Life Skills

A few years back my small boy had one of the best teachers I’ve ever had the good fortune to come across. Seriously this man was incredible. Along with keeping the kids up to speed with all the normal school curriculum, he used to throw in a few extras like a regular Dance Party, and Life Skills with Mr P. While I’m a huge fan of any dancing in a regular day it’s the Life Skills one that stuck with me. How it worked, was he wanted to teach the kids some of the things that he wished someone had taught him when he was a kid.

Pretty simple right? The kids loved it. They hung on every word he gave them and with the stories that were told, my son placed his young teacher a little further up onto his complete and utter hero pedestal. Was their parent support? You betcha.

Fast forward to now, and lately I’ve been thinking about my own life skills I’m passing on. Some are formed by osmosis, and others I have to make a concerted effort to make sure they are taught. For me making time for this important. It doesn’t always happen at the time I would like, but it’s still important.

While there aren’t set lists, (besides knowing your food, cooking, growing, reading and how to swim of course.) Those small moments in the day can often create huge amounts of opportunity for spontaneous life lessons. Things that come about after a conversation being had, an opportunity that’s jumped out, or perhaps it’s just something that might have been thought of as we are trucking along one day.

Different environments present different learning possibilities and while I would love to be showing my kids how amazing building your own rocket stove is, or the consequences of damming up a small body of moving water, for the moment I have to work with what I have.

There are so many things to be learnt in life, and I know I’m not ever going to even begin to cover them all. How could I when I’m still learning myself?

What’s important for me is cultivating an environment for questions. Eternal curiosity, creating big and little things, reading, making stuff, and always growing something. By doing this, hopefully it all just continues to build from there.

To those teachers whether within a school or life teachers who make learning exciting,  passing on lessons in fun accessible ways, making kids/people just want to know more, are gold. Bloody gold. While I can’t replicate Mr P, I can offer my own version of lessons in life skills, and with that I’m hopeful those steps are something that my kids in turn will be able to build up from.

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What’s on your list for necessary Life Skills? 

How to have a conversation?

How to open a can without a can opener?

What kneading dough until smooth looks like?

Manners?

Knowing what to do when there is nothing to do?

What to do with mushy bananas?

How to take a pallet apart?

Public speaking?

How to sprout things?

How to light a fire without matches?

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A Cacophony of Thoughts

Ponders, musings and rather ignited thoughts. That’s the state of things round these parts at the moment. I’ve flitted from one topic to another in an effort to write a post this morning. With thoughts dancing all over the shop, I suspect it’s just easier to run with what I really have in there.

Unordered, and certainly not perfectly word formed. Not this week anyway, today I’m not going to project that into a calming post. Instead a cacophony of words and thoughts in a stream of conscious writing style. I’d love to have your thoughts on any of them that might resonate, (or feel free to add your own- obscurities most welcome, or maybe you’ve had something you’ve been mulling over during the week that really could use an airing.)

WIKIPEDIA: In literary criticismstream of consciousness is a narrative mode or method that attempts to depict the multitudinous thoughts and feelings which pass through the mind.

 

What’s your story? (Not what do you do, because that’s one of the most tiresome question surely.) But what’s your story? If you were free to describe yourself to a stranger in written form, what would you write? How do you define yourself when there are seemingly no parametres? 

What is freedom? How do you speak of freedom? What does it mean to you? For each person depending on their circumstances that answer is going to vary of course. But for you…what does freedom mean for you? Are you free? (I took quite a long time to get a wobbly answer for this one.)

Is challenging yourself a curious human trait, that other animals simply don’t do, because they don’t need to? Why do some people challenge themselves mentally, physically, creatively and others, this will be of no interest what so ever. An easy contentment with what they have surrounding them… Why rock the boat unless you have to?

Creativity and silent gender narratives, how do they impact your life? Can you put a price on your creativity if it’s to be sold? How do you speak of your creativity and all its many facets? Own it, or a little apologetic? Why?

While it truly has been a cacophony of thoughts the last week, it’s been a good thing. I’ve liked the challenge, the why’s, the push, the questioning, the pondering, and it’s certainly caused a rejig of a few things round here.

