Solar update.

Sunlight. Free and abundant.

Sunlight. Free and abundant.

It works! When the sun shines, our solar panels are generating power from the sun. It’s taken quite a while to reach this point. There were the months I hesitated, questioned many people and worried over the choice. Which supplier would be the best? which quote should I choose? Which panels? Which inverter? How many kilowatts?

Once chosen, there were the inevitable delays- too wet, too windy, an emergency to fix…then the panels were no longer being produced…Finally, better panels, but costing more money. Keep going? Yes!

Then, the panels went on, but weren’t connected!! So close, but…not yet.

Installing the energy program.

Installing the energy program.

But now, the delays are past and we have been generating solar power for a couple of months. I spend a lot of time checking how much power is being generated and how much power the household is using. You see, this solar system is internet connected and I can check how much power each panel is generating and how much has been generated today, this week, this month or over a lifetime. Then I have this other splendid gadget which tells me how much power is being used by this household, in real time. I turn on heating and check how much power it uses. Does the solar cover it?  Can I do the washing? I am so impressed with my washing machine and with my large air-conditioner. Neither uses much energy. Most days, I can be using both and still have power left over. Here in Australia, we have so much sunshine.

The program.

The program.

I am a little in love with  our systems. In fact, I’m possibly obsessed with them. I confess I  pester my co-home owner with several daily phone calls, consisting of updates on current usage. But you have to admit, it is fascinating. The air-conditioner is on, but we’re only using .653 kws- it’s a 5kw air-conditioner! Turn on the stove…uh oh, 2.6 kws. It’s all been a revelation.

Will we get our money back? Probably not, but that’s not why we put on solar panels. Australia may repeal the carbon tax, but at least we are doing something about living sustainably and climate change.

 

By the dots.

Daily Prompt: We all have strange relationships with punctuation- do you overuse exclamation marks? Do you avoid semicolons like the plague? What type of punctuation could you never live without?

What are my punctuation quirks?

I used to work in an inner-city, multicultural suburb and loved it. One of my favourite shop signs was outside the Greek butcher’s (there was only one Greek butcher),  advertising “lambs’ legs”. It was one of my favourites because it showed so clearly the subtleties of our language. I couldn’t buy, however. A leg of lamb is impersonal, several steps away from being a living creature, or in this case, a wriggling and cute bundle of fluff. A lamb’s leg, belongs to that wriggling bundle. Consider the difference between chicken drumsticks and a chicken’s drumstick. I love language! It’s so clever.

Apostrophes!!!! and exclamation marks.

Apostrophes!!!! and exclamation marks.

While I’m on apostrophes, I confess now that I may one day turn into that eccentric woman who goes around with a large, red, permanent marker correcting apostrophes on public signs. Here in Australia it has become almost the accepted practice that if there is an “s” on the end then it has an apostrophe. No, no, no! and again, no!! You can probably tell it more than irritates me, I can become obsessed about it. I think I’ll buy that permanent marker today and get started.

You may have guessed already that one of my weaknesses is for exclamation marks. Yes, I have read, is it Elmore Leonard’s criticism of their use? I flicked that article to my niece, but found myself unable to stop myself from using these little marks in my accompanying email. (My niece uses them too, so there!)

In another life, very long ago, I taught Primary school and every day included a grammar lesson. I hope those children have never been guilty of an apostrophe whenever they felt like it, or a comma put anywhere. Last time I worked in a school I had to point out to someone ( he had authority and could get it changed) the use of a comma in a simple sentence; this on a notice that was to be placed all around the school. How could we as educators, publish a grammatical mistake? The person concerned refused to change it and there was a limit to how far I could push it.  She insisted that there was a verb and a phrase, therefore there must be a comma. So, nowadays we teach them the ungrammatical. The fact that language is meaning and that our thinking can never be precise if we can’t express ourselves accurately causes me great concern. Bertrand Russell, years ago, feared we were becoming a civilization of barbarians with the tools of technology. The loss of sophisticated language is part of that.

I confess: I need to re-visit the use of colons and semi-colons and I promise I will.

I do recommend Jane Strauss and her Blue Grammar Book.

I wonder what your quirks are? What makes you want a large, red, permanent marker? (Do I put commas between each of those adjectives? Does quirks have an apostrophe?…Only joking!)

 

 

 

 

A Pen and some paper

Daily prompt: Writing space.

Where do you produce your best writing-  at your desk, on your phone, at a noisy café?

Essential take with me equipment.

Essential take with me equipment.

