Our Lilliput Library!

We’ve been moved in a few weeks now.

The boxes are (almost!) gone from the hallway, the kids (all four of them!) are settled in, and things are looking sorted. So on the weekend it was time to put up our own new Lilliput Library.

Here it is, looking lovely at our front gate:

Lilliput Libraries are a community project, started in Dunedin by Ruth Arnison a few years ago. Our own library is No 109, so there are a fair number around Dunedin now! You can view their locations around Dunedin on Google Maps.

The project has a WordPress blog, also run by Ruth. The Libraries also have a Facebook page and an Instagram page, with some lovely images of the various libraries around Dunedin. Take a look. Some of the artwork is absolutely beautiful.

Here are a couple of my favourites:

This is my friend Lhizz Browne’s Lilliput Library.

Lhizz’s Lilliput Library is up and running at 186 Pine Hill, so drop by and grab or add a book to this lovely library.

The library below has Diane Smith as its Guardian. She commisioned artist Jack Pillans to paint her fence to match, and the result is stunning. You can view the Lilliput Library – and the fence artwork – at 71 Newington Avenue:

Diane Smith’s beautiful Lilliput Library and fence artwork by local artist Jack Pillans.

Sharing books is a wonderful thing to do!

Lilliput Libraries are based on the concept of book sharing:

Take a book now…
Return or donate a book later.

Whenever you see a Lilliput Library, feel free to open the door and have a browse. Choose a book you’d like to read. You can keep the book for a while, or forever – Lilliput Libraries are cost-free, and there’s no membership required.

Then, if you are able, share a book back to any Lilliput Library when you can.

It’s that simple!

Becoming a Lilliput Library “Guardian

If you’d like to become a “Guardian” of a Lilliput Library in Dunedin, contact Ruth Arnison via the Lilliput Libraries blog. She’s a lovely lady and is incredibly helpful.

If you’re an artist or have carpentry skills, or can donate paint or woodworking products and you would like to support the Lilliput Libraries project, please also contact Ruth.

If you live in another city and would like to start up your own Lilliput Libraries scheme or build your own independent Lilliput Library, I can’t think of a lovelier way to encourage community and reading!

Don’t follow just because someone wants to lead you

The world is growing increasingly partisan.

The political middle ground seems to have fallen away, leaving people clinging to the edges of extreme political thought.

But I’m saying, don’t follow simply because someone wants to lead you.

When longstanding friendships come to an end over political disagreements, and people are “unfriending” their friends and family on Facebook over who they may or may not have voted for, it has all gotten out of control.

Partisanship serves nobody, except those who would divide us all on petty issues.

The truth is, our differences are minimal. We most of us want the same things:

We want our children to grow up safe and whole…
We want our communities to thrive and be healthy…
We want good healthy food, clean air, clean water…
We want access to good doctors and good quality education…
We want affordable, quality homes…
We want to be safe from war and terror…
We want secure jobs that give us dignity and don’t compromise our integrity.

If you’re like me, all of these things are important. All of them.

Divide and conquer

It seems that many of those in power – across all parties – would seek to focus on the little things that don’t affect us day to day.

“Divide and conquer” is working well.

They seek to turn us against our neighbours. To encourage us to label and view them as Not Like Us, and to divide our communities.

That way, we don’t look too closely at what those in power are doing, do we!

Work together

I’m saying, Stop.

Stop the partisanship.
Stop labelling people as Them and Us.
Stop giving some leaders a pass on bad behaviour while others get held to the wire.
Treat all people equally and fairly.
Uphold ideas, not ideology or parties or celebrities or leaders.

It’s time to look on the old world with fresh eyes. Reconsider our long-held beliefs to check if they still hold merit for us.

Don’t follow simply because someone – or something – wants to lead you.

Lead yourself, with your own mind, and you will find the best way to travel.


The simplest word is ‘no’

    I began to truly simplify my life when I learned to say no.

“A Brownie Guide thinks of others before herself
And does a good turn every day.”
– Brownie Guide Law, pre 1996.


Were you ever a Brownie Guide, or a scout? I can’t speak for the scouts, but the Brownies made an impact on me as a kid. As did the Brownie Guide Law (quoted above, prior to 1996).

Brownies, and the culture around me, taught me I always had to be available to help others. I always had to be ready to assist. I always had to say yes. To say no to the needs and requirements and demands of others was selfish and rude and greedy. It wasn’t decent. It wasn’t what Good Girls did.

