Friday, July 26, 2013

Lightening the mental load

This morning I started getting stressed; I was mentally listing all the things I wanted to accomplish this weekend: meditate, practice pre-race meals, go for a long run, catchup with friends, go to The Paddock, go food shopping, go clothes shopping, make calls, visit Dad, watch football, clean the house, do laundry etc. etc. 

When I tried to go out at lunch time to get two types of shopping done (as well as eat) I knew I was pushing the boundaries of manicness and decided to stop. I looked at my long to-do list for the weekend and decided to focus on a couple of priorities:

1. Go to The Paddock - it's been three weeks and I need to know if any of the plants are still alive.
2. Catchup with friends - a couple of friends have just moved back to Perth after a couple of years in England. I don't want to cut short our catchup to go shopping or running or anything else.

Everything else can wait. I won't starve to death without more groceries, I don't NEED that new shirt this weekend and if I don't manage to meditate or go running for one week it's not the end of the world.

I'm sure I'll manage to fit in a few more things but by focusing on my priorities I can relax and enjoy the things I do have to do, without worrying about all the things I don't.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Stop and smell the ratties

Its been a beautiful winters day here - the sun is shining and it was warm standing in the sunlight at lunch time. I went and stood in the garden for a while to top up my vitamin D and to stretch my legs. As I was standing there thinking about the things I had to do this afternoon and this weekend I saw a rat move inside the hedge less than a metre away.

The movement immediately brought me out of my reverie and into the present moment. Now I could SEE the hedge in front of me, the tiny white flowers on display, as well as the tiny nose and whiskers of the aforementioned rat. I'm quite fond of rats; I've had five pet rats over my life and know they are beguiling and intelligent little creatures. 

Even the slight movement of my body as I started (when I noticed the rat) was enough to keep it hidden for a few minutes; as it relaxed it ventured out in front of me again and I stood still as a statue watching it for as long as I could. I want to thank that little rat for those minutes of meditation while it brought my attention to the present.

We share this world with so many beings we attach the label 'ewww' to; but they can give us so much if we allow them to share our lives. Here is an old picture of me and my rat fiddy (yes, he's eating a corn chip).

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Restyle on the Runway: Photo-a-day Op Shop Challenge

I am WAY too excited. I just found out that this year the Perth Fashion Festival is holding a Restyle on the Runway challenge - talk about up my alley!

To fill you in, each year the Perth Fashion Festival holds a 'Restyle on the Runway' event which showcases clothing found in second-hand stores (called opportunity shops or Op-Shops in Australia). This year several bloggers are each representing a charity op-shop; they select clothes from their op-shops to wear in a runway show - about half a dozen complete outfits each.

This year they are adding a dimension to the event by creating a photo-a-day op-shop challenge. See the list below; I'm going to try to find something that represents each day at my local op-shops and then photograph the item (possibly with me wearing it).

I love to shop at second hand clothes stores, and if they happen to be charity shops (which most do) then it's even better. I can get a few new items of clothing for under $10 each and by buying second hand I'm reducing land fill (by wearing clothes that would otherwise be thrown out) and reducing pesticide use and my carbon footprint!

The carbon footprint of new clothes is insanely high, as is the pesticide use on all non-organic cotton. Once the cotton is picked it is shipped before making fabric then it is shipped again to make clothes which (you guessed it) are shipped again around the world. That $4 tee has probably seen more of the world than you have, and if YOU aren't paying the price for all that shipping, who is? The environment for one!

Who wants to join me to have the best excuse to go op-shopping ever?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The running in winter blues

I have a friend who loves running in winter - he says it's better because it's not so hot outside when you run, well duh! It may be nice and cool in winter but it's also dark, wet, windy and a lot scarier as a lone woman running (in the dark).

Today I'm due to go for a short run after work but I'm looking out the window at black clouds and a setting sun and I won't be home for over an hour yet. It's definitely harder for me to keep up my motivation in winter and I'm contemplating hiring a treadmill for next winter so I can run at home and keep warm, dry and safe while training.

