Thursday, July 31, 2014

Opposite Sex Friendship

My topic of interest today:

Opposite Sex Friendships.

I know people's feelings about having friends of the opposite sex tender to differ widely.  Some people think these friendships are a wonderful, enriching thing.  Others think they are impossible, risky or inappropriate.  Other people are in the middle, believing its relative to the situation.  
I believe opposite gender/sex friendships are absolutely a good and worthwhile thing in most cases.

To not be friends with someone because of their sex is like choosing not to befriend someone because of their age or race.  Instead, your choice of a friend should have to do with their character and personality.  Who are they inside their heart as a human being?  Are they loyal?  Trustworthy?  Are they caring?  Fun to be with?  Does this person make you feel inspired? (because I believe real/quality friends always posses traits that we can admire and allow to inspire us)  Are they a respectful person?  Do they have good morals and values that we generally want to surround ourselves with?

These are the types of assessments I believe one should use when choosing a friend.  Not so much having to do with gender.  Because assuming the person possesses the positive characteristics I described above, having a friend of the opposite sex should not be an issue (if this person is someone of high, respectful character).  In which case, it can be a wonderful thing.

Positive reasons to befriend someone of the opposite gender:

  • This person can offer you some very different viewpoints on various life situations that you might not receive from the same gender, giving you a more diverse and interesting view of things.
  • Befriending someone of the opposite gender teaches you to expand your ideas of who a good friend can be.  A good friend can be anyone :-D again, its about who they are inside their heart.  
  • Opposite gender friendships offer different benefits as friends than those of the same sex.  Such as, I have heard men say of their female friends or someone like their sister, that they feel they can talk more openly with the women they are friends with about their feelings in life situations, as opposed to many of their male friends.  Women tend to say men are more lighthearted and fun, as well as enjoying the different viewpoints (generally more simple and straightforward) that men can bring to the table.
  • Having diverse friendships enriches our lives.  It makes our social life more interesting, open and fun.
  • One of my biggest points: In our society, there is an unfortunate connotation that any relations between a man and a woman must always turn romantic and/or sexual.  I do not believe this or agree with this.  Of course this can happen and does happen often, but I also believe we are capable of many other options in terms of our relations with people of the opposite sex.  And that often times, someone's friendship can be far more valuable to us in the long term of our lives then dating them for a temporary amount of time as a romantic partner.  Because of this connotation, things almost always being expected to turn romantic between men and women, I believe there is a sort of...fear, nervousness and mistrust that often comes along with these friendships.  This results in an unfortunate...hesitation and discomfort a lot of the time.  There are not many great role models in our media for what a wonderful and healthy platonic friendship can be between a man and a woman.  I think this is a very sad thing.  It causes a lot of people to choose not to befriend anyone of the opposite sex, and thus, they miss out on what could have been some really beautiful and enriching friendships.
  • And now onto another main point...being friends with someone of the opposite sex can teach you to stretch yourself emotionally a bit....I will expand on that point below.
In regards to expanding oneself in this type of friendship...this circles us around to the age-old questions/concern: can you really be "just friends" with someone to whom you feel an attraction?

Absolutely.  For a number of reasons.

First, we are not totally instinctually-driven beings with no control over our instincts or actions.  So in light of these feelings one might experience at certain points towards a person, one does not have to succumb to them.  We have control over our actions.

Secondly, it seems rather narrow minded and slightly offensive to assume one cannot be friends with a person they are attracted to.  If this is the case, this is to assume that the attraction is the overriding force in the relationship and that nothing else of worth or redeeming quality exists within that person who is your friend, to whom you also feel attracted.  That would be a very sad thing.  And would probably not indicate that this is a real friendship of any depth or caring.

Relationships (whether its a friendship, a romantic one or a family member) are multi-faceted, multi-layered things.  Like an intricately woven blanket with lots of overlapping stitching and layers.  Just because you feel moments of attraction to someone does not mean that 1. you cannot stretch yourself a bit, endure these feelings and deal with them until they pass (because they will pass.  All emotional states are only temporary, they are changing all the time) and that 2. you cannot feel other things for this person too (along with moments of temporary attraction), such as respect....deep in their company...inspiration...liking, etc.  Other things that make the friendship a worthwhile thing to treasure and keep in one's life.

