Things that happen in carparks….

A friend recently put up a status update on facebook about the fact that when reversing her 4WD out of a parking space, a couple of men began directing her, even though she was not having trouble backing the car out. She was quite annoyed and put out, feeling this implied that she was somehow incapable of safely removing her own car from the space.

I immediately commented on the status agreeing with her. I have had this happen several times, even though I do not and have never owned a 4WD.

Other comments were rapidly made, too. The general consensus, by both male and female friends of my friend was that it was a compliment and did not warrant her annoyance. My friend definitely sits on the gorgeous side of the fence, and was told that that was a factor in her receiving unsolicited ‘help’ from men in parking a car.

Now, as this has happened to me, more than once, I must disagree that it has anything to do with looks. (And just by the way, the notion that her looks were the reason and that she should be flattered and take it as a compliment is more insulting than the help itself! “Oh, they helped because they think I look good? Well, that’s okay then.” Blaaaahhhh, I had that sort of shallow thinking!) NB (late thought): And, I also thought it quite an insult to men to suggest that they would only help if the woman was good looking! The majority of men I know, aren’t that shallow and it’s generalisations like this that set us all back, men and women.

I told my husband of the incident my friend had experienced and thus ensued a ‘chat’.

Husband: Men don’t know what they are supposed to do these days. They were only trying to help.

Me: But she didn’t ask for, or need, the help! That’s got nothing to do with chivalry or feminism and everything to do with men thinking women aren’t capable of parking or reversing their cars.

Husband: What if it was nothing to do with that? What if it was simply someone helping someone else out?

So, it got me thinking. Had I been unfair in my thoughts towards those who had ‘helped’ me in the past? Was it not at all to do with a perceived judgement on my driving skills but simply a random act of kindness as my husband suggested?

I don’t get upset when men hold the door open for me, or offer to carry something heavy to the car for me, or give up a seat for me. And I don’t have a problem with the fact that there are things men do better than women and vice versa.

So, it’s not my feministic feathers that are ruffled.

I’m all for helping someone out; for surprising people with gifts or a visit, if they are in need of some TLC. And I am not above accepting help when I need it, either.

So, it’s not that I am uncharitable and don’t see the need for helping out our fellow man/woman.

It’s the assumption that I need help. And then help being given without me asking for it. Would it make a difference to me if the men (notice it’s never women who try to help you back your car out, though…) asked if I wanted assistance? Yes, it would.

Our children are all great helpers and particularly when younger, were eager to help with any given task at any given time. Trouble with that is, they would barge on in, without asking first if their help was needed. On seeing a sibling struggle with a puzzle, it’s easy to ‘take-over’ and then cry “But I was only trying to help!” when the sibling is unhappy when presented with a completed puzzle.

I have sought to teach my children the balance between always being ready and available to help and respecting someone’s need to do things themselves, unassisted.

Offering help is always welcome. Bullying your way in, on the assumption that someone can’t do something, is not.

Am I being over the top? Should we just be grateful for any help, regardless of how it comes to us?

All the small things.

Over the last couple of days, I have felt a return to my ‘normal’ self (loose use of the word ‘normal’ there).

My energy levels have been up and stayed that way. The pain in my feet/ankles and hands/wrists has significantly reduced, almost to the point of being negligible.

As a result, my head space has been better. And when I say ‘better’ I actually mean I am feeling euphoric. And I have realised it’s all the little things that I have been missing.

Being able to give my hair a good scrub when washing it, without pain shooting up my arm.

Being able to lift a full kettle of water to make my tea.

Getting out of bed in the morning and not nearly collapsing from the pain in my feet.

Driving! That small loss of independence has taken it’s toll!

Carrying a plate of food with one hand.

Lifting a saucepan full of vegies off the stove.

The little things we take for granted every day, mean so much when they are gone.

And so I have looked about and realised a new appreciation for the other small things that have the capacity to bring me joy.

Like our garden. We don’t have an ideal place for a veggie patch, so have had to make do with the good ‘ole styrofoam boxes.

Little things like our first strawberry.

