Tag Archive | Life Experience

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.

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Working Life

Quick drying trousers an essential wardrobe item for the organisationally challenged working mother.

As usual my disorganised approach to life has come back to bite me in the bum.

HUGE day yesterday with a 7.45am meeting with the Principal of the High School where Princess Child will be going next year. The child is a little anxious about the idea of going to high school so I reassure her with the usual platitudes of how great it will be to meet new friends, how the teachers won’t yell at her ’cause she’s a really good kid (even the Principal wasn’t able to back me up on that one “I can’t guarantee teachers won’t raise their voices if the class is getting a little noisy but it doesn’t happen every day”).

I was up at 5.00am because operating under the prevailing chaos theory which is the core of my existence I hadn’t finished the paperwork – dear Lord the forms you have to fill out just to get into a high school – I can’t find the birth certificate – I run out of time to complete two of the forms – I’m beginning to fear a detention. I also imagine the Principal having an aaahh moment when she recognises I’m the mother of the Hippie Child who has been known to wear quite a few detentions, all completely related to disorganisation – forgetting the homework, not having her hat, not remembering the sports uniform for PDHPE. As I stride into the school foyer paperwork flying, pen in hand madly scribbling, jacket hanging from one arm as I try to finish getting dressed I imagine the Principal thinking “now it all makes sense – the Hippie Child has no hope of ever getting on top of things with THIS as an example”. We survive the inquisition interview, I’m reasonably relaxed after all they took Hippie Child so it’s not like they can knock this one back.

I’m only 15 minutes late for work (yay) and the rest of  the day is fairly laid back until that moment when I realise I’m off to a meeting at 6.00pm tonight. Hippie Child is joining me at work at 4.00pm to go shopping for “horror” clothes for a birthday party this weekend.  We have half an hour until it’s time to pick up husband – there’s a mad dash around the shops – she keeps talking Emo (is that Elmo’s cousin or what)? We end up with ripped black jeans, black midriff top, interesting jacket – I think I’m leading her more towards Madonna circa Desperately Seeking Susan but she seems to think she can make it work.

I throw the family into the house at 5.30 and race around trying to find my one good pair of work pants – the one pair that don’t have the hem coming down or the top button missing – and realise in my rush to the Principal this morning I’ve left them in the washing machine. I run the iron over them in a pointless attempt at combating the damp and as the family calls time “it’s 5.49” I put them on anyway. Suddenly I have a flash forward to what an incontinent future may feel like. Polyester doesn’t take that long to dry does it?

I rev up the heater in the car, directing the heat to my legs, the car steams up and I can’t see where I’m going, I wind down the window and endure the blasts of cold air on my face as my legs broil.

Arriving in town, I walk really fast hoping the wind resistance will enable the last of the drying to take place.

Surprisingly, it seems to work and by the time I waltz into the presentation, almost on time,  über professional me has dry pants!

One day, one day I swear I am going to be on top of things. All responsibilities completed ahead of time and the bloody washing sorted.

Not Sure I’ve Mastered the Self-Help Advice

If you are going to write a book I reckon self-help is a pretty lucrative sector of the market. While the authors in the literature genre struggle to make a dollar from their beautifully descriptive, emotionally challenging works of fiction the self-help crowd have the mighty dollar flowing in. They have learnt the skill of a multi-pronged approach – take one great idea, whip out a book, package up a seminar, hold private consulting which you can charge a bomb for ’cause you are a best-selling author, develop on on-line members course – there is no limit to the marketing options.

To this day I find myself drawn to the self-help section of the bookstore. The titles suggest ways to solve my financial problems, create happiness, unearth my life’s passions, fulfil my secret ambitions, manage my relationships. The solution to each one of my life’s dissatisfactions seem to lie on the shelves of the self-help corner.

I’ve spent a fortune on the books and here’s the result of my attempts to live their advice.

Mothers of young children can find some “me time” by losing their perfectionist tendencies – ignore the dishes in the sink and take 30 minutes to yourself.

