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How more technology means less technology

28 Aug

A couple of days ago I got my first android smartphone. It’s low end, but I love it! I have had my piece of crap cellphone for several years – it’s so crap it even freezes when I text. And that’s all I do – text, use the alarm, and receive calls. I didn’t even make calls because it was too pricey. Not anymore. I scorn gadgetry… but now I am rather chuffed with my smartphone.

Here’s why I think it’s good for me and my son:

I spent too much time on the computer. I know this, yet I feel helpless to resist. As a single Mum, the computer is often my only contact with the “outside world”. When you live alone with a toddler who goes to sleep about 7pm every night, it can get pretty lonely. And even throughout the day I find myself checking emails a lot, even when he’s awake, because frankly, his conversational skills aren’t up to much. No matter how much you love someone it can be exhausting being with them all the time. And a 17 month old is very demanding of attention!

I feel pretty guilty about this. I feel guilty because my son deserves my attention and he is learning that the computer is pretty important to me. I feel guilty because sometimes I sit him on my lap and let him watch Sesame St songs on one half of the screen while I do things on the other half. I never wanted to plonk him in front of a screen. I feel guilty because it does stave off my boredom, and if I didn’t have that, I’d probably think of more creative things to do that would be better for the both of us.

So here’s how my new phone helps with all that. I have synced my Gmail and Facebook accounts to my phone. This means that I get a bleep every time I get an email, as well as texts. I don’t even have to read the emails, but I can see who it’s from and what it’s about, and decide to ignore it or check it, without going back and forward to the computer. Yesterday I was having a conversation with my friend on Facebook and I decided to take the baby for a walk. I didn’t have to stop the conversation, I just took it with me! My son was perfectly happy walking along without my talking to him all the time – in fact I think he’d prefer if I left him to it! Both our needs were met.

My computer time has been drastically reduced. It’s much easier and more discreet to check my phone than to check my computer. And I’m not replacing computer screen time with phone screen time, I’m just not having as much screen time full stop. I find it easier to completely forget about it all until my phone bleeps, and even then I am able to ignore emails more than I would if I was on the computer.

And of course it has other cool features.

So that is my story of how my smartphone has helped with the thing I feel most guilty about – time on the computer.

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Dylan Moran on Consumerism

17 Aug

I love Dylan Moran. Because he’s funny, obviously.

Check out his bit about mornings too.

On having fun

16 Aug

Lately, I’ve been making the most of being young and single. For better or for worse, I’m stuck in this city for a while*. I’m choosing to look at it as ‘for better’.

Here’s how I see it, when I’m not feeling sorry for myself (I only rarely feel sorry for myself, I’m pretty happy). I have enough money to live, and even a bit leftover, if I live smartly. I have a few really good friends; the kind I can count on to commiserate with me, laugh with me, look after my son at the drop of a hat, turn a blind eye to mess or help with the housework, talk frankly, invite me round for dinner, just BE with. My friends are amazing. I have every Saturday night off, when my son stays with his father. This is probably the best thing about being a single mother (aside from, in my case, not being in a miserable marriage). Having that one night off – a whole 24 hours – helps me recharge my human batteries. I can relax for a little bit. I can have a nap (I don’t, but it helps to know I could). I can GO OUT DANCING all night with my friends. I can kiss a man if I want to. I can sit in a cafe and have a leisurely chai latte while I read a book. For 24 hours, I can do whatever I like, with no responsibility. (Aside from the normal responsibility of being a member of society, of course. Let’s be reasonable here.)

I am a devoted mother, and my son comes first in everything. But now that I am getting used to being single, I am rediscovering my own pleasures that I had forgotten. I am becoming more myself again. Sometimes, in a relationship, you get swallowed up in trying to please the other person. For me, there were things I stopped doing, over time, because it was too much effort, or my husband wasn’t interested. I gave up talking about things I cared about, because he seemed to see everything I said as a challenge in some way. Finding myself again is wonderful. I want to say that I will never again let myself be swallowed up in a needy version of love. Of course, I haven’t fallen in love again – yet – so I don’t know. But I hope I will be a bit more sensible about it next time around…

So I’m having fun. I’m learning to love myself. I’m feeling inspired to live a kick-ass life.

