Monthly Archives: March 2013

I found this post very encouraging today. I sometimes feel like I’m plodding along making no progress and I am looking forward to that surge of growth!! Mind you, last year was a pretty phenomenal time for me so I am grateful for the growth I’ve already experienced! xx Rowena

Give me 5 minutes a day and I'll give you a happier, more successful life

There is a type of bamboo that develops very slowly after it is planted. The roots begin to spread out. The bamboo doesn’t begin to grow up until the roots are fully established.  It takes four years for the roots to develop enough to support a tall bamboo plant. Then suddenly in the fifth year, the bamboo begins to grow very quickly and can grow 80 feet in one year. It can grow almost 4 inches in one day!

Many people work very hard on their dreams and goals in life. They may work hard year after year on a marriage, a relationship, a career, a business or other endeavor. They may feel that they are making no progress. But suddenly, success can come.

Jerry and Jana Lackey worked year after year in Botswana, Africa. They built orphanages and helped poor people. But they were limited by the need for…

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My Son and the Rose

This morning, I had an incredible Eureka moment.

No! I didn’t go running naked through the streets like Archimedes but I was running naked on the inside. The drought had broken and I wanted to run outside and feel all those life giving raindrops wet against my skin. Stick out my dry, parched tongue and quench an insatiable thirst.

Our son did the most amazing thing and I was the proudest mother on earth! This came after a difficult time for our family and I really needed a bit of affirmation. Being a parent is a wonderful thing but it can also be quite a challenge. Like the rose, love also has its thorns.

For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.

Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself.
He threshes you to make you naked.
He sifts you to free you from your husks.
He grinds you to whiteness.
He kneads you until you are pliant;
And then he assigns you to his sacred fire,that you may become sacred bread for God’s sacred feast.

All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart.

Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet.

For the last four weeks, I’ve been ill. I’ve had serious stomach pains and I’ve barely been eating. I have also been sleeping a lot and feeling extremely vague. I wasn’t sure whether I had a virus or if it was stress. I had another appointment with my lung specialist (which went well) and more tests and was feeling pretty stressed. Anyway, I was finding it very difficult to get the kids to school and organised some outside support to help get them ready in the mornings. I also lined up some friends to drive them to and from school. I needed to stop and recover somehow.

Despite my usual health issues, I don’t usually stop and my whole modus operandi is to keep going no matter what. Keep putting one foot in front of the other, even when it feels like I’m wearing concrete shoes and it’s quite difficult to for me to walk or even lift my feet. At times, it can get very, very hard but I’ve always been convicted that it’s easier to keep going than try to restarting the engine. I guess I’m scared that if I stop and actually let everything go that I’ll lose the lot…poof!

Anyway, we’ve really enjoyed having our helper here and she finished up this morning. As a bit of a parting gesture, our son gave her a beautiful, red rose from our garden. We were both deeply moved not just because he gave her the flower but his timing was quite incredible. You see, she had been having a bit of a rough day and she really needed a bit of encouragement and then Mister just turned up offering that great timeless symbol of love…a beautiful, home-grown  red rose with all its thorns. It was exactly what the doctor ordered…exactly! I could have cried and our helper was naturally deeply moved. It’s not the sort of thing you expect from a knock-about nine year old boy who plays football and runs everywhere with dirty, skinned knees but our boy is often full of surprises. No matter how hard we might try to classify him and squeeze him into some kind of box, he resists. He is full of so many contradictions and always keeps me on my toes. I never know quite what to expect next.

I was so proud of him. I could have shouted it from a mountain top: “I have the very best son in the whole entire world!!”

I was so proud of him and yet there have been so many times as a parent when I’ve wondered whether anything is getting through. Some things are private but suffice to say that my son has struggled a lot with my illness. There are times when I’m well and fully present and there are times when I can be like a ghost. I’m there but not there. When he was 3.5 years old, I was admitted to hospital and rehab for 7 weeks. That was a very long time for such a little boy.

Reading with Mister while I was on weekend leave from the rehab hospital

Reading with Mister while I was on weekend leave from the rehab hospital

For awhile there, I was either in bed or in a wheelchair and was really crook. I had two professors looking after me along with an entourage of medical students. That gives you some idea of just how serious things were. My prognosis was really quite unknown. Mister came in to see me. He looked up at me with his huge brown eyes and blond curls and asked: “Mummy better? Mummy better?” I remember that moment so very, very clearly. Bang!  It was like being shot between the eyes. Being shot in the heart. I said absolutely nothing and simply didn’t reply because we didn’t know. We didn’t have an answer. It was an incredibly hard moment!

