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Fires on the NSW South Coast

For the last three days I have been working in the Emergency Management Centre in Nowra ( 2 hours south of Sydney) as a communications officer. I’ll be there for another three days. As a volunteer, I don’t expect or want to be paid. I volunteer for two reasons, to help others and help myself. Volunteering is one of the sure fire ways to boost your own mental health and wellbeing. I’m no hero or saint, I’m just practical!

The twelve hour shifts have me taking messages from 000 (Australia’s equivalent to 911) and delivering them to the operations officer who then decides which fire teams will be dispatched and what other resources will be required.

As well as 000 calls, we meticulously log the movements of the various appliances as they move from place to place.

The voice in the head set declares:

Fire Com Fire Com this is {insert unit name here}

Go ahead {Unit name}

We are proceeding from the X Station to the Y Staging Area at {location}

Received {Unit name} Fire Coms Clear at 16:08

The words are precise to ensure the meaning is clear. The word “proceeding” is important. Emergency vehicles “proceed” when they are just driving normally. They must get permission to “respond” under lights and sirens.

The transaction is then logged both in a written book and in a computer-based time log. The radio messages are recorded. The time log is then available to the State Operations team in close to real time, so they can oversee the various operations around the State. If we have not heard from someone for a while, we will do a “welfare check”.

The written log has numbered pages, each log book must be kept. This means that if there is an enquiry after the event, the log entries can be checked to help determine what happened and why. It’s a heavy responsibility.

We also answer really important questions for crews like where they can get lunch!

The two big rooms that house the EMC are awash with high-vis uniforms and colourful tabards. Tabards are like waistcoats with the role of the person in large letters emblazoned on the back and front. The Incident Controller, Operations Manager, Public Liaison Officer, Animal Welfare. Catering, of course. There is a tabard for every role. It makes it easy for anyone to know who is who because not everyone who is here is from the Rural Fire Service even if this is their “party”.

There are clusters of people from the Police, Fire and Rescue NSW, Rural Fire Service, Ambulance, Endeavour Energy workers ( to cut and restore the power to burnt power poles) National Parks and Wildlife, the Defence Force and more like me, in Orange from the State Emergency Service. We all work side by side to put the jigsaw together without losing any pieces.

For the past three days, the weather has been kind and the mood in the EMC was calm but wary. The relatively low temperatures and light winds have meant that crews have been able to do some back burning and to create containment lines. Holiday makers have been able to get home and the long lines of traffic seen yesterday have depleted, giving the police less grief. There has been a steady stream of lovely food brought in by towns’ people supporting our efforts.

But today is the day before D-day. Disaster day. The forecast is grim. 44C (111F) and low humidity. The light northerly winds of the morning will be whirled around by a strong southerly in the afternoon. It is likely to be another day like New Year’s Eve when more than 100 homes were destroyed, whole towns razed and people died.

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I hope the Bureau of Meteorology has it wrong. The fire crews and all the rest of us will be doing our best but there are only so many fire trucks and only so many people who can do the work. Please follow their instructions. Please don’t go through road blocks. Please don’t light fires. Please make your decision to stay or leave early and please take care, not risks.

A Souvenir of Lord Howe Island

As I am typing this, I can smell the faint aroma of dusty leather wafting from the photo album lying on the desk next to my keyboard. The photo album, a “Souvenir of Lord Howe Island,” has been hand-bound with a hand-carved, hand-stitched leather cover. The grey pages are covered with small black and white photographs, postcards, brochures, and travel tickets stuck in with sticky tape. The aging tape has dried up, and the photos fall out easily.  The inscriptions below each photo tell a story of a one week stay in 1954 at Somerset, a guest house on the island.

Lord How Island 1954

It tells the story of my grandparents’ 25th Wedding Anniversary.  My grandfather, Colin Hundt, made the album. He would have sat in the shed at the back of his house in Connells Point and laboured over it carefully and with pride. My grandma, Alice, would have popped in now and then to check on and praise his progress and remind him the cup of tea was getting cold. They would have laughed together at the dad jokes that are peppered throughout the pages and the particularly droll one written directly onto a waxed-paper air sickness bag.

an old air sick bag
Were these useful on the flight home. Oh, Lord How!

