Square eyes

“You’ll get square eyes if you watch so much TV.”

This was a familiar catchcry from my mother to me when I was a child. And I admit I loved watching television. Brought up on Gilligan’s Island, The Brady Bunch, Skippy, and Get Smart, I am a product of the television generation. Later in my teens I would hurry to get my maths and physics homework finished in time to watch the Monty Python TV series.

Back in the 50’s when TV first arrived in Australia my father was an electronics nerd and built a crude TV with the screen and not much else, by his description. When I said to my parents at three years of age, “I see two TV’s!”, they realised I probably needed spectacles; and I have worn them ever since.

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How viewing has changed though! We are in the midst of huge change. Since we had the NBN connected I don’t often watch the mainstream TV channels anymore, instead switching over to Foxtel or streamed channels. Binge watching series favourites such as House of Cards, Suits, and finding new creations such as The OA, in between episodes of Game of Thrones, have transformed my weekends into marathons that do indeed make me feel like my eyes are getting squarer. Surfing the YouTube content is a pastime sure to waste untold hours that could be better used. Now I’ve heard of Gregg Braden just because he cropped up in the YouTube feed, and many others via Oprah’s hyped-up Super Soul Sessions.

Once I listened to commercial radio stations like 3XY for hours in my room, or later in my car driving to and from University. The first music album I bought for myself was The Essential Beatles on black vinyl. Nowadays I am an avid podcast listener, preferring to choose my content free of awful advertising that disturbs my serenity.

A typical evening’s viewing consists of something like an AFL football match on the big screen, my husband searching GumTree on the Mac on his lap, and me with my earphones plugged in to my iPad watching Suits or Utopia. I wonder if my highly connected father, who was an expert in HAM radio and Morse Code, would enjoy this lifestyle of multiple screens.

Given that I have taken on the challenge to #glamblogweekly I must accept that some of my content might ‘suffer’.

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Re-imagine your truth with IN-Q

I am listening to a podcast by Rich Roll, hearing him talk to IN-Q. I am inspired by their discussions about vulnerability, authenticity, honesty, and truth. IN-Q is a modern-day poet of note, rubbing shoulders with Cirque du Soleil, President Obama, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and others.

Poetry is a beautiful genre that allows people to share their stories and speak their soul. ~ IN-Q

As a teen IN-Q wanted to be a rapper, and his poetry reflects modern day America. It is raw, witty, intelligent, spiritual, gritty, and moving.

The man with many hats

So these past three weeks (indeed this whole year) have been life-changing, defining, difficult, enriching, surprising, sad, busy, purposeful, supportive and a privilege – for me.

We left our jobs. We sold our house and most of our stuff. And we moved into my father’s house to be with him as he battled Mesothelioma. My transition was from a full-time, employed, busy, professional, to a full-time carer giving medication around-the-clock and worrying as my father got weaker with each passing day.

Stanley Frederick Smith passed away this morning at about 5am in hospital. I had seen him yesterday, and he gave me a huge smile when he opened his eyes and saw me – a gift. But I felt his time was limited. It was so sad to see such a clever mind be limited by illness and drugs: so sad to witness your own father grow weak.

Of course I knew him as my father, but as I sorted through his files I got to see more of the person. He was a funny bloke who loved a joke. He loved to stir, rile and rouse others. His wit, puns, and jokes were a constant source of entertainment for others. But he was not a clown.

He cannot be defined by one label. He wore many hats. He was: a professional; a manager; a boss; a methods engineer; a car lover; an artist; a friend to many; a president; an organizer; a leader; a committee man; an active member; a foodie; a cook; a HAM radio nut; a Morse code practitioner; a photographer; a joke teller; a conversationalist; a talker; a geek; an intellectual; interested in physics and astronomy and mathematics; a life long learner; a language learner; a family man; constant companion to Margaret; a life participant; an independent thinker; and a kind person.

18 Stan xmas no mo 90s copy

His files were full of jokes, photos of classic cars, caravans and caravan trips, people gathered in groups eating together, and people enjoying each others company. He was a people person.

While his time has ended and he is probably reunited with my mother, my own life journey pauses between life chapters. We will mourn, pay tribute, share stories, then sort out the accumulated possessions and legalities. Then begin the next phase….I have some ideas.