“This life is mine. I will live it with all I’ve got. I won’t take crap from anyone, won’t play small, or safe. I will admit that I’m a badass. I can break through after a break down. I can get up after I fall down on my face.” Andrea Owen

I met my husband when I was 19, and we were together for 5 years. That means I have spent approximately a 5th of my life with him. Wow. Now, I am ‘cutting loose’ and all that. I am flirting. It is fun! I spent some money on clothes the other day. I have hardly ever done this in my life. I shaved my legs. I smiled at myself in the mirror. I’ve read Succulent Wild Women (10 times), I know the deal. I am finally starting to live it, instead of read it.

“People with the creative spirit are obssessed with possibility.” Danielle La Porte

But sometimes this little voice crops up and says “This is frivolous. You’re an adult now. You should be saving your pennies and building an eco house.” Or some other sensible chatter.

For now, can I just ignore it? I can keep doing all the good eco things that are a natural part of my life now (recycling, free range, reducing rubbish, natural parenting, etc). I’m only 24. I’m allowed a bit of fun, right?

*I am working towards moving to a self sufficient lifestyle in Motueka with my son, but as it currently stands his father would fight me for him if I moved away. So I’m biding my time. 

Wallowing in self pity

5 Aug

Today I attended the second CYF workshop on Ways to Care, which is preparing people for becoming foster or adoptive parents. I’m not going to go into details about that, but I have been feeling rather bummed out ever since. Nothing to do with the workshop, even.

No, I’m feeling bummed out because most of the people in that room were extremely well dressed, in what appear to be solid relationships [I know it is not always clear from external appearances], with important jobs (judging from the amount of phone calls and txts that happened on expensive phones in the breaks). Although I am a fairly confident person and they were all nice, and I contributed plenty of valid ideas, I felt self conscious. Because I was there in my op shop clothes, on my own.

I know plenty of single mothers, and I think they’re great. But I don’t want any of their lifestyles. All the single mothers I know stress about money on a regular basis. I’m not someone who’s inclined to stress, and yet I began to really stress about money when I became a single mum. I think of all the people I know who have several beautiful children, big houses, loving husbands, plenty of money, etc. And I just feel really really bummed out.

I was raised by a single mother, and I have never known what it’s like to not worry about money, what it’s like not to feel like it’s a constant battle to ‘get by’, since I knew what money was.

I wanted a big family, and a loving husband, and a nice place to live. Well, I married a jerk (and subsequently left him after his behaviour became increasingly unacceptable), and have never lived in a place I really liked.  My pregnancy was so traumatic that I’m scared to go through it again, and given that I needed so many medical interventions (five anti nausea drugs, two heartburn drugs, various supplements, IV fluids, NG tube, a lot of monitoring and ultrasounds and tests, a cesarean section), I feel I would be unlikely to survive another pregnancy if I did not have access to all that free medical care. Which is entirely possible, given what is happening in the world.

I don’t want to be alone forever. I tell myself: I’m still young. I’m only 24. I have lots to bring to a relationship. But I don’t know how to meet people, how to date. I met my husband when I was 19. I was in the dating phase so briefly that I barely remember the rules. I miss having someone’s hand to hold. I hate doing the housework and I get really bored with the mundane things in life, because there’s no one to do it with. No one to have conversations with or laugh with. I spend too much time on the computer, hoping someone will talk to me on Facebook or Skype, reading chatty blogs – because I’m so lonely once my playgroups are over and my son is in bed and my friends are spending time with their ‘other half’.

I don’t want to get trapped into thinking a man will ‘save me’. I was raised by a feminist, after all. But I don’t think it’s their manliness that I perceive as the saviour. It’s having someone to share life with.

I read this blog post about a mum’s trip to Kenya. And I was struck mostly by the statement: Kenyan women are never lonely. For a moment, I actually felt envious of women whose children have aids, who have to get up at 4am to wait two hours in a line to get water, who live in utter poverty. I envied them their community. I can see how that makes their otherwise desperately difficult lives livable.

I’m trying to move back to my hometown, where I have more of a community, where life will be that little bit easier, but my son’s father will fight me. I can understand why. Believe me, the thought of separating my son from his father causes me endless anxiety and guilt. But I felt that way before I left the marriage, and I don’t regret that in the least. And in all honesty, I don’t trust my son’s feelings to be safe in his father’s hands when he is older. Mine never were. I don’t think he is a good role model. I want my baby to have a Dad who loves him, but actually: I don’t want him to be around all the time. That doesn’t change the fact that I could be facing a long custody battle if I try to move away.