I may have embraced this one a little too enthusiastically. A bio-hazard team remains on constant alert to fumigate our house due to my neglecting household duties to blog, read and write the great Australian novel.

The Power of Positive Thinking

Like Pollyanna I’ve tried to think happy thoughts, always looking on the bright side of life. Unfortunately bad, sad and shitty things happen even when you are sitting in the garden chanting to yourself “I’m feeling positive we can overcome these challenges”.

The Law of Attraction

You attract success to yourself. Yes you do and then you proceed to question whether it’s the right thing for you and decide you just really can’t manage with all your other responsibilities and then wave it goodbye while you fluff about.

A Budget is the Key to Retiring With Millions In the Bank

So help me the budgets I’ve written. Unfortunately, they never seem to add up so I tend to forget about them and go back to juggling. Retiring with millions in the bank is no longer an option – unless my blog suddenly goes viral and develops millions upon millions of followers and I figure out what the whole “monetising your blog” is about. Retiring at all is looking doubtful. Meanwhile the children’s inheritance is a mortgage-from-hell with the hope they can sell the unfinished house for as much as the bank is demanding. Note to self, don’t die until you’ve built up some equity in Shambles Manor (and at least got the flooring down).

Discover Your Passion And Your Life Will Be Perfect

Really helpful if your passion could be something that brings in some cash.  I, however, managed to acquire a passion which doesn’t pay well. Hello to the other trillion wanna-be-writers out there. My failure at the budgeting rules (see above) means mortgage-paying activities are ahead of the passion every day.

Communication is the Key to Relationship Harmony

This one assumes you spend time with your significant other in a setting not involving interrupting children, misbehaving dogs, and a to-do list stretching metres.  Communication tends to involve dealing with the current crisis, tossing a coin to see who is cooking dinner while the other collects a child from band, sorted, moving on. We do communicate though  – just this morning there was lengthy discussion over who forget to buy milk.

Are you a self-help junkie? Has any of it worked for you?

No sick leave for Mums

I’ve opted out of my real world job today.  Given in to whatever this bug is I’ve managed to acquire. Made a phone call. Sympathetic colleague told me to take care. Tomorrow I’ll return, fill out a sick leave form, and our super efficient administrator will pay me as normal while calculating my leave hours. People will politely enquire if I’m feeling better. It will all be very civilised.

However, here at home I’ve searched high and low but be buggered if I can find a sick leave form for motherhood.

I may not be well enough for the job that pays the mortgage but the one that gives me grey hairs is still demanding my time and attention.

Reminders issued from my bed on the lounge – have you got your soccer boots? What about the change for the bus? No? Oh alright, let me get up and find that for you. Now I’m up I may as well pack the lunches. Look at the time – you are not going to make it to the bus stop unless I drive you.

It’s only when we are in the car that Hippie Child queries if I’m going to work. ‘Cause I usually head off to the office in trackpants, a stinky t-shirt and my Ugg boots. I’M SICK PEOPLE. HAS ANYONE NOTICED??? Apparently not.

Finally, the house is quiet. Just me and the dog. Why is he scratching? Great, the dog has developed a rash that looks particularly ugly,  the vet needs to look at – will they do an appointment after five when my husband can take him? It’s doubtful.

On my many visits to the bathroom this morning I have leapt over the pile of wet towels on the bathroom floor almost taller than a two-year-old, finally I can’t ignore it any more and as I’m home I’ll just pop them in the washing machine.

I need a coffee, something warm, while the kettle is boiling I see the splashes and spills of  last nights dinner are still decorating the stove top, I start wiping down, which of course leads to the bench top where the remnants of breakfast are coagulating, so I keep on scrubbing.

Settling back onto the lounge I notice the school newsletter that one of my darlings threw out of her bag as she rushed out of the door, I don’t know why I read it, there were a pile of magazines I could have gone for and not one of them would have anything I needed to do in it. But no, like some sort mothering junkie I read the newsletter. The information night for the high school is tonight at 6.30. We should be going and taking Princess Child. We did it for Hippie Child. But you are always more proactive with the first.

