Perpetual Tangent

I just know that something good is gonna happen. I don't know when, but just saying it could even make it happen.

Some writing

I never publish my writing, even on this blog. It’s mainly because I don’t have enough of it that I consider worthy of even being read by another human, let alone being published anywhere. I’m all talk when it comes to writing. Yes, it’s true, I never get a chance to sit and write, but by the same token, I would do it if it were really important. I haven’t got the self-discipline and I can’t focus for long enough. 

As part of some planning for my MA application (yeah, I’m finally doing it, if I can work out how, after ten years out of university), I stumbled across some bits and pieces I’d strung together when preparing an application for a Masters program about seven years ago. I never actually ended up applying, although I had everything pretty much ready. I had planned to study in the UK when I went over all those years ago but for some reason, I can’t think why now, possibly the financial implications, I never ended up applying

But anyway, I came across this piece which, although it is far from polished, and in fact somewhat incoherent really, I thought I’d post here. I quite like it, as the beginning bare bones of something.  It has no title, just a series of subtitles for each little section.

 

WEDDING

Boxing Day in 1924 was a cold but bright day.  Rosa, frail and thin, wore a large heavy wool coat and some second-hand men’s sheepskin gloves.  Lottie looked the picture of spring, shining cheeks, a freshness and openness about her.  Joe wasn’t cold, he was tough.  And he didn’t care much for fashion or looks, he just got on with things.  Thomas remained smart and stiff with carefully parted hair, and perfectly groomed moustache and a three-piece suit with his watch chain draping appropriately across the front pocket.

Lottie glanced over at her counterpart, the other mother-in-law, sitting alongside her husband.  Hands folded in the lap and a hardened look on her pale face, you could see she wasn’t well.  She looked about ten years older than she was.  As the cameraman adjusted his lens, ducking under his black cloth to check the focus, Lottie wondered about Rosa, and whether she had ever wanted anything more than marriage at 16 and 12 children.  There was no real expression on Rosa’s face; you would never know, thought Lottie, that she is the mother of the bride, who sat fidgeting alongside her new husband, glowing with early pregnancy in her usual state of nervous excitement.  Perhaps once you’ve been to ten of your children’s weddings you just don’t think it’s special any more.  The fashion was certainly well and truly still Victorian, and shabby even at that.  Lottie’s hair was a bohemian experiment, piled tight and curly up on top of her head and fenced in with a bright silk scarf.  Rosa had worn the same hat twenty years earlier for her eldest daughter’s wedding, a large-brimmed affair with a dull ribbon squeezing the protruding cap.

“Right-oh everyone, hold still…” announced the cameraman as he ducked under his cloth for the final time.  Lottie could hear Uncle Jim cracking a joke in the row behind her and she reached her hand up to quiet him, but couldn’t help laughing.  Snap went the shutter and that was it.  Joe had smiled at the joke too as he sat next to his wife, enjoying the moment, amused by the amount of effort people went to for something as trivial as a photograph.  The moment was captured perfectly, Lottie and Joe smiling away as they always did, and Rosa and Thomas, stern and stiff.  Two such diverse families one could never meet.

 

OPPOSITES ATTRACT

Gladys had spied him walking home from work and had gotten all worked up and flustered, as usual.  His shyness was attractive to her in a mysterious and intriguing way.  He was used to silly girls mooning over him, and thought nothing of this one; but she was persistent, and that’s what made the difference.  She worked herself up into a frenzy. The more he withdrew and went about his usual routine, the more she became adamant that he was the one.  She liked the chase.  It wasn’t that he didn’t like girls.  He just wasn’t interested in the game of flirtation; in fact he didn’t play games at all.  He found her attractive too, in a sort of ditsy, helpless way.  She wasn’t unintelligent, but she was so highly strung that the slightest thing would cause hysteria.  Perhaps it was because she was the youngest girl in her family, much younger than the other two girls, and spoilt rotten.  She wasn’t close to her mother; it was her father who doted on her and encouraged her little princess routine.

He puffed on his pipe like a man twice his age and considered things. She was the antithesis of his own mother, who was easy-going and level-headed. She’d probably find this small, hysterical girl endearing, at least until she became annoying. When he was near this jumpy rabbit, he felt a pull as he’d never felt. He’d never been compelled to pursue anyone, but this girl, her chasing and flirting was becoming infectious.

 

MEETING

Lottie stood at the shop window watching the reflection of the pipe smoke curling inside an invisible tunnel up into the air.  Somehow, without the smoke deviating from its perfectly vertical course, snippets of the sweet, comforting smell drifted across to her, and she felt warmer with each breath.

“I’d love to smell it again,” said Joe, sucking in the air through his mouth with a practised rhythm.  It was enough to bring her out of her trance and she straightened her posture and peered with purpose into the shop window momentarily.

“Is this your shop, Sir?” she asked, turning towards him as he leaned against the door frame.

“That it is, Miss,” he replied.

“I wonder if you might consider selling some of my garments?” she asked, lifting the cloth that covered a large wicker basket she held.  He moved only his eyes in the direction of the basket for a few moments then chewed the stem of his pipe.  “On commission, of course,” she added hurriedly.  He slowly breathed out a soft cloud of smoke.

“I mean no disrespec’, Miss, but ‘ow can I be certain ye’re of good repute?” he asked.

“Well, I… I must say, Sir, I am quite offended by that.  I know not whether you and your shop are of good repute yet I am willing to sell my items here, at least on a trial basis.”  She tried to stare him down, even though he wasn’t looking at her.  Joe peered into the bowl of his pipe, then tapped it sharply against the wall to free the last few ashes.  He turned and held out a hand for the basket.

“Come inside, Miss, an’ I’ll see what ye’ve got.”  She hesitated, but let him take the basket so knew she had to follow him in.

The shop itself was most interesting; it didn’t fit into any particular category—iron mongers, haberdashers, tailors—there was such variety of goods filling the shelves which reached to the high ceilings.  Lottie couldn’t help staring in amazement before she noticed him watching her with amusement and collected herself, replacing her look of amazement with a look that said she’d seen it all before.

“Is this your own work, Miss?” asked Joe, running a finger over a finely embroidered red rose, intricate green leaves curling around it in a myriad of Celtic style patterns.

“Of course,” she replied haughtily.  Joe smiled at her, noticing for the first time that her own clothes were adorned with the same style of embroidery, tiny coloured flowers on the dark background of her bodice.

“Your work is very fine,” he nodded. She relaxed a little, having been ready to gather it quickly into the basket and march out of the shop, secretly terrified.  “I’ll sell it, at an agreed price, with commission.”  Lottie breathed an audible sigh of relief and was about to speak when…

“On one condition.”

She immediately became suspicious again.

“Is the commission not a condition already?” she asked, grasping the embroidered nightdress, ready to leave.  He noticed how tense she was.

“Yes, ye’re right, that it is.”  He pulled a shirt from the basket and held the colour close to his eye, lifting his glasses to see it clearly in detail.  “I’ll give ye thruppence for each o’ the men’s shirts and a shilling for each ladies nightdress.”  It was more than she’d expected, and she wondered what his game was.  But the money was all important, so she nodded in agreement.

“I’ll warrant there’ll be a demand for your garments, but we’ll wait to see what happens.  Come back in a week,” he said bluntly, gathering the pile of clothes out of the basket and dumping them on the counter behind him.  There was something about him, she thought, that told her he was honest.  Perhaps the pipe smoking.  Her father would puff on his by the fire of an evening and announce to no one in particular, ‘ye can alweez trest a man wi’ a paipe’.

