We all know it’s gonna come, don’t we? As true as Autumn (or Fall, for you American types) follows Summer, we know there will eventually be blue skies, blossom, buzzing insects, a warm breeze soft against your skin.
I’ve see this happen more than 50 times now.
And every time, it takes me by surprise.
I actually quite enjoy winter, here in Melbourne. You’ve probably heard our reputation of having “four seasons in one day”; its not too far from the truth. Winter here still consists of blue skies occasionally, rain occasionally, bitter cold winds occasionally, grey skies rather more frequently than that. We welcome the warmer days, and tolerate the not so nice. We rug up and wear warm jumpers, sometimes coats, and head outside to watch our footy teams battle it out on the football ovals. We sit too close to the open fire and need to remove a scarf or a hat, cosy and warm. Most of us have no idea what a European winter can be – or if we have been there, we have long forgotten rushing from heated department store to heated cafe, discarding hats, scarves, coats and outer layers to acclimatise, then spending time redressing before braving the cold again.
So – winter here is not so bad… and then August. And September.
It starts, for me, with the pink plum blossom. All of a sudden, there is a rosy blush over suburbia – in parks, backyards and on nature strips, As a preteen, I was so taken with the beauty of the flowers, I picked a bunch for my mother from the local park. She lovingly placed them in a vase and I admired them for the fortnight before the flowers fell off and I went back to school for my last term of primary school.
The Cootamundra Wattle, of John Williamson fame, is another spring herald as a grown up.
Pretty, yellow balls of hayfever!! In my other life as a telephone triage nurse, I am reminded of their presence daily. I love their cheerful colour, grey green leaves and the contrast with the blueness of a Melbourne sky. A favourite with birdlife.
The Cats (Zoie and Bella) also know that Spring is upon us. A winter of snuggling on laps, creeping onto beds in the still of night, keeping me and my oil heater company during shifts in the wee small hours and nimbly doing a kitty pirouette, beating me back inside when I attempt to encourage outside time – all that seems to be over. Cue instead- kitty play time on the lawn, hunting down moths and insects waking from somnolence, and snoozing in a light breeze from the safety of our outside deck.
Blue skies. The sweet smell of fresh grass, and the drone of lawn mowers. People walking the streets for fun, not exercise. New flowers, every day popping their heads above the ground. Daylight savings, and more time to enjoy the evenings and what Melbourne has to offer her people. Festivals and open air concerts, alfresco dining, and brekkie on the deck. T shirts. Summer fashions. Leaving your jacket at home, and rolling down the window of the car to inhale Spring. The first lazy blowflies -easy to catch and shoo outside. Bees on the lavender and early roses. Good moods all around. It’s so much easier to smile when the sun is out!
Suddenly. Spring is here. How did I not notice her creeping up??
It seems this blog has morphed into a record of my journey into plastic avoidance and reducing the waste we generate. As a side issue, I am dabbling in minimalism but first things first!
I have a history of becoming, shall we say, no, not obsessive, rather singleminded about projects, habits and subjects over the years. I have written in the past about having an addictive personality – past preoccupations include chocolate, wine, food, alcohol, weightloss, writing, the www, cigarettes, eating and red headed men. Not necessarily in that order, either. 😀
So it was not a surprise to my (previously red headed) husband that I suddenly developed an aversion to all things plastic and embarked on this path to eradicate all single use plastics from our life.
In fairness to him, The Man has long been a crusader for the environment. Over the years we have had buckets catching shower water, timers on water taps, a worm farm, compost bins, have recycled the heck out of all papers, plastics and metals and collected used batteries for appropriate disposal, all at his request. One year he made the heroic effort to drink enough VB to be able to REUSE the cans, cementing them together and spraying them silver as a giant beer can star to decorate our patio area at Christmas. (All jokes aside, it was an amazing structure and lasted for years!!)
After initially recycling things and learning about redcycle, we then decided (ok I decided) to try to reduce the amount of plastic being brought in to the house, thus reducing our reliance on recycling. This involved purchasing more fresh fruits and vegies, using my own produce bags, buying bread from a bakery with my own bread bags, meat from the butcher who now is happy to fill my own containers instead of plastic bags, and visiting the health food shop for things like fresh peanut butter into my own jar, bamboo toothbrushes (compostable) coconut coir scrubbers (compostable) and refillable bottles of dishwashing liquid and detergent.
I began to feel smug. There were still plenty of improvements to be made, but we had lots of the basics under control.
And then – I got sick.
Nothing serious. Just exhausted, with a common or garden variety virus. Headache. Aching muscles. Cough. Laryngitis. Nothing a week or two of rest wouldn’t fix.
