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Living Upside Down

1
Shhh. I’m Sleeping.

I started this blog last year as part of a plan to refocus and get myself organised. Unfortunately, life took a few unexpected twists and turns and things didn’t quite go to plan.

 

I’m gradually getting myself back on track, but I’ve decided that I need to simplify my comitments. As part of that decision, I’ve decided to focus all my blogging efforts at my original blog Reading Upside Down.

 

So, for the moment, Living Upside Down will be taking a little nap. I hope that you’ll follow me at Reading Upside Down and stay in touch there. I’ll still be on Twitter (@ReadUpsideDown) and I’ll be more active on the Reading Upside Down Facebook page as well as my general Susan Whelan – Freelance Writer page.

 

Thanks so much for visiting Living Upside Down and for your comments over the past year. The support and encouragement I’ve received here helped me through some very difficult times.

Now, time for that nap…

Susan xxx

 
funny pictures - Cyoot Kitteh of teh Day: Sleep In; It's Caturday!
see more Lolcats and funny pictures, and check out our Socially Awkward Penguin lolz!

 

1
Operation Inbox

It’s been a busy couple of weeks and, believe it or not, decisions have been made and I have even managed to cross a few long term items of the never-ending To Do List.

In the past few weeks I’ve held a garage sale (more on the trauma of that at a later date), accompanied my 13-year-old son on a business trip to Adelaide (he attended meetings while I spent the day on a wine tour in the Barossa – I knew that this parenting thing would yield some perks if I just stuck it out long enough) and I’ve commenced a winter weight-loss meal plan (via Lose Baby Weight). Busy times here at the House of Whelan.

I’m trying to set myself some concrete goals and tasks for each day and week. This week’s goal is to stick to my meal plan and avoid snacks. My motivation is my 25-year school reunion on Saturday night. I am confident that a week of healthy eating will definitely offset years of late night chocolate snacks. If I’m right, a gorgeous Portman’s dress will be my reunion outfit of choice. If not, it will be jeans and a nice top. Either way, I’ll be wearing my sparkly red heels, so chances are no one will notice my waistline anyway.

My mission for today, should I choose to accept it, is to bring order to my email inbox. It’s no wonder that I’m often tardy returning emails. I dread opening my inbox because the ridiculous number of unanswered emails and the sheer chaos of it all.

So, today I am going to set up personal, work and ‘fill your email details in here and we’ll keep you up to date with our latest products and news’ gmail accounts and attempt to update my friends, associates and mailing lists with the appropriate new address.

If nothing else, focusing on the electronic chaos of my cluttered inbox will help distract me from the Haigh’s chocolate in the pantry, singing its siren song and taunting me.

Wish me luck.

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Same Old, Same Old

As much as I love my hometown of Newcastle, I have to admit that we don’t tend to adapt well to change. We agree that it is a good thing (in theory), but would prefer it happened to someone else, somewhere else.

This morning I was listening to the radio and heard mention of a comment by Nick Greiner yesterday about the Newcastle city rail line. Apparently, Mr Greiner feels that our inner city resembles Beirut on a bad Friday night thanks to the track that extends into Newcastle, separating the CBD from the waterfront.

For those who don’t live in Newcastle, you may not realise just how long this discussion has been going on. I can remember public debate on the issue as far back as my final years of school (in the late 80s) and the topic was hardly new then. More than twenty years later, we are still discussing it. Actually, the radio conversation this morning was more a discussion about the fact that we are discussing the rail topic. It’s enough to make you dizzy.

Frustrated by the rehashing of a tired old argument, I switched stations hoping for something a little more interesting. No such luck. Apparently Lenore Skenazy is in Australia, once again upsetting modern parents by promoting her free-range children philosophy. They mentioned the fact that she allowed her 9-year-old son to ride on the subway alone as if it only happened yesterday. Surely this ‘child’ is now well into his teens, having survived both the subway and the trial by media of his mother.

Anyone else feel like their life is some cruel Groundhog’s Day-esque practical joke? Am I the only one trapped in a seemingly endless round of deja vu discussions and experiences? Is there truly ‘nothing new under the sun’?