Beetroot poking it’s head through the soil

And baby spinach reproducing at a profuse rate

We also have other veggies and herbs that are growing at a cracking pace, too. Not an award winning garden, mind you. Just simple homegrown yummy-ness 🙂

I feel a sense of renewed wonderment at the world around me. The simple pleasures of hearing my daughters laughing down the hall way and walking into the bathroom to discover a full manicure session in progress. A simple ‘love ya!’ from that boy of mine at the end of a phone call. Listening to my sister recounting the shenanigans of my two year old nephew and the sound of his voice saying “Auntie Oosie”.

So many ‘insignificant’ joys to be found, if we simply stop to look. Give me the little pleasures any day 🙂

I don’t know how long this heightened awareness will last. I hope I manage to hold onto it for a little while.

And if I don’t, please feel free to remind me of this blog post 🙂

PS. My friend Alison wrote wonderfully about the small things recently on her blog – go here to read it – little tiny things

Family or friend…and never the two shall meet!

I consider myself fairly blessed in the friends and family department, plus or minus a few rogue people in each group.

And what I love most is when the two groups not only cross paths but go off, hands joined skipping into the horizon.

On my husband’s side, there is a particular case where this has happened. Where ‘family’ has met ‘friends’ in the most spectacular fashion.

Let’s call them Stibby and Looby Lou. I have known Stibby and Looby Lou almost as long as I have known my husband as they were the first family members I was introduced to.

We hit it off straight away, despite my severe lack of maturity, being just 18 as I was, and have remained in close contact ever since.

We recently spent a weekend with Stibby and Looby Lou, at their house in the beautiful Northern New South Wales. We left the chicklets with the grandparents and basically did grown up fun stuff ie pondering the particular notes of the many bottles of red, pondered the particular virtues and merits of The Voice contestants, swapped favourite book titles, and had copious chats and ‘very serious’ conversations about our various technology devices ie phones and ipads.

I love spending time with these people. There is not a laugh-free half an hour when with them, usually because one of the four of us is the friendly butt of a joke or two, or three…or four. We laugh long and hard when playing games like Cranium and Articulate (a little tiny….quark, quark!) and competition gets serious when playing games like Quiddler and
Rage (I won both, by the way 🙂 ).

I love the easy way of being when we are together; I love the water bottles and chocolate by the bed; the ahmaaahzing food; the contented silences; the way we all laugh at the same things yet are more than happy to disagree and have a hearty debate when necessary. I love all these things but more than that, I just love who they are. Plain and simple.

And I’m so glad I can call them both family and friends. Double bonus 🙂

So, thank you, Stibby and Looby Lou, for the weekend, for the fun, and for the friendship. We love you heaps and are looking forward to growing old with you – esp as you’ll both get  there first and be able to give us tips 😉

Teenagers. What are they good for?

Recently, our daughter (Chalky, we’ll call her) turned 15. Some of you may remember a day not too long ago when I pulled her out of school to go to the movies (you can read about it here if you like).

Unbeknownst to us, her friend (lets call her Jeff – don’t worry, it’s an in joke) seized the opportunity while my daughter was absent to put into action a plan for her birthday present.

Chalky and I have a desire and some yet to be confirmed plans to go on a trip next year with Destiny Rescue to Thailand to spend some time helping out in orphanages etc etc.

Chalky does not have a part time job, and as we have said she needs to fund herself for the trip, she has been industriously making and selling jewellery to friends at school and youth group, in between Grade 10 exams, piano lessons and exams, dancing, and her photography hobby.

Fast forward to a Friday night just before youth group, the day before her birthday. Chalky was greeted by Jeff who handed her a box with these instructions “Open this, read the letter inside and then give the box to your Dad to take home.”

This is what the letter said:

When the time came to think about what I should get you for your birthday, I sat and thought for a long time.

But then it hit me.

Sure, jewellery, clothes and other things are nice but I wondered what you really wanted.

So, remember that day your mum took you out of school to go see The Vow? Well, that lunch, I went down to the library, used up about $1.50 of my printing money, and gave everyone in our grade a flyer.

