Category Archives: Everyday Memoirs for Every Day

Embrace the Ephemeral: Create a Cloud Memoir


Monday’s Cloud Audit

Most of the time, I’m too busy concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other to look up.  But when I do, 99 times out of a hundred, I love what I see, whether there are clouds or a clear blue sky.

I decided to create a cloud memoir to remind me of the sky at a particular time.  A Few Blinks More

Possum Magic, or How to Feel 100 Grams Better in a Bad, Mad Season


La Nina has come to visit and she’s outstayed her welcome here in formerly sunny-almost-every-day Queensland.  Enough with the rain, enough with the floods, enough with the inland tsunami.

The dams are beyond fuller than full.  Adults and children are dead or missing.  Houses are wrecked and their occupants homeless.  Enough.

What is it with this crazed climatic family?  Before La N., El Nino hung around for years and years, kicking dust in our faces, spitting desiccated chips in our eyes, killing our native animals and livestock, burning off bushland, burning down houses, and burning out the light in so many people’s eyes all over Australia.

They’re like guests who come to holiday with you, this Nina, this Nino.  They arrive smiling with promise and potential, and their baggage – and don’t they have so much of it – but, like glitter, twist ties, and repeats of Two and a Half Men, you just can’t get rid of them.

What can you do about power that’s way beyond the control of teeny-weeny humans?

The other day, our state Premier, Anna Bligh, stood up to be counted, after a long period of dilly-dallying and less than inspiring shenanigans from the government benches.  She made a speech in which she called on everyone to remember who we are, and it bears repeating.

We are Queenslanders, she said.  We’re the ones they breed tough north of the border.  We’re the ones they knock down, and we get up again.

Strange to say, but a small marsupial must have been listening in at the window when Our Anna roused the citizens to get up again.

Meet Claudette, the sweetest little ring-tailed possum to grace our garden since – well, she’s the only one we’ve found so far.  But you get the drift – see photo for adorability factor up to wazoo.

Claudette – her name appeared from nowhere on a breeze of idle thought – was abandoned, we think, by her mother.  The pair may have been attacked, or frightened, or both, and in these circumstances, the baby – who usually travels on her mother’s back once she’s big enough to leave the pouch – gets shaken off as the mother goes into defensive mode and tries to save herself.  Unfortunately, possums don’t always return to collect their possumettes.

Lola found Claudette in a palm frond, wide-eyed, alone, waiting.  We waited, too, and watched, hoping for Claudette, senior, to return.  By the afternoon, with butcher birds gathering above Claudette’s tiny head, ready to knock her off her perch and – let’s not go there – we stopped watching and took action.

Once we managed to retrieve her from the tree – courtesy of Lola’s magical marsupial manoeuvrings – and place her in a comfy container, she went instantly to sleep, probably a little dehydrated, and certainly exhausted by the effort to remain alert.

We phoned the local vet for some wildlife carers’ names, and found Lyndal, a possum expert and all-round decent human being.  Lyndal put Claudette in a custom-made possum pouch – soft, bunny-rug fabric, just the right size for a 100 gram ring-tailed girl – so she could warm up and calm down sufficiently to be fed a special wildlife formula.

Lyndal phoned us later to let us know that Claudette was feeding and sleeping and doing all the things small furry beings do.  She said Claudette is particularly loving and gentle and she feels confident that once she reaches 500 grams or so, she can go to a soft-release site – an enclosed aviary-style area.  Here, other local carers – all of them volunteers like Lyndal – keep watch as possums like Claudette get used to natural surroundings again and meet other possums – they’re a community-minded bunch, the ring-tails, Lyndal tells us – before their full release into the open.

The moral of this everyday memoir?  Take from it whatever feels good, and I’d like to think that Claudette hung on instinctively until she could make it – with a little help from her friends – to somewhere safer, somewhere loving.

Not everyone has been or will be as lucky as Claudette, but I have to say I’m very proud of all of our fellow citizens who’ve stood up to be counted as these terrible floods wreak havoc and tragedy.

In the end, what we have are the mindful moments that make up our lives and, if we’re lucky – and by now we surely know that nature is random, and careless – each other.


An Everyday Memoir from Flood Central and the Power of Positive Affirmations


This is the sky we’re all looking forward to, physically and metaphorically

Here in Queensland, we’re in the middle of an ongoing flood crisis.  Most of the state is under water, many cities and towns are seriously affected and the damage will continue to affect us for months and, in some cases, years to come.