Judging by the stains left by the sticky tape, there is an item missing from the front page. I guess it was a title of some sort, it’s lost now. I found the album in my mother’s things as I helped her unpack after a recent move. It spoke to me with vivid memories and love.  My grandma and papa beam out from the pages with a sparkle of mischievousness. They look happy and relaxed.

a page from a photo ablbum with two photos of my grnadparents
The facebook of the 1950s

Memorabilia: dross or future history?

The album is at least 64 years old. I wonder if the declutterers and minimalists would deem it useless and suggest it be thrown into landfill? After all, it serves no purpose. It takes up space. It’s only sentimental. According to Josh and Ryan (The Minimalists), I should scan it and throw the physical item away.

Lord How Island 1954-5

The modern-day minimalists have got things wrong. Well, not everything, perhaps, but when it comes to sentimental items, I think they do. I am glad this album has been kept safe all this time because it does spark joy. (TING)

Lord How Island 1954-4

I have written before about my concerns for the lack of meaningful artifacts that will be available for future historians. We have plenty of digital artifacts but with the rise of a throw-away culture, minimalism, the strive to be decluttered, and lack of physical artifacts, what will be left if the electricity goes out?

I don’t propose that we keep every bus ticket (not that you get a paper ticket anymore!), but I think there is a case for making and preserving physical items that can give our descendants a glimpse of who we were and what life was like beyond Facebook and Instagram.

Somerset letter
It would seem that Grandma and Papa enjoyed Lord Howe Island so much they intended to go back. I emailed a scanned copy of this letter to the current owners of Somerset. Alan and his daughter Cheryl, sold Somerset 13 years ago. Alan died soon after. The property is still in the hands of family members (Gai), and you can still stay there.

Alan sounds like a fun sort of fellow!

These days, their listed attractions extend beyond the availability of hot water and tiled toilets!

 

See my previous posts about this same topic.

On the Konmari Bandwagon

Digital Ephemera and the Cloud Keepers

Feeling Sentimental

Consuming Interest.

 

2019 – a year in review

My Year in Review

If you have been following my blog, you will have worked out by now that I like to keep myself occupied. This past year has been a positive one. In a previous post, at the end of 2017, I listed my Year in Review. I now look back over 2019, and while the list is shorter the year was just as fulfilling. The shorter list is a direct consequence of my daughter’s return to Australia and the subsequent increases in grandma time. I now have less “free” time. That free time has been filled with many pleasant hours spent building trains, telling stories and going on adventures.

The activity that has fallen off the list has been sustained writing. I have not advanced in any of the long-form writing projects I started back in 2017. They are not yet abandoned but very much on the back burner. I have found that I can put in the mental energy to write short blog posts and microfiction, but the characters from my longer stories don’t have enough time to wake up and let me know where they are up to.

So what did I do?

  • Continued with this blog, adding 127 posts.
  • And all the associated research, writing and photography that goes into those 127 posts.
  • I went to Hamilton Island for two weeks
  • I went to Scotland on my big adventure for five weeks
  • Put together a huge photo book from my Scottish adventure
  • I ran a “making a photobook” course at a local community college
  • I did an online Real Estate copywriting course with the Australian Writers Centre
  • I did a graphic design course through LinkedIn
  • I did two video making courses, one on documentaries and one on mobile content creation, through the Australian Radio, Film and Television School.
  • I participated in a silver jewellery making course
  • I got paid to work with a beginner photographer to show them a few ideas.
  • I had one of my photos in a “real” exhibition – Head On
  • I did two 5km, and one 10 km timed runs
  • A photography workshop at the Australian Museum
  • Celebrated my mum’s 80th birthday
  • Went to Cairns on a big school excursion
  • I entered six writing competitions and about seven photography competitions – still not a winner but participation is the goal.
  • Made and sold copies of a 2020 calendar
  • Perfected designs for tea cosies and doorstops
  • Completed 16 of the 60 things on my 60 for 60 list. (better get cracking on that one but see my post on the Year of Zero for an update on that)
  • Had a garage sale with friends
  • Renewed my first aid certification
  • A short online course on SEO.
  • Participated in a rescue competition with the NSW SES
  • I did three photography shoots for other people, including one with studio lighting. I think I can now start asking for money for this type of work.
  • I didn’t cry once!
  • And I still have a demanding full time “real” job
  • And I spent plenty of time with family.

