Reading Challenge

I love reading.
It makes me happy.
There’s nothing like getting completely consumed and lost in a good book.
But sometimes life gets in the way and the reading can slip by the wayside.

To make reading and the joy it brings a priority in my life I set myself challenges.

The first is on GoodReads. I set myself a challenge to read x amount of books a year.
Living overseas and travelling and commuting so much, I was easily reading 25+ books a year.
This dipped significantly, so I decided half that amount would be good.
12 books a year, one a month. That’s my goal.

Then I discovered that my local Library also has a reading challenge. 
Whilst the name they chose has more a Mills & Boone connotation to it, (Adult Reading Challenge…?!?)  I like the idea of a Residents Reading Challenge.

So, follow along as I stretch my reading horizons and leap out of my comfort zone (from the comfort of my sofa/bed/back deck).

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It’s time you loved yourself a little more

There’s many, many benefits to living on your own. The mess is all yours and you can clean it when you want.  No one bothers you when you’re relaxing or doing something that requires undivided attention. Music – whatever you want, as loud as you want. No one eats your food without telling you, unless you count the dog getting into the rubbish as such. The list goes on. But the most important of all.
You can be naked.

As-naked-as-you-like.

You see, it’s recently come to my attention that there are people in this world who are so… I’m unsure which word is the most appropriate… uncomfortable/dissatisfied/disappointed/prudish/ shy/non-confident… which ever it is, they feel this about their own bodies so much so that they cannot bear to be naked for longer than necessary. Undress, in and out of the shower, dress again. That’s it. That’s the only time their body is allowed to breath and be free. There are people so uncomfortable with their own nudity, that they run for cover (literally) at every chance, regardless if someone else is around or not. There are people who cannot be along with their own bodies.
And this saddens me to the nth degree.
I find it so profound that you wouldn’t like your body…  because, well… I love my body, and I think everyone else damn well should as well.

“That’s easy for you to say, you’re a thin little thing!” some of you are thinking.
I’ve heard it all…
“You’re a rake!”
“There’s nothing to you!”
Fuck off. I’ve heard that, and many other things similar to it before. But I don’t love my body because it’s ‘petite’. Like yours does, my body flucates. And let me tell you…  I have been heavier and felt the same about my body as I did when it was 10kgs lighter. I still loved it, regardless of it’s shape. I don’t love my body because of the genetics Ive been given or that my body type may be percieved as small. I love it, because it’s mine.

Advertising, popular culture, and nowadays, the rise of social media have all feed thoughts and ideals in to my head of what beauty is.
Well, what their idea of beauty is.
And you know what… there is one group, and one group only who are largely represented…
Young, thin, tall, beautiful people. Not to forget that most of them are white. That’s important as well.

Do you feel represented with this group?
I know I certainly don’t, and I bet you don’t either. It is an unattainable standard.
And the truth is, no one lives like that. Not even the models themselves think they can live up to their screen shots.

I don’t feel thin or petite. I don’t identify as thin or skinny, I don’t think about the shape of my body being more desirable than others. I just feel like myself. Because it’s all I know. It’s my body, and it’s the only one I’ve got. And I think I would regardless of my height, shape or size. You see, I love my body because even though it beats up on me all the time (see my previous posts about my journey with Crohn’s Disease) it’s bloody amazing. Your body (yes, you!)… IT’S AMAZING.

IT KEEPS YOU ALIVE!

I mean…. we’ve got thumbs for crying out loud!!! How amazing is that?!

However, in this media saturated world we live in, I have had to work very hard at loving my body. I’ll be the first to admit that I can pick flaws in my body… my immune system for one. I found my strength in the thing that I felt the most ashamed of the most; nudity. As soon as I started spending more time with my body, I became more comfortable with it.

Advertising and social media is doing it’s damn well best to ensure that none of us feel as if we are normal by their standards. That we don’t live up to hteir expectations but…. if we buy the product… we might be like them! The people they choose to represent their brands all seem to have similar body types which they want us to aspire to look and be like. But in reality we know that they are not representative of our everyday lives and interactions with others. Yes, they have beautiful bodies, but they’re not the only ones with beautiful bodies. People with curves, people without curves, people with big asses or no asses, or huge breasts or big thighs, or little legs and a big body or the exact opposite or a mixture of all of it… small shoulders, big shoulders, big feet, small hands, as thin as a rail…. every little everything. Legs that don’t function, a twisted spine, un-seeing eyes, ears that wouldn’t, couldn’t work or stopped working, colestomy bag…
Diversity is strength, and YOUR diversity is strength.
WHATEVER body you have… all of it is worth celebrating.

