Saturday, July 30, 2011

the window in my diary

I applied for another job yesterday.
It's just part time, like the others. It will probably pay pretty badly, like the others.  It will no doubt require a fair amount of juggling and creativity to get completed, much like the others.

But, it's also during term time. It's working with kids.  It's flexible hours.  It involves me getting out and about (rather than stuck in the office as oft I am).  And so I reckon there's a few small windows in my diary that could easily be filled with income earning, productive activity.

When I updated my C.V. I was almost surprised to read that I'm actually probably quite an attractive candidate (sheesh pity the boys out there couldn't see that aye!)...I have the skills and experience that's required -although not the formal qualifications - and already have good industry contacts and connections.

So, you may ask, why am I mad enough to take on yet more work, when it would appear that my days are already full to bursting?

Well, the fact is, that I can't afford not to.  And while it really is tempting to dump ALL of these part time bits and go find one, simple, wellpaying, full time job, I just can't see how I could get any quality of life from that.  I want to be home for the children after school each day. I don't want to be arriving home at 5.30 on a cold and dark winter's night and then having to start dinner.  I don't want to be spending 90 minutes a day travelling to and from work.  I don't want to have to go and upgrade my wardrobe for office friendly clothes (let alone the extra time it takes to get ready in the morning).

I certainly don't want, at least while the children are young, to have to work through every school holiday, find care for them when they're sick, and miss all their important milestones and events at school.

Yes, it's a juggle with the $$$, and the time - to make sure every bit gets done well - but the payoffs are enormous.

From the outside my life appears to be already pretty frantic with work and family and those other commitments that eat up all the tape on my answerphone message, but actually I could easily fit a few more hours of something in.

I guess another upside of being disgustingly organised at home is that I spend a minimal amount of time on a 'to do around the house' list.  I get to spend lots of times doing the things I love.  

Besides, what would I do if I wasn't busy?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

I'm in charge

Reflections on the benefits of working for myself....

- I get to decide when I start and stop work
- Because my office is at home I can wear my slippers to work
- I get to choose when my coffee break is
- the harder I work, the more I earn
- I get to fit my job around my life, rather than my life around my job
- I get to do the things I really love - reading, writing, meeting people, helping, advising, organising (!)
- If I need a day off, I can just take it (although it means working twice as hard the next day)
- I'm a great boss:)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

the best fun you can have with your clothes on

This week I have been going to dancing lessons for 6 months.

I've been to 7 dance parties. One champs.  One workshop.  A couple of privates. About 35 group lessons at 3 different levels.

I've spent goodness-knows-how-much on i-tunes getting all the songs I love dancing to (ouch! and there's still more I want!)

I've been spun, dipped, dropped and seduced.  Lifted, twirled, draped and cuddled.
I can even look at the list of moves being taught and recognise some of them!
I have quite a collection of swirly skirts, and light, dancer friendly tops.  I've had a couple of errors of judgement - the dress that kept falling down (no more halter necks for this kid) and the one that turned out to be completely see through if I was too near the spotlights...
I've had the pleasure of dancing with most of the men I have wanted to dance with - and the dubious honour of a couple I was less than enthusiastic about.  There's still a couple on the list of 'dance with me's!' but I'm even getting brave enough to do the asking myself now.  I've even danced with some of the best in the country (poor things!)

I've danced with the shortest, the tallest, the slimmest, the fattest, the sweatiest, the best smelling and the cutest men ever to be found in one room.
I've been told to use more pressure, less pressure, go slower, go faster, concentrate more, concentrate less, get closer, move back, hang on and let go.
I've woken up aching all over.
I've found some wonderful new friends, both men and women,  from all walks of life, and got way better at small talk.
I've introduced my children to a new way of socialising, exercising and having fun,  and they too can't wait to learn.

