative activity - something that will refresh and renew the mind, body and spirit. Whatever type of recreation you choose, it should be enjoyable to you.
What kinds of recreation to do you enjoy?

One touch of nature makes the whole world kin. - William Shakespeare

  • to reconnect with nature
  • to reduce stress
  • to prevent burnout, fatigue and chronic illnesses
  • to improve relationships
  • to tap your inner wisdom and intuition
  • to identify with life priorities
  • to cultivate mindfulness
  • to improve focus and concentration
  • to enhance productivity
  • to spark your creativity
  • to improve confidence and inner strength
  • to restore balance
  • to enjoy and appreciate life to its fullest

I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to
have my senses put in order. - John Burroughs


Complicated to diversified
Cultural to natural
Nervous to calm
Emotional to sensual
Individual to attuned
Weak to strong
Glorified to self-assured
Confused to understanding
Trapped to adaptable
Self-absorbed to fair
Apathetic to effective
Materialistic to easily pleased
Despondent to resilient
Fearful of snakes and spiders to fascination
Surrounded by ugliness to beauty
Indecisive to instinctive
Serious to joking
Bad to mistaken
Intolerant to gracious
Stressed to healthy
Competitive to helpful
Convinced to sceptical
Fashionable to ecological
Exploiter to protector

Slow down. Stop. Relx. Still. Center. Be mindfully present.
Look. Listen. Smell. Taste. Touch.

Links (for more links on this subject, please send me an email and I will forward you a longer list):
Discover the wonder of nature: http://www.greenhour.org/
Walking - an essay by Henry David Thoreau
Ecoliving Center
Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair - Khalil Gibran


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