116 days later

I’ve experienced a few different kinds of grief in my life. We all have. The emptiness that follows when someone you love leaves. Whether they walk out of your life because they want to or because death came calling and saying no wasn’t an option. The sense of loss is the same regardless of how the person leaves. It tears a part of your soul and while time and distance from their memories help the torn edges join, you will always feel a dull ache where that tear is. 

Life sucks and then you die. I used to say that all the time growing up. It sounded like a good mantra – as if saying those words would mean I was (albeit falsely) prepared for the disappointments that life would throw my way. False bravado. In the blood of champions. Hah. Now I realise how dishonest those words were. Not just because I was lying to myself but because I’ve set myself up to believe that death would be the worst of it. 

Death is merely an action by which a being is no longer physically among us. Their presence lingers. In our minds, in our lives, in our actions. People don’t leave, their bodies do. You don’t lose a person, you lose their body. Every single day I’m reminded of this. It hurts every time. My eyes well up on their own. It’s the memories, the laughs, the words that remind me every time of what we won’t be seeing anymore. What I won’t know or get to feel ever again. 

Loss. Gone. No more. Passed. These words don’t adequately describe the anguish we feel when someone you love has left you. They don’t leave. They are simply no more here. Perhaps they’re somewhere out there watching, experiencing our lives without interacting with us. I’d like to hope this is true. But that thought doesn’t help me and it won’t help anyone who has experienced someone going away: there it is again, ‘going away’ as if they’ve gone on a short holiday and any minute now they’ll come dashing through the door armed with new stories to to tell. 

Grief is not something that passes. It stays with you like a faithful pet. Side by side, ready to appear when a familiar joke is said, in the hair of that girl walking past, on those cards you get once a year, in the eyes of your best friend when they come calling, in the sheets that were left unmade. In the clothes you find under the bed, on the phone between laughs with an old friend, in the spring sunshine, in the cold in front of the TV. Always there, never forgotten. 

Advertisements

We are alive, and that means something

It is the last day of March, the 31st day of autumn and the second day of the week. As is my custom for the past few years, I’ve embarked upon another try to do my best to lose fat and improve my health phase. They haven’t all failed, but my follow through definitely needs a talking to. Stumbled across (read: found a Pin on ye olde procrastinator’s friend) this gem and as its coming on the 20th day of my last decision to better my body, have a read. You will smile, if not find a little motivation yourself.

Here is an excerpt:

Sometimes you will hear people say something to the effect of their weight just “falling off.” “I stopped drinking soda and the weight just started to fall off!” “I started walking in tiny circles around my arm chair and the weight just fell off!” “I high fived a beluga whale and WONDER OF WONDERS THE WEIGHT JUST MAGICALLY FELL OFF AND NOW I RIDE A UNICORN TO THE OFFICE.”

http://saltwatercoke.blogspot.com.au/2012/03/reveal_07.html

The Great 2014 Adventure

S and I have been planning a trip (for the better part of this year) to Europe. It is his very first introduction to a number of things – long flights, countries that are not Australia or New Zealand, packing a suitcase for winter, a white Christmas, a foreign Christmas and 3 weeks in a majority of countries where he does not speak the language. The exciting part is, he is really looking forward to our trip and has dutifully read up on the art of layering, packing a suitcase for winter and even a few airline hacks that help with long flights.

Frankly, I’m relieved that he’s looking into things. Sadly, I don’t remember my first international flight that well. It was a long time ago and I was quite young, 10 months old enroute to Nadi, Fiji. Right after their first coup nonetheless so I hear my mother had to pack a carton and her luggage full of baby necessities, diapers, formula and what not to keep her child happy and healthy. There are some rather amusing pictures of me being bathed in a large bowl. Hmmm…

Sydney to Singapore was my first big flight – a larger plane, about 9 hours on the thing and some 2.5 airline meals. It seems so long ago, Singapore was such a clean and shiny airport, we had to change to our second flight and I remember leading my mum through the maze of people and gates to our connecting flight to London. Many years down the track, this Christmas, I’ll be leading S out of our flight at Rome for our three week sojourn in Europe. It is a bit overwhelming, leading people anywhere let alone into a foreign country – but I am excited and he is too which makes it a small bout of apprehension rather then a large scale freak out.

