Bathrooms and dogs

The Man is walking towards the bathroom, The Kid in tow.

"I thought you don't like him following you into the bathroom?" I shout out from the kitchen. The reply I hear from halfway down the hallway doesn't surprise me.

"I don't mind him following me into the bathroom as long as The Dog isn't trying to lick my testicles at the same time."

That - that is what having a Labrador is like.

Lost moments

Sometimes a (brilliant) thought comes to me and I try to write it down as quickly as humanly possible because I know full well that if I don't, it is going to pass, and it is never going to come back again. Not in this form anyway - so unless I get it written down, I've lost it, forever.

And so most of the time when I write, I'm just blabbering.

You see, I live my writing life in assertion that, if I waited for perfection I would never write a word, to use Margaret Atwood's words, and because trying is more important than perfection, I write.

And because of that, I blabber. Unless I let myself blabber, almost without restraint - and it includes this blog here - I am going to lose those few precious moments, few and far between, when what I do really matters. And if I did that then what I'd be left with is, well... mediocracy.

I'm not thoroughly and continuously brilliant - in fact, I doubt anyone is. There haven't been many things in my life that I've written really, really well - but the few that I have, I am proud of.

And because I'm familiar with what that onset of writing feels like - I can feel it approach almost the same way I can hear an earthquake approach in the mountains (it first comes as a sound and only then does the rocking start) - I have the ability to both recognize its approach and also be aware of the times I've lost it; and tonight was the night I know I've lost another one.

It is a story of sharing and of seeking balance. Two people, one laptop.

Me and The Man have been watching Intelligence² debate today, a panel session on the topic of "The Catholic Church is a force for good in the world" (Which I suggest you do, too, at least the part where Stephen Fry is talking which I've linked here, about 15 minutes long in total.)

And after that, as we often do, we discussed our thoughts until we went way beyond the initial topic and started reaching into vaccinations and mathematical functions for measuring goodness and event horizons - at which point I usually start getting really lost because as soon as it gets into quantum physics I reach into an area where I can see that there are people who understand it at least in the concept level, but I just cannot, for the life of me, really feel what the hell it is that they're talking about.

Sort of like there was this news on BBC the other day that a group of scientists had created the world's fastest (man-made) spinning object which at 600 million revolutions per minute is something I just simply cannot fathom anymore - at numbers like that we're talking about a whole lot of zeros because I simply cannot picture how fast that 600 million is exactly. How fast is something that is half a million times faster than a washing machine? Can you picture that? I can't.

But I'm getting off topic here.

As we discussed this and then reached into religion and Christianity in general I felt that familiar wave of... thought come on. I suddenly had sentences in my head with which I could accurately portray what my relation to religion is like and I was itching to get it all written down before it's gone except that, laptop was in The Man's hands for the moment.

So I had a shower, all whilst whispering those sentences to myself under my breath, to keep it going and get some of them to stick. Prepared the porridge for tomorrow. Went and hung up the washing.

And whilst I did that - hung up the washing - I suddenly realised that even if I went and asked The Man to please, please relinquish the laptop to me so I can write it all down, it was too late. I was already struggling to weave those sentences together and when that happens, it is done. I can still get the remaining bits, but I'm not going to get the whole any more, so there's going to be snippets of brilliance among the usual, average blabber.

And I stepped inside and talked to The Man, angry and anxious and resentful, and now I'm sitting here, trying to explain it away and to try and give you an insight of what it feels like, to know that a wave of that brilliance came, and then passed, and there is no recording of it because it is lost, to me, forever.

There's a talk on TED where Elizabeth Gilbert has described a similar thing. I'm sorry, I don't remember who it was any more, I haven't listened to this recording for what must be a good few months now, but she described an author who as a child growing up in rural Virginia had the same thing where inspiration approached like thunder and it was then her job to "run like hell" so she could get to the pen and pencil fast enough, and otherwise that thunder was going to roll past her and continue along the landscape, looking for another author. (I think it's about halfway through this video if you're interested in watching.)

I lost it this time, and it's a bitter feeling. An act of balance, really, of finding my way amongst other people I share this planet and my home with.

But what I would've otherwise written about was religion as a form of explaining the mysterious. To me, well... I don't do well with entropy. I know, yes, it is a natural state of the universe - NEVERTHELESS, in my head I need to have things nice and tidy. Just as I cannot write in a room that's full of mess, I also cannot relax when I'm confronted with things I don't understand.

I, too, have a form of religion which I wouldn't go into much further than to say that I, too, have something I call "God" however I do not attend any organised meetings and most definitely don't wish to bend to any dogma. I sometimes sit up on the hill, yes, and say my thanks to God, but if you asked me what that God is I wouldn't know how to answer. The closest I can get to it is if I talked about physics: atoms and energy and what I think they might be doing to each other.

But what it really is to me is a form of comfort in explaining the mysterious because if the topic goes as far as event horizon then I simply cannot feasibly picture it in my head any more so, essentially, to me God is the word for everything that's magical - so the idea I've come up with that helps me understand what particles do and what time is and where it began is what I call God. Universe is my religion, so to speak.

