Renovator’s Dream

house 4

 

Renovating: Along with death and divorce it is touted as one of the most stressful things you can do. I think I agree. Here are some things I’ve learnt over the last 8 years of renovating our house:

  1. We survived. Like Stuart Diver, buried under 3,500 tonnes of rock and mud, we survived.
  2. We stayed married. And, no animals or humans were harmed in the making of this house. Just.
  3. Finishing is better than Christmas as a 4 year old.
  4. Communication: Building companies – please use this tool. It is more important than your nail gun – a gun which, when you finally turned up months late, I was perhaps tempted to see in a new light…
  5. Music: Builders, choose it wisely. Triple M is no good when there is enough banging going on already. Kyle Sandipants is banned. In fact, the best move is to ask ME what I want to listen to you sing to. And maybe the rest of the neighbourhood.
  6. If you turn up, I will give you unlimited tea and coffee and Tim Tams and the odd sausage sanga. If you don’t, I will serve you tears with a large dash of PMS.
  7. A good tradie is Heaven-sent. A bad one is quite sadly the joke of the building site.
  8. What you see on The Block is all a lie. Carpet Court will not lay your carpet in 48 hours because you are in a challenge. In fact, general rule of thumb to go by is that they like to cause a challenge, not help in one.
  9. If you want to start up an ethical swimming pool building company, you will be the world’s first, and, once word gets around, a multi-squillion gazillionaire.
  10. Choose nice people to work on your house wherever you can. They move in. You need to like them.
  11. Choose a paint colour and walk away. It will be fine. I’m sure “Dulux” means ‘Confuse the pants of you’ in some language. 
  12. Be black and white and brave in your conversations with everyone building your house. However, make sure you leave your tradie talk at home – it doesn’t work with, say, frail great aunt Nelly or the highly sensitive neighbour (and it’s likely your fault the neighbour is highly sensitive now anyway). house 6
  13. When you’re so buried in boxes you have to pole vault out of bed; when there are 10 different trades with difficult questions at your door at 6.45am and you’re in your dressing gown with the flu; when your kitchen ceilihouse 1ng leaks and bulges with rain water like a pregnant belly for months; when you have a set of gumboots outside every exit because you are surrounded by a mud moat, my advice is this: Finish one little thing. Paint the architrave in the laundry and close the door. When every single other part of your house has a bloke with his noise and dust in it, go into your laundry, sit on the floor and meditate with your gorgeous architrave. 
  14. Always say thank you (except maybe to pool builders – feel free to acquire a nail gun in this case). You may have waited 20 months for a roofer to show up, but when you sit in your kitchen in torrential rain and thunder and lightning, you will appreciate him. Building a house is no mean feat, it involves many coming together to meet your sometimes incredibly picky, individual wishes, and, they may not be able to sing, but I do believe they are proud of the work they do for you.  Plus, you want them to show up the next day.    
  1. And finally, try and enjoy it where you can. We loved finding old bits of newspaper in the walls, the pages of which were selling 1920’s Buicks. And one of the first Australian Women’s Weekly’s rolled up in the floor – amazing to think I would work for this magazine 40 years later. Restoring the original features of the house, like our hard wood French doors and a pressed metal ceiling, was an artistic endeavour, and are now thoroughly enjoyable to live with. Add your own flare and be courageous with it. It is a stressful time, but try and have a laugh with those blokes and your husband and kids while you’re all living through it, it creates good memories to go with your beautiful, finished new home.

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Hip hip hooray #healthyhipsweek

When I was young, I would curse my hips because they wouldn’t make my legs and feet turn out like my amazingly beautiful ballet teacher. If they would only do their job then I would look just like her – despite the fact I had brown short hair, was a plumpa-lumpa and nothing like her 6 foot tall willowy goldilocks.

When I first entered high school, my hips were the place I used to roll my uniform skirt up and over, so that instead of the hem reaching that daggy spot mid-calf, it flew somewhere above-knee. Then, as beachgoing became the mid-teen activity of choice, I became increasingly interested finding and exposing my hip bones. Ultimately, I decided that there were none in there and continued on eating.

As I grew into 20-something, my hips became important in the right way they should be regarded – my physical health. The discovery of a back problem which would be my companion forever, meant more attention needed to be paid to my hips – keeping them straight, strong and stretched, meant I was giving my back the best opportunity to remain healthy for as long as possible.  

