Rice Owls and River Rats

Dr Erin Bowe broody teen

November 23, 2021


I come to you this week freshly raw from the experience that is taking two young children to the supermarket. I know that plenty of other people partake in this activity every single day. For me, I avoid it like the plague and get my groceries delivered because it’s just not my zone of genius.

My grocery delivery app was particularly buggy this week – items kept selling out, the pages wouldn’t load properly and after about two hours of attempting to checkout I gave up and decided “it won’t be that bad” to just take the kids to the shops. OMG is this why mothers of the 1950s needed a Bex and a lie down?

It’s not just the part about taking the kids; it’s more about having to use divided attention in an overstimulating environment. A busy acute mental health setting with clients screaming for their methadone? No biggie. Trying to re-do my meal plan mid-aisle in Coles with bad Christmas music playing and lights flickering? Personal Hell.

I occasionally like to beat myself up about not being a “normal mother” who manages to take her kids to the supermarket. I’ll give myself a guilt trip about how this is what my own mother used to do, and bring up my archive of stories about how getting my groceries delivered is “wasteful”.

And yet, one of the best lessons I ever learned about sticking to your strengths and having a laugh at your flaws is something I learned on a shopping trip with my mother. Back in the late Eighties, I remember a series of trips – the bakery for bread, the milk bar for milk (and a little white paper bag of mixed lollies on occasion) and the butcher for meat.

For a little while in our town, the butcher was next door to the milk bar. It was run by a family of four: Dad, Bernie, his wife and their two teenagers, who would help out after school. I’d often get a free balloon, and what, in my town was called a ‘little boy’ (AKA a cocktail sausage/mini saveloy/mini Frankfurt/cheerio… or insert your regional name for a bright red processed meat treat).

The family were truly the most warm and lovely people, but absolutely none of them could spell. Trying to interpret the chalkboard outside with the specials of the week was an exciting challenge (who knew there were so many ways to communicate “Schnitzel”?).
Please don’t think I’m being a snob. Verbal is my strong point, but I don’t know my times tables and probably have undiagnosed dyscalculia, so know this is coming from a place of humility.

Bernie the butcher and his family really didn’t seem to mind people poking fun of their spelling. In fact, I sometimes wonder if it was a sneaky marketing strategy

Customer: “Excuse me, but what is a rice owl?”

[Butcher Bernie stares blankly]

Customer: “r-i-c-e-o-w-l?”

Butcher Bernie [laughing his loud, haughty laugh that bounded off the walls]

“Oh!!!! Riss-ole Love! A rissole! Best you’ll ever have too! I dunno much about spelling, but you’re guaranteed I know a good rissole”

Bernie knew his zone of genius and maximised that instead of stressing about what he wasn’t so good at.

Don’t let fear of other people’s judgements stop you. If you suck at spelling, who cares? Unless you’re actually a copyrighter or an editor, people presumably aren’t wanting to work with you because of your ability to spell. SO many people have dyslexia and we’ve still got a long way to go before we normalise it.

One of my coaches (who has dyslexia) once put up an Instagram quote about how you don’t need a ‘channel’ bag and a ‘manny petis’ (manicure/pedicure). The point was about self-acceptance and not needing the validation of ‘things’ to feel loved. It also got tonnes of comments from people pointing out the poor spelling. Did he change it? Nope. All those comments probably nudged the algorithm pretty well.

What are things you push yourself to do simply because you think “everyone else manages it, and it’s normal” when, in actual fact, no one who actually cares about you cares whether you’re ‘good’ at it or not?

Can you outsource?

Can you cut it? Do you need to do it at all?

What could you create that’s in your zone of genius instead of doing the thing you tell yourself you ‘must’ do?

Weekly Whimsy

I LOVE it when I discover something that I didn’t know about, right under my nose. I read an article this week about ‘river rats’ – a group of people who’ve been surfing on the river of the town I grew up in (the same one with Bernie the butcher and the rice owls). Turns out, they’ve been surfing on the river for 60 years.

I lived in that town for 17 years, and never saw a single person surf on the Mersey River, like ever. Without photographic evidence, I don’t think I’d believe the story. I know the photographer they interviewed (of course I do, everyone in North West Tasmania knows everyone). I went to school with his sons, and he supervised me for a day on my first ever work experience. I was 15 and thinking I’d be a journalist, except the local Devonport paper was a far cry from Rolling Stone.  Peter must have seen how bloody bored I was sitting in the office, so he took me out for a day with his photography student.

He took this photo of me below. It’s among my favourite photos of myself. Quietly loitering under a no loitering sign, challenging the status quo…

me, circa 1998

Mum as You Are

Episode 20 (yes! I stuck to something for 20 weeks) is about the concept of the psychological bends – trying to come up for air too fast post lockdowns.

You can listen to the episode HERE

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