Goals for 2020

I have set out my goals for 2020 already. They concentrate on my financial future so there will not be any travelling, paid for courses or big purchases. I will get my side hustle happening! (You are all my accountability partners!)

On the non-financial goal side of things I want to learn how to meditate correctly, complete at least 25 more of the modified 60 for 60 list, and reduce my impact on the world by wasting less and reusing more. I will continue to keep fit, look after my gut bugs, write, and take photos of what’s in front of me.

The big, overarching goal is to inspire some other old chooks like me to get out and have a go!

Be invincible, not invisible!

 

Photo of the Week 49

Photo of the Week Challenge

Fire in the sky.

Australia is in the news at the moment because much of it is on fire.  Australia has always been prone to bush fires. The First Australians knew how to use it to control their land and help prevent catastrophic events. Global warming has meant that massive fire events are happening more and more frequently.

This shot comes from the Bulli Beach. A pall of smoke has been hanging over Sydney, Wollongong and Newcastle for weeks. Air quality is dangerously low. No substantial rain is forecast. The day I wrote this two firefighters died. It’s hard to stay positive.

I am safe but many others are not.

 

Snapseed 14

Taken with my iPhone SMAX. The resolution and quality are not great but the eeriness is.

 

The How of Happiness

How to be happier?

A review and executive summary of the book by  Sonja Lyubomirsky

Are you unhappy? Do you know why?

If you blame your unhappiness on things like lack of money, a lousy job, the world’s worst boss/spouse/children you just might be barking up the wrong tree looking for your happy place.

If you think winning the lottery will make you happy, it will… for a while, but then you’ll probably just return to the same level of happiness you had before. You’ll become used to your new state of being, a phenomenon called hedonic adaptation.

Wealth, health and work etc. are, of course, not irrelevant, but have less influence over your happiness than you think they do.

I have been doing extensive research into happiness for a few years now.  In my opinion, it comes down to two things.

  1. Positive psychology
  2. Gut bugs

This post is about positive psychology. I have written about gut bugs elsewhere!

Positive psychology

Positive psychology has been defined as:

“[being] is the scientific study of what makes life most worth living” (Peterson, 2008).

The Positive Psychology Institute defines it as

Positive Psychology is the scientific study of human flourishing and an applied approach to optimal functioning. It has also been defined as the study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals, communities and organisations to thrive (Gable & Haidt, 2005, Sheldon & King, 2001).

The concept has been around for a while, and Martin Seligman is cited as the father (or perhaps grandfather by now) of positive psychology. His book Flourish is an excellent starting point. I have read it a few times to keep me on track and have the tenets of happiness in front of mind.

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This month I have read Sonja  Lyubomirsky’s The How Of Happiness: A new approach to getting the life you want.  (Penguin Books 2007) It’s not a new book either, but my goodness it’s a simple to read, based-in-science guide book that makes a whole bunch of sense! I loved it!

 

This post gives you some of the main points but get your own hard copy because you’ll want to write all over it!  You’ll be underlining the important bits, completing the short quizzes and answering her questions out loud as you read through it.

The basic idea is that you can make yourself happier. It takes some effort and determination and like most things in life, it is something you will actually have to DO on purpose. It won’t fall in your lap. It is something I have been working towards for the last 10 years in my road to recovery from divorce.