We’ll be leaving Friday evening (tomorrow) so this post is incredibly belated, but! I do intend to tell you lovely people all about my trip on the flipside. Happpy holidays everyone, stay safe for your loved ones, laugh much with everyone – and let’s all aim to be better in the new year. xx

Christmas tree <3

 

PS. There’ll be a slew of book reviews coming up, auto timed so no offence shall be taken should I not respond, but these are the bulk of my September 17 – happy to report only four of the original books bought in October are left to be read/reviewed!

Minute mentions

The Goldfinch by Donna Tratt started off really well, but I’ve stepped into the third part and found myself completely lost in the maze of stories. Reading a bit like a Dickens novel – on the one characters life story and its ups and downs front – the book began really well. There was an explosion in a museum, a painting was mistakenly stolen, a mother died, a child was orphaned then rescued then rescued again only to turn to self destruction and substance abuse. We then get to the protagonist losing several more people and continuing to shuffle between locations and storylines. Sound confusing? It actually isn’t when you read it, but the greatest confusion is where is the plot going?

It’s like the authors written two different books and joined them into the one. Theo, our lead, is doesn’t incite any sympathy after the initial turn when his mother dies. He’s very 2D in a world of characters that are all given half a life – either literally or in form. This might be the one book I don’t finish this year – it has no driving force and it feels like the author took all her favourite elements and threw them together in several chapters with a smattering of a storyline while putting the same protagonist in each. Huh.

In good news, I have finally reached the climax of The Count of Monte Christo – a two year endeavour! It is a fantastic book but perhaps one I should have started reading on a month long holiday when I could dedicate a few hours each day to just this. The story is fantastic, hold you throughout its maze of multiple characters and stories, always coming back to the key point – revenge for Edmund Dantes. I loved the good ol’ Count. He has such a brilliant transition, from despair to melancholy to resolve – he has it all and when some of his plans are fulfilled in their extreme, he has the good sense to feel guilty; perhaps a redeeming quality of the best kind. Twenty pages stand between me and the ending. I’ll return with my complete review soon!

 

November, schmovember

We’re three days into a new month and 11 months down the line from this year. Where has the time gone is echoing throughout the world. I’ve got 18 posts typed up that need posting, one house that requires someone to sit up and pass its plans and half a banana that should have been eaten yesterday. Surely I am not alone in this end of year, ‘what have I got to show for 2014?’ feeling that is doing the rounds?

So instead of talking about it, this month it’ll all be past posts – things I have done and wanted to share, but just haven’t gotten around to. If you’ve got a few dusty dreams / ideas / thoughts to share, go for it. If you don’t today, next thing you know it’ll be the 1st of January and that to do list is going to look awfully long and unattainable. Mine’s achievable, just need to wake up and do it, is all.

Speaking of, anyone see Itti Si Khushi on Sony TV? Its surprisingly not your run of the mill Indian soapie. Bit of engaging substance that I’m looking forward to giving my attention too. More on that later. There’s still season 8 of Supernatural to catch up on (10’s airing now!!) and about 8 books that require some reading.

I’ll be back… this month.

Dinner, dining and diets

Some of you might remember my somewhat quiet foray into changing my body and lifestyle some months ago. First, an update. I didn’t lose any addition weight from that point on. Maintained it at 81.5kgs and just in the last few weeks I’ve gained 6 kilos. Sigh. Ah well, no one said it would be easy. And if I expect to go on then I have to go on too. SO here’s round two of low carbing and exercise. This time I have a trip coming up. December 12 is the big day, when I’d like to be 75kgs. This morning I weighed in at 88kgs, my heaviest in my 27 years. But I’m determined. I figure if it worked the first time, there’s no reason for it not to work the second time.

