Saturday, July 31, 2010

Picture this

Forty years of togetherness; opaque complexity gleaming from each facet of a lovingly chosen ruby.

Eight hands clapping, fuelled by a roaring fire.

Four flutes effervescing with French champagne.

Two women and a guitar, plucking heart strings in traditional prayer.

One tiny foot, stamping in time.

A moment of pure love.

Friday, July 30, 2010

What I heard

I can see you. Scurrying around the house. Not meeting anyone's eyes, not stopping for anything. Folding. Tidying. Sweeping. Washing. Putting away.

I can feel your heart beating super fast, as if trying to keep time with the complex calculations that your mind is performing.

I can smell the defence you are exuding, the fog that makes you see insistent offers of help as invasions of your boundaries, undermining your routine, eroding confidence in your preferences.

I know you are trying to hold it together. To not make it harder. To see it "in perspective". To be strong.

I can sense how tightly you are grasping at the shadowy tale of that elusive wisp, control. And feeling it slip through your fingers. Just enough to fool you into thinking you had its grasp to begin with.

I can hear the voices that are shouting that This request is unreasonable and That person shouldn't ask such things of you and Just wait 'til you show them, set things straight.

But I can also hear that tiny whisper that you are afraid. That you're not sure you can do all that is being asked of you. That it will reveal you are a fraud.

And this tiny whisper is cracking you open and letting a tiny light shine on the part of you that knows... that you can do what needs to be done... that you will do your best, as you always do... that it's OK not to be strong... that not hiding behind the shadow of your fears allows others to step into the light with you... that if you allow people to help in their own way, they will give you exactly what you need... that all of these things will combine to form something more magnificent and awe-inspiring than the sum of its parts... and that's why listening to that whisper may be the hardest thing you choose to do in a given day, but it will bring you closer to life and truth and beauty than you could ever have hoped.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Short but sweet

Self-consciousness is the enemy of all art, be it acting, writing, painting, or living itself, which is the greatest art of all.

Zen in the Art of Writing
Ray Bradbury

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Twenty things I’d like to tell my 37 year old self (next year)

You are doing a great job as a Mum.

All those places you want to return to: you'll get there. All those places you want to explore: you'll get there too. Some people pursue a job that involves travel to fulfil this need, but it comes with more baggage than a suitcase, banner, laptop, and boxes of brochures! It really isn't worth it. Keep doing work that you love, and that frees you to nurture other parts of your life. And travel on your own terms.

You don't often feel like you do much but, in fact, you do.

Forget the fun run this year, unless you are committed to training. (Trust me: training is not only useful for your stamina during the actual run, it means you'll recover without aching for a week afterwards.) In either case, it might be best to go a little easier on the chocolate consumption.

It’s OK to reveal too much, and it’s OK to keep some stuff to yourself.

Yes, it would be nice to learn how to potter around in the garden.

Don’t feel bad for getting totally sucked in by her story. That’s what it was designed for. Maybe -- like your recent aha! moment about an old nemesis -- she'd also find things to envy about you, if she met you.

Try and see more movies.

What you consider disdainfully to be "excuses" usually have a kernel of valid truth in them. It really is up to you to cut yourself some slack.

How did your first NaNoWriMo go?

When push comes to shove you'll find you look back on your younger self with a lot more tenderness and compassion (and a lot less embarrassment or frustration) than anticipated.

You already have a lot of jewellery.

That exhibition, that online shop, those magazine articles, the book proposal. They will happen. They'll be magnificent, but there won't be much point wishing they'd happened sooner.

It might be worth investigating that writing course… it's true what people say about deadlines.

Those conversations you have in your head -- you know, the ones where you get the last word -- never do translate to reality, do they? Apart from never being able to compose something witty and cutting when you're under pressure, I seriously doubt that saying something shaming or hurtful to someone is going to engender the response you fantastise about i.e. the bit when they feel so hurt that they realise how much they have hurt you and apologise. Get over it.

More crochet is a great idea!

Out of curiosity, why don't you make lists any more?

There have only been a small number of occasions where people have said to you, "You should have been there!" or "You should have seen it!" and none of them were the end of the world. You've always known when it's been really important, and then you've really pulled out all the stops. It really is OK to sit still and let things pass by, if that feels right. Ignore the voices of habit that try to convince you otherwise.

