Three wishes: what would they be?

If you had three wishes, what would they be? Would they have been different when you were younger? Do you think they will change as you get older? How about when you were around 11 years old? What would they have been?

My 11 year old’s teacher asked this question of them recently at school. It then went around the class with each student responding with what their three wishes would be.

When she was telling me about it, I really did not expect what she said next. “Apart from me and two others, everyone said they wanted an unlimited amount of money.” One child even followed this up by saying it was what he wanted because then he would be happy.

I was staggered. And deeply saddened. What on earth are we, as parents, teaching our children?

This school has a fairly high percentage of white collar parents, so it’s not a case of underprivileged children wanting money because of a real need. And even having said that, I wonder what the answer to that question would be from a different socio-economic demographic – quite possibly it would be these kids who would demonstrate a better understanding of what brings satisfaction and happiness in life.

When I was 11, I think my answer would have been something along the lines of 1) a new Barbie doll 2) another pet 3) that my brother would disappear, or at the very least leave me alone!

Yet, the majority of these children said money was on the top of their list and that if they had money, they had no need of the other two wishes. What a terrible insight into this future generation.

Do these children have this view on money because their parents emphasise the need for more and more money? Or is it the media, constantly telling us that we need the latest of everything? Or is it social media, which gives a first hand insight into other’s lives and ‘all they have’ compared to us? It’s most likely a combination of all three but I would be willing to bet that how their parents view money would weigh as the most influential.

Kids pick up on everything we do, say and show – even when we don’t realise it and especially when we don’t want them to!

Do you constantly say you don’t have enough money? Do you show how much you value money by working extra hours on the job and spending less time at home? Do you have to have what your friends have and throw a two year old tantrum if you don’t get it?

As parents or care-givers, we need to be checking ourselves. We are still the loudest voice in their world and it very much matters what we say.

Have you ever heard of someone on their deathbed saying they wish they’d made more money? What they do say is they wish they’d spent more time with family; valued the friendships they’d had; and enjoyed life.

Let’s not wait until it’s too late to realise what our ‘wishes’ should be and let’s help our children recognise the right things to value, now rather than later or not at all.

But everyone else is doing it!


Speeding ticket

Just recently, I received a lovely yellow ticket from a man in blue on the side of the road. It’s my second speeding ticket in the 25 years I’ve had my licence, which is not bad in the grand scheme of things. I’ll leave it to you to decide if I’m a great driver or just very lucky 😉

As I sat there after handing him my licence, I felt the car rock with each car that went past. Judging by the amount the car moved, I think I could safely say that not many others knew or chose to abide by the fact that it was, indeed, a 60km/h zone. I would not be the only one to go home with a yellow piece of paper that day, I suspect!

On the way home, I thought about how many cars seemed to be speeding past me and I started to get angry. Why weren’t all of them getting a ticket? Out of all the cars going over the speed limit on that road that day, only a small percentage would pay for it. And the fact that I was one of them didn’t sit well.

I started to feel that it was so unfair that I now had a fine and loss of demerit points, while others were going to get away with it. And as I drove, I noticed every slightest traffic infringement – evidence that it wasn’t just me who did the wrong thing, so why could they get away with it while I got caught!?

We have a tendency to do this throughout life, don’t we? We base our behaviour more on those around us than on the actual standards for living. We might treat our spouse horribly but justify it by saying, well, at least I’m not having an affair or beating them. We are impatient and yell at our kids but tell ourselves that at least we’re providing food and clothing for them. We clock off work early but fill out our time sheet to reflect otherwise and defend it by comparing ourselves to the workmate who steals company stationary.

We can’t rationalise or excuse our behaviour by comparing it to the lowest denominator. How many of us have said to a teenager “Just because everyone is doing it, doesn’t mean it’s right.”? Yet, so often, we think things are okay for the very reason that ‘everyone is doing it’.

The fact of the matter is that I received a speeding ticket because I was speeding. End of story. The fact that people speed every day and don’t get caught has nothing to do with it.

We must decide for ourselves what our behaviour and actions will be and live accordingly, rather than looking at what everyone else is doing and lowering our standards to be the same or even just slightly better.

