Moving Blog

Hi Everyone

I have moved my blog to http://shambolicliving.com/ my email subscribers have been transferred over and will continue to receive email notifications with each post.

However, if you were subscribed through your wordpress.com account I don’t believe I have been able to transfer you to the new blog (still trying to check if that’s the case).

If you head to the new site (and this site is going to be redirected there) you will be able to follow through email (or Facebook or Twitter).

Thanks for your patience as I wander unprepared into this new world!

Cheers

Janine

Who the Hell Am I?

My eldest daughter, the Hippie Child worries, she’s 15 and doesn’t know what she wants to do for a career. The pressure starts early now. My hollow reassurances that she will figure it eventually are of little comfort.

The process of discovering yourself, creating a life, establishing a career is a never-ending cycle of success, failure, regret, optimism, defeat, getting it right, royally stuffing it up – but probably not what she needs to hear right now.

I worry I’m pushing her into a creative, arty life, after all that’s what I like. She’s good at art, textiles, writing (although spelling remains an area of concern she’s certainly a child of the spell check generation).

Then I remember some 13 years ago standing in the Montessori pre-school while the teacher demonstrated the maths equipment and I had a light bulb moment “oh my god I would have understood maths if it was explained like this”. Later the teachers would be concerned because Hippie Child had no interest in learning letters and sounds and reading. Wrapped up in imagination she turned every lesson into an exercise of creative storytelling “this letter is P what starts with P?” “Princess starts with P, the princess lived in a beautiful castle on the top of the really big hill and the man on the horse came to rescue her …” it was a tedious process trying to get her to focus. If she wasn’t making up stories she could be found in the practical life corner, grating soap, peeling boiled eggs, pouring water between containers – it’s the first stage in the Montessori system and by your final year you really should have moved on. But Hippie Child liked to go back and help the little ones and most days could be found there. Eventually the teachers discovered she didn’t mind maths so that became her focus. By accident one day I discovered she could do basic sums in her head, she was confident and correct. Then she went to school and poor teaching, coupled with a pretty inflexible education system led to her deciding she “was no good at maths”, that label has stuck.

We were all surprised when in the first year of high school, she did well at Science, and really enjoyed the subject. The interest has waned a little in the past couple of years, it is clear that she responds to individual teachers, she likes it when they tell stories, fire up her imagination, she wants to know why things are, how they work, she’s kinesthetic and visual. Exams, and deadline driven assignments, pressurised homework  to a set criteria tend to dull her enthusiasm for subjects, yet left to her own devices to read and explore she will spend hours working stuff out.

What if? What if I had got her maths tutoring? What if I had been more proactive with her teachers? What if I had sat down with her and continued teaching her maths the Montessori way? What if her Science teachers had continued to inspire her? What if I had chosen a school that didn’t have such an emphasis on homework and exams? What if I taken the Tiger Mother approach and just refused to accept the “I’m no good at maths” and drilled, and practised until so help me god she was good at maths?

Perhaps she would end up a nuclear physicist? Or an accountant? Oh please not an accountant. See putting my own prejudices into the scenario.

Throughout life choices get made, your own and other people’s, shaping who you are and what you do.

At 44 the woman standing here has worn countless labels through the years,  daughter, sister, wife, mother, student, secretary, researcher, producer, executive PA,, coordinator, unit leader, partnership broker. How many were truly representative of who I am? Probably none, because your personality is a complex mix of circumstances, genetics, talents and foibles.

I know my picture of who I am is still a work in progress. However, it is clearer now than what it was as a starry-eyed teenager who believed everything was going to end up perfect. I know it’s much, much clearer than the murky years of the 30’s when a tired, overwhelmed mother didn’t know which way was up and had no idea how she was ever going to find herself again.

Along the way through adulthood you encounter things which make you tougher, you figure out there are lots of things you can handle, because you’ve dealt with worse in the past.

The elusive search for identity continues but you know yourself better. You know where you are strong, you know where you are weak.

The appearance of who you are can alter and recalibrate in different groups, different environments. But the core of who you has probably been assigned in those childhood years, your sense of right and wrong, your talents, your beliefs, have all been shaped during the years over which you have no control. Even the bad experiences can remodel into good when you take those lessons to the essence of who you are and make yourself stronger, more empathetic, kinder.

Right now who I am is predominantly a mother, an employee and a woman using her mid-life crisis to try to recapture a childhood dream of being a writer – hello blogging! But tomorrow that could all change.

You own free will allows you to reinvent yourself many times in a single lifetime, life would be very dull if we didn’t grow and change with new experiences.

How do you convey that to a 15-year-old? Obviously, you can’t. You have to let her go out and figure it all out for herself, with the hope she can find her passion early and get to nurture it for life, with the wish the rocky patches aren’t too bad and the happy days outnumber the sad.