I hear the music, see the lights, and my heart sings.

the best fun you can have with your clothes on

Sunday, July 24, 2011

crossing the line

I've never been very good with boundaries.
Not that I'm one for pushing them, oh no, far from it.  But I do seem to have a special gift for letting others trample over mine.

I think I have an idea why too, and it's all to do with Gary Chapman.  I've talked before of his ideas about 'love languages' and how i believe that we can give in one language but prefer to receive in another.

I did his checklist again recently and my NO 1 language for receiving 'love'is words of affirmation.  I was kind of surprised by this - I mean, I thought I would much rather have had a cuddle....or a box of chocolates:).  But, there it is, and on reflection, I think it's probably accurate. (And it's also accurate that I'm not very good at giving those words back - much easier to offer a cuddle or a box of chocolates!)

So, I think that maybe this is related to my underdeveloped skill's of maintaining boundaries.  
Let me explain:
I'm not one who is used to getting compliments.  I find upward feedback, appraisals, performance reviews, and so on, excruciating.  although that's mainly because I dread the 'formative feedback'(or whatever other rubbish title we use to mask criticism).  You see, as much as I love getting words of affirmation, I loathe getting criticised.  Nothing makes me feel crappier than a casually tossed critique of my clothes/cooking/personality/parenting style.  And so obviously, nothing makes me sparkle more than a positive comment, a warm remark, a generous compliment.  Note carefully - nowhere is the word honest mentioned here.  Why? because I am, frankly, a bit gullible....I like those affirmations so much I have a terrible habit of tending to overlook their credibility or authenticity.  and in the same way that those unkind words can reduce me to a shiver, the kind ones can make me excuse or rationalise all kinds of behaviours!

Now, I'm not saying for a minute that I think people are switched on to this, and deliberately try to praise others for ill gotten gains.  I think most of us are genuine when we say good things about another.

I also don't think that putting up deliberate roadblocks is good either - way to easy to become cynical that way!

But, it's just way too easy to hear some good words, bask in the warmth of them, and then as a result see one's boundaries melt away into a murky puddle of good intention and vague regret.

How do you maintain boundaries? and what tempts you to push them - or let others over them?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Life is beautiful

Today was a great day. This week has been a great week. It has, in fact, been a great month.

I've been busy.  Reconnected with some old friends.  made some new ones.

I've worked hard, studied a little less.  Played, a lot.  Discovered some new things. Shared some triumphs and confidences, celebrated some milestones, set and even met some goals.

And now, I am on holiday. I am staying with family, spent time with one of my closest friends today, and this week have had some awesome time, and fantastic conversations, with some of my favourite people

I cooked an amazing dinner tonight (if i do say so myself!) and there was literally not even a breadcrumb left in the dish - everything demolished with gusto by those I prepared it for.

Today I walked on a beautiful beach, marvelled at the crazy waves and wind, collected shells with my children.  Drank good coffee.  Bought a new dress.  Completed a crossword.  Took a long and uninterrupted shower.  Watched comedy and laughed.  Watched a documentary and discussed it.

The 'bug'i was fighting is nearly gone.

I have even had a a couple of good nights sleep in the past two weeks.

Tomorrow I plan to go dancing.  And the next night (why not make it 4 times in one week I say!).

Life is good.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

the straight line of life

I grew up with a certain expectation of how life was going to turn out - or at least how it OUGHT to be...

- be diligent at school, discover something i really liked doing and was good at
- make some nice friends, stay on the 'straight and narrow'in order to avoid the perceived dangers in the world
- get a good job, have a couple of nice hobbies
- travel a little, maybe live in a different culture
- fall in love, get married, buy a house, maybe have some children, live happily ever after

Well, I was pretty diligent at school, a bit of a geek who hung out in the music department and was hopeless at sports.  I had NICE friends who went to church every weekend, dated from within the youth group, and mostly, married their first love.
I got a great job, that paid well, (no university for this chick, way too scary!), and started travelling overseas on my own at only 16.
I had a nice boyfriend, a nice car, a nice job.
Life looked pretty good.  But I was BORED...stifled, sure there was some excitement to be had.