But Mojo packed his bags and headed out of town for a break while I moped around.
And I learned that while it is definitely possible to eliminate many single use plastics from your life – AND WE SHOULD ALL BE DOING THAT FOR THE SAKE OF OUR KIDS AND THE PLANET – what I learned was – it is far easier not to bother.
I forgot to take my shopping bags with me. I found myself walking out of shops with plastic bags filled with groceries and medications. Not because I didn’t care – but because I wasn’t paying attention. This recycling and reducing lifestyle takes a lot of energy and attention to detail. When I was sick, I was not focused on the job at hand . This is how so many people shop!. No wonder we end up with bags, bags and more bags. I can’t wait until the ban on plastic bags happens. I now carry my own basket to cope with small items – but still need to remember to say “no bag please”.
I gave up trying to get bread sliced into my own bags. You can always buy the unsliced loaves from the supermarket – but there are only plastic bags to put them into at my local, which kinda defeats the purpose. And with no voice I was not able to explain what I wanted at my local Bakers Delight where I now usually shop. So we had plastic waste…
All butters are not equal. My plastic aversion had lead me away from the plastic tub I used to use – and I had begun to use semi salted butter in parchment from Coles, with a plan to one day soon visit a stall at the Victoria Market where I had heard they would use your own container. The parchment could be torn and composted. On this particular day, though, I decided to pop into Aldi for a couple of things, butter being one. Here all I could find was the foil/ paper composite which cannot be recycled. Too tired/sick/apathetic to go where I could get the butter I wanted, I acquiesced.
Tissues are disgusting. No, they are not plastic – but they are single use. They are not suitable to flush. They can fill a bin within a day. They will end up in landfill where nothing decomposes properly. Use handkerchiefs and wash your hands.
It is so easy to break a promise. Sometimes it is easy to feel alone in the struggle to make a difference. When your energy is at a low ebb, its easy to say – who will know? If I buy myself a bar of chocolate or open a packet of biscuits – who will know that I have sold myself out? I did both of those things. I also sucked cough lollies wrapped in plastic and took paracetamol from plastic and foil packs. I drank my family remedy of warm blackcurrant juice and water – from the plastic bottle of blackcurrant cordial I begged my husband to buy for me.
Some single use plastics are non negotiable. This took me by surprise – surely there is a substitute for everything? Nope. When it come to health we need to be sensible. The Man needs his salbutamol inhaler when he has a respiratory infection. End of discussion. My mother needs the alarm pendant she has around her neck.
This needs to be a forever effort. Plastic is ubiquitous. As an educator, I learned this hierarchy of conscious learning:
Replace the word skill with recycling; replace the word proficiency with knowledge.
Most of us fall into the Unconscious Incompetence category as far as plastic is concerned – we don’t know how dangerous plastic pollution is, what the ramifications are of continuing the way we are and don’t know what we can do to rectify it. Shows like the ABCs War on Waste and A Plastic Ocean as well as social media posts are moving us into the yellow square. Here we feel helpless. What can I do about plastic pollution? Again, public awareness campaigns help us know what we can do as individuals.
As with any new skill, we need to keep practising. I dropped the ball for a couple of weeks and it showed in our recycling, our refuse and in our home. It was a learning experience, and I now have a renewed focus. And the butcher was pleased to see me and my meat tubs lol!
So my next focus – finding easy replacements for everyday things, from foods to accessories.
As I continue trying to find waste free alternatives to everyday items, I need to confess that I have had the occasional failure. This is to be expected, I suppose – I mean, plastic is meant to be convenient! Little did we really realize how insidious it would be and how it could infiltrate every area of our lives.
I decided a few months ago to stop buying dishwashing liquid in plastic disposable bottles. I hunted around for a suitable alternative and eventually decided that I would make my own. After reading a number of recipes online which included chemicals I was not happy to store in my home (!) I chose instead to do what my Home Economics teacher advocated, and “…swish pure soap around the bowl to make a good lather, girls!”
Of course, soap shakers are not easily purchased in 2017, so I had a look online – after all, surely someone else had come to the same conclusion?
Yep. The man who was making the little wire cage shakers had. And decided that we could all jolly well pay for his great new (old) idea -at $AU48 per shaker.
Back to the drawing board…. I thought maybe a tea infuser ($AU5 from Coles!) would do the trick with smaller pieces of soap. Eventually, I lucked upon a plastic salad server (from my local op shop) for 50c which worked admirably. Half a block of velvet soap and we were good to go! Yes, I know it is plastic – but not single use, and I had saved it from the tip.
