Paying The Blog Love FAward

I bet you thought there was a typo in my blog heading. No typo dear blog readers but a new blogging term:

FAward – the act of passing on valued blog awards distributed by talented and worthy bloggers to other talented and worthy bloggers.

I have to confess that I feel a bit sheepish accepting these awards as I haven’t been blogging much lately. It’s not for want of desire, just that “stuff” gets in the way and the creative process is always the first to suffer. Isn’t it amazing how our thoughts determine through which pair of glasses we are going to view the world on any given day? Currently, I have my serious glasses on and I am using them to try to locate my humorous pair. Thankfully, I can still shoot out the odd quip or two in comment time, but to sustain an 800 word humorous post is proving a little harder.

Whilst I love the serious wisdom posts and thinking and writing about the bigger philosophical questions in life, I think I like myself better when I’m funny.  I envy those who know the flavour of what they are going to consistantly deliver through their blog on any given day. Me, I’m still hopelessly conflicted, although it is a nice conflict to have.

But, onto business!

A big

THANK YOU

to the following talented and worthy bloggers who have seen fit to bestow upon me the following blog awards:

Bohemianspiritedmom awarded me the Lovely Blog Award. Bohemianspiritedmom blogs at the blog of the same name and is a kindred spirit in the teen parenting journey. Her blog is amusing and full of joie de vivre and a delight to read.

Magnolia Beginnings who blogs at the blog of the same name awarded me the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. Magnolia’s blog conveys a journey, one of discovery and fulfilling your dreams. It is courageous and wise just like its author and also serves as an inspiration to me. Leave your regrets at the door to this blog and hop aboard to share Magnolia’s journey.

My MidLife Mayhem who blogs at My Midlife Mayhem awarded me the Beautiful Blogger Award. Midlife Mayhem’s blog is about the journey through the ages of 35 to 50 and the reprogramming required as we make the adjustment from physical strength to mental beauty. Feeling the solidarity with my fellow Beautiful Blogger. I am floored that Midlife Mayhem chose to include me in a list of recipients for this award which included the Bloggess!

There are certain rules to accepting these awards, including outlining a number of facts about myself. Here are seven titillating facts about me that you never really wanted to know:

  1. I think peanut butter is the bomb – especially this new whipped stuff. Light as air and doesn’t stick to the roof of your mouth!
  2. I don’t like cold weather and have a heater grate pattern permanently imprinted on my butt during winter.
  3. I have a really small family. There is a trend of only children throughout my family tree which I was mad keen to break with my own brood. Luckily God blessed me with two wonderful boys.
  4. I’m a tomboy at heart and am totally lost with eyeshadow and foundation. I can manage a daily smear of lipstick and a couple of brushes of blusher, but as for the rest, it’s either nothing or total drag queen.
  5. My motto is when all else fails rely on humour and be sure to make your own everyday. It’s a good day when you have made at least one person laugh.
  6. I have been to all States of Australia except for Tasmania. Tasmania is naturally beautiful and cold and one day maybe…
  7. Wunderlust is my weakness and I always want to go to new places and experience new things beyond my front fence. I can’t help but think the world awaits and I need to capitalise on its beauty before something really prevents me from doing so.

And now for the good stuff, paying these awards FAward. I am aware that some of these blogs may be non award blogs and in those cases please just take this as my way of thanking you for allowing me to enter your world a little every day and for touching me with your words:

Human in Recovery – thanks Kina for sharing your journey

Free Penny Press – Lynne’s pot pourri of interesting projects, concepts and musings

Fifty Four and A Half – if I could just bottle Elyse’s spunk, wit and energy!

The Bucket – GOF’s blog containing humour, poetry and snipets of rural Australian life

Musings of and Old Fart – the blog of a scholar and a gentleman (btg5885) with a clever wit and a big heart

Waiting for the Karma Truck – Mimi’s beautiful blog which is wise, funny, kind and giving and makes me think and smile at the same time

Magsx2’s blog – Mags is a fellow Aussie and blogs about well…. anything!

Buckwheatrisk – Zoe’s courageous and raw blog about dealing with the aftermath of child abuse. My admiration for Zoe in writing about this publicly is immense.