I'd like to hear how other people keep up their motivation during winter or what they use to feel safer in the dark (reflective clothing? flashing lights? pepper spray?)

Let me know your thoughts...

Monday, July 22, 2013

How important is routine for a productive life?

I think the answer to this one might be subjective, but I'm interested in how people manage their time in a day-to-day manner. I'm not sure if most people would like to accomplish more each day but I certainly would. To be honest I completely begrudge every minute spent at work because it could be time spent doing things I like, and selling my time to pay the bills seems like a pretty wasteful thing to do with my life (but that's another post entirely!)

The thing is, I used to be a shift worker which came with a lot of negatives like not seeing friends or visiting The Paddock regularly. I tended to work short shifts though: about 6 hours usually from very early in the morning or from after lunch through to evening which always left me with half a day to do my own thing.

Now I'm working full time hours I get half as much done at home - I'm too tired to get stuck into anything tricky like sewing after the 10-hour round trip to work and back. The dogs are lucky to get a trip to the park in the dark! So that leaves my weekends which I tend to fill with socialisation with friends and family, trips to The Paddock or Rest & Relaxation if I haven't had any for a while. I miss my half-day time slots to sew something or otherwise set time aside for a task.

I kept thinking once I had settled into a new routine at work I would get back to making things but that all seems to have ground to a halt. How do other people manage to do the things they want AND have a job, be a parent etc.? Do you make routine work for you?

Friday, July 19, 2013

Looking for help on how to talk to my father about death

I'm looking for help on how to talk to my father about death: has anyone else had to broach a difficult subject with a loved one? My Dad was diagnosed with myeloma in January and has been in denial ever since. I would like to be able to talk to him about what he thinks happens after death - it's a subject that has never been discussed in our family. 

What I want to say is, "Dad, what do you think happens when we die?" but I have fear of upsetting him because he will get emotional in front of me which he does not like. My parents were born in the 1930s which is only relevant because they were each brought up in families which did not discuss difficult or emotional issues. My mum still believes the best way to deal with difficult situations (like my fathers illness) is to smile and not make a fuss.

That is her way of dealing with it and I haven't pushed things, thinking at some point we'll have to talk about the development of the disease and prepare for the future, but any attempts to discuss the subject are met with flat denial. My dad says "I'm not dying, that's not what the doctor said", despite the fact that he has a terminal cancer. The cancer WILL kill him unless something else does first, isn't that the definition of dying?

Of course in that regard we're all dying. I'm aware that I will die and I've done contemplation meditation to walk myself through it, I think it's natural to prepare for your death as you would a birth or marriage; I'm concerned that this inability to talk or think about death will make my father's death a frightening experience for him. I'd love to be able to help him to a place of calm before or during his death, but if we can't even talk about it how can it happen...???

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Upholstery Course Result: view my amazing bench!

On Saturday I finished my Upholstery Course at the Perth Wood School and am thrilled with the result. The course took an extra week (five Saturday afternoons instead of four) to complete, however the time spent learning the details was definitely worth it.

The toolkit we used to make the benches were for sale so I bought mine (for $320AU). This included:

  • an apron or 'pinny' made from leather which holds the tack hammer, scissors and staple removers
  • tool basket for needles, loose tacks, staples etc.
  • tack hammer
  • scissors
  • staple remover
  • pincers
  • regulator
  • buttoning needle
  • hand-made web stretcher
  • the pneumatic staple gun
Thus, the first purchase as an upholsterer has been made. I've already started listing the materials I will need to source, cost and purchase to cover my next project: a huge armchair.

I think it is important to start on that project in less than two weeks so I don't lose the momentum of the course. Randa has been kind enough to give us her email address so we can stay in touch, which I imagine will come in handy when I need help.

I'm still contemplating starting a home business doing the furniture upholstery at weekends; most nice fabric stores in Perth only sell wholesale so I would need to in order to buy the nicer fabrics available. In the meantime I'll stick with lower-end fabric and online stores until I can test the market.

