Credit Where It’s Due.

Isn’t it lovely, when people tell you they think you’re doing a good job?  It makes my tummy all warm and fizzy (but in a good way).  mushroomsup over at Funny For Nothing nominated me for a Versatile Blogger Award (cue cheers and confetti) for which I’m so very grateful.  Also, she thinks I can be humorous, which is high praise, coming from her.

I’m passing this award on to the following fifteen other blogs, because, let’s face it — everyone likes to have their little piece of the internet recognised, and also, I only follow blogs I really like, so I have a rich list from which to choose (which, of course, makes it quite hard to choose).  I urge you to check out the following excellent people:

Food (Policy) for Thought:  An interesting and thought-provoking blog about food, the food industry.

Running With Buddha:  Since my journey with breastfeeding is almost over, I’m gearing up to start running again, with the goal of a marathon in a couple of years.  This blog inspires me.

My Writing Meta:  This way in which this woman dedicates herself to writing puts me to shame.  Always something interesting to read.

Stuphblog: promotes itself as the first unshitty blog on the internet, and I think I have to agree.  Variety, humour, and very good writing.

The Waiting: is not the hardest part, apparently!  But the journey is so very entertaining.

purelysubjective:  An artist who blogs about her work, and is always asking questions which keep me thinking for days.

A Place That Does Not Exist:  I love reading and learning about this writer’s process, as she discovers it herself.

Heed Not Steve:  This blogger is both a talented writer, and funny.  I just love his poetry.

Shawndra Miller:  writes about the growing grassroots movements tackling important issues of food security, climate change and economic instability.  I always learn something from her posts.

Creative Liar: Where the blogger shares writing, or her thoughts about writing, and is always amusing.

Today’s Author:  A group of talented writers, sharing thoughts, tips, and encouraging creativity from their readers and each other.

Jerry Colby-Williams:  A gardener who lives in the Queensland city of Brisbane, and who blogs about his amazing garden and sustainability.

Storyshucker:  I recently discovered this blog and love the humour and nostalgia in the posts.  A true storyteller… uh… shucker.

the world in words: If you are at all interested in words or language(s), this is absolutely the blog for you.

My Not So Humble Opinion:  This is a blogger who is unafraid to tell you what he really thinks.  But the great thing is, it also gets me to question what I really think, too.

 

 

And apparently you need to know seven interesting facts about me.

– I can speak German.

– I like sheep, and chickens, and I won’t hear it when people tell me they’re stupid.

– I’ve tried to communicate telepathically with my dog, but so far, it’s not worked.  I’ll keep you posted.

– I really like tea.  I mean, I really, really like it.  It’s somewhere between an obsession and a hobby.

– My favourite vegetable is the potato.

– My favourite cake is black forest torte.

– When I was ten, I wrote letters to President Reagan and President Gorbachev to ask them to please not begin a war with each other.  I got a postcard back from the White House, thanking me for my letter and assuring me that they were always looking for peaceful solutions to conflicts.  I was pretty chuffed.

Finding The Light.

I spent some time with my parents yesterday, whom I see quite rarely (we live in different cities, several hours’ drive apart), so there was a lot of catching up to do, stories to exchange, that kind of thing.  Among some of the things we talked about was an accident involving two young children.  The boy, an 11-year-old, died, and his younger sister was flown to hospital.

‘How sad,’ I said, thinking — as I always do, in cases like this — of my own children, and my own childhood.

When I was nine years old, I was taught to drive — well, I was taught to put the ute into gear, let the clutch off slowly, and drive between paddocks or piles of mallee roots.  By the time I was twelve, I was allowed to perhaps drive from the sheds to the house (around two hundred metres).  It’s unlikely that I would personally have been driving far or fast enough at that age to have an accident, but one of my classmates might have.  Most children my age could drive; some started driving the family tractor by the time they were in their early teens.  For many young people it was a rite of passage, and for farmers who were always trying to fit ten days’ work into every week, it was helpful to have an extra pair of hands on board.

When I read or hear about accidents like this, I wonder how we go about doing what we’ve always done.  I think about my children and how I never want to let them drive.  Ever.  Not even when they’re sixteen and legally allowed to get a learner’s permit.  And speaking of accidents, I don’t want to ever let them travel in a train through Spain, or, for that matter, on a bus in Italy.  I’d rather they didn’t fly anywhere, either.