How much of your happiness is under your control?

The answer is very nearly 42! According to Sonja, 50% of your happiness is down to a “set point”, 10% is circumstance, and 40% is created by intentional activities on your part.  Your set point is determined by your genetics and your personality and stays pretty much the same throughout your life. Some people are just happier than others.

Circumstances account for a tiny 10% of happiness. A poor person can be just as happy as a rich person. Where you live doesn’t really matter that much. A bigger house, a better car, a different job will not matter much either!

Intentional Activities.jpg

However, you can control the remaining 40% of your own happiness by intentionally choosing to commit to some “happiness activities”. Lyubomirsky posits twelve categories of happiness activities. You don’t need to do all 12 to be happier. In fact, she suggests that you concentrate on  3 – 4 that will work best for you based on your set point, personality and interests. How do you know which ones to pick? There, is a questionnaire that will point you in the appropriate direction. After doing the questionnaire you can read the sections relevant to you.

This link will take you to a very brief summary of the happiness activities identified by Lyubomirsky and her researchers. Click through the arrows at the bottom of the page. It only scratches the surface and obviously does not give the depth of detail as in her book, but it will give you the road map and hopefully spark your interest.

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The link takes you to a Prezi site. Best viewed on a larger screen. You don’t need to sign in.

The last chapters give the “Five hows behind sustainable happiness” which are:

1. The upward spiral of positive emotion: one positive act will lead to another

2. Optimal timing and variety: mix it up and time it right to get maximum benefit and prevent hedonic adaptation.

3.  Social support

4. Motivation, effort and commitment: you are going to have to work at it and keep working at it.

5. Make it a habit!

 

My Happiness Activities Profile

After I did the questionnaire, the recommended happiness strategies for me were:

1. Committing to goals

2. Savouring life’s joys

3. Practising acts of kindness. (I have a post here about that)

4.  Taking care of body and Soul

None of these really surprised me. I feel like I already have the goals and taking care of body aspects under control.  I am going to make more of an effort for savouring, and while my physical health is good, I would like to learn how to meditate. So I’ll add these to the to-do list!

Negative emotions

Negative emotions should not be avoided at all costs. Negative emotions have their place. I am no way suggesting that you be 100% deliriously happy at all time. It is vital that you feel some struggle in your life and that there will be difficult times to face. You can’t and shouldn’t go around this world being ignorant of negative emotions that have a relevant and important role to play.

My philosophy is that you should tend towards a life, that, on the whole, is pleasant, fulfilling and purposeful. This is turn will be a life that is more likely to be a happy one.

Furthermore, happiness should not be confused with pleasure. Some things that make us happy are not pleasurable. For instance, running a marathon might not be pleasurable but leads to happiness because you achieved a goal.

Sonja also gives some advice to people suffering from depression, which you should read first if applicable.

 

 

 

 

 

2020 – the Year of Zero

Over the last 10 years, it feels like I have done more with my life than I had done in the previous thirty. That might seem  harsh, and it’s probably not true. What  is true, is that the last 10 years of my marriage were a trap. A tight steel trap where the only activities included some form of arguing, yelling or crying – or a combination of all three!

Now that I have released myself from the trap, I have been busy making up for lost time travelling like a demon, enrolling in all sorts of courses and generally spending money like a drunken sailor. I wrote a list of 60 things to do before my 60th birthday, which would cost me squillions to achieve.  I wrote another less expensive set of 60 things which will still require a considerable outlay.

In the back of my mind, the left shoulder guy was getting noisier and noisier.

“Hey sister you aren’t getting any younger, and you’ll have to retire soon. Then what are you going to do for money? Huh? then what??”

Last month, I saw a financial adviser. Sigh…He spoilt all my fun! It’s not that I had not been aware that I would need to slow down my spending but willful ignorance has its place. I was having fun!

