Monthly Archives

October 2015

Books

Yes, Please, Can I Be Your Fan?

October 22, 2015

For the last week I’ve ”gone to bed” at the same time with my little girl. That means I have gotten addicted to a book – I cannot stop reading and actually go to sleep later than usually. This time I have been reading Yes, Please by Amy Poehler. I fell in love with Poehler as Leslie Knope in the comedy series Parks and Recreation. Already before I had fallen in love with Tina Fey and because Tina and Amy are best friends, it must be very hard for them that I love them both… secretly… from far away.

I have never supported any sports clubs or been a fan of a band or performer. Not even when I was a teenager. I know. How utterly boring. I get uncomfortable just by seeing people cheering for their favourite team in tv. Despite all this I agreed once to go to a football match with my husband to the Amsterdam ArenA. At the stadium there is a corner called Vak 410 for the true fans. From where I stood, it seemed to me that the only responsible thing to do would be to escort these people to a mental institution immediately after the game. Ok, ok, my reactions may have been a little strong, because I had just found out I’m pregnant and we were almost charged over by the mounted police at the entrance when they were escorting the away side’s true fans to their designated place. My husband told me nothing like this had ever happened before when he’d been to games. It immediately made me feel better of course.

Anyway, the point is that I do not fully understand the psychology of being a fan of something. Except when it comes to Tina Fey and Amy Poehler: I’ve read their Wikipedia and IMDb-pages and peeked into the private life section as well to see who they are friends with, whom they date, how many children they have and with whom and looked for juicy rumours. This is what fans do, right? Let me know what other things I can do! I’m new to this business. Did I remember to mention that why I do all this is because I see them as intelligent, powerful women who can do a lot of good for feminism just by being themselves? Well, now I did.

Goes without saying Yes, Please offers lots of good laughs and the more you know about the people Poehler has worked with and productions she has been involved in, the more you will laugh. This is also the challenge of the book, but do not worry, because you can also become a fan like me and read and watch more and then come back to the book again! You can start with watching 30Rock, Parks and Recreation, Saturday Night Life US 2010 presidential elections parodies and read Tina Fey’s Bossy Pants too. But back to Yes, Please. Other than the obvious that it is funny, the book delighted me with two things. First one is that the narrative voice of Yes, Please is completely-absolutely unreliable and postmodern, but at the same time the book strikes as a sincere personal record of becoming a comedian and working, living and loving through this profession. It jumps from imagination to reality back and forth constantly which gives an extra dimension to the funny bits as well.

Secondly, the book is loosely following an idea of a self-help book. I decided to take this part seriously, because I noticed that for me personally this parody of a self-help book works a lot better than any other serious set of advice and lists of how to live your life, because it’s done through (intelligent) humour. I like to talk about difficult things and then laugh at them as if they were nothing to me. Humour allows you distance to the tragedies – or petty problems – of your life and distance gives you perspective. There were two topics in Yes, Please that I found absolutely fantastic. In reality there are a lot more great topics, but I learned in the academia that you need focus in your writings, so two or three will have to do.

First one has to do with children and family and the other one career. Poehler writes about the never-ending and pointless juxtaposition of working and stay-at-home-moms and how she felt as a working mom when people posed her the seemingly innocent question of: How do you do it?

“Let me try to answer the question for real. Do you want to know how I do it? I can do it because I have a wife. Every mother needs a wife. (…) Some mothers’ wives are their mothers. Some mothers’ wives are their husbands. Some mothers’ wives are their friends and neighbors. (…) Every mother needs a wife who takes care of her and helps her become a better mother.” (p. 151-152)

The other great advise from Poehler is: Treat your career like a bad boyfriend! And this is how it happens and why you should do it:

“Pretending to not want something can work. (…) Guess the Buddhists would call this idea healthy detachment. Too often we are told to visualize what we want and cut out pictures of it and repeat it like a mantra over and over again. (…) I’m introducing a new idea. Try to care less. Practice ambivalence. Learn to let go of wanting it. Treat your career like a bad boyfriend. (…) …let me make a distinction between career and creativity. Creativity is connected to your passion, that light inside you that drives you. Your creativity is not a bad boyfriend. It is a really warm older Hispanic lady who has beautiful laugh and loves to hug. If you are even a little bit nice to her she will make you feel great and maybe cook you delicious food.” (p. 222-223)

I love this advice because it is not simplistic. It does not say “just do it” or “eat less”. It says, “practice and learn”. However, for more great advice and good laughs you should just read the whole book yourself!