So, disregard the advertising, I say. Beacause the beauty you need to see in the world is all around you, in your daily life.
It’s in the generosity of your colleagues, in the laughter of your friends, in the compliments you give and recieve. The love you get from your family. The genuine interactions you have on a daily basis that make your heart shine. That is where the beauty and the love is… In the people that you build you up, and in turn, build you up as well.

But the truth of the matter is, it doesn’t matter how much anyone else loves your body, it won’t count if you don’t love it. And you should. It keeps you alive. It allows you to do all the things you do. It is bloody amazing. Wrinkles, smile lines, grey hair… whatever.
Love it, because it is you.

So take a leaf out of my book; have a gin and kick everyone out of the house. *Turn the lights out, take your kit off and turn the music up. Have yourself a little dance party and enjoy being with your body and in your body. ‘Cause it’s the only one you’re gonna get and you may as well enjoy it while you can.

*Shutting the curtains are optional. Depends how dark it is or confident you are.

“One plastic bag won’t make a difference” say 4.5 million people

It’s come around again, that time of the year when people start thinking about the changes they want to make to become a better version of themselves. We’re busy people with busy lives and as a sort of default due to the time we have off over Christmas, we tend to reflect on our year and start thinking about the changes we want to make to improve aspects or areas of our lives. We’ve all fallen into that trap, haven’t we?
We’ve set our ‘New Years Resolutions’ only to let them fall by the way side a few months or even a few days into the year. And they’re always quite self serving, aren’t they, these ‘Resolutions’… Lose weight, exercise more, read more, save more money… Always quite me, me, me.

“I’m going to exercise more;” check. I’ve done that one. “I’m going to eat healthy;” check, done that one too. Some have stuck, some haven’t.Once, I decided I was eating too much KFC so resolved to quit for a year. About 20 days later I was at a KFC in Brisbane devouring my Wicked Wings. Fail. Another year I has decided I was reading too many news items on the Kardashians and resolved to not click on a single news article about them. Oddly enough I was successful at this one. Will power – go figure.

But this year I started my ‘resolution’ early. Why? Because it isn’t a resolution for me, and it’s something that’s so important it cannot wait another day. It’s that being busy and our need for convience that’s got us in this mess to begin with. It’s also something I emplore you to educate yourself on, think about, and take action over. Because each person who takes action, together, will make a difference for our earth and our future generations. So, what am I talking about?

Plastic.

It’s everywhere. It has become such a prominent material in our lives we don’t even realise we are buying it.
Out in town on a hot day and thirsty? Buy a water. Plastic bottle.
Go out for a drink in town? Plastic straw.
A bag of carrots. Plastic bag.
Order something online. Plastic courier bag.
A take away coffee? Yep – plastic. “But it’s a paper cup!” I hear you say. The exterior of it, yes. The lining on the inside of the cup – plastic. Even many of the compostable cups are only compostable on an industrial scale, not the home composts we have sitting in the back yard, and not all refuse stations have industrial composts, so if you live semi-rural like me they go straight to landfill.

We can’t escape the stuff.

Or can we?

Last year I started to educate myself on the amount of plastic we are using and it’s effects on our health an environment. And the effects are astounding.

Obviously there’s the fact that a large percentage of our landfill waste ends up in the ocean. You’ve heard about ‘garbage island’, the gyre of rubbish in the South Pacific. Did you know there are actually at least four other gyres of an equal scale?

gyres

Being in New Zealand means we have a gyre to the north and one to north-east. Think about that… That much of the ocean surrounding us is filled with plastic. Plastic that our sealife and kaimoana are eating, and we in turn, are eating them. But how does that work? How are they eating plastic?
Have you ever seen a plastic bag break down? It doesn’t acutally degrade, it simply breaks down into smaller pieces, called micro plastics. These microplastics more often than not end up in the ocean where sea creatures think it’s food. The thought of filter feeders such as Whales, Whale Sharks and Basking Sharks consuming these micro plastics is heart breaking. Such beautiful, majestic, entrancing creatures and our consumer culture is literally killing them. If you watch any documentary this year, let it be ‘A Plastic Ocean’. Put your phone down and really watch it and think about the implications of the way we consume and how it impacts on our earth, the ocean, animals and your family and friends.