Why did I fail? Because I found excuses. I was sick, I had a cold, I ate some popcorn at the movies, had some ice cream for 3 consecutive weeks every night, the list is endless. Anyone who has struggled with losing weight and gaining control of their body will understand. You can always find an excuse, the key is to find the motivation to try again and again until you develop good habits and in my case, until I learn moderation. On a positive note, there are many habits I developed in round one that I haven’t let go of and I won’t need to develop again. No sugar in my tea or coffee is a big one. I used to take 3 and the gradual come down to no sugar was hard initially, but now just seems natural. Your taste buds will adjust.

I find dinner a difficult time. My days are great, an Atkins low carb shake for breakfast or porridge (also without sugar), special occasions call for eggs and tea. Lunch is off and on, snacks are always fruit (chocolate hasn’t reared its head even when Aunt Flo visits), dinner is okay some days and quite bad others. Atleast I know which areas I need to work on… it could be a bigger battle if it were every meal. And water, I’ve probably drunk more water in the last three months then my 26 years prior combined!

To deal with the dinner debacles, mum and I recently tried the Gourmet Dinner Service. These guys pride themselves on flash freezing their food and making a large variety of meal options to suit our numerous taste buds. Luckily for us, both of these things held true, the food was easy to cook (microwave or oven) and it was handy having a semi-healthy meal in the freezer ready to cook when we got home from long days. Their prices aren’t too exorbitant either, cheaper than take out or fast food and healthier to boot. If you’re new parents or pressed for time, do give them a go, they supply to most of Sydney and surrounding areas.

My friend M went away to India yesterday, she returns on November 4th which gives me exactly 30 days (roughly 4 weeks) to stick to my new plan and a short term goal to meet. Sometimes long term goals can be daunting and I don’t want to set myself up for a second failure; rather a first win. My first 2 week goal is to incorporate a steady exercise regime and get my food patterns into a routine. The second 2 weeks I’ll focus on working out various areas of my body rather then just an exercise video. By week 4 end I will feel better knowing that I could stick my plan and with any luck and consistent determination, I will see a difference in myself.

So here we are 4 months after my first proper beginning and I’m embarking on my body/lifestyle change again. Wish me luck and follow my journey here.

 

 

Fortnightly Fiction

This post was originally written on September 30 and the books mentioned were read mainly in the first fortnight of September. Another reason, why I will be better in October.

We all have days of laziness, I have fortnights. There are weeks where I just enjoy reading in my spare time – on the train, at lunch at my desk, curled on the couch. The last few weeks I’ve been reading endlessly with a night being all that passes between one book ending and the beginning of another.

It was soothing. Having a character hold my hand through the mundanities of life. Exciting at times, thrilling at others, sad in between. I consumed these titles like it was all I had to do between one journey and another. While working, my mind came again and again to the people waiting between the pages ready to start their journey as much as I was.

Blackwater Moon by Michael Radburn was a gentle but almost horrifying journey. A small boy in a small town tries to escape his violent home life and becomes a part of a town secret that has haunted many and will scar him forever. The story unfolds from the now into the then and tracks the life of Andy (our protagonist) and the man responsible for changing his life. We see both sides of evil, the struggle of a young man and his triumph in circumstances that he has not brought about. Interspersed between the story of Andy and his past, is his present. A failed marriage, a baby and then the loss of it all when war looms.

Macabre at times, playing on fears and innocence found in all children and many adults, this book was a sad journey. Like others of its kind, it’s enjoyable because you can’t look away from the terrible events that unfold; hoping as you read that perhaps the hero will come out stronger. I enjoyed the equal time given to our hero and villain, if they can be called that. All villains were once the victim is what I took away and all heroes have gray through them. 4stars for the plot and characterisation that keeps you reading.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell was disappointing. It had so much potential to be a great book but I feel as if where the story was intended to go, wasn’t quite the destination it arrived at.  Eleanor moves to Park’s small town in Southern USA and their blossoming friendship cum romance forms the crux of the novel. Divided in chapters from each characters perspective, this book starts off really well. Both characters have an interesting story to tell, Eleanor lives in a dilapidated house with her mother, four siblings and abusive step-father; Park’s mother is Korean and his father an ex Army officer in a town where racial prejudice runs deep but has somehow overlooked Park for being half foreign. My main problem lies with Park’s character being a half hearted attempt; sure, he starts off with alternate chapters for his story, but one third of the way through, he becomes a secondary character to Eleanor’s story of bullying, abuse, weight issues, the blossoming romance.

