About hydration

When looking for make-up spray – apparently one needs a primer first, to make sure that what you put on your face stays there, and then use fixation to keep it there all day –  asking the sales woman in the shop for advise.

Us: what is the difference between this make-up spray that says ‘hydrating’ and this one that says ‘long lasting’?

Sales girl (takes bottle and reads what’s on it): eh, well.. let’s see.. this uhm.. this one is for hydrating I guess, yeah, this one is for hydrating. And the other is more longer lasting..

Us: we read that yes, but what is the difference in effect?

Girl: this one hydrates..

Us: but could you give us advise as to which one we should buy?

Girl: well.. if you want to hydrate, I would recommend..

Us: but how do we know if our face needs hydration?

Girl: well, if you need hydration you buy this one.. and if you want a more longer lasting effect..

Us: but what is the difference in effect?

Girl: this one hydrates more.

Us: but will our face look different? More shiny? Fatty? Oily? Wet?

Girl: it looks more hydrated.


About sugar

“We’re not putting salt in your food, because we all know that is unhealthy,
.. no no no!..
we put natrium in your food.”


The sugar industry plays this dodging game to a tee, relying on our brain to do all the associations they know they are not allowed to make and let our brain fill in the gaps they put in our head. If there was a Latin word for sugar, the sugar industry would probably use it.

The sugar industry uses different tactics: siding with you while saying or implying ‘yes, we all know sugar is bad for you, and we care a great deal about your well being so therefore we put high fructose corn syrup in your soda’, giving you the impression that because corn is used, and corns just grow naturally in nature, all is good, right? Wrong, because the industry does not tell you about evidence showing this kind of sugar to have even worse effects on your health than table sugar. Saillant detail to this is that the corn industry replies by saying corn syrup is comparable to table sugar. Wait..Back up a little.. didn’t the industry just say they knew table sugar was bad and therefore offered you corn syrup fructose instead?

By seeing other words for the same thing, like saying fructose, or sucrose, and by separating it from the actual word SUGAR, you think you are avoiding it, right? Or at least you think you are avoiding a certain kind of sweetener that has been proven to have adverse effects on your health, right?

The Sugar industry gives the impression they do know that refined sugar is bad for you, by continuously using other sweeteners and avoiding (using the word) sugar. But at the same time they spend millions of dollars on campaigns trying to make you believe that sugar is not the culplit: you should just not eat that much of it, and of course live a healthy lifestyle and exercise a lot. It’s not the sugar that makes you fat, it’s because you eat SO MUCH of it. It is not the sugar that makes you fat, it’s because you don’t exercise enough. It’s not the sugar that makes you fat, it is actually YOU.

Recently they even tried redefining food addiction, by trying to prove it is actually an eating addiction, thereby dodging the sugar bullet all together, by implicitly saying it’s not the food that is addictive, it is the behavior that is. And if it is not the food per se, it definitely can’t be the sugar specifically, right? But hey.. let’s be serious here.. is it really just the ‘eating’ that is addictive? Because if so, why don’t we overeat on tomatoes, cucumbers or lettuce?

But even if their suggestion turns out to be right, that it is not the food that is addictive, but the behavior, why then still spend so much money on feeding this addiction, portraying having a can of soda as relaxing, rewarding and having fun, and showing people smiling while eating chocolate while sinking back in a couch to relax? We never saw commercials where people bonded and had fun over a plate of potatoes or rice, or see happy children’s faces on a bag of carrots?

So the sugar industry says it is not the sugar (or any ingredient) in the food per se that causes the addiction, but your behavior that is addictive. But that is like saying: it’s not the alcohol in the whisky that made you act like a mad man, but your drinking of it. Because if you didn’t drink it, you wouldn’t have acted like a mad man.

Or.. it’s a neurotransmitter thing in your brain that causes the problem, not the sugar per se. Let’s take a shot of whisky again.. Then it would not be the alcohol that makes us act like a mad man, but the fact that our cerebellum plainly cannot process it effectively.

They say that it’s not the sugar specifically that is addictive, and they do this by challenging you to willingly go to the kitchen and have yourself some tablespoons of sugar right now. Nobody would do that, right? So.. it’s not the sugar, they say. But,.. if people are not willing to eat tablespoons of sugar willingly, because it detests them, why then still put (hide) it in our food? And.. sure people are not eager to willingly have those tablespoons of sugar every morning, but they also don’t crave to swallow a cablespoon of salt, or ethanol either, but they do still go to MacDonalds or drink whisky. The sugar association even says it themselves, that eating is a sensory experience, and that the way an item feels in your mouth is a major component in food preferences. Of course you’d rather have your chocolate ‘taste’ sweet rather than swallow a tablespoon full of thousands of grains of sugar. 

