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Archive for November, 2010

“When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.” — Susan Heller

I live in a small haven of beauty and harmony, right in the middle of nowhere which is perfectly fine if you want to get out of the rat race. But occasionally once in a while I do have to touch base with civilization and that’s when it gets real tough. Driving 4-5 hrs to get to the nearest airport is definitely not how I would like to start my travel, but that’s exactly what I have been forced to do lately.

If you are like me cosseted by male folks around you all your life ( I had a chauffeur for a push bike in one of my past lives), going away on a trip on your own may sound daunting even if it is just an over-nighter or an interstate one. I am now listing some bloopers that have caused me sufficient embarrassment and anxiety especially when travelling on a flight, and hoping that my words, even if they do not provide much insight, might at least bring a few giggles to my female counter-parts.

Thou shalt not commit the travel faux-pas

Unless you can carry off travelling with a broken travel case as the latest fashion in jet setting, check your travel case for broken handles or wheels. This check becomes mandatory especially if the last person to take the travel case was a male member of the family.

Thou shalt not assume the role of damsel in distress
Travelling light, especially when you are on your own is a sacred commandment to be heeded. Once you have packed your travel case, try lifting it above your heads, simulating stowing away the case on an overhead locker. If you are struggling, then it is your cue to remove those extra tops you have packed for an over-nighter. Mmm, is this because chivalry is slowing dying in this world….not likely, I would like to put my money’s worth on another plausible explanation…. most men are cautious and wary when offering their support as they do not want their actions to be misinterpreted as a sexist intention. Anyway why don’t we avoid further controversy and pack bags that we can carry?

Thou shalt heed the voice of the GPS
As the self-appointed navigator in the house, I still resist getting a GPS. A kind friend at work, worried that I was travelling alone, lent me her GPS. Now I had already done my home-work and knew the route I was taking – unfortunately the GPS and I were not seeing eye-to-eye on this front. As a result, I was constantly admonished and asked to throw myself on the railway track or do an about-turn in the middle of nowhere.

So if you are travelling with a GPS, throw away your inner compass and rely on the GPS to take you safely to your destination. Also if you are lead-footed like myself or just happen to drive a cop-magnet, it would help to pay heed to your GPS about speeding and camera alerts. You do not want your speeding tickets reaching home before you do, right?

Thou shalt use judgment for airport parking
For those travelling in your own car and struggling with the alien concept of parking, most airports make it even more confusing by providing short-term and long-term parking. Ensure you have picked the right parking lot as different prices are charged……believe me it takes the whole fun out of sale fares when you realise you have to pay double for parking.

Thou shalt not wear boots while travelling
I love my knee high boots, however being stopped and asked to remove them every single time I step through the airport detector, does not make them the perfect travelling companion. Especially when you are already late and rushing to catch your domestic flight, the last thing you want is to be stopped at customs and asked to remove your shoes. If you do share an umbilical cord relationship with your boots, at least make sure you have ones that you can remove and slide back on easily.

Thou shalt pick the front seats for domestic travel
If you are given the option of choosing your seats, opt for the ones in the front. Most domestic carriers flying out of small airports do not offer the flexibility of aero or jet bridges. Prepare yourself for the short walk on the tarmac and up the flight of stairs which is why it is preferable to choose a seat in the front of the flight rather than the back. You also won’t be subjected to the propeller or jet blast while embarking/disembarking from flights that still have their engines running.

That shalt learn to feed thy automobile
If are you anywhere like me getting your husband to fuel/clean/park the car whilst you just busy yourself with the only task of driving, it might help once in a while to learn how to fuel your car. This knowledge is vital especially when you notice that 20 or more cars have already passed you while you stand there, making a spectacle of yourself, battling with the pump and avoiding it getting jammed. Perhaps learning to read the fuel signs rather than going with just the nozzle colours might also help or else you would be spending a few extra dollars loading premium unleaded into your car.

Thou shalt travel with food, water and medicines
For those hitting the road for long hours after being on a flight, ensure that you load, if not yourself at least your car with sufficient water and food. Shelling out for medicine and food on the wayside convenience stores for more than what they are worth for would only exacerbate your headache. Besides stopping at these highway depots attracts unnecessary attention to yourself and the fact that you are travelling alone.

Thou shalt not covet your neighbour’s book
If you are like me who is incapable of staying still or falling asleep in a flight, then do remember to take some music or books with you especially when you are flying on those domestic flights where in-flight entertainment is not provided. Unless you have metaphysical powers or dabble in the darker arts and have mastered the act of coercing your neighbours to hand over their books or magazines to you, I would strongly advise you to travel with one.