 

Eden posed the the question “Who The Hell Are You” at her blog. Click the icon below to see how others took to the theme.

Weekly Photo Challenge – Today

The photo challenge this week was a photo of “today”, taken on the day you read the challenge. I had planned to do a few shots, you know a little photo essay on how I spent a rainy Sunday. In the end Princess Child and I snapped this on our way to the video shop and … well that was the sum total of our effort.

As the rain pelted down we watched videos and I cooked – the four-hour spaghetti bolognese cooked too fast (gotta remember to turn heat DOWN) and needed a bit more “tomato” in it but it went on to feed us for two nights during the week (first as spaghetti bol and then as a meat pie). I also made lamb tagine which was delicious, and according to Mr Shambles even better the next day for lunch. Both recipes were from Love & Hunger.

We watched the second Sherlock Holmes movie, but I got a bit distracted by the I-pad. Ever heard a favourite movie star interviewed and felt a little disappointed? I feel that way about Robert Downey Jnr, saw him on Graham Norton and, maybe he was having a bad night, but he wasn’t what I expected.

The fireplace grouting is almost finished, except we ran out with a mere few centimetres to go, sigh, so back to the shop to get some more.

And that was pretty much our lazy, rainy Sunday. Now we are looking forward to a long weekend (four days for me seeing as I don’t work Fridays). Yayy.

Letting Go

Obviously writing about being sleep deprived recently meant I had to go back – just to remind myself.

Hippie Child went with a friend to a concert in Newcastle this week (that’s almost a three-hour drive from home). I found myself wandering the house wondering if I should wait up, or go to bed. They weren’t expected home until about 2.00am. Mr Shambles didn’t even consider staying up – he was tucked up in bed snoring soundly by 10pm. Why wasn’t I born a man?

I wallowed in my procrastination until 11.30, went to bed but left my door open and the lights on so I could hear her when she got home.

Lying there I pictured the next few years, here I am worrying about her being on the highway, worried about being late home, just worried. Ridiculous. She was with the parents of her friend, my friends! God help me when I wave her off in a car full of “P” plate drivers to head to parties where there will be alcohol. I may have to take up meditation or Valium!

They got home at 1.00am, she had a brilliant time, she was freezing cold (why did she decide to wear a t-shirt in winter), when she hears I’ve put the new quilt on her bed and turned on the electric blanket I get a hug (not a frequent occurrence, you’ve got to earn your hugs from this kid).

I had no idea who the bands were she went to see, I’d never heard of them. The next night I watched the Diamond Jubilee concert from London. The first section (barring Robbie Williams) were young, hot performers I had  also never heard of, you know you are getting old when you are hanging out for Elton John’s set just so you’ll know the words to the songs!

Next year Hippie Child will need driving lessons. Driving lessons for a child that still can’t remember what buttons to press to get the dishwasher started! We came to the mutual decision some time ago that I will have no involvement in teaching her to drive. The decision was arrived at during a particularly unpleasant dodgem car experience, it seems I don’t like not having control of the steering wheel, I also don’t like hitting other vehicles (again a bit of a problem on the dodgems). I am investigating a second mortgage for professional lessons, if that fails Mr Shambles over to you!

In the early hours of a winter morning as my mind fast forwarded to the possible challenges of the next few years I began to feel a certain nostalgia for the teething and toilet training years. A future of letting go looms large. After all that’s what you are supposed to do – having wished for your own freedom for so long you suddenly realise they must achieve their own independence to secure yours.

(Hippie Child just asked what I was writing about I told her- oh god mum, you can’t be serious, it’s like the time when I was 11 and wanted to go the movies with my friend without parents – you were worried the cinema would burn down and you wouldn’t be there to rescue me – you are going to have to get over this!)

In the meantime I googled Lisa Mitchell and Georgia Fair and now I know the bands Hippie Child saw at the concert.

Here’s Lisa Mitchell.

And here’s Georgia Fair

The Lost Years

Travelling in the car today a radio announcer back announced the last track with “oh yes, Robert Palmer, the great man who is no longer with us”.

Mr Shambles and I looked at each other “Robert Palmer is dead?” “When did that happen?”

I googled him and yes indeed, Robert Palmer left us in 2003.

“Oh 2003” says Mr Shambles “that’s why we didn’t know, Princess Child was three, I reckon we lost at least 5 years after she was born”.

He’s right. Like a long-ranging alcoholic blackout we’ve misplaced a lot of the detail after the turn of the century.

You see the beautiful Princess Child arrived with the new millennium and she never slept, not during the day and most certainly not at night. It was a good two years before we got a full nights sleep and even then it wasn’t consistent (she liked to lull us into a false sense of security by sleeping through a couple of times, and then unleashing a screaming all nighter to jar us back to reality).