So with that she left the shop, sneaking another quick glance at its crowded walls, full of everything from tea sets to nails.

 

HAPPINESS

Uncle Buddy was the first person in the street to own a camera.  The camera itself had been around for years, but only professional photographers, of which there were not many down the East End in the 1930s, owned them.  There hadn’t been many celebrations or real knees-ups for some time, since the beginning of the war when Arthur was sent off.  Lottie had never been the same, but had helped so many, which in some way helped her own grief.  Life moved fast, and Lottie made it so. As long as things were humming along, as long as she just got on with things, there would be no time to mull over losses, which really was a waste of time and made one old beyond her years, said Lottie, when questioned as to her busy life.  It was worth it, for her, as she brought solace to so many grieving mothers; most of them felt their sadness wane, knowing what Lottie herself had gone through.

The trouble was, the camera didn’t accommodate speed.  It didn’t accommodate any movement.  In order to be captured on camera, one had to remain absolutely still for at least a minute, depending on the light of the day.  So all of Uncle Buddy’s earliest pictures were of buildings or graves, which were guaranteed to remain steadfast and one could really focus, get the timing right, the shadows black and the light white.  A grave was the closest thing to a person that Buddy could photograph.  He could have asked a stranger, paid some quiet child to sit still for him, but he felt as if the subject should be still by its very nature.  Posing, trying to remain still and frozen for the photograph was so unnatural and, to Buddy, went against the very reason for the existence of the medium.  Painting was a medium with which one could capture movement, and moving objects and depict them in any way needed.  It was artistic license, making it up according to a fantasy.  A photograph was real and should never be used for trickery.

The tragedy of war, the removal of life, the future of an entire family, had caused Uncle Buddy to develop a fixed way of thinking about photographs.  And it took the birth of Lottie’s first grandchild, only son of her only son, to bring her back to life.  She remembered dancing, singing, the many celebrations she had been a part of since her marriage until 1917.  Celebrations became a part of daily life—in fact not celebrating became a novelty, and Joe secretly relished those days off, where he could smoke his pipe in peace and quiet and think of nothing.

Uncle Buddy got a new camera.  For him, it was a whole new medium.  It replaced his painting almost entirely.  It captured life, movement.

“Awright, you lot… ‘Eck, pop in there on that side… wear your ‘at, can’t ‘ave a picture without the ‘at… put that baby down for a moment, will you Glad?  No, Ron, thas it, pop yer ‘ead in, thas right…”  Joe bared his missing teeth as he laughed along with Ron, the next door neighbour, and Mrs Axley from across the road, who was laughing so hysterically by this point that she held a hand to her mouth and tears brimmed in her eyes.  Gladys finally relaxed, her thick glasses giving her something convenient to hide behind, as she smiled at her husband, laughing heartily, a rare thing for him.  Uncle Buddy chose the moment and the flash bulb smashed, the moment captured.  Lottie was in the corner.  Whether she laughed, we’ll never know. That corner of the photograph was torn off by mistake.

Finding the right midwife: a story

I haven’t written much about this pregnancy or the stuff going on around it. It’s all just too normal and boring really. In a good way! But there have been some interesting goings on in terms of my care provider which I feel may be good to share, possibly useful for women looking to find a midwife to support them in birth and all that goes with it.

As you might know, I gave birth to the Dude in a pool in my living room just over three years ago now. I planned a homebirth from the get go and wouldn’t have had it any other way. Given the epic nature of the birth and what I withstood in order to keep to my plan of having my baby at home (38 hours from first contraction to birth with 10-12 hours of active labour, most contractions during that time without a break as Dude apparently turned from breech to head down during labour which meant incredible pain in my sides between contractions), it would have taken something pretty full on to get me to go to a hospital to have my baby. And that hasn’t changed. There are really only a few very rare medical problems that would compel me to seek guidance from an obstetrician and give birth in a hospital. Things like complete placenta praevia or placental abruption, life-threatening haemorrhaging, or serious infection. Real medical problems. Not just being in pain or feeling tired. I have more faith in my body than that, and I am extremely robust and strong physically. Especially after having the Dude, I have absolutely no doubt in my body’s ability to give birth and I don’t need any assistance or pain relief, it just works.

Anyway, having moved to another state when newly pregnant with this second one, I couldn’t seek out the same (awesome) midwife this time around. I did a bit of reading and research and discovered that in Victoria we have an abundance of midwives available for pretty much any birth scenario a woman might choose. How fabulous, I thought! Some midwives work in practices, some individually, some have practising rights in hospitals, and there are a very large number of independent midwives in general. In addition, there is more than one GP who supports women to give birth anywhere they choose, even at home, and getting that pesky Medicare referral signed is pretty easy.

I felt so relaxed this time round, couldn’t really think of any requirements I had for birth. I just wanted a midwife who had the same ideas about birth as me and would support me at home. Easy! Or at least, that’s the way it seemed. I only met a few, and only dealt with two practices, but it was hard to meet more as a lot of them charge for even a first consultation and they are all really nice, it didn’t seem like it would be a hard choice. Anyone would do. I must admit I felt rather corralled (Mr Chewbacca’s very apt description) during my initial consultation with one of the midwives, but I was already about 12 weeks pregnant and wanting to get my midwife sorted. I was keen to have that first ultrasound and blood test done and then just sit back and relax into pregnancy. I let the midwife I saw do what needed to be done, even though I made it clear that we hadn’t made our choice yet. We met with two other midwives, one from a different practice, who was lovely, and another from that first practice, again lovely. We ended up choosing the latter, not for any reason in particular, perhaps just because we chatted a little more freely and had a few more things in common, but there was really nothing in it. Mr C did mention he thought the practice we chose felt ‘clinical’ when we first walked in, but I dismissed this without really thinking. After all, his only real experience of birth is what we had with the Dude, at home, so a midwifery practice office is going to seem more clinical in comparison. Certainly nothing even close to a clinical hospital environment. He has good instincts for this sort of thing, though, and I really wish I’d been more open to hearing him and shopping around a bit more. Not that I regret choosing the midwife we did, but in hindsight I don’t think it was the right choice.

Fast forward to the next appointment, a real prenatal check. It was fairly relaxed, a nice conversation, the usual listening to the baby’s heartbeat, blood pressure check. Midwives generally are easy to chat to, especially about pregnancy, birth and babies, and this one was no exception, so there was nothing really wrong, just different from what I’d experienced previously where I went to my midwife’s house and she had a cosy little room with all the midwife paraphernalia and it felt so comfy. I was a bit taken aback when my midwife suggested I make my next appointment with one of the other midwives in the practice with the aim of getting to know a few of the others. I wasn’t really sure why I would but I got the impression it was because one of them would be the back up midwife, the second midwife, which I was assured would be there for the whole birth as much as possible. This was also weird as I just had the one midwife last time and although there was a backup who I’m sure would have come along if need be, I never actually met her. I gathered the these midwives I’d signed up with worked in more of a group style practice and I didn’t think much more about it. I ended up meeting not just with that other midwife (who turned out to be the one who’d corralled us at the first appointment), but yet another midwife who I hadn’t previously met. The reason for meeting the third one was that after booking in with my primary midwife, I got a call before the appointment to say she wouldn’t be there and I’d either need to reschedule or have my check with a different midwife. So I chose the latter.  Again, didn’t really think much about it.

