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‘The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine.’ Mike Murdock.

Well I am not sure what that quote says about my future . . .

routineI admit I like my routines.  I always have.  And I’m pretty sure the dogs like them too.  We all know where we are meant to be, what we are meant to be doing, and when. We can handle the odd disruption of course, life tends to get in the way sometimes, but generally the girls and I are creatures of habit, and our routines are kind of comforting. Well, they were . . .

I have had a three day-mini-break this week.  Three days off work to get some jobs done at home that needed doing, to do some writing, some sketching, (some shopping—ssssshhhh—don’t tell anyone), and, hopefully, some relaxing before the new school term kicks in.

Sounds great, except that today is Friday already (how did that happen?) and I haven’t done any writing, or sketching . . . (okay I did do a bit of shopping) . . . I still have those jobs to get done . . . the nasty head cold that I have been fighting off for the last week has again kicked in with a vengeance and . . . oh yes . . . the girls and I are currently playing host to a 4 month old (absolutely adorable) Cavoodle pup called ‘Cinder’ . . .

So routine? I don’t think so.  Not this week . . .

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Posted by on September 30, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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‘When the flower blossoms, the bee will come.’ Srikumar Rao.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . . 

And not only the bee—apparently every other bug, grub, creepy-crawly and eight-legged beastie known to man as well . . .

antsIt’s early in the season yet but it’s already starting to feel like a scene from A Bug’s Life‘ at my house. It started on Saturday when I was cleaning out my pantry (oh joy).  All was going well until I noticed a packet of oatmeal which seemed to be taking itself for a walk towards the back corner of the cupboard.  Looking more closely I realised said packet was being carried aloft by hordes of tiny black ants.  Sigh.  What should have been a fairly easy tidy-up job turned into a major ant-eradication program.

And it didn’t end there.  While out walking the girls I had my first sandfly bite of the season, which means I am now going to have to slather myself in ‘Rid’ from head to toe every time I go out to the letterbox or hang washing on the line for the next six months.  So much fun.

scaredMabel also encountered this year’s first ‘blowy‘ which sent her into complete tailspin.  (Mabel got stung by a bee when she was a tiny puppy and she has never gotten over it.  Her little face blew up to twice it’s normal size and she looked a bit like a freaky cartoon character.  (I didn’t tell her that though, she was traumatised enough as it was.)  Now any time anything buzzes past her she has a bit of a meltdown. Spring and Summer can be very exhausting times for Mabel.)

Add, to that the fact that we have now come into ‘tick season’ which means I will have to be hyper-vigilant with the dogs medication and daily checks and . . . wait for it . . . best of all . . . I am now also anticipating (with barely concealed terror, I might add) the arrival of the first monster spider (and I say first, because I can guarantee there will be others), which is bound to appear in my bedroom any day now.

Ah yes, the joys of Spring.  It’s just as well the flowers are so pretty . . .

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Hibiscus rosa-sinensis

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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‘You say freak, I say unique.’ Christian Baloga.

eccentricI heard a news report the other day where yet another young man had been arrested on suspicion of being a terrorist sympathiser.  When one of his neighbours was interviewed about the arrest she said that she was not at all surprised the man had been arrested because he was definitely ‘weird’.

Now I don’t know whether this man was guilty of being a terrorist sympathiser or not, but the thought came to me that there could be a lot of people out there in the world in serious trouble if one of the main criteria for being considered a terrorist suspect was merely to be considered a little ‘weird’ . . .

pryingUnfortunately, it’s a sign of the times.  So many awful acts have been perpetrated upon unsuspecting and innocent people over the last few years that any sort of behaviour not deemed absolutely ‘normal’ instantly arouses suspicion.  The authorities are now even actively encouraging all of us to keep an eye on each other, which would be great if we were all doing it to ensure that our friends and neighbours were all okay and not in need of any help, but, sadly, the intent seems more to be on the lookout for any ‘odd behaviour’ that might reveal an underlying evil or sinister motive.

