Day by Day

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Cheeky Lorikeet By Kath Unsworth

I step outside. The deck feels oddly cold under my bare feet. Strange for a summers morn. The clouds look threatening. It has rained heavy for many days and it seems the storm has unfinished business in this corner of the universe.

Six Lorikeets perched high in a nearby tree. The racket intensifies as the sun pierces through thick cloud. The birds, grass and trees so vibrant under a ray of golden light. I soak up the rich colours of the Lorikeets and the natural beauty of where I live. I am thankful for the air I breathe.

That may sound cheesy to some but I am now practicing gratitude every morning. I close my eyes and listen to nature. The sun warms my face and I am ready to start my day.

Following on from my last post I am choosing yoga in the mornings. I am trying to introduce small healthy habits day by day. My morning instructor reminds me: if I use meditation and yoga often enough, my insomnia and fatigue will disappear. I wonder what she is doing now, I have had the DVD for at least ten years. I bet she is still practicing. Once a week I also attend a local class for over fifties. That in itself makes me cringe (I’m heading for the senior citizen zone). But when I first arrived, it was surprising, most of the class were older than me. Though amazingly strong and obviously yoga an ever-present practice in their daily lives. I could feel the uplifting vibes in the room. (not joking).

Creating new habits is not easy. Meditation is difficult for someone with a creative brain that never shuts down. It is difficult to squash all the stories and ideas bubbling to the surface. You wouldn’t want to go in there, my father said I talked in a babble or backwards even when asleep. A product of an overactive mind he use to say.

My husband, I know I mentioned him last week but he is my cheer leading squad. Encouraging me every day with my health and picture book dreams.

Since starting karate with the kids he has transformed his mind and body to accept a new healthy routine and resists eating fast food or too much sugar. I’m not as strong and won’t deny myself those treats every now and again. We know our children can see the benefits of having healthier, more active parents.

For all you readers with resolutions, goals or big plans for 2016. Jeff Goins wrote a post that resonated with me.

http://goinswriter.com/slow-start-resolutions/

It reminded me if I stick to a routine every day I will create new habits. Which in-turn will help me on the days my passion wavers. By starting with exercise and following with working on my picture book almost every day I can see small changes happening.

One sentence I printed out and pinned to my art board.

“When the passion goes away, it’s the practice that sustains us.”

I want to practice good health first.

I look back over my virtual daily diary and I can see the days I started with a walk or yoga were more productive.

I have almost finished my outlines for Sugar and Spice. Only seven outlines to go and then the real fun begins in rendering them. But I’ll have the back bone of the story completed. Never have I gotten this far before.

I realise It’s not going to be easy when school starts back we all get caught up in life’s craziness don’t we. But by creating new habits and practicing every day we can get there.

I hope I have inspired you to think about your life goals. Share with me something you have added to your daily routine or something you want to change? Lets make January our starting point to a healthier and more productive year.

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2016 Our Time to Shine

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Art by Kath Unsworth

HAPPY NEW YEAR

I started my first day of 2016 with a yoga session and finished it with an adventure. A memorable trail ride through the bush on horseback with the kids, my two sisters and niece. We laugh now about our crazy stubborn horses. They enjoyed dragging us through the thick scrub for two hours. We have the scars to prove it (more like a couple of scratches). But we did it and I am so proud of my two children who have never been on a long horse ride before this.

January is the month that slips through my fingers all too quickly. I am aware of it now and want to work on my main project as much as I can. But life throws us challenges in the midst of parenting.

The wonderful weather beckons us to the beaches and outdoor activities. The children are on holidays until the end of this month. Its almost impossible to find the time for what I want to do. Being creative and consistent is the key. I admit, children (tweens) wanting something to do every second of the day becomes my challenge. How about you? Do you feel January goes by without a thought? Or are you one of the lucky ones who gets to work from day dot.

I’m not going to feed you my long list of new years resolutions, or one word to live by. I have too many for this year and feel I will carry out all my goals if I truly live a well-balanced life.

