Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Cheers Everyone!

I was cleaning up the papers mounting up on my desk and found this little ditty that I had read somewhere and thought it might come in handy one day......and today is the day!

I think it is a fitting final post for 2008.

"This is a little story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.

There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.

Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.

Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody's job.

Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn't do it.

It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done".

(Source: Anon, traditional)

The Moral? Communication is often more complicated than it first seems!

Looking forward to "visiting" you all over and over again in 2009. Stay safe everybody as this somebody really cares and hopes nobody misses out on the happiest and healthiest year ever. I hope I haven't missed anybody!

My cats Wilson and Ellie patiently waiting for SOMEBODY to open the door!

Sunday, 28 December 2008

How We Perceive Ourselves

Each time we look in a mirror, we choose the lens through which we view ourselves. We choose which aspects of ourselves - of our bodies and of our beings - we focus our attention on. Sometimes we take in our whole figure, or more often, we see ourselves as a collection of individual parts, some of which we classify as "good" and others as "bad." We compare ourselves to our peers and to an ideal image we hold in our mind. We wonder if others see us the same way we see ourselves, if they make the same classifications and hold the same judgments.

A young child looks at the world through fresh eyes, seeing, taking it all in, but not judging. As we grow and learn about our world, we develop our own associations. We absorb the notions of beauty held by the culture in which we are raised and we internalise the remarks of parents, friends, and even strangers. All of these elements colour our view of ourselves.

Others view us through the filter of their own experiences. They bring their own associations to bear on what they see, but they also pick up the images each of us projects outward. Those little mental snapshots we take when we look at ourselves in the mirror become part of our energy field and part of our self-definition. Interestingly, we can change others' view of us simply by shifting the images we hold of ourselves.

The next time you look in the mirror, challenge yourself to see yourself anew. Be like a young child and, for a moment, suspend your judgments. Release the very human need to classify and label. Instead, see yourself with an open heart. Ask the universe to send you a higher, truer vision of yourself, then get quiet. If you're lucky, you may just catch a glimpse of the eternal you, the you that is perfect exactly as you are.

Darling Joseph from 1 day old till 2 years.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Marianne Williamson

Marianne Williamson is someone that I greatly admire. She writes with such clarity, I find her work very visual, can easily understand the concept, very powerful and insightful.

Her latest book The Age of Miracles: Embracing the New Midlife was published in January 2008. Below is a review of the book:

"Midlife is not a crisis; it is a time of rebirth. It is not a time to accept your death. It is time to accept your life and to finally, truly live it, as only you and you alone know deep in your heart it was meant to be lived. This book is a passionate call to embrace the power and inspiration that opens up to us in the middle of our lives. In every community, there is work to be done. In every nation, there are wounds to heal. In every heart, there is the power to do it".

I love the way Marianne sees mid life as the opportunity for a second (and sometimes a third) puberty... finally reaching the point in our lives where our personalities have matured enough to know how to handle the opportunities and challenges that we are faced with every day. Retirement is less about stopping work and more to do with finding and doing what is really our passion. At 40 or 50 we have (God willing) another 40 or 50 years to discover that passion and live it, knowing that all the experiences in previous careers and relationships with others have brought us to the point where we now, hopefully, know what to do with it all.

For me, my life only gets better as I age. The early years were actually rougher for me than getting older. But, for those of you struggling with mid-life, this book will give you a very positive perspective on the whole thing and may be just the ticket if you're feeling down.

I also found some quotes written by Marianne that I would like to share.

• Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are.

• The secret of success is to realize that the crisis on our planet is much larger than just deciding what to do with your own life, and if the system under which we live the structure of western civilization begins to collapse because of our selfishness and greed, then it will make no difference whether you have $1 million dollars when the crash comes or just $1.00. The only work that will ultimately bring any good to any of us is the work of contributing to the healing of the world.

• The practice of forgiveness is our most important contribution to the healing of the world.

