Category Archives: Opinion piece

Four Books Of Impact.

Words of wisdom and wonder, which change lives…

Many of us – most of us – have a portion of our life filled with regret. Or worse…nothing.
The feeling of being empty? That is worse than the feeling of sorrow, whether for loss, for past decisions, past actions, or past words. We look for answers, from “someone”, or “something”, and may find a temporary shift in our mood or being.
A guru here, a life-coach there, a member of this or that church, a friend, an elder relative…we turn to any or all of them. We go to our medical practice, to a counseling service, a retreat, a clinic…we seek what we need in any or all of them. We distract ourselves from our real needs by filling the void with people in groups or clubs in which we have no real interest; we go on a shopping spree; we go on a drinking binge – alone, or with other people…we try to find what we’re looking for anywhere.

Does it work? Do any of them work?
Some do, whether by coincidence – a connection between the ‘source’ and our situation, or real effect. Some don’t – from a lack of connection between the ‘source’ and our situation, or lack of a real background of applied theory.
Me? I’ve not had a lifetime of settled emotions, nor of constant good health. I’ve had times when I’ve faced misery, misfortune and misjudgment. Having a vivid imagination hasn’t helped keep my head clear of disruptive thoughts (“stinking thinking”, as it is known in some circles). I’ve blame-shifted. I’ve grown my resentment by never expressing it to anyone who mattered. I’m guilty of having at times expected more than was possible of myself, and worse, of others in my life. I’ve chased my own ‘gurus’ of one type or another. Neh – hasn’t worked.

Time for a change! Time for a kick up the proverbial. And I have to be the one to do it! I got myself into this mess – and that being unknowingly, does not change who’s responsible for where I go to from here. I have to make the change – me, myself, on my own.
But…but where to start?
Books.  Why not? A one-off price, available at any time you need, the facility to return to earlier sessions and review what you’ve faced, learned, or wondered at. Portable. Permanent.  You can annotate them, highlight, turn corners down to mark great passages (hold that ‘gasp’, please – bear with me here… Oh, alright, you can tuck a card bookmark in them). And now, the question arises :: Which Books?

cover_King james BibleWell, the Holy Book is a start.
Christian or not, I’ve lugged my Bible with me wherever I’ve lived. Firstly a small version of only The Bible, now a fully annotated King James Version. I hear a quote, and check the whole Chapter. Maybe even that before and that after the one I’m reading.
Please take note: the Christian Bible is not the only Holy Book.
The Torah to those of the Jewish faith, and the Koran for those of the Muslin faith, are of equal significance to their people. All three religions are collectively known as the Faiths of The Book – and not for nothing.

For me, coming back to The Bible arose from a most unusual inspirational book. For my last year (to my shame) I had spent my non-learning moments at a Catholic Convent Girls’ Boarding School – as a “day girl” – denigrating the Catholic beliefs. This for the spiteful reason of denigrating the school, inadequate as it was. But the nuns (and my parents) had more patience (tolerance) than I had realized. I could not get myself expelled for any reason. So, because of my determination to “strike” during my whole last year of compulsory education, I never did qualify.
{Grumbles to self – “All that work for nothing!”

cover_Mr God This is AnnaThe book which brought me back to the Bible was an unusual one. A tale of a London dock-worker who late one night on the street befriends by accident a four-year old child. At home, his mother and the rest of the household discover the child has been a victim of physical abuse. She never leaves their home, but attaches herself to the writer.
He in turn is educating himself, and as the girl observes his gadgets being created and working, and as he observes her “way” of interacting with other dock-side people, and questioning Sunday Services and other people’s interaction, each helps the other come to understand life…and God.
Even in the sadness of the final scene, there is a moving message.
The book is Mister God, This Is Anna, by Fynn. Look for editions which include the Foreword written by the then Archbishop of Canterbury. This is the book which made me do more than drop in on the Bible, but read it – a continuing process.

