Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Great Kitchen Clean Out of 2012

There is a New Age belief that whatever you give out comes back to you, not just emotionally but materially. For example, if you give a lot of money to charity the universe will reward you with lots of money. Not really sure about that but over the years I've given away a lot of things to charity. I also seem to be constantly being given things. Or more accurately perhaps, inheriting things.

When my grandmother passed away in the U.S. I'm not entirely sure my mother gave any of her stuff away. Several months after her death large shipping containers full of my grandmother's things arrived on my mother's doorstep. We had great fun looking through it and picking out what we wanted. My mother kept most of it and lived alone in a three bedroom house in which every piece of furniture, nook and cranny was stuffed with things. It's hard to let go of your mother's things, even if that's all they are: things.

After my mother passed away my sister and I spent a day together in her kitchen dividing up her kitchen things. It was like Christmas. Most of what I took wasn't so much because I wanted or needed it; it was because it reminded me of my mother or grandmother and, therefore, created a link to someone no longer in my life. In addition to that, some of the things I took seemed like a good idea at the time...

With Footprints came gratitude and with gratitude came the realisation that I had more than enough material things in my life. Furthermore, no amount of material objects was going to either bring back my mother or grandmother or strengthen the bonds I already had with each of these wonderful women.

That being the case, Husband and I spent the past two days culling in the kitchen. And I mean culling. We have boxes and boxes of things we don't use, need or love to give away to charity. I think there is more stuff in the boxes than in our kitchen cupboards now. The only things I've kept of my mother's or grandmother's are the ones I actually use. The exception is my grandmother's spoon rest which I used to use but kept breaking. The lines where it's been repaired are glaringly obvious. Nevertheless, I intend to buy a plate stand and proudly display it on my now bare kitchen counter. I just love that spoon rest and every time I look at it I think of happy times in my grandmother's kitchen which was the hub of her house. Oh, and her coffee cup is on the counter too, holding chopsticks. (We eat a lot of Asian cuisine. Not sure what she would think of her cup's current use but I rarely drink coffee and tea doesn't taste good in her coffee cup.)

Husband and I feel tired but liberated. The feeling after de-cluttering is akin to having a weight lifted off your shoulders. Furthermore, I feel great that our unwanted stuff may find homes where it's loved and help a charity at the same time. I just hope that the so-called laws of the universe don't give me lots of new stuff to fill the gaps. I like the gaps.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

An ex-pat American's Thoughts on the Sandy Hook shootings

I've been fuming since the Sandy Hook shootings. I do it every time there's a mass shooting in the U.S. That makes me angry quite a lot of the time. Up until yesterday I simply failed to understand why the U.S. doesn't change its gun laws. I was at the hairdresser and he posing the same questions. As he did so, however, I felt personally attacked; not because I don't believe in gun control but because a great number of American family members who I love and respect and believe to be intelligent, well-educated people don't. As he ranted and raved I pondered how it could be so that that was the case.

Then it hit me. As much as I - and other Australians - are at a loss to understand why gun laws aren't toughened in the U.S., the Americans who don't want tougher gun laws are at the same loss to understand our point of view. Both sides think they're right.

I'd be generalising if I were to suggest that all Americans support guns and no Australians do. The fundamental difference, I believe, is cultural. Guns are part of American history, culture and psyche. Try changing that. Yes, we've got guns here and, despite the introduction of stricter gun laws sixteen years ago, a young man went on a shooting spree at Monash university ten years. Guns are not part of our culture, however. Most everyday Australians simply do not feel the need to own a gun for protection whereas many Americans do. 

So, today, I go above and beyond my usual gratitude for being middle-class in a Western country. Today I'm grateful that:

  • my parents decided after their two year working holiday in Australia forty one years ago to stay
  • I grew up in a country where guns are not part of the culture
  • when a disgruntled student walked onto my daughter's school campus with a score to settle he was carrying a sword, not a semi-automatic weapon, and no one was killed or even injured 
  • following the worst shooting massacre in the world, which sadly was here in 1996, there was "a ban on all semi-automatic rifles and all semi-automatic and pump-action shotguns, and a tightly restrictive system of licensing and ownership controls."
  • the thirty five deaths at the above shooting galvanised both sides of politics, as well as the general public, so that the victims didn't die in vain. (It was still senseless and a tragic loss of life.)
  • the most recent mass shooting here was ten years ago
Things are not perfect here by any means. I live in Adelaide where we've have some really bizarre murders. Furthermore, I don't know the overall crime stats for Australia. I'm still glad, however, not to live in a country with a gun culture.

For a different perspective from a fellow Aussie blogger check out Trifectagirl's most recent post. It's very insightful and makes me wish I'd written it.

Finally, I could not finish this post without acknowledging of the children and teachers who were killed or injured at Sandy Hook elementary school and their family and friends who are going through a horrific time at the moment. My heart goes out to all of them.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmukkah presents

I went out and did my usual Christmas smash and grab yesterday. I headed to our large regional shopping centre armed with a list, credit card, shopping bags and a big bottle of water.

In just over an hour I had bought all the presents on the list. The remaining ones are few and are things I want to buy on-line or somewhere else.

Furthermore, I incorporated it into picking up Teenage Son and Girlfriend from school.

I mostly bought gift cards to stores that at least have an 'ethical sourcing policy' which means that, in theory at least, they don't purchase goods made under unethical conditions. I'm not convinced the Coles group stores really are that altruistic but it's the lesser of the evils when there are teenage nephews and nieces that you don't really know what to buy. The bulk of the rest were bought at Oxfam where I got an unwrapped present ( I love those!), a bracelet for The Girlfriend and some sauces for a good food loving friend. The Boyfriend is getting a DVD. My own children want to go to Womadelaide for the whole three days so we're paying for part of their tickets. As for each other, Husband and I have decided to buy an electric mixer. We've done the research and, unfortunately, it's a case of the best of a bad lot. We can't seem to find what we want second-hand but will keep looking for now. If we can't find one, we'll buy one which we hope will last.

My sister and her family will receive a family pass to the baseball and my father-in-law a gift card to a local, independent store near him.

Stepmum is a Christmas baby. She and Dear Old Dad are planning to downsize so I don't want to buy her anything material for her birthday. When Teenage Son and I were visiting them recently they introduced us to their favourite restaurant so I plan to arrange a meal there paid for by us to celebrate her birthday.

Chag Sameach!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Our Victory Garden

I haven't fallen off the face of the earth. Nor have I not felt like blogging. I've been travelling - again. That's for another post, another day and, believe me, I have lots to write about. Today, however, I'm writing about our back garden.

Seven years ago we adopted a Border Collie cross puppy. At the time we had a lush back lawn. The Dog, however, loves to run and chase birds. He never catches any but it amuses him all the same. Soon, dirt running paths appeared where The Dog had been. They kept getting deeper and deeper. Somewhere along the line, our state began to undergo watering restrictions due to drought. In there, too, my mother became terminally ill and passed away. Needless to say, the lush lawn eventually died, too, due to abuse and neglect.

We've been trying to replant but the poor seedlings don't stand a chance thanks to The Dog. They either got peed or trampled on. Then, to add insult to injury, he tried to dig up the cat. That's when we knew we had to rethink the whole back garden. I hit on the idea of raised beds. The dog could run around them, the plants would be too high for him to pee on, one could sit above the cat's grave (and we could attach the plaque our vet sent us) and there would be no undergrowth at ground level to attract snakes. Win.

The Garden Whisperer came and did it when I was away. (I travelled without Husband this time.) When I left the garden was a dust bowl. This is how it looked when I got back.

We're growing salad greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, strawberries, basil, chives, mint, oregano, chilies, thyme, parsley, comfrey, bok choy, joie choy, Asian greens and coriander. That may not be all; that's what I remember. You can also see that The Dog still has plenty of room to run. Mulch has been laid where it's bare so no more dust and dirt everywhere.