Archive for October 2011
I had the absolute pleasure and privilege this week to meet 10 incredible young Australians and to be inspired by their intelligence, creativity, friendliness and passionate desire to be a positive influence in their world.
This week I attended the launch of The LITTLE Committee, an anti-litter initiative of Keep Australia Beautiful. The LITTLE Committee is made up of 10 kids, aged 9 – 12 years, including my own 12-year-old son. Representing each state and territory in Australia, the LITTLE Committee members met for the first time in Canberra to launch their campaign.
Over the course of the three days in Canberra, I watched these amazing young people speak eloquently about their desire for a clean, healthy environment. I watched them deal with media, hotel staff, Federal politicians, various support staff and the parents of other committee members with respect, politeness and humility. I watched them support and encourage each other as they were called on to give interviews and attend meetings and I watched them giggle and have fun and form friendships with the other Committee members who days earlier had been complete strangers.
On Thursday, the print ad campaign for the LITTLE Committee was launched with a full page ad in The Australian. I admit that I shed a tear or two when I opened the paper to see the ad featuring my son for the first time, but it was more than motherly pride that caused the surge of emotion. I have met all of the children in the group and in three short days, their integrity and maturity and sheer awesomeness has allowed each of them to claim a little piece of my heart.
There are so many negative reports in the media and in general conversation about young people. This week I feel blessed by the reminder that there are many young people who are responsible, respectful and striving to achieve amazing things to benefit not only themselves but their community.
It’s a sad but true fact that many of us struggle at times with compassion fatigue. There are so many worth causes and so many people in need, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and feel like we can’t possibly make a difference.
When I was lobbying for votes for the Sealy Australia Sleeping on the Job competition, I tweeted about my plans to hold a bed-in for a good cause (a la John and Yoko) if I was selected. I was hoping to have a weekend promoting Project 18’s Adopt-a-Bear project to support the amazing work of Cate Bolt in caring for kids in Indonesia. I also became aware of the 1$Day initiative and was keen to support that as well.
Sadly, I missed out on becoming a Sleep Ambassador for Sealy (visit the prize winner Donna at Nappy Daze to find out exactly what a Sleep Ambassador does). Despite the fact that I am unable to blog to you from the comfort of a lovely new Sealy bed, I can still do my little bit to get the word out there about these great fundraising projects aiming to support children living in poverty.
Today I want to point you in the direction of the 1$Day website. This simple yet powerful concept, that those who can spare $1 can donate to those who can’t, gives us all the opportunity to share a very small amount of what we have with children who are affected by poverty.
Despite the hard financial times, we have so much. I know that the bills pile up and I understand the stress that comes from financial pressures, but most of us in this country, if we are being truly honest with ourselves, know that we can spare $1 once a year. Some of us could even stretch it to $2, I’m sure. One dollar less in my purse will make very little difference to the lives of my own children, who will still have access to clean water, good food, education and health facilities. The dollar I donate could make a big difference in the life of a child who knows only hunger, thirst, illness and fear.
Inspired by their own children, 1$Day co-founders Sophie Bartho and Robert Wilcher are reaching out to those children who are less fortunate. They are giving us a chance to be part of that outreach for just one dollar.
Find our more at the 1$Day website where you can find resources for promoting this fundraising initiative in your workplaces and community, find further information and, of course, find the links to donate.
Can you spare $1 for a child in need?
After four years of what I will choose to call gentle encouragement (but which my husband would no doubt refer to as nagging), we finally started to clear some of the mess from our garage recently. My husband has maintained over this time that there was no need to do anything, but to my mind if you have a double garage that never has a car in it and barely has enough floor space to walk from the internal access door to the garage door, then there is probably some room for improvement.
There isn’t really that much ‘stuff’ in the garage. The problem is that there are no shelves for storage so it is almost impossible to stack things out of the way. The Shelves v No Shelves debate has been the sticking point for our discussions about the garage for some time.