But saying yes to everything led to problems. I grew up saying yes, all the time. I was the one who tried to help others. I said yes when my friends wanted to use my things, or “lend” my money. Saying yes to others often meant saying no to myself and my own needs. Giving so much to others at my own expense resulted in a great deal of resentment and unhappiness, over time, for me.

The truth is, as Hagrid might say, not all people are good. The assumption that we should always be there for others, and do good turns every day, only works when we have energy in plenty and enough to give in excess.

But often we don’t. What happens then is our own needs suffer as we cater to the whims of others at the expense of ourselves.

Saying yes – and being always on demand – is a feminist issue

I view this as a feminist issue, and yes, this is a feminist post. Because women are taught to forego our needs for others far more than men are taught to do so. Women are taught we must always say yes, always be ready to assist, to volunteer, to help.

We’re also taught that what we want isn’t as important as what others want, and what we do isn’t as important in a very real, monetary sense. Women volunteer at significantly higher percentages than men, and are significantly less likely to negotiate for higher salaries in job situations. Both indicate that we don’t value ourselves, our time, and our work as much as men do.

I began to truly simplify my life when I (metaphorically speaking) threw that old Brownie Guide Law in the dustbin where it belonged, and learned to say no. Learning to say no gave me freedom and self-respect, and paved the way for a simple, calm life.

Saying no is a skill that women in particular often struggle with, but we really need to learn. Until we learn to put our own needs first, adjusting our own oxygen mask in that emergency like we’re taught on every flight, we cannot begin to simplify our lives in any real, concrete way. Because until we learn to say NO, we will always be subject to the whims of others.

Personal empowerment comes from throwing our baggage away. Accepting that we can be good people, honest people, kind people – even Christian people, if we choose – and still say no. No is a word of kindness. To ourselves.

No is the simplest word.

Autism Awareness Day – and how to treat people with autism

Last week (April 2nd) was Autism Awareness Day. I’m a mother of two kids with autism, and I wasn’t aware of this. LOL.

These “awareness days” are so much BS, in my opinion. They do absolutely nothing that I know of to actually help people living with conditions like autism.

All they do is make guilty people feel like they’re doing something (wearing a pretty ribbon? How is that supposed to help?), and maybe make governments look like they’re taking action too (when they’re not).

Soooo…here’s my list of ideas on:

– how to treat people with autism,
– what to do when you encounter people with autism, and
– how to treat that kid in your child’s class who has autism.

  • Treat them with respect and decency. It’s a no-brainer. They’re human. Treat others as you yourself would like to be treated.
  • Don’t fricking STARE. Yes, they have autism. That doesn’t mean they want to be stared at. If they’re behaving oddly they almost certainly can’t help it. They also almost certainly don’t want to be treated like a freak show.
  • Be inclusive. So there’s a kid in your child’s class with autism. You know, it wouldn’t hurt to invite them over to play some time. Or maybe invite them to your child’s birthday party. You may even be the first person ever to show them that kindness. Think about it: That child may never have been invited to a birthday party. You could change their world with one simple gesture.
  • Be friendly. Say hello. Smile. Don’t do it all the time but just be as friendly as you would be to anyone else you know. Common decency again, folks!
  • Offer to babysit. Parents of kids with autism really struggle with this one. Offer to babysit. You could make a huge difference in their lives by just giving them a night off. Obviously check for any medical conditions first, but most kids with autism are on the mild end of things and ordinary people can care for them for short periods of time.
  • End the loneliness. It’s not just the kids with autism who are lonely. As a parent of two kids with autism, I’ve found myself on the outer of parent groups and suchlike, because other parents feel uncomfortable and don’t know what to say to me. I think they’re actually afraid. So don’t be. Make gestures of friendship. It may be very welcome.

All the “Awareness” days in the world won’t make a difference to people actually dealing with autism unless ordinary people in the community make a difference in how they treat people with this condition.

Autism is really common too – I’ve heard stats suggesting that 1 in 60 children is being diagnosed, and the numbers are heading north every decade.

Be kind. Be considerate. It’s not too much to ask, is it? Then we can get rid of these “awareness” days, and just have communities where everyone is looked after and respected, which is a better deal for everyone.


Creating our own traditions

Our modern lives often feel disconnected from the past.

Often our families immigrated or moved from their original homes. Or maybe, like me, you’re a third culture kid, raised in several cultures and countries, and not really belonging to any of them. And sometimes as adults we have chosen to move away from where we grew up, for jobs or partners or other reasons.

