Purge is the word

I don’t know quite when it started, but sometime in the last few weeks, without talking about it, Haak and I moved into moving mode – we are getting shit done. Things on the to-do list for months or years are being nailed down [and oh, that only took AN HOUR?].

In five short weeks, we will be moving back to Australia after three years of living in Montana. I have this image of us flying into a Sydney dawn as we have so many times before, pointing out the water to the kids and trembling with the anticipation of hearing Australian accents all around, seeing the vegetation, smelling the air.

But the more times we do this, the more nervous I get. We’re 35 this year. We’re not travelling twentysomethings anymore. There are two kids to consider and shouldn’t we be working on our future security?

It feels now like I’m about to do a huge bell flop when I imagine looking down on Sydney. Here we coooMMMEEEeeee!

In between checking off our to-do list,  Haak and I  pace anxiously and snap at each other. We’re not leaving for over a month, so you could say this was premature. But the desire to beat the clock, to somehow be halfway moved now so we can enjoy some lake time before having to complete the move has overcome us.

It won’t work, of course, but after doing this a few times, I do believe in decision fatigue and getting some of those tiny decisions made before we hit that point makes sense.

There is always that one box when we’re unpacking that has all the things in it we just couldn’t make a decision about and you can tell: it’s stuffed carelessly with all the fucks we didn’t give, about to board the plane.

Moving countries is really the same as moving across one country but somehow produces a higher anxiety level. There is no driving back to get something you forgot and no overnight courier service to Australia.

When we get on the plane in five short weeks, we’ll each have a bag and that’s all. Some clothes, a book, some toiletries. The kids will stuff every available space in their bags with rocks and broken plastic toys and toilet rolls.

Just like we were going on a week-long trip.

In some ways, I love the purge – although I’m not a collector by nature [and Haakon is often firmly rescuing things I’ve put in the thrift store pile or recycling] our moving cycle ensures that all those weird things that add up over the years are eventually looked at, and reconsidered.

When I woke up this morning, it was with a clear idea of looking in our top most kitchen cabinets for items to purge. In the backup tea department, I found iced blueberry green tea powder.

I’m sure I didn’t buy it. It sounds disgusting. So how the heck is it there? Flotsam and jetsom tea that happened to be spinning past and get stuck in our orbit. Space junk.

As we move towards the final pack up, the concurrent using up and rationing become more intense: Can we live without cinnamon for a month? what about baking soda? a drizzle of maple syrup is all that is left. I’m certainly not going to buy a whole half gallon again, but can you buy the right amount of syrup for four possible pancake weekends?

And how can I use up the full jar of celery salt and half a kilo of coriander seeds I seem to have?

With these questions comes a curiously morbid desire to bequeath things to people I love. While Shawna loaded the cement mixer, I solemnly left her all the good tea I won’t drink in five weeks.

A bottle of oyster sauce will go to someone who raved about my greens with garlic and oyster sauce, our walnuts to Madeline for her delicious walnut bread. The end of a ten-pound bag of split peas to my mother-in-law, who makes excellent soup.

And then, in a flurry of decision fatigue, we’ll stuff all the odds and ends of food in a box and guiltily leave it on Shawna and Ben’s porch, or with Haak’s parents, so they can hold onto that full jar of celery salt, never using it, and give it back to us in three years.

Sometimes the continuity of space junk can be comforting.

 

Thanks for reading!

 

What do you use celery salt for????

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Homesickness

I used to feel homesick a lot when I was first living in Montana.

I would kind of dive into the feeling, longing so hard to just feel fine sand beneath my feet and smell fishy, minerally sea air.

To walk across dry, crackling good smelling eucalyptus leaves and be in the harsh Australian sun, mildly wary of snakes and feeling the skin on my neck crisp.

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Now the homesick feelings have tapered off, partly because I’m pretty used to coming and going, and partly because I have two kids and a lot less time to think!

But it still sneaks up on me sometimes …

We were in Missoula visiting friends and picking my father in law up from the airport last weekend and I walked down to the Good Food Store, a huge organic grocer down the street.

It took me long seconds to figure out that the cashier was Australian. She just sounded funny – I thought maybe she was deaf.

When I realized, I asked her “are you Australian?” and she said, without looking up, and in a tired voice “yep, good guess.”

And then I said something, a simple communication: “I have some bags” and her head bolted up and she said “are YOU Australian?” and we looked at each other for a second. I was so happy in that moment. To see yourself in someone else – a stranger. What a powerful force national identity is.

I wanted to hang around and listen to her talk to people, but that would have been weird, so we quickly established that she was from Tassie and I from the South Coast of NSW and I loaded my bags and walked away.