For that I’m grateful.

 


Stream of conscious writing is also great method for unlocking some of that creative goodness, that on occasion can get a little stuck. No rules. No time frames. Just get in there. 

 

 

 

For the love of a good book

With school school holidays round these parts recently, while I’d like to say I ripped through a couple of books in two short weeks, I, err, didn’t. However I have puttered through a handful of them since the start of the year and am always open to other suggestions, (even if it takes awhile to get to them.)

The last weeks I haven’t even bothered opening a book because The Handmaids Tale happened. Have you watched it? Did you blitz through it in a haze of tightened stomachs, and firmly held breath? Of course you did, that’s how everyone seems to have been watching it. If you haven’t I highly recommend hot footing to your local streaming service and get viewing. I. can. not. recommend. it. enough.

But for now, it’s back to the books.

On the ever-increasing wobbly tower of must have books by the bed side table…

The Summer Book- Tove Janssen

Lombardia

Speaking Out- Tara Moss

Truly Madly Guilty- Liane Moriarty

Humans of New York- Brandon Stanton

First we make the Beast Beautiful- Sarah Wilson

How not to Die- Michael Greger

Womankind Magazine

Earth Garden Magazine

…and of course a few a others

 

Any suggestions? What else should be added to that pile?

What are you reading at the moment?

 

Damn straight your coffee makes a difference

So you plan your coffee drinking, you take your reusable cup everywhere just in case, (and you obviously drink organic fairtrade locally roasted beans.) Now if by chance you do forget to bring that when the caffeine call goes out? Well, you decide to sit down and drink it, or simply do with out.

Which is all rather excellent. But what next? How can we go that step further in reducing the 1 billion coffee cups that Australia goes through each year?

Talking with a friend recently who held a chai market stall, and was offering a discount if you brought your own cup. Not one person did throughout the day. Which is pretty disappointing really. Speaking again with another friend, I was appalled to hear that in recent times she had been charged extra to get her take away coffee, in her own cup.

There’s obviously still a fair amount of misunderstanding and opportunity for education still to take place.

Which is where you, the humble consumer gets to step in. While your individual coffee habit is clean as whistle, there are still multiple opportunities to step and lead the community. The ABC’s War on Waste is still a talking point for many people, so it’s created the perfect vehicle for conversation, and if you didn’t happen to see it, or know of the program at all, well, all problems highlighted on the show are going to be relevant for some time, so jump on in.

But how?

Start by hitting up your local community.

Here in Australia we have a great website called Responsible Cafes. Simply type in your address and it will show all the cafes around you that give a discount on your take away coffee if you bring your own cup.

To me this illustrates a few things. One, you are spending your important dollar on a business that is making a conscious decision in making an effort (albeit a small one.) Two, there’s a dramatic reduction in needless landfill, and three, hey, you get a discount.

If you find there are cafes in your area that aren’t listed, why not start that wonderful conversation at your local.

Ask if it’s possible. Generally cafe owners will respond to customers demands, if enough people ask for bowls of green diana-berry smoothies. Well they are going to fill that demand.

Same goes for those takeaway coffee cups. The way you drink it makes a difference. What it comes in makes a difference, and those conversations that you start?

They make a huge difference.

 

Helpful Links 

Responsible Cafes

War on Waste

Fixing your coffee Habit

 

 

 

Winter solstice

Winter solstice sunrise swim.

An early morning, when you question your sanity briefly, while taking off your two jackets, looped woollen scarf and gloves.

To submerge your exposed white body in water that threatens to take your entire breath away.

Hold tight you got this one.

Exhale and in.

(And of course it was worth it. Every. Single. Time.)

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For the fellow sea lovers out there. Take a peek at this truly beautiful little film. Divine.

 

It’s all pretty exciting really

It’s 5.15am and your alarm goes off.

Outside is dark. Stars still stand defiantly in the night sky as sunrise isn’t for another good hour and a quarter yet. You stumble into your swim suit, add another 6 layers over the top and silently tip toe out of the house, bundled up like a marshmallow woman. It is after all 7C out.

The trick is don’t let the cold sneak in. Don’t let it.