It begins with my health. I cannot be at my best as a mother, wife and artist if Im unfit. At the end of last year I added yoga and weight training to my fitness menu. The odd bike ride with the kids and my morning walks weren’t enough. Trying to avoid sugar is not hard for a savoury queen (chips, twisties, yum) like me. My weakest link is a mouth watering (flaky pastry) meat pie or a gourmet Pizza. (Tandoori chicken my fave).

By limiting these foods and keeping to an exercise plan, my mind feels clearer already. I won’t lie, the body is reluctant to let go of old habits. My husband inspires me (go Pete). He has trained now for about six months. I can see the visible changes in his body and general well-being.

I am older than he and so we joke about how it will take my body longer to learn and crave these new habits. Some days my mind is eager but the body says no, and visa versa. It’s funny how we humans know whats good for us but we fight it daily.

Its time to shine in 2016 because I want to live in the moments, evolve and grow. Grow in mind, body and spirit. My hope is, if I live this so-called, well-balanced life, It will allow me, to thrive in all areas of my life.

THE PLAN (not a resolution)

I’m going to finish my picture book, it has taken me two and half years to get to this point. It will never be perfect and to learn, I must set it free. I enrolled in a webinar on how to make 2016 my year to finish a picture book (Readers Digest webinar). 12 goals to help make it happen and have my book ready for an agent/publisher. I will also receive a critique of my manuscript as part of the package by an agent/editor. It is the main reason I signed up. Once I have my feed back and make all the changes I will also take it through another critique with Readers digest. One final professional critique, one I will pay for, something I have not done yet. I need to stop worrying about the illustrations FINISH them and trust in my journey.

I say to you, I hope 2016 is a year for LOVE, PEACE and JOY. I look forward in reading about your lives, hopes, dreams and achievements. Thank you for entertaining me for the last three years and here’s to another year full of adventure’s.

Share a goal for 2016 with me, we can keep each other accountable.

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Making Spirits Bright

Our Xmas Tree made of sticks

Our Xmas Tree made of sticks

We are on the count down to christmas. My patience, tested. The bank balance, diminished. I’m ready to disappear into the scrub, with the birds before all the frivolity and festivities begin.

BUT instead I’m going to remind myself to keep it simple. Live in each moment and think about those people who are doing it tough this time of year.

There will be many sitting at their table on christmas day, longing to spend it with those who are gone. I feel your loss. I have family and friends I miss dearly at christmas. I only hope you can raise your glass in memory of those you love and remember the good times.

Making ends meet, can be a challenge. My parents, with all those children. I often wondered how they managed to give us all a special gift, even when funds were tight. Mum used her sewing talents and Dad repaired bikes or second-hand toys he found on auction nights. (No such thing as eBay back then but dad would have enjoyed finding a bargain in there).

We never compared our gifts to our friends, homemade gifts were special. But our family (thanks to our parents) is never about the cost of the gift and all about the coming together.

THINKING OF YOU

If you find yourself with illness I pray you are able to spend time with the ones you love.

If you have a loved one in hospital I hope you can still be together on christmas day.

If you are alone on christmas day, I wish you comfort through maybe a friend or your community.

My family is large, I have always had a choice, but I feel woeful if I hear about someone spending christmas alone.

MAKING SPIRITS BRIGHTER

This year I wanted to do more creative projects. My daughter enjoys this challenge too. The boys? Not so much, it might be a girlie thing?

We made our christmas tree (above) from sticks collected on my morning walks.

Willow created origami flowers for her teachers at school. She is making more for her grandparents, because everyone loved them.

Willow's origami flowers

Willow’s origami flowers

We are also giving art. There are so many wonderful handmade gift ideas out there on pinterest and google search. For years I would search for the perfect teacher gifts. This year I had the biggest response from the flowers. Willow also gave her artwork mounted as her farewell presents to her primary school teachers. They loved them. It just goes to show, people appreciate when you put a little thought and effort into it.