Here is my finished bench! (Randa did the corner folds for me).

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Control yourself - you can't control anyone else

This morning I was pretty angry. The trains aren't running so Mike was driving me to work and he'd been really grumpy all morning. As he dropped me off he said "I need a holiday. I have a deadline next Wednesday so I'm probably going to take Thursday and Friday off. Bye." and drove off.

As I walked in to work I was absolutely fuming. He's given me no time to ask for the days off so I guess he'll be enjoying a long weekend at home without me. I was having angry imaginary conversations with him about why he didn't ask me to join him, or give me more notice, or be less grumpy etc etc.

Then I remembered, I can't control Mike. I can't make him be charming 100% of the time, or 80% or 50%, he's his own person. All I have control over is myself. I can choose to be angry at Mike and fume about it, or I can choose NOT to be angry and get on with my day; so I chose the latter.

Once you step back from the tumult of the emotion the clear air gives you the space for compassion. I realised Mike was being grumpy because he was under a lot of stress and not coping well; he needed my support not my anger. He mentioned his planned time off as he was leaving because he'd just thought of it - there was no malicious plan to have a holiday without me. Anyway why not? 

Having time to yourself when you're not at work and not with your partner is important. I want more time like this so I certainly won't begrudge Mike some. So with the awareness of having control over yourself and NOT having control over others I turned anger into compassion, and when I see Mike tonight I'm not going to shout at him, I'm going to look after him instead.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Slightly Obsessed with The Last of Us

I've just reached Winter, the third act in The Last of Us ps3 game and all I can think about is going home and playing some more. Of course I wouldn't have even reached this level if I hadn't been playing with Mike - he can go into a room full of infected over and over again, while I'm left shaking after each encounter (literally shaking too much to keep hold of the controller).

It's the same reason I love (but am useless at) zombie games - they simply terrify me too much. I have nightmares about zombies regularly enough, so when I watch The Walking Dead or play zombie games it affects me even more. So why do it? I can't help myself! 

I used to watch scary movies because I loved that edge-of-your-seat feeling; I don't watch many scary movies any more but I still love that thrill of (safe) terror. So while my body is present at work, my mind is traversing the infected landscapes in The Last of Us. Oops. Time to live in the present!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Best weekend To-Do List review result

Last week I copied a handful of my weekend to-do list tasks over from Astrid to three new to-do list apps: Google to-do list, Asana and ToDoist to see which worked best for me. 

In fairness I wasn't able to setup reminders for ToDoist without a premium account, which I would have considered paying for if no other apps gave me the same functionality for free, but they do. So I won't.

Google's to-do list is just too simple and boring for me - you can set dates that tasks are due on, but no time of day and no reminders. I guess Google expect you to put your tasks into your calendar for this kind of functionality, but I like to have calendar appointments and tasks as two separate lists with dates, times and reminders for both.

That leaves Asana to do lists; I was able to easily synch my Asana to-do list with my Google calendar so all my reminders went off successfully. It seems to be an app for team to-do lists rather than for one person but it is relatively user friendly, although I named my team 'Freedom Tasks' without realising the program would add the word Tasks to the header, so now my page is titled "Freedom Tasks Tasks" and I can't find any way to edit this.

As well as having multiple reminders going off from different apps, Mike was also synching our iCal to Google calendar so we had an entertaining few hours on Sunday where every thing in the house seemed to bleep as all our usual and extra reminders went off every 15 minutes or so.

Although Asana won the best-of-three to-do list test this weekend I'm not 100% convinced it's the new app for me. Astrid is still better - she tweets like a bird when I have something to do, gives me cheeky encouragement to get off my buttocks and do the task as well as congratulations (and a feeling of fulfillment) when I check that box to show it's completed.

Wow I just realised I enjoy a LOT of encouragement to accomplish my tasks! Well that gives me a sense of direction to look in before I review any more task lists. I don't know when Astrid is going to stop working so I can't leave it too long...