I became a married woman. And started yoga. The two were not related. Or maybe they were: My husband’s work took us to living in some weird and wonderful places, and we experienced some really challenging times.  In each place I did yoga for excercise. Time and again I would hear “our hips are the place we hold our fear, our emotional junk drawer, where we put emotions we don’t know how to handle”.hip replacement

Next: Babies. Pregnancy, hips widening, birth, lots of sitting and breastfeeding, and muscles relaxed to the point of being floppy – man, I was a good yogi. A happy hippy time.

Then my mum had an accident and shattered her hip. She had to suffer through a night of the most horrific pain I’ve ever witnessed, before being given some new jewellery – a metal hip ball and joint. A long recovery, and 10 years later the thought of using her hip normally still generates fear.

And another life hip event: A baby with a hip infection. Nasty old pneumococcal disease settled in our six month-old baby’s hip joint, eating it away. She is classified disabled, although right now you would never know to look at her skipping, cartwheeling and being the most beautiful ballerina she can be, much to my delight. She is a true miracle.  The time will come when her hip will get cranky and we will deal with that then. Operations will be soon. But for now, every day, I appreciate her special hip, as we call it, because it reminds me the body is a gift, to be looked after and appreciated for it’s capacity – with a ballet leap and a cartwheel while I can.

So cheers to Healthy Hips Week. Keep them healthy, keep them “junk free” and appreciate them for more than just a pair of hip bones in hiding.  

 

 

Missing Mother

Breaking News:  Reports of a possible missing person. 

A stay-at-home mother from Sydney’s Insular Peninsula appears to have disappeared. The missing mother is known as a woman who quietly and boringly got on with her life as a housewife and children’s Uber driver.  She was not known as social, being as she was mostly stuck in the kitchen and kitchen’s do not talk.  Nor was she known as adventurous – going to Coles was a big day out – and those close to her say that she likely may, or may not have, left of her own accord.

The missing mother was released from her cage – err, household, last Thursday.   She was sighted at Sydney Airport with a woman said to be an old friend from school.  The old friend was allegedly feeding the poor unsuspecting missing mother champagne at 8.30am.  It is not known if this friend is an accomplice, as she is also usually a mother at home, or if she is a suspect.

The missing mother and her friend were then seen at Auckland Airport, with yet another friend, who is a known policewoman, leaving the airport with a bottle of Tequila.  Kiwi’s, cops and tequila – it is not looking good.

It is believed the missing mother was planning to attend a wedding.  The word “Chenery” was overheard by witnesses on numerous occasions – detectives suspect this might be secret code for ‘Brewery’, which was the possible wedding venue, or it could be the bride’s name.  Despite the alleged wedding being full of cops and lawyers, detectives are not holding out much hope that law enforcement would prevail. They know their own kind too well.

Local fisherman, next to the wedding location, believe they spotted the missing mother, although personality descriptions do not match accurately.

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Facial composite of the missing mother

  The missing mother’s family in Sydney said it would be very unlikely to be the same woman if she was seen dancing all night long and up on the stage pretending to be Salt n’ Peppa to the popular 80s song “Push It”.  The family also refute claims that the mother would put a fluorescent pink mohawk on sideways for something called a “photobooth”, accidentally or not. 

Nor would she ever be seen singing into love hearts on sticks, somewhat like a microphone, which the bride had painstakingly decorated her wedding venue with. Her husband said it was always, always, a wooden spoon or kitchen implement she sang into.  

There have been suspected sightings of the missing mother back in Sydney.  But the woman singing Whitney Houston while she baked, and dancing to Salt n’ Pepper while she vacuumed, did not resemble at all the drab woman who once stood in that apron in that spot, so those claims have been dismissed.  Other reports say this same all-singing-dancing  woman did not have a nightly glass of patience – err, wine – as the missing mother used too.  Justifications along the lines of a detox of gin,  tequila and other unremembered beverages, have also been dismissed.

The search continues.

 

Practising Kindness. Kind of.

My late rising New Year’s resolution is kindness. Be kind, show kindness, kind, kind, kind.

