Celebrity Envy

While trawling the internet today, I inadvertently clicked on a link to a celebrity update. Unable to backtrack I was forced to read on. Well perhaps “forced” is a little too strong….alright then, I was curious.

To my surprise it was a witty repartee, regarding a celebrity being touted by mainstream media as having “Dropped Two Dress Sizes.” The non-conformist reporter was appalled (as was I), that an already very slim person was being congratulated for losing (even more) weight. I found myself smiling at their outraged response. It was delightful to read the article — as opposed to (yet another) endorsement on the benefits of eating a singular lettuce leaf per day!

Historically I’ll admit, I’ve felt envy towards goddesses with bronzed bodies, squeezed into infinitesimally small bikinis (when my best effort is a one piece cover-all). BUT jealousy aside, I have (for some years now) harped on to long suffering friends about the importance of loving ourselves. TRULY LOVING ourselves, bumps and all.

You don’t need me to tell you (but I will again, just incase you’ve forgotten) that many of us struggle every day with how we look. AND that media attention constantly focuses on the slim, the perfect and the beautiful. We all know this. Do I blame the media? Partly.

By applauding incredibly thin bodies as the ideal way to look, the media (and our dear selves) have created a rather bizarre paradigm: Be unhappy with yourself, when COMPARED to a celebrity (who has access to the best food, personal trainers and plastic surgeons). Strangely, we snaffle this up like ravenous vultures endeavouring to apply it to our own unique bodies.

Media blame aside, we all need to think before we speak. How we talk about weight and body image does affect others, including ourselves.

What I realised, whilst being encouraged by the article I read, is that deep within me lurks a sharp edged voice. This voice occasionally screams “You’re fat!” Sorry to say, my dear readers, the door to this screeching harridan was opened today.

In order to soothe my frayed nerves (and to shove the old witch back down) I have been self-medicating with dark chocolate. My message for the day: LOVE yourselves, LOVE your chocolate and BE KIND to one another.

Oh and if my bum looks big in my new jeans, please (for goodness sake) think before you speak!

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Dirty Dishes

I conducted an experiment this week in the kitchen. Not the cooking kind of experiment, but a cleaning one. To be honest I have tried a variety of similar ‘experiments’ over the years, but reckoned it was time to try another one.

“Leave the dishes, I’ll do them”, I was told and so I did, albeit disbelievingly. I had to give the ‘experiment’ a chance. In the back of my mind I was doubtful, but remembered that I had been pleasantly surprised before. One never knew what glorious surprises might lurk beneath the surface of another’s capabilities!

One thing I must make absolutely clear – I abhor seeing copious amounts of dishes on the bench when I get home from work. For some reason (one I’m totally unconscious of) it horrifies me!  Don’t get me wrong, dishes on other people’s benches is ok with me – just not in my kitchen, thank you very much.

When I got home ‘the dishes’ weren’t done BUT I generously let it go (“amazing work, good on you, give yourself a pat on the back” – I needed to give myself positive affirmations at this point).

Thinking back to the previous night; I had been told ‘the dishes’ would be done (at some point) and reckoned that maybe I needed to give ‘the experiment’ some more time. Unable to completely avoid the kitchen, I thoughtfully stacked the offensive objects in orderly piles (so I could make a cup of tea), cleared the sink (of another pile) and went to bed – it had been a very long day.

I should probably provide a rationale (aka my magical thinking) for touching ‘the dishes’. I reasoned that if they were well stacked, someone might notice and realise I’d been there (meddling with ‘the experiment’). Further along this track of illusion, I hoped someone might be able to read my mind, realise I was a wee bit agitated and clear the bench. Simple really – not rocket science at all.

The next morning I wrote a friendly (reminder) note – “Please do the dishes today.”  Mind-reading is one thing, but I figured written communication could possibly be more effective (in case ‘the dishes’ became invisible to the naked eye).

On my return, I was surprised to see someone had washed the cups (at least) BUT the rack was full (of course). “Maybe tomorrow” I sighed tramping off to bed to dream of lemony suds in sinks and sparkling countertops.

Today is a public holiday and desiring poached eggs I headed naively for the kitchen. Who was I kidding – ‘the dishes’ were there last night and there are no fairies in our house. Besides, I could smell them. I have an excellent sense of smell (shame about the hearing).

