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productivity, Uncategorized

Why I Write Clean Stories.

A Nice Clean Story

I write nice clean stories.  There is no gratuitous violence, no swearing and no (gasp!) sex.  My stories are directed at young readers aged about 8 to 12 years. My characters are ordinary kids. They have no special powers. They are not dealing with any fantasy creatures or beings. All they have to work with is their powers of observation, wits and innate curiosity.

Am I Old-fashioned?

Now, I guess it is old-fashioned of me to be determined to keep my stories clean. There are several people who keep saying to me that the kids of today don’t want to read about ordinary kids, that they want to read about mystic fantastic realms where demons, witches and warlocks rule and that, if I want to be successful as an author, I will need to write about those things.

I have no problem with the authors who write in the fantasy genre.  I enjoyed the Harry Potter stories too but I read them as an adult not as a child. However, I do believe in the ordinary kid – the kid who can struggle with a difficult situation and find a way through it without benefit of a magic wand.

Are Today’s Kids Really That Different?

When I was a kid, about a hundred years ago, I wanted to be one of the Famous Five or Nancy Drew’s offsider.  I wanted to have adventures and to have to solve mysteries.  I did like the story to be puzzling and exciting,  but I didn’t want to have the socks scared off me – maybe just a little bit, but not completely off!

It makes me wonder if today’s kids are really so much different.

Save Our Imagination

I have written before about the downturn in imagination in today’s children.  It is something that really worries me.  It worries me that children can’t think of anything to play unless they have equipment of some sort. It worries me that they can’t come up with any ideas when they are asked to write a story….no matter how much scaffolding is provided for them.  It worries me that they don’t know how to build a cubby house using cardboard boxes and tree branches.  It worries me that they have little in the way of risk assessment skills.  I think children need to be able to do all these things if they are to grow into adults who can cope with the everyday world.

Face the World as a Problem Solver

We rarely have to face a wand-wielding wizard but we often have to solve problems using whatever wits we have been given. Cleverness often suffers in comparison to ‘coolness’.  Why I am not sure. I want children to know that being smart, inventive, ingenious, observant, logical, curious, adventurous is “way cool”.

So I will continue to write nice, clean stories about ordinary kids in the fond hope that there are parents out there who want their children to be inquisitive, observant and adventurous too.

You can find more information about my books here.

mindfulness

Using Hand Mudra to Aid Healing

I am still a novice yoga practitioner, but I find the simple poses that I am focusing on have been most beneficial in not only calming my mind but also in ‘unclenching’ my body.

What are Hand Mudra?

I happened upon Hand Mudra as I was wandering through my Facebook feed one day. It interested me because it seemed so simple – a practice that can be performed anytime to aid in healing and wellness. The underlying philosophy is interesting.

The natural sciences of Mudra therapy believe that the five fingers correspond to the five basic elements viz. Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth.

  • Thumb – The fire (Agni)
  • Index finger – The air (Vayu)
  • Middle finger – The ether (Aakasha)
  • Ring finger – The earth (Prithvi)
  • Small finger – The water (Jala)

A mudra is a movement or positioning of the hands through which energy is directed to flow and to connect parts of the body to the brain as life force energy flows through the body. Certain yoga mudras are believed to instigate particular energy flows and stimulate different emotions, spiritual reactions and reactions in the body. By pressing together, curling, touching or pointing different fingers or parts of the hands in different ways, you can stimulate reflexes from the hand to the brain.  (International Day of Yoga.org)

Let’s Get Started.

1. Gyan Mudra or the Mudra of Knowledge

GYAN-MUDRA

Touch the tip of the thumb and the tip of the index or 1st finger together. The other 3 fingers have to be kept straight

This symbolizes the unity of fire and air as well as the unity of universal and individual consciousness.

The Gyana mudra increases concentration, creativity, and is a gesture of knowledge. Keep your palms facing upwards when feeling receptive or rest your palm on your leg when you wish to feel more grounded.