Once we started cleaning, it did become apparent that there were quite a few items that we could part with – empty boxes from appliances and blown light globes for a start plus two air mattresses that belong to someone else from a kids camp a year ago, a small bag of broken golf tees that belonged to my Great Uncle and brown paper off-cuts from my older son’s kite making project last year. Bit of a no-brainer about whether we really need to keep any of those.
While most of the clutter, both useful and useless, belongs to my husband, the rest of the family has ‘stuff’ hiding out in the shed too, like the stash of broken video recorders and DVD players for my 7-year-old to dismantle (six is enough to be considered a stash, right?).
I’ve got a few things in the garage as well, but it was one particular discovery that got me thinking about the things we hold onto for sentimental reasons. I’m guilty of this at times, although my clutter is generally more of the ‘well you never know, this could be useful one day’ variety. Sentimentality obviously plays a part occasionally though, as I found this in the garage:
That’s right. I have a 21-year-old plastic bag. It’s a Welsh plastic bag, but I’m pretty sure that Adele Blair, the professional organiser who is helping me to bring my chaotic life under control, would choose to emphasise the ‘plastic bag’ part of the description.
Adele suggested I photograph the bag, since it obviously triggers some significant memories for me, and that I then let it go. I don’t need it, it isn’t adding anything positive to my life and it is adding to the general clutter that I need to bring under control. So, photos have been taken (obviously) and the bag has been disposed of.
Do you hold on to things for sentimental reasons? I’m not talking about photos or items that are actually useful. Do you hold on to things like concert tickets and programs or other mementoes that you have collected at events, on holidays or at other special occasions? If you do, how do you store them to make sure that they don’t become clutter? I think it’s great that digital photography now gives us a very inexpensive means of holding on to the memories without keeping the clutter. What do you think?
We had a guest speaker at church on the weekend discussing the importance of good health. He spoke well and was passionate about his desire for people to make positive changes in their lifestyle and everyday habits to optimise their chances of living long, healthy, energetic lives.
Personally, I believe that it is important to be proactive about health issues – to be informed and educated about healthy lifestyle choices, diet, exercise and general fitness and wellbeing issues. I think that natural therapies working in conjunction with modern medications and treatments gives us our best options for good health, longevity and quality of life. I am actually hoping to receive some health coaching in the near future from Nicky at The Sublime You for just this reason.
Because of my interest in natural health therapies, I was quite enjoying what the guest speaker had to say until he referred to himself as a ‘wellness doctor’. He went on to explain that in the purest sense ‘doctor’ means ‘teacher, which he feels is a significant part of the role he plays in helping people to improve their health.
I think natural health therapies should be taken more seriously on many levels, but I found myself feeling quite defensive at his use of the term ‘doctor’. You can argue original meanings for as long as you like, it is difficult to dismiss the fact that many people associate a level of medical training and depth of knowledge of illnesses, medications and treatments with the word ‘doctor’.
I think that we are blurring important lines when we start referring to alternative/complementary therapists as ‘doctors’. Nicky refers to herself as a ‘holistic health coach’ and that works for me. I have no problem with the term wellness/health coach/consultant/therapist/practitioner but someone who doesn’t have a medical degree or doctorate calling themselves a ‘doctor’ just doesn’t sit well with me at all. (This definition does not apply to Doctor Who. Time Lords with their own Tardis are above such things. Obviously.)
In my sociology studies last year we discussed the concept of language as a tool for communication and the connotations and implications of words being as large a part of the communication process as the definition. (It’s entirely possible that this is the only phrase in the entire course that made sense to me and I am feeling quite chuffed with myself that I can now apply it to an actual real life situation.) I think that we unconsciously attach a level of authority and expectation of comprehensive medical knowledge to anyone who defines themselves as a doctor and it worries me when the term is applied in a more casual sense.
Am I being hopelessly pedantic (trust me, it wouldn’t be the first time)? Do natural therapists and complementary health practitioners deserve to use whatever term they feel best represents their approach to health and wellness? Would love your thoughts on this one.