After my second appointment with the corralling midwife, I decided that although I respected and actually liked her, I didn’t want her at the birth unless something went seriously wrong and I had to transfer. She seemed far more interested in training student midwives and rabbiting on about risks or things that didn’t pertain to me than actually providing one-on-one woman-centred care. So I made it clear to my primary midwife at our next appointment exactly how I felt. She was understanding and said that would be fine. But then she dropped a bombshell: she said she was going to be ceasing work as a midwife and wouldn’t be renewing her (undoubtedly very expensive) insurance and therefore wouldn’t be able to do any of my pre or post natal care. She said she’d come to the birth, which kind of made sense as independent midwives are exempt from insurance for birth at home so she wouldn’t need it for that, but alarm bells began to ring for me when she said I’d need to book in with another previously unknown midwife in the practice to cover the rest of my care. Another one! So that’s now four midwives I’d have seen. I agreed, more just because I was a bit shocked than anything else, but as I made my appointment with this other person I’d never heard of, I began to feel uneasy. Later when I received a call to say that midwife actually didn’t work out of the local practice and I’d need to book in with yet another person I’d never heard of, I realised that none of this was sitting well with me. It suddenly dawned on me that the model of care that this practice worked with was not like that which I’d previously experienced; I would never get that personalised, cosy, woman-centred, one-on-one care I needed with this practice, and I suddenly became acutely aware of how important that was for me. It was the very reason I’d chosen to birth at home with an independent midwife. Needless to say, my brain went into overdrive, thinking of possible scenarios and options.

I spoke to Mr C about it all, my mind reeling, beginning to panic and worry about how this would all pan out. I was 31 weeks pregnant, on the home stretch, and all of a sudden I didn’t know who would be at my birth! This might not even be a consideration for most women who are booked into the public system. You rock up in labour and whoever is rostered on is who you get. When there’s a shift change, new midwives come on board. You might be lucky if you get a lovely one who stays on a bit longer after her shift ends to support you through to the end. Or you might have numerous people coming and going throughout. However for me, birth is private and sacred. I don’t want a whole bunch of randoms I hardly know hanging out and influencing things. I want to know who will be there so I can relax and do what I do best. And I want to be sure my philosophies and choices are respected. There had been a bit of talk about ‘pain relief’ during some prenatal appointments, and I found this rather odd as it’s not something I felt I needed assistance with. Surely at home you just give birth, and yes, it’s painful (for some it isn’t, just intense), but you make it through and it’s this incredible feeling of elation and achievement straight afterwards. I began to think about this and how the suggestion of pain relief was a bit at odds with what I thought I’d explained about my own philosophies and choices.

After a couple of days mulling it over and chatting with Mr C, it became pretty clear that I needed to find a new midwife. I thought back to the one we’d met from the other practice, and I knew I had to contact her. I had to return a book I’d borrowed when we first met which I should have done ages ago, so I thought that was a bit of a sign that I needed to get back in touch. But when I called, her phone went straight to voicemail. I suspected she was at a birth or sleeping one off, but in fact it turned out she was overseas – oh no! She returned literally a couple of days after I called and we had the loveliest conversation over the phone. By some miracle, even though August is the busy time for birth, she turned out to be free for the whole month and beyond into September! And she said she would be happy to support me. Wow! I was blown away and so relieved. I met her and the other midwives last night and feel already so much more connected to them than the ones I have been seeing at the other practice. I can’t express how glad I am that I’ve managed to make this choice and get what I need for this baby. There’s only one thing left to do: speak to my original midwife and explain that I won’t be using their services any more. That is scary! I am terrible at confrontation! I don’t want to be a bother and I’m a bit worried about what I’ll have to pay to get out of it, but I think the fact that they’ve changed things on me gives me more of a leg to stand on in that respect. Anyway, I have to make that dreaded call today and arrange for my records to be copied so I can bring them across to my new midwife next week when we meet for our first prenatal check. I will be 33 weeks then!

I hope anyone who has managed to get to the end of this story will find it useful in their hunt for the right provider. Everyone has different needs and a different picture of their pregnancy and birth care. I hope that no matter where, how and with whom you choose to have your baby, you experience what works for you.

The fear and necessity of specialisation

I’ve always been an all-rounder. Generally pretty good at everything. In fact, fairly early on in my life it became apparent that if something warranted a bit of effort, application or concentration from me, I wouldn’t bother. It wasn’t often that things fell into that category during primary school, but as I progressed through high school and on to university and then into the workforce, I came to a frightening conclusion: it’s not good enough to be okay at everything, even if you’re clever and capable enough to be okay at things without any effort. I discovered I had a distinct problem with self-motivation, drive, ambition, and ultimately in my 20s this lead to something akin to depression. I was terrified to discover that I wasn’t passionate about anything! Not really. Because being passionate meant really immersing myself in something. It meant choosing and being disciplined enough to stick to something. And risking failure.

Now at 35 years old I am experiencing some pretty harsh realities and finding it harder and harder not to specialise. As this very insightful article I just stumbled upon explains, if you don’t specialise you become unemployable. I would go further to say that if you don’t delve into your passions, you are living small. I’m not going to be so arrogant as to assume that everyone knows what he or she is passionate about, or that everyone has the means to explore passions to the greatest extent. But I think that most excuses for not really grasping your passion fully are cop outs; it might frustrate some, but the old cliché is true: where there’s a will, there’s a way.

This question of will comes up for me now. As I mentioned earlier, I was shocked to realise I wasn’t really passionate about anything, or at least passionate enough to really get up close and personal with any one topic. In the past, I’ve put this down to being ‘pretty good at everything’. But what I realised recently is that I’m not good at everything, I’m good at what I’m interested in. It seems pretty simple, but the moment I realised that, I also realised I was pretty arrogant to dismiss specialisation in any given field purely because I was just so fantastic at everything. That was the ultimate cop-out.

I’ve talked for years about doing my Masters. In fact I realised recently that it’s been ten years since I last studied! What?! That not only makes me feel old, it makes me feel like I’ve slacked off. So what has held me back? I could say that I was just having too much fun, doing too many other things, that it wasn’t really that important. But that’s not true. What’s held me back is the awareness that I’d finally have to specialise. That’s scary, as the article I linked above so eloquently explains. It’s scary because it means having faith in yourself, in all the sweeping statements you’ve made in the past about ‘being good’ at things. It’s also scary because it can feel like a limitation, like you are having to relinquish some pretty interesting ideas in order to make space for the big idea, the big passion, the speciality.

Anyway, I am finally looking into really doing my Masters, but doing it in a way that doesn’t allow me to slack off, cop-out, give up, make excuses or fail. And let’s face it, my chances of failing are pretty slim, given I never studied throughout my undergraduate degree and it never occurred to me I could fail until my very last semester at uni when I discovered friends had to take a unit again due to having failed the first time. I actually did come close to failing once or twice. I remember the struggle I had studying history in first year uni (Culture and Society in Britain and France 1750-1850 – I was 18 and had never really even heard of the Industrial Revolution and my knowledge of the French Revolution revolved around vague notions of people getting their heads cut off a lot). It was a year-long unit, which made it extra painful as I had no option but to see it through right to the end of the year. I had no study skills whatsoever, couldn’t absorb the texts as I didn’t understand any of the context, and there were all these crazy philosophy dudes in my tute group sitting round and pontificating about things I couldn’t comprehend. All I knew is, I didn’t get it, and I hated it. My tutor was a really lovely English woman who could see exactly what I was going through and kindly gave me a pass mark (52, I think it was) at the end of the year, probably because I managed to read most of Voltaire’s Candide and write a vaguely coherent, grammatically correct essay about it. But did I feel ashamed or upset that I’d let myself down by getting such a low mark?  Oh no, I just decided that the kind of history they were teaching at uni was garbage and not worth learning about. Yes, I was arrogant. I put my nose in the air and enrolled in linguistics where I proceeded to write entire essays the night before they were due with absolutely no referencing or citation, claiming I’d just come up with the ideas myself and that was enough of a reference. Hmm. I must have been a bugger to teach!

