Fast cars

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This boy is one of three who happen to make my world go round. After counting down the days until I would be completely off work and available to play, it wasn’t long after I stumbled out of bed that first morning that I was handed a car and told to play.

My kids hate that I work full time. And I get it. (As well as all the guilt that comes with loving my full time job). So despite the fact that stopping and just enjoying the moment is incredibly difficult for this chronic multi-tasking, plate spinner…I’ve been trying my hardest to say “yes,” and get down on the floor to brumm fast cars as often as possible over the past fortnight.

It’s too easy to say “no” – there’s dish s to be done; washing to hang out; and just sitting down to do. But I don’t want them (or me) to remember their childhood as me sitting on the couch or being too busy all the time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as big believer in good old fashion benign neglect…it’s the route of all creativity, surely! It’s the all the time element I am concerned with.

So my last fortnight has been filled with fast cars, stick ball, camping, running, picnics, bike rides and trips to the park. Tomorrow is my last day and although I’m ready to be insanely busy again, I’ve enjoyed being available to say yes.

And let’s not talk about my little boy being big enough to start school next week!

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And so it is.

If I am honest, I began today – my 32nd birthday – feeling a little bit sorry for myself; feeling fat, old and broke. But after a wonderfully ordinary day of custom art presents from two very talented monsters; a shortened work day and a cheeky late afternoon nap I remembered something.

I remembered that I don’t actually give a flying &*^%…. (sorry kids, my mum reads this).

You see, I could write you a list of 31 things I learned when I was 31 but we all know I’ll get too bored by the time I got to point 5. And I’m pretty sure everything I’ve learned in the past few years is pretty easy to sum up in a few short sentences.

  • I can do it. I have done it. I will continue to do it. And the people who matter know I can do it as well.
  • Gin is truly delicious, and the more gin I try the more delicious it seems to become.
  • Motherhood is the most complicated adventure I will ever embark on, I may as well enjoy the ride as perfection is not an option.
  • I prefer to be healthy, even if it means eating less cake. However I loathe wasting my time on bad food.
  • I am an extremely ambitious person in ways my younger self never imagined.
  • I like attention.
  • I am not infallible.

Oh look, I made it to 7.

But tonight I packed my kids in the car after tea, even though it was after pj time and took them to my favourite place. I need more of that in my life and less of the other stuff. Because if I can’t now, when will I?

Years and years

Next week I turn 32.

Growing older has never been an issue for me, probably because most of my life I have done things while being younger than my counterparts…

But 32 feels different.

32 feels old. I don’t know if it’s because now I have a grown ups’ job, or because very soon both kids will be in school (and no longer the “very young” moniker I am so comfortable with giving them). I don’t know if it’s because it’s coming up for a decade since I said yes to Phil on one knee or if it’s the number itself that feels different.

But 32 is definitely not 30, and absolutely not part of my twenties.

Which is fine, your twenties are over rated. And 29/30 were my most confident years, despite being difficult ones. But 31 … Well its had other challenges and lessons. And maybe that’s it. I’m more aware, more humble and more ambitious than I’ve ever been.
There are moments when time feels like it is slipping through my fingers. The boys seem bigger every time I look at them; my goals seem unmanageably time consuming to achieve.

And I worry. I worry that the time of being considered young, slightly attractive and fresh is almost passed and the glass ceiling is ready to reveal itself.

But, as some colleagues recently reminded me, I take no prisoners and accept nothing less than what I want. So maybe 32 and I will get on just fine.

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The unsaid.

Silence between us (by this I mean anyone) is often filled with things we do not say.

It can be what we cannot say, what we will not say, or what we should not say.

Other times it just filled with distracting thoughts that bear no relevance, other than the weight it lends to the silence.

I am to some an open book. My face does not hide my emotions. I do not filter well.

And yet I am also a extremely private.