I sat up late the other night watching sport on the television (bet you never thought you’d hear me say that, Meredith).
For those that don’t know me, I should clarify that I’m not a sporty person, probably because I am not an outdoors person and most sports seem intent on forcing people out into the fresh air. Or perhaps it’s because I’m horribly unco-ordinated and my dislike of sport is rooted in the public humiliation that was a plump unco girl in school sports lessons. Feel free to pull up a chair and psychoanalyse that if you want.
Last weekend, my 10-year-old daughter was able to take part in a coaching session with the Australian Diamonds netball team. She has been playing netball this year for the first time with her school team and has loved it. They were an inexperienced group of girls (only two had played netball before), but they made it to the semi-finals in the local schools competition, which was a great achievement.
When the opportunity came up to spend some time with the Diamonds, my daughter was very excited. Personally, all I could see was the possibility of me being able to avoid having her play in the local comp next year fade slowly from view, but being a loving mother I encouraged her to go along anyway. Gold star for me.
The coaching session was great. There were enough girls in my daughter’s age group to make up two teams and the players from the Diamonds moved around so that all the different team members spent some time with each group of girls. Without fail, the Diamonds players were friendly, encouraging and positive with the younger girls. They smiled and chatted with the girls and seemed genuinely happy to be there.
After the coaching session there was an opportunity to get signatures. My daughter had taken along a netball to get signed and decided to also get the poster from her Diamonds gift bag signed. As we moved along the line of players with the ball and poster, the Diamonds were friendly and smiling, happily posing for photo after photo and finding something encouraging to say to the younger girls as they met them.
I was up Wednesday last night trying to get some work done when I noticed that they were televising a Diamonds game against England. I decided to record the game for my daughter, but ended up watching myself as well (so, not so much work done after all). Having met the players, I found that I was so much more invested in the game. I know my daughter will get a real buzz watching players that she ‘knows’ playing well and winning their game.
Thank you to the Diamonds players who were involved in the Coaching Clinic in Newcastle. My daughter had a fantastic morning and you made a difference to the girls who attended not only with your sporting ability and tips, but with your enthusiasm and friendliness. To show you just how much she enjoyed her day, here is the netball that the team signed. It would seem that she thinks it is quite special:
Until this year, I’ve tended to view shoes as a practical necessity but little else. I’m shocking at accessorising outfits and I hate having my toes peeping out of shoes, so generally I’ve stuck with plain, basic styles. I’m also a generally pragmatic, practical kind of person, so my response to seeing a nice pair of stiletto heels tends to be less ‘Oh my goodness, they are GORGEOUS! I must have a pair!’ and more ‘Do they know what they do to your feet and spine?’
This year I’ve been trying to make a little bit more effort with my appearance. I decided early in the year that it was time to clear all the Frumpy Mum Uniform clothes from my wardrobe. My plan was to indulge in a consultation with a personal stylist as a gift to myself for my 40th birthday – to acknowledge that I was making some pretty poor style choices for myself and to get advice from someone who knows what they are talking about. Cue a discussion with Alison Triffett of Style Counsel Online.
I expected to discover that many of the clothes and accessories I had been wearing needed to go (no secrets there), but what really surprised me is how filling out Alison’s pre-consultation questionnaire made me realise that the clothes I wore had almost no connection with the kind of image I wanted to present to the world or the kind of image that made me feel good about myself. It was a vicious circle – frumpy clothes made me feel frumpy, which led to the purchase of more nanna blouses and bulky shorts/pants a size larger than I needed.
My wardrobe makeover is still a work in progress. I’m gradually buying clothes that actually fit properly and make me feel good, although most of these are still practical and sensible. It’s hard to kick old habits and even if I wanted to, my budget doesn’t really stretch to allow too many frivolous fashion choices.
