Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Well here it is.
After years of schlepping it around to would be publishers and agents, I decided to put it on Amazon.
It's available in kindle format to download onto your computer or iPad or iPhone. I'm looking into making it a paperback for those who prefer a more traditional read.
Thank you to everyone who has been so supportive of my writing style on this blog, it's been lovely and heartwarming to get your emails. And they usually randomly turn up, just when I'm about to chuck in the writing towel... like a little sign from the universe not to give up, you know, just yet :-)


Monday, May 9, 2011

How To Be Good

Lesson One:
How To Be a Good Mother.
I decided to take it upon myself last week to stop using phrases with the words, “strangle”, “dug 3 holes in the garden” and “they are driving me insane” in my sentences relating to the kids, in an effort to fast track my path to good mothering. It had occurred to me that perhaps I should stop using such emotive terminology in reference to the kids on yet another day that I silently or perhaps not so silently muttered something about strangling one of my offspring. I think it was after the littlest one pulled the milk out of the fridge showing a herculean strength that belied his small frame and then promptly spilt the entire contents all over the floor. Yes, I think it was then I muttered something about strangling him. Or maybe it was when I texted my husband to declare he was required home as soon as humanely possible because his offspring, his spawn, had driven me to the point of total exhaustion and I was ready to finish them off and just for the record, I’d dug three holes in the garden. No I think I declared digging the three holes the day the eldest child tormented the middle child and the youngest slammed the scooter into the eldest and the middle child screamed blue murder because the youngest had drawn in texta all over her doll, her bed and her favourite book. Yes I think that day, the same day the middle child decided to lay down on the floor of the supermarket and scream her head off, was the day I was going to dig three holes in the garden. Actually no, I think that was the day I muttered something about strangling them. Really, it’s hard to keep track some days. Some days, all you can think of is strangling yourself. Anything for a bit of peace and quiet.

But the point is. Somewhere during those days, it occurred to me that perhaps one of the reasons I don’t see myself as a good mum is that I could utter these concepts at all, let alone about my own children. Surely, good mothers do not say things like that about their kids? Yes, for me, good mothering had to do with how you handled yourself in the down times as well as how cheery and Laura Ashley you could be in the ‘UP’ times. My point I guess is that I was noticing that the turns of phrase, the word selection and the way I spoke to them was all hampering my ability to be a good mother.

Just the other day, as I was barking orders to my three little cadets, it occurred to me how I would react if someone yelled at me, “In the car, NOW!”
I tell you, I’d bloody well tell them to go get knotted.
And then I heard myself at dinner time calling out to the kids in the living room, “TV off. Dinner is ready.”
Usually followed with something just as warm and fuzzy along the lines off.
“Lola! TV OFF! NOW!”
And then, naturally I’m just as sensitive to their wails of protest that they don’t like what I’ve cooked them for dinner.
I mean, if you start to string it all together, I’m hardly Mary Poppins in the kitchen, no spoon full of sugar helping any dinner in my house to go down.

It occurred to me as I ordered them into the bathtub, demanded them to get into their PJ’s and yelled at the little one for taking the lid off his orange juice drink and pouring the bright orange liquid down the back of the couch, that really, in the scheme of things, I was hardly a soft and fluffy mother. But more to the point, if anyone dared to speak to me in that militant, JUST DO IT NOW tone, well I’d be hard pressed not to tell them where to shove it.

So I attempted a new thing the last week.
The first was to talk to my children the way I would like to be spoken to. And that was much more difficult than I imagined. I was so used to barking orders and making demands and generally running the house like a military operation that it took a bit of awareness to really recognise not only what I was saying but how I was saying it.
I was trying to the get them dressed for school one morning and Ella the 6 year old was dawdling along in her usual way.
Now my standard approach is to bark at her, “Ella! For GOD’S SAKE, put your shoes on! How many times to I have to ask you to put your shoes (insert, socks, knickers, dress) on?”
Ten minutes later one tends to find Ella, still shoeless, sitting on her bedroom floor playing with her dolls.
This particular morning, whilst I was busy trying to be more aware, more nurturing, less Sergeant Major, the conversation went more like this.
“Ella! For GOD’S SAKE, put your shoes on! Darling.
And then finding her in her room, still shoeless.
“Ella! SHOES! SHOES!  SHOES! NOW! Princess.”
And so it’s continued. I’m still shouting and carrying on like proverbial pork chop but it seems that by adding darling, sugar-pie, and princess to the end of the demand. “GET IN THE BLOODY CAR HONEY PIE.” Does seem to soften the blow.
And whilst I’m not pretending to myself that I’m up for any Hallmark mother of the year awards, I do feel a softening of my language towards the kids. The more I make the effort to remember that they are little people with feelings too, and that if any adult spoke to me the way I spoke to them I’d deck them, well, it’s really woken up a side in me, in terms of respecting them.
“If I have to tell you to share your toys one more time you will go to your room. Do you understand me? Got it! Sweetheart.”
 And so, I think I’m really getting the hang of it.
I think sometime in the next year I may even be able to say, “Honey, can you put your shoes on for me? I find it really frustrating having to ask you ten times to do it? So sweets, can you pop in your room and find your shoes. Thanks hon.”
Instead of just slapping hand to forehead and rolling eyes at no-one in particular whilst yelling, “SHOES! SHOES! SHOES!”

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Are You a Good Mum?

I was reading an article about Claudia Karvan, the actress. I think it was a few years ago it was written, I was busy doing 'research' and ended up reading about her, her life, her family etc. She said she thought she was a good mum. And she meant it in a completely non egotistical way. She said she could remember hearing growing up about post natal depression and mum's who couldn't relate to their children and she thought, 'That'll be me, I'll be the one chucking my baby out the window." But she was pleasantly surprised to find she was a good mum. It was one of those things she said that she was good at. She was a good mum.

