Monday, October 12, 2015

sometimes the hardest part isn't letting go but rather learning to start over

Last weekend I feel like we moved every single item
in our house at least once.

In the course of this we found yet another basket of scraps
(free to a good home, comment below if you want them)
and this unfinished project.

This is the project that I was making at the time of the Christchurch earthquakes.
It is for my cousin Fiona, who has been patiently waiting for it for the last 
five years. (I sincerely hope she forgot she was getting it).

On the 21 February 2011, I clearly remember sitting on the sofa
after dinner (it was Reuben's birthday)
watching the most spectacular sunset and stitching on this quilt.

Of course the very next day everything turned to custard
and I never ever picked it up again.

I don't really know why. 
Maybe there is something in that saying about getting back on the horse,
there might be some psychological reason that I don't really know.

Anyway, I pulled it out and looked at it,
and technically I could finish it.

But my heart isn't in it anymore. I've moved on.

So here it is, sitting on the trolley of things that need to go somewhere,
does anyone want to finish it?? I'll post it anywhere in the world.
Everything is there except the pattern
(which I borrowed from someone and lost)
but you can easily figure it out.

I'm going to start again and
I'm going to buy a whole lot of cat fabric
and make Fiona a quilt she will love and I will love making.

I think there is some life lesson here
about letting go of things that make you feel sad
and embracing the way things have changed;
but I'm too tired to process it right now (#studentproblems)

Saturday, October 10, 2015

why love is like shallots

A long time ago I read somewhere
that love is like shallots, you just keep dividing it
and it keeps right on going.

Over the years I've found its true,
it seems that the heart has limitless potential to love others, its a wonderful thing.

This weekend we rearranged our home and split up those shallots,
and moved in an incredibly nice young man
who needed somewhere to call home for a bit.

It is the best feeling in the world to say yes,
yes there is room in our home for you,
yes you can be part of our family,
yes yes yes.

It might be a tiny bit inconvenient,
but actually it is completely worth it.

Plus it is Annie's dream come true to share a room
(and a bed) with me. Christchurch post-earthquake children
are far more clingy that their older counterparts
and it seems you cannot give them enough reassurance.

So now our home is filled with big boys
and we don't mind a bit.

I love to listen to their stories,
I love to hear about their day.

I love to see the way they interact with each other
and I appreciate how polite they are with the younger children and I. 

I think I am the most uncool person around,
but that doesn't seem to matter.

What boys need is someone to listen
someone who isn't judgemental
and someone who doesn't have an agenda of their own.

I'm more than willing to do that.
Plus I'm pretty handy at magicking up a chocolate pudding
and getting a favourite pair of jeans hurried through the wash
and providing a fluffy towel for a hot shower.

Our house is not fancy, but it is a real home.
The welcome mat is always out,
there is always a spare bed (or sofa) somewhere for someone.

After all,
isn't that actually what makes a house a home?

Monday, October 5, 2015

Trusting the Process

When I make a quilt, I don't do any quilt maths. (I'm dyslexic, it's beyond me.) I don't work out if I have enough fabric, or how many squares I need. I just put together a pile of fabrics I like and cut up all the fabric and then sew it all together. This is how I often end up with an auxiliary quilt or two (or three).  I have made a lot of quilts now and I guess I know how to eyeball the pile and know it will work out. And if it turns out too small, I just cut some more. If it turns out too big, I make two quilts. No problem.

At the moment my life is pretty stressful, with school holidays plus the end of semester. I do not have exams, but just essay after essay after essay. Throw in a few curve balls on top of that, and melt down is inevitable. Today was not a good day. I was writing an essay till the early hours of this morning and then had an early lecture. Tears may have been shed.

During the day I suddenly remembered a project I cut out last year and started. But I made a mistake with the dimensions (I thought I would sew half rectangle triangles. There must be some trick to it) and it got put aside. The solution popped into my head and so at lunch time I dragged it out and realised that it would work. I pressed and cut the rest of the fabric in my study breaks today and then after dinner I sat down at the machine and sewed for a couple of hours.

By bedtime I had a simple quilt top put together. I did not lay it out before I sewed. I just picked up rectangles and sewed them together. Then I sewed those pairs in pairs and so on until I had strips and then I sewed the strips together. I didn't even press the thing and I definitely didn't pin it. I didn't look at the finished top until I had finished pressing it and then I laid it on the floor.

It turned out just right. The dimensions are right, there was just enough fabric. There are only a handful of the animal print rectangles left over because I had the feeling there was quite a lot in the pairs I sewed.

I am sure that I could have laid out the whole quilt before I started and made sure the fabric placement was right. I definitely could have pressed as I went, pinned and made it all perfect. But today I was simply sewing because I enjoy the simple act of sewing and I wanted to stop worrying about life for a while.

