Sunday, November 22, 2015

Journalling - humble beginnings

Midori Travelers Notebook, Bullet Journal, Planning, art journaling
sample pages from my Bullet Journal and Midori Traveler's Notebook

When I was about 10 years old I had a sleep-over at a friend's house. We got ready for bed and went to say good night to my friend's mum who was herself sitting up in bed writing in a notebook.
"What are you writing?" I asked.
"Well, actually I am writing about you" she smiled. "Every night I write the day's events in my diary, the things I did, what made me happy and what made me sad. Right now I am telling my diary how you came to spend the day and night at our house."
My friend's mum, her bright coloured pyjamas and her glasses perched on her nose with a double drape of beaded chain swinging from each temple, instantly became promoted to the coolest person I knew. She was talking to her diary, about me no less.

Subsequently I became one of those people who started a diary on January the first every year of my life (since I have been able to write) and rarely made it past Epiphany. Maybe once or twice I dragged my pen into February - entries all ready having degraded to "sunny morning, beans for dinner, Sons of Anarchy / awesome".

Once I maintained a sporadic journal for over a year and rereading those entries both horrify and fascinate me. But I am sometimes envious of people who trained their journalling muscle young, and have a stack of well-inked notebooks chronicling their life. And it isn't particularly that I want to reread all of what happened: there are great chunks my life that I know I have forgotten and will probably never retrieve, and in many cases this is a good thing as much of my past was spent crouched in a corner rocking. I definitely wasn't always as happy as I am now and the fact that the memory of pain fades is a good thing. Anyway 'no regrets' is a personal mantra - so looking forward, I am now the proud owner of a journal writing habit - how did that happen?

Well, I started bullet journalling.

I won't explain bullet journalling now as there is tons on the interwebs about it - and if you are interested go here. But basically I was using a couple of digital productivity tools to stay on top of my work tasks but nothing was really working to my satisfaction. I think productivity is something that can be trained - but just like any form of 'fitness' you need to find a way of training that suits your personality. Bullet journalling worked as a framework for me and the motivation to stick with it came from stumbling upon an online community of fellow journal lovers on YouTube and Instagram whose love of all things stationery was deeply infectious (hello, washi tape!).

I started in July this year, sustained it through the past five months in a way that feels comfortable and makes me confident that I have formed a habit and not just flirted with one. It is a process that always has room for refinement and evolution - but it is here to stay.

The one thing I was struggling with however was how to combine my work and free time journalling. Work was easy - the bullet journal took care of that, but I found my weekend / free-time entries often became long narrative pieces (all journal and no bullets essentially). And I realised that while I wanted to 'organise' my working life from this point (where I am at) to some point in the future, my free time was a combination of planning and organisation (chores and projects) and reflection / learning from events and experiences (basically the stuff of traditional memory-making), and the two formats didn't mesh.

Then I met Midori.  The Midori Traveler's Notebook (MTN) a lovely leather-bound notebook system designed for travellers to document their journey, but used by pretty much anyone for pretty much anything. I fell in love with this system by watching YouTube videos of creative people enthuse about the softness of the leather, the thinness of the paper and the flexibility of the system.  On holiday in Singapore I found a retailer and splurged - hard. The rest, as they say, is history.  My Midori is where I keep my narrative - the reflections and unbulletable (it's a word now) text that helps keep me sane.  There are no dates and therefore no guilt about blank pages and as my fragile habit of reflection is tethered to my more stable habit of organisation I am able to sustain it.  Magic.

So this is just my introduction to this theme - I will share thoughts and pages regularly and keep you updated on the evolution of this habit.  But let me leave you with a few of the online resources (people and pages) that have been my inspiration during those crucial first months.  I am very grateful.