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Zombie Apocalypse

I was watching Tosh.0 last night and they had an interview with the 'I shot myself guy' (it was accidental - he shot himself in the leg). He was explaining why he thought everyone should be proficient with guns and is pro women learning to shoot because, and I quote, "When the zombie apocalypse comes I'd like some women to survive." (I may not have his quote exactly correct, but it's close).

Of course this was the punchline, everyone in the audience laughed and I thought, even though I may be the only person throwing my hands up in agreement, at least I'm not the only one out there who believes it. Yes, I said it, I think there WILL be a zombie apocalypse in the future - hopefully just not in my lifetime.

At the moment I'm playing The Last of Us on ps3 which (if you're not acquainted with the game) is essentially a zombie scenario even though the 'infected' have a disease instead of being the living dead. The result is the same: society as we know it has shut down and groups of survivors fight ex-human creatures who try to eat you. (A zombie by another other name would smell as sweet?)

So I admit to being loose with the definition of a zombie apocalypse - even if they aren't zombies then I'm sure the human race will somehow manage to unleash some devastating disease on ourselves that will wipe out the majority of the population within weeks; possibly leaving deadly human-types still roaming around ready to infect the rest of us.

Does that make me crazy? Well, maybe, but I'm OK with that.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

New To Do list too

Talk about timing! After blogging yesterday about looking for a new e-calendar similar to Astrid, I received an update from Astrid that outlined the fact they are shutting down the app!

Soon I will be looking for a new to-do list app as well. There is certainly plenty of them out there to choose from, but I live off my daily reminders; I don't trust myself to remember what day it is without a reminder - so I'm looking for a good one.

Astrid is good because it uses humour to encourage you to tick off the items on your list as well as allowing you to have separate lists for different topics, using reminders, allowing for priorities etc. I'll be looking for an all-round replacement that can offer all this (and more?)

Since the only feedback I received from yesterday's post was to give Google Calendar another try, I am currently in the process of moving over some of my appointments and to-do's for a trial run of the app over the weekend. It's good to see they have a to-do list attached to the calendar, but once again, it just looks very plain and boring with no extra functionality. 

Does anyone remember when Google was hip? Do they only programme bare-bones apps with no design, extra functionality or creativity? Yikes, using their software is a yawn-fest. 

Anyway I'll see how the trial goes and search for and test out some more to-do apps as well, so I can offer a comparison for some of the android-to-mac options out there.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Getting synched - looking for the best electronic calendar

I'm looking for some advice on the best electronic calendar; ideally one that can seamlessly synch between my mac mini and my android G-Note.

Being old, I still rely on a paper calendar that hangs on the fridge. Apart from loving the pictures and quotes that come with my permaculture calendar I also use the reminder stickers that come with my dog's flea treatment so I know when a month is up. But all this hands-on calendar writing is useless whenever I'm at work or anywhere else and I want to know what I have booked in.

I've tried the google calendar and find it completely uninspiring but I'm willing to try it if it's easy to access everywhere. I just feel like there must be better options out there; I used to use iProcrastinate for my To-Do lists until I found Astrid and now I enjoy checking and updating my lists because Astrid makes it easy and entertaining.

So what are the BEST calendars out there that you use? Or do you have an alternate way of staying on top of your appointments?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Booking time to make a decision

Things have been very busy lately; between long days at work, the upholstery course at weekends, trips down to The Paddock, socialising and family I haven't had time to stop and smell the roses (hence my Yoko Ono inspired Day-In-Bed on Sunday).

And now I've come to realise that I have a nagging feeling inside that is letting me know it's time to make some decisions and figure out if I'm still travelling on the right path. I try to do this kind of check-in regularly and it's only when things have been this hectic that I forget.

I don't formally meditate everyday (that is, I don't take time out of my day to sit and meditate) but I do try to meditate in the moment at least once during each day. That gets tricky the more you have going on in your mind, the less likely it is to stop the jibber-jabber and relax. 