I've learned to trust the process and know it will turn out all right.

Now if I could just apply that same principal to the rest of my life, I'd be sweet!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Dear America, [a rant]

Here at the bottom of the globe, we have looked to you. We absorb your culture on our television screens, we watch your movies and we listen to your music. We listen when you tell us what we should think and do, even when it is not in our best interests. We even fight wars because you tell us the cause is just (Vietnam anyone?).

We see you America, as the father of democracy, defender of the defenceless. In places around the world, we know that America does not hesitate to step in and restore peace and order. Our view of you is idealistic, as small nations we want to be like you.

But increasingly it seems, from the outside looking in; that America is losing the plot. We can't even bear to talk about the sick joke that you are considering Trump for president. There are so many conflicting stories and views. There is so much injustice that seems so wrong coming from the land of the free. Why do you judge so harshly on things that matter so little? Like skin colour, ethnicity and the right to marriage for the gay population. I do not understand why a bigoted clerk is given so much air time? It makes me sick to see her picture everywhere. Why are you paying someone like her so much attention? The message you send to the rest of us here in other parts of the globe, is that while you may have given grudging lip service to equality in marriage, clearly you would rather support a stupid woman who thinks she has a right to judge whether someone can get married or not.

Let me tell you, as someone who was judged and a marriage was arranged a long time ago, to judge someone on such a fundamental level, is to call into question the very essence of the person. It makes you feel like a worthless commodity, powerless to change where you are at. To be forced to accept with gratitude something that everyone else takes for granted is demeaning and soul destroying. 

It is beyond time for you to step up America. To deal with the bigots and the ignorant and to really allow freedom for those who step under a rainbow flag.

And then there is the issue of gun control, an oxymoron if ever I heard one. Seriously America, are you looking at yourself? can you not see that you are allowing your own people to be killed on a weekly basis. What in the world is this right to bear arms you are talking about? it makes no sense. It seems more like, you are fighting for the right to murder each other. Why is this so important to you.

Apart from the fact that your mothers, your fathers, your children are being killed for no good reason, think about how this looks from afar. Here at the bottom of the globe, we have looked up to you like a big brother. But now we see weekly on our television screens lives being torn apart because yet another person has decided to solve their own personal problem with a gun. How can the land of the free, the fighter for democracy be so inept when it comes to dealing with this IN YOUR OWN COUNTRY. 

A wise man once said, take the plank out of your own eye before you take the splinter out of your brothers eye. It is impossible to feel any kind of respect to you when it seems you have no respect for your own. How can we follow in your steps, when it seems you have fallen off the path?

Here in other parts of the world, insignificant and voiceless; how can we help you America? Will you listen to our voices? We are crying for you, our hearts are breaking and yet it seems your own hearts are hardened to the crisis within your own country. What will it take for you to change? Do you even care what the rest of us think about you?

If this was our own country, we would be able to work together to find a solution. But this is your problem, and you need to deal with it. How many more children need to die before you do? The power is in your hands. The rest of the world will support and encourage you, but you need to take the steps to change the culture that will fight harder for the right to bear guns than it will for the right for children to go to school safely.

If you truly see yourself as the greatest country on earth, then you need to make sure that your citizens can live their lives in safety. Otherwise from the outside looking in, America is fast becoming a sick joke. Remember what was important to you in the beginning and fight for that.

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses, yearning to breath free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
 Author: Emma Lazarus

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Journalists at Work {Part 3(3) COMS 304}

Following on from the last post, another question that I have been pondering is whether news via Social Media is legitimate news, how useful is it and why is it important.

In our personal experience, in the aftermath the Christchurch earthquake,
was that we were disconnected from the usual channels of information
and so we relied on Twitter and Facebook to get the news
both personal and local.

It was my first experience of how amazing Twitter is.
Night after night there would be these big after shocks,
and you would look at Twitter and see that everyone else was feeling the same.

It is almost two years since I have had a television in my home.
For lots of reasons I decided not to have one
and I access my news primarily from the Radio and from social media.

At first I was a bit worried that I would miss out on knowing if big things are happening.
But it turns out that Social Media is an excellent source of breaking news.

Quite often I see of an event long before it reaches the mainstream media
here in New Zealand. Even sometimes through an Instagram post
but more often from Facebook or Twitter.

If you strategically follow people who are at the source of the news,
you definitely keep up with what is going on.

 Sources such as Facebook and Twitter can not longer be discounted
as legitimate news sources, especially seeing as so many mainstream
news organisations link major news stories to social media during the day
rather than just waiting till the six o'clock news.

In my research into the Syrian refugee crisis,
the one thing that I found was missing from my Facebook Timeline/Twitter Feed
is context. Context and background are the two things
that are harder to access. You get the headlines and the main facts,
but unlike the television news, no context and no background.

