Thursday, 31 July 2014

31. What's next?

And so, give or take a couple of days, this post marks me blogging every day for two months! The prompts have been frustrating at times (especially the ones I wrote myself!) but it's been useful to be forced to think of something to write, even if I don't feel like it. And good for me to keep up the practice.

I'd like to keep writing every day, but I know realistically that without prompts I probably won't. But we'll see.

So August. Here's what's next for me.

  • A few birthday gatherings, for young and old. I think one end of the age spectrum is my uncle's 70th and the other end is Astrid's 4th.
  • Setting up and hanging out at the SU NSW stand at Oxygen this coming week. My boss suggested I only go for half the time, given my intense workload at the moment. Although I was a bit disappointed not to go to all the sessions, the truth is I'm so tired I probably wouldn't have gotten much out of them anyway. So I'll make the most of Monday and Tuesday. If you're going to the conference, make sure you come and say hi!
  • Visiting the Baddeleys in Brisbane for a weekend!
  • Performing again with the girls from Inspire Bellydance at the Bellydance Expo. Yes, there is such a thing.
  • Going on our twice-yearly staff retreat - this time to MacMasters Beach. I've already warned everyone I'll probably cry again, but I think they've come to expect it.
  • Running a trivia night at SU NSW, hopefully raising heaps of money and having a great time. You should come! 

30. The perfect meal

I didn't blog yesterday because it was a huuuuge day at work and I was just exhausted.

So. The perfect meal. I love food so this is a hard one.

It always has to involve dessert. The entree and main (if you're doing three courses at a restaurant) are never as important to me as a dessert, and restaurant desserts are usually worth getting because they'll be things you probably wouldn't make at home.

My favourite dessert used to be at Restaurant Balzac, which sadly doesn't exist anymore. But they would do a dessert tasting plate, which would be this big square plate with nine (I think nine...or maybe twelve) perfectly formed tiny desserts laid out like a chequerboard. They were always beautiful to look at and delicious to taste.

I like the amuse bouches that fancy restaurants sometimes bring out between courses. A little espresso cup of soup or something. Maybe I just like things in miniature...actually that's true, I'm a fan of degustation meals, except they're usually so expensive I've only done them a handful of times.

As for the main, if I'm at a restaurant that does French style food, I like duck. But my brother is disdainful about this from his time working at Tabou on Crown Street (which also no longer exists...that's kind of par for the course in Sydney, isn't it? Don't get too attached to your restaurants, people). He would say the Chinese customers would always order the duck. Well I'm half Chinese, I'm entitled.

Actually, they used to do a twice baked gruyere and goats cheese souffle there that was incredible.

Maybe that's my perfect meal. Something French. With delicious wine.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

BLG: Tuesday

  • Being given two squares of chilli dark chocolate by my new colleague after her hearing about my depression. "I've been through that. This helps."
  • Remembering to bring the vial of Aveda stress fix essential oil to work and smelling it all day
  • coming home to dinner ready to eat
  • the smooth feel of cotton through my fingers as I crochet

29. Photo journal of your day

Oops. I should have looked at this before now and taken more photos.

Woke to the postman delivering a parcel - my new Panache sports bra which was so comfortable I wore it all day.

 I had to pull over on the way to work because I was falling asleep. That wasn't photo worthy.

Worked hard all day. Also not very interesting to look at. EXCEPT FOR THE KOMBI - oh I was excited to see it! I designed the decal for our SUPA Club kombi rebranding and hoped that it would turn out looks fantastic! Apparently at the workshop where the decal was put on, the van had to be driven out into the sun every day for the decal to cure, and the burly blokes in the workshop fought over who got to drive what they dubbed the "happy van".

Finally remembered to book the massage with the voucher my aunt gave me for my birthday in April (that's how bad at self care I am).

Again, almost fell asleep coming home. Took me an hour and a half to get home because of traffic, but also because I had to stop and walk around Officeworks for 15 minutes, yawning, to try and get some alertness happening.

Came home to another parcel - a new hip scarf and zills (finger cymbals) for bellydancing! I'm doing extension classes so now we're learning how to do more fancy stuff, and playing zills is part of it. I only got cheapies to start with; hopefully they'll suffice for a while.

Monday, 28 July 2014

More gratitude please

I've been feeling pretty down lately, but not for any emotional reason, just because I feel completely wrung out by life at the moment. I also realised that means I've been going into myself instead of looking out and up, so it's time for some gratituding.

Today I'm grateful for

- the warm, silky, curled up cat within arm's reach on my bed
- fish and chips with mum for lunch
- the fat kookaburra and the punky cockatoos at Carss Park
- the streaky brilliant red gold sunset and how it thrilled everyone all over Sydney 
- finishing SU News and being proud of it, and so encouraged by the stories of love and faithfulness in it
- having a mother who hugs me and prays for me and makes me porridge when I'm feeling a bit crap

28. Where is your favourite place?

I want to go back to Paris and sit in the jewellery-box interior of Saint Chappelle, soaking up the colours of the stained glass, and then go and eat something delicious.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

27. What do you believe?

It seems that question just prompts a creed, really, doesn't it? Here's the Nicene Creed:
We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.
I like the creeds. They're statements of faith that were fought for, and which have been passed down among Christians for hundreds of years. I know with liturgy, people can get into the habit of just saying the words - much like anything in church, I guess, it can be easy to go through the motions and no one really knows what's going on in your heart. But when you stop and read through the creeds, and if you actually believe what they say, they are most enriching and affirming. They remind me of the solid rock on which I stand.