I think that’s kind of sad—and just a tiny bit worrying for those among us who may have the odd strange little habit or quirk that someone who does not know us well might misinterpret as suspicious or dangerous behaviour.  (And no, I’m not talking about myself in particular here, just in case you were wondering . . . )

To be a little bit weird is not all that new of a thing.  The world has always been full of weird (and wonderful) people.  History is rife with them.  Polite society commonly refers to them as ‘eccentrics’. (Not-quite-so-polite labels include abnormal, aberrant, odd, queer, strange, peculiar, bizarre, outlandish and freakish.)  To be eccentric means to be unconventional, slightly strange or ‘off centre’ and, according to Dr David Weeks (Eccentrics: A Study of Sanity and Strangeness) some of the characteristics defining an eccentric person include:

a nonconforming attitudeeccentric
creativity and intense curiosity
idealism (they want to make the world a better place)
a happy obsession with one or more hobbies
high intelligence
opinionated and outspoken
mischievous sense of humour
little interest in the company of other people (or their opinions)
non-competitive, nor in need of validation or reassurance from the rest of society
are aware of their difference to other people

(Does any of this sound familiar?  Take this short quiz to see how eccentric you are.  Go on—I dare you.)

nonconformistSo, eccentrics are often highly intelligent, nonconformist introverts whose creativity and curiosity knows no bounds.  Unlike those diagnosed with a mental illness, eccentric people have not lost touch with reality—they know they are dotty, but they are usually quite happy with their dottiness.

Dr Weeks’ study concluded that eccentrics were happier and healthier than the rest of us, saw doctors far less often, lived longer than their non-eccentric counterparts and certain eccentric individuals (such as Albert Einstein, Dr Patch Adams, Nicola Tesla and Alexander Graham Bell) had made major contributions to mankind.

Well, if that is what being ‘weird’ is, it doesn’t sound all that scary to me.  In fact, I think it sounds pretty cool.  Perhaps what we should be doing is more actively encouraging individual eccentricities and oddities instead of trying to smother them and make everyone conform to the ‘norm’.

And maybe, just maybe, if more of us were to take a leaf out of the eccentrics handbook every now and again and really embrace our own inner weirdness without worrying so much what other people might think, we might not only become a happier and healthier population but perhaps become a little more tolerant of all the other weirdos out there as well.

It’s definitely something to think about . . .

smiley-people

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Art is too serious to be taken seriously.’ Ad Reinhardt.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . .

I really think I am going to rename these posts ‘Struggles with my Sketchbook‘  . . .

writers-block-cartoonOver the last couple of weeks I have had a very hard time getting anything down on the page.  It isn’t as if I haven’t tried—I have—but I just haven’t been making any headway.  I have spent more time sitting staring at my blank sketchbook pages than I care to admit and then getting cross with myself when I failed to produce anything.  I kept telling myself ‘I want to draw something’ —but obviously not enough to actually draw anything.  Sigh.

doldrumsThis isn’t the first time I have hit the doldrums when it comes to sketching and I daresay it won’t be the last.  (Sketching and I have a bit of a history.  See ‘As my artist’s statement explains. . . )  To this day I still can come up with all sorts of lame excuses why I can’t (shouldn’t, won’t) get any drawing done.  Fortunately, I have learned enough about myself now (and it’s about bloody time) to know I can also find answers to all these excuses too . . . 

There’s nothing to draw (the house is full of things to draw) . . . It’s raining (not inside the house it isn’t) . . . That new ink I ordered hasn’t come yet (so use a biro) . . . There are other things I should be doing instead (there will always other things to be doing instead) . . . 

inner-criticLike I said—lame.  Happily, it’s no longer all that easy to just walk away from it like I have done in the past.  And the truth, is I really don’t want to walk away.  I have loved getting back into sketching and drawing and meeting fellow enthusiasts online (although not so sure I should include myself as an ‘enthusiast’ at this moment in time).  Now I realise that this slump is more about my ‘inner critic’ giving me a hard time than it is about my sketching skills. I thought I was getting better at not worrying so much about the end result, but it turns out I’m really not.  I’m still worrying more about the outcome than I am about the process.
That’s something I really have to work on.