We are not one sided beings, so that if an attraction exists, that should not necessarily mean that the friendship must end immediately.  Not the case at all.  (Side-note: I do think in certain situations, if the attraction is the primary and dominating emotion in the relationship, then yes, it is likely a good idea to end the friendship if a romantic relationship is not something that both parties in the friendship want).  But assuming it's an occasional thing, a once-in-a-while feeling, this is absolutely not a reason to end a friendship.  It would not be worth throwing away something that is otherwise a quality relationship that adds to one's life just because of occasional flickers of a feeling (a feeling that, as mentioned above, will pass).

A truly good friendship is a wonderful and rare thing, whether its found with someone of the same gender or the opposite gender. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Best Gifts Ever.

"Friendship is a treasured gift, and every time I talk with you I feel as if I'm getting richer and richer."

I feel very honored to have the friends here in Germany that I have made thus far.  They are incredibly thoughtful, generous, kind and fun to be with.  I chose very well ;-D

They made me feel especially surprised and loved yesterday on my 29th birthday.

How incredibly awesome!??

Oh. My. God.  Red Velvet cake mix by Duncan Hines!?!  That is rare over here.  A diamond in the rough for sure, in Germany ;-).  Awesome.  And then Oreo pie, one of my absolute favorites.  Applesauce, the best side with almost every dinner.  Maple Syrup...SO expensive over here and also not easy to find.  SO psyched for this.  Now I'll make pancakes!!!

Beautiful handmade key-chain for me, a gift from my dear friend, Francine.

The best surprise.  Walking in to find all my close friends here in Frankfurt sitting there waiting for me.  I felt SO honored and so happy :-D

I am so lucky <3

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Frankfurt Recent Food Adventures....And More

Last week, Somayeh and I went to check out a cafe called Wackers Cafe here in Frankfurt.  This is one of the most famous cafes in all of Frankfurt, not only for their coffee but for their history.  Wackers opened in 1914, and they are said to have some of the best coffee in all of Frankfurt.  So I suggested we check it out (though Somayeh had already been before).  Upon ordered, she got a coffee drink and I asked for a tea, she exclaimed, "Brooke, you want to go to one of the best coffee places in Frankfurt and you order a tea???" as she laughed.  Good point ha-ha.  But unfortunately I have tried coffee more then once and just cannot garner a taste for it.  So I stuck with my tea, and we split a slice of cheesecake which was very yummy.  For me, it was more about going to the place to check it out in general ;-)

Inside of Wackers....

I found a place with delicious cheese danishes.  YUM!  But this is also to my detriment as cheese danish is one of my weaknesses ;-) along with all other sweets ha-ha.  So I will not be going there often.

Thin crust pizza with onion, scallions, bacon and fresh cheese.  Delectable.

Food with Judith :-D

Here is the invitation that I designed for our recent preschool graduation for our class, the Clever Cats.
This was incredibly sweet.  On Thursday, July 24, we had the graduation ceremony for our class.  I choreographed a dance for our kids to the song ABC by the Jackson 5 (which I would be happy to show anyone via Skype when we are chatting ha-ha).  Oh man, this was just heart-melting and so incredibly cute.  This past Thursday at 3pm, the kids performed this in front of all their parents as cameras snapped photos and filmed them.  I stood in the back doing the dance along with them to help them.  Then each of us (Claudia- the German teacher in our classroom, Jana- the teaching assistant/trainee, and myself) gave a little speech about the year we had just had with their children.  I read a poem I had written about the kids.  My knees were knocking together as I read it!  But I think I hid it fairly well, looking at each child as I read their part, taking care to read slowly (I tend to speed up when I am nervous) and making gestures to match along with what I read.

Then we had the kids line up outside and march in wearing their little graduation hats we had made.  So adorable.  Each one walked up, we handed them a diploma, shook their little hand and that was that.  Afterwards, food and conversation followed.  Very cool.  I really enjoyed this.

Last but not least, the book I just finished.  Excellent.  I have read it about 3 times now and I love it every single time.  This won Best Book of the month in August 2012.

