Friday, June 30, 2023

Banning more plastics in NZ

From midnight tonight, more single-use plastics will be banned in New Zealand, including a first-in the world ban of plastic bags used to pack-up fresh produce in supermarkets. This is yet another move toward dramatically reducing the amount of hard-to-recycle plastic that ends up in landfills, the ocean—and us.

The plastics that are banned from tomorrow, in addition to those thin plastic produce bags are: Plastic tableware (used at foodcourts/fast food places, and that includes plates, bowls, trays, and cutlery), plastic straws (except for disabled people and those with health needs), and a transition will begin toward home-compostable stickers on produce (like apples, for example). This will be the latest step in a program that actually began in 2018.

Back in 2018, plastic microbeads were banned. Those were typically used in things like cosmetics, face scrubs, etc. They ended up contaminating waterways, the oceans—and people.

The next year, 2019, single-use plastic shopping bags were banned. They were common in many shops, like supermarkets. I’d already made the switch to reusable bags long before the ban came into force, but that was so unremarkable to me that I don’t seem to have ever talked about it specifically (unlike when I converted to reusable mesh produce bags).

In 2021, the government announced its three-phase plan to phase out “problem plastics”. Phase One of the current programme began in October of last year, and it banned some PVC food trays and containers, polystyrene takeaway food and drink packaging, all expanded polystyrene food and drink packaging, all “degradable” plastics (things like bags that contained “pro-degradant” additives, including oxo and photo degradable plastics; those products simply produced microplastics and couldn’t be recycled), single-use plastic drink stirrers (like for coffee and tea), single-use plastic-stemmed cotton buds (such as, Q-tips). Phase 2 is what begins tomorrow.

In 2025, Phase 3, the final phase, will ban all PVC and polystyrene food and drink packaging not already banned. By this point, all those produce stickers will need to be sustainable.

We have a long way to go, and we still need to find better ways of recycling plastics we can’t yet replace, even as work to find sustainable alternatives continues. New Zealand has been working hard at finding solutions, even as we find ways to avoid using plastic packaging at all.

The work to eliminate as much plastic as possible, as quickly as possible, is about more than overflowing landfills and wasted resources, it’s about health. Last year, researchers found that Auckland’s air contained microplastics equivalent to three million plastic bottles a year, and microplastics—especially the even smaller nanoplastics—now being found in humans alarmingly often, and because of that, they’re suspected of being capable of possibly causing some cancers or other diseases, particularly involving the lungs.

When plastics started taking over the world, we didn’t know how dangerous plastics, especially single-use plastics, would be to the environment—and to humans. We need to get serious about ending this problem. I’m glad I live in a country that’s doing exactly that.

Related: “Guidance on single-use plastic products banned or phased out from July 2023” – New Zealand Ministry for the Environment

Graphic above is from the New Zealand Ministry for the Environment [SOURCE].

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Nice photos

There are times when nice photos are especially appealing. It’s not just a matter of aesthetics, either: Sometimes a nice photo, pretty picture, or stunning natural view can be restorative, making up for other things we experience that man not be nice, pretty, or stunning. Or, they just be fun to share.

This is another post for me to share photos that haven’t made it onto this blog. There are many photos that I share on social media that, for whatever reason, I don’t share here, too. The photos in this post are examples of that.

The photo up top is one I shared last night to my Instagram and personal Facebook. I’ve shared a similar shot before, but, as last night I explained why I shared it again:
Leo wanted to go outside a few minutes ago, and I looked up. I don’t know why, but this view always appeals to me. Every time.
The area I live isn’t particularly photogenic in the daytime, but I’ve shot some very nice photos as the daylight wanes, or after it’s gone altogether. The daylight photos that I have shared shown beautiful skies—probably the running theme for photos I take in this area.

Leo was again the subject of a photo last week:

I said in the caption on my personal Facebook:
I caught up with some family for dinner, and when I got home, Leo was sooooooo happy to see me—as always. But after he was fed, went outside, had his usual evening treat, and then sat on my lap, he disappeared. I found him lying on top of the t-shirt and shorts I slept in last night (I change a few times a week, including every Friday) that I left lying on the bed because I knew I was going out tonight, and I also knew he likes laying on my “used” clothes—I just didn’t expect him do do it after I got home.

I love coming home and seeing how happy he is to see me, and I know he’ll snuggle up tonight when we go to bed, just like always. He makes my life so much better without any effort. I should try to be more like him, tbh.
This particular photo was going to be part of a post I was working on for this past weekend, but I ended up taking part of it for an entirely different post. The fact is, this photo of Leo is obvkiously too cute not to share.

And finally today, two related photos that I haven’t shared anywhere but here:

The peace lily at the left is in the lounge, next to my chair, and the one on the right is in the en suite, next to the vanity. Both of the plants have bloomed before, but I can’t remember them both blooming at the same time before. It’s always nice when those plants go from being a background sort of thing to an object for my attention. It’s nice when that happens.

Back in September 2021, I shared a photo on this blog that I hadn’t shared anywhere else (and I explained why that was). The photo of the peace lilies in this post is similar to that, but the other two are photos that I did share on social media, just not as part of a blog post. I’m sure there are more photos like that.

This post, and the photos are ones that made me feel good, for various reasons, and that’s the biggest reason to share them. Sometimes, it really is just be fun to share photos, and that’s reason enough.

This post has been updated. Follow the link to see the update.

One Day More

The video above is from this year’s “Broadway Backwards”, an annual “celebration of LGBTQ+ stories told through the great songs of musical theater,” as it was described by its producer, Broadway Cares. The evening raised a record $765,069 to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center in New York City.

The YouTube description for the video describes what this is in more detail:
At Broadway Backwards 2023, Les Misérables’ inspiring anthem “One Day More” was set among a modern-day, ragtag group of activists preparing for an equality march in Washington. Philippe Arroyo, Bradley Dean, Jeigh Madjus, Ellyn Marie Marsh, Chris McCarrell, Turner Riley, Alexandra Silber and Paul C. Vogt led the ensemble in an emotive rendition that ended with Les Misérables‘ iconic group march as a giant Pride flag behind them signaled the dawn of a new day.
Although the benefit show was held on March 13, 2023, the video was posted to YouTube on June 2. I didn’t see it until more than a week later, then saved sharing it for June 28 (US time) because it's the 54th Anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion. The connection is simple: If the shadows of these times remain unchanged, a major conflict is coming. It will be inevitable.

