Ditching the car

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I was walking home from my local shops this morning, the winter sun shining, groceries and a birthday present swinging by my side, and I thought about how much I enjoy not having to jump in the car to run all my errands anymore. When the kids were younger and at school, taking the car was a necessity. The days’ activities ran to a tight schedule and it seemed that the extra twenty minutes it would take me to walk to and from the shops was time that I could not spare.

When my girl got her licence last year, there were some rumblings from the younger people in the house that we may need to add another car to our two-car household. That would have been a COMPLETE waste of their money. We’re fortunate where we live that we have two train stations within fifteen minutes walk, and a tram stop five minutes walk away. The kids get the train to and from uni and to their part time jobs, so WHY  would we need another car? I was determined not to give them any ammunition in their car-seeking mission so I decided I would put on my walking shoes or break out the myki whenever any potential conflicting car driving demands could arise.

I remember reading some time ago that our ex-PM, Tony Abbott, wrote in his book Battlelines that we should always invest in roads rather than public transport because people would always prefer to travel in cars because “The humblest person is king in his own car.” Apparently that is because we can choose whichever radio station we want to listen to in our own car. Think earbuds may have blown that argument out of the water, Tony! I can pop those in on my walk, or on the tram or train, and feel quite queenly! On the tram or the train I can read a book which gives me even greater mastery, or mistress-y, of my domain! And I like not having to battle the traffic. Perhaps I am the master of my own car, but this gives me no power to find a path through traffic congestion!

I enjoy not having to always isolate myself in my car. I like getting in and out amongst the people! I like walking along the street, looking at people’s gardens, noticing any changes in my surrounds. There’s a sense of connectedness to the community that comes from walking to do my shopping, or from travelling to and from my activities on the tram or the train. I think about how we’re all heading to our different destinations and going about our daily lives.

I like my car. I wouldn’t give it up. But I like that I can now think ‘Do I need to take the car?’ For that time I’m out walking or sitting reading, watching, listening on the train, life slows down just that little bit.

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In praise of equanimity

 

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Here’s a thing that happened the other day. I had a bit of a bingle in the car. Well, my man’s car. Which is a much more expensive type than my car. Eep! I was turning left at an intersection I have been through HUNDREDS of times, when all of a sudden, THWACK!! ‘What the f*** was that?’ may have been my exclamation. I guess it was my fault – I assume I mustn’t have given way – but I honestly have no idea where she came from.  Anyhoo, we pulled over to do the whole name, contact, insurance details thingy, and I braced myself for a bit of a tirade. How wrong I was!

’I’m so sorry! I don’t know how I didn’t see you,’ I offered up as soon as I was out of the car, hoping to placate her anger.

’Don’t worry! It’s fine. It was an accident.’

Wow! That was it! She was so chill. And she was right. Of course it was an accident. I wouldn’t have intentionally pulled in fromt of her. I must have had a lapse in concentration. Or perhaps she was speeding. Or she turned on a red light. I don’t know. I didn’t see her until it was too late. But in this age of quick to anger reactions, her response was so refreshing. And appreciated. And a fantastic example to her young son who she had with her.

I texted her later in the day with the insurance claim details and apologised once again.

‘It’s ok. It was an accident.’

Wouldn’t it be fab if everyone responded with such kindness and understanding to tense situations?

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Taking Stock: April ‘18

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Hey gang! Do you see those two small magnolia little gems? And the statice in the front? I PLANTED THEM! Yep, I did. With a little bit of help from my dad because he has a shovel. I actually found out the day after we planted them that I have a shovel too but because I garden so infrequently, I had actually forgotten I had one! Anyhoo, since the rediscovery of my shovel I have planted three more little gems and a camellia – for some winter colour. I don’t know what’s come over me but all of a sudden I feel the enthusiasm for giving the house a good sprucing up. The STUFF in the roof is being sorted, donated and pitched, the outside light my man has always disliked is being replaced, and I’m wandering around inspecting flyscreens and cupboards and *nodding* ‘hmm, that needs to be repaired.’ Maybe it’s a reverse nesting thing that happens when the big ‘M’ hits! Aah, hormones! You do keep us entertained! So, in amongst all this reorganising and beautifying of my environment, I felt it appropriate to do a bit of a stocktake of life.

