everydaysparks

Stuff I see, which you might not.

Yesterday

Yesterday marked the beginning of Spring here, with a Sydney day that started out buried in a thick fog, and then opened up to be beautifully sunny.

Yesterday, I laughed and sang and chat-chat-chatted with my lovely nieces on our way to school.

Yesterday, I saw a guy texting as he drove: unbelievably using both hands to text, as he held his iPhone above the steering wheel.

Yesterday, I ate a frittata that I made, topped with fresh herbs from my (teeny tiny) veggie garden.

Springtime daffodil selfie. [image from Pixabay]

Springtime daffodil selfie.
[image from Pixabay]

Yesterday, we went to our lovely friend Claire’s Dad’s funeral. On a sunny day, the first of Spring.

There were laughs and tears and music and lots of people with grey hair. And little baby Emily was there, smiling away quietly. I haven’t actually been to many funerals. And I couldn’t look at Claire and her family as we walked past, because I could feel the tears trying to leap out from the well they’d formed in my eye sockets. But it felt good to give her a big hug afterwards. Because sometimes nothing says what you want to say quite like a big hug.

Yesterday, there was some sadness, some silliness, some sameness, some smiles, and some sunshine. And it was only day one of Spring, the best season of them all (if you ask me). Here’s to happy times and sad times and old friends and new beginnings and hugs. Don’t forget the hugs.

And here’s to The Ship Song, which was in my head today. The Opera House project version from a few years ago is here in case you like it too.

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EverydaySparks Book Club

A while back, I thought it would be a good idea to write book reviews here as a way to encourage me to get back into the habit of reading. And to make better progress through the unread books piling up on my bookshelves, bedside table and patch of floor next to my bedside table. I tried to commit to not buying new books until I could at least regain some sense of control: maybe even a one-in, one-out sort of policy. Except I think I may have underestimated my addiction.

Whatevs, today’s book review is for a new book – one that I justified buying as I was recently HELD CAPTIVE by a delayed flight out of Brisbane. Trying to return home from a work trip, I was faced with a couple of unexpected hours to pass in the terminal. Oh, and a dying phone battery. No iPad. And no book. (And no chocolate, but that’s a tragic tale that’s just too sad to re-tell.)

[image from Simon & Schuster]

[image from Simon & Schuster]

We Are Called To Rise by Laura McBride caught my eye – partly for the tag line, “When the worst in life brings out the best in us” and partly because it features an ice cream truck on the cover. I can be easily pleased like that.

It is McBride’s debut novel – a unique perspective that is really well written and difficult to put down. I was going to describe it as ‘easy to read’, in that I quickly became invested in the key characters and their lives and finished the book quickly. But I don’t want to be misleading – I did not always find the concepts ‘easy to read’, a few of the chapters were quite dark and sad.

Yet the skill of the writer is in making the reader want to push through to the end. It’s thought-provoking, challenging and a reminder that all of us are struggling with something. In my humble opinion, it is a very good novel. Here’s the summary (from the Simon & Schuster website)…

In the predawn hours, a woman’s marriage crumbles with a single confession. Across town, an immigrant family struggles to get by in the land of opportunity. Three thousand miles away, a soldier wakes up in hospital with the vague feeling he’s done something awful. In a single moment, these disparate lives intersect. Faced with seemingly insurmountable loss, each person must decide whether to give in to despair, or to find the courage and resilience to rise. We Are Called to Rise is a story about a child’s fate. It is a story about families – the ones we have and the ones we make. It challenges us to think about our responsibilities to each other while reminding us that compassion and charity can rescue even our darkest moments.

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Hello again (with chimps)

Hi there. It’s been a while since I last posted. I’m not really sure why that is – time has been filled with stuff and things and to be honest, I haven’t really felt like writing. In the face of happenings in the real world, the silliness of finding and sharing everyday sparks sometimes seems so ridiculous. I mean, people are suffering and getting sick and breaking up and shutting down and doing mean things. Then again, people are also being born, getting healthy, having fun, making things, doing good, starting again, having adventures and laughing. Right?

I also know that whatever is going on, I am still noticing those everyday sparks – whether they’re funny, silly, weird, nice, scary or quirky. And now I feel like getting back into sharing them here. In case we like some of the same sorts of things and I’ve seen stuff that you haven’t. Because we could all use some sparks to make us smile or grimace or snort or make that tsk tsk sound from time to time, I reckon. While we’re dealing with all of those happenings in the real world.

