Archive | January 2017

Work, life, imbalance 

Regular readers know I don’t write about my work in this blog, except to say how stress from work affects my sleep and my time to blog. 

I’ve mused before out work and identity.  I don’t want to say work is not part of my life. But it is not all of me, of of my desires, all of what I want to with my time. 

I used not to take balance to mean that time has to be equal because my work ethic meant I accepted spending more time working. But then I read about the 40 hour week and how the unions campaigned for 8 hours work, 8 hours rest and 8 hours whatever. Now I know that wasn’t for management but my award says I work a 7 hour day. 

But don’t you get all those holidays? ask most people and recently a Queensland pollie. Yes, but if I worked in state office, time spent over that accrues for flexi-days off. 

And a couple of minor things took places that really pissed me off. Basically bureaucrats making determinations that ignored the hours spent working and some policy determinations that were just stupid and heartless. 

So I thought I would work out reasonable work hours. And just “let it go” for all the things not done. 

Let’s look at my award. I apparently  work a 7 hour week. That’s a 35 hour week. Let’s say that is for your usual 48 weeks a year. That’s 1,680 hours a year. 

Now let’s cram that into 41 weeks of school term. That’s just under 41 hours a week. But l will donate that extra bit of an hour, effectively working an extra 4 hours above my award every year. Generous, aren’t I?

Anyway the 41 hour week equates to just over 8 hours a day. So if I work 7.45am to 4.45pm without a break, I am working 9 hours a day. Most of my recess and lunch are spent dealing with work issues, but I am happy to concede I must take 15 minutes for morning tea and 30 minutes for lunch. So that becomes 8 hours and 15 minutes a day working. 

At least every second week I have an evening function: so add 2 to 3 hours on for these, though some are much longer, over four hours. And if it is too much bother to go home, because I have work to do, I end up staying from 7.45am until 11pm. A long day!

I’m reclaiming my time. To gain back the time given to evening functions, I will leave 2 hours and 15 minutes earlier once a month for my massage; 3 hours early from once a term after a set work meeting and an hour and 45minutes  on Fridays to beat the traffic. 

Reclaiming my equilibrium and equanimity. Not just my time. 

How, you ask?

I’ve taken my work emails off my iPhone. I won’t have my email account sitting open on my desktop. I will look at the emails three times a day – on getting to work, before lunch and an hour before leaving. And I will have automatic out of office replies for holiday times, saying I am unable to access my email account. If it’s an emergency they can phone and if it isn’t they can wait. 

I will shut my door more to get my work done rather than be available to take other people’s buck passing. 

I will walk out the door and let things go if they can’t be done in the time given. 

OK, reality time. I know I will spend some weekends doing work at some times of the year. But see, it isn’t just the hours but the emotional and intellectual intensity of the work. I need to put these restrictions up and learn to be less of a perfectionist at work. 

I’ll let you know how I go. 

Caveats & reviews

Deborah Ross is a film reviewer who makes me, and a lot of people, laugh. She also expresses her thoughts much more eloquently, and humorously than I, hence she is a highly paid writer and I am a blogger without national syndication. (I don’t know if syndication is the right word; another reason I am not a paid writer but I think you know what I mean. I do value your reading but I don’t have many of you.)

I had to share her explanation of caveats for films she thinks are wonderful. (I know she will value the subsequent growth in her readership.)

See, when I like a book, I often still have concerns. And sometimes my readers think I found the book unsatisfactory. Such as my review on The Girl with all the Gifts. 

Here’s what Ms Ross said:

You will have registered the buzz surrounding La La Land and clocked its seven Golden Globe wins and 11 Bafta nominations. However, I know you won’t believe it’s wonderful unless you hear it directly from me, so here you are: it’s wonderful. Mostly. It’s wonderful, with a few caveats. I feel bad about the caveats but if you have caveats and repress them, it can make you quite ill in later years. Best to get them out there. But just so we’re clear: La La Land with caveats is still more wonderful than almost anything else.