This book is not one story but many, all intertwined.  The stories are beautiful.  A mixture of topics are touched upon, from betrayal, to earning back trust, the different kinds of connections and love we feel with different people, sexuality, relationships with our parents, friendships and more.  This book explores so many of the emotional challenges of what it means to be human.  It's a fast read and an easy one.  But it's one that lingers with you after you have put down the book.  The stories have staying power.  Though especially the title story, "When it happens to you."  A searing account of the inner heartbreak and turmoil a woman feels when she finds out her husband has betrayed her.  And all the inner struggles and different conflicting feelings she has throughout this ordeal.  This particular chapter is a gripping and deeply moving one.  You will feel your own heart ache for her.  However all of the stories are excellent.  As I said, one of my very favorites.  A great summer or anytime read.

Alright.  I am off for now!  More blog updates within 2 stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Enduring Ambiguity and Difficult Situations

Written by....Myself ;-D

Ambiguity.  Uncertainty.  It's part of how life works.  Most of life is ambiguous and unknown.  Things are always changing.  It's part of what helps each of us grow, become the person we are supposed to be, learn important life lessons, and gain wisdom as we age.  It's a normal aspect of the human experience.

For many of us though, this is difficult.  In fact, I think for most people (myself included), its very uncomfortable!  The unknown is unsettling to most.  Especially tolerating uncertainty when a situation is important to us and we are attached to a particular result.  That is even more tormenting.

However, despite this being a challenge for most of us, I believe it's something that if we worked to overcome (or not necessarily overcome, but be able to sit with this feeling of uncertainty and not have it unnerve us so), we could be happier in our daily lives.  Being able to live more confidently and calmly, with uncertainty.

We must accept that life is uncertain, unpredictable, complicated and fast.  There is no perfect job, no perfect person, no perfect relationship or no perfect life.

There are jobs of all different arrays, people of all types (each of whom posses both wonderful qualities and terrible ones), relationships of all varieties as each of our hearts burn deeply for a different type of person (some healthier than others, but all of which are filled with different nuances and complexities depending on the people in the relationship) and just life (not perfect.  Yet totally complex and layered, each life filled with both beautiful and terrible moments, like an intricately woven rug of all different colors and details).

And anyway, isnt all of that far more captivating and colorful then "perfect"? ;-)

What I believe are the positives regarding learning to deal with uncertainty and challenging life situations:

  1. Building inner emotional strength and resilience.  When one goes through a challenging life ordeal, one emerges stronger after they work through the worst of it (even if they felt broken during moments when trudging through the darkness) and one emerges more compassionate and resilient for the future.
  2. Teaches us to develop an inner calm.  I don't know about all of you, but when I am struggling in moment of uncertainty that might fill me with stress or fear, I sometimes feel a lack of control over my life, as I am uncertain and know I cannot control the outcome.  But learning to deal with uncertainty in an emotionally mature way can help us develop more of a sense of inner peace.
  3. Helps us build coping/adapting skills.  Navigating our way through tough life circumstances teaches us the art of adapting.  We learn to cope with heartbreak, or loss, or loneliness (assuming we approach these difficult emotions with generally healthy responses on our parts).  This is an important life skill, as much of life is challenging emotionally.  So to have developed healthy coping skills and the ability to adapt, this is an important thing in terms of life happiness.  If one does not have these skills, it will lead to a life with further distress when things are difficult.
  4. Makes challenging situations we will experience in the coming years sometimes easier to endure emotionally.  However, the more you are able to work through these difficult times in a positive way and come through them stronger, then these situations will become easier to endure in the future.  You will have developed the skills to cope with and handle tough stuff and will carry these skills with you into future challenges, finding yourself better equipped as time goes on.
  5. Gives you further life experience and wisdom.  Isnt life generally one big learning experience?  And a road one navigates down, learning lessons as they go, potentially altering their course upon these lessons learned, and thus growing stronger, smarter and more wise as we add years to our lives?  Well.  Every single thing you experience matters, both good and bad.  It all gives you more knowledge about life, more insight about the kind of person you want to be (and the kind of person you might not want to be), how you want to live your life going forward and what life is all about.  Difficult situations are especially eye opening because of their challenging nature.  On not just an experience standpoint but also an emotional one.
  6. Eye-opening and mind-expanding.  Working your way through ambiguity and difficulties can broaden your mind and world view.  It can challenge you emotionally, as well as your values and the points of view you hold to be true.  Sometimes even altering or expanding these views and values.  This leads to growth.  This is always good :-)
  7. Building an openness to uncertainty.  Uncertainty and difficulty is uncomfortable to be certain.  Sometimes its downright unpleasant and upsetting, depending on the situation.  But learning to sit with this feeling (instead of feeling the need to do anything to rid oneself of it as a temporary crutch, from drugs, to drinking, to denial, to overeating, whatever the bad choice might be) is an important thing.  Uncertainty is a given in life, and a huge part of it.  Therefore, if its something you cannot deal with, life will be a very stressful and upsetting experience for you.  Its important to learn (at least more of the time) the skill of enduring uncertainty.  You can have this feeling, carry it with you, feel it, and yet feel generally happy and content with yourself in the other areas of your life.
  8. Difficulties can lead to wonder and beauty.  So many people cut and run from upsetting or difficult experiences, simply because enduring these emotions is too upsetting for them.  What they forget is that: these feelings are only temporary (as all feelings and states of being are).  They will pass.  They cannot deal with waiting it out to see what wonder might unfold in the long run, if they accept the challenge and work through it.  This can apply to relationships, starting out low on the career totem pole, family discord, working towards a life goal or dream, finances, etc.  And they also forgot that often times, with initial difficulty and challenge comes the result of something wonderful.  Sometimes one must pass through the darkness (and endure it-in a healthy way) in order to come into the brilliant light at the end of the tunnel.  

