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twofunkyhearts

Day 2: 300g Lighter

Sean: “I’ve made some congee for us”

Daryl: “Food?! Yay!”

eating…

Sean: “How is it?”

Daryl: “Tastes like rice, water and salt.”

Day 2, a Sunday, is the day where I begin to realise how much I look forward to eating in my everyday life. Paradoxically it’s while I have these realisations about how much I love eating that I also come to see how much I take it for granted, and how mindless I can be when eating and preparing food.

When on a limited food ration each step on the way to eating becomes significant. The determination to get every kernel of rice that rattles around the bottom of an empty package, the precaution taken when straining cooking water, the appreciation of the smells of cooking when walking up the stairwell – all of these become fixation points. I don’t mean to sound overly dramatic, and it’s certainly not like we’re seriously ‘going hungry’, but it’s amazing how quickly the body and mind tune in to try to stretch every meal, every ration, just a bit farther. Sean has even taken to serving dinner in small ice cream bowls as it tricks us into believing there’s more food in proportion to bowl.

Refugee life…. is certainly much harder than this. Send some love their way. https://my.rationchallenge.org.au/t/shoda1

Refugee Ration Challenge Day 1: Weigh In

After a night of indulging in pizza and ice cream, Sean and I woke this morning to the beginning of the Refugee Ration Challenge, 2019 edition.

We are starting a day earlier than most as my birthday is next week and I selfishly plan to eat that weekend. Besides, it’s better to get going. Anticipation is harder than the real thing.

I have to admit I’m entering the week of living off Syrian refugee rations a bit nervous. Last year was incredible: we were overwhelmed by the generosity and goodwill of our wonderful community who empathise with people living across the world in very different conditions. We raised over $2700, and couldn’t have been more impressed or more grateful. I must admit though, the challenge was very taxing; in one week I lost 3.4kgs (7.5lbs), and definitely felt the effects of living on a low volume of low quality food.

This year I’m starting the challenge at 58.2kg (last year was 60kg), and am both curious and anxious about losing the same amount of weight as I did last year. Also, in 2018, I was waiting for my visa to come through and didn’t have a day job. This year I’m teaching yoga, often several classes in a day, and traveling through the city. Despite being concerned about my energy levels, I think this will probably be a blessing as it takes focus off myself and brings me into the present. As I said before, anticipating is hard, but that only happens when living in the future – waiting for the next meal or for sleep.

The Challenge is an emotional time as our focus is on those living in dire conditions in refugee camps. Our conversations centre around these issues and our hearts stay with these people. We are aware that what we are doing is a very simple and limited re-creation of a minor part of refugee experience. Danger, violence, and loss cannot be recreated, but we hope that by having this experience for a week we can gain some small understanding of what people in our world are going through, and to help in our humble way.

Watch this space to follow my whinging about hunger pains – there will be more to come. In the meantime, please take a moment to send a wish, a prayer, a wisp of goodwill to those in our world suffering from loss of home, lack of food, and disconnection. And please, if you’re able to donate, please visit our site here.

We Got Married!

Oh yes we did. The Mamo blessed us over a year prior, a JP signed off on our defacto (common-law) status, the Australian government has our partnership visa application, Uncle Noel gave us a smoking ceremony and finally a registered celebrant of New South Wales proclaimed us hitched. We’re about as official as it gets!

The day was simple, beautiful and surrounded by incredible friends and family. Standing on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, we started our marriage on the rocks, and decided we could only go up from there!

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

I don’t think I ever expected to get married. I always thought it would be nice to find someone that I’d want to marry, but expectations and personal thirst for change, new places and freedom made me think marriage wasn’t much of an option for someone like me.

People say “when you know, you know”, and I suppose that applies to me. I still have the sense that change is constant – even more constant now that I live in coupledom. Smaller changes, little thoughts and feelings get a voice – or more accurately, an ear, which makes life feel bigger. Little things are more significant, small pleasures like sharing a meal or hanging curtains are oddly satisfying. (How my 24 year old self would cringe to read this!)

Despite comparison to my old busy life, “settling down” has done anything but settle me down. Instead I’ve supercharged into an agent of continual revision. Because that ear is there, it holds me accountable not just to my dreams and plans, but also to being a nicer, more caring, more patient, compassionate person.

With time I realise that many things I thought so important were restrictive just by nature of holding them so tight. Stressed importance leads to increased expectation, and a firmer insistence on the way things “should be”.

