Monday, November 30, 2009

how to be a good brown owl

I'm not exactly sure how it all began. Perhaps a whispered idea between like-minded friends, but, word of mouth being what it is (a wonderful thing), now a dozen or more of us meet for craft and friendship every month.

Let's be honest, it's not a new idea. Women have been sewing and cooking and shelling peas together for centuries, but now we are just cooler. That's because we are 'Brown Owls' and we have a fun code of conduct:
Be Nice
Include others
Do your best
Try new stuff
Be helpful
Have nice manners
Be a bit crafty

I was never a Brownie or a Girl Guide growing up, so a lot of the Brown-Owl-ness is lost on me. Prefects? Badges to earn? Codes of Conduct?! But I love craft and I like meeting people, so I joined the group, signed the pledge, agreed to the Code of Conduct (Frank would prefer it if I followed the code at all times, but I figure all the time is a big ask - just during meetings will do surely!), and I'm in. A true Brown Owl.

Tonight was our last meeting for the year, and I had a good old time chatting away to lots of crafty ladies. Unfortunately knitting lace scarves whilst talking animatedly is not conducive to quality work, so I'm hoping my mother in law won't examine her Christmas gift too closely.

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

seeing eyes

I was sitting near a blind man today, keeping an eye on his guide dog. It was a lovely black Labrador with glossy coat and gentle eyes, and it sat quietly waiting by the man's feet. I was so taken with the dog I kept looking back to it again and again. Slowly it dawned on me that the blind man could not do what I was doing - admire the physical beauty of the animal. He could experience its great skill in seeing for him and guiding him in life, but he could not sit and gaze at it and experience that glossy coat and those talking eyes.

I felt very sad.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

a very enjoyable evening

I was getting myself all stressed this afternoon - the BIG Christmas do was on. I have four possible Christmas parties to attend this year, which is what comes of working several jobs. In the interests of spending a little less, I'm attending three of the four.

Tonight was event number two, and in my mind it had become the preeminent do; the party to beat all parties. Something to do with the effort and hoo hah I knew many were undertaking to beautify themselves for the big night. We're talking fake tans, hairdresser up dos and cute little cocktail dresses. I had the distinct feeling that in comparison to all this, I may well look something of a frump. Now there's a comforting thought. Harrumph.

Around six pm I was engaged in a game of musical clothes. This top with those trousers. (Nope, too tight) Those trousers with that top. (Uh uh, too boring) That top with three quarter jeans. (Hmmm, too casual?) These trousers, that blouse, white shirt, green flowery tee... on and on, until finally I settled for the dress, which was my original plan until the weather had suddenly turned cold.

It set me to reflecting on beauty, confidence, consumerism and contentment. I would like to be someone who could rock up in clothes that were not exactly in fashion, and just not care. (I almost pulled it off, although perhaps I could have claimed more complete success if I had settled for the original outfit of trousers and top that were boring, but quite nice and definitely warm) I wanted to believe what I tell the girls at school - no one looks at you as much as you do, they're all too busy looking at themselves. Unless they're looking at you to pull your appearance to pieces because they are unhappy with themselves, but I don't tell the girls about that. Let them find some self love first, be comfortable in their own skin, then let them down slowly. (I think I managed to convince myself on this one - I was sufficiently happy with how I looked to admire all the pretty dresses and perfect tans - those girls looked gorgeous, believe me!) And I was pleased I hadn't spent lots of money trying to look a certain way (it doesn't matter that much what we look like in the end), and more particularly that the dress I wore was an ethical number. I know who made it, where, the conditions they worked under and that they were paid fairly. (Check out Eternal Creation for more ethical, gorgeous and incredibly high quality items!)

It's a complicated thing, appearances, fashion and feeling comfortable in my own skin. Maybe one day I'll tap into the river of confidence such that I stop worry worrying how I compare to everyone else. In the meantime I looked nice enough and had a good time chatting with lots of lovely people. We're all the same on the inside!

And now I must go and put all the discarded clothes back in the drawers and cupboards from whence they came...

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Friday, November 27, 2009

day 27 and only four posts to go

It is Friday night, I'm relaxing a little, watching 'Pursuit of Happyness' and feeling rather grateful for all the good things in my life.

Like my nice husband, selling lots of earrings today and taking orders for more, rain for my vegie patch, the baby plover that has grown so fast and eggs from our chicken.

Written with a thankful heart*.

*I know that technically yesterday was Thanksgiving in the USA, but could today perhaps count as Australian Thanksgiving? Or at least Cecily's Thanksgiving.

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

connections, tenuous as some of them are

It is now nearly a year since I have attended church, and, for much of that time, I have not missed it. However, lately I've noticed a little, I don't know, forlorn loneliness creeping in. The break has been fantastic, and stepping out of the irritating infighting has been life giving, but all of a sudden I need to meet more with other people who follow Jesus. That too is life giving. It's as if I have had my time out, a season for withdrawal, and the time for re-engagement is coming. I wonder what that might look like?

This lonely feeling has put me to thinking about connections. Yesterday I realised the importance of a seemingly insignificant one. When I head out to the school I work in, I often drive past a bent over old lady. She must be around 80, and each morning she goes for a rather brusque walk. A couple of weeks ago she I noticed her sporting a plaster cast on her arm, which worried me a little - old people fall so easily! I hoped she was OK, until yesterday I realised I had not seen her for a while. She being old and fragile (though admittedly strong enough to exercise more than I do!), I worried she might have died. I've never met this lady, but I feel some kind of a connection just because I drive past her. It's a one way connection - she doesn't even know I exist - but still, she matters to me.

Thankfully, today I saw her again, head down, powering along the footpath. I was so excited I almost stopped and hugged her with delight. That might have been a little crazy, so I just drove by and grinned a little to myself.

In the meantime, instead of making tenuous connections with phantom friends, I might try and reconnect with a few real friends. That would be a lot more meaningful!

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

i'm sorry little spider

It's spider season again.