Points of perspective

Here I list some of my random thoughts and impressions after one year in this new location and lifestyle (in no particular order of relevance or preference):

  • Have settled into this new life
  • LOVE the new vistas
  • Needed this change of scene more than anything
  • Miss my kids and parents achingly
  • Feel I have escaped the “ratrace”.
  • Realise I am not a “country person”.
  • Have not seen evidence of the fabled “country charm”.
  • Am amazed at the lack of world view by many country-folk.
  • Feel a sense of impending doom.
  • Have seen/experienced the effects of the population/cultural explosion/collision in Melbourne and want to warn the locals of the approaching tsunami.
  • Feel like a foreigner in my own country.
  • Have read the local history of Portland and realise how this has shaped the culture of the town.
  • Love the look of the old buildings especially those made of stone.
  • Always feel sad at the sight of another dead koala on the road and wish I could protect them.
  • Love the local bird life.
  • Still want to live in France (not sure why) but realise the culture/population problem is far worse there.
  • Am looking forward to settling into our new house.
  • Feel proud of what we have achieved with our building project.
  • Miss friends, workmates and lifestyle on the Mornington Peninsula.
  • Portland is a “blokes” paradise.
  • Love the regular trips to Melbourne on a small (20-seater) plane.
  • Appreciate Melbourne more as a visitor.
  • Miss regular and varied choices of movies to see at the cinema.
  • Have not established a regular exercise routine yet.
  • Feeling healthier as a probationary vegan.
  • Enjoy listening to audio books in my car as I travel the country highways.
  • Love the weather – the wind, the cold, the rain. Sunny days are gifts.
  • Love living beside the wild open sea.
  • Enjoy the variety and challenges of my job.
  • Have made some new friends.
  • Grateful to have a constant companion/friend/husband to share this with.

Food for thought

Food is one of life’s great pleasures. I have always had a hearty appetite and yet, like so many people, my experience with food has been a journey of discovery, understanding, and getting to know which foods and drinks best nourish my body.

My interest in healthy food began during my teens and I tried to convert my family to whole grain bread and less salt. I accepted the intellectual argument against cow’s milk and still choose soy milk when I can, but without fanatical avoidance of all things dairy. Your Life in Your Hands by Professor Jane Plant  offers an extremely convincing argument against all dairy foods.

Over the years I have been my own guinea pig and tried: food combining; vegetarianism; Leslie Kenton’s raw food; Dr  Sandra Cabot’s books; Eat Right for Your Type; the CSIRO diet; and the rich European style of eating. I think that the CSIRO diet comes closest to a sensible, nutritional, balanced and manageable plan for eating for life. Balance, portion control, and variety are the keys.

It can be confusing and even more so when we are “fed” on TV The Biggest Loser closely followed by Master Chef. On the Biggest Loser they plead with us to exercise, diet, and stay away from fatty foods, shunning butter altogether. As a society we are fast heading towards chronic obesity, diabetes, and heart disease in alarming numbers.  Then Master Chef tantalises our taste buds and challenges our culinary skills, all the while piling on the butter, fats, and sugar.

Recently I read somewhere that there could be a connection between migraines and gluten in the diet. This is new to me, but seems to make sense. Often my migraines feel triggered by poor dietary choices and particularly if I’ve been eating too much carbohydrate in the form of bread or pasta. So I ransacked the library shelves for books about gluten-free cooking. This led me to the book “Gluten-free girl” by Shauna James Ahern and her blog. Reading her story made me feel very sorry that as a child she was fed a very poor processed American diet. There must be so many people living in the wealthy West brought up on poor nutrition. Yet we are so lucky in Australia to have so much fresh produce easily available; and so many different cultures to learn from and eat as they do.

The theory behind Eat Right for Your Type by Dr Peter D’Adamo sounded right to me when I read it years ago. He states that wheat in particular is bad fuel for people with my blood type. Wheat is the food containing gluten that is so widely used in our diets. It is very difficult to avoid wheat and its products I found.

So on to my next experiment in order to find a diet that nourishes me, keeps me healthy, and does not add excess weight. For breakfast today I made Sweet Quinoa (organic) Fruit Compote from the book Wheat & Gluten Free. It was not bad but required far more cooking time at breakfast than I am accustomed to, and has left a strange aftertaste. For lunch I had avocado, salmon, cream cheese, and salad on a corn wrap. Time will tell how successful I am at finding alternatives to wheat and the impact this has on my health and BMI.

It is not only important to try new ideas and foods, but also to listen to your own body. Only you can feel how food is affecting your body. We are all indeed different, live different lives, and have differing nutritional needs. While vegetarianism may intellectually be a good idea, not all of us are suited to this regime and soon become starved for protein and iron. Your body will soon tell you, so take notice.