Art by Willow for her teacher

Art by Willow for her teacher

With the grown ups this year on christmas day we are to spend only twenty dollars on our gift. On one present only. The aim is to find a re-cycled or antique shop, gifting something old but useful. I found the most beautiful book ends with ornate carvings on the sides, a gift I would love for myself. We throw all the presents in the middle and everyone picks one. Such fun to see what people come up with.

We designed our own cards and I can’t tell you how much my friends and family enjoy a card with our art on it.

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Family art card by Kath

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Xmas Art card by Willow

So maybe this christmas, make spirits brighter with a little thought, and a handmade gift, it goes a long way. Or maybe just visit that neighbour who lives alone and take them some paper flowers.

Wishing you a wonderful fun-filled christmas. Thanks for supporting my words and art throughout 2015.

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Good Morning Maggie

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I opened my eyes to hear the Magpie’s glorious morning song.

It fills my heart with joy, reminding me I am here, in this day, where anything is possible. Surrounded by nature I feel blessed.

“Good morning Maggie.” says a soft sleepy voice from my daughter’s room. I smile to myself. Mr Magpie is waiting there, near Willow’s window. They usually talk to each other for about five minutes. I often wonder what they chat about.

Every morning for the past two weeks he has visited her without fail. At 6am, maybe a minute or two early or late he is there. She calls to him and thanks him for being her alarm clock. I sneak up the hallway to see him. He stands on the back of the deck chair in front of her window preening himself and yodeling away. He makes an almighty racket at such a tender hour. But we love him.

DSCN6017 (copy) Willow will be watching a movie and she won’t even know that her friend is at the window. He sits there behind her watching too. I wonder if he is looking at his own reflection. Willow thinks he is in love with himself.

I have tried to  film him singing, but he is too quick and sharp for me. And so I just appreciate his quirky personality, feed him crumbs sometimes. Although we are thinking of buying some bird seed, yet we don’t want him to become reliant on us for food.

I adore magpies. Most people don’t appreciate or notice them. I find the black and white a striking contrast against the back drop of green grass and blue mountains. When the babies squeak for food (so cute) I tell their parents what a wonderful job they are doing. I have always talked to the Magpies. My mum believes if you talk to them and get to know them they won’t swoop you at nesting time (has worked so far). I’m wondering if Willow’s magpie is a little lonely? Now that his mum and dad have new babies to look after. How curious life can be.

These minuscule moments we must cherish. When I think about the uncertainties in life, the unpredictability we all experience. I tell myself to stop and look at the things around me. Appreciate what I have and where I live. My life is far from perfect but I am thankful for this day and the next and the next.

I know my daughter will carry her Magpie moments with her into adulthood. She has a special connection to nature with her art. She notices the little things like her brother does too. I know if she ever writes her books, filled with childhood memories maybe Mr Magpie will become famous.

Magpie and Baby by Willow

Magpie and Baby by Willow

Next week we are going on a road trip to Sydney to see Taylor Swift for the second time. Spending precious time with my sisters and family. I will be offline most of the time and am looking forward to unplugging from social media for a little while.

I hope you notice something curious and wonderful in your day or meet a friendly magpie.

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Reed met a friendly Magpie on the beach. Photo by Pete Unsworth

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A Very BIG Adventure

Art by Kath

Art by Kath

Spock’s Very BIG Adventure.

Sometimes life truly can be stranger than fiction.

I received a call from the Grandparents (my husbands parents). Nothing unusual they often call me when they arrive safe home after a stay on the farm. I could tell by Nan’s voice that something wasn’t  right. We all know that voice, the one that delivers bad news.

After a six hour drive to Sydney anyone would sound tired but there was something else. I waited for the bomb to drop.

“We found one of your cats under the bonnet of the car.”

“What?” I said, my throat felt dry, my mind clicked into gear, as I waited for her to tell me which cat had died.

“Its okay, its a bit scared, but okay.”

Turns out it was our baby girl Spock. The cat presumed to be a boy at first until the vets informed us he, was a she. The name stuck.