Eating: homemade creamy chicken soup. LOVE!

Making: lots of cups of tea for everyone in the house. Gosh it’s taken a bit to get my head around having the family around during the week this year! My man is working from home LOTS more, the boy is doing his thesis so not many uni hours, and the girl is in and out – but I’m trying to embrace it because I know moving out days may be on the horizon.

Cooking: chicken with basil and tomatoes for dinner

Drinking: peppermint tea

Reading: Call My By Your Name for book club. I haven’t seen the movie. Have you? What did you think? And I’m flicking through Frankie and Look What We Made

Hearing: the dishwasher sloshing, the pool filter whirring

Watching: quite a lot of Harry Styles clips because my girl keeps shoving them before my eyes! Which is fine! He seems talented, and nice, and plays a good tune. She went to the Melbourne concert and touched his suit! I asked her how it felt – ‘expensive!’

Seeing: a beautiful, blue autumn sky

Noticing: the stillness of the day outside

Disliking: the mess the corellas have been making of our streets. They have been carpeted with the pecked over remains of the pods from the plane trees. And the pods themselves! Out on my morning walks, I’ve had to be careful walking under the trees as the birds are sitting up there, pecking away, sending the pods raining onto the footpath.

Cringing: at the very thought that Trump could be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize over the whole Korea thing. I was reading in the paper this morning about how his unorthodox approach may have brought the two Koreas together and persuaded the North to demilitarise – although we do have to wait to see if this actually happens.

Wondering: whether to watch season 2 of  The Handmaid’s Tale. I loved the first season and the book but now that it is going beyond the novel’s end, I’m not sure if I risk spoiling my memories by watching season 2. I did read somewhere that Margaret Atwood gave it the thumb’s up, so maybe? Have you watched it?

Pondering: ageing! Maybe it’s because of the ‘M’ thing. Maybe it’s because lots of my friends are hitting the big 5-0, and some the big 6-0. It’s weird. My body still feels the same, and I don’t think I LOOK much different, but apparently the insides are telling a different picture. One of my friends is in the process of having her cataracts attended to. Isn’t that something that happens to old people? I look at pictures of my mum when she was my age – I’d made her a grandmother by then (we were both child brides 😉) and she looked much more mature (though not old) than I THINK I look. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe people in the street are looking at me and thinking ‘oh, yep, she’s nearing the seniors club.’

Thinking: I need to sort out my trolley full of wool

Opening: my front door a lot so that I can keep putting things on the nature strip for the hard rubbish collection

Looking: at lots of pictures of the royal family. And I don’t care what anyone thinks! Okay, William and Harry have never had to contend with living in poverty, but they had some crappy family stuff to deal with at a young age and it seems to me they’ve turned out to be pretty well-balanced people. And so I’m happy to see them making their own happy families. There’s nothing wrong for feeling happy that other people are happy, is there?

Wishing: the council would do weekly green bin collections in autumn. I have SO MANY BAGS of leaves that I’ve raked up and cannot fit into my bin. Don’t get me wrong. I love autumn, and I love my colourful fallen leaves but they can get slippery underfoot so I need to have a way to be able to get rid of them regularly.

Liking: that my man is feeling better. Bit of a tummy bug over the weekend so good to have that out of the system.

Feeling: chuffed to have sold a few of my weavings! One has even made it’s way over to New York! Love thinking that some of my work is in one of my favourite cities!

How’s your April been, chicks? Has the spring/autumn cleaning bug hit you too?

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Easter chillin’

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What are you doing this Easter? Are you heading out of town? Are you in your pjs watching Netflix? Are you drinking tea and eating your body weight in hot cross buns and chocolate eggs? I’ll probably do a little bit of all of that.

There’s something very quiet and calming about the Easter break for me. Is it the same for you? I’m not a particularly religious person but I do like to treat Good Friday as a quiet day – a day to potter at home, read, craft, spend time with the fam. Today my boy and I had a chat for a couple of hours. So lovely! Don’t get that opportunity often when they’re grown ups!

