A Magical Summer & FinerMinds Feature

beachart1Doesn’t it seem like summer is slipping away too soon? We enjoyed our days and nights with the crisp warm weather, the unusual rains and occasional thunderstorms.

I hope you enjoyed the season too, that you learned new things, saw new places or new perspectives, or grew with challenges in greater ways.

But most of all, that you made time FOR TIME–with your loved ones, with your children, or with those who you may not have as close this time next year.

stonesYesterday, the awesome folks at MindValley published my piece on Making Room for Magic on their FinerMinds Blog.

Mindvalley invests in pushing humanity forward. They develop knowledge products, media platforms, community events and movements that help people in the areas of personal growth, entrepreneurship, lifestyle applications, and continuous education. 

I’m honored to be able to share my writings there with a greater audience, and hope you will take time to read the other helpful articles on their site. Thanks for reading!

Seven Ways to Make Room for Life’s Magic and Gifts

shutterstock_130937636By Nyx Martinez

I am no psychologist, or degree-holding professional. I am simply a mother, wife, and lover of life. And life has taught me that there is a force out there, greater than ourselves, which causes amazing things to happen.

But it’s not just out there…it’s right within us. The difference between people who experience magic in their lives, and those who don’t, is that the former consciously allow amazing things to happen. They focus on it. They acknowledge its existence. And what they concentrate on is what comes to life.

As if by magic.

(Continue reading the article here.)

The Explodation Mark

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When was the last time you felt truly excited about being alive?

When did you last laugh out loud for no reason at all, but just because something made you really happy?

Let’s admit, these are not every day emotions. For many people, they can be more the exception rather than the norm.

And yet, why shouldn’t we be excited every day?

What really holds us back from joy?

I’m gonna guess it’s just being adults. Grown-ups don’t or shouldn’t get too excited, we think. Focus on the tasks at hand…over-think the problems…groan about what isn’t right in our world.

But kids know best that happiness and excitement just can’t be contained. My son calls it, having  an Explodation Mark. (I didn’t bother telling him the punctuation sign is actually called an EXCLAMation mark!)

It usually happens just before his favorite LEGO DVD starts…he jumps around…cheers and gets all crazy…

“Settle down,” I’ll say.

“But mom! I’m just having an Explodation Mark!”

Or upon me announcing that it’s time to go to the gelato bar now—

Uncontrollable excitement.

“Settle down now!”

“But mom—I’m just having an Explodation Mark!”

Or when someone—anyone—scores in the football match…

“Yeeahhh! TOR!”

“Settle down!”

“But it’s just my Explodation Mark!”

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Well, this week, I have been having a few explodation marks of my own—and they weren’t even the kind that begin with stress and end in tears (usual for us moms, you know!)

They were the happy kind, the blissful kind, and even the jump-up-and-down kind, like my son has at times.

And I realized, it was because, recently, I have made up my mind to get more excited about life.

No matter how stressed I feel…

No matter how uninspired home chores can be…(No matter that my daughter just plopped my phone in the mop bucket and killed it.)

No matter what life surprises with or the challenges each day brings.

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Explodation Marks can even be just bursts of gratitude.

Or, they can be moments of peaceful silence.

Explodation Marks can be that serene feeling, watching a sunrise

Or a fantastic thunderstorm.

Explodation Marks can be long hugs between you and your partner

Or of course they can be more than just hugs.

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Explodation Marks are really saying, what my other kid has learned to say over and over again, her first actual English word:

“WOW!”

When I hear her say it, I am reminded to always see the wow, and say it—even if only silently, in my heart and mind…but sometimes, out loud, too:

Wow, Life, I am grateful for these moments with you.

Wow, Problems, you sure know how to challenge me!

Wow, Stress, you again?

Wow, Fear, you really think you are going to win?

Wow, Nature, let me never forget your beauty.

Wow, Universe—you continue to surprise me.

Wow, dear God, you are truly amazing.

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And you know what?

The more I see and say wow, the more explodation marks I allow myself, the more Real, True and Authentic, meaningful experiences come into my life.

More magic happens. More amazing people cross my paths. More serendipity. More Wow.