Now you probably want to know what her caveats on La La Land are. Well you will just have to google her. This was not the point. It was that that even when you think something is wonderful, you can still have caveats. So too even if you enjoy something and don’t think it is wonderful but just OK and worth whiling away some time on, doesn’t mean you don’t have caveats. 

So please don’t take my caveats as a condemning of a book or film. 

And if want to laugh, read Deborah Ross’ review of Gone Girl. 

As to my view of La La Land. I loved it and I have no caveats. It was wonderful. Go see it. On the big screen. Don’t wait for it to come out, well you can’t say DVD anymore, but whatever it is that movies come it on after movie cinema release. 

Owls vs larks

I’m an owl. 

I like staying up late and burning the midnight oil. I like watching TV and reading books when it is quiet and dark all around me. I’ve worked on uni assignments and documents for work into the wee hours. 

Staying up late may be less to my natural rhythms and more that there are fewer distractions and less noise?

I’m not a grumpy owl. 

Happy owl

While I do like my morning to go slowly and for hours – I can make breakfast last hours and happily stay in my nightie until the afternoon and then get moving – I can jump up and get going happily in the morning if needed. 

Some say you can’t change your owl or lark nature. 

If you have to get up early for work and you’re an owl who happily stayed up until midnight, it can be hard. Go to bed earlier, larks say. Well it’s not easy for an owl to go to bed by 9.30. It feels like it is still evening, not night time. 

But there’s things you can do apparently to help modify your internal rhythm. 

On waking up, expose yourself to bright light. Sunshine is best. And directly on the face. Not looking at the sun, of course, but no sunnies blocking the light getting into the eyes. 

Problem is if you have to get up before the sun does! For me now, the sun rises at 6am. And I have to get up then for work, so not much sunlight. And I don’t have time to go for a walk in the sunlight. I have to leave for work by 7.15. 

I might get up, have my shower, get dressed and have my breakfast on the front verandah which gets the sun in the morning. Not spending some time checking the news on my iPhone before my shower!

The last few nights, I’ve been in bed before 12 and woken naturally at around 7-7.30. No alarm. Just waking at the right phase of the sleep cycle. I fear I haven’t used the morning light well – sloathing on my lounge or bed, reading books and the internet and drinking cups of tea. Maybe that reflects my owl energy cycle?

What about you? Are you a lark or an owl? When is your energy levels higher? And does your rhythm correspond to your work demands?

We want our own hill 

Binge watching a TV series with a friend (Doctor Foster – the series’ name, not the friend’s, and yes, it was quite good, if you’re asking), we both commented at the same time when this scene came on:

Photo taken of my TV while watching

English movies and TV shows often have a scene where the characters sit on a hill overlooking London or the town or the village. 

Are there that many empty hills in England?

Does everyone walk up them to think or have deep and meaningfuls?

Well everyone from the village/town/London can’t be up the hill. Because the scenes rarely show any other people. 

Here’s two scenes from The Full Monty. 

Here’s a scene from the TV show Stella. 

Here’s one from Brassed Off. 

Can you name a movie or TV show with a similar scene?

Look out next time. They’ll turn up. 

Sleeping apart

Mr S used to snore. There was no set type of snoring. He did it all – random loud explosive snores, constant grumbling snores, wheezy nasal snores. 

And he used to breathe on me. I know! How dare he breathe! 

We solved the latter with the purchase of a king sized bed. Now he can breathe to his heart’s (and lungs’) content. I don’t feel or smell it. We have the luxury of space!!!!

I tried sleeping with white noise or rainforest music through my iPhone (cause of course, he couldn’t be disturbed by it playing through speakers). But I got twisted in the headphones. And I found the ear pieces uncomfortable. 

I admit to being driven from my bed on many occasions by his snoring. Mr S was aghast! He sees separate sleeping as a sign of marital discord. Well, yeeeessss. The snoring is pissing me off. 

I worked out Mr S’s snoring pattern. He would mainly snore when sleeping on his back and the snores would be more frequent after about 1 or 2am. They’d also be more common if he slept on his right side but less than if he slept on his back. 

