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Eight things I learned this week

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Oh holidays!  How I love thee for the first few weeks then how ready I am for you to end so that I can get stuck into some work. It's ideal in many ways. I've had a break, I'm rested, my head is clear, my goals are set, motivation is building.  I'm good to go. The fatal flaw? There are two small boys in my house who will play happily together until the moment I sit at my desk. It's at that moment that they are hungry, bored, fighting, need toilet assistance, can't operate the TV/remote/DVD player/iPad, can't open a bag/box/container or door, have lost something important that cannot be found in any of the obvious places or have just spilled something extraordinarily messy on the couch/carpet/toys/bed/themselves or each other.

Sigh.

There are two weeks until school and daycare resume and I get two and a half days child free each week thanks to my little guy starting three year old kinder (that's preschool in other parts).  Unfortunately I have at least eight days a week worth of stuff I want to get done but that's a worry for the future.  Maybe in about two weeks time.

In the meantime this is what I've learned:

  1. People don't change much. I had reason last weekend to catch up with old school friends, some of whom I had not seen for the better part of twenty five years. They were just the same. Circumstances had changed.  There had been marriages, divorces, children, new homes, new countries and new jobs but the people were unchanged.  Maybe a little older (definitely older, we're talking 25 years here), probably a little wiser but voices, faces, mannerisms, outlook and laughs; the very essence of each person remained the same.
  2. Along similar lines, good friends will remain that no matter how often you see or speak to them. I just had four fabulous days with a close friend from Sydney who came to visit with her kidlets.  We see each other every six months.  Despite the best intentions our only communication between times is the odd text message, usually to organise our next catch up. This matters not a jot. The conversation picks up where it left off and we chat, non stop, for four days before heading our separate ways again. The ease of this friendship is an absolute joy.
  3. I learned a little more about what it is to love someone with a mental health condition from this beautiful, beautiful article on psmag.com.  Read it.  It will grow you.
  4. You can buy kids screen based devices, complex plastic toys, remote controlled vehicles, huge play structures and endless things that use batteries, make noise or comprise one thousand pieces but do you know what they love to do? Pick berries.  Four kids and one tree covered in ripe mulberries and everyone is happy, if a little messy.
  5. I've been planning a garden bed. For any gardeners reading you'll appreciate the joy this brings. Unfortunately the only garden bed that can reliably be planned and planted in the face of the epic home construction exercise that we will undertake is on the southern side under the neighbours large pine trees. Hence I have been researching dry and shade loving plants that thrive in frost prone conditions with occasional searing 40 degree plus days.  There are three.
  6. We all know that kids thrive when they're read to regularly but did you know just how much difference exposure to written and spoken words make? I didn't, so this article that Your Brain Health shared on Facebook was fascinating. 
  7. It rained a lot here his week and we discovered 1950s-style concrete stepping stones in our back yard. The joy of old homes and their treasures.
  8. Finally I've learned that even in mid-January enthusiasm for new goals, new projects and a new year abounds. This week a little gang of us are setting off on a journey of self discovery via my 'Who are you in 2015?' online blog series. Things kick off officially on Monday but if you're interested you can read all about it here.

And here's the week in photos...

Positive life: Eight things I learned...in the last few weeks.

8 things I learnt

I'm back on the writing wagon today after an unplanned moving house-related hiatus.  I guess it was not such much unplanned as poorly planned.  Did I really think I was going to blog surrounded by chaos and packing boxes; no internet and no space?  Yes I did.  I will know better next time.

While it's good to be back, I'm writing today with a heavy heart and a determination to enjoy every moment of the coming Christmas and summer break with family and loved ones (despite the fact that I'm still surrounded by packing boxes).  The news overnight that two hostages were killed in the siege at the Lindt cafe in Martin Place in Sydney has tilted my world as little, as it has for so many of you I'm sure. 

Once upon a time I worked around the corner from the very spot in which seventeen people were trapped, terrified for so many hours and two of whom ultimately lost their lives.  I lunched at the MLC centre opposite on a regular basis and I wandered past all of those buildings, especially around the Christmas period when it was great to be out amongst the busy crowds, with people shopping, viewing the beautiful Sydney CBD Christmas decorations and generally enjoying the summer sunshine.  