The stars are still there as you arrive. Looking our over the flood lit pool, and watching the wind whip up over the tops of the waves, you question yourself briefly. Although these days, the why no longer comes into it, it’s just something you do.

You wait patiently for the sun to arrive.

Swimming at sunrise at Merewether Ocean Baths throughout the year isn’t something that appeals to the masses (especially during these winter months), and yet to a select group of people this is the secret to a well lived life.

For over a year now I’ve been documenting these sunrise people, a visual story culminating in an exhibition scheduled for early next year. Over the next six months I will be sharing snippets of these ocean lovers, the magic of sunrise and a tiny part of the process in what it takes to create a body of work for exhibiting.

I hope you’ll jump on board for the journey, it’s a really exciting one that I’m tickled pink to be able to share.

In other news, there is a new website of mine if you are keen for a peek, and if you are still keen as a bean in finding out a few more super fascinating facts about me, I was kindly invited over for a lovely chat at Duckfeet on their Duckfeatures series.

Hope your week to come is good one dear people.

Conversations with Community…April, the Environmental Scientist

Today, another special post as Part IV has landed for Conversations with Community. A series focussed on some of the amazing women within our community doing some crazy inspiring things. People quietly changing things up, following untraveled paths, living creative lives, connecting in different ways that are often ignored in our culture of time racing, and today?

Today is a fascinating chat with April the environmental scientist, (also shark whisperer, fire pit lover and part time mermaid, but you have to read on a little further to find out about all that.) I hope you can grab a cup of chai, settle in and have a read.

Rightio, importantly, let’s set the mood… Tea, coffee, something to nibble? What shall I bring and where shall we go? 

Definitely a pot of fresh tea and some savoury snacks. I’m all about the savoury. A spread of cheese, crackers, olives, nuts, fresh prawns etc is one of my favourite things. Fortunately they also make a great picnic so we’d probably go outdoors, preferably by the water somewhere.

You work in the field of environmental behaviour change. Can you explain that area little further? (I feel like that’s at the frontline of all things really important!)

I originally actually had no intention of working in the space of behaviour change however as my career has evolved I have developed a deeper interest in this space. I had studied environmental science at Uni and the dream was to be a marine biologist and get paid to dive and conduct research. I grew up in a small coastal NSW town and the ocean was (and still is) a big part of my life, so my motivation was to save the oceans – so to speak.

It wasn’t until I started working as a fresh graduate that I was introduced to the concept of ‘behaviour change’. The organisation I was working for (and still work for) have the philosophy that if you are looking at an environmental issue, you have your back to problem. Meaning that to achieve any meaningful environmental change we needed to also focus on working with the people in our community (or organisation) to address environmental issues. This changed my perspective entirely. As an environmental scientist I guess I had always thought that, if you knew what I knew about an environmental issue, then you would care like I care, and make the changes necessary. Humans are way more complex than that and a bunch of facts and figures don’t really motivate people to change.

Behaviour change programs use the wisdom of social science to communicate complex issues to a community, to find out what motivates people to change, and how we can tap into that to move them through from ‘knowing’ to ‘doing’. It’s a softer approach compared to enforcement and has many benefits like connecting people with each other, developing solutions together, building a sense of community and developing a greater connection to place.

Having a gloriously green looking organic urban backyard farm is something that many people aspire to having. Is it something you’ve always had an interest in, and what’s your thing you are most proud of growing?

I had no interest in growing food until I met my partner Joël almost 20 years ago. He had grown up in the bush in rural QLD. As a kid his family had veggie gardens and chickens and he had spent many school holidays working for one of the neighbours picking grapes, or tomatoes or whatever needed harvesting. So when we first moved in together he dug up the back yard of our little rental house in Brisbane and started growing. We’ve had a veggie garden at every house wherever we went and I’ve always been really proud of what he’d bring in from the garden. Of course we’d talk about what to plant but I never really knew what I was doing so I left it to him and I would get busy turning food from the backyard into delicious and interesting meals.

