Friday, December 20, 2013

Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you've got til it's gone?

I am no longer gainfully employed. Today is my first day on the other side. I'm now in the wilderness of unemployment land and, to be honest, am struggling with the reality of it. It was my choice to go and I went with my eyes wide open, planning some time as a free agent. But goddamit I feel like I've lost something now, and it feels a little like grief.

We're always told to find work you love, then it won't seem like work at all. My work was pretty bloody close. Many years ago I had a career wheeling and dealing in the stockmarkets of Sydney and London. I always felt empty from it - what were we making? What were we contributing? Nothing real, nothing but changes to the value of pieces of paper. So when that came to an end, I felt relief. I felt I'd been given a chance for another pick of the board. And I picked a career that made my heart sing. I picked conservation, the beauty of nature and the vast open plains.  I now realise that I've been exceptionally lucky to make a living out of something that burns deep within my soul. So WTF? What am I doing? Why am I now in unemployment wilderness?

When the chance to take a break was offered, I figured it was too good to pass up. I figured I'd take this time to reassess my choices. I'd taken redundancies before and it had always worked out for me - always been what I needed to shake things up. This time it feels different. Admittedly I'm only one day in, but already I'm thinking that I was on a good path, that the work I've been doing is important and the people I've worked with feel like my kin. But better than kin, more aligned.

So, I am taking a break, and I am spending time with my lively boys who have been clambering for some attention. But I reckon, instead of turning and changing, this time maybe (if I'm blessed) I'll just pick back up and go in the same direction. And that's a reassuring notion.  I've already found my path, I've already met my tribe.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Ahh the serenity

Our little family has taken what feels like a refreshing dive into the 1970s: we've just purchased an on-site caravan. And I couldn't be more excited. It might not seem very exotic, it's certainly not a bure in Fiji, nor a converted church in Tuscany. But exotic schmotic; to me, this little alumnium box by the beach, only a couple of hours' drive away, is exactly what our family needs. It'll be there waiting for us, ready for us to get sand in between our toes whenever we need it.

The thing that got me going on this caravan idea is "The Top Five Regrets of the Dying' by Bronnie Ware. Regrets like "I wish I hadn't worked so hard" and "I wish I'd spent more time with my family" have been ringing loud in my ear.

Like many people with jobs and kids, we work a lot (both paid work and unpaid home work). When we're not doing, we think about what needs to be done. We look at our iphones when we're hanging on the lounge with the kids, we check emails while cooking dinner, then we distractedly get cross at our misbehaving kids who are just desperate for some attention. I reckon that whilst surviving life we've forgetten to actually live. We've forgotten what we're doing it all for.

Right now, right here, today, our kids still like hanging out with us. They clamber for us to play with them. So we're putting the brakes on. Life's too short, it's time to enjoy the now. It's time to lap it up - play totem tennis, beach cricket and board games, make sand castles and cook sausages in the fresh air. And it's time to do it as often as we can.

Better get some aeroguard. Can you hear the serenity?

Now I just need to slow my mind down. My next post will be titled 'inertia and the holiday planner'. xx

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Who's Herman?

My lovely friend handed me a container filled with sourdough cake mix. "It's Herman", she said, "haven't you heard of Herman?". I hadn't, should I have?

Turns out Herman is a friendship cake, a bit like the old fashioned chain letters we shared in 1970s. But Herman is not just passed on, he is fed and grown. Some people talk to Herman and fill him with love and stories. After a few days, Herman is split into four. One portion becomes a delicious sourdough cake to enjoy. Three other portions are then passed on to friends, thus spreading the love and giving Herman a new lease on life to begin the cycle again.

Herman has been bubbling away in my kitchen, growing bigger every day. I'm nearly ready to split him up and cook my portion. Recipes abound but I think I'll go with apple and cinamon.

Apparently Herman has done the rounds of the Blue Mountains and some parts of the western Sydney area, but hadn't made it to the Illawarra (at least not into my circle).

So here he is, I'll soon be sharing mine and I'd love to hear from anyone out there who ends up with a portion of Herman.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Holding hands: is the front hand leading? protecting?

I've often noticed that I hold my kids' hands with my hand at the front and theirs at the back, like I'm leading them around; but I hold my husband's hand the other way around - like he's leading me. What's that about? I hardly think he's the boss - we never negotiated that! The particularly curious thing is that, when I brought it up we tried holding hands the other way around it just felt wrong.

We never had to work out the hand-holding rule at the beginning of our relationship. And, I've checked out lots of other hand-holding dynamics and it's pretty much always guy in front and parent in front. So it must be a guy-girl thing? A protection thing? Maybe it's one of the last remaining acts of chivalry.

Anyway, that's all from me. Just noticed it, thought it was worth, you know, saying. Check out any celeb mags, people in the street and you'll probably notice it too - maybe you already have.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

A box crocodile beats laundry because I listened to Galadriel and not Woody Allen

I've been feeling my life is a little over-stuffed lately and the seams have been starting to split. Pretty much every mum I know is over-burdened. So, is this just a malaise of the times? Should we just keep going, gritting our teeth and bearing it? I don't like that idea. I want to say stop, I want to step into this crazy cycle and slow things down, rip out some of the overstuffing and set it free.

