A parsimonious new year: an easy resolution

Christmas wrapping paper for 5 people, 2017
Christmas wrapping paper for 5 people, 2017

When grandchildren are almost grown up, buying fewer gifts could be an easy transition, we hope. Looking at the wrapping for the gifts we shared this year, we’re already on the way. Only a few years ago, I seem to remember the wrappings filled a large rubbish sack.

It’s a sad fact that at 18 and 21, grandchildren #1 and #2 don’t actually believe in Santa any longer, so Santa can take his duties rather lightly. As for me, I gave #1 a voucher for an editing course (with me as tutor), and #2 a Tibetan brass bowl that I’ve had for years. Un-ching! Parsimonious.

A year of non-shopping

I wouldn’t call this a resolution, rather a casual decision that became inevitable. For an entire year, I intend to buy no new clothes or gimmicks or stuff, beyond the necessary.

Relax, I will still buy food. And stationery… when I’ve used every piece of paper in the house. Books: let me buy a maximum of 2 new ebooks per month—that’ll get me active reading classics and using libraries. Clothes: I hope to get by without buying even a pair of socks.

When problem-solving = shopping

The thing is, my default reaction when I encounter a wee glitch is currently to go shopping. It’s pathetic. Smoothies too gritty? Buy a better tool. Ugly, crumbling gym shoes? Buy new. Paper shredder too feeble? Buy a bigger model. Sunblock too sticky? Buy another brand. Jug too small for making kombucha? Buy a bigger jug. And so on.

Once you catch yourself defaulting to an acquisitive mind-set (and by the way, what would your mother say?!) it feels horrible and you want to stop. So I have, already. I like gritty smoothies—call them gritties. My gym shoes are still comfy and strong. I don’t even need a shredder: give it away. Find the other six tubes of sunblock. Use the big coffee plunger.

Don’t get the stuff you love: love the stuff you’ve got

I’ll be interested to see whether any the following come to pass.

  • I get familiar with garments that haven’t been getting much wear lately.
  • I start to use odd items in inventive ways.
  • I discover lost treasures.
  • I give more, not less, to the charity shops.
  • I find an extra hour in every week.
  • I am more mindful of my brain’s behaviour.
  • I exude a sanctimonious glow and my friends flee in droves.

Right now, on 31 December, a year of no (or minimal) shopping holds no fear for me. You see I’ve done the no-shop thing before, for about 6 months, and it was easy and pleasurable. Because when you make that mental switch it feels so good. It’s a relief. And oh, it does make life simpler.

 

One hop to happiness: learning kicks in when needed

phoenix-rising
Phoenix rising from the ashes (public domain)

Love thy neighbourhood

Spring is here, and don’t we appreciate it. Today was my first long-ish walk on the hill behind my home for a few weeks. I’m a Polyanna at the best of times, and today I’m glad I was alone, because (internally at least) I was insufferably happy for far too long.

My hill: Mt Victoria, Wellington
My hill: Mt Victoria, Wellington
My path
My path (shared with other walkers and mountain bikers)
Old pine tree cut into seats for weary walkers
My future seats. Old pine tree half-processed for weary walkers.
My mate: periwinkles and me are  like THAT.
My mate: periwinkles and me are like THAT.
Oh! You took the words right out of my mouth.
Oh! You took the word right out of my mouth.

I hope that you can see these photos, and I haven’t over-taxed your computer or smartphone. Because they are everyday, ordinary, and special.

Do you love the neighbourhood you’ve got? I think it’s usually possible.

The toxic tentacles of OSANP (one strange and nasty person)

A dancing octopus
A glorious dancing octopus. Tentacles are its only common attribute with OSANP. Photo by DaugaardDK CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

My problems are never original. They are always in some sense generic, typical, almost universal. So when I write about them, it’s not because I expect you to be surprised or impressed. No, I expect you’ll recognise them.

Joy of the day — dancing!