It’s everywhere – the new catch phrase to counteract narcissism generated in our age of the selfie.  Me me me it’s all about me, verses Be kind to one another. I should have been an anthropologist or psychologist instead of a mother.  (Same thing, I hear you say? Need one as a mother, I hear you say?)

This woman is fabulous – take the 10 minutes to watch Orlay Wahba speak on kindness, it will change your life.  http://blog.ted.com/the-magic-of-kindness-orly-wahba-at-ted2013/  She nails why kindness is essential and exactly how it makes the world a better place.

So I’m going to be kind. I’ve already started.

I was really kind yesterday when my toddler screamed his way out of swim school, all the way to the car, screamed when I asked him to get in the car, then screamed about me locking him out of the car (never leave a child unattended inside a car), then continued his little screaming argument all the way home.

He is still alive. See? Kindness.

Part of kindness is that it brings you to noticing others. For example, like last night.  My husband must have been practising kindness because when he was putting the rubbish bins out, he noticed the next-door neighbour nicking our greens bin from the verge.  “Hey, isn’t that ours?” came kindly out of Happy Husband’s mouth, to which Naughty Neighbour replied, “oh just taking it to put our palm fronds in”.  Happy Husband practiced further kindness by not saying anything more – perhaps because his mouth hung open in disbelief but hey, the bin was theirs.  

Currently, I am practising kindness with great fervour. Along with noticing, being kind also generates gratitude.  As I write this I am looking out my window at the pool company (here is a description of them), draining thousands of litres of water-slash-money down the plughole, and jackhammering big chunks out of the concrete walls of our brand new pool.  But hey – I am super grateful that we had the pool for the kids for Christmas, because we can’t afford to eat anymore let alone buy something as frivolous as Christmas presents.  And I am tremendously grateful to the actual people who work for the pool company, because now when I turn on the news Donald Trump really truly looks like a super nice guy to me. Really, he does incredibly honourable work, don’t you think?    

So, after a successful week of practising great kindness, I’m going to celebrate. Here is a selfie of me with my big glass of kindness to myself. But we all know it’s not all about me…

woman-with-big-glass-of-wine

   

 

   

A Wise Man and a Bright Star

The day began with the usual unsatisfying vomit; a dribble of bile in the cup of my hand and some in the loo. Not even Christmas Day, with all its miracles, could offer up a reprieve.

I wandered out of our guest bedroom to see a quartet of teenage cousins slothing out of theirs.  Four kids would be nice, I think.

If I was the Virgin Mary.

We all assembled around my aunt and uncle’s Christmas tree in their Southern Highlands loungeroom. The surrounding window’s shone in a beauty of a day – one worthy of new beginnings.

I took the chance, during a brief moment of hush: “We’re pregnant!”

There was teary, surprised giggling all round. Except from my uncle Laurie, who disappeared. What? All my life I’d heard, “You’d make beautiful babies with him”. And now that I am, he walks out?

This man, Laurie Curley, was a colourful character with many shades of intensity – from outbursts of extreme emotion, to the deepest of poetry, to being the life of the party, crackling with hilarious and inspiring stories. On this day, I didn’t know what sort of reaction this exit meant.

After a time, he walked back in. He sat next to me silently – possibly the only moment he’d ever been soft and quiet in his life. He opened a wee black velvet box, revealing a diamond ring, shaped like hands in prayer, and with tears, said: “I have had this for you, for that baby in there, for a long time. Congratulations my darling.”

That baby got out of there eight months later and was the precious miracle that Christmas day had indicated he would be. Oliver. Little boy of peace. He lived up to his name from the moment he lay, with a head shaped like a butternut squash, perfect in my arms.

But with such deep peace, it would transpire, came crippling shyness and uncertainty for this boy. Social situations were debilitating. I believed I had the only toddler in the world who was frightened to death of a playground.

We tried everything to make life seem a little less scary for Oliver.  We thought we were doing well, until the preschool teachers suggested he go into a Child Anxiety Program. We never got there.

He started school, knowing no one. He looked up that day, took a shallow breath and was the bravest person I’ve ever known. I cried: Not because I was losing a child but because I’d gained a stronger one.

But again, the school teachers suggested our little boy go back to that Program. Rather than fixing anxiety, the recommendation generated more. We said no thanks.

