The election is over.
The lots have been cast.
The results are in.

Now we wait and watch for the dust to settle.

I believer, regardless of you political affiliations & beliefs, it is important to remember that our countries, societies, and communities are not solely defined by their politicians. We can’t let them be. They are defined by each one of us, and the decisions we make. Decisions of how we treat each other; what we prioritise; what we deem important enough to complain about. These tiny, seemingly insignificant decisions that each of us make every day are what make us who we are, individually and collectively.

If you say the arts are important, what are you doing to support them? If you worry about the closures of food banks, are you donating either your time or supplies to keep them open?

Worrying about the future is natural, but having good opinions and casting your vote is not enough. Your actions mean more than a cross in a box.

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Brew anyone?

When I was in university, my roommate/best friend and I started a tradition. Once a day, usually shortly after our evening meal, we would have a cup of tea together.

Now I live in a culture in which a cup of tea is a standard seemingly every few minutes, but our tea break was different. Our tea tradition had ground rules – the cups had to be lovely (hand made pottery, obviously); the tea itself was whatever weird or wonderful herbal tea we were currently obsessed with; and we were not allowed to talk about uni work, no matter the deadline.

Instead we spoke of our roses & thorns – best and worst moment of the past 24 hours. And then whatever conversation resulted.

Our roses ranged from cute boys to exciting, life changing news and everything in between. Our thorns included broken hearts and empty tubes of toothpaste.

As superficial or deep each one had the potential to be, what it was was sacred.

Even still, more than a decade later, I struggle to take a cup of tea lightly. I struggle to allow what was once a breath of fresh air in my day to become a mundane, forgettable repeated occurrence.

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But then, I struggle to allow anything to be a mundane, forgettable repeated occurance…

The time for hesitation is through…

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I’ve spent a lot of time blaming society for the way it portrays and objectifies women; the magazines with their unrealistic images; and the culture of weight loss fad diets that seem to run rampant. However, I have recently come to a point at which I have been forced to reconsider my views. The truth is, I am a 31 year old well educated, happily married mother of two, and I know better. I know better than to believe that anyone in real life looks as good as the girl on the cover of that magazine. I know better than to believe that there is a magic cure to make me lose that troublesome 10lbs that doesn’t involve moving more and eating less. I know better than to believe that my worth is based upon how many times I am told that I am beautiful.

 

The trouble is, knowing better does not change anything. Herein lies my forced view change: yes all of these societal factors contribute to the problem, but it is about time I stand up and take some responsibility. The truth is that I perpetuate the issue. Recently I sat down and wrote out as many of the negative messages I routinely tell myself on a piece of paper that I recall. Messages about how I look, how I am and what I cannot do, and none of which were difficult to think of. The resulting page was filled with things I would never say out loud; things too mean to ever say about another person; things so familiar I barely know where to start to teach myself to un-think them.

 

But even if tomorrow every glossy magazine stops photoshopping their models, and every fad diet stops promising happiness, perfection and love as a result of a magic cure, I’ll still have a problem. I still won’t think I could ever “get away” with wearing a bikini, or that I am worth any more. And that tragic reality, which I don’t think is unique to me, is entirely my fault. It is my choice to believe these things and it is my choice to daily perpetuate them. It is my choice to base my worth on my interpretation of how I am perceived by others and it is my choice to allow myself to be limited by that. Most dauntingly, it is my choice how I teach my young children what they will believe about themselves.

 

That’s a lot of power and a lot of responsibility. I would love to see the portrayal and objectification of women come to an end; magazines to stop promoting unrealistic body types and images; and the end to diets that wheel and deal in unhealthy endeavours. But more so I would love to see a revolution of men and women choosing to both love and respect themselves. That’s when the tides will turn, because who is society if its not made up of the people living in it?

These days, it doesn’t take much to make me swear under my breath and sigh with exasperation.

It’s easy to see why: I’m trying to do too much in too little time. That, however, was my conscious decision. Short term pain for long term gain and all of that.

Regardless of all of my griping and groaning – I did choose this. I want to work. I wanted to have children. I want to finish my MA this year. I chose to live a life of quality instead of quantity. I think it’s about time the griping and groaning ceased, or at least was quietened to a dull roar.

Everywhere you look you can find platitudes saying things such as “The happy person is the grateful person” and “Be grateful for 3 things a day and you’ll be happy for xx amount of time.” This was the least cheesy image I could find, but if you don’t mind a bit of cheese, there are countless reminders that being grateful can change everything – even if nothing changes.