A number of people, including children, have drowned, many more are still missing, and the death toll is expected to rise significantly as emergency services workers, police and the military search for survivors and check abandoned cars and homes.

In Brisbane, the river hasn’t yet peaked, but is expected to exceed the levels that devastated the city in 1974.  The extent of the situation is overwhelming, and I can’t begin to imagine the grief of those who’ve lost their loved ones, and in such cruel circumstances.

There are many confronting and unforgettable images and stories emerging from the affected areas.  In my lifetime, and like so many others, I’m sure, I’ve never seen or experienced anything like the scale and intensity of this ongoing event.

I was born and raised in a river city prone to flooding, and I now live in a river city prone to flooding, and perhaps because of both those facts, I live in a suburb beyond the reach of the immediate flood zone and I’m extremely grateful that I do.

But it wasn’t always so, and I noted in today’s paper a list of streets as long as your arm likely to be affected by the flooding in the days ahead as the river rises.  Three of them were streets where I’ve lived previously, and I have friends who live in others.  And in my old hometown, where they’re waiting patiently for the river level to drop, it seems like everyone is snorkelling.

The street list reminded me of the unpredictable nature of our existence in this dimension and the concept of chance.  If this flood had happened some years ago, I’d be in the firing line along with thousands of others around town.  I wondered how I’d react.

A reporter speaking with a woman whose 76th birthday is just around the corner, asked her how she was feeling.  She looked around the wrecked kitchen of her wrecked home, and said that after living for so long, she now had nothing to show for it.

In another affected town, a woman helping her mother, who has dementia, move to higher ground, was asked by the interviewer how she was able to cope with the stress of the floods and her mother’s condition and the move, and she replied, “You just have to get on with it.”

I’d like to give both these women a big hug, and I’d like to say to the first that she has so much to show for her nearly 76 years.  She has her physical self and her resilience, for a start.  And she has so many memories and experiences, and skills she may not even realise she possesses.  She has her heart and soul, her love for others and their love for her.  (Her children, grandchildren and friends were helping her clean up).

But it’s hard to remember these things when devastation is all around you.  Like the second woman, stoic and determined, all anyone can do is try and get on with it.

It’s hard, yes, but is isn’t impossible.

Two comments keep coming into my mind: “This, too, shall pass,” and Robert Frost’s succinct truth, “Life goes on.”

They may seem trite – and I’m the first to pull Pollyanna’s pulsating plaits – but try them out as affirmations when you’re feeling low.  I know, from experience, that they work, and they work best if you focus on each word, ingesting its meaning like a sustaining, present-moment protein. 

It may just take a few hundred repetitions in the early days before their power begins to show.  But it will.  Trust me, grasshoppers, I’m a flood kid, born and bred.

An Adventure in the Mindless Zone and How Habit can Become Your Enemy or Your Faithful Friend


These 2 gadgets are so alike, they’re almost twins, right?  Right?

This morning, fellow grasshoppers – and in my defence I must point out that it was before breakfast – I single-handedly engineered the briefest of entertainments from the Mindless Zone.  And I’m betting that, like me, you do something similar quite regularly, too.  Can we learn something from it?  Only future moments will tell.

The Mindless Habit Scenario.  Lola and I go for a walk most mornings, and I’ve developed the habit of slinging my camera in its bag over my shoulder and taking it with me, after once spectacularly failing to capture some fabulous shots of ducks (a mother and her duckling – irresistible, n’est pas?) under my favourite tree in the park.  Annie Leibowitz would not have missed these shots.

During today’s morning walk, Lola snapped off a few shots with her compact and, in the end, I didn’t use my camera at all.

Later.  The Mindless Habit – Exposed.  After breakfast every day, I do an exercise routine and use my mobile phone’s timer to count down the sets.  This morning, I couldn’t find the phone in its usual spot on the table in the back room, so I went to the kitchen.  No phone.  Back to the usual spot. No phone.

Unusual spots.  You guess it – nada.  Phone missing, no visible signs of burglary by felons unknown, or lip-smacking consumption by felines known to the household.  I can’t call the phone because it’s turned off.

Next.  Worry for a while and wonder about grey matter turning into blanc mange.  Worry further and fling papers about, re-check all suspect places.

Note presence of camera on table in back room where phone normally lives.  Developing sense of panic interrupted by slow realisation.