Plastic also contains harmful chemicals. Now days we see items being labelled “BPA Free”, as if that makes it o.k… It’s still plastic. And if BPA is harmful and we didn’t orginally know about it, what else is in our plastic that is harming us that we don’t know about? BPA and other chemicals in plastic have been proven to have signifcant health effects. Fertility issues in women, heart disease, breast cancer, prostate cancer, erectile dysfunction, puberty problems, fetal brain development. These are all serious issues, but as we heat our leftovers up in the microwave in a plastic container, we don’t think about the chemicals leeching into our food and affecting our reprodcutive organs, do we? I know I didn’t.

On top of this, another problem with the plastic we are handling on a daily basis is that only a small percentage is truely recyclable. Recycle.co.nz states that it is most likely that only 50% of what we think is being recycled is actually recycled properly. So in actual fact, as we put our recyclables in our bins, put them out each week and feel good about doing our part the save the planet, half of what we’ve put out will still end up in landfill. And often, the energy used to recycle these plastics for the end product is not worth it. In truth, hard plastic can only be recycled five to seven times before it loses its’ molecular properties and is rendered useless.

These are not all the reasons why plastic is bad for us, but three very, very good reasons.

So, what can we do to quit plastic?

In short, it’s near impossible to live a plastic free life.
But there are steps we can take to reduce the amount of plastics we use.

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Think about the three ‘R’s’.
Reduce
Reuse
Recycle

We’ve heard it time and time again, but do we actually follow it? The three R’s are listed in order of importance – step one is to reduce your plastic consumption. This is where you can make the most difference. I’ve heard it being called “precycling” recently – the simple fact of not buying items that are packaged in plastic. Resfusing plastic, leaving it behind in the store, finding alternatives in alternative packaging such as glass and cardboard, shopping somewhere different and asking for non packaged alternatives are all options you can take to reduce your plastic useage.

Failing the refusal of plastic, because as I mentioned, it’s near impossible to live without it, Reuse. Reuse the plastics you have bought home. In fact, resuse everything. Reuse plastic, reuse glass, reuse paper. Reuse as much as you can before the last step.
Recycling. This should be your last step, not your first. We’ve become trapped in the mindset that if we recycle, we’re doing something good.

Go-Plastic-Free-Find-your-Strength-Learning-Fundamentals

This mind map is fantastic at making me think more critically about my consuming, along with this room-by-room guide to reducing your waste. Through concsiously thinking about what I’m consuming and how I’m using products, I reduced my waste last year. Some of the steps I took in 2017 include;

  • Reusable shopping bags and produce bags (I now no longer need to buy bags of potatoes as I use a mesh bag at the shop and home to keep them in.)
  • Buying food in glass containers instead of plastics – e.g. olives, peanut butter, jam etc
  • Purchasing tinned food instead of plastic packaged to reduce waste – corn, beans, peas etc.
  • Composting – everything that can go in the compost,  does! Coffee grinds, food waste, paper waste, vaccum cleaner bag contents, paper towels
  • Bamboo toothbrushes with compostable handles; the average person will use around 350 toothbrushes in their lifetime. 350 toothbrushes that will endup in landfill.
  • Menstrual cup – a life saver, ladies!!
  • I have begun to store my food items in glass jars and use reusable produce bags to get my bulk buy items in, I simply write the number down and tell the check out lady at the counter – no problem
  • A Keep Cup – reusable coffee mug which I now take everywhere. I love it.
  • Concious consuming – attempting to buy all natural products, including and especially clothing! Each time you wash your arcylic clothing you are depositing microplastics directly into the waster system!

