Change of View

“The Ottawa Conference was one more expression of the growing consensus…that not simply this or that part of the present global development pattern needs to be corrected, but that the entire model of modern industrial development is seriously awry. Not only the economic values of competition and consumption but the expectation of unlimited material growth; not only the prevalence of technology but the view of the world as a machine; not only the hierarchies of power, wealth, status, or sex but the idea of hierarchy itself; not only the dichotomy of resource conservation versus ecocentrism, conservation versus development, humanity versus nature, theory versus practice, intrinsic versus extrinsic values but the need to think in dichotomies at all. In other words, the basic world view or image of social and cosmic reality in terms of which scientific, moral, political, and most other questions have been asked and answered since the beginning of the modern industrial era is being questioned….

…the failure of modern society is primarily experienced as a failure to provide a fulfilling and sustainable way of life, a good life, for all.”

J Ronald Engel & Joan Gibb Engel, Environment and Development.

Loving my kids

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I’ve been pouring love into my kids and realising that loving is the main thing for us parents to do.

When love goes in it comes back…but that’s not the reason to do it, it just helps us to keep on doing it. Love shines back from their eyes. When they have erred their eyes ask, ‘am I still loved?’ and the answer is always ‘Yes!’ and so I show them right there and then that I love them.

And I am finding that loving them makes me better and it makes them better. Love is the essential element.

I just love my kids.

Thoughts on Simplicity

‘The Simple Life’ has undergone a few overhauls over the years.  These days minimalism and ultra simplicity seem to be all the rage.  Back in the day ‘the simple life’ or ‘the good life’ equated to some kind of wholesome, outdoor-living, preserve-making, family-friendly, pig-raising escapade.

Things change and I guess that’s life.

The thing is, ‘the simple life’ never seems to lose it’s charm, whatever the definition. We seem to be ever searching for ‘a better life’.

I have been reading a bit and thinking a bit on this new reincarnation of simple living and the thing is: I hope it’s not a fad. But. It will be a fad if the lifestyle is not whole-of-life and sustainable.

Firstly, I guess the basic premise behind Simple Living is to consume less, take away the unnecessary and only do what’s left or, equally, what you are passionate about. I guess the idea is that you get rid of the things, the tasks, the busyness in order to focus on the relationships with family, friends, society, nature, the world.

It’s alluring.  I really like this ideal.

But I’ve noticed a few things. Sometimes when simplifying we can simplify our own lives whilst making other lives more complicated and, inconsiderately, putting undue expectations on others.

For example:

Paring back on your own grocery items, cooking basic, bland food, but then relying on other people to feed you your essential vitamins and minerals and your meat (if so inclined).

Getting rid of your car to either a) take public transport (relies on a reliable and sustainable transport system) or b) rely on other people for lifts (relies on them having a car & money for the petrol) which can put pressure on your community to provide for you, when you are in fact well able to provide for yourself.

Perhaps choosing not to go outside of your area while expecting other people to come to you.

Or taking away the television only to expect to visit other people’s places to view the box.

I guess all these thoughts point to a central idea: In simplifying we must think outside of our own little box/apartment/house/self/family. If simplicity is to last it must be undertaken with the wider community in mind. Consideration of those around you must be your issue.  Expecting other people to provide for your needs (or as one blogger put it: stealing from plates on the dinner table.) builds resentment in the long run and can not lead to a long-term sustainable lifestyle of simplicity as in order for any lifestyle to succeed it must be supported by the community around it.

It is in the simplicity spruikers interest to encourage, even assist others to pursue simplicity, not simply to use others to maintain ones own lifestyle or budget.

As my friend says, it’s best to live simply and generously. Simplicity should not stop us from being generous to those around us. And simplifying should not in turn rely on the unending generosity of others, especially when we are well able to provide for ourselves and just choose not to, for whatever reason.

P.S. Pics and adventure updates to come soon. We’ve been living on low internet for a couple of weeks while away from where home is currently. We are back to high-tech living soon!

Blogs that excite me

I have discovered a couple of blogs that are really exciting me.

First I found Sarah Wilson of I Quit Sugar, a recipe book a friend of mine has just discovered and is using.

That led me to :mnmlist which in turn led me to Zen Habits.