There really is enough time.

You are a writer.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Twenty things I’d like to tell my 27 year old self

You’ll be OK.

Yes, it would be better if you ate less junk food while you were travelling internationally. And if you read books while passing time in hotels or occasionally used the gym or wrote while stuck in transit lounges. And if you didn’t shop so much, just to fill a void. But a void there is. And it will take a while before you are ready to fill it. So don’t be so hard on yourself.

Just because he’s there, doesn’t mean he’ll do.

That wonderful job, that dream apartment, they are on their way to you. But you will have to wait a little while for them. That soulmate too. But you’ll have to wait even longer for him.

She only lets you see what she wants to you see. Because she is actually envious of you. Hard to believe, but true.

You are about to be given a tremendous gift, an opportunity that you will make much of. It will make much of your day-to-day unhappiness worthwhile… in retrospect.

It’s OK to feel unhappy. Just go with it. It will pass.

A lot of the people you don’t like will still be in your professional life ten years down the track. You might only dislike them slightly less… but they won’t go away. So pretending they don’t exist is a bit of pointless exercise. And immature.

A lot of what you learnt at university about the possibility of deconstructing culture, class, and gender will not be borne out by what you see in your world travels. Political correctness will not get you very far, either. But good old-fashioned manners will be surprisingly effective.

Say yes to that snorkelling trip. Log off from that computer.

There will come a time when you won’t be so busy. And that will also be strangely confronting.

Politics really isn’t worth it. You’ll only feel like celebrating the “little victories” if they’re for good, not evil.

It’s true, relationship-building is important for good business. But business relationships are not friendships. So they are not friends, they are business associates. They will not send you business because they are your friends. And as soon as things don’t go their way, business-wise, they will not want to be your friends.

Spirituality can’t be bought. Enlightenment does not arrive when you buy a book about the Dalai Lama. Self-acceptance will take time, it will be relative, and you’ll find that you had what it took all along.

Your Mum is winding you up because she loves you and is frustrated for you. She just wants the best for you and, sadly, she’s usually right. But just grit your teeth and ignore her for the time being. Don’t bite.

It’s OK to step away from what has just been, and close the door behind you. It may seem like it now, but it won’t be forever. And although you have been hard done-by, you have had the privilege of working with people who really love you. Eventually, you’ll see who they are and just how lucky you are to know them.

You are trying hard, and your heart is in the right place, but the corporate glamourous thing doesn’t really suit you. It’s not where you’ll find the substance you’re looking for, in any case.

He is a total mid-life crisis cliché.

It is true what people say: magazines are a waste of money. And they really do have a negative effect on your body image. And bank balance.

You are loved.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Twenty things I'd like to tell my 17 year old self

All your dreams will come true... just not as fast as you think. It's worth the wait.

You won't regret dropping piano lessons but you will wish you had stuck with French.

A good many shy boys are reticent not because they know something profound that you are not worthy of hearing. They are just shy. And, in some cases, they don't know a whole lot at all.

You will be amazed how many things you learnt from being a part of the ballet school community will stand you in good stead for life.

If people say mean things to you, it's not because you deserve it or because you're a bad person. It's because they're people who are prone to saying mean things, for reasons that don't have a lot to do with you.

It mightn't feel like it, but you can walk away. And that's not passive aggression: it's self-preservation. And you are worth preserving.

In ten years' time you will really regret not having shown an interest in learning to cook, despite your Mum's best efforts.

Your suspicions (dare I say hopes?) are right: of all the people you are friends with right now, you will only keep in touch with one. And, even then, you won't be that close.

There will come a time when you regret smoking.

You will meet people who make you feel envious and/or inadequate about your sheltered upbringing. But you will also meet many who make you extremely glad for it.

Try and find out more about your grandparents' young lives.

Look around you in the classroom: it's a basic template for everyone you will ever meet in work situations, especially meetings.

You will always love telling a good tale, but you will always hate lying.

You will most likely (definitely) ignore this, but if you don't go to Paula's 18th birthday party, you may avoid people and circumstances that make the next three years of your life extremely painful.

Holiday romances are best left at that. Trust me on this.

Although some of your parents' choices frustrate and annoy you right now, you will be amazed and grateful when you do become a parent yourself. And you'll wonder how (or whether) you'll do half as good a job.