And in that part, I can understand why other people go to churches and worship their own gods. The way I see it - and probably snobbishly so - is that I've taken the time and the effort to come up with my own concept of god and other people who either haven't got the smarts or the time, well, they go to already established churches and find comfort in routines and tradition because that framework gives them support they need to accept the non-understandable.

I so wish I'd gotten it down when it totally made sense to me. Even now as I'm writing this I'm coming against that line of "forgottenness" where I know I covered a topic in my head and therefore I should, realistically, be able to retrieve it from my head again, but I just cannot connect to those nerves in my head where that information is stored. I feel it sitting there, like a box that hasn't got any openings, a sealed container.

It is such a fascinating topic to think about.

I identify a lot with what Stephen Fry above was saying: I have absolutely no problem with people worshipping their own gods, however they may call them, and seeking their spiritual contentment and happiness because essentially that's exactly what I'm doing here, too, seeking and learning about my happiness, but I do come up against organised religion, time and again, and I cannot understand what drives it.

A workmate of mine is a protestant. She says things along the lines of, god created the man in his image, and is comfortable with the concept of creation, and I've said to her that I have absolutely no problem with her doing her thing because she pulls it off beautifully - she is kind, compassionate, helpful, but by no means a pushover.

Where I do have a problem, though, is when it comes to same sex marriages (which, thank god!, are now legal in New Zealand) and euthanasia and other such topics because when we talk about those and I ask sincere questions trying to understand where and why she draws the line in those things being wrong, eventually it keeps coming against that "because Bible said so" or "because Jesus said so", or other stuff like that, and it's a dead end. She engages in reasonable discussions and supports proof-based ideas and does debate, willingly so - and yet somewhere in there there's an invisible line where when she doesn't have a (reasonable) answer to me any more, she says that thing about the bible, or about Jesus, and from there it's a dead end.

And I don't understand. Why not say "because I like it" or "because I don't like it" then? Why does it have to be bible this or Jesus that?

I'd like to understand it, and I don't. I like thinking about it, and talking about it with those that are willing, and not with the sole purpose of ridicule but with a sincere wanting to understand, what the hell are you guys talking about!?!

1 o'clock at night. Wow. It took me over an hour to write this stuff down.

Little boys and puppy dogs

You know the drill: fun -> dirt -> wet -> cold -> bath. No point arguing.

What newspapers really get used for

Thank you, The Press, for your Christchurch earthquakes special edition ;)

He's cute, sure, but... really?

Me and The Man were looking through some early videos of The Kid yesterday and it suddenly struck me that, you know how when he was little me and The Man used to say how we're so lucky to have a cute one? (We used to laugh that there's lots of ugly babies out there =P)

But now yesterday we suddenly realised that ours, too, was all podgy and puckered up - and we didn't even now it!

There some magical biochemistry going on in parents' brains, I swear.

Say goodbye, brownie locks

If I can find a hairdresser who'll take my locks on on a Saturday then say goodbye to these beauties here because for all the rewards I thought I'd enjoy when I patiently grew my hair out again, I just can't be bothered having it in my face when it's windy here (have I already mentioned that it's windy here a lot? No? Well, I'll say it again then - it's windy here a lot), or how I can't skip a day of hairwash without looking like I've climbed out of a garbage truck, or the way I have to remember now where on earth I've left my hairbrush again.

Short is easy.

And to you people out there that have long hair, in words of Aretha Franklin: arr, ee, esss, peee, eee, see, teee... *humms away into the distance*

People behind blogs

A few days ago Holly wrote about blogs she enjoys reading. To my surprise, I found myself at the top of that list - more on that later - and have now recuperated enough from the shock that I'd like to share some of my favorites with you.

But here's the twist: I want to tell you not as much about blogs I enjoy reading (they're all lined up in the sidebar over there anyway), but about fascinating people that are behind blogs I find somewhat... average.

Like, I don't even know if you know what I mean here, and I don't want to sound rude (but I probably will, so I might as well get it over with because there's no point in worrying) but there are some people out there that are, I think, entirely fascinating - some make beautiful stuff, some's brains are cool, some are awesome company, and some are all the above and much more - but sometimes, for whatever reason, their awesomeness doesn't ooze down the screen and most of the time I find it almost infuriating. Like, how is that even possible!? How can someone be so cool in person and when I look at their blog it's, like, nah?

And it occurred to me that I would, actually, like to tell you about these people - not because their blogs aren't that catchy, but because otherwise you might think that they're, oh, I don't know, boring or something, and I'd like the record to reflect today that I think they're just entirely and totally and royally

awesome. Yup.

So, here goes.

I've written about Treena before. I've heard several people say the same thing: she's awesome. Bright and warm and colorful and funny and creative and lots things more. And yet when I opened up her post about a hexagon duvet cover she's made, I thought to myself: WTF?!

I've seen her work on this bloody thing for months.  Not, like, a little bit here and a little bit there, put it it aside for a year and then do a little more again - but solid, focussed stitching for months. Every goddamn hexagon on that duvet cover is hand stitched (!) and if you saw this thing in person it's, like, the coolest duvet cover you've ever seen. It's breathtaking - and I don't say it lightly. But I look at these photos and I don't understand how something that looks so monumental (343 hexagons! Hand stitched!) on these photos is, like, nah.