Benefits:

  1. It helps in meditation and concentration and reduces negativity of the mind.
  2. It improves memory and with regular practice students can improve grades and intelligence.
  3. It aids in alleviating headache, insomnia and hypertension and reduces anger.

2. Vayu Mudra or Mudra of Air

In this Mudra, the tip of the index or 1st finger is touched to the base of the thumb and the thumb comes over the finger with a slight pressure of the thumb being exerted. Rest of the fingers remain straight.

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Benefits

Use this mudra to ease all Vayu, air related problems like Arthritis, Gout, Sciatica, Knee pain, and Gas. It especially benefits in neck pain and spinal pain.

 

3. Shoonya Mudra or The Mudra of Emptiness

The tip of the middle finger is put at the base of the thumb and the thumb comes over the finger with slight pressure of the thumb being exerted on the finger. The other 3 fingers are kept straight.

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Benefits:

  1. Regular practice of this Mudra helps in reducing ear pain.
  2. The bones become strong and is beneficial in heart disease.
  3. It strengthens gums and is helpful in throat problems and thyroid disease.

 

4. Shuni Mudra – The Seal of Patience

Bring the tip of the middle finger and thumb together, uniting the elements of fire and connection. This mudra symbolizes patience and discipline, and helps us generate a feeling of stability. Use this mudra when you feel you need additional strength to follow through with tasks.

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Benefits:

A.  Provides an increase in patience. It also helps bring feelings of stability and strength.

 

5. Prithvi Mudra or the Mudra of Earth

In this Mudra, the tips of the thumb and the ring finger are touched together. The other fingers are kept straight.

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Benefits:

  1. Regular practice of this Mudra is helpful in body weakness, thinness and also obesity.
  2. It improves the functioning of the digestive system and reduces the deficiency of vitamins.
  3. It gives energy and lustre to the body.

 

6. Prana Mudra or the Mudra of Life

In this Mudra the tips of the thumb, ring finger and the little finger are touched together while keeping the other 2 fingers straight.

Prana-mudra

Benefits:

  1. It awakens the dormant power of prana, gives energy, health. It is beneficial in diseases of the eye and improves eyesight, raises body resistance to disease, reduces deficiency of vitamins, removes tiredness.
  2. During fasting it reduces hunger pangs and thirst.
  3. In insomnia, doing this hand posture, along with Gyan Mudra, helps in bringing on sleep.

 

7. Apan Mudra or the Mudra of Digestion

This mudra is made by joining the tips of the thumb, the middle finger and the ring finger keeping the other fingers straight.

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Benefits:

  1. Toxins are removed from the body and the body becomes pure. It also relieves constipation, piles, diseases caused by vayu or air, is helpful in diabetes, stoppage of urine, kidney defects and dental problems.
  2. It is beneficial in stomach and heart diseases and brings out perspiration.

 

8. Surya Mudra or Mudra of the Sun

This Mudra is performed by touching the tip of the ring finger to the base of the thumb and exerting pressure on the finger with the thumb.

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Benefits:

  1. It balances the body, reduces body weight and obesity. It increases body heat and helps in digestion.
  2. It reduces hypertension and cholesterol and builds strength.
  3. It is beneficial in diabetes and liver defects.

Note: International Yoga Day.org warns that weak persons should not perform this hand posture and this hand posture should not be performed for a long time in hot weather.

9. Varun Mudra or Mudra of Water

This Mudra is made by touching the tips of the thumb and the little finger.

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Benefits:

  1. It reduces dryness of the skin and improves skin lustre and softness
  2. It is useful in skin diseases, acne and blood defects. It improves facial beauty

 

Note: International Yoga Day.org warns persons suffering from Asthma and respiratory problems should do this Mudra for a short time only.

 

10. Dyhana Mudra:

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This mudra provides calming energy for meditation and is used for deep contemplation and reflection. It is the first one that I learned about and is probably the most common mudras used – whether people understand its importance or not. To do this, place your hands on your lap, left palm under, palms facing up, and the tips of the thumbs touching.

