Being mindful- 2013 scorecard

At the start of 2013 I resolved instead of having specific goals, to be more mindful. This mindfulness was to take form in a variety of facets over the year

  • Watch what I eat, keeping track via an app on my tablet. But it also means, savoring and appreciating what I have, and trying not to multitask (read, check my phone, go on the PC) while I eat.

This one came in fits and starts. The monitoring of my food via tracking did fall by the wayside, but towards the middle of the year I invested in a fitbit to monitor my steps and calorie expenditure, and at the end of the year I had enrolled in the Michelle Bridges 12WBT program.

I have found this to be a great incentive for focusing on my food, trying out new recipes and being more accountable for what and how I eat. I will admit that since Christmas it has been a struggle , but I am exercising more and feel all the better for it. My kids have also been very supportive along the way, with Miss BG throwing herself enthusiastically into the role of personal trainer. I think it was just an excuse to get a whistle to blow :).

  • Spending less time in front of a PC mindlessly surfing and being constructive with my time at home and at work

Once again a fits and starts kinda thing. Admittedly working full-time on Ballarat has meant more time at home and more time with the family- also with everyone wanting the computer it can mean less time for me! I have had to be more constructive with my time, especially keeping on top of the dreaded laundry (which is never an easy feat in the depths of a Ballarat winter), and I haven’t been blogging as much.

  • Finishing what I start

There is a great sense of satisfaction in this task, and I think finishing off a couple of craft projects that had been hanging around for ages were one of the highlights of my year. I am currently halfway through knitting a cardigan, which is my only craft project on the go, rather than being one of a myriad of unfinished items. I have projects lined up to do, but I am determined to do one at a time.

However if you read the next item, I wasn’t always entirely successful. I also started a MOOC about the Hyperlinked Library and did not see it through. When I initially registered for this I hadn’t envisaged it would coincide with a job change and a move to full-time hours and it was a ball I had to drop. The lesson is to know what you can achieve and to be mindful of what to accept to do.

  • Reflecting on the day, by taking a photo a day #2013PAD and by extension, a photo of what makes me happy #365happy. So no matter how flat or craptastic I may feel, I will always have at least one thing to feel good about.

This exercise was a struggle for me, for a number of reasons. I would get to the end of a day and feeling flat and uninspired, would take photos of my home life. Home did indeed make me happy, but it felt I wasn’t spending enough time there! Commuting was taking a toll on my home life and I was finding no joy in work. Retreating to my online life wasn’t helping and after a while the pressure of documenting part of my day online and trying to be happy about it was too much and I stopped. I took photos when I felt like it, blogged when I felt like it and felt much better. I learned you can still reflect upon the day without sharing it with the entire world of Flickr or Instagram, and that it’s okay not to be happy every day.

  • Be mindful of where I shop, shopping at local supermarkets, butchers, and fruiterers rather than Coles or Woolworths.

I am lucky to be within walking distance of a local IGA and a good butcher. There is also a great fruit and veg shop in Ballarat and with the exception of a visit to a Woolworths in Leongatha and a visit to Coles around Easter, I didn’t visit these stores all year.

BUT I did visit Kmart, Target, Myer, Big W, Dan Murphy’s , Bunnings, all of which are owned by either Woolworths or Wesfarmers. The duopoly that exists with these two entities over nearly all aspects of our shopping is really scary, and it is something I really need to continue to be mindful of.

Christmas was also different this year. Instead of a mass of toys for the kids, they got

  • something to wear
  • something to read
  • something they want
  • something they need

They got presents from the rest of the family and there were also chocolates in their stocking, but it was different to last year.

We spent our first Christmas at home, and not on the road travelling from one family to another, and that was peaceful and relaxing. The kids loved the dinner, mainly because they could scoff all the miniature Yorkshire puddings they wanted!

Other things I did try to be mindful about were about what I read. I took part in the Australian  Women Writers Challenge for 2013 and once again immersed myself in excellent women’s fiction. I think though my favourite book for this year was Tracy Thorn’s autobiography, and she is English :). I have avoided using Amazon this year, and my local library, Readings and airport bookstores have been getting more of my custom!

On the whole it has been an interesting exercise and a great way to learn more about yourself. I am hoping that 2014 will bring more mindfulness in other ways as well!

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Review- Steal my Sunshine

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Emily Gale’s novel Steal my Sunshine is a coming of age tale set in St Kilda, aimed at young adult readers.