Wow. These blogs make the rest of the internet look dull. They use the internet for the best of purposes: Communication and the sharing of ideas. Not just: the making of money, using readers to get advertisers to get money.

It’s just nice.

These are popular blogs. I’ve only just found them.

I particularly like these posts:

The best goal is no goal (something I have been becoming convinced about myself over the years. Goals can create stress. Goals can make us thunder over other people in order to achieve our own ambitions. Goals can stop us seeing the beauty on the way. If you’re a parent you might have experienced this. I sure did. My kids suffered when I had a goal I just had to achieve in spite of them. That was not good and so I stopped having these admittedly pointless & selfish goals that were actually not making my or their lives any happier. Now I am even more convinced than before.)

Uncopyright (This is exciting because it’s a new way to think about our ideas.  I truly hope the world will move away from economic drives. We are becoming to populous and there are just too many new ideas to patent. If we go on like this we will just be stuck, unable to do anything for ourselves, always having to check before winking. Things are changing. Fleet foxes thank piracy for their success, and I wonder if Plato had blogged all his thoughts and copyrighted them, would they  have had the same influence on the world?)

Wanting Stuff.

And I love this post related to parenting. It embodies many things I aim for in my parenting. Things that I don’t always communicate very well.

These are some favourites I found, but with ten or so years of blog posts collectively, there’s a lot of good stuff on these blogs. I could spend a lot of time here. But I won’t. Instead I’ll share it, with you. And now I’m going to go and play with my kids and breathe a little.

See ya.

A weekend turned into two or three

We came down two weekends ago. It was only supposed to be a few days. I was going to get my essay done. He was going to earn us some big bucks to sink into our little house-to-be-on-wheels. We have a fear of reaching the end of our funds before we reach the end of fixing our bus, effectively leaving us s t u c k . . . but…well, let’s not talk about that. It’s not gunna happen.

We will be victorious.

We will conquer this project.

Anyway. I was having so much fun, and I hadn’t yet finished said essay, that I decided to stick around until Hank had to come back for yet more work. Cut to a weekend later and the day before we are due to go back to Young again Henry gets a conveniently timed text asking if he wants a weeks work of cushy-public-service-wages working at the Canberra Theatre. He’s been asked many times before, but never been free. I wonder if he was technically free this time around?

Public Service work seems to mean lots of paperwork, lots of bureaucracy, very few tasks-per-person, all jobs neatly divided up and assigned, so that to do one thing requires several hands, effectively leaving no one person solely responsible for any mishap. Effectively making a thirty minute task stretch out to three hours.

With this kind of work ethic one might as well stay home and just get the government handout.

Inefficiency creates jobs. Money continues circulating. Taxes are paid. ‘Things’ are purchased, creating more jobs, further circulating the money. That’s this life. That’s money for you. Money is no mans.

Well, apart from all that.

I feel as though we are just waiting for the cushy-public-service-job to end so that we can get back to our baby, the bus and really focus. But there’s another weekend to come down for. More work.

Is it worth it? All this transiting? It really stretches us in all directions. Not that we can’t take it.

I’ve been loving the socialising this fortnight. The bus will heave, like a ship, across our horizon once more and then we can focus all our energies yet again. For now we are in the land of (not so) cold Canberra where there are the warm friends of recent wonderful years. The bus calls us outward and onward to hotter climates and presently unknown friends.

So, in the spirit of enjoying every moment and making every moment part of the adventure of life and life’s lessons, these two weeks spent living out of one small bag of clothes have been eternally worthwhile, and how much so we won’t perhaps know for some time.

I am just so grateful to be living crazy like this with my big dear and my two little dearies. It’s really precious to share ones life with ones children and I just love being with them so much. We laugh a lot together.

La Vita e Bella.

Entirely themselves

Ah kids. Such a gaping, huge puzzle to those of us grown up to better things. Kids to do as they’re told. Kids to be polite. Kids not to talk or yell or shout. Kids not to climb or jump on things. Kids not to ask too many questions.

Shy kids don’t get yelled at so much.  Those naturally ‘good’ kids who are pretty content to do as they are told. Sit in the corner. Not to speak out.  They are ‘cute’ because they are too scared to talk, they don’t get in our way or demand our attention. We can give attention only when we feel like it.