The sugar association also tries other roads to make you believe that sugar is not addictive, by citing a review. If you look online, you are able to find the FULL text of this review, and on first glance you’ll be impressed by the vast amount of citations in the end. This makes it all very trustworthy, right? Wrong. Know that a review means that the authors make a choice in the bulk of scientific studies done on the particular subject. In a perfect world you would want the reading to be done first, and then come to a conclusion. The reality is often different. If you want a defentant to be found not guilty, you will (deliberately) look for evidence to support that he should run free and (deliberately) ignore evidence to the contrary. A review in that same way is a selective choice of literature. And if you want sugar to come out clean, you choose scientific studies to whipe it clean and ignore all the other studies.

With a review it is also quite elusive where the funding comes from. For a scientific study citing the funding sources is obligatory, but if it concerns a review it’s not that clear cut. It is unclear who funded this particular review. We also did not read that the funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. Nor did we see a ‘competing interests’ section, where authors declared not to have competing interests. When Nikki Tutorials does a review of mascara, she specifically mentions the fact that she didn’t get paid for it, and that she is not affiliated with the brand, and was just asked to do a review. Why didn’t the scientists do the same?

The smoke screen even extents because the review the sugar association cites does not even focus on the actual question being posed whether sugar is addictive or not. It questions the validity of the term of ‘food addiction’ and suggests that it perhaps should be called an eating addiction. Next to the fact that the review does not answer the question whether sugar is addictive or not, the review does not cite any of the over 200 articles that conclude that an actual chemically dependance of sugar in fact DOES exist. The review fails to mention studies that indicate that sweet and high fat foods produce opioids in the digestive process. The review ignores a book where one can read how detoxification from sugar and processed foods is remarkably similar to detoxification from advanced hard drug addiction. Also not included in the review are studies that draw a relationship between endogenous opioids produced by digesting sugar and how brain activity after ingesting sugar that are similar to brain activity after ingesting alcohol and drugs. Research shows that sugar releases dopamine in the brain in the same way as alcohol and narcotics do. The review excludes all of this evidence, and also ignores a major study where it was found that a low-sugar (and low-fat diet) can effectively treat obesity.

Cleverly, by citing this review, shifting the attention away from sugar, onto a more global problem of overeating, the sugar association can implicitly say ‘you should tackle the actual problem of overeating, and stop attacking the sugar, because by doing the latter you are losing valuable time and money.’

So, let’s play a sugar sweet semantics game, then.
“We didn’t call the sugar industry bad ass motherfuckers,
.. no no no !..
we just typed nineteen letters on our keyboard.”


Turning on the brain

We know a friend who called a friend. One of them is conflict-shy, which is partially a good thing, but we do think he could do with some assertiveness in his butt. So we heard they talked a little about what causes one to understand that a conversation just turned into an argument and we listened in on the whisperings going back and forth, on how to proceed from there.

Always make sure that in arguing you distinguish a tactic from a reason.

‘Because I am bigger than you’ is not a reason.
That is a tactic, and it is called intimidation.
‘Because you are stupid’ is not a reason.
That is a tactic, and it is called an insult.

‘Because you usually do it wrong’ is not a reason.
That is a tactic, and it is called belittling.

‘Because I love you’ is not a reason.
That is a tactic, and it is evading the issue.

‘Because you are so much better at it’ is not a reason.
That is a tactic, and it is called flattery.

Arguments that use tactics like that are so common in our culture that we don’t notice them any more. But you would notice them if people do it when you wouldn’t have expected them to, for example in the area of journalism or the academic world.. Would a journalist get away with writing a piece, ending it with ‘it is true because I say so’?


About sounds

Dear him,

If I would have to tell you where I am, that would be just one noun. But there is so much more to tell to the ear. The numerous variety of cell phones going off around me, beeping, buzzing, bleeping. I hear a male voice somewhere who talks about his new job. The sound of two glasses meeting each other. What’s the word for the verb of the sound they make, clink? Rivet? In this glass sound I hear a cheers to friendship. Someone somewhere is whistling. I hear the base of music playing in a place next to where I’m sitting. The humming, brownish sound of people talking. The roar of a big motorcycle cruising low speed across the street. The squeaking of a door that only an oak door can make. Behind the squeaking I hear a toilet flush. A soda delivery truck backs up the street and makes itself known by this alarming, perpetual beeping. A wicker chair is scraping on a concrete floor.