My lip began to curl (not a good sign). I couldn’t cook, there was no space. What was I to do? The bedroom doors were firmly shut. I had NO choice but to tackle the towering mountain before me. As I cleared the dish-rack a pile of rejected dishes grew. The washing process had clearly been a haphazard one (probably in response to my impending arrival the night before).

A bedroom door creaked (I wasn’t being quiet about the washing up process at all). “Why are you doing the dishes?” someone called in a cautious tone.

“Cos there’s no room to cook breakfast!” I snapped.

“Oh”, came the reply. They knew (from previous experience) that it would be in their best interests to remain in the safety of their room. I could hear the door being closed (very quietly).

My anger swiftly rose; a huge surge of energy which mushroomed (I imagined) out of and around the top of my head. In response to this silent rage, a baking tray promptly slid off the enormous stack of clean dishes and onto the floor. I had thought that it was well stacked – obviously an engineering fault there.

I had an eerie sense of calm as I retrieved the tray from the floor. Then without thinking I slammed it back down – twice! In true two year old fashion I thumped it with all my might. “I DON’T WANT TO DO THE DISHES ANYMORE!!!!”, I shouted (inside my head).

Sadly, my tantrum didn’t have the desired effect – attention. Nobody came running to see what the noise was, or to ask if I was ok. There was silence. I could still feel the reverberation in my arms. SILENCE. At this point (sitting on the floor with the tray in my hand) I had one of two options – cry or laugh. I’m proud to say I chose the later.

I gave myself a reality check, while laughing. My ‘experiment’ hadn’t worked (no big deal- errhmm). The poor old baking tray was dented. I am supremely thankful that inanimate objects don’t get hurt in the way humans might.

Do I need to learn some news ways of asking for ‘the dishes’ to be done? Or perhaps I just need to get a dishwasher!

New Specs

Being less able to see the computer screen upon which I spend hours gazing, I thought it best to get my eyesight tested again…it had been a while. My squinting was getting the better of me, not to mention creating unsightly new wrinkles! Reluctantly, like a petulant child I dragged myself off to the Optometrist.

I braced myself for milk bottle lenses (I know they don’t do them any more, but it has always been a secret fear of mine) and said, “I’m having problems seeing things.”

“It’s ok, the optician said, we can sort that out with a new prescription.” She slid in a variety of different lenses until WHAMMO there it was, perfect clear vision!

“Thank you very much, where do I pay?” What I’d forgotten of course, was phase two of the operation – having to choose from a disproportionately large amount of frames. Selecting a pair at random, I recoiled at the price tag – $499 on special!! “Um where are the cheap ones please?”

“We can do a two for one deal today madam,” the assistant advised me.

Of course you can, I thought to myself. “What would I need two pairs for? The optician told me my sight wasn’t bad at all. What do you mean two pairs, are you suggesting that I would lose them?”

“No madam, not at all. How about one pair for reading and another as sunglasses?”

“Ah, now you’re talking,” I said.

OK I’ll be honest, I was anxious to pick up my new specs.  Two weeks later, driving to collect them I worried out loud to myself. Had I made the right choice? Would they look ok? Or had the optician tricked me and prescribed the dreaded milk bottle lenses? Handing over my receipt, I held my breath.

“Madam would you come with me please,” the assistant asked.

I wrung my hands (internally shrieking “Oh god, oh god, what’s wrong?”) and as I sat down in the proffered chair, he smiled, gently placing the new specs over my nose. “Now let’s see if these need any adjusting madam. No, they’re perfect…they look good.”

You know what, he was right, they did look good.  I said my thank you’s and departed tout de suite! In the refuge of my car I took the new specs out of their cases, admiring their shiny sparkle in a slightly deranged way…my precious. Putting the sunglasses on was shocking –  EVERYTHING was crystal clear. “Oh where have you been all my life,” I cried. The fear, anxiety and dread of milk bottles long forgotten I wound down the window and zoomed out of the car park, feeling very flash in my Audrey Hepburn numbers!

Unfortunately, despite being able to see VERY CLEARLY, I must say the wind today is making a terrible mess of my hair – what’s a woman to do?

Death in the Garden

I caught a whiff of death in the garden late last night. It was a cloying smell, edging on bad feet mixed with summer heat and dry grass. I knew the scent immediately, having grown up surrounded by native forest in West Auckland in the 1970’s. Long before the developers came and destroyed the bush and orchards from which we’d steal fruit – sometimes chased by a shotgun toting owner. I don’t recognise this place of memory now, driving past at high speed, the area is saturated with infill housing…all the trees gone.