I have indulged myself occasionally though and my favourite ‘is this really a practical choice?’ fashion decision has been the purchase of a pair of the most glorious shoes ever. Seriously, they are magnificent. Totally impractical, too expensive for a pair of special occasion shoes and not at all suitable for everyday use, however they are absolutely divine and I get a little buzz every time I remember that I own them and they are sitting in my wardrobe.
My favourite pair of shoes ever – grown-up Dorothy shoes from Wittner (Amber heels to be precise). Three-inch heels, covered in red sequins, sparkly silver soles – that’s right, I have diamonds on the soles of my shoes. The only way they could be more perfect is if I could really tap my heels together and say ‘There’s no place like home’ at the end of an evening out when I’m wearing them.
I’m not about to go shoe crazy. It’s not about replacing practical with glamour and I think that if I had a wardrobe full of gorgeous indulgences, it would reduce the pleasure I am getting from owning one or two pairs of truly lovely shoes. I am discovering, however, that there is nothing wrong with investing in nice shoes and it is possible to buy good quality shoes at a reasonable price. And every now and then, it’s okay to buy yourself something just because it makes you feel special.
Are you a shoe person or do you not get what all the fuss is about?
This is not a sponsored post. I purchased these shoes from Wittner myself. I would, however, be more than happy to trial or recommend Wittner products in the future. These shoes are far more comfortable than I expected and I definitely plan to keep an eye on the display window at my local Wittner store whenever I wander past.
I’ve read quite a few posts, Facebook status updates, tweets and general references online to Steve Jobs today. Not surprising, really, that a man who helped to shape the way we interact with each other online should be acknowledged in so many ways by so many people on the internet today.
There have been numerous inspirational quotes and links, most notably to Jobs’ ‘How to live before you die’ speech at Stanford University. The word inspirational has certainly been linked with his name more than once today and I’m not going to deny his influence, motivational call and the wisdom of many of the quotes I have read. The world needs people who encourage others to reach for their dreams.
But this post isn’t about Steve Jobs, because it isn’t his words that brought tears to my eyes this evening, who stirred my heart with not only motivation but with a sense of understanding and connection and relating to the experiences and dreams of someone else.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I find people like Steve Jobs both inspiring and intimidating. Their words are so motivating, their success makes anything seem possible BUT their lives seem so far from the reality of my everyday life. My hopes, dreams and fears.
Which brings me to Sarah. Today Sarah posted about Steve Jobs, about his words speaking into her life at a time when a few doors are opening and about the excitement of stepping into something which isn’t quite known. About the dots Steve refers to in his Stanford talk swirling in her life and her excitement at taking a step into the potential of a situation – a brave and exciting step, but one that also stirs second thoughts and doubts.
While Steve Jobs’ words are inspiring, it is Sarah’s excitement and courage than help me believe that I can be brave too. That I can forget mistakes in the past and bad choices that have led nowhere. That instead of trying to make the sensible decision, I can make the decision that fills me with expectation and excitement and a feeling that I am somehow finally about to walk along a path that has always been there waiting for me, if only I had looked with my heart as well as my head.
I wrote earlier in the week about dreaming big and about wanting to be a writer. This week I have discovered that I can enrol through Open Universities to study a BA (Internet Communications), counting my misguided earlier studies in sociology and literature as credit towards the degree. I have had doors open to potential writing positions and partnerships.
The depression still lingers. The everyday busyness of life with three children and a husband who works long hours still limits my own energy and time. I don’t have a lot of support from family, so striking out on a new adventure means I will need to rely on encouragement from friends. There are still hurdles to jump and obstacles to overcome.
Despite all those things, I feel a lightening of my spirit for the first time in… well, I can’t remember how long. I know that there are others out there who are feeling the same thing as well (see this post by Carly Webber) and I’m feeling encouraged by them, as I am by Sarah’s obvious excitement as she stands on the threshold of a new adventure.
I know that I was designed with a purpose and I know that I will achieve amazing things. The dots are swirling for Sarah and I think that they are swirling for me too. I’m prayerfully stepping out into the unknown and trusting that the sense of ‘rightness’ that I feel about this is a sign that I’m finally on the right path.