All of these blogs are awarded all three awards. If you take the time to visit some or all of these, you will not be disappointed.

OK now time for the post award speech nosh up. Salute!

image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Cleaniness May Be Next to Godliness But Mess Is Next To Joyfulness

Mess, what a great topic. I am not talking about mess in the physical mess, although I am quite partial to sticking my hands in mud, sand and cream, although probably not all at the same time. And I have given fleeting thought to jumping into a pool of jelly, fully clothed without any wrestling involved, but the thought of that much jelly wastage keeps me firmly grounded.

The concept of mess is more about the consequences of having taken a conscious step. You do something, another thing or several things you deem unpleasant follow. This follow on is the creation of mess and mess usually needs to be dealt with. Ignoring mess, just makes it worse as mess tends to breed.

Most mess is planned and predictable. When you decide to jump into that enticing puddle, you know that you will end up with wet shoes and wet trousers that will most likely need cleaning once you are done. As puddles do, it beckons and you are willing to expend the energy to clean up. Other mess is neither planned nor predictable. Having decided to jump into that puddle, you didn’t see the black dirt that lay under the water and the splash you created has actually reached your coat. The mess created is bigger than you initially anticipated and you will now need even more energy to deal with it. Whilst these examples happen to involve physical mess I could equally have used examples that do not.

We learn from an early age that mess is to be avoided. We spend a lot of time ensuring that our children make as little mess as possible and teach them (mostly through chiding) that mess is bad. Further and regrettably, we spend a lot of time cleaning up our children’s messes because heaven forbid they should actually have to experience mess. But if we do this, how are they ever going to learn how to assess predictable mess or how to deal with mess? Are we to deny our children the joy of playing in the mud because it creates physical mess that we will have to clean?

Mess avoidance tends to lead to:

    • a flawlessly clean existence that is not a life
    • a lack of resilience
    • black and white two dimensional living
    • stagnation
    • fear

As such I’m here to advocate for mess.

For the longest time, I feared mess, spent a lot of time and energy avoiding it (well, except in the physical sense, but that’s another story you can ask the long suffering Italian Stallion). Living a life, growing and experiencing is messy. There is just no way around it. Now I put that same energy into dealing with mess, which in most cases turns out to be less messy than my inner voice had led me to believe.  But the joy of having given myself permission to create mess and have the experience along the way far outweighs the energy expended to deal with the mess.  And for the most part, I have stopped cleaning my sons’ messes. The time has come for them to learn their own cleaning techniques, with my support and guidance.

Embracing mess means embracing possibility, potential and growth. It means involvement, engagement and life. Permit yourself to experience mess. You may even learn some new clean-up techniques.

I thank my new found relationship with mess in bringing me to the blogging world. It has not been a flawless performance every time, but I know that I can deal with any mess. And in any event, the concept of immaculate is generally overrated.

When was the last time you got literally messy? Please feel free to leave your finger prints all over the dust in my comment box.

A Letter To My Son: Reflections On A Journey

When Steve Jobs passed away I, along with millions of others, watched his Stamford 2005 Commencement Address on YouTube. Whatever else you may think of Steve Jobs, his words in that speech were profound and the message strong and important. I have always wondered what I would say to a graduating class if asked. I know the request is in the mail and one day the postman will discover my mail box. I’m right here, see… waiving at you!

An opportunity arose recently for me to write a letter to my 17 year old son, reflecting on the impending conclusion of his formal school education and journey through the books…. and stationery. Let’s not forget the stationery, you’re looking at a HUGE fan of stationary. Stationery porn is so evil and so, so goooood! But I digress.

My son is in his last year of high school and facing the biggest academic test of his young life in November. Unlike the US, entry into university here is usually totally based on the score in this particular exam (called the HSC), which takes place at the end of year 12. There are no individually tailored university entry applications, no essays and no interviews. You are a score, that’s it.

The school took the boys away on a 3 days retreat to reflect. As part of that retreat parents were asked to write a letter to their sons which was to be given to them on the last day as a surprise. This folks, is my kind of homework. At last I had the opportunity to articulate in the written word, my thoughts, hopes, aspirations and gratitude to my offspring.