The smell of death also reminded me of the possums my father and brother would cull, as they (the possums) ate through our supply of fruit each year. It reminded me of dead bloated cows on the roadside during summers as a child…strong encounters with large creatures dead and not buried.  Worst of all it reminded me of the intense smells which would inevitably come during spring and early summer. The gagging, rotting smells of poisoned rats who were trying to nest in the ceiling. I can still hear their little clawed feet running above my head or beside my ears as they scrabbled up and down the walls.  Living on the edge of the bush, there were many things we had to contend with. Things I’d partly forgotten until now.

I lovingly watered my plants this morning and spied the source (of the smell). Blowflies were humming in a thick blanket above a small and tightly curled hedgehog. I felt sad. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it was because the wee creature looked so peaceful, not hit and squashed on the road as their kind often are, but gently wrapped up in a c shape as if sleeping.

I wondered if it was a sign…perhaps death was on it’s way in the family.  Having mixed ancestry (Pakeha and Maori) I look out for such signs by habit. And so I checked the ominous thought with myself and realised it was simply a dead hedgehog in amongst the herbs. This intuitive knowing created a gentleness in me, and scooping the hedgehog up with a spade I respectfully placed it deep into the weeds at the back of the section.

Death of creatures makes me revisit the past. The pets we buried in our own garden: cats, guinea pigs, geckos and mice. The ceremony and ritual around death, has always interested me (despite it being somewhat bleak for most people). The sadness we feel so intensely which always passes with time. DEATH – the big thing we all have to contend with in our lifetimes and the thing which for the most part we avoid.

I’m so glad I found the hedgehog today. Pleased I could send it deep into the dark forest of weeds, rather than letting it lay in the blistering sun.

Cats and Dogs

One night last week, I was having a very pleasant dream (unicorns and rainbows you know the kind of thing) it was a very blissful sleep. Shockingly (but not surprisingly) I was woken by the sound of the dogs next door barking. What followed was the most horrible sound, right outside my bedroom window…a cold chill ran down my back. Something was up. Eeeww yuck and it was freaking me out.  

In suburbia, our neighbours (bless them) have taken it upon themselves to own not one BUT TWO Scottish terriers, little yappy ones. One black and the other white. You might think harmony, balance perhaps, but no I liken these to the hounds of hell. These animals are obviously angst ridden as they run in circles around their pocket handkerchief sized back yard. They bark ALL the time and at pretty much ANYTHING – most annoying! Actually,my theory is that these dogs are probably somewhat mad. I would be angry and aggressive if my legs were telling me to RUN…RUN…RUN around Scottish highlands, amongst heather and bracken, and I was confined to nothing more than three square metres of grass to exercise my little limbs. I figure I’d be mad as hell!

BUT can’t their owners hear them? Aren’t they just as frustrated as we are, at being woken up regularly throughout the night – almost every night? Don’t they have any kind of neighbourly feeling? Aren’t they embarrassed at their dogs behaviour? Hang on a minute, that’s right, their bedrooms are at the front of the house (very convenient). AND these are the things that I would worry about, clearly we’re very different people! I wouldn’t have dogs in the city anyway. I think I can afford to be righteous about this, given the circumstances.

Back to the dogs barking very loudly and ferociously (little dogs can pull that off you know – you’d be surprised) outside my bedroom window. After eighteen months of hearing the poor wee beggars going off at all hours I (for the most part) try to tune them out while sleeping. I’ve had to, for my own sanity…and to avoid black circles beneath my eyes. But after the dogs’ racket (and this was the chilling part) came the other noise…the unearthly sounds I mentioned earlier. I can’t begin to describe the creeping feeling on my skin, even now. It sounded like a cat sounded was dying outside, a terrifying painful sound and the dogs….the bloody dogs, no bigger than a cat themselves, were howling like banshees in response.

Now I grew up semi-rural, so I know the nocturnal noises of cats having sex and possums growling – this wasn’t that noise! What should I do?

  • NOTHING!
  • What about the cat (if there was one)?
  • Should I jump over the fence and rescue it (the cat)?
  • What if the dogs attacked me? Fat chance.
  • What if the neighbour came out with a gun? Not that we really have a gun issue in New Zealand, but it did cross my mind at 4am! But the neighbour is not particularly friendly….maybe that’s why the dogs are unhappy, because he is.