Our behaviour is our responsibility, no-one else’s; just as we can’t control other people’s behaviour, only they can. I think we need to mind our own business a bit more, in the right way. If we concentrate on what we know to be right and good, it’s much easier to maintain the level of living that we desire, instead of being swayed by what we see others doing.

The problem with noise

I’ve been thinking a lot about noise lately. Noise has the ability to calm by way of relaxing music or a soothing voice; it can startle eg a loud unexpected bang; it can irritate like a barking dog or dripping tap. Our relationship with noise is dependent on our mood usually. I have memories of my mother saying, usually towards the end of the long Christmas school holidays, that she just needed some ‘quiet’, and now I find myself saying a similar thing!

It was interesting to note that the dictionary definition of noise included this: Informal. extraneous, irrelevant, or meaningless facts, information, statistics, etc. There is so much more of this type of noise these days, isn’t there?

I find increasingly that when I feel I need some quiet, I’m hankering to escape the ‘noise’ of the world; to take myself off where there is no internet connection and no traffic or people.
We are bombarded with noise now. Our inboxes are filled with ‘noise’ – extraneous, irrelevant, meaningless facts and information. Our social media sites, as well as giving us updates on our friends, also deals out an unhealthy amount of noise.

And, for me, anyway, that noise can be so loud that it drowns out the noise we do want to hear. We get so used to the white noise filling our heads that we miss out on other important sounds.

We miss the sound of a friend, desperate for connection because we end up skimming our facebook newsfeed due to all the other noise. We miss the sound of our children, begging us to play, to notice them, to really see them, in the midst of our phones pinging and beeping with emails and text messages.

And we miss the sound of our own souls screaming for attention in a world noisy with spiritual options, self-help mantras and conflicting dogma. We are so overcome with noise that we miss the most important sounds of all.

It’s a challenge to listen when so much noise surrounds us. It’s hard to decipher the sounds we should listen to and the sounds we should ignore. But, it is possible. It just may take some decision making, followed up with some discipline. At the beginning of the year, I ‘unsubscribed’ from many newsletters, blogs and websites. There was nothing wrong, per se, with those things, it was simply too much noise.

And you know what, I haven’t missed them! Not one bit. In fact, it’s been quite the opposite. I can feel myself mentally exhaling in relief that my inbox is now uncluttered and ‘less’ than it used to be. And that’s just a start. I’ve been paring down in other ways too – picking my phone up less, turning the TV on less, checking facebook less. As a result, I’m thinking more, connecting more, reading more – enjoying more! That old maxim really is true – less is more.
Is there too much noise in your life? What sounds are you missing out on because of it? Maybe it’s time to start tuning in to what really matters and tuning out the rest.

Do you need adjusting?

After my unintended hiatus from posting, I’m back, ready to start the year. Yes, I know it’s March but close enough is good enough, right? 😉

 

This year, our family routine has had to change significantly. With only one child now at school and the other doing a gap year and not having her ‘P’s’ yet, we find ourselves with only a semblance of routine from one week to the next.

It’s funny how much we rely (well, I do, anyway!) on the rhythm of life. Whether it’s a fast rhythm or a slower one, it brings a sense of order to our days and usually means we are more productive and have a clearer head space.

Yet, the fact remains that nothing stays the same, and we must, indeed, accommodate and adapt to the changes that life brings us; we need to make adjustments.

The word ‘adjustment’ is quite interesting, definition wise. The fourth and fifth definitions are as follows:

adjustment: 4. the act of bringing something into conformity with external requirements: the adjustment of one’s view of reality. 5. harmony achieved by modification or change of a position: They worked out an adjustment of their conflicting ideas.

The act of bringing something into conformity with external requirements. Sounds negative doesn’t it? For most of us, conformity is a dirty word and we will avoid ‘conforming’ at all costs. In fact, look on any social media at the moment and you’ll find nearly every ‘self-help’ message is generally about encouraging people not to conform. And absolutely, there are times we shouldn’t conform. The world would be a bland and boring place if we all conformed about everything.  So, here, making an adjustment is something we might well buck against.

But I love the fifth definition – harmony achieved by modification or change of position. By making a few adjustments in our lives, sometimes, harmony is the end result. Just tweaking things slightly can make a huge difference and bring cohesiveness to situations.