Let me share a version of what I wrote. The letter is from both the Italian Stallion and I:

We were so glad when the school gave us an opportunity to write this letter to you. By the time you read this your retreat will be almost over and the next phase of your road to the HSC will begin. We hope you have had time to relax after the effort you put in for the “minis” and to think about not only the future, but how far you have come since starting Kindergarten in 2000.

We know that this is both an exciting and scary time for you.  Exciting because the end of your school years draws ever closer and come late November you will be able to ditch the uniforms and structure that has been with you for over twelve years. But with the excitement, there must also be a degree of trepidation about having to take responsibility for your academic future, about stepping into the adult world and all the inherent responsibility that those steps bring. You have every right to these emotions – they are a natural part of this phase of your life.

As you contemplate your future, we want you to know that we are proud of you. Whilst the journey has not always been easy, the strides that you have made towards maturity and taking ownership of your decisions over the last 18 months or so have been wondrous to watch. You are becoming quite the young man, a witty, intelligent, sensitive (that’s ok, you don’t need to admit that last one) guy who understands the meaning of family and team. We know that no matter how hard Mum [me] tries, her cooking will never match your grandmothers’, but we truly appreciate how you act towards and deal with your grandparents. Then there is the relationship with your brother, a quirky little brother who looks up to you and for whom you look out for, even it if it is on the sly.

We hope you take with you in life the skills you have learned in baseball. One of Mum’s best memories of recent times has been on the drive with you to [XXXX]. Mum will never forget that you discovered live baseball streamed radio together and that she was with you when Albert Pujols made his debut for the Angels. Your baseball talents are many and whilst it has taken a back seat this year because of study, we know that if you want to pour your energies into it, you will succeed. Whether it is as an outfielder or a pitcher the baseball world is yours for the taking. But above all, we hope that you keep having fun with baseball.  Remember, no matter what T-shirts or baseball caps Mum wears, it’s Red Sox forever and we WILL get back to Fenway one day in the not too distant future.

So, as you approach the HSC and the culmination of 13 years of schooling, all we ask of you is that you approach these next six months with a view to doing your best and being the best you can possibly be. The final result doesn’t matter as long as you have done your very best. We say this because whilst the HSC is important, life will throw you bigger tests. The mark of a true man is how he faces these tests – results are always secondary. You should obviously aim to achieve the mark you need in the HSC for your chosen field of university study and put all your energy into that aim. However, the HSC is not the only gateway to achieving your academic goals, there are other less direct ways. The HSC gateway though is the one where you play centre stage, where you receive the maximum support and mentorship and takes the least amount of time. J, the HSC is both a test and an opportunity and we hope you see it as such.

Whatever you decide to do after school, we want you to be happy. Look inside yourself and identify your passions, the things that make your soul sing and follow the path where these shall lead. Live YOUR dreams and no-one else’s. For this, J is THE secret to happiness and fulfilment.

For the journey over the next six months, take with you our (and your brother’s) support, cheering from the sidelines and most of all, our love. Think big and dream large, your options are many. Thank you for being our son, for adding your uniqueness to our family. Thank you for making us laugh and keeping us on our toes. Thank you for being responsible and for (the most part) being a good example to your brother. Thank you for texting your Mum at 12.06am on new year’s eve to wish us happy new year on our first new year’s eve apart. These are the fundamentals that will make you the good man you are destined to be. You rock (even if your music sucks!).

We love you always

And the response? “It was good”. Three little words with such power that had me soaring.

What message would you send in similar circumstances?

The Getting of Wisdom Road Trip

Confucius said:

By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is the noblest; Second, by imitation, which is the easiest; and Third, by experience, which is bitterest.

Confucius was a smart guy. He obviously thought about stuff. Far be it for me to improve on Confucius, but I think that the third method of learning should not be the bitterest, but the bittersweetest (assuming that’s a word). To me learning always has an element of sweetness even if the lesson is forced upon you, because you have come away with something. The process may be unpleasant, the result not so much.

I am going on a road trip, something that I love. Living in a big city, there are not many occasions where I just get to drive on the open road, listening to music and savouring my inner dialogue. It’s one of my ways to get perspective, experience the new and possibly unexpected and see some of this great country. Here’s to the getting of wisdom through door number 1.

