Travelling Like Its 2014

Gone FishingThe big day has finally arrived and the bags are all packed together with our family’s anticipation. In a couple of hours, we will be taking to the sky for what will be a 24 hour ride to the Continent. Thankfully that 24 hours is broken into 3 legs, because 24 hours straight in a sealed steel capsule is no one’s idea of fun except if that capsule happens to be the International Space Station.

It’s all a little surreal since the planning and booking for this trip took place about a year ago and it has all come down to this last few hours.

As a family we tend to do holidays well together. Some families implode in this thrown together 24/7 situation. We explode. We explode with mirth and banter and the need to pull together for a common goal. In some ways we work better together out of our natural environment than in it. Whatever the case, it works for us. And for the first time we are travelling with one of our children officially classed as an adult.

This is not the only first. There will be a lot of firsts in the next 4 weeks. First time in Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany and first time we drive in a foreign country. First time I celebrate a belated birthday in another country and first time we will be in a nation other than Australia during a World Cup. And many more.

We will be covering a lot of ground in the time we have. If you have to travel a full day to get to anywhere you have to make the most of it.

The top 10 things I’m looking forward to on this trip:

  1. Poking around the Normandy region and checking out the D Day beaches.
  2. Seeing the remnants of the Berlin Wall.

    image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

    image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

  3. Not having to cook.
  4. Belgian Chocolate and the Last Post in Ypres.
  5. Petra.
  6. Amsterdam – all facets of it. Heard so much about it, time to check it out.
  7. Being with the family.
  8. Not having to cook.
  9. Visiting a friend in Denmark.
  10. Budapest.
  11. Not having to cook (hoping you aren’t noticing this is number 11)

And so much more.

I’m not planning on blogging during the trip, but will write about it once I return.

In the meantime, I hope you all have a great month.

There’s only one thing left to do and that’s to say see you all on the flip side!!

Living The World Cup Life

WARNING: This post contains opening game of the World Cup spoilers.

I’m not sure where the last month has gone. I have looked high and low.  I’m sure it’s around here somewhere. It was not my intention to lose a month of blogging, but I’m reappearing briefly before disappearing again to lose myself in European adventure.

soccer ballBut not before setting out my observations on the opening game of the World Cup. If you have to ask which World Cup, you are clearly not a soccer/football fan, because there is really only one World Cup and that’s THE World Cup. Before I start, a warning to the football purists, I grew up in a soccer world. That’s right, a soccer world, not a football world. My dad was a soccer fanatic. Born of European origin he transplanted his passion for the game to his adopted country. This meant I grew up on a steady diet of weekly soccer games at which dad would discuss soccer politics and yell at the ref. He would also buy a bag of peanuts to eat during the game and at the end of the 90 minutes, we would find ourselves knee deep in peanut shells and exit the ground to the sound of underfoot shell crunch. Once at home, he would talk more soccer politics to his friends and they would solve all of the competition’s soccer ills over a few glasses of spritzer.

This is what I grew up with and to me “soccer” is the name of the world game played with the round ball. Football on the other hand was something that Aussies played with an egg shaped ball whilst chasing each other around a paddock. Commonly known as rugby – whether league or union -  that was and is the dominant sport in this country. It’s really only in the last decade or so that the term “football” has been also used to describe soccer, bringing us in line with the UK and other soccer playing English speaking nations (are there others?). So soccer it is in this post.

I have just finished watching the tail end of the opening game of the World Cup. An exciting matchup between Brazil and Croatia, with the home team coming away with the win. Love the colour, the spectacle and the knee-high socks that stay up against all odds. I might even admit to admiring the odd highly toned striker/midfielder or two, but only because of their *cough* fancy footwork, *cough* grace and *cough* athleticism.soccer bonding

The game had the usual volume of on field machinations. It set me to thinking about what would happen if we applied some of these techniques in our day to day lives. So, what if we could see more of the following:

  1. The own goal recovery – Brazil is one of the classic soccer nations. Kids learn to dribble a soccer ball, well… before they learn to dribble and every kid dreams of making it to the national team playing in a world cup. Of course, this current one also happens to be before a home crowd on home soil with the eyes of the world watching. The anticipation and drama around Brazil being ready to host the event have been building and the opening game is finally here. And the first goal scored? An own goal by one of the Brazilians. Can you imagine the thoughts that would have run through that guy’s head at the moment? I’d venture to suggest that “oh crap” doesn’t come close. However, there were no open recrimination, the dude got a tap on the back by one of his team mates, they avoided the psychological black hole to win the game. What would life really be like if team work was more than a term in a managerial manual and people actually lived by that credo?soccer team
  2. The Clayton’s foul -  A stray foot or hand and suddenly there’s a player on the ground acting as though was run over by a semi-trailer. All in the hopes of scoring that penalty to give his  team the edge. And when the ref flashes that yellow card he is more than half way to victory. The recovery rate and speed of these players once a penalty is awarded is nothing short of miraculous. Coupled with that if every soccer player had the injury he enacted on the field you would need 4 times as many players to complete the 90 minutes of game time. Perhaps we should all have academy award training for unintended slights, paper cuts and directed passive aggression. Thankfully, this is not the way most of us live our lives, although we have probably encountered people who do.
  3. The goal scoring pile up – this is my favourite. One of the guys scores a goal and he is squeezed, squashed and piled on. I’m sure this is a macho technique to hide all of the hugs, kisses and tears that is the consequence of a goal having been scored. You don’t fool anyone, guys. We know you just bonded in that 10 second pile. Imagine what life would be like if every time you had a small victory your “team” came and piled on top of you? Might be a mother of sons thing, but I think the pile is a very under utilised technique for showing appreciation.

Soccer fans are in for a real treat over the next few weeks, with many more Oscar winning performances to come.

Australia will face its first opponent, Chile, in the next day or two. We are the firm underdogs. But there is something to be said for being privy to a great Aussie pile. May the Aussie boys experience their fair share in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, I will be watching for more pointers to add to my life manual called Living The World Cup Life.

Food Labelling Nonsense: How Intimate is Your Lunchbox?

I may be lunchbox friendly but am I label friendly?

I may be lunchbox friendly but am I label friendly?

Have you ever wondered what happens inside your lunchbox after you shut the lid? I know I have lost endless hours of sleep and sanity thinking about this very thing and more importantly as a mother thinking about how I may be affecting my kids by what I pack in their lunchbox.

OK, given the ages of my kids I don’t really pack their lunch boxes anymore, but I did for years and found it an eternal struggle. Struggle in the sense of keeping the lunchbox interesting so that its contents actually ended up in the kids’ stomachs rather than as a science experiment two weeks after it was first packed. We parents have all witnessed that experiment at one time or another and have acknowledged how creative Mother Nature really is by coordinating so many pretty colours of mould. And like me, I am sure you were often in fact packing lunches for other people’s kids because lunchtime was just a big swap meet. To ensure your kid maintained playground status it was important to always pack swap worthy, interesting items. Your kids may not have appreciated the nutritious, smelly salami sandwiches that you lovingly packed every day, but little Johnny whose parents were vegetarians certainly enjoyed your daily efforts.

I’m glad those days and the lunchbox pressure is now over.

Roll the film forward to lunch time today and I was lucky enough to have been offered a  muesli bar by a friend. It hit the spot right in the middle of four hours of uni classes. As I was breaking open the packaging about to savour the delicious flavours of strawberry, yoghurt and oats, I noticed that the labelling on the packaging proclaimed this muesli bar to be LUNCHBOX FRIENDLY.

Since when did muesli bars become aggressive and mean? Mind you, I have had my suspicions. Every time I used to put a muesli bar into my son’s lunch box the apple core would come back bruised and the mandarin beaten to a pulp. Coincidence? I think not.

If I was putting together a lunch box today for my sons I would have to consider not only the nutritional and freshness retention value of the food together with the ever changing palettes of my offspring, but also whether the food played nice with other food when the lid came down. And if not for the food label how would I ever know if a particular food was friendly and compatible? I mean trying to catch unfriendly food in the act is a bit like trying to peek inside the fridge door without making the light come on.