And I still have a long, long way to go, but every little helps. Collecting or going through your rubbish is a great way to see where you need to start reducing your waste. I know personally most of my soft plastic waste is from cracker and bread packaging. When it comes to shopping, in the grand scheme of things, my personal feeling is that if something is going to cost me a little bit more, be of a higher quality and be better for me and the environment, it’s a no brainer – save a few dollars, or save the planet? I’ll pick the planet every time.

Steps I’m going to take this year are simply building upon last years efforts. I won’t be doing all at once. I want to create a sustainable lifestyle for myself, so I am taking this journey one step at a time, with the aim of creating long term change. This year I aim to;

  • Create beeswax wraps as alternative to plastic food wrap
  • Switch my appliances off at the wall when I’m not using them
  • Ditch the papertowels and use rags and washable cloths
  • Crochet myself reusable, washable cotton face wipes
  • When I run out of toothpaste I’m going to try making a toothpowder
  • Start talking to businesses about plastic free options – the more we ask, the more we will be heard and change can and will happen
  • Start cooking and baking from scratch – something I’m not good at, and will be my hardest change. I aim on making my bread and crackers when they are needed to reduce the waste I was producing. The other positive to this is that I will know exactly what is going into the food I am eating, benefiting not only the environment, but myself
  • Saving vegetable scraps to make my own soup stock, avoiding tetra packs
  • Pick up rubbish in my environment, e.g. when out walking the dog. Setting an example to others can help induce change and is another way to get people thinking about the amount of rubbish around
  • Replace my cleaning products with natural options as they run out
  • Use natural beauty products; I have already bought a moisturising body bar, which came in cardboard, and Rosehip Oil which came with a dropper in a glass bottle

There’s so many things I want to say and share on this topic, with so little time.
Please know that any little step you take to reduce your plastic waste will benefit your health and the planet. So what steps will you take to reduce your waste this year? Something as simple as reusing a container, shifting from plastic to glass contained peanut butter, using reusable shopping bags and always carrying a reusable water bottle…

If each person takes a little step, lots of little steps together make a big difference. So lets do this together, and let’s do it now.

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It’s time to behave like the (inner) 10 year-old that you really are.

Growing up.
It’s hard to do. Some days I just don’t want to ‘adult’.
I often catch myself thinking the most peculiar things. For example, today as I picked up my recycling boxes from the kerb  (an entire day late, heh) I thought to myself ‘Look at me, I’m such an adult. Doing adult things and stuff!’ Or ‘How did ‘they’ let me get this far? Surely adults don’t behave like this?!’, ‘WHO LET ME GROW UP?!?’ or ‘Oh my gosh, I’m such an adult right now!’ Which, the fact that I had to think that indicates, perhaps that I often don’t feel like an adult. I sometimes think that I should be awarded my next birthday once I’ve reached certain maturity achievements and have been able to maintain a facade of adulthood for an entire year, not unlike a video game. You level up when you attain certain achievements, but until then, no gifts, no dress-up parties, no new shoes…! I mean, I do adult… I have a job. I can drive. My pets haven’t died through a lack of dehydration. But I still don’t feel 100% like an adult. And there’s nothing more that makes me feel less like an adult than experiencing joy.

Joy.

You know the word. You know what it means. Or at least you think you know. It’s often paired with the word happiness. A variant of happiness, it does however differ from that definition. So just to make sure we’re on the same page;


Joy
Noun
1. the
emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation.
2. a source or cause of keen pleasure or delight; something or someone greatly valued or appreciated.
3. the expression or display of glad feeling. 

Got it? Good. I bet you can see where this is going.

There’s two key phrases/concepts I want to focus on in the above definition, those being “great delight” and “the expression or display of glad feeling”. You see, the thing about being an adult is that you often find yourself trying to be ‘mature’ or behaving in a manner you think to be acceptable, by society, at least. We experience things we greatly enjoy, something we get great delight from… and ‘we’ reserve our reactions even though our inner child may be jumping for joy. Now, I say ‘we’, because those of you who know me well will know that I experience joy all the time. Almost on a daily basis. I mean, I don’t keep a tally or anything, but I know it’s often. I know this because of my reactions or ‘expressions or display’ to things and in turn, people’s reactions to me.