Maybe my frustrations with the rehashed ‘current’ affairs discussions stem from the relentless repetition that is an inevitable part of family life. Endless loads of washing, meals to prepare, school drop offs/pick-ups, bills to pay, lunchboxes to fill and after school activities to schedule and attend. Endless repetitions of the same questions from me (Where is your lunchbox? Have you done your homework? Have you brushed your teeth?) and them (Where are my socks? What’s for dinner? Do I have to?).

It can be difficult to stop one day flowing seamlessly into the next as I cycle through an ever-repeating list of household chores and responsibilities. The same old, same old discussions are just the icing on the cake.

I think I need to make more of an effort to inject something new and interesting into my days. As part of dealing with my diagnosis of depression last year I have been trying to do things for myself, small indulgences and treats to buoy my spirits. It’s not just about buying things however (although I still get a ridiculous amount of pleasure at the sight of my ‘this will make me feel better’ red stiletto shoes). It’s about reclaiming myself – physically, mentally and emotionally.

So, any tips for how to easily inject something interesting and new into my everyday life? I’m all for a all expenses paid trip to Europe to expand my horizons and stimulate cultural and social discussions, but I’m guessing that is unlikely to be an option. What does everyone else do to keep the Groundhog’s Day Blues away?

1
One Step at a Time

The problem with making grand statements is that the next thing you do needs to be equally grand or the whole situation ends up feeling like a bit of an anticlimax.

I’ve tried to think of something inspiring to write about today, something that would prove that I really have committed myself to changing the way I deal with life in a more positive, productive way. I wanted a big news story that would really confirm that this was the dawning of a new age of organisation and all-round awesomeness.

I’m sorry to report that opportunities to save the world and totally renew and transform my life have been a little difficult to find this morning. I haven’t done anything particularly remarkable, although I guess that’s what yesterday’s post, Onward and Upward, was all about. I need to stop waiting for the perfect moment to come along before I get on with my life. This is my life, now, and I can either live it with purpose or I can waste it while I wait for the ground-shaking event that will signify that it is time to finally put new plans into place.

So, today I have not completely cleaned and reorganised my kitchen, I haven’t dusted from skirting boards to cornice, nor have I cleaned out 3 years of electronic dreck from my inbox.

However, I have finalised forms to give to my accountant so that we can submit our 2010/11 tax returns (yes, I know, more on financial chaos and disorganisation another time). I have hung out two loads of washing, washed up and prepared an acceptance letter for a friend’s wedding invitation a whole 19 days before the RSVP date.

I may not have managed to get up at dawn for an hour of yoga and pilates before eating a nutritious and organically sourced breakfast, but I did eat a bowl of porridge while it was still hot and I actually sat down at the table to do it. I even read a few pages of a book at the same time (Charlotte Wood’s Love & Hunger: Thoughts on the Gift of Food for those who are curious – a wonderful book that I am thoroughly enjoying).

Once I publish this post, I will take some freshly made pumpkin soup to a friend’s house so that we can share it for lunch. We haven’t caught up for a while and I’m looking forward to a relaxing chat with a good friend.

It may not look like it, but today was a step, albeit a small one, in the direction I want to go. I’m happy with that.

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Onward and Upward

I have come to a conclusion – my life is passing me by while I wait for things to get better. I’ve got everything on hold waiting for the ‘right’ moment when it will all suddenly make sense and my purpose will shine, clear and unimpeded, ahead of me.

I’m tired of being on hold. I’m tired of trying to deal with all the old stuff before I move on to the new stuff. Unless a great big RESET button appears to wipe away all the past mistakes, regrets, half finished jobs and mishandled opportunities, I’m squandering my future as I try to mend my past.

So, this is my line in the sand. From today, it’s all going to be different.

I don’t think everything is suddenly going to fall into place because I’ve decided to stop dithering and procrastinating, but I’m determined to put a few things right from today onwards. The muddled up past can get sorted out as I go (or not).

There are still lots of issues to sort out in the background, but I’m determined to make an effort to focus on the kinds of positive, interesting, quirky, entertaining things that make me smile or think (or even both at the same time if I’ve had enough sleep and a sufficiently large shot of sugar).

So, from today, writing for my blogs and elsewhere is part of my ‘taking time for myself and choosing to be productive and positive’ therapy. I will stop waiting for the blog renovations to take place and will instead start posting regularly so that when the cyber facelift finally happens, there might actually be some readers about to notice. I will continue to write for Kids Book Review, Suite101 and Happychild online as well as Newcastle’s Child in print and I will happily consider offers from elsewhere for freelance writing contributions.