There will come a time when you will be proud of your Greek heritage, and you won't need or want to pretend it doesn't exist anymore.

There will come a time when you will find yourself surrounded by people who like, value and respect you for being smart (among other things) and you won't need or want to pretend you're not.

There really is no hurry.

You are a writer.

With gratitude and respect to Hula Seventy for her touching post on 27 June 2010 of the same title.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


My friend Krissie wore
mismatching shoes because she
couldn't choose. Somehow

that really spoke to
me and where I am right now.
I am giving up

pretending that my
life is symmetrical or
that I have a plan.

It's OK to be
a mismatch of many things.
Indecisive, too.

It's OK not to
know how people will respond
or how you will feel.

It's OK to let
things evolve in their own time,
slower than you thought.

Untethering from
expectations and the need
to belong, frees me.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Random thoughts, not so random?

Between one thing and another -- and none of them bad -- I haven't made it to the computer this week. I have many thoughts drifting languidly like feathers around my head, not yet fully formed.

For once, I am not pushing for coherence. So I thought I'd just share where I'm at, the thoughts I have been marinating in...

* Savouring Oslo Davis' Overheard and secretly fantasising that the woman commenting on the number of Isabelle Allende books at the Writers Festival in Federation Square on p.114 is me.

* A poet was featured in The Age newspaper's financial pages recently! Not just any poet, a highly esteemed and awarded one, who also happened to be my creative writing lecturer at uni. Somehow the feature is quintessentially Melbourne for me. And it includes a Haiku.

* It has dawned on me that many of the books I've read, films I've seen, cuisines I've tasted over the past year have taken me along the Silk Road. Actually, like many ABC-watching Australians over 30, I grew up fixated on a series based in this part of the world.

* On that note, I am fascinated by one of I. M. Pei's magnificent creations and luxuriating in Yo-Yo Ma's exquisite collaboration.

* Danielle LaPorte is impressive at the best of times, but her Manifesto of Encouragement is pure magic and a must-read.

* Rachelle Mee-Chapman (aka Magpie Girl) has been blowing me away with her Magpie Speak: A New Language For Soulcare series. Hard to believe it's free!

* Little 'un and I had our first creative dance class this week. It was fun! And I could see my little girl quite fascinated with all the new environment to offer. The session's structure had various degrees of elasticity, so that toddlers could run and dance and play in different ways but also sit and watch and listen and *gasp* take turns at something!

* I'm delighting in watching my little 'un exploring my bathroom cupboards these days. As part of my clearing a couple of weeks ago, I also purged this particular spot of fascination, removing dangerous items and throwing out things I'd been storing for so many years that I couldn't even remember why. In their place, I put funky little make-up bags full of everyday treasures, including a lipgloss with Pingu on the case that I'd bought a million years ago in Malaysia and found during the clearing. Now that was one happy discovery!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Things I learnt during a 5km fun run

1. There are as many body shapes and sizes, and as many running styles, as there are runners. There are also as many reasons for doing a fun run as there are runners: some run for charities, some are sponsored by their employer or school, others run to honour a departed loved one, others again make it a fun family event. At the end of the day, we all run for someone. Including those who, like me, run for themselves.

2. Waiting for something to start -- something that you have no control over -- without a mobile phone, without pen or paper, without a book, or any other kind of distraction is incredibly freeing. Just standing around waiting, alone. In a sea of over 17,000 people (of whom you perhaps know five).

3. In a sea of over 17,000 people, the universe will ensure you cross paths at least two of the five people you know, and you'll recognise a further half-dozen acquaintances in the distance. The stories and memories this will evoke will be uncanny.

4. Not pondering the inadequacy of your preparation as you line up to start will make you feel strangely zen-like. Your confidence that you will run the whole distance, possibly even beating your last run time (but who cares), and that you will not need to stop to walk will be borne out. On a side note, including a boogie to Greased Lightening in a warm-up is an excellent idea.

5. Not repeating past mistakes like going out with old friends the night before the run to celebrate your engagement (such that your glass is never empty, you eat too many rich courses, then barf out the car window on the way home) is a very good idea. Also, remembering that, unlike last time you do not need to get on a plane to Adelaide right after your run and stay up 'til midnight unpacking and sorting brochures for your week of work appointments, is also a nice feeling. Musing that your common sense and work ethic have evolved (in a good way) will make you feel even more strangely zen-like.

