The Kiwi Edit

Kiwi NZ landscape

I can feel a road trip coming on…

I’ve never been to New Zealand.

I know.  It’s completely tragic, and more than a little embarrassing — particularly given the teensy tiny three hour flight time from Sydneytown to most places in the Land of the Long White Cloud. (I mean, it takes only slightly longer to fly from here to Cairns, and that’s just in the next state, not the next country).

Kiwi Broods

Georgia & Caleb Nott: Broods

New Zealand has been on my mind a lot lately — not just because everyone else in the office where I work decamped to Queenstown for all of last week, but also because I’ve been listening to some great Kiwi music lately. In addition to enjoying Matthew Young’s song Collect (like just about everyone else I know), and Lorde’s latest stuff, I’ve been loving listening to brother-sister duo Broods for most of the past year, especially their Conscious album.

And while many of my countryfolk occasionally disparage our Kiwi cousins, indulging in quips about Australia being the mainland, snickering at their unusual way of pronouncing their vowel sounds, debating who really invented Pavlova, claiming any New Zealander with an ounce of talent for just about anything is actually an Aussie, or simply making rude remarks about sheep, I’m going to resist the urge to do any of those things.

(I will admit, however, that I failed to resist mentioning all of those things, and for that I sincerely apologise.)

No, I am of the opinion that New Zealand is a place I would really, truly love to visit — so I’ve decided to put together my top five (wildly generalised) reasons why:

  1. The People.  This is a cliché, of course, but I’ve never met a New Zealander I didn’t like. My first memories of Kiwis were the ones who (inevitably) lived in the street where I grew up — the quiet but wickedly funny father of the family next door, and the former wicket-keeper of the Black Caps up the road for whom I used to babysit. Nice blokes. Lovely people. And I can’t think of a single Kiwi I’ve met since whose company I didn’t enjoy. In my experience, they’re far more Footrot Flats than Once Were Warriors.
  2. Their sense of humour. I suspect a large part of the reason that I tend to get on with
    Kiwi Footrot

    Dog from Footrot Flats

    Kiwis is that I enjoy their sense of humour. As I said earlier, I am — quite obviously — generalising wildly while making this list. But I’ve found that New Zealanders are a funny bunch, and in a good way. The aforementioned Footrot Flats is one example. The Almighty Johnsons is another, though perhaps a little quirkier. Or Flight of the Conchords, who used to refer to themselves as  “New Zealand’s fourth most popular guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo”. And if you need any further proof, just check out Sam Neill’s Twitter feed — and do watch the videos of him with his pigs. Really.

  3. Kiwi Taika

    Taika Waititi: Legend

    Taika Waititi.  If you were to combine points one and two above (not that I’ve actually met the man in person), I’m reasonably certain you’d end up with Taika Waititi. Not only has he recently directed Thor: Ragnarok (aka Loki III), which as some of my previous posts reveal, automatically endears him to me. But in addition to that, the guy has some serious talent, a very well-honed funny bone, and he’s New Zealander of the Year to boot. Oh — and he also recently fronted a brilliant ad campaign about racism that is worth a look, no matter where you live.

  4. The All Blacks.  I’m tempted just to leave it at that: The All Blacks. I realise I’m probably running the risk of having my citizenship revoked, but you only need to look at the All Blacks record during the any of their Bledisloe Cup campaigns since 2002 to see what I mean. Respect where it’s due.

    Kiwi Haka

    The All Blacks doing their Haka. (I dare you to make a joke about men in PINK footy boots after that performance).

  5. The Landscape.  Where do I even start with this one?  I mean, seriously — it’s not just New Zealand, this is Middle Earth, people!  Magnificent doesn’t even begin to describe it.  When my kids got a postcard from the Hobbiton movie set recently, it was all I could do to stop them from grabbing my phone, ordering the nearest Uber to take them to the airport, and jumping on the first plane heading straight across the ditch. And now that I’ve reached the end of this list, I’m beginning to wonder why I stopped them…

So there you have it: Blue Jai’s top 5 reasons to love New Zealand. If, like me, you haven’t been there already, getting your holiday plans happening.

Otherwise, hug a Kiwi. (With permission, of course).

They’re quite lovely.

Kiwi Hobbiton

Hobbiton…my children’s dream home…

 

 

 

 

This Little Life

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Adam and Eve…back to the beginning…

Some days I find it hard to believe that it has been two years since I sat down on the sofa one night and started this blog. I can still remember the first time I hit the Publish button — holding my breath and then slowing exhaling as my words unfurled in cyberspace.