It wasn’t until 6 years ago when we lived and worked on a farm in Spain that I truly understood what it felt like to get your hands dirty and the connection we have to the soil. After living in a yurt in rural Spain, being connected to the community we were living in, having much more reliance on the food that was grown, and the time dedicated to sharing with each other really lit a spark for me. So when we returned home, and moved back into our house we went about converting our backyard to a small urban farm. The goal was to minimise the amount of grass and maximise food production. So my personal interest and involvement in the garden is a relatively new thing.

I don’t think there is any single thing that I’m the most proud of growing, although we’re always trying to grow new and interesting things. The thing I’m most proud about is that we can create an entire meal from our backyard. Fresh eggs, herbs and vegetables can create a wholesome meal. It’s a simple delicious meal and that’s what I love about it.

Living in The Great Lakes area, water is obviously something that plays a part in your life, is water somewhere you feel comfortable?

Absolutely. I’ve never been able to stay away from water for too long, I need to see it, hear it, smell it and get in it as much as possible. My parents will tell stories where as a kid they would have difficulty getting me out of the water, in ANY kind of weather. I love adventuring along coastlines, and when I first started scuba diving I felt like I had come home. Being underwater felt like I was in my natural state. However the ocean has since reminded me a few times of her power and the thin line we walk when we are underwater and I definitely now have a deeper respect for the forces of the seas.

What’s the most exciting/scary thing you’ve seen underwater?

Am I allowed to say everything? (YES!) Underwater truly is like being in another world! It’s beautiful and exciting and harsh all at once. I’ve gotta say that the first time I saw a shark was pretty exciting. We have a few Grey Nurse Shark congregation areas around here and watching 50 or more sharks swim back and forth in front you is a stunning sight.

The scariest underwater thing I would say was an experience rather than anything I saw. I was on a dive trip to Vanuatu to dive a shipwreck ‘S.S. President Coolidge’, a popular dive site. One of the icons of this dive is a statue called ‘The Lady’ which is located in the first class dining room of the ship at 40m depth, and a must visit when you dive the Coolidge. We made it to the lady, I took a photograph and then blacked out. My awesome divemaster got me out of there promptly, for which I am forever grateful, but it was definitely my most scary underwater moment.

I see having a backyard fire has popped up on your instagram feed a few times. I love having a firepit in the backyard as it’s something I’ve aspired to for nearly two decades. Now that we finally have access to one (albeit an old style bbq, which I refuse to call it because firepit sounds so much better) it’s a highlight of our cool weather weekends. Why do they appeal to you?

My dad made our firepit out of an old keg and it suits our urban backyard perfectly. An outdoor fire has a way of bringing everyone together, to chat and connect with each other, to draw us away from our screens and other obligations and just be with each other. There’s no pressure for conversation either and sometimes just watching the flames can be meditative. Personally I feel like it burns away all the stresses of the day or week and makes me feel relaxed.

Considering we first connected on instagram, how does social media play a part in your life?

I first joined instagram because my friend Eartha had told me how awesome it was, and gave all of us girls a lesson one day. I’m a bit of an introvert when it comes to sharing things publicly, and I started our ‘freefunabundance’ account when I wanted to plug into the urban farming and growing community. I use it to share but also to learn. There is so much knowledge out there on all sorts of things and people are more than willing to give advice or help out. Plus I’ve met some great people on insta, including yourself.

I do like the extra ability to connect with people on social media, and to stay in contact with people I don’t get to see often, or relatives that live far away. I can also opt out for a few days or weeks if I need to and it’s no big deal.

As a parent though, I also make sure I’m across all the social media apps so that I understand the spaces that my children have access too. I actually quite enjoy watching the kids interact with their own communities (safely) and I make sure I have some fun myself.

Describe your perfect weekend.

Camping, by the beach, no phone reception, with a campfire and salty snacks!

Ahhh perfect. April thank you so much for taking the time for a chat. I feel like there a thousand more questions I would like to ask you, but for the moment…I say lets go for a swim!

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If you would like to see a few more snippets of April’s world, she is on instagram @freefunabundance (All pictures are supplied by April.)

conversations-with-community

Conversations with Community– a series focused on some of the amazing women within our community doing truly inspiring things. These are some of the people quietly changing things up, following untravelled paths, creative living, and connecting in different ways too often ignored in our culture of time racing.