The Nicene creed has a lovely pace, and a wonderful eschatology - reminding us that we're looking for the end of this world and the life of the world to come. Every day I long for Jesus to return and set this crumbling world to rights, to take away mourning and suffering and pain. I rejoice that because I believe, I am already part of God's family and will be part of that new creation forever.

But I didn't always believe all this. Even though I grew up in a Christian home, it took a long time for me to accept this truth for myself and to turn my life around (or let it be turned around!). If you want to know the thinking behind how I got here, check out Two Ways to Live. Or talk to me. I'd love to talk to you about it.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

self care

Self care is hard. It's hard to shake the feeling that it's selfish somehow. But I know from learning how to manage my depression that it's vital, and it's one of the only circuit breakers that works when my mood is on the slide (and even then, it doesn't always stop the slide altogether).

My stress load at work has been large lately, and will remain at that level for more than a month. I was supposed to get up today and go to an event at work to take photos, but when I woke up at 6:30 I just couldn't. I thought my role in the day was probably not vital, so sent my apologies and went back to sleep. Briefly surfaced at 1pm, feeling groggy, and thought I probably shouldn't sleep the whole day, so decided to do some massage study. I fell back asleep for another few hours - but after the reading I did I didn't feel bad about it (but not because reading a textbook makes me sleepy, which it does).

The chapter I was reading was about illness, injury, risk factors for disease. The bit on stress said:
Research has shown that as stresses accumulate, especially if the stress is long term, the individual becomes increasingly susceptible to physical illness, mental and emotional problems, and accidental injuries. . .  
. . .the body mobilises different defence mechanisms when threatened by harmful stimuli (actual or perceived). The [general adaptation syndrome] has three stages: (1) alarm, or the fight-or-flight response, which is the body's initial reaction to the perceived stressor; (2) the resistance reaction, in which the secretion of regulating hormones allows the body to continue fighting or to endure a stressor long after the effects of the alarm reaction have dissipated; and (3) exhaustion, which occurs if the stress response continues without relief. 
In generalised stress conditions, the hypothalamus acts on the anterior pituitary gland to cause the release of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which stimulates the adrenal cortex to secrete glucocorticoid. In addition, the sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system is stimulated by the adrenal medulla, resulting in the release of epinephrine and norepinephrine to assist the body in responding to the stressful stimulus. Unfortunately during periods of prolonged stress, glucocorticosteroids (cortisol) may have harmful side effects, including a diminished immune response, altered blood glucose levels, altered protein and fat metabolism, and decreased resistance to stress. 
Sandy Fritz, Mosby's Fundamentals of therapeutic massage, Elsevier, 2013, p 210
tl;dr: Basically, stress produces hormones to help you deal with a situation, but it's only supposed to be useful for short periods, and if you don't seek relief you can end up with health problems. I know all this but I keep forgetting when I'm in the midst of it.

So if you know you're going to be in a long term stress situation, and you can't get out of it, it's important to do all you can to relieve that, whenever you have the opportunity. So I decided that sleeping all day is not a bad thing. I need to go and get a massage for myself.

26. Review a book you've read recently

The last fiction book I read with my eyes (as opposed to reading by listening to an audiobook) was Alexander McCall Smith's The Forgotten Affairs of Youth. McCall Smith, if you don't know his work, is extremely prolific and has a few different series on the boil (the most famous of which would be The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books featuring Precious Ramotswe). The Forgotten Affairs of Youth is part of the Sunday Philosophy Club series and features another female lead, Isabel Dalhousie. She's the editor of the Review of Applied Ethics, lives in her beloved Edinburgh with her (much younger) fiancĂ© Jamie and their son Charlie.

I think Isabel is basically McCall Smith's vehicle for exploring various ethical and moral dilemmas that interest him; she has a habit of wandering off mid-sentence to think about something completely tangential to the topic at hand, and it's described as one of her quirky character traits. I suspect if you knew someone who did that in real life it would drive you nuts, but I find her quite endearing on the page.

I also find her lifestyle appealing - editor of a journal, collector of art, mother to a small child, engaged to a gorgeous and kind hearted classical musician, independently wealthy due to an inheritance. She reads, thinks, meets with people to chat, works at her niece's deli cafe every now and again, wanders around Edinburgh. It's all very conveniently packaged, even if she does have complications from time to serves me well to remember that she's a fictional character and nobody's life is that neat!

McCall Smith has quite a knack for writing great female characters. Mum is a fan of McCall Smith's books, and has almost all of them, so it's quite nice to have a ready made library to dip in and out of. His style is light, and although there might be shadows throughout the books, everything invariably ends up well. That might sound a bit too smug or neat, but it doesn't come across that way. His books are like drinking a lovely rich, warming cup of hot chocolate.

Friday, 25 July 2014

25. A favourite movie from childhood

It has to be The Slipper and the Rose.

The Cinderella story! High camp! Serious (well kind of serious) angle of politics, mourning the loss of a parent, class struggles! The best Fairy Godmother portrayal ever! Songs by the Sherman brothers, of Mary Poppins fame (I only just discovered this. But the songs are excellent so it's not really a surprise)! A lurid technicolour carriage to take Cinderella to the ball!

Gemma Craven was so beautiful, I just loved her. And Richard Chamberlain just looks like Prince Charming.

Here's the trailer:

Man they did trailers very differently in 1976..."this is entertainment for everyone!"

When we moved to PNG in the 80s, we only had a few video tapes. One had a bunch of Warner Bros cartoons on it (so we got very familiar with Bugs and Daffy). One was Star Wars. And one was The Slipper and the Rose, taped off the television.