Needless to say the expression LUNCHBOX FRIENDLY came with a little ^ after it, meaning there was more to this friendship story. After chasing the little thingy around the bottom of the packet and squinting so hard that I almost burst a blood vessel, I found this explanation:

We care about you and your family and are committed to helping Australian families make easier choices for the lunchbox. That’s why we now make all of our muesli bars with a no added nut recipe* ensuring the range is now lunchbox friendly.

*This product has been made on equipment that does not use or handle peanut or tree nuts. Whilst we have taken these nuts out of our recipes we cannot guarantee that the other ingredients in this product have not come into contact with tree nuts or peanuts.

So having chased a ^ and * around the packet, I found that this friendly muesli bar didn’t hang out with nuts, but some of its ingredients could have. It certainly is a sign of our times that 40 or so words have to be used on packaging to avoid potential litigation or bad press around nut allergies.

I sympathise with any parent who has a child with a food allergy. I am not sure though whether introducing the label of LUNCHBOX FRIENDLY is the clearest way to warn consumers. That expression can mean a host of things to a host of people, if it means anything at all. My first reaction was that lunchbox friendly meant less fat, less sugar.

My second reaction was lunch boxes must have gotten a whole lot tougher than when I was a kid. My third reaction was to check the pantry for other nonsense labels.

The message seems to have gotten lost in the attempt at clever marketing. How many people would pause long enough to chase the symbols around the packet? It seems preferable to simply state NOT MADE WITH NUTS given the caveat about other ingredients possibly having socialised with nuts.

Why use 4 words when you can use 40?

Have you ever come across nonsensical  labelling of foods?  Do you read the food labels on packets?

Reflecting Imperfectly: Looking back on the #atozchallenge 2014

A-to-Z_Reflection_[2014]

Another year and another Challenge over. There is no doubt, that the A to Z April Blogging Challenge remains my favorite. I think it’s because of the structure, the camaraderie and the rest stops during the month. I needed them this year with the pre-Easter week working, blogging and academic assignment crunch.

April generates an incredible blogging energy with two thousand participants all plugging away to take the journey from A to Z. I find it really uplifting and motivating. Often times I had the seeds of an idea for my post on the morning of the letter, which would germinate throughout my working day, ready to flower in the evenings when I wrote my posts. I tried starting writing my posts before April but it didn’t feel the same, without that participant energy. By choosing my theme for the Challenge, I felt my posts had to bear some of my personal experience and thoughts, in short, show my authentic self. As there are days when I am plagued by doubts about my own self development and I didn’t want to bury that. So the posts worked better in real time. That was a whole lot tougher than I anticipated, even having winged some of the Challenge posts last year.

This year’s Challenge was the toughest so far. For all of that, I now have a good body of self development posts to add to my portfolio and felt I reached out to more than a few bloggers who could identify with the issues I was discussing. In a lot of ways we are not so different from each other and knowing that we all have doubts and go through periods of questioning is comforting.

As always, I met some fantastic bloggers along the way this year and became reacquainted with other bloggers I met two years ago during my first Challenge. There is some incredibly creative talent out there not to mention passion and focus. The support I received from some of my fellow Challenge bloggers in retweeting and sharing content was incredible. I have also added valued members to my blogging community and I look forward to continuing to add to their communities also.

Thank you to all of you who read, liked, commented, shared and supported. It makes a real difference to the Challenge experience and enhances it beyond measure.

A final thank you to the Challenge co-hosts and all of the Challenge assistants. Another fantastic job by Arlee Bird and the whole team, with this year seeing the introduction of the #AtoZChat on Twitter – a great way to get to know Challenge participants ahead of time.

