Marketing to Girls

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I was introduced to a new toy company called GoldieBlox this weekend via this rather fun and clever advert which I also ran past my two daughters:

I applaud the company for making such toys and taking such a positive stance for girls – I know how horrible it is to wake up to a house full of pink and purple plastic bits that just ‘look pretty’ and feel that this is a huge step forward in redressing that balance.

But (there is always a but….)  I also felt that maybe, just maybe we could go one step further and ditch a few more things.

The gender stereotyping of toys (any toys) is an issue for me. I remember having a conversation with my children when they were younger about Lego. Apparently girls didn’t have Lego and my daughter was told by another child that she should be playing with something more appropriate.  She didn’t take the advice on board. I was glad.

But that exchange did open my eyes to how deeply ingrained the ‘this is for girls, that is for boys’ had become.

I can’t remember it being so overt in my day (1970’s) I had heaps of Lego………

And that brings me to my next point, that in my opinion kids get too many ‘boxed’ activities these days.

Everything comes with step-by-step instructions, rules and pictures of how ‘it should look’.  I don’t know about the kids but I find all of that rather intimidating and the opposite of fun.  Who wants to read instructions and who needs performance anxiety when they are just trying to glue a bloody felt penguin together or decorate a money-box anyway????

Boxed activities can be mass-produced, boxed and marketed. They give parents a level of security in what they are buying ‘here, this is the result’,  maybe even allow the kids to do it themselves (unsupervised fun means fun times for mum) and allows a dollar and time value to be ascribed more accurately.  It is hard if not impossible to do that for freestyle activities.

Thinking further,  I’d go so far as to say that kit vs freestyle require totally different skill sets which makes me question which skill sets we are trying to develop here?

Do we want neat, compliant instruction followers?

Or

Do we want creative problem solvers?

The Goldiblox advert implies the latter while seemingly delivering the former.

But maybe I am wrong.

I haven’t seen this toy in the flesh yet, I do hope to and maybe just maybe it does encourage kids to get creative and maybe even work together – how about that for a concept……

Life.  It doesn’t have to be complicated.

Amanda x

 

 

Finding Inspiration

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I find that inspiration is a funny thing.  Sometimes it flows like a tap and its a struggle to turn it off enough to engage in normal life – sleep is interrupted, dinner goes un-cooked, kids can scream in the background and you just shout ‘be quiet’ and carry on typing……. Well, kind of.

I love those days, that feeling of flow and purpose.  I don’t so much love the chaos that ensues following on from a particularly drawn-out period of inspired productivity.

But then it goes quiet in there.  I pick up my pen (or sit at the keyboard) and every sentence I start looks, sounds and feels wrong.  I don’t so much get critical of what I am starting to write. I know that some people do and find their thoughts drowned out by the voices:

You are not good enough.

What are you playing at?

Who do you think you are?

Grow up!!!

But I don’t have that.

That is not because I think everything I write is awesome. I don’t.  I put the lack of those voices down to the fact that growing up I was never told I was a good writer and so, as a consequence my  ingrained expectations of my writer self are low leaving me with the mindset ‘what have I got to lose’?

So, I accept it as it is. I am what I am. OK at this,  could be better but could be so much worse.

I digress…….

The voices in my head are like this:

You can’t write that like that. You should look into it more.

You need to check that fact. Is that even a fact or is that your opinion?

Hang on a minute, have you lost the plot? This story is waffleicious and boring.

or in a similar vein

Do you even know what point you are trying to make AMANDA?

and that pretty much stops it dead.

and it can be dead in there for quite a while….

But then something comes along, usually something un-expected, un-planned and off-centre and suddenly I’m back in the game again.

This week was a good example of that.  After a flurry of excitement and ideas after announcing my new book project last week I was hit by a very real feeling of ‘hang on, what exactly am I planning to do and how?’   I guess you could liken this feeling to a hang-over or the feeling that you get when faced with the mess after the party or the cold hard reality of what you have just signed up for.

I had a couple of days where I lost my voice in the reality of it all, couldn’t quite work out what I was trying to achieve and the value that this would bring to both me and anyone reading it.

This thought paralysis was brought on after some feedback I’d received about my plans from a fellow scientist friend of mine who questioned the direction that my research was taking me in.

It did make me think.

But then I stumbled across this TED talk by Chimamamda Ngozi Adichi about stories and more importantly, the danger of a single story.

I realised after listening to this that what I was embarking on was a personal journey or story about my life online and off and how that continues to evolve.  That this single story and its prejudices, bias and experience can learn from the stories of others.  That together we can form a new patchwork of stories that more closely represent the world and all of its nuanced glory.  That my story is just the beginning.

And that is as far as I have got at the moment and I’m happy with that.

If I’ve learned anything about finding inspiration over the last five years of writing it is that it comes at you when you stop looking but only if you really want it.

So the question is this. Do you really want it?