This is what the flyer said:

Get Chalky to Thailand!

Chalky has recently been trying to raise funds in order for her to go to Thailand with her mother next year. Her birthday is coming up, so I was thinking about having a secret fundraiser.

So please, as a fifteenth birthday present, let’s help Chalky help others! If everyone could please bring any small change that they have in the coming weeks, it would be much appreciated!

Remember, Chalky must not know!

In the box, along with that letter and the flyer was $420.70, the end total from approximately fourteen of her friends.

Now. You tell me whether teenagers are good for anything?

Rest. Why is doing nothing so hard? Part 2

Part 2 from the lovely Alison. And don’t forget to check out her blog arthousehomelife.

Why Is Doing Nothing So Hard?

Last week I knew I was heading for a meltdown.

I had painters, plumbers, carpenters, a plasterer, electrician and a frazzled site manager in my house all at once from 7am. My dogs were freaking out and trying to bite chunks out of the tradies’ ankles, Jazz (the cuter, but more nervy one) had stepped up her ‘I-will-not-wee-outside-if-it’s-raining-or-cold-or-a-little-bit-dewey’ campaign and used my daughter’s bed as a toilet (yes, lovely, discovered just as she was saying goodnight and about to climb in).

Every time I began to clear away the breakfast dishes or finish off the laundry, somebody would knock and ask another question or wander in with a ladder, or tell me there was someone knocking at the door, or ask me if I REALLY wanted to paint this thing that colour, and that they’d bought Taubmans rather than Dulux and it doesn’t match your other wall so shall I paint the entire room?, and btw the bathroom shop sent the wrong basin and the stonemason is leaving and won’t come back unless I pay him another $250, and the vanities were too low…. etc etc etc

This has been going on for almost a year and while I always say renovating is a nice problem to have and I am fortunate to be able to do it, my ability to be Zen about it all had worn rather thin.

I decided that for my sanity and the safety of the tradies (I was ready to stab someone, for no good reason) I would leave the piles of washing and hide in my study. Which is what I did.

It worked perfectly – I think after a few hours they all forgot I was here and surprisingly, without me, they all managed just fine. I had a lovely time blogging, reading, paying a few bills, relaxing.

At 3.30 I noticed the house was quiet. They’d all gone home. They hadn’t even knocked to say goodbye. I could get back to the things in the rest of the house that needed doing.

But after a day away from it all, the laundry pile looked higher, the dirty dishes in the sink were now crustier and hardened and much harder to wash, everything was covered, again, with a film of fine plaster dust. And it was time to prep for dinner. Worse, despite my ‘rest’ I had no energy or desire to tackle it all.

So rather than giving myself permission to catch up at whatever pace I needed to do it at, I began to berate myself for taking the time out. How could you while away the hours on the computer when there was work to be done? You wanted to renovate this place, tough it out. How hard is it to project manage while running a household? People everywhere do it all the time. Heck, you’re lucky to have all of this going on. Lucky to have a home at all. Lucky you don’t live in Syria right now, or Afghanistan, lucky you are not a mum with starving kids in Africa, lucky you don’t live in a tsunami zone and have your whole home and family washed away in one awful moment. Lucky lucky lucky. It’s just not that bad – you shouldn’t have rested.

I was so blah about it all, I rang my sister to download. I’m always wary of doing this. I don’t like to whinge or complain about my lot, which is, after all, a very comfortable lot in life. My sister, on the other hand knows what tough really is. She is a single mum to two children, one of whom has a profound intellectual and physical disability.

So that’s what I said. ‘I shouldn’t complain. It’s a nice problem to have. In fact it isn’t a problem really. It’s all fine. I just shouldn’t have spent so long in my study.’

My sister interrupted. ‘Maybe it’s not all fine. Maybe you did what you needed to do.’

‘But I did nothing. I wasted a whole day!’

‘But maybe you needed to do that.’

She was absolutely right. I knew I needed time out, I planned to take time out, I enjoyed taking the time out. I took time out. It was only now after the event I felt guilty.

‘You just listened to what your body needed, and you did it. What’s so wrong about that?’

