Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Merry Christmas (or whatever you choose to celebrate)

Life intervenes, as they say, and I have found it too hard to post on this blog as often as I originally intended.  I have completed the first year of my Visual Arts degree, and been pretty happy with the results.  In 2012, I'll be taking the Photography strand as well as picking up 1 or 2 art papers, depending on the timetable.  I'm in my new home, and working to make this as comfortable as I can.

Christmas for me is a time for being with family, and also a time for reflection.  I like to think back on the year (rather than wait till New Year) and think about what I've achieved or haven't got done, and what I want for the coming year.  Even though I'm not religious, I love Christmas, not for the crass commercialism and pressure to buy buy buy, but for the genuinely kind and selfless moments that you find, when "goodwill to all men" actually happens.  Of course, there's always tragedy and hardship and sorrow - that's part of being human, unfortunately.  However,   the decorations and lights and trees give pleasure to children (and adults), as do even small gifts.

I have friends who are deeply religious, and others who are committed atheists.  I fall somewhere in between.  Who do you thank when things go right in your life?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Tortured artists

A lot has happened since my last post - I've finally sold my house in Rangiora - after a year - and now bought a little house down here in Invercargill.  Life gets in the way of blogging again!

Today I'm starting 2 weeks' holiday so have more time up my sleeve.  I thought I'd talk about emotions and art.  In Art History, we have studied, albeit briefly, many great artists over the centuries.  Some spring to mind when you talk about "tortured artists" - Vincent van Gogh is one.  While I'm not attempting to compare what I do with what he did, my interest is in the link between emotions and art.  Not simply being gripped by the beauty of a scene or similar- I mean what drives an artist to create.  We don't usually hear about artists with blissfully happy lives - in fact, many I've read about had complicated love lives, career setbacks, ill health and so on - just like the rest of us.  But while there is no doubt wonderful art produced by happy people, it seems to me that more is produced by what we would consider negative emotions - broken hearts, lost dreams, and so on.  Of course, much of the religious art of earlier centuries was about emotional scenes, but these were portraying scenes already established in the Bible so were not a reflection of what was inside the artist.

Perhaps I am just seeing this as I find it easier to relate to unhappiness - I have had my share of grief and misery, perhaps more than some others.  What do you think, readers?  Are you inspired to create when you're happy? Or when you're sad?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Technogeek or technophobe?

I have been remiss in posting to this blog, but my studies tend to absorb a lot of time and energy.  My plan of posting weekly was rather ambitious, so if I post monthly now, I'm happy.  Today's topic is technology.  Love it or hate it, you can't get away from it.

So are you a reluctant user?  Or do you embrace new devices with glee?  I have to confess that I'm the latter.

This sets me slightly apart from many women my age - mid-50s.  I have one dear friend who has never used a computer, though she will use text from time to time.  Another old friend emails me, but does little else on her computer, even though her sons have left home (the reason she claimed she couldn't get near the computer before).

For me, it goes back to change (see earlier post) - I find the new technologies exciting, and I love change when I'm driving it - in this case, taking it on board before I'm forced to do so.  I haven't tried to explain to my mother yet that she'll have to go digital with her TV by the end of next year - it's hard enough to get Mum using a cordless phone.  However, she can use her video recorder (she hasn't discovered DVDs yet) so that's fine for an 80 year old.

What about you?  How do you feel about smartphones, TVs that act like computers, tablets and so on?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

This'll learn ya!

You may have noticed that I've been absent from this blog for quite a while - I had intended when I started it to blog each week, but my brain has been focussed on my studies and my new life.  As a result, I just haven't been able to come up with good ideas for subjects.

Currently, there's one more week of Term 2 left before we break for a fortnight.  This coincides pretty much with the Shortest Day (in the Southern Hemisphere) although it's not considered mid-winter for another couple of weeks.  But I digress...

As a student, my world revolves around learning.  My Drawing tutor has told me that I have a negative attitude to my work, and this means I don't see good bits that I draw.  Yes, it's true that I'm very critical of my drawing, because I'm continually frustrated by my inability to reproduce what I see - have you ever tried to draw drapery?  You know, a sheet draped in bunches over a trestle.  I wrote on my effort that it was "Mutant Drapery", which elicited the tutor's comments.

Anyway, this got me thinking.  Naturally, we humans tend to spend our time, as we go through life, doing the things that we're good at.  I can't remember the last time I willingly spent time doing something that I had no experience in and did poorly at.  Until now.  And Drawing is not an elective - I have it for the whole 3 years of my degree.