I mean, if some professional photographer somewhere got up and took some professional photos of this thing, and then Ana White or someone put it up on their blog, I bet ya this thing would be all over Pinterest in, like, 8 days.

(Okay, calm down, Maria, calm down. I know you like this duvet cover, but would you please calm. Down. Thank you.)

Okay, next are two ladies I met at a bloggers' conference this autumn: one's Rachelle and the other's Claudia.

Neither seemed particularly captivating over the internet when I first saw them register for the conference, but boy did I like them both in person! And now as I keep reading their blogs, I have the same feeling I sometimes get with Treena: how is it that I'm not getting more of that awesomeness across from the screen? It's like I feel a little cheated even, like there's so much going on in their heads and in their lives, and I'm just getting little measly snippets here and there.

On several occasions I've thought, if they were living somewhere near us here, or if I were living in town, both would so get invited to dinners at our place, along with their families, and I would pick their brains on topics of religion and crafts - if they let me, of course.

(Sorry, ladies, rude much? =) I really am not meaning to be mean here. I just don't, well, pick up on social cues very well, so I can see that I'm trying to say a good thing here, but it's probably coming across like one of those heartfelt compliments 4-year-olds do where adults are left half-amused and half-terrified at having created a monster. Probably amused more than terrified.)

Then there's Miriam. I think I don't even have to say anything more than: any person that can pull off wearing shoes like this, comfortably, is worth a statue - or a knighthood. (I think the world is full of Miriam fans. Gotta be.)

Then there's Holly, the one who prompted this post. The person who, alongside Treena, is probably the  source of the most underutilised creativeness I know of. Both, I think, have potential to be famous across continents and neither, I think, is - aside from the fact that I don't know if either of them even wants to; but that, too, is another topic.

The thing with Holly is, and I don't know if I'm right here, but I think she has the same attitude towards her craft as I do towards my craft: both move in little cautious steps, looking for our niche, thinking there's bound to be that perfect outlet somewhere, and we're both oblivious to the fact that we're already great the way we are.

And I think the attitude that would help us both the most is worrying a whole lotta less about what people might think and whether they'll like what we do, and do lotta more of things that feel right - and that's that.

But, hey, I might as well be blowing out of my a$$ here. I'm not a shrink, nor a psychic.

And finally Widge whose blog I miss dearly because somewhere out there she keeps making people laugh, and I don't get to take part in the party. (Edited to add: got carried away again. Widge is the one whose blog I liked a lot - but I cannot say the same about her in person because I simply don't know her in person that much. Met once.)

It's an interesting thing I went through with this bloggers' conference: there were a whole lot of people whose blogs I liked a lot and then when I met them in person I went, like, oh.... It somehow didn't click, that person I met on the screen and then the person I stared at on one of those events. And, sure, a lot of them were clearly out of their comfort zones when among so many other people - but still.

I still haven't got my head quite around it yet, the way how different people are on screen and in person. Or what I think they're like on the screen - and then in person.

But here you go, another Thursday evening rant. So much for a blogging sabbatical.

Off to bed now.

I'll stop this virus, no problem

Just in case it ever happens to you, too.

If you come to work one morning and wonder why your keyboard, though perfectly good the previous day, doesn't work (some letters stick, some don't type at all, some type several symbols at once) - it might be worth asking if your workmate has happened to disinfect your keyboard from a spray-bottle, all purpose household cleaner.


God how I love technologically minded people.

Though on the other hand, it did make me laugh for several minutes. Loud.

The person The Dog reminds me of

You know, for all the trouble that The Dog gets up to and how incessantly she wants to FETCH!, all the time, how she is constantly leaning against one of us, blocking the hallway, digging up grass, chewing up things, wanting to jump and play and FETCH!, licking whatever skin is bare, and just generally being a pain in the butt for a whole lotta time - she is also the dog that I can already tell will have made her nest deep in our hearts and though she is only 7 months old at the moment, I've already looked at her and thought, it's going to be so hard to say good bye to you one day.

Me and The Man relate to her in two very different but very connected ways. I look at her and think, she's like me - a real pain a lot of the time, but also so much fun! And The Man, I think, sometimes looks at her and thinks, she's like Maria - a real pain a lot of the time, but also so much fun!

The parallels in our lives: the things I've broken in my grandparents' house as a kid and the times my grandmother has laid on the sofa, holding her chest and saying how I'm driving her to her grave. And now the things Mocha has chewed/eaten/dug up in our house here and the times I've tried chasing her down the house with those things, shouting, bloody hell, dog!

We love her. I definitely do.

Good morning

I love having the company of daylight on my morning walks again. That time of the day when, as I head out the door it is quiet still, but by the time I come home the wind is funneling up the valley again.

Life with The Dog: daffodils

"What's Mocha got in her mouth?"

- "A daffodil."

- "I didn't know we had daffodils."

- "We don't. She eats them all."

A sabbatical

Sometimes I get so carried away with my writing that this place becomes like a verbal toilet of all the stuff I want to get out of my head but don't want to burden other people with - you know, like, in actual conversations.

I think I might take a blogging sabbatical now. I think it'll be good for everyone.