You see, the thing about growing up, is that most of us just don’t want to do it. I was speaking to a homeless man in Wellington this past weekend and our conversation briefly touched on this topic.
“I’m 60, but I still feel like a 10 year old boy most of the time!” he said as we fed fish together at the Waterfront with bread he’d got from a soup kitchen.
Hear hear, friend, I still feel like a 10 year old boy a lot of the time too. (Minus the physiological differences that come with that, of course.) If you knew me at 10, you knew I did all my shopping at Hallenstein’s men clothing store, spent most of my time playing outside with boys in the mud and was generally a pretty rough definition of a young girl, much to my Mother’s upset. Then my boobs sprouted out the front of my chest and that changed things a bit. I think I was more interested in the boys than being one. But by-and-by, I have maintained my ability to react/express/display my joy to things I like with absolutely no reserve.

And that is because I don’t care what anyone thinks about my reactions. I have every right to behave in any way I see fit when I see or experience something I enjoy. For example…

Walking and talking around Blackford Pond in Edinburgh with a friend, I noticed a Swan and some Cygnets (baby Swans) in the pond. And well. I just ran off. Sprinted. Straight towards them. I think I even screamed “OH MY GOD, BABY CYGNETS!” [confirmed: I didn’t say a single thing.] and once arrived, I starting doing my happy dance/jump/foot shuffle thing… (which, if you didn’t understand the context you’d probably look at me and think, “Gosh, that woman looks like she needs the toilet, stat!”). The other adults around the pond were all wondering what was so exciting, looking on somewhat perplexed and my lovely friend Barnet was left in the dust laughing at the child/adult hybrid she’d bought to the pond that day.
I love a Swan. I love a Cygnet. I mean, I really love ’em. I’ll sit and watch them for hours and I’ll give off a full belly chuckle when the male Swan puff their wings up and speed towards other Swans in the water like a man on a mission. They are magical, amongst other things. What’s not to love!

Then there was the time someone bought me a Shark cookie cutter… Well…
I don’t even bake (yet, I will now!) and I did the whole dance/jump/foot shuffle thing in the street. The thing about the shuffle is that it’s teamed with silence, because my brain is too overloaded to string together a coherent sentence. I’m almost too excited to function. So the dance is what eventuates. That, or I talk through my thoughts very slowly, usually in a high-pitched voice: “This is so exciting.” “I love [insert noun here].” “This is so much [adjective].”

Then there’s every time I’ve ever seen a Highland Cow. (THEY’RE JUST. SO. CUTE.)
And every time I’ve pretended to be a tree/bush/shrub in a park/bush/woodland (yes, I can create my own joy by behaving like a child).
And the time I crocheted a hood and found it so hilarious that every time I put it on that I would fall into hysterics no matter where I was… home, pub, car.
Music is another good one. If I hear a song I enjoy, these hips/shoulders, well. They’re not stopping for anyone, anywhere. A friend got a full (albeit somewhat restricted due to the checkout space) dance and lip synch to ‘Grease is the Word’ whilst the checkout lady scanned items, slightly scared and confused. I even today danced in my seat at a cafe in between drinking my latte and eating my salad. My Mum; well, she didn’t bat an eyelid. She’s used to me doing me.

You see, I react the way I do because I enjoy doing it. I almost get more joy out of letting go of this adult facade and actually behaving the way I want to.
And you know what? The people I’m with… They enjoy watching me do it. It makes them laugh and smile. I may slightly embarrass them. But they’re not the one rolling around on the supermarket floor giggling and shouting out ridiculous things. That’s me. And I don’t care. It makes everyone around me feel good and those who don’t know me, don’t know or understand what’s going on or think that I may be slightly bonkers… Well. I won’t lie, I am bonkers. But I don’t care about what you think about me, and you need to lighten up.

So, how often do you experience joy? Or rather, how often do you allow yourself to experience joy? Do you let your inhibitions hold you back because you’re too worried what people will think? Perhaps you adult just far too much in your life. I hope not. Because it’s tiring. And everyone has an inner 10 year-old dying to get out, jump around, dance or giggle. If we all just let go of the adulting a little every now and then, maybe the world will become a slightly happier place. So join me. Get out and allow yourself to enjoy the little things exactly the way you want to. Like they say; “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.”

And I’ll tell you what. It feels damn good to let that 10 year-old out for a dance from time to time.