Hannah’s life starts to fragment during a Melbourne heatwave. Her parents separate, and Hannah feels the only  strong people to whom she can turn are her grandmother Essie and her best friend Chloe. However as she soon discovers, these stalwarts have issues and secrets of their own.

Hannah’s teenage social awkwardness feels so realistic, and I so related to Hannah’s experiences with her friends, especially her devotion to Chloe. Her blossoming relationship with Chloe’s older brother Evan is told with excruciatingly honesty. The family dynamics which were wrought by the separation are explored, Hannah’s brother siding with her mother, and Hannah siding with her father.

One of the more fascinating aspects of this book is the revelations from Essie. As a single and pregnant young woman, Essie’s journey to one of the infamous Magdalene laundries attached to convents is told in detail. Reading this in conjunction with Maureen McCarthy’s The Convent, you get yet another perspective of the life behind the walls of a convent were less of a sanctuary and more of a prison.

A beautifully written tale of teenage angst, Steal my Sunshine is definitely worth a read.

Review- High Sobriety: My Year without Booze

In 2011, Jill Stark, a health  journalist from The Sunday Age, embarked upon a 12 month period abstaining from alcohol. Initially for 12 weeks as part of the Hello Sunday Morning programme, Jill extended her teetotal journey to over a year. On the basis of an article on the Age depicting her initial 12 weeks, Jill was offered a chance to write this memoir.

The chapters  correspond to the months of the year, with each month focusing on a different aspect. You get to read about her family history and her introduction to alcohol in her teens, and travelling to Scotland to explore her relationship with alcohol. You see how her friendships are reevaluated as her abstinence continues, and how her search for a relationship is challenged when her prospective partners can’t quite grasp her not drinking.

An avid music lover and Hawthorn supporter, Jill also looks at how alcohol permeates our own recreational pursuits. What’s of great concern is the impact this has upon impressionable children, and how from an early age alcohol is perceived as an acceptable drug.

Her book also covers the history of alcohol in Australia and the origins of wowserism, a label which is quickly attached to those concerned with limiting the impact of alcohol in society.

I really enjoyed Jill’s personal journey and for that alone it is worth the read. Even the creative process of writing this memoir is entertaining as she discusses with John Birmingham how to write without resprting to the lubrication of a drink to aid her writing!

Like a good health journalist, she has also researched the impact of alcoholism on one’s health, speaking to health professionals about cancer and addiction to alcohol. She also raises personal questions about her own possible addiction to alcohol and agonises about her return to drinking.

After reading High Sobriety, it is so hard not to see the impact of advertising, and the casual acceptance of alcohol in people’s lives. It certainly makes you rethink that drink.

Review- The Convent

the conventThe Convent is a novel by one of my favourite authors, Maureen McCarthy, which deals with the usual themes of love, loss and friendship in her own inimitable way.

Peach is 19, and is looking after her sister while her parents are overseas, is nursing a broken heart and has just started a summer job at a cafe at the Abbotsford Convent.

As the summer progresses, Peach (short for Perpetua) learns more about who she is, and uncovers secrets about her birth mother and her family. The stories of four generations are told, all of which are centred around the Abbotsford Convent. It is a place of sanctuary, a home for wards of the state and a jail for fallen girls forced to work in terrible conditions while pregnant.

It’s a book aimed at young adults, but its setting and its story spanning generation offers something for people of all ages. It’s what makes Maureen McCarthy such a good writer.

Review- Taking a Chance

taking a chance

Taking a Chance by Deborah Burrows, is an historical romance, cum murder mystery set in Perth in 1943.

Eleanor “Nell” Fitzgerald, a fashion reporter for a local newspaper, is dragged into a murder mystery by Johnny Horvath, an American war correspondent convalescing in wartime Perth. Johnny is convinced that Lena, a former lover, is innocent of murder  is determined to find the truth. Despite being engaged, Nell, can’t help but be attracted to the dashing journalist, as she joins forces with him to rescue lost girls, uncover a prostitution ring, and find the real murderer.

Nell is essentially a good girl, feisty, yet vulnerable and the central romance is quite tame in comparison to what else in happening in the book, with the novel depicting the seedier side of wartime,  of girls running away from home, romances and illicit liaisons with soldiers.

The book has been extensively researched to get the feel of life in World War Two, but the research doesn’t get in the way of the narrative. It’s a pleasant read, and can be enjoyed for the setting (Perth doesn’t seem to be the setting of popular books, more’s the pity), the mystery and for the bubbling romantic tensions between Nell and Johnny.