The funny thing is the grandparents joked about checking the car for cats. Apple jumped in the back of the car when they were packing. We make sure its a cat free zone under the car when visitors leave. They are such curious creatures. Nan and Pop stopped at a local service station they thought they heard a squeak in their door. Pulling everything out of the car just in case it was a cat, they did not think to look under the hood.

The chance of survival sitting on a hot battery all that way to Sydney is slim. The grandparents had several stops for food and coffee’s. Poor kitty I can only imagine the fear and exhaustion she went through. When Pop finally lifted the bonnet, he found a scared and overheated little kitty.

Spock is our little adventurer  but this adventure will go down as her biggest.

Caught playing with a baby snake, not once but twice. We thought her time was up, red belly black snakes are just as venomous when they are babies. I found her sleeping in the washing machine once, almost put her on the rinse and spin cycle. She has a love affair with the cows, which leaves me nervous, praying she does not get stomped on.

Yet out of all our cats she is the smartest (opens sliding door) comes and goes as she pleases. Wish I could teach her to close the door when she leaves. Uses the kitty litter box and never makes a mess. Comes to me when she hears the word treat. Sits on my artwork when I am busy. Yes she is special.

I hadn’t  noticed that day, my little buddy Spock was missing. Usually when I have an art day she likes to sit and watch. Imagine my surprise, receiving the news that she was in Sydney. Poor baby, none of us slept well thinking about her that night. She could not stay long at the brother-in-laws as his partner is allergic to cats.

So the very next day we drove to meet the grandparents. The kids extra excited getting a mental health day off school (happy kids). By the time we met Nan and Pop, Spock had busted out of her box. Nan had to sit in the back of the car to calm her, she used their esky to hold her in and keep her quiet.

When I lifted her into my arms, the kids surrounded me and smothered her in kisses. I think she knew who we were. We placed her in our sturdy cat box for the long four hour journey back home. The kids fed her treats through the holes and talked to her all the way.

Spock is sitting by my side on this early morning as I type away. She is a special  kitty and we love her so.

Thank you Nan and Pop for meeting us and taking care of her that night. Apparently, the next morning they could not find her in the garage. When they heard her faint meow they found her curled up under the hood of a different car. Maybe she thought she could get a lift back home this way….who knows how cats think. All I know is they bless our lives with companionship and their own special kind of  love.

The children had a great story to tell at school the next day and we had our little friend back alive and well. I love a happy ending how about you?

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No Ordinary Stranger

“No one is ever really a stranger. We cling to the belief that we share nothing with certain people. It’s rubbish. We have almost everything in common with everyone.”

Mark Haddon

She walked through the door of the information centre on an ordinary Friday.

“Hello, can you tell me where I could get some good food?”she asked. “I feel like a burger and chips.”she said.

“Well Im afraid the Train Cafe has closed down but you could try the Pub at the end of the street.” I said.

She then went on to ask me if a bus stopped here that could take her all the way to Melbourne (around 600km away). And would they take her bike on board?

When I rang the bus company they told me they had stopped running that service. But she could get a bus, then a train if she went to the next town.

The local bus wasn’t coming for hours, I could see the frustration on her pretty young face.

Remembering my backpacking days on a shoestring budget. I decided to help. My volunteer shift was about to finish at the information centre.

“How about I take you and your bike to the next town, I have to go there anyway.” I said. Her face lit up, that is all I needed. I could see the relief and understood it well enough.

“My name is Hani.”she said.

In one car trip into town. I learned many things about Hani. She was 25, had studied chemistry and computer science. Her biggest shock about Australia was how expensive the food is. I agreed it does indeed soak up much of your holiday monies.

Hani arrived in Brisbane with her bike. Riding some of the  way and catching trains and buses down the Australian coast (No small feat). I learned she had been couch surfing (https://www.couchsurfing.com). Something they never had when I was travelling. Yet if she did not have somewhere lined up to stay, she camped out under the stars. There are many free camping sites for the braver traveler. I know I could not have done this, especially on my own. I told her to be careful camping out in the bush alone. It wasn’t the snakes and spiders I worried about.

