Monday, 31 August 2009

Guest Blogger: ETG 3

Image from here.

I am an enormous fan of opportunity shops (thrift stores). I love them. If I am on foot when I pass one, I can’t go past it. You just never know what might be in there. And that’s the beauty of them: you just never know. You may find a treasure, you may find nothing. There’s no certainty. Shopping elsewhere, you can be fairly assured of what you’ll find, and security is certainly an important and necessary thing. But an opportunity shop…well, it provides you with opportunities. Can I use that? Can I wear that? Would that go with those red shoes of mine? What would I do with that?

And today was no exception. In amongst the faded Mills-and-Boons and the old Womens Weeklys, I spied Present Moment Wonderful Moment by Thich Nhat Hanh. For $2! He is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk and he is a great advocate of the principle of Mindfulness. For some time, I have been aware that there are some thought patterns and behaviours of mine which could do with, shall we say, a re-adjustment. As a result, I have been thinking a lot about different ways of seeing the world. The notion of Mindfulness has much that’s appealing to say on this topic but I have found it to be a difficult notion to define for myself, to understand in a way which provides me with a personal meaning for it and ways in which I can make it a part of my life. Even my GP said to me, “Mindfulness…yes. Very interesting. But I’ve often wondered—(his voice dropping to a bewildered whisper)—just what is it?”

Well, Thich Nhat Hanh sums it up beautifully. Certainly he talks about such important and complex topics as meditation practice, but he also brings Mindfulness to bear on washing the dishes, brushing your teeth, cleaning the bathroom, eating, throwing out the garbage and answering the phone. Be aware of each dish and the sensation of the warm water on your hands. Don’t make time spent doing housework unpleasant, being in a hurry to move on from it. Brush your teeth in preparation for a day of compassionate speech. Answer the phone with a smile and so sending that positivity to whoever is on the other end.

The profane is the sacred, Thich Nhat Hanh tells us. There is beauty and meaning in everything, not just in the extraordinary or the expensive. Treasure is everywhere, you just need to stop and look and take your opportunities as they present themselves.

Previously in the Land of Meg:

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Full Tank

Now that I have been blogging for over a year, it's a funny feeling to read back over old posts to see what Meg Before has been up to. How much has changed. How much hasn't.

A year ago today, our 5,000 gallon water tank arrived. It looked like an enormous techno snail shell on the back of the truck that delivered it. I never thought that it could rain enough in my lifetime to fill it.

But rain it did this winter and now our cup runneth over.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Fresh Milk

Thank you all for joining me for Book Week. I hope you've enjoyed it as much as I have. To conclude the festivities I thought I would tell you about the last great book I read - Fresh Milk: the secret life of breasts.

It was suggested to me because the highly personal subject of breastfeeding is shared through anonymous anecdotes, in the same way I aim to share the stories of the stepmothers I have been speaking with.

The subject matter also appealed to me because I am interested in the ways women feel and express their maternal instinct. So many women talk about feeling the most motherly and the most feminine they ever have while they breastfed. What interests me is how mothers feel and express their maternal sides if they didn't give birth to their kids.

I loved this book. From cover to cover. It's respectful, wise, considerate, informative and funny. The story topics range from the practicality of feeding triplets, to men who lactate to feed their babies, cooking with breastmilk, buying a maternity bra, weaning, and women who choose not to breastfeed.

This book is like The Vagina Monologues of breasts, and even mimics some of the sections from that book: If your breasts could speak what would they say? If breastfeeding were a place, what would it look like? I learned so much from so many women and even though I have never breastfed my child, I never felt excluded. On the contrary. I felt particularly included, especially when the mothers spoke of the valuable role played by others in the nurturing of their offspring:
Effective parenting is not tenable alone, nor even through the cooperative liaison of two loving parents. It is a web spun by a far-flung constellation of people, working together to weave the cat's cradle that make a child's life possible.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Great Jones Books!

Before I met him, in one of his many incarnations, PJ owned a bookshop. The cardboard sign I'm holding here was once the side of a box of books he received when he had the shop, from US booksellers, Great Jones Books. He cut it out and kept it because his last name is Jones.

Since I first read the sign, I have exclaimed Great Jones Books! when something great has happened. Well, not every time, but sometimes. Like today, because I woke up beside PJ and it's his birthday.

He once told me that in Wales in the olden days, people were addressed according to their professions. My dentist, for example, would have been Amro the Teeth. My hairdresser, Renée the Hair. One of his nicknames for me is Mog, so sometimes he calls me Mog the Blog. While I call him, Patrick the Book, which most often gets shortened to simply, Books. And as I am Jewish, it also gets lengthened to Booksberg or Bookstein. (Not to be confused with my bookish friend Becky, whom I call Booky.)