A good plan is only as good as the individual steps required to bring it to reality – I had no issues with the soap shaker – but I found that my husband ( the main washer- upper) did not like it at all and his dishwashing skills appeared to be suffering.
Against my better judgement, the soap shaker is now on permanent leave, and we now have an eco-friendly liquid purchased from our local health food shop. The bottle is plastic – but can be refilled each time. The quality of the liquid is amazing and we are using only a fraction of the amount of “payless” liquids I had been buying in Another Life.
The pure soap has not been wasted – one block was completely grated and dissolved in hot water to make a wool mix which is fantastic for knits. I would prefer more perfume, and am considering adding a few drops of eucalyptus oil as well. It would probably be good for the rest of the wash too; at this stage though, I am focussed on removing plastic, and at present I buy washing powder in a cardboard box which is recycled.
Toilet paper – wrapped in plastic – has been a bane of my life for a while, so I was delighted to welcome a box of paper wrapped dunny rolls to our house. (The paper with the rude word on the outside!) My excitement faded though, and by the time we were half way through the box I was pondering whether I had made a mistake. I love the idea of this paper – the company sponsors sanitation overseas, as well as promoting a green philosophy- but I was distressed to see 6 packs wrapped in plastic in various stores, which seemed to me to be going back on their principles. Add to this the fact that the paper was not particularly strong and disintegrated – and I was reminiscing on an old saying of mine (‘”…life is too short for crap toilet paper and bad coffee…”), wondering what the alternative was.
Today I received my first pack of bamboo toilet paper from an alternate supplier- wrapped in fine tissue and a cardboard box – which was pretty expensive but seems to be stronger, softer, is embossed and quilted, and doesn’t tear easily. And added bonus is that the company uses a carbon neutral courier to deliver. However, the roll is significantly smaller than the other brand – so we will see what the next few weeks bring. I may end up changing back, or even trying the more expensive bamboo rolls of the first TP company. It certainly is not cheap trying to do the right thing.
All in all – I am pretty happy with our progress. We are miles from being waste free. I still get frustrated if the butcher uses a piece of plastic to pick up the meat to put into my tubs. I sometime forget to say no bags please and find myself carrying one. What do I do with the swing tags on a new top? But we are making an effort. Our landfill is reduced, our soft plastic and hard plastic recycling has reduced massively. All without making any major changes in our lives or doing anything too hard. Just thinking a little bit about alternatives.
What difference will it make if I remove plastic from our home? Not much, to be honest. But if I encourage a couple of people to think a little bit about their plastic use…. well, who knows what we could achieve?
The older I get, the more horrified I am about the amount of waste we generate as a species.
Plastic wrapped is hygienically sealed, cleanliness assured…It is light weight, durable, see through and convenient… It is also man made and lasts nearly for ever.
And we keep manufacturing it.
Any way – as a couple we have always tried to do the right thing- recycle newspapers and plastics, save water etc. I carried a Twisties packet containing the waste of a toddler out of the Lerderderg Gorge once, not wanting to litter. (You read that correctly. There were no conveniences at the bottom of the gorge…)
Over the years we have had timers on the shower, have changed over to a reduced flow shower head to conserve water and have been known to let it mellow if its yellow….
And now, I have two kidults who think much harder than I ever have before about what goes into their system and what to do with the waste. I’m sure you have read about the Veganism and Vegetarianism that has been visited upon this house!
Today I decided I would do my fortnightly shop being mindful of the amount of packaging I was purchasing. Well – I guess I did better than most –because we actually DO recycle. But there is a lot of room for improvement.
Come with me for a wander through my shopping cart and let’s see where we can start!
Here are my 10 easy peasy tips on where to reduce waste without really trying:
Have a look at this! When I walked into the supermarket I was gobsmacked when I truly LOOKed at the amount of packaging. On everything. I was impressed when my DD told me her friend was doing a year with minimal packaging and had so far only had a twix wrapper and a muesli bar wrapper to dispose of. The friend must be living on fruit and vegetables to have no wastage at all…
Most plastic packaging is recyclable and can be picked up kerbside. Just look for the numbers. I’m about to move into the next phase now, of reducing the purchase of “bad“ plastics which generate toxins in the recycling process. An even better plan is not to buy it in the first place – I’m going to look at how I purchase meat and poultry. Even buying in larger quantities would be an improvement.
Glass is recyclable kerbside. Leave the lids off! And rinsing them first reduces contamination. We keep a small basket under the kitchen sink and put all paper, plastics, glass and aluminium tins into it – and it all magically finds its way to the recycle bin outside each evening. Works for me…
This is one of the best kept secrets but is such a great way of recycling that we need to shout it from the roof tops! Everyone know that the plastic bags from the super market can be kept and returned, right? Well the REDcycle bins that the bags are placed into can take even MORE! Check it out HERE . All those plastics like cling wrap, the top of meat containers, chip packets, chocolate wrappers, biscuit wrappers and more– all into the REDcycle bin.