Terrible things happen sometimes.  Senseless, violent and wasteful things.  We all know that,  as much as we detest it.  When something terrible happens to someone with whom we identify it affects us greatly.  Psychologists call this the ingroup/outgroup mechanism and it's part of social identity theory.  It explains why the death of two people in the Sydney CBD can have a much greater impact on our emotions and our view of life than the many hundreds of deaths that occur as a result of senseless violence across the world every single week.  This is close.  Katrina Dawson, one of those killed, was a professional woman with young children, most likely caught up in this awful situation because she left her office and went to grab a morning coffee with colleagues.  That could have been me.  It could have been you.  It brings our own tenuous grip on life into question in a very stark way.  

Of course this is not the only tragedy that has taken place in the last few weeks and there are positives emerging from it.  Every terrible thing is an opportunity to learn, as sad as it may be. So today, in a reflective mood, I'm going to share with you the things that I've learnt over the last few weeks.  The good, the difficult, the sad and the funny.  As life must go on.  

1. We moved house two weeks ago.  We have too much stuff. Even after trailer loads heading to the tip and many, many trips to donate goods to the Salvos we still have too much stuff. I've been an interested casual observer of the Simple Living Movement for a while now.  I think it's time to get a bit more personally invested.

2. Teenagers can be fun but enigmatic creatures.  Last week I ran a Leadership Training session for some very switched on teens heading in to Year 12 at one of our local schools. They were smart, fun and funny.  They were there to learn more about themselves.  I hope they did as I emerged knowing very little about them.  They keep their cards close to their chests it seems.

3. Kids are a great reminder of what's important and they're oblivious to stuff that drives us nuts.  I'm reminded of this as I curse and lament the obstacle course of our belongings strewn throughout the house and backyard as we struggle to get on top of the task of unpacking and getting the house set up.  My boys dart in and out of the boxes and belongings, make cubby houses out of randomly placed furniture and generally absorbing the chaos with not a care in the world.

4.  You should not do DIY when you're stressed.  There is a hole in our bathroom wall thanks to a towel rail, a hammer and a spike in my blood pressure.  I told my husband that I was frustrated and hit the wall with the hammer.  He observed the hole later and concluded that it had been more of a 'frenzy'.  He might be right.

5. I was able to escape the drudgery of packing, moving and unpacking for a quick trip to Daylesford with the main man.  We are so lucky to have so many pretty places to visit so close to home.

6. A tooth is a greater treasure to a six year old boy than the two dollars the tooth fairy might bring.  After the disappointment of the tooth fairy TAKING HIS TOOTH AWAY when she first visited he has flatly refused to leave the second tooth out for her, keeping it safely tucked away in a small container amongst his other treasures.  Our kids teach us every day.

7. There's more to a Christmas tree than its looks.  For many years I have had a rather spectacular eight foot artificial tree fully decked out with lights and colourful decorations gathered from travels, as gifts and of the preschool-made variety.  This year, thanks to a much smaller house and a distinct lack of energy for unpacking and packing away one.more.thing we have a small, rather misshapen but living tree.  The kids and I decorated it together one evening last week.  It's not beautiful but it's full of joy.

8. For all that there is bad in the world, there is an equal or greater amount of good.  People power fuelled by the people's media (social that is) has given us #putyourbatsout in tribute to cricketer Philip Hughes and #illridewithyou showed us that we are bigger, better, stronger and kinder than any madman (and racists) trying to bring us down.

And the week(s) in pictures....  xx



Things I learned this week and the week in photos

I'm writing to you today from Overwhelmedsville which is where one goes when one has bitten off way more than one can chew.  It's not the most comfortable place to be but I'm hoping I won't be hanging out here for too long before I can move on to Ok-I-Think-I-Can-Do-This-Land.

So what I have I learnt this week?  Well...