Even just reading those words I knew what my answer was to that question.
I knew if anyone asked me if I was a good mum what my answer would be. I wish I could answer in that egoless way that she had. I wish it just rolled off my tongue. I wished I could say it too. You know, honestly, say it. Even just to myself. But I couldn't, because it wasn't true. I didn't think I was. I don't think I am a good mother.

And I can't work out if that came as a shock to me or not.

Was this just a bad morning for me? Was I simply having a moment? Did I for instance think perhaps I was good at other things or was I just glum and thinking I was crap at everything? Maybe I wasn't a bad mother, maybe it was just a boo-hoo I'm crap at everything day.

I went over a list of things to see what I thought I was good at.
Before children, I was an interior designer. Was I a good interior designer? Yes, I knew I was. I love design, I am passionate and excited about good design. Architecture that is innovative and cool and interesting takes my breath away. I could get lost in photographs of beautiful interiors and exteriors of buildings and homes and shops and spaces. Good design makes me feel alive. Designing beautiful plans and interiors made me feel creatively fulfilled and I knew I was good at it. I was good at being a designer.

After children, I became a writer (although to be fair, I have been writing all of my adult life, I started writing my first book when I was 17). Was I good writer? Yes, I was. I am a good writer. These thoughts came easily to me. I knew I was a good interior designer and I knew I was a good writer. I love words. I love the way words string together to entice you, to incite you, to inflame you, to inspire you and to make you fall in love. I love the way words have the ability to take emotions and confer them to another so that they can feel the same beat of your pain, your lust, your joy, your desperation. I love that I can write, that I can do that with words. I love that the thoughts I think have the ability to be translated into text. I love that others can share the vision I have in my head, the same way I could make my vision a reality in construction in design, that my sketches on paper became a three dimensional space, built, from my mind into reality. And its the same with writing. I love the shaping of that first thought in my head to the final draft on a page. Am I a good writer? Yes. I know, to my core that I am a good writer. And even if I weren't, even if everyone else thought I was crap at it, I love writing so intensely, that it wouldn't matter to me if no-one ever read a word, I would have such satisfaction and joy at simply writing on my own, that it would make little difference what another thought of my skills.

And just as easily as I could say that I was a good writer, a good designer. I realised, I was not a good mother.
What a terrible moment - when I realised that.

And so the list went on. I searched around inside my head for all the things I might classify myself as good or bad at. Many things I could honestly say I was good at. And many things I could honestly say I was terrible at. Cartwheels for example are not my forte. Cooking wholesome meals, again, not high on the list of what I was capable of. But mother-hood? God. It was killing me. Why couldn't I say I was a good mother? Even to myself? With no-one else looking? Just say it. Fake it. You can say it. But I couldn't. Because I didn't believe it to be true.

There have been very few things I have dedicated myself to with such discipline and grit and raw fucking determination as this. This thing called motherhood. I have tried like I have tried at nothing else to be good at this. To excel at it. To be the best mother that is possible. I have tried until I feel like screaming inside my head that it is just not possible to be a good mother. That it is not possible for me to be a good mother. I don't have nearly enough patience. The little people drive me bonkers with their constant demands. Their constant craving to be appreciated and needed and desired and cared for and cleaned and taken care of, it is all consuming. And I suspect it is not helped by the fact I have an intrinsic desire to be free. I am not the person that woke up in the world and wanted someone to hold my hand. I woke up wanting to run across a field, unfettered, with no-one to clip my wings or tie me down. And yet, here I am, ridiculously independent and yet, I am tied down by three, count them, three, enormous anchors, anchors that talk, walk and require 24/7 attention.

Is that why I am not a good mother? Are the independent cursed not to make good anchor holders?

So why did I have three? Surely you work out that you are not a good mother and give up after one? I mean that would make sense? Well, I don't know, is the answer. I have always felt a strong desire to have children, to bring children into the world. The same way I have a strong desire to travel the world and explore the mysteries of the universe. The same way I have a strong desire to question the world, to ask why. The same desire I have to stand up for what is wrong and to passionately defend the things I believe in. That same strong desire drove me to have children. Which I think is a different desire to the desire to become a mother? I always find it interesting when mothers say they love having babies, that they could have a million babies if they never grew up. And each time I hear it, half of me wonders what's wrong with me? And the other half wonders, what's wrong with them? How can they like babies? God they are awful things, they are attached to you all day and half the night, they require all your attention and they give nothing back. I love them once they are little humans, when they have a personality, when they can talk and stomp their feet, when I can witness their passionate little tantrums, watch them find their voice, their laughter, their unique sense of humour. I love the pure life force that each child has locked within their body. I love watching the baby as it grows, as that life force starts to open, to bloom and I get to see that, to witness the start of a new person, a new being. I get to cuddle that little person, to whisper the secrets of the world to them, to go finding fairies with them, to tell them how to be a kind and compassionate person, how to stand up for what is right and for what they believe in. I get to help them be the best people they are capable of being. But babies, pfft. They're all snuggles and boob-feeding and hours and hours of rocking in prams and cots before they finally go to sleep, only to wake up twenty minutes later.

