Monday, 26 August 2013


"Well it's kinda like cool but with swag, like xyz has swag, but only swag when he walks, the way he walks, he doesn't dress with swag, I'll show you a photo of swag" - my daughter trying somewhat successfully to explain what swag is.

When I grew up, a swag was a sleeping bag that you rolled out under the stars.

Now it's a style. A fashion statement or way of being or carrying yourself. Like punk, indi (individual), hippie, gothic, metro, hip hop, swag is apparently just another one to add to the list. It's the type of clothes you wear, the way you walk [with attitude], & even talk. It's usually associated with rap artists & the hip hop style of clothing with baggy jeans, exposed Bonds undies, hoodies and hats.

Are we getting close? You know what I mean!

I did laugh as Thoughtful Princess was trying to explain it. She knew what she meant but couldn't articulate it clearly. We were driving to a concert, her & a friend were chatting incessantly when the word, swag popped into the conversation. I was curious to see if my interpretation aligned with what their teenage definition was. It was pretty close.

We are speaking the same language. Gotta check these things, as it changes with such speed. I banned the word 'gay' in our house for quite some time, thinking it was discriminatory towards homosexuals, but quickly learnt that it was just the current trend to describe basically anything that was great to embarrassing or uncool! Everything was gay for a while. Now everyone that's cool has swag!

What about style & fashion for our kids & teens?

We certainly can't dictate what or how they carry themselves, we see them evolve into their own style over the years. Not to box anyone in, but in general terms it's often what our kids are into that to some extent influences their style. For example in our family we have a surfer, a skateboarder & 2 dancers - and pretty much their preference for clothes and style fits broadly into what most of us would think those activities/styles would wear. With one exception, one of our dancers is a hippie {for good or bad she gets that from her mother}!

Confession. My hippie like daughter got in the car yesterday ready for church wearing ripped jeans, a sloppy joe and her ugg boots. I couldn't help but say something. And immediately regretted it. So what if she goes looking a bit casual? But it reflects on me? Am I not a good parent providing nice clothes? "You have so many nice dresses can't you wear one of them"?

I felt this incredible tension as a mother {& by far not the first & only to feel this tension!};

a] wanting her to have more respect for herself and pride to dress up for some occasions and
b] not wanting to make a fuss over clothes, it's really insignificant.

I think on this one I stuffed up. It was about me - feeling embarrassed, not about her comfort or having space to find her own style.

I listened to a gorgeous talk recently on Brene Brown's blog page - a lovely mother describing to her daughter the difference between style and fashion. The link is below, it's well worth a listen....Click on the hyperlink here and scroll down the page to the video of Katherine Centre reading her "What you now know" essay.

Cherishing different styles
Cherishing the nuances of language
Cherishing the naturalness of my four

Saturday, 24 August 2013

it does get easier

Three loads of unfolded laundry sit destitute in the hallway, the kitchen cupboards are covered in handprints, tea stains & drips of old gravy, the dinning room floor looks like it hasn't been vacuumed for weeks & you just did it yesterday, your toddler nearly makes it to the toilet but wees on the bedroom carpet just near the ensuite, the phone won't stop ringing, you're out of your mind tired & wish you could sleep for a week without interruption & find yourself singing, "hot potato, hot potato" {aka Wiggles} in the shower on your own when your preschoolers are already tucked up in bed.

Have you ever felt like this?

Out of control? Overwhelmed?

It does get easier! 

My memories of being a young Mum with 4 toddlers under the age of 6years are of sleepless nights and endless days of lactating, nappies, cooking, cleaning, washing, toilet training and toddler taming.

Though I LOVED being a stay-at-home mum, and am eternally grateful we could afford to do that for 7 years & would not exchange an iota, those days were tougher than some of my busiest night duties working as an RN.

Crying babies, sleep terrors, toddler temper tantrums and wanting my boobs back after breastfeeding for 4 years are vivid memories!!

Some of you reading this  maybe experiencing something similar right here, right now.

I wish I could say I cherished every second. I tried too. But sometimes it was downright pure grunt and grind. A day in and day out menu of weetbix, mashed banana, sultanas, cheese stix & spaghetti {with some minor variations} Playschool, Sesame Street & the Bear in the Big Blue House, trips to the park, library and Nanna's house.