On feeling up and down

Reading this I wonder about psychological diagnostics as a whole: like, where exactly is the line? When is something a temperament, and when is it a mental disorder? To me it almost comes down to linguistics, really - going to check with Oxford Dictionary what exactly a "temperament" is, and then comparing that to... well, whatever.

I know several - if not to say many - high-drive, creative people; the sort of people that make things happen and then a whole bunch of other people go, "Wow, this is awesome...". I fit in with them. I consider myself, oh to be so self-important, one of them.

And I also know that some of them - if not to say many of them - have what some would call "battles with their demons", whatever that "demon" part is, which is to say, every now and again they get down. Some even get very, very down. Like, for a whole while down. Some have been officially labelled bipolar (which is, I think, the new word to "neurotic"), some with ADHD.

But what I don't exactly understand is the fear towards those diagnoses. I mean, when I go through creative periods when not only my productivity is up but also how nice of a person I am to be around, I don't see anyone questioning if I have a mental illness or another - if anything, people go "Yesh!" and come along on whatever adventures I'm on. And so to me, down times look like, well, the other side of that same coin.

And though I can definitely see the benefits of labelling from a health insurance point of view (if something gets labelled an illness then it also allows access to therapy and medication) I feel a little lost about the "illness" part of things. Illness as in, when body isn't at its top health.

I once read, and I'm sorry I can't link to it any more because I don't remember who it was or where it was from, but there was a person who's been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and she said she is, for one, grateful that she is neurotic rather than simply depressed because being neurotic means she gets both lows and downs. And whilst she's down, it sucks, big time; but then again, whilst she's up, it's like the best feeling ever. The work she gets to do then is ah-may-zing.

(And I bet you $20 that if you've ever gone to see a play in a theatre or a movie or an exhibition or read a book that's left you wide-eyed and feeling, "Wow, this work was amazing!", chances are, whoever made it would probably be classified with some sort of a mental disorder if they went to a shrink's office. By no means every one of them, sure - but many.)

But this lady also said that as much as she hates the feeling of low, she hates taking her drugs because drugs soften up everything: they make her lows more tolerable, but they also take away her highs. And without her highs and that identity of being that wonderful, creative person - what's really left of her, if drugs were to take away that?

And I get that. I get her.

And so to me, when someone tells me about some crazy wonderful person who does such amazing work and is such a party to be around/with - design, journalism, music, whatever - I almost by default, in my head, add to that image that chances are, sometimes that person will be a total b*tch or an a$$hole, too.

A fact of life, really. Sort of like living up on this hill with these sweeping views and accepting the fact that the closest place to buy food is a 25-minute drive away and that even when it's reasonably windy in Christchurch up here I'll have bed sheets fly off a washing line and into the gutter, until I go and put them all in front of a log burner because I just can't be bothered pinning something down with 20 washing pegs. I think I have something like 60 washing pegs in total, so that would allow me to put up, what, three bed sheets?

Okay, gotta go, baby's up!

Good morning

And that's a one happy labrador...

Keep away from that lady on the bicycle

Me and Mocha went biking today. It was... uhm... fun. Really.

Because all in all, Mocha did really well. For a dog that had never come across a concept of a bike before, she got used to the routine real quick, like, in about 15 minutes. There were a few blips here and there, of course - you know, the usual stuff.

Like, when we first got going the first thing she did was run in front of my bike. I braked. But you know what happens when a dog keeps running whilst the person holding the leash stops abruptly?


(Oops, sorry, Mocha.)

We tried again. 5 metres, 10 metres, 15 metres - I was starting to think, hey, this might actually work! A car approached (we were still in the car park) and Mocha jumped away from the car - guess in which direction? Towards me and the bike.

So, Mocha jumps into my pedals, I brake, she - now scared of the bike - jumps away from the bike but gets caught short on the leash again (boing!), I start toppling, me and The Dog and the bike all end up in a sort of a heap, blocking the way, at which point I'm not even sure what I want to do any more - and so what do I do?

smile towards the driver of that car. A woman.

She frowns.

I think, ukoh, she looks pissed off with us. I try to get moving again, but whilst I've been busy smiling, Mocha has walked away from the car, around my bike, onto my right - whilst her leash is still wrapped around my left wrist - and I end up standing there, arms crossed and the bike on a lean, but the lady is still frowning.

(And how we got out of there, I don't even remember any more, but we did, looking apologetic I bet, whilst the driver probably kept on frowning.)

And then when Mocha sorted out that whole stay-on-the-side-of-the-bike thing, other cool things started happening. Like, joggers approaching. (Boing!) An asian couple strolling on our right. ("Mocha, grraaaaaagh, stay on the... Khm, Mocha! Seriously! Sorry, guys, sorry - our first time on the bike. Grrrgh, Mocha... Goddamit!")


Jesus, don't even get me started on the ducks. I actually had to go and stop on the side of that pond there because the instant those ducks took flight my dog had apparently gone deaf and was heading straight for the water, across my biking path.

But no, really, after about 15 minutes we got sorted. I'm actually looking forward to doing it again.

I hope so is The Dog.

Things The Man makes me laugh with

So, on Noah's Ark - where were all the microorganisms and bacteria that are essential to sustaining life on Earth?