A couple of weeks ago we found a gigantic white tail (huge, absolutely huge. had to be a female) in one of the bedrooms. Not ours thankfully, although that reality didn't make all that much difference to my bedtime peace of mind, especially after I found a jumping spider in the bed when I changed the sheets. Usually we'll preserve the lives of spiders, but white tails do not fit in that category. Extermination is the order of the day. So Frank carefully flicked the white tail to the floor - but in an effort to spare the wall a gigantic smear, he failed to make a fatal blow. The white tail ran behind the cupboard and that was the last we saw of her for quite some time. Not nice. Thankfully while I was away last Thursday night, said white tail crept out of her dark hidey hole, Frank whacked her hard, and that was that.

So the white tail is gone, but other little creepy crawlies still abound. Tonight it was a ladybird larvae - how on earth it found its way inside I don't know! Last night it was a friendly jumping spider hanging around the kitchen sink. I did warn it, run away now or risk drowning, but it just crawled in between a couple of dishes and started licking up the remains of the meal. I picked up the dish, intending to flick it safely out of harms way, but unfortunately I flicked it into a puddle of water. Quick as I was to rescue it, the little fella never recovered. It crawled off to a corner, slowly curled up, and died.

Well I think it died. This morning it looked well and truly a goner... but tonight it isn't where I left it. Did it recover to live another day, or (shudder, shudder) did a giant spider come and devour it? I'm going with the resuscitation theory - the other option just doesn't bear thinking about!

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

premeditated pathway

It seems I might be a stress head. I endlessly turn things over in my mind. I have trouble relaxing my body, and I rarely sit still. If I am sitting I am nearly always doing something. When I try and stop and cultivate mindfulness... I get up less than five minutes later to do that unimportant-but-suddenly-vital little task. This is not good for me, so I'm working hard to arrest these bad habits. Today I managed to sit still, move not at all, and remain silent, for twenty five minutes.

'How is this so?' you may well ask.

Meditation. Christian meditation.

It all came about by accident, although in truth I don't very much believe in accidents, unless they involve cars killing people, or bombs knocking out innocent shoppers at a local market. That is an accident. I cannot possibly conceive that any divine being could plan and desire this to happen. So, in my kind-of-an-accident-but-not-really-because-all-things-work-together-somehow moment, I was talking with the school nurse. In pondering how to address some issues in the school, she offered up meditation as a suggestion. This interested me, because I see part of my role as school chaplain being the fostering of spirituality in young souls. I am still working out how best to do this in a broad way, and meditation seems a reasonable option. We talked more, I asked for information, and the school nurse invited me to a regular session of Christian meditation at the local Catholic centre.

To be honest, I never really saw myself joining the group. Nice idea, but I'm way to busy and can't sit still to save my life. (Although if it really was a matter of life and death I suspect I could) Enter a friend asking for ideas for how to manage sleep difficulties. 'Christian meditation!' I said, 'It's supposed to bring peace and settledness and unity. I know of a group, let's go together.' And so today we went.

I'm not sure what I was expecting... certainly a more balanced representation of the sexes. Ten women, we sat in a circle around a flame and native flowers. After some initial discussion and explanation of the art and science behind meditation, we began.

Sit straight and still for the allotted time, and in your mind repeat 'Ma-ra-na-tha' (Come Lord) in syllables of equal length. Lay aside any distracting thoughts and focus on the word. Nothing magical will happen in this moment, but as contemplation and mindfulness grow, one will find healing and unity with themselves and God.

'Ma-ra-na-tha. Ma-ra... I'm going to suffocate if I don't move... -na-tha.'
'Oh, I didn't suffocate... Ma-ra-na-tha.'
'Maranatha, Maranatha, Maranatha'
'Did I just fall asleep? I think I may have... Maranatha.'
'Maranatha, Marana... what will I cook for tea tonight?... tha'
'Mara... focus Cecily, stop drifting off, honestly it's not that har... natha'
'Ma... I have so much to do tomorrow... ranatha'
'Maranatha, Maranatha, Maranatha, I think I'm getting the hang of this, Maranatha.'

And then the gong sounded, signalling the end.

I did it. I sat for thirty minutes. I did not move or talk. I meditated! I'm not sure if I was just sleepy or very relaxed, but at the end it felt good. So good my friend and I plan to go back again next week. I might even try and do a bit this week on my own. (For five minutes - don't want to set myself up for failure here!)

I'm hoping this is the beginning of less stress for Cec, and more mindfulness and steadiness in my whole life, cause I sure need it!

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Monday, November 23, 2009

oh the restraint

Barbara Kingsolver has a new book out. I love Barbara Kingsolver and I want that book. In the interests of sustainability however, I am trying to reduce spending and consume less. So I checked out the local library, and hey presto, they have a copy or three in their catalogue. It was too much to expect it to be sitting on the shelf - oh no, that would not happen to the latest Kingsolver tome - so I placed a hold on it. Two weeks later I was beginning to worry I might have left it too late to go and collect it, so I ducked in today to check on it's progress.

Ho hum, more people in Tasmania like Barbara Kingsolver than I gave them credit for. I'm eighth in line, and with a three week borrowing period, that amounts to at least a three month wait.

'Three months,' I screeched (quietly, because it was a library), 'I shall have to buy it. Today.'

Then I remembered my commitment to a new way of living (aided by the remembrance that in four weeks I shall be almost penniless), tightened my belt and borrowed 'The Unknown Terrorist' by Richard Flanagan instead (and 'Making Money from Craft' in order to avoid being quite so penniless) .

The restraint, the restraint! (Then again I've read mixed reviews of 'The Lacuna' so maybe it's a good thing I saved my money) For now I'm shocked silly by Flanagan's take on Jesus as a terrorist, but my curiosity is piqued and I must read on.

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

finding a little contentment

So they're burning up in NSW and we are cool and wet in Tasmania. Big country, crazy weather. Who ever heard of heat waves and forty degree temperatures in November? Even thirty degrees in November in Tasmania (which it was on Thursday and Friday) is madness. Funnily enough I haven't heard any of Australia's climate change sceptics claiming the earth isn't warming the last couple of days.

