Cakes, quilts and conversations

Watch the sunrise at least once a year, put a lot of marshmallows in your hot chocolate, lie on your back and look at the stars, never buy a coffee table you can’t put your feet on, never pass up a chance to jump on a trampoline, don’t overlook life’s small joys while searching for the big ones.”
― H. Jackson Brown Jr.

My husband and I attended a small carnival last weekend. I’m not sure how else to describe it as opposed to the big Royal Brisbane show, that takes place next month, except to say it is one of the few remaining country shows in the city. We don’t usually attend but it was the 100th show of the Mt Gravatt suburb and I thought it might be fun.

The show, beginning in 1915, has been held on the present site since 1918 with only a few interruptions, one being WWII. The grounds have some interesting buildings dotted about. There are a few gorgeous little structures, some no more than sheds, and one grand old building. Many of them were sourced, at different times, from across the city and now form part of life at the show grounds as venues for different meetings and exhibits.

We had a lovely couple of hours wandering about and taking in the show jumping and equestrian events. We mused at the new-born, black and white goat that was jumping, no kidding, four hooves off the ground, so full of energy. We laughed when after several particularly energetic bounds it collapsed straight down on its side then jumped up to begin again. There were sheep and donkeys and pony rides as well as the animal nursery.

There were many and varied exhibits to enjoy: egg artistry, wood-turning, bee keeping, old machinery, cottage craft, cooking, cake decorating, horticulture as well as displays of hot rods and four-wheel drives and trucks. All the fun food of fairs was there too: dagwood dogs, fairy floss, candy, burgers, ice cream and my favourite, baked potatoes.

We lingered over the art work and voted for our favourites piece in the people’s choice awards. I marvelled at the work and skill in the quilting and egg artistry pavilions. There was knitting and crocheting as well as doll making and hand-made teddy bears on display.

The rides were attractive but didn’t lure us oldies. What really made my day were the interactions and conversations I had with stall holders. I wowed the beekeepers when I quickly identified the queen bee in a see-through hive. I had a lovely discussion with a woman about punch embroidery. I wondered if my grandmother would have liked this as an alternative to her much-loved tapestry.

I shared a few precious moments with a very gentle man who shared with me how he makes the most divine spindles from different woods, some of which I wasn’t even aware we had in Australia.  His passion, attention to detail and love of wood were inspiring. I could have listened to him for hours. I had an in-depth conversation with a lady manning the photography display over the subjectiveness of judges’ choices in competitions. She invited me to join their club. I’m considering it to be honest. I think it could be fun. Both my beloved and I were intrigued by the photos of Brisbane in days long past. The treasurer of the local Historical Association shared some fascinating insights with us.

We didn’t buy any show bags, I actually forgot about them so engrossed was I in running, like a kid in a candy store, to each of the exhibits. Arriving just after breakfast we didn’t partake of the culinary delights but we did enjoy looking at the home-baked goods and sharing stories from our youth. I had entered a fruit cake and pikelets in the regional show where I grew up. My beloved had, as a school project, entered iced, decorated biscuits. Australians will be familiar with the plain Arnott’s milk arrowroot biscuits that are made enticing by adding candies and coloured frosting to them. We two were like little kids recalling fun times and laughing at the recollections.

The entry fee of fifteen dollars was a small price to pay for a grand morning out. After a particularly busy and tiring week I could have sat on the couch and snoozed but getting out and about was a tonic for my mind and body. Time with my beloved and real connections with people buoyed me and energised me for the week ahead.

This weekend we are stepping out again. We have a couple of terrific options to explore. We could head to Greazefest, a local rockabilly, custom car show with a carnival atmosphere, or the local school fete, usually a very big affair. Both are sure to bring some pleasant surprises and loads of fun.  Who knows, we might go to both!

What fun have you planned for your weekend? What will be the tonic for your tired body and salve for your weary soul?

Shannyn

 

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Peace just snuck up on me

There is no secret ingredient. It’s just you.

Kung Fu Panda.

I’ve been mulling over an issue this week. Well, it’s not an issue as such, more an interesting insight.  A learning, an understanding and acknowledgement , if you will.

Over the course of several encounters in the last little while I have had a gentle realisation that things are shifting for me. That perhaps I’m growing and moving along my path with more grace and ease than I’d realised.

I’ve recently been contacted by several people from my past who, in the past, I have reacted badly to, for one reason or another. Feelings of bitterness, resentment, guardedness usually flare up and simmer for days on end, driving me crazy, souring my thoughts and clouding my heart.  Being in touch with these people, admittedly it hasn’t been face to face contact but contact nonetheless, has been quite pleasant. No resentment, no fight or flight, no anger or malice.  I noticed after each interaction I was actually quite compassionate toward them, not in a “I am a guru, better than you and will bless and forgive you” manner but in an “I am in a strong place and I no longer have to struggle with you” kind of way. Does that make sense?