Princess Child is already in a state about going to high school. A supportive parent would be making sure she gets to the info night to help calm her fears. OK, she’ll have to miss dance. I’ll have to pick up husband from work at 5.00, Hippie Child from soccer training at 5.00 – yes I know I can’t be in two places at once but that’s never stopped me before. Home, dose up on drugs, head back out again. Or maybe I can bribe her with that book she wants me to buy to just go with her Dad? I’ll work on my strategy after I have a little nap.

The little nap is rudely interrupted by a telemarketer wanting me to change my mobile phone plan because I’m paying way too much with my current provider. The phone line to India is a little dodgy but in essence this chap can save me hundreds of dollars, he’s sure of it. I explain I’ve got a terminal illness, flusinuspoo, and couldn’t commit to a two-year plan because we don’t know if I’m going to make it to tomorrow.

I’m awake now so I may as well hang out those towels.

I think it would have been easier to have just gone to work.

Right, phones off the hook. I’ve set my alarm for 3.00 this afternoon. I’m going back to bed and checking out of mothering obligations for the next five hours. It’s just five hours that’s all I’m asking. Wish me luck.

The Story of Shambles Manor (an exercise in owner-building)

Trying to help - probably just getting in the way.

Be careful what you wish for it might just happen!

For as long as I can remember I haven’t been able to drive past a display village without popping in, wandering through the delightfully styled rooms, marvelling at the space, loving the design.

When we moved to Port Macquarie I searched high and low but couldn’t find a house I liked, so I decided to build my own version of those picture perfect display homes.

How difficult could it be? You tell someone your ideas and budget they whip you up a design, a builder gets a few contractors in and in next to no time you are relaxing on your back deck enjoying your spacious new abode.

How wrong I was.

A former colleague, had built his own mudbrick home some years previously he warned it wasn’t an easy process, I ignored him.

My husband explained you always go over budget building a new home, there are a myriad of costs not accounted for, we couldn’t afford it, I ignored him.

My mother mentioned tales of building woes from friends she knew, I ignored her.

I waltzed into the chosen designer with my folder of pictures and ideas I’d been collecting for years. There were different versions of the hundreds of display homes I had traipsed through over the years, and photos I’d collected from the many home magazines I devoured each week.

I was adamant I wanted something different, not the traditional brick and tile, but something original, an “oh wow” look.

The designer delivered an “oh wow” house,  unfortunately it came with an “oh wow” price tag.  When the builder preparing the contract to build rang to inform me we were $100,000 over budget and still going I put the brakes on,  we can’t build this until we get the price down!

I ripped out the rumpus room, laundry/shower, spare bedroom and workshop from under the house,  the idea of having space for my mum to live with us if she needed to were put on hold, where did I put those brochures for the retirement home?

I delete windows and add in more cladding, cheaper than brick and rendering.

We try again, this time we come in $50,000 over budget, and we still haven’t costed in the pool the whole house was supposed to be built around! The gaping hole remains a feature.

I put the whole idea on hold, commit to renting a grungy two bedroom unit with our dogs fostered out with my Aunt next door, and wondering how the hell we are going to get out of this mess.  We’re now paying a mortgage on a block of land we can’t afford to build on as well as rent for a too-small flat we don’t like.

We give the plans to other builders,  they either come in at the same price as the first or refuse to return my calls, obviously the interesting angles in the house put them off!

We find a local builder who helps people owner build but with contractors doing most of the work, he does a budget, more cladding is added,  the interesting angles are pretty much gone, several extra features are removed .. and he delegates  many jobs to my husband.  He brings it in on budget but there’s no room for error.

We return to our bank who had previously approved our loan to build on the first budget  but they decide they would rather lend us the extra $100,000 to stay with the builder than give us less money as owner builders.  We head to a local credit union who agree to loan us what we need.

Finally we can start, then my husband gets chest pains.

Two air ambulance trips,  a failed stent repair to an artery and then a double by-pass,  now that we’ve got that out of the way,  we begin building!

It’s stressful, difficult work (just what you need after a double by-pass). There are problems at different points.We got through.