PS. And I've probably linked to this before but, in words of George Carlin, "We’re so self-important. Everybody’s going to save something now. “Save the trees, save the bees, save the whales, save those snails.” And the greatest arrogance of all: save the planet. /.../ The planet has been here four and a half billion years. We’ve been here, what, a hundred thousand? Maybe two hundred thousand? /.../ The planet isn’t going anywhere. WE are!"

Love George Carlin.

Life with The Dog: the empire strikes back

Ha! Good luck digging that, dog.

Meanwhile, neighbors are trying to come up with ingenious ways of keeping their goats from eating their TV (antenna) cable. (Because you do remember that they can get on top the roof, don't you?)

So not getting a goat. Ever.

Life with The Dog: so now it's shoes, isn't it

The Man looks out the window, "Oh, look how pretty she is, laying out in the sunshine like that! Nicely on the fresh grass, chewing on her bo... Wait a minute: that looks like...

...Maria's flip-flop.

Oh sh*t!"

And The Man runs outside trying to retrieve what's left of the flip-flop and tomorrow Maria will walk her ass down to the store and get herself a new pair of flips-flops.

PS. Just in case you're wondering, The Dog is sitting here licking the log burner. It's off, so it's cold - but still...

Lick, lick, lick, yummy log burner. Lick, lick, lick, such a wonderful metallic taste! Lick, lick, lick. 

Whilst me and The Man look on and shake our heads.

Labrador does not a stress free dog make.

PPS. And I'm not kidding, but whilst I'm spell-checking this post here there's a sound of a ripping pillow coming from the hallway at which point I jump up and go tell her off for trying to kill her doggie bed again.

Seriously, dog, there's three magic words for you: doggie. Chew. Toys. Or even firewood, for Pete's sake! But would you please stop trying to demolish the furniture...

If Maria were a real estate agent...

This is fun!

So, after watching - for years - my friends fiddle with Photoshop I finally gathered up my guts and opened the bloody thing on my computer. Then I went and googled "photoshop tutorial" and opened up this Youtube video:

And then I went and listened to everything this guy had to say and followed him, step by step, like a kid in the first ever computer class. Something along the lines of this: the guy says, "You can also make your brush bigger and smaller if you have bracket keys on your keyboard. So on US keyboards it would be next to letter P," at which point I pause the video and start diligently looking at my keyboard, "P, P, letter P... Ha! Here! Letter P is here! So, the bracket key has to be somewhere... Ha! Here! I found it!" [Presses the bracket key] "Ha! It works!"

Yeah, something along the lines of this.

And because the first photo he was working on was a lady on a white background then I went and looked up a photo of ME on a white background, like this:

And when we'd fiddled with it for a while he went and started putting it on a colorful background, so I also looked up a colorful photo for a background. Like this:

And then what happened next is this:

Now this is probably the point where Photoshop gurus take one look at it and cringe, followed by, "Bluaht!" (insert sound of vomiting)

But you know what? I don't effin' care because I JUST PASTED MY PHOTO ONTO ANOTHER PHOTO!

And don't worry, I promise, I am not getting into real estate sales. Really.

Because this is exactly what this photo looks like: like those big posters on people's fences, the ones where desperately smiling women and men, dressed in button-down shirts and wearing lots of make-up, are almost screaming off the poster, "Buy this house! I said buy! This! House! I'm gonna stalk you for the rest of your life if you don't buy this house! Now!"

But maybe I should get into real estate? Then I could fiddle with Youtube tutorials like this for years. Maybe I'd even become one of those people who put up Youtube tutorials for young real estate agents who have all the enthusiasm but no money yet.

Choices, choices, choices.

But hey, I just pasted my photo onto another photo ;)

The beauty of living on a wind-swept hill or also known as, oh, bugger

So, it's windy, right.

I go hang up the washing, come back a while later and... find the bed sheet flown off. In the gutter.

I go and stick it in the washing machine again. Hang it up. Come back - and it's in the gutter, again.

So I've now stuck it in the washing machine again, for the third time, and hung it up, also, for the third time.

Last time I used five pegs to hold it on the line. I'll see how this one goes. I wouldn't hold your breath though...

That moment when I want to bite your head off

When your website has four pages, all with different size fonts, and I say, "How about I make them all the same?" and you say that no, thanks, they's fine like that.

That - that is the moment I want to bite your head off.

Life with The Dog: I take it you don't like the grass then...

Things to be grateful for

That you're not sitting in my car when I'm driving home on a Tuesday evening singing out, loud!, to Michael Jackson's "Human nature"

My ears were actually ringing from the volume when I got home...

How blogging helps people get healthier/happier

Okay, so it's not the best piece of journalistic enquiry, right, but: it does have some merit. BBC News - Writing - for health and happiness?

I remember hearing about research like that back in uni, how people's post-surgery wounds healed quicker if they wrote in their diaries immediately before and after the surgery. Now this guy here is talking about blogging and how the public-ness of it (I don't mean publicity!) somehow helps not only people's emotional but also physical well-being.

(I wish we'd dwelled on it longer when it was brought up in one of our lectures, discussing the reasons behind results like that, but, alas, we were there for a degree in journalism and probably went on talking about a discourse or another.) (God how I hated that word).

I've known for a long time now that blogging keeps me sane(ish). Besides, it's way cheaper than going to a therapist! And boy do I like bargains or what.