If you want your world to come alive, allow yourself some childlike awe, some Explodation Marks. Have more fun, and you will feel more alive, guaranteed.

For Alexandra

journal alexandraMy one and only daughter turns one year old today.

I haven’t considered buying her a material gift, first off because she’s too young to appreciate anything that isn’t edible—and second, because she’ll be getting a whole lot of presents from relatives at the big party in a few hours (she shares the same birth date as her German grandfather).

But I have decided to do one thing, starting now: I’ve begun a journal, just for her.

My thoughts, notes and musings to her. I want to record these memories, our times together, what she knew,journal2 what she loved, what she did, what she said (and how she said it), what she attempted, and what she accomplished…how she cried, how she touched my heart, how she frustrated me, and angered me, and loved me

…and how enormously I loved her.

baby girlOf course it will be many years till she reads it, but it’s important to start recording these moments now.

As I began to write in this journal, I realized it was also what I wanted as a child. I wanted to know my mother’s reflections…I never knew of her hopes or dreams—whether for myself or for her—and some of the early years of my life are lost with no record of those times (my mom and dad split up when I was five).

But it’s okay.

I have made my way through life with experience for a teacher, and I know now that my parents both love me unconditionally. Still, sometimes, I wish there were more of my mom (in those faraway moments of 1981) to remember.

So, I am gifting my daughter something I never had—insight to her mother’s feelings, dreams, and desires.

…unspoken thoughts, meant only for her.

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Whether she is 13 or 31, or 50 or past then, she will know that her imperfect mom still found a way to pursue a perfect love—the one she found with her.

And perhaps she will realize then, the incredible gift of life to my soul that she, my Alexandra, gave me.

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Notes After Haiyan

Stepping off the plane and onto a slippery tarmac the morning of November 8, no one could have foreseen the repercussions the day’s events would bring.

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We were flying back in from a week’s vacation in Hong Kong, already delayed but expecting worse weather conditions. Upon arrival in Subic Bay, it wasn’t until evening that the sky burst, pouring out untold destruction as Haiyan swept across the country.

On our hillside home, the wind howled louder than usual, but we kept the shutters down, flashlights nearby, and slept through the night.

The next morning, my husband had a scheduled meeting in Manila to discuss our family’s business on one of the islands in Palawan.

“Are you still going?” I asked him, while stirring the day’s first coffee.

“No,” he said quietly. “There probably isn’t anything to discuss anymore.” His gaze was distraught; he’d been following the news online.

I flipped on the TV, and there it was.

Death. Destruction. The worst storm in history had left its mark.

typhoon-haiyanAnd this was just the beginning.

The island we’d just finished construction for a new kitesurf camp on, lay in the direct path of the typhoon’s fury. As we watched bleak image after image of survivors in shock, as the news of a rising death toll spread across the globe, we could only hope that my brother and the 20 staff members on that tiny island in the middle of the South China Sea, were still okay.

It was to be three long days before we’d made any contact with them.

And during those days, I turned to social networks to follow the news, desperate for updates, for information, for hope.

Thankfully, and by nothing short of a miracle plus the boys’ disaster-preparation, there were no casualties, and no debilitating damage to the island. None of the native-bamboo structures had succumbed to the wind. We had never felt relief like this.

And so began a month that was probably the busiest of my 2013, besides March, when my daughter was born.

goodsSuddenly, we found ourselves caught up in a whirlwind of activity. My brother got involved in hands-on relief to other islands nearby whose residents and villagers weren’t as lucky. Our team in Manila organized shipments and air supplies of relief for the outlying islands where the local government, even with its billions of donations, still wasn’t getting to.

1462893_620826914644532_406989573_nPeople around the world who wanted to somehow help the victims of Haiyan were finding us online and giving from their own pockets. We began to work more closely with other individuals who were also active with relief efforts in Palawan, to send relief in a fast, efficient way, reaching hard-to-access areas. The ground teams, meeting shipments at port, would then go, sometimes with boats, sometimes on foot, hand-carrying supplies to the people.

southcoron1The process and logistics were crazy at times, but things were happening. Help was getting to the islands. Medical missions were carried out; hundreds of families reached with food, water, and clothing.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAThere are so many stories to tell that won’t fit just one blog post…but the last month, despite the horrible tragedy that was, also brought a bit of inspiration to my personal life.