Thou shalt be home-bound
Of course there is always this option available to you – weigh your alternatives while considering a travel and see if you can utilise technology, minimise travel and save yourself the hassle and costs associated with this.

That’s it for now – feel free to add your own tips to this post. I am sure we can all benefit from a bit of free advice 🙂

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Something smells fishy…..

“We are just two lost souls, swimming in a fish bowl…..”

– Pink Floyd

A few weeks ago, we welcomed our latest addition to the family. Usually people start by raising plants, then pets before they try their hands at parenting. We have just gone in the opposite direction……having had kids and seeing them none the worse for wear given our parenting skills; we decided to experiment with pets. Before I swelter under the scorching gaze of any of my RSPCA buddies, let me clarify my words. What I meant is our resolution at having no pets at home wavered a little around my girl’s eighth birthday; we finally gave in and decided to get her a fish. I also had an evil plan up my sleeves – was planning to use the pet to lure her out of the hazy trances that she slips into under the influence of the TV.

Well, for those out there thinking along the same lines as me that fishes are low maintenance pets, ha ha…….please be prepared for a real eye-opener. I believed getting a fish bowl and a fish would do the job, sadly no……given the expenses I incurred, I might have instead fed the family on fish and chips for the whole month!!! Having had the brainwave strike at me whilst I was away at Melbourne, the poor pet had to survive 4 hours of grueling journey……on a scale of 1-10, both Mr. Red (you don’t need a high IQ score to figure out why he was named that) and I could have marked our experiences as extremely traumatic – especially with me not wanting the poor little fish and my dollars going down the drain.

When Mr. Red finally arrived at his new home, the kids were pretty excited at seeing the newcomer. However I should have known better given their short attention span with any new toy. When the fish and I were soon left staring at each other bereft of other company, the truth hit home…….now I have got an extra mouth to feed and to look after, thanks to the weakening of my resolve. Every morning when I walked in to check the fish bowl, I was worried I might be greeted by an upended Mr. Red. In fish lingo, that’s definitely a no-no…. definitely not the sign for a good day – and it spelt disaster in my world too. You don’t want a dead pet on your hands; try explaining it to a jury of my kids….I would rather face the children of the corn.

However I could not get rid of this definite vibe that there was something wrong with Mr.Red. Maybe I was imagining things, usually given my nerves and paranoia, it is no surprise……however extrapolating my neurotic fears to include shrinking fishes was a first even for me!!!! I seriously thought one day I was going to announce to the kids “Brats, I have shrunk the fish”…….every day I felt he was getting smaller and smaller. It is a syndrome that my family usually suffers at the expense of my culinary skills, but hey the fish wasn’t even sampling my wares and yet, I thought he was rapidly shrinking. And above all, he was getting lethargic as well and hardly swam.

I was convinced that Mr.Red was experiencing the blues however I was told that fishes have short term memory…….mmm, despite the studies done on goldfish contradicting this theory, I readily lapped it up to ease my guilt. I obviously did not want him to remember any trauma that I might have unintentionally caused – though I am sure having me staring at him with baleful eyes ( assuming that glass distorts Mr.Red’s perceptions) every time I pass by him must have been really stressful for him.

Finally, a friend at work recommended getting a heater even though he wasn’t a tropical fish – not the friend, Mr. Red I mean……..so there came in another expense. Guess we must have been the only people to buy a tank heater for a fish bowl……and however ridiculous the heater looked jutting out of the bowl, the fish looked happy. He was back to his endless circles………yeah definitely easing a few of the worry creases from my face.

So it has been six weeks since the fish arrived home – I still wonder how he managed to survive this long given our care (or more so the lack of it). I have always been a person with an unbridled enthusiasm for aquariums – watching the fishes have always soothed me; however the enjoyment ratio with this little one is not quite the same – it is quite depressing watching him go around and around listlessly. But still no regrets, the kids are happy and they do remember to feed him always and also occasionally talk to him, contrary to my original assumptions.

Guess that’s all matters in the end…….worrying and carrying about another life, no matter how insignificant it might be or the least fitting into the matrix of your own personal needs. I am at times astounded by the ignominy of the treatment people show their counterparts in today’s world – they label their prejudice , bigotry, lack of empathy or simply bad manners under a lot of headings – religion, culture, race, ethnicity, skin-colour, language, busy life-style and so on. We cannot right all the wrongs in the world in one go, but perhaps we can leave a legacy behind through our own kids by teaching them to practice humanity at any cost. Perhaps this is where pets can be of some real help as well…..they can teach kids to be sensitive and attuned to needs that are not voiced explicitly. I am perhaps overstretching (no doubts there !!!) – from pets this blog has gone to help provide triage for human problems out there……..and I have been chastised only recently not to let the blog wander,, but hey, I have got the memory of a fish 🙂 Anyway every journey starts with a few steps.