Take our upcoming nuptials for example. My parents married in 1982 on a Tuesday night in front of 21 people when my dad got home from work. I always thought that was the way to do things. Quiet, intimate, no fuss. And that is a way of doing things. However the man I’m marrying is not a quiet, no-fuss kind of guy. He makes a fuss in the best possible way – Christmas, birthdays, the month of April, Mondays, Tuesdays – are all things to be celebrated in his book. So why should a wedding be less of an occasion?

Initially opposed to having more than 60 guests, I’ve now relaxed and in opening our wedding up to over 100, I’ve had the pleasure of many people (unexpectedly delighted at receiving an invitation to share our day) send love our way. It’s so fun already and the wedding is still 7 weeks away!

Things change. Life is change. The more life goes on and things change the more I realise I never know what is good or bad. Hell, I often don’t know even years after if something was good or bad. Changes just happen and I suppose the only thing to do is to set one’s self up to respond in the most positive way to the twists and turns of life’s rollercoaster. Besides, change never hurt Bowie.

Words to a Lovely Lady

My grandma passed away earlier this month. That smile pretty much says everything, but here are a few words written for her funeral on behalf of my brother and myself. 

Grandma will be remembered by us for many things, notably her mischievous smile and bright red hair. Our visits to the house at 90 Arnold Avenue were always marked with surprises – we loved to explore the room opposite ours, Aunty Sandy’s old room. It was filled with pictures and memories that seemed endless. Grandma would come up and tell us stories about our dad, our aunt and our uncle, and show us photo evidence that they had once been children too. 
In the mornings Grandpa would make homemade waffles – a real treat for us. Grandma would sing Amazing Grace as she moved around the kitchen getting the table set. In the evenings we would join them in the garden, stealing sugar peas when they weren’t looking.
When we asked for her to teach us German, she made sure we knew the most important words – “Ich liebe dich”. I love you. Warm, sweet, and always ready with a conspiratorial smile, Grandma is remembered with love.

2018 in Review

I’m sat in a LBD (a term that is officially in the dictionary, a little black dress), on the couch in the living room of the coast house, listening to the waves hitting the beach and a cool breeze coming through the screen door. There’s nowhere to go and nothing to do. And it’s perfect.

I think this must be a sure sign I am growing up. Or maturing anyways. I remember times in my teens and twenties when I’d feel so disappointed at my lack of plans for new years eve, as if this one night were a reflection of my greater social standing in the world. But now, after two surfs, a run on the beach, a swim, an afternoon nap and a nice dinner made by Sean, there’s not much else I want to do. I turned to Sean over dinner and said that it sounded lame, but I just wanted to stay home, watch a movie and do what we always do. Nothing all that special. I don’t even really care about staying up till midnight. Then, as I heard myself saying it, it dawned on me what a fantastically happy thing it is to want to continue one’s regular life regardless of occasion.

Reflecting back on 2018, this all makes a lot of sense. Sean and I rang in the year back home at Shell Lake, Saskatchewan, lighting fireworks on the ice of the lake, in a heated curling battle with old friends. From there we spent the next month in the Rockies, me teaching Sean to cross country ski and learning how to handle powder at Kicking Horse. February found us in Colombia, with the Mamo at Busintana and the Princesa in Bogota. March we returned to south coast NSW (Australia), and April had us inland at the farm for the picnic races. May was New Zealand. June were Wallabies and Waratahs rugby games. July was the refugee ration challenge, winter swimming, and ski-camping trips in the Rav4. August a solo trip back to Canada to bring the whole Hiebert family together again. September, after a lot of effort, I received the first stage of a partner visa for Australia. October we bought a rental property, hosted Canadian Thanksgiving and I really dove into teaching yoga in senior care. November we started renovations and spent a week riding bikes down the beach at Byron Bay and putting on shows Lismore with Karim’s Mojo Disco.

December saw us living down the hill from our apartment, spending Christmas at Cambewarra Farm and surf trips down the south coast.

2018 has been a big beautiful year. I don’t spend too much time with resolutions but instead like to take this time to pause to really remember just how lucky I am and that I’ve got all – and more – that I’ll ever need. As for advice for the new year, I like this bit from Neil Gaiman:

Be kind to yourself in the year ahead. Remember to forgive yourself, and to forgive others. It’s too easy to be outraged these days, so much harder to change things, to reach out, to understand.Try to make your time matter: minutes and hours and days and weeks can blow away like dead leaves, with nothing to show but time you spent not quite ever doing things, or time you spent waiting to begin.Meet new people and talk to them. Make new things and show them to people who might enjoy them. 

