Sunday, 27 May 2012

Priorities in Life

 I thought I'd pass along this interesting post from the "Conscious Alternatives" facebook page. It is definitely worth reading. Maybe the students in the story need to think a little more deeply though.

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day isn’t enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and the 2 cups of coffee.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open area between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “yes.”

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

“Now,” said the professor as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things…your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions…and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your home and perhaps your car.

The sand is everything else…the small stuff. “If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.

“Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Enjoy a romantic dinner with the one you love. Play another 9 or 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the doorknob.

Take care of the golf balls first…the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented. The professor smiled. “I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Beautiful Brisbane

Although this is a tragic time for our family I spent several hours today enjoying the delights of Brisbane. It is a lovely place. Hills, river, tall buildings, crowds, sunshine, parks, history, and bustling crowds. The day has been fresh - that is Aussie for a bit cool, dry and breezy. I saw some ladies in wool overcoats but I made do with a t-shirt covered by a long-sleeved shirt. This is not good weather for shorts.

This rainforest area is right in the middle of South Bank.

I strolled over to South Bank this morning. This is a parkland area and provides a green space for city dwellers and workers. There were market stalls doing a steady trade.

Oddly enough I saw no ibises today although on my previous visits there were hundreds.

Market stalls.
Rugged up locals.
You can actually swim here and a lifesaver is always on duty.


This Tibetan temple is intricately carved and was a gift to the city
about 20 years ago when a big trade show was held here.
Expo 88 I think.

Later I walked down to Fortitude Valley to see the shops there. And I found a wonderful enclave of fashionable cooking, furniture, and clothing stores. 
I had never seen white asparagus before.

Purple carrots and look how cheap they are.
Beautiful quality.

Wonderful. My wallet flew open. 

I saw some interesting fresh vegetables that I had only ever seen before in magasines. Food is quite cheap here and the quality is terrific.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Travel with Dick and Dora

Who are Dick and Dora?
They are fictional characters in a reading series by Fred Schonell, used in Australia in the 60s and 70s. The scheme was based on a phonic approach and while the content is now outdated the basic method was excellent.

Dick and Dora could be you and me. Simple adventures. Simple expression. Complex background.
I am neither Dick nor Dora, but I felt like I was in a child's book as I travelled.

I travelled yesterday by plane, bus, ferry, and car. Lost the luggage once, but located it eventually.

Used my Seniors card to get a discount on the ferry.

Crazy bus driver flirting with ditsy female passengers was infuriating, especially when he missed one stop and had to retrace his route substantially. He was completely oblivious to the calling and shouting by another passenger who tried to set him on a better path. Hate that.

Plane sector continued to live up to its reputation.
Managed to share a row with a hugely obese mother and her small daughter. Yes, some people really are too big to use the tray table on planes because it is unable to be lowered past the chest. Yes, a wider seat is created by folding away the arm rests.Yes, she needed to climb in and out of her seat to get something from her bag in the roof rack; a rather difficult process. Yes, some people are illiterate in English and can not read the menu to know what food to purchase. Yes, dear fellow travellers, a small child with poor English and apparently delayed speech actually can prattle away for about five hours to a stranger.
It was a valuable experience in many ways. Firstly I had sympathy for the child who is missing out on many wonderful opportunities because her mother cannot read in English. Then the child is not learning a healthy lifestyle, and this I learned from all the chatter. Secondly I felt sorry for the mother who obviously has many psychological problems and is unable to deal with them effectively. She needs to learn to read so she can live more happily in Australia. Her conversation did not actually make sense either for much of the time. I am sure she loves her child, and she is entitled to have a child but she needs a lot of help and support that obviously is not happening right now. Perhaps the situation will improve once the little girl starts school.

On a the positive side however, the day was a raging success. Overcame obstacles. Visited my brother-in-law. Met new family members. Did new and exciting things. Staying in a comfortable motel near all the facilities I could need.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012


Today my shining star is a little tarnished.

A much loved family member is moving into a hospice in Brisbane and has decided not to endure further treatment. His decline has been rapid and unexpected. Frightening.  Horribly painful. Completely out of the blue. So young for this dreadful condition.

But on the positive side he has demonstrated great courage in the way he has handled everything. Believe it or not he waited until his daughter had gone to work on Monday to phone for help. He must have known over the weekend that he was no longer able to swallow but he hid it from her family completely. Such fatherly concern for others at such a ghastly time for himself. So protective and sweet.

So like other family members we have been asked to visit. Four days drive or five hours flying. We do not have four days. The time for cards and gifts is now finished. Time to make good on promises.