This tutor insists that there is no such thing as talent, and that drawing is just a skill that can be learnt by anyone.  Maybe he's right.  The problem is that, at tertiary level, you're not actually taught to do things, like draw, because it's expected that you already know the basics at least.  If you don't, you look to your classmates to help.  I understand this, and have resolved to spend time drawing each day over the holidays as I certainly need the practice (plus I have to draw 3 portraits as an assignment - which I've never done before except for one day in class at the start of the year).  Problem is, because I don't really enjoy it, or the results, I don't look forward to doing it - in comparison, I adore photography and get totally excited about taking photographs.  But I digress again...

How do you, dear readers, feel about learning?  Do you stick pretty much with what you know you can do, or do you go out of your way to do things that you find difficult?  Tell me your stories!

Friday, April 29, 2011


It's the calm before the storm of the royal wedding in the UK.  Tonight, our TV channels will be broadcasting little else.  There'll be detailed descriptions of Kate's dress, a blow-by-blow account of who was there, what they wore, what they said, what they did...and so on.  The wedding will cost the equivalent of NZ$41 million - that's nearly 20 million British pounds or 22 million Euros or 30 million Australian dollars or nearly US$33 million.

I personally think this is a waste of money.  Not just because it's royalty - I admit I'm not a huge fan on the monarchy - I think any culture that spends excessively on weddings is just plain crazy.

Yes, I know it may be "tradition".  But that doesn't make it worth keeping.  It used to be a tradition to keep slaves, or make enormous profits from tenant farmers, or treat some people as untouchable.  That doesn't make these things right or good. Spending that kind of money when the country is suffering from a recession is not right in my book.

But money aside, how do you feel about weddings?  Yes, I've been married, but it wasn't because I was dreaming of a white knight on a steed rescuing me so we could live happily ever after.  I had no such fanciful illusions.  I married for simply pragmatic reasons and my wedding was in a registry office with staff as witnesses.

Historically, marriage was for the protection of children and I believe this is still so.  I am not concerned about whether my children marry their partners.  This doesn't mean that I don't think people should respect the partners they choose to spend their lives with - I do.  I just don't think marriage is a requirement to do that.  What do you think?

Sunday, April 10, 2011


Travel, they say, broadens the mind.  I'm sure we've all met people that this doesn't seem to apply to.  Perhaps, to be charitable, the mind broadening just isn't obvious to onlookers.

As I've mentioned elsewhere, I did my big OE (Kiwispeak for Overseas Experience) last year - my first overseas trip.  Doing your OE is a Kiwi thing - because we are so far away from everywhere.  It's probably hard for people in, say, the UK or Europe, to understand this.

It's 3 hours to the nearest country, or rather, its nearest coast.  The other side of Oz is more like 7 hours away.  To fly from Auckland to Los Angeles takes 12 or 13 hours depending on which direction you go.  For me to get to the UK, I flew for 9 hours to Singapore followed by a 13 hour flight to London.  These are serious flight times in anyone's book.

I stayed part of the time with blog friends and my lovely sister-in-law; the rest of the time, I worked on rural properties through Help Exchange, where you work around 5 hours a day in exchange for board and lodgings.  I spent 6 weeks in France and the rest in various parts of the UK.  It was a great experience and I certainly feel that my mind was broadened by it.

What about you?  Have you travelled much?  Did you start young, or were you older like me?  Please share your experiences.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

More on Creativity...from a couple of different angles

Firstly, thanks to those who responded to my plea in the last blog post.  

I'm sure you will have noticed that some people are more creative than others.  While we can't apply this to people's occupations - I am sure there are creative tax accountants and auditors - there is a popular belief that there is a link between creativity and mental illness.  The "artistic temperament" is well known. This link has been the subject of academic studies, but the results are still not conclusive.  

There is an interesting article here that's worth looking at  I found this paragraph resonated with me: 

"The ability to see the world in an unconventional manner and to adopt perspectives not commonly shared can be both a blessing and a curse. Many creative individuals find themselves outside of the mainstream of both thought and method. As a result, they can experience periods when they feel unaccepted, misunderstood, and painfully alone. It is this reality that Don McLean sought to capture in his musical tribute to Vincent Van Gogh."

What about you? Do you ever feel like that? I don't consider that I have a mental illness, but I do feel I'm not "mainstream".  