I must have watched that tape a thousand times. I had even memorised the ads - Godfreys, Grace Bros, Nescafe - and there were several spots where one of us had accidentally pressed REC instead of PLAY. So in the middle of a song there would be a bit of static, a random scene from some other movie, more static and then back to the song. It was all part of the experience.

I kind of just want to sit in my pyjamas and watch this now. Oh look...someone's uploaded the full movie to youtube...terribly quality upload though...I really should buy it on DVD sometime because I don't have a VCR anymore, but it just won't be the same without those ads and the scene from that 50s musical that I have no idea what it was, but it had people watching a play that had a snowman in it.

Also it's one of those movies that I don't want to watch with anyone else, because I fear they really won't understand why I love it so. Seriously, don't try and convince people of the merits of something you dearly loved from your childhood, unless they also loved it in their own childhood. It just won't translate.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

24. Best TV show to binge watch

Ideally, it will be something that has many seasons, so you can do multiple binges. It won't work for something like Sherlock, for example, with only three or four episodes per season (seriously, what is that? Yes, I know it's quality over quantity, but still).

But it also depends on what you're in the mood for, whether you want to use your brain or just look at the pretty pictures. My faves are The West Wing and Gilmore Girls. Plenty of seasons, plenty of eps, good acting, good writing. One for when brain is switched on, one for when brain is a bit mushy. And they stand up to repeat viewings.

Unsurprisingly, TV bingeing can have adverse effects. I used to do Friends binges with a flatmate, but I actually found it starting to warp my worldview. You wouldn't think that such a lightweight show would have the power to do that, but yep, it was screwing up what I thought a good relationship looked like, and what sort of lifestyle I ought to be aiming for. Very good at making me feel dissatisfied. I can still enjoy it, but not in big chunks.

I tend to binge watch shows while I sew now. I mark how long it takes me to make a bag by how many episodes of whatever show I'm watching - my last Daytripper bag took me eight and a bit episodes of Friday Night Lights. A lot happened to those characters during the creation of that bag.

23. What's your first memory?

This is actually harder than I thought it would be. Do you "remember" certain things, not because you actually do remember them but because they've been talked about so much by your family, or because you've seen a photo?

I think I have a memory of running up the side passage of my grandparents' house in Clovelly, and seeing my grandmother in the sun, pruning the large hydrangea bushes in the small back garden. She died when I was two years old. That must be my memory, because there aren't any photos of it and when I described it to mum, it wasn't anything she had told me.

That's a nice memory to have.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

22. Thoughts on body image

I spent this evening at bellydancing, looking at myself in full length mirrors, thinking about what I would write for this post. Looking at yourself in a mirror as you attempt to dance for an hour is pretty confronting!

But I was quite pleased to think that, actually, I rather like my body. As you know, this hasn't always been the case. But I've realised that the times I have felt terrible about it have been when I either compare myself to others, or when I have thought that people would like me more if I looked a certain way.

Both those thoughts are absolute codswallop. Firstly, I'm me, not anyone else. Nobody else looks like me and I don't look like anyone else. And secondly, if I was only friends with people who liked me because of how I looked, well they wouldn't be great friends, would they?

I get it. It's all very well to know these truths, but so easy to let the insidious, subtle body shaming and negative self talk to creep into your thinking without even realising it. Our relationship with food, fitness and body image in the West is pretty messed up. The messages we get about the sorts of bodies we're supposed to want are so pervasive a lot of the time we don't even recognise that they're being reinforced every time we see a billboard, walk through a shopping centre, turn on the TV, see a magazine cover in the petrol station...and on and on.

But challenging those messages in my own small way has been one of the best things I've ever done, in terms of my self esteem. Here's what works for me:

  • I banned fat talk - I made a conscious decision not to talk about "feeling fat" or labelling myself things like "whale" or saying "I look like the side of a house" or "The diet starts tomorrow" get the idea. No fat talk.
  • I tried to consciously reduce the comments I made about appearance, especially critical ones (both of myself and other people), but even "positive" ones - saying to someone "have you lost weight? You look great!" might seem like a compliment, but it's basically reinforcing the idea that you're only your best self when you're thinner (also they could infer that you're saying they looked like crap before).
  • I put away the scales. I have a vague idea what weight I am now, but no longer obsess over the numbers.
  • Speaking of numbers, I don't care about what size clothes I "should" be, but go for what fits (because clothes sizing is so variable, the number on the tag can become meaningless!) - from Out of Shape by Mel Campbell: "Here's what your size says about you: absolutely nothing. Feeling good about yourself cannot be measured against an arbitrary scale."
  • I enjoy what I eat and choose to only eat things I will enjoy.
  • I move when I can and in a way that will be fun.

Those things might not work for everyone. But that's how I'm kicking it at the moment.

If you are interested in thinking more about this sort of stuff, there's heaps out there to read. Here are some things I've found helpful:

  • Don't compare yourself to celebrities Pinterest board by Teri Modisette - I appreciate the frequent visual reminder that the 'ideal' we're supposed to strive for isn't possible because people in real life aren't photoshopped
  • Why Teri Modisette started the above board part 1 and part 2 - really worth reading!
  • Things you get away with by being skinny by Kate Fridkis - just because someone is thin, doesn't mean they're healthy
  • Health at every size: the surprising truth about your weight by Linda Bacon - I still haven't finished reading this, but it's a very interesting book. I particularly found fascinating the concept that our bodies are wired to maintain a healthy weight, that we have a setpoint weight - "think of it as the preferred temperature on a fat thermostat" - but we keep messing with the setpoint by dieting, and so that inbuilt mechanism doesn't work the way it should anymore. 
  • Out of Shape by Mel Campbell - a book about why it's so hard to find clothes that fit (whether you're large or small).
  • Ha - as I just sat down to write this, this handy guide to body shapes by Gemma Correll popped up on my Facebook feed. I can't decide whether I'm a broken slinky or a turkey leg.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Why should anyone be frightened of a hat?