• Love is what we were born with. Fear is what we learned here.

• When an idea reaches critical mass there is no stopping the shift its presence will induce.

• Maturity includes the recognition that no one is going to see anything in us that we don't see in ourselves. Stop waiting for a producer. Produce yourself.

• We can always choose to perceive things differently. You can focus on what's wrong in your life, or you can focus on what's right.

• Personal transformation can and does have global effects. As we go, so goes the world, for the world is us. The revolution that will save the world is ultimately a personal one.

• What happened to my generation is that we never grew up. The problem isn't that we're lost or apathetic, narcissistic or materialistic. The problem is we're terrified.
Wow ain't that the truth!!! She certainly doesn't let us off lightly!!!

I took this photo last week when I travelled to Wagstaffe, about one and half hours north of Sydney. How cute are these creatures!

Monday, 22 December 2008

Hope, Ethics and Character

When the last old year slipped into the new, even the most keen-eyed soothsayer could hardly have predicted that 2008 would bring such tumult.

As this year comes to an end and I reflect on the events that shaped it, I have been struck by the fact that so many people's lives are now affected by fear. Some are losing or have lost jobs, superannuation or businesses. Some are losing their homes.

An African friend wrote to say how fortunate the phrase "downsizing" is when contracted with the reality that increasing numbers where she lives have nothing to downsize from or to. That sharp reality doesn't always make our own fate easier to face, yet it is significant because this has been a year of quite momentous and surprising gains.

We now can't help but see the underbelly of ruthlessly speculative investing. Getting rich by such trading never did have the same social value as making real things or offering needed services. When money and ethics are divorced, we all suffer.

How wonderful it will be if, even five years from now, we can look back on 2008 as the year in which ethics returned to centre stage, determining the big decisions and benefiting people's lives in relation to the issues that matter most.

Certainly, there are signs this is what people want. In Australia we began wonderfully with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's public apology to indigenous people. More remains to be done, and the needs of the environment are no less urgent just because money worries have eclipsed them. But the call to more ethical living does not end there.

On a global scale, the year's most significant public event has been the election of Barack Obama, a man who doesn't belong to any traditional ruling elite and who was surely elected not because he is African-American but because he is exceptionally ethical as well as exceptionally intelligent. That he is also African-American, however, makes his victory so much sweeter.

Hope can only flourish in an ethical environment. The hopes that drove Obama and gave him victory were those expressed by one of my greatest heroes, Martin Luther King jnr: that his "children" might one day be judged not by the colour of their skin but on the strength of their character. Hope, ethics and character create a formidable trinity.

For me, it has also been a year of hope and inspiration. Some of that has come from books I have read or music I have listened to, as well as from invaluable personal encounters.

The novel I most enjoyed was the thought-provoking "Tuesdays with Morrie", "a beautifully written book of great clarity and wisdom that lovingly captures the simplicity beyond life's complexities".

The outstanding concert was Philip Glass's musical interpretation of Leonard Cohen's poems , Book of Longing, and my favourite movie was The Black Balloon, a story about fitting in, discovering love and accepting your family.

Read, see or listen if you can.

Jessen (whom I travelled with to Rwanda in Nov 2006) and Amiee at the photo exhibition we organised to exhibit the children's photos.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Managing Our Ups and Downs

Moods are strange things. Driven as much by thought as emotion, and by biology as well as psychology, they can easily feel bigger than we are. They come. They seem to lift our spirits or lower them. And usually they go again as a different mood takes their place.

Some lucky people are genuinely stable in their moods. If pushed too far, they may be ratty, sharp or anxious, but generally speaking they can rely on feeling pretty positive about life, and - as significantly - the people around them can also rely on them being pleasant and easy to be around.

That kind of optimistic stability is a gift to be treasured because there are also many people whose default moods are considerably less sunny. They are not people who are clinically depressed, necessarily, but they live with an inner flatness and absence of pleasure, or a low-grade constant irritability, that significantly colours how they see the world and everyone around them.