On this trip, I will be travelling to Queensland…..beautiful one day, perfect the next…. to visit a friend. I feel doubly lucky with this one, because at the end of the trip there will be more getting of wisdom though some much needed girlfriend therapy – open doors number 2 and 3!

Everyone needs to do something daily that feeds their soul. It can be something as simple as taking 20 minutes to get out of the artifice of air-conditioning, looking at flowers, breathing deeply, whatever…. I never used to make time to do that, thinking I was always too busy or that the feeding had to come through some grand, complex experience.

Now, it’s the single most important thing I do daily. My family relies on me to be there for them. I am the root, they are the tree. If the root is not healthy and fed, neither is the tree. It is my responsibility to ensure I get fed, other people can feed me, but they do not have an obligation to … they can be unreliable, even with the best of intentions and love in the world. A well fed, healthy root system gives back abundantly – more fruit, more shade, and more structure.

Love this – thanks zazzle.com.au

I’m leaving the males in my family behind as the guardians of the castle and can only hope that they don’t run out of paper and cordial. What’s that saying again about absence and heart fondness…?

The curtain raising bus is hitting the highway and is looking forward to coming back with some road trip widsom.

Happy mother’s day to all of the mum’s out there!!

Z is for Zumba: 10 Things Zumba Class Taught Me About Life (#atozchallenge)

photo from flikr -
chrisinplymouth's
photostream

I come to this last Challenge post with a degree of excitement and a huge sense of relief. I’m not one to give up and well, here we are at Z. I’ll be writing more in a post containing my reflections on the Challenge next week after attending to some non-Challenge unfinished blogging business.

So with a great deal of ZEAL, I write my Z post.

I started taking Zumba classes about a year ago. Looking back at that first class, I can’t help but be transported back to that OMG feeling and the eternal question:

 “Just what the heck were you thinking?”

It was an introductory class, so at the END of it the instructors taught us some of the basic latin dance steps of the salsa, cha-cha and merengue. That’s when things began to look particularly bleak. Not sure where I was when they handed out the co-ordination gene, but clearly I was not in that line. My Zumba journey has been a real trip and keeping with the perseverance theme of this post, I bring to you my 10 points of Zumba wisdom.

Here is what Zumba participation has taught me about life.

1. Nobody is born an expert, not even an expert smart-arse. Becoming an expert takes time, training and a whole lot of missteps along the way.

2. Introducing a new routine inevitably increases the chance of missteps. It takes a couple of weeks to feel comfortable with the routine, but once you break through that comfort barrier, it becomes a whole lot of fun. Only you and hard work can break through that barrier and when you do… oh what a feeling! New routines keep life interesting.

3.Nobody focuses on your missteps other than you. Everyone is more worried about their own. There is no spotlight or microphone highlighting that you zigged, when you should have zagged (note the rather topical consistant use of Z words). You think your missteps are so good ? Ha, I’ve got news for you. Ditch the self – consciousness and get out there!

4. Bring your own style to anything you tackle, don’t worry about what to wear, how you look. You can’t do worse than my original outfit of baggy T shirt and old bike shorts. Individuality is exciting and interesting. Remember this also in the context of rule number  three.

5. Everything is more fun with a latin beat ………jajaja!

6. Pitbull is a Zumba class favourite and most of his songs have a great beat that can motivate you to do housework, blogging and other activities …. “two worlds English…Spanish….”

7.  The salsa, cha-cha and merengue are highly technical dance steps. Zumba is not the latin dance championships and you will not be scored on technical merit. Usually, keeping up the energy and your legs and arms moving in something that loosely resembles dance moves is enough. In other words, give yourself a break and just enjoy life’s experiences.

8. The intensity of each routine varies. There is a slow build up starting with the warm up moving to high impact, then a slow catch your breath number, another build-up and finally a warm down. Life is not about being at full throttle all the time. Down-times are permissible and absolutely necessary.

9. Break each routine down to its basics. Start with the leg movements then add in the arms and then put it all together. Sometimes we all just need to get back to the basics and take small bites rather than try to eat the whole pig, which will probably cause you indigestion anyway.

