Allah owes me simple & happy

Eren Cervantes-Altamirano

Eren Cervantes-Altamirano

We often sit around the shisha for long conversations. The seven of us blow smoke and think through life together. There are days when the puffing conceals our loud laughter over topics that should probably not be discussed in public; on others, the smoke is a soothing reminder of normalcy in a dating world that is dark and scary. Every time I sit to “shish” (yes, it is a verb) with these women, I am amazed. I feel proud, and I feel stronger.

These women are all different; all colours, flavours, stories and paths to the divine. There is Boots, who is the fearless warrior. She is strong, driven and, above all, extremely open. It is she who challenges my Virgo structure, my need for control. She reads me, and questions my every thought and assumption. We also have Buttercup, always observant and analyzing. She is the archetype of the successful woman: independent, knowledgeable, and settled. She grounds me. She reminds me that there is so much out there in the world and that, despite everything, Allah places little snippets of happiness in the most random places.

Then, there is Puff. She often sits there puffing smoke, like an Alice in Wonderland’s character, presenting us with riddles. You need an astrologer? Someone who can analyze your zodiac character? She is your girl! Extremely sweet and sensitive, she reminds me of everything that is cosmically beautiful. S., is our social butterfly. She is cheery, happy, and has a magnetic personality. I have never met anyone who does not like S. She is always surrounded by people, and she has a beautiful friendly aura protecting her 24/7. All I need to do is sit and listen to her quirky stories and the world seems to smile at me.

Then there is Ring, the newbie. She is my Virgo twin, just a little more vocal about her emotions. We overthink and complain together about the uncertainty of the world and, at the end, we try to convince each other that everything will be okay. And finally there is Hoops. She has Sophia’s impropriety and Lorelai’s wittiness. Inappropriate and loud, she is the embodiment of the challenge to the establishment. But underneath all that there is an undying hopefulness. She is the one who reminds me to keep dreaming.

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Man of the House


I’ve had many humbling experiences in my life, including voluntarily going homeless for one week every year as part of an awareness-raising project. But my most humbling experience so far has been being unemployed.

Since I left my job in October, I went from being the man-of-the-house to the man-in-the-house. My new househusband role begins at 6:45 am when I wake up to make and pack my wife’s lunch. By 7:15 am, I’ve also ironed her clothes. At 7:30 am, I’m warming up the car to drop her off at the train station fifteen minutes later

After that, phase two begins. I make sure the house is clean, the laundry is done and dinner is made while also searching and applying for jobs. It sounds easy enough, right? Let me tell you, it’s one of the most difficult jobs I’ve ever done and I’m still trying to get it 100% right. I have a new respect for women and men who take on the role of homemaker. And, I can only imagine the work it takes to be a stay-at-home parent.

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Science Fiction and The Search for Gratitude on Thanksgiving

Eds. note: “Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a rather large amount of gratitude.” A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Happy Thanksgiving to our family, friends, & readers in the US! And, thank you to guest blogger Ali Mattu from Brain Knows Better for allowing us to cross-post his wonderful Thanksgiving post!

I only have one rule for my blog – reference one finding from psychology and one work of science fiction in every post.

When I sat down to write a Thanksgiving article, it was easy to quote research on gratitude. Psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky calls gratitude a “metastrategy for achieving happiness”. Experimental research has revealed that participants who were asked to count their blessing once a week for ten weeks felt more optimistic, more satisfied with their lives, had better health, exercised more, and reported fewer headaches, acne, coughing, and nausea than control groups. Collectively, research indicates that gratitude helps you:

  1. appreciate life’s joys
  2. increase self-esteem
  3. cope under extreme stress
  4. nurture resilience in the face of loss and trauma
  5. foster altruism
  6. build social relationships
  7. undo negative emotions
  8. combat hedonic adaptation

It doesn’t take much either – practicing gratitude just once a week leads to improved physical and mental health. You can write in a journal, share your thoughts with a loved one, write letters (even if they aren’t sent), make gratitude calls, or a bunch of other things. Giving thanks is really, really, really good for you!

So that’s the psychology part of the post – easy as pie.

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