So happy birthday, Booksberg! Thank you for sharing your wonder and your words with me.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

New Book Smell

Does your Kindle leave you feeling like there’s something missing from your reading experience?

Have you been avoiding e-books because they just don’t smell right? If you’ve been hesitant to jump on the e-book bandwagon, you’re not alone. Book lovers everywhere have resisted digital books because they still don’t compare to the experience of reading a good old fashioned paper book.

But all of that is changing thanks to Smell of Books™, a revolutionary new aerosol e-book enhancer.

Now you can finally enjoy reading e-books without giving up the smell you love so much. With Smell of Books™ you can have the best of both worlds, the convenience of an e-book and the smell of your favorite paper book.

Smell of Books™ is compatible with a wide range of e-reading devices and e-book formats and is 100% DRM-compatible. Whether you read your e-books on a Kindle or an iPhone using Stanza, Smell of Books™ will bring back that real book smell you miss so much.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Book Week

To coincide with Book Week in Australia, I hereby declare it to be Book Week in the Land of Meg as well.

I hold my parents accountable for my love of books, my mother especially. Not only is she a voracious reader of words, but a writer of them as well.

Her book about her mother's dementia, Alzheimer's: A Love Story, is due to be released in October. Her mother, my grandmother, was also a great lover of words, and one of the hardest things for her was to lose her grip on her language, something I think the cover evokes beautifully.
From the publisher's website:
When the last of Vivienne Ulman’s four children left home, she and her husband were poised to enjoy their freedom. Then her mother’s Alzheimer’s intervened.

In Alzheimer’s: a love story, Vivienne records with tender lyricism and searing honesty the progress of her mother’s Alzheimer’s, her own grief over the gradual loss of her beloved mother, and the way in which her parents’ enduring love for each other sustained them.

Into this she weaves an account of her family’s history, in particular her father’s rise from farm boy to confidant of prime ministers — achievements made possible by the loving strength of the woman by his side. In a reversal of roles, he now amply returns this support.

This inspiring Australian story is a tale for the sandwich generation, squeezed on one side by concerns for their children and on the other by anxiety about their parents. It is about illness, grief, and hardship, but it is also about love, determination, and joy.
I'm so proud of you, Mum. Happy book! And happy Book Week!

Friday, 21 August 2009

I Heart Michelle

OK, so the background of this story goes something like this: In December last year, on one of the blogs I read it said that if you leave your postal addresses as a comment, they would send you a love letter, no matter where in the world you live. And so I did.

A few weeks later my love letter arrived and I felt good about it for weeks. And then a few months later another love letter arrived and I felt just as great about that one too.

And now, a few months after the last one, another letter has arrived.

"Have a cup of tea and read an old dusty book that smells like the past," writes the sender, Michelle.

Who am I to argue??

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Breastly Dramas

I go to the theater with a newborn baby. The theater is at the university. It's opening night. The vice chancellor is there, along with other important guests. I sit in a seat near the aisle so I can escape quickly if my baby starts crying when she wakes. She wakes, and I offer her my breast. She happily suckles for the rest of the play. I sit in the half-light with my huge breast out, my daughter latched on. It feels curiously subversive. For what other reason could I sit in a theater with one breast "exposed," unless performing maternity? It means mother and baby don't disrupt the "real" performance, and yet some other meaning is being disrupted, something to do with the way I've been trained to behave in public.
- Alison Bartlett, adapted from Thinking Through Breasts: Writing Maternity.

Monday, 17 August 2009

The Turtle

I was flicking through the photos on my phone this afternoon and found this. It was on the wall opposite the nurse's station in our local hospital. I snapped it during one of my visits to see PJ when he was in hospital with his chainsawed knee.

When I was growing up, my sisters and I called this pose The Turtle. One of us would get down on hands and knees while the other would jump up to reach a high place such as the cupboard where our parents hid the cooking chocolate.

PJ finished making this step yesterday morning. He made it out of the rocks I dug up from the garden two weeks ago.

When I first became comfortable with the prefix step in stepmother, I visualised myself as The Turtle. I spent the day today writing up my most recent stepmother interviews and every time I typed the word step, an image of this one came to mind.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Garden Bed

PJ's parents are staying with us this weekend, so we used their visit and the onset of sunny weather to have a pre-spring spring clean. We had three mattresses that were rather old and smelly so we cut them up. We used the wool from the futons as mulch along our east boundary

and when we've decided where to put this bed skeleton, we'll grow some kind of vine or cane up through it. Mmmm raspberries, maybe. Breakfast in bed??

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Lesbian Woolcraft Show

I went this morning, with some of my knitting group friends, to The Annual Yandoit Lesbian Knitting and Woolcraft Show.