Let's look at a different angle again - is your creative work given the respect by your friends and family that you think it should have?  Have you experienced people dismissing what you do as unimportant, or not a real job, or just playing around? Have you been made to feel that you're wasting your time?

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Firstly, a plea to readers - this is an interactive blog, so please, please leave feedback.  The point of writing this is to have readers respond and share their thoughts, experiences and ideas. I am not expecting readers to agree with me (though that's great if you do) - by all means, if you have a different opinion, then please feel free to express it.  I am not going to criticize or abuse you.

Now to this week's topic.....Because I'm doing an Arts course, I'm naturally thinking a lot about creativity.  I've had many people say to me "Oh, you're so lucky to be able to make things, I'm not creative at all".  I don't agree.  I think we are all creative, especially as children, but this talent is either stifled or simply not used.

Perhaps someone told us we were c*** at drawing (or singing, or dancing or making things or whatever). Perhaps our own "self talk" told us we weren't as good as our classmates, so we stopped doing that activity.  I find it interesting that I have absolutely no recollection of school art classes.  In fact, I asked my friend, Hope, whom I've known for over 40 years, whether we even had art lessons at high school (apparently, we did). I can remember all my other subjects and teachers, but not Art.   

While I have dabbled a bit in handcrafts and sewing since my teenage years, I doubt that anyone would have dubbed me "a  creative child".  I did some knitting for my children when they were small, and sewed clothes for them when I was on my own from financial necessity.  I also made some of my own clothes for the same reason.  However, working fulltime, raising 2 children and a number of years spent studying meant that I had little time for creative leisure pursuits.  This is the norm for women with families to care for.

What about you?  Do you find yourself being more creative in your spare time now that you have more time to yourself, or have you always done so?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Normal Service is being resumed

I had hoped to write this blog weekly, but have been thrown out of kilter by the devastating Christchurch earthquake on 22nd February.  Of course, I am no longer living in the region, but my daughter is, and I have already written about that day on my Dyeing2Design blog.  Fortunately, both she and her boyfriend are back at work, and have power and water at their home, so are regaining some normality in their lives.

So today, I though I'd talk about what is normal, and how the sense of normal changes during our lives.  When I was my daughter's age (26), I was married with 2 children, a home and a business.  That was normal.  My mother married at 21 and had her first child, my brother, at 22.  That was normal.  She stopped work at that point and would not have resumed working outside the home except for the fact that the marriage ended and she was forced to return to work when I was 8 in order to support us.  There was no welfare available then.

However, none of Sophie's school friends are actually married (one is engaged) and none have children.  Cass, who is almost 30, has a couple of married friends and one with children.  Most of this group are university educated, and most have gone travelling.  Some are currently overseas and have been for some time.  This is normal for this generation - they are so much more mobile.  My mother is of the generation that dresses up to travel, because in her day, it was something special and unusual.  I dress for comfort.  The kids travel in whatever they're wearing, which may be shorts and jandals. This is also normal.

I could go on at length about how things have changed from when we were young.  It's important to accept that things should change, and that your concept of "normal" should also change; otherwise, you can create a lot of unnecessary grief and stress for yourself.  I try to remain flexible in my thinking for this reason.  While I would love to have grandchildren, I have to respect my children's decisions to live their lives their own way and to have different priorities.

What about you?  What is the most significant change in your concept of "normal"?

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Mothers.  We all have one.  They're a very maligned group, blamed for all manner of things, and the butt of insulting remarks (think "yo mama.." jokes, and words like motherf*****).  Whether we have a happy or unhappy relationship with our mother, they are a considerable influence in our lives.  

My relationship with my mother has not always been easy.  We have very different personalities and interests, and see things in quite different ways.  This has led to major clashes over the years, although both our attitudes have softened as we've got older.

My mother was born in 1930, so was a Depression baby.  Like almost all women of her generation, she learned to cook, bake, sew, knit, mend and grow a garden.  These skills were all passed onto me, and I'm grateful for them.

Through the recent changes in my circumstances, as well as the difficult economic times, I have turned my back on rampant consumerism and considerably reduced my discretionary spending.  The things that I learned from my mother have become more important to me as I reach for a simpler, more satisfying life.

What are the most important things that you've learned from your mother - good or bad?