Every Sunday morning I read Postsecret’s latest posting before I get out of bed – I always have. I have never sent a secret in, nor have I ever commented on one – but I love to read them. I have always believed that a secret shared is a secret defused. It removes its stronghold, its power over us. But then secrets also must be treated with care. To whom do you confess? And to what end? Shared with the wrong person and the consequences can be heavy.

And so, many of us remain silent. With all that is inside us, for better or for worse.

I wonder if the Catholics have had it right all along with their practice of confession?

There you have it.

My eldest son, E, is intelligent.
I know, all mums think their little boys are the cat’s miaow, but he is.

In fact, I have learned that is difficult to discuss a gifted child without trying to simultaneously highlight any faults you can think of. Otherwise it puts people off; makes the conversation seem competitive; or just makes you feel like that mother.

And believe me, I’m not her.

But he’s intelligent and things at school are easy for him. At 2 E would comment that his pineapple pieces were trapeziums. At the start of year 1 he passed an end of year 2 maths test (but, when he couldn’t explain why the answers were right they held him “back” to do year 2 maths). He reads novels in a day, while many of his friends still struggle with picture books.

The trouble is, he’s my boy. So like me before him, he doesn’t know how to deal with things that are hard. He is unfamiliar with hard work and struggle makes him question his understanding of himself. But he’s 6. And what I can personally guarantee him is that there will be hard things. He won’t win every race and he won’t be the best at every task.

How do I teach him that is ok? How do you breed resilience in a child? How do I lead him to defining himself as more than his abilities?

And how do I have the conversation with other parents without making it sound like I think my child is a prodigy?

Courage fueled by anonymity

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(Care of iwastesomuchtime.com)

I love the Internet. I spend a lot of my time (professional and personal) with it and we get on just fine.

But there are things, personality traits if you will, that I don’t love.

I don’t love that people seem to take permission from the Internet to say whatever they want, assuming it is without consequence. Being the moderator of various professional social media accounts makes me hyper conscious of this unfortunate reality. So often I bear the brunt of rude, offensive and down right mean messages that people send to the organisation. They often embody just what they accuse the organisation of, but see no irony. Because I am faceless so they can call me what they will.

And that’s a mild example. But it doesn’t always feel mild to read that “I” (as I am the receiver of the message) am….despicable, like Hitler, rude, ignorant,…the list goes on. And that’s not by trolls or in any way intentionally directed at me. I am but an innocent bystander.

It makes me conscious now of where I channel my rage, complaints or indignation, and with what conditions. I’m not innocent in that I have chosen my job, not only for the money but for what is possible…Which means I have willingly linked myself to a beast that is often a scapegoat or target. The recipient of your outrage may be equally well intentioned and, given their story, you may too regret your quick attack.

You see, the Internet and I have been in this relationship a long time now and yet there are still surprises. What isn’t a surprise is behind every account, every organisation and every voice is a face and I’d warrant a lot of us wouldn’t say as much if we were forced to see the faces we were speaking to.

What I don’t know

As it goes, you could fill an ocean with what I don’t know.

The professor who I most admired in university told me that by the time I finished my 4 year under graduate degree, the only thing I would know for sure is that I know nothing.

She was right.

And here I am, eleven years later…9 years of marriage…6 years of motherhood….an MA…various jobs at varying levels of expertise and grownupness…

I still know very little. Sure I have some skills and some understanding of how things and people work. But knowledge? I have but a drop in the ocean.

Having a second child (or is it just my second child?!) cemented that awareness. He taught me that everything I thought I knew was relative. He broke, and continues to break, abet rule. And I love him for it, despite the levels of frustration that can initiate.

But try my best to embrace it. It means there is more to learn, more to experience, more to feel…And that’s got to be a good thing!

We are but mere mortals.

I don’t dedicate much time to thinking about my own mortality.
I don’t think that many of us do. Focussing on our mortality has the potential to hold us back, fill us with fear, weigh us down.
But then there are times when we just can’t help it. Like when we find ourselves skidding across the road with only a thin layer of fabric between us and the road. Like when we have to make an emergency flight across half the world to visit a parent who is fighting for his life. Like when we hear of people we know being told their child has a terminal illness.