6. The first kilometre is always the hardest. It it will, to your surprise, include steep inclines that you hadn't factored in to your meagre training. But an uphill will usually be followed by a downhill. And a lot of people will pass you on the downhill.

7. Some people really can tweet while running. Although why...

8. It's OK to call in the resources that you were saving for a tough time when you actually need to use them. Specifically, if you had planned for M.I.A.'s Paper Planes to get you to the finish line, but then you find you need it to give you a boost around the half-way mark, then fiddling with your iPod to make it happen is actually rather worthwhile. Likewise resources you hadn't anticipated: who knew that Brandi Carlile's music provides a great running soundtrack? Consider this validation of your laziness in not setting up a running playlist. Things do not always pan out the way you plan, including any self-flaggelatory tendencies.

9. Even if you have advised your husband to stay at home with your little 'un, to save them standing around in the freezing cold too dangerously close to nap time, you will still scan the families accumulated around the finish line to see if your people are there.

10. Getting home to gorgeous cup of coffee, a hot shower, and your jammies at midday is nothing short of bliss.

The back of the medal -- which all participants received -- reads: Remember this moment. You've earned it. Nice, eh?

PS Thanks to Jen for the motivation to do this run. The preparation didn't exactly work out as I'd anticipated/hoped but the learnings were not lost!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Today is about

Today is about
loving imperfectly and
knowing that's enough.

Today is about
not letting myself worry
about tomorrow.

Today is about
playing in the garden with
my sweet little girl.

Today is about
a hot shower, stripy socks,
poached egg, two coffees.

Today is about
skimming the papers and not
spending time online.

Today is about
getting excited about
going to New York.

Today is here and
now, exactly where I am,
and no more, no less.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

My luck runneth out?

I have two of these lucky bamboos. The first (pictured) my Mum bought me for Christmas in 2004 after a trip to Greece where she noticed how they adorned many elegant Athenian apartments. This bamboo has survived two moves, living for many years on my bedside table, enjoying filtered sunlight and the company of hundreds of books.

The second I bought to bring some life to my very first office. It was the only time I ever had my very own office, with a door that shut. It may never happen again. The bamboo now lives in my study/studio and has coped admirably in both environments, particularly given the absence of natural light.

I can say with some confidence that my lucky bamboos did bring me luck, as Mum had hoped. They saw me through meeting my soulmate, domestic and world travel, getting married, several work opportunities, buying our dream home, finishing my thesis, my Dad surviving a serious health scare, our little 'un's birth, and countless other tiny moments of joy that would be too numerous to mention.

Except now my bamboos aren't looking quite so healthy. They are starting to yellow and slowly die, stalk by stalk. To be fair, this process takes a long time. My work bamboo, for example, has been dying over the past three years. Now there is only one healthy stalk left, although the two that are yellowing have taken the best part of this year to make their departure.

Being somewhat superstitious, I am given to wonder what this all means. I have a number of houseplants and I adore them all, but find the idea of the task of watering them tedious. [The actual watering doesn't take too long and is not all that labour intensive. That said, I have dropped from a fastidious weekly watering to an ad hoc fortnightly sploosh.] Nonetheless, the idea of not having this lush plant life providing elegant calm in my home and work space makes me feel sad and bereft.

But maybe a new chapter requires a new and different sort of luck.

And perhaps houseplants can be... just that.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Starting to come together

I feel like I am on the brink of something. A seismic leap masquerading as a tiny step.

Perhaps it is because I recently stopped resisting, and just went with feeling unhappy. Even though I couldn't explain why.

Apparently random questions started to form a pattern.

From me: Why don't I feel better than I do? I am grateful for all that I have and know I should be making more of this precious time. What is wrong with me?

From Dream Lab: Why not just play hooky? Give the relentless quest for self-improvement a rest and allow yourself to rest up and have some fun for a change?

From me: Maybe this "funk" is the Universe not wanting me to do anything in relation to my dreams. What if the Universe "just" wants me to be a Mum right now?

From Anne Lamott's Travelling Mercies: [Buddhists] believe when a lot of things start going wrong all at once, it is to protect something big and lovely that is trying to get itself born -- and that this something needs for you to be distracted so that it can be born as perfectly as possible.

