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Monthly Archives: September 2015

‘Happiness is your dentist telling you it won’t hurt, and then having him catch his hand in the drill.’ Johnny Carson.

A couple of days ago I noticed my Maudie was doing a strange licky-licky slurpy-slurpy thing with her mouth. I thought she had probably got a chew stick (or some other equally gross thing) stuck in between her teeth and, knowing she might not be able to sort it for herself, called her over to have a look.  Well as soon as she realised I wanted to have a look in her mouth it became a game of  ‘betcha-can’t-catch-me-and-hold-me-long-enough-to-have-a look‘, and she then proceeded to drive me mad for the next half hour as she ducked and weaved and giggled and wriggled and all but wagged her tail offhaving the time of her life.

In the end I gave up.  I feigned indifference.   ‘Nope—that’s it.  Not interested any more.  Go away from me. No really—go away and sit over there, I don’t want to play any more.’   Works every time.

Maudie's new smile.

Maudie’s new smile.

She sidled up beside me and as she sat gazing up at me I realised that a tiny white thing was protruding at right angles out of her mouth—and that tiny white thing turned out to be one of her bottom teeth.  Not quite thinking it through, I put my hand down to her face andshe was offgrinning gleefully and galloping madly about the house.  The game was on again.  Sigh. 

It wasn’t until later on that evening when she was fat and fed and dozing on the couch next to me that I managed to get my fingers on the tooth, and as she woke abruptly and pulled away, the tooth came out.  Just like that.  She licked her doggy lips once, had a half-interested sniff at the offending tooth I showed her, and went straight back to sleep.  Too easy.  She now has a very engaging gappy-tooth smile, which bothers her not a whit.

If only sorting out my own dental issues was that easy.

37080786_125x125I am not exactly sure how long it is since I went to the dentist last (my last couple of ‘Check Up Reminder’ cards seem to have mysteriously gone astray) but I am thinking probably around 18 months.  I know—tut, tut.  Checkups every six months, yada yada.  It’s the same with losing weightwe know what we are supposed to do but . . .

I don’t like dentists—there I said it.  I don’t like them—even the ones that don’t go around hunting and killing lions on their days off.  I am pretty sure my own dentist does not do that.  In fact, I’d go so far as to say that he is probably a very nice man, although, face it, you do have to wonder about someone who picked a career that involves looking inside people’s mouths all day.  Urk.

sore toothDespite my aversion, I had to make an appointment for myself this week.  I had a hot-and-cold-stingy-ouchy thing going on which I just couldn’t ignore any more.   So I rang the surgery, and the only appointment I could get was the morning of the first day of my three day break from work.  And somehow I also found myself booked in for a teeth ‘cleaning’ as well.  Sigh.

I spent most of the morning in the surgery.  My appointment for the clean with the hygenist came and went and I eventually got in to see her 35 minutes late.   My appointment with the dentist himself was supposed to be right after the cleaning, but he was also running late—so I had to go back out into the waiting room and wait another 20 minutes.  And then—when I finally got into the surgery—he took xrays, poked, prodded, gave me an injection, drilled a bit, ‘tidied up’ a bit  (wtf does that mean?)  and said he couldn’t find anything really wrong and the hot-and-cold-stingy-ouchy thing was probably just a ‘sensitivity issue’ which can happen as we age.  Mmmmm.  Thanks for that.empty purse colour

And the cherry on the top of the whole experience was the receptionist asking me if I wanted to pay for it ‘all’ today.  (ALL? Good God, do I need a bank loan?  Answer – almost.)

I eventually got out of there 2 hours later, $415 lighter, and, I suspect, still with the hot-and-cold-stingy-ouchy thing I went in with.  I’ll let you know when the drugs wear off . . .

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Habits are cobwebs at first, cables at last.’ Proverb

creatureofhabitI am very much a creature of habit—and, unfortunately, at least with me, that means good habits as well as bad.  I have made a real conscious effort over the last couple of years to instil new, upgraded, better-for-me-and-my-health habits into my daily life (more exercise, more sleep, eat a better diet, drink less wine, blah, blah, blah) and have, for the most part, been fairly successful (well, okay, not so much with the wine but there are limits you know . . .)

Anyway, trying to implement these ‘upgrades’ into my life really brought home to me just how ingrained my old habits were (even the ones I didn’t know I had) and how hard it was to change them and then maintain those changes.  Even after all the work I have put in along the way I often feel it is still WAY too easy for me to get home, decide I am not going to do any exercise that evening, flop into a chair and just eat cheese for dinner (not with dinner—for dinner)—and then feel really guilty and cross and why-do-I-even-bother-with-myself for doing it.  However, and I never ever thought I’d say this out loud, I do have to admit (albeit very, very grudgingly) that those rah-rah, just-keep-at-it, never-been-flabby-or-fat ‘motivators’ actually do seem to have a point (don’t you just want to poke their eyes out?) and, with persistence, it has gradually become easier to ‘get back on the horse’ each time I backslide.