I went overseas again.  Had a couple of disastrous relationships with the 'wrong kind'' of  boys.  did some more travelling.  Fell in love.  Got a good job.  Got married.  Had a career.  Travelled some more. Moved to a gorgeous house in the country.   Had children.  

My marriage ended.  Hang on, that wasn't in the plan! 

This weekend marks three years for me of living in my own house, parenting alone.   the childrens father now has a very active part in their lives and is a great dad.  In fact he brought dinner here last night and we shared it together with the children.  In some ways we get on better, even parent more effectively, than when we were married.   the children were so young when it ended - only 1 and 4 at the time.  

In the past three years I have developed some wonderful friendships, thrown myself into my community,  found a job I love, settled into my life.  But most of what i did revolved around the children (as well it should).  I ventured into the mad world of second-time dating and relationships with spectacular non-success (I met some great people, even had my heart bruised a bit,  but no soul mate...yet!).  This year I started to step outside of my own life and try some new things.  It's made me more confident in myself, and helped me, in some ways, to re-find myself.  I've done some things that are completely out of my comfort zone, had totally new experiences, and tested some boundaries that I know now I have no wish to test again!

I feel like I know myself better than I ever have.  The stuff that's important, the values I want to hold on to, the kind of people and experiences I want to embrace.  My deal breakers.  (Ask me another time...)

This really isn't what i signed up for.  But even thought the line of of my life is rather more wiggly than lineal, I am managing to stay on it.  Mostly. 

What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

four seasons in one day

The weather has been incredible here over the past couple of weeks.

Fine one day, stormy the next, warm, cold, unpredictable.  

An early afternoon of sunshiney promise fast turning into a night of excitement - thunder, lightening and hail, and then, a nondescript who-knows kind of morning to follow.

Oh there were warning signs - that ominous grey cloud overhead, the uncanny stillness that often precedes a spectacular storm, the teasing rays of sun poking through the clouds each day, only to disappear in a flurry of rain, or wild wind.

And the aftermath?  Another weird combination of the inevitable and the unexpected.  The things I would expect be most damaged appear, on the surface at least, to have survived relatively unscathed.  The frost tender plants I am nurturing for spring have not been harmed at all.   The garden I look at everyday is worse for wear, but  will, no doubt, 'weather the storm', and in a few weeks be back to normal.  The longer lasting effects of such mad weather remain to be realised.
Seems to me the weather is like people...or is it that people are like the weather....subject to change, vulnerable to outside influences, and yet, at heart, both predictable and cyclic.

Friday, July 08, 2011

incentive based play

Stole an idea from a friend yesterday.
Went to the $2 shop and bought a bag of marbles.  put them in a jar in a visible spot in the kitchen.
Labelled two clear drinking glasses, one for each child.
Announced that for each time they did something on the FIRST ASK, WITHOUT COMPLAINING they would receive a marble in their glass.
Each marble is worth 10 cents.
At the end of each week the jar of marbles will be exchanged for real money.
so far so good, never had so many chores completed with so little fuss.
watch this space:)

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

free your mind! (and the rest will follow...)

I couldn't believe it - there in my news feed today, a blog I read has a post on simple thought ( - the very topic for this, part 3 of the 'stuff it!'series.

I made a decision about 10 years ago to stop drinking instant coffee. There were several reasons - one, I felt I was drinking too much coffee and figured if I cut out instant it would be more effort, and therefore less frequent, to drink espresso.  Secondly, it doesn't actually taste very nice. And thirdly, it quite appealed to me to have just that one option when it came to coffee.   I've refined that even more now and only ever drink plunger coffee at home, and a simple flat white when I'm out.  