I know that I should count my blessings. And believe me, I often do. I’m not depressed and I’m not angry, I’m just bummed. I know that many of those wealthy well-dressed happily-married course participants would give anything to have a beautiful little child like I do. That’s why they were there. I’m usually pretty positive.

But right now, I’m feeling crap, and I’m wallowing in it.

Macsyna King and free speech

30 Jun

Here in New Zealand, there has been a huge public outcry against the publication of a book. Macsyna King had two little twin boys who were murdered at the age of 3 months. Wikipedia has an explanation here. For an account, see: The Kahui Twins: Murder – and the cover-up. Both articles are horrifying reading. There are so many things wrong with this story. Obviously the main tragedy is that the twins were fatally abused in such an awful way. I was also concerned to read that CYF removed the twins’ 12 month old brother and 6 month old cousin, who were treated in hospital for ‘injuries resulting from neglect’ and malnourishment. That’s the good bit. The bad bit is that they were due to be returned to their parents a few months later. Those poor children. Thank goodness no one in the family would step up and be their caregiver.

Although I agree in theory that every effort should be made to support parents and kin so that children can stay with the birth family, I am horrified that these children were due to be returned. Back to a family responsible for injuries, neglect, malnourishment, filth, and two homicides. Sometimes the family they are born to is the worst place for children to be.

I was quick to join the Facebook page Boycott the Macsyna King book. I wasn’t the only one: within one day there were over 30,000 members. There are now over 42,000 and the number jumps if you refresh the page. Child abuse is clearly something the general public have no tolerance for.

It does lead me to wonder about the question of free speech and how that applies in a situation like this. No one has been convicted of the twins’ murder, but someone killed them. So their mother has teamed up with journalist Ian Wishart and written a ‘tell-all’ book.

Of course they’re allowed to write a book. And no one has to read it. Lots of people probably will, because the human race seems to be a sucker for schadenfreude. What else can explain horror movies and crime shows? Anyway, that’s a whole different topic. Free speech is a basic human right and we are all entitled to it. But I agree with the detractors: it just doesn’t feel right that she is trying to sell a book and profit from the death of her baby boys. If she wants ‘the truth to be known then they can make it available as a free e-book. And if she isn’t profiting from it, as Ian Wishart says, who is?

It brings to mind the case of the e-book sold on Amazon about how to be a paedophile. I don’t remember the exact details but the blurb was something about how to not get caught, and how to do it right. It was sickening. No one likes to be confronted with examples of child abuse and paedophilia, but I was disturbed by Amazon’s free speech stance on the book. Unlike the Macsyna King book, it wasn’t a ‘tell-all’, it was a ‘how-to’. Eventually after an intense amount of public protest, they removed the listing.

Here in New Zealand, Paper Plus and The Warehouse have already declared they won’t be stocking the book. I’m glad about that. Free speech means that they are free to write the book. They’re not being arrested or lynch mobbed for it (at least not physically, they’re almost being cyber-mobbed). But that doesn’t mean we have to accept it. It’s not even so much about the book itself. It’s about the public and the retailers making a statement that child abuse is not OK. Stonewalling police investigations into infant homicide is not OK. The lifestyle that these people led is really no way to live. Bring this to the forefront of people’s attention. Make it absolutely clear that the sort of behaviour the Kahui family and associates have displayed is not acceptable.  In the video I linked to above, author Ian Wishart asks ‘what went wrong here, and what can we learn from this?’ which I think are valid questions. Emotionally though, I just can’t deal with the book and the case.

Eventually, people will forget all about it. I wish I dared to hope that this sort of tragedy would never happen again. New Zealand has one of the highest child abuse rates in the developed world. I feel ashamed to say that. It makes me sick to my stomach just thinking about it. When I think of my precious little boy I can’t imagine how anyone could possibly abuse a child. Something has gone seriously wrong in this society and it hurts like heck.

Chaos

18 Jun

People were created to be loved.
Things were created to be used.
The reason the world is in chaos,
is because things are being loved,
and people are being used.