The one last thing to say about this latest educational venture is about the way I’m going to tackle it. It’s a bit of a secret at the moment so I won’t go into details until it’s clearly set in stone, but suffice it to say, I’m excited. It’s going to be an adventure, especially as my family – Mr C, the Dude and the little girl joining us sometime towards the end of August – will be along for the ride, directly affected by everything I do. Specialisation, here I come!

The heart, it aches

I’ll be honest. The way that Mr Chewbacca and I ended up together was a bit of a whirlwind; pretty quick, too quick for some probably. At the time, I was about to turn 30 and he’d turned 34 at the beginning of that year. At some level, I think we considered ourselves old and we were both pretty clear on what we wanted from a relationship. It was as simple as realising we were both keen for marriage and children really. But there was also a meeting of the minds when it came to our mutual interests. And values, our values were always fairly similar, which I knew to be extremely important.

But it’s only fair to say that we jumped into the deep end and didn’t really give ourselves a chance to hesitate. Met in August, moved in together in December, got engaged the following August, moved to another country the next January and married the following April. Then got pregnant in July. It was fast, yes, but I think that’s just how it was meant to be. I might not have been so certain of this early on in the relationship but looking back I can see just how right it all was. Not necessarily the moving overseas part, but that’s another story!

I don’t really know when I actually fell in love with him. I don’t think it was even ‘falling’; it was just love. Almost like I was in it the whole time but I needed time to realise it. Anyway, like all couples, we have our emotional mountains to climb; it is quite intense, our rapport, I think because we are both very passionate people.

Since the birth of the Dude in 2011, I don’t think we’ve been apart more than the odd night here or there. Maybe two nights once? And that was torture. The older the Dude gets, the more entwined we become as a family. The connection between our threesome (and soon to be foursome) is really intense. I think it’s probably on par with plenty of other families but what is particularly confronting for me is that I’ve never had this feeling about family before. Most of my family I don’t have much to do with, mainly because I have nothing in common with them and no real pull to them. There’s a detachment there, the opposite of attachment. In fact most family connections are pretty weird, squirm-worthy really. I never enjoyed cuddling any of my family members; I’d just endure it. I never knew what it was to enjoy a hug until I met my first long term boyfriend at age 21. I’d look forward to being with family, but within moments of being around them I’d be disillusioned, realising that these people, while they had some agreeable traits, did not feel ‘right’ to me. I didn’t want to be a part of whatever it was they had. I never enjoyed spending time with family to any great extent. Until I had my own, of course.

I’m thinking about all this stuff now because Mr C is away for two weeks. He’s due back in a few days and I am so glad of that. Two weeks has felt like an eternity. And it’s not because I’ve had to be the sole parent and that’s been really hard. It’s hard, but not unmanageable. It’s a fantastic feeling to love my husband as a man, a partner and a father to my children. It is the most fully-rounded, complete feeling I’ve ever known.

Starting a family, especially so soon after we met and married, has been stressful to say the least. Having children is stressful in general, let’s face it. And it’s been a massive learning curve for us, particularly because we were simultaneously learning about each other and how we relate. We’ve had some huge changes as well, with not only moving to Australia but feeling completely unsettled the whole time and moving interstate twice. We’ve renovated and sold a house, persevered through numerous bouts of stressful unemployment and problems with work, and now we’re having our second child. We have managed. And not just managed but actually come through it all much stronger than we ever were before.

I am missing Mr C like I’d miss a limb. The Dude is too, desperate to drive to the airport, suggesting daddy is about to walk through the door, that he’s ‘back now’. While the missing is painful, it’s also joyful; I am so grateful for it. I am grateful to feel so deeply, so genuinely about another person in the world. This is new for me and oh so profound.

Life in the rainy city

That’s what Melbourne has always been known as, this city of four seasons in one day where it just rains at random. After three months here I’ve seen a tiny bit of that but nothing like what I expected. Having been here a number of times before, I’ve certainly experienced what people talk about, with a prime example being Christmas time in about 2004 where it was drizzling and 18 degrees on Boxing Day and then about 35 and scorching sun the following day. Unlike most people, Mr Chewbacca and I have been really looking forward to the rain and cold and were actually quite disappointed with Melbourne’s efforts on both fronts to begin with. Now it’s starting to cool down a bit and it’s lovely.

Somehow I’m managing to keep really busy. I think it’s got something to do with having a full on toddler but it’s also because I’ve really been making an effort to get involved with as many parenting and play groups as I can. I’ve just started taking Dude to a formal playgroup once a week which, although he had some crazy meltdowns the first time, he declared he loves, so we’ll look forward to next time. It’s a Steiner playgroup which is quite a bit different from any other formal one I’ve taken him to. When I say formal, I mean one that has a trained leader who involves the children with songs and activities, usually with a cost attached, and a schedule adhered to for the two hours. I was in two minds about this group, as I’m still not totally sure how Steinerised I want the Dude’s education to be and whether it’s really what would suit him. Mr C isn’t too impressed with anything Steiner, although to be fair he hasn’t really looked into it and just knows bits and pieces. There are some weird aspects that, even though it’s what my early education was focused on, I’m not sure whether I am too keen on the Dude being exposed, but what I do like is the rhythm, the wholesomeness and the wholistic approach to learning and creativity. Anyway, it’s been interesting, and now the Dude is enjoying it I think we’ll at least continue for this term and then see how we go.

I’ve made most of my connections via social media, facebook mainly, which I don’t feel totally comfortable with but I am grateful to have that tool to make my transition much easier.We have one weekly playgroup that we really love and Dude seems to get along well with most other kids he meets, or if he doesn’t connect he just plays by himself. I’ve also finally become a fully fledged member of the Australian Breastfeeding Association who do some awesome things for women and babies. But secretly the reason I became a member was so I could go to meetings and not feel like I was taking advantage not being a paid member. Plus I figure given I’ve been breastfeeding for almost three years now and will soon be taking on a whole new person to feed, I should acknowledge that in some positive way. Actually scrap all that, the main reason I joined was because I know I’m going to find like-minded people through the ABA. That’s not to say everyone who is involved with the organisation is ‘alternative’ or a natural parent or whatever. Far from this. There are members who exclusively formula feed or mix feed or haven’t yet had a baby to feed. The most fantastic thing about this organisation is the philosophy behind it which is clearly solidly backed up by leadership. I know from years of working with bureaucracies that without good leaders who live the organisation’s values on a daily basis, it’s misery and bedlam to work there. The ABA welcomes everyone with open arms, everyone is kind and open and genuine. Being a really awkward introvert, I find it so hard to slot into pre-formed social circles and especially given I’ve got some values that don’t always gel with the mainstream, meeting new people and feeling a part of something is a big challenge. I went to my second ABA meeting last week and it was absolutely freaking fantastic. I was there nearly the full two hours and really enjoyed it so much. I didn’t want to leave! And neither did the Dude.

Aside from the various playgroups and meet ups I’ve been immersing myself in, I’ve managed to catch up a fair bit with my closest friends here in Melbourne and that’s been great. It certainly does help knowing a couple of people. The other spare time I have has been taken up by appointments relating to the pregnancy. Doctor referrals, scans, midwife appointments, prenatal yoga… That has been good as it’s helped me get a feel for not only the geography of the city and surrounds (due to driving all over the place) but also the feel of the people in this city. I know I’m probably biased but I swear there is this lovely, kind, generous, open vibe here in Melbourne. Yeah, you get dickheads, don’t get me wrong (our neighbours and the freaky people across the road are in that category), but generally speaking I’ve had nothing but great experiences dealing with the people of Melbourne.

