Radio conversations

Radio voiceover: (ad for White Lady Funerals) She is a very special lady. She’s a White Lady.

Me: I hate this ad.

Friend: Me too. It sounds like an ad for tampons.

Me: It sounds like an ad for white supremacy.

Friend: Or white supremacist tampons…

Me: There HAS to be a blog post in that!

(Turns out there’s not, really. But I thought I’d share the conversation with you anyway. You’re welcome.)

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“It was our last, best hope…”

For my birthday in November I received the best present I’ve ever been given. It was this:

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Babylon 5 – the complete series

Yes, I’m a total geek. But you already knew that.

Now, I’m a Star Trek fan from way back, and over the years I’ve had a few people ask what I think about Babylon 5. It appears that there is divided opinion about it. Some people love it, and say that Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is merely a poor imitation of B5. Others hate it, and say it’s too dark and Star Trek is better. Still others like it and like Star Trek too. Apparently this is allowed, although not encouraged. 😉

I’m still a Star Trek fan, but I have to say I LOVE Babylon 5. I think it’s one of the best sci-fi shows I’ve ever seen. I’ve been watching it with the friend who gave it to me and I think I say “I love this show! Best. Present. Ever!” about 20 times per episode. Here are the three main things I like about it… and I’m going to have to do a bit of a Star Trek/B5 comparison here, but that doesn’t mean I love Star Trek any less.

The Future
This is probably my favourite aspect, and has rectified something that has long bugged me about Star Trek. Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, wanted to show an idealistic future, one in which humanity had evolved beyond war and poverty and religion. In many ways it is a refined future – we have ditched things like television and pop music, and now we listen to string quartets and opera. We are in space and we use weapons to defend ourselves, but our primary goal is exploration. All of this is lovely, but honestly I just don’t buy it. People are complex and different, and I can’t see us all embracing opera any time soon.

The Babylon 5 future, on the other hand, is far more gritty and realistic. There is crime. There is war – the whole point of the Babylon 5 space station is to try to maintain the fragile peace after the last interplanetary war, just ten years ago. People watch TV. People grapple with religious and philosophical questions, and don’t always have the answers. People have drug problems. People live in poverty. Governments are corrupt. People make mistakes. It’s not a pretty future, but it’s far more believable than the Star Trek future.

The Aliens
Star Trek aliens seem to come in four main varieties:
1. Violent, proud, warrior races (eg, Klingons and Cardassians)
2. Technologically and intellectually advanced races, always wise and peaceful (eg, Vulcans)
3. Slightly silly, comic-relief races (eg, Ferengi)
4. Primitive societies without advanced technologies (eg, just about any Aliens Of The Week)

Babylon 5 aliens are unexpected. The Narn race looks like this…

TITOLO_babylon5_g'kar4

…and so I expected them to be a Klingon equivalent – violent, proud, war-like and more interested in drinking and telling war stories than reading a book. I also expected them to be unbeatable in battle. And yet this character (G’Kar), whilst proud, is also incredibly intelligent, refined, thoughtful and kind. As are most others of his race. They’re on the losing side of a battle for most of the series and live under occupation and humiliation, which is definitely not the normal formula for an alien that looks like that. It’s the same with other aliens – the intellectually superior races (Vorlon and Minbari) make mistakes, and there is a fair amount of instability and in-fighting. The race that initially looks like being the comic relief race (Centauri) ends up being a far greater threat than I had anticipated. It’s all so delightfully unexpected and I’m still being taken by surprise.

The Complexity
Star Trek grew in complexity as the different incarnations were developed, and by the time we got to DS9 there were some large story arcs that covered multiple episodes. Babylon 5 does the same thing, but on steroids. The story arcs are incredibly detailed and complex, and sometimes don’t get resolved until more than a season later. There are twists and turns but the continuity is maintained throughout. It is very clear that huge chunks of the series were planned out in great detail, way in advance. I love the moment of realising that the bit I’m watching follows up a detail from 25 episodes ago. It’s not so complex that it’s confusing, but complex enough that I’m constantly saying, “Oh! It’s that thing from last season – I’d almost forgotten. Wow, this show is SO CLEVER!”