They were absolutely wonderful days. And they were absolutely exhausting days.

For anyone maybe feeling like they are on the merry-go-round of motherhood and wishing your toddlers to grow up el pronto so the mundane doesn't feel so quite mundane, can I encourage you to step back laugh at yourself, your messy house, your uncoloured, unbrushed hair, make-up less face and, hug your children tight, read to them, forget about the house, do less and cherish more. 

They grow up oh so fast.

The overfull laundry baskets won't be there forever, nor will they.

We can't have the time back again. I often wish I could.......

It does get easier. 

"It's not supposed to be easier though is it? The beauty is in the struggle. Bravery only comes when we have something to be brave about. It's the same with strength, tenderness, self-sacrifice, motherhood & all the noblest things about being human." - Katherine Centre 

As they grow the physicality of parenting, meeting their every need changes to supporting them emotionally, socially, spiritually. As they become more independent, they become our friends and the hard work of those pre-school years starts to kick in! Instead of changing nappies we are giving relationship advice!

Cherishing the memories
Cherishing those days and moments
Cherishing the fruit of invested time

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Threads of mystery

 Thread of Life image/willows95988

An element of mystery keeps us all suspended.

If we all knew everything life would be boring wouldn't it?

An artistic friend spoke this phrase recently and it grabbed my attention as words have a habit of doing. It speaks to me of the mysteries in our lives that are woven in to become a part of our tapestry. Threads of the unexplainable, the sacred, the divine, of transcendence that don't make rationale sense but are a very real, vivid part of our lived experience & are definitely not just our imaginations.

Like golden threads that weave their way through our lives, some clear, some more ambiguous, adding to the mystery, our story, our journey. Perhaps these are the threads of mystery that keep us yearning towards something/someOne bigger than ourselves.

Like the times when there is no money in the bank to pay bills and out of the blue there is a remittance for something that perfectly covers the total.

Like the mystery of deep connection that keeps friendships strong against all odds.

Like the mystery of callings that people sense to be, to do, to follow, like Florence Nightingale (called to nursing), Nelson Mandela (called to politics), Mary McKillop (called to work with the poor, children & women in early Australia), Dame Cecily Saunders (called to medicine & care for the dying, mother of modern palliative care).

Like the mystery of feeling deep, inner peace in the midst of something really terrible. How is it possible?

Like the mystery of forgiveness and how it sets us free from anger, hate & bitterness.

Like the mystery of dreaming about someone you haven't seen for a decade then bumping into them the very next day!

Like the mystery of merely thinking of buying sewing kits for the women of Mangiliu in Vanuatu & then a stranger ringing to say they had 20 kits prepared.

Like the mystery of a multi-cultural dance group wooing hearts back to their Maker.

Like the mystery of healing and miracles people the world over testify too.

Like the mystery of potential, ambitions, visions, hopes & plans that become a reality.

Do we unconsciously make them happen or is there a higher force working with us?

Like the mystery of Diana's death? Was she murdered, was it an accident?

There are some things in life we will never know. There are some things that we are invited to accept by faith.

Inviting us to cherish the threads of mystery in our life whatever they maybe. May they lead us to peace, wholeness, gratitude, purpose and to find meaning that matters.

For me that meaning is acknowledging someOne bigger than my insecurities, struggles, doubts & circumstances, greater than what my physical eyes can see. Who is mystery and meaning personified. Who makes meaning out of the madness of this world. Who gives hope in the midst of the misery and mysteries of life. Who gently & tenderly weaves all the threads of my life, our lives together to have destiny & direction in the now & beyond.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Keep no record of wrong

 Photo by Focus on the Family

After dinner table talk turned to people the kids find difficult to get along with. I could sense the conversation quickly deteriorating into a hate session so tried to hijack/steer it back in a positive direction. 

To avoid an all out gossip session, thought we could turn it to finding the good in the bad. I challenged the kids to find something good in the person they were struggling with. Someone @ work, someone in their class, school teachers. 

It's easy to find things we don't like. Not always so easy to find the good. But it's really, really helpful to train our brains to look for the good while we are young, so it becomes second nature. Unfortunately I think our hearts are more often naturally bent on complaining & finding the bad than gratitude & goodness. 

Bending it back the other way can be painful but needful! 