Today is exciting and joyful because it’s the first of our 3-day dance season in Wellington. I’ll walk to the theatre at 4.45 (in 2 minutes) buying two bananas on route, ready for warm-up and tech rehearsal at 5.30. Hang out with friends while we organise our costumes and props and do panicky little rehearsals of tricky bits. And then dance dance dance our socks off, disoriented by lights and thrilled with our usual appreciative (ahem, discerning) audience. This year we — four groups of Crows Feet from four centres — do Climate Change, which is inspiring and entertaining too. Youngest dancer is 40, oldest is me at 77.

climate-image 2

For this weekend, I must banish an infuriating (and common) problem to the back of my neck.

The curious case of the non-voluntary volunteers

I’m chair of a small body corporate (i.e. group of 5 owners who share an old 6-apartment block). I’ve been on the body corp for 31 years without ever hitting an insoluble problem. In that time we have gotten rid of two white-collar criminal members, legitimately and without fuss. I’ve had the occasional hissy fit but our finances, admin, and property have been managed successfully for 3 decades by the owners, mandatory volunteers, amateurs obliged to cooperate in a professional job of work. We have almost always managed to comply with the letter and the spirit of the law. I’m proud of what we have accomplished.

Until now. Two years ago, by sheer chance, all the apartments except mine were sold to new owners. Three of the owners are great people, cooperative, generous with their ideas and time. The other one (who bought two apartments, aaarrgh!) is one of those OSANPs.

Curse of the year — the body corporate OSANP

OSANPS are not quite the same as other people. Alien in a suit. CC0 from Max Pixel
OSANPS (one strange and nasty persons) are not quite the same as other people. CC0 from Max Pixel

It’s a law of nature: every body corporate gets one of these people doled out to them at some point. All my body corp- friends have had their own versions, and I wondered why we were spared. Then the gods noticed their error and threw us a right humdinger.

It’s taken time to realise that this person lies by default, often with seemingly pointless lies that are spotted instantly. Makes promises, forgets and denies promises. Desperately wants to rule. Abuses and bullies anyone who opposes him. Has a contempt for the law and two abiding values: money and power. (Sound familiar?)

Yes, he’s a case study but what good does a fancy label do?

No more Mrs Nice Guy

Now I get it. He’s non-comprehensible. He’s almost like another species. He’ll never change no matter what we do so I’m getting tough.

He has recourse (through the very Act he despises) — he can take us to the Tenancy Tribunal, mediation, or the High Court. Meantime I want us to appoint a professional manager, just for starters.

And then… There will be ructions but A. we will have professional support and B. there would be ructions no matter how nice I am.

And then… I will get my life back. I will have room for the creative activities that are my lifeblood. I will revert to my baseline of steadiness and joy. That’s the plan.

Wish me luck. And tell me, have you been there, done that too?

And now… on with the dance!

Birthday girl

cartwheel4-2

hey it’s my birthday!
I know that
but do you?

I popped out of my mother
upside down and early
and I jerked and jumped

right out of my pram
they called me Jigger
the baby who never lay still

when you think of the odds
what a miracle
what a marvel, what a thrill!

and every single day since then
I’ve clambered
out from the dark of sleep

and there I was and here I am
with another 20 years ahead
to jiggle and wriggle and always

upside down and early
to squeeze and crawl and run
out of the dark and into the sun

and every day’s my happy
and every day’s my birthday
I haven’t had my fill

here I am I am I am
happy birthday me
happy birthday you
—-

poem written in a rush on 24 February 2017, my 77th birthday
rachel mcalpine CC BY 2.0
that means you may copy it and share it, but give me credit
and please note that this sudden poem may well be altered when I settle down

Happy birthday to you! (You woke up, didn’t you?)

No more mush: mindfulness to the rescue

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photo of trifle by Brooke Raymond CC BY-SA 2.0

When life deals you something very very good and something very very bad, how to cope? How do you keep the layers of life from merging into one great ugly mush?