The Mindless Zone Strikes.

How did my camera remove itself from its bag – left on the kitchen bench after our walk – and travel from there to the study?  Poltergeist?  Pack cat? Our Dotty always looks suspicious, but no, she has no interest in gadget theft, only food.  Pack rat?  None we know of, and surely they prefer real chips not digital ones.

I step lively to the kitchen, grab my camera bag and find the answer.  The camera never left the house.  The phone nestles inside where I placed it this morning as I proceeded to gather myself together for our walk.

I don’t remember a thing about the event itself – the bagging of the phone and not the camera – because I was travelling in the vague territory that is the Mindless Zone, where phones and cameras sitting close together appear indistinguishable from each other, and because the Mindless Zone creates Mindless Eyes, and Mindless Eyes might as well be wearing a blindfold.  The Mindless Zone also creates Mindless Hands, and Mindless Hands might as well be wearing Antarctic gloves for all the sensitivity they contain.

Habit can be efficient and useful, and it can be mindless and ridiculous.  the results depend, of course, on whether we’re travelling in the Mindless or the Mindful Zone.

A Mindful, Habitual Answer

The third time I locked my keys in the car because I was zooming along in the Mindless Zone, I taught myself the new habit  of taking those keys out of the ignition with Mindful Hands and looking at them with Mindful Eyes before exiting the car and locking the door in the Mindful Zone.  (I haven’t called the auto club since).

I’ll try that with my camera and phone.  Of course, travelling at my own pace and getting ready the night before has much to recommend it, too.

Which one do you prefer?  Why not do both – with a belt and braces you can’t go wrong, and you’ll be living in the now where the only and the very best memoir happens.

Remember: Memoir = Life = Now


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Resolution? Isn’t that something to with your Computer Screen?



Resolutions are like snowstorms in the northern hemisphere and floods in the southern at the moment – they’re everywhere.  And like snowstorms and floods, they’re treacherous, dangerous and indiscriminate about who they harm and how they do it.

Resolutions are, to a resolve, to be viewed with caution while holding a sturdy club of some kind behind your back.

Which brings us to:

Tip Number 1:

Always be ready to defend yourself against a resolutionary guerilla attack, especially at this time of year.

A Case in Point, Part 1: I had the best of intentions yesterday regarding my resolutions.  And the day before yesterday as it happens.  Two very significant days for those of us who take such things seriously: the last day of the old year and the first of the new.

I definitely had resolutions on the boil.  I was caught up in the hustle of the moment but I wasn’t in the moment.  As a result, I fell out of the Mindful Zone, a victim of the resolution guerillas, who point us towards …

Tip Number 2:

Do not project yourself into the future, but rather remain here in the present moment.  Take a deep breath, hold for a count of three – one, two, three – exhale, and then, boil the kettle and make a beverage of your choice.  Sit quietly with the beverage, breathe, and sip in the Mindful Zone.

A Case in Point, Part 2:

Mindmaps, vision boards, brainstorming, inspiration  from people with clearly superior resolve, exhortations from every media source ever invented – I had them all and then … then, my beloved PC, Nostromo, began a menacing beep on startup, and I suspected then that he might not make it to the new year.

There had been warnings, of course, there often are in the leadup to potential disaster: frozen screens, shivering and occasionally frozen mice, blank screens, and blank looks (these mostly from my cat, Dotty), unaccountable shutdowns (rather like those fly-by-cyber-night online fraudsters), a pervasive sulkiness, and a resentful reluctance to load pages.

For a happy few delusional hours, I thought Nostromo would make it with me into the new year and beyond, but … we arrived instead at:

Tip Number 3: No amount of planning can protect you from the unpredictable, so when change arrives, scare the pants off it by embracing, rather than avoiding it.

A Case in Point, Part 3: Before Nostromo sailed into the heart of digital darkness forever, I returned to the Mindful Zone and applied the mindmaps, vision boards, brainstorming, inspiration and exhortations to finding a new PC at a reasonable price from a reputable seller.

His name is Julius (the PC, not the seller – that’s Nick), and, after a small altercation with a pesky DirectX control (okay – so I didn’t read the fine print on the Sony PMB installation disc), he sits upon my desktop behaving like a – well, a perfect desktop PC. 

Nostromo booted up one more time on New Year’s day to allow transfers of precious files and bookmarks – thank you, Nostromo, for years of mostly loyal and occasionally narky service.