We have a double bin – rubbish on the right, REDcycle on the left. Easy. With REDcycle we have reduced our waste down to a bread bag size PER WEEK. That’s for two – twice as much when the kids are home because they chuck tissues in there too…
5. Other recycling – batteries, mobile phones, used light globes, polystyrene, toothpaste and coffee pods
Some things are a little more challenging but are worth researching. We recently discovered our local recycling and refuse station takes polystyrene for recycling. You will be surprised what can be recycled – instead of creating more land fill.
Surely everyone does this now? The Green Bags can be placed in the REDcycle bin when they come to the end of their life – not sure about the newer plastic coated bags, so be careful.
Reusable produce bags
This is my new favorite find! I have long refused to take bags for many fruit and veg, because frankly they are just extra packaging. Why put a pumpkin in a bag? Or a head of broccoli? I bought 8 reusable and washable produce bags made from recycled plastics, which can be REDcycled if and when they go to God. Love them.
Again – we have a small compost bin under the kitchen sink which ALSO magically empties itself into the compost bin (located somewhere in the garden) every day or so. My husband is a bit fussy about what can go in the compost or worm farm. Paper, hair, dust etc are all fine; vegetable and fruit peelings and outer leaves are all fine; so are seeds and apple cores and banana skins (the ones he doesn’t feed to the stag horns hanging outside). NO CITRUS, FRUIT PITS OR WOODY STALKS! But there is a solution to that….
The Organics Bin (supplied by the council) is for garden waste – and all of the big chunky fruit and veg scraps!!
This is my homework for next week. The packet of 5 x snack sized chips for lunch treats are expensive and highly packaged. I will add a couple more plastic (PETE) boxes to my trolley and buy the larger packet… buy meat from the butcher, bread from the baker, maybe with my own containers?
So – have I inspired you? It’s not that hard to get to this stage. Just a little bit of organisation! I still have a long way to go – and I wish I had started a long time ago. I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to see a nearly empty bin each week – cheaper too: we have had a reduction in rates due to the reduction in bin size!! Now I want to see the recycle bin less chockers….
I chopped the pumpkin into uniform sized pieces and put it into the oven to roast, looking forward to the mashed pumpkin with butter and pepper I would enjoy for dinner. I had decided to turn the leftovers into roast pumpkin soup for tomorrow’s lunch.
No one would ever suspect this fifty something mother of two had obtained the pumpkin by alternative means!
Being a later starter in the motherhood stakes, my age means I have children in their early twenties. Both are clever, independent and have strong moral consciences.
Number one is immersed in Indonesian culture on Java. Loving the lifestyle, absorbing the language and living as the locals do. His experience has taught him how easy and rewarding it can be to “make do”.
Number two gave me the pumpkin.
I first heard the phrase “bin diving” from a friend, whose daughter was studying, living away from home and struggling to make ends meet. It sounded horrendous and I actually forgot all about it – until MY daughter began telling me tales of late night excursions to the local (closed) supermarkets.
I admit, your Honour – I have received “stolen” goods, which were repurposed, after being released from dumpsters which were destined for the tip. Not only food, either.
Apparently the legality of taking discarded items – let’s be clear, the stuff in these bins is unwanted by the businesses putting it there, and was intended to be dumped- is a grey area. In the locality my child carries out her nocturnal scavenging, the local constabulary seem to turn a blind eye to the activities. In some countries, it is illegal to dump usable food. France legislated on that in 2015 – read about it here. It’s a conundrum.
So, I visited my child this week, was handed a pumpkin scone, and the story of how it came about was recounted. Later that evening, her flatmates arrived home after an evening “shopping” with packaged leeks, kilos of bananas, multiple bags of avocados, mangoes, just-past-use-by-dated flour, a head of broccoli, bags of potatoes. Their fridge looked far better stocked than my own – and the quality of the food obtained was fine. Sure the bananas were a little browner than I would choose – but the team peeled the browner ones and froze them for use in smoothies, and making banana bread/muffins. Nothing was taken that they couldn’t use. The spoils were divvied up and everyone was happy. Not a cent had been spent.
It is a society gone mad. I don’t begin to understand the logistics, but surely this wastage and the cost of dumping is driving supermarket prices up? Why are there children in our own country going hungry, let alone in the rest of the world, when we throw away a bag of perfectly useable fruit because one piece is bruised?