Courtney @ Little Raven Ink & The Little Ink
Kim @ Tiny Ray of Sunshine (and through this site I found the Instagram #planwithmechallenge - which I HIGHLY recommend).
Jessica @ Pretty Prints & Paper
Kara @ Boho Berry
and Dee @ Decade Thirty who also has a fab Etsy shop here

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

New look for an old bag, I mean blog

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Originally we used to organize our blog posts by date. You found someone writing about a topic that interested you and read their most recent post. Then if you enjoyed it, you scrolled down and read some early stuff.  A dedicated reader might travel back in time quite far, and notice the posts getting slowly less useful / funny / well-written / articulate / diligently proofread until you end at their beginning with a clumsy first post:

"Hello, this is my blog - I am not really sure what I am doing right now but I hope some people will enjoy reading about my shot glass collection".

Or something.

When I started this blog back in 2008 tag clouds were all the rage.  We dumped as many keywords as we could think of into that label box and built up a bank of words that ostensibly existed to help people find all the cool stuff. A bit of code ensured that words were rendered to scale according to their frequency (commonly used tags were larger).  Then one day some devious plugin-coding-masturbator figured out how to make them spin and we all wanted one of those.

Boy did we think they were awesome, but then we though Microsoft's marching red ants were awesome for a while, and Geocities gifs, and Myspace glitter graphics. Or maybe we didn't, because you would have to be as old as me to remember these things.

Anyway yesterday I spent an hour taking all of my tags out of every post so I could re-purpose the 'label' plugin with a category function.  I'm dusting off the old blog as I have started getting a little more creative and it is nice to document these things. Imagine The North (ITN) is the only blog (and I have had many several) that really works for me.  Looking around most blogs these days use between three and ten categories / subcategories - which makes a lot of sense; we might not stick to one topic, but people usually are drawn to our blogs through a common interest and they want to be able to find relevant content easily. Of course we hope they will then be drawn to content on other themes and become Faithful Readers of Everything.

So I have been trying to chose categories.  Here is where I am right now:

Journals & organisation
Thailand & travel
Health & wealth
Apps & tech
Close to home

Okay so I am being a bit sneaky as most of these categories are actually two categories mashed together (and let's be honest 'Close to home' is essentially everything else).  But I think this just about covers the main areas I am interested in / likely to post about.

Which is basically a long-winded way of saying, I'm back - blogging.

selfie trans MakeupPlus app beard sexy chihuahua
WTF Mama?!

(it's an app)

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Free thinkers

free thinkers, you can spot them a mile away
This is a version of an image I saw on Facebook. The original was a bit wider, showed more of the room and the guys at prayer.  I loved it immediately.  The kid's playful gesture and fun expression instantly transcends barriers of race and religion.  In fact this gorgeous little boy had a message for me that transcended the literal message of the text itself.
The original image had the text I included here but also had a logo bottom right which read "We fucking love atheism" showing it come from one of those rash of rationalist Facebook pages which glorify science and unbelief in any kind of God type person running the show. This Pinterest board is a very representative sample of their message if you have been in a cave for the past 18 months.
I edited the image because I liked the photo and the message I didn't wan't to align myself with that group.
I hope this little boy is a free thinker, and I hope those guys on their knees behind him are free thinkers too. But I am pretty sure the guy (or gal) who made the original image wasn't; because what is obvious to me, and to I think a growing number of people, is that these New Atheists force their 'bright' dogma down our throats with all the fervor of the worst kind of televangelist. They are the priests of a new religion that is crying (rather unoriginally) that God is dead. And they aren't the free thinkers they believe themselves to be.
Free thinkers know they don't know the truth, they are agnostic and at times full of doubt. They may express faith (as opposed to certainty) in some kind of Higher Power or they may lean towards the atheist side of the belief spectrum.  But importantly they know that they do not know the answers and therefore that the people who think differently to them have an equal chance of being right.
Free thinkers probably suspect that neither side (us or them) have come close and the truth and when it is revealed (however many millenia down the line when we are evolved and ready for it) will be more mysterious and beautiful and right that we could ever imagine.  And although they don't know, they suspect that the truth will have something to with love and tolerance and being compassionate and nothing to do with hate and opposition and being right.
Free thinkers realise we will learn the truth as soon as we no longer need it.