Between them, Nostromo and Julius nobbled the resolutionary guerillas and stopped them in their temporal tracks.  They brought me back to the moment.  Which is why The Memoir Detective’s next post will be all about how to remain resolute in 2011: Our Year in the Magical Mindful Zone.  I hope you’ll join me.

Happy New Year, Grasshoppers

PS  Julius, my new PC, is named after Professor Julius Sumner Miller, a scientist who presented a program on Australian TV when I was a kid.  The show was called “Why is it So?”  Professor Miller stood in front of a blackboard and demonstrated the glorious wonders of physics and maths and other amazing scientific-y subjects.  I had little aptitude for science but many of us watched because Professor Miller was so entertaining and full of passion for his subject.  He’s a hero of my childhood.  Nostromo was named after the spaceship in the movie, “Alien,” which in turn was named after the actual marine vessel Nostromo in Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”.  Considering Nostromo’s recent demise, enough said.


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Make Your Day The Compassionate Way With Customer Service Up To Wazoo – Everyday Memoirs for Every Day


You can practise mindful compassion and good customer service any time and with any sentient beings as long as you actively choose to do so.

I was reminded of this truth earlier today, and then discovered Seth Godin’s pithy take on the whole deal in my in-box at lunch time when I began to write this post.  Call it kismet, call it synchronicity, and never call me late for dinner.

Here’s how today’s everyday memoir went down.

This morning on our walk we came across two dogs strolling around the neighbourhood without a care, or any visible owner.

There was that nano-second of temptation to turn the corner and struggle up the hill to home and breakfast and copious cups of black tea at Veranda Life – so close and yet – and then the actual response, which was to call out to them and see if they went the other way, or came to us.  They came to us as though we’d been mates forever, tails wagging, smiling – they’re both smiley dogs, you  know the type – and our morning became another kind of Saturday entirely.

The dogs were two labrador retrievers, or close to it, a male and a female, older, calm, well-behaved and friendly, not barky or scratchy or rowdy.  Let’s call them Sweetheart and Darling, two of my favourite diminutives for my cat, Dotty, also known as Dotteleh, O’Dot, Dotskoya, Dottelini, Dottois, Dottybaba, and any other nationality that springs to mind at any given moment.  She is well travelled herself, this Dotty Donut, if only nominally, never mind the wayfaring dogs.

But let’s mind them for a moment, because the moment we made contact, Sweetheart and Darling became, in effect, our customers.  They had a need and we could provide the service.  So we brought them home and parked them on the patio where Dotty could observe proceedings and keep them in line.

We watered and fed them (Dotty’s lamb and vegetables casserole) and we registered them as found with the city council  and the RSPCA.  I snapped their photos, my partner phoned a dozen vet surgeries in the area, took them to the vet around the corner to scan them for micro chips (no luck), and then made up some Found posters with the photos and went for a long walk to staple them to handy power poles.

One of the vets we called offered to take them for a few days before the pound beckoned.  We decided this was the best option given our lack of dog facilities and our desire to see them reunited with their owner and not with dog heaven.  So we drove them to that vet, who both refused our offer of cash to pay for food and so on, and said she’d also look at the minor injuries on the male’s face and head and give them both the once over.  You’ve got to love a loving vet.

We left our details and left for home, hopeful for Sweetheart and Darling.

Enter Seth Godin in my in-box and his post about Moo business cards with a variety of his aphorisms on the reverse side.  The one that struck me, given our experience, was this:

Care.  That, in just one word, seems to be the essence of good customer service.

I realised that that was what all of us had been doing all morning.  It had been a mindful effort of community care, from our accidental meeting with Sweetheart and Darling, to notifying the RSPCA and the council, to the vet with his microchip wand, and the other generous vet willing to care for them for several days at her own expense.

And if Seth doesn’t mind, I’d like to slightly revise his little gem of wisdom to this:

Care.  That, in just one word, seems to be the essence of good human service.

I think it’s Wayne Dyer who says, Don’t die with the music in you.  Let’s not die with the care and compassion in us, all dressed up and nowhere to go.

Don’t turn the corner and leave – take a mindful nano-second to welcome the opportunity to help, however you can.

As Saint Mary Mackillop said, Never see a need without doing something about it.  Mindful compassion: it’s a wonderful way to create our legacies as memoir detectives and strengthen our ties with one another.