Good friends and books

18 Jun

Although I yearn for country village life, I do love my city. I especially love the way it glows at night, with all the lights reflected on the harbour. Wellington is a heck of a place.

Now that my son stays with his Dad overnight on Saturdays, I suddenly have time to myself. I had none of this for the first 14 months of his life, so I’ve been rather enjoying it for the last few weeks. The last two weeks I have been hanging out with my best friend all evening, and it’s been great. There’s nothing like spending time with someone whose company you really enjoy, someone who really ‘gets’ you. We don’t get drunk or anything, we just sit around and drink tea and chat, and eat food, and go for walks through the rainy nighttime city. We haven’t always lived in the same place over the last few years so it is really nice to be geographically close again.

The other thing I am feeling really good about today is a book project I am working on. It’s to do with babies and sleep and not letting them cry themselves to sleep, but that’s all I will say for now because I don’t want anyone to steal my idea!

Also; totally unrelated, but here is some frivolous fun: http://lab.andre-michelle.com/tonematrix

Single parenthood is fine and dandy

15 Jun

After my son was born my husband became verbally abusive towards me on an almost-daily basis. After much heartbreak and anguish I called it quits in April, when my son was 13 months old. I was really nervous about being a single mother, as I felt dependent on my husband for the things he did with parenting and around the house.

But I’ve been living by myself (with my son, of course) for almost a month now and I am loving it. I didn’t realise how heavy the burden of my miserable marriage was, and what a strain it was for me to function normally. (I did, but it was a lot of work!) So now that weight is off my shoulders, everything feels easier.

Yes, there are times when I wish there was someone else to take the rubbish out, do the dishes, play with the toddler, get him to sleep, pay the bills, work alongside, give me a cuddle at the end of the day, etc., but I am coping just fine. And I have more emotional and physical energy to put more time and effort into my son and everything else. So I am finding single parenting much more positive than I thought it would be. My son still gets to see his Dad a few times a week and that’s good. I never wanted to deprive him of his father, I just refused to model a dysfunctional relationship for him, and put myself through more misery for the sake of an ideal.*

Even better, I am feeling so empowered. I can do it all by myself.** It’s not that I don’t miss having a loving relationship, I do. But I definitely don’t miss having a crappy relationship. Being a single mum ain’t so bad after all.

*Yes, it is best for children to have both parents in a loving relationship. Oh, how I wanted that! 

*Fundamentally, I disagree with anyone doing anything all by themselves. Except maybe tying your shoelaces. But it feels good to know that I can. Hear me roar, and all that. 

I don’t have a television

14 Jun

It is awesome.

I’ve never been a big television watcher; in fact I don’t think I’ve personally owned a TV. But I can’t think of anywhere I have lived where there hasn’t been one. Oh, there was that hippy flat for 6 months which didn’t have a TV.

Photo from English Photography. I'd much rather stick my child on a couch in a field of sunflowers than in front of a TV. Wouldn't you?

This is the first time in my life I have deliberately had no TV. What’s the point? I am not interested in watching it, it would just take up space. It might possibly tempt me at some point in the future to stick my active, intelligent, creative child in front of it as a babysitter. Letting him grow up with TV as a big influence in his life is something I swore I’d never do. So far I haven’t. But who knows. Sometimes removing the temptation (I just need a few minutes to cook dinner…) is the most effective form of self control.

I must confess here that I do still watch Desperate Housewives online. (Why? I don’t know. I enjoy it. I’m hooked. But I’ve deliberately not got hooked on other programmes!) And I would be a much grumpier story if I had no computer.

That being said, I am definitely in an unusual situation here. I have only one friend I can think of who doesn’t have a television in her house. It was a deliberate choice for them too. In fact, I have been offered no less than 3 TV’s since moving here a few weeks ago. I’m amazed, although not surprised, that it is considered such an essential household item. I’m proud to not own a TV.

I wish I was a clean freak

13 Jun

I like places to be clean and tidy. That’s not the problem. I’m not one of those people who don’t notice or care about the mess. I do. It’s just that I often can’t be bothered dealing to it. Now that my boy is walking and exercising his will, he doesn’t put up with me doing much housework during the day. Or rather, he wants to be too involved, and that just makes it very time consuming and sometimes more messy. And then when he’s finally asleep I’d rather just chill out on the computer for a bit, or do some sewing. There’s a large pile of dishes looming in the kitchen, and I need to vacuum, and I need to put away all the toys, and I need to hang up nappies, and I got a chest of drawers for my bedroom yesterday so I can finally get my clothes off the floor… but I just don’t feel like it.