When I shared the video on my personal Facebook, I said:
This is an awesome take on the song. I remember that back during the Reagan Abomination there was a popular slogan: “No More Mr. Nice Gay”. We need to bring back that attitude before it’s too late, because if we don’t organise and fight back, they will come for us all, and we’ll suffer the same fate as the folks who sang this song in the original show.
I’ve watched in shock, anger, dismay, disbelief, and fear—sometimes all at the same time—as rightwingers throughout the English-speaking world (and beyond) have been emboldened in their efforts to take away the human rights of LGBTQ+ people, and to criminalise them—or worse, as far-right US “christians” succeeded in doing in Uganda.

This was brought home to me once again when I saw an article published by Business Insider, “Don't say anti-gay: As GOP approval for same-sex relationships plummets, Republican senators insist they're only coming after trans rights, not gay rights”. Republicans are lying, of course.

For decades, Republicans pretended that they only wanted Roe v. Wade overturned so that “states can decide”. Every time anyone dared to suggest that their real agenda was to outlaw all abortions without exception everywhere in the USA, they feigned innocence and repeated their lies. Now, Republican politicians are quite open about their push for nationwide literal or defacto total abortion bans.

Republican politicians are doing the exact same thing about LGBTQ+ rights now: They’re boldly lying, smugly certain no one will realise it. Republicans absolutely will not stop with their war against trans people and drag queens—that’s just a warm up. If they win power, they’ll be coming for the “LBG” part, too, faster than anyone can say “evil liars”.

A recent Gallup poll reported a decline in support for the “morality” of same-gender relationships, and the largest driver of that has been Republicans turning against the very humanity of LGBTQ+ people. This is precisely why we know Republicans will inevitably turn against the “LGB” part of the acronym, too: Republican politicians always pander to the most extreme part of their party’s base, and that base is becoming increasingly—and increasingly aggressively—hostile to LGBT+ people.

Republican politicians—especially those whose lips are firmly planted on the back-end of their party’s Dear Leader—are already using vile extremist slurs like “groomer” and “pedophile” against trans people and drag queens, but considering those same hate-filled slurs were once hurled at gay people, do they really expect us to take their fake denials seriously?! On what planet would that be credible?!

Moreover, the cult members of the Republican Party's leader have been primed for violence, so it’s not hard to imagine increasing numbers of violent attacks on LGBTQ+ people, businesses, organisations, etc., and when that happens, it'll have been Republican politicians’ rhetoric that was the match that lit the fuse. No matter how many crocodile tears they pretend to shed after each attack, the result will be the same: Their words, their lies, and their cynical and bigoted propaganda will have been the motivation for the violence.

And what if they get all the power they seek? They will end marriage equality: If they can overturn Roe after nearly 50 years, they can overturn marriage equality easily, too. They’ll also overturn Lawrence, thereby making simply being LGB a crime (the T already could be by then). I warned about this several times, most recently when the Respect for Marriage Act was signed into law, when I also described why that law may not save marriage equality. When I talked about that same law while it was still in Congress, I described other laws that Republican politicians plan to kill.

So that’s why a simple video of an adaptation of a Broadway song struck me as hard as it did: I saw the possible future if Republican candidates aren’t defeated at the ballot box. Because Republicans are gerrymandering every place they can to ensure they can maintain minority rule, massive turnout by sane and rational voters will be necessary if Republican candidates are to be defeated. In fact, sane and rational voters are the only thing standing between democracy and the christofascism of the modern Republican Party.

I don’t know how this story will end, but the story of Les Misérables didn’t end well for the French people fighting for liberty. Still, hope is a powerful thing, so I continue to hope that this 21st Century version of the story has a happier ending—even that the forces of evil are swept off of history’s stage altogether, thereby changing the story itself and making that one day more bright and sunny.

But: If the shadows of these times remain unchanged? I know one thing for certain: Stonewall was a riot, but if Republicans win the power they seek, we’ll need a fucking revolution—before it’s too late for everyone.

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Draining my energy

Over the past few days, I had to use a surprising amount of my energy to deal with a bit of household management. As is so often the case, there’s quite a bit more to that story, one that began with me feeling bad about myself, until I didn’t anymore, and then got a resolution—for now, anyway.

The end of the story is that I just changed electricity suppliers, but the story begins back the beginning: When I had the solar power system installed, they had a special deal in which I was offered a two year contract with a company called TrustPower, and that’d give me pretty much double the buy-back credit for the excess power I send to the grid. I was with a company called Mercury Energy, but their buy-back rate was among the lowest in New Zealand.

Late last year, I got an email telling me that they were slightly increasing the amount of the buy-back credit until the end of my contract. Then, earlier this year, TrustPower sold their retail business to—ahem—Mercury Energy. I was assured that the rates, terms and conditions I had would remain the same.

This past Friday, I received the first bill since the branding was changed to Mercury. I didn’t notice the email until Saturday evening, and when I read the invoice, I noticed the rate for the buy-back credit was less than half what it had been: 47.225% of the credit I had been getting. Approximately.

I next looked at the previous month’s invoice, and it was also at the lower rate. So was April’s. And March’s. February was the last month I got the full amount. All of which I worked out as Saturday got later.

I was quite upset by this: How could I have missed that change?! Did I get some sort of notification and missed it? Did I not get a notification I should’ve? Or, was I just stupid? At first I blamed my chronic lack of focus—until I remembered that for several months I hadn’t looked beyond the total amount I was being billed—and not at my May bill at all.

Now obsessed with this, I went to my computer and went to Powerswitch, a non-profit site that helps Kiwis find the best electricity provider based on their actual use. It was good, and offered ranked possibilities for me, however, the site didn’t take solar production into account, although they did have listings of rates for various companies’ buy-back credits, and a thumbnail of the restrictions. It turned out that the new rate I’ve been getting over these past four bills was among the lowest in New Zealand—but half a cent above what Mercury normally pays: I really was getting the same amount I had been under TrustPower.

Next, I went to the various websites of the companies that offered the highest buy-back credits, and read up on the terms and conditions. I found out that this sort of research is a very deep rabbit hole, and before I knew it, it was 3am, and my head was mush. I went to bed.

On Sunday morning, I was still trying to figure out how the rate had changed without me knowing it was going to happen. I went back a re-read the emails I’d received, and none of them said anything about the secondary rate going away. But then I yet again re-read the email from late last year and finally saw the part I’d missed ever since: The rate was “for the rest of your agreement”, and that ended with February’s bill. When I first read that email, and up until the last time I re-read it, I just absorbed that the rate was continuing and I completely missed the mention of an end point.