Now, what brought this post about…I am struggling with artist’s block. And I’ve been looking all around the wide, wonderful web, at blog, self-help and writers’ help sites, reading how other writers deal with this. If I’d saved everything I’d read, I’d fill an external hard-drive. Then, I found mention of firstly, “Morning Pages”, and then of a particular book. Reviews on Amazon, and blog posts describing and recommending it, led me to the author’s website. As soon as I read the website’s content, I shot back to Amazon, and purchased it.

cover_Artists WayIt is The Artist’s Way – A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, by Julia Cameron. Mine is the 25th Anniversary Edition – that alone helped me decide it was worth a shot. When it arrived, I browsed the contents (read the T O C), and began with the Foreword and Introduction. There arose a glimmer of hope.
This is more than an artist’s self-help book. It is a life book! Ms. Cameron’s guide to self-examination is presented as weekly readings, with probing self-analysis, questions to ask oneself, and suggestions for finding the answers. Hers is the concept of “Morning Pages”, of which I’d begun written a few while awaiting delivery of her book—albeit not every morning.
The Artist’s Way applies to all the arts, design, and creativity in general—and writing is one of the creative arts. I began Week One, and within only two days discovered something important bout myself and my artistic efforts in the past. (I continued through the first week’s Tasks, and am writing this as part of the end-of-week Check In.)
My discovery about my past art attempts has led me to renew my interest in visual art. Which leads me to the fourth book of impact.

cover_Drawing With ChildrenThe fourth book? Back in the 90s, I was laid up recuperating for plastic surgery for metastatic melanoma. Well, not really “laid up” – being in that state was to wait for the late 2000s – but resting each day in a LazyBoy chair, leg raised. I had a book in a back room which I’d bought for using to teach drawing to children, but never at that point opened and read. I asked for it to be brought to me, and a pencil.   By reading through the beginner activities in Drawing With Children *, by Mona Brookes, and trying some of the tasks (drawing in the wide margins) I found I could draw. I drew a self-portrait, from my reflection in a nearby wall mirror. I drew a perfect drawing of my jacket which had been left for days draped from the back of a chair, in such a way that both the outer side (dark blue, with metal studs for fasteners) and the lining (a broad tartan) in view.
So confidant I felt after creating those drawings, I began using Brookes’ method in my Junior Primary classes, for three years. Moving on to HOD of the Intermediate division of a secondary school, I applied the techniques there as well.

Sadly, I decided to quit teaching. Nothing to do with the job—more to do with the ridiculous over assessment required under the most recently deployed new curricula.
Even more sadly, after graduating in IT, I “culled” my teaching books collection, and tossed the Brookes’ Drawing With Children.
But, since beginning to read The Artist’s Way, I have bought a later edition of Drawing With Children.
* (My first copy was the edition with a child’s drawing of an elephant on its cover.)

All four of these books have given me inspiration, understanding, and courage. I am so grateful to have all four beside my bed, to read and refer to regularly.
I would strongly recommend any of these as a “must have” in your book shelves.

Please, share your views on any one of these books, or any other book you have found inspiring to your artist.


“Yarp, Yarp, Yarp” – Mother-in-law bird

Some people get a “bee in their bonnet”;

Borrowed from

I have a bird on the brain.


It’s a bird I first heard while up in the hill farmland over Hawkes Bay, long before I saw it. It has a distinctive call. ‘Yarp, yarp, yarp, yarp…’ I asked one of the local farmers about it. He named it the ‘Mother-In-Law’ bird – really, the Spur-Wing Plover.

The farming community did not approve of it, as it is a ground nesting bird, making its scrape in the centre of an open space. It is also extremely protective of its scrape, at which one partner of the other is always in attendance, if not covering the clutch of eggs.

If any person or farm beast approaches too closely, they will rise and swoop ferociously at the intruder,  screaming, and trying to rake their spurs – complete with poison glands – across any part they can swipe over.

I saw a couple in Palmerston North, in the front grounds of the Research complex. For weeks they strutted around their scrape. Staff there mentioned how the groundkeeper never mowed their real estate, leaving them a wide berth. One Monday morning, there was only one. I learned from a scientist there that they mate for life, and if one is killed, the other will stay around their site for years before giving up. I would see the lone mate on the peak of the roof, and hear it calling to its spouse. I fell in love with the bird, right then.