You can find it, you just have to look harder.
You could argue that this is immaterial, because some people
don't really care either way.

But I think it is an important fact to be aware of
when you are a consumer of news.

The photos (from 2011)

1. Kia Kaha (Be Strong) Post Earthquake art work means things that won't hurt you if they fall off in an aftershock.
2. If you do not have clean water, hand sanitiser is absolutely your best friend (along with wetwipes)
3. It's hard to keep babies healthy in a natural disaster. Everybody who comes into the house must take precautions.
4. For weeks after the February earthquake I washed our clothes in the baby bath. We had water, but not enough to run the washing machine.
5. Keeping enough drinking water on hand for six people is a full time job.

We are human, when we cry, our tears are all the same colour, no matter what our skin colour, our beliefs or where we live. Journalists at Work {Part 2(3) COMS 304}

As part of the major project for this semester, I have been working on the news as it is found on Facebook. I was inspired to do this, after my friend John made comment on my Facebook page...

He made me think about what makes news legitimate and whether Facebook is a legitimate forum. He made me think about whether the news is more valid depending on who is saying it. I went on to think about content and context (which is what my project is going to be about).

I've spent about five days so far, working through the story of the Syrian refugees and all the differing ways it was reported in the media. I've read stories that were made up and then proved wrong, I've read stories taken out of context. I've read so many heart rending sad stories, that I started to loose faith in humanity.

The more I study, the less answers I have. That's a good thing I think, because there are no simple answers. As far as the situation in Syria goes, there are definitely no right answers. It is a very very complicated historical situation, and it seems there is no right side or wrong side, just a lot of people with differing points of view. I found this article which helps explain it.

I believe that as citizens of the world, we cannot ignore the goings on in the world. It is true that we can put our heads down and live our lives. But we have a responsibility to each other to try and understand what else is going on in the world. (Having lived through the Christchurch Earthquakes, we learned that you never know when you are going to need the rest of the world to care.) The situation in Syria is not one that can be just sorted out. Nothing could be gained from intervention from well meaning parties as far as I can tell (I could be wrong).

However there is a humanitarian disaster here on an epic scale. We need to know, understand and be able to respond to this in someway. It is true that if you watch the news day after day while eating your dinner in your easy chair, that all this death and destruction may seem like a background to other people's lives. These don't seem like real people. They aren't like us. They obviously don't feel like us.

I read about people expressing outrage because the refugees had smart phones and labelled clothing. This is because they are real people, just like us.

We are all human, when we cry, our tears are all the same colour, no matter what our skin colour, our beliefs or where we live.

Before the war escalated in their home towns, they were living lives just like us, with real jobs, just like us. It might seem easy to think that they are not because their skin is brown, their religion is different and they don't speak our language. But the language of humanity is the same, the husbands love their wives, the children love their parents. The teenagers struggle to find their place. They all feel the cold, the pain the agony of not being in a safe place.

The news that we see each day on our televisions, newspapers, social media and the Internet, is providing information in real time across the globe of issues that are effecting people.
"...journalists may seek to expose injustice, hold the powerful to account, right wrongs, and give a voice to those who have no power and no influence; but ultimately the test of our work is whether it is able, directly or indirectly, to bring about change" (De Burg 2000).
I suppose what it comes down to is that there will always be people who don't care or don't want to know what is going on in the wider global community. There will always be people who do care and want to help. The job of mainstream media is to present the news in such a way that people will continue to be engaged (because that is what sells the news) and to be informed about current events.

I guess it is a challenge for all of us who participate in media (even if it is just sharing a Facebook post) that we do not do it simply because we can, but because we believe in so doing it will make a difference.

Sociology of the City {Part 4(4) Sociology 355}

This is the last one of the posts for my Sociology assignment. I've really enjoyed writing these and I know that some of you have enjoyed reading them. I wish I could write a lot more. It is funny when you start a paper, you have an idea in your mind of what you are going to learn; but along the way it seems, you end up learning something different. I chose this paper because I live in a city that is under construction and because I respect Mike Grimshaw as a lecturer. He is one of those lecturers who give no notes, who have no slides but who gives amazing lectures. Its taken me a while to learn how to take notes in his class and now that I have figured out his system, I wish I could do them all again!

Because of these blog post assignments, I have read more of the readings than I usually do. And of course (duh) have learned more, or more from the literature anyhow. Usually I get a pile of books from the library and plod my way though those, but this semester I have read a wide range of articles in the required readings and so I feel like I have absorbed snippets of information from here and there.

This paper has covered a variety of topics, all in conjunction to their relationship for the city. I think I have learned two main things about cities while reading the readings and listening to the lectures.