Accidents happen, and we should try and learn from them.  But there is so much news about so many accidents, I feel as if I’m having to constantly be on alert.  What could possibly go wrong?  How did I not see that coming?  How can I make sure this doesn’t happen to me?

I remember talking to a friend, years ago now, about determinism in philosophy.  In fact, we were discussing the problem of free will and determinism, but right now, I’m just interested in the idea that every event takes place because it is necessarily connected to those which went before it, and necessary for those which will follow after it.  In this sense, an accident is never an accident.  It was part of an ever-unfolding series of events which are going to necessarily happen.  People sometimes refer to it as ‘fate’, suggesting that something was ‘meant to be’.  And within religion, there is often the argument that the deity has a plan, and that all which occurs in the world is part of it.

I’m neither religious nor determinist.  Of course, I believe that some events are related to others — if I didn’t believe there were causal links here and there, I’d never know what to expect.  But I’m convinced there is a whole lot of random out there, too.  Accidents do happen.  And I can’t help wondering if a believer of either determinism or religion is in a better position to deal with the fallout, than I am?

A determinist has determinism: it was always meant to be.

A believer of religion has God’s plan.

What do I have?

I wonder whether there is some comfort in a belief that there were never any way that things could have been different, that there is somebody or something — the universe, a divine being, Fate — controlling the events of the world, from whether you catch a cold next week, to whether you oversleep and arrive late at work, to whether you get a divorce or have a child or win the lotto.  When bad things happen, thinking that it might all be part of something greater might be helpful.  Perhaps it makes it easier to see individual events as part of a bigger picture?

Looking at it in this way, I see the appeal of determinism.  I see the appeal of believing there’s a heaven, and that the person you’ve just lost will be waiting for you there.  But the evidence still doesn’t pile up, for me.  And I’m not convinced of the succour you gain from these beliefs.  In the immediacy of the grief, the loss, the huge hole which has been left… nothing bridges that.  Not heaven, not Fate.  Perhaps in months afterwards, when time is sealing the wound a little, but not when everything is raw and so very painful.

That rawness and pain is what I want to avoid, and when I hear all these stories of suffering, I wonder, how is it we can find a way to just carry on?  If determinism and religion are not going to do it, then what does?  What is it that gives some kind of warmth in an otherwise apparently cold and accident-rich world?

Somewhat recently, I came to a realisation: that everything will probably work out.  I’m sure I could be accused of being flippant or shallow, but this is honestly what gets me through.  And I’m the first to admit, it’s not the quote of the century, and I’m not convinced I’d like it on my tombstone, but as a motto, it suits me pretty well.

I could worry about life and those I love and the rest of the problems of the world, but that won’t change anything, unless my worry prompts me to do something to change the world.  And nobody can make me any guarantees.  It might turn out terribly, but what’s the use in thinking that?  I might as well look on the bright side.

Everything will probably be fine.

It doesn’t have the same certainty as a religious doctrine or causal determinism.  But it has a ring to it.  It’s saying that there could be some serious drama or disaster in the future, but even if they happen, we’re still likely to make it.  People do, all the time: we have an immense capacity for survival, even in the deepest, darkest pits of lonely tragedy.  And as we survive, we look for something which transforms simple existence into joie de vivre, and which help us get out of those chasms of sadness.  For some of us, the promise of a plan will do the trick, but not for me, because I’m just not convinced that the promise is real, and I don’t deal well with causal absolutes.  And what’s more, I don’t think either of these alternatives are the beacon they proclaim to be; they’re merely pinpricks of light in the darkness.  At least my philosophy doesn’t pretend to take the pain away, it doesn’t pretend to have all the answers, or even any of them.  It is what it is, and so is life.

Everything will probably be fine?

I can work with that.  

You Can Always Get What You Want.

I’m ten years old.  Or nine, or eleven.  Around that time, anyway — the precise age is not important.

It’s lunchtime, and the students in my little school have emptied out of their classroom and are rummaging in their school bags for their lunchboxes.  Soon, the cacophony begins to wane, and the children sit down on the floor, cross-legged, and start to eat their lunches.  