This is when I took up drinking Coke and coffee – it was either that or speed –  but I went with the slow-death alternative rather than the fast track. I needed the caffeine hits to sustain me through my sleep-deprived stupor  – there were two kids to look after!

I’m sure things were happening in the world but they made little impression when we were just trying to make through each day without dropping dead from exhaustion.

I know there was an Olympics – I remember falling asleep at a friend’s house watching the Opening Ceremony – I can’t even argue it was a late night ’cause of the time zone difference – the games were in Sydney!

There was the tragedy of 9/11 which I did manage to get wind of, and then watched in horror on an endless loop as it unfolded on my television screen, crying as I hugged the troublesome baby. Also, Lleyton Hewitt won the US Open that year because my first thought when I heard of the attack on New York was do we know where Lleyton is? I don’t know the bloke at all, but he was the only Aussie I knew was in America, turns out our Prime Minister was there at the same time but I didn’t immediately think of him.

And there it ends, my total knowledge of the events of the first decade of the 21st Century. No matter how hard I try I cannot recall another fact either newsworthy, of current affairs stock or occurring in pop culture I draw a blank.

What songs were playing on the radio? Buggered if I know, it was all “Hot Potato” in our house.

What TV shows were popular? Again showing on our screen was “The Lion King” over and over.

Politics? Don’t make me laugh, I’m dealing with tantrum throwing toddlers I don’t need to know about the adult version taking place in Canberra.

The News? Were they still doing news bulletins? Papers, did they get printed back then?

I’m sure movies were released, books written, new talent unearthed and great people lost but I saw none of it. In my domestic bubble I lost touch with the world and spent my days fantasising about spending a night in bed – snoring uninterrupted.

To anyone out there currently battling with a non-sleeping baby, I feel your pain! I see Mamamia has released a new E-Book The Gift of Sleep written by a “sleep whisperer” who has achieved incredible results with her sleep program – this is in no way a sponsored post (god knows I don’t have the stats for any of that) but just a woman who, thanks to Robert Palmer, has had a flashback to a time of her life she thought would kill her and wouldn’t want anyone else to have to go through it for as long as she did.

Now, just because I’m late to arriving at the mourning for Robert Palmer doesn’t mean I don’t care. So in his memory and as a tribute to the decade of style and substance (cough, cough) – the 80’s, here’s a little bit of nostalgia.

Photo A Day May – The Results

My first attempt at Photo A Day, I didn’t manage to keep up on Instagram but I did get a lot of the photos taken, too many to not use, so I’m afraid you are going to have sit through the photo album of my month … in all it’s distorted, poorly  lit, out-of-focus glory.

PEACE  is anywhere by the water in my books. The SKYLINE at dusk on a cool autumn day. The SOMETHING I WORE TODAY ended up being my Ugg boots because as the days get chillier I start every morning with feet encased in their woollen warmth, like a true bogan tragic. FUN is present every time you see a balloon, they immediately represent a party. I should have got a shot of the pesky magpie that keeps invading the house but I was too busy screeching and flailing my arms about in a vain attempt to get him out, instead for BIRD I capture the friendly lorikeets in the backyard tree. The agony of the self portrait for YOU this is the best I could do. I cheated a bit with SOMEONE THAT INSPIRES YOU and included both my daughters because they do inspire (and amaze) me every day. You can tell by the almost empty bottle this perfume is A SMELL I ADORE. Then drinking coffee makes an appearance for SOMETHING I DO EVERY DAY, homemade instant or store bought cappucino it’s become a daily habit.

MY FAVOURITE WORD this month is courage. I show you a picture of my KITCHEN – and yes much cleaning went on before the photo was taken. SOMETHING THAT MAKES ME HAPPY is the fact by the end of the month this slate was on the wall, the wood fire was in the house (not actually installed, but in the house) so we are one step closer to having some warmth! We spent Mother’s Day with MUM. This is the GRASS of the school oval where we got to watch our last athletics carnival for primary school. LOVE is being stupid together. Thanks to the Book Club on ABC Mid North Coast this is WHAT I’M READING. I was going to photograph a piece of fruit for a SNACK but people I know in real life read the blog and they would have left comments. SOMETHING I MADE is the world’s greatest chicken pie.

A FAVOURITE PLACE is Town Green, love being on the river in a green space ringed by pubs and restaurants to eat at, or there is always a fish and chips picnic. My magazines are THE SOMETHING I CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT, well ok I could, but I don’t want to! WHERE YOU STAND is the as yet unfinished floorboards of Shambles Manor wearing my quick, drying trousers. On the PINK day I celebrated with my favourite flowers, the tulip.  In TECHNOLOGY I pay homage to my I-pad which means I can now watch television and surf the net simultaneously. The 12 O’CLOCK turned out to be one of the many late nights in a deadline driven week.  My food memories inspired by Love & Hunger  I  remembered Pat the Tea Lady delivering me a coffee and a slice of madeira cake every day (see I’m so old I worked in offices that had tea ladies) I brought one at Coles, but the family attacked it while I wasn’t looking and all I managed to scrounge was a small end piece but it makes the grade for SOMETHING SWEET. After some beautifully warm days the rain returned and overcast and raining fitted THE WEATHER TODAY. Finally for A NUMBER I give you 21 my lucky number for no other reason than I like it.