Those are a few of the reasons why I believe it's a paramount life skill regarding learning to deal with ambiguity and challenging life situations.  I felt a pull towards writing about this topic because I am finding its something I am personally struggling with sometimes in my own life right now, and it's something I would like to continue to improve upon.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Italy Part 3

Heading off on a bicycle tour through Tuscany!!

We toured this castle first.  We were shown where they make wine and Olive Oil on site!  Very cool.

The wine-filled barrels

Then we got the sample the on-site created products!

Incredible views from the castle top.

These barrels of wine are stored here for over 100 years!

And off we go!  About to hop on ;-)

We stopped in a cute little restaurant for a delicious lunch.  And a much needed drying-off session, as the first half of our bicycle tour was accompanied by DOWNPOURING rain.  So nuts.  It was like a scene out of a movie.  I was so wet, it was as if I had jumped into a lake and then climbed out and onto my bike.

But we dried off easily after lunch ;-) the sun was out and shining.

One of my fellow bicycle riders, Matt.  I had a lovely dinner with him and his Mom later on this evening.  We all had a great click :-) lots of fun!

This is the same castle we toured...but from afar.  And check out those sunflower fields, whoa.

I loved it so much, I had to go back for seconds.  This is where Matt, Monique and myself went to dinner.  And I enjoyed for a second time the incredibly Gorgonzola and pear gnocchi.

And amazing chocolate torte for dessert.  SO rich and yummy.

My god, do I love pesto.  And especially in Italy.  One of the best pestos I ever had was here on this trip.

I Googled "Best Tiramisu in Florence."  This is where it led me.  And yes, it was excellent.

Spent my last afternoon here, reading in the rose garden perched high above Florence.

Pizza time!!!  And yes, I was skeptical when this came out.  In fact my heart fell initially.  I had been expecting pizza with tomato sauce and cheese, the whole works.  With the mushrooms, truffle oil and Parmesan added as toppings.  But no, this came out.  However it was shockingly delicious.

<3 love this photo of Florence.  I waited up here for an hour to get this, and the following photos of the city.

Last night.  Delicious Sacher Torte while watching the activity in the piazza and writing in my journal about my travels.

My heart stopped when I spotted, in the Paris airport, a Laduree shop.  An INCREDIBLE, well known pastry shop from Paris.  However they only had macaroons (which I am not a fan of).  None of the showstopping pastries they have in the actual shop in Paris.  Bummer.  So I just snapped a photo ;-)