So I've determined to book out some time to practise contemplation meditation; one hour will be a long time to sit for the first time in a while, so I might book in incremental sittings of 30, 40, 50 then 60 minutes so I can work up to an hour of seated meditation.

When it's been a while since my last long meditation, bringing in habitual ceremony also helps the mind 'remember' the practice. So making a quiet place to sit, lighting incense, ringing a bell all help to clear the mind in preparation for the contemplation.

I'm not expecting to resolve any decision from my first practise, so booking in a few or several meditations will help me relax as it takes the pressure off finding an answer in a set period of time. In my experience, any expectation (of a result) will make the contemplation more difficult.

Now I just need to check the calendar, book in my sessions and commit to them! I'll let you know how I go.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Unofficial Me Day

I did something yesterday I haven't done in about 20 years: I stayed in bed ALL day.

It had been a busy weekend again with one thing after another from Friday night through to Saturday night, so when Mike offered to take the dogs out for me Sunday morning, I stayed in bed.

The several pints of cider I had enjoyed Saturday night definitely encouraged me to remain horizontal on Sunday, as did the warm doona, soft pillows and internet access.

That is how I managed to remain in bed all day as well as watch the football, F1 German Grand Prix AND Wimbledon Men's Final. What a day for sport!

You see it's been a few months since I've booked in a 'Me' Day; this is a day when I do what I want. I don't book in social visits (unless I really want to) and I let Mike know that I'll be looking after myself for the day (i.e. being a bit selfish).

Usually on my Me days I go Op-shopping to look for second hand bargains (one of my favourite past-times), I might go and get a massage or somehow treat myself (usually not in an expensive way) like taking two hours to sit with a good book and a glass of wine. I truly believe we each need to give ourselves this time every now and again to actively be good to ourselves. Be selfish for a day.

If you are always looking out for everyone else it is easy to start feeling and then acting the martyr, "I don't get a day off for me" is a very common complaint by mothers. But with a little bit of organisation you can get help to give yourself a few hours of whatever you need: quiet, pampering, rest. You'll be a better person to those around you IF you look after yourself too.

So if you're feeling run down, think about your perfect day off and make it happen. Don't fill it with jobs to do, imagine how you would spend one day if all the jobs were done (they'll be there tomorrow anyway).


Friday, July 5, 2013

I love the internet


Good morning everyone, that's me calling from the hilltops my love for the internet. This morning I have already had 'contact' with four inspiring groups/people via my screen. Firstly, I'm enjoying playing on google plus; a very nice alternative to facebook although probably equally evil when we look under the bed.

Already I have 'met' like-minded people who I can share thoughts and jokes with; I'll probably never meet them in person in my life, but that doesn't matter. Just knowing they're out there is a warming feeling. It gets tiring being the only oddball vegetarian buddhist anarchist among a state of conservatives!

Being able to read the thoughts of people like Leo Babauta in the morning is a truly inspiring way to start the day. Then being able to read amazing messages from great artists (that's you Banksy) lifts me up beyond the drab grey haziness of everyday drudgery.

One day we might not have the freedom to read and find whatever we choose on the internet; maybe through censorship or lack of electricity (after the apocalypse), so enjoy it now! And be aware of the gift you have at your fingertips. Enjoy.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Animal testing alternatives

The fact that animals are still tested on for 'scientific research' astounds me in this modern era. I stumbled across this article this morning which asks us to challenge the flippant use of animals in experiments and I was impressed by its simplicity.

As usual our allowance of these experiments constitutes complicity; in other words, bad things happen when good people do nothing. I've blogged before about using your money to not fund animal experimentation; but often where it is obvious we don't need to torture animals for cosmetics it is less obvious when referring to medical research.

The article referred to above talks about mice used in Alzheimers research, and the research I protest most vehemently against is animals used in cancer research. Why? Do I love animals more than people? No.

My father has myeloma and I would move the earth to find a cure for his cancer, but what I won't do is unnecessarily torture millions of animals. That's the point, the experiments are ALL null and void. Pointless.