I’m ready to write.

Re-Framing Monotony

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I don’t even want to write it. Shall I…… well as I can’t think of a better introduction it will have to do.

_______________________

As a mother I am often doing stuff that I find quite monotonous.

Here is a handy check list so that I can see that monotony in dot form:

  • Mopping the floor
  • Ironing clothes (sometimes)
  • Cooking anything. I don’t like cooking
  • Washing up
  • Wiping down bench tops
  • Picking up dog poop
  • Stopping work at 3.15 to do the school run.
  • Listening to kids saying ‘MUUUUUUUUM there is nothing to eat’
  • Running kids to and from activities.
  • etc.

It isn’t that it is all bad. I sometimes enjoy these activities and sometimes find them to be the most exquisite breaks in my otherwise thrilling life as a cosmetic chemist and writer (ehem).

But sometimes they are just boring.

So while frantically mopping the floor just now before the off-the-bus stampede I was thinking about how I could be more grateful about these things.

Grateful for washing up?

Been there, done that and the novelty wears off (for me anyway. Maybe I was born on the wrong side of the bed).

No, I need something more exciting than gratitude. Something more DYNAMIC.

I’m choosing to re-frame my monotony by adding the word ‘fun’ to every chore list.

Here’s how that might look

  • Mopping the floor  becomes  Finding a way to make mopping the floor FUN! I could do it naked,  while on roller skates, using our little fluffy doggie as the mop (nooooo I wouldn’t do that),  Do it while being timed to see if I can beat my own world record.
  • Ironing clothes (sometimes) becomes…… I can’t think of any way to make that fun.  Maybe I’ll just get the kids to do that for themselves.
  • Cooking anything (I don’t like cooking) becomes the ‘let’s cook something different once a week challenge’,  the ‘let’s only cook with green food day,  you can only eat with your fingers,  chop stick day, left over sculpting and so on.
  • Picking up dog poop becomes an adventure in who did which poo?  what has the dog been eating today?  How far can I fling the poo?  How many flies are on poo city?  Does the poo look like anyone famous?
  • Ferrying the kids to and from activities can be heaps of fun if I do it wearing a wig or a gorilla outfit,  with my eyes closed (again no…..),  by choosing a different route,  by playing eye spy, by  hosting a 5 minute (or whatever the journey time is) debate about something that was on the news.

I know this isn’t a new idea but it is an idea that seems refreshingly new and wonderful to me today.

Now where did I put that gorilla suit and the roller skates……

Amanda x

The desire to write

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Scripturient

I love to write and so when this word came into my online life yesterday I just had to share it with you, I hope you don’t mind.

While writing is a passion and something that I can’t live without I have a love-hate relationship with the world of words. I struggle with the grammar of it all and find some of our lovely English words unfathomable in terms of spelling.

Embarrassingly some of the words I struggle with are relatively simple and have led to me changing my sentence structure to avoid the virtual ‘tut, tutting’ of those less spell-icularly challenged than me. I used to be so scared to write for fear of the criticism that might ensue and my ability to cope with that degree of negativity.  I even lost a whole grade at A Level because of my spelling – a B became a C, woe is me……

I feel grateful that got over that fear just before my head got crushed under the weight of  a waterfall of un-written words. I can’t imagine not writing now.

I still struggle, though not as much – practice is a funny thing. It doesn’t make perfect but it does make you better. I am getting better. As for the fear of judgement well that has all but gone now too. I try, I listen, I learn, I change, I am learning to pause.  I can’t ask any more than that, not yet.

Another thing that I both love and hate words for is the power that they hold.  The pen is mightier than the sword and sometimes I’d be better off with a sword I think……

A clumsy selection of words, a poorly thought out turn of phrase, a renegade paragraph that spins you into a frenzy, a word written before thought.  Aaahhh the mine field that lurks beneath that clean white sheet.

When talking about the power of words I am also reminded that this is a world wrapped up in masculine power. That the Scripturient wrote ‘his-story’ and that story shaped the modern world. I am mindful of that and in particularly the way that information passed via the written word sometimes misses out on the sensual, the subtle, the free, the moment.

But through this tussle between love and hate I find myself sitting with a bucket full of inspiration and words just waiting to get out.

Scripturient. A passion to write.

By Jove I think she’s got it.

Amanda x

 

 

 

 

 

What I saw at the supermarket this week!!!!!

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From time to time I forget that I am an adult and upon seeing inappropriate behaviour from a child I laugh and think about sharing it via a blog post or Facebook update rather than step in and help sort it out.

This behaviour isn’t something that I am proud of and one day (when I have enough cash or care enough – whatever comes first) I’ll seek therapy to help ‘cure’ me.  In the meantime I will keep on sharing.

So, this week while I was standing in the queue at the local grocery store I witnessed a small child navigate the fruit and veggie section with his TONGUE.  Yes he licked every part of the display that was within reach. He even stopped and have a double lick of the cauliflower (DUDE, that’s gross) which I found extra amusing as I only eat cauliflower with a rather unhealthy dollop of cheese sauce. Who’s the adult now then???