I then made a spreadsheet (of course I did…) to compare the top contenders with what I have now. I had to look at/compare how much the company charges per kilowatt hour (kWh), and how much their buy-back rate of credit is per kWh of solar power sent to the grid. I completely ignored the results from Powerswitch and evaluated the companies with the best buy-back rates.

The best rate—slightly higher than TrustPower originally offered—was with a contract, but one lasting five years. I felt that was a bit risky: It would expire just before I’m 70, and I don’t know how finances will go once I’m on the pension. More importantly, probably, I don’t know where I want to live in five years, and there would be costs to breaking the contract. I decided a 5-year contract wasn’t a good idea—but maybe their 2-year one would be okay? My spreadsheet told me that even with higher rates to pay and lower buy-back credit I’d still save money.

The next morning, Tuesday, I suddenly realised that my entire spreadsheet was completely wrong because I’d forgotten to include one very important thing: The “daily charge”, a fixed charge per day each company charges. For the companies I was considering, that ranged from 30 cents per day to several dollars per day. Not including that was a huge mistake.

I then added the companies Powerswitch had recommended, and also the daily charges for each company. It turned out that, taking into account their daily charges and the rates they charge for power I buy, the company with the 5-year contract would end up being MORE expensive than Mercury was.

In the end, the company I went with was actually the one Powerswitch suggested in the first place, Powershop. They had the second-highest buy-back rates in New Zealand, but the rates that they charge me vary by time of day—highest at peak (7am to 9:30am, and 5:30pm to 8:30pm), lower at off-peak, and lowest overnight (10pm to 7am). Very few power companies offer differential pricing, and at least one that does has uncompetitive rates. I already have a “smart meter” to track power I take from the grid and send to it, and it can already handle tracking my usage in real time. This means I’ll be charged different rates for the power I buy depending on the time of day, and not a flat rate no matter the time of day, like it’s always been ever since I moved to New Zealand. Makes me feel all modern and stuff.

There’s one more unique thing about the company I chose: The sell packages of power at varying rates, but usually less than what my total daily charges would otherwise be. In essence, this is like pre-paying for power, but at a lower rate. More interesting, they offer blocks of power months from now, often at deeply discounted rates—and with bigger discounts the farther in the future it is. In essence, they’re selling the consumer equivalent of electricity futures, a contract to buy future electricity at a set price, something that only electricity retailers take advantage of to, hopefully, lock in profits on the electricity they sell later on. In my case, I can lock in lower prices and pay less for power when I use more—like winter, for example.

In theory, this should allow me to have cheaper power bills by buying packages at lower rates, and even those “futures”, so to speak. However, if it ends up being too much work or the savings too little, there’s no contract and I can change again at any time.

I have to admit that this totally different way of doing things intrigues me, and I’m interested to see how it works for me. I can also say with absolute certainty that this is the first time I’ve ever been interested in how an electricity company does things. Times change?

It took a lot of my energy to get to this point, but I now have a new electricity provider. I’d still like a bit more sun, though.

AmeriNZ Podcast episode 387 is now available

AmeriNZ Podcast episode 387, “Fading month”, is now available from the podcast website. There, you can listen, download or subscribe to the podcast episode, along with any other episode.

The five most recent episodes of the podcast are listed on the sidebar on the right side of this blog.

Monday, June 26, 2023

Most important meal

They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I’ve always been kind of indifferent to it (except when I’m particularly hungry), but today was a good day to get a good start. It was a very busy day, after a very busy weekend.

When I shared the photo up top on my personal Facebook, I said:

"Today’s breakfast: A couple scrambled eggs on a piece of toasted breadmaker bread I made yesterday, topped with some freshly ground S&P and a bit of dried dill. First load of washing in the machine, with a couple more to follow. And sometime this week I hope—fingers crossed!—to be able to share some great news that will “change everything”, as they say, about my daily life AND my complicated relationship with Hamilton!"

I was in a rush to get loads of washing washed and, hopefully, dried before the clouds rolled in. That actually happened around 3pm, and by that time the second load was in the dryer and the third was still washing. That was already cutting it close, but then the third load went into the dryer around 3:40, and the skies darkened by 4:30, then darkened some more until it became like nighttime at 4:40 (roughly 40 minutes before sunset, 40 minutes before the dryer would be done) and the clouds opened up. Yet again. The arrival of the clouds ensured that the last hour of drying time would use bought electricity. C’est la vie, and all that.

The thing is, it’s winter, and there are fewer daylight hours every day, and few days when the sun is shining all day long. So, even on a fully sunny winter day, it’s often a struggle to wash and dry three loads using solar power, and I knew that today was supposed to be sunny only until afternoon. That’s the reason I had an early start today.

Doing laundry also means folding it and putting it all away—which, come to think of it, is a good argument against ever attempting three loads in one day. Add to that the fact that today was sheet-changing day (a lot of work in itself), and I knew I’d be busy. So, I ordered a supermarket delivery to save me some time, which indireclty relates back to the original caption for the photo up top, as will be clear soon. Of course, that wasn’t the only food adventure today: Late this morning I also had the delivery of avocados and lemons I ordered direct from the grower.

As if all that weren’t enough, I tidied up my electronic files of receipts and statements, which was “a bit delayed”, as such things often are. The job’s done now, though. And, of course, this follows a similarly busy weekend. It’s almost as if I’m domesticated or something.

And it all began with that scrambled eggs on toast. It’s the most important meal of the day, you know. That’s what they say.

Avocados over the Internet

Ever since Covid, I’ve been been making an effort to buy direct from New Zealand producers of various things, or small retailers, and I recently saw a Facebook ad for Grower Outlet, which described itself as “a family-owned business with a rich heritage in sustainable farming… We aren’t just sellers – we're growers. We understand the process from root to fruit…” What hooked me was that they had a special offering a free kilogram of lemons, something I don’t buy because I’m usually given some (and, actually, my own baby lemon tree has three baby lemons on it!). So, free lemons, why not?

The order shipped on Friday and arrived today (a photo of the opened box is above). The avos and lemons both are at various stages of ripeness, which is perfect—that gives me more options/time for using them. One of the avos was perfectly ripe, though, so I made some avocado dip for later—tasting the avo first and it was the best I’ve had in ages. Very pleased.

The supermarket I usually go to had avos listed as being $3 each, which means that even including shipping, the price I paid for my order was less than the supermarket, though obviously that will vary from time to time. Still, the point for me was to get nice avocados, yes, but also to buy direct from the grower so they can get a higher return. Win/win.

New Zealand is entering peak season for avocados, and I frankly don’t have them all that often. However, if I want more, I won’t hesitate to order. And I’m more likely to order other produce, too.