I bet there's loads more people like that out there.

Riding a high

I've been riding a high for the past, oh, I don't know, a month now. On a selfish level I'd like to say it's because I've started writing again - meaningful, book-time-off writing where I set myself up for a whole day, morning to late night and really get to get into it again.

I'm determined to get this book finished. There's a good story in there. Write, girl, write. Get it finished. You'll be proud for having done so.

But on the other hand - and it really pisses me off here - is that I know that on a biochemical level it's a set of hormones doing their job. It's a change in daylight hours (lately, for the better), it's food I eat, it's my sleeping pattern. All of that and many things more.

And though a lot of it is within my ability to change and regulate (food and exercise mostly, but also standing up for myself and being kind to myself), it pisses me off, royally, that theoretically I can get a spike in thyroid levels, or whatever, and all that's gonna go to s*it again. Because it's oh-so-easier to watch my food intake, and my sleeping pattern, and my exercise when I'm feeling good already.

It's one of those life's "Dammit!" moments - that and the fact that I haven't had sex with James McAvoy, Jake Gyllenhaal or Ryan Gosling.


Thoughts on nutrition

Every now and again it pops up again: 6 years ago a lady, a nutritional scientist, was giving us a lecture on food, eating and general nutrition. Among the other (fascinating) things she said was: vitamin A is fat soluble, meaning, if you've decided to get all healthy and have a salad for lunch, a bit of olive oil (or whatever other oily, fatty substance) will take you places - otherwise that carrot will simply make its way out the other end and good luck with your vision (and other things vitamin A is good for) then.

And I know, Wikipedia is the place to quote things from, right?, but here's the thing:

"Vitamin A deficiency is estimated to affect approximately one third of children under the age of five around the world. /.../ Approximately 250,000–500,000 children in developing countries become blind each year owing to vitamin A deficiency, with the highest prevalence in Southeast Asia and Africa."

A carrot - a little bit of carrot and a drop of olive oil.
Two hundred and fifty thousand children. Blind.


And another little revelation I had today: I picked up a copy of North&South at the medical centre and a lady there was talking about a paleo diet. She was describing how she'd gone from an overweight teenager into this person that runs marathons and about midway into my third paragraph I thought: wait a minute, she's talking about eating veggies, dairy and meat, and keeping away from processed foods, and that's called a paleo diet?


Paleo my ass. It's called reasonable - that's what it's called.

To me it works both ways: good food helps me feel good, but at the same time, tough times is where I automatically start looking towards the candy aisle. And it helps me to remind myself that, for one, sugar craving can be a symptom of something I need to deal with and, two, eating good food will help me get there.

And geesh do I appreciate when information about food comes without a push for guilt, or whatever those emotions are that are often packaged within exercise and diet packages. Leave the politics out of it! Just tell me what I need to know about food and leave the decision about what I'm gonna do with that information to me.

It's my body. It's up to me what I am going to do with it. I take care of it. Me. It takes me places. Mine. Not yours - mine.

So - I poured myself a shot of sweetened condensed milk yesterday and savoured every. Spoonful. Of it. And it was damn good! Nothing wrong with that.

Nor is there anything wrong with eating a banana and a bunch of carrots for lunch.

It's mine. Mine. Mine!

Thoughts on religion

Oh dear.

I've just written - and deleted - a paragraph three times.


And then I've gone and tried re-writing it five times - again, to no greater outcome.

And the thing is, the more I try and explain away what I'm feeling, the more knotted up this text becomes. So instead of going and trying to somehow make sense of it all I'm gonna leave you with Stephen Fry and Christopher Hitchens tonight.


And honesty is...

...that thing when although I know that The Man is still very ill and very, very hungry because his stomach still doesn't hold in food, I tell him I'm gonna go in the kitchen now and eat a pizza. (Which is, just so that you know, his favorite food.)

He tells me to f*ck off, lovingly.

I tell him he's welcome and I'll cook him another little pot of bland rice then.

So, yeah - that, by the way, is love, too ;)

Love is...

...that thing when I kiss my dog on her nose even though I know that she eats - when given a chance - chicken s*it.

So here it is, enjoy your Sunday evening.

You're welcome.

Afternoon slump

Boom! An afternoon slump.

The Man is ill for the second day already with high fever so for the most part it's me, The Kid and The Dog. It's kind of nice, actually: every now and again we're up on the bed keeping The Man company but a lot of the time we leave him to it, shut the door and potter around on our own. And as I potter, thoughts bubble up, I open the laptop, quickly scribble it down, hit "Publish" and shut the laptop again.

And as usual, when there's an afternoon slump, my thoughts wonder over to this place:

The same camera still. Battered, scratched, with some settings missing, but works.

Digging down to get to an ice cave below.

As much as I enjoy the warmth, I do miss the cold. Not the -2 sort of damp, yucky cold of New Zealand, but the -20 cold of Svalbard, dry and crispy, smell-less. 

I miss the fun of it and rarely more than during afternoon slumps - only midnight despairs maybe. It's the time when I feel torn between where I am and where I want to be.

Three hours ago I was right where I wanted to be. Now, at 3 o'clock in the afternoon I'm not so sure any more.