And then she took the conversation to a whole new level.

She said this: ‘Do you remember a while back I would go to Westfield with R (her disabled daughter) and just walk? Not shop. Not talking to anyone. Just walk and walk?’

I remembered. She had just moved back to town after an awful break up with a man she loved dearly. She was heartbroken, exhausted and dazed, and bringing up two little girls on her own again.

‘I think I walked around Westfield for two years straight,’ she said. ‘At the time I berated myself. I should be at home cleaning, I should be finding a job, I should be exercising, I should be moving on, I should be doing this, or that, something – anything – other than spending all this time walking around Westfield. But now I look back and I know what I was doing. I was resting. My brain needed that walking, and that time out from doing anything else. My body was doing what it needed to do.’ (R’s disabilities means she’s not safe in the open, she runs off, and is very hard work. In Westfield she could wander around with my sister trailing behind, and not be at risk of getting lost, or hit by a car.)

‘I reckon your body tells you what it needs. I think it’s just hard to listen because we have so many voices in our heads telling us what we should be doing. Listen to your body. If you need to rest, rest. Why feel guilty?’

Yes. Why? Why not listen to what your body’s telling you loud and clear? Is it because we don’t trust ourselves? Is is because we fear we will rest for so long we might never get up and work again? Are we afraid of what other people might think? Would it mean we are lazy? Are we lazy?

I had to admit she was right. I hadn’t done anything wrong. I had rested. Nobody had died, nobody was hurt by it. There would be food on the table and enough clothes for the next day. I had done what I needed to do.

I know I’m a bit nuts at the moment, but I don’t think I am alone in this. I know a lot of people who don’t feel comfortable about slowing down. People who will keep going until they melt down, rather than see rest as a valuable investment of time.

Resting when we are tired is a natural thing to do. No need for judge and jury to weigh in afterwards to label it ‘wasting time’.

In the busyness of contemporary life listening to our bodies can seem like an optional extra. It’s not.

And guess what. Today, the laundry is all done and dinner for tonight was ready this morning, in case I needed external proof that I’m back, mind, body and spirit.

And you’ll be happy to know, no tradies or neurotic dogs were harmed along the way.

Sometimes good parenting isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Alison will be back next week with part two of her ‘Rest. Why is doing nothing so hard?’ In the meantime, feel free to check out her blog, which is all about creativity. I love it!

We all know parenting is hard. Rewarding, yes. But definitely hard.

Today we said goodbye to our 21 year old, who, after just six months back with us after being in Canberra for four years, has now moved to Sydney on a one-way plane ticket.

He has always dreamed big, this boy of ours, and I suspect Sydney will be just one of many stops along the way to where he will eventually end up (I tried to get him to sign a contract stating that when the time came for grandbabies, he would move back to Brisbane, but he wouldn’t sign it, funnily enough!).

My husband and I have always encouraged our children to dream, and more than that, to chase their dreams down and catch them.

It’s risky, though. You pour your heart and soul into your children, give them your best years, cry over them, sacrifice for them, pick them up and dust them off, believe in them, help them believe in themselves.

And what do you get?

You get a confident, self-reliant, independent, strong, courageous person who up and leaves you!!

The tears I have shed since he found out four days ago that he got the job and started immediately, have been, I must confess, entirely selfish.

I know that he will be fine, that he will find his way, experience great adventures, learn heaps about himself and the world and grow in character and strength.

It’s not actually him I’m worried about. It’s me.

My poor mothers heart sometimes wishes we were more the type of parents to encourage our children to get nice, quiet, stable jobs and live two doors up from us. That way, maybe he would still be here, keen to come to each week for a Sunday roast and bring a load of washing over for me to do.

But, alack and alas, ’tis not the case and he has flown off into the wild blue yonder, without me.

I know that he is happy, that he is excited, that this is what he wants. But right now, right this minute….I’m sad he’s gone and I will miss him more than words can say. And knowing I have been a good parent means squat.

Now. Somebody pass me another box of tissues and another glass of wine, I’ve got a pity party to get to.