Mr S was dismissive of my concerns. He said I couldn’t talk being a Dora The Snorer myself. I counter pointed with the fact that if his snoring is disturbing my sleep then it is a problem. Mine doesn’t wake him so it isn’t a problem. 

We got to the point that he would roll instantly if I pushed a little on his shoulder. I also worked out if I could tip his head back a little when he was lying on his side, he wouldn’t snore at all. (Almost like tipping the head back for CPR.) But that wasn’t easy to do and he normally woke up, even when I surreptitiously pulled on his pillow to move his head. 

Of course all this means I had to take action and I had already been woken. 

Now I’ve just read Sleeping Apart Not Falling Apart: how to get a good night’s sleep and keep your relationship alive by Jennifer Adams. Mr S was quite alarmed at seeing it in the pile of library books on sleep. He really doesn’t want separate rooms. 

At this point I can say my sleep issues are not to do with Mr S. He no longer snores! After more than a decade, we have clear, quiet, non snoring sleep. 

The miracle is a nasal spray. Nasonex. It works. I’m too scared to read up on the side effects lest I have to go back to hearing snoring. 

Some interesting points in Ms Adams’ book, even though I won’t be sleeping separately. All the research and surveys find that women are less happy and have their sleep more disturbed when sharing a bed than men are. And, although the biology gives no reasons, men fall asleep more quickly in the main than women. 

The history and cultural differences of shared beds is curious – group sleeping vs couple vs single bedding. 

Where do I sit on the separate sleeping? I always think it is funny that when I finally became an adult with my own home I couldn’t get my own room and had to go back to sharing bedrooms. I do prefer to share, especially with a king bed, but I would like a room to withdraw to or retreat. A room of one’s own! Sounds like a good title for a feminist tract. 

Where do you sit (or lie) on this issue?

Do you suffer from your partner’s nocturnal rumblings? 

Are you disturbed by any noises at night and need a silent cocoon or can you sleep through fire alarms and the like?

Share your tales in the comments. 

If you want to read a radical plan for sleep undisturbed by snoring, reading or farting, get a hold of this book. 

Jamie Oliver burnt chicken san fran salad

This was the best salad ever. I’ve never been a fan of the quinoa (not only because I can’t say it, but because the few times I’ve had it, it has dominated the salad or been used in a salad so sparse in other ingredients and so bland, it has been boring and gluggy.)

I was given the Jamie Oliver 15 Minute book and DVDs years ago but have never got around to cooking anything. A chance watching on free to air TV, had this recipe featured. I had to give it a try. 

I’ve also never been a fan of smoky paprika, preferring the sweet, so if it wasn’t for the show on TV, I never would have cooked this. 

The flavours, the colours, the smells. Heaven. 

When I had started preparing the salsa and put the spices on the chicken, Dreamer came in and said the smells were making him hungry. The smell was divine!

I’m not going to list the steps if the recipe as I largely followed Jamie Oliver. But here’s some pointers. 

Of course it doesn’t take 15 minutes. But that’s OK. It really wasn’t that long, though I can’t say exactly how long. I didn’t time it as I prepared some bits before my guests arrived and, as luck would have it, had a power outage for two hours just before the guests came and then I was socialising while cooking.  You do need a food processor to moosh up the baby spinach, coriander, mint and spring onions. This spread through the quinoa, makes the quinoa edible. My salsa was a bit dry to I added a teeny little bit of water.

I used chicken thigh fillers not breast because they were on special. Also being smaller, they were quicker to cook and I am always worried about under cooking chicken. 

No cress in our fruit and veg shop, so I used snow pea sprouts instead. Like them better than the peppery cress anyway. 

Didn’t use chilli because one friend doesn’t eat it. 

I served some limes on the side, for extra juice. I didn’t have enough avo because they were not ripe so could only use half a large one which is a shame as more avo would have been better. 