So I started to break down what I thought good mothering was. Perhaps I wasn't all bad? Maybe I have a few saving graces? Was there I wondered, elements of good mothering that I displayed with my children? One of my pet peeves with children is adults who don't discipline their kids. I find brattish kids really hard to stomach. And I think as parents, our job is to show them the guidelines on how to act as decent people. They are apprentices in a new world, learning the ropes. They are testing boundaries to see which boundaries are OK to push and which aren't. And I think that teaching kids how to be decent people, how to treat people ethically and with dignity and respect is important. So discipline to me is important. Making sure they understand there are consequences for poor behaviour is important to me. I dont agree with smacking, I've never been one to condone physical acts (I dont think arguments should be solved with violence etc) and so I don't use it as a method to punish my own children. But that does mean I have to be very on top of using other methods. If I say we leave the park if I see one more act of unkindness, meaness or hitting or whatever, then we leave the park. If we are at home, they will sit on the thinking set for one minute of every year of their life. If we were going to have ice-cream, then the ice-cream goes if they misbehave. It requires effort a lot of effort. A lot of my effort. Often I dont want to leave the park, I'm enjoying talking to another mum. Often I am looking forward to the ice-cream as much as they are. And often I am tired and would rather ignore the poor behaviour so I don't have to deal with the fall out of having to discipline it. Or perhaps it's an effort for me because I dont want to have to drag a screaming kid onto a thinking step and drag them back onto it half a dozen times while they try to escape, frankly a good slap would take half the time and I could be onto something else. But I dont slap, and it does take me ten times the time and effort to discipline in other ways but I do it. I do it because it's important to me. And I try not to yell at the kids. I try and be the quiet, the still, in the eye of the hurricane. It doesn't always work. God knows some days I'm all but pulling the hair out of my head and screaming at them like some wild woman of borneo yelling, "FOR GOD"S SAKE WILL YOU STOP FIGHTING WITH EACH OTHER!" And often I will have one of them tell me off for yelling. "We dont yell in this house mummy." And they are right. They've listened when I've told them not to yell at me or each other, when I've said, "No yelling, we dont yell in this house." And it's good for me to have my little teachers point out when I've got it wrong, when I need to be the adult and not have my own 30 plus year old version of a tantrum.
So, am I a good disciplinarian, do I teach them the ropes of what is acceptable behaviour and what isnt? Am I consistant? Do I give the same message each time, and give them the same results each time?
Yes, absolutely. My children get away with very little, I am onto them like a tonne of bricks for displays of poor manners, bad attitude and fits of indulgent temper. I may not be a good mum, but I would make an excellent Sargent Major.

Am I good moral compass for my children, do I show them the way of being that I'd like them to be as adults, to be the sort of people that make the world a better place? Yes I think I do that. Do I make sure their clothes are washed and that they are fed? Sure, I think I have the basics of survival covered.

So what was it that I was missing?
What made a good mum? What did I do or not do, after all my hard work of trying, that left me, bereft of good mothering skills?
In my mind, a good mum enjoys being a mum. She loves her role as Mother.
And I don't.
God it kills me to say that - I dont like being a mum. I have worked so hard at it, but I don't like it. And I feel a thousand eyes boring into me when I say that, as though I've just committed the prime sin of motherhood. How can you not like being a mum? How can you say that aloud?

A good mum enjoys being with her children, regularly, say 80-90% of the time.
Oh, I think perhaps this is where I fail so miserably at being a good mum. I find I spend 80-90% of my time with my children in bootcamp mode. I am organising, dressing, resolving fights, managing tantrums, driving, picking up, dropping off, doing homework, mopping up spills, sending kids to their rooms, taking them to parks, washing, changing pooey nappies, wiping down the couch, making dinner, watching dinner dropped all over the floor and al and sundry declaring they don't want to eat it... enjoy it? No. I feel like a slave to my little troup. And no, I do not enjoy them, in much the same way any slave is resentful to their unrelenting master. But at night, when I read them books, when I snuggle up and kiss them good night or when I find myself sitting on the floor talking to one of them about life, about the world, about the princess wand gripped tightly in her hand, I take a moment to breathe and recognise, here, at this moment I am enjoying them. Reckon, I'd figure I get about 10% enjoyment from my kids.
The rest is just hard slog.

And finally I think a good mother is indulgent with her time with her children. She luxuriates in being with them, in spending time that is real time, not just 'managing them' time. She laughs with them, she plays with them and she doesnt spend every five minutes thinking is it too early for a gin and tonic? A good mother, one that I am not, gets off on being with her kids. And I do not.

And that saddens me more than I can tell you. Not becasuse I know I have worked so hard at being a good mum, God if i haven't read every book under the sun, spent hours working out the best way to raise my children, the best way to discipline them without smacking without yelling, the best way to encourage them, to make them believe they are the most precious people in the world but at the same time teaching them about compassion to others and love. I have tried to let them experience the world of dance, the world of music, the world of make-believe. I have tried so hard I'm about to keel over from all the effort. So it is sad to me, to realise I don't consider myself a good mum. But worse is that my children have to have a mum who is not a good mum. That surely must be the hardest part to swallow. How could I have followed a burning desire to have children and not realise that to do so, you must also become a mother? I think perhaps, I just wanted to be their guide, their touchstone, their safe place to fall when life got so hard they didnt know where to turn. I didnt know that motherhood was going to be this one long tiring journey that never stops, not even in the middle of the night. I didnt see any of that before I set out to realise my burning desire - my desire to have children.

But it came to me yesterday. If i know what I think makes a good mother, then maybe now I can work on that. Maybe now I can put my efforts into that. And maybe I can be less harsh on myself and realise that I do some aspects OK. Some parts I have worked out. Some parts are worthy of saying i'm a good mum, even if it's just to myself. Because I know, when I wrap their ittle bodies up in mine and I tell them they are the most amazing little person I have ever met, I know they know it's true, that mama wouldnt tell them that, if it wasn't true. And if I want my time as 'mother' to have achieved anything, it's that my children grow up knowing they are amazing, unique and wonderful people. I think that's the very least a mum can do.

Friday, April 22, 2011

7,000km, A Bike Ride Across Cambodia and One Phone Call Later...

I know this is going to sound terrible, but I think the best part of the trip for me, was getting on the plane and leaving Sydney. I mean, the heady sensation of actually leaving Australia, getting on a plane and doing it without the Von Trap family in tow was intoxicating.

I woke up in the hotel that second morning, (the day after our first bike ride across Cambodia) and realised how tightly I'd been gripping on. Not to the bike handles mind you, to my life. I knew there was likely to be a few 'ah-ha' moments on this trip. This was after all the longest time I would have been apart from my children in 6 years. It was also the longest time I'd been away from my spouse. And anyone will tell you, when you live in each other's pockets, breathe each other's air and swim in the same deep water you are likely, to lose some perspective.