Next post in the series is supposed to be on body image. I have lots of thoughts on body image as you know. But I am just too fried to write anything decent tonight.

I have mapped out my next six weeks at work and the thought of having to get through it all makes me feel a little sick. There is so much work. But only one me. And it just never seems to end. I don't know how I can go on at this pace. I think when I started at this job there was already enough work to completely fill my time. And in the two and a bit years that I've been there, it feels like it's doubled. How is that possible?

There's that quote, "how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time." Yeah, but you still have to eat an elephant. I would rather let this boa constrictor eat the elephant.

(a page from The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry)

Sunday, 20 July 2014

20. Thoughts on exercise

Ah exercise. Such a wonderful thing. Yet so hard to get excited about for so many of us.

I think it's because of the link between exercise and body image in our current media culture - you should exercise to lose weight and look good, right? Uh, nope.

If you're not someone who feels excited about pulling on lycra and a pair of sneakers, if you (like me) need to basically wear the equivalent of a corset on your upper torso to be able to do anything more energetic than a brisk walk, then certain forms of popular exercise are never going to work. Gyms - I totally understand the appeal, with all the shiny equipment and loud music and the promise of peak physical fitness. They are these glowing beacons of hope - if you just come in here a few times a week, you can become the Perfect Person.

As mum pointed out to me once, gyms in her youth were kind of specialised places that were only really used by people like boxers. The general public would never think to go to a gym. And now in almost every single neighbourhood in Sydney there is at least one gym, if not many more. It is definitely our current cultural obsession. I was in the city the other day and looked up to see a row of people running on treadmills through a large second storey window. Talking Heads' "Road to nowhere" started going through my head. It just looks so futile and joyless.

Ha - while looking for a pic of treadmills, I found this one from Tocal of convicts on a treadmill grinding flour:

I doubt this was promoted as a method for achieving a perfect body in the 1820s - it was actually an alternative to the lash! But at least you got flour at the end of it.

When I'd go on weight loss jags, I joined gyms, got excited and motivated for about two weeks and then my attendance would gradually drop off and I just felt guilty for not going as often as I'd planned. I even had a personal trainer, who did motivate me but who dismissed my concerns when I was feeling sick from the exercise as just making excuses, and was kind of expensive on top of the gym fees.

So I stopped going to the gym. The gym breakup phone call is always so awkward - last time I stopped I thought I had an irrefutable excuse because I was without employment so didn't have the money to pay the membership fees. The woman's response? "But what will you do with all your free time now that you don't have a job? That would be the perfect time to go to the gym." Uh, no lady, it would be the perfect time to find a job. Also, unless you're offering free use of the gym, I can't actually pay you so I don't think you'll welcome me in. Ugh.

Also gyms smell. They just have that stale sweat smell that is embedded into everything. As well as grunts and macho yells from the weights area. And lithe young girls with high ponytails and crop tops who look at you disdainfully as you, twice the size of them, start a light jog on the treadmill beside them. Maybe they think fat is catching or something.

Anyway. Gyms. Not for everyone.

I always liked the idea of boxing though. I liked that release of violent tension. I did a few boxing lessons with that personal trainer and it was fun. I was good at kicking, not so good at punching (I do have very strong legs). I tried boxing with Lachy once when we had the foolish idea that he might be able to train me and it was a bit embarrassing - you probably shouldn't do it with anyone you actually know. But yeah. Although I like the idea of boxing, it isn't really me.

Basically what it comes down to with exercise is finding something that is you. Whether that's doing Jillian DVDs with friends, or going for walks, or jogging around the neighbourhood, or dancing, or stretching don't have to wear lycra. It's not compulsory. Though it can be comfortable.

As I've written about before, my current things are bellydance and yoga and, as a side benefit, massaging (it is quite a good workout!). They're not high impact activities by any means. But I'm moving, getting my heart rate up a little, and having a great time doing it.

I'll just post this photo from the winter hafla cos I love the costumes and how these women look
That's the not-so-secret secret - find something that you enjoy because then it won't be a chore, it won't be something you dread, it won't be something you have to do to achieve a perfect body. You'll be exercising because it feels good to move. Your body was made to move - and it rewards you for moving by a) getting stronger so you can do more stuff and b) releasing happy hormones so you feel good. It's like a big gold star.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Learning stuff

So my massage study hasn't been that thorough over the last few months because of a lack of time, but when I do get a chance to do a bit of study I really enjoy it. I also realise how much information I retained from high school biology, because although a lot of the anatomy stuff is new, so much of it is familiar.

I really loved high school biology. My main memory of it is being in a prac class with a bunch of Chinese boys who were totally squeamish. We were looking at how lungs worked and had sheep lungs or something on the table that we were supposed to inflate by blowing through a tube. They were practically scaling the walls to get away, they were so repulsed, while I was in there having a grand old time. Blowing up sheep lungs. Yup.

I just downloaded an app called Essential Anatomy 4, which allows you to explore all the different systems in the body and is just a fascinating tool, regardless of whether you're studying or not. It makes you realise how much just happens in our bodies that we have absolutely no idea about.

