Wednesday 28 January 2015

She eats the top of the watermelon

There are things that always make me think of my mother but nothing strikes me harder and brings a bigger smile than when I cut up a wedge of watermelon.

My mother is the most generous person I have ever known. I doubt I will meet anyone who gives more. Sometimes it frustrates me that she gives to her last drop and then some but that is I guess what makes her, her.

As a child, there was only ever one thing that my mother ever took for herself that she didn't sacrifice for others. Take in to account a story I was told as a child about my mum coming home from her first day at school and telling her father that a boy there didn't have a pencil. My very wise grandfather told her that next time she should break her pencil in half and give it to the person in need. I heard this story many times but what taught me generosity was my mother's ability to give and give and give and only feel happy as a result.

Now, my mother is known for being the best maker of fruit salad. She cooks many things but her tropical fruit salad is the perfect mix of everything. I've tried to imitate her but it always ends up with too much mango (I know, is that possible?) or skewed to one flavour. She gets it right.

Since I was a babe, I've watched her carefully and quite deliberately cut up each and every fruit that went in to the fruit salad. The right amount of kiwi fruit mixed with mango and a splash of passionfruit and then watermelon and berries and whatever was in season.

Usually, you buy a wedge of watermelon and not a whole melon as it is too much to consume before it goes to waste. The top of the wedge is the centre of the watermelon. It is the softest and sweetest part. The heart. The reward. No part of a watermelon tastes better.

My mother unwraps the thick shop style plastic from the wedge and cuts the thick green and white rind away. She then, with the flick of a wrist, cuts the top of the wedge out and slowly eats it. After she is done consuming the prize of the melon, she cuts up the rest and hands it to the bowl that holds the perfect salad.

She always smiles as she does this. Sometimes, my sister and I would ask for some and of course, she gave us some but it was the one thing she always took a part of for herself.

I can not remember one other thing or time that my mum ever took the best part for herself. She always happily gave the best to others. It was her culture and her upbringing. It is the best part of her.

Tonight as I cut up a slice of watermelon, I put the nicest parts aside for my mother. She is not here but those pieces are hers. In what is our culture, I will throw some of the best pieces off the balcony in honour of her not being here but being in my thoughts.

Maybe that makes no sense but it is how I will silently show I love her and know what it means for her to be here. It means she gets the top of the wedge of watermelon.

It was her one thing. That one thing she gave herself first. It is the part I will always throw a piece of away for her, forever.

I think true love is...

I think this thing we refer to as "true love" is a combination of many loves.

Some get it from one person. Some get it from a few. Others get it from a stadium full of fans.

Whatever it is to you, it fills you up. It makes you feel whole. Books have been written about it. Battles fought. Lives lost, even to the still living.

Since my life feels like being wrapped in an unending everlasting Righteous Brothers style love, I realise I am one of the lucky ones. It wasn't always that way or I wasn't always aware it was.

Take it in. Breathe it. Walk it. Swim in the salty waters of all the loving tears. Don't waste it.

Let the people who love you express that. Let it soak in like warm monsoonal rain. Let it be.

It might not be a partner. Maybe your folks suck. It could be your children always scream at you. I don't know.

Just take the good bits and realise that true love is unconditional, unending and effortless love.

Monday 26 January 2015

Gulliver's Travels

Book four of 2015 is Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift.

I enjoyed the stories but not the way it was written. It could be that I'm a little bit over that era of writing. Having read this as a child and again as an adult, I do recommend everyone should read it.

This is a fun book with some original ideas and fantastical tales. It is a joy in places.

It seems I am cured of old English classics. For the next few books, I will be reading in a language I'm at ease with and about something that involves more females characters.

Three yahoos out of five.

Should I read this? Absolutely. There are so many words created in this book and references that you must know if you are ever to understand the world :) Plus, it is fun!
What did I learn? I think I would have liked to live on Lupta. Maths rocks.

Sunday 11 January 2015

All About Braids

People constantly ask me questions about braids since I've spent about 30% of the last decade with my hair that way. The questions are usually innocent but sometimes naive and slightly insulting.

Ask anyone with an afro or any king of curly hair (no, not that wavy type that everyone has but real curls) and they will tell you that touching their hair is a complete no-no. If you wouldn't go up to a middle class white male with mainstream hair and ask to touch his hair then don't do it to others. Hell, just live by the rule that unless invited in gold embossed writing, don't touch any part of another person.

It isn't always insulting and it is sweet that every second day, someone exclaims how beautiful my hair is. Being different is fine and has its consequences. One them is answering all the questions there are about braided hair. Here are the most common queries.

Does it hurt? It looks painful.
The way my hairdresser braids my hair involves plaiting in synthetic hair (oh, shock horror) in to my hair from the base. She takes a small amount of my hair and plaits in about ten times that amount of hair in to one braid.

The first time you get braids, your scalp will be sore. If it isn't, the braids are not in tight enough and will not last. How long they last is another question. Each consecutive time you get your braids in, it doesn't hurt. At least not for me. I believe I have an average pain threshold.