Some say litigation is the reason. I suppose there is the chance someone will become ill eating food obtained outside the usual channels. But surely there is a way around that?
It sits fine with me.
I try as best I can to stick to the “Recycle, reduce, reuse” ethos. We recycle paper, metals, plastics in the council recycle bin. We REDcycle soft plastics (this is fabulous – read more on it here ). We have an organics bin, and a compost bin, and a worm farm. We take used items to the local op shop and I love to find bargains for myself there as well!. Same as most, I use reusable shopping bags and try not to use plastic at all. I have recently learned about boomerang bags and am considering volunteering to make some (if not just for myself) not only to reduce our reliance on the ubiquitous plastic bag, but because we have such a worldwide problem with discarded clothing – especially the cheaper, synthetic fabrics (read about that too ).
So here I am, an accessory after the fact. Eating delicious, free, mashed pumpkin. Happy in the knowledge that the pumpkin did not make its way to pumpkin hell at the tip. And wearing a pair of runners also liberated from a skip… too small for the daughter, but dumped by the store due to the fact that a box cutter slipped during unpacking and cut one of the shoe laces in two. I kid you not.
Not sure how to manage that wound? Concerned that perhaps you should head to the ED? Worried about your child’s temperature, rash, cough, behaviour? Scared that the chest pain you have might not be heartburn, but a heart attack? Think you have either food poisoning or the plague?
I’m your person. Call me. It’s what I do, and clichéd as it sounds – I care about everyone I speak to in the course of a work day, and I genuinely want to help.
…some days there are giggles and incredulity at the things I am asked…
Most calls are straightforward and frankly forgettable – I have answered literally thousands of questions about vomiting and diarrhoea, colds, coughs, rashes, abdominal pain, chest pains, sore throats, swallowed objects, medication errors and the like. I can’t tell you how often I have heard: “…my son’s friend’s sister has been at child care with a little girl who has just been diagnosed with Chickenpox – I am going to visit my uncle who is having chemo next week – will he be at risk of getting shingles?” Sometimes it is hard trying to work out the logistics – “…I slept with my boyfriend and have been on the pill for 2 weeks – we slept together last month and I took the morning after pill then and have missed 2 pills this week – could I be pregnant?” Ummm…..yes.
Some days, though – some days there are giggles and incredulity at the things I am asked.
Most recently I took a call from a mother whose child had a low grade fever, consistent with the cold she had. The mother spoke English well but with an accent. I was trying to understand what she was worried about, as the temperature was being well managed. She kept saying “Federal Convention”, so I thought maybe mum needed to leave the child and attend an interstate work function?
Turned out the “Federal Convention” was a “febrile convulsion” the kid had suffered previously! Reassurance and information provided.
It is not uncommon for people to take the wrong medications – usually morning tablets instead of night time, or doubling up on tablets accidentally.
One that I remember is the elderly man who had carefully cut the foil sheet containing his antibiotics into individual doses, and placed them into a dosette box so he didn’t forget to take them. He told me he left them sealed in the foil and plastic to “keep them fresh”. He opened Monday night’s section, tipped his pills into his hand – and swallowed them, sharp corners of the foil pack and all. That resulted in a trip to Emergency for an xray to ensure he hadn’t cut his throat.
Another was the lady with vision impairment who asked was it alright that she had swallowed her Canesten pessary? You may know these are actually designed to be inserted vaginally….she had mistaken it for a panadol, but don’t think it did much for her headache!
And keep your jars of vitagummies away from the kids – they are still medicines, even if they do taste yummy!
And keep your jars of vitagummies away from the kids – they are still medicines, even if they do taste yummy! Apparently according to three callers, if one is good, the whole bottle is better, at least according to their toddlers…
Most of you have heard the orange story – if not, it involves a man, a woman, an orange, a mixture of too much time, a sense of adventure and a good imagination…and an emergency xray and retrieval…
A heartbreakingly sad call came from an animal activist and vegan. He had rescued a dying possum and had been savagely bitten by the animal 3 weeks before he rang for advice. The wound was horribly infected; purulent, smelly, with altered sensation, reduced function, swelling and a raging fever. The caller was not making much sense; he seemed to be delirious. He was adamant that he did not want to see a doctor because he didn’t want any antibiotics; most are tested on animals and that was against his beliefs. The man was in his late twenties, passionate and educated. It is one of the calls I would like to have known the outcome. If he did not seek treatment, (I tried really hard to get him to at least consult with a pharmacist or GP) I have fears that he may not have survived the infection. He was certainly very unwell.
The usual mispronunciations are amusing – the man with strained “groinds”, the lady having a “canelloscopy”, the “prostrate” examinations, and the gentleman with problems peeing, whose GP was sending him to see a “numerologist” (urologist).