Late last night my husband finished arranging the airfares and accommodation. This morning I missed the plane. And slithered home disgracefully.

Is there a positive side to missing the plane?
I am trying to be as resilient as possible. Rearranged the accommodation quite easily. Rearranged the washing and ironing schedule to take advantage of the extra time at home. Rearranged my study schedule.

Trying to see the funny side of using the budget carrier.
          Yes, love those snug seats that mean no-one climbs out to go to the toilet or to chat with friends.
          Yes, love that opportunity to do some knitting on my circular needles.
          Yes, love the babies with ear problems because that is not my family.
          Yes, a trip away is still a trip away.
          Yes, love sitting behind the curry eaters. What a hoot!
          Yes, five hours is better than twenty hours to London.
          Yes, love sitting close to the smelly drunks because I know that I do not smell quite as bad.

No matter how bad I think my situation is, it is nowhere near as bad as that facing my brother-in-law. Resilient to the end. I hope I learn to face life's challenges with such bravery and courage.

Feel free to use these photos. I took some and the others are from clip art. The hydrangea makes a good screensaver.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Tasmanian Devils

Thinking about holidays reminded me of the trips I have made to Tasmania.

That reminded me of Tasmanian devils.

On our second holiday in Tasmania we saw many devils, especially when we went to Cradle Mountain. We heard them calling to each other in the bush with their rather scary sound. The scientific name is Sarcophilius harrisii and they are about the size if a domestic cat, maybe a bit smaller. These little darlings are marsupials and only the strongest survive. When the babies are born they are only about the size of a grain of rice and there could be twenty or so born at the one time. There are only four teats so only four young will make it.

Sadly there is a ghastly contagious cancer that is now exterminating these wonderful animals. The tumours grow around the mouth, but because the devils fight and bite so much the tumours spread rapidly. So far scientists have been unable to prevent or cure the disease. You can read about it here.

Small populations free of the facial tumour disease have been established on reserves on mainland Australia in the hope that they can be eventually released in Tasmania.

This fabulous photo is from Australian Geographic. Just look at those baby claws. And trusting faces.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Quiet holidays

Zoos where you may handle some of the animals
provide wonderful experiences.
My husband needs to go to Maroochydore for a conference connected to the work he does. I will tag along this time and we will have short holiday. This fits in nicely with my work schedule.  If we are going such a long way, then the opportunity is too good to waste.

Do you like holidays?

Believe it or not, I actually do not enjoy going to a different place and having to find things to do to fill the time. I prefer to be busy and organised. The thought of just sitting in a bar and chatting fills me with dread. Lying on a beach reading a book is dull.

I enjoy being at home. This is where my life is. I am surrounded by the things I like and the memories I cherish.  Evidence of love and devotion. Experiences. Connections.

But I have been on lots of holidays, just not as many as most people who live around here.
Market tour
prior to some cooking lessons.

I have tried lots of different holiday activities. I have been swimming, snorkelling, hiking, and whitewater rafting. We have had holidays with family and holidays overseas.

I have cruised, driven, flown, soared, ridden, and hiked.

I have climbed volcanoes and descended into caverns. Ridden underwater streams.

Visiting art galleries, museums, and historic places are my favourite things to do. But anything to do with rocks is wonderful too.

An interesting museum in New Zealand
In a National Park near Sydney
Amphibious ducks
make great tour vehicles.
I have taken myriad lessons in sewing, card games, languages, geography, dancing, cooking, and art.

The most disappointing was probably travelling in a hot air balloon in the desert around Alice Springs.

We had our own butler here.
I have stayed in remote mountain villages, flash hotels, camping sites, and palaces.

I enjoy this style of street sculpture.
Darwin is a holiday destination for many people and they spend an enormous amount of time, money, and effort just to get here.

I am happy to have holidays right here at quite a low cost to me. I can definitely afford the accommodation. There are wartime sites, nearly National Parks, walking and cycling trails, and good places to eat.

What do you do on your vacations?

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Wonderful architechure

Is your home an architectural masterpiece?

Part of our old house, nestled among the forest.
It curves around and around.
Well our last home was rather stunning.  Forward thinking architects had worked wonders on a very basic box-shaped dwelling. So much space and freedom. Cool and comfortable. We sold it after 30 fabulous years.

Dramatic change of lifestyle and living conditions. 

Now we live in an icecube in a tall block in the middle of the CBD. You know the type. Tall white building. Heavy dependence on electricity. Most dwellings in the building have the same floor plan. Difficult to alter, although not impossible. Some good neighbours, but quite a few shockers. Yes indeed, we certainly hear when other people flush the toilet, use the shower, slam the door, and use an alarm clock. These are not annoying actually, but the comforting sounds of life. Real life. Not the stuff in novels and films.