I’ve been a little serious here of late (once again), so I thought I would lighten the mood by introducing you all to our holiday guest.
The original plan for 6M was that they would have two class pets, two female guinea pigs which were named by the students (Summer and Mojo). Definitely two FEMALE guinea pigs, thus ensuring that there would still be only two guinea pigs by the end of the year.
Because the class has two female guinea pigs, it came as somewhat of a surprise when Summer gave birth to little guinea pig babies. I know what you’re all thinking, but you’re wrong. Mojo wasn’t a boy guinea pig in disguise. How do we know this? Because two weeks later, Mojo had little baby guinea pigs as well. Either these things work differently in guinea pigs than they do in other mammals or (and I’m inclined to think that this is more likely) Summer and Mojo were pregnant when they came to live with 6M.
Because we are the most boring family in the class and never do anything exciting at all in the holidays (apparently), we have Summer visiting us for two weeks. Unfortunately, the increased number of guinea pigs means that there wasn’t a large portable cage for Summer to live in while she was with us, so she was cramped up in a small carry cage (to the right of the new cage in the first photo below).
I’m not inclined to go all misty-eyed over little furry creatures (I’m more the great big gallumphing dog type of person), but even I couldn’t leave her in that tiny little cage for two weeks. So, one trip to the pet store later, we became the owners of a Guinea Pig Palace. Not only does it have more than twice the floor space of her original carry cage, it has a mezzanine level. Seriously.
What I’ve learned about guinea pigs this holidays
- Taking kids with you to a pet store to pick up ‘the basics’ for a temporary pet is a BAD IDEA. You will not come home with the basics. Imitation carrot chew toy, anyone?
- Guinea pigs may be small and cute but they can be disproportionately loud if they are not happy. Who knew that such a small creature could make so much noise?
- If you generally put a few fresh greens in the guinea pig cage when getting everyone else breakfast, expect your guinea pig to go crazy if you forget. See point 2.
- Googling ‘what can guinea pigs eat’ will do your head in. One site says just about everything. One says most things but then adds additional notes about how too much of specific foods will result in kidney problems, liver problems, flatulence and/or diarrhoea. Other sites give very specific food regimes which include the types of expensive fresh fruits and vegetables that I don’t even buy for my children. I thought guinea pigs were supposed to exist on scrappy bits of lettuce and carrot tops.
- 7-year-old boys can believe that it is possible to have meaningful communication with a small furry creature that has no ability whatsoever to change their facial expression. “Look Mum, she just looked straight at me and she thinks that I’m her friend.”
- Buying a Guinea Pig Palace for a temporary pet guinea pig fills your children’s heads with expectations of acquiring a permanent guinea pig. (Should have seen that coming.)
Do your kids have class pets? Has anyone else had a visiting class pet lead to something more permanent?
When I posted about Big Dreams yesterday, writing was one of the first things that came to mind. I love to write, but I always feel vaguely guilty if I tell people that I am a writer. Saying ‘freelance writer’ seems slightly less deceptive, but I still feel like a child who is playing make believe. Surely ‘real’ writers would shake their heads in disgust at my presumption.
Perhaps I would find the term writer would sit more comfortably if I had more work in print (as opposed to online). There seems to be something far more creditable and noteworthy about seeing your name on a printed article rather than on a screen. When a staff member at my children’s school came across one of my articles in a local parenting magazine last year they were very impressed to see that I was a writer, despite the fact that they had known for some time that I wrote online. Such is the power of the printed word, which is ironic really, as the work I do for the magazine is unpaid while I actually earn money for some of my online articles.
My Big Dream is to be able to confidently tell people that I am a Writer. Not offer a vague ‘well, I do some freelance writing, just a little bit here and there, mostly unpaid, and I blog too (usually followed by an explanation of what a blog is).