Sometimes the urge to clean and tidy hits me strong and I whip around and do it all super efficiently and am very satisfied with my domestication. Other times, blah. I wish I was a clean freak and then I’d be really motivated to have a super tidy house, instead of procrastinating while I blog…

(NB: I googled ‘messy house’ to find a picture to use in this post. Oh my goodness. My house seems spick and span compared to the pictures that came up! Wow! – if you are a clean freak, don’t google it.)

Cutting down on waste

10 Jun

Remember these guys?

When I first saw this segment on Campbell Live I remember being almost disbelieving. Only one plastic bag of rubbish? How is that possible? Do these people eat? But the more I thought about it, the more I realised that they were really on to something. Rubbish plays a huge part in our modern lifestyles. We are so used to being able to pick up a packet of anything, and then throw it away. You can buy apple slices in the supermarket, wrapped in plastic. You can buy individually wrapped slices of cheese and crackers, which are then packaged in a container. It’s quite absurd. It has got to the point where we don’t think things are safe unless they are triple wrapped. Last night I stopped by the Organic Gypsy wellness blog, written by one of my readers (hi!). Her top post was about how zero waste is hard. It is! But not impossible. I figure it’s like transitioning from a standard to a raw diet. It requires a radical change in thinking and habits, and may involve slipping back before the change is complete. So I’m going to start now.

According to rubbishfree.co.nz, there are now estimated to be 46,000 pieces of plastic in every square kilometre of every ocean in the world, and in the past 25 years in NZ, we’ve increased what we throw away by 73%. If we put our waste onto a rugby field we’d have a pile 30 stories high – every month!

I feel like I want to justify myself to Waveney and Matthew on the rubbishfree website. But you don’t have a baby. It’s harder with a baby. For example, although I have used cloth nappies with my son from birth, I have also put him in a disposable nappy overnight. They hold more moisture and pull the wetness away from him so he doesn’t wake up wet. I really like getting a good nights sleep and it sucks to be woken up and have to change his nappy (and his outfit) and get him back to sleep. But having said that, he occasionally wets through his disposable too, so I may as well at least give it a go with the cloth nappy overnight. I have enough inserts; I just hope it won’t be too uncomfortable for him with that much padding round his bum.

So this is my first thing to address. I am feeling myself really resistant to not putting him in a disposable overnight! It’s also winter, and I am occasionally using disposables during the day as well, as I just can’t seem to get the cloth nappies dry in time. It takes a good few days to dry them in this weather. I have one small rack in the hot water cupboard, and a larger rack in the hallway.

The next big thing to address is food waste. I am not particularly careful about the food packaging I buy. To give myself some credit, I do take my reusable shopping bags, and I buy my organic produce in a box, so there aren’t a zillion little plastic bags for each type of fruit. But I don’t think twice about buying a block of cheese, a packet of crackers, some ham in a bag from the deli, frozen peas and corn, snacks. So much plastic! This is going to be a BIG change to make! I’m rather nervous, if I’m totally honest with you.

Another big issue for me is that I don’t have a compost. I left my worm farm behind when my husband and I separated. I now live in the upstairs flat in a block of two. There is a small grassy section at the front which isn’t fenced and is right on the road. The small back section is almost unusable; it gets no sun and is very steep and borders on to bush. I don’t feel comfortable gardening out there with my son toddling around. So, thinking of solutions… I could ask my nice landlord if I can put a compost on the back section – there is a small area that looks reasonably flat, and it won’t be used for anything else. Although some of these changes are difficult, not having a compost goes against the grain. It’s something I have had everywhere I have lived, except for a few months in an apartment when I didn’t cook much anyway. I feel reluctant to ask anything of my landlord, given that I flooded the place the second night I was here, when the washing machine hose popped out of the sink. The floors are having to be relaid and it is a drama. They are very nice, but still…

This post is getting a bit long, so I’ll do another one on zero waste solutions shortly.

Blissfully ignorant

7 Jun

Sometimes I think it would be nice to not think so much.