1. Cities are actually places of exclusion. By this I mean, within a city there are many different parts and each has their own code for living there. The code is a set of expectations and behaviours that come naturally to those who live there. For example, my wandering chickens and unkept lawns would not be acceptable in Merivale or Burnside; but barely an eye is batted in Opawa (apart from the neighbour whose yard they visited, oops). The children playing on the street after school every day in the summer on my street would not be possible in another community. I am lucky, because my neighbourhood fits my family and our life, but if say we moved to central Auckland. We would be completely out of place and have to learn the code of the new neighbourhood.

One of your tasks as an inhabitant of the city, is to find and connect with folks with the same code as you. If you can't find those people to connect with, then living in a city can be very lonely and difficult. When we looked at Ebenezer Howard's Garden city project, I was quite shocked to see all the groups of people who were being moved from the city to the periphery: the blind, the crazy, the alcoholic and also the epileptic. I have two kids with epilepsy, and it made me think about living in a time when it wasn't understood and obviously feared. I can't even imagine what that would be like. I think it was at this point I realised how excluding cities can be. Because of the scale of a city, people and problems are maybe easier to deal with if you shuffle them off to their neat little box on the side.

We also read several articles about being gay in the city and in the suburb. Once again there was the same issue of people being excluded. In the ideal world, a city should be a place where differences are celebrated and not excluded. However before you can celebrate with someone, you have to get to know them. You have to recognise yourself in them and have a connection with them. For example, I have not problem accepting someone being gay, because my sister is gay. I know her and I love her and I one hundred percent accept her; therefore I don't even think about being gay as something different.

2. I learned that life is lived in the spaces. Our lives are shaped by the environment that we live in and our interactions and relationships with it. As an example, pre-earthquake our family while dwelling in the suburbs, lived our life in the spaces of the city. It was like our neighbourhood. The children went to school there, we had our coffee there, when we need to talk we met at Starbucks or the Crossing. We knew all the funny little asian shops and where we could find things there. We ate $2 rice and McDonalds cokes. We have a lot of funny family stories around things that happened in the city. Like the time James ran away from home and we found him at McDonalds on Colombo Street. The Robertson family was living their lives in the spaces of the city.

After the earthquake we lost our space and it was really really difficult to make sense of our lives for quite a while. Until the Tannery opened just down the road from our home and we made the Brewery our space. As a family, we have had 100s of coffees and dozens of pizzas there. We have talked, laughed, cried there. We have met our neighbours there, our friends, had family meetings there. There were times when we didn't talk, just sat and people watched. I knitted most of Annie's dressing gown there. We started making our own stories there, we have funny stories of friends and neighbours there; and when we go there, we don't see the Tannery, we see an extension of our family. The Tannery was absolutely the best thing for our neighbourhood. It is ours. We own it. Of course the Cassells family actually own it, but in our neighbourhood, we feel like it is part of our community.

The main thing that I wonder about in the rebuilding of Christchurch, is if there will be spaces that allow people to live (like the Tannery) or if it will be so regimented (like the ReStart Mall) that it repels ordinary folk from making it theirs. I don't have an answer to this, and only time will show how things develop. It is up to us to keep living our lives and making this city work for us rather than the alternative. Watch this space.

I put pictures of a quilt I made after I saw a clip of a Pride flag flying in a New York apartment window. I like the fact that I was inspired to make something for someone here, inspired by a movie I saw made somewhere else. Globalisation at work!

The readings for the end of the semester are as follows....

Week ten: A new urban species? The global mega-city
John Zacharias & Yuanzhou Tang: "Restructuring and repositioning Shenzhen, China's new mega city” Progress in Planning 73 (2010),pp. 209-249
Ananya Roy (2009) "The 21st-Century Metropolis: New Geographies of Theory”, Regional Studies, (2009): 43:6: pp.819-830,
Jeroen de Kloet & Lena Scheen, "Pudong: the shanzhai global city”, European Journal of Cultural Studies16(6) 692-709
Ash Amin, "The Urban Condition: A Challenge to Social Science” Public Culture 25:2: 201-208
Week eleven: the mobile city: soft, fluid and non-spaces
Terry Austrin & John Farnsworth"Upheaval: Seismic, social and media mash-ups after the Christchurch earthquakes”, New Zealand Journal of Media Studies 13.2 (2012): pp.78-94
Ole B. Jensen (2009) Flows of Meaning, Cultures of Movements
- Urban Mobility as Meaningful Everyday Life Practice, Mobilities, 4:1, 139-158
Neil Brenner, "Theses on Urbanization”, Public Culture 25:1: 85-114
Week twelve: case study: The future/s of Christchurch
Christchurch central development unit:
Greater Christchurch development strategy:
Richard Florida , Charlotta Mellander & Peter J. Rentfrow (2013) "The Happiness of Cities”, Regional Studies, 47:4, 613-627
New Zealand Centre for sustainable cities: