The Image of Smell

I discovered Pierre Dinand today, quite by chance. Ma prodigue fille parisiene called to ask for suggestions as to where she could spend a couple of hours in the neighborhood of Les Galeries Lafayette (she had strolled through Les Marais all day and it didn’t make much sense to head back to the hotel before meeting her dad back downtown). So, the good efficient secretary that I am, I appealed quickly to Google, maps and all, and said on the phone:

“There is a nice small museum of perfume right near the Opera Garnier, Musee Fragonard. This one is free and they give tours. Looks fun. There is another one called Le Grand Musee du Parfum a little further by that one is 25 euros. Looks more promising.”

“OK, I’ll go to the free one” – she said and asked for the address.

After disconnecting, I continued to browse rather absent-mindedly the Grand Musee website. Under temporary exhibitions, there was one on a certain Pierre Dinand. Never heard, probably someone in the perfume world. Indeed, a designer of perfume bottles, as I found out.

And then I browsed his name and came across his website with a condensed story about his beginnings in the industry. He had spent some time in Asia in his youth combining military service and studying fine arts (??), then came back to France and got hired by a chemical company (???) where he was appalled by some hideous packaging, so he decided to create another packaging – you guessed, it was such a success that later on, he got contacted by a creative agency asking for a design for a perfume bottles for no more no less than Madame Rochas. Another success which opened Dinand the doors to fashion and perfume designers, both literally and figuratively. His life became a chain of anecdotes about this and that famous bottle and I encourage you to read the links I inserted above.

Now, my take on all this:

You can come across very interesting information quite by chance. I didn’t know about these perfume museums and when I’m next in Paris I’ll definitely check them out.

You can use moments in life to your (immense) benefit if you’re open and willing to cooperate and contribute. See my daughter who is now thoroughly enjoying Paris and trusting her mom for instant advice (haha!) At a grander scale, see Monsieur Dinand who probably didn’t plan to become famous on perfume bottles when drinking tea or what-not while digging archeological sites in Cambodia (yep, he did that too).

You can choose to share such gems or dismiss them as maybe-not-so-interesting-to-others. Well, I hope you learned something today. I certainly did.


Walk the Talk

Tuesday morning. Time to do some body exercise.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t keep to a gymnastics schedule. People who know me in real life would be surprised, they will most likely think of me as a disciplined person as I manage to achieve quite a lot throughout the day, month, years. But I’m not exactly disciplined. Even Qi Gong – which I have discovered a few years ago – I do every now and then, when my organs inside hurt. Running for running sake makes no sense, I don’t need to lose calories. So I walk.

You wanna get out of depression, do some mild work out too along with thinking better of your self. I started walking last fall as a means to begin the day on a positive tone. I decided that after I see my little one to the school bus, I could go around a few streets in my neighbourhood before I have breakfast. My walk takes about 25 minutes, it’s always the same route, and I do it as often as I can (talk about strict discipline! but hey, I’m trying, see?) I love my neighbourhood, it reminds me of the one I grew up in, not in the architectural style of the houses but in the friendly atmosphere it exudes.

We live on top of a hill whose streets are lined with postwar small houses built in the mid-sixties. They may not look spectacular to some, but I like the ownership pride they show. They are so well taken care of, it gives you confidence in the solid little details which make a good life.

Some are detached bungalows or two-storeys.





Other are split houses (the ones which have the living/dining/kitchen combo half-way between two floors making the bedroom-garage wing).



There are also the undefined ones which look like two storey, when in fact they have an elevated main floor (a sort of Italian piano nobile – no wonder, there are many Italians in the area!) over a lower floor with bedrooms and the garage.


As I’ve been walking by these houses almost daily, their presence has faded in the background and gave way to the seasonal details of their gardens. And so one split came alive with the flame of its yellow maple tree…


… another one with an “ever-green” which turned golden too…


… then you’d have pure fire coming right at you…


…or burning your feet…


…or just splashes of colour…


…and weird reminders that as some die, others are born…


And so it went, from fall into spring – admittedly, we had a lousy winter this one so I didn’t take many pictures as I wasn’t out much (yep, laziness – no, let’s call it by its nicer name “coziness” made a mess of my discipline). But hey, one Tuesday morning, as I was saying, I got back on the road and here’s what I saw:


Some people even got their beauties out…


… and the magnolias were simply irresistible!


SO… what I want you to do is this: get out of the house. Just do it. If you’re somewhere in the northern hemisphere, right now chances are the weather is cooperating. (I hear it’s nice in the southern hemisphere, never been there – you figure it out and let me know.) It may be sunny or not. Get an umbrella or a jacket if it rains. Or walk out and sing in the rain as you are. Rain boots maybe? They are great ’cause you can jump into puddles – and why wouldn’t you? Be a kid. Have you noticed how happy water makes kids? It’s a miracle. You wouldn’t live three days without water, appreciate it, love it. Go out and enjoy every step, even for 5 minutes. And if it’s sunny, you really don’t have any excuse. Step out, walk, close your eyes and let the rays warm your face and soul.

Then come back inside and make yourself a tea or a coffee. You deserve it.

Happy Tuesday!

Mirror Words

Monday morning. Wake up. Grab a marker, the bigger the tip the better.

Find a mirror. Check bathroom. There must be a mirror there. Or back in the bedroom, or in the wardrobe. Hallway is OK too. Wherever. Just find a mirror. Don’t look into it just yet.

While in front of the mirror, close your eyes and do a mental check for a word which defines your self. Preferably a positive word: kind, beautiful, smart, patient, good, witty, funny… It’s OK if it’s not positive.

Now open your eyes and write this on the mirror: I AM [word]

I am kind.

I am beautiful.

I am smart.

I am patient.

I am good.

I am witty.

I am funny.

If your word is not exactly positive and inspiring, write it on the mirror anyway, then cross it with a line and write instead: who I am.

Such as:

I am dumb who I am

I am angry who I am

I am fat who I am

I am lazy who I am

I am anxiety-full who I am

I am unlovable who I am
Under this first sentence write the second: I am enough.

And then the third: I am loved.

Now go start your day.  Next time you look yourself in the mirror, you’ll see a human being with qualities and flaws and courage to keep going. Each time you’ll see that human being, your good beautiful kind smart part will conquer ground. We all need that throughout the week, which is why this is a good exercise for Monday.

You really are beautiful the way you are, in every cell. Believe it and you’ll win the hardest game there is: that of changing your self for the better.

Happy Monday!

My expertise at your service

There was this phrase I came across:

The world is in desperate need of that something only you can offer.

Sure it is, I thought. I have expertise in so many things and I can’t help anyone, least of all myself. Do I know the answer to the question “what do you specialize in?” I specialize in managing a household, making conversation, drawing, teaching… skills which were a woman’s some decades if not centuries ago. Worthy women have careers nowadays. That’s how success is measured. The little hidden bits don’t seem to count. What big deal to put dinner (plus two or three other meals or snacks) in your family bellies every day? And the more, the merrier, right? What big deal to spend – quite literally a third of – your time putting things back where they belong? Or all those activities and planning for every single bloody week, regardless of school- or holiday -time?

How many times have you heard someone praising mothers and homemakers lately? It’s not fashionable any more. It’s not egalitarian. It’s too boring, too right wing in a global society leaning dangerously low toward leftism.

I tried to have a career and everything. Of course I neglected my children for it (although for the longest time I genuinely tried to – and believed to – balance family, house, jobs… I still believe I can do it). Then another pregnancy happened out of the blue and shattered everything. I couldn’t get tenure in the academia at 41 with two teenagers and a baby in the household, being completely burnt out too as a bonus of battling immigration, money and property loss, extended family crises, my husband’s own insecurities… so I dropped everything before I’d kill myself. I watched all my efforts going down the drain to have that third child, and my husband – who wants tens of kids if possible – wasn’t even grateful for it. I guess not killing myself proved a rather good decision in the longer run, though how hard everything was at the time only God and I know fully (and maybe one or two dear people who continued to love me and pray for me in spite of me kicking them… tough).

I was so angry! I grew angry by the day when I was battling the depression which ensued. They fueled one another, depression and anger. I got depresed because of too much suppressed anger in the past, and I was angry because I had let myself getting to the depression phase. I did address both, you know. But then I discovered an even bitterer problem: my husband, the guy who was supposed to be my support in all this, refused to accompany me to therapy, or to the priest. I said I understood that he is a man and that he deals with this by wearing a mask and that people should not find out why I am upset or that we have problems – So I asked him to at least read some books. Nope was the reply. Maybe go away for a holiday, the two of us? No. Just two days? It would mean so much to me. No. Put yourself together, get some sleep, it’s nothing. I bit my lips and I tried resolve my issues. I cried, I screamed, I started to treat myself nicer, I allowed myself to feel all the feelings, I stopped bullying people, I asked for forgiveness, even from my children and my husband. It was very hard and not exactly noticeable. No praise, no encouragement. None whatsoever! Still the only time my actions get a reaction is when I get so fed up that I raise my voice. I am immediately told to calm down. I asked my husband why doesn’t he notice any of my progress, or the fact that I managed to get out of depression without exposing our “secrets” to counsellors, never mind compliment me or thank me in any way. He said: “What depression? You had no depression. You didn’t take any pills. You were not diagnosed.” Surprised that I felt like splitting his head open? Yet, I didn’t. And I didn’t get a divorce either. Why, that’s a story to tell some other time, maybe.

I specialize in anger management, I think. But I don’t have a degree – and degrees are everything these days. So many shrinks, right? Admittedly, lots of these shrinks read books instead of living through crises so they will listen to you and charge you without giving you any advice. Been there, done that. Not worth the money.

So you want counseling for free? Go ahead, say what your problem is, here. The rules of the game are such:

You give your issues a think – deep one, if you can.

Then you summarize stuff in a comment to this post. I edit the comments so if you don’t want it to appear, just say so and I won’t publish it but I’ll email you at the address you provide.

I read your comment and will reply with my thoughts on the matter. Disclaimer: sometimes I’m harsh, though I do my very best not to offend (this being said, please keep in mind that we are only offended by things we haven’t come to terms with – It’s something I’ve discovered in the healing process). So I won’t just listen like a typical shrink, I’ll think of solutions you could try to improve your situation. I believe in improvement and getting out of shit. All you gotta do is want it badly enough.

What do you think? Moms, failed academics, former career women, architects of little fame, disillusioned teachers, exasperated wives… can I lend you a shoulder?

Figure Out What Your Purpose Is

I’m done with exploring the problems in my life. I’m reading books on serious motivation now and I aim high! And because I’ve always wanted it all (despite the naysayers’ ‘advice’… “oh, but you really can’t have it all”), I’ve made up my mind to beat the doubt and reach for the sky. So I’m highly recommending this book by Grant Cardone – “Be Obsessed or Be Average”. Did you guess, Cardone is crazily successful. Here’s a list the author draws, which helps in figuring out what your purpose is. Write your answers down, I did!

Personal Interests

What excites me now?

What is so exciting to me that I would do anything to accomplish it?

What bores me?

What is the thing or things I have always wanted to do?

What don’t I want to do, no matter the payoff?

What do I do that causes me to forget to eat?

What have I been interested in since childhood?


Money Motivation

What am I willing to do for no money?

What would I like to do for a lot of money?

If money had nothing to do with my life, what would I do with my time?

What amount of money would give me the security I need?

What amount of money would I need to have choices?

What amount of money would I need to have financial freedom?

What amount of money would I need to really make a difference for the better?


Skills and Talents

What can I do better than anyone?

What are some of my native skills?

What have I always been good at?

What have I always been bad at?

What skills or talents do I have that I ignore?

What am I terrible at and should not be doing at all?

What do I do that is a complete waste of my time and talent?

In what areas do others think more or my abilities than I do?

What are the skills I need to develop?


Market Research

What is a product or service that I have complained about repeatedly?

What great idea have I had for starting a company or inventing something that I haven’t followed through on?



What do I want to be remembered for?

What contributions can I make to society that I would be most proud of?

What do I want to make sure people never say about me?


Inspiring People

Who are five successful people I admire?

What are those people doing that I admire?

What do those I admire have in common with one another?

What quality do I wish I shared with those people?

What do I have in common with that list of people?

If I could meet anyone, who would it be?

Who is the most supportive person in my life?



What makes me feel good?

What gives me energy?

What activity bores me and doesn’t make me feel good?

What things am I doing that I regret later?

What bad habits do I need to stop?

What good habits do I need to start?

What do I need to do more of that would make me feel better about myself?


What if…

If I were going to write a book, what would it be about? What inspirational lessons would I draw from my life?

If I knew I couldn’t fail, what would I do?

If I could be known for one great thing, what would I want it to be?


Now go ahead and WRITE YOUR ANSWERS DOWN! Cardone says: “Then, at the same time tomorrow, do it again. And then do it again the next day and the day after that. Over time you may notice that you come up with new answers or that the same answers keep coming up. You may see surprising patterns or be reminded of a dream that was buried long ago.”

Whatever it is, do not give up! You are here for a purpose and if you haven’t found it yet, NOW is the high-time to find it.