We pretty well stayed indoors and enjoyed the rain today, although at one point I did duck down to the local farmers market to pick up a golden drop of local, first press olive oil. Costs the earth and tastes divine! I haven't been for a while (something to do with it being a fortnightly market - I always seem to forget the fortnight and miss out!), so it was nice to catch up with my favourite stall holders and pick up some yummy local goodness. I drove home feeling all was well with the world, even though it isn't. Nice one.

Here's a song that celebrates some of the good things in life:

Well I can't believe I'm sittin' here today
Picking on my banjo with a big smile on my face
Writin' new words to an old school melody
Hey there ain't no doubt that God's been good to me

Oh the sun is shinin' on down in Launceston
And right now I'm right where I wanna be
I've never felt so loved, so peaceful and so free
Hey there ain't no doubt that God's been good to me

'Cause he put me smack dab in the middle of paradise
In the heart of the city where my dreams have come alive
And everything I have, and everything I see
Is just another reminder that God's been good to me

Keith Urban

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

cracks in my conscience

The trouble with campaigning for causes is that you are bound to trip up at some point. It's inevitable. The decisions we make around spending, energy use and food are all complicated, as if there is a sliding scale between extremely bad choices and angelically good. At times there is no valid explanation for my movement up and down this ethical scale. If I'm tired I am more likely to give into cravings and desires. If I'm miserable I comfort myself one way or another. If I think life is just too hard I'll give in to the easy choice. Maybe that's shallow, or maybe it is just the reality of living in a complicated world where every decision I make effects another person somewhere, or warms the earth that little bit more.

One of my campaign platforms is buying fair trade. Frank and I stopped eating Cadbury chocolate because it was not fair trade. We even went so far as to reduce our overall chocolate consumption because, funnily enough, it is too expensive to eat fair trade chocolate in vast quantities - something to do with people not being exploited and instead being paid a fair amount for their labour and products.

I've had many an interesting conversation with people about this issue. Some get it, some don't. Some like Lindt and Nestle and Cadbury chocolate too much to give them up. That's OK - at least we're all thinking about the issue now.

It's easy to get up on my giddy little high horse sometimes. Aren't I so good doing all this fair trade, healthy eating, reduced carbon footprint living?

And right there she falls in a heap.

I was at work. We'd just had a big discussion about fair trade chocolate. The Gen Y's of the room claimed they did not care. They lived for themselves and that's the way they like it. We Gen X and baby boomers decried such selfish, insular living before we all got on with the work in front of us.

Later in the day a generous, kindly soul came around with chocolates from the departing nursing students. I was busy with a patient and thought I'd get one in a second, but by the time I was ready, the chocolates were gone.

Gasp. I was salivating - bring those things back!

The chocolates were quickly returned, I made my selection and the chocolate bearer apologised. "I didn't think you'd want one because they are not fair trade," she said.

Oh yes, there's a crack in my conscience there alright. And another one over there. And, oh yes, the other day I bought something else from the 'forbidden' list.

Decisions, decisions. It's impossible to get it right all the time, sometimes because it truly is impossible, other times because of the cracks, when I twist things around to suit myself and do what I want. I guess the only thing to do is keep plugging away and aiming to improve all the time. If only I could, I'd make the world a better place, and I think I can, but only a bit at a time.

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Friday, November 20, 2009

well that was a little bit embarrassing

I had to go to training in Hobart today, and since we are spread out all around the state, the company decided to celebrate a staff Christmas at the same time. So yesterday after work I 'zipped' down the highway and had a yummy dinner with nice colleagues. Today we gathered for training, and it was surprisingly good. I enjoyed the conversation (about a theology of work and ethics in business) and, apart from feeling slightly brain dead from sitting all day, found it motivational and stimulating.

While at the training, I parked my car in a nearby multistory car park. I'm not quite sure how it works there - every space seemed to say 'reserved' but I was sure I had been directed to this car park by the conference centre. So I kept climbing around and around and around. Eventually I came upon a young man who was stamping tickets with 'early bird' and (after accidentally almost knocking him over) I querulously asked where I should park. He directed me to a space and I set off down the eight flights of stairs.

After the training I elected to wake myself up for the two and a half hour drive home with a little shopping. I mooched around, decided I didn't feel like spending money and just picked up a tub of magnesium powder to restore my happy pants.

Back at the car park I circled down and down and down to the payment counter and handed over my ticket. I was sure I had seen a sign outside advertising $4.50 for the day and I was ready with my $5 note. Ha ha. 'Nine dollars' he said.

And then the scrabbling began, because I only had five dollars plus a few coins. I pointed out the early bed stamp ('Yes Ma'am, it would have cost $15 without it') and scraped the coins together. $8.85. I apologetically handed it all over and searched frantically around the inside of the car for another coin or two. Nothing. I donned the most beseeching like I could muster and waited.

At which point the young man rescued me. He handed back the five 5 cent pieces and accepted that I was running short.

What a relief. But how embarrassing!! I really need to make sure I have more cash on hand.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

stop thinking about yourself all the time...

I'm not the happiest camper in the world at the moment. The world is full of babies and (in case you haven't noticed) not one of them is mine. This leaves me angry, desperate, dejected, insanely jealous, despairing and chewed up all at once. I am particularly angered by people's insensitive slights when they pay all sorts of inordinate amounts of attention to people who have just had babies but cannot even manage a hello in my direction.

I try to remind myself to look at all the incredible things I do have and be happier, but I can't seem to stop looking at the one thing I don't have, but want. I find myself avoiding anyone with children, even people I once spent a lot of time with. The parents all seem too smug and selfishly content for my liking, although I'm not sure if this is just my perception or reality. A few parent friends make it past my filtering system, not many mind, but there are a few. This makes me think it is not all me, because I can handle those ones but not all the others.

Anyway, in my effort to help myself feel so much better I thought I'd let you read about this inspiring story. Kurt Fearnley just crawled the entire Kokoda Track on his hands, dragging his crippled body behind him. I would also tell you about the conjoined twins separated in an epic operation, but they're babies and I'm trying to stop thinking about babies. I have to admit though, that this story makes me smile and cry just a little. How amazing they have a chance to live separately.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

the post that isn't a post

Oh dear... I just don't have time. Moan. How am I ever going to get onto all those juicy topics I want to talk about?

