Saturday, August 30, 2008

Un-Happy Feet

It seems my devotion to my fitness regime has been sabotaged by my very un-happy feet. Perhaps it's just their way of saying "give us a break", but in recent times, it's been a litany of podiatric problems. First it was corns and calluses, then bunions which admittedly have been hanging around for a while but in recent times have swollen to undreamed of heights, then last weekend a chilblain on a big toe - not a pretty sight. Now my right foot has totally thrown up its toes and is barely working at all. It started with a soreness seemingly from nowhere, which I was kindly told by my gym instructor on Wednesday night (when I had to cry off from aerobics) might be gout!!!! Ye gods, I know the old bod is struggling, but gout!!! I know this is not corroborated by any medical evidence whatsoever, but just the word conjures up images for me of porky, red faced, bulbous nosed old men (sort of Sir Les Patterson types). Anyway the pain has become quite a lot worse over the last couple of days, requiring a visit to the doctor. The diagnosis is still somewhat vague - the best he could offer was maybe a sprain, or maybe a stress fracture -anyway thankfully not gout. So I am hobbling around popping anti-inflammatories and waiting to see what happens basically.

I must say this is rather a bodily betrayal on the part of my feet, as I have really been enjoying my fitness sessions and actually for once feeling quite toned, fit and if not exactly muscular, at least tight in all the right places rather than flabby.

Oh well, at least the enforced rest will help with making inroads into the pile of books, paper work and blogging topics waiting to be addressed!

Teddies for the Bears

One of my favourite animal welfare organisations, Animals Asia, as I have mentioned before desperately needs funds for helping the rescued bears in China and Vietnam. Abracadabra Teddies is currently running a special Big Summer Online Teddy Bear Auction until 31st August 2008, and all funds raised will go towards helping the bear rescue.

My love of teddies goes back a long way. I clearly remember being tucked into my small bed at night squashed up against the wall to leave room for a long row of teddies and other assorted stuffed creatures who had to share the pillow with me. (Of the creatures who share the pillow with me now, we will discreetly not speak). Anyway if, like me, you are a lover of teddies, do have a look at their fantastic range (some are vintage bears and special editions). The money is for a truly deserving cause.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A taste of spring

Here in Adelaide we have had a couple of days of somewhat premature spring weather - given that spring officially begins on 1st September. We seem to have had a particularly long, cold winter so the warmth of the sun is very welcome. I occasionally escape to a nearby park at lunchtime to read or meditate or just enjoy the fresh air and commune with the ducks, who I must say are considerably better company than some of my workmates. Possibly more intelligent also. But that's another story. Life is problematic in the career area at present and well ... the love life as previously mentioned has had its ups and downs, so while I sat watching the ducks in the park yesterday, I was hoping spring would start to appear in me. The bleakness of winter is still haunting my thoughts rather too much at present and I feel I must make a conscious effort to restore some positive feelings. Sometimes all it takes is just sitting quietly for a while in a beautiful place and feeling its calmness and peace ... sometimes it's a bit harder, but I hold onto the thought that springtime will prevail, in me and in the park!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Dogs about the house

As anyone who has dogs or for that matter cats, knows only too well, whenever you're engaged in doing something around the house, they have to be "involved". My domestic duties around the house are considerably lightened these days by being fortunate enough to have the lovely Maria who comes once a fortnight to keep order and restore cleanliness to grubbiness. However occasionally I have to get involved in such things as changing the sheets and it was during one of these episodes recently that the dogs partook enthusiastically of the whole exciting process. Once the bedclothes were all in a heap on the floor, Scully sprang onto it and ascended to the peak, like a mountain climber, then dug around madly until she'd made a nice nest in which she immediately curled up and went to sleep, not to be budged for anyone. I think she thought as she blended in quite well with the colours of the quilt, I might not notice her. Fergus meanwhile installed himself on the unmade bed - his favoured position, in whatever state of dress or undress it is - and also refused to be moved. Needless to say, the bed changing process took a good deal longer than it should have, especially as I took the opportunity to capture the little dears on film!