I agree that it is good to try new things, and that there is pleasure and adventure in experimenting with new thoughts, tastes, experiences, - and that it is easy to get 'stuck' when doing the same things day in day out.  But the appeal of the simplicity of narrow choice holds great appeal for me too.  Again, not at the cost of being boring, or inflexible, but certainly for the freedom it affords.

For example, by just only ever drinking one kind of coffee, I like that I know what I'm going to get, I like that i don't have to umm and ahh in a shop.  I am scarcely an alcohol drinker, but invariably choose Pinot Noir - it goes with most things, I know what I'm getting, it takes away the umming and aahing!

I've simplified lots of things from the '├žonsumable"" part of my life (which of course still leaves plenty of room for adventure and experimentation elsewhere!).   The same brands of certain foods over and over again.  Makes for a quick shop!  The same petrol station, ditto.  I follow '"Trinny and Susannahs'" ( rules when shopping for clothes - boy does that make life simpler!

It's about being smart.  taking the boring, mind cluttering stuff away so that your time, thoughts and energies can be focused on the things you love.

Some other ideas I've heard of - always buying the same colour towels.  Deliberately avoiding newspapers and  (especially) glossy circulars - a right royal source of TMI if ever there was one!  Get rid of all your cookbooks bar the one or two you actually use all the time.  Put all bills on automatic payment/direct debit so that's one more thing that doesn't have to be thought about.  Paying everything by the week or fortnight can work too - as well as being able to budget better, there's no worrying about massive annual insurance or rates bills.

I've long held to the view (and obviously Oprah heard it from me...) that if you have lots of stuff in your physical life, it can be representative of the stuff in your spiritual/emotion life that needs sorting.  Conversely, having a sorted head (metaphorically speaking) may well show itself  as an orderly outer life.  (Yes this is a broad generalisation but I'm just putting it out there....)

And so, the fewer unnecessary decisions we need to make about trivial things on a day to day basis, the better i reckon!

I like mnmlist.  I love the idea of living simply.  I do my best and I reckon I'm doing an OK job (although there's always room for improvement...just keep away from my sock drawer....).

Sunday, July 03, 2011

stuff it - part two

If you do a google search on 'clutter', there's something like 33 million results.'Tidy' brings up 52 million, and 'simplicity' a staggering 107 million.
So to write a blog myself on these very things, seems kind of...superfluous - almost like adding something else to the overloaded and excessive list that is already available.
But, here I am.
Today I visited a friend.  The house is like mine - ordered, calm, and although not large, is spacious feeling. It was lovely!
I reckon it has to be easier to live in space not stuff.  And yes, it takes time to keep my place the way it is, but I am convinced that it is LESS time than what it would take to clean a house that has double the furniture, double (or more)  the toys, and had piles (however neat) where ever I looked.
I can clean my house, top to bottom in a little over an hour.  That's vacuuming, dusting, cleaning the bathroom and kitchen,  changing bedlinen and towels.  I follow, kind of,, although I was doing it before I discovered her (and I don't put out a new tea towel every day...).

So, due to popular demand (of at least, oh, one reader of this blog...) here is my list of tips for keeping the house clutter free and looking calm and orderly