Writing…If I could write while I’m driving or while I’m walking or when I’m gardening…or sometimes when I’m listening to the radio – to an interview or discussion,  a report or an in depth study…or sometimes when I’m talking with a friend… That’s when the ideas come and I find myself writing in my head. That’s when I need to grab them. So I’ve bought a digital recorder but it’s more complicated than turn it on, press a button and “we’re on air’ although I’m getting to be  proficient with it. ( Note to myself: practice using the recorder.)  (Second note to myself: always carry a notebook! When the ideas come, stop whatever I’m doing and write it down, doesn’t matter if it gets dirt from the garden.)

Doing something else seems to release the mind. Maybe my writing process will become something like…walking, laptop in backpack…sudden inspiration…stop…sit at side of road…write feverishly…continue walking…

Most of my writing process tends to take place at the table where the computers are set up. Although you could say I’m “spoilt for choice.” The dining room is my temporary study. It feels good and is spacious. Then I have the very large, open sunroom and kitchen, with another large farmhouse table and not one, but two capacious sofas. There’s the lounge room, the roomy back and front decks, complete with tables and chairs… the river bank is not too far away: tables, green grass just perfect for a blanket and a few pillows, wandering ducks, water hens…

Truly, I took this photo two minutes ago!

Truly, I took this photo two minutes ago!

This is how my day tends to go: get up and make coffee, curl up on a sofa in the sun with notebook and pen and write for at least half an hour, not stopping, however it comes. Then breakfast, some pottering, get dressed or not and to the computer. If it’s Daily Prompt, look at the day’s prompt…( don’t check too many emails!!!!)  If I’m already working on something, read it, play with it…I’ll often print something if I want to edit and I usually take that somewhere else. If I want to start something new, I’ll take it to the other table and handwrite the ideas. It’s as if each stage needs a different place. Some of that’s physical. My computer table (that is , the dining room table) has a clutter of equipment: laptop; wonderful, ergonomic keyboard and large screen monitor; there’s always pieces of paper, notebooks, post-its, textas, pens, pencils, maybe a computer manual; there’s not much space for writing with a pen and paper. (Thanks to my generous benefactor for the setup.)  Right now it also has a cat. (How do you teach them not to sit on the keyboard?)

Regular writing is a new process for me. In the past it’s always been an “I’m going to…”. Finally, at last, I have started!  I’m learning what works and how I work. As I’ve been writing this post I’ve become aware of how much more I could do and how much more disciplined I could be. Thinking about how I write has helped me clarify what does work for me. From this daily prompt I know exactly what I now need to focus on. More output! More words on paper, or screen, or whatever. More time spent just writing. Time to get going!

 

 

 

The unique flavour of me

Daily Prompt: A local ice cream parlour invites you to create a new wacky flavor. It needs to channel the very essence of your personality. What’s in it?

My essence?

My essence?

Now that’s a challenge! How do I see myself? What are my characteristics? One day I will have a portrait of myself on this blog that I find adequate, but so far I haven’t managed that, and now I’m asked to create a flavour that is the very essence of my personality??  Come on! And turn it into edible ingredients?? Maybe I’ll go with intangibles and make a fantasy ice cream filled with talking and laughter; books and reading; quiet introspection. Or a handful of roses, a drop of river water, a smidgeon of moonshine…

There are no ice cream parlours around here. Ice cream in cartons from the supermarket, yes; ice creams and splices and other sorts on sticks, yes; but no parlours. I wouldn’t call them ice cream parlours either and I’m not sure what I would call them. And yes, I know I’m  avoiding getting around to defining the very essence of my personality. Is it modesty that makes defining myself a challenge? Or my culture that says I mustn’t skite or act conceited? Or is it because we become so defined by what we do, rather than who we are?

So, what would I include?

I do love to sit around talking with my friends, but I also love quietness and peace; in spite of the anxiety and stress of many years, by nature I’m happy and sunny, summer rather than winter; I’m intelligent and interested in ideas, bored by the superficial; not very practical and sometimes lack common sense; often vague, can be thoughtless and impulsive…An ideas person rather than a doer.

How will I turn my essence into ice cream? It needs to be made with cream because past times at my parents included home-made pies and rich, thick, yellow cream, collected from my uncle’s farm, just a few miles away. The cream can represent both this countryside which is imprinted deep into my very bones and the sense of belonginess from those times.

What else? Apricots for sunniness, walnuts for intelligence, figs- sensitive and easily bruised…and what can represent that ability I have to keep going, no matter what, to endure? SALT! The mineral that traditionally has been used to preserve. Then some smarties for a strong dash of fun.

Delicious!

Delicious!