A few years later, as Oliver struggled along, special uncle Laurie passed away swiftly from a violent and hideous fight with cancer. We went to see him toward the end. He still found a slice of strength to talk farts with our kids, making them giggle, as always, before collapsing into bed with his morphine. Our children were quiet as we drive home from that visit in the Southern Highlands.

There are some who have completed their work in life earlier than others, and Laurie’s was certainly a life well lived. Once more my husband and I defied popular opinion and took our children to farewell their influential uncle. Oliver lead his siblings in sprinkling the coffin with roses and I could hear Laurie as their flowers flourished around him: “See? Don’t you listen to them, my darlings – you do what you want – anything you want”. It was a saying I’d heard many times over the course of my life. A saying Laurie breathed in and out everyday, with flamboyance and verve.

Oliver’s confidence and friendships began to grow with age. But then one by one, the friends drifted away to other schools and towns. At the start of this year, his little brother whispered, “Mum, Oliver sat by himself at lunch time today”. And then every day, and throughout the year.

As Christmas 2016 approached, Oliver asked about Laurie, three years in Heaven by now.  “Mum, can you tell me that story where uncle Loz didn’t go to the party, but walked around the corner and fixed up the poor kids’ house?”  It was the story which marked the beginning of the charity, Qantas Cabin Crew Team, for which Laurie received an OAM.

A few days later Oliver came home saying he had made a speech at school about an inspiring leader in history. I was thinking the teachers meant the likes of Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Malala Yousafzai. Oliver had chosen Laurie.

It turned out that speech was to the Principal and a panel of the school’s senior teachers.

Later that week, that Principal chose our little boy of peace as a Primary School Leader.

“You really can do anything you want, my darling.”

wiseman-bright-star

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ageing Disgracefully

Hair

Remember these?

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Felicity having a good hair day

Well, this was me as I hit my 21st year (times two) of life. 

When the grey’s popped up in my mouse brown hair, I thought blond highlights would be a good idea to blend them seamlessly away.  Beginning with just a little blond, I found myself a year later unsuspectingly sporting Marilyn Monroe bleached everything. Consequently, this turned what was supposed to be a low maintenance do, into hair of Kim Kardashian-mega-maintenance proportions, as I tried to keep on top of dark roots rearing their ugly heads every 0.00003 seconds. And, because hair goes limp along with everything else as you age, I had also been blow drying my golden locks – to near extinction. 

A kind hairdressery friend told me I was no longer allowed to blow dry and that dark was less damaging than Marilyn-blond. So, dark I go.  But now I have the old grey’s back partying front and centre forehead. So I decided to whack in a quick home box dye to touch them up between hair dresser visits. There is a problem in the translation though: Box-speak for dark brown is black. Coupled with my dead straight (and no-blow-dry-limp) hair, someone asked me which part of Asia I was from the other day.

Skin

In my 20’s I was a beauty editor. This meant CUPBOARDS and GARAGES and PUBLIC HALLS full of all the world’s most expensive creams, hair stuff, make ups, fragrances – Chanel, Dior, La Prairie, Guerlain, Yves Saint Laurent, MAC and so on were coming out of my earholes. Now that I have skin those anti-aging creams would love to get their free radical fighting mitts on, I can afford Olay from Coles.

One day I was bemoaning this situation with a friend who’d experienced the same beauty industry gluttony and had gone back to work as a beauty therapist just to keep her supplies going. She recommended Vitamin C powder – once a day, slap it on and voila, 21 again. Then we got interrupted, but that was fine, I had all the essential information.  So home I go via the health food shop to pick up some Vitamin C powder. 

Day 1 I rub the gritty stuff all over my mug. I feel it tingling (ok, well, maybe stinging) and think yippee, it’s working!  Luckily that day I did not need to alight the car to collect my kids so no one else saw me except for them and their thousand questions about the white crumbs falling off my face.

Day 2 and I decide to dissolve the powder in a little water after looking up a recipe online. I smother my face in the syrup and enjoy more tingling of skin. A while later once it’s dried, I put my moisturiser over the top then foundation and go off out into the world. A while later than that, standing amidst about 5000 people, I rub my jawline, and see a shower of what looks like sand. But is in fact vitamin c granules mixed with foundation. 

sandface
“Ah! I look like a sand sculpture!”