The reason I could tell I'd been gripping on, was because I could feel myself releasing the grip that morning. Pulling back the crisp, white, hotel sheet, I felt a freedom I hadn't experienced in years, I felt the grip lessening, the tense muscles unwinding. When I say grip, I don't mean grip in the sense of holding on for control, or to control. I mean the grip, the way one might grip the edge of a ledge. The way you might grip with even the very tips of your fingertips. As though the tips of your fingers have the strength of a bicep muscle. That you should need your fingers to be that strong, because that's the only thing standing between you and the forty foot drop below. That's how I felt. Like I'd been gripping on for dear life. My life.

Do all mothers feel like this? Like they are one finger grip away from losing hold of the ledge? Had I always felt this way?

I boarded that plane to Cambodia with a giddiness and a joy that I could hardly recall from any past memory. I felt perhaps like one of those kids entering the Wonka Chocolate Factory. Hard to know what was more exciting, leaving my family behind, going back to South East Asia, being in a bed on my own every night, sleeping all night every night without interruption, or the fact it was almost lunchtime and there would be free alcohol to drink the entire flight!

I sat with my friend Bec, the only other Mum on the trip. She too was giddy from the excitement, the fact we had actually made it here, to this point, to the point of boarding the plane, of managing to have raised the money, sorted out childcare for the kids, leaving our husbands. I can't imagine any of the other cyclist on the trip could possibly have imagined what this meant to us. What it meant to our morale, to our dignity, to our sense of self. What it meant to be a person without a title, without the shadow of children constantly on our watch.

I have often envied women who work full time. Mostly I suspect because I am the sort of mother who would much rather be having riveting conversations with professional adults then trying for the upteenth time to look excited about my four year olds attempt to draw a mermaid. Mostly, I find the gibber gabber of toddlers, the constant demands of preschoolers and the attitude of primary schoolers either mind numbingly boring or completely exhausting. The constant demands of three children are relentless, in the same way that riding kilometre after kilometre in the hot sun on bumpy roads in Cambodia was relentless. There was a lot of similarities to me. My body ached, the sun pelted down, the roads were full of pot holes and the head wind relentless. You had to keep riding until it was time to stop - some random time, outside of your control, some time that seemed to be forever in the future, hours and hours away. It was as much a mental game to get through each hour on the bike as it was a physical one. And naturally, if you're suffering, you look around to gauge how everyone else is coping. Everyone looked like they were handling the ride better than me. Everyone seemed to be in less pain, less mental torment, less grief than I.

We are strange creatures, there is no solace in knowing you are the only battler, that you are the only one having to play mind tricks to keep going. In fact, the isolation of being the only one struggling seems to add to your suffering even further. But there is no choice but to keep riding, km after km. That is why you are there. At the end of the day, just before I passed out, muscles aching and more tired than any week where children woke me up all night, there was a sense of achievement for having managed not only to get back on the bike, but to have cycled another leg across Cambodia.

Raising children is like that, watching other mothers is like that. They seem to do it much easier than you, they seem to be in less pain, they seem to engage with their children more, to enjoy their company. And the isolation is made much worse, because you feel the pain of being different, of being the only mother born who just doesn't like mothering.

But some days, on the bike, you can hear someone is suffering, feeling the pain, just like you. They can't keep going, they are hurting, the wind hurts, the sun hurts, the damn pot holes in the road hurt. And you find yourself giving solace to them, offering advice, "Try getting out of the saddle a bit more, it'll ease the pain in your pelvis." or "Try not gripping so hard with your thumbs, mentally relax your hands as you cycle." And you realise you're not alone, other cyclist are doing it tough too. And that was like motherhood, one day talking in the playground, you find yourself talking to a mother who can't do it anymore, who has hit a brick wall and you find yourself offering advice, suggesting a few things that worked for you, laughing with her about the many things you tried that didn't. And you get a glimpse into someone elses world and realise you're not alone, you're not the only one who finds cycling fucking hard, or motherhood fucking hard. We all do. We all struggle sometimes.

So Bec and I, we made in-roads into the worst wine ever served onboard an aircraft. Well she sensibly drank gin, I gulped back little plastic cup of white wine after white wine and we talked and talked and talked. We talked until we passed out, 7 hours later. We talked of our children, our partners, our stresses, our pain and our joy. We laughed, we cried (surprisingly 7 hours of drinking crappy white wine will enable you to feel the entire spectrum of emotions) and we let ourselves feel the sheer delight at being women again, not just mothers.

And perhaps if I think about it, it was not boarding the plane leaving Sydney that was the most special moment of my trip. But the day I spoke to my three children on the phone whilst I was in Cambodia. I had been texting with my husband since I'd arrived, and whilst I missed him, I was still pretty resilient in not missing my kids. I missed having Richard there, exploring a new country. One of the things we always did really well was exploring together. I missed him not being there to go for a beer at a local bar or to eat noodles in a stall that looked wholly questionable hygiene wise. I missed his humour and I missed his bravery, his way of taking a country by storm, indulging in each aspect wholeheartedly. I missed him. I missed the person I had lost in the mayhem of parenting. What I wouldn't have given to have flown him to my side so that we could be a couple again, not just mum and dad, the two people lost to each other in the maelstrom of parenting.
But I didn't miss the kids. I just didn't.
And even when I saw the beautiful Cambodian children, I still didn't miss them.

I was still too over joyed to be away from them.

And whilst part of me felt I should feel bad about that. I didn't. I loved it. I loved the freedom, the joy, the lack of responsibility. I loved not feeling overwhelmed by them. Oppressed by them.

