The Year of Intentional Living

We have decided that this is the Year of Intentional Living. We’re both lazy and apathetic and ‘easy way’-seeking, so we often find time and energy and friendship and inspiration and thoughtfulness and creativeness and ‘seizing the day’ slip away from us. This cannot continue to happen, or we will end up dry and empty.

There are three things that we’ve chosen to try and aim for this year in order to ‘wake up’.

One:
We choosing to eat more intentionally. Not healthier, or more cheaply, or more organically, or more ‘environmentally-soundly’, just more deliberately. More thoughtfully. More considered-ly. Eating not because it’s dinner-time, or because we have to finish the last of the cheese in the fridge before it goes mouldy, or because the cereal’s in the cupboard and it’s quick, or because everyone else is having cake…but because we really want an excellent cup of coffee, or because ‘the chef at this restaurant is amazing’, or because the smell of fresh-baked bread hits right as the stomach growls, or because sautéed asparagus, steamed fish with ginger and shallots, and saffron basmati is awesome.

I want to work toward deliberately choosing what and when to eat, rather than just eating.

Two:
We’re choosing to have people to our home more frequently. Neither of us crave social interaction at a high-level, but we’re both aware that we need it, and enjoy it. We also – due frequently to my ‘recovering’ perfectionism – don’t have people in our home often…which just perpetuates the issue. The less often people are here, the harder it is to invite them, and the more easily I can invent excuses why we shouldn’t. So, we have decided to have somebody, or bodies, in our house for something social, at least once a fortnight, even if it’s just my friend for a cup of coffee or my parents for dinner. And it will become easier and easier, and I will make less of an issue of everything needing to be ‘right’ before someone can set a foot inside our door.

I want to work towards natural hospitality by deliberately choosing to be hospitable.

Three:
We’re choosing to view, or attend, or participate in something ‘arty’, or musical, or creative more often. This is a small town, and it was hard to move here from Seattle where you barely have to think for more than a minute in order to come up with something creative to do, or see, or listen to. While there are certainly options here for connecting with ‘Art’, we have to look a bit harder, and we’ve been lax in doing so, and, hence, we’ve become a bit trapped in mediocre routine. So, we have decided that once a month we will consciously choose to go to a play, or an art museum, or a concert, or a performance of some kind, and we will engage with it. Because art makes life richer.

I want to deliberately work towards more depth, and creativity, and interaction, and inspiration.

Intentional living – so our lives don’t unintentionally drip away.

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Funny Things Said By My Husband

Me: Did you know that on Sunday it’s forecasted to reach 47°C somewhere out in the west of New South Wales, and that will be the hottest place on the planet?

HL: Whereabouts will that be?

Me: I dunno, just somewhere out west, they didn’t mention the place…

HL (masking his American accent with a very broad, ‘put-on’ Aussie accent): Chilaroo? Bullamaridgie? Wubba Wubba?

Me: *silence* None of those are actual places… *silence* But I am glad that you at least know how to make fun of Australian place names…

Funny Things Said By My Husband

Me: I’m getting something to drink, did you want anything from the fridge while I’m up?

HL: Yeah…um…lemon…um…pob…no…orangely maynoes…

Me: Ohhhkay…

HL: Words not come.

Me: I can see that.

Funny Things Said By My Husband

HL, wandering into the room and picking up a clear plastic bag: What’s this? Where did this come from?

Me: I dunno, probably from out of one of the multiple boxes of ‘new stuff’ that we got for Christmas.

HL: Hmmm…no, I don’t think so…I think I know what it is…

Me: Oh yeah, what would that be?

HL, pulling the bag over his head and grinning goofily: It’s my spaceman helmet!

Me: Well, just don’t suffocate in your ‘spaceman helmet’.

HL: Suffocate? Of course not: spaceman helmets let you breathe…and get dizzy…and see spots in front of your eyes…and turn everything kinda black…

Me: Right, well, spaceman, take your ‘spaceman helmet’ off before you die.

HL: Oh fine…

How To Put Up A Christmas Tree (if you’re an American living in Australia)

1. Look online, in the phonebook, in supermarkets, on farms, in the bush, in the newspaper, and etc., to find a Christmas tree that even vaguely resembles the perfect, purpose-grown, multiple-to-choose-from, Christmas-tree-lot-on-every-corner typical American Christmas tree.