Since then I’ve used this space — usually aimlessly, occasionally deliberately — to make sense of it all: thoughts, feelings, marriage, kids, world events, minutiae, books, music, writing, life.

About a year ago, I wrote a post called The Wellspring, which was probably as close to a personal manifesto as I’ll ever get:

I believe there is a wellspring in each of us, the source of our creativity and our connection with humanity and the planet we are so lucky to live on.

I wrote about my First Principles and how I try to align myself with them. I wrote about living authentically and being true to myself. I wrote, also, of my gratitude for the encouragement I had received — and continue to receive — from the farflung readers of this blog.

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In Adam I recognise my tendency to overthink…

Now, another twelve months on, I decided to go right back to the beginning. To get back to basics. So I went back and read that first post I wrote, Just Getting it Out There, and was thankful that I still recognised the person I found there — even though way back then I hadn’t even figured out how to add images to what I had written, and barely knew what a tag was.

Re-reading that post also made me want to go back and revisit the movie that had inspired it, Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive. Having recently returned from a holiday to the US, I wanted to return to the film’s nocturnal landscape, the dispossessed industrial heartland of America — partly because I’m still trying to reconcile what I witnessed only a couple of weeks ago: the carefully constructed Disney dream with all its manicured artifice that I sought to share with my children, and the haphazard existence of the homeless people I saw living in squalor beside freeways or sleeping it off outside shopping centres.

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Like The Bloke, Eve reminds me that there are so many ways to live and survive..

It was The Bloke, my steady and steadfast husband, who reminded me that there are many ways to live this life, and that not everyone finds living in a house in the suburbs (or anywhere, for that matter) fits in with them or with their preferred lifestyle. That freedom can be defined in as many ways as there are human beings. That every single one of us has a story — and that each of those tales matters, and is worth no more or less than the next person’s.

And since then I have been reminding myself, as I reminded my children countless times during that vacation, of that old adage:

It’s not wrong, it’s just different.

b-adam-eve

Unlike vampires, we get just one, short life…

We are all the product of our choices, of the decisions we make. Some are so small we don’t even register them for what they are or for the cumulative impact they have. Others are so big they are completely and mindblowingly life-altering. And yet, regardless of their size or consequence, whether we overthink them or dwell on them in bed at night or dismiss them or even put them into the fabled ‘too hard basket’, we make them. Each and every day.

And so, ultimately, I remain convinced of the importance of knowing and aligning yourself with your First Principles, whatever they might be. I still believe in that Wellspring and of the incalculable value of connecting with it regularly and deliberately. I continue to contend that it is worth doing your best in everything you do, and in each and every decision you make, and that it is essential to be grateful — oh, so grateful — for this little life.

 

If you enjoyed this post and would like musings from the Daydream Believer to be delivered to your inbox whenever they appear, feel free to click the follow button at the top right of this page…Blue Jai 

 

We Did It: The Communist Approach to Vacation Planning

rosie-the-riveter

It’s all about the polka dots, peeps — Rosie the Riveter and Minnie Mouse know fashion.

Those of you who follow this blog with any regularity will know that I am a planner.

A sometimes fasitidous list maker.

An occasionally ridiculously anal nth degree detailer.

But then, there’s the other part of me (which The Bloke has been known to attribute to my left-leaning political stance) that quite enjoys the long view. The Five Year Plan, for example. The kind that might be set down in a notebook (red, of course) along with an outline of how the means of production and communal — er, sorry, I mean family — income might be channelled into attaining whatever Big Goal I have determined will best serve the Common Good.

And while it may be true that I studied Russian history at university and have copies of The Portable Karl Marx and The Encyclopaedia of the Russian Revolution and A History of the Soviet Union (Final Edition) — amongst other salacious titles — on my bookshelf, The Bloke has insisted that these be hidden behind an armchair so as not to offend the sensibilities of my in-laws.

I’m totally OK with that.

Really — I’m broad minded.

(And — for the sake of my inlaws’ sanity — I’m not Communist either).

Which is probably why our most recently completed Five Year Plan abandoned any remotely leftie sentiments and culminated in a family vacation to the cultural heartland of capitalist consumerism: Disneyland!

disney-quote

Maybe Walt was a kindred spirit too…

Seriously, we had a ball.