You see, I went from being a busy mom in the kitchen to being a busy mom in the kitchen with a mission.

I still remember the feeling waking up with a million things on my mind–we’d just heard from my brother, that he was okay. I went to my husband and said, “Help me sort all these ideas in my head. We have ways to get to the islands, to reach the remote villages. My Facebook page is going crazy. People want to send help. We can’t not do anything!”

He looked at me with a, “It’s going to be a logistic-nightmare” face, but, being the level-headed man he is, told me what was needed, first and fast: Boats. Manpower. Fuel.

Suddenly, on the other end of my phone, were priests, doctors, medical workers, and people trying to connect with those who were suffering in the islands, asking us if we had a way to reach them with supplies.

borac2And because we did, it became a team effort of complete strangers coming together in the most unique of ways. I was reminded of my youthful days in Thailand, and of the aftermath of the Tsunami, when I found myself on a beach in Hikkadduwa, Sri Lanka, listening to the stories of survivors, visiting the little school run by the Daughters of Charity sisters, and of the week I spent with hilltop tribes in Uganda.

It wasn’t about one person or one group being a hero; it was about teamwork, concerted efforts; compassion in action–not just talk.

These were the adventures and journeys that, though wrought with difficulty, opened my eyes to the reality of the world. As a teenager, I learned to cherish life, to know its value.

And now, in-between diaper changes, midnight feedings with my baby, and scheduling family activities, there was also scheduling of relief pickups, emailing sponsors from faraway countries and helping to connect them with the immediate need.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAI know now that my life’s calling always finds a way to beckon me back.

I don’t have the money, or the resources to make a difference. But what I have always had was the blessing of being surrounded by amazing people. And this last month has proven that vital connections one makes to another, and another, and another, when interwoven in that crucial time, are enough to make miracles happen.

calambuyan2A ripple effect.

You can read about some of the amazing stories of our team’s Haiyan relief since it began here, here and pictures here.

calambuyan5I now find myself with just four days left in the country. So before we go back to Saxony with the kids, I’m enjoying my family and catching up with old friends over long, late night conversations. I’m taking my son around every day and showing him what it means to live an unconventional life.

To me, it continues to mean the same thing: that, sometimes, we don’t know where this journey takes us, what storms are ahead, what unforeseen events.

But we pray for pockets of peace; we trust the love and support of friends—and yes, sometimes even strangers.

It’s a crazy world we live in, and as my children grow, they will see that there is evil, and people with bad agendas, those power-hungry and money-hungry.

But they will also come to find that there is still so much good, so many who make the right choices, to live their lives in beautiful ways, and for humanity. I have met those kind of folks this month, connected with them, learned from them.

1453435_620826514644572_883025096_nWe continue on that journey, with its winding trails, and sometimes flooded streets, and other times, brokedown trains (story of our adventure in Metro Manila yesterday!).

And if, at night, our loved ones are near, and we can still sleep in each others arms, and if our children are healthy and laughing, with a roof overhead, then we have a million reasons to be thankful.

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Please watch this video posted on Youtube, with lyrics written by songwriter Armand TJ in Boracay–sung by children who were also victims of Haiyan, but they came together to sing for the world , the beautiful way Filipinos do despite the many storms.

(Relief photographs courtesy of 250k Kiteboarding Adventures)

Seven Ways to Make Room for Magic

make room for magicI am no coach, no shrink, and no degree-holding professional. I am simply a mother, wife, and lover of life. And life has, in so many ways, taught me—from experience—that there is a force out there, greater than ourselves, which causes amazing things to happen.