The salad doesn’t really last or maybe we were left with too much quinoa. Anyway, it is nicer when the chicken and capsicum are warm. So eat it up quickly. 

Truely, this is a great one to serve with friends. It looks so impressive. I’ll be putting this one out again this summer before the mango season finishes. 

While Sydney swelters

This is the fourth summer holiday in a row we have escaped some of Sydney’s heat and humidity for a bit. Not to the beach. Not the great exodus north. 

This year we went south. Again. 

First stop Canberra. OK, being inland it can get hot but it doesn’t have the humidity of Sydney. And we were there for museums so revelled in air conditioning. 

We saw the National Portrait Gallery which has this painting of Captain Cook. 

On loan to the gallery was the death mask of Ned Kelly. It was ghastly. You can see the indentation of the rope from his hanging. I don’t know how I feel about it. Should it be displayed? It’s not like a painting or photo. It just seems too invasive of the man. 

Then we walked over to the National Art Gallery. It was late and we’d seen enough art in the Portrait Gallery but we went straight to Sidney Nolan series on, yes, Ned Kelly. (My interest continues!) We exited through some nineteenth century Australian art. 

That evening we stopped for some pre-dinner drinks at a popular but unimpressive pub. The weather was perfect for sitting outside. Then we had dinner at a contemporary Indian which was not your normal premade jar curry. Very fresh and and flavoursome. 

Day two was the real reason for our visit to Canberra. The exhibition at the National Museum of Australia from the British Museum: History of the World in 100 Objects. Boy it was crowded! And for good reason. It was very interesting. Those Pommies collected/stole some amazing objects. Mr S says that there was no stealing as so much was actually in The British Empire so they owned the objects anyway. (This is all meant tongue in cheek. I know for some the topic is serious.)

I am not sure that I agree with all the objects as representative of the history of the world. Either way it provokes thought and discussion. The continual creativity and ingenuity of mankind! This is why I rail against dystopian novels that have us reduced to fighting and scavenging. We always have done much more, even when subsistence living. 

We walked around the rest of the museum, starting with the novel rotating theatre. All up we spent nearly four hours there!

It was a day of museums. After lunch we went to  the Australian War Memorial. A few hours is not enough here. The World War One galleries are a must. They have been massively overhauled since I last came here. Mr S and I agree, its better than the British Imperial War Museum. 

In the WWII exhibit we stood on the model of a Lancaster bomber while it went on its raid – very moving. 

Mr S always has to see G for George. (Dam busters is a favourite Sunday matinee movie of his.) They’ve built a new exhibition space to incorporate more audio-visual narratives. We have to go back for this as we missed it. We closed our visit with the Last Post ceremony. Every afternoon they recite the Ode, play a tune on the bagpipes, read the biography of one of the too many who have died, lay a wreath and of course play the Last Post. On our day the brief biography was a man who died in the Cowra POW breakout. He manned the guns to stop the Japanese from escaping, until he was overpowered and killed. It’s so hard to understand why we keep killing one another. 

Can’t Segway in any meaningful way from that, so straight onto dinner. I picked the restaurant ranked one on TripAdvisor, Pomegranate. It was divine! I had the best ever zucchini flowers stuffed with the softest cheese and then Balmain bugs. And the dessert!!! Three scoops of sorbet: coconut, orange and passionfruit, and raspberry and pomegranate. 

The next day we went to Lake Crackenback Resort just below Thredbo in the Snowy Mountains. On the way we stopped at the only physical store of an online retailer, Birdsnest. I had to visit as I love how this online store gives you options to see clothes worn by models of different sizes! 10,12 or 14. How cools is that? I bought two dresses. Cool and flowing, perfect for back in Sydney’s heat. And the dress comes with pockets. I love a dress with pockets!!!

I bought one in blue and one in pink.

At Lake Crackenback the weather was perfect. Cool nights, mild and sunny days. One windy and rainy night that only made sleep more peaceful. It’s when it doesn’t get cool at night that the heat becomes unbearable! 

