An off-schedule post today to add to the theme of reducing your reliance on fossil fuel. It might become a regular feature; it might not! I am very mindful of being that annoying blogger who is always pushing things into your inbox. It might just morph into my regular Friday posts, but I felt the need to share this today.
A few months ago, I found a video from Liziqi Art of Cooking in my Facebook feed. After five minutes of being mesmerised by the process of making silk by hand, I hit that follow button. Today another came into my feed about making cotton doonas.
It’s worth watching for the hand-driven technology. This is the way we need to go to save the planet. Use people power, not petrol power. Except for the fact it has been videoed and subsequently uploaded to social media, not one bit of fossil fuel can be seen in use. Of course, there is a lot of wood-burning happening. Perhaps you could replace that with solar or wind-generated electricity?
Her cooking videos are amazing. Her life hacks and kitchen tips are great too.
I could, unfortunately, watch for hours and hours! I’d love to spend a couple of weeks living like this! Without a radical change to my existing life, it would be impossible for me to replicate, but it is absorbing. I can dream about such a simple life filled with hard and satisfying manual labour. I bet Liziqi doesn’t have to worry about counting calories and scheduling gym sessions!
The mix of excellent camera work, social media presence and traditional lifestyle show that these people are not living in the past, but savvy entrepreneurs. She has an online shop and fashion brand as well.
She has a huge following, and I am sure many of you know of her already. Even if it is only 50% “real” and 50% marketing it’s still a delight!
Earlier this week I dashed off a rather prickly post about getting angry with yourself about climate change flavoured heavily by the current bushfire situation in Australia. It was, in part, a reaction to the fact that I was going out for the 8th day straight to help the NSW Rural Fire Service as an SES volunteer. I was up to 100 % days for the year! While my role is in support and I am never in any real danger, it has been stressful and tiring, albeit overwhelmingly self-affirming. I am proud of myself that I am ABLE to be helpful in a second-line role.
I challenged you to make a contribution to reduce your impact on the climate. These actions will, of course, be too late for this particular crisis, but we need to start somewhere!
Here are a few suggestions.
Get politically active
As individuals, we can make changes to our life that will have an impact, but the big guns are held by the government. They are the ones who decide whether we keep digging up coal and burning it or invest in renewables. You, however, have the power to decide who is in government, so my first suggestion is to become more politically active. In Australia, we have a working democracy, and we get who we vote for. But unlike America and other places, we don’t vote for our Prime Minister. We vote for the party they represent.The Prime Minister can be removed without a change of government.
Make sure your local member knows what you think about their policies. ALL of their policies. I am not going to tell you who to vote for because these fires have been a long time coming and are not the responsibility of one or the other of governments we have had. (Without going down too much of a rabbit hole when you think of it, it has been a growing issue ever since we placed more value on wealth than our environment… but that’s another story)
Ten things you can do to reduce your climate change impact
What’s the one ‘big’ thing you can do to reduce climate change impact?
The most useful thing you can do is not going to seem so palatable to many of you. It is to have one less child. The per annum reduction in atmospheric carbon dioxide by having one fewer child is estimated at 23,770 – 117,700 kg compared to 5 kg for using reusable shopping bags. (Source: Seth Wynes and Kimberly A Nicholas 2017 Environ. Res. Lett. 12 074024). Reducing the number of children reduces the number of resources they will use over their lifetime.
It is an open-source, peer-reviewed article. You will need to download it to read the whole thing. I suggest you skip through to the tables that list the categories.
In summary, here are the high impact actions YOU can take
High Impact actions individuals can take for climate change reduction
Have one less child
Avoid one flight
Purchase green energy
Reduce the effects of driving (eg with a more efficient car)
Eat a plant-based diet
Moderate Impact actions individuals can take.
These moderate impact actions reduce carbon dioxide in the range of 0 – 370 kg/annum each. These actions are not painful at all. I bet you do some to a certain extent already but don’t sit on your hands, tackle some more!
Home heating/cooling efficiency
Install solar panels
Use public transport or walk/bike as much as possible
Buy energy-efficient products
Reduce food waste
Low Impact actions individuals can take.
These low impact actions reduce carbon dioxide in the range of 6 – 60 kg/annum each but if you do them all that’s a good start and if EVERYONE did them all that would be BIG!!! For instance, if all 24 million Australian’s did these simple things it would add up to 1,440,000,000 kg of CO2!
Conserve water – eg. run a full dishwasher
Eliminate unnecessary travel
Plant a tree
Purchase carbon credits
Reduce lawn mowing
Keep backyard chickens – I wish I could!! 🙂
Buy bona fide eco-label products
Calculate your home’s footprint (I’ll research this one some more to find out how and what they mean)
More of these…
less of this!