Hug too much. Smile too much. And, when you can, love.


Neil Gaiman @neilgaiman.com

January 2018

February 2018

March 2018

April 2018

May 2018

June 2018

July 2018

August 2018

September 2018

October 2018

November 2018

December 2018

And finally, January 1, 2019:

New Years Day 2019 Surf!

Renovating is Spiritual Work

Sean and I have been renovating our apartment for the last 6 weeks. When we started, everyone said to expect the work to take longer and to budget (much) more more than expected, but no one said anything at all about doubling down on chutzpah and emotional fitness to get through it. 

Six weeks is slightly misleading as really it’s been 6 months. We started back in June (maybe earlier) when we met with a contractor who agreed on the job and agreed on the price. In September, a week before the sledgehammer was scheduled to fall, he quoted a new price that was more than 3 times higher than the original. So it was back to the drawing board and we started scrounging for contractors once again. 

Along the way we also met a wacky woman named Susan who picked us up while we were window shopping at a home renovation shop where she works (everything about that sentence sounds wrong). She sweet talked her way into our pocket book as we hired her to draw up our her plans. When she told me she’d lived for a year on a boat off Salt Spring Island, BC, I thought she must be pretty cool and therefore a great person to add to the renovation team. In retrospect, I realise that living alone in a 12sqm living space is not really a reason to hire someone to design a home.

Nine different sets of contractors traipsed through our house before we finally settled on Luke. He promised to get the work done before Christmas, but after demolishing a couple of walls the apartment sat empty and unchanging for a few weeks. Fastforward to now, and it’s T minus 3 days before we’re meant to move back in and there’s still no sign of the apartment being liveable any time soon. It’s a mess. There’s no kitchen (that’s Thursday), no floors (that’s Thursday), no carpet (that was supposed to be Thursday), no toilet, sink or running water (also supposed to be Thursday). The builder’s Christmas party is on Friday.

Delays are bound to happen – everyone tells you that – but I think it’s the interpersonal stuff that sends people crazy when renovating. For example, the designer (think a faster-talking, pushier Samantha á la Sex in the City) insisted on a bathtub that wasn’t what I wanted and  suspected we would be problematic. It arrived and immediately we needed to send it back because the plumber couldn’t make it work. Then she went off plan and told the contractor to tile the bathtub, a wall and the floor of the bathroom with the same patterned tile, along with a feature wall and a cupboard. It’s the busiest bathroom you’ve ever seen. When we saw it the other night we knew it was wrong but she insisted that we had agreed to it back in August. It doesn’t seem to matter that there’s two of us who remember different compared to her one – she’s sure there’s absolutely no way she could be mistaken. We’ve had to rip out the tile today and start fresh… costing us three days (bye bye Christmas finish date! {interjection from Sean: “Let’s face it, that was never gonna happen”}). When items that were meant to be onsite in advance were rush-ordered, incurring extra charges and losing items due to backorders, she blamed the contractor for not telling her when the job started 5 weeks earlier, even though she’d visited the site several times in the interim. On the other side, the contractor blames the designer and an utterly pointless cycle ensues.

Add to all this we’ve been living under an acquaintance’s roof for the last 6 weeks. We have a room packed with stuff and find ourselves talking in hushed tones after 7pm and dealing with karmic retribution in the form of a jackhammer that starts at 7:30am each day and ends at 5pm (the house two doors down has been demolished and they, too, are starting again). It’s a funny thing to live in someone else’s space… I always feel like I’m somehow responsible for a mess that isn’t there. 

So I’ve learned a lot. About renovating, about signing contracts and about making sure I speak up on what I want. In other words, I’ve learned about breaking down to build up, fostering goodwill in difficult circumstances, and letting go of resentments. All the while remembering that it’s small stuff. All of it. And that some day fairly soon it won’t matter that much any more. And that some day a little farther on it won’t matter at all. It’s serious spiritual work this renovating stuff. 

Good Vibrations

Recently I took on teaching yoga to seniors in nursing homes. Initially I thought it would something nice to do, and was happy to pick up a few more teaching gigs. It’s quickly become much more than that.