Kids like my fiery red-head get told off more. Curious kids get told to stop touching, stop asking questions, stop gawking.  Kids with more energy get told to sit still.

Kids have to live with the world and some rules help this assimilation.

But why do the shy kids get let off (until their shyness becomes an obstacle at least) while those struggling, curious, energetic kids are molded into…something they are not.

I read a blog post about one woman’s shy little girl.  She is accepting that her child can be just her.  If her is shy then be just that…gloriously…says she.

My girl is not shy. She is spunky, bold, curious, energetic, questioning, interested, fun-loving, mischievous, loving, wriggling, happy.

She can be a bit rude. She needs to learn to sit still through dinner. She mustn’t hit her brother. And she needs to learn to respect the property of others.

But her curiosity, her inquiring mind, her energy, her funniness. I want that all to remain. I want to foster her true nature so that as she grows she will be in no way conflicted and she will follow the path she was made to follow.

I remember being puzzled at grown-ups rules. I remember feeling frustrated that no one would take the time to explain ‘why’.  These days when Sophia asks ‘why’ I take the opportunity to ask myself: ‘Yes, why? For goodness sake, why?’ Sometimes the ‘why’ shows us where our true priorities lie and shows us that we are caving to a value that we actually do not hold dear.  The ‘why’ must be asked.

Growing up, the rules still held me back. The rules were not liberating. I felt fear at crossing some unspoken line and bearing the consequences.  Rules are not always helpful. Rules can bind us. Rules only go so far. I would rather teach my little girl to understand the consequences and make good decisions, than just follow a long list of arbitrary, obsolete, valueless rules.

I feel that, as the world goes on, it fills with people and fills with rules. I feel that, in the future, when my girl is facing this world full of people and full of rules, I would rather her be able to see the rules and navigate around them, possibly break some of the stupid ones (there are stupid rules), and live a life of freedom and decision. And not always be the one who lives by the rules.  I’d like her to have the courage to break the old rules and make new and better rules, to be able to think outside the rules box.

I guess this is my parenting aim.

This society of ours builds a bunch of common values: Values money, values property, values power, values relationships, values career, values government, values safety.

Values change.

Not all values are ‘good’. Some values are destructive (e.g. the love of money often takes place in peoples hearts over the love of people). So, I am open to raising my children outside of societies normal values. Every parent passes on their own values.  Self-control may be a big value for some, so they raise their children around this. For others sleep is a big value, this is what they instill in their child, and the value gets passed on.  Adventure can be another value. Creativity another. An inquiring, scientific mind another. Stability another. Strength (physical, mental, emotional) another.

And so all our children grow up to be different. Just like us.

As a parent I sometimes struggle with how I think others think I should be raising my children. There’s pressure from everywhere: Family, School, Government, Society, Friends.  They all seem to have something to say on the right and wrong things for parents to do.

We’re all different. And that’s okay. We need stable kids. Stable adults. Law-abiding kids. Law-abiding adults. Creative kids. Creative adults. Risk takers. Kids that challenge the norm. Adults that challenge the norm. Strong kids. Strong adults. Wimpy kids. Wimpy adults. We need leaders and followers and managers and visionaries.  So, our kids won’t always fit into one little box of ‘obedience’.

And that’s okay.

Home Life

Being here is fun.

Dad cracks jokes. We all tease each other and laugh out loud a lot. We communicate what we are trying to get our minds around in this great but small world of ours. We talk about food and  movies and art and politics and economics and sustainability and religion and faith.  They talk about sport. We fumble over our words, but fill in the gaps naturally – as we all think alike. It doesn’t matter if your words don’t match up to your thoughts.  Family is the place to spill these things out. Refine ideas. Practice speaking. There is no safer place and no better place to crash a little and laugh at yourself. Love is all around.

As I listen to them I see myself at that age: passionate, questioning, struggling to come to terms with a world that is not what was expected. And it’s a journey that is all your own. It must come from within.  We each must learn our own ways of dealing with life, ways that are unique to each of us.