We all need to make adjustments, don’t we? Our youngest is having to make some big adjustments as she steps into high school; our elder daughter needs to adjust to life outside the school routine; and we need to adjust our lifestyles and habits to make room for the changes in our girls’ lives.

It’s important to be able to make adjustments. And it’s important to teach our children how to adjust too. Life will never be smooth or simple or easy, no matter how much we want, or strive for, it to. Not teaching them to adjust, to bend with the ebb and flow of life is to do them a great injustice. If we are always trying to make ‘the world’ fit around them, instead of encouraging them to be adaptable, we are setting them up for hardships and failure once they are out from under our care. Many researchers cite that the ability to be adaptable is essential to success – and not just in a material sense, but in a human sense. We need to be able to make adjustments and be adaptable in order to not just survive but to thrive.

What adjustments do you need to make in your life that could bring harmony into your world?

Tick tock, tick tock…time keeps on tickin’!

TimeOne of my favourite quotes at the moment is by Seth Godin:

You don’t need more time; you just need to decide.

Most of us have a reasonable understanding that our time is precious, yet more than ever, we live in an age filled to the brim with ‘time-wasters’.

I’ve been challenged recently to think more about how I spend this precious commodity of time, and Seth Godin’s quote keeps reminding me that, outside of major life crisis, how I spend my time is my decision.

I’ve started to view everything I do through the lens of ‘Is this activity in keeping with my values?’. And that’s not as strict and rigid as it sounds.

If I value relationships, then any activity or contact with people is significant and in keeping with my values. This means that a day spent with my daughter shopping and having cups of tea is not wasted even though I don’t much value shopping and consumerism. What I do value is maintaining a good relationship with my daughter, and a good cup of tea, of course!

You see, you can easily find what your values are by having a close look at how you spend your time and whether the actual priority and the perceived priority are the same. Sometimes we think our priorities are one thing but if we examine how we are spending our time, it reveals something quite different.

By keeping the question of whether or not an activity serves our values in the forefront of our minds, we can begin to make better decisions. And it stops us from wasting time because really, there is enough time to do all we need to do, we just need to be better managers of it.

I’m finding I have greater satisfaction at the end of the day if I simply remember to do this. I can go to sleep each night knowing I’ve made choices that reinforce my values, which for me, are usually all about relationships – upwards, outwards and inwards.

We all want our life to have meaning. What we often don’t realise is that we are the keepers of whether it does or not. We are free to choose, each and every day, whether we advance our values or hinder them. We get to choose what our life looks like, regardless of our circumstances.

We are constantly making choices, whether we are conscious of it or not. If we start being aware of our choices and what it says about our values, we can begin to align the two and live a life of meaning and richness.

The art of mothering

This is my ‘editorial’ from our publications that was in all our May editions for Mother’s Day. I’ve changed it slightly as it’s not just relevant on Mother’s Day. I’ve had a request for it online for the purposes of sharing. I’m more than happy to oblige, of course. Here it is 🙂

Sadly, for many the relationship with their mother is not an easy or pleasant one. I’ve been fortunate to have had a steady, loving, supportive relationship with mine, and because of this, my heart breaks for those who don’t.

I was chatting about mothers with some friends the other day, and out of the conversation came a recognition for the need for mothering types of relationships, for all of us but more so if our relationship with our mother is not the best.

In the street I spent my teenage years, I had a few mothers. They were women who offered a different perspective than my own mother, and who were a little removed emotionally from me. Because they weren’t as emotionally invested in me as my own mother, they could perhaps see things from another angle and give unique insight. I will always be thankful for those who took an interest in me as a growing young woman and for the time they spent listening to me and my teenage angst, most of which was unwarranted, mind you!

During the conversation with my friends, I said the words “we need to embrace universal motherhood”. We all chuckled at the slightly ‘hippy’ turn of phrase but it’s true, we need to be ‘mothering’ one another.

Let’s get a definition of what it means to ‘mother’ someone. According to my trusty dictionary it means to look after, care for, take care of, nurse, protect, tend, raise, rear, pamper, coddle, cosset, fuss over. 

So, really, mothering shouldn’t just be left to mothers, or even women. Mothering should be what we all do for everyone. As adults, we don’t need ‘mothering’ all the time but there are times we need to be looked after, taken care of, or fussed over. In our friendships, we need to be looking for opportunities to show care and nurture our friends.