We look like the epitome of happiness yet this photo was taking while I was at rehab hospital.

We look like the epitome of happiness yet this photo was taking while I was at rehab hospital.

My illness hit Mister pretty hard. He knew what it was like to have his whole mum and to be the centre of my universe. We used to do so many things together.  Then, along came his little sister and shortly afterwards, I became ill and everything changed. I was so exhausted and we juggled his care between my parents, day care and time at home. We did our best and it wasn’t anybody’s fault but that didn’t mean he was happy with the situation. I knew he was angry. I knew that anger was somehow locked deep inside him and it wasn’t coming out. His development froze for some time and he stopped writing, cutting and drawing. My health is a constantly shifting carpet with marked good and bad days so we can’t really come to terms with anything. But these good days are also a blessing because we can largely live an almost “normal” life. We squeeze as much as we can out of life because we know life is short and we have to …carpe diem seize the day.

I view my illness as an external force, an outsider, some kind of malevolent stalker. I don’t blame myself and I certainly don’t see the illness as part of myself, who I am or part of my “identity”. This perspective has been quite critical to how I’ve managed. I live with dermatomyositis. I am not my disease.

Unfortunately, the kids don’t make that distinction. For them, the illness and I are one and the same. When I’m well and able to do things, they are happy and I am the best. When I’m sick, they usually muck up and I’m “the worst mother in the world”. That’s a bit simplistic but you get the gist.

It can be very difficult, discouraging and downright depressing when I’m fighting my disease and a pair of cranky kids at the same time. So when my son gave our helper the rose, it was so much more than just an act of kindness. It was a sign of healing and of hope. I saw such love and kindness in his heart.  It was extraordinary and I was immensely proud. The drought had broken.

The rose is usually used to symbolise the duality of romantic love…the beauty of the flower and the pain caused by its thorns…a double-edged sword. However, the rose also represents the love for your child. There is joy and pain as a parent which all starts off in childbirth I guess.

Somehow, when our relationships with our kids are going through a period of drought, we need to hang in there. Keep the lines of communication open so that when the drought breaks, the seed is still there ready to grow.

When the night has been too lonely
And the road has been too long,
And you think that love is only
For the lucky and the strong,
Just remember in the winter
Far beneath the bitter snows
Lies the seed that with the sun’s love
In the spring becomes the rose.

As beautiful as this moment was, I am still a realist. Every rose has its thorns but it’s still a rose.

xx Rowena 

PS It was interesting looking through the old photos to find some shots of Mister while I was in hospital. I have thought of him as a fairly lone, solitary figure and very sad. However, when I looked through the photos, I found much happiness, cuddles and togetherness. I actually remember kicking the ball briefly with  him while I was in rehab and we read together. We had fun despite our circumstances…an important thing to remember.

My International Women’s Day 2013

When it comes to writing about International Women’s Day (IWD), you could say that I’ve well and truly missed the boat. IWD was two weeks ago and in this era of instant news, this story is well and truly done and dusted. Dead. It’s definitely a case for “Bones”

Yet, I would like to think that perhaps as bloggers we are somehow beyond the restrictions which constrict and limit the so-called mainstream media. That if we want to write about something, we just do it…especially when we are beyond the flow!

So I’m sorry this post is a bit late. I was struck down by some strange stomach bug last week and essentially spent the week in bed. I did manage to write some other posts and clean out the pantry but that was about it.

Our banner

Our banner

International Women’s Day is also my son’s birthday and so while I was out there marching for women’s rights, it was also my celebration and otherwise of being a Mum. I have been a mother now for nine years. I had been baking a birthday cake the night before and sending Mister off to school with cupcakes for his class and I was back there to pick the kids up from school afterwards.It was a busy day.

A joint Birthday Cake for my kids who turned 7 & 9.

A joint Birthday Cake for my kids who turned 7 & 9.

So in some ways for me, IWD was a case of wearing a number of different hats. I was there as “myself”, as a working woman and a mother. I was marching to celebrate being a woman but also to acknowledge that when it comes to women’s rights and equality, we still have work to do. Not just for ourselves but we also need to stand up for those we have dubbed “voiceless women” who are unable to speak for themselves.

Perhaps, you might joke about a woman being voiceless. You wouldn’t be the first. Women are usually great talkers. However, there’s a difference between talking and exchanging social chit chat and being able to express what’s really going on behind closed doors and revealing bruises not just to your physical body but also to your heart and soul. These things, which are so incredibly private, are kept secret behind locked and closed doors. It is a secret but perhaps the signs can be all too clear even if the words aren’t there. I sometimes suspect that as much as we talk about wanting an end to violence against women, as a society, we really don’t really want to know about it. We don’t want to get involved and that’s why so many of these women remain silenced. We are not looking. We are not listening.