There’s the usual suspects of white bread and polony or cheese and Vegemite.  Most children have homemade cake wrapped in greaseproof paper, or perhaps some sweet biscuits.  

For the record, I never had those things.  Poor, deprived child that I was, my mother used to insist on packing sandwiches made with wholemeal bread, and for snacks, I would have yoghurt, or almonds and dried apricots, or an orange.  Nobody wanted to swap lunch with me.

Except for days like this.  My father had been in Perth the day before, and he drove the three hundred and sixty kilometres home, bringing with him a box of Kentucky Fried Chicken.  Sure, by the time he got home, I was asleep, and it was well and truly cold by then anyway (my mother put it straight in the ‘fridge) but the next morning, I could take it with me in my lunchbox to have for my lunch.  

Cold fried chicken.  I am the envy of every child in the school.  All twenty-five of them.

Do you remember, when fast food was a treat?  When I was young, we didn’t have the access to it, mainly because of our relative isolation.  We were twenty minutes’ drive from the nearest ‘town’ which had (and still has) one small general store, a hall, a wheat silo, a mechanic, and a few houses — really, that’s it.  The next town was about forty-five minutes away, with TWO supermarkets(!!), a post office and high school, several houses, and a pub… but still no fast food restaurant.  Fast food — apart from what you could buy from some service-stations — was just not accessible everyday.

For the last few weeks, the Handsome Sidekick and I have been trying to return to healthy eating habits which fall by the wayside when we’re both too tired to think, which has been quite often, in the recent past.  We’re eating more raw food, reducing our already fairly limited intake of meat, keeping chocolate for the occasional treat, eating smaller pieces of cake*, and checking our portion sizes.  The result is that we’re (very slowly) losing some weight, and we seem to have more energy.  We also feel a lot healthier — whether that’s psychosomatic, who knows?  These were benefits I expected.  But the element I didn’t factor in was just how amazing food can taste, when you limit it.  How good it is, to look forward to a meal, to be really hungry, and then feel immensely content after you’ve finished eating.

A friend of mine is observing Ramadan this month.  He is not a Muslim, but fasting is part of his weekly routine, and as a spiritual person, he appreciates the value of depriving oneself of food, and of prayer and meditation during that time.  Reading what he had to say about the sense of calm one feels with an empty stomach, I could understand the desire to participate.  Restricting food in this sense allows us to realise how precious a thing it is, and how good we have it, when we have enough to satisfy our hunger.

It led me to think about delayed gratification, and how there is so little of that.  We don’t deny ourselves much, these days, do we?  We lament the way we can’t have things, but it’s an external force (usually money) which doesn’t allow us, rather than it being a case of self-denial.  Money really can buy anything — you can get whatever you want, whenever you want.  It used to be that certain clothes or food or shoes or cars were only available in particular countries or areas. That’s no longer the case.  If you have the money, you can get it.

Can't always get what you want?  Well, actually...

Can’t always get what you want? Well, actually…

And obviously, people do.  They pay the money — or put it on credit — and get it.  It’s available; and taken on face value, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t have what they want.

Take Disneyland for example.  It started with a single theme park, and now they can be found from Paris to Hong Kong and in between.  Having more than one Disney theme park means that more people can visit.  The Disney experience is open to a wider audience.  But does it cheapen the value of the original?

Those building the new parks would perhaps argue that they’re ensuring the experience is accessible, that it avoids elitism.  I’d argue that it ruins the uniqueness, the specialness, of these ‘things’ we used to be able to only get somewhere else, or at a certain time of year.  Of course, restriction of anything means that less people will be able to have it, or enjoy it.  But doesn’t that make it all the more special when you can?  When you finally manage to travel to California, after years of wanting to, and get your picture taken with Goofy, or ride on the roller coaster of your dreams?  Or when you finally sit down to eat after a long fast, or when you finally get to read that book, or watch that film or kiss that person?

Just because we can have whatever we want, doesn’t mean we should.  The mere fact that it’s available shouldn’t mean we feel obliged to get it.  Business models being what they are, if there is a market for something, then it will be marketed.  But we have a choice.  We can choose not to eat it, or visit it, or buy it, or do it.  Whereas before, availability was the limiting factor, now it’s us.  It’s up to us to limit ourselves, to have some self-control.  Only then is it possible to really embrace and savour the experience.  Only then can we feel as if we truly deserve it, that it’s really worthwhile.    