Also the stomach is a lot higher up in the body than I thought it was. *blush*

I am really enjoying the practical massaging side of things too. Even after only nine prac hours, I've noticed how my body has gotten used to the positions it needs to be in. The first couple of times I was a bit achey after giving massages, but now I find it quite relaxing. Someone asked the other day whether it hurt my hands, but it honestly doesn't; we're taught correct hand positions and postures so that we're looking after our own bodies as much as the bodies of the people we're massaging.

George and mum both say they can feel how I'm improving, which is encouraging! And Sammi told me today she thinks I can give up my day job. :D

I have to say thank you to those friends who are acting as massage guinea pigs for me. It's a real privilege to be trusted to work on you! I know you're getting a free massage out of it, but really, I appreciate it so much.

I have to book in to do a first aid course too at some point - I've always meant to do one actually, so I'm kind of looking forward to that.

19. What's your morning routine?

I am not a morning person. My normal cycle is to be up late and wake up late. I do appreciate the joys of being up first thing in the morning every so often, but not every day.

On a work day I get woken up by sleep cycle on my phone (it's great - it roughly works out when you're in the lightest phase of sleep within about half an hour of your set alarm time and wakes you then, rather than on the dot of your alarm time, when you might be in a deeper phase of sleep and feel worse being woken up. I recently was using the regular alarm clock again and noticed a big difference in how I felt when I woke).

I stumble into the kitchen for coffee from my Aeropress and cereal, or if I've been organised and made it in advance, some delicious Bircher muesli (Jamie Oliver's pukolla is a good base to work off - I just add whatever I feel like, cranberries and chia seeds usually). I've been eating Crunchy Nut Cornflakes lately just cos they were in the cupboard (and tasty) but they're not filling enough to get me through the morning at work.

I catch up on the world while I eat, Facebook, Twitter, SMH. This is the bit of my morning routine that should probably be curtailed, as I usually just end up faffing around and running late.

Into the shower, get dressed, grab my stuff, out the door. I hate spending ages getting ready in the morning so often will leave for work with wet hair and figure it'll dry on the commute (and then partway through the day when I go to the bathroom and see myself in the mirror I wonder why I look so messy...but I still haven't learned to put a hairbrush in my bag for such occasions).

On Saturdays and Sundays, I don't wake to an alarm (bliss) and I sit around in my pyjamas for as long as possible!

Friday, 18 July 2014

18. What are you afraid of?

I'm afraid of dropping the ball. There are so many up in the air at any one time. I worry if I miss something I'll disappoint someone, or people will think less of me, or I'll let an opportunity go to waste that may never come again.

Then I remember that my worth doesn't reside in how good a juggler I am, or whether I impress people, or whether I get x, y and z done on time, and that there will always be opportunities in various guises. I still want to try to juggle well, but if occasionally one or two balls fall out of the mix and roll away, the world really won't end. And if people are disappointed, well, that's their problem, really.

It comes down to this image I found on Pinterest, which I absolutely love (and since I'm on a juggling theme I thought of circuses):

Thursday, 17 July 2014

17. What makes you laugh?

Pretty much everything makes me laugh. I have a very low laughter threshold. If you tell a dad joke, no matter how lame, I will probably laugh at it. If you're speaking in front of a group of people and you try to joke but it's a tough crowd, my cackle will probably carry across the room. I'm a handy person to have in an audience. Maybe it's just because I want people to feel good about themselves.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

16. A perfect day

I wake up when I am ready to (not too early, not too late), at just the right temperature, feeling well rested. I don't need to rush to be anywhere, but can sit quietly in my pyjamas, eating breakfast, catching up on online stuff. Or not.

It's a sunny day, but cool. I go out for morning tea/brunch with mum and/or a friend or two. Somewhere near the water, with good coffee and ricotta pancakes or similar. Time for a stroll perhaps, while talking about life, the universe and everything.

In the afternoon, I go to a calm, quiet and beautiful spa and have a massage. With hot rocks. Maybe there are Japanese hot and cold pools to luxuriate in. Yes, I think there are.

In the evening, I get dressed up in fine clothes and go out for dinner somewhere special - with whom I don't know. Someone who makes me feel good. But what I do know is that there will be excellent dessert. And wine.

I get home and take my makeup off and by some domestic magic there are crisp, clean sheets on the bed. I nestle down into the bedclothes, read some chapters of an excellent book and drift off to sleep.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

15. If you could spend an hour talking with anyone alive today, who would it be and why?

All the people I want to hang out with are authors. Robin Hobb, Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood or Anne Lamott. I think I could sit somewhere quiet drinking tea with any of them. I just like the way they see the world, and I love the way they write, and just hanging out with them would be great. We wouldn't even have to talk about anything important.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

13. Your family

I started a family tree on Ancestry a while ago, just because I find that sort of thing mildly interesting (but only mildly). It's interesting that I know much more about the family on mum's side of the family, helped by a distant relative doing a detailed (if flawed) genealogy book a few years ago. On that side I can trace the family back to when they emigrated to Australia from the UK.

Dad's side of the family is a bit vague. I'd quite like to explore it, but I don't really know where to start. I've only got information going back to my grandparents, which isn't very far. Websites like Ancestry are very Western-centric, so they haven't been any help. It's all kind of shrouded in mystery and feels a bit Joy Luck Club-ish.

This is what my immediate family looks like:

I live with my mum. My brother lives in Sydney. My dad, his wife and my half-siblings live in Malaysia. I have extended family in NSW, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, Malaysia, Singapore and the UK.