Thinking about ice cream has brought back memories of childhood. I remember my parents buying their very first refrigerator and before that, the ice man  making deliveries and the big block of ice sitting in the ice chest. Imagine trying to freeze anything, with only an ice chest in an Australian summer?  Anything frozen was almost impossible. My mother used to make ice cream occasionally, beating the semi-frozen mixture by hand. Bought ice cream was a rare and special treat, a luxury. I remember an ice cream cake for someone’s birthday,  On special occasions we might be treated to an ice cream in a cone  and at Sunday school picnics the afternoon would see the thick canvas barrel, filled with dry ice, brought out and the handing  around of ice creams in little cardboard buckets with wooden scoops.

Ice cream tasted better then. Maybe I did too,

 

 

 

Regrets or Letting go.

Writing101. Daily Prompt: Groundhog Day. If you could relive the past week, would you? Would you change anything?

 

I read this and hear Frank Sinatra singing “Regrets, I’ve had a few…”

but I also hear Edith Piaf “Je no regretted rien…”   

Would I want to relive the week? No, but I do want to learn from it.

These two singers represent  two extremes of looking back. My mind turned to regret. It’s too easy to look back with regret and from there to judge ourselves harshly. It’s a long way from self acceptance.

But how do we learn if we don’t look back on the past? And how do we do that if we don’t examine the past critically? I know from working in schools how important it is that children learn to accept responsibility for their actions and to accept responsibility for the consequences. It seems to me that it’s crucial to distinguish between regret and accepting responsibility, learning from our actions and moving on.

I’m in the fortunate position of not working full-time and so am in the process of changing old patterns and making choices in this new set of circumstances.

Now, I have clear priorities and I know the things that matter to me. Do I always do these things? Do my days fit my imagined ideal? No, of course not. I’m human and therefore I am not perfect.

I'm really good at making lists.

I’m really good at making lists.

In the last twelve months I’ve spent a lot of time recovering and settling, reflecting and dreaming, making lists and not doing what’s on them,…and yes, I’ve fallen into times     of self  - criticism,those moments of “I should have…” One of the lessons I keep on learning is to trust and accept myself, whatever state I’m in, to get rid of judgement.  I don’t find that easy. Perhaps it’s another human paradox that we must balance acceptance with change, that is, changing the habits and patterns that no longer serve us.

I’m learning that if I leave exercising until late in the day, I probably won’t do it. I’m trying things out- when’s the best time to write? How do I juggle the cleaning, the cooking…all the demands that maintain one’s life? How do I manage what must be done with what I most want to do?

The best way for me to discover what works best is to look over the past week and reflect on it. When did I do the most significant things? What worked? When did time slip away from me? Benjamin Franklin used to start the day with the question “What good can I do today?” and end it with “What good have I done today?”

Let the day go.

Let the day go.

My gut feel is that as I spend time in the evening being grateful, then the shape of the days will come.

Relive the week? Relive the past? No thank you! But reflect on it? Yes. Learn from it? Yes.

And never give up, never give up, never give up.

Rick Hanson has great things to say about regret and gratitude.

I’d really like to know what you think.

 

 

Nighttime Rituals.

Writing101. Daily prompt.

More and more of us go to bed too late because of sleep procrastination. What are the nighttime rituals that keep you up before finally dozing off?

“Oh sleep! it is a gentle thing,

Beloved from pole to pole!”

Yes. yet another cat picture! But, oh how he sleeps.

Yes. yet another cat picture! But, oh how he sleeps.

Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner had it right. Sleep, it is a blessed thing. Without it, it’s difficult to function, without it I stumble around in a haze of exhaustion, my constant focus on staying awake and making it through the day.  I look back on my life now and wonder how I ever survived. How did I stay in jobs? How did I stay sane? Why didn’t I get help?

What’s the response if you mention you can’t sleep? For me, there were several:

You just need to pull yourself together. Anyone can sleep if she only tries. It’s all in your mind. Just tell yourself you will sleep, and of course you will. It’s not nearly as bad as you think…stop whinging, pull yourself together…

I’ve heard them all. So I lived with it. Then one morning, driving to work (late as usual), I heard a specialist in sleep disorders interviewed. It was a moment of revelation- he described me! I had a sleep disorder, therefore I could get help.

Imagine the power of that moment, the sense of liberation I felt.

I saw a hypnotherapist. I slept.

I shall never forget the next day. I spent it in wonder, marveling at how I felt. If I felt like this, I could accomplish anything. Fly to the moon! Climb Mt Everest! No limits! Maybe those people who slept well, always felt like this?

It wasn’t permanent. I struggled on. Naturally a night person, I went to bed late, took hours to go to sleep and stumbled out of bed, jet-lagged, every morning. I rarely did the things I knew might help me sleep.

