Tears on the Lake

A few weeks ago, this paradise we call our home for now, turned into the picture of horror. Two rescue helicopters, several ambulances and many rescue workers scurried around the harbor, while we could only guess what had happened.

The news spread quickly: a young boy had disappeared.

The search operation continued until early morning, and resumed the next day. I didn’t realize it had gone on so late, till Karsten and I took a walk to the far side of beach where we love to go, where a little waterfall runs down into a river, and swans bathe below. It usually looks this serene, and I shot this photograph just the day before:

They hadn’t given up their search, and a little crowd of onlookers had gathered at the now cordoned-off bank. The silence was foreboding. It seemed like no one breathed, as men worked silently from a boat, still scanning the shore. I led Karsten away just as the worst sound ever—the mother’s final cry—pierced the silent, eerie air. And I knew then that the search was over.

I’ll never forget that sound…a parent’s grief; desperation; hope lost.

How do you live after sudden tragedy? How do you go on without your greatest love? It’s hard to imagine how people cope after disasters, tragedies, or immense loss.

The next week, a sense of sadness hung in the air, but my spirits were lifted a little when I continued to meet the people who had come to the lake to celebrate life—to continue journeying on.

I met a Dutch mother whose first child, a sweet blonde boy, had Down’s Syndrome. She had two more kids afterwards, and, “would love a fourth!” she exclaimed. As she tended to her little ones, with the strength that only a mother knows, she bore a certain aura of happiness, one that I am sure comes from living with that much love.

I met a pregnant woman, about to give birth for the third time. She and her other two children, had travelled from China, where they lived, to visit her parents here. She told me about growing up on Lake Como; about life as it once was; about good memories.

I met—and continue to meet—fascinating people in this place. They come and go, spending their holidays on the lake and never wanting to leave. But when they do, it reminds me too, that all good things must come to an end.

We are also nearing the end of our time here—one more month, and then it may be on to a new place, somewhere else to call home. Summer took forever to come, and now it is sailing by fast.

I haven’t blogged in quite a few weeks, because of some personal changes that come with many emotions, thoughts that are sometimes better left un-penned. But I will write this:

Where there is life, there is always hope. After the tears come to wash our spirits and soothe our hearts, the road may be bittersweet, but it’s always worth the journey.

Smile, though your heart is aching

Smile, even though it’s breaking

When there are clouds

In the sky

You’ll get by

If you smile

Through your pain and sorrow

Smile

And maybe, tomorrow

You’ll see the sun come shining through

For you.

–Charlie Chaplain

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Happiness and the Dalai Lama

Whenever I picture the Dalai Lama, I think of him smiling. Perhaps because, in most of his published photographs, he usually is.

His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, or the Fourteenth Dalai Lama of Tibet, visited Milan last week (a two-hour drive from where we live), and was shown around the cathedral.

Having grown up in Buddhist Bangkok, I learned that their teachings focus on acceptance and tolerance, peace and the finding of contentment in one’s soul through a gentle way of life and a balanced mind.

But I would like to know what words were exchanged between the Catholic priests and the Dalai Lama, who learned more from who, where they found common ground in their religions or spiritual teachings. Wouldn’t it be interesting to have a one-on-one conversation with the effortlessly-cheerful teacher?

On compassion in life, and our basic need to love and be loved, the Dalai Lama has this to say:

“I believe that the purpose of life is to be happy. I don’t know whether the universe, with its countless galaxies, stars and planets, has a deeper meaning or not, but at the very least, it is clear that we humans who live on this earth face the task of making a happy life for ourselves. 

From my own limited experience I have found that the greatest degree of inner tranquility comes from the development of love and compassion. The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater our own sense of well-being becomes.

The need for love lies at the very foundation of human existence. It results from the profound interdependence we all share with one another.

No matter how new the face or how different the dress and behavior, there is no significant division between us and other people. It is foolish to dwell on external differences, because our basic natures are the same.

I believe that at every level of society – familial, tribal, national and international – the key to a happier and more successful world is the growth of compassion. We do not need to become religious, nor do we need to believe in an ideology. All that is necessary is for each of us to develop our good human qualities.”

(Excerpts from “Compassion and the Individual”, courtesy of www.dalailama.com)

Here is a picture of my son, happy with a new-found friend at the airport, sharing a listen on her Ipod. Kids always have a way of making us smile as they make new friends, maybe because they aren’t judgmental, and it’s this kind of childish happiness we could all use a little more of.

Life on Lake Como

It’s been just about two weeks now that we have settled in our new home. And I have loved every minute of it. We live in the northern tip of Como, in a small town. It’s tiny, but full of life—especially in the Summer, when everyone flocks to the lakefront for watersports.

In the mornings, I jog by the edge of the lake, taking in the quietness, and being awed by the surrounding beauty. Dimensions of deep blue paint surreal mountain peaks in the background, then hues of a violet sky dips back into rippled water.

There are no grocery stores in our town, but every day we buy fresh bread from the bakery, and since we live a couple steps away from the center piazza, we don’t have far to walk. Just across our street are the lake bars, restaurants, pizzerias, and cafes. Cappuccino for mom in the afternoons; gelato for the boy, every day.

During the week that we changed locations, I became quite sick with a few infections, the worst one being in my eyes. I have had to take out my contact lenses for now, a bit blind as I go about my days. But somehow, falling back on this one sense—sight—makes me appreciate everything else even more.