Looking at a family tree can be a bit of a weird experience. Each little box has its own story, and the person named in that box is the protagonist of that story. But looking at them all mapped out, they're just reduced to names and dates. I feel a bit sad (no, sad is too strong...melancholy?) that there aren't any extra lines sprouting off from my name, starting a new generation, but I guess that's just how it is - and my life is certainly much more than that little box!

I think that's why I find the genealogies in the Bible interesting (even though they're the bane of every person who has to read the Bible aloud in church). Each person named is a link in a chain leading through the family of God to Jesus - and on to those of us who believe, I guess. Being part of a wide spiritual family with eternal roots is great comfort when I think about our messy earthly families and the fact that I may never be able to add to my biological family. Sometimes I also think of the ways it is possible to influence and mess up a child and I am glad I don't have to worry about that!

12. An image you love

Oops forgot to post yesterday.

I was thinking more of famous paintings or photographs when I wrote this prompt. But I actually found it really difficult to think of an image I loved.

But when I was thinking of personal photos, this one popped into my head as the clear winner. Me and my mum, taken by my dad.

We clearly got each other, even back then.

Friday, 11 July 2014

11. What did you do in the last three hours?

So in the last three hours...

Friday is a work at home day. I did some colouring in in Illustrator to finalise a decal for our Kombi van - it's going to be used for our SUPA Clubs, possibly as a mobile puppet theatre, filled with balloons and fun. Here is an artist's rendition (er, my rendition) of what it will look like (I hope):

I'm rather fond of it. My first vehicle wrap!

Mum has Fridays off so we decided to take a lunch break at Gasolina. I was rather enjoying sitting in the sun, and we ordered coffee and club sandwiches. And then two women came and sat at the table next to us, blocked the sun, talked very loudly and lit cigarettes and kept looking over at us, as though we were eavesdropping on them (which we weren't, well, not intentionally). We couldn't finish our lunch anyway (it was huge) but their presence didn't make us want to linger. How is it that some people just take up all the available space? It's baffling.

So we bought cronuts to take away and came home.

And now, back to work.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

10. Where would you like to go that you've never been?

I'd like to go to Edinburgh around festival time.

I'd like to go to Barcelona.

I'd like to go to New York and San Francisco.

I'd like to go around the French and Italian countrysides.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

9. What do you wish you could do (if money, time and ability were no object)?

When I wrote this question in the list of prompts for the month, I was thinking along the lines of "run a marathon" or "climb a mountain" or something kind of physical. Actually I was really thinking about Matrix-type skilling up -

But today I've got a cold and am feeling like even if I could run a marathon I don't want to. So I will sidestep that.

I would like to travel and explore and write things in interesting places and take amazing photographs and write books about it. Kind of like a travel writer. But not an on-a-shoestring, here are the places you must go kind of travel writer, let's be clear here. I would want to stay in beautiful places and travel by comfortable means and not have to worry about how the bills were getting paid at home and just write about experiences and people and history and how places feel and all of that.

I would like to explore. And also rest (hence the staying in lovely places bit). And, after I've rested, explore some more.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

8. A favourite movie quote

If I could I would pretty much just quote When Harry met Sally in its entirety. It's my favourite movie. Every other romantic comedy is stupid by comparison. I just love Nora Ephron's script!

I love the interstitial scenes with the old couples telling how they met.
Woman: Well, he was the head counsellor and the boys' camp and I was the head counsellor at the girls' camp, and they had a social one night, and he walked across the room. I thought he was coming to talk to my friend Maxine, 'cos people were always crossing rooms to talk to Maxine. But he was coming to talk to me, and he said... 
Man: I'm Ben Small of the Coney Island Smalls. 
Woman: At that moment I knew. I knew the way you know about a good melon.
I love Harry and Sally's self absorbed friends, Jess and Marie.
Marie: If we had an extra room you could put all of your things including your bar stools. 
Jess: No, honey, wait, wait, wait, honey, honey, wait, wait, wait... you don't like my bar stools? (To Harry) Harry, come on, someone has to be on my side. 
Marie: I'm on your side, I'm just trying to help you have good taste. 
Jess: I have good taste! 
Marie: Everybody thinks they have good taste and a sense of humour but they couldn't possibly all have good taste.
I love Harry and Sally's frustrating yet affectionate friendship. I love Sally's neuroses and Harry talking her down when she goes off on a rant.
Sally: He just met her... She's supposed to be his transitional person, she's not supposed to be the ONE. All this time I thought he didn't want to get married. But, the truth is, he didn't want to marry me. He didn't love me. 
Harry: If you could take him back now, would you? 
Sally: No. But why didn't he want to marry me? What's the matter with me? 
Harry: Nothing. 
Sally: I'm difficult. 
Harry: You're challenging. 
Sally: I'm too structured, I'm completely closed off. 
Harry: But in a good way. 
Sally: No, no, no, I drove him away. AND, I'm gonna be forty. 
Harry: When? 
Sally: Someday. 
Harry: In eight years. 
Sally: But it's there. It's just sitting there, like some big dead end. And it's not the same for men. Charlie Chaplin had kids when he was 73. 
Harry: Yeah, but he was too old to pick them up.
After this banter they sleep together and it messes things up for a while (because "men and women can never be friends cos the sex part always gets in the way"). But of course it all works out well in the end.
Harry: I love that you get cold when it's 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you're looking at me like I'm nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it's not because I'm lonely, and it's not because it's New Year's Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.
Ah, that's some good writing.

Monday, 7 July 2014

7. What did you want to be when you were a kid?

I wanted to be an author. Or, as my brother would have said at the time, I wanted to "auth" books.