I catch myself coughing because I accidentally inhaled a drop of lemon that was in my drink. Then someone else’s coughing, who I -by the hearing of it- would recommend to stop smoking. Girly laughter on my left. A saxophone playing. The sound that rubber tires make on an unevenly laid brick street, warmed by the hot sun. A suitcase is being pulled on its wheels. I hear a broken bicycle passing by. The predictable frequency and speed with which a woman says ‘oh really?’ The clicking of high heels. And right after every click I hear the clasp of her bag ticking against something metal.

A dog is barking. Once. Luckily.

The sunblind above me is being rolled out, it’s a mechanical sound which eventually stops. Then I can hear the wind through the canvas. It is a whapping sound, like someone whipping a carpet. On the left behind me I hear a thin glass break. Or do I hear a thin glass breaking? Well, it’s glass, thin, and now broken. A moped is passing by. In the curve of the street I hear his brakes. The sound of my pen against my teeth as I am paying attention only to what I hear around me.

Flirty laughter, easy laughter, testosterone-fueled laughter, alcohol-fueled laughter, group laughter. I hear a jingling sound, letting the store owner know he has a new customer. Someone pulls the sunshade a little back again, this time it makes a different sound, you can almost hear mechanical effort and a warning that some bolts need to be greased. Someone is dumping his garbage bag into an underground waste tube. A short dull thud. Then the closing of a metal rusty slider. I hear a bike going from first gear to second gear.

Someone asking for directions towards the center of town. A zipper of a wallet opening. Flip flops on feet, flapping naked heels, detaching and attaching and detaching and attaching. The echo of a construction site. The sound of someone working a drill. The sizzling of a drink that is being poured. Ice cubes in an empty glass. People greeting each other from far off with a hey. I hear a chain being loosened somewhere. Plastic bags whisper in the wind, they give away the weight inside every time they touch someone’s knee. Someone is lighting a cigarette. Toys dangle over a baby’s trawler, it sounds like hollow plastic. A car is honking. Probably because of the fourteen teenagers that are giggling by. Somewhere I hear a landline ringing, it sounds like Santa Claus’ reindeers. I hear two people talking, both male voices, both different voices. Four persons talking. And this one man on my right still talking on the phone. No crying anywhere, no sirens, no thunder, no alarm, no shouting, no gunshots. I hear the echo of feet of someone stepping into the bar behind me. Lips touching other lips, I hear a kiss being exchanged, a kiss given, a kiss received, a kiss being born, lips smacking in the air. A spoon stirring in a porcelain cup, probably dissolving the milk or sugar in it, otherwise why stir in coffee? A door is being shut unnecessarily loud. More of a slamming sound. Car keys being put on an aluminum table. Feet running. Dutch tainted English language. Someone fumbling a lot of papers. Four feet walking out of sync. I hear somebody blowing his nose, elsewhere there is a high five given, two hands touching in the air. Children’s voices. The sound of greeting kissing, when people during the three kisses continue their conversation. A sudden uproar in sounds. Cardboard is being ripped apart. Someone is pulling up a chair.

Me scraping my throat because apparently lemon is not something you can just cough out of your lungs straight away. I hope I am not bothering anyone.

Now a burp.

Not mine.


About scents

Dear him

I could tell him where exactly I have been, but the only thing he would then know is a location, the name of a street, a city, a country. There was so much more to experience than that.

Going down the stairwells where someone scrubbed the concrete stairs and floor, and although they didn’t use a lemon scent, you can still smell that something happened. It is a musty, moldy wet scent. A cold scent, the same as you breathe in when walking in an underground bicycle storage, where dusty air hangs motionless during the day. I reckon a mortuarium smells the same.

My brain -my nose- picks up on a trail of woman’s perfume, who has been here earlier. Alive of course. And then we are outside, it smells like an upcoming summer, a clammy dull scent. On our way we pass opened houses, or at least open doors from houses, where they people live on carpets; the smell of carpets combined with unknown spices in foods we never tasted before. The scent of flowers, some of them smell like dog poo and make your face wonder because your eye noticed something different than your nose. A Turkish bakery. Old cheese, a scent on the verge of sweaty feet. An African shop where it would smell like coconut hair products and warm synthetic hair pieces, but the door is closed. Cannabis. Oh, the freedom of life that the scent of cannabis brings! Pizza. And then soon after that the scent of moped gasses. Cigarette smoke of somebody’s neighbor. We pass a church, the doors are open, and there is this distinct cold scent of ancient graves, mixed with incense and spilled candle wax. The smell of water alongside a shore, grassy and muddy. The scent of a fish selling booth. Freshly baked waffles, spreading a sweet medley of warm cookie dough and syrup. The odor of a shelter.