The next time I saw them was in Masterton, in a new housing area on what had been a football club’s ground. I left the car to move closer to the scrape, over which the pair were already wheeling. And, yes, they swept over towards me. They didn’t rake me – I’d lowered my head, and turned back to the car.

Now in Rotorua, I’ve heard a pair flying over our house during the evening, just around sun down, every autumn.

‘Yarp, yarp, yarp, yarp…’ I love their call. It’s as if one is calling to the other ‘Come on, I’m taking you home’, while the spouse calls back ‘I’m coming, I’m coming’.

20170523_124346I know where they go. I’ve seen their scrape one year, in an open green space between a clothing outlet and a large hotel. The space is so wide, truckers have, in summer, parked their rigs there for the public to see them up close, and rides are given to special children.

20170523_124438Last year, I didn’t see the Plovers – only their abandoned scrape, after a week-end’s ‘paddock bashing’ by hoons spinning across their nesting site that autumn. I only saw the mess of their scrape – two shattered shells, abandoned.

The marks of their tyres are still there now, along with the marks of a go-cart, being ridden by a child under Dad’s supervision, during summer when the plovers would have been back in farmland.

2017-05-23 12.51.44Today I caught some pictures of the couple.
They seem to have chosen a nesting site a little
closer to the hotel, but still with a
clear space for lookout duty all around them.

They may start their family.


That is a freaking CAT prowling around!

They may get through the autumn and winter
without being disturbed, or killed. I hope so.




For better images than mine, visit the New Zealand Birds Online site… and learn more about this raucous couple.





There are so many sources of blame for obesity (child and/or adult) being pushed at us, who knows what’s what?

We can go to Jenny Craig, Dr.Oz, Les Mills, Weight-Watchers, the family GP, the hospital dietician, “ancient tribal medicine men”. We can examine statistics from all over the world, compare obesity and fatness by age, gender, marital status, race (for the PC brigade, “ethnicity”), nationality, income bracket, job status, education status, political “position” on the issue… and get no further understanding.

My understanding is … the human body has a certain number of fat cells – one source[1] says 25 to 30 billion, another[2] says 70 billion normally. “Your body has about 25 to 30 billion fat cells (adipocytes)”, and 50% of these are sitting in the third layer of skin –the Hypodermis”.

 Then, the places for fat cells: “There are three levels of fat in the body: two layers of subcutaneous fat (in the third skin layers: the deep layer and the superficial layer, separated by a membrane called fascia) and a third is known as visceral fat, the fat that is within the abdominal cavity and around the organs.”

After years of teaching, I’ve observed almost every combination of food consumed and activity spent there could be, in children aged 5 to 17. Energy in. Energy out. Take in more energy than you expend, and the surplus gets stored as “lipids” in the adipose cells, for future stores on which to draw.

I’m no scientist, medical or dietary; just a mother with three skinny to healthy offspring, married to a man who scrapes under the “danger” levels in all medical tests for diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol, lung condition and who can, for all his size, out-run me down a sidewalk (speed and duration).

All my family forebears and their offspring have been slender, skinny, thin, svelte, lithe, lean, healthy…  And my siblings and I’ve been skinny almost all our lives (although I admit my elder sister and I are now middle-age almost-matronly in body shape – but not fat, just “cuddly”).

All of my hubby’s siblings and their offspring are of the well-rounded, cuddly, chubby, tubby, fat, obese shape. Although his Dad was tall and lean, his Mum was short and stubby. He and his siblings began life and spent early childhood normally healthy in size, shape and weight.

However, hubby as a youngster was classed by the visiting Plunket nurse as being too skinny and under-weight, so was packed off to a summer “health camp”, from which he returned slightly rounded out – only slightlier, but the damage was done. Their regime of cooked breakfast, lunch and dinner, with mid-morning, mid-afternoon and supper snacks, had made the change. I believe he’s one of the many children in New Zealand of that era who are now as adults obese or overweight, after being fattened up at Plunket’s camps – growing more fat cells than the body should have.

A child will start life with the “right” amount of fat cells , growing the “normal” number as he  grows, up to puberty or so – unless he is over-eating (or is made or encouraged to overeat) without increased exercise levels. The over-eating growing child will fill his fat cells with the lipids – and if there are still lipids to be stored, the child’s body will grow more (excess) fat cells which will also store the lipids.