It takes a bigger person to not fixate on the bad. To not keep a record of wrongs. It takes grace {not feelings & sometimes pure grit} to forgive those who have wronged us. 

We also debated about 'judging' someone. What does that mean? We all need to make 'assessments' of people. How do we judge without condemning? Yes we all make conscious and unconscious judgements about each other, but when that becomes negative is that unhealthy, nonconstructive judgements? 

We want out children/teens to have good judgements, read people well, give people the benefit of the doubt, to be a good judge of character, to be discerning so they don't get sucked in, taken advantage of, bullied or harassed. It's sometimes tough to find the balance! 

Cherishing the times we have to sow seeds of compassion and grace into our teens hearts. We can't ignore the fact they will have people in their lives they don't particularly like or get along with, nor hope against all hope they won't just succumb to negative attitudes cause it's easier. Rather try to give them strategies to more than just cope, to aim towards thinking & speaking positively of others in spite of personality clashes or frustrations.  

So for family prayers I suggested we pray for those we struggle with. To pray a blessing on them. It wasn't easy. Even for me. But I felt it was a positive way to end what could have been unfiltered negativity. 

One of my teens prayed - "Lord help me to love those I hate"!  

Refreshingly raw & honest. Love it. Powerful. Change always starts with a willingness to do so! 

The above photo caught my eye on Focus on the Family facebook page after our table talk conversation, it came with a reminder to pray for our own children; 

"......that they would have the grace to forgive those who hurt them instead of keeping a record of wrongs.".

This has got to be be better than back stabbing & carrying bitterness, hatred & negative thoughts towards others. I think maybe it's not just for our children or teens, but for all of us......

Sunday, 18 August 2013

roots & wings

A work colleague of mine was telling me about her brother's 'experiment' with raising his children. He believes children should have no boundaries, discipline or certainties. That adults shouldn't poison the minds of children with any notion of values, beliefs, religion or spirituality. That they have to find things out totally for themselves. They are free to do what they like, when they like, how they like. If they don't want to go to school they don't have to. If they don't want to eat their dinner it's ok. No consequences of their actions are given.

Feral and horrendous were her words to describe how the experiment was going. She dreaded them coming over because they destroyed her house, had no respect for her property or her, no respect for others, they lived as entities unto themselves..... and her brother just let them run riot.

Children need roots. We all need roots. We all need some certainties in this world of constant change. A strong sense of security in our own family and home is a must to growing healthy, fulfilled children. The literature on positive parenting input far outweighs the alternate experimental no boundaries approach as suggested above.

To expect there is only black & white is naive, there are certainly many shades of grey. I think a part of parenting is also preparing our children for the incredible ambiguities that do exist, often with no simple answers. To foster in them the ability to seek their own answers is vital, not spoon feeding them, but giving them roots to set this in. I still believe we have to give our children roots & some certainties, some grounding, some boundaries to provide stability, consistency and a sense of belonging.

Too much freedom can be a curse.

I couldn't help but wonder what kind of false reality are they providing for their children. A world where their every whim is catered for, with no consequences for their actions, no sense of right or wrong, just one big grey world where self is at the centre. Maybe I am old fashioned but it doesn't seem like the best way to raise children. Alternate yes, but healthy, hmmmm not so sure.

Roots also create a sense of belonging. I often quote Maslow's hierarchy of needs, apologies for the repetition, however it does create a framework that is a fairly accurate reflection of human needs. We see safety and security as no. 2 at the base of the pyramid. Indicating after the basics of food, water, shelter, roots are a close second, foundational to who we are.

If the roots aren't solid then everything else is impacted; self esteem, confidence, respect for others etc and this influences the choices our children will make as they grow. Their wings. 

Their ability to fly above criticism, above the injustices in the world and workplaces they will find themselves in, to fly with their potential, in relationships, to seize opportunities and be considerate of others. When we all think of people we admire and would like to be like, it is usually not the self-absorbed narcissist that springs to mind first. They are usually on the list of 'who not to be like'.

We usually first admire the Mother Theresa's of this world, who love unconditionally, give sacrificially and live with integrity convicted by their values and beliefs.

Giving our children roots & wings takes hard work. Lot's of devoted time, energy & consistency. Yet it's an investment that sets them up for life.

Grateful for the parenting friends in our lives who inspire with their parenting styles, who have modelled & given their children the gifts of roots and wings.