10.  make the beds, right away, every day.  Drawing curtains, ditto.
9. make a rule about clothes - all things go in the laundry basket or are put away, right away, every day
8. there's a kid rule in this house: if it's found on the floor it is confiscated.  For ever. Only ever had to do it once.
7. do the dishes, right away, every day
6. use the same routine on cleaning day.  start in the same place each time, moving round the house in the same direction, every time.  this not only feels more efficient, it quickly becomes a rhythm. Clean every room in the same session, otherwise it will feel like it never gets done.  try and have a regular day or timeslot for cleaning. Have a cleaning box always ready so you're not rummaging for products, cloths etc.
5. Have regular purges (as per previous post).  Aim to do each room at least once a year. So in an average house that means a room is getting looked at every 8 weeks or so. Count the pantry, the linen cupboard and the garage as rooms too.
4. for every one thing that comes in to the house, something goes out.  whether it's clothes, linen, kitchen stuff, whatever
3. get in the habit of recycling, upcycling and donating.  Often.  I always have a box on the go!
2. have one, or two, designated dump spots in the house. Ideally not in regular view (IE not the kitchen bench or your dressing table!).  I have a table in the laundry where everything left by other people, or things to be taken out of the house, are always put.  I also have a 'safe place' - mine is a small kete on a shelf in the kitchen.  All little bits go in there - spare wheels from toy cars, extra keys, spare pens, anything very little that i find when I...
1. Do 'sweeps' around the house.  I was doing this long before i discovered it had a fancy name.  I do it about 3 times a day.  This is how it works:
- I always start in the same place, as per cleaning day. Moving through each room I pick up everything that's not in it's rightful place.  If it is out of place in the room it's put back.If it's from somewhere else - like say a hairbrush left on the kitchen bench, I pick it up and take it with me. By the time I've moved right round the houseI might have 7 or 8 things that all need returning elsewhere. Rarely is it more than this as I adhere to the other principals as much as I can during the day. And it's not difficult or time-consuming -   it takes 2 or 3 minutes tops each time.
I always always do a sweep before bed so that I come out to a tidy house in the morning.
And (almost) always before I leave the house each morning so I return to order too.

Now, these things might sound a bit detailed, pedantic, maybe even rather hard work, but this is how it works for me.  I've got the children in the habit,(although I do have to nag a bit about shoes around the place and toys left out!) and they too like being in tidy and ordered environments.

For me, I need the order in order to function! I simply can't concentrate or relax when there is chaos around me.  When I have a house full, which is often, I am happy to have things out of place of course. When the kids have friends over it often looks like the place has imploded.  But as soon as everyone is gone - yep I'm straight back into it!

Oh, and like the cartoon...just stop buying stuff....

Friday, July 01, 2011

virtually virtuous

I've been thinking about virtues this week.
There's been some discussion at the children's school about the value of 'religious education' (RE) during class time.  I've also been doing some reading about inclusive belief systems.
Seems to me that the bottom line here is that most people want their children to learn 'good values' - be that in the context of a belief system (IE religion), or as a more humanistic set of virtues.
When it comes to crisis, it doesn't seem to matter which set of spiritual beliefs, if any, that a person holds on to - what counts is the things they value - kindness, transparency, honesty, fairness, justice etc.

There's a whole programme being delivered in schools around the world, based on this (virtues project) and I really like the idea.  Now I am not against RE per Se' - how could I be, when some of the work I do is in ministry - but I tire of the concept of my kids learning 'bible stories' ad nauseum, rather than learning about things at a deeper level - and I do believe that even the youngest children have a sense of spirituality and we don't give them enough credit for this.

So, that brings me to this question: what really matters to me? is it a set of rules, a code of conduct, a belief in a particular dogma, or is it in fact, more about feeling a kinship to like minded people who subscribe to similar beliefs and values as me - all the while maintaining a real sense of what it is that I believe and stand by.

I have to be honest and say that my own 'belief structure' - for want of a better expression - does not fit within traditional boundaries.  I recently completed an absolutely fascinating on-line questionnaire at (BeliefOMatic) which sounds lighthearted but was actually a really challenging and revealing exercise.  I did it with a group and it really brought around some great discussion.

Above all, I value and honour.....truth and honesty -  always in love not judgement!, kindness and humility, fairness and ownership, and social responsibility.  I think that these things do fit into the 'spiritual' category even though they sound more like virtues.  Being aware of ones actions and reactions  means (or should mean) we can become more real, more authentic, more honest.

I fail miserably, a lot of the time, (i'm not nearly as virtuous as I appear to be:)) fact I don't even want to call it failing - maybe it would be better to say it's all part of the succeeding!!!.  One day at a time. (just as well really!).    Living each moment fully but always with one eye on the future and watching to see where this path is taking me.