To get back into the swing of things, here are some pics of the baby chimp born at our Taronga Zoo here in Sydney over the weekend. Some classic shots for the family album.

Shiba and her baby boy. [photo by Lisa Ridley]

Shiba and her baby boy.
[photo by Lisa Ridley]

The Fam.  [photo by Lisa Ridley, from the Taronga Zoo Facebook page]

The Fam.
[photo by Lisa Ridley, from the Taronga Zoo Facebook page]

And my favourite.  [image by Lisa Ridley, from the Taronga Zoo Facebook page]

And my favourite.
[image by Lisa Ridley, from the Taronga Zoo Facebook page]

You’re welcome!

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I am studying at Harvard and you can too.

I was out with my lovely friend Jen last week and we were talking about our lives over a nice bottle of pinot gris. I was talking about how I’m at a bit of a crossroads and not sure what to do next and Jen told me about a course that someone at her work had told the HR peeps about. It’s a free online course that they’re trialling at Harvard University – Unlocking the Immunity to Change.

A lot of time and effort and psychological brain power has gone into the development of this course (and the Immunity to Change process that sits behind it), which seems – in a nutshell – to support the proposition that you can teach an old dog new tricks. So, when people say, “I’m too old to learn X”, or, “I’ve always been like this – too late to change now”, or, “There is no way that I can stop/start doing Y”, it may well be a load of nonsense.

Apparently, this process gives you easy steps to help focus on a self development type of goal – maybe one that you’ve struggled with for a while, but have never been able to achieve. Through the online course (which has a very user-friendly interface and lots of support – I’ve just checked out the introductory info for Week 1), you’ll be guided through the process and invited to participate in activities. There’s no pressure – you don’t have to comment on forums or submit assignments, but the obvious suggestion is that if you’re really interested in achieving your goal, you might as well have a crack at the activities that the experts provide.

Anyways, if you’re interested in this course too, you can sign up for it here and the first week of readings/activities etc starts from Tuesday.

I’m a bit of a geek and have always wanted to study at Harvard, so the online course commitment was an easy decision for this old dog. And whether you are hoping to give up smoking or join the circus or lose weight or run a marathon or fold a fitted sheet, you might like to join me.

New tricks? I say bring them on, Harvard.

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Life after the Camino

It’s so hard to believe, but it’s already one month since our Camino family arrived in Santiago. At that time, I think the magnitude of what we’d done was only just starting to sink in – I do remember wanting to blurt out to some of the day trippers crowding the streets of Santiago “HEY, I WALKED HERE FROM FRANCE”. It was such a great feeling to be fit and relaxed and happy after our month on the road.

A pretty spectacular finish line in Santiago de Compostela.

A pretty spectacular finish line in Santiago de Compostela.

And now I’m back at home and it’s been really lovely to catch up with my family and friends and tell them a bit about our great adventure. I have found it a bit tricky to explain though – it really is one of those ‘you just had to be there’ kind of situations. And the return to the pace of ‘the real world’ has been a challenge for me – every day, it seems there are so many different decisions to be made, timetables to follow, commitments to meet, things to do.

I miss the simplicity of just getting up when the alarm goes off, getting dressed in one of only two available options, packing up everything I have and walking, walking, walking. I haven’t forgotten about the heat, the bites, the flies, the tendinitis, the shower without a door – but even at the time, all of those things just felt like part of the Camino experience.

And an incredible experience it was too (captured in the following YouTube clip by our resident rapper, Idol C).

So now I am home and I feel a bit restless. My work situation as a consultant means that I didn’t have to rush back to an office or a workplace routine – I think that is both a blessing and a curse though, as it means that I have had a lot of time to think and try and work out what to do next. And I feel like I should do something BIG after doing the Camino, as I try to hold on to the things that I learned about myself and the world when I was walking. But I am not entirely sure what that is yet.

And I am reminded of when I first moved home after living overseas for a couple of years – it felt like everything here was pretty much the same, but I felt soooo different (not in a lah-di-dah, I-am-so-awesome kind of way) and there was definitely a transition period to work out how to fit back in to everything. Maybe it’s like a snow globe – things are settled and look a certain way, then when the globe gets a shake, everything turns upside down and gets covered in large white flakes – or preferably glitter – before it settles again.