Homeschooling / unschooling

3 Jun

It’s getting kinda late and I really should be in bed, because I have a toddler and I don’t get to sleep in on a Saturday morning. But a friend just posted this fascinating article on Facebook and I can’t stop thinking about it.

No Thank You, We Don’t Believe In Socialization! by Lisa Russell from The Mystical Kingdom

I have wavered between thinking that homeschooling or unschooling is the only way to go to truly help my son become the kind of adult he’d like to be (and help him create a better world), and thinking there is no way I could cope with homeschooling him, provide a rich enough education, and that after five years of full time parenting, won’t I deserve a break?

It’s interesting to note that the two opposing thoughts are: what is best for me, and what is best for him. If I am really honest with myself, I think that homeschooling him is the best thing for him. IF, and only if, I can remain motivated, dedicated, and have a spirit of joy and curiosity while helping him learn. But for me? Perhaps it’s because we are only just out of the very demanding baby phase and into the very demanding toddler phase, but part of me is really looking forward to him growing a bit older and being able to be away from me for periods of time. This subject is really far too big for this meagre blog post at 10.26pm, but Lisa’s article has really got me thinking again. I really want to read the rest of her blog posts but I really will go to bed after this post.

What she says about socialisation, the ‘real world’ and bullies makes so much sense that I wonder why I have any doubt. And I tell myself that although things can be pretty tiring now, he is only 15 months and likes to be carried. A lot. He can’t really talk. He can feed himself food that I give him but he makes one heck of a mess. He’s in nappies. By the age of three, these factors won’t apply. And I don’t even have to have a strict or structured curriculum; we can learn together. If we live in a village then he will learn incredibly valuable skills just by being part of village life and having the freedom to pursue the things he is interested in. So: pressure off, tiredness dismissed.

In the context of the looming energy crisis, we don’t even know what kind of schools will be available. So perhaps it is better for me to prepare myself for homeschooling than to keep wavering until the decision is made for me, either way.

So many more thoughts on this, but for now, bed…

Almost gone

31 May

Today I had a scare.

I was taking my son to the Salford St park in the buggy. I was walking along the top edge of the park which is almost completely fenced, when I heard and saw two cars screaming up the hill. I knew it wasn’t safe, and I panicked. In the split seconds before they reached us, I tried to find somewhere to go, but the only driveway we could get to was closer to the cars, and I was scared. I turned the pram around and pushed it as far from the road as it could go, and placed myself between the cars and my precious boy.

I didn’t know what was going to happen, but when there are a couple of idiots hooning about on the road, something was bound to. Sure enough, as they rounded the sharp corner, the red car in front lost control, skidded 360°, and came up on the pavement, at speed, a few metres in front of us. The black car behind swerved around and drove on the wrong side of the road. This all happened in a few seconds.

My heart was pounding and I swung the pram around and gesticulated wildly at the drivers, mouthing obscenities. They looked at me blankly and sped off in a squeal of rubber.

http://maps.google.co.nz/maps?q=30+salford+st+newlands&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=30+Salford+St,+Newlands+6037,+Wellington&gl=nz&ll=-41.226391,174.815412&spn=0.004172,0.010568&z=14&output=embed
View Larger Map
(You have to zoom in. See that sharp bend on Salford St above the A? Only idiots would try to speed round that.)

I continued on towards the park, shaking like crazy. As I turned the corner and entered the playground, I started sobbing. I was so frightened and so shocked at what a close miss we just had. If I had been a few metres closer to the corner (like if I had tried to make it to the ‘safety’ of the driveway before the cars came round the corner) then we would have been hit. It makes me shake just thinking about it. My beautiful baby boy vs. a couple of assholes behind the wheels of fast cars. I called *555 to report it, but I didn’t think to notice the number plates in the shock of the moment so there wasn’t much they could do.

We were almost gone.

I let the baby play on the playground for a while and then walked home. There were long streaky tyre marks on the road. Every time I heard a car accelerate or come past us, my heart pounded again and I instinctively tried to push the pram into a driveway or off the path in some way. I think my son picked up on my nerves, because he became very grizzly when we got home and bit me for the first time. He had a big cry while I tried to communicate that it is not OK to bite but that I still love him very much. I just wanted to cuddle him so hard.

It really makes me want to live in a place where there are no cars. And no anonymity.