Me again: The most validation I am getting in my life right now -- the place I am getting the most "runs on the board" -- is in my day job. What does that mean?

From the stars: How could you make your vocation resemble your day job?

Me again again: I can see what I require but needy and greedy patterns are dragging me down. Where do they come from and why do I continually let them stand in my way?

From Wayne Muller's Sabbath (paraphrased): Abundance is a fearful response to scarcity. Sufficiency invokes satisfaction and wellbeing. How are you confusing the two? How do you know when you have enough?

Scribbling in my journal, the patterns start to appear. Apparently innocent questions from friends, acquaintances, random strangers are making me hear my own answers.

I think I am getting closer.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Four baskets of laundry

invariably provide the humming background soundtrack to my Sunday.

can be exhausting, sometimes feel like drudgery.

have enslaved women for centuries.

clutter up the living room with clothes horses, pegs, baskets.

are often the perfect way to procrastinate from my life's true calling... but funnily enough feel like what I "should" be doing instead of writing, reading, blogging or artmaking.

form one of my main contributions to the smooth running of the household.

feel like an act of love, providing crisp clean linen and soft inviting towels and fresh clothing for my family.

are very satisfying, once they are all dried and put away.

provide a regular opportunity to witness the wisdom of the Buddhist practice of releasing attachment: the satisfaction of clean laundry never lasts for long.

are likely not the most interesting thing to blog about but c'est la vie.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Seeking and finding

A woman at a retreat shared how she had devoted her whole life to spiritual seeking. She had traveled to sacred sites, attended countless retreats and workshops, sought teachers and guides. It had, she confessed, been a time of much striving; it had been fruitful in some ways, yet she felt tired, weary. She was getting older. She wondered how much stamina she had left to continue her search.

"You have been a seeker for so long," I said. "Why not become a finder? At this stage in your life, what if you imagined you were ready to let go of seeking, and begin finding?" She remained silent for a long time, a look of deep confusion on her face, her head slightly tilted, as if she were trying to hear a sound far away.

Then, suddenly, a laugh exploded from deep in her belly. A finder! What a delight! How could she have never imagined it before? She had always been so focused on the search, she had never taken the time to rejoice in the blessing, the gift of finding.

Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in our Busy Lives
Wayne Muller

Friday, July 9, 2010

Things making today gorgeous

* Not going to work on a Friday.

* Packing lots of snacks, and rugging up in hats and coats for our big adventure.

* Riding the choo-choo to the city.

* Walking along the Yarra river in the crisp morning sunshine.

* Beating the school holiday crowds to the Aquarium.

* Following another woman with a pram into a lift, responding to her query as to which floor I was wanting with the truth that, actually, I didn't have a plan.

* Getting off at the basement with her and finding that we had the entire Oceanarium to ourselves.

* Getting over myself and allowing my little 'un out of her pram so she could walk around a little, noticing that she became far more fascinated by the fish when she could walk right up to the tanks and peer in.

* Finishing the screeching wrestle that now accompanies her return to the pram with silly tickly kisses and giggles.

* Returning home and opening windows to allow some unseasonably warm air to freshen the house.

* The special bottle of sparkling shiraz chilling in the fridge for tonight's cosy night in.

* This fabulous, fun video -- seriously, you need to buy this book!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The time is now

Recently my watch stopped. Unfortunately, it wasn't the battery. My faithful (and handsome) watch 0f nearly ten years requires a service that would cost more than buying a new watch.

I've been a committed watch-wearer ever since I can remember, albeit with a couple of quirks. I wear my watch on my right hand, even though that's the hand I write with. And the watch is always set exactly ten minutes fast. I have set certain clocks ten minutes fast for as long as I can remember. I am fastidiously punctual and this has been due, in some part, to my alarm clock, my watch and mobile phone set ten minutes ahead of where I actually am.

I always found the tension this created to be rather productive. I was never actually fooled by the ten-minutes-ahead time, and continually deducted ten minutes to understand where I was in relation to where I was about to be. And, yes, it enabled me to press the snooze button on my alarm clock once or twice more before dragging myself out of bed (I've never been a morning person). But there was something quite comforting about living in relation to ten minutes in the future... perhaps it was knowing that I always had ten minutes to spare.