Mothering others means we give them attention, we listen, we take note of when they need some extra care and pampering. It was interesting to note that the antonym for ‘mothering’ is neglect. And when you think about it, when we neglect something, we give it no attention at all, no care or interest.

Why not take some time to appreciate those ‘mothers’ who fill the need in your life for that little bit of TLC? And while you’re appreciating them, take a look around for those people in your life who might need some mothering themselves, after all, we do need to ‘embrace universal motherhood’!

Feeling ‘bah humbug’ this Christmas?

You probably know by now that I love Christmas. I love the rush, the entertaining, the present wrapping, the buzz in the air. I love it all.

My husband, though, being not so keen on the rush and busyness of the season, was lamenting it’s excess and the fact that most of the time, the reason for the season is not even mentioned.

It’s true, isn’t it? Christmas in the western world is a time of excess. We spend too much, eat too much, drink too much, and the whole point of Christmas gets lost along the way, if it’s even remembered at all. It can be hard to see how any of what we currently do at Christmas time has any relationship to what happened in that stable over 2000 years ago.

So, how do we get around that if we want to remember the real reason we celebrate it but not boycott the whole event?

I’m not sure what the answer is for each individual but here’s how I look at it.

When we rush around looking for that perfect gift for a loved one, we are honouring the gift humanity was given on the first Christmas.

When we worry if there is enough food or that the meat is overcooked, we are demonstrating we care about the people we are feeding and want to give them the best there is.

When we make up another bed on the lounge room floor, we are opening our home and showing love to others – something that the person who was born at Christmas talked a bit about.

When we don’t sit down all day because we are on our feet ensuring everyone has enough drinks and food, we are serving others – another thing that the same person talked a bit about.

When we go on a mad cleaning frenzy in preparation for our guests, we are really saying that their comfort and giving them pleasant surroundings is important to us.

We can find the real meaning of Christmas in everything we do if we look at it a different way. It’s all honouring the greatest gift giver of all.

For those who feel bothered by the over-commercialism, the tinsel, the secular emphasis on a fat man in a red suit, try shifting your focus and instead of grumbling and lamenting the lack of acknowledgement of the real reason for the season, embrace the festivities.

What better way to say thank you for the ultimate gift we were given than loving, serving, laughing and thoroughly enjoying ourselves?

The Sunshine Award

I’m not usually into the round of blogging awards that do the circuits but this one piqued my interest because the nominator gets to ask their own questions (I like asking questions!) and also that the questions Ambition in the City asked were a little more thought provoking than the usual ‘what’s your favourite colour’ type that are typical of this blogging game.

So. These are the questions and my answers 🙂

1. What goals have you accomplished so far this year? One goal was to go overseas to see the work of Destiny Rescue – tick!

2. What do you think is your best quality? I left this one til last…and I still am having trouble answering! Okay, maybe my love of fun. I know how to liven up a party, and start a conversation. I love finding out unusual things about people so tend to ask questions that are a bit different, which spark some fantastic conversations. People fascinate me!

3. What was the last compliment you received and what was the last one you paid to someone? The last compliment I received was from my husband telling me I am beautiful before my eyes were even open this morning 🙂 And the last one I gave was to my husband telling him he looked hot before we went out today 🙂

4. What are you looking forward to during the rest of 2013? I’m looking forward to getting the word count up on my novel. And Christmas. I love Christmas!

5. Do you have a favorite, Kind of “lift-me-up-quote”? I love so many of Teddy Roosevelt’s quotes but this is one of the ones I think of most often.

Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.

6. What inspired you to start blogging? I started blogging because there were friends who wanted to read my monthly column but lived outside our publications distribution areas. That, and the fact that I wanted ‘writing’ practice!

7. What is creativity for you? Creativity is anything that expresses me. It could be baking a cake, painting, drawing or writing. I used to dance. Dance is a wonderful expression of creativity and who we are. My main creativity right now is writing.

8. What about yourself do you want to improve? Oh my stars. So many, many things! Probably top of the list is time management and discipline. I get distracted by other things far too often and need to learn to stay on track with my goals. There’s heaps of others but that’s the big one I’m working on right now.

9. What’s the one thing you can’t live without? Well, my fabulous family and friends of course 🙂 But materially, I would have to say music and books. I simply cannot do life without a good book by my side.