I do, of course, talk to my family sometimes. And every year, we have had at least two visitors from Australia, so I hear the accent. But it’s different when it’s people you know, and know well.

So sometimes I call our Australian bank or the mortgage company. Usually, there is a reason, like a blocked bank card, but sometimes I call for an account balance I can access online in two seconds.

And when the recorded ad reel begins in a broad Aussie accent, I relax. When the sales rep answers, I melt further, allowing my voice to flatten, the ends of words to run into one another.

I cut my words in half and relish it. I say ‘dodgy’ and ‘I reckon’, try to work in ‘shed’, ‘ute’, ‘relo’s’ and ‘veranda’. For a five minute conversation with Kirsty from St George, I am so Australian it hurts.

Then I hang up and step out into early spring.

Sleet/snow/rain is falling – what the weather stations quaintly call “a wintry mix.”

Thin slashes of icy slush hit my face and I breathe in the grey light. I am here, I am choosing to be here with Haak and our Montana family and I know now that even this wintry weather will soon bring spring.

 

 

 

Can we imagine better social media?

I started this blog partly because social media was leaving me unsatisfied – Facebook, long my stand by for messages, video chat and getting basic soul feeding news about the place we are not living, seems to be be giving me less and less of what I want.

What do I want? I want what I think everyone wants from social media, and from relationships in general – to be connected, acknowledged and appreciated.

But with our back-and-forth lifestyle, keeping up with social media takes on a new importance – heck yes I want to see pictures of my cousin’s brand new baby, or know that someone I know moved into or out of the area.

I want to know who’s building a house, who lost a parent and who is receiving awards at work.

I also need to see those casual snaps of your dog which show a corner of town I’m missing, a tree or shrub, something normal from the other place, to sooth my homesickness.

But Facebook feels like it’s going down the tubes.

Although this is not the first time Facebook has been in the spotlight for breeches of privacy, CEO Mark Zuckerburg’s appearance in US congress in April to address his social media companies role in the presidential election felt different.

Zuckerburg faced accusations that he allowed a data firm used by Trump during his campaign and election, Cambridge Analytica, to use information from 50 million Facebook users without their permission.

You get the sense from Zuckerburg’s comments and interviews throughout the scandal that he has no idea how to control what he has created [a feeling parents of two year old’s can relate to!].

Most of us know that Facebook has our basics – age, gender, location, occupation, and that it targets ads towards these factors [which is why I get bra ads that say “do you have relaxed breasts?” why yes, I do!] and makes stinking zillions of dollars – a business model known as ‘surveillance capitalist’.

But what feels different is the possibility that our info was used for political influence. US politics is messy business, and if Facebook influenced the results of the last presidential election in any way except one user sending another user something [meme, article etc] then I’m very uneasy.

If something we think is absolutely our own – our political beliefs – has actually been twisted by timely, and possibly untrue, information, then Facebook has become the monster Zuckerburg fears.

Un sure about Facebook, I recently re activated an old Instagram account.

Glossier than my life is, Instagram all the same has its strong points – mostly that it seems to not breed the kind of contemptuous political memes as Facebook. It’s hard for people to start an online brawl over a close up shot of dandelion fluff.

But fluff or politics, it’s all the same in the end – many people don’t know that Facebook owns Instagram [since 2012], and despite the apparently different ways the two sites engage their audience, the end result is that one company owns all our information.

There is, however, a clear demographic split between Facebook and Instagram.  Facebook is hosting more and more of my parents generation, even their parent’s generation, while if you want to keep up with your teenage or under 30 year old friend’s, you’ll find their Facebook account exists but is not active.

But before you imagine young people have realized the fundamental flaws of social media and are joyfully living life free from the bounds of social media, check Instagram – where under 30’s post every day, and it’s a beautiful glimpse, hungrily eaten up by grandparents who joined Facebook to keep up with their young people, only to have the young people jump ship.

This demographic shift has happened gradually, and it’s hard to remember now that Facebook was started by a college aged kid, and designed for college aged kids.

When I first opened a Facebook account in 2006, I was working at a summer camp in Maine. I don’t remember any Australian friends being in Facebook to start with – it was designed for the people I was working with, American students in their early 20’s – but it sure did take off fast.

Since Facebook’s business plan depends only on having information to mine, it may not matter if the average age of it’s users is 20 or 60, as long as it still has a critical mass.

I’m not convinced either Instagram or Facebook has what I’m looking for – which makes sense, since my age neatly places me between the two loose age groups [almost middle aged!].

Instagram specializes in aesthetically pleasing images, macro shots of the items or experiences we value, enhanced with filters to give a glow.