Then, a few years ago… brain surgery. My sleep was destroyed. I persevered and endured and heard stories of others whose sleep had been destroyed following brain surgery.

Until… crisis. I could endure not one minute longer.

An emergency visit to the doctor I had recently found ( a miracle in itself) followed, a demand to be hospitalized and sedated and insistence it happen that day. He took the necessary steps. I was sedated that day and hospitalized the next. (And my undying gratitude to my wonderful friend who stood steadfastly by me through this time- thank you Brian. )

So, nighttime rituals? routines? Yes! I have evening routines. I’ve learnt their importance.

  • No television, no phone calls, no computer after a particular time;
  • mindfulness practice and walking a few hours before bedtime;
  • the same bedtime every night and the bedroom only for sleeping and loving;
  • And the other usual routines- showering, teeth cleaning etc…. and for me attending to the needs of a stoma.

I’m not that good at sticking to these routines, even though I know the consequences of neglecting them.

And yes, I have rituals. I find the routine of bedtime soothing and settling, but the rituals lift it to being somehow hallowed.

Let your light so shine. A candle, shining in darkness.

Let your light so shine.
A candle, shining in darkness.

My rituals?

  • Settling; becoming aware of my posture; taking some time to focus on my breath;
  • Lighting a candle and and placing flowers on my small table if I have them;
  • Remembering those I love; practising a loving-kindness meditation;
  • And reflecting on the day with gratitude. There is always something for which to be grateful.

Do I always do this? I confess that I don’t. I have no excuse and I choose not to beat myself up about it. I know some of the habits that will disrupt the flow – I must tape any TV programs I want to watch and it’s better if I don’t have a novel waiting to be read. I seem to have little discipline.

And evening shadows fall across the sky.

And evening shadows fall across the sky.

Writing this has reminded me of the beauty of my simple evening. Tonight I will start my routines early and I will finish the day with candles, beauty, quietness and a grateful heart.

 

 

 

Set for Solstice

Writing 101. Daily Prompt.

Set for Solstice.Today’s summer solstice, the longest day of the year…How are you taking advantage of the extra hours of light at this time of year?

Well, here in Australia it’s the winter solstice and because of the time difference it was actually yesterday. So while you may choose to write about sunshine and long days and watermelon and going to the beach, I shall write about sitting by the fire, and mulled wine and books and slow cooked casseroles…

We have pretty skies

We have pretty skies

But no, I won’t write about such things because I’m sitting on my front porch, wearing a short sleeved tee-shirt and the cat’s asleep in the sun. It’s a warm, sunny day with yet another pretty skyscape; people are walking their dogs and a family just went by on their way to the park. There are still tomatoes ripening on the bush- it’s supposed to be winter! Does this mean the cold will come later? Even though it doesn’t feel like midwinter, yesterday was our shortest day, with only nine hours of sunlight.

Around both winter and summer solstices I find myself wishing for traditions and rituals to mark the turnings of the year. I’ve grown up with a British sensibility; my ancestors who first settled here were  from Britain. At school I studied British and European history and read mostly British literature. I’m a transplant. So I want to celebrate Beltane in May, have bonfires for Midsummer and a Yule log at Christmas.

We haven’t worked out how to replace these old traditions. There are still Christmas cards with snow, robin redbreasts, holly, Santa Claus and reindeers. The attempt to put Santa on a surfboard or replace his reindeer with kangaroos doesn’t seem to work. But we still have traditional Christmas dinners even though it may be a heatwave.

The question of how to create meaningful rituals and celebrations is something I ponder. Here in this new home which I share with a friend we will attempt to create moments of community for the times that matter. Perhaps those moments will include telling stories of special times and sharing our memories. After all, much of our history has come through the stories we have shared.

Five minutes from my house- black and white cows!

Five minutes from my house- black and white cows!

My favourite winter memory is  from my early childhood. I would have been, maybe four, and we were living with my grandparents on their farm. I would jump out of bed early and run across to my uncle,who was doing the morning milking. Barefoot, I used to dance across the grass, sparkling with frost still on it, my breath misting out. The dairy was filled with the big, black and white cows, swishing their tails as they waited to be milked. I would put my finger under the milk coming down the separator and lick it- warm and sweet, straight from the cow. The clang of the buckets, the sound of the machines, the stamping of the cows, the smells of the dairy…I wasn’t cold, I was filled with the joy of the fullness of the morning.

It was a moment when “God’s in His Heaven, all’s right with the world.”

This memory will be my Winter Solstice celebration for this year.