Happy Trails!!!

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Most of the shadows of this life are caused by standing in our own sunshine.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

We decided to go on a drive over the weekend – a journey with no specific destination or agenda. Travelling on a route not taken before, we soon drove past small sleepy towns on the way. Just minutes into the drive, the bickering in the backseat soon died and pretty soon, the kids were fast asleep. Acres and acres of farmland stretched out by the road – especially with the canola flowers in bloom, most of these farms were so eye-catching with their yellow hues. The habitually dry and brown Aussie vegetation that peppered the scenery around this region, also seemed to have acquired a subtle and un-jarring beauty with the recent rains. The smooth grassy knolls were speckled with grazing sheep, its scenic beauty more resplendent in the golden sunlight. The land spoke of a harmony that was a soothing salve to an agitated mind searching some kind of repose.

If only some of us are capable of transferring this drive’s tranquility to our biggest journey that we call life? Notwithstanding the fragility of lives and occasionally the brevity, we tend to cram our lives with disputes, ego issues, pettiness, antagonism, possessiveness, territorial atavism – the list continues. Knowing fully well that we never get out of it alive, we not only take life too seriously, but pitt our limited defenses, against all odds of swimming against the tide and in the end, exhaust ourselves of life’s immense possibilities.

However, each one of us is unique – not just in our traits and behaviour but also when it comes to dealing with life’s disappointments. There are some who, in doggedly following the fatalistic truth that all things are inevitably predetermined, exude a stoicism in the face of adversity that is greatly enviable. The hedonistic few, with escapism as their sole mantra, diligently immerse themselves in newer pursuits, carefully placing a gulf of distance between themselves and anything that reeks of guilt. However there is another lot, suffering from self-blame and an internal locus of control, that stay mired in the past, gazing at closed doors and broken dreams, unable to break out of the circle of their disappointments. Like Lot’s wife, given their tenacious hold on the past, they get transformed into pillars of nothingness – exchanging their present for wispy memories of the past.

Tenacity is what’s under discussion today – speaking of which, usually within minutes of coming into contact with me, people describe this quality as a commendable trait of mine. Unflattering images of an unyielding rottweiler is what used to strike me first, however lately I have learnt to populate my mind with the more appealing likes of the acorn-obsessed sabre-toothed squirrel Scrat, my Ice-age peer. Ah well I am digressing…..anyway what I would like to talk about is how this very quality may become somebody’s rue.

This otherwise Samsonian trait can become debilitating in circumstances hindering people to move on, where every cell of their physiological and psychological make-up cries to them to hold on to the very situation that no longer works for them. Their very tendency to see things to closure might leave them conducting post-mortem analysis and bogged down in the quagmire of the past. By lacking the walk-away power, do they lose their objectivity or is it vice-versa, well maybe we are talking about a “chicken and egg” paradox here!!! Their inability to segue into changing circumstances only signals the slow demise of any kind of control they might have over their lives. Besides their very fugue like state might not be off any consolation to the crowds cheering on the sidelines.

What do we have to say to such people who, if I may borrow a phrase from a smart acquaintance of mine, refuse to stop picking at the threads of the material of the past? Well, if I know the answers to such million dollar questions, I would be minting money from copies of self-therapy books sold instead of slaving over a blog that hardly anyone reads 🙂

However for those out there who find living a struggle with the challenges that life throws your way and slide into depression as a result of broken dreams and broken relationships, there are souls who empathize with you, but still it is in your hands to take the first steps towards recovery. When you choose not to take your eyes off lost opportunities and unresolved issues, you miss the small slivers of silver lining that comes your way. Beat the blues, discover the courage to say “I can change” – learn to give up on people who gave up on you, on situations that leech your strength – after all the ones who matter are still there for you, patiently waiting for you to turn that corner. Mental illness is no longer a stigma in the society – described routinely as an epidemic, it is racing neck to neck with other debilitating diseases in human history. Support is available for those who need it – recognise the signs, look around and reach out for help.

Your battles against crippling depression might not be written in history, your battle scars might not win you accolades or medals for bravery, but to those around you – especially your near and dear ones, you matter and your life does. Do not let the black hound of depression and melancholia steal your life and cut short your lifeline prematurely; instead use your God-given strength of tenacity to work to your benefit – cling onto positive thoughts – after all happiness is an attitude of mind that can be practiced and learnt.

– Dedicated to the millions out there battling the blues of life everyday – your silent pleas of help are being heard !!! If anyone out there reading this blog comes across a person suffering from depression, take it upon yourself to give them a helping hand – a small selfless act of kindness on your part can do wonders in people’s lives. Who knows you might have given them a new lease on life?

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