The time has come to stop making excuses and stop letting guilt and regrets hold me back. The journey forward starts with one step, and I’m taking that one step today.

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A Little Music Before Bedtime

I’ve just posted something serious and thoughtful over at my book blog Reading Upside Down (you can read my letter to Indigenous Australian author Anita Heiss here should you be so inclined), so I feel in need of something a little light-hearted to balance things out before I head off to bed.

I think a musical interlude would work nicely. Since my awesome, AWESOME Walk Off The Earth Beard Guy T-shirt arrived in the mail today (ordered thanks to some very supportive enablers on Twitter) I think that a couple of Walk Off The Earth clips would do nicely.

I’m sure that most of you are familiar with the WOTE Goyte Somebody That I Used To Know cover (If not, you can find it here). Instead, I want to share two of their other clips. I love that they are both talented and quirky.

 

 

 

1
I’m Such a Coward

Quite often, I think of great things to blog about then, one of three things happens.

  1. I’m not near a computer at the time, but I assure myself that I will most definitely remember that absolutely fantabulous idea later and I do not write it down. Very unwise.
  2. I get distracted by life in general and children in particular and by the time I can get to the computer the blog post is no longer topical. Darn those pesky children who expect to be fed and cared for.
  3. I want to write about something important and meaningful and I chicken out. I then read something incredible written by another blogger and kick myself that I wasn’t brave enough to write about it myself.

Obviously I need to get a notebook and a better routine to deal with the first two. I think I’ve found the solution to the third problem. I’ve just read an amazing post on a topic I have long felt passionate about and an amazing response to the post that shows just why it’s important to write about the important things. Nothing like the bravery of someone else to convince you to overcome your fears.

Thanks to a Facebook link by Yvette Vignando from Happy Child, I today discovered the Single Dad Laughing blog. In November last year, blogger Dan Pearce wrote a post titled ‘I’m Christian, unless you’re Gay.‘ This was followed up today with ‘A Teen’s Brave Response to “I’m Christian, unless you’re Gay”’. These posts have reminded me why blogging isn’t just a self-indulgent outlet for frustrated wannabe writers.

You need to go and read both of those posts now. Really.

Dan’s original post moved me deeply. I’m a Christian and I have long felt uncomfortable with the way many Christians and Christian churches target particular groups within the community and ‘blame’ them for undermining our society. I’ve never understood it. If we believe that (perceived) weakness and flaws in others are a problem, then aren’t our own weaknesses and flaws just as likely to be a problem? We listen to sermons that talk about love, forgiveness and the fact that all sins are equal in the eyes of God and the we walk outside and impose a strict hierarchy of wickedness on actions, with our own weaknesses given the lowest possible ranking.

I’ve never been able to get my head around the inequality of it all. I am grateful that I have the freedom to express my faith, to form my own opinions, to choose my own priorities. Why would I not want others to have that same freedom? Why do I believe that I have a greater right to integrity and self-determination than someone else? What makes me so special and them less so?

It is the underlying arrogance of people on both sides of the debate (about same-sex marriage, homosexuality in general, religion vs. atheism, lifestyle choices, health choices, whether eating sugar will poison us all) that leaves me feeling frustrated and, when Christians are involved, quite often embarrassed and ashamed of how my own faith is represented.

Of course I think that what I believe is right. That’s why I believe it. I think that my life choices, my faith, my priorities are the best possible from the options available. That’s why I chose them. BUT, and this is the important part, that doesn’t mean I have the right to force others to share my view, to demean and belittle them if they disagree, to ostracise, ridicule and mock them if they don’t share my opinions or to blame them for all that is wrong with the world. If I want the right to set the priorities for my life, I should extend that same privilege to others.

If you didn’t follow the links to the Single Dad Laughing blog above, you really should go now. If you’re a Christian or simply someone who believes that their faith gives them an inside edge on the way things ‘should’ be, I strongly recommend you read the original post, then read the response post that shows just how much damage can be done by judging actions without acknowledging the person and their need for unconditional love.

As a Christian, I found the original post confronting. As a parent, I found the incredibly wise and heartfelt words of the 15-year-old boy just as confronting as I consider the way I deal with my own children and the efforts that I make to ensure that they feel accepted and valued in their own home.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what I really want to do with this blog and I think today I’ve worked it out. I’ll still be writing frivolous posts about random things that catch my eye, but I’ll also be speaking up about the important things. Thank you Dan for your courage. You’ve inspired me to be brave too.