Postscript: At 1.05 this afternoon, Brendan from the council phoned to tell us that Sweetheart and Darling’s owner had contacted them and explained they’d escaped during last night’s thunderstorm.  We told Brendan where they were, and a little while ago we learned from the vet that their owner, Cathy, had picked them up and taken them home to their own comfy beds.  So there you go.  

Who says the days of Happily Ever After are over.  Not me, grasshopper.


Have You Saved Your Life Today? Confronting Fear, One Bug At A Time



Have you saved your life today?  I only ask because I was reminded this morning that this is something I think we must try to do, actively, every day.  Saving your life is part, after all, of creating your legacy and developing your memoir mind*.  But back to the question and the event that prompted it.

I came in from my walk – delayed due to rain – and caught sight of a small flying creature near the front door.  The creatur was inside the house, banging against a big clear glass window pane.

Something you should know about me – I’m terrified of small – or large, for that matter – flying creatures – things with wings and/or feathers.  Sure, I’ve trained myself, with the unrelenting support of my partner, to go near birds without encountering palpitations – not as many as I used to anyway.  I can even feed magpies by hand, but I always have an escape route, and I always keep my sunglasses on.  Something to do with those sharp beaks and their proximity to what I interpret – should I happen to morph into a magpie momentarily – as the delicious, gooey, protein-rich orbs I call my eyes.

But the little flying creatures – bugs galore (excluding lady bugs, which are entirely adorable – it’s my phobia, I can be irrational), cockroaches, wasps, bees, moths, butterflies, grasshoppers, praying mantises, or manti – you get the picture – the little ones are a different kettle of, well, flying fish.  They’re scratchy, jumpy, bitey, fluttery, feathery.  They aren’t furry and snuggly, they aren’t cuddly and brushable.  They aren’t my cat.

However.  While I may not like these insects, and birds, I wish them no harm.  In fact, I wish them long and happily productive lives.  For all we know, they may be all that stands between us and annihilation, given the woozy state of the world.

The thing is, though, they aren’t always very canny about their surroundings, especially if those surroundings are artificial, from their point of view.  This little creature banging on the window pane, for instance, had no idea how to get out of its fix.  It looked something like a dragonfly, or it could have been a hornet.

Either way – clueless.

It could see the light outside and its plan was to bang against the glass until it – the glass – saw the light, too, and let it through via some sub-atomic miracle.

I walked past and tried to ignore it.  It’ll find its way out, I told myself, and reactively grabbed my cuddlesome cat.  She was feeling scratchy, so I put her down (in the nicest possible way, not the veterinary way) and faced the truth.  I was alone in the house for the time being; my cat can’t trap small flying creatures – not without killing them – and she can’t open doors and release them into the wild – yet.  I’m hopeful.

There was only one choice.

It took a while, and I was terrified, but eventually I managed to trap the little flying creature in a plastic container, slapped a sheet of paper over the top and took it out to the garden and freedom.  It disappeared without a trace.

My point?  It felt good to save that little thing flapping and crashing against the glass window, seeing the world waiting for it out there, all light and bright and airy, inviting it to come out and play, and live.

It felt good to challenge fear.  It made me wonder about the glass panes that you and I may not be canny enough to see, obstacles that prevent us from saving our own lives.  Do we keep doing the same old things, feeding the same old habits, following the same routines, honouring the traditions we’ve created or continued just for the mindless sake of it?  Are they still the right ones for us?  Or are we fearful of challenging and changing?

Here’s the thing: I challenged a fear and I came to no harm.  No palpitations, no bites, scratches, or feathery fluffing.  I’ve got a way to go to actually touch my feathery/wingy mates, and there was buzzing and perhaps a little too much proximity.  But the very least I can do is try.

So, try today to save your life.

Do something differently.  Don’t do something that you usually believe you must do.  Then watch as the world turns and doesn’t explode in your face.  Break a habit before it breaks you.  Change a routine before you’re rooted (to the spot).

Adopt the little flying creature inside your head, your heart, your soul, and put it in its place: out in the world of light and air and freedom.

NOTE:  *Memoir Mind – a state of mind in which you are calmly aware, from moment to moment, of your life and thoughts.  In this state of mind, you are able to see things from a different perspective.  You may be in a position to begin decluttering, discovering some important truths, and creating your legacy.

Memoir mind: a state of calm excitement.