I am no better than anybody else when it comes to trying to help these voiceless women. There’s nobody sleeping on my couch and I have a roof full of baby stuff that I really should drop off for somebody, anybody to use. We stuck it all up in the roof in case we had a number three and that’s where it’s stayed. All that’s stuff is now out of circulation and in a sense is now going to waste not that these thoughts have mobilised me yet. Like I said, it all gets a bit hard. Takes too much work.

Out of sight…out of mind.

International Women's Day March through Gosford.

International Women’s Day March through Gosford.

That is why we have to take to the streets and make these women visible again. We need to stand up and be counted and say no to domestic violence and we also need to end an evil I thought disappeared centuries ago… slavery and human trafficking.

My daughter who has just turned 7 asked me why I went in the women’s march. I had to put a bit of thought into that. Why? Why? Why? I don’t march for any other cause so why this?

I marched because I believe in equality for all people. I believe we all deserve respect and I feel women don’t always get the respect we deserve. In particular,  I feel that mothers as a group are not respected in our society. In too many instances, the words “mother” or “Mummy” have derogatory overtones. I particularly don’t like the term “Mummy blogger”. A woman’s parental status shouldn’t enter the equation.

So I marched for that little person inside me who still believed in the vision…the sky somewhere beyond the glass ceiling.

I also marched to celebrate the breakthroughs for women in the past such as gaining the vote, which should never just be taken for granted as well as looking forward to a more equal situation for all women in the future. In other words, continuing the good fight.

This was my second IWD march and it was extra special this year.

You see, I was walking down the main street of Gosford when I spotted Paralympic gold medallist Liesl Tesch and introduced myself. I am on the Status of Women Committee which organises our local march and Liesl was the keynote speaker at the post-march event.

Anyway, Liesl hung her gold medal around my neck and I completed the march with a Paralympic gold medal around my neck. I was stoked. Not just to wear the medal for what it really was but also what it represented to me.

Eureka! After nine years of being a mum, I had finally received my gold medal!

I was a happy woman!

If you would like to see a clip of our International Women’s Day March in Gosford, please click here: http://www.mygosford.tv/community

Any thoughts?

xx Rowena

A very touching story from the depths. xx Ro

Cold

My Modern Love piece from a couple of years ago.

The Wrong Kind of Inheritance

By VICTORIA DOUGHERTY
Published: July 20, 2008
I ALWAYS knew something would happen to one of my children. I never said it out loud. I didn’t allow myself to dwell on it. But the feeling was there: a vague superstition that visited me on my paranoid days, the kind of day that would find me in my children’s rooms at midnight, making sure they were still breathing.
Some of this superstition is in my heritage; I’m from a long line of Slavs, from what used to be Czechoslovakia, where a lot of people believe in curses. But my fear is bolstered by the fact that both my mother and my mother’s mother have lost children in devastating ways.

Sixty years ago, my grandmother daringly escaped from postwar Czechoslovakia to join her husband, who had defected…

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This is an incredibly moving, tragic story but so beautiful that I had to share it! xx Ro

Cold

In the family I grew up in, love was often misplaced, nearly always badly botched, but nevertheless there – taking us from day to day. As a unit, we had every kind of bad luck you can imagine – Nazis, Communists, deaths big and small, petty humiliations and feature film-worthy fiascos. It’s luck so bad my mom actually calls it a curse. She believes that curse started germinating right around 1939 – when Hitler rolled into Prague. My mom curses that day.

But I’m an American. The only member of my family actually born here and raised with the corresponding happy-go-lucky spirit that all of us Americans share to some extent – even the grumpiest of us, the most self-loathing. I guess that’s why my family’s story – from my point of view – didn’t begin with “the curse.” It began with a gold box with a big plastic ruby…

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Hi Everyone,
After sorting out my dreaded pantry, I found this wonderful post with some great tips for creative people who might be organisationally challenged and it helped me feel so much better xx Rowena

i must have this thing

fey

If you’ve got the brain of a creative artist or innovator, chances are you may find yourself feeling “under the desk”, like our none-the-less successful friend, Tina Fey.