How many can you tick off? Even if you can tick off many of the things on these lists already, don’t get complacent.
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 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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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:
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 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.
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!
There are, of course, three options:
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
No overseas travel – my biggest expense! (Damn you Sean!)
No extended travel within Australia – my next biggest expense. A weekend here or there will be OK.
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!
Be serious about getting a side hustle happening
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.
Sell some of my stuff. I have already had one garage sale and I am planning another.
Concentrate on free activities.
Rewrite my 60 for 60, so it includes only low/no-cost activities. (Thank goodness writing is free!)
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
What will I photograph? Solution: Concentrate on local views and people.
Won’t I get bored? Won’t I get boring? LOL, I probably already am.
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!
I am always astounded by the diversity of things you can do in a small city like Wollongong. Sure, it’s not as exciting as the forever-awake New York, but it has its charms and enchantments!
A case in point is the Illawarra Festival Of Wood. The Festival is in its third year and offers the community a chance to see fine artisans at work, try out some woodworking skills, keep the kids entertained (under 12’s enter free) and eat some great food. All of this, in a country fair atmosphere at the Bulli Showground. What more could you ask for on a sunny Sunday?
Happy memories of crafting
I jumped at the opportunity to act as a guest photographer at the Festival because frankly, I love wood and the idea of working with wood to produce beautiful warm and peaceful objects brings back happy memories of my grandfather Colin. Papa, as we called him, was always busy creating something. Sometimes from wood, other times from metal, stone or leather. Although retired, he was never idle and the big shed he had in the backyard in Hurstville, was filled, literally to the rafters, with materials all waiting to be turned into something useful.
Papa made simple jewellery and sturdy furniture. All the family had/have something made by Papa. There was a graduated and scheduled procession of gifts; a leather belt in early teenage years, then an ornate wallet and later for the girls, at 18, a carved handbag. Grandma kept a little book of who had what and when the next item was due.
When I was first married, I happened to live a few streets away from Papa and Grandma. It became my habit to visit on Saturday afternoons, have a cup of tea and a few biscuits in the cosy kitchen and then head to the shed with Papa to make something. He taught me how to use a lathe and make enamel necklaces. We would tumble rocks for weeks on end in jars of sand. The coarse sand replaced incrementally by finer and finer grains as the stones began to gleam and round out. The transformation of rocks to polished jewellery was slow and laborious.
I enjoyed this time with my Grandfather and now reminiscing as I write, I realise that this must be where I developed my love of crafting and the desire to create simple things with my own hands. One of the items on my 60 for 60 list is to do a woodworking course, so the Festival made me as happy as a lark while I snapped away amongst the sappy sweet smells oozing from the resiny slices.
Surprising Health Benefits of Wood
Real wood went out of fashion for a while with wood panelling and furniture replaced by slick, sleek plastic laminates. These materials might be easier to clean, but science shows that timber, real timber, offers many health benefits. It can lower blood pressure, increase levels of well being and improve a person’s emotional state and creativity. Housing Health and Humanity is a comprehensive, evidence-based report that sets out these benefits. Wood interiors and wooden furniture, to some extent, bring the outdoors inside and create a health-giving bond with nature.
Combine these latent health benefits with the practice of creating and keeping old crafts alive, and you have a winning formula for a great weekend.
These values are easy to see in the craftspeople and stallholders at the IFoW. A small band of wood enthusiasts organises the Festival; Suzanne and Stuart Montague along with another couple Christian and Tomiko Timbs, who own and operate Japanese Tools. Suzanne and Stuart also own the Illawarra Woodwork School and run top-rated courses in furniture making. The courses sell-out fast, so you need to get in quick to grab a space. The class schedule on the website is currently not up-to-date, so it would be worthwhile emailing them if you want to sign up.
Suzanne buzzed around all day solving the sorts of logistical problems that often arise in these sorts of events from not having enough garbage bins, making sure there is enough power leads right through to the threat of inclement weather that could spoil everything in one big downpour.
Where can you find the Festival?
The Festival runs over two days in mid-October and is timed to coincide with the last weekend of the Spring school holidays. Workshops are aimed at different skill levels. You’ll find plenty of beautiful slabs of timber for sale as well as tools, furniture and homewares on offer from more than 70 stallholders. A wide range of food vendors will ensure you don’t go hungry.
Bulli is one of Wollongong’s northern suburbs and is about 90 minutes drive south of Sydney, The Showground is on the Old Princes Highway just south of the Primary School but before the pub. You can easily walk from Bulli Railway Station, although you should check the timetable carefully as trains are few and far between on the weekends. On-site parking is available for a gold coin donation.