Talking with a friend last night we came to the realisation that when we give up the struggle change happens.  Again, I’m no guru here. It drives me insane when people advise: stop struggling, let it go, just allow, don’t use force etc. Easier said than done I say. I didn’t just drop this stuff that happened between me and those others, I got so intent and focused on other things that the issues between us slipped away and became insignificant in light of what was going on around me.

Almost by accident this shift has occurred, though many say there are no accidents, and I’m inclined to agree. Quite simply, I shifted my focus onto what I wanted rather than what I didn’t and voila, peacefulness slipped in without fanfare, filling the empty spaces.

Again, I stress, this wasn’t an overnight decision to focus on the good stuff and turn my attention away from my troubles. It was a long and slow process of choosing small actions each day, ensuring each week I got out and did something that made me happy. It wasn’t big stuff. It was lots of small actions and choices that together made the difference.

This morning two quotes spurred me to communicate my small gain, the one at the top of this post and the following, I hope they resonate for you too.

You don’t have to respond to negativity with negativity. You don’t have to pick up that burden. You don’t have to throw the next stone, cutting your fingers open on the sharp edges in the process. You don’t have to prove you are strong by hitting back. Remember, you can simply choose to stay in your own peace. You like it there. And who  knows? Others may decide to join you.

Nanea Hoffman

In training, with purpose and passion

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Purpose is the reason you journey, passion is the fire that lights your way.
Author unknown

I went for a walk yesterday.  No big deal, yet a few things surprised me about this.  You see, it was a pretty long walk. I’d decided to head off for a 23 k stroll and, as Mother Nature would have it, it was blowing a gale with winter westerly winds reaching 41 kilometres throughout the day (pretty wild and woolly for an urban area). The wind chill made the already low temperatures of about 7-10 feel at least a couple of degrees cooler, and that’s pretty low for this normally tropical neck of the woods.

I concede,  these temps  and wind speeds  are pretty moderate, almost nothing in comparison to other places in the world. When I consider my husband sat atop Mt Cook in 169 km winds, I’m almost embarrassed.  Anyway, why am I proud of myself in light of this information? Well, to walk twenty-three kilometres  in a day is a serious undertaking for me and I usually balk at roaming about in weather, preferring instead to rug up, sip tea and read in a quiet, sheltered nook inside.  I can usually find, without much trouble, any small excuse to delay such an undertaking.

But yesterday was different. I was excited about heading off on this walk. I was focused on it and  determined. I’d packed, I had decided what to wear to minimise bulk and excess (should it warm up) yet stay warm. I had  transportable food for lunch, water for hydration. I was set. Not even the remote possibility of a coffee and a chat with my son, who was visiting, stopped me from stepping out the door and heading off into the wild blue morning.

So what was different about yesterday?  (I questioned this myself as I was on my home stretch.)

I had purpose and I had passion.  Two key ingredients to making anything possible.

Since returning from a life changing trip to Nepal I’ve had a hunger. A gnawing need to do something of value and I’ve had an itch to challenge myself physically, in ways I’ve not yet explored ( a crazy thing for someone who hasn’t been a sporting type and nearing, okay, past but just past, middle age). I am temporarily satisfying these burning desires by supporting research for Mitochondrial Disease by joining The Bloody Long Walk.  It’s a  35 kilometre one day walk across my fair city. I’m walking on my own, though I won’t be alone by any means and while I haven’t found anyone willing to join me for the outing I have had many wonderful people support my quest with donations and playful promises to cheer me on from their armchairs while sipping tea. I am heartily warmed by their faith in me, their goodwill and their kindness in donating to this great cause.

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So, I stepped outside, into a blustery day, to continue my training for this event. During a few days at the beach last week I extended my usual five kilometre walk to a few 12 and 14 k efforts before breakfast. It’s not to hard when you get to see the sun come up over the ocean. Look, I know it’s only a walk, it’s not like I’m running a marathon or doing a triathlon but 35 kilometres in a day takes some planning. With a 5 am shuttle bus ride to the starting line and a 7 o’clock kick off I wanted to get a sense of how long it might take me. Yesterday was a good gauge. I had some questions answered about equipment, supplies etc, which was handy. But most of all I really enjoyed myself. I packed my iPod, something I rarely use, thinking I might get bored. It stayed in the bottom of my pack.  Instead, I simply enjoyed just being. I was in the moment. There were no thoughts of what else had to be done, where else I could be. I was purposefully engaged and I was enlivened by it, as well as by the wind and the crisp air.

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Having this small challenge ahead of me is providing a focus and a purpose that is shaping my thoughts and actions in ways I am quietly amazed by. There is a saying that ‘the purpose of life is a life with purpose’ and boy does it make a difference.

What is driving you forward at the moment?

If you are interested in finding out more about Mitochondrial Disease and how you too can help, click here.

Shannyn

 

Where’s the magic gone?