And then, I think on the third or fourth day I spoke to each of them in turn. Whilst I wasn't missing them per se, I wanted to talk to them, to assure them I was coming home, that I hadn't disappeared for ever. It had been several days, and because of the time difference, and because of the cycling, I hadn't been able to talk to them. And whilst I didn't miss them, I was feeling antsy about not having spoken with them. It didn't feel right. Finally I managed to speak to my eldest, she was still awake one night when I called, and the other two got out of bed and I spoke to them too. Their little voices chirped down the telephone. Their little ways and mannerism clearly audible for me to delineate each child in turn. And even from the first child, from the first syllable I could feel something stirring in me. For the first time in many years I felt a longing that took my breath away. Each child, I could feel their energy, as though it permeated down the phone line, their beauty, their uniqueness. I felt a 'missing' for them that reached in and squeezed my heart. I felt a terrible sadness that I couldn't scoop them up and hold them in my arms. I longed to hold them like very few things I have longed for in my life. Their sweet voices telling me about their day, their arguing with each other in the background as to who would have the phone next.
I was laughing and crying.
I felt something inside me soaring - taking flight. Was it joy? Was it knowing that I could feel a need for them, rather than the feeling of being overwhelmed by them? I wanted my Lola. I want to sit her on my lap and listen to her yabber about Cuba and what he had done that day and what he had done to her precious drawing. I wanted to scoop up Ella and listen to her observations of life without mummy about her new hairclip and cuddle her close to me, to breathe in the smell of her hair. And my little boy, my slice of sunshine, my heart really did break in half when he said "I miss you Mummy." God when did he start speaking in sentences? I was gone two minutes and already he had grown up.
After the phone call I tried to hold that feeling, hold it carefully inside my mind, my heart. Because I knew, oh I knew, once I was back in Sydney and life was back to normal, I'd be feeling crushed by my three demanding children. And I wanted to know that memory was there. That memory of wanting them, of aching for them. I wanted to be able to pull that out of the drawer and smell it like a lover's scarf. I wanted to know that I knew how to miss them, to need them, how to feel incomplete without them.

And if Cambodia gave me anything (which it did in many ways that I haven't even covered here) - it gave me a longing for my children, a beautiful, soul-connecting longing, that I will forever be thankful for.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Happy wife - happy life?

I was going to post in-depth reflection on Cambodia.
I was going to write funny little vignettes about missing my kids, realising that riding in 39 degree heat (whilst wondering if I'd ever get feelings back to my pelvic region) was still easier than returning to the chaos of a family of 5.
I was going to write poignant reflection on the children I met whilst building the Kindergarten.
And I was going to write about the insane freedom I felt being 'single' for the first time in almost 16 years, travelling in a third world country with no dependants, husbands or nappy bags hanging off self.

But instead, instead I am drawn to post this instead.

click here Happy Wife

It's a blogger on this blogging site, who I thought was interested in being a nurturing, supportive husband.
Well super I thought, look at this guy! His first post is about what he wants for his birthday present. Mostly, it's all about him getting an evening to make his wife happy. Everything from making dinner for her, to running her a bath, giving her foot massage, brushing her hair (perhaps a little left of centre but i'm open minded, sure hair brushing, why not) and completing the evening with sexually satisfying her with a no 'return' satisfaction required policy.

I mean, men like this exist?

That's what the guy wants for his birthday?
A night of making his wife happy?
This blog required further reading. How genuine was this guy? How much was this a natural, nurturing side and how much was him being on the verge of a mental breakdown? I decided to read the posted comments. I quickly became confused by all the abbreviated terms. FLR, WLM... what was all this about?
I noticed one comment posted referred to getting your wife to read this site (see below)

how to get your wife to get on board

He suggested this might help the 'shocked wife' to realise that men who want to be submissive aren't strange, or out of the ordinary, that in fact, plenty of men like a dominant wife, someone to rule the roost, tell them what to do, when to do it and whom genuinely want to be loving, sex slaves in the bedroom.
I still wasn't sure, the sceptical side of me thought these men were simply describing a fetish, and the other side, intrigued, could it really be that they loved to love their ladies? That seeing them supported and taken care of gave them great pleasure?

Not that I am against fetishes that support husbands to help out around the house.
I mean for starters these men are waiting take orders to do the dishes, cook the dinner, do the washing, mop the floor and then at the end of a hard day slogging it out doing domestic chores, they're keen to run baths, give foot massages and body massages that guarantee a happy ending.
All that is required by the wife, is a list, a bit of a positive appraisal, (note: no 'thank you' is required, merely an observation that husband has done a good job) and then, a new list of 'to do jobs' written up at wife's earliest convenience.

I was still unconvinced, where did the nurturing, thoughtful husband end and getting the paddle out and giving a slap on the bum start? How much was really about the pleasure gained from seeing his wife happy and more about the enjoyment of being bossed around?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Fundraiser for Cambodia

I'm just going to pop the speech I read at the fundraiser night, into this blog. Basically I'm posting this for my wonderful friends who donated to my fundraiser page and/or bought tickets to the night but were unable to attend - I wanted you to get a sense of the night, a bit about the headspace I'm in right now in regards to the trip etc. There's a few words about the trip, the fundraiser and the process we've been on to get Bec (my friend who is going with me) and I, on the road to Cambodia. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who has contributed to the building of this kindergarten. You are the people that make the world a better place, you are the change that we want to see in the world. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. And please, keep on being the amazingly generous and open hearted individuals I know you to be. You truly are, fabulous.

"Most of you know the real reason that Bec and I are doing this Cambodian trip. Frankly it’s for one reason – we both have three kids. Three beautiful children, who without doubt are the light of our lives. Three children, who have absolutely no chance of getting on that plane with us.

Oh I know what you’re thinking, sure you get to escape the manic craziness that is the day to day madness of kid wrangling three children under the age of 6. You get to leave behind the 4 year old arguing with the 6 year old and the babies screaming all night long and the endless pooey nappies. Sure you get to leave behind the school lunches, the school drop offs, the organizing of breakfasts, lunches, dinners, baths, bedtimes, midnight wake ups, bedwetting, fighting, yelling, screaming, crayon drawn on walls, milk spilled on floors, vomiting, crying, more pooey nappies, tantrums, washing, cooking, ironing (ok maybe not ironing).  Sure you say to yourself, you get to leave all that behind, but you realise you have to cycle across Cambodia in 40 degree heat instead?