Ticket prices for the 2019 Festival were $15 for single-day entry and $25 for both days. Workshop fees varied depending on their complexity (some of the more complex ones spanning the two days) and include the entry fee. Children’s workshops range from $60-80.
If you want to make a full day of it the beach is only a short distance away. The Wood Festival is on the same weekend as the very popular and successful Scarborough Art Show held at Scarborough Primary School from Friday night.
It’s too late for this year, but you could organise a lovely weekend away in the sunny city of Wollongong for 2020!
I was going through my old photos looking for images for my Snapshots from Wollongong Series when I came across this one from Woonona Beach. It was taken in 2012 when I first began my photographic journey. It would have been taken with a Panasonic FZ100. Perhaps a tad overprocessed for my liking now, I think it is still a strong composition.
The other day I was listening to a podcast and letting my mind wander. The podcast was Radio National’s All in the Mind and the topic up for discussion was daydreaming and dementia.
Do you daydream? I hope you do!
Daydreaming has a bad rap, but as it turns out, we should not be so hard on ourselves when we wander off. Daydreaming is a very healthy brain activity and while it may get you into trouble if you are zoned out when someone (like your boss) is trying to get your attention, the fact that you CAN daydream, especially if you are older, is an indication of a healthier brain.
“people living with frontotemporal dementia – a form of younger-onset dementia – lose the ability to daydream. ”
We let our minds wander a lot! Up to 50% of waking time. Daydreaming allows us to explore the unknown, practice conversations and confrontations, escape from reality, plan and problem solve. I know I write my best stories when I am out running! Pity I don’t remember them when I get back! 🙂
People with frontotemporal dementia lose this ability and remain rooted in the present and stimulus bound.
“They become increasingly focused on what is immediately in front of them, such as watching TV, listening to a piece of music, or eating food.”
They lose the ability to create their own internal world.
I have a particular interest in dementia and have done lots of reading on the topic and even an online course through the University of Tasmania. I am concerned about developing dementia (and arthritis!). Being an old chook (a female over 55), I am getting dangerously close to dementia being a real thing in my life. While I can’t change the genetic road map I have been given or do much about getting older, I can do my best to look after the modifiable factors that influence dementia risk.
It turns out that the sorts of things we have been told to do to maintain heart health will also look after the brain and the joints because they reduce inflammation. Inflammation is a big contributor to both these conditions. We need to ensure that we keep our blood pressure at a healthy level, stay active and keep moving, maintain a healthy weight, eat a healthy diet which is based mainly in plants, never smoke and drink alcohol cautiously. Easy!
Just by the by, if you are interested in things to do with the brain and psychology, the All in the Mind podcast is fabulous. I must say I have a bit of girl-crush on Lynne Malcolm, the show’s presenter!
(As this is published I’ll be in an aeroplane somewhere returning home after my epic Scottish adventure)
I don’t remember what I was dreaming about, but I was in one of those stages of sleep where my mind was buzzing, and even though I was sure I was awake, in reality, I was still unconscious. One of my dream-characters reminded me that this month marked the 10th anniversary of me leaving the marital home. Me walking out and into my own little bedsit, so we could “have some space to think things through”.
I took an independent step. I was proactive.
Another dream-character piped up with the idea that it must be getting close to 10 years since I raised my voice in anger. Ten years since I have screamed with murderous rage and ill intent… At anyone.
I am not saying I haven’t been angry or upset since that time – of course, I have, but since then I have never been in a frame of mind that was so filled with venom and hate.
So much has happened in those ten years. So many good things! I still lament the 10 years I wasted before that, in trying to stitch together something that was shredded and beyond repair. Why did we do that to ourselves? It’s not only me who wasted time. It wasn’t just me who lost good years in the technical “prime” of our lives.
That is all inconsequential now. Now is what counts, and where my head is NOW. If you have been reading this blog, you will know I have been rejoicing in the discovery of a new found creativity that has been hidden below the surface. It took a while for it to bubble to the top and make its way through the cracks, but it’s here – NOW.
I am happier although I am still restless. Something else is out there waiting to be discovered. And before all my friends get excited, it’s not another partner!
One thing I have learned is that I don’t need to be in a partnership. I have good friends, a loving family and an intentionally busy life filled with interesting pursuits and being coupled won’t add to this. Not NOW.
If you are in a broken relationship, it probably won’t get better. Leave! Don’t stay for the children’s sake. The kids will do better in a settled home. They don’t need to feel or hear the hate that seethes out of your skin. If there is violence, they don’t need that either.
Don’t waste 10 years. Don’t waste five!
Take the plunge.
It might be cold when you first get in, but you’ll warm up!