An update and some thoughts on eating organically

29 May

My lovely toddler and I are now settled in to our new two bedroom flat. It is clean and tidy, well insulated, with a new kitchen and practical layout, and convenient to lots of things. The downsides are that it is an upstairs flat and there is not much of a garden to speak of. But, good-life-geek that I am becoming, I have already asked my landlord for permission to have herbs and vegies in pots on my porch, and will work on having a small vege garden in the grassy area downstairs once he forgets about the fact that I flooded the laundry and kitchen on my second night here.

My current challenge, as I mentioned before, is to figure out how to feed me and the baby on my limited grocery budget. I have made a step towards this (before the separation, in fact) by buying organic vege boxes. I would really like to buy all organic food, but I just don’t think I can afford that. If I buy healthy food like grains, and bake my own bread, I can probably eat fairly healthily on a budget. But the more I learn the more I don’t want to compromise. I want to eat all organic, and morally, shouldn’t I be able to?

However, my government, who pays my bills, doesn’t really care about eating organically. If all I can afford is white bread, they think we’re still being fed. Alas and alack and all that. I will find a way!

Here are some tips I have learned already in this new journey.

  • Johnsonville Salvation Army have a 2 course meal for $2 every Wednesday night at 6pm. Now it appears I’m not that committed to organic, because I’m quite happy to go along and eat their beef casserole with peas and potatoes, with custard and pear for dessert. Because I don’t have to cook. And it’s $2. And I don’t even have to clean up afterwards. If you’re not local to me, chances are your local church or community centre has something similiar. It’s not full of seedy characters; being a church there was quite a family atmosphere, and I was happy to sit through 2 minutes of preaching between courses in order to get all the benefits I mentioned above.
  • Invite friends round for dinner. You can make a meal for 2 or 3 almost as cheaply as for 1 – especially if it’s a stew or such like. Just add a bit more split peas or potatoes or stock. There are lots of cheap meals that can be made fancy. And in return, they’ll invite you round for dinner, so that’s another night you don’t have to cook or pay for food.
  • Buy quality. I have discovered this really delicious peanut butter. It’s about $6 a jar, which is almost 3 times the price of crappy peanut butter. But it has no sugar or emulsifiers or anything in, and it’s so yummy I actually want to eat it. This saves me having cheese or pesto or ham or something else expensive on my cracker. The same with cheese; I buy Mainland tasty cheese (other brands of tasty cheese aren’t really tasty at all) and it’s strong enough that you need to use less, therefore saving money. It’s about $12 a block compared to $9 for colby or cheap tasty, but it lasts me a long time.

Stuff stuff and more stuff

22 May

It’s not until you move house that you realise quite how much STUFF you have.

State # 5

17 May

Here’s some light reading for a Tuesday evening.

Transition and the collapse scenario by Dave Pollard

This article is Full. On. I’m not sure I can deal with it. It’s challenging enough preparing for a crisis scenario. But a collapse? Which we won’t start recovering from until 2100? (And by we, I mean my grandchildren, because I will be dead. It’s not likely that cyborg technology will be developed in an energy deficient world to extend my lifetime beyond it’s natural years.) My brain hurts just thinking about it. So I’m sticking with ‘preparing for a crisis’. I can’t do much more. But the article is interesting, anyway.

Preparing for Economic Collapse by Fernando ‘FerFAL’ Aguirre

I’m showing my age and my ignorance here, but I didn’t even know that Argentina had an economic collapse in 2001. Granted, I was only 14. But it’s a strange awareness that something that big just slipped me by. Fourteen year olds aren’t stupid (a little self-absorbed, perhaps), and I’m fairly sure I watched the news now and then. But I had no idea.

I find it interesting when ‘doomsday naysayers’ say: ‘people have been predicting bad stuff for years, and we’re still alright’, when clearly ‘we’ are not. A major South American economy collapsed. Ten years ago, and they are still recovering. We are in a recession that is not ending. Earthquakes and tsunamis are devastating countries. Many fit, intelligent and capable people are suffering extreme hardship and wondering why. Stuff is happening, people! We are not alright.

Alas, I am unable to follow much of ‘FerFAL’s’ advice, as I have no savings to put into bullion, and I am struggling to buy food for a couple of weeks, much less a whole year. But it’s worth reading advice from someone who has lived through such a catastrophic time.