I must go off on a tangent here briefly and mention the incredible referral appointment I had with my doctor yesterday. Yes, I’m now referring to him as MY doctor. Now for anyone who knows me, you’ll know I have never once used this phrase in my entire life. I’ve never ‘had’ a doctor and usually only go to them when I really need a prescription, which isn’t very often as most things can be healed at home without paying out for pharmaceuticals and guesswork. But this guy, wow, I’m bowled over by him! The first time I went to him was upon recommendation from the midwifery practice I’m using to have this baby. I knew he must be fairly open-minded as he practises out of the midwifery clinic sometimes and signs lots of referrals for homebirths. We got talking briefly about breastfeeding and he actually commended me on having stuck with breastfeeding this long, despite my aversions. I was quite impressed! This time, I went for another referral for something a little more difficult to explain and he was so kind and understanding and said it was an absolute privilege for him to be able to refer me and that he was humbled that I’d been able to talk to him about the issue! I told him I wouldn’t feel very comfortable speaking to the majority of doctors I’ve met in the past but that he is different and I feel comfortable with him. He actually gave me a hug and was quite emotional about it! I was amazed and really quite elated. There are great doctors out there, they do exist!

Anyway, the most wonderful thing about being here in Melbourne, even though there is a lot more work to do in order to feel totally at home, is this feeling of genuine love for the place. There have been moments, one at the museum the other week, where I just stop for a moment and look up at the buildings and soak in the vibe and I genuinely like living here. I don’t know when I’ve ever had that feeling. Or at least if I have, it’s been a long time.  Probably since living in London. I did try to give Sydney a chance, really I did, but my heart just wasn’t in it and I never felt any connection to the place. I don’t know that I feel a huge connection to Melbourne, as I’m realising more and more that I am really not connected to Australia in general, but what I do feel is an appreciation of where I am. I’m glad to be here. There is a lot of goodness to soak up in Melbourne and I’m really looking forward to continuing to soak it up for however long I am here.

Toddler tantrums and two types of weaning

We’ve been going through some huge stuff with the Dude lately. Anyone who knows him will know he is a full on kid, really intense and wilful anyway, and quite unpredictable. I’ve never had much success pinpointing the cause of any particular problem, whether it’s physical or behavioural or emotional, and I think this is due to his nature. He is complex. That’s okay, so am I, and so is his dad in many ways. But it makes parenting him an extra big challenge most of the time.

I took him to a new playgroup yesterday morning and after a really difficult night the night before he was a bit out of sorts, to say the least. He spent about 70 per cent of the time having meltdowns and crying and screaming during the playgroup. The other mums and playgroup leader were extremely understanding and kind, gently offering him ways to be included and making efforts to include me as we are brand new to the group. After my initial tactic trying to coax him from his corner to join the circle of children, I sat down and ignored him and eventually he came over and sat with me, finally joining in a little bit of rough play with a boy of similar disposition. After nearly three years of parenting this crazy child, I am pretty good at remaining calm and giving him just the right amount of time and space to come back down to earth. Today was a massive challenge, though, as he was so unmanageable and screamed during times when the other children were trying to sing and participate in the various activities during the playgroup.

At one point, I found myself explaining what had been going on for him recently and I realised just how much he’d been subjected to over the last few months, how many big changes in all areas of his life. Not only have we made two big interstate moves, the last one barely three months ago, and he’s unwittingly been subjected to the conflict and stresses that inevitably arise during times of massive change, he’s also become more and more aware of the increasing presence of his little sister and the changes that will bring for him. He is really sensitive to everything I tell him about the baby, and takes it all in. I recently discovered, after he rejected me aggressively, refusing to let me lift him into his car seat, that he was just being considerate and not wanting me to lift him because, “you got a baby in there, I too heavy!” I’d only mentioned it once or twice when he wanted me to carry him for more than a few minutes, so I was shocked to discover how much he’d taken my words to heart.

I have found it quite hard going continuing to breastfeed him, although I know this is fairly common for women who are feeding and become pregnant. I have reluctantly night-weaned him in order to save my sanity and allow me to get some sleep, which initially seemed to be working quite well but now is really making it tough for all three of us. I really struggled with how to go about this, as I don’t want him to ever feel rejected, or replaced, and going cold turkey with breastfeeding is not a good idea for either of us health-wise. I wasn’t very consistent in my approach to begin with, mainly because I hadn’t come to terms with what I had to do. I had a brief but profound conversation with a woman at another playgroup we visited who said that she had to really get her head around what she was doing and why and be clear about the rules or boundaries. That really hit home with me and I realised I had to work out exactly what I was doing and how so the Dude wouldn’t be confused. It sounds simple, but in my experience breastfeeding full term (ie. into the toddler stage and beyond) is a very emotional experience and becomes more emotionally complex the longer it continues. The breastfeeding relationship accumulates more layers as it continues, and peeling back those layers prematurely can be painful and confronting. It may sound strange but I never really liked breastfeeding until the Dude was about two and suddenly something clicked. It’s not like I totally love it now, but there was definitely a positive change for me at that point and if I hadn’t stuck it out til then I wouldn’t have experienced anything akin to what I’ve heard described by other mothers in relation to the emotional pleasure of it.

Anyway, instead of arbitrarily refusing him as I’d initially done, I began to only refuse if he woke at night. He still fed to sleep if he asked for it, but if he demanded boobie any time before 6am, I refused him, explaining we had to save the boobie milk for the new baby. To begin with, it was a little hard, but he soon got used to daddy resettling him, and some nights he slept through. I thought it was working really well; until he started waking a lot during the night and expecting daddy to lie in bed with him for hours while he went back to sleep. I soon discovered he was getting really upset due to believing he couldn’t have milk any more, when really it was just at night time. Once that confusion was cleared up, it seemed to get better, until it got worse. That night before the playgroup was particularly hard. He woke at 3am, ran to my side of the bed and asked for boobie, which I of course refused. He immediately lost the plot and demanded daddy lie down with him as I hauled him back to his bed. I have little patience at 3am and didn’t appreciate being kicked and screamed at. I pushed him into his bed and shouted at him that he had to go to sleep and daddy was sleeping and not going to come. Pretty silly really, but that’s the kind of shit that goes down in the middle of the night when you’re just over it! Anyway, daddy came to the rescue, hauling me off the floor and sending me back to bed while he lay down with the Dude who went immediately quiet. I was quite upset and wondered to myself how the hell I would do this when Mr C is away for two weeks in May, or worse still, when the new baby arrives. I have no idea. I’m just hoping this is a phase and some kind of adjustment or growth spurt or something.

The other change we’ve made in the Dude’s life, just over the last couple of weeks, is weaning him off television. We expected him to watch less or none while my mum was visiting as she doesn’t like him watching any and will play with him forever if it means the tv stays off. He didn’t watch any at all while she was here for just over a week, and for the next few days after she left. He didn’t really even mention it or ask for it after the first day or so. I’ve always felt quite guilty about him having any screen time, especially before age two when there is absolutely no reason to put the tv on as far as I’m concerned. I truly don’t think it adds anything worthwhile to the life of a child and while I completely love tv and movies and feel like they add something to my life, it’s really just pure entertainment, so in fact what they add isn’t necessary and can be replaced. Before I had the Dude I was convinced I wouldn’t let my children watch tv, or at least not much, and not at a young age. That all went out the window pretty quickly and we found the Dude was watching hours a day, entire movies, and endless episodes of Peppa Pig. Deep down I always assumed we’d see a difference in his behaviour if we curtailed the exposure to tv. The funny thing is, we haven’t. He’s been without it ten days or so and if anything he’s less manageable, not more, although I don’t think this has anything to do with the tv. I seriously don’t think watching tv affects his behaviour at all, and that really surprises me. But what the lack of tv does is provide space for a little bit more healthy play and imagination, which is always a good thing.