When I get home I know I will smell my shoes. My socks. My feet. The fragrance of  clothing, whispering about sweat amalgamated with perfume. All the people I pass on the street produce their own unique smell like this, commingled with the odor of the shampoo in their hair, the lotion on their body, the fabric softener in their clothing (or not), the scent of the sunburn they put on (or not). It’s as a finger print. Unique. I smell hamburger next to me. Fried potato chips too. A Greek takeaway down the road makes me remember all my holidays in Ελλαδα. We smell the scents of sweets being sold,but  I can’t decide if the sweetness is stronger than the acidity.

The smell of grass. Period.

But also the smell of grass when it has been freshly cut and the wind lets you know. Or when rain has fallen on the freshly cut grass. Or the scent of the grass when you have sat on it for a long time with a towel, holding your weight. Or that odor your skin has when the sun has kissed it for more than an hour, sitting in that same grass. A far away cloud of a barbeque, or at least something that is burning. Wood burning. The specific scent of a group of people drinking rose wine in a window opening of an old mansion. I smell laundry, wet and clammy, too many detergents combined, as I pass a laundry facility. The smell of dust in the air when a car pulls up too fast from the gravity of sand.

We long for inhaling the scent of an inflated balloon. Or that of a condom. The fragrance of nothing, of freedom, relaxation, happiness, safety, recognition. We smell flowers. An alienating scent of food in the staircase of a flat. The odor that makes you recognize a bookstore, the boring scent, a whiff of cardboard, colored or grey. A nauseating alcohol whip coming from a bar, where you also know the toilets will smell the same as the floor. The essence of leather, a wallet being pulled, containing paper money, which will have this special money odor, which also clings to your fingers, that money odor. I can’t escape my scents, I water my basil plant and smell what happens in the immediate surrounding of that green. I relish the result of rubbing a mint leaf between thumb and index finger.

I distinctly remember using my nose when him and me hugged. He smelled of nothing.


Letting go

The four walls echoed back and forth to each other, holding fast to the memory of the visit that changed a life. A four day silence that was more profound in impact than if it would have been holding your breath for that long. A life shifted from home to there. And once back there was honesty.

The honesty was that I was upset with God. With myself basically, but isn’t always easier to blame Him? Why wasn’t my relationship with Him flourishing and blooming and sprouting with life and oozing with joy. I stamped my feet in secret and decided that this would be the weekend that I would fix it all. The first day I was holding on to the fact that people say that when you diligently decide to have this time devoted solely to the Lord, you can make sure He’ll show up for the date.

So I waited. But nothing happened. I saw others around me, bending over on their sheets of paper, writing and pondering with weird glazing eyes. Empty. I felt the seconds go by like slugs. Oh, the multitude of slugs.

I had slept horribly and the next day I got upset about how ‘they’ made me do things. They decided my wake up time, they made me sing worship songs that I didn’t know the lyrics of, or the tune, they decided that I ate dinner at noon, they locked the doors at 10PM, they gave me Bible verses to meditate on. They. Not me.

When I read Scripture, nothing happened. I started noticing that I seemed to be the only one who did things differently than the others. They wore new clothes every day, they used a knife and ford when they ate their bread, they chose different seats every time they sat down..

A hissing voice crept into my head: you are different, you don’t belong. See how it happens again, also here? I wanted to go home, but it was as if an inner voice immediately replied, saying: ‘Then what?’ What would I do back home, but to drown out the silence by pretending that being on the internet means I am not home any more, hoping for the day to end faster than it would here? Besides I had already paid for the full ‘event’, so I decided to stick it out.

What I did change in my head was: ‘If God made me, He also made me this way, yes, maybe different, but at least it is unique, and God probably knew what He was doing when He made me.’ I tried the bolder approach, by changing the word ‘if’ into ‘since’.