And to that I say.

Bec and I would have swum in shark infested waters to get on that plane.

This adventure has 3 parts.
The first part is raising $13,000 between us.
The second part is training to get fit enough to cycle across Cambodia.
And the third part is, who the hell is going to look after our kids whilst we’re away?

Let’s jump to part two for a second.
I thought I was doing fairly poorly in the training department, there was no way I was on schedule of the number of hours required in the saddle to be in shape for Cambodia. That is, I thought I was doing fairly badly until I found out how Bec’s training had been going. Whilst I was gritting my teeth and toughing it out with the lycra clad Tour D’France boys doing laps around Centennial Park, Bec it seemed was yet to even blow the dust off her bicycle that was still sitting under the house in storage.

But even still, whilst Bec’s complete inactivity did make me feel moderately better, I was still concerned at the amount of trainging required.  We were emailed some time ago, the required training schedule for this trip.
4 times a week we were told to be cycling, approximately 3 hours each time.
Leading up to 8 hours cycling, 3 times a week.

See now here’s the thing. When they say start off with 3 hours cycling, they mean in one go. They mean you are to sit on the bike for three hours, in one sitting. Not 15 or 20 minutes here and there a few times a week adding UP TO THREE HOURS.  No they mean, get your arse on the bike start peddling and don’t get off until something falls off. And if that wasn’t challenging enough, the next aim was to be doing it for 8 hours in one sitting, up to three times a week.

Let me just briefly introduce you into a world where you are required to look after three children 7 days a week.  One barely has time to have a ten minute shower once a day, let alone cycle self around block for three bloody hours 4 times a week.  Hardly any point thinking about the 8 hour block. Where do you fit that in? probably somewhere between 10pm and 6am?
But as  the committed cyclist we are, we diligently took to Centennial Park whenever free time would avail itself to us and we would and continue to, cycle ourselves lap after lap around the park.

I think what you are wondering then, if I was so shocked at the training guide, why would someone take up a cycling challenge if they weren’t into cycling? And this I think is an excellent question. One I probably should have put more thought into prior to signing up. After all the last time I was on a bicycle I was 12. I didn’t even own a bike to practice on. Really, the Gods were sending me every available bit of information to say this was not the challenge for me. Wait until they do the gin and tonic challenge they were whispering, you’ll do much better with that training guide.

But irrespective of my lack of bicycling prowess I did take self off to Centennial and I did and do continue to find myself wondering how is it, I mean really, how is it that those lycra clad dudes manage to lap me, lap after lap? I am peddling, seriously peddling, and still they pass me. I even bought myself some fancy lycra padded bike shorts thinking perhaps this was a wind resistance issue. Turns out, not so much. My ego has taken a hammering at Centennial Park, me cycling around and around, 8 to 10 laps of the bloody place and I get lapped so many times I get to know which cyclist is which, “Oh that’s the ANZ cycling team guy.” “Oh that’s the guy with the really hot body.” “Oh that’s another guy with a really hot body.” “Gosh who knew cyclist had such hot bodies.” “Oh shit, that’s a stray branch I just hit on the road oh shit I’m about to fall off the bike.” 
Then of course there is the incidental issue of pain management when one cycles for 3 hours on the trott. The pain your arse experiences is like non other. Its as though a small burning fire starts somewhere between your pubic bone and your tail bone. I think the first stirring of pain in the loins kicks in after about 20 minutes. You find yourself cycling along moaning, “Oh god my crutch is killing me."
Then you look up at the hot cyclist passing your by with nerry a hint of the pain trobbing its way from your nether regions into your bum muscles, and you wonder as you pant and curse the pain,  "How do they manage to keep cycling with this type of pain in their crutch?"
And you look up, sweat dripping from your brow, musing, "Feels like molton lava between my legs.”
And as the pain deepens you start having crazy thoughts along the lines of, “I wonder if I could put a cushion on the bike and then strap myself to cushion in manner of removalist truck.”
And then the pain eases. It just stops. It's as though all the blood supply to your crutch has shut down and all the nerves have died. Ah blessed relief. Finally no more pain.
And it's probably about that time you realise that your left foot has gone to sleep.
It's just given up the ghost, and cant peddle anymore.
And then you look up and notice, “Oh look the ANZ guy has just lapped me again.”

And on and on it goes, me peddling as hard as I can, even watching them as they pass me by, watching their legs pump up and down and I try and match  my leg speed to pump up and down at their pace, but still they pass me by. Damn this lycra boys effortlessly lapping me, leaving me and my ego in tatters. But one day, one day I lapped my first person. God it was exhilarating. Me, the lapped, the pathetic cyclist was finally, finally about to lap her first person on the track. I sped up as I got to them, veered out to the side of them, and then sped up as I over took them. It was all I could do not to punch my arm in the air with sheer joy! I had overtaken someone! Who cared if he was only 6 years old! I got him fair and square. Eat my dust baby! 

Which brings me to the first part of this adventure. The raising the money side. Which of course is why you are all here tonight. Bec and I are so enormously thrilled that you have all come out to support us. Your money is going to build this kindergarten which will make such a difference to the community there, even just to one little life over there.