DIY

Sewing, Swearing and Self-Discoveries

October 5, 2015

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I don’t know what’s gotten into me but I have been doing quite a bit of handicraft and sewing lately. I asked for a sewing machine for a Christmas present last year, because I have always liked to have the possibility to fix small things (patch a hole in a t-shirt, shorten a pair of pants etc). I have done some small projects years ago, but the problem has been the moment (it always comes) when I realize I need to use the seam ripper. It just blows off my nerves like playing that Yoshi’s Island videogame. You cannot believe that swearing. I’m more of a traditional Super Mario Bros girl – and with sewing I also prefer the simpler stuff. I made linen pants for my husband some years ago. You cannot believe that swearing. They were beautiful pants and my husband wore them till they split in two (which happens to all his pants eventually, it is a mystery I do not understand till this day). Or then he wore them because he heard my swearing and was afraid for his life. Anyway, I was left with the impression they were beautiful pants – the process just was too much for me.

However, now that I’m older and wiser, I realized I CAN just do the simple things. First, I did the macramé hangers and they were beautiful. Now I found a cool idea on Pinterest to make your old t-shirts into a scarf and I made my husband one out of his t-shirts he does not wear, but that have sentimental value. It also came out very nice. And I did not swear. I must be on the way to inner peace! And I’m not joking here!

I came to realize why first when I was thinking about the reasons I don’t like to cook from the weekly 3-meal dinner box we order home (which really is a saviour because you don’t need to shop or think of what to cook). First I thought it’s because the recipes are in Dutch and that it’s too tiring to read them in the evening until one day it hit me that I do not like to follow strict instructions. It is so boring. And if it has new recipes every week, I don’t get to do my versions of any of the food. This surprised me, because I’m a law-obeying Finn and I rarely even jaywalk. I thought I’m ok with instructions and rules. The same applies to sewing and handicraft. When I see a nice product I want to think and see for myself how it is done. If I don’t figure it out, it’s not my thing.

I would love to make some of my wardrobe myself and I found this lovely sewing book called Easy Cute Straight Stitch – Japanese Craft Book by Yoshiko Tsukiori that I’m craving for now and wondering do I dare to order it or will it take away my newly discovered peace of mind. Easy straight stitch… I can do that, e?

Good Life

Less is More

October 5, 2015

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I have always cherished the idea that less is more. I have been able to take this philosophy into practice in varying levels, depending on my financial situation, stress levels and other personal ambitions.

When we travel with my husband we step into all churches that we see. I like to look at the golden ornaments and smell the incense in catholic and orthodox churches. I enjoy the feeling of as if you were falling down when you lift your eyes to see the very top of St. Isaac’s Church’s ceiling in St. Petersburg. However, I love-love-love to step into the Helsinki Cathedral and see and feel the white emptiness the church encases within. The Vilnius Cathedral and the Finnish Kaleva Church in Tampere give me the same effect of peace and calm. Don’t mistake this as patriotic praise. Russia is one of the few big loves of my life. I’m also not a religious person. This is about aesthetics of environment and architecture and the effect of “Less” on me. During my expat-life here in Amsterdam I have also thought a lot of how you learn to appreciate certain aesthetics when they surround you since childhood, in my case the Scandinavian clear-lined emptiness, and how those aesthetics give you the feeling of familiarity and home. But this is another story.

Now I would like my whole life to be taken over by the same feeling of calm and peace that those buildings give out. I know. This is a massive trend at the moment with yogas and mindfulness etc. and I really don’t like to follow trends. (I don’t want to hear about your low-carb-gluten-free diet now. I’m all ears if you’re still following it after two years). However, having less has hit a nerve in me. Why? How did it all start? I will tell you. Two major reasons A) having a kid B) I’m coming to the age when your brain is telling you, the only way to stay sane is to hike up a high mountain and meditate. A and B are interconnected in so many ways that I will not go into that except that A intensifies B with 200%.

In practice the Pandora’s box opened when I felt sorry for myself when packing for a trip and noticed that there is very little space for my stuff. Because I’m a mother. Little after that I got addicted to Pinterest – I blame motherhood for that as well – and found out about a thing called “capsule wardrobe” (my own space in the wardrobe is also shrinking) and a lot of instructions on how to pack as little as possible for travels as well. I felt great! I’m actually working on towards something better not just giving up on things like I felt earlier. Fine, my travelling “capsule” is still a 75-litre rucksack but listen: what I have there for myself is two t-shirts, one pair of extra pants, one long-sleeve, warm cardigan, socks and undies. Now I have used up my space no matter how long the trip is going to be. I’m so much better than anyone on Pinterest and I haven’t even started reading Tidying Up because my husband stole it (He needs it even more than I do, so it is ok)!

I have started my process of having less from clothes because it is one of the hardest for me. I love clothes a little too much. Packing is easy now because I’m forced to have so little. A bit like, it’s easy to spend little money when you don’t have any. Next I want to learn how to become a master of capsule wardrobe. Other things that I have on my list are: being more aware of how I use money and making a 2-week meal plan for the family. I’m not the biggest fan of routines, so especially the latter one feels like quite an unpleasant task, but I will try to find some kind of a balance between spontaneity and routine that would suit me. Are you trying to have less of something in your life? What methods are you using and how is it working out?