As always, I was NOT compensated in any way whatsoever for my comments—they’re my sincerely held opinions. This is one of those times I took a chance and got great products and service, and I just wanted to share that. Don’t know if I’ll share any of the avos, though.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

AmeriNZ Podcast episode 386 is now available

AmeriNZ Podcast episode 386, “Solstice night”, is now available from the podcast website. There, you can listen, download or subscribe to the podcast episode, along with any other episode.

The five most recent episodes of the podcast are listed on the sidebar on the right side of this blog.

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Unsettlement again

One thing I’ve learned over the past few years is that change can be massively unsettling, turning everything we know, or think we know, completely upside down, and then sometimes it’ll be tossed into the air, then swung it round before It’s slammed back into the ground again. I’ve just experienced that. Again.

Yesterday, as my dinner was cooking away, I found out that a friend of mine, Andy Cawston, died suddenly the night before from cardiac arrest. I’d logged into Facebook for a few minutes to see what people had been up to, and saw a friend had posted about it.

The news hit me very hard, not the least because it was so unexpected. In fact, my first thought was that my friend had made a mistake, something that was obviously an absurd thing to think—and I knew that.

I closed Facebook to re-focus. After my dinner, I started to put together my thoughts, and then I shared that on Facebook, as other friends were already doing. But what I shared on Facebook was only part of what was going through my mind. This post is based on what I shared last night, but filling out the story.

One never wants to put oneself at the centre of the story about the loss of someone else, though the loss of a parent or spouse kind of insists on it. When a friend dies, it’s our shared story that’s ours to share—and even then we focus our tale on the one we’ve lost.

However, much of my reaction to the news was based on my own reality, which is precisely why Andy was such a good friend: He understood where I was coming from and the challenges I was facing. But it never occurred to me to tell him how much I appreciated his support—and especially his understanding. He would’ve understood that, too.

Andy was a force of nature, curious about nearly everything, willing to talk about, or debate, nearly anything. We originally met through Facebook, and over the years our debates were sometimes intense, but we never took any of that personally—we could disagree without being disagreeable (as we defined that). We also agreed plenty of times, too, of course, and we also learned from each other, something that’s always a wonderful thing when it happens.

The day Nigel died, Andy rang me through Facebook to express his condolences, yes, but also to offer his support. He reached me shortly after I’d arrived back home after going to the funeral directors to make the arrangements for Nigel. I knew that Andy had always been quite open about talking about his health challenges, mental health in particular, so from the very beginning of my grief journey I saw him as a kind of mentor.

A few weeks later, Andy and his wife (who he called “The Missus” online, allowing him to preserve her privacy) were in Auckland for a bit, and he arranged to get together with his friends in West Auckland. Andy invited me to join them, even though he knew it might be difficult for me to do that so soon after my loss—at the time we’d never met in real life, and I didn’t know most of his friends. I did go, though, social anxiety raging, because I didn’t know if I’d get another chance and I didn’t want to miss it. In the end, it turned out to be a great time.

Andy offered to meet-up online to talk, if I ever needed a sympathetic ear, but I never did. Even so, he’d check in from time to time to make sure I was okay. That meant a lot.

I never got the chance to visit him, once again because of my own struggles, something that, among other things, left me reluctant to travel. In fact, that’s still true. But I knew Andy was there, and I could call on him if I needed to. Now, his memory will be the help.

Our Facebook debates were legendary, and from the outside they sometimes probably seemed bitter. There were certainly times that we felt exasperated at each other, but—magically, maybe—we still respected each other because we both knew that we arrived at our positions only after careful thought. There were times that one or the other of us changed our position after one of our discussions, which doesn’t happen all that often in my experience. Even when that didn’t happen, those debates helped us sharpen our arguments to make stronger points in other discussions, which was useful. Mostly, they were just a bit of fun.

Things changed after Nigel died, because I did. I couldn’t engage in the sort of discussions Andy and I used to have, partly because I had little or no patience for political topics. Andy and I still traded comments and Facebook “reactions”, but I found it difficult to engage with others in the way I had been doing, and that made me feel bad. Still, I know that if I’d said anything about that to Andy, he of all people would’ve understood—and he’d probably have had suggestions for dealing with it.

None of us knows for certain when time will run out for ourselves or others in our lives, and so, none of us does a perfect job using the time we have available. Sometimes, though, despite everything, we get lucky. I feel very lucky to have had Andy as a friend, and I feel we enriched each other’s time on this planet. His work is done, but I hope to carry our shared lessons forward.

Farewell, Andy. Thanks for everything, especially for just being there. I know there are lots of people who who will miss you, and that’s an awesome legacy.

Andy sometimes commented on posts on this blog, often as “Da Chieftain”, a reference to his nickname from New Zealand’s now defunct Guardian Angels chapter that he’d been part of.

Monday, June 19, 2023

Ordering order

My ongoing story over the past three and three-quarters years has essentially been about trying to find order, both literally and, well, existentially. I’ve made a lot of progress in both areas over that time, and even though there’s so much farther to go, I think it’s important to celebrate small victories—which is good, because most of my victories have been quite small. I’ve learned, though, that small victories lead to bigger ones.

The photo at right is of one such small project to bring order to my life, this one relating to everyday life, aesthetics, and with a dash of self-satisfaction thrown into the pot. The top half of the photo is how I was storing the pasta I use the most frequently, and the lower part of the photo is how I’m storing it now. There were several reasons I did that.

First, though, the self-satisfaction part: After I moved into this house, and especially during that first Covid lockdown, I began watching a lot of YouTube videos, and I subscribed to all sorts of channels. Among them were some “lifestyle” channels in which the YouTuber shares tips and tricks for things like organising the home, decluttering, even cleaning. While the information is often useful, and I often get good tips, I watch mainly because the hosts are entertaining and engaging—and, YouTube videos are usually short, which fits my attention span quite well.

What I’ve noticed about many of the videos is how often they suggest tips that I already worked out ages ago, such as, “decanting” grocery items so they don’t take up so much room in the panty. I’d realised that years ago.

I began by putting single-use packets of meal ingredients (like gravy mix) into a small bin, so they could all stand upright, making it easier for me to find what I was after. More recently, I became frustrated by rice.