And perhaps there’s something in it – I stepped away from a party to take this shot of poppies in the late evening sunshine. But although I was away from what was happening, somehow that action of taking a photo helped me be more present [this picture is not edited – at all. And nor did I post it on Instagram].

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So maybe it’s not the beauty of Instagram that intimidates – maybe one of the reason’s I’m uncomfortable with it is that it neatly knocks a few layers of people in my life out: those who don’t have smartphones – older people who haven’t figured out smartphones yet, and people who can’t afford a smartphone, or don’t live in a place with reliable cell service.

I’m not quitting yet though – I love the connection I get sometimes from my social media sites, and, like a rat receiving random rewards, I keep coming back for more!

Thanks to all who are reading, following and engaging with this blog. These interactions have deepened my social media experience so much in the last few months.

Tell me, what do you want from social media?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Darling jacket

I’ve never had a relationship with an item of clothing quite like my love affair with the down jacket I bought two years ago.

I’ve worn this navy blue jacket ten months of each year I’ve owned it, and when I’m not wearing it, its presence is upsetting Haakon because I slither out of it like a second skin:

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[I also hang it up sometimes, because I love him]

Back home in Australia, there is no clothing item that I wear so much – and that could save my life. [OK, maybe sun protection is on par!]

I spent the first few winters in Montana muddling through the unfamiliar cold with borrowed, old style down jackets, and layers of wool jumpers.

I was cold and hot a lot, because I didn’t understand the different types of cold yet – that the common cold here is between 30-40 F, which is cold, but not that cold.

I always wore leggings under pants in winter, no matter the temperature, and when I stepped into heated buildings, waves of sweat would wash over me, a feeling not unlike stepping out of an airplane into a tropical climate still wearing jeans because when you left, it was cold.

Now I step out in just jeans when it’s in the 30’s, feeling naked and so tough.

But there’s also the cold I had never experienced that hits in January or February- dry, windy 10 F, cold that makes your face hurt, which is almost impossible to comprehend on this fine spring day.

Cold that makes you realize your hair is not quite dry when you hear cracking as each hair freezes.

Cold that makes you run to try to get away from it, cold that makes your heart vibrate.

After hearing a story from a friend who is on the search and rescue team, I started throwing a lighter in my pocket when I went walking in winter.

This friend had searched all day for a teenage boy who had gotten lost while hunting.

It was early fall and the temperature was around freezing and the kid was disoriented when he was found, a sign of hypothermia.

The kids jeans were wet and he was wearing cotton socks and sneakers, and I remember my friend saying over and over “wool [which is warm when wet] could have saved his life if we didn’t find him. Having matches or a lighter would have saved him. He was totally unprepared.”

Well, I didn’t want to be un prepared.

I had chosen to live in this ridiculous climate, so I better learn how to survive it. I started noticing that when women went out in winter in fancy shoes, they put insulated snow boots in their cars in case they broke down and had to walk.

I realized I could not be prepared for winter by shopping at thrift stores, which is where all my other clothes come from.

I bought some tall neoprene boots, which are supposedly protective down to -30F. They are certainly cosy, and completely waterproof.

And then I bought the jacket. Extremely expensive, it is also light as a feather and seems like it wouldn’t insulate at all.

I wore it all winter with a sweater or two under it and was warm, even on the coldest days.

I wore it in the fall and spring over a light shirt or T-shirt, because in the mountains, the cold is always there, waiting, and the second the sun slips behind a cloud, a brisk and icy breeze makes you wonder why you were wearing a T-shirt at all.

I’m still wearing it in May, although daytime temps are in the 60’s and 70’s [20’s in Celsius] throwing the jacket in my bike basket when we ride to the park to pack up the ice skating rink and wearing it on cool nights around a campfire.

The companies that make these jackets always have advertising showing people out in the elements, rock climbing, running, cycling.

I reckon they should have an advertising campaign about how their gear helps transplants from hot countries just survive a north American winter.

Bugger cycling, I’m using my hard core performance wear to walk to the store and to dash from car to house.

I’m not the only one.

Pascal moved here from Cameroon to be with his wife, Heather, and their daughter Madeline [below, with Pascal]

 

Pascal

Pascal just got done with his first winter here. His wife, Heather, told me that he didn’t like having cold hands and feet and that he won’t admit it, but he spent most of the winter sitting in a rocking chair beside the wood stove.

Like I did, Pascal will have to figure out how to dress to be able to enjoy winters here.

I’ve passed Pascal working his job as part of the school maintenance crew over the winter, both of us hunched against the cold, both looking, I imagine, at the falling snow with the same combination of wonder and disgust.

When I pass him at the school, Pascal is wearing a big, puffy black jacket, and he waves, smiles, and gets back to flag raising.

Our jackets hold us down, despite their lightness. They keep us with our families.

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