It remains to be seen just how the Dude will progress over the next few months and once his sister arrives on the scene, but one thing’s for sure: he is a challenge and a joy all in one! I always say it’s lucky he is so hilarious and clever, it really does make up for the craziness.

Learning how to really relax: birth preparation

I always thought I was great at relaxing. I’m super lazy, always keen to sit down and watch tv or read or play on my phone. Since becoming pregnant again, I have been thinking about how important relaxation is, particularly during labour. It’s about more than just sitting around doing nothing; it’s a conscious practice that could mean the difference between a purely physiological labour and a need for intervention.

When I was pregnant with the Dude, I had grand plans for doing yoga classes. I thought fairly superficially about it, with an aim to keep flexibility in my body and stretch out sore muscles. I never actually did a prenatal yoga class. For some reason I thought I could just manage by reading a whole bunch of, albeit great, books about natural birth and avoiding intervention. It wasn’t actually birth preparation at all, it was more just education on birth, physiology, biology and history. The only real birth preparation book I read was Birthing From Within by Pam England. I hated it. It was all about finding strategies to work through fears or worries leading up to birth, and ways of shedding baggage brought on by trauma experienced in previous births. I didn’t identify with any of it, and found the strategies around ‘birth art’ and the like to be a bit ridiculous; definitely not suitable for me. I felt like I had no fears at all. I wasn’t afraid of the pain, of tearing, of not being able to give birth. I guess I was afraid of ending up in hospital, although I felt the chances of that were so remote that it wasn’t much of a fear.

So I did no real birth prep. I knew about Hypnobirthing but I didn’t do it. I thought I could switch my brain off. Years ago I used to have problems falling asleep, calming and slowing my mind so as to be able to go to sleep, but over the years I developed ways of telling my self to relax and switch off and falling asleep wasn’t such an issue any more. This is what I thought I’d do during labour. How incredibly wrong I was! Not only could I not calm myself, it wasn’t my racing brain that got in the way, I was completely unable to relax and accept the contractions. I hated them. Of course it didn’t help that for most of my labour I had terrible pain around my waist in between the contractions so I had no opportunity to relax when a contraction subsided. To put it bluntly, it hurt like fuck! And when those pains subsided as the Dude most likely made his way right down into the birth canal? They were replaced with pain in my groin, in my uterus itself. It was like a muscle cramp. The uterus fatiguing, needing a break, after contracting every six to three minutes for 38 hours. The ‘ring of fire’ that so many women talk about was not apparent to me. In fact the crowning was the most comfortable, easy part of the entire labour for me. There was a bit of stinging at the front but not even the tiniest twinge in the perineal area.

Anyway, this time around I promised myself I would take a different approach. As I debriefed from the Dude’s birth, I began to create a small ‘to do next time’ list in my head:

  • hypnobirthing
  • birth ball
  • yoga
  • re-read Birthing From Within

At 22 weeks, the only one of those things I’ve addressed is the yoga. About seven weeks ago I began doing  a class at Kundalini House, run by a lovely and knowledgeable doula and apparent Melbourne birth aficionado, Nina Isabella. I’ve never been too fussed about doulas, to be honest. I think they do a fantastic job, don’t get me wrong, but hiring one is not something I’ve ever considered beneficial to me. I am not great at relying on anyone, let alone someone I’ve hired. During labour with the Dude, I don’t think anyone gave me a moment’s massage or anything like that. I don’t really even like massages. Or at least I didn’t. I pretty much held on to Mr Chewbacca’s arm and endured the contractions. I’m sure people wiped my forehead and gave me rescue remedy or whatever but that was about it in terms of actual support. And it’s how I wanted it, what suited me at the time.

This pregnancy is a whole different ball game, and now I know I’m having a girl, that goes some way to explaining why I feel so different. I am more aware of my weaknesses this time around and I’m determined to put some strategies in place to address them and get through labour in a more relaxed, evenly-paced way.

I didn’t really know what to expect, going to my first yoga class. Is it just going to be modified yoga or is it more meditation or what? I realised I didn’t even really know what I wanted. Within the first 15 minutes, I found myself crying. I don’t know how well I hid it, perhaps Nina noticed, and perhaps she sees that all the time. But the tears came, the emotion just welled up. I think it was due to not having taken any time out for myself since the Dude’s arrival, not real time. It was this massive release. I spent most of the class dealing with emotion welling up. It was a good class, great movements, nothing strenuous or wrong-feeling, and lots of relaxation. The second class, I cried again, but not so much. It wasn’t until the third class, when I didn’t cry, that I realised I couldn’t really relax. I went again and again to the classes each week, I felt really up and down. Some movements I really got into and some just felt confronting or wrong. I couldn’t grasp the acupressure points the teacher explained to us, couldn’t feel them at all, still can’t, and this was really frustrating. As I ended my sixth class, I suddenly realised I’d properly relaxed for the first time. It was a great feeling! I lay there for the final meditation hearing no sound but the instructor’s voice very faintly in the background. None of the trams thundering past outside, the clip clopping of heels on the floor below, the phone ringing in the background, even registered. And I wasn’t asleep. I was just totally relaxed for the first time, well, ever, I think. What a breakthrough!

My seventh class was not what I was used to due to a last minute change to the instructor, but attending my eighth class this week I found myself slipping back into that state of relaxation almost straight away. I had learnt something! There are still many aspects of the movements that feel frustrating to me, and times when I can’t relax my body and it seems like I should be able to from what the instructor describes, but I think that breakthrough, feeling true relaxation, was profound and a good reason to keep going.

This little girl growing inside me is already leading me places I could never find before. I am shifting mentally in ways I could only wish for previously. Beyond the birth prep, there are two significant and crucial blocks I have been needing to overcome for most of my life and for the first time ever I am poised to actually take action and change. I hate saying I will change because on every other occasion in my life when I’ve said this, I haven’t. But I won’t give up. My baby needs me to be the best I can be, as does the rest of my family. And myself.