Cherishing the time to invest
Cherishing the gifts of roots
Cherishing the gift of wings

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

dance, eat, sleep, repeat

Two days off school for the Ekka show. Seems a tad excessive doesn't it?

To us as parents it does, but for our kids certainly not! Bring it on, they say!

On Monday as the regional public holiday for the Royal Queensland Show (official name for the Ekka) my lovely Sunshine came to work with me. I had to drive to the office at Southport, so had the delightful company of just Sunshine for the 2 hour round trip. As she had spent the past week with her Dad we were playing catch ups!

Chatting as you do about this, that & the other. Sunshine made the comment she had danced for 30hrs last week. With an upcoming eisteddfod an extra practise was held on the weekend. She had actually danced for 12 hrs straight on Saturday, during the day with Steps and in the evening with One Salt water. Then again all day Sunday.

When we talked about it she realised she had danced as much as she had been at school! Almost a full time job equivalent.

Sunshine succinctly summed up her weekend as being;

Dance, eat, sleep, repeat! 

She loves it that much she feels lost if she isn't dancing! On a day off, her body doesn't quite know what to do. A snooze in the car on the drive home perhaps! She'd earnt it well and truly.

I sometimes feel like I must be a bad parent to let her dance so much. Then look at elite athletes, tennis champions, swim stars and think of the obsessive hours they must have put in. No parent could force a child/teen to get up at 4am every morning for swimming, that's for sure. You have to love it and be driven within yourself to be that committed.

Sunshine is that committed and though part of my job as a parent is to sometimes remind her that there are others things in life besides dancing, I still marvel at her passion, zeal, striving & diligence! I wish I could be more like her!

Cherishing yet again 1:1 time
Cherishing dreams of my children
Cherishing their determination & hard work 

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Fragility and Brilliance

The long, loud applause had finished, I think it was after the second song, but because there were several movements to the piece, I wasn't quite sure if it was the Concerto or the Sonata. Turning to the very well dressed lady next to me, quietly & politely asked if David had just finished the second piece. Was trying to follow the program but was already lost in his amazing music and the complexity of Bach & Beehthoven.

In perfectly spoken, well educated English with a condescending tone, she told me it was the, "Appasionata" that Helfgott had just finished playing. Her tone denoted superiority with a hint of irritation that I dare ask her, a stranger.

Instantly I felt belittled. Then quickly made note to self,  never speak to anyone like she did me. A fleeting 10 second exchange that communicated such potent arrogance. Perhaps I am being a little too harsh on the lady. Perhaps I really am ignorant of the intricacies of Beethoven's piano sonata no.23 in F minor, but it got me thinking......

Here we were, Deep Waters {DW} & I at David Helfgott's regional concert in our own humble, home town of Redcliffe. Here was David on stage performing with his incredible brilliance as a concert pianist and yet his incredible fragility in his mental illness. For any of you that are old enough to have seen his life portrayed in the movie, Shine {1996} will be familiar with his story.

I had to hunt high & low to find a DVD store that stocked Shine. It was a pre-requisite must for DW to see BEFORE the concert. The movie provided the background context to help appreciate & understand David's quirky idiosyncrasies.  Our 3 local stores didn't stock it. I realised most girls working at the DVD stores weren't even born when the movie was released! No wonder they looked at me strangely when I asked if it was in store. So yesterday!

As he performs with amazing energy {for his now 66yrs} he mumbles away and his entry on stage is always with excessive bows and thumbs up, almost childlike. I am not sure what struck me the most, his absolute breathtaking piano prowess or his exquisite vulnerability?

He brought both to the stage, it was so beautiful. Profoundly impacting. Moving. Memorable. How opposite attributes could co-exist and he could overcome his illness to bring his remarkable gift and love of music to share was so inspiring.

I have always thought life one great paradox. This confirmed it yet again. In David's brilliance was such fragility. The suffering of mental illness to the point of institutionalisation, and giving up music. Yet in finding love through Gillian {now his wife} he was restored. She encouraged him to play again. He has toured the world many times over delighting audiences with his musical genius and transparent personality.