I am also getting much better at not berating myself mercilessly for my slip-ups either, and that has happily been reinforced by a great little book I read recently called Mini Habits (Smaller Habits, Bigger Results) by Steven Guise (see here for more).  In a nutshell, the book advocates that anyone wanting to change any of their daily habits should start really, really small—‘stupid small’—so small it is impossible to fail (no failure—no guilt!)

So, if you want to improve your eating habits, just add one lettuce leaf to your meal each day.  If you want to get more exercise, start with walking to the end of your drive and back.  If you want to write a book (or a blog), write one sentence.  And do these mini-habits every.single.day.  No exceptions. And if you do miss one day (we are all human after all) never, ever, ever, miss two. And if you continue to do that one stupid-small thing every day you will soon succeed in forming yourself a bright and shiny, brand new (and, in the best of all possible worlds, good-for-you) habit.habitimages

Sounds too simple to work doesn’t it?  Ah, but the author reasons—chances are you’ll actually start to eat more than one lettuce leaf a day, walk further than the letter box, and start writing paragraphs instead of sentences. (Sigh. One can but hope.)

This reasoning also applies if you want to change a bad habit—so, smoke one less cigarette, say one less swear word, eat one less cube of cheese a day . . .

Mark Twain wrote, ‘Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits’.  Well, I’ve been there and that hasn’t worked so now I am going to try being one of the ‘other people’  and do a bit of ‘self reforming’.  Care to join me?

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Anyone who doesn’t know what soap tastes like has never washed a dog.’ Franklin P Jones.

Saturday.  I decided to give the girls their baths early today.  They’ve been for a big walk, had their breakfast, pottered around the garden for a while and now they are all drowsing on the couch.  Perfect.

I go into the bathroom and close the door, find the shampoo and conditioner, get out the doggy towels and put everything within reach.  Don’t run the water—that’s a dead giveaway.  All organised and back into the lounge room and—it’s deserted.  Not a hair of a sleepy dog anywhere to be found.  Sigh.  I don’t know how they know, but they always do.

I look for Maudie first for the simple reason that I know exactly where she’ll be.  When Maudie hides she hides in precisely the same spot every time—the doggie bed out on the back verandah.  I come out the back door just in time to see her duck her head below the edge of the bed.  I think she thinks that if she can’t see me, I can’t see her.  Bless.

Maudie Drying off in my bed

Maudie
Drying off in my bed

She doesn’t struggle.  She does, however, squeal.  I take her collar off.  Squeal.  I stand her gently in the bath (which has no water in it yet).  Squeal.  I turn on the shower hose.  Squeal.  Accidentally touch her tummy when she is not expecting it—squeal.  Like fingernails on a chalkboard, swear to God.  Such a drama queen.  Especially as it takes all of about three minutes to get her wet down, washed, rinsed, conditioned and rinsed again.  I turn the water off, throw a towel over the top of her and lift her out of the bath.  Squeal.  Quickly put her collar back on underneath the towel before she realises what I am doing.  Muffled squeal.  Dry, dry, dry, dry, dry, dry—release—and she’s off.

At that exact moment I realise I have forgotten to close the bedroom door.  By the time I get to it Maudie has done three gleeful, full-speed circuits of the house, further drying herself on every fabric surface she has come across—carpets, rugs, cushions—she’s rolled on her back from one end of my bed to the other and has now buried herself deep amongst the pillows.  She smiles sweetly at me from inside her little nest.

Molly Drying off in a towel

Molly
Drying off in a towel

Molly next.  She’s hiding under the settee, but not for long.  She is much easier to deal with (no squealing for a start) and sits like a tiny black wet sock in the corner of the bath while I work on her.  I squeeze as much water as I can out of her before I take her out of the bath but it takes two extra large towels to get her even partially dried off.  When I let her loose she looks a bit like a walking brillo pad.

And now Mabel.  Where’s Mabel?  After searching for a while I am pretty sure that is her in the deep dark gloom under the bed—either that or there is something else moving around under there that I really don’t want to know about.  Rather than risk traumatising her for a week I usually leave Mabel to come out of her own accord.  Her record hiding time is 2 hours 14 minutes . . .