A celebration

Did you know that a group of polar bears is called, of all things - not a herd, not a pack, but - a celebration?

I think it's wonderful.

And in case you're wondering: there's a bad case of verbal (=blogging) diarrhea going around today. I shall celebrate that!

Life with The Dog: remember the garden hose?

So, remember the garden hose about a week or so ago? And how she tends to bring her daily offerings onto our front steps?

Well, combine the two now. She's gone and chewed the garden hose right off - and deposited it onto our front steps.

It explains why I felt a strong urge to laugh when one of our friends said he'd like to get a Labrador.

There's a whole social movement out there. Must be.

Oh. My. God.

Have you ever tried Googling "minion hat"?

I just did. Crikey!

Housekeeping pride right here

I don't know if I've showed you this before, but you know these times when I've told you that I'm not very good in the kitchen? Well, apart from dishwashing, cleaning and making pancakes and omelets, of course.

What I mean is, I go to make muffins and out comes this:

Just some daily potterings and another rant - sorry, story - about the Dog

The Dog has been limping recently. She's so high-pitch energetic (also knows as, in your face) that we've played a lot of fetch with her and I think she's damaged a shoulder so we've been taking it easy for a couple of days now.

Which, unfortunately, doesn't stop her playing fetch because she's learned to play it on her own. She'll grab a ball, toss it in the air and then when it lands, pounce on it.

Amusing to watch but isn't really helping the limping issue.

So I've tried taking away the ball. And you know what? Turns out, she can play fetch with lots of other things, too. T-shirts, for example, though they don't fly that well, and then when she picks them up she takes off, running, with the t-shirt trailing behind and I look on an and think, great. Another one. I've already got a rip in my pants from when she went and took them off the bed where I'd left them in the morning, and then got them snagged on a door barrier when she was trailing them towards the kitchen where I was standing doing our dishes.

Mocha a good dog, she was probably thinking to herself. Mocha bring pants to master. Master must be cold standing in the kitchen in her shorts. Master be happy now. Master give Mocha food?

She's gonna either drive us all mad, this dog, or make us live longer because we laugh so much. Maybe both.

Talking of living long: I was reading a column by Nigel Latta and in it he said, "Research shows that happy people live longer than miserable ones. This is, I think, good news. After all, who really wants miserable people to enjoy a long life?"

And at that, I agree.

I also agreed with Nigel when he said that once when he was talking on the radio, a listener sent in an e-mail urging Nigel to call kids children, not kids - because kids are goat's babies. Human babies are children.

It reminded me of an instance when I was told off by my boss for calling kids, kids - when I should've called them children instead. And it was all cool except for the fact that we were organising a... Kids' Camp. Like, the official name of the event was a Kids' Camp.

So you'll probably understand my amusement when for the rest of the time I kept reminding myself to call them children and knew for fact that we were all involved in a Kids' Camp.

And the point where I agree with Nigel is that he reckons that the person who sent in that e-mail was wearing a pair of underpants a size too small. And! Nigel made a point of using the word "kids" twice in every sentence for the rest of the radio show, if for no other reason than to piss that person off.

I think I like Nigel. Never met him, but sounds like a reasonable guy to me!


Oh, and another thing about The Dog.

When we met up with her litter-mates a few weeks back, one of the other owners said, "Does yours also do this thing where she's constantly leaning on you?" And I went, almost ecstatic, "Oh my god, does yours do that, too?! I thought ours was the only one!"

And she does - lean. Like, all the time. (Except maybe when she's running around playing fetch, or eating or something.)

I'll be, say, standing by the kitchen sink doing dishes and she'll try and cram herself in between me and the cupboard, and then lay down on top of my feet. I'll step away to do something by the oven and she'll follow me a few seconds later, sit next to me and lean against my shins.

The Man has even had several meltdowns over this, all in the last month or so. The thing is: it's not really that relaxing when you land on a sofa, try and relax, and straight away you'll have 15 kilos of Labrador flesh on top of your feet, weighing it all down.

He'll push her off and mutter something along the lines of, do you really have to lay on top of me all the time like that?, and she'll sit up, look at him patiently, cock her head to the side as if to show that she's listening really, really patiently - and then she'll come and lay on his feet again.

And The Man will roll his eyes and sigh, and maybe repeat the process another two or three times and eventually he'll just put his feet up on a sofa because The Dog has more stubbornness than he does.

And she sort of does this thing with The Kid, too, except - thank God! - she lays down next to him, not on top of him any more (which, I'm sorry to say, she tried, many times, but we kept telling her off along with The Kid screaming at her whenever she sat/laid on top of him, so I think The Dog's got at least some brain matter going for her because she's slowly taken the point and seems to have stopped doing it), so when we potter around the yard she follows him around and whenever The Kid stops, she lays down next to him.

Pretty cute, if you ask me.

Other than that, enjoying the sunshine and warmth. The sheep are lambing.

Life with The Dog

I make you a soft pillow and you shred it?


Edited to add: sorry, I should call things by their right names. I make you a soft pillow and you pick the stuffing out of it?


Feeling a bit car sick?

It's interesting how I've gotten used to the earthquakes now. The house does a gentle, rolling-rolling-rolling motion for a good wee while and straight away I think: ukoh, someone's having a big one.