ImageSo I’m here, and I am grateful.
I am grateful that myself, my husband and my children are all healthy. I am grateful that at the tender age of 22 I chose a man I still think, at 30, is a pretty great guy. I’m grateful that my 5 year old is in a school that can challenge him and identify his strengths. I’m grateful that my in laws are so incredibly supportive, even when they disagree, and they help us out so very much with our childcare. I’m grateful that my boss is understanding. I’m grateful that I am privileged enough to be able to undertake a Master’s Degree. I am grateful that I can go running in the countryside with only a few minutes notice. I am grateful for good friends, even when they are too far away.My list could, should and does go on much longer.

And you know what? I feel a lot better for acknowledging it.

And then there were words.

Within 4 weeks, four people I knew lost their battle with cancer. One of these people was my dad.

So I guess you can understand me when I say that 2014 has not gone so well for me thus far. I guess you can understand me when i say that I find myself in need of restarts, freshness and positive space.

My life, at present, is entirely chaotic. I’m midway through an MA, work part time and have 2 small terrorists delightful children living with me. At times the chaos threatens to envelop me.

But I will get through this. Why? Because there is no other option.
It is all going to be worth it someday, right?
I have to believe it. I have to believe that today is not all there is. That this isn’t as good as it gets because frankly, at present, it isn’t very great.
Instead I look forward. A finished degree. Grief subsiding. The terrorists terrorising in new and inventive ways. New opportunities. Lots and lots of laughter.

The good thing about tomorrow is that it offers everything.

Being this or that.

We all make snap judgments on the people we encounter. It is human nature. For instance, if you were to meet me, you would more than likely assume that I am now (or at least have been) a vegetarian. This is an assumption people have been making about me for as long as I can remember. I am not now, but I was – long after people assumed it. Vegetarianism and I didn’t work out due to my discomfort of putting people out and my then boyfriend (now husband’s) distaste for vegetables. He eats them now, but it was complicated for awhile.

This weekend has brought me to face another set of assumptions. Although my husband, Phil would not describe me as an animal lover, given the choice, I am a dog person. I like dogs, grew up around them, and am comfortable with them. My mother is highly allergic to cats so despite my childhood years of cat obsessions, I’ve developed a distaste for them. I have, I will admit, judged people based on their appreciation of cats. cat person has never been a compliment coming from my lips. It has always kind of been on par with likes pink or listens to boy bands

Except, this weekend we welcomed Ironcat and Spidercat, two black and white kittens into our house. To stay. I’m not in love, yet, but they are funny. I’m digging their appreciation of my children’s car garage.

But what does this mean? Am I to be stripped of my status as a dog person? Do I need to reevaluate my cat person snobbery?

Or can I accept that yes, I’d prefer to be a vegetarian but I currently eat meat. I like dogs better, but cats are ok.

And maybe feline and canine preferences don’t distinguish you as much as I thought.

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A princess is a woman too.

I am a 29 year old woman. I am mother. I have a career that I enjoy. And yesterday I voted.

But today I came across some information that made me wonder how I even have those freedoms. Today I saw an article informing that Disney has decided that their character, Merida, of Brave fame, is not ‘princessy’ enough. So they have changed her from looking this: Image

to this:

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Now I know that in the grand scheme of things this seems like a petty thing to whinge about, but I find it offensive. As a woman. As a mother. But I do not want my boys to grow up in a world that expects even its cartoon drawings of women to appear airbrushed. I do not want my boys to grow up with even their childhood films being filled with sexualized representations of women. I do not think this is ok.

And no, this sexualisation of Disney princesses is not new. I can’t say I have actually noticed before the re-representation of the various characters – I didn’t realize that Cinderella has been remodeled, and that it is a requirement for Disney princesses to have bare shoulders – but I have noticed now and I cannot believe it has gotten this far. So many people I know sighed a breath of relief when Brave came out, because for once we were being provided with a strong, positive female role model to show our children. For once it was not a love story. For once it was not about pretty dresses and perfection. But now Disney are taking away her bow and arrow, taking away her childlike face and pushing this chiseled, thinner, more sparkly option.

You know what Disney? I object. And I have decided I am going to make sure you know it.

You can sign a petition against this if you feel strongly about it: Don’t do it Disney!

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.