As a result, we often feel that we don’t have any traditions. So businesses have stepped in, ready to make wealth from our insecurity and loss.

Corporate traditions: rich on dollars, low on meaning

Corporate traditions:

  • They tell us we need to shop and give expensive gifts for Christmas.
  • They tell us we’re “cheap” if we handmake a gift for someone we love, spending hours and giving our time and effort.
  • They promote the idea that Santa gives gifts, the Easter Bunny brings chocolate eggs, and that money has nothing to do with any of it.
  • We’re told we need to buy costly flowers and sweets for Valentine’s Day.
  • They sell us chocolate eggs for Easter.
  • We’re made to feel guilty if we forget Father’s Day and Mother’s Day.
  • Halloween – never popular in Australia or New Zealand – is out of control in the United States as a consumerfest, and now its plastic pumpkins, cheap costumes and cratefuls of sugary junk food are infesting other countries too.

It’s hard to avoid these massed consumer events, unless you belong to a strong subculture that intentionally disregards them (Judaism, Seventh Day Adventists and so on).

No matter how hard you try, you still find yourself caught up in the sales and the planning, the turkey basting and the plastic trees.

Finding a pathway out from the nonsense

I think the key to avoiding all this nonsense – and the insanity that goes with it – is creating our own, strong, family traditions.

I’m not saying that we need to avoid the consumer holidays, but that the more we create our own traditions, the less meaningful the consumer holidays will appear by comparison.

Traditions remind us of who we are, and help keep our relationships strong.

Some of our own family traditions

Putting the Christmas Tree up on December 9th. The reason? My brother’s birthday is the 8th, so the tree went up after his party when we were children.

I’ve kept to this tradition, and so has my brother’s family and my parents. All our trees go up on December 9th. I’ve no doubt my children’s trees, when they have homes of their own, will go up on December 9th!

Having all our meals together at the dining table. I’m continually surprised at the amount of families who don’t do this. I’m even more surprised at the amount of people who don’t even have a dining table these days!

Make meals a time to be together and share news. It’s important. We don’t eat anywhere except at the dining table, and I’m happy about this “tradition”.

Pancakes on Sunday morning. Having pancakes on Sunday mornings is so lovely. We all sleep in a little, then we make a huge batch of pancakes for the kids. The pancakes fill them up right through until dinner.

My boyfriend is now doing the same thing, because it makes so much sense, and his kids love their Sunday morning pancakes too.

Every year, we build lanterns and go to the Dunedin Midwinter Carnival. It’s a lovely thing to do with our kids, and we all enjoy it.

Every year, we make lanterns in the community workshops and participate in the Midwinter Lantern Parade.

Every year, we make lanterns in the community workshops and participate in the Midwinter Lantern Parade.

My children bringing me wildflowers in Spring. Every Spring, my children collect wildflowers from the side of the road on the way home from school and give them to me. This simple gesture of love and thoughtfulness means so much to me.

Painting eggs in Spring. My children and I like to colour eggs in Spring. It’s fun and beautiful. Then we give them as gifts.

Friday night treat night. I buy a chocolate bar for each of my kids on Friday. This is their treat for the week – they don’t get junk or packaged food any other time.

Turning junk food and sweets into special occasion foods helps restrict junk and return it to its proper place as a “sometimes food”.

Friday night board games. We often get together with friends and play board games on Friday nights. It’s a lovely, old fashioned way to catch up.

Our rotational eating pattern. We eat according to a rotational menu, and I guess this is a kind of tradition too. The kids know what to expect each day during the week, and it helps keep things simple and easy.

Putting the tomatoes in with my daughter. Every Spring my daughter helps me put our tomatoes in. I think she might have a vested interest in this tradition!

Keeping chickens. We keep chickens. Always will. Yes, it’s a tradition! 😉

Other great family traditions I know of…

Beach holiday. A family I’m friends with goes off to the beach for the week directly after Christmas, and camps out. The kids look forward to this more than the actual consumer holiday of Christmas. (Remember, Christmas is in summer in New Zealand!)

Helping pack charity hampers at Christmas. Another family I know packs charity hampers at Christmas with a local outreach group. It helps remind them how fortunate they are, and to be thankful.

Fishing in Spring. Another family I know of goes on fishing holidays with their kids every Spring, when the fish start to run. It’s a great way to connect with nature and just be together.

What traditions do you have? Can you think of any traditions you’d like to have?