"Not only is animal research harmful to animals, it is also potentially harmful to people. Animals do not get the same diseases as we do, and different species react very differently to drugs and procedures. Drugs that are shown to be safe in animals have often later proved to be dangerous in humans, while valuable cures and treatments can be missed if they fail in animal tests."1

So what is the alternative? Dr Hadwen's Trust is one that I know of, and I'd like to hear about more. We live in a very technological era where A LOT is known about the human body. Computer labs are the medical research labs of the future: they can test theoretical results faster, more accurately and more objectively than humans can. Computer research can lead us to more advanced knowledge prior to human testing than animal research too, so not only does it save the lives of millions of animals, it improves the outcomes of scientific medical research for all of us.

If we lived in a world where computer research was the norm instead of animal research, perhaps I could hope for a cure for cancer in time for my father; sadly, at the moment, it seems a long way off.
“Ask the experimenters why they experiment on animals and the answer is: 'Because animals are like us.'
“Ask the experimenters why it is morally okay to experiment on animals, and the answer is: 'Because the animals are not like us.'
“Animal experimentation rests on a logical contradiction.”
—Prof. Charles R. Magel

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Inspire or die

While reading my Animal Anatomy lesson recently I re-discovered a word: inspiration.

We all know that respiration is breathing in and out (and the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the lungs), but one half of that process, to breathe in and take oxygen into your bloodstream is called inspiration. The second half of the process is expiration: the breathing out of carbon dioxide.

Inspiration and expiration. These are words we know and use every day, but with very different meanings. Inspiration is something that stimulates us to act; while we might check the expiration date on the milk in the fridge. How did we get from breathing in and out to stimulate and die (expire)?

Etymology (the history of words) is something that has interested me before on odd occasions; I remember when my mum told me that 'in her day', something that was terrific was actually very scary - it was terrifying! And during my childhood the use of 'bad' became good (thanks to Michael Jackson) and now 'sick' means awesome, so in a few more decades I won't understand a word people are saying.

At that point I may as well revert to ye olde English so no-one can understand me either. I can sit and watch the sunset whilst inspiring and expiring to the view.

So next time you are looking for inspiration to strike you, remember, just breathe, and you are inspired! And when you breathe out, you have expired... oh well. Inspiration and death apparently go hand in hand.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Run 60 kays in 30 days: Result

Sunday I ran 4 kilometres in order to complete my commitment of 60 kays in 30 days. I am very happy to have fulfilled this goal, as well as happy that it is over! For the last couple of weeks I haven’t been doing any interval training so the kilometers have all been run (rather than run/walked), so I’m extra proud of myself for going the distance.
There is just under 8 weeks to go until the Perth City to Surf 12km fun run so I’m going to relax my training schedule for the next 3 weeks, leaving myself another month to ramp the training back up again. My intention is to still run 2-3 times a week over the next month, but just to do it for the fun of it, rather than with a timing or distance goal in mind.
That will leave me 3 Sundays before the race to trial different breakfasts before long runs, to test which pre-race meal works best for me. Usually I eat a super-smoothie (rice milk, banana or two, LSA meal, raspberries, aktavite and an egg) two hours before race start but I’d like to get more food in me as I start to feel really tired about two-thirds through a 12km distance.
I’m contemplating changing the raw egg for a poached egg on toast with an avocado on the side, then the smoothie as well. I still think I’d like to have finished eating it all a minimum of two hours before race start in order to have digested it all enough. Previously I’ve tested to see how late I can eat a banana before going for a long run and have discovered that I tend to get a stitch if I eat within two hours of running.
Since I bolted out the gate at my last 12km event, I’m keen to keep race nerves to a minimum by practicing Sunday mornings as if it were race-day for a few weeks leading up to the big event. Even the routine of laying out my clothes the night before will help train myself into good habits so nothing important is forgotten on the day.
What pre-race routines do you use when preparing for an event?