I have several varieties of rice, and the bags were always sliding off a small shelf in my pantry, and that was annoying. I’d also accidentally bought a second bag of sesame seeds because the bag I had was hidden under other stuff. I first tried placing the bags in small bins, but they took up too much room. This was my next move—putting them into containers:

The two rice containers are ones I already had (and were made in New Zealand using phthalate and BPA free plastic), and the sesame seed one is a jar that coffee came in. The labels are cut from their packages. This is actually based on a trick I used decades ago: When I filed statements and bills, I made a label for the hanging file folder that was the company’s logo (usually from the envelope the bill came in). As I said to Nigel at the time, those companies had invested time and money in creating a memorable logo and to promote it, and that meant I could quickly spot the folder I was looking for.

While our digital age means that I no longer need to file any bills or statements, the principle is the same: A recognisable label is a good idea, and the two rice labels are from a brand I’ve always bought. The Sesame seed one wasn’t, but it was certainly legible.

However, the pasta containers don’t—and won’t—have labels. Right now, they sit out on my kitchen bench, and I may keep them there even after I finally get my pantry reorganised. The plastic is as clear as glass, and it’s obvious what’s inside (they’re also made in NZ by the same company that made the rice containers above, again using phthalate and BPA free plastic). In this case, labels would be visual clutter, especially when I only stock three varieties of pasta. On the other hand, all I have several varieties of rice, almost all of which look alike to me, so having the containers clearly labelled saves me time, and I've labelled other containers, except one for "ordinary" rice. Actually, labelling is probably a topic in itself—but one for another day.

This whole project began with me trying to bring some order to chaos—in this case, storage of meal ingredients. At first, I was determined to use what I already had on hand, like for the rice, and even the pasta storage containers I used at first (which is why they were mismatched). However, I do buy new containers when I need them, and those YouTubers had good advice about that: People shouldn’t buy storage containers until they know exactly what they need. Unfortunately, that good advice came a little late: I still have some things (small bins, mostly) that I bought, only to find out they didn’t work for my intended use. I know I’ll find a good use for them because so far, I always have.

And that’s just a little glimpse of my road to a small victory in the kitchen, something that’s helping me work toward a bigger victory: A tidy, orderly kitchen. And all of that is, of course, part of of that much bigger project: Achieving some existential order, too. I think I’m well on the way toward celebrating that much bigger victory—eventually. One small victory at a time, after all.

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Habitual rituals

Our days are filled with all sorts of actions, many of which we don’t even think about. Some things, though, require a lot of thought, and some even carry special meaning for us. Taken together, all of three things—habits, routines, and rituals—create the structure on which we build our lives, and understanding them is important to successfully navigate the life we’ve created for ourselves. This is something I’ve only recently been able to understand.

I’ve spent the past few years trying to figure out who I am now that I’m a widower and life as I knew it, and assumed it would remain, ended. Over the past year, the past few months in particular, I’ve been trying to find ways to better organise my life and how I manage it in order to compensate for how my brain is wired, my physical and emotional realities, and, basically, anything that can affect how I get daily life done. That lead me to understand more about habits, routines, and rituals, and how they can be harnessed.

At the most basic level, the difference between habits, routines, and rituals in mainly about intent. Habits are completely or mostly automatic—we don’t have to think about the task. Routines can be at least partly automatic, but they ordinarily require specific triggers and conscious thought to complete. Rituals are the things we do to provide or amplify meaning in our lives.

Habits are difficult to form and can be problematic precisely because we’re usually on auto-pilot at the time. Most of us have probably seen some perky motivational speaker type of person tell us that all we have to do to turn something (like exercise, for example) into a habit is to do it regularly for a certain amount of time, maybe a few days, a week, a month, whatever (those perky people have different estimates of the time needed). However, as most of us have learned, real life doesn’t work that way, and we begin something earnestly with the intent to make it a habit, and then fail a day or more before we give up, blaming ourselves for being “bad” and “inferior” to the perky people who seem to adopt new habits with ease.

In reality, the things that probably matter most are the things we shouldn’t try to make into habits because being focused on the task at hand is important, and that means routines are more important that habits.

Here’s an example of what I mean. Like most people, I have a set routine for how I get ready in the morning, the specific things I do to wash and get dressed. Because it’s all habit, I’m often completely on auto-pilot—until I’m jolted back in to consciousness. Did I remember to wash my hair? Did I wash my whole body? I’ll sometimes repeat something because I have no idea if I’ve washed part of me. Then, I get our of the shower and put my watch and rings back on—wait, my watch is already unlocked—when did I tap in the password?!

None of those things have life-changing (or threatening) importance, but it’s a bit jolting to suddenly realise that I have no idea what I’ve just done—or not. Even if try to concentrate on the specific things I’m doing, my mind inevitably wanders and blind habit takes over.

Fortunately, most other things I do are done by conscious choice: What clothes I put on in the morning is something I’m always aware of because I make choices every step of the way. I put the same sorts of things on every day, but what I choose specifically always varies, and so, I’m always aware of what I choose. The same is true for meal preparation, doing the laundry, washing dishes—all of those routine activities have certain specific tasks done in a specific order, but never have I ever suddenly thought, wait, did I put laundry power in the washing machine? Or, did I hand wash those dishes with soap? Did I cut up that onion? All of those things are routines and require conscious choices.

Which isn’t to suggest that routines are immune from mistakes—nothing is. For example, I may forget to add an ingredient when I’m cooking, or I may forget to add it at the right time. However, that usually happens with recipes I make often enough that they’ve become partially habitual. Even so, I’ve never once been working a routine and suddenly realised I had no idea what I’d just done—habits alone do that.

The final part of this system is rituals, and they’re the most mindful of the three: We do them precisely because they’re mindful and related to meaning of some sort. For some people, that could be some sort of religious or spiritual routine, but that’s absolutely not necessary, and for me it has absolutely nothing to do with either.

My rituals are mainly about memory, either about my own life or how I’m connected to someone who has died, and they’re also mainly about making food. For example, I have a wooden spoon that was my mother’s, and she told me that it was only ever to be used for baking—never ordinary cooking—and to this day I use it only for baking, and think of her every time I use it. There are also certain meals I make that I used to make because Nigel really liked them, and I think of him as I prepare the meal and also when I eat it. Those routines become rituals because of the meaning that I attach to them. To anyone observing, they’d see me using a wooden spoon to make cookie dough (or whatever), or they might see me making a particular meal. To them, I’d just be doing a task, but for me, they’re surrounded and filled with personal meaning—they are rituals.

I’ve learned that I can use this awareness to structure my routines into ways that help keep me focused on my tasks and objectives. So, for example, making my “to do” lists helps me stay focused, yes, but it’s also a routine that forces me to be conscious of what I’m doing, and that, in turn, helps me be more conscious of executing the schedules and routines for a day.