 

Go on, take a few extra minutes to meet some of these inspiring, wonderful women here.

Educating your ears

The last couple of months it’s been all about the podcasts. And I mean ALL about the podcasts. Sure I’d listened to some here and there before but not quite at the rate I’m flying through them at the moment, (on reflection, it’s probably something to do with having three kids at school for the first time, yes ever- my ears are ready!)

Now, if I missed something interesting on the radio, I can catch up. If I have a particular subject I’d like to get to know a whole lot better there are generally oodles to choose from.

While there are some fantastic podcasts to choose from there are some eye crossing ones that simply don’t work for me and generally I’ll find the stop button fairly quickly. I’m all for giving most things a fair crack, but there is no point in listening to something that doesn’t resonate, I value that time and want to make sure I’m using it wisely. Educating my ears has been very enjoyable.

A few favourites in the last few months.

Conversations with Richard Fidler: so many varied topics in here.

A Small Voice: interviews with photographers.

Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert: creativity and all her shades.

Chat 10 Looks 3: Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales talk about art, books, politics and everything in between in an intelligent and funny way.

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What are some of your favourite podcasts to listen to at the moment?

Speaking Up

When you come away from a weekend of listening to intelligent people articulating on topics that are very close to your heart, it’s hard not to be completely pumped up about that, (and perhaps ready to bend anyone and everyone’s ears that happen to cross your path.)

In times like this I’m thankful for this space. So I can consider and muse to my heart’s content without the side effect of possible ear weariness, that may be associated with anyone that happened upon my doorstep in the last couple of weeks.

While the topics spoken on varied from anxiety, death, masculine shaped communities, politics and the importance of women’s voices; for the sake of not writing a thesis today, I’m going to stick with the last one.

The importance of women’s voices.

Now as a woman, someone who writes, someone who engages in regular cultural questioning and as someone who often feels censored on various levels, this one was always going to be a big one. With Tara Moss, Jane Caro, Tracey Spicer, Emily Maguire, and Sara Mansour, this panel wasn’t going to be wishy washy.

A panel known for speaking up where it matters, standing to be seen, and making sure their voices are heard in ways where it counts. These women have established voices, words that have been finely tuned and (for some) have been articulating well driven words for decades.

So where does that leave the listener?

Or the person that doesn’t have the public presence, and has no interest in being thrown into the arena spotlight, but still wants to be heard and counted on matters that lie close to the heart?

To start with, think local. Now whether it’s your food system, your clothing or social change that you are advocating for, your local community needs you. It’s something i’ve banged on from the beginning in some shape or form, but your local community needs you. In regards to being heard; power and leverage comes from forming together. So keep it small at first and then if and when you are ready, widen your circle.

Remember you don’t have to be ‘nice’ all the time. Politely demand more, and then repeat yourself, and then probably again, and then, you guessed it again. (The Good Girl Stripped Bare– Tracey Spicer.)

Equal representation needs diversity. Those different voices need to be heard, otherwise you don’t have an accurate snapshot of the area in which you live. Who’s driving your community? Who are the ones speaking up within your schools? Your work place? Your public spaces?

Turn up and connect. Power is networks, use existing structures or like minded souls to make those changes. Often it will just take one person to get the ball rolling. Ripples become waves and watching a single voice turning into a chorus is a wonderful thing. (2017 Women’s March)

You’ve always got something. Always. Something to give, no matter how small that voice seems at times, it’s yours to be used. Whether it be in a letter, a protest, standing up, creatively fuelled, the written word or simply raising a question in a room where the conversation has never been challenged before, (and oooh, there’s plenty of those to choose from.)

Throughout the ages there have always been people who have moved against the tide, stepped out of line, thrown questions in a noisy room and refused to be silenced.

Those voices, with their diversity of backgrounds, experience, colour, communities and sex, simply put, encourage a more wonderfully inclusive and balanced society…and that’s certainly something I’d like to aim for.

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Silence and Powerlessness– Rebecca Solnit

Icelandic Women’s Strike– 1975

Nurturing Wild in our Daughters– with Steve Biddulph