Saving face is important – I took a call from a 16yo who had tried to help her friend obtain the morning after pill. The girl who needed the medication was too shy to go to the chemist – so my caller went instead. All went well, until the pharmacist produced the pill and instructed his customer to swallow the pill in front of him. She took the pill!! After a bit of confusion, the girl needing the pill did get one – but my caller was worried about the effect of taking medications she didn’t need. A fair amount of education and advice went into that call!
Ice and boiling water account for a few queries.
A guy in the outback called when his radiator boiled over. He had opened his bonnet, loosened the radiator cap – at which point the water spilled over, out of the radiator and straight into his gum boots. When he managed to get the boots off, he had skin hanging off his legs and very little pain. Not a good sign. I reckon he had about 18% third degree burns. Luckily he knew where he was so I was able to get an ambulance to him.
A six year old boy was bored on school holidays and wondered what would happen if he put a hammer in the freezer and then touched it with his tongue? Mum rang because the skin had started to tear, the hammer was still stuck firmly and the kid was freaking out – the nurse on the other end of the phone freaked out a bit too. It was one of my very first calls.
I took another call from someone who had placed her wet hand flat against the aluminium of her old fridge freezer, then pulled away. It had taken the entire top layer of skin off. I never knew what actually happened next, because the caller was on her friend’s phone and the friend wanted it back so she could go shopping, so the phone line just went dead…
Sometimes, there are people who mistake us for those special phonelines – 1300TalkToVeryFriendlyOpenmindedandImaginativeLadies – but mostly the calls are from scared, concerned or ill people all over Australia.
This has been strangely cathartic! Not quite the same as the barbie doll up the back passage stories you may have heard elsewhere…except for the orange, of course….
I have had a pretty ordinary day (that is Aussie speak for “not very good, feeling miserable and there have certainly been better days than this one for me” – just to be clear, lol ), and decided that I might be able to cheer myself by writing. Unfortunately, I am very out of practice and nothing came together as I wanted it to.
I was just about to give up when I decided to re-read a few pieces I have written in the past. Lo and behold! This was the first one I read – I wrote it in a similar mind set to today – and it has given me the necessary kick up the pants to stop feeling sorry for myself and get on with it.
Just by the way – in case it is too subtle (joking) – Iam the woman – and the universe really did show me these three things.
The interpretation, though- that is all mine. Hope you enjoy it.
A woman reluctantly left her home in the early hours of the morning to go for a walk.
While she loved walking as a rule, on this day she felt cheated.
“Why, the sky is not even blue!” she grumbled to herself. “How can I find any joy or satisfaction, if the day is not perfect before I begin?”
The woman ambled along, lost in her own thoughts.
On her way, she passed a street cleaning truck.
“Oh yes, that seems right!” she sneered to herself; “No peace and quiet while I walk – AND the sky is not blue!”
The woman continued on her way, absentmindedly listening to the birdcall around her.
Little by little, the woman began to notice the blossom on the trees, and the light, morning breeze on her face. Her mood began to lift, imperceptibly at first.
On the final stretch of her journey, the woman noticed a small child standing on the side of the road with her grandfather. The little girl was bouncing up and down, barely able to contain her excitement.
And then it suddenly dawned on the woman that this child was waiting for the street cleaning truck!
The woman watched the child giggle and clap as the truck magically caused the rubbish and debris on the road to disappear. The child ran down the road a little, following the truck, exclaiming her amazement at the miracle she was watching.
“How wonderful to be so enchanted by the world!” the woman thought, marvelling at the pleasure such a small incident had given the child.
THE BIRD Just then, a willy wagtail danced in front of the woman, puffing out his chest and landing on a beam beside her. He cocked his head, then flew away, swooping and darting to collect insects, shaking his tail as he went.
“What a magnificent creature!” thought the woman. “How focussed he seems to be on his daily tasks. ”
And then, the grumble monster raised its head again – “I bet birds don’t have to walk at this ungodly hour to stay healthy!”
THE BUTTERFLY Instinctively, the woman banished the grumble monster-
“Begone! You misery guts!!” and carried on her walk.
Having observed such positive behaviour in the child and the bird, suddenly the task seemed less onerous; the grey skies offered a unique beauty to the morning, and her thoughts turned to how she could best use the hours in her day.
As if to reinforce her determination, there appeared on the path in front of her, a single, expired, perfect butterfly.
The woman saw the butterfly, and was open enough to receive the message her world was trying to convey.
“I SEE!!” the woman marvelled.