11. Anjali Mudra

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Bringing the palms together in front of the heart space symbolizes honor and respect toward yourself and toward the universe. This mudra expresses love and gratitude.

 

My Plan:   I am going to incorporate some of these mudras into my daily practice. It will be interesting to see if I derive the benefits as listed above.  

Namaste

anxiety, planning, organisation

10 Steps to Moving Sanity

As regular readers will know, my husband and I relocated last year. We sold our home in Queensland and made the sea change to Tasmania.

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We are currently renting a house while our new house is being built. At the time of writing, we are about eight weeks away from moving in to the new place. How exciting is that? We are watching our new home rise before our eyes and we can hardly wait to be living there.

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Avoiding the Stress

The moving process from Queensland to Tasmania was extremely stressful for me, mainly because I was not emotionally prepared for it. It had all come as quite the surprise for me and I struggled to cope with the whole exercise. Even though I was my normal highly organised self when it came to the nuts and bolts of the move, my mind was in total uproar.

This move, however, will be different. I am not emotionally attached to the house we are living in right now and I have had plenty of time to plan ahead. So with the affirmation of “Planning Conquers Stress” ringing in my head, I have set out my plan for the move.

Step by Step

Start early.

Organise removalists, packing and unpacking services (if you are going to use them), and start collecting boxes. We still have at least half of our stuff in packing boxes so we already ahead of the game. Yay!

Go through your house and conduct a ‘sell, donate, chuck’ offensive. Anything that has not been used in the last six months needs to thought seriously about. It doesn’t make sense to pack (and pay for) unwanted items. You might be able to make some money from a garage sale or online marketplace.

Allow plenty of time to pack. It takes much longer than you think it will. Pack your belongings into boxes to keep them clean, safe and easy to transport. Always pack lighter items in large boxes, and heavier items in small boxes. Things like artwork, televisions, golf clubs, wine may require special sized moving boxes. We had to purchase a special box to transport our large screen television.

Use clean white paper or butcher’s paper for wrapping & packing items. Do not use newspaper as it can leave black newsprint on your possessions and home. You will need around 1kg of paper for every 3 boxes to be packed. For a 3 bedroom home, you will need around 15kgs of paper. A tape gun is also invaluable to tape boxes.

Pack room by room.  Have some large markers to label your boxes. Include Your SURNAME, ROOM (e.g. kitchen, bathroom), CONTENTS (e.g. glassware, books) and FRAGILE if appropriate.

The revivalists will be able to place well-labelled boxes in their correct rooms, and you’ll be able to find specific items quickly. Write on the tape and not the box if possible, so they can be re-used. There are online sites where you can sell your used packing boxes if they are in good condition.

About a month out, sort out cleaning of your current residence and set up mail  redirection. Organise services and utilities to be disconnected in your old home and connected in your new one.

Important Items Box. As you go create an important items box. This should contain ‘easy to lose’ and ‘hard to find’ items such as remote controls, shelf supports, keys to furniture cabinets, hammer, screwdriver, Allen keys and manufacturers’ instructions for reassembly of items.

Two Weeks out, throw out expired foods, damaged packages, and start using up the food you have in your fridge and freezer.You will need to have an Esky to transport cold/frozen food on the day.

Moving Day Survival Kit.

On the day of the move, there will be a certain amount of (hopefully organised) chaos. A survival kit is essential. In a box or suitcase in your car, pack these things.

  • kettle, tea, coffee and snacks
  • favourite toys and pyjamas for the kids
  • a change of clothing and sleepwear
  • chargers and cables for electronic devices – mobile phones, laptop, ipad, home phones etc
  • toiletries, medicines or prescriptions
  • bowls, food, collars and leads if you have a pet
  • any other essential items for your home
  • menu for the local takeaway

Kids and Pets.   If it is at all possible, arrange for your (small) children and pets to be looked after while you move so they can come home after the chaos has cleared, their belongings put away and your new home organised. It makes sense to set up kids rooms early so they can get themselves settled into their new room while you focus on the rest of the house.  Teenagers can help carry boxes and usually prefer to set up their own rooms.