I still love Star Trek. But man… Babylon 5 is truly awesome.

Happy Christmas from…

I have a rather round face and a largish head. I often tell people I have a head like a pumpkin, which can make it difficult to buy eyeglasses, for example.

Apparently I’ve said this a lot, which led to this comment from my ten year old friend:

This glow-stick necklace is so cool. I don’t even have to undo it; it just fits over my head. [pause while she looks thoughtfully at my head] Let’s see if it fits on Pumpkin Head!

For the record, I laughed. A lot.

So, Happy Christmas from Pumpkin Head!

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Elephant graveyard

Hey, I’m on holidays! And as you do, I have chosen to spend the first day of my holiday revising my budget AND looking at my house with whole cupboards full of crap that I don’t need. Because what could be a more relaxing start to the holidays, right? “I’m going to make poached eggs, have a pot of tea, panic about money and count up the crap in my house. Perfect.”

And what a lot of crap there is. Two sandwich toasters – why would I need two? Although I don’t exactly love washing up, so I suppose that might be handy. Twenty billion plastic containers that I feel guilty throwing out (landfill) but don’t want to donate to an op shop (they’re old) so what the heck do I do with them? Shelves of books that I thought I would read, but haven’t. Books I have read and probably won’t read again. Books I’m keeping on my shelf because they’re ‘Christian classics’ and how else will I be able to prove that I’m a reformed-but-not-rigid-evangelical if I don’t have the right books on my shelf?? About 30 dinner plates – even though I live by myself and frankly I don’t think there are 29 people that I like enough to feed them dinner.

I know I’m not alone in having a house full of unwanted, barely used stuff. Why do we hang on to things? I can understand it with people who have lived through the Depression or other periods of poverty and need. But for most of us it’s just this hoarding instinct. We think we need the stuff. We buy the stuff. We don’t use the stuff. We can’t throw the stuff away. We get stressed because we’re surrounded by stuff.

I periodically commit to decluttering. And I usually do quite a bit – at the moment I have a garage that’s a quarter full of things for the op shop. I love the feeling of clearing out boxes of things I don’t want. I even like being a little bit ruthless about what I chuck. Yet still, I have a house full of things.

So, obviously, it’s one of two things. Either my house is an ancient breeding ground for unwanted crap, or it’s a sacred Unwanted Crap Graveyard.

I wonder if I could make some extra cash by charging admission…?

Happy Christmas (ps, I hate you)

For a few years now I have maintained that I don’t particularly like Christmas. Don’t love it, don’t hate it, don’t really feel anything much about it. Just another day, you know? A couple of days off work, maybe lunch with friends, a gift or two if I’m lucky, but nothing particularly special.

You know what? I lied.

I love Christmas. I also hate it, and that has confused me for a long time.

When I was a child I adored Christmas. I’m sure a lot of that was due to the presents – what’s not to love about that? But I also loved that we’d see grandparents and cousins and family friends. When I was older, and most of my siblings had left home, it was exciting to have the whole family together, along with some of their friends. I loved the tree, the lights, the decorations. Most of all, I loved the traditions. There is something deeply comforting about seeing the same familiar decorations come out of their boxes each year, about putting the same Christmassy snacks on the plate that only comes out at Christmas. There are rituals and traditions and in-jokes that only a member of my family would appreciate.

And that’s it. That’s why I also hate Christmas. The traditions.

For many years, and for a variety of reasons, I haven’t visited my family of origin for Christmas. Usually one friend or another will invite me over for Christmas lunch, which is always lovely. Don’t think I’m not grateful for the invitations – I always have a good time and I would seriously hate to be alone on Christmas day. But as kind and thoughtful as my friends are, I’m still an outsider taking part in their Christmas, with their traditions.

Whilst writing this, I’ve thought about what my counsellor would say to me. I’m sure she would tell me (in fact probably has told me before) that I can make my own traditions. That it’s okay to do things I want to do, and to have my own rituals. And yes, that’s true, and to an extent I do – my tree is already decorated, the lights make me happy, and I’m listening to extremely non-trendy Christmas music. I might even make some gingerbread. But for all that, I actually CAN’T do the things I want to do. Because what I want is to share Christmas with my own family. To build family Christmas traditions with my own children. To have silly in-jokes, to make paper chains together just like when I was little, to talk about how awesome it is that God sent Jesus into our world (something I certainly never did when I was little), to put up favourite, familiar decorations.

I can’t have that Christmas. Instead of the family traditions I dreamed about as a child, there’s just me – desperately trying to make Christmas something special and trying not to be swallowed up with loneliness and resentment at the same time. Right now I’m not doing a brilliant job of it, but hey, there are still a couple of weeks. And in the meantime, there’s always Ella…

The other question

This weekend I’ve had a cold, sadly breaking my six year no-cold record. Sigh. It’s been pretty mild, really, but I’m still feeling a bit ordinary. A kind friend let me come over and hang out with her family for most of the weekend, which yesterday mostly entailed lying on the couch under a doona, watching reruns of Happy Days and The Brady Bunch (followed by lying on the couch under a doona, watching the insides of my eyelids while the family played board games). Today I managed to stay upright for most of the day, and even managed a bit of crochet, so things are looking up.

One member of this particular family is a very insightful ten year old. She’s a deep thinker, that’s for sure, and she’s extremely thoughtful and considerate. As is her sister, for that matter – they’re a pretty awesome pair of kids. Anyway. Miss 10 turned to me tonight and asked, completely out of the blue, “What is the best part of your life and what is the worst part?” I said, “Well, those are pretty big questions.” (This was a stalling tactic while I worked out how I wanted to respond – the questions blindsided me a little.) She elaborated on the second part of the question by saying, “You know… what is something in life that you really want but don’t have?”

Um.

I know the answer to that. I knew it as soon as she asked, even without the further clarification. But that’s not something I need to share with a ten year old, so I said I’d prefer not to answer that question at the moment. She said fine, and moved on. So I asked her what is the best part of her life. She considered this for about ten seconds, then said, “The people in it.”

It was clear to me that she knew her answer to that question, as definitely as I knew the answer to ‘what is the worst part’. It also became clear to me that, actually, I don’t know the answer to the first question. Or maybe I do – I think my answer is probably the same: the people in my life – but it’s not a question I consider. I know the answer to ‘the worst part’, because it’s what causes me pain and therefore takes my energy and my attention. I spend so much time thinking about the second question that I forget the other question. I don’t think about the best things in my life. They are there, but I ignore them. Or don’t notice them. Or take them for granted. And then when I have to think about them, I’m stumped. The best part? How can I think about that while I’m over here dealing with the worst part?

I can’t make my ‘worst parts’ go away, but I think I could perhaps spend some more time thinking about, and enjoying, the best parts.

Friendship

I read this today:

“Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.” (2 Corinthians 5:20, MSG)

I’ve heard verses like this a lot. I’ve heard people quote these verses as the reason you should pray and read your Bible every day. Because if you are friends with someone, you talk to them. You communicate. You chat. So, by that logic, you need to read your Bible. You need to pray.

I’ve heard this logic for years, and I’ve accepted it without question. I’ve felt guilty about it, too, because I don’t always read the Bible or pray. I guess that makes me a pretty bad friend.

Except… does it?

I have friends, and they don’t expect me to talk to them every day. They are not stern with me if I am out of contact for a while. They don’t drop me as a friend when I make mistakes. More importantly, my friends don’t want me to fear them. They don’t want me to feel constantly guilty. They don’t expect me to start every single conversation with an apology for not talking with them more often.

I still think this is a good verse, but maybe we need to look at it differently. Maybe, instead of berating ourselves for being a bad friend, we could remember the good in this verse. God is already a friend to us. He is gracious, and he understands us. I’m sure he wants our friendship. I’m not so sure, however, that he wants that friendship to be characterised by fear and guilt.

Lanterns

Lately I’ve been feeling that I’ve been using all of my energy in running around between lanterns and changing the bulbs.

Let me explain.

I’ve been talking about a few different things in counselling. Pretend they’re colours. I’ll spend two or three weeks talking about green, then something will happen with red, so I’ll push green aside for a while and talk about red. Green is still there, but I don’t have the time to think about it while I’m dealing with red. Then, just when I think it’s time to get back to green, my attention is taken by purple. Purple! I completely forgot about that. How can I think about red or green when there’s all this purple?

I was trying to explain this to someone the other week, to explain my frustration with it. I said it’s like I have a string of paper lanterns with dud bulbs, and I spend my time rushing along the string changing the bulbs so that they all keep working. As soon as I get one going again it’s time to run down to the other end of the string and change the bulb there that’s gone out. It’s exhausting, and often confusing because I have no idea which bulb is likely to go next.

Tonight I was doing some journalling and thinking about this lantern string. And I realised that it doesn’t look like this:

lanterns

This lantern string only has three colours, and not very many lanterns. As a metaphor, it’s a string with only the things I talk about and work on in counselling. But that’s not what my string looks like. Really, it’s more like this:

Paper Lanterns on Show-L

This string has lots of lanterns, in many colours. It doesn’t contain just the counselling stuff. There is also God, friendships, work, relaxation, holidays, hopes, dreams, plans… all the things that make up my life. My whole life. It’s a huge string. I can’t see the end. I can’t even see all the lanterns. But they’re all connected. I can’t look at one and ignore the others.

My life is not about exhausting myself by running from lantern to lantern, frantically changing bulbs. Counselling isn’t about that either. It’s about… looking at the lanterns. Appreciating the colours. Caring for them – all of them. Looking at how each lantern fits on the string with all the other lanterns. Standing far back and looking at the whole string. Standing back and seeing the beauty of the whole, even though some of the individual lanterns are dented or need special attention.

This analogy doesn’t change any of the lanterns that need my attention. I still have a lot of work to do, and maybe I’ll need to throw out some of the lanterns completely and make new ones. But there is not such a sense of urgency and frantic haste about it now. I don’t need to kill myself running around changing light bulbs. Sure, one or two (or more) might be out. They might need replacing. The whole string, however, is what matters. When I stand back, it’s still light and bright and colourful. It’s still beautiful. For now, I’ll walk along the string slowly. Sometimes I’ll sit down and just look at it, without changing anything. I’ll get to those dud bulbs when I get to them. There’s no hurry.

Games

Yesterday I was babysitting a girl who has never played jacks (knucklebones). I know, I was shocked too. Apparently the hip kids don’t play those games these days. (Cue chorus of “I don’t know, back in my day… hey, you kids get off my lawn!”)

Although my young friend has never played, she is interested in learning… largely because her mum, who is my vintage, has been saving the knucklebones from the lamb roast. She’s still two roasts away from a full set, so in the meantime I showed her my plastic set and let her have a go.

It turns out that when you have teeny tiny hands for your age and you’ve never played the game before, it’s not that easy. It is, however, slightly hilarious for the person watching. My favourite bit was when she fell over backwards in order to avoid being hit in the face with the jack that she’d just hurled in the air to about ceiling height.

Before writing this post I went looking online for a picture of the jacks. I could only find this one, which isn’t that interesting:

COL-22518-2But THEN, I came across this image:

Game_jackStrawsI LOVED this game! I’d forgotten it even existed. I was so excited when I saw it. I was even more excited when I realised there are quite a few copies available online. I may well have to buy one. And that got me thinking about other favourite games from my childhood. Here are a few:

91BTQMessXL._SL1500_The Incredible Super Stamper. This was a big favourite for me. It had an arm with 20 or so different stamps that could be attached to it. You would fix a piece of paper to one side of the V-shape then move the arm from the stamp pad to the paper. Every time you moved to the stamp pad it would move the paper around a notch, so you ended up with a circle of your stamped pattern. Then you could change stamps and/or change colour, reposition the paper if you wanted, and go again. As I’m typing this I can still remember what the stamps felt like. I can even remember that the blue ink was always too wet and ended up smudging. I have no idea what happened to this game. I’m guessing it went to an op shop at some point.