But I am determined my inner critic is not going to get the better of me this time.  Last week I decided if I was going to constantly berate myself about the quality of my sketches I was going to have to go back to basics and learn some fundamentals, so I signed on to an online ‘Foundations’ course with Liz Steel.  Liz is a Sydney-based sketchbook artist (and an architect in a previous life) who was also one of my previous teachers at Sketchbook Skool.  Coming from an architectural background rather than an artistic one, Liz has a very analytical approach to sketching which immediately attracted me.  (And, bonus, this particular course is self-directed, which means I can progress through it in my own time, with no pressure to upload weekly homework assignments.  Yay!)

spatterI had a look at the first lesson this weekend.  It was all about getting to know your materials, deciding what you you were comfortable with, what you liked using, and what you didn’t like using.  I spent a happy couple of days (with the stereo turned up loud)  ‘playing’ with my watercolour paints and pencils, mixing colours and textures and generally making an all around mess. (I have decided I am still much more comfortable with my watercolour pencils than with watercolour paints and that I really, really like sketching with my fountain pen. Who knew?)  And, guess what?  I had fun.

There was no ‘assignment’ as such.  But there was a ‘prompt’.  Do a sketch of alI the materials I would like to include in my ‘field kit’.  Mmmmmm.  I think Liz’s idea of a field kit and mine might be slight different.

Below is a sketch of the only bag at home that I found that was large enough to carry everything I decided I might need for a sketching foray out into the big wide world.  I’m thinking this might be something else I might have to work on . . .

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Posted by on September 20, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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‘The best cure for insomnia is to get a lot of sleep.’ W. C. Fields.

Saturday is usually my ‘chores’ day.  As there is only me in the house it is easy enough to keep it clean and tidy during the week and, quite honestly, I can’t be bothered running around doing errands or household chores after being at work all day.  I’d rather go home, walk and feed the dogs, have dinner and then relax by doing a bit of reading or sketching or catching up on the telly . . .

choresSo last Saturday was no different.  I was up early and into it.  Mabel, Maude I went for a long early morning walk (Molly doesn’t ‘do’ mornings) and when we came back I put the washing on, hoovered and dusted, clipped Molly, mowed the lawns, swept the paths and weeded the garden (at least until I decided I was fighting a losing battle and went and had a cup of tea instead).  Then I walked the dogs again (honestly they have no idea what a good mother I am to them) and even managed to watch an old movie and get some sketching in.   It was a productive day and by the time I went to bed on Saturday night I was pooped, and ready for a good sleep.

And I did fall asleep, almost immediately.

But then I woke up again. 12.45am.  Had a noise woken me up?  Not likely—the dogs were all still fast asleep (Molly snoring happily as usual).  Did I have a weird dream?  Not that I recalled. Did I need to go to the bathroom?  Not really—but I got up and went anyway, just in case.

Then I climbed back into into bed, settled myself comfortably and closed my eyes.

sleeplessnessAnd I lay there . . . and lay there . . . and lay there.  Staring at the ceiling. And then I heard the cuckoo-bird.  Do you know it is impossible to ‘unhear’ a cuckoo once you have heard it?  Their call just continues to drill unceasingly into your brain. So I rolled over and pulled the covers over my head (Mabel grumbled at me) . . . but then I got too hot and threw the covers back (another doggie grumble).   I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to clear my mind.  I even distinctly remember saying to myself ‘don’t think about anything . . . don’t think about anything . . . don’t think about anything . . . ‘.  Sigh.  Too late.

Have you ever actually listened to the crap that goes on inside your head when you are wide awake in the middle of the night?  Okay.  I’ll rephrase that (I shouldn’t just assume that because there is crap in my head that there is also crap in yours).  What I meant to say was—have you ever really paid attention to the thoughts and notions that run around and around and around in your brain when all you want to do is switch off and sleep?   It’s weird, stream-of-consciousness stuff, with no seeming rhyme or reason.

gilmore-girls-haikuLorelai Gilmore knew—’My brain is a wild jungle full of scary gibberish. I’m writing a letter, I can’t write a letter, why can’t I write a letter? I’m wearing a green dress, I wish I was wearing my blue dress, my blue dress is at the cleaners. The Germans wore gray, you wore blue, ‘Casablanca’ is such a good movie. Casablanca, the White House, Bush. Why don’t I drive a hybrid car? I should really drive a hybrid car. I should really take my bicycle to work. Bicycle, unicycle, unitard. Hockey puck, rattlesnake, monkey, monkey, underpants!’

