3-14820017The primary school in my ‘hood has a no uniform policy.  I dunno how I feel about that.  The kids seem happy but I find it disconcerting.  I grew up in the era of compulsory uniforms with a childhood involving the never ending chore of polishing my school shoes and sometimes ironing my uniform (a task I was more than happy to let Mum do though).  Looking back I reckon it taught me a certain discipline in orderliness and pride in my appearance, all of which I am grateful for.  I still remember the time when school uniform was made non-compulsory.  I was in High School by this stage and while everyone was rejoicing at all the surfer inspired gear they could now wear, inside I was cringing.  Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t a total nerd that didn’t appreciate a little fash freedom but suddenly this chasm opened up between who could afford the latest stuff or not.  A super intelligent classmate who came from a struggling family of seven now stuck out like a sore thumb with his hand-me-down shoes, shorts and too small shirt.  And many of the guys never let him forget it, teasing him mercilessly.  From a young age I’ve always stuck up for the underdog and would never hesitate to go into bat for this young man.  It broke my heart to receive a message inside a Christmas card one year from him that simply said ‘thank you for always being so nice to me’.  No kid should have to go through that over what they wear.  Ever.

2-14820021When I was about 6 years old I was roaming the grounds of the Agricultural College where we lived (my Dad was a lecturer at the time), wearing a borrowed, and much too big, pair of overalls and having a grand old time on my own.  It was the late 70’s in rural Australia and the place was as safe as houses, but I still don’t know why I was on that adventure so far from my own front door.  I fondly remember the sun was shining, there were no training wheels on my bike and I was all set with a screwdriver in one pocket and a biscuit for later in another.  Life was good and I was feeling uber grown up.  Imagine how much better the day got when I stumbled across a $5 note in the gutter!  Five bucks when you are only 6 years old is akin to finding $2,857,453,409!!  I couldn’t believe my luck and quickly put it in one of the many handy pockets I had on me.  There was nothing to spend it on nearby so I got on with the business at hand which most likely involved bugs, or dirt, or bikes or other imaginary distractions.  When it was time to head home I remembered the money but to my horror I couldn’t find it.  My instant fortune had evaporated, and with it my dreams of taking the whole family to Disneyland!  Tearfully I headed home and told Mum, who gave me one of those hugs only a mum can give.  Later Mum actually found the money in one of the tricky side pockets on the leg, and Disneyland was back on!! 

Cut to last night when I took the dogs for a walk to the local pet shop Zac’s to buy some creepy dried kangaroo offal that they seem to love.  I put the change in my pocket and we legged it to the park.  There we met a lovely, very exuberant puppy called Junior and they all chased each other madly in circles while his owner Kim and I chatted.   It was great as they were tiring each other out and we were just standing still until it was time to head home.  It wasn’t until I reached into said pocket to get the front door key that I realised my $45 change was gone.  Thinking back to when I was 6 I frantically searched every pocket on me in case I was mistaken but alas, no.  I dropped the dogs home and went back to the park with a torch.  I think I spent about 40 minutes combing the off-leash area like they do on the cop shows on tv, slowly sweeping in long parallel lines.  All I got for my troubles was numb toes and a cold nose!  I just hope whomever finds my money either puts it to good use or that it went to someone who could use it.  Reckon MacGyver might be safe after all…

Vegan RoyaleDon’t get me wrong, I heart food and I appreciate anyone with great cullinary skills – especially all the women in my family who cook!  It’s just that I have never really been motivated to commit to cooking well on a regular basis, preferring instead to buy cookbooks full of pretty pictures or watch tv shows making gorgeous food I’m unlikely to attempt.  It even got to the point where I had to self-impose a ban on any more books full of pretty pictures!  Cut to the recent series Master Chef and all that has changed.  I know my Mum will be pleased that I now regularly bust out the slow cooker on the weekends and make a meal or two to share for the week ahead.  Sometimes I even go so far as to make two courses.  Sometimes.  Now that Master Chef is off the air I feel kinda lost without my tutorials and idea sessions.  I’m not alone, we no longer race to the office in the morning to make comparisons of the previous night’s episode anymore either.  But I did learn an important lesson from the winner Julie.  Cooking can be a great way to show love, to heal, to nurture and to say thank you for the big things and the little things.  You may recall an earlier post where I mentioned Electric Legs has been sick, well one of my first instincts was to cook some food to make him feel a little better.  It seemed to do the trick for now, but he tells me I can’t have a 10 out of 10 for my first meal!  I just like that he thinks there will be a second one, ha ha!!

My old mantra

My old mantra

Like author Neradine Tisaj I like shopping, no I love shopping and I’m good at it.  Unlike me, Neradine is incredibly sensible when it comes to shopping.  But it wasn’t always so.  In her book How to Give Up Shopping she speaks as a true reformed unconscious shopper, and I think I have found my people.

Many years ago I used to work in finance and the hours, workload and pressures were often unbearable.  I recall one time, quite possibly at my lowest, I just bolted from the office and went out and bought a $400 lolly pink, two piece suit by a prestige lable, among many other things, all within 30 minutes.  That was the sale price by the way, and I remember at the time I  was feeling incredibly stressed, like my head would explode and I bought it to try and make me feel better. 

Now I could rationlise that purchase any way you needed me to, and did.  ‘I can wear it to the races’, I said to my bemused colleagues and ‘it will be perfect if I need to go to a wedding’ I told my strategically single, gay friends.   Did either of those things happen?? No.

Last year as I was preparing to downsize I culled my wardrobe and worldly posessions pretty hard.  I agonised over what to do with the as-yet-unworn lolly suit.  It was so expensive, it was well made, it was a good brand… and on and on it went.  Eventually, I was very firm with myself and donated the suit to my Mum and asked her to find it a good home.  But I’ll just die if I see it on a bag lady in the park!!

Following Neradine’s sound advice will now be my new mantra, you can borrow it too if you like so that you don’t buy a lolly-pink-never-to-be-worn suit!

– shopping per se is not bad, it’s over-shopping and getting in to debt that is
– gather your receipts and work out what you spend money on and how you are feeling when you do.  Build awareness of your weak moments
– don’t shop when everyone else is, the frenetic energy is very contagious
– don’t go to the mall because you have nothing else to do, find a new hobby instead
– write a list of 20 things that you enoy doing, keep it in your wallet and refer to it when you’re stressed, bored, sad or feel like spending money you don’t have!