It is in these moments that we have no choice but to face the reality that yes, we will all die. And no, it will never feel fair. The timing won’t be right, nor the situation ideal. Death is not considerate. And I do not know how any of us can really be prepared.

But I cannot live prepared that the next time I set off on my bike will be my last; that every time I open Facebook chat with my mum there may be a message worse than the last. I need things like games of Tetris and wasted time on Pinterest; I must laugh and carry on. Because life will end, for all of us, and not one of us has a bloody clue when it is.

So let’s enjoy it while it lasts, eh?

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576894_10150842966456503_343640446_nThis is my bike.

I love my bike. Since this (very bad quality) photo was taken, it gained a big basket that lives on the front and always sits a little wonky because of all the wires on the handlebars. My bike has charm, personality and gets appreciation everywhere I go.

It was not, however, purchased for its practicality. No. My husband walked into a bike store to buy our then 3 year old his first pedal bike and saw this at the back. When he saw it, he knew I had to own it and even though he had to ring back 3 times before it was ready to be sold, he bought me that bike. That’s love right there.

This photo does not show quite how small the tires of this bike is – they are considerably smaller than you would expect. And oh so very thin. When I first got it I was very careful about going on wet roads and did not fully trust it. With time, I became immune to these concerns and this bike has taken me to many a zumba class and to and from work on a regular basis.

Until Friday. On Friday I was riding to an early morning meeting, just gone over 3 of the 4 major hills on my route when suddenly, just before a junction, I wiped out. Fortunately there were no cars around, and I hate to think what would have happened had I not been wearing a helmet. The hill, the wet road and the bit of gravel were too much for my thin little tires and they gave out. A scraped up leg and damaged shoulder later, I rang my Knights in Shining Armour and they rescued me.

Now i have to face up to some realities. I do not trust my bike. I feel like I *must* get back on a bike, and soon (well as soon as I can raise my right arm without excruciating pain). Among other things, I must demonstrate to my children that falling is not the end of the world. And my little bike is a good bike, just not for me. I need a bike that can deal with country roads, wet weather and hard riding. Unfortunately I do not have the disposable income to spend what such a bike will cost. So I either get back up on that bike (after I beg someone to fix it for me) and trust that it was actually my fault and preventable… or I lose my independence until we can afford a bike that is up to the job.

But all I see when I look out the window is an evening perfect for a sunset ride and a bike that has been offering its owner such rides for over 30 years.

 

Feminism and being Female.

I do not hesitate in accepting the label “feminist”, but I understand why many do. Equally, I would not hesitate in applying that label to my husband, as well as most people I am honoured to call friends. Despite all of the negative connotations it has gained in the past fifty years, to be feminist is, in my understanding, in its most simplest terms to believe that women are of equal value to men.

And most of us in the West believe that these days, surely?

But there are many things associated with feminism that make me squirm. (Although I must admit there are things with most strong beliefs that make me squirm, always with the extremists).

I recently watched the Dove’s Campaign For Beauty’s latest video Real Beauty Sketches and appreciated it. A few days later I read this.

Initially, reading the blog post I expected to agree with her, because I am used to agreeing to those kinds of opinions. And while I don’t necessarily disagree, I’m not reading to stand behind her and reject what Dove are trying to do. Yes, they are a corporation that are pushing this in part to improve their reputation… And yes, they focus solely on the body and physical beauty. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say there is nothing wrong with physical beauty

It isn’t everything, but they had to focus on something. And I think their underlying argument, flawed as it may be, is an important message. You Are Beautiful. We want to be considered beautiful to look at, not just on the inside. We crave it. Or at least I do, and I thought it wasn’t just me.

I don’t think it undermines the feminist movement. I think the people at Dove are, among other more strategic things, are trying to do a good thing.