It’s like he takes a moment to start his story, the complicated relationship with his father, the underlying issues with friends, his mother’s heritage, everything is mentioned and touched upon but both Park and his foreignness become third rate to Eleanor’s family issues and problems at school. If a book is going to be titled with both characters names, then it should provide equal focus to them. What was Park’s childhood like? Was he ever bullied? How does his mother being Korean impact upon him? Apart from a few sentences on his perfect facial structure, there really isn’t much. His mother, the only non-white character becomes a poster child for stereotypes. For me, the beginning was where the sparks fizzled out after a brief show. 2stars for strong, emphatic Eleanor, but minus 3 for ignoring the other half of the story.

Black Powder War /Temeraire #3 by Naomi Novik was strictly okay. Lawrence’s character evolved but sadly the story does not. It does of course provide us with a a different view of the Napoleanic era, our might Temeraire and his fellows help the Prussians battle Napolean after a journey from China down to through the Middle East and a meeting with the Turkish (I think) Sultan. Fans may love it, but I feel like the author took too long to get the story movie and it took me much longer to work my way through this story then it had the prior two. Maybe skip it and head straight to book #4. 2stars as well for a great concept but not the strongest delivery possible.

A giant Trouble board, some fairy lights and a little bunting will go a long way.

Birthdays are a great cause for bringing people together. My general aim with parties is to have a good time with friends of different groups in one location. The planning and execution of said parties is something that has taken me a little longer to iron out then I had initially expected.

The first proper party I hosted was last October and the guest list consisted largely of friends from work, the boyfriends friends that I needed to spend some time with and general friends that I hadn’t seen in a long time. It was a moderate success in my opinion, people ate and drank, played some dance games on the Wii and it lasted well into the night. My problem with it was I spent most of the day cooking for it and was too tired to enjoy myself properly. Also running between the multiple groups was exhausting. There were enough people there to mingle but I found most people didn’t opt for that, rather they chose to branch off in their groups. Not what I’d hoped for at all.

In the time between then and now, I have fallen in love with the board game Trouble (Ludo is its other name). I also love my boyfriend more, as he was the cause of the reintroduction between Trouble and I – and we’re a match made in heaven. When planning my birthday party this year, S and I had the brilliant plan (albeit copied from an American who had made it for her 5 year old) to create a giant Trouble board.

I don’t say it enough and never in public – but my boyfriend is quite awesome. He not only supported this crazy idea but funded and helped execute it. His best friend Pete (who is conveniently a math whiz) helped us do the math and map it out on a sheet of calico (2.5m x 2.5m). Turns out the Spotlight (our local haberdashery store) lied to us and the material was more like (2.3m x 2.28m) in size so much more food was consumed as the three of us struggled to re-do the calculations and create evenly matched squares. I lie. All I did was sit quietly out of their way while they rubbed out the penciled lines and redrew them. But still, I was there with refreshments as required.

The painting of the board was a team effort and by the time we got to the pieces we had seen 3 movies and were sufficiently over Spotlight. What would you use as giant pawn pieces? That was the question one weekend and boy, was it a hard one to answer. We ended up using little paper Mache pots, cubes and cylinders – Spotlight didn’t have 16 of any of them, so we improvised and got four each of whatever we could. All in all I think it looks fantastic and will provide us with years and years of fun. I might even use it as a wall hanging when it’s not being played on. We also hired giant versions of Jenga and Connect-4 from the Yard game people who were brilliant. The have quite a big selection of games and I’m sure I’ll use them again.

Although the aim was to have guests play giant games – there was no theme as such. I simply opted for things that I like – in catering the food was what I would like and thought others wouldn’t mind trying (Indian and Italian from local restaurants that I haunt). The decorations took me longest to decide and I think I opted well with five large sets of balloons bought from the Balloon people, including two giant balloons with confetti and resin to spread it around; streamers to hide the silver poles holding up the marquee, bunting bought in four different colour blocks that I mixed and matched when stringing to create a cheerful vibe and fairy lights that S strung up to add light and colour to our white marquee. My lovely mum created flower arrangements out of fresh flowers and we complimented these with candles (tealight and larger) to add colour and cheer to all corners of our house. The marquee, tables, chairs and chandeliers were hired through Walker Party Hire who were helpful and set everything up on Friday so we could decorate and be ready for Saturday. The cost of everything (including hire equipment, catering, decorations and little odds and ends) came to about $3,500 – not bad considering we organized everything in the last 3 weeks leading up to the party this past weekend.