For me, managing routines is the magic formula for keeping my mind focused on my daily life, despite my mind’s tendency to wander, to switch rapidly between and among different things, or to simply forget what I’m doing. It doesn’t fix the problem completely—my mind still wanders or loses focus—but it’s been by far the most effective tool I’ve found so far.

I no longer care about turning routines into habits—actually, it’s stronger than that: I actively try to avoid that because habits being done mostly/exclusively on auto-pilot means I’m actually least focused than at any other time. Rituals are, for me, a way to keep myself grounded and connected to the story arc of my entire life.

Habits, then, are the behavioural equivalent of breathing—the stuff that just happens. Routines are about everything I do in each day (even things I’ve never done before are based on what I’ve already done), and rituals keep me connected to myself.

There are some quite specific reasons why I chose to structure my personal organisational system the way I have, but awareness of how powerful routine can be in creating the structure on which we build our lives is at the very centre of the whole thing. My personal building work in creating a new life for myself is far from complete, but it at least seems possible now, and that alone makes all the work I’ve been doing worth it.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

AmeriNZ Podcast episode 385 is now available

AmeriNZ Podcast episode 385, “Wet, whiny, inward-looking country”, is now available from the podcast website. There, you can listen, download or subscribe to the podcast episode, along with any other episode.

The five most recent episodes of the podcast are listed on the sidebar on the right side of this blog.

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Resetting my healthcare gauges

I’ve had a small healthcare adventure over the past few days, and it was all routine, and also necessary. The results of it all were interesting beyond the obvious reason.

The story began the middle of last week when I sent through a prescription renewal request to my doctor. I’d received the last month’s supply of my current prescription, and I the pharmacy was reminding me to organise a new prescription.

On Thursday of last week, I got a text from the doctor’s office telling me he wanted me to come in to get weighed and have my blood pressure taken, and that they’d sent an order for blood tests to the company that does them. I rang the office to schedule an appointment to come in for the measurements, and that was set for the following Monday.

On Friday, I went to the vampires to have the blood drawn—after checking what locations were open because, due to “severe staffing shortages”, several locations were closed—including the one located in the medical offices where my doctor is located. I also was reminded that because the place is considered a health care facility, masks are required: It was the first time I’d worn a mask in months—maybe a year or so?

Over the weekend, I checked the doctor’s patient portal to see if my blood tests were posted, but they weren’t. The doctor has to review them before they’re posted, and because I got the blood drawn on Friday afternoon, I thought it might’ve been delayed. Normally, an afternoon visit wouldn’t be a problem, but maybe those “severe staffing shortages” were causing problems?

I went in for my appointment on Monday morning: It was the first time I’d been inside the facility in a just over two years. Due to the pressures from Covid, medical practices discouraged in-person visits for routine reasons in order to free up capacity for people who were sick. Since my last actual visit, I had a phone consultation with my doctor in April of last year, and we’ve traded secure messages through the patient portal in between times.

On Monday, my blood pressure was a little high, which was probably “white coat syndrome”, because when it was last taken in office around three years ago it was similar, and both were higher than what I measure at home (my home measurements are normal for me at my age).

My weight was also around the same as last time it was measured there (same time as my BP), though I was roughly a kilogram heavier, which was still fine because of my height.

Speaking of height, I’m measurably shrinking: I’m a massive 1.5cm shorter than I was in 2016, the last time I recorded my height in the Health app on my iPhone (and, for the avoidance of doubt, yes, I’m being sarcastic: 1.5cm is about 3/5 of an inch, and, yes, I’m aware that nearly all of us get shorter as we age—thanks, gravity, thanks a lot!).

The nurse said that she’d seen some of the blood test results, which at a glance looked fine. My bloods have been fine for years, something I know because I made a spreadsheet with all my blood test results going back more than a decade. I knew my doctor would tell me if anything wasn’t okay.

The nurse was also impressed that I have many years of measurements of my vitals (mostly BP and heart rate), and that I have all those blood test results. I also used to weigh myself every Friday and record it, and I did that for at least 15 years, but I stopped some time in the last 5 years because, it turns out, not even I can obsessively collect data on everything

Finally, at 7:53 this morning, I got a text from my doctor: “Hi Arthur, I am pleased to tell you that all your blood tests are okay…” I joked on Facebook, “So, I’m the very picture of good health—assuming the picture is like that one of Dorian Gray…”

However, the reality is that, taken together, the results of this latest little health adventure really are all good. There are still things that can be improved, of course—aren’t there always?—and this obviously doesn’t mean there won’t be new problems that come along in the future, but right now my existing physical health issues are under control and the general indicators are currently okay. All we’re ever assured of is the very moment we’re in, and that just happened to be an excellent moment.

This small healthcare adventure over the past few days was routine, but also necessary to keep tabs on how I’m doing. The results of it all were interesting precisely because things are okay: With everything that’s happened over the past several years, it’s easy for me to worry about what the state of my health is or may become. This adventure kind of re-set my gauges, so to speak, so my awareness of my own physical health is again re-grounded in reality, and that’s good, too—and in some ways, it’s every bit as important as the results themselves.

Saturday, June 10, 2023

Dream state

Yesterday morning, I woke up during my final dream of that sleep, and I got to live in it for what seemed like ages, as it always does. I was with Nigel and our cat Curzon, who died back in 2007 after a battle with cancer. The first thing I was aware of was that I felt happy and content, neither of which has been true, not like that, since Nigel died.

In that dream, Nigel and I were going to look at a place to live, which was, despite the presence of Curzon, a plausible thing for us to be doing. The setting was somewhere urban—Auckland? Chicago? Some other city?—and it was an apartment building of some sort, possibly lofts.

I can’t be sure what city it took place in (it wasn’t a character in the story), but wherever it was, Nigel and Curzon and I were staying overnight in the same building, it seemed, maybe as if part of it was a hotel. We were supposed to go view the place, but Curzon was trying to get away, so we divided duties: Nigel would go look at the place, I’d look after our cat.

The next segment was me trying to wrangle Curzon, though in real life he wasn’t that difficult to keep under control, except, maybe, when it was time to go to the vet for a checkup. Still, I managed it, more or less.

Then, it was back where we were staying. Nigel returned with a lady around my age or so who I somehow knew was the realtor. He introduced us, though I didn’t catch her name—sometimes details spoken to me in a dream are unintelligible.

The woman wanted our address, and I smiled slightly with a “here we go again!” thought in my head, because over the years Nigel and I looked at dozens and dozens of places to live, and here we were again, starting a new series. Nigel didn’t give her our address, he just smiled with the sweet/mischievous smile he often had. So, I gave her our address: The house where I now live.