Many people come to view this kind of existence as normal and, in a way, they are right. It is normal for them, and the energy it takes to think about change can feel far out of reach. Yet change is needed, in part because a low mood can slip lower, but also because the person living this bleak existence is never doing so alone.

Moods are highly contagious. We step into a room and pick up at once if someone is feeling down. They don't need to talk. Moods "leak" into the atmosphere and, for better or worse, affect everyone around.

Over the past few weeks, several of my friends have spoken to me about the helplessness they feel living or working with someone who is chronically low. One woman described her colleague as "low-grade depressed, like a battery that is not quite flat but not really turning over either". What make the situation worse, in her view, is that he seems incapable of taking action, either because he has become so used to how he is or because whatever he's tried in the past has had little effect.

When it is a beloved partner, parent or child who is struck in the world of grey, those feelings of helplessness can be harder to bear - and more contagious still. Yet people in this situation often find themselves facing some kind of taboo on tough and truthful talking.

We don't want to add to the sufferer's pain, so we bury our own. It becomes easy to lose touch with our own reality and needs, even when that adds to the sum of suffering and doesn't reduce it.

In his book Listening to Prozac, Peter Kramer comments on how some people with chronic low or flat mood came to feel their most fundamental sense of "self" had been restored when medication and therapy worked effectively. What struck Kramer was that while his patients had in most cases not previously known a lively and optimistic adult self, something within them eagerly claimed it.

Medication and therapy are not for everyone but, intelligently used, they can make a powerful difference; I know they did for me, after the break up of my marriage.

What can also make a difference is to choose to engage far more intensely and energetically than usual with other people, ideas, events, nature and the myriad physical aspects of life that can both stimulate and heal us - even and especially when it's not instantly rewarding or is the last thing you feel like doing.

Putting choice and action ahead of feelings is critical here. It may be true that we can't choose our moods, but we can certainly choose how we will live them out and how we will respond to other people's.

Life is tough at times but it is also precious, every minute of it! Losing sight of that is tragic. It is precisely when throwing ourselves more completely into life seems counter-intuitive or plain impossible that it is most urgently needed - restoring and renewing sufferers and supporter alike.

Joseph - September 2008 - In a pensive mood

Joseph - September 2008 - Happy Mood

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Reflecting on the Good Times

Back in November I wrote a post called 'A Sacred Bond' about friendship, which was brought about by meeting up with a high school friend I hadn't seen since 2002.

Our afternoon was spent recalling times gone by and filling each other in on what had happened in our lives over the last 6 years. Our conversation was punctuated with statements such as 'remember when we did....', 'whatever happened to.....' and of course the one we all liked to hear.....'you know you haven't changed one bit, except for your hair colour.'

We both laughed and smiled as we recalled the good times and the great experiences we had shared over the 30 odd years we had known each other. Each event we discussed triggered another recollection and everything we talked about centred on the good times and only served to energise each of us during the course of the afternoon.

Almost simultaneously, right at the end of our time together, we both said how much we both enjoyed it and that we must do it again. We agreed to catch up again early in the New Year, then said our goodbyes.

Over the past few weeks I have revisited and replayed in my mind all that we had talked about. I realised just how important it is to have regular reminders of the good times in our lives and to be able to take the time to reminisce, for so much of what we have done in our lives, shapes us and makes us who we are today and beyond.

I was fortunate enough to have had the chance to catch up with my girlfriend and reflect on those good times. It was somewhat like looking at an old photo album that you have found stored away in a cupboard in your house, there before your eyes are lots of wonderful memories in print that take you back to that time and place, and most importantly to those people who are in the photos.

It also made me realise when you get caught up doing what has to be done in the moment, how easy it is to forget the people you have met in your life who have made a positive impact on and enriched you, often in only the smallest of ways.