The kids thought it a big treat taking Hani into town.  Especially when we made a stop at the golden Arches for the long over due burger.

My daughter has a fascination with Chinese language. To her, someone from South Korea was just as interesting. We drove to the hostel. My standards had risen over the years on accommodation. To me this hostel looked a bit shady. Hani said it would be fine. I gave her my number and told her to call me if she felt unsafe.

We decided to meet for lunch. An Aussie beach day with fish and chips on the Sunday. The kids grinned from ear to ear when Hani met them holding two giant size boxes of chocolates.

The spring weather did not disappoint. I saw a little of my young self in Hani. I felt like we had met before, she talked with the kids and played in the surf alongside my daughter and our friends. I smiled watching them. Such a beautiful sunny spring day enhanced by a stranger.

It’s funny how a total stranger can feel like an old friend. Hani you are an amazing, intelligent young women. I wish you much joy in your life, no matter where you travel. You touched our lives with your smile and sense of humour.

We will treasure our special day at Tathra beach. With one hundred and one seagulls, fighting for our lunch and a happy backpacker named Hani.

No one is ever really a stranger if you just give them some of your time.

Hani sent me a message from Melbourne. She said when she arrives back home in Seoul she will pass on our kindness to another traveller. I hope she does.

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I have met many strangers through my blogging and like my experience with Hani I feel very blessed.

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Bird O’Clock

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Sometimes when inspiration won’t come and I feel like I am stagnant and uncreative I know I need a reboot. I go on an outing, I did this with my last trip to the zoo and getting out and about is a great way to fuel those creative fires.

An opportunity arose to visit a bird aviary on my recent trip to Canberra.

My husband wanted to see the War Memorial, art galleries all the usual stuff the Capital city has to offer. We agreed to see as much as we could in the three days, whilst the kids were at school camp.

The aviary went way beyond my expectations. They had many species of birds from all over the world. The time passed quickly. I sat captivated. Looking up to the tops of the aviary I did feel a little sad. The birds were not free but most of them had only known captivity and would not survive in the real world. The caretaker told me sometimes hawks and eagles tear the nets and grab the birds. When the netting is open he mentioned most of the birds come back because they know they get fed and feel safe.

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When you walk through the gates with your bowl of food beware. The cheekiest lorikeets make themselves known. Using your arms as bar stools, they eat and bicker among themselves.DSCN7065 (copy)

 

I noticed the park also accepted birds that people no longer wanted. I overheard an elderly woman talking to her pet Lorikeet, saying goodbye. She told him he would meet some new friends in there. (broke my heart) She said she and her husband were not able to care for the bird anymore. At least he would have a good home. But I could not help noticing the sadness in her voice as she handed him over to the park owners. Me, yes, I felt her loss too.

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I think I must have taken at least a hundred photo’s on that day. But as usual not all of them turn out well, but these are a few that I love.

 

My only disappointment, I could not find the bird I love to sketch. The blue wren. The gardener said they escape out of the holes in the nets (which they fix daily) and come and go as they please.

The good news  I found some on my morning walk. They had made their home in the blackberry bushes, far away from my cats.

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So my message to you.

Go for that outing for some extra inspiration. You may only need to step out into your own back yard.

Ending with a little story….Why do birds make me happy? I don’t know, I only know that I feel a connection to them. I remember a day when I was young and my cat had climbed up into a tree hunting a nest of poor newborn sparrows. I scolded her, grabbing a ladder I leaned it up against the old gum tree and climbed high to get her down. My father laughed at me and said that the cat was just doing what cats do and if I loved birds I should not own a cat. It was on that day when I came home from a trip to town. I found an empty nest and a cat with a full belly; I realised I had two conflicting passions. Such sadness I felt, that I could not save those birds. My conflicting passions still haunt me today. I think my father was right all those years ago.

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