Ignore this post, because it isn't really a post. It simply fulfils requirements.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

i don't really think 2012 will be like that... but maybe it would be nice

I'm not much of a blockbuster movie type, but Frank is. Which is kind of funny, because when he first asked me out, he wrote a letter suggesting we go see 'Minority Report'. He thought it might be a good movie since it was in the same genre as 'The Matrix'. I'd never seen 'The Matrix', and still haven't (shocking I know), but I rather liked that he used the word 'genre', and the rest is history. If only I'd known he liked blockbusters more than sci-fi.

So I reluctantly agreed to go and see '2012' with him tonight, a decision aided by the pre-purchased tickets which greeted me on my arrival home from work. We had exactly twenty minutes from when I walked in the door until the movie commenced. It's one of the beneifts of living in a small place - we were seated five minutes before the previews started.

It wasn't too bad, as far as movies go. Certainly better than I had anticipated. Lots of biblical themes and crazy loons making strange predictions. (I had no idea 2012 was such a significant year - check out this wikipedia page to read more!) Of course, being the a rational society we are, science was called upon to back up the strange predictions, and things began to go rather pear shaped for the global village. And throughout it all the warm, fuzzy human interest factor.

There were some interesting themes, like love, selfishness, cruelty, and the nature of humanity, with a few points of interesting social commentary. I mean, why were the Americans the last country to respond with compassion? And do we as a society sell tickets to comfort and safety, before opening our hearts to the desperately needy?

At the risk of drawing too deep conclusions from what is little more than a formulaic blockbuster, I have to say I like the twist at the end. I like how it turns what we know on its head. (Oh... spoiler alert. Do not read on if you don't want to know the ending) 'The day after tomorrow' does the same thing. In that movie, the citizens of the USA head down south to become aliens in warm, welcoming Mexico. In '2012', Africa is the safe haven. The few surviving citizens of the world turn their super ships for the Cape of Good Hope and all is well with the world.

I've just realised this makes the whole movie rather myopic. Africa doesn't even feature in the movie until the end. The sole survivors of planet earth are supposedly on board the three ships... yet Africa escapes relatively unharmed. Does that mean Africans don't count as people? Or they only count when we need them? Whatever it says, I like the turning of fate, where the westerners, who have exploited Africa, end up beholden to them as the only remaining habitable place on earth. Nice. They suddenly have the power. Except it's only a movie and one shouldn't read too much into movies!

Anyway, I liked it. And did you get the whole 'Noah' thing? I reckon I know a few people who wouldn't know what the arks were all about!

Six and a half out of ten, I say. Gran Torino remains the movie to beat in my books.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

it's raining, it's pouring

I have a sneaking suspicion Tasmania might be the best place to live in Australia!

We are not in the middle of the most amazing, surely climate change driven heatwave ever.
We are not shrivelling up in drought.
Some areas will be effected by rising sea levels, but not where I live. (self absorbed as ever)
And it's mighty beautiful here.

That being said, those little showers they forecast today turned out to be gigantic downpours. Amazing. Almost tropical. Seriously, what is going on with the world?

Poor old Coles couldn't cope with the deluge - two aisles were closed while they sucked up puddles of water. I felt rather sorry for the girls observed carrying an enormous tub of water out to the footpath.

At least my vegie patch should be very happy. (I'm just hoping the baby spinach and lettuce weren't ripped to shreds!)

Off to bed I go. Do you realise this is now 16 days of non-stop blogging? Incredible. I've got so much to say, but I'm so tired and ready for bed in the evening, that it just goes unsaid. Oh well. I promise to get to it one day.

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

oh the dilemma

Thank you for your feedback and comments both here and on facebook.

In response to overwhelming demand, I will reveal the company in question as Spiral Foods. As far as I can tell they are small. You probably won't find their food in the two big supermarkets here, but they are readily available in small, locally owned stores.

As to the ACCC, I'm still not sure. I am so uncertain I have been conducting indepth self-psychoanalyses to discover the root cause of my dithering. I think partly I'm tired of the whole thing. If they want to sell bad tomatoes and do diddly squat about it, that's their problem not mine. On the other hand, the approach they have taken is pretty appalling. It's not even about the tomatoes any more, but their woeful handling of the affair.

I stayed up way too late last night, watching a cute French movie on SBS. We cut down on our television viewing last week because we were mindlessly wasting away too many evenings. Last night was a bit of a catch up, but now I'm very tired. Perhaps this is the cause of my uncertainty? I'm going to just sleep on it and see what I think tomorrow.

And to put the whole thing in context, go read this: Conspiracies and the IPCC. Suddenly bad tomatoes seem totally insignificant!

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

the story (aka 'a most revealing email')

I have this really bad habit of being like a dog with a bone. I cannot just let an issue be, unless it is resolved. Or until I have done absolutely everything possible to see it resolved.

For the last twelve months I have been caught up in just such an issue. I knew I was being annoying, but I could not let it go. Finally, in the last day or two I have found some peace. Not the solution I wanted, but I have let go of the bone.

The story goes like this.

On the 21st November last year I opened a tin of organic tomatoes and tipped them into the saucepan. The tomatoes turned out to be bad and, after leaving a message with the company in question, I had to throw the meal away.

The company were less than accommodating. They possibly called Frank's mobile, but he didn't know what they wanted and hung up, so for all intents and purposes they did not return my call. A week later the bad tomatoes were still in my fridge and I rang again, during the day, and spoke with the PR woman. She advised me the company had no use for the product I had been keeping in the fridge, and since they process thousands of tons of tomatoes every year of course there might be a rotten tin or two, as if the situation was completely acceptable. If I wanted to, I could email her our address (which I did) and she would send out some replacement product. We didn't hear back until January 2009, when we received a box with a selection of the company's organic produce. I figured that was that and got on with life.

Lurking in the back of my cupboard, however, was another can of tomatoes bought at the same time. I was rather reluctant to use them, but eventually decided it was unlikely there were two tins of bad tomatoes, so I opened the can, cautiously tipped them into a bowl before pouring them into the saucepan and...