I love writing but I haven't written fiction for a few years now. I still don't know why that is. I stopped getting joy out of writing stories, and I didn't really know what I wanted to say in a longer form piece. I was good at writing characters but not so good at plot, and that frustrated me. I started this fantasy story with all these excellent characters that I loved, and they gathered together at this meeting place and then -

Nothing. I couldn't work out what they ought to do. There wasn't anything they needed to discover or fight for that seemed important. So they are still stranded at that semi-circular village on the edge of a forest, waiting for me to come back to them.

Mum, every so often, looks wistful and says, "I'd just love for you to write a book." I would love that too, but for some reason the creative energy I have at the moment doesn't extend to stories. I'm glad I still blog, and writing here daily has been a great reminder that words come pretty easily to me, when they don't to everyone.

But as I say to people when they ask me about it, at least you can only improve as a writer as you learn more about life. It's not like I was trying to be a ballet dancer and I've missed my peak years. I'll get back to it. One day.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

6. What makes you feel good?

Today what made me feel good was going to the winter hafla at Amera's Palace in Marrickville and bellydancing in front of an audience for the first time!

My normal class size is about 8-10 women, but our routine was combining all the Inspire Bellydance fundamentals classes so there ended up being 30+ people and we didn't all fit in the performance area! But even though it was squashy, I think everyone had a great time and in the end there were so many of us, you didn't need to feel worried that people would notice any mistakes!

It was so much fun. I haven't seen much live bellydance, so it was a real treat to sit there for a couple of hours and see the teachers, students and guests perform. And it was so wonderful to have a room full of women in gorgeous costumes, feeling great and looking fantastic.

Things I love about bellydance:
  • it feels so good to do
  • you find out about all sorts of muscles that you didn't know you had
  • it's great exercise without being boring or feeling especially exercisey
  • you start getting much better co-ordinated / more in control of your body
  • people of all different ages, shapes and sizes do it
  • the heavy beat of the music
  • everyone there today had huge smiles on their faces!
I will always be grateful to Georgina for suggesting we go and do it all those years ago in Rozelle. I love my current class; the women are so friendly and we laugh like crazy every week. Other classes I've been to have been enjoyable in terms of the dancing, but the group hasn't gelled quite like this one.

So if you're near Kingsgrove (and you're a woman) you should come join my class next term! But even if you're not near Kingsgrove, Inspire Bellydance (my school) has classes all over Sydney. 

Me and my teacher, Jess

Saturday, 5 July 2014

5. Who was your favourite band/singer as a teenager?

I can never tease a One Direction fan, or even a Belieber. When I was a teenager, I was madly in love with...


Oh yes. I was obsessed with platinum blond twins Matt and Luke Goss and their brunet bass player friend, Craig (do you know, I have only just wondered whether there was a male version of 'brunette', and apparently brunet is it, but it looks...weird). And that's how little I thought about Craig, I just had to look up his surname, which is Logan.

My bedroom was festooned with Bros posters. I wanted chunky Doc Martens with Grolsch beer bottle tops instead of laces, just like the boys wore (even if I had no idea what Grolsch was). I wanted to rip and bleach my jeans. I danced around my room, singing, quite a lot (but I also re-enacted and sang large portions of Les Miserables...I was a fantastic Eponine).

We had just moved back to Australia from Singapore, and my best friend in Singapore, Suzie, was also obsessed with Bros. So we would send each other clippings from magazines like TV Hits and Smash Hits (which I don't think even exist anymore), and long rambling letters about how ace Bros were, about Matt's growls, about Luke's drumming, about how Craig never seemed to smile, and wasn't that a bit odd? This was pre-internet, of course, so you couldn't just go to fan sites or watch videos on youtube. You had to scour the trashy mags for any mention of your heroes and sit avidly in front of the TV on a Saturday morning, flicking between Rage and Video Hits, hoping that one of their clips would show, VCR remote in hand so you could record them if you were lucky (I told this to Anusha at church last week and she was astounded that such a time existed).

And get this - I even won a creative writing competition at a local bookstore by writing a short story based on the video clip of Cat amongst the pigeons. Yes that's right, kids. Your original fan fictioner, right here. (You'll be pleased to know that the book I got with the gift voucher from the bookstore was a lovely edition of Lord of the Rings. I wasn't entirely without hope.)

I was quite delighted to see Luke Goss as a baddie in Hellboy II. I don't think I remember anything else about that movie.

Here is I owe you nothing (it's not quite a rickroll because I'm telling you about it in advance and you have the option not to watch it, but it's a similar vintage). Don't ask me why I loved it. Words cannot explain (nor logic).

Friday, 4 July 2014

4. Three life tips

1. Practice gratitude
I love this poster, which I got after the Goodness Gracious Me workshop. I was actually quite surprised to find that life really does become more wonderful when you practice gratitude - I think it's about being other person centred, being outwardly focused, rather than focusing on yourself, on your dissatisfactions, on your lacks.

And reading Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts helped me see how much around me there was to be grateful for, in the everyday, in the big and small, in the hard and the easy.

As an exercise, grab a notebook, or a piece of paper, or open a blank document on your computer, and write down some things you're thankful for right now. It will help you to stop, slow down, and really notice what is going on around you. I've found it can help make it easier to get through tough days. You don't have to show anyone, though I found that people really liked my Bec's List of Gratitude! It's encouraging to others to read what you're grateful for. The list is still going in my head, even though I haven't blogged any for a while. I might do it every now and again but stop numbering them - because there are so many things to be grateful for, they are really without number!