Stepping out at the end of the earth - morning walk on the beach in Finisterre.

Stepping out at the end of the earth – morning walk on the beach in Finisterre.

So, after the Camino-shake, I am sort of upside down and covered in large white flakes (metaphorically, not from another Camino skin condition, I assure you). I am more active, walking a lot and even completing my first timed 5k run last Saturday (more on that in another post) and trying not to get sucked back in to the rush of doing all of the things. I watch less TV and I do less shopping – after carrying every single thing I required in a bag on my back for a month, I definitely have a different perception of how much stuff I really need.

In the Phoenix Park kitchen garden, Dublin.

In the Phoenix Park kitchen garden, Dublin.

But I don’t want to make it sound as though I’m now all woo-woo-woo herbal and alternative and changing my name to Starchild – I am not a totally different person and am sure that most people don’t notice any change at all. Maybe the snow globe has just settled in a slightly different way this time. And I am sure there are countless scientific studies that agree it’s a good thing to have your snow globe shaken every now and again, just to see what happens.

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Keep it simple

I guess I’ve been trying to simplify my life. Jumping off the corporate treadmill (or, at least, jumping on the side of the treadmill pretty regularly, so I don’t get sucked down the back of the machine, catching my shoe and falling flat on my face); trying to ditch the stuff I don’t need in my home (granted, living in an apartment adds a little pressure there); trying to eat all of the food that I buy (and not let it turn into a science experiment at the bottom of the fridge); trying to steer clear of so many things that I don’t really need when I’m shopping (yep, I’m looking at you, shiny kitchen appliances and cook books). Stuff like that.

Keep it simple – a great goal, but easier said than done. That’s why I like this list of prompts, which I saw on Facebook without any credit to the person who put it together, so unfortunately I’m unable to thank them. I think it’s a really good reminder – especially if there’s a busy weekend ahead, or you’re putting off something that you need to sort out, or you forget that other people don’t have a telepathic line to your mind. Maybe it really can be this simple? I reckon it’s worth a shot!

 

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Seven Twitty Tweets

I know some people hold grudges against Yoko for breaking up the band or whatever, but I like her because she is so nutty. I guess she has always been a little bit crackers, but with social media, she can share her particular brand of crazy with the world. And she does. I follow her on Twitter and, in case you don’t, I have put together this list of what I consider to be seven of Yoko’s Top Tweets. With so many to choose from, it was a tough job, but I think there’s something here for everyone… Sure, sometimes she sounds a little like Dr Seuss or Yoda, but I still say: Ono? Oh yes!

1. Yoko’s tips for gift giving…

2. Yoko’s thoughts on advances in medical science…

3. Yoko’s view on pyrotechnics / furniture…

4. Yoko’s suggestion for neighbourhood sanitation / lazy council workers…

5. Yoko’s guidance for home renovations…

6. Yoko’s theory on anatomy / romance…

7. I’ve posted this before, but it’s my favourite – Yoko’s advice to big business…

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Ticket to Mars

I first heard about this ambitious plan on werd.com. The short post was accompanied by this picture. So I did some more research for us, because I knew that you would want to know about it too. Behold, the Mars One mission. What’s it all about, I hear you cry? Oh, nothing much – only a plan to establish THE FIRST HUMAN SETTLEMENT ON MARS IN 2023. Yes, that’s right – according to the website, a habitable settlement will be waiting for the settlers when they land. The settlement will support them while they live and work on Mars the rest of their lives. Every two years after 2023 an additional crew will arrive, such that there is a real living, growing community on Mars.

Apparently, the good people at Mars One have a “technical plan” for the mission and have “identified at least one supplier” for every part of the process between now (empty Mars, as far as we know) and 2023 (thriving metropolis Mars). There is even a section on the website for anyone who might be sceptical – it’s called: Is this really possible? (The answer is basically ‘yes, sure, why not’ in case you don’t want to read it yourself.) Another FAQ is, understandably: Is this for real? To which the answer is: Yes it is! Mars One has been working on this project in secret since January of 2011. It has taken us ’til now to expose it publically because we are now certain of its feasibility and means of finance.