Mabel Drying off in the sun

Mabel
Drying off in the sun

Got her.  Someone came to the front door and she just couldn’t resist the urge to come out and see who it was.  So, that’s it—all three.  Done and dusted.  They’ve all had treats for ‘being good girls’ (the term is relative).  I’ve cleaned and de-haired the bathroom and every towel I own is now in the wash.  The girls are all prancing about looking all very bright and shiny and pleased with themselves.  Like it was all their idea. Watching them all sitting blissfully outside in the sun I can see that Molly is also going to need a haircut and good brushing out when she’s completed dried off.

But that’s for later. It is now all of 10.00am, and  I think I have earned a nice cup of tea and a bit of a lie down . . .

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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‘When I look down I miss all the good stuff. When I look up I just trip over things.’ Ani Difranco

Once upon a time long ago (mostly in the 1980s) big was beautiful (remember all that hair—and the shoulder pads), more was always better, and, according to Gordon Gekko and Wall Street, greed was good.

It was all very simple we were told.  If we wanted to have more, we had to spend more.  Saving wouldn’t get us the things we wanted.  We were openly encouraged by the government, the manufacturers and retailers (and the Joneses next door) to spend, spend, spend.  And it worked.  We got all the stuff we wanted: a better standard of living, flash new appliances, bigger and better cars, rooms full of possessions, and wardrobes full of clothes … and shoes … and handbags … and scarves … and ….

But can we have too much of a good thing?  Come on—admit it—how many others of you out there (yes—I am counting myself in here) have cupboards full of kitchen gadgets you’ve never used, books you haven’t got around to reading yet, drawers full of ‘things that might come in useful’, closets stuffed with clothes and garages full floor-to-ceiling with barely room for the car?  If having all these possessions makes you happy—great—but if look around and wish most of it would just hurry up and tidy itself up, or even better, go away, you could be at extreme risk of ‘Stuffocation’.

Stuffocation is, James Wallman (journalist, author and trend forecaster) says, “that feeling you get when you look in your bulging wardrobe and can’t find a thing to wear; when you have to fight through piles of stuff you don’t use to find the thing you need, and when someone gives you a present and your gut reaction isn’t “thank you”, but “what on earth makes you think I could possibly want or need that pointless piece of stuff?”  Sound familiar?  Well it seems that you are not alone.

In our busy cluttered lives it seems more is no longer better and research suggests that ever increasing numbers of people are now focusing their energies, time and money on experiences, rather than possessions.  Reasons given for this change in thinking include everything from carbon footprints, landfill, climate change, ‘affluenza’ and status anxiety.  The ‘material’ mindset is so last century darling!  Whatever the reasons, people are getting rid of their physical stuff and going travelling or hot air ballooning, or spending their money on festivals, concerts, theatre, eating out, or buying services that make their life easier or more enjoyable. So if having too much stuff has become a problem for you, why not take yourself in hand and ‘de-stuffocate’!

I have recently started to practice what I preach and am slowly clearing my clutter one box of books, one black bin-liner of clothes, and one wheelie-bin full of unwanted stuff at a time, and, once over the initial shock of getting rid of things that took me years to accumulate, I am now enjoying the process and feeling ‘lighter’ for it.

suitcases(A quick hint though: box, bag and bin what you have decided to get rid of and get it out of the house as quickly as you can so you don’t give yourself enough time to second guess yourself, change your mind, and re-open a bag thinking ‘I might just keep this … you never know if might come in handy’.  Re-gift, give it to charity or sell it on ebay—just get it out of the house!)  And, and this is important, once you have successfully de-stuffocated, DO NOT start to re-stuffocate all over again!  That, for me anyway, could take some practice.

One final point—although James Wallman may have coined the absolutely apt word ‘de-stuffocation’, it is not an entirely new concept as it seems one of my favourite quotees, Albert Einstein, already had his own take on the issue when he said, ‘Long hair minimizes the need for barbers; socks can be done without; one leather jacket solves the coat problem for many years, and suspenders are superfluous . . .’.

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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‘My grandmother is over eighty and still doesn’t need glasses. Drinks right out of the bottle.’ (Henny Youngman)

I always thought that would be me, eighty years old and still not wearing glasses (please note I am saying nothing about the bottle!) but it was not to be.

I can almost pin-point the exact moment I realised I could not actually see as much as I thought I could.  I was in the supermarket.  I had picked up a packet of something and found myself struggling to read the tiny print on the side.  In annoyance (‘why the hell would anyone print anything that small??’) I picked up a pair of those $5 reading glasses I always used to look right past, put them on and, lo and behold, I could read the small print.  ‘Mmmmm—think I’ll just drop a pair of those into the shopping basket right now.’