2. Fail miserably on all fronts.

3. Cry a little bit, because the ornaments are gonna look dumb on a spindly, ugly-ass, holey, sad little tree.

4. Buy the best-looking one you can possibly find (in a net, so you can’t really tell what it looks like till you unravel it), and pay $50 for the privilege.

5. Drag the thing home and unload it into the front yard.

6. Smile a lot, and try to convince your spouse that, ‘It’ll look ok once we set it up and put all the lights, and tinsel and ornaments on.’

7. Fail miserably, as your spouse looks at you with upraised eyebrows, and says, ‘Uh huh, right.’

8. Trek into the back of the garage to find a rusty saw.

9. Spend half an hour hacking at the bottom of the trunk so the thing will soak up water through the fresh wood.

10. Stand aside as your spouse takes pity on you, comes outside and fixes your sawing job in 2 minutes.

11. Stand the tree upright in the Christmas tree stand and screw it in as straight as possible.

12. Stand back and examine the tree for straightness and best-angle-facing-the-front-ness.

13. Scream and jump forward to catch the tree as it overbalances towards you.

14. Sigh as spouse walks out of the room cursing the misshapen ‘Charlie Brown’ tree that’s gracing your living room.

15. Spouse takes tree outside to re-evaluate.

16. Shout at each other a little bit to vent frustration.

17. Apologise to each other.

18. Bring tree back in, straighten it as much as possible and decide to live – unhappily – with it.

19. Come back from work the next day to find that spouse has made tree stand upright without the precarious lean.

20. Feel grateful that tree won’t topple over in middle of night and squish cats.

21. Drape tree in hundreds of lights, four different types of garland, and box after box of the ‘fill-in-the-gaps’ ornaments (you know, the plain, round, ball kind…) in the hope that the holes, twisted branches, and spindly-ness will be somewhat concealed.

22. Stand back, look at the tree, and realise that this is a vain hope.

23. Come back into the room a few minutes later to find both cats sleeping under the tree branches, enjoying the lights and the pine-y smell.

24. Trim the tree that evening with spouse, listening to Feliz Navidad, placing the most special, and memory-laden ornaments towards the front.

25. Add handful after handful of tinsel to fill in remaining empty spots.

26. Sit on the couch with spouse, look at the lights and realise that it turned out pretty Christmassy after all. 🙂

Funny Things Said By My Husband

Me, to HL, after he had just woken up and wandered into the living room: I can tell you’re still very sleepy, you only seem to be able to open one of your eyes at a time.

HL: Yeah, they’re awake on a timeshare basis…

Funny Things Said By My Husband

HL, after looking in the bag of food we just bought at Red Rooster: Oh crap…

HL, 3 minutes later, back at Red Rooster, to the girl at the register: Look, I ordered AND PAID FOR a chicken roll, but when I got home and checked in the bag it wasn’t there. Can I have a chicken roll, please?

Register Girl: Ummm…sorry sir, how can I know you’re not just coming back to get another one?

HL: Are you kidding me? Why would I drive all the way back, with the rest of my food getting cold?

Register Girl: Well, can I see your receipt?

HL: You didn’t give me one…

Register Girl, to manager she has just called over: Uh, this gentleman says we didn’t put the chicken roll that he ordered in his bag, and he doesn’t have a receipt.

Manager, to HL: Sir, it’s our policy to give receipts.

HL, to manager: Well, I’m sure it’s also your policy to give the customer all of the food that they ordered and paid for…

Manager, to Register Girl: Give the gentleman a chicken roll.

Weekend Paradise

We went to visit family in Queensland last weekend. Here are some photos:

QLD #1
QLD #1
QLD #2
QLD #2
QLD#3
QLD#3
QLD #4
QLD #4
QLD #5
QLD #5
QLD #6
QLD #6

‘Twas a good weekend…

Under Control, Not In Control

I have a perfectionist streak. I think I get it from my dad, who has always wanted to do things ‘right’. It’s something I continually struggle with, the knowledge that perfection isn’t achievable this side of eternity, and, no matter how hard I wish for it, or plan for it, or work for it, or long for it, it ain’t happenin’.

We don’t entertain too much, partly due to my dissatisfaction with our house, our yard, our lack of hospital-grade cleanliness, and etc.; the contrast between the picture that I have in my mind of how it (and I) should be, and how reality (bites) actually displays itself, grates.