A fresh start

So it’s been about three months since I last posted anything here. There are a variety of reasons for this, but the main one is that I’ve just been way too busy to even log on and write, let alone publish anything! So here’s a brief recap of the last three months:

  • We packed up our entire house in Canberra and after a very long day getting it all on the truck, cleaning and fitting all our remaining stuff into the car, we made our way to Melbourne to stay with some lovely friends way out on Mornington Peninsula while we hunted for a rental in the northern suburbs.
  • We got pregnant. Yep, that’s right, there’s another dude or dudette currently cooking away, due at the end of August. We’ve found our midwife at the lovely MAMA midwifery practice, and I’ve started yoga and I’m on the hunt for a good meditation/relaxation recording. It’s been a fairly easy pregnancy so far, with only one serious vomit incident resulting in paying $150 to get our car detailed. Aside from when drunk and not remembering, I’d say that’s the most I’ve ever thrown up in my life!
  • It only took a couple of weeks of driving the hour or so between our friends’ place and the area we were looking in Melbs for us to find something and we moved in early Feb. It’s only two bedrooms but fairly roomy, brand new and under 10km from the city about 15 mins walk from the tram. We like it, although yet again we’ve managed to end up with a barking dog next door. Granted, it’s not as annoying as the one in Sydney which I had fantasies about poisoning (oh god that sounds horrible doesn’t it, but seriously, this thing was a total menace! Actually the owners were the ones needing a good lesson…) but the owners don’t seem to care when it barks pointlessly, which is crap.
  • Dude is weaning. He is still having boobie but things have really shifted in that area, particularly since I told him that the milk might not be there or might change and that the new baby will have boobie and we need to ‘save’ the milk for the baby. This was my vague attempt at getting him to cut down as I’m increasingly over breastfeeding. He is three in May and although I know plenty of people who’ve fed children longer than that and I think it’s awesome to feed as long as you and the baby want, I personally am just really keen for a break. I’ve never enjoyed breastfeeding particularly, never experienced the bond or hormonal rush that other mums describe, and although I discovered a new fondness for it when Dude turned two, I still feel very touch-sensitive and would like to find other ways of comforting and relaxing him. Suffice it to say, daddy is suddenly all the rage and has to endure numerous readings of mindless, repetitive material, mainly by Dr Seuss, until Dude is satisfied and goes off to sleep.
  • Now that we’re in Melbs, we’re trying to settle, but it’s just SO hard! I’ve never felt so strange about being anywhere, and I think it’s because I planned to really settle here and it’s proving a little difficult. I don’t know if it’s Mr Chewbacca’s influence or me changing, but I’m finding it terribly hard to love my country of birth. Australia just means nothing to me culturally, and there’s so much about living in this country that has no cultural significance for me; in fact it is downright annoying! It’s early days here, and no matter what we plan to stick it out for a few years at least. I just can’t wait to find some friends and regularity here.

There’s been plenty more happening, but it’s all rather mundane and boring involving trips to Centrelink, buying clothes, looking for jobs and negotiating weird Melbourne traffic, so not really worth mentioning!

This third move in Australia is a huge achievement for us, more so for me actually, as I’ve had it in my head that Melbourne is the place for me since coming here for the first time nearly 20 years ago. It’s also a final move for us; if this doesn’t work, that’s it, we’ll be heading back over to the northern hemisphere, the UK, outer London probably. And to do that would not only cost a fair bit of money, it would need to be a really certain final move. We’d never move back here. So Melbourne, you’ve got a lot of work to do to get us really loving this country!

My life in a shed and other junk

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My favourite view of the hills around Canberra, facing south west going down the Cotter Road. Or possibly the Parkway, you can see that sharp peak from there too.

As I think I mentioned before, we’ve just sold our house in Canberra. I bought this house in 2005 and lived here just under two years before leaving in 2007 to go to the UK. I never wanted to go to the UK, but I knew it had to be done, like a right of passage. More on that another time. I went, thinking I’d have a few epiphanies, conclude that London wasn’t for me, and come home within six months. With a British passport safely tucked away (well, on its way in the mail a couple of months after I arrived as I applied for it too close to when I was due to fly out!), I knew I could stay longer if I wanted. And I did. Two years longer. I guess a year of that can be attributed to meeting Mr Chewbacca in mid 2008, but because we ended up moving to Sydney in 2010 (and I said I’d rather chop off a limb than live in Sydney, hmm), I didn’t live in my Canberra house again until July this year – almost exactly six years to the day that I left, in fact.

A whiteboard I had up on the cupboard counting down to my departure for London. It never got below four days to go, as I left Canberra four days before flying out to go to my best friend's wedding on the Central Coast before flying out of Sydney.

A whiteboard I had up on the cupboard counting down to my departure for London. It never got below four days to go, as I left Canberra four days before flying out to go to my best friend’s wedding on the Central Coast before flying out of Sydney.

In the front courtyard is a small, metal garden shed. Because I’m a hoarder (or so says Mr C), I put a whole bunch of my stuff in this shed before I left. The actual reason I did this is not just about being a hoarder; it’s more just pure laziness and lack of forethought. So because I only planned to be away six months, I didn’t worry too much about filling the shed with a dented roof that let in rain almost floor to ceiling with stuff. And because I wasn’t really organised or motivated when it came to planning my London escapade, I ended up just shoving a whole lot of stuff in the shed and padlocking the door shut and pretending it was what I wanted to do in the first place. I actually gave away a bit of stuff, random stuff, now I look back, but there is so much in there that’s just not needed and could have been better used by someone else. In fact about 90 per cent of the stuff in the shed is either useless to me or surplus to my needs. And now it’s been six years since I ventured into the shed, both of those categories apply even more so.  To give you an idea, here’s a quick overview of the contents, or at least what I can see is in there:

  • Crockery and glassware – I gave away only part of dinner sets and some mugs and kept others… why?!
  • My parents’ Edwardian sideboard with the broken door which my mum painted 1970s brown some time in the 1970s. Okay granted, there’s sentimental value, but yeah, not needed.
  • Random shoes and clothes that I’d wrapped to sell on ebay but ran out of time. Needless to say they’re not selling that well now.
  • Many plastic bags full of bits and pieces from my top bedside drawer that hadn’t been cleaned out since I acquired the drawers. Seriously, my idea of ‘packing’ was either leaving shit in the drawers and just taking them out and putting them in my car to move to a new place, or else tipping the contents of each drawer into a plastic back and then tipping the contents of said bag back into the drawer at the other end. So technically the stuff in these bags has been with me since before I moved out of home. Needless to say, chewing gum and eucalyptus lollies tend to get a bit sticky and melted after a six years in a plastic bag in an unventilated metal shed.
  • CD racks, two of them, and one of those barely distinguishable as a CD rack, even if people still used CD racks these days, which they apparently don’t.
  • Clothes that didn’t fit me in 2007 and fit me even less in 2013.
  • Shit from Aldi. For some reason anything from Aldi is like, oh wow, it’s from Aldi, it only cost [insert small amount of money here]! Yeah, but it’s shit that you’re not using, get rid of it!
  • Incomplete and only semi-educational worksheets from highschool Italian. Why did I keep these past the point of being handed them by my teacher in year 7 who used to grab you by the ear if you were a smartarse?
  • Board games. Okay, yeah, board games are cool, but these were ones I used to play when I was like seven or eight. So no longer applicable to me, and probably no longer in usable form by the time the Dude is old enough to play them. Goodbye 500 piece Cats of Lesley Ann Ivory puzzle that I probably did once when I was nine.
  • A few little nuggets combining sentimentality and usefulness. Only a few.
The shed. You can see my dad's framed 'Kings and Queens of Great Britain' poster I'd just pulled out. it's a bit puckered but still good.

The shed. You can see my dad’s framed ‘Kings and Queens of England’ poster I’d just pulled out. It’s a bit puckered but still good.

There is a lot more. There are mystery suitcases from second hand shops hiding right at the back and I have no idea what’s in them. There is stuff still under the tarp that I’m too afraid to lift away just yet. Mr C, being a nervy and obsessive Capricorn to begin with, is highly offended by the sight of the shed even with the door locked, never mind the myriad of horrors lying within. He is also scared of the spiders that are no doubt living it up in there, unless they’ve been fried over six summers of 35 degree days in a metal shed. I can say one thing for sure: there were (or might still be?) rats or mice in there. Now that worries me. So far I’ve not seen or heard any, but I’m only about a quarter of the way into sorting the stuff in there so I’ve not moved most of it. There is a bit of poo and some evidence of chewing anyway.