My good mate Rod and I back in January 2006 - A delightful pose for the camera!

The special little boy in my life - Joseph & I, August 2008 - Asking for chocolate!

The crew I was with while barging in France, June 2008 (minus Linton who took the photo) - Why do I always have my mouth open!!

Rwanda November 2006 - The Children watching footage of themselves in my video camera.

Saturday, 13 December 2008


I hope this beautiful video, Namaste, a word derived from Sanskrit, which is part of the Philosophy I have been studying for the past two years, touches you as it did me.

A special thanks to Caroline over at The Zen In You, for putting this word in her 'Leave your comments' box. It is a beautiful greeting. Taken literally, it means "I bow to you".

I was very pleased to read in an article about Hugh Jackman, the quintessential man from Oz, that for the past 20 years, wherever he has been in the world, he has attended a class every week at the School of Practical Philosophy.

The School of Practical Philosophy is a worldwide movement devoted to the study of religious and philosophical ideas drawn from sources as varied as Christianity and Hinduism, ancient Greece and Shakespeare, and how those ideas, those "natural laws governing humanity", can be applied to everyday life.

The School grew out of London's School of Economic Science, founded in 1937 in the wake of the Depression. Meditation is central to its practice.

Photo taken in Kenya, December 2006 where we spent 2 glorious weeks on safari after our journey to Rwanda - Namaste

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Blip or Blimp

I have reached a critical point with my weight-loss program which, you'll note, I'm not calling a diet. Nasty word "diet", with negative connotations of cranky regimens, meal-replacement drinks and unbearable privation.

The plan I'm on is much more sensible, but there are still major hurdles in any flab-reducing endeavour and they are, I'm realising, entirely psychological. It's not about the stupid diet or whatever you want to call it - it's about your head.

The wall I hit was this: last week I put 1 kg (2 lbs) back on. After six weeks of steady losing this was a big disappointment, especially as it was brought on by my own hand. The hand and its adjoining arm, which repeatedly lifted glasses of sparkling wine to my lips at a Christmas lunch party I helped organise.

I was fine with the food. We had carefully planned the menu so it looked like lavish tucker, but there was actually plenty for me to eat without busting my resolve. Even one of the strawberry meringue puddings with a little whipped cream was fine as part of my program, but the numerous random swigs of sparkling plonk were not.

The problem was that I kept pouring myself a glass and then losing it as new guests arrived, or I had to rush off to wash up some cutlery, or cut more bread. Then I'd grab another one and have a few gulps of that before being distracted again. This meant it was absolutely impossible to keep track of how many glasses of wine I was getting down me.

There was also the issue that I don't usually help organise large lunch parties (actually, this was the first....)and I wanted to kick back and enjoy it without counting alcohol units too assiduously. I don't drink much these days either, so felt I had a little coming to me in that regard. But I sure paid the price when I got on the scales a week later.

And what reaction could there possibly be to such a crushing blow? Toast and peanut butter, of course, and after four slices of my favourite treat I felt as if it was all over. It was no surprise, then, that several cold pancakes left over from a friend's stay over then found their way into my mouth lavishly anointed with sugar and lemon juice, mmmmmmmm.....Hot chocolate, anyone? I'm making it.

Then I felt as any full-on addict must when they've fallen off the wagon: like a despicable rotten failure who needed both to seek comfort from another hit of their particular vice and simultaneously to punish themselves by giving in to having it, with full knowledge of the enduring consequences.

That's the whole complex cycle of addiction, I realised, slurping down the hot choc, when the very thing that harms you is also the thing that comforts you when you are angry with yourself for giving in to it. Not that I'm suggesting I'm an addict - big respect for people really battling with those issues - but it did give me some insight into that vicious psychological spin cycle and why it is so very hard to beat.

And using that understanding, I was able to pull myself up, I went and admired my beloved jeans which I'm so happy to be wearing again - and not as an endurance event. I don't want them filed back in the maybe-one-day section of the jeans pile: in fact, I want them to be too big!