2. Look after yourself physically
I don't mean become a gym junkie or a diet nut, because if you know me at all, you know that those things can become unhealthy obsessions or excuses for feeling bad about yourself.

No, I mean do little things that will make you physically feel good, and chances are it'll be good for your mental health too. Some things that help me - sleep, eat good food, do a bit of fun exercise, have the occasional massage, drink lots of water, moisturise my skin, brush my hair, sit in the sun, scrub and moisturise my feet and hands (amazing how good this feels in winter), laugh.

Mattie sez, "Sit in the sun, it's good for your coat."

3. Create something
I know not everyone is a crafter, or you might feel like you're not creative. But everyone has a little creativity in them, and to create is such a satisfying thing. Whether it's making a birthday card for someone, baking a cake, sewing a quilt, growing vegetables, knitting a scarf, building a sandcastle, recording a podcast, cooking a delicious meal...there are many ways to make things. Creating things gives you a sense of satisfaction, makes you feel that you are contributing to the world and not just consuming, and often brings joy to other people. You can also learn new things and that's always good too!

A time I made candles. Such fun!

Thursday, 3 July 2014

3. A favourite song

Notice I say 'a' favourite song, not 'your all time' favourite song. It's too hard to pick favourites of anything, I think, unless you only like one genre of whatever. If you like lots of stuff across lots of media and lots of genres then you probably get the same blank face as I do when someone says, "so what's your favourite band/movie/song/book?" It was much easier when I was a teenager, because at that age you develop obsessions that are much narrower (but that's a topic for later this month).

So a favourite song. Amazing Life by Clare Bowditch, from the album The winter I chose happiness.

I actually haven't listened to it for a while, but it's one of those simple songs that just grabbed me when I first heard it. Clare plays it at her conferences because it just resonates with so many of us creative types. It's the song I cried through when I was sitting right in front of her at the BHB Morning Tea last year. The lyrics:

You want to write a novel, make beautiful music
Act in the theatre with inspiring humans
Learn a language and run like the wind
Help people fit in,
Travel to every country and make a million dollars
And smile when your children have babies
Make the heart your home, inviting and warm
You want an amazing life
But you can't decide
You think you have to be fully formed already
Don't you?
You want an amazing life
But you can't decide
You don't have to be just one thing
But you have to start with something
You'll be a little bit older in October
You've reneged on your pre-birth promise
Now you think that the story is over
Let me encourage you to know
You will feel it when it is over
It feels like hell
Take it as a sign you need time to be still and listen for a while
You want this amazing life
But you can't decide
You think you have to be fully formed already
Don't you?
You want an amazing life
But you can't decide
You don't have to be just one thing
But you have to start with something

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

2. This month at a glance

This month I'll be:
  • visiting ministries - I'm going up to Springwood tomorrow to hang out with the crew at the ISCF Leadership Conference. On Saturday I'm going to take photos at the party celebrating 60 years of Huskisson SUFM. On Monday I'll be popping in to a training day for the ISCFers at North Sydney Boys and Girls. There's also Directors' Training Day later in the month, when the leaders from all the mission teams in the state get together for singing, eating, training and catching up. And right at the end of the month, we're holding an evening event for SUPA club leaders, and launching a resource kit which I've had a bit of a hand in designing. I don't get out from behind my desk very often to meet with the volunteers who are involved in Scripture Union ministries and that's something I want to do more of (even though the introvert in me would rather stay behind the desk!). Seems like July is the month to do it!
  • performing - Well, just once. This Sunday marks my first time performing with my bellydance class, a short routine we've been learning all term to a drum solo called "Saidi Hani Mhanna". We're performing at the winter hafla, which is basically just a big party where there will be students from our bellydancing school and others, as well as professional performers.
  • massaging - I'm slowly getting back into massage study - it took a bit of a back seat for a month or so while other things were going on. But I've got some bookings in to get my log book hours up. I can feel my own body getting used to the postures I need to adopt to protect my own back while massaging, and mum says I'm getting more confident. It also makes me feel good to make other people feel good - that's why I was interested in studying it in the first place.
  • marketing - I was recently invited to join the Royal Markets at the Royal Albert Hotel in Surry Hills, and I think I'll be going along on 27 July for the first time (though I haven't confirmed this yet)
That's quite enough to be going on with!

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

1. Half year review

The year is half over! Here are some things that happened for me:

  • Started off with camping and fireworks on Cockatoo Island (man that feels so long ago now!)
  • Getting stuck into improving my sewing skills and thinking about how I could make TalulaMei a going concern

  • Seeing Miranda Hart live
  • Tried out selling at Glebe Markets and realised that not all markets are equal
  • Did the introductory massage course at ACM and decided I liked it

  • Went to the Goodness Gracious Me workshop and thought a lot about the importance of gratitude in a healthy life
  • LIFE series run by our church, and getting to talk with A about life and faith a bit more
  • Autumn Spire Market

  • Started singing at church again after a few months off
  • John Mayer's excellent concert with Anna and Elsie and others
  • Farewelled my old boss, Mark
  • Staff retreat at Faulconbridge and meeting my new boss, Jeff

  • A weekend in Melbourne for the Big Hearted Business unconference - confirmation that I want to pursue a creative life and affirmation that it is possible
  • Wonderfully relaxing holiday in Singapore with mum
  • Less relaxing trip back to Malaysia for my grandmother's funeral

  • Supanova - selling Kinds of Blue and Eternal Life and getting to hear the wonderful Robin Hobb read an excerpt from her upcoming novel
  • Winter Spire Market
What big things happened in the first half of this year for you?