I have just read a beautiful book called Patience With God: Faith for People Who Don't Like Religion (or Atheism) by a free thinker called Frank Shaeffer.  Here are a couple of quotes from it:
The problem I have with the 'solution' offered by the more radical New Atheists... is that we are spiritual beings with or without their permission.
New Atheists pit religion's literalistic claims against their own literalistic claims.  In that sense the New Atheists turn out to be secular fundamentalists arguing with religious fundamentalists.
To me the secular and religious contenders seem to miss the reality of our actual condition: we are specks on our tiny planet and our concept of the truth, and time and space is related to our limited perspective.
It is a very inspiring book and just the perfect thing if you are looking for a way to have a little old-fashioned faith combined with a little post-modern uncertainty.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Smoothie making

I used to be a Goddess.  Not a beautiful white-robed Grecian Goddess, or a multi-limbed, blue skinned Hindu Goddess.  I was black haired, foul-mouthed, sadistic Goddess of the Underworld named hirondelle (yes, lowercase, always).  I slaughtered many and maimed many more, but one of the few to lay a finger on me and survive (he stabbed me in the face and caught me so much by surprise I clear forgot to tear his head off) was the General of my very own Dark Oblivion Army*.  

When he wasn't tearing the limbs off babies and plunging a dagger into my visage, he made smoothies.

It was a kind of hobby, General REM and his smoothies.  You could ask for anything and he would whip it up in seconds, no matter how exotic and fanciful the ingredients.  

Dom and I have started making smoothies.  The two above, made yesterday morning, are passionfruit, pineapple and banana with a splash of mango juice.  

And with every single smoothie I make, I think of the General.

Smoothie making, smoothie making. 

*Before you call the police, or a psychiatrist - I was an RPGer

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Leave them alone

“There is never any need to get worked up or to trouble your soul about things you can’t control.  These things are not asking to be judged by you. Leave them alone.”
Marcus Aurelius

I got this quote from an article on upekkha, or 'even minded love', on the lovely Wildmind Buddhist meditation site.  The article deals very efficiently on a topic that is both intricate and simple.  Being lovingly involved with the world without becoming attached to that involvement. 

It is summarised in these three sentences:
Non-equanimity is like sitting on the shore, watching waves rising and falling and cheering when the waves rise, mourning when they fall. With equanimity we recognize that the waves are not under our control. They rise, they fall; we watch, with love.
Watching with love is a curious thing, it is easy to believe you have a handle on it (or the beginning of a handle of it) when times are good. But not so easy when you are disappointed, hurt or angry; and of course it is during those times when your equanimity is at its most valuable.  When your love and compassion becomes a real treasure for the world.  

I was just reminded of this lesson, and humbled by my lack of skill when it comes to equanimity under duress.

Love, love, love but don't be attached to the idea that the world will always love you back. Don't let the judgement of others lure you into judging.  Let the waves rise and fall. Watch with love. 

And ultimately, leave them alone.


I have never written a film review.  I have no idea where to start.  There seems to be a formula, yet I can't work it out.  But suffering from Facebook withdrawal symptoms and needing to connect with the internet and the people I know are still hidden in it (even though I can't see them) I felt compelled to write a post.  And going to see Mud was the best thing I did all day.

Mud is about love.  It is about the moment when the sometimes dirty, achy breaky reality of love collides with our childish misunderstanding of happily ever after. It is about friendship,  trust and believing in people, and being hurt but still brave enough to trust again. It is about being a boy in a fascinating, dangerous world full of snakes and spiders, bikes and boats, tattoos and titties. 

And guns.

Mud is timeless, for 135 minutes the only screen you see is on a TV.  Phones have cords and people get phone numbers from telephone directories. People also eat sausage and beans from a tin with so much relish that I want to do the same.  

And people earn money from doing old fashioned work.

Mud is Stand by Me, Huckleberry Finn and Great Expectations.  Mud is a love story where the lovers only share a single look in the whole film.  But what a look.

Mud is a wonderful film.  There is a magic shirt in it.  Go see.