The thing that’s interesting to me about that dream wasn’t how good I felt, because I’ve had other dreams over the past 45 months that made me feel similarly. In this dream, I recited the address where I now live alone with Leo (who wasn’t a character in this dream). As I left the dream and moved toward wakefulness, I thought about how dreams like that, along with my memories, let me return to my great happiness—being with Nigel—but I was also well aware and accepting of the fact that I don’t and can’t live there. Despite that, I was smiling as I told the realtor my address—though I noticed she didn’t write it down.

There are people who place a lot of importance on dreams, taking messages and meaning they see as contained within it. I’m not one of those people. For me, dreams usually feel like my mind is on holiday, having a good time. I’m absolutely not saying or implying that I think there can’t be more to dreams—in fact, there have been times that I’ve dreamed a solution to something I couldn’t figure out (like for a project, for example), but most of my dreams are more like movies I’m watching, sometimes epic, sometimes surreal, sometimes ordinary life. But I’m open to the possibility that dreams can be more than that, even if I haven’t personally experienced it, not really.

This time, the dream was probably sparked by what’s become a profound sadness: After 45 months without my soulmate, I sometimes feel the immediacy of my memories receding farther away, and as that happens, I may wonder if maybe I just imagined our two and a half decades together, like it was an elaborate computer simulation. Did we really have all those adventures? Did he really hold me? Was he really there every time I needed him the most? And every time that weird feeling of disconnection arrives, I cry, as if I’m losing him again and again, because in those moments, it feels like I am.

In that dream, though, I again got to feel the happiness and contentment I’d had for two and a half decades, while at the same time I also knew and matter-of-factly accepted that I didn’t live there. The dream reminded me that my memories, including what our love felt like, are things I can visit whenever I want to. They’re very real, and they’re not vanishing: They just live somewhere else.

That was a message I really needed, and it’s the meaning I take from the dream. But it was really nice to feel that familiar happiness and contentment again.

Friday, June 09, 2023

A great day was had

Today was a great day. It was yet another bright, sunny day, though with the odd small, wispy cloud here and there. And I got stuff done.

First stop: The vampires (time for my annual blood tests). When I got there, I saw the facility had moved—a couple doors down. I didn’t notice when I drove right past it (it’s one building surrounded by a car park). Oops.

The service was VERY fast (no one was waiting). My doctor sent through the order form (or whatever it’s called) yesterday by email; Pathlab’s website says, they no longer accept faxes, and I didn’t know anyone would still think that was even an option anymore (we sold our fax machine nearly 20 years ago).

I found out about the fax thing because I had to look on their website to find a location that was open because they have extra, extra serious staff shortages. Seriously, for anyone in healthcare, education, or skilled construction trades who’d be interested in moving to New Zealand, this would be a great time to do it.

I even got a message from Jesus. Well, I didn’t, I just sort of saw a message intended for someone else:

A trip to the home centre for some project supplies (especially more filament for my line trimmer), and I was back home, making Leo very happy.

Wednesday, June 07, 2023

AmeriNZ Podcast episode 384 is now available

AmeriNZ Podcast episode 384, “Winter celebrations”, is now available from the podcast website. There, you can listen, download or subscribe to the podcast episode, along with any other episode.

The five most recent episodes of the podcast are listed on the sidebar on the right side of this blog.

Success from understanding

I’ve now been using my personal organisation system for three months. The result? It’s been okay, though it included several changes. Overall, it’s been working as I expected.

Around ten days after I first talked about the system, I made some adjustments to it. Then, ten days after that, I talked about even more changes—and that’s been it. Since my last round of changes, I’ve simply been using it, something I thought would show me if I needed to change anything more. So far, using it seems to suggest it’s still okay.

However, there have been some unexpected things, too. I’ve found that using the “to do” lists in the “What’s Up” section has also helped me see the things I’ve done so I can see how long its been since I last did a thing. Not always useful information, of course, but it’s also as close as I get to a personal journal. As they say, to know where you’re going, you have to know where you’ve been. Or, at least I can know how long it’s been since I last ran the dishwasher. I have to admit, though, that at first I felt using the “to do” lists was kind of like “busy work”—not all that important, and sometimes even unnecessary. I'm finding them much more useful now. even if for no other reason than the fact that checking things off the list makes me feel like I'm moving forward, and not stalled.

I've also been using the "Somewhere Safe" section to record things I want to be able to find later. That's been easy enough to do, and it has, as I’d hoped it would, helped me keep track of things so I don't lose important tings any more. However, so far I haven’t had to refer to it to find something, and there are important things from before I created the system that I still can’t find because the “somewhere safe” I put those things was unrecorded. Still, at least there are some things I won’t waste time re-finding.

So far, I haven’t used anything else in the system—no list of things I need to do “at some point”, no list of projects, nor records of progress on any projects. That doesn’t mean they aren’t good or useful, as far as I know, it just means that I don’t know because I haven’t used them. I’ve mainly been using the parts that I think are more important, though I’m beginning to think I should at least map out my various projects so I have some hope of completing them. Maybe that’ll be in the second three months I did type up a list of projects just before I started work in the system—and haven't done anything with that list since.

That’s the gist of how the system is working, but the more important thing is why I created the system in the first place: Trying to gain some control over my life by working around my personal obstacles. I do, indeed, feel more in control since I launched the system, and it’s definitely made things like focusing much easier because I no longer have to try (and fail…) to remember everything.

There’s so much more to that aspect of this system, the “why”, and I’ll be talking about it in future posts. This system was actually born from realisations I made during this journey as I worked on “my one true project”: Creating a new me. For now, though, the important thing to note is that this system is working for me, and the real reason for that is all the work I’ve been doing on my one true project, thereby understanding myself better. The truth is, the two are helping both succeed.

Not a bad result for what was originally pretty much a move of near desperation. As always, I take success where I can find it.

Tuesday, June 06, 2023

New name, old holiday

New Zealand just observed the newly-renamed public holiday: King’s Birthday. For longer than most New Zealanders have been alive, there was Queen’s Birthday, but that ended when she died. It still seems weird.

The graphic aat left is for New Zealand retail chain Briscoes, which sells homewares—kitchen things, small appliances, manchester (household linen), picture frames, that sort of thing. They have sales for every conceivable holiday, whether real or not, so the fact they were having one for King’s Birthday wasn’t unique for them—or other retailers, either, because there were a lot of such sales and promotions. What struck me about this particular ad was the wording: “First Ever”, it said. Because, it is—sort of.