In recent years, the rhythm of may days has changed. Getting anywhere for a specific time requires a series of carefully planned and deftly executed manoeuvres, and some delicately negotiated teamwork. This will start from the night before and unfold over many many moments over the course of the day. Somehow is seems to bear little relation to the activity confined to the little timepiece on my wrist.

So I haven't taken the plunge and replaced the watch. I'm seeing what happens without it. My mobile phone is now set to present time. My alarm clock remains ten minutes fast, but I never set the alarm as my husband's early departure usually wakes me up. My motivation to get out of bed early is the promise of a hot shower without my little 'un roaming all over the bathroom.

When the above-pictured little beauty arrived in the mail today, somehow its purpose did not require a single moment's thought. It lives on my watch hand and reminds me that ten minutes' time is no longer relevant: where I am is now.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Bitter and twisted on the bike

Travelling to work
reminds me of what I hate
about bike riding.

Been a while, it feels
too hard, puffing so heavy
but pedalling slow.

Ringing in my head,
memory of nemesis
gliding on her bike.

Peasant skirt flowing,
curly hair unsullied by
her red bike helmet.

"What a lovely way
to start the day!" She would chirp.
Hardly broke a sweat.

Me who didn't ride.
Or jog. Or have a boyfriend.
Or eat healthily.

Or have an office.
Or work-paid phone, car, study,
business class travel.

Who knew that riding
could bring back such envy and
resentment and blame?

Riding feels harder
than it should, and this reflects
badly on me. But

other people's lives
always look so appealing
from the outside, no?

Maybe she hated
bike riding as much as me
but wouldn't show it.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

More about clearing and more about play

There have also been some unexpected fringe benefits from my recent clearing.

While another coffee was brewing, I moved the computer off the dining table, as well as a set of nearby shelves that housed glassware. Both now live in my study/studio. There were altogether too many NOs emanating from that little corner of our living room. The computer wires, various china platters and glass vases, and assorted hardware proved too tempting for my little 'un (did I ever tell you about the time she mashed her tiny hands into the keyboard and when I looked up at my Word document I found that she'd spelt mmmmllllllkkkk ?!).

Anyhoo, now my little girl can toddle around and around the dining table without smashing anything, erasing my hard work, or electrocuting herself. But also our dining table actually looks like a dining table! When I got home from work last week, I found that Mum had spread out the white hand-embroidered tablecloth that she bought me in Greece over the table. I dug out some crystal candle holders and voila! We have enjoyed some lively family dinners, as well as some cosy late dinners for two, in this lovely clear space which seems to open up the whole room. (I also feel less tempted to dump stuff on the table when I come in from running errands, reluctant to sully the lovely white tablecloth.)

This has also proven a good way of tempting me away from time spent on the computer, as I need to be in the living room keeping an eye on my little 'un. When I do invest little fragments of time in the study/studio space, I feel the pull of my art supplies. Sure, with the computer and printer and extra shelving there, there’s less room to play. But room there is… and the call is becoming stronger.

But there is one more thing, and this one is probably the sweetest of all. When moving books and toys into my little ‘un’s room, my favourite kids' book on spycraft tumbled off her shelf. I’d forgotten about my childhood obsession with becoming a spy. A quick rummage revealed all three books that I had on the topic. Oh! The secret codes! The invisible inks! The tiny pocket kits to be made with matchboxes and string!

Looking at the deliciously tantalising story boards of squat characters in trilby hats and trench coats, it all came flooding back. The secrets! The danger! The intrigue! Nagging my Dad for index cards to make code wheels! Going for walks and insisting: “Ask me a SPY question, Dad! And not a DUMB ONE this time!”.

Oh! I can’t wait ‘til my little ‘un is at an age where she wants to play in this way. But maybe I could make a wee start on some secret spy kits and invisible ink messages now...

Monday, July 5, 2010

Clearing for play

So I made a phone call to a friend of a friend, a woman who teaches creative dance classes for little ‘uns and big ‘uns. I wanted to see about putting my little ‘un’s name on her waiting list for toddler classes. “Now that she’s walking,” I found myself saying, “I feel like she needs more stimulation than I can provide.”