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I’m a Top 50 Style Dare Blogger!

At the beginning of last year, I was so very tired of feeling and looking ‘blah’. My clothes seemed to be uniformly drab. I owned 17 lipsticks, mostly in shades of brown, and my wardrobe was overflowing with ill-fitting clothes in neutral colours. It was suburban mum camouflage, helping me to blend into the background – nothing too tight, nothing too bright, nothing unusual, different or noteworthy.

Acknowledging my limitations and desperately wanting to get out of the style rut I’d found myself in, I decided to consult with a stylist. Enter the encouraging and supportive Alison Triffett, who helped me enormously and gave me lots of tips on how to liberate myself from the overwhelming beige-ness of it all.

I guess my big style lesson last year was realising how the way I dressed was influencing the way I felt about myself and vice versa. It’s not about wearing catwalk fashion or designer labels, but rather about working out what makes me feel good about myself and what kind of image I want to project to others, and keeping my style choices consistent with those goals.

So, what image do I want to project? Honestly, after years of blending into the background and striving to bland myself down to make sure that I wasn’t standing out too much or making anyone else uncomfortable, I simply want to be able to relax and be myself. I want to have a little bit of fun, but still keep things reasonably basic and practical. To be eclectic and quirky but not out-there.

Inspired by Alison and the same Anonymums book that prompted Andrea’s first fashion dare, I decided to ditch the brown lipsticks as part of my style overhaul. I fronted up to the Napoleon Perdis counter at David Jones and told the consultant, Tania, that I was looking for a red lipstick that wouldn’t make me look like a hooker or a clown. I was looking for a new style, but it’s still good to set some fashion boundaries, I think.

Tania picked out a few shades for me to try and then informed me that it often takes several minutes to get used to wearing something so bright. Maybe so, but I must confess for me it was love at first sight. I love my red lipsticks and have worn them regularly over the past nine months including during Andrea’s first ever style challenge, the #RedLipstickDare.

Red has become a colour that symbolises my rebellion against all things beige and blah. In addition to my red lipsticks, I also own the world’s most awesome Wittner red sequined shoes. I love these shoes. LOVE them. Knowing that I have a pair of such stupendous shoes in my wardrobe gives me a little buzz every time I think about it. Blah-beige women do not own red sequined, silver glitter-soled stilettos. (Thanks to Tiffany from My Three Ring Circus for the awesome shot of my shoes. The style name is Amber, but I much prefer the name Kim-Marie of Kimba Likes has given them: the ‘We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto’ shoes.)

I’ve even dip-dyed my hair red, much to the disgust of my 12-year-old son who seems to feel that mothers should be too sensible and responsible to do anything so frivolous.

I love Andrea’s Fox in Flats blog. It’s a regular reminder to me to consciously avoid frumpy mum clothes and to instead have a little big of fun with the style choices I make. I like being bumped out of my comfort zone with her dares and I’m proud to be on her list of Top 50 Style Dare Bloggers.

When did you last shake up your style choices?

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For Those Who Did Not Report

I had a post planned for this evening, but it has been sidelined after I spent a few minutes reading the #IDidNotReport tweets on Twitter. Reading and thinking about all the women out there who have endured acts of sexual assault and harrassment, but who for a variety of reasons were never able to report what happened to them.

It is confronting to read that so many women never felt they had the option of reporting what happened to them – that they wouldn’t be heard, that they wouldn’t be believed, that it wouldn’t be considered a crime.

Even sadder, the women who didn’t report because they had tried to report in the past and hadn’t been taken seriously. I think that those tweets are the most upsetting. That those women, some only children or teens at the time, were brave enough to speak out and were ignored, laughed at or belittled. Little wonder they were unwilling to risk being vulnerable again.

This isn’t just about women being vulnerable. It is about both genders treating each other with respect and it is about us, as a society, making sure that the victims of sexual crimes, both male and female, are able to feel safe coming forward to report what has happened to them.

I feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of women who haven’t reported what happened to them, but I am not judging them. I don’t judge, because I have my own #IDidNotReport memory and because I understand that sometimes, not reporting is the only way to protect shattered emotions.