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”
― W.B. Yeats

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”
― Roald Dahl

Last year I decided to take a photo a day and post the image. Just anything that caught my eye, stood out, was beautiful or intriguing or quirky. It was a fabulous challenge. Most days the challenge was selecting just one image to share. Why share? I think initially it was to keep me accountable. As time went on people enjoyed seeing the world through my eyes and they started to look for the odd, exquisite and satisfying in their lives too.

At the end of my experiment I had become so habitually used to snapping that photograph that I kept reaching for my camera well into the new year.  In fact, I often still take random photos, though more often I stop and drink in the image before me and really enjoy it, in the moment.

My friend Nick, the Breakthrough Adventurer, recently took me on a half day adventure with a camera. The premise was to seek out the awesome in the everyday. When given certain parameters and actively looking we can find real beauty in the world around us that we might otherwise pass by without a second glance.

It’s easy to get caught up in the hubbub and routine of life. Many people live for their next holiday to get away, explore and enjoy life. For many, the magic is only in the special moments. My view is that there is so much life between holidays why not live each day and find the adventure, the beauty, the magic in the everyday?  Some of us are conditioned to do that, we’ve had practice, or we’ve been forced by external events to see the world differently.  If you need a helping hand might I encourage you to carry a camera. A mobile phone with a built-in camera is handy, portable and oh so convenient. But, there is something intrinsically different when you look through the lens of an actual camera. So, when you can, say on weekends or days when you don’t have too much to carry, opt for a traditional camera. It enlivens the experience somehow.

Magic? What sort of things am I talking about? Well, your kind of magic and mine may differ greatly. Among the things that have  intrigued me recently are

  • seeing a purple balloon float past my ninth floor window
  • a crumpled and discarded black serviette  on a wooden table
  • the sight of our Brisbane wheel being dismantled
  • The patterns of black mesh with young seedlings entwined within
  • a pile of bricks on a building site
  • fungi on a fallen tree trunk, shadows on a wall, the silhouette of trees on the horizon.

For me it’s random, though nature inspires me. It’s the unexpected and unlikely, the discarded and easily missed that rouses gratitude in me.

As you go about your day press that ‘shutter’ to capture the special events or objects you come across. Record the magic in each day. It’s a satisfying and enriching activity. When you have a collection you can review your anthology. You might notice themes, particular colours, textures, places that recur and bring you joy.  You will have created a map of your world. Instead of seeking joy elsewhere or only on special occasions you’ll bring joy into your everyday awareness. Seeking and longing will dissipate to be replaced by a solid peace with what is here and now.

The magic hasn’t gone anywhere. It’s right here, right now, in front of you. Can you see it? Go ahead and look for it.

Happy snapping,

Shannyn

 

Do you still have your kaleidoscope?

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“The world is your kaleidoscope, and the varying combinations of colors which at every succeeding moment it presents to you are the exquisitely adjusted pictures of your ever-moving thoughts.”                                            James Edward Allen, American Artist

I’ve been experimenting. Not again you might say. But yes, why stop? Life is full of opportunities to explore and investigate. Anyway, my experiment has to do with perspectives and ways of thinking.

I’ve noticed I’m a black hat thinker. Have you heard of the six thinking hats developed by Edward de Bono? De Bono identified six ways of thinking and to help maximise the potential of these styles in classrooms, the boardroom and beyond he labeled them with a coloured hat. A hat you could literally or figuratively wear as called for in different situations.

The image below provides a quick summary (sourced image ).

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So, as I was saying. When in new situations or faced with new challenges and potential obstacles I more often than not go straight to black hat. I identify all the possible problems, threats, dangers and risks. I used to lament this quirk in my nature. However, I’ve noticed, that as I’ve accepted my mental model more that it isn’t all negative. I do this instinctively so that I can manage potential issues to ensure success is more likely.

I recently complimented a work colleague on his yellow hat thinking. He says yes, immediately. He sees potential and is ready to make magic happen. No task is too big or too small for him. We are total opposites in our initial reactions. From his wonderfully yellow position he shared with me that the strength of a team relies on all types of thinkers. That we compliment each other with our differences.

What a beautiful perspective.

I thought then that life is like a potpourri, its richness and wonder comes from ingredients of different colours, shapes and textures. Then I remembered the wonder of a childhood toy, the kaleidoscope. Life is like that too. It’s true beauty is revealed when we are aware of other perspectives, when we are open to accepting them and challenging ourselves to try on different ‘hats’ so we too can view the world differently.

In my work as a facilitator of teaching and learning I’ve challenged my adult learners to use different hats in given scenarios. They’ve been intrigued and delighted. Personally, I’ve been using my green hat to explore creative alternatives, at home and at work, and it’s so much fun.

Can you identify the hat you wear most? Does it need a little holiday? Are you willing to try on another hat, or two or three this coming week? I encourage you to change things up for, in the words of Sharon Salzberg, “life is like an ever-shifting kaleidoscope – a slight change, and all patterns alter.”

Have fun,

Shannyn