When I say hurts, it is like a bruise. The first night you sleep on them, it can be quite uncomfortable but the second night they loosen and it is fine. That was so long ago for me that I might have forgotten how painful it was but I don't seem to remember it being awful.

Simple answer is: Yes, the first time.

Do you wash it?
First of all, don't call my hair "it." That's not very polite. We aren't discussing a new puppy or a crushed velvet jacket.

Yes, I wash my braids just like I wash my non-braided hair. There is a lot more shampoo and conditioner used as the hair mass is more but the ritual of washing is the same.

The braids stay in and are not undone each time I want to wash them. That is a common extension question.

Simple answer is: I wash it the same as I would my normal hair.

How long does it last?
This is a question that is subjective and depends on the braidee (yeah, I made that word up). My braids are put in very tightly and easily last 2-3 months. In that time, they will not be undone. Unplaiting a braid will usually destroy the braid completely so they stay in the whole 2-3 months.

The question should be When do you take them out? The answer to that is that it depends on how fast your hair grows. As your normal hair grows the braid will move away from the scalp. Certain kinds of hair products and pulling on the braid when washing it can result in the braid slipping off the hair. Even the way you sleep on your hair at night can effect the braid and make it loosen. All of this adds up to how long before you need to remove it.

Simple answer is: Anywhere from 1 to 3 months.

Can I touch your braids?
Huh! That was a test. Go back and read the introduction. No, you can not touch my hair.

I hope that helps answer your questions about braids. If you have anymore, let me know but I'll expect a cup of coffee in response.

How 2014 Saw Me Break and Rebuild

2014 was a very good and a very bad year for me. However much I enjoy the journey, I will always be a destination person and look at how things ended. 2014 ended very well for me and sees me entering 2015 at the top of my game in my career, with my friendships and healthwise.

Amongst my friends, I am known for my first world problems. They to me seem like a very big issue but to others they would be great problems to have. This last year of my life has involved me getting some perspective and accepting that my life is too good to complain about. There is no such thing as perfection and being upset with myself for not achieving that is plain silly. This is something that I still have to remind myself of but less often than I did in the past.

I always see life as being made up of three different and very distinct segments: Work, Love and Health. So here they are in retrospective.


No means no

After burning out at Microsoft because of my inability to say NO, I learnt the best lesson of my life and have developed the ability to refuse to do every single thing I am asked to do. That is the best skill I have learnt in the past 12 months.

You don't pay me enough to... oh wait, yes you do

2014 saw me work in 3 different contracts delivering software in the biometrics and security space. I was paid very well, in part because I am hyper aware of my worth and because I've become a shit hot negotiator. A friend and ex-colleague reminded me of one of her favourite quotes of mine when I was being asked to do something really silly at work. I said "You don't pay me enough to do... oh wait, yes you do." People do have a price apparently or at least I do :)

The Rule of Three

If you've ever bitched to me about work then you will have had to listen to Damana's Work Rule of Three. For me to stay in a job, I must have two of these three things: Good People; Good Pay; and Good Work. If I have three out of three then I am sublimely happy, which is what I had at Oakton. If I have two then I can keep working happily for a long period of time. If I have one then I leave.

If I am unhappy at work, I try to fix the problem myself. Then I ask for help from a colleague, then from a manager and then their manager. If I can not find a way to fix what I am disliking then I leave. Life is linear and you only do it once. Don't work in a job you don't like. That is why I left the ATO.


Circles within circles

Apparently all human beings have circles of people who hold differing levels of importance in their lives. I have worked out that my family and three of my good friends are in my inner most circle. Everyone else I know (and Stephen Fry) is in the next circle out. The rest of the universal set is full of people I don't know. It used to be more complex than that but I've simplified it. Only those in my inner circle get to know the details of my life and the rest can read about the less important parts of my life on social networks or my blog. My aim for 2015 will be to head for Dunbar's Number or about 200 people in my life.

You don't get to choose them

They always say that you don't get to choose family but if I had the choice, I would have still picked these guys. Through everything I do, my parents and my sister support me in every way I could wish for. They are the kindest souls and the best people I know. On those days when it feels the universe is kicking my arse, I know they love me. There is never a doubt ever. That can get you through anything. Anything. I chose them.

Don't call me Goddess

At the beginning of 2014, I dealt with the most difficult men I have ever had to deal with. My apartment was broken in to and one of my laptops and some underwear was stolen. The guy who did this was simultaneously sending me anonymous bouquets of roses and hate email with pictures of me with my eyes blacked out. He was tracked down via an online florist and spoken to informally by police. No one finger printed my apartment. There is no CSI Canberra. He only stopped because they warned him off. It seems that the police can not do anything unless you are violently raped or murdered.

Meanwhile, I had to deal with a senior colleague whose obsession with curves ended in me talking to our boss. The following three months saw this colleague make my life a living hell until I found a new role. I am very proud that I stayed strong through it and delivered my project early and well before leaving to a job that has been one of the best I've ever had in my life. Lemons to lemonade. In this time, I learnt not to trust a man who calls you "goddess" and quotes Princess Bride at you, AT WORK.