Let food be your medicine and your medicine be your food” ~ Hippocrates

Too many cups of tea

The first week of my new life was busy, full, and different. I travelled every day between the place I am living temporarily and the town where I am working. It is a seaside rural community with lots of space to think. I like that. It is a landscape that stretches out to the horizon. There is a lot of sky and fields of farmland. The smell of cut grass dominates as the farmers clear their fields and make hay bales for stock feed in readiness for the dry summer ahead.

This week I saw a koala walking along the side of a busy road in the middle of a large town. I worried it would be hit by a car. Eventually it scampered to the grass of the foreshore near the sea but there were no trees for it to find refuge in. Surely dogs must be a problem for koalas, if not the traffic.

koala_at_portland_nov09

I saw whales just off the headland slapping the water with their grey and white fins. I walked to the red and white lighthouse and sat and watched some yachts sail by. The weather has been perfect since my arrival and contrary to my perception of the weather in this part of the world. Every day I drive past the wind turbines that dot this windy coastline. They were still for most of the week.

I have met lots of people for the first time and I find the country attitude refreshing and I will need to relax my city-dwellers angst to adjust. I didn’t realise the extent to which I actually had been urbanised after all.

I went along to a community art auction that was raising funds for the local hospital. It was held at the primary school but was in fact a formal event where everyone dressed up in suits, bow ties, and frocks. The guest speaker was the events coordinator from Federation Square in Melbourne. The theme for the art was “tea pots” and anyone could enter. A decorated tea pot along with a painting were entered and then auctioned. It was an inclusive and encouraging creative endeavour where entrants did not seem shy about their amateur creations. Some were poor while others surprisingly good – surprising for the amateur artist. Of course some practiced artists included work and these were fetching prices at this auction of $1000. One ceramic teapot in particular reached this amount, but the artist was an established ceramic artist from South Australia. I actually bought two paintings by default really as the final bidder in the silent auction items.

Go_Green_by_Penny_Smyrk

While living temporarily in accommodation with family I feel unsettled for being “homeless” and away from loved ones. One can’t really do the things at home that is routine and taken for granted. So making cups of tea is the thing to do. It is something. But I don’t need that much tea in my system.

Today between cups of tea I helped in my sister’s garden, went for a swim at the beach, made a curry for dinner, listened to the birds as I rocked in the hammock under the pine trees. Meanwhile my husband, still back in our old life for the time being, told me by telephone that he went fishing and caught three large snapper.

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Here comes the sun

Beach Sunset 016

Photo by Ryan James Bentley 2009

Sunday with no plans so I went for a walk. I knew there would be cyclists on the main road taking part in the annual Around The Bay In A Day event. I had gone for my ride yesterday avoiding the crowds.  15,500 cyclists wearing colourful lycra pedalled their bikes in both directions looping 250 kilometres around Port Phillip Bay.

At Anthony’s Nose three large men in bulging lycra asked in their English accents if I would take their photo. With the silvery bay clad in morning light as a backdrop and the tall buildings of Melbourne peeking above the horizon as small black pegs (their destination) I took the picture of these jovial men. They told me they were from Sydney and came down each year especially for this event. Finding time to stop at a cafe for breakfast was a priority they said. I wish I had my phone with me so I could have taken a photo of them for myself.

Later in the day I drove to Mornington to see and hear a friend sing as part of the Two Bays Choir. The Annual Mornington Food and Wine Expo was in full swing when I arrived. The main street was closed to vehicles and instead filled with tent stalls where local wineries offered samples of their wine, and all sorts of food was being made and sold. A rock band played loudly at one end of the street and another at the other end. It was difficult to find my way through the crowds of people, children, dogs, and stalls. The cafes, restaurants and hotels were open for business and diners were eating and drinking, spilling out onto the footpaths.

Eventually finding the stage where the choir performed I sat and enjoyed their efforts despite the competing sounds from the rock bands and crowds of exuberant people. As I was about to leave a group of 14 people gathered and sat in a circle with bongo drums. A joyous rhythm of drumming began and a crowd gathered to lap up their sound and spirit.

I drove home along the beach road as the sun made its way to the western horizon. Boats were still out on the golden bay and people were fishing, skiing, or just motoring around. A barbeque dinner at home with family finished off a great day. Springtime in Melbourne heralds the arrival of longer days of sunshine and everyone gets out enjoying themselves in this glorious weather.