Recently, I’ve been wondering if my little ‘un is a little bored. Because of my working days, we miss out on play group so she rarely gets to interact with little ‘uns her own age. There are some days where I feel like all I do is say NO. I have been feeling tired and reluctant to follow her around, fish things out of her hands, keep her away from fragile/dangerous objects of fascination. I see myself resorting to DVDs so I can have a little down time. To the point where one of the first things she says when she wakes up is “PINNA!”, which is her name for Pingu (the DVD she wants to watch at least four times a day).

All of these things make me feel like a bad mother. And I guess I was looking for an easy way out.

“But she doesn’t need a lot of stimulation,” The dance teacher gently explained, “Just simple ways of exploring the world around her. Get some buttons and an egg carton. Or some building blocks and a cardboard box. Like they do on Play School. They make simple things out of very basic materials, things you would find around your home, plus a little imagination.”

She went on. “Your daughter doesn’t need piles of books or baskets of toys or fancy electronic games. You can’t work on a cluttered desk, right? So keep her playing space simple, just a few things here. Rotate them on a regular basis, so you don’t need to keep buying new things but they will always look new to her. And you’ll find that she will keep herself occupied for ages.”

Looking at the living room, the place where we spend the majority of our time, I could see that she had a point. We have a wide open space for our little ‘un (having moved the coffee table as soon as she started holding onto things and standing up) and there are two soft plastic tubs, one for her books and one for her toys. I am a bit obsessive about putting things away at the end of the day, when she is napping, or when too many things get pulled out. It’s true: the more mess there is, the more overwhelmed she gets, and she also starts to step/trip on things.

But, despite the neatness, I noticed that the two baskets full to the brim of toys and books, such that whenever my little ‘un reached in to grab something she’d end up wailing “Guck! Guck!” so I could come and help her free the thing she was trying to dislodge. (And in case you’re wondering "guck" means stuck!)

I knew a clearing had to take place but I put it off and stewed on it for a week. Eventually, harnessing a little spurt of energy on the back of another domestic task, I told myself: “This task will only take two minutes. Do it while your coffee is brewing.” So I did it. I went ahead and took out half the books and toys and put them in another room. In an instant, the space in her play area felt like it had doubled… even though it was only the real estate in the plastic tubs that had expanded.

I also sent PINNA on sabbatical. He’s not gone forever – I can’t help but think of Andrea Scher’s son’s obsession with Elmo, and how she and her husband gently relented – but I have to acknowledge that I feel responsible for my little ‘un’s obsession and that I have come to use it as a crutch rather than a treat.

The upshot all this is that I feel a little bit freer. There’s a little bit more room for us to enjoy each other’s company. I don’t have to say NO every five minutes, and I can also relax a little that not everything she touches is a potential trip to the Royal Children’s Hospital.

But I also feel a little more empowered to be with her, where she’s at. I can see what the creative dance teacher was driving at. I don’t need to do more. I certainly don’t need to buy more. I don't even need to be more. I just need to be there. And be present.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

It's in the stars... and on walls...

How well have you been attending to 2010's major themes, Gemini?

Since we're midway through the year, let's do a check-in. I hope that by now you are at least 15 percent sturdier, stronger, and braver than you've ever been in your entire life, and at least 20 percent better organized and disciplined. I hope that you have outgrown one of your amateur approaches and claimed a new professional privilege.

Now write the following questions on a slip of paper that you will leave taped to your mirror for the next six months.:

1. How can I get closer to making my job and my vocation be the same thing?

2. What am I doing to become an even more robust and confident version of myself?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Penned on the bus, on the way to work

Vespa parked next to
box of red geraniums.
Paris in my street.

Wish that I could read
on the bus without feeling
queasy like a kid.

Week is beginning.
iPod blaring loud doesn’t
jolt me out of sleep.

Still wading through glue,
feeling small and ungrateful,
trying to pretend

that I feel as good
as my life truly is. Oh,
what is wrong with me?

Keep soldiering on.
Find tiny moments of grace.
Learn to dance again.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

I'm a versatile blogger, didn't you know!

I was honoured and delighted to discover that the lovely Phil of Green Ink nominated me as a Versatile Blogger today! I am still trying to fully comprehend what such an accolade might mean...

Versatile (adjective)
1. capable of or adapted for turning easily from one to another of various tasks, fields of endeavour, etc.: a versatile writer.
2. having or capable of many uses: a versatile tool.
3. Botany: attached at or near the middle so as to swing freely, as an anther.
4. Zoology: turning either forward or backward: a versatile toe.
5. variable or changeable, as in feeling, purpose, or policy: versatile moods.