Once upon a time I used to sleep really well.  Seven or eight hours of (uninterrupted) sleep was the norm.  Alas, no longer.  I know that our sleep patterns change as we get older (menopause has a lot to answer for) but knowing that doesn’t always help. I already follow most of the ‘recommendations’ that are out there.  I get up at the same time every morning (even weekends and holidays) and usually go to bed around the same time at night.  I exercise regularly.  I avoid caffeine and (sigh) alcohol in the evenings.  I don’t use the computer in the evening either (I learned very early on that if I write in the evenings I will inevitably wake up in the wee small hours ‘editing’ what I had written earlier).  I even keep a notebook by the bed in case I wake up thinking ‘OMG I have to remember to do that . . . ‘ so I can jot it down, thereby (supposedly) allowing my overwrought brain the peace of mind it needs to get right back to sleep.  (Yeah, right.)

breatheIn desperation in the past I have even tried deep breathing techniques. Deep breath in for four, hold, breathe out.  Breathe in for four, hold, breathe out. This generally only succeeded in me focusing so much on the counting that I either mucked up my number sequences or completely forgot to breathe at all (which was not entirely helpful).  It also usually brought at least one of the dogs over to delicately lay a cold wet nose upon my cheek, curious as to why Mum was breathing so funny . . .

Anyway, long story shortI hardly slept at all that night.  I was still clock-watching at 2.00am . . . 2.30am . .  3.00am.  At 4.00am I gave in.  I got up, dressed and took Maudie out for a (very) early morning walk.  (Mabel was still grumpy about me disturbing her sleep and refused to go with us.)  Maudie and I actually had a very lovely walk.  It was cool and calm and quietbut that doesn’t mean I want to be up and out walking quite that early every morning.

So I don’t know what the answer ismaybe there is no answer.  Maybe this is just the way it is now and I should stop whining about it.   Just suck it up and deal with it.

zzzzzAlthough, you know, legend has it that if you can’t sleep it means that you are awake in someone else’s dream.  Mmmmmm.

You know, if you all could stop dreaming about me . . . just for a little while  . . .  that might be really helpful . . .  🙂

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree . . . ‘ Marion Sinclair.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . . 

There is a bit fat beautiful kookaburra that comes to visit my house most days.

Rather than the gumtree, he prefers to sit on the birdbath just outside my living room window.  The window is a large one and on the inside there is a little sill where the dogs like to sit, leaning up against the warm glass, watching the world go by.  The bird bath is about 2 feet in front of that the window (as the kookaburra flies) and sits almost at eye-level with the girls.

He’s clever, this kooka.   He knows the dogs can see him  . . . and he also knows they can’t get at him.   He will descend gently onto the rim of the birdbath, fix them with his beady eye, and then, when he has their full attention, he will begin his ablutions, carefully primping and preening his feathers until he has them just rightand then, suddenly, he will bomb the birdbath, sending water splashing all over the window.  It sends the girls into a mad salivating frenzy every time.

And when he has them all wound up and running back and forth along the sill, barking frantically, he will become bored with their noise, slowly turn, give them one final look over his shoulder and with a throaty chuckle, he’s gone.

It then falls to me to spend the next 10 minutes trying to calm down three agitated, steamed up and completely over-excited little dogs.

Thanks for that mate . . .

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 Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree,
Merry merry king of the bush is he.
Laugh, Kookaburra, laugh, Kookaburra,
Gay your life must be!

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree,
Eating all the gum drops he can see.
Stop Kookaburra, stop Kookaburra
Save some there for me!

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree,
Counting all the monkeys he can see.
Stop Kookaburra, Kookaburra stop.
That’s not a monkey, that’s me!

Marion Sinclair’s Kookaburra Song won a competition run by the Girl Guides Association of Victoria and was first performed at the World Jamboree in Frankston, Victoria in 1934.

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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‘You can’t reach for anything new with your hands full of yesterday’s stuff.’ Louise Smith.