The following Sunday I fished them out of my bag to see if they would make any difference to reading the weekend papers, and quickly realised how much I had previously been skimming over (which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing by the way.  Has the news always been that awful?  Maybe I’ll continue to skim over the nasty bits and go straight to the funny pages—or—here’s a thought—I could just not wear glasses. . . )

Anyway, the truth is I had never really given a lot of thought to the logistics of wearing glasses before.  Things certainly appear clearer while I am wearing them but I have also given myself quite a fright once or twice by looking in the mirror while I had them on—or forgotten that I had them on when I was not actually reading and finding myself tripping over anything further than a book’s length away. As kids we used to laugh at Dad when he would come indoors from a cold and frosty outside and his glasses would immediately fog up and leave him blind and blundering about the kitchen.  As an adult that image still makes me smile, but the reality—not so much.  Drinking a cup of tea while reading the paper has suddenly become two distinctly separate issues.  Then, of course, there is the constant putting on and taking off and putting on again—while always seeming to manage to leave them off in a room at the other end of the building from where I need them now.

I am being a bit dramatic I know as I still only need them for reading and I daresay I will get the hang of it but—still a bit annoying.  I have had my eyes tested now (properly—not just tried on more of the x1.5 and x2 readers at the chemist) and have been reliably informed that there are no nasty underlying issues, it is just ‘natural deterioration with age’.  Thank you SO much for that.  If I had been wearing glasses when the optometrist told me that I would have taken great delight in glaring scathingly across the top of them and giving him SUCH a look!

On the plus side (apart from actually being able to read anything of course) there is now one new thing to shop for.  Yay!  And, even better—you can shop for your new glasses on-line.  All you need is your prescription and a couple of hours of playtime.  You can even load a photo of yourself onto the website and ‘try’ the different frames on your face—it’s a real hoot (and a terrific time-waster but the fun of it easily makes up for that).

So now I have a brand spanking new pair of specs which I am very happy with, purchased online for a really reasonable price and delivered straight to my door.  I am now thinking perhaps I really need a second pair—you know, just in case.  I have just seen another pair on the same site that I really, really, like, and honestly, it’s bit of a no-brainer  as far as I can see—wearing the same pair of glasses every day is a bit like wearing the same pair of shoes every day.  Don’t you agree?

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party’!’ (Robin Williams)

green succulentAs I write Spring is only 2 weeks away.  The mornings and evenings are getting lighter; there are teeny tiny buds on my frangipani tree; a hopeful little pigeon daily struts daily around my garden in full display (although the object of his affection really doesn’t look at all interested), and bright little spots of colour are starting to appear through the winter foliage.

I am actually a little bit excited about my garden this year.  This is surprising to me considering my long history of being a totally abysmal gardener. What’s changed?  Well—I blame my landlord.  Let me explain.

I used to have a monster melaleuca tree in my back yard—a massive tree which took up at least half of the yard and was both beautiful and ugly in equal measure.  It was big, old and gnarled and gave great privacy from the neighbours.  It threw fabulous shade all summer and deep dark gloom all winter.  It dropped sticks and leaves and acorny things all year (and they all ended up in my living room), but it also kept the equally old wooden paling fence upright for much longer than if it had been left to its own devices.  It contained a myriad of wildlife—several families of birds and their yearly offspring; but also bugs, beetles and a huge population of shimmery white orb spiders which would constantly freak me out in the evenings when I would find the whole tree laced with webs and dozens of them all out and about having a street party.  (Want to know what freaked me out even more?  The fact that they all completely vanished without a trace every morning. Shudder.)

Anyway—one day I got a call from the landlord saying that the tree was to be cut down.  It took two men nearly three days to climb, cut, hew, hack and haul that tree away and when they had gone I was left with a massive raw stump 6 feet around and 2 feet high, several inches of sawdust covering every inch of the garden and a first class view of the over-the-back-neighbour’s rumpus room.  Mmmm.  (Luckily, not long after the tree came down we had a big storm which also took down most of the no-longer-propped-up wooden fence and the landlord replaced it with a brand-spanking-new green colourbond—and the neighbours were free to rumpus about in private again.)

But now—no shade.  At all.  Dead, sawdust-drowned grass.  And that stump!  After staring at it in despair for several months I decided to cover the whole back yard in pine bark.  At least it looked tidy, if a little stark.

Then one day, wandering about the shops (as I am wont to do), I found a strange funky looking plant (‘will grow in full sun’!) which took my fancy.  I took it home, put it in a pot and put the pot in the middle of the bark ‘lawn’.  To my surprise, not only did it not die, it tripled in size almost immediately, spewed out ‘babies’ all over the place, and I had to repot it.  Woo Hoo!  It was an ‘AHA’ moment.