The classes are small, ranging from 2 to 15 participants aged 75 to 97. One of my yogis is a beautiful woman (we’ll call her Sheila – not her real name). Sheila is 96 years young and always has impeccable makeup and carefully selected outfits – she wears a lot of matching two piece pant suits in pastel colours and the same button-up printed shirts my grandmother used to be fond of. Despite being 96 and wheelchair bound, Sheila is the heart of the class. She entices and coerces her peers into the yoga circle and tells them to stretch higher, move more – don’t be so damn lazy! It might sound like she’s a bit bossy, but Sheila is an absolute gem of a woman with a heart of gold. Her life story – from what I know of it – sounds like she is a total pioneer. It’s an honour to know her and be approved of by her (as long as I “work a bit harder and reach farther – you’re still young, dammit!”).

In another care facility, the day after I see Sheila, there’s another woman, Lucy (also not her real name), aged 97. In an environment where people are often frustrated by the changes in life that brought them to the home, Lucy has a beautiful sense of acceptance and hope for the future. She was brought into care 12 months ago after having a health scare and wasn’t even allowed to return to her house before entering care permanently. That’s a concept I can’t imagine for myself and her grace is humbling. Similar to Sheila, Lucy is the driving force behind morning yoga, recruiting other residents and friends to join in, and makes sure everyone gets back to their rooms alright following yoga. The first day I met Lucy I had the group doing leg exercises in what I call “dance steps” (everything we do is based from a sitting position). Lucy turned to me, an apologetic look on her face and said “I’m so sorry this hip doesn’t go as high as the other one. I’ve got a touch of arthritis.” High expectations seem to be a common theme amongst the longest-living and healthiest residents.

Following seeing Lucy I head downstairs and work with residents who have progressed in dementia. I have to say that initially I was intimidated by this ward, and unsure of how I would connect and motivate this group, but I really had no reason to worry. Dementia patients have good days and some less-good days, but everyone loves enthusiasm and a smile. Another perk is that I get complimented on the same “new” outfit every week.

I’ve found little keys to working with these amazing people. The use of story and imagination is a wonderful thing and we’ve started to weave a good yarn in with our exercise. We make up adventures  as we lift our feet and knees, making broad strokes with our hands like we’re clearing bush and walking through a jungle. Sometimes we have to climb trees and hold on for dear life when a storm comes. (Last week when we were in a tornado one of the residents cried out that she could see a cow that had been picked up by the wind and was sailing across the middle of the room!) Eventually we always reach a sunny beach and go for a swim, doing backstroke from our chairs, feeling the sun on our faces. Sometimes the Beach Boys are even there and we have a little dance.

It’s a lot of fun, and not in that saintly, not-actually-fun-but-it-sounds-good kind of way. Maybe having these great connections to older people is normal for those who grew up closer to their grandparents, but for me it’s something special and I’m really grateful.  I feel like they’re teaching me how to age, and do it with class.

Sharing Time

It’s been a while since I was last an employee. Over a year, actually and it’s been great.

I’m incredibly lucky to have had breaks in my career. When I left Europe to go on my 2 year long sabbatical, I found it took me 6 months away from my job before I began to stop thinking about it. After a year I’d finally stopped looking at job postings “for fun”. Once I let that go, I finally felt creativity I didn’t know I had, start to bubble up within me. I began writing in earnest, I learned how to draw, and when I rented places for a month or more I really enjoyed sourcing local ingredients and cooking up new things. Music and dance had a new shine for me, and my yoga practice finally started to click as I allowed myself more enjoyment with much less effort.

Despite having been through these phases before, I still have the tendency to worry that I’m not doing enough and subconsciously my focus shifts from relaxed and happy, allowing things to be effortless to concern that I should be doing “real work” (ie: going back to corporate, making loads of money and having a fancy title to fan my ego with).

This morning, however, rooted me back on the good side of my own positive values. Volunteering at a local cafe run for “people from all walks of life” (in reality this means there’s a high population of people who are homeless and/or suffer from mental illness, addiction, etc), I provided very basic service, preparing and serving food. There was no expectation of perfection or improvement. Instead the value was in just being there, in connection with other people. The capacity to share time for a common goal, to have the chance to talk with people – cafe patrons, staff, volunteers – is surely one of the most effective ways to feel rich. And the common goal is so simple – just to be happy, have shelter, get fed. When you break it down, happiness can be pretty simple even for those who don’t seem to have many reasons for it. A good reminder for me who has so many.

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