Outside the small hall were some gorgeous alpacas who were there to show off their wool. They were so placid and soft, I thought I might skip the show altogether and just spend the morning patting and cooing.

But when I saw this sign, I knew I had to go inside.

And I'm so pleased I did. I have wanted to knit a cosy for a chair like this, but all in red, for quite a while. Dear Meg Later, I am blogging this image as a reminder for you to do it.

I felt like a bit of a cheat, not being a lesbian and not knowing how to knit, but when I saw this knitting nancy, which is all I know how to do, I felt a lot better about being there.

My favourite craft of the day, and the item that received my Best in Show vote, was the Goodnight Darling banner above the kitchen. You can't really see from this photo, but each letter has been hand-sewn onto a rectangle cut out of a blanket and then pegged onto a string-line.

The tea and cake I bought from under it got my vote too.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Self-Portrait With Squirrel

From Abroath:
Melissa Brandts and her husband were exploring Lake Minnewanka in Banff National Park, Canada, when they stopped to take a timed photograph of themselves.
They had their camera set up on some rocks and were getting ready to take the picture when this curious little ground squirrel appeared, became intrigued with the sound of the focusing camera and popped right into the shot.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Rubbed Out

I have a lot of red things - found, bought, stolen, gleaned, acquired, gathered. For some reason, I am avoiding the word collected. Collected to me involves some kind of purpose - one does it actively. I collect my chickens' eggs, I collect Z from school and I am collecting stepmothers to interview.

I used to collect rubbers. I still have them, in a bag in a carton in a box. Since I stopped collecting them I must have opened the box, the carton and the bag maybe half a dozen times.

I picked my niece Indigo up from school yesterday. She has just started collecting rubbers. All day I had the Ghostbusters feeling that I was going to blow her mind with my collection. I couldn't wait!

But when I had finally emptied the bag onto the table where she and Z sat, instead of bits of wowed brains splattered everywhere, there were just two underwhelmed kids, and me, the very very grown up, grown up.

Monday, 10 August 2009


This is one of the postcards on PostSecret this week.

I was eleven years old when Ghostbusters first came out in Australia. It was one of the first movies I can remember reading about and counting down the days till its release.

I remember coming home from school camp to learn that my mum had taken my sisters to see it without me. I was devastated. She told me she enjoyed the film so much she was happy to see it again.

I remember sitting beside her in the theatre as the lights were going down, my legs sweaty on the big vinyl seat. I was so overwhelmingly excited, I can still remember what I was thinking:

I. Am. Just. About. To. See. Ghostbusters.

I still have those enormous rushes of excitement. They have nothing to do with the film, but precede occasions that I am looking forward to enormously. My Ghostbuster moments.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

In Real Life

When I sat down to blog yesterday, I hadn't intended to write about Pookie and winter, I had wanted to write about the first time I read the book to Z. It was his bedtime and we were snuggled up together while I read him the story about all the woodland animals and Pookie the rabbit who told winter to go away and then come back again.

Even though I was brought up Jewish, I am OK that Z still believes in Santa. "But Santa goes over land to every house – reindeer can't fly!" He recently assured me.

The first time I read him the tale of Pookie, he asked me if the story happened in real life. It amazed me that Z is 7 and thought that a story about talking animals could be true. I guess if he straight out asked me if Santa is real, I would say no, but he has never asked me. Which is why I told him the truth when he asked me about Pookie and his friends.

As soon as I'd said no, I didn't regret it, though I did feel as though I had taken something pure and oh so lovely from him, that he'll never be able to have back.

Friday, 7 August 2009


Z loves this book. It was a gift from our friend Vivienne who had it when she was a girl.

Pookie is a little white rabbit who, after a nasty storm, tells Winter to go away and never come back. But then, when Winter shows no sign of returning, and Autumn is followed by Spring, "the Woodland Folk realised what trouble they were in."
"Who will wash away all last year's old leaves and rubbish?" they asked each other anxiously. "Who will spread a blanket of snow so that we can sleep snugly underneath in our cosy homes? We cannot manage with just Spring, Summer, Autumn... and then Spring again! Flowers cannot get ready to flower again without a rest during the Winter! Hedgehogs and Dormice and Squirrels and lots of other Animals must have their winter sleep!"
I used to be like that. If Winter wasn't going to go away, I would fantasise about migrating to some place tropical for a few months. But now that our plum tree is starting to bud and the time we have to lock the chooks up is getting later and later each night, I am sad that Winter is leaving, and that the bushfire season will be upon us so soon.

In this illustration Pookie is asking Winter to please come back to the woodlands, because the animals have realised that they need him. I don't know that I would go so far as to ask Winter to stay longer, but I am surely going to miss him when he leaves.