So, preparing for having people over is always more of a big deal than I know it should be. I always over-plan, over-provide, over-panic.

This Thanksgiving (which we celebrated yesterday) was a bit different. Yes, I planned a bit more efficiently, and, consequently, was able to paint our spare room and mow our big back yard in the last week, as well as working full-time and fitting in all the ahead-of-time baking and table-preparing and vacuuming and bathroom-cleaning and etc. But, that wasn’t really what was different.

The morning of the day we have people over always looks a bit similar – getting up at a moderately early time, thinking, ‘Yeah, I’m in pretty good shape, I can fit it all in.’, which morphs into ‘Ah…perhaps I’ve bitten off more than I can chew.’, which graduates into a slight panic attack about 4 hours before guests are due, which becomes a grumpy, resentful attack on HL when I feel he isn’t ‘steppin’ up to the plate’ and helping, which rises to a feeling of impending doom as the hands on the clock spin faster and faster, inexorably dragging me towards ‘Battle Stations, all hands on deck, take that to the garbage, move those shoes from the hallway, help me with this platter, make sure the cat litter’s scooped out, you know you have to carve the turkey, right?, ‘. Stupid, huh?

Yesterday morning was starting to look a bit like that. I felt a little panicky and out-of-control by about 10.30 (guests arriving at 1.30pm) as I had so much to do, and I said to God, ‘Please, stop this. Make time slow down a bit, or help me to feel like I can manage to get it all finished in time. I’m not in control here.’

About half an hour later I noticed that everything felt smoother, I felt calmer, and I mused to myself, and God, I guess, ‘I feel more in control, I can manage.’ A minute or so later, though, it occurred to me that I wasn’t, in any way, in control, I didn’t have anything in hand by myself, on my own, no matter how hard I tried. More truly, I was under control. When I stopped, for a moment, in my rising panic, and asked God to take the lead, I surrendered my feeble attempts at being in control.

The rest of the preparations, while still busy and a bit crazy, seemed to shrink into proper proportion. Not everything got done perfectly, but it didn’t matter: there was much turkey and wine and laughter and true joy.

Thanksgiving was awesome.

Funny Things Said By My Husband

Me: This Australian processed cheese in our Thanksgiving celery sticks is pretty good, almost tastes just like Easy Cheese. (This isn’t exactly what I said, more like the gist of the comment, with extra details to put it in context.)

HL, taking a big bite: Yeah, pretty close.

HL, 2 seconds later as he pulls a cat hair out of his mouth: Only with more hair…

Funny Things Said By My Husband

HL, wandering into the computer room with a breakfast sandwich he picked up while out this morning: Mmmm, this sandwich is really good…fresh-made, sausage egg muffin…yum!

Me: Harumph. I had a bowl of Weet-Bix, and you bring your yummy, hot breakfast sandwich in here and make the room smell tasty.

HL, snickering: Oops, sorry. *grin*

Me: Out. Get out. You and your yummy sandwich, get out.

HL (and his sandwich) shamefacedly slink out.

2 minutes later…

HL, plaintively: I’m lonely in my banishment.

Me: Oh fine. Bring you and your sandwich back in.

HL: *grin*

‘I love the nightlife’ – not so much these days, actually

Our Saturday night consisted of Chinese food and Fiddler on the Roof…and I enjoyed it so much more than our staff Christmas party last night (think alcohol, screeching laughter and much estrogen).

Thanksgivy-whaty-hooey?

It feels a little odd to be ordering our 10kg (22 pounds) turkey, stocking up on cranberry sauce, planning pecan pie and green bean casserole, pulling out the harvesty decorations, and investigating new stuffing recipes. We celebrate Thanksgiving every year here in Oz, just like we did in America – except we celebrate on the Saturday after the real Thanksgiving, and we host it, rather than HL’s grandparents. It’s such a lovely connection to our American life, and my parents adore it, but we feel a bit alone.

Usually everybody around is preparing for the same holiday at the same time: hence the million turkeys at Safeway (29c/pound, rather than $7-8/kilo), pumpkin pie recipes in every magazine, the line at the grocery store, the Norman Rockwell-like depictions of family dinners on every tv channel. But, here, Thanksgiving is a novelty. A holiday that very few Australians can grasp (“Well…you have turkey, and gravy, and stuffing, and pie, and…you have the whole family around…and…then you watch sport on tv…and…umm…most people have the Friday off as well…and there’s lots of history about American Indians sharing meals with the new settlers, and things like that…and, that’s Thanksgiving…”).