Special thanks and mention to S and my friend Varun who came as a guest but went above and beyond by taking lovely pictures of the event for us. He’s a professional photographer that we were very lucky to have and although he’s a perfectionist, it’ll be exciting to see everyone looking great when we get the pictures. If you need a photographer in Sydney, he’s got my vote. Some pics below, check out his FB page here.

All our guests appeared to have a great time with the Trouble board being a big hit and almost everyone having a go. The Jenga and Connect-4 were equally as popular and by the time everybody grabbed a goody bag and headed out the door, there were smiles all around. The only damper on the evening was the gas heater not working to heat the marquee, but no one seemed to mind too much and while the food and drink flowed and games were afoot, there was enough warmth to go around. I’m looking forward to hosting a party at the end of summer next year to see if we can recreate the cheer of this weekend again. And I’d like a Trouble rematch so my team can win!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

The Great Spring Clean

It’s that time of the year again. The flowers are bright, the air is crisp and the deep breaths are more plentiful. It’s also the beginning of warm weather, sparser clothing and an all round clean up of our lifestyles, desks, closets and the living space. I’ve started off my spring clean with a clean out of my Goodreads account. It’s a form of social media I signed up to and forgot after its inception. But! I will try and do better by it. I see the use of it and have many a time looked up a book to see if others think it is a worthwhile pursuit. Sometimes just to spite them I’ll read the book and more often than not, I have been pleasantly surprised.

Just past my birthday I ventured over to Dymocks and bought some $300 worth of books, some fresh finds, others that have lingered on to-read lists for years. I’ve now read about 6.5 of the original 17 purchased; adding the 3 I received for my birthday, it was a total of 20, plus the 5 left over from earlier this year made 25 books to read. Deciding the pile deserved a name, I have dubbed it the September 17, regardless of the fact that it is not the total number. Have a look at the September 17 category for any news on these books, the reviews will trickle through starting tomorrow.

I could afford to be extravagant at Dymocks due to their rather well done marketing campaign from earlier this year. Gold members. Dymocks introduced the Gold member opportunity earlier this year, I imagine as an attempt to revamp and re-encourage interest among their Booklover program. I am a card carrying member of the Booklover society (rather dull lot that we are), it involved handing over your card at payment time and accurring points to be redeemed at a later purchase. I like it. With the amount of books I buy, sometimes I’ve managed to get a few books for half the price and so see and experience the benefits of this program quite regularly. The Gold opportunity was one that I had to be a part of.

Basically, any Booklover can be a Gold member provided they spend over $650 in-store over the course of a calendar year. Pfft. Easy. I am only about $150 away from being a full fledged Gold member and heaven help the people who stand anywhere in my way. Yes, I have considered psychiatric help, but honestly, the damn Gold program does have its merits. Apart from a shiny new card, it does come with a bonus 7 points per dollar spent, that’s 2 more then I currently get for spending my money there. And Dymocks will no doubt send me a fancy catalogue every now and then with offers to double the points if books are bought over a certain weekend.

What can I say, I’m a marketing person’s dream.

How could I not?

How could I not?

Travelling with maps

During the 2012 expedition through Europe, Sammy and I learnt a very important rule. Stay on the map. Don’t meander off it and expect to find your way easily. A map is probably the one item I’d choose to be stranded on an island with. It’s useful, practical and will show you exactly where you are. (Even if you can’t escape it).

This blog has shown me a great way to create my own map of places I’d like to visit. At last count there are no fewer then six places I’d like to be next year, so no doubt I’ll be utilising the tips noted here. Have a look. Build your own, and if its an epic feat that needs to be shared, please do so below.

Learn to create your very own Google map here.