So I have resumed my weight-loss program as though I never had this blip. I might not lose anything this week either, but I'm not giving up.

Better a blip than a blimp!

Sculpture by the Sea - November 2008 - What sparkling wine can lead to!

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

That's Just The Way I Am!

This very thought-provoking article below was written by Michael Josephson.
I know several people fitting the description and believed it was futile to expect these people to change. Now I am rethinking that point of view.

That's Just The Way I Am!
When we hear this, someone is usually telling us, 'Get off my back' or 'Accept me as I am.'

Often it's a response to criticism. It could be about chronic lateness, thoughtlessness, broken promises, physical or verbal abuse, or infidelity. Whatever it is, we're asked to let it go.

In the end, this is a ploy to get us to lower our expectations based on the dubious idea that certain bad habits are an intrinsic part of character and therefore beyond our control. We're expected to believe it's foolish and futile to expect a person to change.

There are, of course, lots of things that are beyond our control: short stature, big bones, receding hairline. Fortunately, character is different. That's completely within our control. The poor and the rich, the slow and the smart, the plain and the pretty all have an equal opportunity to become people of character.

Sure, character can be influenced by heredity and environment, but it's determined by choice. No disposition, circumstance, or experience is so powerful that it forever fixes our character. That is never finished. It's constantly shaped and sculpted by the choices we make to nurture or ignore our more noble instincts and to surrender to or overcome negative impulses and corrupting temptations.

When it comes to what we demand of ourselves or others, we should never lower our standards. Character is a function of choice. Weaknesses and bad habits are not excuses not to get better.


"Ability is what you're capable of doing.
Motivation determines what you do.
Attitude determines how well you do it".
- Raymond Chandler

"Give yourself an even greater challenge than the one you are trying to master.
And you will develop the powers necessary to overcome the original difficulty".
- William J. Bennett

"Success is liking yourself,
Liking what you do,
And liking how you do it".
- Maya Angelou

I took these photos and the header photo last week when we travelled down to Stanwell Park, about an hours drive south of Sydney, to an art exhibition. We also went on this beautiful bush walk along the coast.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Jeans, Trees and The Simpsons

I wonder if anyone else remembers this very early episode of The Simpsons ? Lisa is trying to introduce Bart to the great philosophical questions of the universe, eternity and the big "how?"

As you can imagine, she's not getting very far. First she tries posing the ancient Chinese question: What is the sound of one hand clapping? "Piece of cake", says Bart, holding one yellow hand in the air and smacking his three fingers onto his palm (it works, have a go......).

Lisa tries again: "If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it - does it make a noise?"Bingo! Bart's eyes become wide, unfocused saucers of wonder as he attempts to figure it out and his brain starts to feel all psychedelic and bendy with the strain. Well, I have been remembering Bart in that moment because recently I had one similar.

I was out for my morning walk when I encountered a large party of teenage kids out on a school field trip. We were crossing the road from opposite sides and as they streamed past me, I noticed that every single one of them - male and female - was wearing a pair of jeans. There were about 40 of them.

"That's interesting." I mused casually. In high-fashion terms, jeans are supposed to be over, but they really have become the default with the young now, just as they did with my generation in the '70's.

Then I remembered I was also wearing jeans myself that day, and that really got me thinking, because if every Western teenager and even old birds like me have them, then how many pairs of jeans are there in the world?

And then my pesky brain pursued the idea, like a foolish dog following a ball onto the road and into the path of an oncoming car, pondering, "So how many pairs of all kinds of jeans are there? "And that's when the weirdness hit. Aaaaah! Stop the thoughts! My head feel funny! But still the thoughts continued.....

Every member of my immediate blood family, from my three-year-old great-niece up to my octogenarian mum, owns at least one pair of jeans, and most have several. I quite dread to think how many pairs my trendy older nieces own each.