As you say hello to all the surprises this New Year has to offer, think about a few conscious things you can CHOOSE TO DO, to make room for the wonders of life’s magic:

  1. BE GRATEFUL. Always have words of gratitude in your heart, and on your lips. Wake up and kickstart your day by saying, thank you.
  2. BE OPEN. Life takes us by surprise. Go with the flow.
  3. SMILE. “Life’s worthwhile, when you just smile,” sang Charlie Chaplin (1887-1977), the famous comedian. Did you know Chaplin was also a troubled soul? Yet he masked his suffering by making others happy. And the world was truly a little bit better because of the “Little Tramp” in his signature bowler hat.
  4. GIVE. You don’t have to give money or things at all. Give your time; give your listening ear; give of yourself in little ways and life will give you back so much more.
  5. FORGIVE. Holding on to the past hurts no one but our self.
  6. LET GO. Renovate and upgrade your life every now and then by doing away with things you don’t need—trinkets, papers, clutter, old clothes, bitterness—all must go.
  7. ACCEPT. After you let go, ta da!—there’s incredible SPACE! And yet, we sometimes let ourselves remain empty and lacking. Do you hold love at a distance because you don’t feel deserving of its warmth? Do you keep miracles at bay because you berate yourself for mistakes made in the past? Allow yourself to accept all the goodness that can be yours this year.
Photo by Rabbi Fink
Photo by Rabbi Fink

Open your heart wide, and let that love flow in. YOU ARE WORTHY.

Welcome it, just as you welcome everything that is NEW and FRESH, and BEAUTIFUL in 2013. Have a magical New Year!

Love,

Nyx

Light On Uganda

It’s been nearly eight years since I set foot on the red soil. It was my home for nearly four years. And there, I learned so much.

To live, to walk, to love, to know heartache, and death. And to keep on loving.

The memories I have in Uganda still seem like yesterday.

This Aquarelle is35x25 cm, and on sale for just €65, part of proceeds for charity. Payable via Paypal, with free shipping. Please contact me if interested.

Last week, the country celebrated its Jubilee, 50 years of Independence. I painted the portraits below to commemorate the beautiful there, who taught me about life, its challenges, its treasures.

I am selling these paintings to help raise funds for an orphan school in Gulu, North of Uganda. My friends, who are still working there, have some wonderful and needy projects happening in the war-torn rural parts.

(Photo above): school for orphans, in progress

This one below was sold yesterday, 70% of proceeds to start the collection for the orphan school.

Look out for more of my collection–let’s kick off the Christmas spirit of giving early! 🙂

More on Life in Lake Como

Let me tell you a little more about life here in Como:

We live just a couple steps from the town piazza, behind the local church, the bakery, and Gelateria. Across the street are two café bars, my husband’s work place (watersports school) and a giant, grassy playground with a tennis court, basketball court, trampoline and swimming pool.

The atmosphere here is a typically relaxed one, where people stroll unhurried, and whole families play together—or sometimes with total strangers, and children learn to love Nature. Out on the beachfront, kitesurfers pump up their kites to air out, while parachuters glide down the mountain side’s cool air, the wind powering them just enough for an early morning sail.

It’s a place where locals greet you by name, and always a smile. Unlike Germany (our previous home), where the conversation ends at “Good day”, before walking quickly on one’s way, here they will continue chatting—regardless of long queues at the checkout, schedules, or working hours. You learn to not get impatient, but rather, appreciate the fact that people are taking the time to listen, and converse, and communicate—face to face.

Besides, siesta will come soon, and then it will last at least three hours.

And when you live in Italy, you learn to embrace this laidback style. You sip cappuccino, eat gelato, and have a midday Prosecco—as you please. You take your time. You smile more. You stay up late, and sleep in long hours. You chat long minutes because you bask in the presence of another human being, you share life stories as the sun sets in front of you, and you swim naked in the lake, because water is for nurturing.

After a long day’s work (and yes, sometimes just being a stay-at-home-mom is quite a lot of plain hard work with no paycheck at the end of the month) if you get to kiss your son goodnight and say, “I love you, and when you wake up, we’ll go swimming together at the beach,” that’s something to not take for granted.

So you can manage those disputes that sometimes happen in the shadows of your home; those misunderstandings, the trivialities of life. You can look forward to greeting the next Summer day, because as long as there is someone to share it with, and good health to enjoy it a little bit longer, then life is quite delicious.