Yes, I might have planned out each day of our holiday (as best as I could) in advance, making sure we took advantage of Park Hopper Tickets and Magic Hours and Fast Passes and every other trick and time-saving contrivance I could research and/or think of, but as a result we saw and did just about everything we wanted to — and still had time to shop for souvenirs.

Because those Disney dudes know that it’s all about the merch, my friends!

(Though I suspect even Rosie the Riveter — who, as a wartime icon of American feminism and women’s economic power — could have told you that, despite pre-dating the die-hard Disney era by a decade or more).

So, despite my somewhat communist approach to vacation planning — or perhaps because of it?! — we have returned to the Great Southern Land with multiple sets of mouse ears, numerous magnets and keyrings, several caps (Star Wars ones, of course, thanks to Lucasfilm being aquired by Disney for the bargain price of $4.06 billion back in 2012 — which may or may not equate to about two week’s worth of ticket sales to the park), along with three new lightsabers (two of them custom built) and Mickey Mouse only knows what else.

And now that this Five Year Plan has been completed — which probably revolved more around Marvel Girl and Miss Malaprop being just the right age to revel in the magic of the Happiest Place on Earth than anything else — I can honestly say that I’m so glad we did it.

The Common Good, I think the whole family would agree, was well and truly served.

They might even let me come up with another Five Year Plan…

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Main Street USA, all decked out for Halloween. Planning ahead meant, to misquote the most famous Disney Princess of recent years, Elsa of Arendelle, “the crowds never bothered us anyway”.

 

Breathe…

T spoon

Just one spoonful…every now and then. You can get a spoon just like this on Esty, here.

I just put a spoonful of sugar into my tea (Earl Grey, black, piping hot).

That might seem like a very ordinary thing to do, but some time ago I banished sugar to the top shelf of my pantry. Nowadays, the sugar jar only really makes an appearance when my Dad comes over (English Breakfast, white with one).

But there are some days — and quite often, for me, they are grey-skied, quiet days — when I prefer to take my tea with a spoonful of sugar. These are the days when I feel the need for that gentle buzz only sugar brings. (And yes, you really do notice it once you’ve gone without it for some time).

If I’m honest, however, it’s not the weather that made me pick up the sugar jar, even though autumn is descending rapidly upon Sydneytown at this time of year. And it’s not the solace of stirring, either, which I’ve written about before.

No, it’s my kids.

Lord knows I love them — dearly, oh so dearly — but by the end of the school term, my kids are driving me crazy. Bonkers. Mad as a box of frogs.

After ten long weeks of school, my children’s behaviour…ummm…deteriorates.

That’s the nicest word I can find to describe the out of control crazytrain ride that confronts me before drop off and after pick up every day at the end of term. I don’t think it’s deliberate or in any way malicious: I suspect my girls are really, truly worn out and that self-regulation is, quite simply, beyond them when they have to front up for six hours each day of being ever-so-good for their teachers.

And, having picked up all the signals that the crazytrain was careening towards me this week (the least of which were tears and tantrums), I have taken steps to look after my own sanity and have managed to keep it — mostly — together. It just so happens that today, one of those steps involved stirring sugar into my tea. But yesterday, for example, I made sure I got to yoga.

T so ham

So…ham…in…out…just…breathe…

My yoga teacher is like a lovely little gypsy fairy (seriously, you can almost see her wings sparkling silvery bluey-green) with a beaming smile that is as warm and open as her beautiful heart. And yesterday, bless her, she introduced our class to a very simple mantra that has helped remind me to take a couple of deep, life-saving and sanity-preserving breaths whenever the kid-filled crazytrain has looked like it was about to derail.

The mantra: SO HAM.

It’s pronounced more like so hum, which resembles the sound of inhaling and exhaling, and allows you to connect the mantra to your breathing.

But what has really helped me this week is what so ham means: the mantra translates, very simply, as I am that. So when you connect the mantra to your breath, and repeat it over and over again, you connect also to the core of your being:

I am that I am that I am that I am that I am that I am that I am that I am…

 And I came to realise, in those moments of stillness, when I connected to myself and my breath, that even though I am a mother and a wife and a daughter and a sister and an aunt and a friend and a freelance writer and a carer and homemaker who cleans and washes and irons and makes lunches and all manner of other meals and snacks and everything else —

T peace— that really, at the centre of it all, I just am.

And no one can take that away.

So hamso ham…so ham…

 

 

 

Beyond the Bends

 

Pittwater

Pittwater and the Peninsula

This afternoon I took a lazy drive with my girls, wending our way up the Northern Beaches, heading beyond the Bends.