Day 3 and I manage to dissolve the powder to nothing, slather it on my skin, do cream, do foundation and check for sandpaper-like appearance of face. There is none.  Pop out into the world amidst about 7000 people, and someone asks: “Why do you look orange?”     

Weightwatchers

What kind of mathematical person thought this idea up? I mean – 4 points for a glass of wine?  It certainly wasn’t a mother.

Yes, I have joined up to shed the kilo’s that hung around after the baby no longer did.  I am absolutely certain now that the weight intends to stay forever like a bad tenant and without some concerted effort in years to come it’s going to be much more and nigh impossible to be rid of. 

So on day two of Watching my Weighters, I went to the gym and proudly (perhaps smugly) added into my WW app the hour of high intensity interval training (yes, it hurts as much as it sounds), setting the intensity level at “High, cannot talk or sing” (because I often sing when I’m in a gym class). I earned 10 points – woohoo!  But wait – I don’t get to eat those 10 points – those 10 points go yippee and bye bye suckeeerrrr disappearing off into the ether with an evil laugh. Now I have to eat no-point-air for the rest of the day.

But there’s more.  Did you know, when you’re doing Weight Watchers and watching those points like you used to watch the sausages cook, that everywhere you go – shops, kindy drop off, afterschool sport, library, public toilets – everywhere, it’s everywhere I’m telling you, someone is cooking bacon?

How’s your ageing disgracefully faring?     

Being a Fabulous Authoress in the School Holidays

I’m on a roll, writing for at least an hour a day when the bubba naps. Chapters are being completed, and then – wahoo! – the whole second draft is DONE! Motivation is right up there in the heavens and I wake up every day thinking, I can do this!

Then…

SCHOOL HOLIDAYS.

I love school holidays, spending time with my four little people, cruising around, doing fun things, lots of silliness and laughing, pyjama days and all the rest. I am blessed to be able to do this, I know. The only thing which poses a challenge is continuing with my writing.

I wonder if I should just drop it while they’re off.  But, this time, the see-saw that is mother-guilt tips to rest on “They’re still with me, and they’re at home, so if I do a little bit of work it won’t hurt them”.  They’re good kids, and have come to understand and respect mum’s “work”.  So I have my plan: When the little ones snooze, the big ones can chill out with a movie, and I will write.

Sounds good doesn’t it?

I bounce out of bed on day one, which is usually pyjama day.  I can feel the creativity buzzing about, my mind full of all the things I want to write. We all begin the day slouching about in our PJs.

And then it starts. Pulling the blanket off each other, fighting over who’s got the most lounge, rumbling, whingeing and bickering – sheer tiredness from a full on term of school erupting. I try and glide above it, soothing, consoling, mediating, being understanding. I look longingly at my empty chair next to the computer and think, I’ll be with you soon.

My head is crammed, full to the brim of noise and requests.  I can’t even think of what I need to do next which is probably as simple as get breakfast. So, at about 8.30am, I lock myself away, yelling “Cleaning the bathroom, poison, poison, have to shut the door” and breathe in the silence. And perhaps some Domestos fumes.

A short while later I am out and focussed again. Once more, my mind is buzzing with my main characters, which is what I need to work on now in my book. However, there are four other little characters who have something different in mind.  The noise has continued while I’ve been on my little Domestos holiday, and elevated.

I know that a good rest is in order for these children so, calming everyone down, I set them up with food, drink and a movie which all ages should like to watch, and pop bubba down for his nap. I announce it is time for me to write so please DO NOT DISTURB. “Yes mum, we know,” they all look at me, snuggled down and calm, like the angels they are.

I wade through the toys, circumnavigate the Mount Everest of washing, and test my will power in ignoring the feral dishes covering the sink.  I breathe in the silence, and sit at my computer. 

And there it is, a Fabulous Thought!  Fingers poised, ready to explode it out – when four pairs of hands come from nowhere to grab at the computer paper under my feet, asking me to print off colouring pictures, then get pens, then get more pens because “they’re my special ones”, help with the colour detail on Tinkerbell, spell ‘transformer’ out loud, then I duck a paper aeroplane, make an origami race car, get more food for everyone (how much can these kids eat in the holidays?), and suddenly realise there is silence because all mouths are full, so I sit down to write said Fabulous Thought which was…  

Fabulous thought