And people ask me why I'm single.


Knock me down and I'll kick the shit out of you

After spending years getting my mental fitness back, being mugged in August 2014 set me back quite a way. Not so much that depression will return but enough that I still feel angry some days and can't always fix it. Each day is better than the last and knowing is was PTSD to start with and expecting it to happen made it easier to deal with it. The tools I have learnt through years of therapy were my saviour. This self rescuing princess totally saved herself.

The mugger was caught last October and charged with mine and another mugging. Although I don't remember his face at all or whether he was black or white and a shade of lavender, it is good to know he is being made to face what he did. I kicked him so hard in the knee when he was standing on my stomach and pulling at my handbag that he limped away in pain. Even if it was the fight bit of fight-or-flight that did it, I wasn't a victim and have proven to myself that in a stressful moment, I can be strong.

Let's get physical

This is one thing I'm still not happy about. After the mugging, I put on three to four kilograms. It has been hard to get rid of it but I am determined to do so. This is my focus for 2015. In 2013 I lost 11kg. In 2015, I intend to achieve a similar goal.

Be still, my beating heart

My emotional health is in a place that I feel safest at the moment. Having finally felt love for someone for the first time since my divorce, it was an interesting year. The pain of heart break was nowhere near as bad as my divorce was. I have learnt something very interesting about myself though. Once I have loved someone (friend or lover), I will always love them in some way. Him, I miss. He is in my thoughts every day but not voluntarily. He sneaks in to my head when I am doing things. It may always be like this but that is ok. It wasn't meant to be this time but I will still always feel that passion and compassion for him that I felt when we were together. Yes, yes, even though he was a complete jerk to me in the end. The heart wants what it wants. Stoopid heart.

In summary, I worked 3 contracts, fell in love for the first time since my divorce, survived and thrived after being violently mugged, made great friends, loved and honoured my wonderful family, forgave myself my mistakes, made good choices and lived the happiest year of my life so far.

I am well proud of myself and my life in 2014. I did that one well.

My aim to maintain my mindfulness and be kind to myself. With a new job, a new country and a new journey around the sun, I anticipate that the year I turn 39 will be my year. There will be awful times. There will be amazing times. There will be absolutely uneventful times and that's ok because I'm finally getting good and this. Participation, Passion and Peace are my words for this year of my life.

Let's do this shit.

Tuesday 6 January 2015

Eat Pray Love

Book three of 2015 is Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.

Some days, I wonder if I'm actually female because apparently this is the book of the decade that women most relate to. Like the protagonist, I have gone through a divorce, discovered who I am and gone on to be happier than I ever was before. Despite this, I for the life of me can not stand this book.

The whole thing feels self-indulgent. The main character Liz romanticises the countries she travels too and doesn't seem to get where the happiness in the lives of people in third world countries with nothing comes from. To me she misses the whole point.

I practice mindfulness and have since late 2009. The self and situational awareness that I would expect this woman to develop is never there or at least the writer doesn't manage to convey it to me.

And what pisses me off the most is that in the end it is a man and love that makes her happy again and not herself. It is intrinsic and I was expecting that to be the big revelation... I guess since it was for me.

Disappointment is not a strong enough word. Otherwise, the story is a story and I read the whole thing in two days so it's not the worst writing in the world.

Two meaningless searches for god out of five.

Should I read this? Maybe. It wasn't for me but I could see others searching for themselves finding this encouraging, if on the most superficial level I can imagine.
What did I learn? I must be missing the gene that makes me all girly and therefore like this.

Saturday 3 January 2015

A Tale of Two Cities

Book two of 2015 is Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities.

I have been meaning to read this for a long time. This was my first experience with an eBook on Kindle and an audio book on Audible combined through Whispersync for Voice.

This story is much better than I expected. I always find Dickens a little wordy to read with an emphasis on dialogue based storing telling with "he said this" and "she said that" but it was not as awful as expected.

The plot is good if not slow but overall, I am glad I read this.

4 French Revolutions out of 5.

Should I read this? If you have the time. I'm a little obsessed with French Revolution historic fiction so take that in to account.
What did I learn? I was justified in naming my cats London and Paris, for A Tail of Two Kitties.

Thursday 1 January 2015

The Maltese Falcon

Book 1 of 2015 is the audio book dramatisation of The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett.

Sam Spade is a likable guy. He's a misogynist but it was that time and the film noir style requires it. The whole story is enjoyable and I can say that I now want to watch the Bogart movie. That isn't my usual stance after reading and liking a book.

I do love the witty repartee, like...

Gutman: "You always have, I must say, a smooth explanation ready."
Spade; "What do you want me to do? Learn to stutter?”"

It is full of good lines.

4 men-taken-by-a-beautiful-woman out of 5.

Should I read this? Yes, for sure.
What did I learn? "Once a chump, always a chump."