I can’t speak for the hundreds of women who have tweeted their #IDidNotReport story. I can only say that I didn’t speak up because I was sure I wouldn’t be believed. For a long time, I found it hard to believe it myself and had almost convinced myself that the act was consensual. But it wasn’t.

It didn’t help that not long after the assault, I was part of a conversation where someone (an older male) stated that they didn’t believe that date rape was really possible. Women who said yes, then no shouldn’t be surprised that men got confused and shouldn’t complain since they were part of the problem. I wish I’d spoken up then. I tried, but I wasn’t brave enough to tell my own story. I argued in general terms and when I was refuted, I stopped trying to argue my point at all.

Years later, I no longer feel like a victim. What happened to me was never reported, but living with it, processing it, being honest about it to myself and to others when the topic has come up, has made me stronger and, I hope, more empathetic to the experiences of others.

I hope #IDidNotReport has raised awareness of not only how many women are assaulted, but why those women feel that they are unable to come forward and report what has happened to them. I also hope and pray that for the many who have been brave enough to step forward and tell their story, however briefly, that they will find release in speaking out and comfort in the support and understanding that is being offered by so many.

If you need to access information or support services related to sexual crimes, this NSW Government Help for Victims of Sexual Assault page has links to support and counseling services as well as information on reporting sexual crimes. For an account of the background to the #IDidNotReport hashtag, read this Sydney Morning Herald article by Sam de Brito.

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Time For a Reality Check

Years ago, I lost quite a lot of weight over a relatively short period of time (20kg over about six months). Despite the obvious physical changes, it took quite some time for my head to adjust to the ‘new’ me. For years, I continued to buy clothing a size too large or loose styles that covered problem area that no longer existed. My mind took some time to catch up with a new physical reality.

The past couple of years, and particularly the past year, have brought about some significant changes and I have had similar issues trying to get my head in synch with what is happening around me. My life has changed and I have changed, but I’m still trying to do the same things. It’s no surprise that things aren’t going so well.

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures, and check out our Socially Awkward Penguin lolz!

So, I’ve forced myself to take a reality check. There are lots of areas in my life that need adjusting, but most come down to accepting that my abilities, tolerances and interests have changed. I’ve spent so much of the past year feeling frustrated, guilty, annoyed, resentful, embarrassed and upset. I feel like I’m letting others down and I know that I’ve let myself down more times than I care to remember.  I haven’t lived up to my own expectations and I’ve felt pressured and overwhelmed by the expectations of others.

My head is tryin to maintain all my old habits, commitments and routines while my heart feels like it is trying to achieve a completely different list of priorities and the conflict is causing me nothing but grief. I am way past the point when a reality check was necessary. So much of my heartache in the past year could have been avoided or at least minimised if I had simply accepted that I am not the same person I was a few years ago. The challenges I have faced have changed me and I am simply not able to function any more in the same way I did then.

It’s not just the deep and meaningful changes either. I’m no longer a 33-year-old mother of three under five. I’m 40, my children are all at school and within the next few months I will become the mother of a teenager (Heaven help me). I’ve had some complicated physical health issues to deal with in the past few years and some confronting emotional and mental health issues to deal with in the past 12 months. The demands of my family and my own body are changing.

It’s not all doom and gloom, of course. I’ve let go of a lot of hang-ups in the past 12 months particularly. I’ve rediscovered a side of myself that I haven’t let out of the box for years. Ironically as I’ve hit emotional lows, I’ve also found hidden strengths and a long ignored sense of fun and appreciation for simply enjoying the moment. Red lipstick, sparkly red stilettos, getting my old lady groove on at a Hall & Oates concert, dip dyeing my hair – I’ve regained an appreciation for the random moments that make life so enjoyable, even in the midst of challenges. My children, as always, remain a source of incredible pride and joy.

How does everyone else deal with the times when you need to take stock of your life? Does anyone need to stop occasionally to reorient themselves after major life challenges or am I the only one who can’t make these adjustments on the run? Does anyone struggle to make important decisions or changes because people around them don’t seem to be able to adjust to the fact that you can no longer meet their expectations?

           

Introducing…

Susan Whelan - freelance writer, wife, mother, Novocastrian, compulsive reader, user of big words and inadequate housewife. Contact me at susan@whelanflynn.com.

By the way, I'm copyrighted. All of me (especially the good bits).

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Fashion Upside Down
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