Celebrate!  Phew!  You are beginning a new phase of your life. You have loads of wonderful memories of your old house. Take a moment to be grateful for those good times and, at the time, salute the future.

Here is a detailed checklist, courtesy of Moving House Services, that will help you to make sure that you haven’t missed anything.

Moving Checklist

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I am trusting that the builders are going to clean this window before we move in.

A to Z of my childhood

The A – Z of my Childhood – Why I Turned Out the Way I Did.

H is for Handcar.

When I was a kid, my mum and dad developed a habit of going for a Sunday drive in the country.

Very often, my aunt and uncle would come along too, as well as Dad’s mate from work and his wife. We would form a mini convoy and head off along the highway.

For us kids, driving for hours was far from exciting. There were no i-Pods and no in car video systems. While the adults admired the countryside and listened to sport reports on the car radio, we sat in the back seat bored witless. My brother would fall asleep before we reached the city limits, so I was left to watch trees, trees and more trees flash past the window.

And so it was, that when we finally stopped for lunch, there was an excess of childish energy to be burnt off.  After a quick meal of a sandwich and/or sausage roll and a glass of raspberry soft drink, (the 1950s equivalent of fast food),  at a country pub, we would leave the adults in the beer garden and go in search of adventure.

A True Life Adventure:

One Sunday we stopped in Gatton, a charming small town in the Lockyer Valley west of Brisbane. The adults were happily ensconced on the shady verandah of the pub, so my cousin, Greame, and I decided to go across the road to check out the railway station.

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All was quiet, it being Sunday.  The station master was not present and the office was locked.  A quick check of the timetable posted on the noticeboard told us that there would be no trains on that day.  We walked up and down on the tracks and found that there was a little spur line that ran parallel with the main track and on that spur line stood…A HANDCAR.

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Jackpot!!

We had hit the jackpot! Well, you can just imagine the fun we had rolling up and down the spur line. It was great. We felt like we were flying.

Then my cousin, or it might have been me, suggested that we should see if we could get out on to the main track so that we could really get up some speed.  Brilliant!  

It didn’t take long to figure out how to work the switch that moved the tracks and, hey presto, we were on the main line to Brisbane with our handcar.  Woohoo!

We hurtled up and down the straight stretch of track, yelling and laughing. We had an absolute ball, until we noticed that there were several adults standing on the platform, waving their arms in an agitated fashion.  The station master, who had heard our shrieking from his residence nearby, beckoned us back to the switch and we exited the main line approximately five minutes before a very long grain train chugged through the station.

Crime and Punishment

The parents were none too happy with us.  My brother took great delight in the fact that he had chosen to stay on the pub verandah and play with his little cars, and was, therefore, blameless and exempt from the punishment which was about to come my way.

You know what?  It was worth the spanking.  It was by far the most fun I had ever had. Seeing how close we had been to being crushed by a goods train it was a bit scary, but we were kids.  We were invincible, bulletproof. We bragged about that adventure for months.

A Free Range Childhood

I am so glad I lived in the era of (relatively) safe, unsupervised play for youngsters. Our play was creative, adventurous and punctuated by somewhat calculated risk. We developed problem solving skills and, amid many bumps and bruises, learned how far we could push our bodies.

It was preparation for life and a whole lot of fun.

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What childhood adventures did you have? Did you come through unscathed? Are you glad you had those adventures? Let me know in the comments below.

 

 

anxiety

Don’t Tell Me to ‘Calm Down’!

work-2005640_1920 copyIf you suffer from Anxiety Disorder, I am willing to bet that your least favourite words to hear are “Calm Down” or some variation thereof.