I’ve also spent the last couple of weeks disconnected from my usual world of Internet, social networks and status updates. I have been engaged more in taking long walks, playing with my son in the large playgrounds, and having long, real conversations with new friends over Italian wine.

And I have been finding that it’s great to disconnect—and truly connect with what is at your fingertips—the people who cross your path every day, learning of life that goes around you. As I type this, the church bells toll, kids play in the arched alleyways of our neighborhood.

I can hear life thriving around me. There is the endless chirp of birds, and ducks in the harbor, the wind blowing kites and windsurfers across the lake…the swans with their babies sailing gracefully across the flat waters, enjoying the afternoon sun.

It’s also an amazing place to raise a child. While most of my conversation with the locals consists of a lot of sign language, in Italy, children melt hearts and open doors everywhere.

I find myself enjoying the sweet little pleasures of simple life on the lake, being continually aware that destiny is taking me to amazing places, and all I can do is close my eyes, and be grateful.

The Dame

Being thrust out of my comfort zone last year did a few good things for me. One was that it gave me time and opportunity to get back to one of my first loves: ART. As a magazine editor, I had hardly any time to write, much less draw and paint. It had always been a dream of mine to have enough time to get back to the canvas—and the inspiration needed.

Well, I am finally doing away with excuses. This series of paintings, my “Hollywood Wine Collection”, combines not one, but three loves: ART, old Hollywood films, and WINE. I paint the washes with a deep red wine, and mix a little watercolor to get the desired hues.

As a child, I watched “National Velvet” over and over until I learned many of the lines by heart. I was more familiar with Elizabeth Taylors’ children films, than her later ones which brought her more on-screen success.

This painting is a tribute to a woman who brought glamour, intrigue, and extravagant beauty to the screen half a century ago, yet also managed to stay socially updated with a fast-changing world—on Twitter.

(My art needs a loving home! You can purchase these original paintings by contacting me below or emailing nyxmartinez@gmail.com)

Work it with Zuzana Light! ZWOW #14!

At this point, the ONLY complaint I have about Zuzana Light’s new workout videos are the lack of background music–but this, we can get past and do anyway, because I LOVE the fact that she goes through every rep with you. I need this kind of motivation to get me through daily exercise!

With Easter vacation recently, I really slacked off my workouts. I need to get back on track. If you are in the same place I am in, and need some regular motivation, check out her Facebook here where full workouts are uploaded usually every Thursday.

This weekend brings our family together for a birthday celebration, and in Germany, it means nonstop eating and drinking. I’m posting this video to start on it first thing tomorrow in preparation for all that food! Ha!

If you are new to these workouts or fitness in general, just give it a try and see if it doesn’t kick you in the right direction. If you have been on the fitness journey for awhile and way ahead of me, this weighted workout can only be good.

Happy Weekend, everyone!

Around the World with Robin Esrock

Robin shooting in Cook Islands

Late last year, I interviewed Robin Esrock, the Canadian travel writer and host of “Word Travels” on Nat Geo Adventure. He gave us a lot of insights to share from his journeys and what he’s learned traveling the world.

It’s a great example of how global travel opens up one’s mind and heart, and gives one a better perspective on things. From my own experience with Living Asia Channel, I knew that Travel TV hosts, besides having one of the best jobs in the world, also had great potential to influence a huge audience in a positive way. In this interview, Robin talks about lessons he’s gathered from different cultures, and also tips on making it in the very competitive field of travel writing.

I don’t get Nat Geo or the Travel Channel on my German cable here at home, so I miss many of my favorite shows, but reading this interview brings Robin Esrock out of the TV screen and into the heart and mind of a writer who has truly learned to connect with and empower his audience.

Robin in the Philippines!

Read the full interview article on Mabuhay magazine’s online website, by clicking here.

Jessica Cox: Limitless!

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

American-Filipina Jessica Cox, quotes this prayer before going on stage to tell her story. Born without arms, she does everything a “normal” person is able to do—with just her feet: swimming, driving a car, playing piano, even putting on make-up.

But Jessica didn’t stop at “normal” things. She is the first person without arms in the American Taekwondo Association to get a black belt title (she now teaches classes), and is a Guinness World Record holder as the first armless person in aviation history to become a certified pilot.

“I’ve been to Canada, Italy, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Ghana, and the Philippines this year, and the message of persistence is universal. It is always tempting and easy to give up,” says Jessica, in her 2012 newsletter (download the full version here) “Everyone struggles. Everyone has disappointments. Persisting through difficulties and learning from them makes us stronger.”

When I read her email this morning, the thoughts which had previously been weighing me down seemed so trivial. How many times do we go through our days making excuses, seeing the negative, or stopping at hurdles rather than challenging ourselves to jump over them?

Her accolades speak for themselves:
• Guinness World Record: The First Armless Person in the World Ever to Have Obtained a Pilot’s License, 2011
• AOPA LIVE Pilots Choice Award 2010: Most Watched Female Aviator
• Filipino Women’s Network: 100 Most Influential Filipino Women in the U.S., 2009
• Published in Ripley’s Believe It or Not, 2009
• The Filipino American Journal Award of Excellence, Outstanding Filipino Award, 2008

Jessica, who recently got engaged, is looking for tax-deductible donations to fund a new documentary about her life and her preparations for marriage. For more information or a copy of the film proposal please email admin@rightfooted.com. You can learn more about Jessica’s amazing life at http://www.rightfooted.com