We sit together in front of the blazing fire which filled the winters of my youth. The fire we cooked fish soup on once, baked apples in tin-foil many times, slow-cooked marshmallows and sometimes crispy fried them in blue flames. They are the younger three and there was some sort of divide growing up.  The three eldest stumbled through study, travel, career choices, moving out, relationships, children.  We married around the same time, we all have children.  I think that these younger ones have learned from us.  They saw us blunderbuss our way through our young twenties.  They saw us having kids young and, naturally, they have turned their hands to other things.  They have learned from our fashion errors. They each dress very well.

The three youngest are comfy here. It’s like a different home. It’s pretty relaxed.  Confident, intelligent, attractive, gloriously refreshing. They’re all adults now. I really like them.  They are great people. They are fun to be with. I’m really treasuring this time.

It’s not always you can enjoy your original family again when you have begun your own.  It’s nice to put the kids to bed each night and have some of the best ‘adult’ conversation you can get on tap – conversation with family, people so connected to you – it’s in the blood.

I’m a lucky girl and I know it.

(I think I’ve finished my essay now. Just some reviewing to do. Time to study for exams! I am loving this study thing. One subject is just enough. I could not do more without regretting the time spent away from my children. As it is I can easily work this in around them with very few babysitting engagements.  An important value for me.)

Touch-in

Hi Friends. Just a quick note to keep in touch.  We have been sick with colds. Henry and I have been keeping at things on the bus. We were distracted by a mate who was supposed to help build but mostly just drank beers and talked. That was a bit of a slow day, and we can’t have too many like that or progress will be much too slow.

Last week we spent some time with my 86 year old Nonna, which was actually quite amazing. Even though our time in Canberra was jam packed with work and band related business spending our evenings being a blessing to her, just being with her, was such a blessing to us.  Looking around her home she has been very diligent about getting rid of the things that just clutter some houses, so there is a lot that used to be there that is no longer there, things that I miss because I remember them. Extra utensils that are not there to cook with.  What does grow in number are photos.  Photos are filling her walls, shelves, bench-tops.  Memories are the currency of old-age.

ImageReading her walls is like reading a family history and being surrounded by my cousins and brothers throughout our childhoods and important milestones. Nostalgic.

We are returning to Canberra again tomorrow, but not socially.  Henry is whizzing in and out for work and I will stay on until I finish my Essay. I am writing on Recycling and to be specific the National Kerbside Recycling Strategy. Exciting stuff. No, actually, I am finding it fascinating. I am interested in policy development down the track and so this is in keeping with that aim.

Today I fibreglassed the back roof panel and scraped more paint off of the roof. Henry has now decided that we will use paint-stripper which will cut down time spent on the roof, but is not as environmentally friendly as simply using elbow grease. And I actually was enjoying the quiet, rhythmic nature of paint scraping, all alone up there on my roof with the sounds of birds and rustling leaves and distant power tools. It was a good chance to make up some songs.

Ah well. Can’t have everything. Sometimes efficiency is desirable.

In other news over the week I had a few parenting realisations.  I have wondered for some time why it is that adults often feel they can talk to children in ways they would never talk to other adults and they feel they can talk to their own children in ways they would never talk to other peoples children.

Living here in this house is refining my parenting. I am more patient, because I am always surrounded by other adults, but I am also becoming firmer.  Living in another persons house means my children (and I) need to respect this house’s rules. And where I absolutely do not care if my kids jump on my lounge, bang on my table, run around the house noisily but happily, draw on the cement (with chalk, of course), don’t eat all their meal (I just leave it til later)…I’m really quite casual with the rules, probably because I don’t like rules myself.  Here, though, there are rules, and there is the natural respect of eating what others cook you and this is the first time we’ve ever really eaten around a table as a family so there is learning to be done.  Sophia has taken to saying impertinent things to Grandpa and laughing inappropriately which often comes across as plain rude. After talking with her I realised that it wasn’t out of deliberate disrespect, she simply did not know when Grandpa was joking or being serious, and she was just trying to join in with the adults, with her family. ‘But, Grandpa sometimes jokes.’ she said to me, quite puzzled. Ah ha! It clicked into place. Even now it takes me a bit of concerted effort to think whether someone is being sarcastic or serious, being rather gullible myself, and so, for a child these kinds of subtleties can easily be lost. Sophia’s understanding of a lot of the men in her life for a lot of the time is that usually they ‘joke’. That’s what guys do.

