Be Kind and Let Go

My niece Cassidy

My niece Cassidy wrote “Be kinder.”

My 11-year old niece scribbled down “Be kinder” as her #1 New Year’s resolution.  The next day, her father promised her a guinea pig and she was so excited.  “You know what that means, right?” I asked.  She paused, blinked and said, “Yeah, I better be kind.  I really want a guinea pig.”

She asked me about my #1 New Year’s resolution.  “Let go more,” I replied.  “Every day.  And be kinder.”  She giggled and said “Hey that’s mine!”  Then she got serious and asked, “Only at the beginning of the year?”  and I laughed. Should we be kinder and let go and all that stuff every day?

When my husband and I traveled to Turkey in August for our one-year anniversary, we met an American couple also celebrating their anniversary:  50th! They were a cute couple who still held hands.

“What’s your secret?  Any advice?” we asked them.  He was quiet for a few seconds and then said, “I think you have to let go and accommodate.”  She nodded and said, “Our first year was the hardest.  And we’ve had our ups and downs but I think the first year is tough because we were still trying to figure each other out.”

I agree.  Our first year has been fantastic yet hard work — lots of traveling, talking and evenings in watching movies.  We’ve been learning more and more about each other.  It’s like taking a university course on the other person and not realizing that the course doesn’t ever really end.  But the midterms can be hard.

In 2013, I asked a number of people what their best piece of advice on marriage and here’s what they said:

-don’t sweat the small stuff

-be honest:  sometimes he can cook a better omelette than you

-after a fight, no matter what, let go of the anger and hug

-you don’t have to always be right

Notice they all fall into the same categories of “be kind” and “let go”?  And I’m convinced that apart from the usual New Year’s resolutions to lose weight and exercise more, people essentially set goals that also have the same themes.  We all want to let go more, be happier and treat each other better.  Hard stuff but it’s so worth it!

One quick story before I sign off:  years ago, I came across a Tibetan monk who shared that the greatest pain we feel is when we hold onto anger, jealousy and expectation.  He reminded me of the Buddhist philosophy that we are like the water that flows around a rock in a fast moving river.  You can’t get stuck – you have to keep going, let go, move on and believe that things are meant to be as they are.

What is your New Year’s resolution?  Write it down…I’m curious to know.

The guinea pigs arrived today!

My nieces got their guinea pigs today!

Why I’m Only 75% Beautiful in Indonesia

I love renting bikes when exploring a new place

I love renting bikes when exploring a new place

Years ago, I met a Javanese artist who thought in percentages and actually told me that I was only 75% beautiful in Indonesia.  I was traveling solo through Yogyakarta, a community known for its artists with art studios lined up and down the streets.  In a café where I was having breakfast, he strolled over to me, sketchpad in one hand, the other gesturing at the empty seat next to mine. He was in his late 20s, Muslim like the rest of the population in Indonesia and his hair was black, thick and matted.  Around his neck sat a red painted wooden beaded necklace.

We chatted for a while about how he wanted to be an amazing artist like “Salvador Dali” with the “droopy watches” when he suddenly asked,  “How many husbands you have?”

“What?”  I had forgotten I was wearing a fake wedding ring.  Even though I was single at the time, I still wore a ring to be left alone while traveling.  “Uh…just one.  He’s waiting for me in Bali.”

“I see.”  He paused.  “Well, if another tsunami coming, you my wife okay?”  I laughed.  “Okay, deal.”  We high-fived across the table.  “I bet you say that to everyone.  How many wives do you have anyway?”

“I’m good Muslim.  I deserve five wives.  But for now, no wife.  No money, no wife.  In Indonesia, can have many wives.”

“Why do you think you’re a good Muslim?”

He touched his beaded necklace for a second. A flash of guilt crossed his face and then he said, “Only 50% good Muslim I am.  I pray, go mosque every day.  But I smoke and sometimes drink beer and if lonely, I have lucky-lucky with women.”

“Don’t you want to be 100% good Muslim?” I asked.

“Yes but I artist.  So I live artist life.  Why you only have one husband?”

“In Canada, I can only have one husband.”

“Oh.  Is he 100% good husband?”

I chuckled.  What’s up with the percentages?  “Yeah I guess so,” I said about my phantom husband.

He looked down at his paint-speckled hands.  “You are beautiful.  75% beautiful.”

I smiled.  “Only 75%?”

“Yes.  Better than most 100% foreign women, I think.  Maybe 50% of 100% foreign woman okay pretty.”

After that I went to his studio across the street to view some of his paintings which were really nice. He was quite talented.

He painted on cloth, stretched them out with wooden sticks and dried them in the sun.  One painting of three Javanese women posing and looking in the same direction drew me in.  It reminded me of my two sisters.  I decided to buy it.

“Really? I so pleased you buy!” he beamed.  He rolled it up and then placed it carefully in a brown paper bag and handed it to me with both hands.

“Miss Debbie, I enjoy our chat.  Now you are 90% beautiful!”


Welcome! Announcing my new book THE SAME SKY

Me chilling at a cafe

Me chilling at a cafe

Welcome to my blog! If you’ve made it this far, THANK YOU for taking the time to read my writing.  My book THE SAME SKY is finally published after more than a decade of writing, editing, drinking a gazillion lattes and more writing.

THE SAME SKY is about how after my relationship crumbled, I left for Asia with just a journal, camera and clothes.  Brokenhearted and needing to escape, I embarked on a three-month journey to Tibet, Laos and Cambodia. Along the way, as I navigated the difficulties of traveling alone, met new people and heard their moving stories of loss and resilience, I slowly began to recover my independence and learned to have faith in myself to overcome the hardships of life.

After many cups of teas, hours of conversations and lots of smiles, the locals shared stories of love, grief and the struggle for peace.  Their stories and small acts of love helped me heal and find the courage to believe in myself again.  THE SAME SKY is for anyone who has experienced heartbreak and betrayal, and I hope it will inspire the reader to find strength and peace even at the lowest point of one’s life.

Interesting stories are peppered throughout the book, including

  • Being rescued by a Cambodian woman after I was in a pedicab accident during a terrible storm
  • Detained by the Chinese police in Tibet for an expired visa
  • Witnessing my friend’s near-death experiencee near the Mt. Everest base camp
  • Drinking butter tea with Tibetan monks who bravely shared their courageous stories to stay alive

If you would like to read some excerpts, click here.  To buy the book, click here for the different options.

Please subscribe to my blog!  For those of you who know me well, I love storytelling…especially quirky, funny and sometimes heart-felt exchanges between strangers.  All you have to do is include your email address on the right hand side.

Thanks as always for your support!

The Same Sky Promo