And ahhhh, the peace and quiet! Kangaroos at our back verandah. 

It was like a sports and rec camp for middle class adults. We walked 18km to the top of Kosciusko, did some cross-country Segway riding, swam, and relaxed. 

The Lake was perfect for swimmimg

We will definitely return and stay longer, try some mountain biking and river sledding next time. 

Our villa under the blue sky and at the base of the National Park

I could live there for a month!

On a previous roadtrip I wrote about how surprisingly green the countryside was. This trip the countryside was its normal grey and browns. So for you Dar, this is what the fields normally look like. Apologies for the bluriness and reflections, as this was taken from the car while driving at 100km/h. 

The Sober Revolution: Women Calling Time on Wine O’clock

Enjoy about sleep for a bit, though I did turn off electronic devices and the TB at 9.30 and was asleep by 10.30! Had a great night’s sleep and woke at 5.30, rested and alert without an alarm. Perfect!

So back to Calling Time on Wine O’clock. Catchy title! The book by Sarah Turner and Lucy Rocca called to me from the library shelf as that’s what  doing. 

But it wasn’t really for me. The stories were all of really extreme cases – DV, getting caught DUI, almost losing job. Not me at all. Thank heavens. 

Aimed at middle age women (me) it’s central premise is that you must not consume any alcohol. No trying to cut back. No moderate drinking.

Also the authors kept using the comparison of alcohol as the bad lover you are attracted to. Just didn’t work for me. I am not attracted to the bad boy type. Never have been. And never really being in the in and out of relationships and the single scene, the comparison doesn’t work for me.

The book does constantly refers to a site you can join for support. Except it costs. And I already am on one. The forum I am on is for living simply and saving money. On the site there’s a thread with others who are cutting back on alcohol. So the authors are right, support networks help. I just don’t need theirs. 

So I skimmed this book. My takeaway idea: if you continue to see no alcohol as denying yourself you will falter. You will be unhappy and a “dry drunk”. But if you look at it as a chance to let your true self shine through with time and energy and thought to do the things you love, you see being alcohol free as a positive.

However, they push a totally acohol free state. Not a drink in moderation. I am going down the latter path. I am never saying never. I want it to be like gambling for me. I can walk in a casino or past pokies and have no calling to gamble but then I might buy a scratchie after grocery shopping and enjoy scratching it. 

The authors said  time getting on the wagon is usually continually spent counting down the days until your next drink. Whereas totally alcohol free is not spent in that way. 

My 30 days started like that and then I lost count. And now I can only “count” the days by counting back to when we did things on our hols. “When we did the big walk I didn’t have a drink but I think I did the next day when the storm hit.” kind of thing. Though last night I had a piccolo of sparkling wine. 

As always for me the real test will be when I return to work. How will I deal with the stress? How will I make the mark between work and home? How will I take some time for me to stop and break and breathe without “doing” something?

Why you shouldn’t fall asleep in front of the TV

I have a bad habit of falling asleep on the lounge in front of the TV. It might be for an hour or two. Often I incorporate what’s going on the tele into my dreams. Not by conscious choice. I’m not seeing anything as my eyes are closed. It’s just that the sounds go into my brain. Does this happen to anyone else? Freaky, isn’t it?

While  I struggle to go to sleep when I finally drag myself to bed, I tell (kid?) myself that at least I’ve had a few hours of sleep. And hey, isn’t an hour before midnight worth two after midnight?

Well, no, not this type of sleep! And the science of sleep tells us why. 

My readings have told me the first two stages of sleep are light sleep. It can be easily interrupted. Yep, that happens to me. TV show ends and I wake up. Son comes in and asks a question and I answer. Someone makes a noise next to me and I wake up quickly. 

By falling asleep in front of the TV you sabotage your efforts to sleep later as you deplete your melatonin levels. Didn’t know that!!

And of course the problem is made worse by the blue light from the iPhone, which I have to sneak a look at, which we all know reduces melatonin more than just a light bulb. 