So apart from the odd nun, at a very conservative estimate, just about every citizen in Australia, the UK and America must have one pair of jeans. Priests wear them. Doctors wear them, on duty. Add in Japan, Russia, Europe and China's burgeoning youth culture and the numbers start to spin out into the kind you need to be Stephen Hawking to understand.

As the concept of the world jeans reserve hit me that morning, it could send you mad, I realised, so I forced myself to stop.
I wondered instead, for the rest of my walk, about that falling tree and that empty forest......

Rwanda, Nov 2006 - Even in Africa the blue jean saga continues.

Friday, 5 December 2008

An Interview with God

I was googling something or other and found this interesting piece. You may or may not have read it before, but I thought it was worth sharing.

I dreamed I had an interview with God.

'So you would like to interview me?' God asked.

'If you have the time.' I said.

God smiled. 'My time is eternity. 'What questions do you have in mind for me?'

'What surprises you most about humankind?'

God answered.....

'That they get bored with childhood, they rush to grow up, and then long to be children again.'
'That they lose their health to make money.....and then lose their money to restore their health.'
'That by thinking anxiously about the future, they forget the present, such that they live in neither the present nor the future.'
'That they live as if they will never die, and die as if they had never lived.'

God’s hand took mine and we were silent for a while.

And then I asked....'As a parent, what are some of life’s lessons you want your children to learn?'

'To learn they cannot make anyone love them. All they can do is let themselves be loved.'
'To learn that it is not good to compare themselves to others.'
'To learn to forgive by practicing forgiveness.'
'To learn that it only takes a few seconds to open profound wounds in those they love, and it can take many years to heal them.'
'To learn that a rich person is not one who has the most, but is one who needs the least.'
'To learn that there are persons who love them dearly, but simply have not yet learned how to express or show their feelings.'
'To learn that two people can look at the same thing and see it differently.'
'To learn that it is not enough that they forgive one another, but they must also forgive themselves.'

'Thank you for your time,' I said humbly.

'Is there anything else you would like your children to know?'

GOD smiled and said, 'Just know that I am here.....always.'

Inspirational Quote by an Unknown Author:
Happiness is a healthy mental attitude, a graceful spirit, a clear conscious, a heart full of love and friends.

One of my favourite photos of Joseph taken in December 2007 aged 16 months.
What an amazing blessing Joseph is, a true gift from God.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Woman's Work Is Never Done - A Dialogue

Blind Freddie knows that work associated with women is traditionally undervalued!

Housework and raising children are expected to be their own reward and, indeed sometimes they are.

Occupations and professions associated with women - nursing, teaching, social work - are not the big earners. Women are dressmakers; men are tailors. The name of the television show The Cook And The Chef says it all - she's the cook (the daily grind); he's the chef (the prestigious special event). And if the title doesn't say it, the numbers do: When girls get married, they double their domestic load; when boys get married, they halve theirs!

And if wildlife documentaries can be trusted, even lionesses have their crosses to bear. It's they who bring home the bacon, only to stand back as the big boys have their fill of the choice parts. Leftovers then go to the hungry, growing cubs, before eventually, all tums contentedly full, the ladies can sit down to lunch....of what's left.

If life on Earth relies so heavily on the female, it's probably not surprising we call so abundantly on domesticity to furnish the metaphors of daily life. We have a lot to do, we have many pots on the boil and we may be cooking up a storm.

We prioritise some tasks (put them on the front burner) and downgrade others (they're on the backburner); and eventually, some will come off the boil altogether.

Problems emerge and we have to sort things out, which may involve clearing up, ironing out the creases or smoothing things over. After all, we don't want a ragged seam! We finish a project and draw a line at the bottom of the page before putting the task to bed. The days that follow may see us tying up the loose ends or mopping up.

It's not all cut and dried but we do our best.

Joseph - February 2007 - His mother was multitasking!