Telling an anxious person to calm down has the completely opposite effect. If there was a way that I could calm down just by deciding to calm down, I would do it

But telling me to calm down when my mind is being freaked out by AD does not, has never and will never help the situation. I am caught up in a whirl of worry, fear, bad feelings and confusion that cannot simply be dissipated by the words ‘Calm Down’.

Believe me, if it were as easy as that to break the cycle of anxiety, I would do it.

Anxious Moments

As previously discussed in this blog Anxiety is different from stress. Stress is a normal part of everyday life and, in some ways, can be beneficial. Anxiety, on the other hand, can be debilitating and all-encompassing. Panic attacks can occur anytime, anywhere.

The triggers are different for each person. For me, crowded places, unfamiliar situations, and altered routines are stimuli for panic.

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Crowds make me feel as though I am going to be trapped and trampled underfoot. Being small in stature doesn’t help, I guess. I can’t see where I am going. I am constantly knocked by people’s elbows, shoulders, or bags. I have even been knocked over on more than one occasion. Walking beside my very tall husband, you’d think I’d be okay – but no. people tend to step out of his way and walk straight into me. Thump!

Anxiety levels? Sky high!

Unfamiliar Situations send my mind spinning too. I immediately assume that everyone is looking at me, judging me, finding me unworthy. I feel numb. When I try to join in conversations, I tend to babble and say stupid things. I want to go home.

Changing Routines is another of my freak out cues. I like to know what is going to happen and when it is going to happen. I hate surprises. My mind jumps onto an irrational train of thought and I end up a shaking wreck. If I misplace the car keys – which should never happen because everyone knows that car keys belong on the hook on the hall stand – I panic. Where are they? What if they’ve been stolen? Someone can now steal my car. How will I be able to manage without my car? How will I be able to do the weekly shopping? What if there is an emergency and I need to drive the dog to the vet or go to the doctor? What if someone needs me and I can’t get to them? They could be in a life-threatening situation and I couldn’t help them. Someone could die because I can’t find my car keys!!!!!

What Should I Do

These are the steps that I follow when I realise I am having a freakout.

Stop:  I push the invisible Pause button – literally – I push the pause buttons on the side of my head to put the situation on hold. I walk away, preferably to somewhere quiet where I can have time to mentally distance myself from the issue.

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Isolate:   I make every attempt to avoid the things and situations that I know will send me into the spiral of panic. If the situation cannot be completely avoided, I need to plan carefully for it so that I will be less likely to be thrown off balance. My husband and I have devised a way of walking together along crowded streets so that I do not end up black and blue. He sort of tucks me under his arm and holds on to me as though we are in some weird three legged race and must stick together like glue. It works!

Focus Elsewhere: This can be difficult as AD makes you overthink everything, rehash everything and recall everything. I find that singing (loudly and usually off key), dancing, or playing with the dogs helps to shift my focus. Old rock and roll from the Fifties works best. e.g. Runaround Sue.

OR 

Let it Out: Shout, scream, wail, cry – what it takes to expel the feelings. Sometimes, this is needed to derail the Panic Train. Just do it!

But – PLEASE – Don’t tell me to Calm Down.

Instead –

Listen:  Let me rant on to you about what I am feeling and thinking – irrational as it may be. If you do this, I won’t feel as though I am being dismissed or that my feeling aren’t worth considering.

Ask:  Ask if there anything I need. There probably won’t be, but ask anyway. I will know that you are trying to help me even if I don’t tell you so at the time.

Be there:  Your presence is valuable. Even in silence, your being there is appreciated.

Breathe:   Breathe with me. Breathe slowly, deeply and evenly. I will eventually join you.

Thank you for helping me to get through the panic. Thank you for understanding that I can’t easily control the feelings. Thank you for knowing that I will calm myself as quickly as I can. It won’t be an immediate calming. It will take some time, but I will get there.

Thank you for not telling me to Calm Down.

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