After what seemed like hours of ambivalence, humming and haa-ing about what to do, I just pulled the pillow up over my ears, none too comfortable I can tell you (the crick is still in my neck). I prayed and prayed for the cat to stop making the ungodly noise and it did – just like that! Perhaps it had managed to stop dying or maybe I’d just imagined it all – a bad dream. Talking myself into the latter option I went back to sleep.

When I woke up the next morning I thought I’d have a wee look outside the window though, you know just to check. Alas I’m 5’1 at best and couldn’t manage it, even standing on a chair (the window is very high). So I went outside (moving stealthily like a ninja) and peeked through the fence – nothing. I felt relief. I scanned the property for signs of cat as I left for work. Nothing. Perhaps it was a dream. Wouldn’t that be a relief?

On my return home (that evening) I noted the neighbour had a lot of water running from the path out back. My over active imagination began cranking up. Maybe he’d been cleaning up some carnage? Getting rid of the evidence. The dogs were silent….not a peep. Maybe the neighbour was feeling embarrassed and had locked them inside. That would be good.

A few nights of sleep, blessed sleep…..all was quiet.

1am YAP YAP YAP (x 100)! The dogs were back. I sat up in bed, shouting expletives (very unlike me) but perhaps it was (again) nothing more than a dream, because I couldn’t remember all of it this morning. Suffice to say, today I am struggling with the dilemma of whether to confront the neighbour about his dogs – or not. Maybe I could ring Noise Control instead and let them sort it out!

What’s your blog about?

“So what’s your blog about?” a friend asked me yesterday, over a cold beer in the garden. I’m embarrassed to say I was at a loss with how to (succinctly) respond to her question. I burbled something like, “Oh you know…someone suggested I give it a go…um… it’ll help me with my writing…um…I’ve just started it.” I’m sure my friend was none the wiser, but I do wonder if she looked it up afterwards out of curiosity! 

In the shower this morning I thought (as you do) – Do I need to define my writing in terms of a genre? “AAHHH”, I cried loudly – surely not!! Thankfully the neighbours are away, otherwise they might have thought I was being attacked by the mutant child from the attic (see previous posts for further information) and called the police. The manhole, to said attic, is in the bathroom, so by way of simple deduction they may have assumed this was the case. Apologies, I digress.

My blog (is it really mine?) is intended to highlight laughter in everyday things, by way of a stream of consciousness. Sounds a wee bit flash that stream of consciousness bit eh? Or maybe not? Anyhow…on we go.

Most of my life has been filled with serious events. As a Capricorn I’ve adjusted to this like a fish to water (or perhaps I’ve had a foot in the sea and the other on land, being a Cappy). However, I’ve recently discovered that I’m able to laugh quite outrageously (sometimes attracting scathing stares from onlookers). I can (almost) hear them saying (to themselves or their companions) one/some/all of the following:

  • What the hell is wrong with that woman?
  • Why does she need to laugh so loudly?
  • There must be something wrong with her (as they circle their index fingers in clockwise motions around their temples).
  • Shut her up for gods sake, shut her up!
  • Perhaps she forgot her meds this morning (said with a sad expression/frown).

I mean, who on earth laughs outrageously these days? What is there to laugh about? Life is a VERY serious business indeed.

Conversely, why do we (and I use the term ‘we’ loosely) feel the need to condense things, people and situations into little boxes? Why have we become so judgemental of each other? Why can’t we laugh outrageously whenever we want to? 

You my dear readers don’t need to answer these ponderings for me…relax…I have filing cabinets worth of answers. BUT I still question them BECAUSE it just doesn’t make sense to limit ourselves (and others) in such a controlling and narrow way. 

I share a home with an exceptionally talented musician (of course I’m biased, being his mother). Over the past 6 years or so we’ve had endless discussions about musical genre….trust me on this, there are thousands! Who would’ve thought something like ‘Sea Punk’ could exist – how can it even be described? We had a laugh about this (or rather he did at my expense) when we were at the beach yesterday swimming…Sea Punk indeed…(just quietly, I don’t mind a bit of Sea Punk).

With regard to genre and conformity, I must say defining myself into a pigeon-hole sized box is something I’ve always cringed at. Some (who know me well) might say I’ve been rebellious in my rejection of this. Why would I want to reduce myself to something less than the sum of my parts?  Society’s deep seated need to pigeon-hole (in a reductionist fashion) creates a deep unease in me. 