And lastly, The Six Stages of Awareness by Chris Martenson

This one is less challenging than the other two, but still interesting. I think I have gone through stages 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6. I’m fairly accepting these days, although I still don’t know quite how I’m going to be as prepared as I’d like to be, given my current situation. Like the author, I cycle between 4 and 6 quite often. I think I have skipped 5. I get a bit bummed occasionally, but I don’t think I have gotten depressed about it. I’m a bit too much of a ‘do-er’ to get depressed.

And on that happy note, I’m off to watch ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’.

Living in legoland

1 May

Edward Scissorhands' suburbia (at least it's colourful...)

Yesterday morning I strapped the baby into the carrier and went for a walk around the neighbourhood. I don’t often do that; it’s very boring around here. We occasionally go to the park down the road but they don’t have any baby swings and there isn’t much else he can do at a playground. As I was walking along the ridge and down to the newer part of the suburb, I was a bit ‘grossed out’ by how ‘legoland’ it is.

I’m accustomed to seeing row after row of not-very-well-built-but-trying-to-look-fancy houses (especially in this area), but the thing that struck me yesterday was all the cars. Every other house had a car parked in front of the garage with it’s bum sticking out over the pavement. I had to keep stepping around the cars as I walked along the footpath. (Footpath? Bootpath, apparently.) I wondered what was in their garages, that they couldn’t all park their cars in there. Another car? A boat? Boxes full of stuff? I hoped some of them had workshops or something, but I doubt it.

I had this sudden Edward Scissorhands vision of them all pulling out of their driveways at the same time and driving to work. What a strange place I live in.

A new respect for indigenous people

25 Apr

I am far from racist, but that doesn’t mean I have always understood the value of certain things in other cultures that are completely different to mine.

Harakeke (flax) weaving. Pic from <a href="http://www.kapitikidsconnect.co.nz">Kapiti Kids Connect</a>

Today my husband and I took the baby to Te Papa, and we explored the section with a traditional Maori wharenui, and various Maori carvings, huge slabs of greenstone, and history. It occurred to me as we walked through the exhibition, showing the baby all these things, that they have got it sorted. When the Peak Oil proverbial hits the fan, they stand a better chance of surviving and thriving than many of us.

Why? A strong sense of community. Respect for the land. Knowledge of the land. Continuation and sharing of ancient skills, such as flax weaving. They haven’t lost touch with their culture and the knowledge of working with and living off the land.

Previously I didn’t understand why so many Maori held so tightly to certain aspects of their culture. I’m not sure why. Maybe because it seemed to me that if you can buy string, why would you bother spending hours making it out of flax? And the same with baskets, and nets, and tools, and if I’m really analysing it, food.

It’s part of their culture. It’s right for them to hold onto it, to pass it on, to fight for it, despite external forces offering shiny, easy options. But in the context of Peak Oil, it makes a lot of sense, not just for Maori, but for Pakeha too. Walking through Te Papa I was suddenly struck by how much I can learn from Maori who have continued their traditional arts, and how ironic and rather poetic it is that it could come full circle and the land actually could be ‘returned’ to the Maori. Granted, it’d have a few million Pakeha on it, and asphalt and plastic and the legacy of an out-of-tune culture, but hey.

Hot air balloons

23 Apr

Today we drove to Levin to see the hot air balloon show. With the way I have been thinking the last few weeks, about oil consumption etc., I almost pulled the plug on the trip. I don’t quite know how to reconcile the desire to do fun things with my family, especially one-off events like a hot air balloon show, with my desire to consume less petrol and wean myself off my dependence on it. Was it really necessary to drive for 1 1/4 hrs to watch some balloons in the air? No.

Nonetheless, we went. It was wonderful. Families everywhere, local music, terrible food, beautiful balloons. I can’t fathom why there were five hot dog / chip stands, 3 sausage sizzles, two hot donut stands, two snow ice stands, and a chocolate / candy floss stall. Is there no other food option in the Horowhenua?

The baby behaved himself immaculately, and was absolutely mesmerised by the balloons. He got a fright a couple of times as we walked through the grounded balloons; the noise of the gas being turned up was quite sudden and loud. I thought I’d post a few photos here, although I’m not sure what they have to do with self sufficiency!

The band: 'Henpicked'