The sun is finally shining in Sydneytown after a week of relentless rain, and the temperature is on the rise too. Today we had no plans — just a vague idea about hopping in the car and driving north. And with The Bloke back at work and several more weeks of glorious summer ahead of us, that’s just what we did.

We cruised up the road, reveling in the beauty of the blue of the skies and the sea, taking it easy. One of the best things about summer holidays is not having to rush…

We stopped for lunch — burgers, because another great thing about the long summer break is getting to eat your main meal in the middle of the day if you feel like it — and then poked our heads into various shops before getting back into the car.

This time we headed briefly west, making the short trip across the peninsula from the beaches to Pittwater.  For me, it’s like taking a trip down Memory Lane…particularly when we drove past the holiday house that had once belonged to family friends when I was growing up. I found myself telling the kids that the first place I ever saw a koala in the wild was in their front yard, and then lost myself in a reverie of recollections as the road meandered down towards Clareville.

Christmas 2015 & Jan 2016 062

Summer skies…

The water was welcoming when we arrived, and the shade beneath the huge eucalpyts at the sand’s edge was deep.  We sat for a while, listening to the lapping water, watching the clustering cumulonimbus clouds on the horizon, searching for giant seed pods beneath the ancient trees. Time slows down during those moments…those lazy summer afternoons that new memories are made of…

Miss Malaprop fell asleep as we made our steady southbound journey home, while Marvel Girl stared dreamily out the window. And even now, as the first raindrops of that summer storm begin to fall, I still have a smile on my face.

Today, we had no plans…and it was wonderful…

Sprechen Sie Liebe?

Darth Christmas

‘Tis the season, people…

‘Tis the season…so they say.

The season of attending a seemingly endless whirl of Christmas parties and festive functions involving various degrees of fun, stress, inebriation and/or sugar.

The season of juggling multiple (not to mention competing) schedules to ensure that everyone gets to their ballet concerts, client drinks, end of year school assemblies and only Rudolph knows what else — and woe betide you if you forgot to charge your phone and failed to video your offspring’s rousing rendition of Jingle Bells for the grandparents to watch later.

And the season of wondering just how Marvel Girl’s school managed to schedule a swimming carnival and a carols night on the same date…and of trying to remember to smile (rather than grin fixedly or simply scream) when Santa Claus turns up on a trailer with a sack filled with brightly coloured lollipops to hand to your already delirious preschooler a full hour after her bedtime…

Elves

One for my bookclub lovelies…

It really is the season, the silliest of seasons, perhaps…but in amongst all the absurdity and there’s still a lot to be thankful for:

I remain (eternally) grateful, for example, that the lovely ladies in my book club are all firmly of the view that licensed premises are the best place to convene our meetings — particularly if there’s a courtesy bus to take us home.  Every last one of us will put up with our husbands’ japes about our reading glasses having stems rather than lenses if we can be left to talk about our…er, um, chosen book — yes, I’m sure it was a book we were discussing —  every six weeks or so, no matter what time of year it is.

Nov-Dec 2015 020

Nobody likes a half-assed jingler…part of my Christmas wall in my kitchen.

 

I am equally glad that Christmas gives me a brilliant excuse to indulge my love of cheap and tacky decorations and to bedeck my home with banners, candles, baubles, wreaths and whatever else we have to hand.  I love that my little Miss Malaprop reminds me most days in December that “there’s no such thing as too much tinsel!”, but I am also quite relieved that Marvel Girl was prepared to change the tone of her letter to Santa so it didn’t bear quite so much resemblance to a solicitor’s letter of demand.

I am definitely appreciative of the fact that my children are learning to verbalise what they are feeling at this time of year: from the dizzying, wondrous, joyfilled, frequently candy-cane fuelled heights, right down to the despairing depths of the massively over-tired, over-excited, and over-just about everything.

fabulous

It’s easy to run out of steam, riding the Christmas Crazy Train…

I will admit that my heart did break a little bit this morning when a pair of mournful greeny-blue eyes looked up at mine and Miss Malaprop confessed that “her love tank was not very full”: it seems that riding the Christmas Crazy Train isn’t always easy, especially for small people desperately counting down the days until the arrival of one S Claus.

But I am also grateful that she spoke up, so I was able to surprise her with a love-tank filling visit to The Kitchen Nook, her favourite cafe to hang out in before preschool, and that upon arriving there we simply sat down and were presented with our regular order (one life-preserving long black, one not-so-hot chocolate) with a smile and a nod — without even having to ask for it.