So, yesterday, instead of doing laundry and other boring busy never-ending chores, Rory and I made a crocodile out of boxes. And I feel like shouting about it from the hilltops, because making a box crocodile was exactly what I needed to do. It was the perfect antidote to busy busy life and I thoroughly recommend it. Just as I was wondering how to deal with such a request, the universe conspired and my wonderful friend and neighbour offered us boxes and foam bits that proved to be perfect. We tied a string to the jaws so they even snap! Proud I am, and I don't mind saying it.

The plan (in Rory's mind) is to take box crocodile to Africa sneak up on real crocodiles. Oh to be 5 again.

The reason this box crocodile is quite a significant thing to me is because, like many, I tend to listen to my neurotic worrier voice (which sounds like Woody Allen). This voice tells me that you only have good things in your life if you stretch yourself to do more and do better.

But, thankfully, yesterday my calming inner voice (which to me sounds like Cate Blanchett as Galadriel) made herself heard. She told me that maybe I'm so busy doing it all that I don't even notice the 'good things'. They're here all along, jumping up and down asking to be noticed.

Wouldn't it be great if Galadriel could get a little more emphatic and give Woody Allen the old heave ho? But alas, Galadriel is a lover, not a fighter. She waits for a break in the noise and is often drowned out 

So it's up to me to step into my own noisy head and listen to the calm. To create space. To choose box crocodiles over laundry. And now I know the value of a box crocodile. As I type, the kids are occupied - putting 'baby crocs' in the mother croc's jaws so she can carry them around - 'just like in the wild' (with zoologists as parents, that's what you get). And now I have time to write. Ahh, Galadriel, how right you are.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The glory of a teapot

I hereby publicly confess to a special affection for teapots. I love that they are all different - in size, shape, colour and pattern. And tea cosies! Oh my, hand-knitted jumpers to keep the tea warm - my vote for best ever invention.

And while teapots (and especially be-cosied teapots) get me all jollied up, there's more to it than just the love one feels for a pretty cool thing. My cockles are especially warmed by what teapots represent. A teapot means taking a break. And tea made in a pot is usually too much for one person. So a teapot is for sitting down, stopping being busy, sharing a cup of delicious aromatic tea, and having a chat. What better thing is there in life than a chat over a teapot?

For me the quiet-time-space begins with a tea-making ritual. Mine goes like this: boil the kettle. Warm the teapot with the boiling water, discard. Add tea leaves. Pour over just-boiling water and steep the tea for three minutes. I'm a milk-in-the-cup-first girl. June Dally-Watkins may have tought me a few things useful in life (and some less useful - another story), but surprisingly didn't touch on whether milk should go in first. I'm fairly sure the Queen would be a milk-in-the-cup-last-girl.

I find tea is especially special if enjoyed from dainty little flowery teacups and saucers. So indulgent, so calming, so CWA.

And I would confidently argue that the taste of pot tea - i.e. leaf tea - is a world away from the taste of tea bag tea and completely worth the little extra effort. I admit to being a little bit of a tea snob, but I wouldn't go so far as to refuse to drink tea bag tea.

One thing I would like to say about tea is that I find it almost undrinkable if made from overboiled urn water - the kind you find in an office where the water boils over and over again, all day long. If you're interested, the scientific explanation of this is that the urn boils all the oxygen out of the water, and tea needs oxygen to infuse.

And this week, so enamoured am I with teapots and their zen-inducing calm space, I have created the hanging garden of teapot on my back deck. Second-hand or chipped teapots have been given a new lease on life, growing lovely herbs and hanging plants. The handles make for easy hanging and the spout allows perfect drainage.

Bring me your broken teapots, your old and unloved or forgotten teapots. I will rejeuvenate them, love them, celebrate them. The glory of a teapot knows no ends. Praise be to the teapot.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The unexpected

I love this little poem / prayer from my ole mate Michael Leunig:

God give us rain when we expect sun.
Give us music when we expect trouble.
Give us tears when we expect breakfast.
Give us dreams when we expect a storm.
Give us a stray dog when we expect congratulations.
God play with us, turn us sideways and around.
Now don't get me wrong, I like sun more than rain (who doesn't?). But sometimes we don't realise how much we need rain; or we just need something different, something we weren't expecting. To me this poem is all about shaking things up a little (or a lot) every now and then. Not always, of course - too much shaking is bound to lead to sea-sickness. But a little bounce around the sink of life can surely be fun. We can plan our lives, set out with expectations about how the day will be, the week, month or year. But it's how we deal with the things we don't plan that really gives us that zing that we're alive.

So whether the surprise is something joyful, or just something you weren't predicting or planning, I say at the very least, just notice it. That's often enough. Or just maybe you might enjoy it.