10. What’s your favorite way to relax? Relaxing for me is having friends or family at our house, putting on some good food and chatting over a lovely glass or two of wine. 

And now to nominate some wonderful bloggers and give them their questions:

Marta Pelrine Bacon

Vaughn Roycroft

Normandie Fischer

Blessed are the pure of heart

Inspired 2 Ignite

S Kim Henson

You’re supposed to nominate ten but, you know me, I’m not a stickler for rules 😉

And their questions are:

1. Best decision you ever made.

2. Worst decision you ever made.

3. Your greatest weakness.

4. Your greatest strength.

5. Most influential person you’ve had in your life.

6. Most influential person you’ve never met.

7. Your greatest passion (and you can’t say your spouse – that’s given!)

8. Best purchase you ever made.

9. Worst purchase you ever made.

10. What does success look like to you?

Lemons = lemonade, right?

Lemons

We’ve all heard the saying “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade”. It’s a saying I have always liked, being the optimist that I am, as it implies the need to make the best of something and turn something sour in our lives into something sweet.

I don’t know how many of you have made lemonade but it’s a family favourite in our house on those 40+ something summer days when plain water just doesn’t quench your thirst.

If you have made lemonade at home, you’ll know that you need more than just lemons. You also need water and sugar, and maybe a little mint if you have it growing in the garden.

Have you ever not got the ratio of water, lemon and sugar quite right? Too much lemon and it’ll make your teeth curl, as my dad used to say. Too much sugar and it’s undrinkable, too much water and all we have is a watery tasteless liquid.

I know I have made far too much lemonade on occasion by having to add just a bit more of this and that until, before I know it, I’ve made enough for three jugs instead of one.

The saying “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade” is incomplete, really, isn’t it? You can’t just make lemonade with lemons, you need the other ingredients in the right proportions or else that lemonade is not going to taste pleasant at all.

Just like in life, we need the right ratio of other ingredients in order to make lemonade from the lemons life hands us all at various times.

Just like with lemonade, sweetness needs to be added, so too in life when a crisis or ‘lemon’ hits our life. We need the sweet things like a surprise visit from a friend, picking flowers from our garden to bring inside, watching a favourite movie with a friend, taking that day trip to a town you’ve always wanted to see. We don’t need much sugar to sweeten the whole batch of lemonade.

We need that sweetness to balance the bitter taste of disappointment, loss and pain that life seems to hand out on an alarmingly regular basis. Without sweeteners, life is indeed just a bowl of lemons sitting on the bench. We need to intentionally add the sweetness.

And we can’t make lemonade without water, the mainstay of life and a necessity to our very existence. We need mainstays. Whether it be family and friends, faith, job satisfaction, life purpose. We all need the basics in life, just like our physical bodies need water.

So when life hands us lemons, we can indeed make lemonade but we also need the water and sugar and enough of each to make the living palatable.

Maybe you can provide some of the sugar and water to someone’s life when they are handed lemons. Or maybe you can allow others to do the same for you when life takes a sour turn.

After all, what fun is drinking lemonade all by yourself?

Beauty at first glance

We found this growing in our garden earlier in the year and had no idea what it was. With a little research I have discovered it is a Clathrus pusillus, or Red Cage Fungus as it’s often called.

Isn’t it beautiful? The colours were so vivid and it seemed so delicate. I was sad to realise that at the end of the day, it had shrivelled and disintegrated into a pulpy mess, covered in ants and flies.

Now that I have finally got around to finding out what it was, I know that what it did was exactly what it should have done.

This particular fungus gives off a dead, rotting meat smell (I didn’t notice an odour but then, I didn’t exactly go sticking my nose in it either) which attracts flies and ants, which then feed on it and do their part to deliver the spores to other parts of the garden.

Apparently they are also potentially poisonous if ingested and some animals have died as a result of eating them.

But I can’t get past how beautiful it was. Popping up in the midst of all the brown leaves and dirt sat this amazing, vibrant creature. As beautiful for it’s strangeness as anything else.

It was a reminder that ‘all that glitters is not gold”.

How easy it still is, at the age of 40, to be fooled by someone’s or something’s outward appearance.

To be taken in by beauty only to discover too late the foul stench of decay.