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The Z of Living Imperfectly: Will It Be A Zig or Will It Be A Zag? #atozchallenge

It is related of a certain king that on a particular occasion he turned his tea into his saucer, contrary to the etiquette of society, because two country ladies, whose hospitalities he was enjoying, did so. That king was a gentleman; and this anecdote serves to illustrate an important principle : namely, that true politeness and genuine good manners often not only permit, but absolutely demand, a violation of some of the arbitrary rules of etiquette. Bear this fact in mind – Martine’s Handbook to Etiquette and Guide to True Politeness, Arthur Martine, Dick & Fitzgerald Publishers, 1866.

Z Challenge LetterMy friend Z is finally here. This Challenge has really been a trip.

When I came up with the topic of living imperfectly, I thought I would write about some of the ways I have chosen  to live life my way despite societal expectations and pressure. Instead my Challenge posts became a journey about my attitude towards my own perfectionist tendencies and perfectionism in general. At times, these posts have been heavy going, but in some ways were clearly necessary for my own self development. Yet other times, the posts have felt light and easy and a whole lot of fun. And looking through the old etiquette books was a constant source of amusement. I thank Mr Martine, for his often entertaining exposition of how gentlemen and gentlewomen should conduct themselves in the late nineteenth century.

I felt like my zig-zag through the Challenge reflects my zig-zag through life.

Having taken this journey I now have some clarity around choices. Cause and effect is now more obvious and while we all have our own recipe for happiness, this Challenge has helped me find some of the main ingredients for mine. It has also helped me to know myself better.

The choice to zig or zag has therefore become clearer.

After this Challenge, my ZIG list would something look like this:

Authenticity

Dancing

Excellence

Flexibility

Heartening

Guiltless

Leading from the front

Non-judgmental

Not being held hostage to fears

Self-belief

Thinking Young

Travelling

 

My ZAG list would look like something this:

Always needing to be right

Expectations

Contaminated time

Constantly ignoring my needs

Judgement

Orthodoxy in behaviour

Perfectionism

Seeking Validation

Don't fear perfection

Now that I have these lists, I feel less confused and somewhat energized. It was a worthwhile, if not always easy, exercise.

Thanks to all of you who joined me for the Challenge, whether it was for one post or more, you have all contributed to this journey. To my fellow A to Zers, I have appreciated your creativity and look forward to continuing to build the alphabet with you one post at a time. Whether you’re still posting a “zed” post or a “zee” post, enjoy the last day!!

The Y of Living Imperfectly: Forever Young and Gen Y #atozchallenge

So many adventures couldn’t happen today
So many songs that we forgot to play
So many dreams swinging out of the blue
We let them come true

Forever young, I want to be forever young
Do you really want to live forever, forever, forever?
Forever young, I want to be forever young
Do you really want to live forever, forever, forever?

From Youth Group – Forever Young Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Y Challenge Letter The thought of living forever seems a double edge sword. As I age, the notion of quantity of life is giving way to quality of life. Of course, this is a personal choice for everyone, but to me, I want to make the days I have left count and to squeeze the most out of them.

I have written before on this blog about thinking old v thinking young and how at this age and stage, the difference between the two approaches becomes more striking. For our perceptions and choices at mid-life seem to have a large bearing on older ageing. At least that’s what it seems like to me . I really feel like I’m at a cross-road at this point, needing to decide whether to think young or think old.  Any decision or choices I make on the score will impact on how I set myself up for the second act.

Ha, I’m still talking as if I am not in the second. Possibly denial, but I would like to think of it more a long the lines of young thinking. For as long as I think young, I can stay in the first act. Thinking forever young works for me.

Being bit of an upside down, back to front person, I feel like I have moved beyond the stage of older thinking in my life. By older thinking I mean being driven to the totally practical because of perceived risks.  This sort of thinking came in my twenties and thirties at a time when everyone else around me was thinking young. Whilst I can’t deny that it served me relatively well, I can’t help but feel there was a price I paid for it, namely regret.

Which is why I have made the decision to age disgracefully imperfectly.