I think I may have mentioned my seemingly endless attempts at decluttering before.  Although I have resigned myself to never becoming a minimalist in the true sense of the word (I can’t help it—I really like my stuff) I have been pleased to notice that, in spite of my instinctive hoarder tendencies, I do actually seem to be making some progress.

burstinghouseAt least the progress is noticeable to me, although perhaps not so much to anyone else.  Visitors to my house may see little difference but I know for sure and certain that I now own significantly fewer books, clothes, shoes, scarves, handbags, ornaments, and (especially) kitchen paraphernalia than I did two years ago.  (For someone who doesn’t cook I’ll be damned if I know where all those kitcheny doodads came from.)  I have also managed to cut a decent swathe through the fandangles, doohickeys, thingamabobs, and not-sure-if-I’ll-ever-need-this-but-I’ll-keep-it-just-in-case-crap that always seem to multiply in cupboards and drawers (and the garage) the moment my back is turned.

(Before I go any further, and before I start to sound too holier-than-thou, I must admit to numerous recent acquisitions of all sorts of delicious art materials which have, to a certain extent, taken over some of the space created by earlier purges.  What can I say?  It’s a work in progress . . . )

listAnyway, a few weeks ago, I decided it was time to have yet another clear-out (practise makes perfect) so I made myself a list (I do love my lists) of areas in the house where serious work was still needed.   Making the list was as far as I got that time because it rained (which seemed like a good enough excuse to not go any further at the time) but this weekend Spring sprung again and I was filled with a sudden ‘urge to purge’.  Okay—what was first on my list?  The bedroom. Really?  Again? How many times I have I already been through my wardrobes (yes, that is plural) cupboards, shoeboxes and drawers, culling and disposing of unwanted and unused items?

Not enough, obviously.  It took only a couple of minutes before I found myself sorting through various piles of clothing and asking myself  ‘Why do I still have this?  I thought I had already ditched this.  Why didn’t I get rid of this last time?’  (Or, even worse, ‘OMG, what was the stuff like that I threw out last time if this is what I kept?’)  Sigh.  This was going to take all day.

But I was determined.  I dug deep.  Anything I hadn’t worn in for.ev.er . . . or was too big (‘I am not growing back into that’) . . . or far too small (‘how did I think I would ever fit into that’) . . . or the dreaded ‘what on earth was I thinking’ . . . was out.  No ifs, buts, or maybes.  It was gone.

My girls helped me through the process of course.  Mabel perched herself atop the first teetering pile of there’s-nothing-at-all-wrong-with-any-these-but-I’ll-never-wear-them-again-jumpers and supervised the proceedings.  helpfulMaudie checked (and double-checked) that everything that went into the large black plastic bags was absolutely meant to be there (by dragging everything out again and looking questioningly at me—Are you sure? These shoes?  But you love these shoes?) and Molly followed Maudie’s lead, also checking each bag methodically before I was allowed to tie it offalthough in her case I do think she was slightly more concerned that I might inadvertently toss something out that actually belonged to her.  

(I haven’t had the heart to tell them yet, but the doggie-toy-box clearout is actually one of the dot-points further down on my list . . . )

net-closetSeveral hours, and six large black plastic bags full to overflowing later, I was feeling pretty smug and pleased with myself.   I could now ‘see the wood for the trees’, and had (bonus!) rediscovered a great pair of jeans and a fabulous pair of shoes I had completely forgotten about.   (Not to mention enough black leggings and tee-shirts to start my own shop.  If I even look like I am going to buy any more of those you have my permission to give me a good slap.)  I hefted all the bags into the car immediately and drove to the local Op Shop and dropped them all in the donation bins before I had time to second guess any of my decisions.  (Not that I have ever done that before of course.)  

And then I came home and put a big black line through the first item on my list.   BEDROOM.    Done.   Very satisfying.

Until Monday morning when it was a wee bit cooler and I went to look for a light jacket to wear to work . . . and suddenly realised I had completely missed a whole wardrobe!!  Seems I was a tad hasty in crossing off that first item.  Sigh.  Never mind.  Like I said—definitely a work in progress . . .

 
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Posted by on September 9, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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