Now it should be noted. Neither Bec or I have ever auctioned anything in our lives before. This is going to be a trial and error event. Which is why we are only auctioning 3 items. We figured no point torturing you all, all evening. Please feel free to bid way above the actual cost of the item, after all if we don’t reach our target, they don’t let us on the plane. And after all that bloody cycing around centennial park, it would be a crying shame to have to stay home and um, look after our three children. Which brings me to the third item of the adventure. Which is of course, who will be looking after our kids? And to that we have no answer. I’m going to leave a bowl of food out, and a mobile phone. Bec has decided to leave the front door unlocked and give them tips on how to shoplift from the local supermarket.
Actually in all seriousness, if it were not for our amazing husbands, Richard and Simon, this trip would not be possible. They have been a well of support, both in the fact that they are going to spend the next couple of weeks being sole parents to three ratbags and also for all the support getting tonight ready. Richard particularly, thank you for all the invitations and all the graphic layout work youv’e done for the silent auctions. Thank you to all the wonderful people who dontated tonight. It is your generosity that has made this evening possible. Bec and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

And now. Onto the good bit. Onto the first auction item of the night. "


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Shoe Shopping and the Path to Spiritual Enlightenment.

It was supposed to be a quick in and out visit to the shoe shop.
Ella needed new school shoes.
But doing anything with three children in tow is never quick - irrespective of how quick it is 'supposed' to be.
It is a privilege of sorts to be blissfully ignorant that say, in twenty minutes your life is about to become unadulterated misery. But at the point I pulled the car into the shopping centre, I was unaware of my future, in fact, I was just congratulating self on what a successful day I'd had with the little urchins. My mistake, I realise that now. Self congratulations are just asking for it.
I know, I know, I know.
Or, at least. I do now.

In retrospect, it is a terrible time to go shoe shopping for school shoes at 4PM on a Friday afternoon.
Terrible time.
But I was in super mummy mode, I was in, 'We will nip in, nip out, and sort this in a jiffy," mode.
It was supposed to be a quick trip.
It was supposed to be just to get Ella shoes.
It was supposed to be.

We had already waited in line for thirty minutes before the lady behind the cash register called the next "number." I had spent most of that thirty minutes chasing Cuba around, trying to stop him pulling all the shoes off the shelves. Ella sat barefoot at the shoe-trying-on station, eagerly waiting for her little feet to be measured up . She had selected three different pairs of black school shoes and they waited, lined up in front of her for the sales assistant to get the correct size.

I had waited while the man next to me had his ten year old son try on five different types of Nike sports shoes. I had waited while the lady next to him, had her twin daughters try on several pairs of brown school shoes, followed by sports shoes, followed by some other sort of shoe. Frankly I'd lost interest in how many pairs two little girls could try on in one visit. And mostly, I was concerned with the speed and agility that Cuba was dismantling the shoe displays. He was on fire. First his little chubby hand would grab one shoe, and then, in some sort of fit of shoe grabbing, that befitted a woman at her first David Jone's mid year sale, he would grab the next shoe, then the next, and throw them, gleefully aside, as his little fist reached out for the next one.

To say I was stressed out of my mind would be a supreme understatement.

Lola and Ella, bored of waiting had started to climb on the seats and pretended to be cats scratching at the wall behind them. The only thing was, the bench-style seating was 1.5 metres from the ground, accessible only by a flight of steps. They were both perilously close to falling backwards and sustaining cranial injuries. So I would in turns, scoop Cuba into my arms and dash back to the girls, admonish them for standing on seats, get them to sit back down and again find self chasing after boy child who had found an entire new row of shoes to dismantle.

"Number 97!" the lady at the front desk yelled again.
About five more couples with children had entered the shop since I had been waiting.
I was the next to be seen - as soon as Nike boy had sorted out his final shoe selection. I'd given up on the twins, they were onto the next shoe type. They would be still be sitting there at Christmas.
I eyeballed the sales assistant who was now moving towards the shoe-trying-on station, "I forgot to get a number when I came in." I said in my most genuine, endearing tone.
The sales woman was not to be charmed.
"You need a number, there are lots of people here. How am I to know who is to be served next?"
I glared at her, all charm evaporating as Cuba struggled in my arms for his freedom, "I have been waiting here for thirty minutes. I am the next person in line to be served. I was here before all these other people."
And I waved my one free arm to indicate the entirity of the shop.
The sales woman returned to the front counter and pulled a paper number from the number machine. She walked back towards me and handed me a ticket that had a number printed on it in black ink, "Here, hopefully it wont be too long."
Hopefully it wont be too long?
Are you kidding me?
I glared at her again. Actually let's be honest here. If looks could kill, I was the equivalent of super strength Baygon for Cockroaches, I mean, I was filthy, I would have ravaged this woman with my nails, if I were not so busy digging them into Cuba to stop him pulling shoes off the shelf next to me.
I handed her back the ticket, "I wont be buying shoes here today."
The woman who had arrived after me, with her teenage daughter handed me her ticket, "Please, take my number."
I tried my best to smile, but the only thing coming out of my facial muscles was a fairly taught grimace. "No thank you, I have no intention of giving this woman my custom today."
My custom? (I think perhaps in moments of high stress I am reduced to Jane Austin style speech, when really what I would much rather prefer would be Rambo style destruction. God to have been Cuba for five minutes, to have screamed my head off at the surly, smug sales lady and ripped at her stupid pony tail bobbing behind her head.)
I turned to Ella and Lola still perched up on the bench, "Girls we are leaving."
Ella started howling, "NOOOOOOO!"
The woman with the teenager offered me her ticket again.
Honestly half of me wanted to take it. But I looked at the sales lady and she was back to shouting out the next number in line. God, I wanted to kill her.
Instead I shook my head at the woman offering her ticket, and firmly instructed Ella,"Get your shoes on, we are leaving."
I bent down to put Cuba into his pram. He was having none of it. He back arched and screamed his head off. I pushed him hard in his middle to counteract the arch of his back, and deftly (as only a mother who has a pram hater can do) managed to get his little rigid arms into the pram straps, and lock him in.
He opened his mouth and did one of his Cuba, famous, blood curdling high pitch screams.
Most excellent.
Was hard to know what was worse. The poor woman standing next to me, still holding out her ticket to me, awash with empathy, sympathy and pure unadulterated awkwardness. Or the sales lady, who stood behind me, and whilst I couldn't see her, I swear I could feel the smugness evaporating into the same wash of awkwardness that comes from watching an unpleasant scene where you are powerless to intervene.