Another can of bad tomatoes! Who would have thought. I carefully bagged them up, put them in the fridge and wrote a letter to the company. I opted for snail mail to see if I could avoid dismissive PR woman, and dropped the letter in the post on 10 May 2009.

Nothing. By 2 June I had received no reply, so I emailed another copy of the letter and asked if they had received the paper copy. The next day PR woman replied. Yes, they had my letter and were following it up. To help in their investigations could I please respond to a few questions, including clarification of the date of the first incident - did I mean December 2007? (No, I meant December 2008 - don't you remember that?) Wanting a speedy resolution, I immediately sent off my answers and waited.

And waited.
And waited.

By 11 October 2009 (yes, that is FIVE months!) I had heard nothing from the company, so I emailed again to ask how their investigations were going. 'Oh yes, the investigation,' PR woman replied the next day, 'could you please answer the questions we sent you in June? We can't do anything until we hear from you.'

Ha. She picked the wrong person. I keep all my emails. I'm surprised Yahoo haven't emailed me and complained on the size of my sent box, leave alone the overflowing inbox! I found my previous email from 3 June 2009 and forwarded it to her again, pointing out the date I had originally sent it.

Further silence.

By the 28 October I was tired of waiting. This had been going on for nearly six months. Eleven if you counted the first can of tomatoes, of which they conveniently had no record. I contemplated letting it go, but (dog with a bone) I just couldn't. People die from tins of bad tomatoes. This is a serious health issue and shouldn't be ignored.

I wanted them to admit it was really bad that I had found two tins of bad tomatoes. I wanted them to acknowledge this was no minor matter. I wanted it enough to start investigating how to take it further, so I decided I would email one more time. If I did not receive a reply I would make a formal complaint to the ACCC.

Five days later (on 3 November 2009) I received my reply. The Italian company who process the tomatoes were very surprised as they have never had a complaint like this before, and without testing the product they could do nothing further. If I would like replacement product or a refund, please forward my address to them. Oh, and sorry for the inconvenience this has caused.

Not the most satisfying outcome I've ever had. Especially since they already had three copies of my address - from the first tomato incident, the letter in May, and the emailed letter in June. Then of course, I had kept the tomatoes for more than a month before throwing them out due to the company's complete lack of interest. And does no previous record of bad tomatoes make it OK? I don't think so.

So last week I told them what they could do with their replacement product and refund. Politely of course - something along the lines of 'in view of the protracted and indifferent way this issue has been dealt with, I feel less than reassured of the quality of xxxx Organic Tomatoes, and would prefer not to receive replacement product. This was never really about the money (a tin of tomatoes does not cost that much, after all), but about bringing a potentially serious problem to the attention of xxxx.' I informed them my concerns were not allayed but I had decided to accept the situation. Putting the bone down, over and out, thankyou and goodbye.

I was not sure what response this would provoke, but an immediate reply from the company director was not amongst my imagined possibilities. PR woman and I had been cc-ing him into our emails for some time, but he had never communicated with me directly. I clicked on the email with some trepidation - I really hate when my inbox becomes a battle zone, which it tends to when I've asserted myself electronically.

This email was shocking but delicious:

Possibly we should ask her what she would do ? Put a warning on the can ???

Nothing more.

Ha. Caught out by the 'reply all' button.

I now knew exactly what they thought of me. Yes, to them I was 'annoying woman'. Understandably - I had been badgering them since November 2008!

I started wondering if I'd been unreasonable. Should I have given up on this one? If hundreds of Australians have recently caught hepatitis A from semi-dried tomatoes, did that make it OK to sell bad tomatoes that didn't make someone sick? Did I take it too far? And what did I want - if it wasn't replacement product or a refund, what was I after?

I think I've figured it out. I wanted to be treated with respect. I wanted the company to listen seriously to my complaint, rather than taking twelve months to conduct a lackadaisical investigation. I wanted to be assured that a company that prides itself on being organic and ethical, really is organic and ethical.

I am sorely disappointed. I'll certainly never touch their tomatoes again, and I'm still deciding about their other products. But harder for me has been the realisation that they didn't really care. I thought companies were obligated to care. I thought they would want to ensure their customers were healthy and happy.

Like I said in my final email to the director (in addition to 'whoopsie, don't think I was supposed to receive this email ;-)') - I have learned a lot through this process. I stumbled upon the ethics of a company, and it isn't so pretty. And that final, accidental email? What a clincher!

(If you want to know the name of the company, email me. I'd hate for you to get sick and die from rotten tomatoes when I could have prevented it!)

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Friday, November 13, 2009

oh oh... not another dud post

So I got a little tipsy tonight.
All in good fun.

Finished work at the hospital, after - don't laugh - counting everyone's hand hygiene for the whole day. If you've never experienced tedium, maybe you could try counting hand hygiene versus not-hand hygiene. I know it kills bugs and saves lives, but p.lease!

I was tired and almost stayed home, but being a good extrovert, I realised I would feel much, much better after a good bit of socialising. So off I trotted and drank two glasses of wine in quick succession. Before I knew it, I could barely stand up straight, and almost fell over the side of the deck with the most excellent views of the valley. That would not have been a pretty sight.

So I stayed put for a couple of hours while the effects of the alcohol wore off, because I had to drive home. Even then I wondered if perhaps I should not be driving, but I made it to the burger shop in one piece and arrived home safe and well and sober.

However I cannot string my corker of a story together tonight I'm sorry. Would you mind terribly waiting until tomorrow? It's Friday. I need to rest my brain.

(I only hope it's as good a story as I think it is, after all this build up!)

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

i would if i could... but i can't

I have a corker of a post for you. Well, a corker of a story. Oh, OK. I think it's a story worth telling but it might bore you to tears.

I'd spill all right here and now if I could, but I'm just too tired, and I need to discipline myself and go to bed, rather than write and edit and read and work on a post until late.

And hey - 12 days of continuous posting after a year of almost nothing? Gotta be happy with that for now.