So, we love the whole hoopla of it – celebrating American culture and history and HL’s background and childhood memories, and etc. – but, we feel a bit far from home.

Christmas – bah humbug?

Christmas is coming.

Around this time last year I didn’t really want Christmas to come. Christmas has always been my favourite time of the year; the high point of the year’s arc. But, at this time last year, my life felt a bit crappy, and Christmas – the hoopla of it all – seemed so overwhelming.

I’d been working for the previous 3 years at a local software company, and, I say this with no exaggeration, it was the most demoralising, draining, hurtful, undermining, confidence-stealing, soul-destroying employment I have ever had. At the end of the 3 years I didn’t feel like myself; I wasn’t even sure of what my skills and gifts and abilities were anymore. My manager would tell me I ‘wasn’t as talented as I thought I was’, blame me for mistakes he made, set up staff against each other, play favourites, treat many hard-working, honest, loyal, clever, mature, wise, trustworthy, responsible, long-term employees as naughty, deceitful children – worst job I’d ever had.

I lost myself. Depression was always lurking, and frequently close to the surface. The problem was that I was so beaten down that I couldn’t see a way out, couldn’t believe that I would be able to find another job because, apparently, my skill set was so low (read: under-appreciated) that I should just be grateful to have a job.

Inertia was my enemy. I couldn’t muster enthusiasm for anything, particularly not finding a new job, and, Christmas? Who could be bothered to prepare anything? It was just all too much work. So, I didn’t. I just sat at my desk every day, sinking, and came home at the end of each day and sank into both my couch, and a depressive coma. I couldn’t be bothered to prepare meals, let alone write the annual Caradoc Christmas letter. Any Christmas planning was forced and joyless.

This from a freak who so completely ‘discovered’ her childlike Christmas glee while living in beautiful and Christmas-crazy Seattle, that she shipped back to Australia 4 huge boxes of affectionately-named ‘Christmas crap’, can’t walk past a store with ‘Christmas crap’ in the window without pressing her nose up to the window and sighing wistfully that she can’t own it all, and who normally begins planning ‘Christmas crap’ decorating sometime in October. So, I was dreading Christmas.

And then, a miracle. I was fired. There was a ‘restructuring of the business’ and almost my entire department (a dozen or so) were, ‘regrettably’, no longer required. It was a shock…but it wasn’t. It was scary…but it wasn’t. It was a ‘sucker punch’ to the gut…but it wasn’t. It was a relief…yep, pure relief. My situation had been changed for me, when I no longer had the capacity to change it for myself.

And, at that point, HL didn’t have a job either. So, there we were, heading to Christmas, neither of us working, and I was just so grateful. Christmas was a bit lean last year, but so much more joyful than I had expected it to be.

Both of us, also miraculously, ended up falling into work that is right and appropriate for each of us at this present moment (HL driving cabs, and me working at a school, which I love) and I’m planning for Christmas, joyfully.

American Things That I Miss #5

Mexican food

I love bean burritos. We have them as a quick meal 2 or 3 times a week, on average. A simple smear of refried beans, some melted cheese, diced onions, and burrito sauce on a flour tortilla, microwaved for a minute – delicious. I’d never had a bean burrito till I went to the States.

Mexican’s not so big here. It’s more of an exotic, ethnic, special occasion kinda food. There aren’t many  Mexican restaurants to choose from – even in the big cities – let alone Mexican fast food.

I miss Taco Bell. HL and I were reminiscing today about 69 cent bean burritos, soft tacos, gorditas, grilled stuft burritos, taquitos, quesadillas, (which my dad pronounced kwesa dillaz – we still tease him about that)…even mexenuggets.

I miss having a Mexican restaurant on every corner and choosing the best one to pop in to for a cheap Sunday lunch, family dinners at Azteca (the fajitas are the best – I can hear the sizzle of the plate coming out from the kitchen), staff lunches at the local family-run Mexican place, with the best salsa verde, churros at the annual fair…

Crap…now I’m hungry, and there’s no place to go to feed my Mexican appetite.