Once someone said to me, “You’re ahead of your time.”  I considered this bold statement afterwards. Being ahead of time sounds as though I’m some sort of time traveller, inhabiting a portal into and from the future. Maybe I am. Who knows these things? Some people might say that we are illusions to ourselves (and others). That we are merely particles inhabiting some field on a time/space continuum (quantum physics style). I do apologise again for my digression…where was I?

In a nutshell I won’t be conforming to any kind of box, genre-wise. Do I need to warm you up, my burgeoning group of followers, in terms of my ‘serious’ writing aka “The Novel” and how do I do that? Until I have the answers, I guess this blog will be a collection of eclectic, diverse and vast expanses of mood, sounds, shapes, voices and thoughts. I might even share some snippets of “The Novel” with you…watch this space.

Ubiquitous Christmas

Ubiquitous, the word blazed in my frontal lobe upon waking this Christmas morn. Unfortunately, at such an early hour I had no idea what it meant.  Not being one for assuming pompous airs or pretending to be smarter than I am, I reached for my tome of a dictionary by the bed – every writer has one of those, I’m sure. It said, “Existing or seeming to be everywhere at the same time; frequently encountered.” I wondered what on earth I had been dreaming about beforehand!

Over a leisurely breakfast of pancakes and summer berries, I reflected upon how relaxed I felt NOT doing a traditional Christmas (for the first time in 40+ years). It was so easy, BUT I felt a niggle of guilt. Was I letting my family down?  We (me and boyo) decided this year that we wouldn’t celebrate Christmas, and chose to do Solstice instead. The later of which seemed much more important – to celebrate our survival post-potential end of the world zombie apocalypse!

Over the past week, where possible, I’ve avoided the festively decorated malls with their carols playing on infinite repeat. Furthermore avoiding people and traffic…I have only ventured out when absolutely necessary (for chocolate and beer). Does that sound Grinch-like? I didn’t get caught up in the pre-Christmas ubiquitous madness which descends over the city like a dense mist. Somehow I remained untouched by people’s pushing and shoving when I did venture out.  I felt oddly disconnected, like being wrapped in an invisibility cloak Harry Potter style, and wondered why I hadn’t thought of NOT buying (pardon the pun) into the consumerism which grips the general populous before.

I also looked up Christmas in my tome and it said: “festival of the Christian Church commemorating the birth of Christ” – I knew that bit. My tome went on to say ” the festival season from Christmas Eve til the Epiphany on 6 January.” I didn’t know that bit, about the time frames.

OK I’ll be honest, I have thought of NOT doing Christmas before (MANY TIMES) but felt too guilty to pull off a coup. For years I’ve hinted (in increasingly louder tones) that I’d rather spend the holiday season relaxing (since it’s usually the only time I get off work that lasts a couple of weeks)…maybe on a tropical island (if I had money) or somewhere near a beach – far away from the city – in a tent.

This year I was brave, I verbalised my desire to NOT do Christmas and promoted the idea of celebrating Solstice together instead. I had a comprehensive list of justifications up my sleeve, ready to be pulled out with a flourish at the slightest sign of cracks appearing in my fortitude:

  • A realistic angle: The kids are all grown up….zero possibility of experiencing the joy derived from cherubic little faces lighting up as presents are unwrapped.
  • An honest angle: We aren’t practising Catholics or Presbyterians….not in my lifetime anyhow.
  • A Green angle: We don’t need to buy each other presents…haven’t we all got enough stuff?
  • A retrospective angle: There are often arguments on Christmas Day and I’ve recently come out as “Conflict Avoidant”.
  • A personalised angle: There is always stress around Christmastime and I’m trying to de-stress my lifestyle these days.
  • A practical angle: Solstice is a better day, the weather forecast is perfect…we can have a BBQ.
  • An ancestral angle: Our ancestors (both Celtic and Maori) would’ve celebrated Solstice rather than Christmas. Things are different in our hemisphere…for a start it’s not the middle of winter.

In the end I used ALL the justifications anyway, for added effect. I braced myself for harsh, guilt inducing replies. The expected derision didn’t come, my suggestion was accepted with grace…surprisingly I thought I heard a collective sigh of relief. Why hadn’t I been brave enough before?

The 95% humidity in Auckland today is ubiquitous, as are the flies…but I am relaxed, with a good book, a nice cold drink and am dreaming of my tropical island. Perhaps next year I will volunteer at the City Mission on Christmas Day. The idea of making the day special, for someone who needs it to be so, feels much more important. My epiphany (with a small e) came early this year…I won’t be waiting for Jan 6th!!