10. A hot looking Brazilian bloke in line next to you makes the hour go faster and sends the energy levels soaring.  Always carry a hot Brazilian looking bloke around with you if you can or if that’s not possible hold onto the idea of something or someone who motivates you.

There you have it, rules and skills for life according to Zumba Zen. I still don’t know how to properly do the salsa, cha-cha or merengue and I’m glad the technical aspects of all of that did not distract me from the bigger picture. I’m moving, sweating, having fun and mixing it with some great people and that to me is more important than championship ballroom technique.

And so with that, here endeth the Challenge.

O is for Orchard: Finding The Sweet Apples of Life (#atozchallenge)

photo from flikr -
chrisinplymouth's
photostream

In September 2005 Louise Eldrich published her novel, The Painted Drum. The book, which I have not yet read, contains one of my favourite quotes of recent times. So good in fact, that I had one of my friends, Toni Legates, who is a Photoshop magician, create a photo montage with the saying. The montage is reproduced below.

This is a quote that resonates deeply for me at middle age. I think if I had encountered it ten or fifteen years ago, I would not have appreciated its full meaning – at least not in the context of my own journey. There are some extremely powerful messages in the lines of this quote. Some messages, I already knew, some messages I needed to hear and some messages that I have embraced.

By the time I reached middle age I had worked out that no-one can lead a rich life without taking emotional risks. People and their reactions are things we cannot control and there are times when you just have to put it out there. Life does not come with 100% absolute guarantees and it never will. However, I think most people get to that stage sometime in their life that they develop the confidence to know that they will be able to handle any negative consequences that may arise from taking emotional risks. I now have. Being prepared to risk emotionally means creating the potential to reap rich emotional rewards, a potential that was denied to me in the past.

I can also now more fully appreciate the need to let myself sit in the orchard of life and just listen. Having emerged from a time when I thought there was NO time to sit and think, I have now made appointments with myself to do just that. We wouldn’t think to break a committment to others, but we tend to quite readily do so in the case of commitments to ourselves. Well, I am giving my appointments with myself at least the SAME amount of importance as I do with my appointments with others. We need to process and have enough clarity of vision and clear headedness to pick up on the cues the universe sends our way.

Having given myself permission, I now find that the sweet apples of life are everywhere. I take gratitude in the small things. The small wins are to be savoured and deserve just as much, if not more, focus and energy than the more remote possibility of a big win. Yes, it would be nice to win the lottery, but what are the chances…really? So I am not waiting for life to hand me lemons or one giant apple, I am reaching out for as many smaller sweet apples as I can and taking a huge bite of them. Happy to say, that I have encountered very few rotten cores to date.

When life hands you apples, you could make apple sauce, but I’d rather enjoy their crispness.

Have any quotes or passages ever resonated deeply with you?

M is for Mask: Desperately Seeking Authenticity (#atozchallenge)

photo from flikr -
duncan's photstream

If you have ever been to Venice, you would have seen the amazing Venetian masks on display. The masks originated in Medieval times in Italy due to the religious oppression that then existed. Behind their masks people in Venice used to feel free to indulge in certain activities frowned upon by the religious authorities. They were made of paper- mâché and decorated in gold, feathers, gems, ribbons and fur. Today they are used in street carnivals. They look ornate and distinctive, but pick them up and they feel fragile. You will find them everywhere in Venice.

Many people wear masks, even when it is not carnival time. These masks are not decorated or colourful like the Venetian masks, in fact they are almost invisible. However, the principle behind them is the same, namely they make the wearer feel free to indulge in certain activities or engage in certain ways.

When I was in my early thirties, a highly ambitious thing and knee-deep in my career, I would put on my career woman’s mask. Back then I felt uncomfortable talking about motherhood, parenting, really any out of office life at all for fear of being judged not committed or dedicated in what was a male dominated environment. I would wait until either a male colleague or client would raise the subject of family or children first and then I would be comfortable in contributing. Talk about golf, rugby union and beer was highly accepted, sadly I was not into any of those.

I am happy to say that times appear to have moved on, both in the industry and in society in general. The other facet to this of course is that I have reached middle age, am comfortable with my skills and ability to deal with professional issues and have less need to hide my authentic personal self from my professional self. My intuition and bull sh*t detector also seem to have been honed over the years to the point where I am happy to rely on them in real life. I am going to leave the digital world out of this discussion as that world is a whole other ball of wax.