6a00e0098eb61588330162fc3546de970d-800wiFashion Plates. (Yeah, apparently I came to feminism somewhat AFTER this point.) This toy had various pieces of a person, which you’d put together to create the look you wanted, attach a piece of paper over the top and rub over the whole thing with a black crayon to get the outline of the girl. THEN, and this was the awesome bit, you could flip the pieces over and put them underneath while you coloured in the rest of it. All the pieces had different textured patterns on the back (tartan, flowers, paisley etc), so when you coloured over it you’d get a patterned look on your garment. I would occasionally give the girl a textured face… just because I could.

the-game-of-life-is-excitingWe didn’t actually own this one but my best friend did. Again, I can see problems with it now that didn’t occur to me at the time – like, you win the game by collecting a spouse and children and making a decent amount of money. Hmm. When I was 10, though, these things didn’t occur to me. It was just loads of fun. I mean, obviously… look at the smiles of the family on the box. You can tell it’s an awesome game.

imagesSpirograph-bk2This one belonged to my brother but I was occasionally allowed to use it. Super Spirograph was, obviously, way better than regular Spirograph. (It actually was – it had a lot of extra pieces.) I would love to try this game again, now that I’m an adult and have a better sense of design. As a kid I just liked making repetitive patterns and didn’t care too much about making them look good. Spirograph is still available today although it appears to have about half the pieces of the original. That’s rather disappointing. There do seem to be a few older sets online. Again… hmmm….memoryYes, I’m aware there are about a bazillion Memory games. This was the one we had. Therefore, it’s the PROPER version.

I’m sure there are lots of other games I loved but I can’t seem to remember them at the moment. Stay tuned for another post if I think of them. What games did you love as a child?

Holiday doings

It’s school holidays here at the moment, which means I’m on holidays too. It’s possible I’m a little excited about that. It’s also possible that I’ve been annoying my friends by doing a countdown to holidays for several weeks. Happily, they are patient people.*

In the weeks leading up to holidays I had lots of plans for what I would do. My body, as it turns out, had other plans, and decided I need to sleep and relax. It took very little persuasion for me to be on board with this plan. Instead of a holiday full of day trips and excitement, I’ve had a week of walking, relaxing brunches, hanging with friends and sitting on the couch. So,  you know, a generally awesome holiday. Here are the highlights:

IMG_0598Early morning walk in the sunshine, leaning into people’s gardens to photograph the daisies.

IMG_0627A morning in a local park, which included…

IMG_0624…hiding in a duck blind, like a ninja.**

IMG_0647$15 plastic sandals, with glitter. I feel entirely sure these sandals will be as sweaty and uncomfortable as the almost-identical pair I had when I was 12, but… GLITTER.

IMG_0649An early celebration of a friend’s birthday, where I helped her children make this amazingly delicious cake. This is only half finished – the end result looked a little like this:

30447_l(Recipe and photo from here)

IMG_0659Several walks at another local walking track, which included a little loop into here:

IMG_0660…where I fully expected to find a mysterious gingerbread house around the next corner.***

IMG_0616I’m also teaching myself to crochet. I made this, then went on to these…

IMG_0666…which might be the beginning of a rug. Or might just be the beginning of a crocheted hexagon collection. Who can say?

Unphotographed events include:

A Star Trek: The Next Generation marathon with two friends, one of whom had never seen any Star Trek and wanted to see what the fuss was about. I sat and crocheted, she did patchwork and my other friend did some colouring in her daughter’s very intricate colouring book. A comment was made that it felt like we were in a Jane Austen novel, with all the women busy with their handiwork while someone (in this case, the TV) read to us and entertained us.

Lots of reading. In addition to some book group reading, I’ve been working my way through Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. They’re very funny and weird. I’m enjoying them a lot.

A trip to the zoo. Okay, I haven’t actually done that one yet, but I’m looking forward to it on Wednesday.

Verdict: School holidays are totally awesome. Totally.

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* This is a prerequisite for being friends with me. I can be a little… insane… at times.

** Note the complete absence of ducks in this photo. It’s possible they knew I was there.

*** I didn’t find a gingerbread house. I did find seven – SEVEN – fallen trees over the path. I was ready to run at the first ominous creaking sound.