So, it’s all part of the learning, and it always fascinates me that if you delve a little deeper with a child unseen questions or answers pop up to the surface. Not every thing is what it seems through our adult eyes.  And that is why it is never good to simply (over) react to a child’s behaviour, it is better to step back, query, discuss, dig deeper, get the ‘ah ha’ moment. That’s relational life education. And I love it. It’s challenging and way more satisfying than just trying to ‘make‘ a child do just what you want them to do.

I like seeing their decisions come out of their own understanding, my job just being to broaden their understanding.

I am also seeing quite clearly that children will most likely do what you do & become what you are rather than do what you say and therefore I have a new rule: Speak to your children they way you would like to be spoken to!

Bus Update

I know so many of you want to know how progress on our bus is going and although we are taking bets on when she will actually be ready, I will have you know: things are coming together and we may yet surprise you all…and ourselves.

Here is the children’s playground of choice while Henry and I work.  I like having them so near to us while we work and I try to involve them when I can, but when the job involves toxic fumes or power tools then it’s definitely a no-no to even think it.

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A big job, which took me all of a day to do, was to get into every crevice and vacuum up the accumulated dust of 35 years.  It was only slightly rewarding as most things looked the same after the vacuum. Bus Update0003Bus Update0004

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This has been a time of firsts, first time angle grinding, first time using a table saw, first time drilling, first time belt sanding, first time using that paint chiselling power tool thingummyjig and first time using a rivet gun.  Using the rivet gun was rather fun and I now know how rivets work – never knew that before – I likened it to craft, but the boys did not like that at all.

Here below is our fantastic insulation and my(then Henrys takeover) job of riveting a panel BACK ON, no way, we are up to that stage! eee.Bus Update0005 Bus Update0006

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My main activity over the past week has been bogging, sanding, vacuuming the floor and then rebogging, resanding, revacuuming the floor. Bus Update0009 Bus Update0010

But, in the end all those patches turned into one large patch of white. A clean slate. That floor is now ready to build onto.

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For the moment my driving ‘cab’ now looks like this:

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But, be not deceived, this is actual partial progress.  Even though this looks worse than it did it is actually better off as it is being improved.

We are now focusing on the roof, here is our ladder to the sky:Bus Update0013

Henry’s plans, being sketched out on roof paint, and it did not take him long. In less than a day he designed, drew up and pieced together our decking base. A few days later his mate welded it, and but for a coat of paint on the roof they are ready for installation!Bus Update0014

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Here are the draws to our bed. Just a’waiting.Bus Update0015

Have you ever seen a country home basement?

Well.

Forget Country Style, Real Living or Vogue. This is the real deal:Bus Update0016 Bus Update0017

That is one practical, lived in, full of ‘stuff’ basement.

Dear Aunty Glenda had a home day today and she and the kids curled up and got cosy. Bus Update0019 Bus Update0020 Bus Update0021

Why so engrossed?   Bus Update0024

Oh, the one and only of course!  They went on their very own ‘Dora’ explore. Glenda drew up a map which even had the Dora formula of three locations: Home. Creek. Park!  It was brilliant. Then I joined them and we all went on this explore together. Mid way I asked: ‘Where do we go next?’ and this is when I discovered this map. ‘Wait a minute,’ said Sophia so matter-of-factly, ‘I will just look at our map.’ And so she did and next we had to go over the creek. Which we did. Then we found the creaky, squeaky park and had a play. The kids have been missing our next-door park which we had in Sutton. We were there every evening during Summer, so it’s a big deal not to have one here.  Not that there is any lack of fun to be had around these parts.

Finally, today and tomorrow we are doing roof work.  We are hoping to get all of this done by about midday tomorrow because…Bus Update0028 Bus Update0029 Bus Update0030 Bus Update0031

…these babies arrived today!Bus Update0032 Bus Update0033  Bus Update0035 Bus Update0036

Finally! We are a proud Solar Owning Family. It actually feels really good to own our very own power generators. It feels amazing.  We were the Computer Generation.  Our kids are the Renewable Energy Generation! That is absolutely wonderful.Bus Update0038

(a bit squinty, the sun was shining right into our eyes, and right onto those panels, just where we want it.)Bus Update0039 Bus Update0040 Bus Update0041