Alrighty then, friends, let’s start packing! Oh, hang on, I have now read the FAQ entitled: Can I apply to become an astronaut? Sadly, the answer seems to be NO. Or at least, NOT YET. Apparently the team at Mars One have received lots of emails from people asking to be part of the mission, but they’re not yet in a position to start selecting the first astronauts. I guess they’ll have to be pretty picky, since these people will be the founders of the settlement up there. You don’t want people who are going to give dumb names to the towns and streets and national parks.

I include this image from NASA/Wikipedia to help inform your decision on emigrating to Mars, when that option becomes available. It’s clearly a lot smaller than good ol’ Earth, but according to Wikipedia, Mars has surface features reminiscent both of the impact craters of the Moon and the volcanoes, valleys, deserts, and polar ice caps of Earth. So, you know, great if you like hiking, nature, extreme adventure and that sort of thing. Oh, and Mars can be seen from Earth without a telescope, so your old friends and neighbours will still be able to keep an eye on you.

Anyways, now you know a little more, you are probably keen to read more of the fine print and perhaps even sign up for the Mars One Monthly Newsmail. You can do so on the Mars One website here.

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Kickstarting ideas

You might have already heard of Kickstarter, which is basically a website / online community that offers start-ups the opportunity to pitch their project to the world and get donations from ‘backers’. Or as they say (in a much clearer way): it’s the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects. They have arranged all of the pitches into different categories and, although most of the projects are from the USA, there are some from other parts of the world too. It’s interesting to have a look at the range of ideas – some very clever, some very weird and some very dodgy.

I found this one in the ‘game’ section: Unemployment Quest! (With an exclamation mark to show you that it’s FUN!) With 14 days still to go, it is 503% funded (that’s over $5,000 when the developer only asked for $1,000) and has attracted donations from nearly 500 backers. If you donate at least $5, you get a copy of the game (with other treats added if you donate more cash).

The game was developed in New York by this chap named Charles. Apparently, Unemployment Quest is a game about the experience of unemployed youth. Now, I’m no geeky gamer, but that doesn’t sound like much fun to me. The graphics look pretty basic and Charles says the game’s story is minimalistic. And it seems that the music has been recorded to sound like those annoying soundtracks to early computer games. So why would anyone want to play this game, Charles?

Instead of fighting typical fantasy monsters, your foes will include “Doubts,” “Isolation,” “Shame,” and the main villain “Uncertain Future.” The aim of the game is to turn the negative experience of joblessness into something less terrible, while still having fun gameplay that will not bog down players by requiring gigantic time investments.

Because presumably you should be spending that time, well, you know, applying for jobs. Or doing something a bit more productive than playing this game. But far be it from me to know what the market wants – perhaps there are bzillions of people just waiting to experience virtual unemployment. Even if they are experiencing real world unemployment at the same time, as per Charles’ target market.

Whatevs, gamers, if you want to check out this project and maybe help Charles make his dream come true, you can find Unemployment Quest here. Or you can just have a look at some of the other ideas on Kickstarter here. And as a person with many, many kooky ideas, I really should get started on some Kickstarter pitches myself – there seem to be some generous people out there!

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Tree of Life

I like trees. Especially at this time of year in Australia, when the leaves are turning red or gold and falling to the ground. So we can jump around and crunch through piles of them. Or slip on them when it’s raining, trying to look cool while struggling to stay upright. Yes, good times indeed.

I also like this tree, which I noticed recently on etsy. Designed by Maria in Amsterdam, this tree looks pretty funky just as it is. But, like a lot of things in Amsterdam – don’t be fooled by appearances. This tree is a photo album. Uh huh.

You can add photos of the family for a cute present to welcome a new baby. Or perhaps pics of the kids in the class for a nice end-of-year gift for the teacher. Or snaps of your smiling face for your beloved (or ex-beloved, if you want to make them feel bad). Or faces of workmates for a departing colleague. Or maybe a tree full of happy images – like, say, chocolate, red wine, Liam Neeson, freesias, homegrown tomatoes, sunset, cherry pie, popcorn – to give you a lift on those days that you’re not feeling so chirpy.

Endless possibilities for your little tree of life. And I think I’ll finish on that profound note, so that you can ponder that thought. (While you’re checking out the range of trees at the FemkeMaria etsy shop.)

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