It’s Thursday 16 February 2017.

It’s nearly 8am, nearly time to go to Webstock, a stellar conference that I’ve been so looking forward to.Webstock is a spa for the brain, featuring the humane and visionary side of (mainly) information technology. Held in the stately St James Theatre in Wellington, it’s two days of awesome speakers, top coffee, top ice-cream, top food, and interesting company. I’m especially looking forward to certain speakers, but I know that the two days will be saturated with surprises.

But it’s Thursday 16 February 2017, and my home town of Christchurch is smothered in smoke, dominated by a mega-fire raging on the Port Hills and driving towards the city. Among my relatives alone, at least one family has evacuated their home. My heart is breaking for this precious city that was whacked by earthquakes and is still struggling back up from that disaster.

It is not fair… life is not fair.

And lurking in the background is climate change, for our so-called summer has been a crazy mush of wild winds, hot days, and storms, switching daily.

The job: to relish every blueberry

But I must get dressed. Angsting won’t help. And what a crime to waste this truly exceptional conference by being there with only half a brain. Mindfulness and gratitude are the order of the day. I can’t terminate the worries. But I’ll keep them in their place.

 

Tips on love from the 20th century queen of romance

passionate-pen-cover-vk2-small

Here it is! a new edition of The Passionate Pen as a Kindle book.

It’s a wonderful book (though I say it myself) of 1997 interviews with New Zealand’s first romance writers, one of whom was already world-famous.And what a difference two decades make! These irresistible — and now historic — interviews will please romance readers, romance skeptics, and scholars of popular culture.

For Valentine’s Day, here is some hearty common sense about love and marriage from the unforgettable Essie Summers, who had already sold about 17 million books in 1997.

Essie’s own romance

[…] we had a courtship of about six weeks, completely by letter, and boy, could he write! Fourteen pages at a time. I hovered between thinking I had been rash to even encourage him, and feeling that it was right. Fortunately he came to Christchurch about May, and we ratified our engagement under a moon at Scarborough. So that was fine.

*

So I believe in romance. It didn’t alter. There were so many facets to Bill’s personality, that was the thing. Oh, we were both highly volatile people. We’d have our spats, but they weren’t important. We had great companionship, which is essential, although that wouldn’t be enough. You’ve definitely got to feel the physical chemistry too.

*

 It always used to annoy me at funerals when someone said, ‘We never had a quarrel.’ I think it’s nonsense. It either means that one is domineering and the other a vegetable, or else it’s a straight-out lie.

Tips for a happy marriage

It could be that some women read my books because they miss a bit of romance, which I think is a pity. Men ought to be able to tell their wives not only that they love them, but how they love them. You do get some men who take their wives for granted, and I think that love should be articulate, I really do. If there’s a quarrel some men feel they ought to bring their wives a gift or flowers, but it wouldn’t do me. If Bill and I had quarrelled in words I would expect to make up in words.

*

Women ought to be able to tell their husbands how much they appreciate them. It’s quite nice once in a blue moon to say, ‘Oh, I just feel extra special about you today,’ and a hug. Why should we be bashful about that sort of thing?

 *

And we’re not always very gracious about the way we receive compliments. You can turn it off by seeming embarrassed, and saying, ‘It’s a long time since I heard something like that.’ Which sets a man back, doesn’t it? If people can just be warm and loving, it’s great really.

Essie’s notes on romance novels

Perhaps romance fills a need, and that’s good. It is escapism, like whodunnits.

*

If you had them [the hero and heroine] fighting madly all the way through, or if you portray the hero as too macho, too horrible, the readers and the heroine would think, ‘My goodness me, I wouldn’t marry that man for anything.’

*

Though it often happens light romance is criticised for not being real enough, it is real. I’ve proved it in my own life. Life was never penny plain for me: it was always twopence coloured.