*I know what you’re thinking.  But I’m OK with this.  Really!

Dear George: An Open Letter to George Zimmerman.

Dear George,

I’m sitting at my kitchen table, writing a letter which you will probably never read.  In Perth, Western Australia, where I’m at my table, it’s mid-afternoon.  In Florida, it’s early morning.  I imagine you’re either asleep, or will be soon. No court tomorrow.  It’s over.

You’re acquitted.

I can only imagine how you felt when the verdict was passed.  How did you feel?  Elated?  Relieved?  Sad?  Frightened?  Whatever the emotion, you were able to walk out of that courtroom, and go home — or at least, go somewhere that wasn’t prison.  You could be with your family, finally.  I’m sure they’ve missed you and are glad to have you back.

I’m guessing you’ve not watched the news or gone online much since you got ‘out’.  It’s probably not a bad idea to avoid them altogether, for a while.  There are a fair number of people who are… somewhat upset about the decision to let you go, after you shot and killed another person.  And there is a whole other group that thinks you were completely justified.  I’ll let you imagine how they’re all getting along right now.

The thing is, nobody else knows what happened between you and Trayvon Martin that night.  You were there, and he was there, and he’s now dead.  So the only person in the world who knows exactly what happened is you.

Does that weigh on you?

Which were the lies or half-truths told in court?  What did they tell you to say?  What did they tell you to leave out?  Do you feel as if justice has been done… or does it leave a bad taste in your mouth?

I really want to know, because I find the whole thing so puzzling.  I live in an area where people are shot occasionally, where my neighbours deal drugs, where there are clashes between groups and gangs of different races and backgrounds, where it may or may not be safe to walk home after dark (and I’m not about to take the risk to find out).  And yet, I don’t know anyone who has a gun, let alone who walks around with one.  I can’t even imagine that there would be a law that says you’re allowed to shoot someone because you feel threatened.

I can’t imagine living in a community where you feel that the police are so unreliable or ineffectual that the Neighbourhood Watch carry guns.

I can’t imagine that kind of fear.  It borders on paranoia — except, of course, that some of them really are out to get you.

Did you think Trayvon Martin was out to get you, George?  Did you exchange racial slurs, did you fight?  Did he taunt you?  Did you fear for your life?  Do you think back, over those last minutes of his life, and do you wish, with the very fibre of your being, that things had gone differently?  That you had just walked away… that you had been somewhere else at that time, that you had never been there in the first place?

I hope you wish that.  I hope you are relieved it is over, and that you are glad for your freedom, but I hope you feel regret and remorse, and that you wish it had never happened.  Because whatever happened on that night, whatever he said or did, however he made you feel… surely, it can’t have been worth all this. A death — an agonising, awful death — a trial by media, an international outrage, all because of one terrible moment.

The whole thing is a tragedy, most of which falls out of the realms of my imagination, and yet perhaps the greatest tragedy is that I can easily imagine it happening again.  Unless the culture changes, unless the laws change, unless people change.  It will happen again.  And it will be just as tragic and as pointless and as desperately sad, when it does.

 

I need to sign off, now.  I have to get dinner ready and bring in the clean washing.  In a couple of hours, you’ll be getting up, having breakfast.  Life goes on, until we die, and then it doesn’t.

You are free and alive, George.  Please, please: make your life worth something.  Make it amazing.  Make it extraordinary.  Do something else, something incredible, and good, and worthy, so that when the world hears the name ‘George Zimmerman’, they don’t just think of that guy, who killed Trayvon Martin.

 

Yours in peace,

Rebecca Bean.

 

Why I Yell.

I used to be so calm.  People would remark on it.  They’d say, ‘Bec, you’re so calm!’  I would be able to deal with irritating housemates and impatient customers and at the end of the day, shrug it off, and sleep soundly.  I could even be the voice of reason, sometimes.  Or, a voice with a reason, just so as not to appear too full of myself.  In any case: I was calm.  And I didn’t yell.

Then I had children.