For us, unlike Christmas, there’s no fancy meals to prepare, no rush to clean the house for visitors, no preparing to take off on holidays. Easter is a nice few days to mooch around and inhale a big breath before heading forth into the coming cooler months.

Enjoy your Easter, chums, whatever your plans are!

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Do I dare change our Christmas traditions?

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See our Christmas wreath? It’s the same one I’ve pulled out of the cupboard since before my man and I had our kids. And the Christmas lilies? Every year they stand happily in the same vase in the hallway. I remember one year, after I was a little tardy in my Christmas lily buying, my boy saying ‘ah, now it smells like Christmas!’ when they finally made their appearance. Traditions are important, right? They bind us to our family. They bind us to our culture. But I have a question. Well, two. What do you do when traditions start feeling routine? Are you allowed to tweak them?

Here’s our situation. We have a small family. There’s me, my man and our now-grown-up boy and girl. My man and I each have one un-partnered sibling, and then there’s my parents and my man’s mum and her husband. My mother-in-law’s family is all in the UK. With such a little bunch of us, and with no-one having to juggle competing family demands, it makes sense for us to all do Christmas together. And since our family of four sits in the centre of both extended families, and our house has the most suitable space – and a pool – we host the day. When the kids were younger this was great – no need to ferry between different houses and they didn’t need to be parted from their pressies.  The day has a routine. Everyone arrives, drinks are poured, the usual seats are plonked down into, presents are distributed and opened. ‘Thank yous’ and nods are shared around the room and the nibblies I’ve prepared are eaten before we sit down at our thoughtfully arranged places *wink*, crack open the Christmas bonbons and try to get the streamers from the poppers to drape from the light fitting that hangs above the table. There’s seafood for entree, ham and turkey with roast potatoes, various salads then plum pudding studded with the old thr’pences and shillings that belonged to my nanna. By 4pm everyone is ‘full to pussy’s bow’ and the male members of the family seem to have flaked out around various rooms in the house (not quite sure why this is when it is my mum and me doing the food prep!). But after eighteen years of doing the hosting bit, with the same crowd, I’m starting to feel like some of the excitement has gone from the day. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and I feel blessed that I have been able to spend every Christmas Day with my parents and my brother for so many years. And my man has been able to spend it with his brother and mum, and each set of grandparents has been able to spend it with their only grandchildren. How fortunate are we? But now that we don’t have the Christmas energy of little people infusing our day, I feel like we need to do something different to give the day a bit of a rev up. But how far can you break with tradition without ruining the day?

Could I throw some snags and chicken on the barbie, and as long as there are pressies and bonbons would that be enough to make it feel like Christmas? Could I change it from lunch to dinner? Could we all go to a restaurant for lunch?

Last year, I decided to scrap the entree and just go for more substantial pre-lunch nibbles. I thought this might leave a little more room in our tums so that we could actually enjoy eating some pudding! My mum seemed a little hesitant when I suggested this but I think it worked okay! This year I’m adding an ice-cream plum pudding to the dessert menu after my boy said that he finds the traditional one a little filling at the end of the meal. My mum suggested we could ditch the pudding for something like a lemon tart (we’re not a pav family) but I think for my brother and my English mother-in-law, it wouldn’t be Christmas without a pud! We only ever have turkey at Christmas so it wouldn’t feel quite the same without that on the table.

And that would be the worst thing. To have a Christmas Day that doesn’t feel like Christmas – even if the day isn’t as thrilling or exciting as I remember it as a child, or when own boy and girl were little. Maybe it’s not the traditions I need to tweak, but the way I think about it. This is what Christmas is for us and this is what holds us together as a family. One day, I assume, I’ll have to share my kids – and grandkids! – with other families on Christmas Day so perhaps it’s best that I not tamper with our traditions too much in the meantime. Maybe some extra baubles hanging around the house, an updated Christmas playlist and that ice cream plum pudding are all we need.

Have you ever changed your traditions? Did it work? Or did it make you yearn for the way it was?

I hope you have a happy Christmas Day however you celebrate.