“The child has demonstrated that there is joy and happiness to be found in the smallest of moments. We just need to be looking for them!
The bird has shown me that to be fit and healthy will enable me to achieve all I wish in my day – and I will look great too!
And the butterfly has reminded me that life is short, and fleeting. It is important to live each day in the the best way possible, because sooner or later, it is over for us all.”
With renewed determination, the woman returned home to achieve some miracles of her own, and to share this story.
All of his worst traits, like brown eyes- which will tend rheumy as I approach old age; puffiness underneath the eyes, thanks to years of wearing glasses (‘cos I’m too impatient to deal with contact lenses first thing in the morning, and not vain enough to persevere); drooping jowls where my plump youthful cheeks used to be; a short neck which I always thought was because of my ”Welsh miner” heritage ( which is just ridiculous I know, but somewhere along the line I became convinced it was from ducking to enter mines! At five foot nothing it is unlikely any relative had to duck to get in anywhere, anyway…and certainly not Dad -who was an accountant in his working life); a thickened waist ( I will forever remember Dad slapping his belly and saying he thought something was growing in there); fine, graying hair which thankfully my hairdresser tints and coifs to handsome middle aged woman, not the frizzy mess he dealt with; and a Cwymp head.
This last term (which I always thought was spelled Quimp!) refers to my ancestors, who lived at Cwymp Mill, somewhere in North Wales, and had a peculiarly shaped head, apparently. Quite bulbous at the back, or so I’m told.
My family, though, will tell you that my brown eyes are kind and understanding. My glasses are trendy, as is my haircut and colour (thanks to the lovely Carole). My girth, height and chubby face give me quite a motherly appearance, and together with my soft and mellifluous voice I can inspire confidence and reassurance in both patients (yes I’m a nurse) and those around me.
So it’s not all bad.
I don’t spend a lot of time looking in the mirror, anyway – I’m either working, caring for my mum, running errands for the kids, grabbing some quality time with my husband or trying to catch up with friends.
I came late to the mothering stakes – I like to tell the kids I had all my adventures BEFORE I had children! The truth is, I kissed a lot of frogs before I found the one who turned into my prince. I also travelled, went to Uni, changed my mind, went back, bombed out of Uni, worked at a number of jobs until I found one I liked with exciting hours and even more exciting activities (I might give you more on this on a whole nother blog, lol). And it’s where I met my prince.
As sensible twentynearlythirtysomethings, we made a plan to marry, completely changed my career, and decided that we would quite like children but if that didn’t happen by a certain age, we would forget the idea and blow the inheritance on a slap up second honeymoon in the Greek Islands. For, ooh, I don’t know, a year or so.
I was pregnant within a fortnight.
So, here I am. Managed to navigate my way through twenty three years of mothering two very nice young adults who are now mainly living away from home. A whole new chapter of my life is about to unfold, and it’s pretty exciting- and challenging.
The Man and I long ago gave up the original idea of the Greek Islands Fling, but have always maintained that we would travel once we could. Now it seems that day is almost here…
However the plans we made may not happen quite as we thought.
We are both in fairly good health, but are not twentynearlythirtysomethings anymore. Camping on air mattresses in a tent doesn’t hold the same allure that it did a couple of decades ago; getting up and down is still possible but distinctly more difficult and painful thanks to my inherited joint pain. Even The Man has cooled on the idea.
Family holidays when the kids were young consisted of the four of us working as a well oiled team, erecting the Taj Mahal of tents, inflating mattresses and swatting away flies in the heat of an Aussie bush summer. Each year we packed a trailer full of life’s little essentials -like totem tennis, bikes and inflatable boats- and escaped to spend time together and relax. Let me tell you I loved those holidays, but there is nothing relaxing about trying to create meals in the outdoors with no running water, a dodgy stove, lumps of rapidly thawing frozen meat and kids with picky appetites. There were lots of jaffles and marshmallows, packets of chips, mozzie encrusted vegemite toast and a fair number of experimental meals. A dip in the river was accepted as being equivalent to having showered, and bathers were optional. Late afternoon and evening saw us searching for twigs and sticks for a fire; at night we went looking for wildlife, fishing in the river, played crazy card games and lay on our backs spotting shooting stars, bats and satellites.
Yep, they were fabulous holidays – and now I am ready for a little more luxury while still enjoying the wonders of the great outdoors.