Please do be happy with that, because I just can't offer up anything more than this.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

just in case you aren't consuming enough already (aka 'we know you're stupid and will want to buy this')

Christmas must be just around the corner... our letter box is literally stuffed with catalogues every day. I must put that 'no junk mail' sticker out, although the depressing thing about that is, even if I do, the trees have already been chopped down and the catalogues printed. Sigh.

I don't even look at most of them - straight to the recycling bin they go - but a couple recently came personally addressed to me, and I found myself flicking lazily through them.

There's some winning items out there, some designed specifically for me I'm sure. I mean, how did they know I can't reverse park? This parking sensor is exactly what I need - when I get too close to a car or gate post it will alarm loudly enough for everyone in the street to hear, and then they can guide me safely into the space. Perfect.

And this one. A dental care set? I don't ever have to visit a dentist again? I can do it myself with the aid of three simple tools! Genius. How come I never thought of that one?!

Frank was pretty taken with this one, him being a neat freak and all. Our garden will be so tidy now. Gotta love that. (I particularly like that you can hide the hose with the flowering lid. Nifty)

I can't shuffle cards to save my life (makes for very boring games of UNO), so here's another useful invention...

Frank's in line for this gorgeous personalised alarm clock - ooh yeah!

I can now be as lazy as I like with this one:

And for all of you completely lacking in imagination, and unable to stick a bottle of sauce upside down in a glass (or even the fridge door, for goodness sake!), I have a super deal for you. Plastic moulded to meet your need for just $6.90. Who cares that we've filled the whole earth with plastic - you need this one, I'm sure.

Here in Australia we've moved past winter (at last!) and are enjoying sunny, warm, delicious days. At least they're delicious in Tasmania - it sounds like they are a little too hot in other parts of the country. Whichever, we won't be needing any snugly blankets any time soon, but in the northern hemisphere I'm sure you could put this one to good use - and look stylish at the same time as keeping toasty warm.

The final item I have carefully selected for you this evening is this pièce de résistance. An entertainers dream, this buffet warmer will keep your whole Christmas dinner warm. Or that cooked breakfast for the entire family. Or even a whole week's supply of food, if you live on your own. Your cooking will be transformed by this modern marvel of the kitchen world. Buy it today and find freedom.

What a load of crap. I look at all this and cringe for the environment. We're just filling up every remaining space with plastic. The world is our rubbish dump.

Excuse me please while I go and throw all these junky catalogues in the (recycling) bin!

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

maybe i should set up shop sooner rather than later

I made a few cards on the weekend and took them to work today to see if anyone was interested in purchasing them. Between saving someone's life (quite literally - nasty postop complication) and precepting a graduate, I managed to sell three on the spot, took orders for three more and sold two pairs of earrings.

Whoot, whoot. Way to go!

I've decided all moneys so raised will go towards my entertainment and hobby fund when I become 'poor' next year. Now I just need to work out postage prices, make a few more cards, and I can start selling on etsy. (That sounds terribly self absorbed... I promise to share my bounty with those in need! And stay tuned for how I plan to spend some of my time next year. It's not quite all about me!)

Here's one of my favourites from the weekend - snapped up like a hot cake!

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Monday, November 09, 2009

cecily's natural home remedies

I'm a bit embarrassed to say, but I have a plantar wart on the ball of my left foot. I, who never get a wart (apart from those two in high school which I killed with the aid of a trusty potato), have a wart of the worst variety. Plantar warts grow deep and hurt.

Being a bit of a natural remedy freak, I thought I'd try and knock this wart off without resorting to liquid nitrogen, freezing, or cutting holes in my foot, starting with the potato remedy. I know this works, because as I said above, I've killed warts in the past by slicing a thin piece of potato and rubbing its juice on the wart morning and evening. Over the course of a few weeks, the wart turns black and starts falling apart before disappearing completely. When we met, Frank had a whopper wart over a knuckle, and no amount of freezing had worked. Potato presto - the wart was gone and has never returned.

The trick with killing a wart with potato is liberal, frequent application. Since the bottom of my foot is not a part of my body I often look at, I kept forgetting to do it, and so the wart remained. Next stop propolis. I had no idea if this would work or not, but I love propolis. It kills tinea in a trice and is just a nice, natural remedy I keep for all sorts of cuts and abrasions. If it kills tinea, I figured it was worth trying it on my wart, since a wart is a benign skin tumour caused by a virus.

And it worked. The wart started turning brown, and (with some barbaric, DIY help from needles and tweezers) slowly fell apart. It's a gradual thing though. The hole left in my foot, as wart chips fell away, ended up being about three millimetres. So yes, plantar warts do indeed grow deep. Another truth of plantar warts is they are tenacious. While my foot was gaping with a three mm hole, the wart still clung to the outer edges and would not give up.

This called for the big guns! I overheard someone at work saying dandelion sap also kills warts. Too bad I pulled a whole bunch of dandelions out last weekend. I managed to sniff out a few down the back of the yard, and dutifully plucked a few leaves and rubbed the sap on the wart.

If you want to see something pretty impressive, rub dandelion sap on a wart. Within minutes it will turn black. So now I have a black hole on the sole of my foot. Mmmmm, nice. But it seems to be working - more of the wart is dropping out at every application. Before I know it, that nasty old wart will be gone. I hope. (And I still think it's better than going to a podiatrist!)

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Sunday, November 08, 2009

not quite on my soap box again

So I'm concerned, worried, scared about the environment. Apparently the science is in and, apart from ignorant non-experts, everyone agrees global warming has reached crisis point. We've really stuffed it up. What I find most troubling is that we madly keep on with wrecking our home, despite the warning signs telling us something is seriously wrong.

There have been some interesting online articles recently, chewing over the reasons for, and implications of our refusal to address this issue. There is some evidence to suggest climate sceptics have fallen prey to an elaborate defence mechanism designed to prevent them from thinking about death. Never mind that avoiding the issue and denying climate change brings us all closer to the end of life as we know it. Just don't think about it. Say it isn't true.