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Taking Stock: September ’17

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I may be a crafty type and an arts lover but gee, I’m also a big footy fan and today is the AFL Grand Final! As a Hawks supporter I’ve been lucky enough to see plenty of premierships, but today it’s the rest of the family going through Grand Final anxiety! Thirty seven years since the Tigers last premiership – my man was there as a 14 year old! – and the first time my boy and girl have seen their team in a Grand Final! They’ve headed down to the Tigers’ home ground to watch on the live screen with thousands of other Tiges supporters. With the house to myself, and before the match hits the screen here, I’ll do a quick ‘Taking Stock’. Thanks Pip for the inspiration!

Watching: lots of footy preview shows!

Reading: Ache by Eliza Henry Jones and footy analyses

Cooking: pasta for dinner, I think

Eating: cheesymite scroll – because it’s yellow and black

Making: an arc-y weaving

Hearing: the washing machine beeping at the end of its cycle

Getting: over a cold

Feeling: butterflies in my tummy

Hoping: for a Tigers win, of course!

Looking: at my pile of ironing

Smelling: the lingering aroma of cheese toasties

Needing: to proof read my boy’s history research project

Wishing: that we weren’t switching to daylight savings this weekend. It’s too early for me!

Noticing: how nice and tidy my garden looks since the huge clean up I gave it yesterday

Enjoying: watching the little charges I work with developing their skills and imaginations

Thinking: it would be nice to have a holiday

Needing: a drink – tea or water will suffice. Feeling a little parched

Wearing: nothing with red or blue! Don’t want to appear to be in any supporting the Crows!

And that’s September! Hope yours has been a good one! GO TIGES!!!

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Tell me a story

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I’ve been thinking about stories a bit in the past few weeks. When I was little I loved reading stories that allowed me to escape my small, conscientious, timid life. I delighted in the rebellious escapades of the naughtiest girl in the school.  I marvelled at what it would be like to be as bold and adventurous as the Famous Five, the Secret Seven, Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden. Gosh, my mum wouldn’t let me play outside in our unfenced front garden, and I was only permitted to walk home from school via the side streets rather than along the main road (okay, it was the era of some strange child abductions but still…). My anxious, pimply, adolescent self longed to be one of the girls in the Sweet Dreams novels. Imagine being asked to ‘go steady’ and wear a letterman jacket! As a suburban Melbourne girl, I’m not quite sure I actually knew what that meant but it was clearly the pinnacle of teenage boy-girl relationships. Stories were for entertainment and escapism. True stories? Blah! So boring! Where was the fun in reading about other people’s lives? It all seemed way too earnest to my younger self. I did enough ‘learning’ at school. I didn’t need it when I snuggled down under my blankets at night or was wiling away the school holidays.

But, of course, as we add more years to our lives, our tastes can broaden and change. I still love reading novels and short stories for entertainment and escapism but I have come to appreciate the rewards of reading about the lives of others. A few weeks back, I went to the opening night of the Emerging Writers’ Festival. Melanie Cheng, who was the winner of the 2016 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript, spoke to the audience and she had a great line about writers being the “personal trainers of empathy”. I loved that! It made me think about some of the writers whose stories I have been reading recently, not just in book form but also online, and how they have helped open my eyes and understanding of life experiences different from my own. I have thought about Magda and how societal attitudes contributed to the pain that tortured her as she sought to accept her sexuality, Maxine’s many encounters with racist attitudes in Australia, and why representation of diversity in the media is so important to Carly. I challenge anyone to read the personal stories in They Cannot Take the Sky or to listen to The Messenger podcast and not understand the damage the Australian government is inflicting upon asylum seekers (disclosure: I provide transcribing assistance to Behind the Wire). I have remembered the blog posts Sarah and Amanda have shared about anxiety and MS and how they have reflected experiences in my own life.

Reading – or listening – to the stories of other people’s lives is not about escapism. It is about staring life in the face. Sometimes that can be confronting. At other times, it can be comforting.

There have been times when I have wondered about blogging. What is the point of it all? What am I writing about? For what purpose? Perhaps you have felt that too. Maybe we should reassure ourselves that whenever we write, we are telling a story about part of our life. It is a way to connect with others – and even if that is only with one reader – in sharing our stories we are opening the door to understanding and empathy.

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