And indeed: NZ Herald: Wellington shaken by severe earthquake  (Geonet is looking pretty red today, too.)

It's sort of how Wanaka was shaking when Christchurch was having a big one: it just kept going up and down, up and down, like on waves.

And when it's a "dunk!" sort of a quake, I think: hmm, that was underneath us somewhere. Sort of like this was on Monday morning.

You do know it's August, right? A *winter* month, right?

I really don't know what to write here. Really.

Maybe only that by the time I saw what he was up to, he'd already stuck one of his legs in water and from then on it really didn't matter if he was gonna enjoy a good splash around or not because if his shoe was wet and his leg was wet, well, kiddo, go on and have yourself a party. 

And so he did. And whilst he did that, I grabbed a camera and just clicked away.

And then I ran hot bath (actually, a bucket, but no-one's keeping score) and dunked him in it for quarter an hour to warm up again.

Oh to be a toddler again.

Baking paper + hanging basket = lampshade

I'm no Martha Stewart, but! I like these. I made them. It's bits of baking paper sewed together and hung on a flower basket.

Cheap and diffuse the light well. And they make me smile =)

When it goes quiet in the kitchen

PS. If you look really closely you can see half a mug of tea on the table, dripping off onto the carpet. Nice.

PPS. I've got such an avalanche of thoughts in my head I'm not even wanting to start writing them down - because if I do start, it's gonna be a never-ending, uhm, avalanche of disjointed, uhm, stuff.

But heck, it's my blog, I can do whatever I want here.

Alright, Maria, you've convinced me. Here we go then.

A neuroscientist was talking on the radio yesterday: they've been studying dying rats and turns out, right during death, there's a whole lotta  activity in the brain's visual center which she says, explains why people that have been brought back from the brink of death report lucid out-of-body experiences.

She also said that - and try to really listen here, alright? - that it shows that these lucid experiences just happen inside the brain.

And that's when I thought, wait a minute. What do you mean, just happen inside the brain?

Everything happens inside the brain.

When I see a butterfly floating above our roofline, it is my brain taking the information in, processing it and then giving me the picture of a butterfly. I don't actually know if my butterfly looks exactly the same as, say, your butterfly - I don't even know if there is a butterfly there.

I don't know if my blue is the same as your blue. We all call it blue, sure, but we don't actually know if the pictures we see in our heads are the same because there's no objective way of measuring blue - it's our brains' visual centers processing the light and the wavelength and as humans we've found ways to call colours, well, whatever: red, blue, green, black.

Sorry, I'm getting off topic here. What I mean is, how do you separate something that "happens inside the brain" from something that we'd call "reality"? Everything we see, hear and feel "happens inside the brain".

And then in the words of my workmate we discussed this with: I wonder what's the evolutional / biological purpose of this sort of a during-death experience?

Makes me wonder, doesn't it.

Oh, and then another radio programme: they were talking about research that was conducted in the States where they took 2000 obese women, put them on equal-content-and-calorie diets with the only difference being, half of these women got most of their calories in the morning with breakfast, with small lunch and very light dinner, and another half had a modest breakfast with bulk of their calories in lunch and dinner. And they found that, oh, look, the ones that had big breakfasts lost weight quicker!

To which my husband went: well no shit Sherlock. If you eat the stuff in the morning then this energy gets used up in your muscles whereas the evening stuff would have to be put away in your liver for later use.

Besides, all this late-evening dinner stuff ends up floating in the stomach overnight... Ugh.

Anyway, next thing: I'm grateful that some of my friends get to use EQC (earthquake commission, to people that aren't familiar with the topic) support for counselling. Painting walls and straightening floors in earthquake damaged houses is important, sure, but to some people it's the counselling that makes a difference.

A lady that fled Christchurch's Red Zone days after the February 2011 earthquake would've probably... I can't say never taken up counselling because maybe in years to come she would've, on her own accord, but she was a low-income, unsettled family background, disillusioned-in-herself sort of a woman and to her family, EQC counselling made all the difference. She was able to sort through years of grime that had been uprooting her family and today, she is a much happier version of herself.

Because of the earthquakes. Weird, isn't it.

Okay, what next... Oh, yeah: I realised the other day that two of my workmates I like the most are an alcoholic and a guy who has taken up employment only because New Zealand government made him to, in order to continue receiving financial support.

And that made me sort of go, oh. Does that say something about me, or my workplace?

I think the answer is, me. I like people that are different and especially if they're knowingly different. I might not agree with the whole financial support thing, or alcoholism, or whatever, but I'd take that any day to a conformist, non-opinioned, rule-abiding existence.

There are very few people in the world that are actually boring, but the ones that are... Geesh!

And the last thing: somehow me and The Man got onto psychological testing topic yesterday and I dug out my old DISC assessment result. Here:

I don't know if many of you understand how DISC works and can read this picture. And even if you do, you'd have to know a little more about me to do anything with this information, but... it made me wonder: what the heck am I doing!?

Maria, you have dreams. You know what some of those dreams are. Go follow your dreams, goddamit!

PPPS. And in case you're wondering how I could write all that at 7 o'clock Thursday morning before work, the answer is: Monsters Inc.