I didn’t run over and inform the mother, I actually didn’t need to as his cauliflower enthusiasm had rendered him oblivious for long enough for mother to catch sight of him and pull him AWAY FROM THE VEGETABLES. Thank God for that.

What I learned from this experience was this:

  • I should always wash my fruit and veggies before eating them.

And

  • I am capable of outbreaks of inappropriate behaviour that is not in the community interest.

Oh well, there is always tomorrow…….

Amanda x

Hey I found Jesus on my sisters dog’s butt (Or is it an Eskimo)……

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You know those people who say ‘yeh well I’m not religious but I am very spiritual’  well I think I’m one of those. Well, when I say ‘I think I’m one of those’ I actually have no idea as I find it very hard to pigeon-hole that kind of stuff.

When I think about it I’m probably more of a freestyle Pi (as in Life of Pi) than Richard Dawkins even though I would never go so far as to say that I was a member of any religion.  I just believe that everything is lovely and in the grand scheme of loveliness there is nothing more lovely than love its self.

So I love everything. Mostly. Well, I try.

And I especially love dogs.

This is my sisters dog and look – we think we spotted Jesus on her arse hole.

Eskimo or Jesus

That is if Jesus wore a hoodie…..

Or maybe it is an Eskimo.

I don’t know, but what I do know is that the universal gods of beauty and love work in mysterious ways so I’ll go off to make a cup of tea and ponder that some more.

Lots of love

Amanda the religious freestyler (or should that be free-loader?)

 

After the fire storm

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On 17th October this year our little corner of the universe became the news.  Hot, dry, windy weather combined with some not insignificant human-centred errors started several bush fires, one of which tore through rapidly and ferociously through our community, consuming nearly 200 houses and scarring nearly 150 others along its journey down the mountain.

Driving into the storm

Driving into the storm

The fire responsible for much of this devastation (Linksview Road) was declared out this week – just short of four weeks since it started. Today marks one calendar month.

The fire outlook from our kitchen window

The fire outlook from our kitchen window

There have been many thoughts whizzing around my head since 17th October. Thoughts that awoke me from my lackadaisical slumber, intruding on me and my quiet tree-loving life, taking me by the scruff of the neck while begging me to review my connection to ‘home’ and what I value.  Telling me that this is not ‘my’ mountain, that it doesn’t owe me anything, that I must respect it.

Preparing for the worst. Cleaning gutters, hosing down. Ember spotting.

Preparing for the worst. Cleaning gutters, hosing down. Ember spotting.

Those October days were punctuated by news updates, evacuation notices, helicopter fly overs and panicked sirens. Those days were intense for all of us, not just those that lost worldly possessions (thankfully no lives were lost) but as the initial panic and bewilderment subsided we were left with a different reality.  A new normal.  This is what I want to talk about today.

A community holds its breath

A community holds its breath

Today I sit here looking out of my office window to rain, steady, soaking, rejuvenating rain.  Rain that came too late for some but that came nonetheless. Rain that will hide the tears, will wash away some of the pain and will nourish new roots given time.

For me the rain serves as a baptism into a new life, a new start, a new perspective.  A new normal in which my attachment to ‘stuff’ has been  re-framed. One which has strengthened my respect for the environment in which I live and one which has helped me to gain a better understanding and increased empathy for the human impact of natural disasters.  Well, to a point of course. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must feel like living in the Philippines right now.  Can anyone?  Really?

This one month anniversary from the start of the Linksview road fire also marks a day of climate change action by Getup.org  I forgot about that today and didn’t attend the local meeting (could have had something to do with the 40th birthday celebrations for a bush fire impacted friend last night but was probably just one of those things) but now it seems eerily significant.

While the fires that burned our beautiful mountain recently were man-made they were exacerbated by a prolonged and unseasonably dry and hot spell of weather.  I don’t know why this is, I don’t care for a political debate but I do want to understand – understand how we (mountain dwellers) might learn to work with the mountain and our environment,  to prepare for and respect this, to live awake to this reality and to be creative and collaborative with our tactical solutions. To be here.

Maybe just maybe the problem isn’t about climate change action, about taxes, policies, human rights or wrongs, blame, cost, inconvenience, dominance, winning.  Maybe the problem is that we (me and mine) have been living here with our eyes closed for too long.

So with that in mind I feel happy to embrace this new normal, this re-birth and awakening. I feel happy that every day I get to breathe in her air, tread her soil and listen to her powerful voice I am listening. Yes we do need to work together but we need to be here. We need to be here.

I am here.

Amanda x

PS: I understand that at some point this environmental stuff becomes political but my point is if we skip the personal we have nothing left but a power game and nature deserves more than that. She deserves to be listened to in my opinion.