I love looking at other people's homes, learning how they live.

This shoots off at a tangent and sometimes I gaze longingly at all sorts of buildings. Edwardian style and Arts and Crafts appeal to me a great deal. Old buildings, historic places, other cultures.

I found some fabulous photos.

Why would anyone want these?

Who would want to construct them?
How are they used?
What are the plumbing issues?
Is heating and cooling easy or expensive?
How do you get big appliances in and out? Like fridges? Or big beds?
What happens to them in 80 years?

Most of these pictures come from the one website.

This is also well worth a visit.

Look at these slides.

Are you in a hurry to get out of the building? Fire alarm?

Do you need to be taken to the hospital on a guerney? Fast?

How about taking the children to school when you are a bit rushed?

What about emptying the rubbish bins?
And bringing home the groceries?

Saturday, 19 May 2012

The Descendants, book and film

I went to see the film "The Descendants" at the Deckchair. It is well made. Cinematography is great. Colour, costume, sound, and editing are excellent.

Here is a taste.

I had read the book. Not worth keeping. Gave it away straightaway. Hopeless Dad comes good, coming of age even at middle age. Simple story. No drama. No excitement. No anything really. Mundane.

The film is a good representation of the book, using other devices where words can not be used. I liked the realism. No beautiful people. No super cool clothes. Ordinary houses. Messy yards and gardens. Awful outdoor furniture. There is no emotional pull; heaven knows where anyone got that idea.

Why did I watch the film? It was a fundraiser for my choir. We needed to generate both money and interest in our community activities. The film had received good reviews and attracted a sizeable audience.

Would I recommend it? No. Or the book? No. Why? There are better things in life than this.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Kingfishers where I live

Strong beak. Brown and white colours.
Big head and small body.
Sits upright for balance.
We do not get the usual kookaburras here, but we do get northern kingfishers which are closely related.

King + fisher = a bigger bird that eats fish

Kookaburras eat small animals of different types including insects, lizards, and fish. Kingfishers actually have a varied diet as well as fish.

Northern Kingfisher
Smaller bird and has blue on the wings.
The birds I see usually have some brown as well.
Cairns and Far North Queensland get lots of the really blue kingfishers. This photo was taken in Cairns.

Professional photographers enjoy coming here to capture images of the birds. Kakadu and  Litchfield, National Parks are popular. Even amateurs cannot miss.

The following video was taken at Fogg Dam just a short drive out of town. Fogg Dam was the water supply for the failed rice growing project. Now there are ducks, geese, egrets, cormorants, kingfishers, jabiru, spoonbills, frogs, snakes, crocodiles, and heaps of other living treasures. (I think this film is not actually Fogg Dam but just nearby.)

You can see the kingfisher clearly. It does not laugh like a  kookaburra. Clean air. Plenty of space. Green all year. The local tourist place is called Window on the Wetlands.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

A little holiday and some sewing

Yesterday I decided to give myself a short holiday from the everyday tasks. And I mean really really short. A sewing holiday.

Last year I went to Dili with my choir. It was marvellous. One morning I was wandering through a town and I stopped at a fabulous fabric shop. The storekeeper and his son had excellent English and I was able to purchase some fabric. (My Tetum is very weak and I do not speak Portuguese either.) I bought something that looks like a genuine batik but is actually a print on synthetic. Wash and wear. Wonderful design.

Yesterday I finally used this fabric to sew a cover up for when I go swimming. Just right. Even slightly fashionable at the moment.

Fold and cut.
Stitch the shoulders in a line.
Curve the bottom corners.
Hem all the way around.
Fold and cut a hole for the head to pass through. Hem that.
Lay flat and locate a line for side seams.
Try on.
Abracadabra. It fits fat or thin, short or tall, wet or dry.

Yes, I know it looks like a fat lady's kaftan, but that is what is being worn right now!!!
This is perfect for wearing after swimming and riding up and down in the lift.

Eat your heart out Hollywood and Bollywood.

As Mum would say, "Don't break your arm patting yourself on the back." But I might.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Freebies for the next Mothers Day

Now that Mothers Day is over and the thrill has passed I have been looking at how to do it next year. Maximum effect for minimum effort of course.

In the shops I see lovely cards that are really nothing more than a photo printed onto glossy photo paper. I made some like that at Christmas time for all those thank you letters and annual litanies of family activities.
Why not make Mothers Day cards at home? There are all those little old ladies out there who need a boost but have no children to fuss over them.  Some people might like the chance to remember their own mothers, step mothers, or grandmothers.

The method for making the card is extra simple.