Apart from my professional mask, I’ve never really felt the need to have any others. However, I have known people who are not this way, some have more masks than Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have children. Just when you think you’ve managed to peel one off, another one is revealed. It must take an astronomical amount of energy to maintain these masks and then do they show different masks to different people, or have a different order in which they are removed for each person?

The vibe of an interaction between two authentic selves is totally different to one where one of the protagonists is wearing a mask. There is usually a real energy to such an interaction, which may not always be positive if you are disagreeing and I’m ok with that. I’d rather have an authentic interaction than one muted by a mask. It’s why I seek out people who are themselves authentic.

I am done with masks, masks represent fear. The next one I don will be at carnival time hopefully either in Rio, Venice or New Orleans and be covered in jewels, feathers and a whole lot of colour.

What’s your experience with mask wearers?

[Photo credit: picture of taking off the mask by frostmaster on deviantart.com]

B is for Bikram Yoga: My Trip Into the Bikram Chamber

They say pay back can be nasty. My day for pay back came yesterday in the form of my very first Bikram Yoga class.

If you have heard of Bikram Yoga you will know that the mere contemplation of it can induce terror.  Bikram Yoga was created by Bikram Choudhury. His method is a set series of 26 postures each of which is performed twice together with two breathing exercises in a single 90 minute class.  The class is undertaken in a room heated to a minimum of 40 degrees Celsius (105 degrees Farenheit) and about 40% humidity. The idea is that the heat keeps your body from overheating (ha!), works on your muscles to allow for deeper stretching, promotes detoxing, increases your heart rate for a better cardiovascular work out together with a myriad of other “benefits”.

I have dabbled in “dry-land” yoga classes on and off for a number of years. Whilst I have never been a huge fan of twisting my body into what for me are unnatural positions I can see the benefits on posture, balance and the spirit. My philosophy for the past three years has been I’ll give anything a go once as long as it is affordable, not immoral, illegal or offensive. So here I was going off to try what can only be described as EXTREME yoga as an EXTREME novice.

I was given a set of instructions beforehand to prepare for the class. You must drink at least 2 litres of water, stop the drinking at least 30 minutes before class and you must not eat anything at least 2 hours beforehand. The warning bells were already starting to ring right there. If you have ever drunk 2 litres of water in a short amount of time (cue anyone who has ever had an ultrasound) you will understand. Two hours of prep for a 90 minute class? Really, most people don’t even do that much prep for an exam!

Stomach laden with water, I stepped into the hot room. There were about 20 others in the class, with the experienced cool kids up the front. I was told to follow them. Being my first time, the instructor referred to me as her “new friend”. At this point, I was still breathing freely but I wasn’t regarding the instructor and the other members of the class as my “friends”.

Yoga requires things like balance, co-ordination and flexibility and I was in the wrong line when they handed out those attributes. Let’s just say I didn’t manage to make all 26 poses and leave it at that. Oh, and did I mention that the Bikram room had mirrors everywhere? There was no escaping towards the back of the class. Hello humiliation!

Much of the class was taken up watching and admiring the cool kids twist like pretzels whilst I was trying not to pass out or catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror.  I tried to think of cool oceans, Antarctica and my legacy to my children. I zeroed in every time the instructor said “Our new friends can sit out and just watch this pose for the first time” in secret relief.  I kept mentally asking “Are we there yet?”.

Now I know the real meaning of the term “sweating buckets”. I have never “sweated buckets” before.  I have never drunk so much water or contorted so much before. Also, I have never pushed my boundaries so much before. I survived 90 minutes in the Bikram Chamber – that was the real challenge. Therefore I left the class with a sense of triumph together with my jelly legs, detoxed body and happier organs.

I am glad I gave it a shot. But I think one shot is all that I have in me. I admire anyone who can perform a graceful Garuasana or a pretty Padangustana. May you live a long and happy sweat filled life. However, it has never been a goal of mine to flex so much that I can put my feet behind my ears.

[Photo of the letter B from flikr – chrisinplymouth’s photstream]