We are lucky enough to have a friend in the tourism industry, who offered us the opportunity to relocate a motor home in New Zealand a couple of years ago. At the time, offspring #1 was living away from home and offspring #2 was completing VCE. We escaped alone for 10 magical days and loved it all, even the cooler weather! Still as relaxed as a camping holiday – but sans the stress of digging ditches in the event of heavy rain…
Just like many of my generation, we are getting used to the revolving front door we have. Sometimes we are enthusiastic empty nesters; dinner out mid week, pictures if we feel like it, plenty of live shows and theatre. And sometimes we are hands on parents again-arranging late night pickups, advising on subject selection, counselling, providing TLC, sharing silly movies or family meals. It can be a bit tricky finding the balance – we occasionally find ourselves asking our adult kids to make their beds or suggesting it is time for bed (I don’t need to tell you the response these can elicit).
Next week though.
Next week we have it beautifully worked out.
Next week we are going for a well earned rest in a resort in northern NSW. We are going alone. I expect lots of walking, reading and sipping of wine -but you can be sure there will be no camping or cooking meals under duress. A proper, grown up holiday. The beginning of our travel adventures, maybe?
The revolving door is working in our favour too.
The kidults will be managing the care of our two gorgeous but spoilt cats, making sure there is always someone there, morning and night, to love them, feed them and keep them safe. The cats are officially theirs, so I know that Lady NimbleToes and Missy GobbleBottom will be ok.
All I need to do is stock the fridge with tofu, avocadoes, soy milk and mushrooms.
Cheaper than 12 days for two moggies in a cattery!
My back is hurting. I can’t concentrate when that happens. You know what it’s like.
I just don’t have the time. I mean, there is housework to do, and shopping to pick up…
OK, I will as soon as I finish doing this. And obviously after a cup of tea. And a lie down.
I can’t! I’m no good. I can never think of how to start!
There is no point. No one else looks at it, anyway. What’s the point?
I don’t feel like it today, that’s all.
I’d rather go for a walk. And clean the oven.
I haven’t got the inclination, alright?
I’m not making excuses, but what does it matter if I don’t do it today? No one will know, right?
Who do I think I am, thinking I can write stuff that others will want to read?
I know I’ve written some interesting things – but they were flukes. I’m really no good.
I never know how to end it!
I don’t even know if there is any point. I mean, really. Why do I do it?
I’ve got that thing I wrote the other day… now where is that thing…
I’m scared of sharing what I wrote. It’s like baring your soul! What will people think?
What if the people I’ ve used as inspiration recognise themselves? What if I upset someone?
I’m too tired tonight. I’ll do it tomorrow.
There was that idea… where did I put that paper…
The plump, smooth thighs rested one against another in the dappled sun. An early summer bush fly wandered idly and randomly over the delicious flesh, sliding imperceptibly in the oil which bathed it.
Two, four, eight legs arranged artfully on each platter, glistening in the sun. Perfectly presented chicken, along with plates of precision cut sandwiches and rows of yet to be claimed cups of tea; a backdrop for the murmuring voices and whispered confidences at his uncle’s last Command Performance.
All the required performers were there. The stage was set…
My son no longer lives here (although he is a frequent visitor on weekends for access to his local mates), and my husband and daughter have taken themselves off for an adventure in that wet, white and cold stuff people slide over and fall in, wearing little bits of wood bolted to their feet.
I politely declined their invitation to join them, knowing it would mean a whole day to catch up on some me time -and find something I lost a couple of months ago.
Well would you believe it? When I woke up this morning, I spotted my missing article, huddled in the corner of the room.
I didn’t acknowledge that I had seen it – that is a sure fire way to frighten it away! These things need to be nurtured and captured swiftly, or you have lost your chance.
It looked smaller and less defined than I remembered. Nevertheless, I knew that I needed to harness its wonderful energy as soon as possible…
So… I went back to sleep. These little critters find lethargy, inactivity and indolence fascinating – they have no concept of the need for rest!
When I awoke, as I expected, it was sitting beside me, furiously pushing thoughts and ideas into my head – shopping lists, chores, reminders, memories, crafts to complete, goals to achieve, responsibilities, stories, plans….
I moved slowly and stealthily, and before you could say whatever fairytale cliché you prefer – I had the creature firmly encased in some gossamer like threads of determination, tethered firmly to my intent!
I can’t tell you how relieved I am to have my Mojo back!
It is MUCH smaller than it used to be, and flabby. But it put me to work straight away – first it wrote a to do list -and then, small as it is, it has managed to chivvy me into activity and I have achieved more in the last hour than I have in weeks!
Mojo tells me that it has been here all the time, but I had lost the ability to see and hear it. Apparently it has something to do with wifi and noise – but if I sit quietly each day for only five minutes, he has promised I will not lose him again.
We need to find our rhythm again, of course – we were a beautiful duet for a long time, however we have both forgotten the music – but we are starting over and hope to write an even better melody this time…