Other climate change, brain function, behavioural scientists think the risks seem too remote for us. The earth is spiralling towards cataclysmic upheaval, rising sea levels, potential ice age, and mass extinction, but it's not happening tomorrow? Oh well. Turn the air-con up, drive don't walk, and eat as much meat as you like - it might never happen!

Then there's the industry lobby. Think of all the profit we'll lose if we don't keep on pumping carbon into the atmosphere! Seriously, the economy will fall apart. We'll all die if we don't have more money. So don't even think about charging tax on carbon emissions. We just can't afford that cost. Too bad that it might kill us all in the long run - economic growth is key.

I find it singularly depressing. No matter what Frank and I do to reduce our carbon footprint, it will never be enough, because too many other people don't care, or they simply love money more.

Shame on you.

But we'll keep plugging away despite all that. We have solar power on the roof. It's even connected now (after 4 months. long story) so we power our house from the sun all day. We've started charging mobile phones and tooth brushes during the day, to save drawing from the grid at night. We walk or ride the bike when we can. Meat makes much less regular appearances on our plate. Just about everything we do is accompanied by a quick calculation of its environmental impact. For example, tonight we cycled to the river front for fish and chips. The calculation runs something like this:
Cycling = carbon neutral. Fish and chips = unsure of stocks of fish we ate therefore unable to calculate accurately. Communal cooking = less environmental impact than heating oil at home to cook fish and chips ourselves. Overall = not too bad, but might be better if we ordered a salad instead.
We like to think it all counts. And of course it does. But is it enough? Only if everyone else gets on board! Come on people - time to make a difference for our planet.

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Saturday, November 07, 2009

that feel good feeling

I was feeling mighty noble today for two mighty good reasons.

First, yesterday I borrowed books from the library. A novel idea I know (though only one of them actually was a novel). I always mean to borrow books, but too often my library card is in a drawer at home, or I pop in for a quick look at the bookshop and can't possibly resist the gem I stumble across... and before I know it, that's another book for the shelf.

So big tick for sustainable book-borrowing-living.

Today it was gorgeous, sunny, warm, delicious, wonderful weather so I decided to ride my bike to the ChildSafe training session. Did I say it was gorgeous, sunny, warm, delicious and wonderful bike riding weather? Because it so was. I loved it (despite every Harley Davidson in Australia hooning past me as I tootled along). Hello??? Brownie points in order. Riding.bike. Sustainable living.

It was somewhat deflating when I left Coles to cycle home and found my back tyre was completely flat. There's glass on the road everywhere, so it could be a puncture or maybe someone played a mean trick and let my tyre down. I'll find out soon enough.

In the meantime I'll bask in the glow of clean living.

(Just thinking. Pride goes before a fall... is that why my tyre went flat?!)

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Friday, November 06, 2009

this is still a post isn't it?

Whoopsie... it's 11pm here and I nearly forgot to blog.

Had a big day, working for a couple of hours this morning, then shopping for a few more (mostly groceries, nothing too exciting) before heading off to a birthday party this evening.

I've just arrived home now, and in the interests of getting to bed before it's ridiculously late, that's all I've got to say.



Thursday, November 05, 2009

i still have bad hair days...

Time for another trip to the hairdresser today. Actually, it was hardly time for it at all, since it seems like just yesterday I had the last cut, and I love my hair at the moment. But I thought that if I didn't use my not-double-booked appointment today, I would be tearing my hair out by the next one, thoughtfully booked more than a month ago to avoid missing out in the mad Christmas rush. So I went, had my hair marginally trimmed, and came home. I suppose it looks better.

I'm still washing with water most of the time and it's OK. The hairdresser hasn't noticed. Or if she has she hasn't asked what on earth I'm doing to my hair! She certainly hasn't told me it's wonderfully soft.

That's OK though. Most days my hair is alright. Sometimes I have bad hair days when it is greasy and lank and my scalp itches. The last few days have been great, but a couple of weeks ago I had to resort to a quick sodi-bic wash to cut out some of the oil and settle my scalp down. Since then it's been dandy. I can easily go two, maybe three days without washing it (for a chronic daily washer, that's huge!) and the texture is soft and nice.

I'll stick with it for now... still loving how cheap and easy it is.

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

watershed day

I'm not sure if it was just hormones playing havoc with my brain today, or if I really am losing control.

Apart from reading my appointment time upside down, thinking I'd double booked for tomorrow when I had not, and spending all day wondering which appointment to cancel (hair or beautician - vital decision there), I made it through the day OK. However, as I headed home, I felt suddenly overwhelmed by all I need to do. I had this sense of scrabbling around, trying to do too much and doing none of it well.

I do not like that feeling.
Yes, I am a perfectionist.

It set my mind to counting down days again, something I'm trying not to do. But if you must know, I have six weeks and two days until I quit the hospital and have a holiday. Friday December 18th is becoming something of a watershed for me. It is a marker of freedom, change, life and joy . (Let's hope I'm not disappointed!)

I keep asking myself if I am seriously deluded here. Have I gone soft? Lost touch with reality? Why is it so important to me to leave the hospital?

Because the decision to resign is symbolic of a significant shift in my thinking. While Frank worries I will sit and surf the net all day, I'm dreaming of a clean, clean house, and the sense of having a handle on things. No more chasing my tail, or feeling like I'm surviving by the skin of my teeth.

Call me old fashioned, but I think we women have sold ourselves short. When we tripped off into the workplace, we didn't ditch anything at home, we just took on more. Here we are juggling family, home, work, life (and often study), telling ourselves we're making a good job of it. And we are, but at what cost? How do we measure our success on this?

If it's by counting the dollars, then maybe we are doing OK. We have bigger houses, nicer cars and better holidays. There's more expendable income, but again I ask, at what cost? Why are our children committing suicide at phenomenal rates? Why are we divorcing so often? Why are we the highest anti-depressant users ever? And what about all those ever increasing chronic diseases? (Sorry, no references here, just a coalescing of multitudinous news reports)

Well, I'm opting out. I'm tired of feeling like I'm never on top of anything, never doing anything well. My vegetable patch is an annual disappointment, the windows are embarrassingly filthy, and while our living area is tidy, there lurks a mess in many a dark corner. I cannot find time to phone friends, I owe too many people letters, and I give Frank the dregs of my day. I don't really want to live this way.