Broken in The Fall

I read this post from Stacy from Louisville recently, and I’ve been pondering on it since. I am in complete agreement that men have been given a raw deal, portrayed almost mercilessly as ignorant, bumbling, easily led, foolish buffoons.  We have a car dealership in our local area who ran a tv ad claiming that they would accept anything as a trade-in, and the final scene was a waiting room of sad, dejected, hung-head, rejected little men with signs around their necks, indicating that they’d been traded-in, and a cut to a grinning, in-control, gloating, little old lady, driving off in a cute red car. (Needless to say, I won’t ever buy a car from these people.)

And women are depicted as scheming, manipulating, in control, crafty organizers, who bamboozle with clever words, and lead and fool their husbands into doing what the women wish.

And they are both stereotypes. And I hate them.

But…something within me says that there is some amount of truth in these clichéd representations.

I can’t help but see something of Adam and Eve, of the first male/female relationship, the first marriage, the first sinful act, in the essence of these stereotypes. Both Adam and Eve failed to treat each other the way that was intended, and in so doing, undermined the structure of the balance that God created. Not that God created Eve to be a doormat, and Adam to throw his weight around, but there was an original equilibrium. But, things changed, and Eve wheedled and Adam caved.

I wonder, sometimes, how that happened. How Eve thought it would be a good idea to manipulate how things had always, for eternity, been, and jump into control, by causing Adam to question truth, history, himself, and their God. And how Adam shrugged off everything he had ever known to be reality, laid down meekly, and said ‘Yes, dear.’…

Something broke then. It wasn’t just the gut-wrenching, torn-asunderness that then characterised our relationship with God, it was our relationship with each other, particularly our partnership relationship. Something that had previously worked, fit together, and made stronger, ripped apart. And then riocheted through all of history.

My feeling, my gut feeling, is that it is these 2 things, these first sinful actions, that generally characterise broken male/female relationships now: male weakness and female manipulation.

Funny Things Said By My Husband

Poem by HL 

My toys don’t sleep at night
They give me such a fright
Maybe they’re not really moving
Maybe it’s just a trick of the light

My toys don’t sleep at night
And neither do I

Funny Things Said By My Husband

Me, to Other Kitten as she’s sniffing around the front tyre on our car: Hey, what you doin’? What can you smell on our car?

HL: She’s got on her ‘vestigatin’ nose…

American Things That I Miss #4

Reasonably Priced Cell Phone Plans

Our phone plan in the States gave us 2 free phones, regular upgrades, so many minutes they were basically unlimited, and free ‘family’ talk – HL and I could talk to each other for free and not use any minutes – for $70/month (altogether, not each). We used them almost continually: ‘Hey? I’m at the grocery store…Did you say we needed peanut butter?’; ‘Yep, stuck in traffic again. I’ll be a bit late, k?’; ‘Seriously dude, no…no, I do NOT want to watch Bruce Lee: A Warrior’s Journey’; ‘Hey babe. So…how’s it going? Good, k, bye then.’

We were terribly disappointed when we checked out what was available here. I kept thinking that we’d missed something, that we’d asked the wrong questions and hadn’t been offered the full extent of all the phone plans…Nope…what you see is what you get. So we didn’t get a cell phone till about a year ago.

HL was going into withdrawals a little, and he needed one for his job – cab driver – so we bit the bullet and bought him a phone. At first we went with pre-paid, which is VERY common here, but that was ridiculously, prohibitively expensive, so we got the best plan we could find. $50/month, no free phones, no upgrades, some minutes, but not a lot, free 5 minute phone calls to a couple of designated numbers, and no internet.

I’m so pissed off at the difference in value for money between here and the US that I haven’t been able to bring myself to pay for a mobile here. One day, maybe, that’ll change, but, for now, I’ll just stay grumpy about it.

Commerce just seems easier in America…And we’re lazy here. We don’t seem to care enough to demand change.

Are you kidding me? You’re playing it again?

Just heard “Chasing Cars”, by Snow Patrol, on tv. About eighteen months ago HL and I lay in bed till about 4 in the morning, listening to our neighbour playing it over and over and over and over and over again as she had a drunken ‘girls night in’. Seriously, we must have heard it about 200 times. In the end I had to throw on some shoes and stumble, bleary-eyed, next door and ask them to turn it down. Ruined a great (albeit, cheesy) song. (Ruined it more for HL than me – I still listen to it, secretly, sometimes, when he isn’t around.)

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