Innovators are “pilers” not “filers“, tend to be great at starting projects, (many), through not always great at completing them. Spontaneous, inventive, and motivated to create what doesn’t yet exist, innovators & creatives can be passionately absorbed on a project of interest, losing all sense of time in the focus of creation.

einstein

Einstein

twainTwain

Traditional organizational methods don’t work so well – Our linear brains take a backseat to the wilder, creative, non-linear brains (yes, we all have both aspects, but one can be dominant).

jobs

Jobs

We suffer from out-of-sight, out-of mind syndrome, so desk drawers, clothes bureaus, and filing cabinets can be useless. Getting us to schedule methodically can be a challenge, too.

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Slaying the Dreaded Pantry Beast

Although you might think I’m paranoid, for quite some time now a wild beast or monster has taken up residence in our kitchen pantry. The doors won’t shut and last week, a glass jar suddenly fell on my foot. The monster’s getting angry and quite frankly, I fear for my life!!

Moreover, I’m pretty sure this isn’t some cute, fluffy harmless monster of the cookie monster variety. Rather, it’s dark, sinister and very, very mean! The sort of monster that keeps you tossing and turning at night…all night!

I think there could even be drop bears inside. You see, the glass jar isn’t the only thing that’s fallen out of there and I often hear the sound of falling cans or jars. I’d always thought that drop bears lived deep in the Australian bush but I’d swear there’s an entire tribe of them living in my pantry and they’re all having a party….Boom! Crash! Bang!

There’s a lot of activity going on behind those almost closed doors!

Well, I’m no Shrinking Violet so I’ve decided to reclaim my pantry and get rid of that monster and its friends once and for all. Unlike David Attenborough who would quietly study the monster in its native habitat, I’m going to kill it. Exterminate! This is a time for decisive action!

It’s my pantry and I want it back! It’s mine! Mine! All mine!

Well, although it’s generally a good idea to prepare for battle and at least do a few push ups, I actually slept through most of last week. I’ve barely been able to get out of bed and actually enlisted help getting the kids to and from school. I came to an absolute grinding stop due to some kind of stomach bug or extreme stress. Either way, my stomach ached. I couldn’t really eat and then I ran out of ergs. I was like a ghost wafting through the house.

Not exactly the time to tackle pantry monsters perhaps but I needed to clear my head. I have way too many things on my to do list and they’re all swimming round inside my head. I need to clear my head…or have I mentioned that already?!!

I’ll say it again. I need to clear my head.

Anyway, I was feeling recharged today and was ready to slay the beast once and for all. It was going to die. Meet its maker. Moreover, it was going to happen today too! No more “tomorrows”!!

The monster inside my pantry is the familiar “clutterbeast”.  Perhaps, you know it well. It doesn’t just settle with one of something but always goes for multiples. For example,  I found three separate bags of polenta stashed in different parts of my pantry. There were also two packets of sponge finger biscuits. You see, I’ve been intending to make a decadent family dessert called Chocolate In-Betweens but haven’t quite gotten around to it yet. We also won the school’s Christmas hamper and there are a few delicacies left from that as well. It’s quite an assortment really and everything tells a story.

As chaotic as it sounds, my pantry hasn’t been total anarchy. Rather than a place for everything and everything in its place, there are general areas or shelves dedicated to particular categories. All, or at least most, of the breakfast cereals are together for example. I have got something right!

It’s just that over time, things get shoved in gaps and any breathing space at all fills up and the whole place begins to suffocate (for some strange reason Cluttermonsters defy science and can still breathe in these difficult conditions and moths continue to breed as well).

Traditionally, I am not an ordered or structured type but I’ve come to appreciate that being able to find things quickly can save me a lot of time and stress.

I also hate waste with a passion…particularly food waste. We have a worm farm and I’ve also made a commitment not to use plastic packaging for the kids’ school lunches anymore. They do have plastic containers but that’s it. So while I could be doing more to save the planet, I am trying.

Throwing out unused food stuffs from the pantry, wastes both food and packaging. These are my two pet hates so it’s really something I want to avoid. Having a more organised pantry where I can see what’s actually there, will hopefully prevent such waste in future.

So my reasons for cleaning the pantry were as follows:

  • Being more efficient. I want to find things straight away.
  • Clearing my head. Get another task off my to-do list.
  • Saving my feet from future glass jar attacks
  • Keeping a better inventory of what’s in my pantry
  • Preventing waste
  • Saving money
  • Having a happier family life. Peoples have been grumbling about the drop bears in particular.

I’m certainly not cleaning my pantry to win some Housewife of the Year Award! I absolutely detest the term “housewife”. Moreover, if I was a domestic goddess of any variety, my pantry wouldn’t be in such a mess. I’m just your garden variety dreamer. That’s all.

Anyway, I probably could have looked up a zillion web sites and blogs to find out how to clean out my pantry without reinventing the wheel. However, I just wanted to get on with it. I’d put it off for long enough!