Friday, February 11, 2011


Although we are all one species, people are all different.  We look different, with a range of skin colours depending on the climate; live in different parts of the world, from Arctic regions to rainforests to tropical islands to temperate continents; live in different types of houses, from thatched huts to cardboard slums to floating villages to high-rise apartments to homes of brick or wood; have different customs, eat different foods and wear different clothes.  Some of us are very rich, some very poor, and many fall somewhere inbetween.

One thing we all have in common, though, is the amount of time that we have in each day.  24 hours, 1440 minutes. 

Time is an elusive thing.  It can't be bought or sold, stockpiled or put aside to use later.  You can be a millionaire, but you have the same amount of time each day as the poorest slum dweller.  Sure, your money can buy you better health, better food, a better home, and often, a longer life.  But it still doesn't buy you any more time each day than any other inhabitant of this earth.

We have a tendency to forget this.  Often, we drift along, comfortable in our rut, or ticking things off our "bucket list" if we are more aware of our mortality.  We are often told to live in the moment, rather than agonise over the past or worry about the future.  I think this is good advice.  My mother is a worrier, and even at age 80, winds herself up into a state worrying about things that never happen.  I try to not do this.

I'm a person who needs to have a Plan.  In the absence of something to work towards, I drift along like a leaf in the wind, which I find very unsatisfying.  I like to think that I'm making good use of my time each day, but then, I don't often stop to think about this.

What about you?  Are YOU making good use of your 1440 minutes a day?  Could you do better?  I'm sure I could.

Friday, January 28, 2011


Life is all about changes.  There is, of course, The Change, which we women are very familiar with.  Some changes are out of our control, such as ageing.  Others, we can decide whether we want them or not.  There is a perception that, as we get older, we are more resistant to change.  Look at the expressions in our language- getting set in our ways; stuck in a rut;  same old, same old.  Who hasn't used these to describe an elderly parent, or a partner who won't fit in with our wishes?

We now have consultants in change management, which is an organisational process to help employees change behaviours and systems in a business .  And of course, there are a myriad of self-help books and DVDs produced each year to help us make changes in our personal lives.  There's no doubt that change is happening at a far greater rate today than at any other time in history.

I've always enjoyed change, but I've come to realise that this is because I'm usually the one instigating it.  Like many people, I'm not so keen on change that is imposed on me.  I grumble at the supermarket because, during a year-long upgrade, many items have been shifted to different parts of the store.  I get cross when I've gone into the city and found my way blocked because of buildings being demolished after the earthquake, necessitating detours to get to my destination.  But these are minor things. 

I am about to make two major changes in my life. Firstly, I am going to move to Invercargill, a city around 600 km away, and right at the bottom of the South Island.  Secondly, I'm going to start a university degree in Visual Arts.  Because I live alone, I can make these changes without having to fit in with a partner.  I'm excited about my new life and the challenges it'll hold. 

What about you?  Are you planning any major life changes?  Do you want to, but something is holding you back?  Or are you happy to continue as you are?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A sensitive issue

Lets talk about that bane of post-menopausal women - no, not men.  I mean facial hair. 

Last year, a TV broadcaster in NZ attracted complaints for referring to a person in the news as "that lady with a moustache".  More than once.  His offsider tried to hush him but he replied along the lines of "well, she obviously doesn't care about it so why shouldn't I mention it?".  While he later lost his job, it was for racially-based comments, not this occasion, so the TV network did not consider this overly insulting, just in poor taste.

Apart from losing my waistline, this is the most annoying thing I find about having gone through menopause.  The embarrassment of finding an errant stray hair that you simply hadn't noticed blooming freely somewhere on your chin or cheek for all to see is acute.

I am fascinated by women who do not remove their facial hair, and wonder why.  Is it too much trouble?  Too expensive?  Poor eyesight?  Or are they simply not bothered by it?

While I am in my mid-50s, I still try to look good for my own self-esteem, and to achieve that, I do wax my chin.  What are your thoughts about facial hair?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Power of Language

I have just been reading Bill Bryson's "Mother Tongue", a very interesting book on the English language.  The power of language has always interested me.  The 1999 South Park movie "Bigger, Longer & Uncut", for example, could simply be seen as just more of the shock-and-offend tactics used by this programme.  In reality, it satirizes how acceptable it is to portray gratuitous violence in the media, while using certain words is not.