1595–1605; from the Latin versātilis revolving, many-sided

It sounds quite fitting but mostly I am humbled by, and grateful for, the intention. So, in the spirit of generosity and nurturing, I am only too happy to abide by the conditions of accepting the award, which are:

1. Thank and link back to the person who gave you the award.
2. Share seven things about yourself.
3. Give the award to 15 bloggers you've recently discovered.

Now the lovely and clever Phil has already been thanked (and do check out her delightful blogs), so now I believe it behoves me to reveal seven things about my self. I have recently been given to wonder if there is anything about myself left to reveal! But here goes...

1) My favourite film for many years was Cabaret, directed by Bob Fosse, starring Liza Minelli, Joel Grey and Michael York. I adored this film partly for Fosse's excruciatingly brilliant direction and choreography, partly for the heart-wrenching show-stoppers, and partly because I fancied myself as a Sally Bowles-type character. I'm kind of past the latter now, although I still do have a soft spot for the movie (and sequins and feathers).

2) The strangest snack combination I'll confess to is sesame crackers topped with tahini and "craisins" (i.e. dried cranberries). I know, the sound of it even grosses me out. But once I start...

3) My lowercase handwriting is woeful. By the time I started school, teaching good old fashioned cursive script had gone out of vogue and not a day goes by that I don't mildly resent it! My uppercase handwriting (which I tend to use on the rare occasions I have to handwrite something for someone else) is angular and only barely legible, if I'm to be honest. But I like it because it sometimes reminds me of my Dad's.

4) I hate hate hate the sound of eating/crunching noises. I mean, I really cannot abide it. I like to think it is genetic. My mother's youngest sister (who was my godmother and whom I adored and from whom my little 'un inherits her middle name) used to serve savoury nibblies to guests then leave the room so she wouldn't have to listen to them eat them! [I love that.]

5) I am hopeless at ball sports, actually anything that requires hand-eye co-ordination or skating-like motion. I am so clueless that it was only recently that I discovered (much to the hilarity of my bff) that when top-seeded tennis players hit the ball, they have a pretty good idea where it will land. I thought that everyone just thrust their racquet in the general direction of the oncoming ball and prayed that the two intersect... like me.

6) I have a very early memory of asking my Dad, "What's it like when you die?". I must have been about four. He replied, "Well, what was it like before you were born?". I thought long and hard about that one... not being born was not all that distant a memory, when I was four.

7) When "signing off" a phone conversation with my sister, she invariably says, "Well, have fun!". I love my sister to bits but for some reason, that really irks me. Sometimes I think it irks me because it feels like it is something she is saying without really thinking about it... not insincere, as such (because my sister is a very sincere person) but perhaps a bit of a habit? Other times, I suspect it irks me because I am a misanthrope who is given to wonder, "What's FUN got to do with it?". [Probably a good thing I'm enrolled in Dream Lab!]

And finally, here are fifteen recent-ish posts that have really spoken to me:

1) Nicolien's post on her honeymoon in Iran really opened my eyes. And her Qussa visual journal is absolutely breathtaking.

2) Joe's Eating My Ideas series. I love seeing his dreams come to life!

3) Krissie touched my heart with the courage she took to dream.

4) Susie’s brilliant story about the fart that clinched the interview is a must-read.

5) Amiee's realisation about her true calling was a treasure to witness.

6) Jan’s reaching out to her seven year old self moved me to tears.

7) Rachel continues to astonish me with her presence as a parent, and a writer and artist.

8) Elizabeth’s Ode to Joy series is absolute magic.

9) Aimee's heart is as breathtakingly beautiful as her art.

10) Cathy was right on the money about living the creative life not being for the fainthearted!

11) Monica's timely reminder about little miracles was a gift.

12) Lee’s weekly celebration of everything good in her world never fails to bring a smile to my face.

13) Amy is a wise, talented and generous soul.

14) Kimberley’s encounter with a mysterious red-headed guru was uncannily timed with the ascendance of the new red-headed Australian Prime Minister!

15) Jen’s posts are sorely missed… I hope they return soon!

Now that the baton has been passed to these fifteen versatile bloggers, I look forward to seeing the seven things they choose to reveal, and the fifteen bloggers that have inspired them in turn.