 Need to be careful not to sound like this

Need to be careful not to sound like this

I had a great discussion this morning with my eldest about following your heart and having the confidence to do so. At the age of 19 these are weighty issues to consider, mostly because at that age the heart may not be giving you consistent signals if it is giving you any at all. And as a parent discussions like these are a real tightrope walk, because the practical always threatens to intrude along with the notion of what we would do in a similar situation. The natural instinct of a parent is to prevent pain and suffering for their child, but if we don’t let them have these experiences how are they to learn? Vicariously through others? A lot of adults live their life that way, but to me that’s even more risky because learning through the mistakes of others tends to lead to living through others. I’d rather have my boots on leading the way. And it’s not what I want for my children. However it is their choice.

So it’s why I now find myself in a postgraduate media class at university filled with a bunch of Gen Ys. The experience has been interesting and for the most part I enjoy it. There are a lot of bright young things out there and I believe the world’s future is in good hands if these kids can ever get on the job experience. The necessitymature age student meme of graduate qualifications to getting a job in today’s competitive world has been rammed home to me. Most of the “kids” in my class have started their postgrad education immediately after finishing their bachelor degrees, some with a total change in discipline. They compete for intern positions to build their CVs and with the hope of landing a full-time job, eventually by the time they are in their mid twenties.

This is very different to my undergrad days when postgrad degrees were a sign of “going the extra mile” for advancement. They were therefore regarded as optional until a career move made it essential. Because of my love of learning I actually had only one year from when I finished by bachelor degree and started my postgrad degree. But that was highly unusual and well, I’m weird like that.

So following your heart and making it in this world as a young Gen Y is not easy. Following your heart at any age is not easy, but I think it’s essential to thinking forever young.

The X of Living Imperfectly: Yes Virginia There is a Xanadu

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree :
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round :
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree ;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery. – Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

X Challenge Letter Most folks when first hearing about the A to Z Challenge reach for their dictionaries minding their Qs and Zs. But it’s this little letter X that’s the real toughy. I think if I blogged for long enough I would run out of X words to write about and would simply have to mark the spot. This year the Challenge road has led me to Xanadu.

If you’re my vintage, when you hear the word Xanadu you probably think of a roller skating rink, flowing blond hair, wind machines and disco music and Olivia Newton John. If you’re too young to know what I’m talking about check out this midriff covered video:

Now that I’ve shot the beauty and gravitas of Coleridge’s words to pieces by using the words “Coleridge” and “disco music” in the one post, I can ditch perfection and let you know that the first two lines of this poem are about my only take-aways from high school poetry. Although as I remember it Kubla Khan had an erection where his pleasure dome was concerned rather than a decree. Kubla Khan erecting a pleasure dome seems far more tangible than a decree. Maybe we learned the Australian version of the poem, or maybe Mr Khan’s dome actually got lost in a whole lot of red tape at the rezoning stage and never made it beyond a decree.

As a parent I certainly know that just because you decree something, it certainly doesn’t make it so.

But I digress. Back to the topic at hand of Xanadu.

So, if you had to design a Xanadu, what would it look like? What would your idealized place of magnificence and beauty look like?

Image courtesy of freedgitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of freedgitalphotos.net

 

This has a lot of potential. Serenity, shade, water and a wrap around balcony would almost be ideal. Perhaps white sand and blue water is more your style or rainforest and running water.

The fact is we can surround ourselves with magnificence and beauty but we will never reach Xanadu with just tangibles. Because magnificence and beauty ultimately require acceptance, gratitude and a willingness to look beyond the outwardly magnificent and the beautiful. You could live in the most beautiful paradise but if you are not grateful or at peace it could still be the worst nightmare. In short, Xanadu comes from inside, it is where we are settled, it is where we can truly be ourselves.

Xanadu can therefore be several different places in our lifetime or at any one time, because each place may bring out a different facet of our personality. One day you might be contemplative and seek serenity, the next you might be playful and seek colour and sound.

A little bit of idealism is not a bad thing. It’s a pity as adults we tend to limit our idealism to the point where our imagination is used to create barriers or make assumptions and therefore as a weapon. Instead we should be creating our own Xanadu, that little piece of paradise in our otherwise cluttered days.

Here some more mouth watering pics of ideal locations to get you started thinking about your Xanadu:

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

 

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net