So it isn’t deep sleep. It’s an hour of light sleep and I’m not allowing my brain to enter deeper stages. 

Not good at all. 

But it gets worse. 

Remember I wrote about the 90 minute sleep cycle. Well, the ratio of the different stages of sleep is not the same throughout the night. 

You have longer deep sleep in the earlier cycles. So by disrupting my sleep in the early part of the night, I am robbing myself of the deep sleep, needed to clean out the brain (and possibly avoid the protein building up in the brain that Alzheimer’s patients have.)

Now don’t smugly think you’re so good by not falling asleep on the lounge. If you delay going to bed because you’re watching the tele, you’re also missing out on the early deep sleep. 

So stop with the binge watching of Netflix. Get to bed!

And don’t fall asleep in bed with the tele on!

Looking at TV from my position on bed. We hardly use it.

Oh, and one last thing from science. Apparently they are now measuring the “busy” brainwave spikes in deep sleep. They shouldn’t be there. They might be changes due to all our use of technology. 

It’s messing with our brain waves!

Even before the iPhone, or the invention of the polysomnography and the discover of brain waves, they knew early to bed made Jack clever, rich and healthy.

Last night I was again in bed by 10.30 and fell asleep almost instantly. Unfortunately I work at 3.30am, got up, had a drink and a wee, and went back to bed but I couldn’t go back to sleep. So I go up and surfed the net for two hours. Went back to bed and slept for two more hours! I have to work on this early morning waking up!

I know I should sleep but…

Why, if you know sleep is crucial for your health, are you not sleeping? 

I’m not talking about a medical condition that prevents you from sleeping. Though even then, it may be stress or some other health issue you’re not addressing. Nor am I talking about the heat and humidity we are suffering from in Sydney. Not sleeping in this mad weather is understandable. 

As Dar said in yesterday’s comment, we often stay up late because the immediate payoff of doing fun things wins over the delayed gratification of waking up feeling rested. 

Sometimes for me it just takes too much psychic energy to get off the lounge and do the bedtime chores and get into bed. The power of inertia keeps me on the lounge. 

Then there’s the feeling of missing out. Of a new show on TV. Of a repeat of a favourite schow. Of time for myself. (O love it when I finally have the lounge room to myself and Mr S has gone to bed and the boys are not home orcin their own rooms.)

That explains the late nights, even when the good angel is sitting on one shoulder saying, “Go to bed, Lucinda. You know you’re tired.”

But beyond the bad habits there’s deeper truths. 

We expect to be able to have what we want when we want it. Order up a meal. Connect to the Internet. Turn on the TV. And with our body – work now, read, go for a walk. We command and our body follows. So with sleep, we expect it to respond to our demands. I want to go to sleep now. “Now” varies depending on what’s in the diary (or on TV – I lead such an exciting life) and what was going on during the day. 

But sleep won’t be commanded. Our bodies need regularity and routine. 

And stillness. 

Which brings up another point. 

We are operating at such a speed and with so much activity, we’re creating an imbalance in our physiology. 

Dr Ramalakhan on her book, Fast Asleep Wide Awake, says she sees thickening waists as another sign of this overactive sympathetic nervous system. 

My waist is definitely thickening. Is it just too many carbs? Or could the stress be contributing to it? Is there a link between my sleep patterns, stressed and busy and noisy lifestyle and my waist?

And then she said those who operate in continual fast pace, and in stress, have their sympathetic nervous system locked on, that’s the fight or flight mode. Key sign: these people can’t stop or they’ll get sick and when they do stop, they do get sick. 

Back in own bed, reading and blogging

Lightening bolt. 

I get sick at the start of every holiday. My body just collapses in a big pile of “thank god that’s over”. I’m not being a hypochondriac here. Mr S says I go down at the start of holidays as I finally stop pushing myself on. 

So what to do? 

Besides reading Dr Ramalakhan’s book, I’m going to implement some of Huffington’s strategies. I will list them tomorrow. 

More on Dr Ramalakhan’s theories in future posts.