To this day we still have a lounge room window painted purple from where bored young kids broke in and threw paint around the whole house (e-glass is highly thermal and very eco-friendly but probably not meant to be painted – impossible to remove)

We move in with many things still to be done. We are embracing the “construction look” – I’m trying to get it featured in Home Beautiful so it becomes trendy to have no floorboards, unpainted walls, no landscaping and windows that still need architraves. Seriously if we can just get a celebrity to go for it we could have the latest “cool look”.

The house seems to devour money, lots of money, on a daily basis. There are still jobs to be done when my husband has to return to work and it becomes challenging to fit in the many tasks left to do around travelling time and long hours. He continues plugging away.

The house doesn’t currently match the image I had in my head but we take it a day at a time as we contort our lives to accommodate our extended mortgage. What the hell was I thinking?

Ever built? Would you do it again? Or perhaps you had a dream that didn’t quite go to plan?

Bucket Lists BEFORE and AFTER Children

The Bucket List BEFORE I had children.

  • Cruise the canals of Venice in a gondolier with the man I love.
  • Eat at a Michelin Three Star restaurant.
  • Buy an outfit from the Paris Fashion Shows.
  • Watch a Broadway show starring someone really famous.
  • Float in the Dead Sea.
  • Travel the Silk Road.
  • Party all night at the Carnaval  in Rio de Janeiro.
  • Dance and sing through a Bruce Springsteen concert at Madison Square Garden.

The Bucket List AFTER I had children.

  • Cruise the canals of the Gold Coast on a houseboat with a two-year old without killing the man I love.
  • Eat at a restaurant where the food doesn’t come accompanied by a plastic figurine.
  • Buy three coordinated outfits for a $100 from the Kmart Winter Catalogue.
  • Watch a pantomime, starring that kid from Home and Away whose name I can never remember, without slitting my wrists.
  • Float in the wading pool at the local swimming centre without thinking about why it is so unnaturally warm.
  • Travel the Pacific Highway without anyone throwing up.
  • Sleep an entire night undisturbed, in my own bed, alone.
  • Dance and sing through a Wiggles concert at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre without waking the sleeping child next me (this kid never sleeps you have to take your moments when you can).

Life’s Too Short for Uncomfortable Undies

Well I think it’s time to accept that age has engulfed me.

Today I have decided (a) I need to spend more money on my undies and (b) comfort is more important than anything when it comes to underwear. (We tackle the big issues here at Shambolic Living.)

The $5 for a pack of four briefs from the bargain bins at the chain stores just aren’t up to the job any more.

I’m tired of wedgies, visible panty lines, and undies that fail to contain  the plump tummy  (note not using the word fat here).

I have measured out my life in knickers. From the childhood Tweety Bird underpants (and yes you pressed the bird and it made a noise), to the lacy lingerie of the courting years, to the el cheapo briefs of motherhood to  the now sad realisation that grandma knickers are the way of my future.

My undies grow smaller through each drying cycle (because somehow I always manage to leave myself short of underwear after days of endless washing that sees everybody else in the family clad in clean and dry undergarments – hence the emergency wash/dryer loop of my workday morning). They don’t call it intimate apparel for nothing folks, as they shrink I find myself having to retrieve them with increasing regularity from personal spaces of my anatomy.

Today I’ve decided no more. I’m going for comfort and copious amounts of material that cannot possibly wedge itself into crevices best never explored.

It’s unusual for me to consider my underwear without it involving a hospital visit or a shared-room overnight conference. Why is it that I put up with unattractive, uncomfortable undergarments until the moment when I fear that someone might accidentally get a glimpse of what I’ve been hiding?

Not this time, I’m heading to the shops to the expensive and expansive section. From mid-section to tail I will be clad. Most likely white or nude coloured, it will be the sort of underwear that my Grandmother would have considered acceptable in the event of an accident. You know when emergency personnel are madly trying to revive your lifeless body the state of your knickers is always of serious concern don’t you?

Comfort all the way, middle age here I am.