It’s the little things, people…they don’t go unnoticed, and they count — regardless of the season.

Because that’s all it took, really: it may not seem like much, but a few minutes spent sitting together in a welcoming cafe, sipping our drinks and having a bit of a chat was all that was required to help us rediscover our Christmas spirit.

Tinsel

Spend time, speak love…

And when you strip away all the parties and presents, the baubles and the bling, and even the tinsel, that’s what this season is really about: spending time with people you love, and making sure that you’re speaking the same language.

So — sprechen sie liebe?

Parlez-vous l’amour?

Do you? Go on…’tis the season.

 

 

 

The Little Things about Home

ShowerSchool holidays are over once again, much to the disappointment and chagrin of our entire household. It seems somehow fitting that today, the day the kids have returned to school, the rain is pouring from a grey-stained sky while the wind is gusting close to gale force.

We snuck away south for the second week of the holidays, lured by the beaches of Bendalong and Mollymook and of days filled with surf and sand.  As with many of our other beachside holidays, The Bloke would have stayed away for three weeks if he could but, strangely enough, after four or five days the kids were asking when we were heading back to old Sydneytown — not because they were dissatisfied with the experience, but just because after a full and busy first term at school they have really enjoyed spending time pottering around at home.

And here’s the thing: I love being at home too.

Much as I enjoy getting away, I have been guilty of occasionally referring to vacations with children (especially children of the small variety) as being rather more like “same gig, different venue” than “relaxing, restorative break”…particularly if said getaways involve foreign languages, flat batteries on any devices possessing small screens, or more than four consecutive hours of travel. Throw in a lack of appropriate snack food (because they’ve eaten everything you packed and nearly started on the wrappers too) and sometimes it seems it would be far, far simpler to just stay home.

Because let’s face it: there are some things that make staying home worthwhile.  Really.  They’re generally only little things, but they’re often the ones that really count.

Here are a few little things that I think make staying at home utterly superb:

1. Home is where your pillow is. Some say that the best thing about coming home from holidays is sleeping in your own bed, but for me, being able to rest your head on your own pillow is just as important — if not more so. In the interests of full disclosure, I suspect the main reason that the humble pillow tops this list of little things is that I forgot to pack my mine when we went to Mollymook. I remembered to take Junior Monopoly, clothes pegs and two kinds of sunscreen, but I forgot my wonderfully comfortable pillow. Returning home, I greeted it like a long lost friend. (Yes, I may even have hugged it.) A good pillow is life-affirming.  

2. Home is where the second drawer in the kitchen contains everything you need. Ah…the much maligned second drawer. Every home has one, but it is not until you’re on vacation that you suddenly (and sometimes desperately, when children are involved) need something from that crazy, cluttered drawer.  Cling wrap, for example, or a knife that is actually capable of cutting. Band aids, rubber bands, a piece of string, blu tak, salad servers, a screwdriver — I defy you to think of a single holiday with kids when for some bizarre reason or another, you didn’t need something from the second drawer of your kitchen at home.

3. Home is where the chargers are. The chargers? Yes, the chargers…all the chargers. The phone charger, the regular camera charger, the video camera charger, the laptop charger, the iPod, iPad and Leap-pad chargers, the Kindle charger, even the bluetooth speaker charger.  In this dizzying digital age, attempting a vacation without packing a vicious snarl of electrical cables is virtually impossible, and heaven help you if you leave one behind — unless, of course, you want to leave them at home and unplug (gasp!) as well as unwind?! The fact that said chargers occupy one person’s quota of carry-on luggage is beside the point…at least at home, you know where they all are.  Either that, or you have enough other cables and bits on hand to Macgyver up something that connects to a standard power point…

4. Home is where you fully understand how the shower works. This brilliant thought is not actually one of mine (you can find more like it here), but the more I think about it the more I know it to be true. At home, you know exactly where to position the shower head or the flick mixer, or how many times to turn the taps, or whatever it is that you do in your shower, to make it just how you like it. Because God knows there aren’t many finer things on this green earth than a hot shower.

5. Home is where you know the exact location of the chocolate stash. Quite honestly, I don’t think this point requires any further elaboration. Besides, I have no wish to inadvertently set off The Bloke’s already highly tuned chocolate sensor to the presence of any confectionary that may or may not be present in our home.

So there you have it: five little things that make staying at home simply wonderful, and wonderfully simple.

Feel free to leave a comment if I’ve left your favourite out!

Blue Jai