Personally I would rather be like David, bringing my fragility than arrogance {appearance of having it altogether} to people. Humility is such a beautiful attribute. Pride makes people look and feel ugly, no matter how clever, smart, brilliant or stunning on the exterior. And it often devalues others {even in 10 seconds}. It's almost cliche, but it's true, it's what's on the inside that really counts. Being able to share that with others takes great honesty and courage. I admire both in David Helfgott.

Hoping as a parent to be able to impart this to my four. To love them enough to feel secure to bring their fragility, weaknesses and strengths to each situation. To never feel they have to be something they are not. The only failure in life is not trying. It is no small feat to try and fail, try and fail.

Mother Theresa says, "there are no great acts, just acts done with great kindness". Sometimes we need to be kind to ourself. At least in trying we know our capacity and/or limitations. It is not ok to not even try. Although sometimes in dark moments even trying seems overwhelming, in those times I hope there is someone there to comfort and love us back to a place of, "I think I can......"

Cherishing fragility
Cherishing vulnerability
Cherishing experiences that speak to us

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Sharing Sunshine

Midday winter sun
A perfect blue sky
A spiral staircase
A meandering river
A lazing lizard
Sharing sunshine

Good company
A riverside path
A gentle breeze
Carved out time
Two souls chatter on
Sharing sunshine

More like spring
 Mutual interests
Warm weather to walk
Prized minutes to talk
So lovely to see you
Sharing sunshine

Healthy friendship
this is enough
Listening kindred spirits
Two hearts seeking one
Love & limits
Sharing sunshine

Overdue communication
Robust discussions
Unfinished conversations
 Precious connection
Change doesn't keep us apart
Sharing sunshine

Be content
With a walking meeting
 Constrained by the clock
Letting go
wanting more
Sharing sunshine

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Barren Beauty

Winter's canvas captured

On a brisk, late afternoon walk around the neighbourhood this week, the tree above captured my attention. How a tree with no leaves could grab me is a little perplexing because it's not like an unusual sight for winter. Though deciduous trees are fewer in Queensland than other colder states of Australia, we do have them, evergreens however probably win the majority.

It's shape. It's barrenness. It's simple starkness. It's silhouette in the dimming light of day.

Made me think about seasons in life. Of winter and what it brings to us.

Cooler temperatures. A reprieve from the heat of summer. Shorter days.

Usually more stunning sunsets and sunrises too. I have often said that Redcliffe is at it's most beautiful in the winter. Because the sky seems bluer, the sea around our city also seems bluer, it appears glassy & translucent. In summer it is usually choppier, not as clear and full of jelly fish!

Winter in our inner selves can sometime feel like nothingness, emptiness, dryness, barrenness, does my life have meaning? It's not full blown depression, it's just a flatness or fragility that isn't filled with the vim, vigour and colours associated with summer.

I thought of the beauty in barrenness and of how counter culture that is. We associate beauty with fullness, yet we ought if we can, embrace it rather than despise or ignore it.

Cherishing different seasons and what they bring. When feeling empty, cold, dry, brittle, run out, barren or spent, nothing to give, remember spring is just around the corner. Winter, thankfully doesn't last forever!

There is a lovely beatitude that comes to mind, one that has comforted me many times in the 'winter moments and seasons' of my life.

'Blessed are in the poor in spirit, for they shall be filled'.

Another modern translation of this has been quoted in, "Further Along The Road Less Travelled" by Scott Peck;

'Blessed are the confused for they shall be filled'.

"When Jesus gave his big sermon, the first words out of his mouth were: "Blessed are the poor in spirit." There are a number of ways to translate "poor in spirit," but on an intellectual level, the best translation is "confused."

Blessed are the confused. If you ask why Jesus might have said that, then I must point out to you that confusion leads to a search for clarification and with that search comes a great deal of learning. For an old idea to die and a new and better idea to take place, we have to go through periods of confusion. It is uncomfortable, sometimes painful to be in such periods. Nonetheless it is blessed because when we are in them, we are open to the new, we are looking, we are growing.

And so it is that Jesus said, "Blessed are the confused." Virtually all of the evil in this world is committed by people who are absolutely certain they know what they're doing. It is not committed by people who think of themselves as confused. It is not committed by the poor in spirit."

With this I am happy to be confused, barren, feeling empty and poor in spirit as I know it keeps me humble and forever seeking to learn more. It also releases us from having to have it altogether. Phew! 

Cherishing seasons in life
Cherishing what each brings
Cherishing barren beauty