  1. I have indeed bitten off more than I can chew.  Cleaning and painting one house before packing up and moving the contents of the other, on top of some consulting gigs, the blog, National Psychology Week, a couple of family birthdays, the usual family/children/school responsibilities and the lead up to Christmas.  If I pull this off I see some serious me-time in my future.
  2. It seems Melbourne Cup week is peak rose season here with the biggest and most beautifully coloured and scented blooms all over town.  It's a glorious sight. Where I once marked November (my birthday month) with the arrival of jacaranda flowers in Sydney, from now on it will be the sight of roses in bloom that will herald this time of year.
  3. It is important to manage expectations with children.  The Tooth Fairy made her first appearance at our house this weekend.  Mr 6 was VERY excited about the loss of his first tooth.  Carried it around with him all day including to a play date so he could show his friend.  When the tooth was replaced by a gold coin the next morning there were tears and more tears.  Apparently he wanted to keep the tooth.  It was way more exciting than two bucks.  *sigh*
  4. Twitter is suddenly making some sense to me.  I've been lurking there for years but this week the fog lifted and I kind of get it.  I'm not doing much yet but this week coming I'll be tweeting for #npw2014 (National Psychology Week 2014).  
  5. Despite my introvert ways, I can network.  I do it one-on-one over coffee meetings.  None of those social/chit chat gatherings in large groups.  That stuff sends chills down my spine.  Another of my random, find a local person with similar interests via Google and email them inviting them for coffee seems to have paid off this week.  Yay for that. If you're an introvert too, take heart, you can network, you just need to find your own way.
  6. My parents are my saviours again this week.  They arrived for a long weekend and cleaned, painted, entertained children, did dishes. prepared food, pulled down stinky curtains, extracted a thousand random nails from the walls, architraves, door frames and just about every other surface of our dodgy house, made trips to Bunnings and just generally worked hard ALL weekend.  Thanks Mum and Dad.
  7. Use it or lose it.  There's nothing stopping my 68 year old mother from climbing up and standing on kitchen benches to clean windows.  My role model.
  8. And last but not least I learned how the flicker of inspiration can transform into great ideas with the help of this little movie.

And now for the week in pictures, including my littlest man who wasn't well but who is back and bouncing now, some shots of the workers, the Ballarat Show which was a great treat for some small boys, courtesy of their grandfather, and walking and scooting to school in the sun.

Things I learned this week:

  1. Don't entice your six year old around a 6km charity run with promises of jumping castles and ice cream at the end unless you can deliver.  One tired, angry six year old.  
  2. My lovely digital business mentor Aldona (you can read all about her and see her wonderful photography here) has excellent taste in red Lambretta watches.  Snap!
  3. There is more to know about Google Analytics, keywords, ALT text, metadata and Search Engine Optimisation than my brain can grasp but I battled late into the night one night regardless.  
  4. The first known horse was the Eohippus (get some Wiki love here).  I learnt this from a Prep (Kindy) reader while helping with reading in the classroom.  Are you kidding? For Preps?  I had to figure out how to pronounce it so that I could inform my little charge.
  5. The Slow Movement has spawned a sub movement of slow cities, known as Cittaslow. There are three Cittaslow towns in Australia; Katoomba in the Blue Mountains, Yea in Victoria and Goolwa in South Australia.  I've been to all three but didn't realise their slow significance at the time. (You can learn more about the Slow Movement and my slow week here)
  6.  No one in our household likes rockmelon (or canteloupe as it's known in these parts) yet we have four on the kitchen bench as a result of a major online fruit and veg order fail. Again.
  7. My main man and I continue to be non risk averse and pretty poor with details and have accidentally bought a house.  This is the second time we have done this.
  8. I will be spending the next six weeks preparing to move into a house that is a little too small for our family and belongings and currently smells of dog wee.  Over the next year or so I will be learning A LOT VERY QUICKLY about building a new house.  

Here's the week in pictures:

  • Ballaratians ran and walked to raise money for the redevelopment of the Children's ward of the Ballarat Base Hospital.
  • It was a big week for our local bronze Prime Ministers with Julia's arrival and Gough's farewell. 
  • There was playdough at playgroup and crazy hair at school.
  • And the sun shone on and on (we get excited about this here, winter is long and cold) so the little boys and I hung out at the Botanic Gardens.