I recently read a post in the "Blogher" blogging community for women (which is fascinating by the way) about the joys pets bring into our lives, which I wholeheartedly endorse. They don't even have to do anything really, just seeing their funny little whiskery faces looking at me makes me feel wonderful!

Found ... and lost

I haven't referred to my romantic quest for a while, the reason being I thought I'd found something that looked and felt so much like the real thing, I wanted it to have time and space in which to grow and blossom. My forays into the online dating world seemed to have finally borne fruit, in that a few weeks ago I met a man who was sweet, kind, caring, thoughtful and so drop dead gorgeous he made me weak at the knees just looking at him. What gave me hope after a long season of little hope was that he seemed to care for me and seemed to want what I wanted. We had some very special times but ultimately it seems the relationship is not to be, for reasons I confess I don't fully understand. Apparently a chance encounter has caused him to be conflicted about his feelings for a past relationship but be that as it may, I don't think after all he is the man for me.

Getting close to someone is challenging for me. It brings up lots of old demons of fear and mistrust that I struggle to conquer. I know though that I am gradually learning how to be open, trusting and courageous in the face of these doubts, as one must be to achieve anything worthwhile. Cynicism and game playing are characteristics abhorrent to me and if I give away too much, so be it... I have a lot to give away.

This time I think I have learned how to love and let go. I thank this person for the gifts of caring, warmth and passion they brought to me and if they can't be lasting ones, then I believe they are there to be found with someone else.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

9/11 - Lest we forget

I was recently reminded of the horrific events of 9/11 by reading an account of Caroline Overington’s interview with the widow of one of the victims. Caroline Overington is a Walkley Award winning journalist and I have just finished reading her book “Only in New York: How I Took Manhattan (with the kids)”, a fascinating and humorous account of her experiences as a foreign correspondent who relocated to New York from Sydney together with husband and two year old twins.

We are of course approaching the 7th anniversary of 9/11 and it was with rather a sense of chagrin that I realised that, for me at least, time has significantly diminished my awareness of the enormity of that act of atrocity. Not least because I was not there, I am not American, nor did I know anyone directly affected by the event, but also because time has a way of stealing away and trivialising our righteous anger and outrage about all such tragic episodes in history. Of course the enormous scale of the horrors perpetrated through such episodes as the Holocaust, acts of genocide, mass destruction or any manifestation of man’s hatred against man impairs our ability to identify with and really register it on a personal level. It’s easier just to turn our minds away and think of something less confronting.

It is however when we can condense the epic scale of such tragedies down to a smaller frame and see the effects on the lives of ordinary individuals like ourselves, that we can truly comprehend the devastation and destruction of humanity that such events represent.

Caroline Overington was privileged to have the opportunity of interviewing Sally Alameno, the widow of Andy Alameno, who was an employee of Cantor Fitzerald, a company located across 5 floors just above the floor where American Airlines Flight 11 smashed into Tower One of the World Trade Centre. He was one of 658 employees of that company killed in the attacks. She and Andy and their children are pictured above right.

Caroline Overington's account of that interview is moving in its simplicity and directness. As she says, this was just a normal Mum who got up one morning, coped with the everyday hectic morning family routine, saw her husband off to work, took her kids to kindergarten and returned to find that her world had been ripped asunder. This young woman and her little children in an instant had lost their beloved husband and father, with no chance to say farewell. I think we can all relate to the pain of that. If we magnify this individual family tragedy across all the victims of that act and all such acts of infamy whenever and wherever they have and are occurring, we get just a small glimpse of the insanity, futility and assault on humanity such evil represents. Let us never forget to be angry and never lose our sense of outrage at acts of vengeance perpetrated against the innocent.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Susan Jeffers

I have always had an interest in the field of personal growth and have read a number of books over the years on how to understand ourselves and others better, how to deal with the difficulties life throws our way, how to establish and maintain better and more lasting relationships and many other aspects of life that sometimes seem really hard to grapple with alone. I do feel the insights offered in some of these books are really worthwhile and although obviously one needs to adapt what is relevant for their own circumstances, it is surprising how often a new approach to a long standing dilemma can reveal itself in such writing.