Succulents (see, I even know what they are called) soon became my new best friends.  I now have them in all sizes and shapes—low growing, fat and fleshy, tall and spiky (the dogs give that one a really wide berth), hairy, furry, smooth, bumpy, green, brown, yellow, multicoloured—you name it.  There is even one which, after doing nothing at all for six months, then overnight  threw out a tall spike of flowers almost as tall as me, and if it sprouts legs like a triffid anytime soon I am moving house.

‘Pig-face’, I discovered, was especially invented just to cover ugly tree stumps!  Who knew?

And—best of all—it seems to me that the only way to actually kill a succulent is to water it! (well, okay, over-water it—but as that is not likely to happen with me I think I’m covered).

So, long story short—if my landlord (thanks Bob) hadn’t had that tree taken down I might never have discovered a love of (succulent) gardening.  So, roll on Spring.  Do your worst.  I am ready for you.  Unless, of course,  that really tall spiky thing actually is a triffid  . . .

 
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Posted by on September 6, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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“The only exercise I take is walking behind the coffins of friends who took exercise.” (Peter O’Toole)

Fortunately I have never had to follow the coffin of a friend of mine who died from taking exercise, but I do see where Peter was coming from.

I get up, walk the dogs, go to work, come home, walk the dogs—and that is the extent of my usual daily exercise.

However, for the last little while (oh, all right—since menopause took over my life) I had been feeling pretty crappy—lethargic, blobby, not sleeping well, etc etc., and after doing a bit of research it did seem that my best solution (apart from all kinds of medication) was to get more exercise. Sigh.

So, 3 months ago, as an act of final desperation, I joined the local gym.  And, me being me, I went in both feet first. I bought a 3 month membership and signed up with a personal trainer (‘PT’). I was very nervous when I went for my first ‘fitness test’, and, as it turns out, I had every reason to me.  I was weighed and measured (eek!), set up to do 600 strides on the elliptical trainer (mean, mean, mean!!), followed by sit-ups, push-ups (although, as I only managed ONE real push-up I am not sure I can count that in the plural), and shown how to use the weight training equipment.

By the end of the session I thought I had died and gone to heaven—and not in a good way.  I literally thought I was on my way off this earthly plane. My legs had the collywobbles, my heart was hammering, I was breathing so hard I had lost the ability to speak coherently, and my face was a colour that could only be described as ‘puce’ (a shade somewhat closer to purple than red—and NOT a good look on a Sally).

I gathered what was left of my dignity (which wasn’t much), thanked ‘PT’ (when I really just wanted to poke his eyes out), staggered down the stairs, trying to get my legs and breathing under control (and holding tightly on to the stair railing all the way) and fell into the car.  Then, gathering my belongings around me, I realized I had left my towel upstairs.  If my brain hadn’t been so starved of oxygen I would have thought to leave it there and pick it up next time, but in my hypoxia-addled state that never occurred to me and it took me several more minutes before I could force myself back up those stairs to retrieve it.

When I finally got home I was met by three over-excited, leaping, bouncing, pocket-rockets all ready to go for their afternoon walk. I am reliably informed by the neighbours that I did actually take the dogs for a walk that day, but I am still not sure how we (or rather, ‘I’) made it there and back.

The next day I could barely move my arms and legs in any kind of coordinated fashion—much to the hilarity of those at the office—and, swear to God, the day after that was even worse.  It would have been SO easy to drive straight past the gym on my home every day that next week, but I didn’t.  I devised a plan that seems to work for me.  I finish work, change into my exercise gear at the office and drive straight to the gym.  I do 30-40 minutes, go home, walk the dogs and then, and only then, do I fall in a heap. I know myself well enough to know that once I am home and have my fluffy slippers on nothing short of a nuclear event is going to get me out again.

So—now that I have you all suitably horrified by my early experiences—I am here to tell you that joining the gym has actually been the best thing I have done in ages.  My second fitness test last week showed that I am demonstrably stronger and fitter than I was 3 months ago. I have lost some weight and lost some centimetres around my middle.  Some of my ‘wobbly bits’ are a little less wobbly and I am definitely sleeping better (suck on that menopause). I even (usually) manage to come out of a training session with a face colour at least several shades down from that dreaded puce!  My knees (which were never much good to start with) might never be the same again, but in spite of that I have still been pleasantly surprised at how far I have come in such a short time.

Woody Allen once said ‘Eighty percent of success is showing up’, so I am going to test his theory and keep ‘showing up’ and see where it takes me.  Wish me luck . . .

 
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Posted by on September 6, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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