In my mind, there are two facts that hold me back from confidently saying that I am a writer. The first is that I feel unqualified. Maybe if I was writing a novel I wouldn’t be so hung up on this, but without a great creative inspiration and because I write a lot of non-fiction, I feel like I should have some training to back up my claims. I’ve completed a Feature Writing course through the Sydney Writers’ Centre, but I’m looking for something more detailed and with a broader scope. There are a gazillion courses for writing fiction (I may be exaggerating that a little, but not much), but surprisingly there I haven’t been able to find a ‘Blogging, Creative Non-Fiction and General Writing and Editing Skills’ course anywhere.
I am tempted to look into the Curtin University Bachelor of Arts (Internet Communications) degree available through Open Universities. My last attempt to study was a dismal failure, but with the wisdom of hindsight I can see that I chose subjects that didn’t have a clear sense of purpose. Vague subject choice led to vague motivation which, not surprisingly, led to a complete lack of organisation.
My second issue is that the writing work I do at the moment is largely unpaid. I love to write, I love to be able to work from home and have flexible hours and workload, but with three school-aged children, I can’t deny that an income from the work that I do would be nice. It would make it a little easier to call myself a writer if I was actually being paid to write and it would definitely make it easier to justify expenses like the Digital Parents 2012 conference in Melbourne or a few days in Sydney to attend the Sydney Writers’ Festival if I was earning money to pay for tickets, travel and accommodation. I’m happy to do some sponsored promotional posts on my own blogs (any companies offering sample European vacations in return for a few blog posts, just let me know), but ideally I’d love to blog for a brand website and help establish on online presence for them. I enjoy the writing I do for Suite101 (largely book reviews and author interviews) and maybe, just maybe one day I might look into writing some non-fiction books for children.
I want to be a Writer. I’m taking some steps to be more focused in what I write and I’m hoping to shuffle some rooms around so that I can create a study/office where I can write instead of my current set-up in the corner of my bedroom. Surely if I start to take myself and my writing more seriously, it will make a difference.
I feel like I’m being overly sensitive and pedantic. Any other writers out there who can relate to anything I’ve posted here today? I’m happy for constructive criticism, course recommendations and general advice.
Two weeks ago, my friend’s brother Joe passed away suddenly in his sleep. He was 41, a mere year older than I am. He was active, fit, involved, healthy. He was a loving husband and a beloved father. He worked in a field that he enjoyed and had a wonderful circle of friends.
I have known Joe for 28 years and although were we never particularly close, his passing has affected me deeply. Firstly, I have been devastated for my friend, who shared a very close and loving bond with her brother. To lose him so suddenly has been beyond heartbreaking for her and her family. Knowing how much Joe will be missed by my friend, by his parents, his wife and his two wonderful children makes my heart feel bruised and brings tears to my eyes.
On a more personal level, Joe’s death has been a wake-up call for me, making me aware that my life has been on hold for a very long time. I joked recently after attending my Aunty Ruby’s 100th birthday party that my 40 years was nothing – that I wasn’t even half way. The truth is there is no way of knowing whether I have time to do all the things I’d like to do and the chances are that I won’t achieve even half of them if I keep hiding behind excuses and letting others undermine my confidence in myself.
There are lots of things about my life that need to be dealt with – lingering hurts, frustrations, disappointments. Abandoned or postponed dreams. I’ve felt directionless and as a result I’ve let the expectations and demands of others guide me. I’m not blaming them, mind you, I’ve let it happen. I’m not talking about the responsibilities and demands of motherhood either, which I take on wholeheartedly and with great pleasure (well, except for the whole toilet-training thing, but that is fortunately dealt with once and for all).
I’ve lived my life in lower case vagueness for too long. Not that I want to start shouting out my plans for my life in CAPS LOCK, but I need to stop voicing my hopes and dreams with a vague sense of apology. I’m allowed to dream big.
It’s time to stop making excuses. It’s time to stop hiding behind the expectations, both high and low, of others. I deserve the opportunity to reach for my dreams, not just help others achieve theirs, but to do so I have to actually DO something.
Wish me luck.