So here’s a dreamer’s guide to sorting out your pantry, which I believe could be used to sort out just about any kind of mess in your life. It is surprisingly methodical and structured, probably because I find it so difficult to organise stuff.  However, I’m starting to suspect this is somehow related to my lousy sense of direction and difficulties parking my car and isn’t some dreadful character flaw after all!

This is what I did:

1)      Emptied the pantry.

I took everything  out. That means everything. This process is not for the faint-hearted. You need to see this space with fresh eyes and not simply put everything back where it came from. Be extremely critical!

2)      Stacked everything on the kitchen table.

You will obviously need a clear, flat surface.  At this point, I felt completely overwhelmed. There was just a huge, amorphous blob…a veritable haystack… packets, jars, cans, bottles and quite a few moths flapping around. The monster had now materialised and boy was I scared!!

3)      Wiped down pantry shelves.

4)      Threw out things that were out-of-date.

This sort of felt good because I was getting rid of stuff and creating space but at the same time, I felt guilty about the waste. I threw out two bin bags worth of stuff. That was a lot of needless waste! That waste also cost money.

5)      Merged things together.

I topped up containers and generally added like with like.

My labeling machine

My labeling machine

6)      Labelled everything.

I used my Dymo labelling machine to do the labelling. This may seem a bit anal but I am so naturally disorganised that I need to be super-organised (if that makes any sense). Some of the containers had been labelled on a previous cleanup.

My Pantry Mind Map

My Pantry Mind Map

7)      Made categories.

Everything needs to be grouped or classified before being put back in the cupboard. By putting like with like, it makes it easier to find things.  At this point, I drew up a quick mind map to get some kind of structure in place. Again, this may seem a bit over the top but with that great big blob on my kitchen table, I needed to impose some external order. It was my way of trying to establish some boundaries and control…and subdue the beast!

8)      A place for everything and everything in its place.

This was easier said than done. How do you find a place for everything and as all of us know, there’s always a handful of homeless stuff left over after every big clean up. Where does it all go? How do you work out where to put everything? I’m still working on this one. Most of this superfluous clutter usually sneaks its way back in there somehow.

A common rule of thumb with these declutter projects is to put the things you use most at the front where you can access them easily. That might work in some households. However, in my last stop-gap pantry clean-up, I put all my chocolate in one plastic container and I had my Tim Tams and other chocolate biscuits in another. I labelled the containers and stuck them at the top of the pantry. Before I knew it, the kids had spotted my stash and it was gone. It had all been a sitting duck just like the US fleet in Pearl Harbor.

I have put all the sweet contraband type stuff on the top shelf, which while it’s not out of reach of the kids, they’ll at least have to work harder to get it down. If I’m really lucky, they might also realise that the stuff on the top shelf isn’t for kids but somehow I doubt it!

DSC_6946

Next I drew up a little diagram of the cupboard and wrote on the things that were easy to place first and slowly tackled the rest. Breaking down the space into more manageable blocks helped me feel less overwhelmed and that I could tackle the pantry one step at a time.

9)      Give away food I won’t use.

I accidently bought a huge jar of olives with pips and I’m going to drop them down to a local food charity. I won’t need to feel guilty anymore. I’ll be generous instead.

10)   Use what’s in the pantry.

It looks like we’ll be eating a lot of polenta!

11)   Buy what we need in future.

Don’t be lured in by specials and supposed savings in future like buying two for less when we’ll only use one anyway. Maintain a shopping list.

My storage tubs.

My storage tubs.

Rowena’s top pantry storage tip:

I have some medium-sized lidded crates where I store like things such as packets of biscuits, dried fruit and baking “bits” (bicarb, patty papers etc). These all stack up almost neatly on each other. They manage all those really annoying bits and pieces and make it so much easier to find things.

The finished product. It isn't perfect but at least the doors finally shut!

The finished product. It isn’t perfect but at least the doors finally shut!

Well done Ro! I’d say that it probably took me almost five hours to clean out the pantry. I threw out two garbage bags worth of food and I’ll be taking that jar of olives down to our local food charity. I found quite a lot of what I would call “exotica” in the pantry. Ingredients I’d bought to make some kind of fancy or different meal which I’d never made. That felt a bit disappointing because there have been so many nights when I haven’t known what to cook and we’ve had the same old same old when we could have been eating polenta (all three bags of it) instead.

But now there are no more excuses. Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday…we’ll all be having polenta! Ha!

Do you have any funny pantry or clutter stories? I’d love to read them!

xx Rowena