By this stage, the whole shop had stopped talking to watch our little performance.

Which of course is always rather nice. I mean if you're going to make a statement, tell someone to go get stuffed, that you'd rather slash your own wrists than buy shoes in their shop, well what you want is the whole shop watching. I had planned to make graceful, haute-y style exit, one that said, I am above this petty shoe store. One that said, I shall tell all my friends never to shop here. One that said I shall be back, aka 'Pretty Woman', with bags and bags of shoes, saying "Three children, lots of shoes, $150 a pop... lots of money spent... your commission... ZERO."
But that was not to be my exit strategy that day.
No, I was not going to be leaving gliding out the store with my three, beautifully behaved children, all giving her 'the finger' as we walked out the glass doors. No, that privilege was not for me.
If Cuba had put on a show, Ella was not going to be outdone. She was not going to leave her shoes without a fight. Like a woman who had just found a 90% off tag at an Alannah Hill sale, Ella was not be parted from her selection of three black school shoes.
"Noooooooooooooooo! Mummmmmmy! Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease! I'm not leaving! I. AM. NOT!"

I physically picked Ella off the bench. And she yelled loudly, "MUMMY PLEASE DON'T MAKE ME LEAVE~ I WANT MY SHOES!!!"

I had one of those Buddhist moments at that point. Oh I've been reading about them for ten years. I just never really got to experience one before. Instead of feeling the twenty pairs of eyes locked on me. Instead of feeling the rush of pure humiliation take over me. Instead of being totally overwhelmed by it all. I just took a little step backwards. Metaphorically of course. If I'd actually stepped backwards I would have knocked into Cuba screaming his head off in the pram.

I remembered that this was just suffering. You know, for now. In ten minutes I'd be somewhere else suffering. Probably in the ladies toilets crying. But for now, this suffering was just suffering. It would be over soon, only to be replace with a different suffering next week, next month, in the next five minutes. So I took the Buddhist view of not suffering over my suffering. Or rather of recognising the impermanence of suffering.

I lifted Ella off the bench and focused on her.
"Ella, we are not buying shoes here today. There are lots of places that sell shoes in this shopping centre and we are going to buy ours somewhere else."
Ella calmed down.
Ha! Who knew this Buddhist thing really worked?
She turned half around in my arms, towards her shoes and stretched out her arms and screamed, "I AM NOT LEAVING~!"
OK, I was wrong, perhaps one needs to be born Buddhist?
I put her down, put my hand on her back to guide/shove her along and pushed Cuba's pram in front of me, "Ella, we are leaving."
Ella stood barefoot and I handed her shoes to her.
Whilst I might have been applying new Buddhist approach, I wasn't prepared to wait for ten minutes while we put her shoes on in front of the crowd still speechlessly watching.
"You can put these on outside."
And we hautily march to the front of the shop. Ha! I was going to make it out alive after all!
I heard it echoing behind me....'Muuuuuuuummmmy!"
I turned around.
Lola was still standing on the bench. I had left her behind.
This required turning pram around, taking Ella and Cuba to the back of the shop.
Where the shoes, all three, lined up in a row, were.
Bug. Ger.

"Mummy you forgot me." said Lola in her happy sing song voice.
The crowd watched. Really, could it get any better than this they wondered? Why doesn'tt she just take the number, they wondered? I'm glad I don't have three kids, they must have all murmured to themselves.
I lifted Lola from the bench.
"Ah yes, sorry about that Lola."
"Ella isn't going to get to wear her new shoes is she Mummy?" said Lola in her sing-song voice.
Ella reminded afresh of her beautiful shoes, started wailing and dramatically threw herself over the top of her shoes, like one might strap self to tree in manner of Green Activist.
"I'm not leaving them!" she wailed.
The Buddhist in me, was evaporating at a rate of knots.
I dragged 'the shoe activist' bodily along to the front of the shop.
I knelt down at the front counter and held Ella, crying and sobbing in my arms.
I took a deep breath, this moment was just a moment. I would live through it. I would live through it, and, I would drink a really, really large glass of wine in an hours time. The thought cheered me considerably.
"Ella, that sales lady was very dismissive to Mummy. I have waited here for half an hour to be served, that woman was going to make Mummy go to the end of the queue and wait again. That isn't fair, and I don't have to accept that sort of treatment. There are lots of places that sell shoes, and we will go to one of those and buy you just as beautiful shoes there. And, what's more, we will give our money to someone who treats Mummy with respect."
Ella sniffed, "What if they don't have those shoes?"
Mummy (crossing fingers behind back), "They will have those shoes. I promise."
And with that, I stood back up, flicked my hair, tried desperately to look as though this sort of palava happened every day and was absolutely nothing to get in a tizz about, and exited the store.

After we had been to three further shoe shops only to find no similar shoes, Ella said, "I think Mummy we should just go back to the other shop. They have the shoes I like. Let's go back."
Go back?
Pfft... over my dead body.
Ella undeterred; "So Mummy, if the problem was that you hadn't taken a ticket, why don't we just go back take a ticket and wait in line?"
I looked at her.
It seemed like such a simple suggestion now, so zen, so peaceful.
So Buddhist.

Buddhist it may have been but it was not for me. Instead, I was hell bent on finding Ella her shoes from somewhere else. I was not going to go back. No, way. Not now, not ever. And even if it was going to take me until 6 o'clock at night (which it did), I was not going back to that shop.

One had to wonder though, as I poured myself a third, rather large glass of wine later that night; if perhaps the genuine Buddhist, non-suffering way would have been to have accepted that lady's ticket and just got on with it? But as I expounded the details to Mr Husband, over very bad, home cooked and overcooked pasta, not only was I quite sure that I was never going into that shop again, I was also sure that based on the evenings culinary efforts, I should never be let allowed anywhere near our stove. Ever, again.