What did I miss? SOMETHING NEW (can’t remember the last time I bought something new for myself), UNUSUAL, YOUR PERSONALITY AND SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL.

What did I learn? Photos take a lot more time than bunging a few words together. Phew. Done. Heading for a drink.

Reading This Week – Love & Hunger – Thoughts on the Gift Of Food – Charlotte Wood

Every month I take part in the Book Club on ABC Mid North Coast, which means I have books selected for me to read. It’s like a literary lottery, you never know what you are going to get. You often find yourself reading books you wouldn’t normally choose for yourself.

This month we discussed Love and Hunger by Charlotte Wood. Given I’m not much of a foodie it probably isn’t one I would have ventured into without encouragement.

At first I was a little confused by the work, it combines essays on food,  recipes and tips for cooking. (Did you know you could freeze nuts? This could change my life, do you know how many packets of expensive nuts I have thrown out having only used a quarter of the packet?) I wasn’t sure whether I was reading a memoir or a cookbook. Flicking to the back jacket I read that along with being a celebrated author of fiction, (Animal People, The Children, The Submerged Cathedral) Charlotte is also a blogger, writing about her passion for food at How To Shuck An Oyster and I realised the book was reading to me like a blog. I don’t mean that in a disparaging way, it was just moving between topics (all food related) in the way a blog morphs and merges with consistent themes appearing and disappearing. I began to enjoy the book more when I stopped trying to classify it in a traditional format and imagined it as a blog on the page.

The essays which resonated with me the most were Charlotte’s recollections of growing up in the 70’s and 80’s – devils on horseback anyone? The linking of food to the ebb and flow of life was also an emotive theme. A chapter on supplying meals to friends undergoing chemotherapy and the food at wakes reminded me of how food was once a means for showing care and love to friends and neighbours. Charlotte writes movingly of Jim, the bloke next door, who prepared a Christmas lunch with all the trimmings for her family while they were visiting her ill Father in hospital. Or the chest freezer delivered to their home full of casseroles, soups, pies and desserts all of which were restocked each week by the country town community during her Dad’s final illness.

I wondered if we still use food in this way? Funerals of my childhood were held at people’s homes, everyone came bearing a plate of food. Recent departures have usually been followed by a gathering at a club or function room, catering provided. In our busy lives have we lost the ability to give practical support to those around us with home-made food?

The link of food determining a particular time and place in our memory is one which this book had me thinking about. Particular food is forever linked in my mind with certain jobs and places – the cheesy ham pasta made by the little Italian lady at the food court under the AMP Centre where I was studying for my “Advanced Secretarial Diploma” – the country kid in the big city devouring this
Grandma’s comfort food, my introduction to Yum Cha in Sussex Street all grown up in my first radio job but “don’t give me any of the yucky stuff”, the paella from a café at Blues Point Road, the chicken pie from yet another café, this time in Port Macquarie (perhaps another comfort food for a woman returning to the work force after a ten-year hiatus).

Charlotte’s  essays are though provoking –  a distaste for offal signifying a fear of death – our inability to recognise hunger for we never allow our bodies to experience it juxtaposes with people dying on the other side of the world from lack of food.

A love of food is evident in every word of Love & Hunger and Charlotte encourages the reader to simplify and enjoy the art of cooking and the pleasure of sharing it with friends. Suzie, one of my fellow book clubbers, described the book as “warm and engaging”. Emma, the younger of the book clubbers spoke of how her Mum’s cooking has improved recently – as someone smack, bang in the middle of the endless “what’s for dinner” cycle I can imagine when children  are grown it might be easier to take the time to savour the experience of creating a meal. In the meantime, perhaps I can take some lessons from Charlotte’s philosophy and try to occasionally make a little more effort at the evening table – there’s a four-hour spaghetti bolognese that has me intrigued – I might give that a go on Sunday.

Kookaburra Sits In The Old Gum Tree

Birds are causing a problem in my life at the moment. A baby magpie has discovered how to fly into our house. He’s making it a daily activity swooping through the open sliding doors, pooing on the clean washing and departing. Trying to remember to close the doors, but need one open for the dog. Magpie even worked out there was access via this second door and starting flying across an inner deck to make his grand entrance.

It’s like living in a Hitchcock thriller as we all screech and duck  while maggie swoops and weaves through the house.

Luckily the kookaburras haven’t yet learnt the trick.

Kookaburra photo by David Fitzpatrick

A bit peckish? Photo by David Fitzpatrick