Since God made me

The hissing voice disappeared. I was left with this unknowing nothingness of silence around me, and if I would have to give words to it, it would be that in this silence God said: ‘It’s not that I don’t want to talk, it’s you who doesn’t want me to, and I respect your decision.’ Somehow He used a visual that I have no words for, to show me my own will, and I just couldn’t get past it! My will was tangible, visible, it was huge, it was powerful, more real than the letters I type to make it so. I felt trapped by my will, I cannot separate myself from my will, God help me! What if I don’t want to will anything in life? Am I stuck with my will for always? Can’t I just be me? It felt as if I had put an electrical fence around me, with a yellow warning sign shouting to the reader to stay away, when behind it there was a whisper, why God didn’t just turn off the electricity and surpassed my will to let Him in? Because I really did want that intimacy with Him! I did want to trust Him!

The next set of Scripture that I received to mediate on were just black words on a white piece of paper. Even though I knew they were saying something else, I kept hearing something: ‘It’s the Spirit that quickeneth’. And I knew that right now all I was doing was just reading dead words. So I laid my Bible aside, thinking that if God wants to talk to me, He will . I decided that I would just try to enjoy being around Him, even if He would keep silent. But on a deeper level I thought: God must be angry with me because I want things to be done my way, and now He’ll probably not talk at all.

Restlessly I wandered through every space in the Monastery, I couldn’t really sit down anywhere, because it kept feeling as a place where someone else could enter. And rightly they could of course. And did. Nowhere I felt undisturbed, but then I came across a room, where some unexplainable calm came over me. I sat down on a couch that seemed to embrace me. It was as if time disappeared. I just was. Upon sinking back into the cushions I had a weird flash back to the time that I was in counseling, as if this was my cue to talk. This was my me time. The room gave me space to reflect on what was going on with me. What am I doing here, I thought.. I feel imprisoned.. Even though I am free to leave, this feels like a prison, I thought, my day is molded into a structure that someone else makes, where does that leave me,.. I thought about all the years that I wrote with Mike, when he was in prison, and I thought this would have been something I definitely would have written him about. I could even see myself sitting at the table in front of me, sitting down with my sheet of paper..

And then reality hit me: he is dead.
He will be dead for the rest of my life.

And I choked up. It was almost as if my days in the Monastery didn’t really matter if I could not share it with him… and when I exhaled again, out of me came this gulf of sadness, as if I finally gave birth to what I thought was dead, as if I had been holding my breath from that evening phone call until now. That phone call that confirmed the news. Yes. He is dead.

One year had passed.
And I let out a sigh. Just a breath. Just breath.
How come I seemed to have stopped breathing when you passed away, Mike. Why did I throw away everything between us, thinking that if it’s gone in the natural, it’s gone in the spiritual? Why did I copy paste a generational transferred coping style on dealing with hard things, by shutting up, thinking that when it’s silenced, it’s nonexistent? Death is the end of an existence, not of a relationship. No, it’s the other way around. Death is the end of a relationship.

The sadness was so vivid, but it was as if something was thinly covering me, enabling me to re-experience it without wanting to shut my heart to it, as if the edges of pain where being chipped away from the memories, and I could now feel joy over the memory of seeing him walking up to me, in Texas prison white, widening his arms, closing them behind me, embracing me, and hearing his voice cry in my neck, saying ‘my friend, you actually came’.

I never understood that when a child needs to be in the hospital for a painful procedure, a mother’s kiss can actually make it better. I always thought that the pain wouldn’t subside because of it, or would it..

And no, the pain I felt, by being there in memory, wasn’t taken away; something was added. A comfort that said: ‘It’s okay, my daughter’. As if God took me by the hand and led me back and let me have another look. As if He said: ‘I know, I was there with you, you weren’t alone.’  I experienced how love and pain can be married and become one. How sadness and joy can be the same thing, but experienced differently, at the same time, as if a second is split in two compartments, as if it were an atom.

Walking through all the friendship years with Mike, I thought if an experience like that impacts me so greatly already, what a beautiful spirit do I have then, so tender and vulnerable, and I realized suddenly that it was God who kept me alive all this time, because I treated my spirit horribly wrong by trying to make the sadness experience go away by ignoring his death, trying to drown the tears in drugs, or by trying to silence the inner shouting of hurt by replacing Mike with another people’s voices. God is so more gentle with me than I am with me.

I thought I had forgotten about Mike. I thought that it was God who made me forget about Mike. I even quoted that there is a season for everything.

But God didn’t forget. He knew that I needed to mourn. And He let me, because He knew exactly what I needed, and He showed up as a loving Father, widening his arms, closing his arms behind me, embracing me, heavenly saying: ‘My daughter, you finally came.’