One of numerous dolls my mum made me growing up which I saved from the shed unharmed. Her name is Lucinda.

One of numerous dolls my mum made me growing up which I saved from the shed unharmed. Her name is Lucinda. She’s probably about 27 or 28 years old.

Star Wars Kinder Surprise toys I rescued for the Dude. I'll chuck them out when he's had a good go at them.

Star Wars Kinder Surprise toys I rescued for the Dude. I’ll chuck them out when he’s had a good go at them. As you can see, he’s already pulled apart the empire’s fighters. The Millenium Falcon is also missing.

My old crayons! I got these when I was first learning to write, probably about age seven. I know that because on the back on a piece of masking tape I've written my name and the lower case 'a's are back to front, which is something I did only when I was first learning.

My old crayons! I got these when I was first learning to write, probably about age seven. I know that because on the back on a piece of masking tape I’ve written my name and the lower case ‘a’s are back to front, which is something I did only when I was first learning.

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My uncle’s old guitar that he gave me. I had it restrung and was told that it was very cheap and would never stay in tune, which is true, but I had held onto it. That’s the Dude’s little hand having a strum using a marble for a plectrum, as you do. He loves it and has even been ‘singing’ while ‘playing’.

Things I think and/or hope are in there:

  • My mum’s blue 1980s fur coat. She bought this with her inheritance sometime in the 80s and I don’t think she ever wore it. It’s seriously the most hideous fur coat you’ve ever seen, and that’s saying something, considering how hideous fur coats can be. From memory, it has massive shoulder pads, it’s about 3/4 length, with dark blue arms and the body is striped blue, brown, cream and black fur. I think ebay may show me some love, if it’s still in mint condition. I was meant to sell it on ebay six years ago but yeah…
  • My artwork from the Canberra School of Art. I remember doing some really cool drawings and paintings that I’d like to see again. Either I’ll realise I was never that talented or I’ll finally have something to frame.
  • Old diaries. Now the chances that my diaries from the age of ten onwards are in the shed are pretty remote, as I could have sworn I put them in a small wooden chest and gave them to my mum before I went to the UK. But if they are in there, oh joy! Some more blog posts will be forthcoming then! In fact a whole series entitled something like, “The embarrassing musings of an insecure yet arrogant adolescent”…
  • Cool stuff in the old trunk my mum had before she met my dad. Now the trunk is there, I can see it, huge and green and metal with my mum’s first married name neatly written across the top in red paint. What’s in the trunk is the mystery. I’m hoping for some awesome old photos or writing, but it may just be a bunch of useless crap I wanted to put on ebay. Either way, I’ve got to move the Edwardian sideboard out and get rid of it before I can get to the trunk. Now that little baby is going on gumtree as soon as I can drag it out, brush off the spider webs and take the crappy crockery in it to the Salvos.

I don’t really know why I’m writing this post or how it could possibly be interesting to anyone but myself (maybe my mum, although I don’t think she likes my blog very much because of that post about migrants and some stuff that didn’t seem accurate. Plus she is worried about people out to ‘get’ me via the internet. Cos yeah, they don’t have anything better to do I guess). Anyway, it’s about 40 minutes until Mr C gets back from chasing the Dude around an indoor playground wanting dinner and I haven’t even started making the ‘south east asiany type thing with chicken or something’ that I promised earlier, so I’d better end here. I should have done more ‘proper’ writing but got distracted by Florence Welch’s hair and then started looking at pictures of Christina Hendricks and decided I like Florence’s hair better and will try and get that even though I haven’t got the right shape face and don’t have money for hairdressers at the moment anyway. Yeah, you can see how I get distracted from proper writing. So much for freelancing from home. Back to the drawing board. Stay tuned for an update on the shed investigation and while you’re waiting, check out this amazing performance, one of my favourites!

Money, cars, houses, decisions

Reading a blog recently detailing the life of a man who migrated to Australia with $7 in his pocket and within a few years had bought a house, car, and established a successful career, I began thinking about nature versus nurture when it comes to practicalities, choices and material successes in life. It struck me that this story illustrated perfectly why my belief that my capacity to plan and organise is entirely inherited is actually total rubbish. I realised that being successful, making sound choices and managing finances sensibly is a skill, a lifestyle choice in fact. What is interesting about this story is that this man adopted a child from a very poor orphanage in a third world country who in turn became very successful, investing in property at a young age and running a number of businesses. So many of the choices the son made were based on parental advice and parental demonstration of good planning and hard work. Many of the qualities I would consider to be inherited genetically were actually passed on by example to the adopted son.

It’s hard not to feel envious of the kind of success this family enjoys. But I know that any envy is counterproductive and a waste of time. These people do not envy. They get on with being successful. That is one of the secrets of their success, not wasting time and energy comparing themselves with those they compete with.

For most of my life, I’ve had the distinct impression that my lack of success financially and my inability to plan and organise is genetic. I think this belief was cemented by family members, with their actions and words. There was always an undertone of lack of control over circumstances, a helplessness and despair that infiltrated my life growing up. Ambition was encouraged (the sky’s the limit, you are talented and capable) but ultimately there was no demonstration or guidance around the practical realities of achieving goals. Something was disconnected along the line somewhere.

I think it must have been about 1960 when my great grandfather – my father’s father’s father – died suddenly. He was only about 60, fairly young, but not for our family. He actually had assets when he died – a bit of savings and a house. My dad was 11, the eldest of four at that stage. He related this story to me a few times but I really don’t remember all the details. Suffice it to say, the six of them – my grandparents and four kids – were driving in their very old heavy car up a steep hill. My grandparents were having an argument about the money my grandfather’s father had left him. My grandfather had it with him, a wad of cash. I dare say this probably had to do with my great grandfather keeping his money in the mattress in cash. He was apparently a communist and didn’t like banks. He’d had an experience during the first world war that instilled this believe in him.

As the argument came to a head, my grandfather got frustrated and stopped the car halfway up the hill, throwing the pile of money up into the air and turning his back on the car to stomp off up the hill on foot. My grandmother didn’t often lose an argument, even if in the wrong. Like me.

Unbeknownst to grandad, the car’s handbrake wasn’t on properly and the heavy, iron chassis began to roll backwards down the hill. My grandmother would have been terrified as she never learnt to drive and was always stopping her children from doing anything that might result in an accident. Grandad heard screams and turned to see the car rolling down the hill so he began sprinting back down after it. There was no way he could catch up. My dad, having been around cars and mechanics fairly often, knew what to do. He jumped into the driver’s seat and applied the brake. All were saved.

This is so typical of my family, at least on my dad’s side. We end up in these ridiculous situations and they’re always to do with cars and money! Everyone used to talk about how cursed we all were when it came to cars. What it illustrates to me, however, is this constant lack of control over life. The car running down the hill is symbolic of this. I used to have nightmares as a child of being in a car rolling down a hill, out of control. It wasn’t the fear of crashing that was most frightening, it was that sense of helplessness.

I once heard someone say it is all about attitude. Attitude to life, to success, to finances, to relationships, to yourself. What what is attitude, exactly? Is it a choice? Those that have a bad one would probably say it isn’t. But I believe it is. And I believe making the choice about one’s attitude is easier if you have the results of maintaining a positive, confident attitude demonstrated to you growing up. I don’t think I had this, and I think it did me much damage. But I will do all I can to choose a positive attitude for the sake of my son, to make good choices. Everyone takes risks in life, but there’s a massive difference between a risk based on carelessness and disregard and one based on respect for yourself and those around you. I’m choosing the latter.

 

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