  1. Open a word document in portrait. 
  2. Make two columns. 
  3. Set the font size on huge and scroll into the second column.
  4. Inset two pictures, leaving a blank space in between.
  5. Add a charming message that is friendly but not intrusive.
  6. Print about ten.
  7. Slice them carefully across the middle.
  8. Fold very carefully. Trim on the guillotine to make them match perfectly if your fold is a bit wonky.
  9. Check that they fit into standard envelopes. They will, unless you bought the wrong size.
  10. Very carefully write on the back, "Handmade by XYZ in Moscow" using your own details.

This could be cropped of framed easily.

In an emergency a bundle of these can be gift wrapped as a farewell or birthday prezzie.

This is a present that gives twice, or even more than that. You have the pleasure of making something. You give a bundle of notecards. The recipient then uses them to connect with another person.

These photos are either my own or from clip art collections. You are welcome to use them.

This is a Wollemi pine, very rare as they have no seeds whatsoever.


Monday, 14 May 2012


I am actually a very optimistic person, although my recent posts might indicate the contrary. I learned to be happy; it did not come naturally. I would like to encourage you to become a more content, satisfied and happier person.

The first step is to realise that Life is not fair and you cannot make it so. Bad things do happen to good people. You do not always get what you deserve. Only you will ever know that you deserve much better. Only you will ever know how much more you need. You are the one who is going to make your life better. You need to change your thinking to take advantage of all the good parts of your personality and your circumstances. Concentrate on the good things. You do not have to totally disregard the other parts, but you do need to emphasise the favourable aspects.

Did someone treat you badly? You must have demonstrated resilience, solid character, and personal strength to endure that. You have survived this long and you can survive a bit longer. Your strength of character will not fail you, but will improve the rest of your life. You are the good guy in this.

Did you whinge and whine about something? No, you demonstrated your strong belief in social justice. You made efforts to redress a fault. You stood up for your beliefs. You were a person of action. Someone else was at fault not you. You tried to be the action hero. You may have influenced more than you know just now. I did, but did not find out for a long time.

Did you forget to do something important? So, other people never make mistakes? Of course they do and it was just one mistake. Learn to write lists to avoid this too many times. Everyone makes mistakes. Errors are part of life. You are not the only person in the universe and someone could have helped or reminded you. They didn't, so can share the blame.

Did you take a life? From a person? A pet? An animal that relied on you? Worse? Soldiers have lived with this grief for thousands of years. The pain will never go away entirely, but you can survive it. You must do this. You can and you will. Be strong. Be resilient. Courage. Bravery. Strength. Stoic.

Are you a victim of bullying, torture, depravity, violence, crime? Guantanamo Bay? You are not alone. These things happen to thousands of people and they have happened for thousands of years with variations. Life is not over. If you kill yourself, they will have been victorious. Do not die. Do not give them the satisfaction. Dig deeper into your soul and find just a scrap more strength. If I can do this, then so can you. Life will get better if you survive.

Make a list of three good things in your life today. Not sappy stuff like your children love you when you know they treat your instructions with contempt. I mean the really good things like: The air is clean and fresh; I am free from cancer; I can see; I remember singing a song when I was a child; Leprosy has a new and better name and can be cured; Think about soft little feathers; If I sit here it is quite comfortable; Those bombs are far away. Find lots of good things even if they are very small. Remember. Think about your strengths. Good is still good.

You do not have to forgive people who hurt you. You are allowed to remember those times. They were horrible. You did not deserve to be treated that way. Even if you did something wrong, there were other ways of dealing with it. Your manners are better than theirs. Your values are better than theirs. You can take pride in that. You can be proud of your resiliency and courage.

If you truly want to, then volunteer somewhere. Or visit someone. Or perform a few random acts of kindness. This is not an obligation but a sign of your inherent positive attitude.

Events occur. We feel something. We can respond then or we can change how we feel abut the event. It is true that we can change our feelings simply be looking at an event differently. It works. Peter Cundall, the famous gardener, was put in solitary confinement as a prisoner of war. His reaction? "For the first time in my life I have a room of my own." Positive reactions create a happier outlook. Then our whole life becomes happier.

Make a list of ten things that you can do when you feel really bad or desperate or dark. My list includes looking at pictures in books, sewing, stroking the cat, deep breaths, listening to music, wiping dust off shelves, and watching favourite films. Use this list as often as you need it. This is not failure it is success.

You can worry if it is necessary. There is nothing wrong with that. It shows you care.

Enjoy every day. Enjoy something every day. Enjoy parts of your life. Read jokes. Do things you are good at. Soon you will enjoy bigger and better and more arenas.