And adults who eat so much they reach more than 200% of their ideal body weight? Yep, they start growing those extra fat cells too.


Dieting without exercise to gain muscular strength (needed to maintain the exercise regime) will not lose fat cells. It will “empty” the fat cells that you have. Come off the diet or reduce the activity level, and all your basic fat cells and your surplus fat cells will again start storing lipids.

That’s the awful thing about obesity – especially child obesity. With extra fat cells, they haven’t got a damned chance of losing weight by dieting. Momma, Aunty and Nanna with their baking, sweet juices and sweeties; Daddy, Uncle and Grandpop with their sausage dogs, soft drinks and meat pies – they’re the ones making our children fat.

Yes I said “FAT”. There’s no point in being PC. FAT is what they are, and it’s FAT that may kill them.

So I’m hoping parent education should be set in place: ante-natal classes; NZ’s Plunket nurses, visits and clinics; senior high-school classes in health education … any channel possible to take away a chubby child’s Parents’ excuses for ruining their child’s health.

And in among the wisdom regarding nutrition versus diet, interests versus exercise, let there also be a word to parents (and to teachers) to Stop telling their children they’re “pretty” or “look nice” or have a “pretty outfit”. All these “compliments” do is teach the child that appearance – for which the child may not be responsible – is how to earn attention. God (or parents’ DNA, according to your belief) gave her the sweet dimple, him the curly hair, or her the cute button nose, him the dark brown eyes. Parents chose the clothing, spent the money on it all – and what store they buy from should not become a source of complimenting the child. Lawks, some parents even choose the clothing for that day and Dress the kid! Some children may have played no part at all in their appearance.

Compliment the child on dressing neatly, on brushing her hair nicely, for packing his own school bag. In other words, affirm what the child has actually done or chosen well.

I’ve heard teachers greeting the class and selecting some children only for “You look nice today” type of remark – and have seen the next child in line who doesn’t hear it. I’ve taught 11 and 12 year olds raised to think appearance is all, who greeted me (until they learned otherwise) with a simpering “I like your dress Mrs S,” or a sick-making “You look pretty today, Mrs S.”

They were expecting a reply along the lines of “Oh, thank you, and you look pretty too”.

Not from me, kiddo. I’d sometimes get so fed up of this sort of cloying, sickly-sweet remarks I’d answer something along the lines of “Damn, I was going for a monster (or ‘biker’, or ‘ghoul’) look. Now I’ll have to go home at lunch and change.”

Sooner or later they learned to laugh with me, and accepted I was never impressed by appearances. But write a decent essay, sketch a realistic portrait, research an effective report, deliver a stirring prepared speech – Do something well, or sweat trying – and then I’d give a compliment.

I do believe it is our obsession of having a “pretty” or “compliant” or “nice” child that makes us focus them on their appearance, and become low in esteem when they fall short of “our” obvious or inferred expectations.

Some parents allow a child in misery to feel better by giving him/her crisps, ice-cream, doughnuts, cookies – crap food. A child whining about being asked to do chores is allowed to grizzle all the way back to the television sofa or the computer or game console. Oh, good exercise – Not!

Fixing obesity starts with You – Mum and Dad – and the habits you encourage in healthy eating and physical activity. Your children should be outside daily, walking, playing, doing messages – come sun or rain. After all, no child is so sweet that they’ll dissolve in the rain!



How many fat cells in the human body? It depends from person to person, 70 billion is a roundabout number. Some obese people can have up to 300 billion though. Scientists argue back and forth if the number of cells actually increases as you get fatter, or if the fat cells just become larger.
Retrieved from  

The one thing you should know about fat is that once puberty is over, the number of fat cells you have is the number you have forever, unless you become extremely obese. Your fat cells only multiply if you reach 200% of your ideal body weight. Whether you are thin or fat, you have the same number of fat cells. They just shrink or plump up. Fat cells can expand enormously
Retrieved from:

Google Books: Nutrition and Diet Therapy 8th Ed, DeBrunne, Pinna & Whitney Retrieved from:

© Lynne McAnulty-Street, Rotorua NZ, 2011