However, it's not only swear words that have powerful connotations.  We all know how much words said in haste or anger can wound us, often for many years afterwards.  Our own self-talk can be hugely limiting and damaging to our lives, so there's no doubt about the power that words and language hold.  My point in writing this post is that there are still words and language that exists that subtly denigrate us as women, especially older women.

Gender-neutral language such as "chairperson" can seem stilted and rather ridiculous, and it's often mocked.  However, there are many everyday expressions in our language that we use but don't really think about.  For example, the expression "family man".  Have you ever heard a woman described as a "family woman"?  I don't think so.  It's expected that women should be devoted to their children.  With men, it's something that's worth commenting on.
And do you ever describe someone as being "like an old woman"?  I've done that myself.  A slow and cautious driver is a "nana driver".  I don't know of any male equivalent.

This is a huge topic, and I could go on at length about how various words relating to women have been debased in our language.  "Mistress" is a good example of that.  Also "crone", which was originally part of the Trinity of Maiden/Mother/Crone of Wicca and goddess-based beliefs, but is more normally a very insulting term.  However, I'll focus on one very specific type of word for my question to you - your name, part of your very identity.

Goodwin is my married name and I've kept it after my divorce because I wanted to have the same name as my children.  When I was a child and my mother remarried, I was teased at school because she had a different name from me.  Of course, this was 50 years ago when divorce was uncommon and single parents were rare.

If you have married, did you change your name to your husband's?  If so, and you were marrying again today, would you do the same?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Going Gray

Firstly, I am delighted with the response to the new blog after only a few days.  I am now on Twitter - click on the link on the sidebar if you want to follow me.  I've also changed the look of the blog to make it easier to read.  A note for those who may want to contribute, but are reluctant to do so under their normal Blogger persona - why not set up an alternative blog identity?  That way, you can join in and share your experiences without feeling embarrassed.  And if you plan to keep viewing the blog, why not become a Follower?  Then you will automatically be notified when I've put up a new blog post.

I know it's not exactly next week yet, but clearly we have a lot to talk about so I'm starting on the next topic - going grey.   I'm reading this great book that I borrowed from the local library. This is an issue that's waaaaaaay bigger than it looks!  I can recommend this book, even though it's American and doesn't necessarily mirror my own experiences.  The author, Anne Kreamer, does quite a bit of research that may surprise you.

My experience: I decided to go gray when I turned 50, and I stopped colouring my hair (dark blonde) at that time.  I had annoying hair that was completely gray at the front but only partly gray at the back.  I grew my hair long, so I looked completely different if I wore my hair pulled back in a ponytail than if I wore it out.  At that time, I was self-employed and in my "arty" persona.  Then I moved and returned to my daytime profession, financial services.  I needed to change my look, not just for the work but because I was making major changes to my life.  So I went to a hairdresser and asked to become gray all over.  She said that was the one thing hairdressers couldn't do.  Consequently, for most of the past 3 years, I've had blonde highlights to get as close to the gray as possible, with darker colour framing my face.  When I returned from overseas (3 months with no hairdreser!), I discarded the dark framing and opted for dark "stripes". 

Now I'm wanting to do another change in my life  - if I can do it, I'll become a student for the next 3 years.  I plan to stop colouring, though I may still put the odd stripe into my gray.  I'm 56, I don't see the point of having hair that looks 20 years younger than the rest of me. 

What's YOUR experience with gray hair?  Do you cover it up, or go au naturel?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A new year, a new decade, new experiences - do something new!

Welcome to my second blog! The other one, my creative blog, is here. This one is more of a thinking blog, and, I hope, will be interactive with my blog readers.

My intention is to post weekly on a topic that's relevant to older women. Week One's topic is Getting Out Of Our Rut And Doing Something New.

Look at the world around us - older women tend to be sidelined, overlooked, even invisible.  We're someone's wife, mother or grandmother, and often not thought of as an individual. You don't think you're invisible?  Try walking down the street in a strange town, and see how many people meet your eye, or take any notice of you.  I discovered that I was invisible when I moved to Christchurch 8 years ago.  At first, I was angry.  Clearly, I had reached an age when I was no longer interesting or desirable.  But after a while, I decided it was liberating.  I could do what I liked, wear what I liked and no-one would notice. 

Let's reclaim our place in the world by sharing and enhancing all our years of experience and wisdom, and doing new stuff in this new decade.

Here's 3 things I've come up with that I want to do in 2011 :

1. Start a university degree
2. Learn to rollerblade
3. Travel to Australia

What are YOUR 3 new things?