Maybe I am soft, or harking back to a long lost era. Perhaps I am a disappointment to the women's movement. If either of those things are true, I'm sorry. But I cannot find it within myself to keep striving and straining to do everything the way I have been. I'm coming down on the side of having a lot less money but a lot more time, and hopefully a lot more contentment and satisfaction. Call it all a big experiment, but I'm looking forward to a new way of life.

I'll let you know how it goes!

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

nature's whisper

It was wet and windy today, although thankfully not cold. Funny how, after the wettest winter for fifty years, I was already thinking we needed more rain - the ground was quickly drying out.

Anyway, here are a few of my observations from nature, some a few months old, but still meaningful I think.

Have you ever noticed the trees in winter? Naked, lacy, elegant. I've been admiring them quite a bit, not just because they look beautiful, but because lately I've been struggling with a constant sense of failure. I don't like myself as a person, I can only see my faults and failings, and my strengths seem few. Strip away the bravado and masks and bluff and there I am, fragile and frail, and so far from who I want to be*. I hide myself so people don't see all the muck. (I also forget to see the good, but that's another story)

I look at the trees in winter, and their restfulness whispers to me of how I could be. They are stripped bare, naked for the world, and do they try and hide their true being? No. They stand there, noble and strong, and at peace with themselves. I want that. An escape from the striving to be someone I am not. To be at peace with myself and my foibles. The strength to love myself the way I am and stand boldly as I am. Because in truth, I am as beautiful as a tree in winter, if only I could see it.

Then there's the flowers. The cherry trees were blossoming like crazy a few weeks ago. Now it's rhododendrons splashing around their colour extravagantly, sprinkling cheer wherever they are. Those flowers are pretty amazing really. They look fragile and delicate, as if they might easily break. And they might - it's not hard to crush a bloom. Yet as strong winds buffet them, they bob around, tighten their grip on their plant, and remain attached. Fragile but tough. You have to admire them! Wish that I could be a cherry blossom, tossed around but not destroyed by circumstance. Shaken but not undone.

Nature's life lessons in my own backyard! Now I just need to work them into my heart and let myself be transformed into a woman at peace with herself, who stands strong through life's ups and downs.

* Nichole Nordeman, Even Then

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Monday, November 02, 2009

making a few decisions here

November already! Am I the only one wondering where on earth the rest of the year has gone? A few months were lost to the greyest, wettest winter I thought might never end. Then I guess there were six trips to the mainland, dozens of readings and a few assignments. Plus work, work and more work. Is it any wonder most of the year has already passed?

I didn't write any resolutions at the beginning of this year. I'm not sure I even made any general goals... I was in a bit of a slump at the time. As the year wore on, my unofficial task for 2009 became taking care of myself and finding my way again. I'm still more hypertensive than I'd like to be, and I've been having a crisis of confidence for a while now. So I sorted a few things out at the naturopath and tried to be generally nice to myself, but, since I'm really quite terrible at being nice to me, I've made minimal progress!

Enter the psychologist. I decided I needed to take the bull by the horns and deal with my insecurities and uncertainty about the future, so I booked in to see a psych. Together we nutted out my passions, the career options open to me and a path forward into new things. Over the course of three months I gained a little insight, and drew a few conclusions.

I am not passionate about nursing any more and would prefer to give it up. I don't really want to do one-on-one counselling, but I might be skilled enough to give it a go if the opportunity came up. I love working with children and want to explore how I could expand this role. I am creative and daring enough to quit my job, pilot a program and seek government funding for it.

So that's what I'm doing... kind of. I'm definitely resigning from my nursing position at Christmas. January will be time out, and then in 2010 I will seek out volunteering opportunities that give me a chance to work with kids and families and generally make a difference in the world. When things become clearer I may well apply for funding to run a program or two. We'll see what happens.

It's not quite as high risk as it all sounds - I'll still be working two days a week as a school chaplain. And nursing is a handy back up - there will always be work available in that one! I can pick up casual shifts, and if worse comes to worst, I can go back to it again.

All in all, I'm excited. Life suddenly has a whole load of potential again. I'm counting down the days until Christmas (not too closely mind you - I don't want to wish my life away!) and looking forward to 2010 big time!

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Sunday, November 01, 2009


I caught a little bit of sun today - sunburnt, but not too badly.

A friend and I went to the Deloraine Craft Fair and it was wonderful. Of course I spent a bit more than I'd budgeted for... but hey, I also spent considerably less than I wanted to! There were so many amazing things on display. Glass, felt, jam, hats, bags, brooches, toys, soap, chocolate, ceramics, paper, bowls, clothes, rings, marinated figs, origami, buttons, boutique wines... you name it, they had it.

I couldn't help but notice the incredible range of creativity and ingenuity, the depth of talent. So much pleasure in observing stall upon stall filled with works of beauty and skill. It was like a cathedral, a gigantic church spread out over the whole of Deloraine, every piece calling out to me 'acknowledge the wondrous beauty of creation, spilling down from the sun, over the clouds, rolling down the green, green hills and through the hands of these craftspeople. Look at all this and see God, for God is here, exhibited in every plant, scarf, painting and necklace. Drink it in and be refreshed.'

And I was.

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let's get this ball rolling

So my blogging has been a bit thin on the ground lately. Sorry.

Well, I think I'm sorry, but possibly I'm not. I've been busy giving my time to other priorities.

I've also been thinking about why I blog; how blogging has altered me such that my thought patterns have expanded to constantly encompass the silent, omnipresent audience of cyberspace; the friendships forged through fibre optic words on a screen; the habit time has of virtually disappearing... in short I've been considering my options. To blog, or not to blog?

And what better way to test the blogging waters, so to speak, than throw myself back into it with abandon - daily blogging to test my mettle and identify exactly what it is blogging contributes to my life?!

So this is it. Kicking things off. Starting again.

Or maybe just committing to NaBloPoMo because I like a challenge and I can't let a tradition go. I don't know. Either way, you'll be hearing from me quite a bit the next few weeks!

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