The salient message from the encounter with Sean, the killjoy, was:

If I continued to pay my mortgage at the current rate and contributing the current amount to my superannuation (retirement funding) I would need to work for another 12 years (i.e. until I’m 70!!!!!) to pay off my loan and my retirement funds would run out by the time I was 75. 

(sound of a record being scratched!)

That gives me a 5-year window to be both retired and not living in relative poverty!

Don’t get me wrong, I realise I  am lucky, and I am grateful that I can make light of this situation. I am fortunate that I have a choice, unlike many others in my situation. Did you know divorced women over 55 are the fastest-growing sector of homeless persons? I don’t want to join their ranks. I have a home, but I don’t own all of it – yet. I aim to keep working until it’s paid off. (The aforementioned 12 years!) I want to do it quicker. Much quicker; like in 5 years max!

Gum leaves 2
This series of photos cost me nothing!

 

There are, of course, three options:

  1. Spend less
  2. Earn more
  3. Win several million in the lottery

A combination of the three is the most desirable.

A fourth option: “Kissing a frog” or finding a partner to share expenses with, is not on my agenda. I want to do this independently.

A fifth option would be to sell up and move somewhere cheaper, but I like where I am now.

Since the visit to the killjoy*, I have been feverishly creating spreadsheets, writing lists and generally thinking deeply about my finances.

The spreadsheets totted up all my expenditure for the previous 12 months so I could get a  good handle on what I was actually spending my money on and how much of it was discretionary. [Most of it it would seem!]

Another list included items and activities that I was prepared to do without and those I wanted to maintain.

True to my form of setting myself themed challenges, next year has been re-badged as

“2020 –  The Year of Zero”!

I am going to DO zero and SAVE plenty of zeros!

I have already had a year of buying nothing new in 2017/8 when I saved enough to pay off my car outright. The challenge for  2020 will be to save as much as possible to make a good dent in the mortgage and contribute more to my Super. I will only look at one year ahead at this time to avoid goal burn out.

How I’ll save money.

My Year of Zero will look like this

  1. No overseas travel – my biggest expense! (Damn you Sean!)
  2. No extended travel within Australia  – my next biggest expense. A weekend here or there will be OK.
  3. No new stuff – the rules for which I already set out in a previous post.
  4. Cut down on my grocery bill by 40% by reducing food waste and shopping/cooking more frugally. I aim to make more of my own food from scratch and grow some veggies. I must admit I am a spendthrift when it comes to food!
  5. Be serious about getting a side hustle happening
  6. Only enrol in free courses. I have access to plenty of these via my local library and my employer, through Linkedin Learning so I’ll use those.
  7. Sell some of my stuff.  I have already had one garage sale and I am planning another.
  8. Concentrate on free activities.
  9. Rewrite my 60 for 60, so it includes only low/no-cost activities. (Thank goodness writing is free!)
  10. I intend to bundle all this up with a  zero-waste, living minimalist, anti-consumer vibe so it will make me feel more like an eco-warrior and less like a tight-wad.

My concerns include

  1. What will I photograph? Solution: Concentrate on local views and people.
  2. Won’t I get bored? Won’t I get boring? LOL, I probably already am.
  3. Going back on my word, as I already have a couple of things I have committed to for next year.

So, to my friends IRL who read this blog, be prepared for me to regale you with my ninja hacks to save a dollar here and $10 there.

Honestly, I’m looking forward to the challenge! I’ve got a goal amount in mind – I hope I can exceed it!

The left shoulder guy pipes up: I wonder if it’s ethical to crowdfund your mortgage? 🙂 

Cheap outings in Sydney.

Here’s an example of a cheap day out! Public transport in Sydney on Sundays has a $2:50 cap. If you take your own snacks and drinks you could have the whole day out for less than a cup of coffee. There are plenty of great places to go around Sydney! I’ll be doing more of this!

*Seriously, Sean was lovely and very helpful Not even a teen-sy bit judgmental, although I am sure he would have been secretly rolling his eyes at my lack of forethought for the previous 20 years!