The company that owns Briscoes (Briscoe Group) originally began in 1781 in the UK, but began expanding in the 19th Century, and in 1862 entered New Zealand. Today, the group is a New Zealand company, but it’s was here when, in 1937, New Zealand’s Sovereign's Birthday Observance Act established the first Monday in June as the official birthday of the sovereign—who was King George VI at that time, meaning that Briscoes was in business when the first King’s Birthday under the 1937 Act was observed. So, technically, this is the “second ever” such holiday for them, though the sort of mercantile exuberance we now see around public holidays was probably not an omnipresent thing like it is now, so, even more technically, it’s certainly the first King’s Birthday Sale in any kind of modern sense.

Aside from retail sales, the holiday is also known for the annual Honours List (there are two: One on New Year’s Day and one on, as it is now, King’s Birthday). I don’t think the vast majority of New Zealanders take much notice of the honours, except maybe for the headline-making honours. There were two of them this year that probably got people’s attention.

This year’s list gave both Queen Camilla and former prime minister Jacinda Ardern top honours—both are now known as “Dame” (the female equivalent of “Sir”), though only Jacinda will be addressed with that (a queen "outranks" a knight, so she's use here "main" title). Like a lot of people, probably, one of my first thoughts was ”Queen Camilla?!” Fortunately for me, Stuff published a piece answering that: “Why is Queen Camilla getting NZ’s top order in the King’s Birthday honours?” Since Prince Phillip had a similar honour, I guess it makes “sense” for Queen Camilla to have one (insofar as the quaint knighthoods make any sense whatsoever, of course).

The bigger thing, though, was when I saw the alert about Jacinda [Related: Queen Camilla and Dame Jacinda Ardern recognised in King Charles Birthday and Coronation Honours”). I decided to stay off of the fetid cesspool that is Twitter, even though I chuckled at the thought of all the exploding heads among the loons, goons, and cartoons who wallow there. Ex-prime minister John Key, who himself was made a knight, wasn’t buying into the negativity, calling it a “right of passage” for former prime ministers.

My own holiday weekend was far less eventful: I did some chores (like laundry), and also rearranged a shelving unit in the garage so I could move the juicer out there. I use it a few times a year and it does a great job, but the machine and its parts took up scarce space in kitchen cupboard I stored it in. With that moved to the garage, I reorganised the cupboard it was in, as well as the drawer I kept all my baking pans, as well as a different cupboard. That reorganising was to keep like-things together, and the things I use the most close to hand (for example, I didn’t want to have to get down on the floor to get my roasting pan from the bottom shelf of the cupboard it was in).

There was a bit of rain on a couple of the days, so I didn’t plan to do anything big, nor go anywhere, either. As appealing as a big “King’s Birthday Sale” may sound, there was nothing I needed, and certainly not enough to brave the probably crowded shops. Instead, I had a nice, relaxing—and productive!—weekend.

This week I have a few things I’d like to get done, but maybe more about that in a round-up next week?

So, the first King’s Birthday public holiday that most New Zealanders have experienced is now over. Our next public holiday is Matariki on Friday, July 14, then Labour Day on Monday, October 23.

Thursday, June 01, 2023

Leo is six

Today is Leo’s sixth birthday. A perfectly ordinary day from his perspective, but one in which he got lots of cuddles and treats. When I shared the photo above on Instagram (and also my personal Facebook), I said:
Today is my boy Leo’s sixth birthday—already!!! His daddy Nigel only got to celebrate two of them, but I’m spoiling him enough for both of us—of course. I noticed from my previous posts for Leo’s birthday that there’s always been something about him being clipped: Either he was in the middle of one, just had been, or was about to be. Technically, this year it’s the last two, LOL. Tonight he’ll get extra cuddles and maybe a treat or two. 🙂❤️🐶🎂🥰
This year he was much more willing to let me take a photo of him, possibly because he’s used to me taking photos of him all the time. Then, too, he hasn’t been newly shorn, obviously. Of course, there’s more to it.

Last year, I got Leo groomed the day before his birthday, and said about it: “It took months to get this organised, mostly because of delays of various kinds—especially not being able to find a groomer. However, I also was very uneasy about the whole thing precisely because of all the loss over the past three years.” All of that is still true. Also, I’ve taken Leo to that groomer twice, and both times he wasn’t exactly happy about it. If I’m totally honest, I didn’t think the groomer did more than an “okay” job grooming, and, as I said when I talked about Leo’s big outing a couple weeks ago, it seems they didn’t trim his nails as they told they would (I asked when I dropped him off).

Because of all that, I decided to learn to groom Leo myself, as I also talked about a couple weeks ago. I still haven’t actually attempted it, and for silly reasons: I too-well remember him nipping daddy Nigel and me when we tried to groom him, but mostly because—of course!—I’m worried I might hurt him. Even so, I’ve been using the special rounded-end dog scissors to keep the fur immediately around his eyes trimmed so he can see. He seems to actually appreciate that, and I think he may be about ready to trust me to give him a full grooming. Just not today—not on his birthday! Okay, that one is totally on me, but this is basically what I was referring to in the Instagram photo caption: He’d just had his eyes groomed, and the rest is coming soon.

This year is the first of our “now normal”, as I call it: I don’t want to say “new normal” because whatever “normal” is, it keeps changing, and I don’t want to encourage that. This is Leo’s first birthday since his very first in 2018 that marke the end of a year in which no one in the family died—we’ve definitely had a rough ride over the past four years. That means he and I, all that’s left of the family of six we were on his first birthday, survived another year. That’s something to—celebrate sounds kind of weird, but, yeah. Celebrate.

Despite my hesitation to groom him, Leo’s still the same happy little guy he’s always been. He also still loves to sleep on my lap, as he’s been doing since he came to live with us five years ago, and when he isn’t, he’s usually sleeping in one of his many spots not far from wherever I am. He also absolutely loves when we play The Chase Game, in which we take turns chasing each other around the living area. He prefers to play the game inside because he gets a better grip on the carpet, which is good: I’m way too unfit to run around outside. Or, maybe he realises that?

The important thing is that Leo’s still a great companion, an entertainer, and my best buddy. I’m pretty sure I’m all that for him, too. I think his other daddy would agree.

Happy Sixth Birthday, Leo!


Leo is five – 2022
Leo is four – 2021
Leo is three – 2020
Leo is two – 2019
Leo is one year old – 2018
Another new addition
All blog posts tagged “Leo” – All the posts in which I’ve talked about him

Today is also the first day of meteorological winter in the Southern Hemisphere. Leo had a better day than that would imply.