I didn’t set out to be one of those parents who yells. I set out to be a calm parent, who would listen carefully to her children’s concerns, and who would explain gently, the reasons why she needed her children to stop what they were doing, or to listen to her.

Obviously, I found that method lacked something in its execution.

Yelling can be effective.  I am bigger and so I can be louder, which also cuts through their noise — noise which is considerable, because there are four of them in a small house, and only one of me.  What’s more, they yell at me.  And I’m not about to be yelled at without having the opportunity to raise my voice in response, right?  Especially by someone who’s one third of my height.

I yell because it seems like something you get to do when you’re the grown up.  I remember people yelling at me, when I was a child, and I always figured that it was the way to behave when you really wanted people to listen, and take you seriously — when you wanted to appear to be powerful and in control.

I want to appear powerful and in control.  I want people to take me seriously.  I want my children to take me seriously.  And the only way to do that is surely to yell.  Because it is serious.  Tracking mud into the kitchen from the garden?  That’s serious.  Slamming the door?  Serious.  Giggling and splashing each other when they should have been washing their hands?  HEAR MY WRATH.

All of these things are of the utmost world-will-end-if-I-am-ignored  importance, and it drives me crazy (quite literally, in fact, because I feel like I am definitely not of sound mind when I am yelling about these things) that they don’t see that.  I mean, how old are they? Three?

Well, no, they’re six, four, and two (the baby’s almost one, but I don’t yell at him).  And it seems that when I yell, they don’t take me seriously at all. It raises my blood pressure and gives me a headache and disturbs the peace, but it doesn’t have the effect for which I was hoping.  They are so used to my raising my voice, that they turn the other cheek, and the other ear, and zone out.  I might get a token shrug or a remorseful expression, but when all is said/yelled and done, next time they come in from the garden, they track mud through the kitchen — AGAIN —  and all the other transgressions continue, and I am somehow more powerless than ever

I yell because repeating myself becomes boring and exhausting and I just want action.  I tried to make gentle suggestions.  This is how that turned out:

Me: Please put your jumper on.

[pause while child plays with a toy]

Me: Please put your jumper on.

[pause while child looks at me with a blank expression]

Me: Hey!  Please could you put your jumper on?

[pause while the child either shows me a sock, or runs away giggling]

Me: OH FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD IN THE WORLD, WILL YOU PUT ON YOUR DAMNED JUMPER?!!

[child is fully dressed, as if by magic]

Just writing that out made me tired.

So you see, I have such good reason to yell, yet still, it does me no good and I decided recently, it was time for a rethink.  This is not just because yelling wasn’t working —  it occurred to me that just because they yell, doesn’t mean I have to.  After all, I’m the parent.  And as I learnt back in the days when I was teaching high school students: someone in the room should be in control, and it should probably be me.

Keep-calm-and-carry-on-scan

The original and still the most appropriate… [Source: WIkipedia]

Therefore, instead of yelling, my new approach is to wait (patiently or not) for the tantrums to reduce to a low rumble,  and then making quiet suggestions about what I want or why the behaviour isn’t appropriate.  What a simple solution!  How is that going? I hear you ask.

OK, so it’s not as if this works like magic, either.  They still yell, and they still choose to do things which have me shaking my head and wondering how we’re related.  But putting their behaviour into perspective, asking myself if it’s really worth raising my voice, if it’s really worth raising my blood pressure and my stress levels, I’m yelling less.  I may have legitimate reasons to yell.  I mean, they can be annoying!  But the excuse ‘but she did it first!’ sounds a little hollow when the comparison is between a toddler and a thirty-seven-year-old.

I yell because I care.  And I’m trying to stop, because I care.  Because I want them to listen, properly, and because I’ve realised that being grown up and being taken seriously relies on consistency, and calm.  I have also discovered that not yelling at my children has the pleasant side effect of reclaiming some tranquility in my life, at a time when that can be quite hard to find.

 

Who knows?  Perhaps by showing them how results can be achieved by not yelling, my children will turn out to be more confident, self-assured, polite and well-mannered young people?

 

Haha.  Or they’ll grow up to be rude and noisy, just to rebel.  Either way, my yelling about it isn’t going to change anything!  So I might as well just sit back, remain calm, and hope for the best.