An author in this genre I have recently come to know and admire is Susan Jeffers. I have read several of her books, "Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway", "Embracing Uncertainty", "The Feal the Fear Guide to Lasting Love" and most recently "Opening our Hearts to Men". Her consistent message throughout her books is that when we get in touch with our higher consciousness and switch off the ego-driven reactions, it becomes much easier to operate with a sense of love, caring, calmness and self-confidence, rather than fear of failure or rejection. Developing a strong sense of self-worth is difficult in the face of disappointments, loneliness, career obstacles, family and relationship problems, but as Susan Jeffers points out, if we focus primarily on addressing our own attitudes and taking responsibility for addressing the problems, and less on judging others, it opens the way for real insights and real solutions.

She has proposed this approach on a broader scale as an answer to stopping violence and promoting peace in the world. If we each really try to reduce the amount of negativity in our thoughts and actions, we can add to a critical mass where life-changing actions can begin to take place and blame, hatred and alienation can be transformed into caring, healing and peace. A great message I think, but it all starts with us.

Friday, August 8, 2008


The wonderful organisation, Animals Asia, which I submitted a post on recently (entitled "Caring for Bears"), is celebrating its 10th birthday this month.

To recognise that event, and also to help raise additional funds for rebuilding the sanctuary in China which was seriously damaged in the recent earthquake in Sichuan province, Jill Robinson has come up with an innovative fundraising idea called Honey Money Days (honey of course being to bears what chocolate is to humans!)

This gives people the option of arranging a fundraising event of their choice in honour of the bears - anything from a get-together with friends, to try out some recipes using honey, a sponsored walk or whatever, as long as it's during August or September. There's quite a few ideas on the website.

This seems like a great idea to me, to combine having a bit of fun and raising money for a very deserving cause. If anyone has any suggestions or is interested in getting together to arrange something, do let me know.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

No paradise for dogs

Thailand, as I know from my own couple of trips there to visit my son Simon, is a beautiful place - some may say a paradise. The people are warm and friendly, the scenery is magnificent, the sense of history, culture and tradition is all pervasive. It is particularly shocking to see therefore in this beautiful land of gentle people the brutal treatment meted out to dogs.

As any tourist will attest, huge numbers of stray dogs (and cats) roam the streets of Bangkok and most of the major tourist destinations, especially Phuket. These dogs live in appalling conditions and attempt to survive on handouts of food from tourists or by what they can scavenge. There are no shelters or agencies such as the RSPCA or Animal Welfare League in Thailand and no laws providing protection against abuse or promoting responsible animal ownership. With no controls or protections in place, the only way the escalating numbers can be controlled is by culling programs and these are carried out in the most barbaric and callous manner. The most common method is by strychnine poisoning which results in an agonising death for the poor creatures. The Asian Tsunami of December 2004 of course only served to magnify this problem as there was a huge increase in abandoned dogs and cats when people lost their homes and businesses.

The Soi Dog Foundation first came to my attention following their appeals for help following the Tsunami. The Foundation is a charitable organization, based in Phuket, Thailand, which aims to reduce the numbers of unwanted dogs and cats on the streets, improve the living conditions of the existing street and stray dogs and feral cats and provide medical treatment where possible for the many sick and injured animals which would otherwise be left to die or subjected to cruelty and abuse. Sponsors for dogs and cats are desperately needed to help cover costs of transport for volunteers, feeding and treatment costs for the animals. Sponsorship costs approx. $20 per month for dogs and $13 per month for cats and helps provide food and medical treatment for the sponsored animal.

I became involved several years ago by sponsoring a lovely dog, Shambala, who sadly died not long ago from a tick borne disease which didn't respond to treatment. I am now sponsoring another dog, Roz, (photo top left). It is not very much in terms of money and helping one dog among thousands may seem trivial, but every little bit of effort helps.

I recently received a request to sign a petition to help try and prevent the latest round of horrific abuse where a local government initiative to remove unwanted dogs has involved the tranquillising of large numbers of dogs by garbage disposal employees. The dogs are then dumped in the back of a truck and driven around all day in the heat until those that have survived are dropped off at the Govt Dog Pound, to what one can only imagine must be even worse horrors to come. Here is the link to the petition, if you would like to sign it.