Sunday, July 22, 2012

Day tripping

Yesterday, the luthier needed to drop off a violin in Swansea, a gorgeous sea side village on the East coast of the island, so the rest of us thought we would tag along for the ride. Apart from the usual kiddie car shenanigans that required pulling over only once and a few refusals to walk, it was a truly grand day out in the clear winter sunshine. We hit the beach and built a flowerpot sand flower and met this smiley gentleman.

Swansea is a very sweet old town, with lots of stunning colonial architecture. This shot is of the building that began life as the town's general store and still houses the local supermarket. 

To the east are magical views out over the sea to the mountains on Freycinet, and to the west, rolling hills and lush green farmland. It sits near the Wye river, and as the road sign reads "Wye River - because it's bigger than a creek." A superb bit of local Island wit.

The light was so clean and crisp. The beach is right in the town. There is an ace playground, loads of beautiful spots and things to do close by.  And the bag of hot chips from  the local chippery, 'The Horny Cray', went down a treat on the road home. Its definitely top of the list for our family summer camping holiday destinations.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Rewards for the Daily Grind

A couple of months ago I had a mega meltdown. The domestic grind got me desolate and depressed.

I was working hard so that my husband would successfully pursue his vocation and so that the kids would blossom in an exceptional educational environment. This facilitation of their success was not delivering quite the satisfied, warm fuzzy feeling I had hoped for. For a while I tried to simulate the feeling of being rewarded by buying myself shoes and eating chocolate. But the buzz from these hits wears off fast and my jeans got tight. So one Saturday, its always a Saturday, my bubble broke. I woke up and burst into tears. I bawled for ages and when the luthier bravely came in with a cup of tea and asked what was wrong, between heaving, snotty, ugly-cries, these words burst out from my very innards in  a sobbing staccato:








I know, very self-pitying and ungracious and ungrateful etc, but in that moment, for me, it was the essence of truth. I suspect I am not the only mother in the world who has felt like they are facilitating everyone elses' joy, and not getting much in the way of personal reward in return?

Now, before I go further, can I just say that this was one day. Many days I like my job and a lot of the time I get huge joy from watching my kids and my husband grow and succeed. I am grateful for being employed and what that means for us. I am also acutely aware that this depression, this unrewarding state is a situation utterly of my own making. Not investing enough in my own dreams is no-one's fault but my own.  But, on this  day (and a few others) I was overwhelmed with sadness and the feeling that the happiness of my loved ones was being gained at a cost to me that was to high for me to carry. And so I melted down.

This staccato cry of honesty. Revealing the guts and gore of my dissatisfaction changed everything. It was not pretty, but it was the truth. The luthier saw me, exactly where I was. He listened. He took me by the hand and gently propelled me out of bed. He took me by the hand, herding the children as we went. Putting one foot in front of the other, though I was fragile and  panicky and shaking, together we stepped, us and the children, along the river in the autumn sun. Silent. Slow. But forward. Step by step, with the sun shining on the tantalising glimmer of potential change.

With the light  and the motion appeared the possibilities. For days after slamming into this black full stop,  and then beginning this slow motion,  me and the luthier walked through our options. What had felt like being utterly stuck in a fathomless hole, became a journey through a tunnel. With every step, another possibility emerged from the gloom - strange and fantastical, practical, huge, teeny, even infinitesimal shards and shifts in perspective. As they emerged we picked them up and handled them. We ruminated, tasted and tried each one on for size. Some, prickly and uncomfortable, were quickly discarded, while others were embraced, fleshed out and adopted and the energy they generated propelled us further still. From some possibilities we just kept little pieces. Tiny idea fragments that we put in the basket for later. Never knowing when they might just fill a gap.

Changes have been small but the shift has been significant. the road is slow. We have distilled our current possibilities to an essence. Now, our eyes are more firmly set upon the prize, the daily grind has purpose and the potential for rewards for all of us. Travel is our goal. Trips and outings big and small. Our eyes are set on days out, minibreaks, jaunts, journeys, and adventures of all kinds.

Breaks from domesticity. Rewards for the daily grind

Potential purchases are measured in miles. No more shoes. Shoes are a trip off the island and you never know when that might be just the thing required.

Last weekend we cashed in our first miles and paid ourself with a modest minibreak. Heading south to the city nestled between Wellington and Derwent, we escaped. Our weekend home was a sweet, French-style apartment in a mansion near the beach.

Across the road was good coffee and breakfast. The beach, with a river dressed in spinnakers, was only skipping hops away.

We had money to spend so we bought things and went out for dinner, saw the beloved cousins, uncle and aunts and played together.

The trips catalyst was to see J perform with his school choir and 300 other school children from choirs from all corners of the island and beyond. I did not take enough tissues. They should put a warning on the program when groups of small children sing songs like Eric Clapton's "Tears In Heaven" . The Treblemakers (don't you love a musical pun), J's choir crew, rocked the house. The show was one of many in Hobart's Festival of Voices which warms the city with sound and light in the frosty heart of mid-winter.  After his triumph at the school soirée crooning 'Count on Me' by Bruno Mars while accompanying himself on bass guitar, comfortable and confident, like he had been performing all his life, and a great school report, the rewards of our choices were evident.

For me, the icing on the weekend cake was a few hours in bed with Kevin.

We took the less travelled road home and found snow and lakes.

Everyone needs and deserves a break from the domestic routine and a reward for the daily grind.

What rewards are your heart set on?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Christmas List

This morning, the Number 2 son woke 'at bonkers', as he likes to say, or 'nice and early' in ordinary folks' parlance. The lad had a mission: to write his Christmas wish list in July.

I know. You can never be too prepared for important things like the Christmas wants.

He kicked off his xmas prep with a short, philosophical discussion expressing his doubts about Santa's capacity to buy all the toys etc, with the usual 'Elf' theory being quickly disregarded, in favour of the radical 'no, I think he steals them' proposition. I suggested EBay, but he wasn't having it, in any case, he set to work.
This is the Christmas wish list of my six year old son so far:

A laptop
A mechanical cow
A pool
A dog
A painting

Ok, so apart from the mechanical cow (What? A mechanical cow?! Maybe he has ideas of becoming a rodeo cowboy or working in a western themed bar?) so far, the items are fairly predictable and suitably unlikely, although I am impressed he's added art acquisition onto his wish list. (A wee David Walsh in the making, perhaps? He is very good with numbers and also quite fond of the darker side of life.) But he goes on, and in amongst the typical boy stuff there were a couple of surprises.

Boxing gloves
Boxing bag
A staffroom
Wii games
Sky lander Giants computlab (ed. I'm not sure what language he is speaking here.)
Toy cutlery
Sponge bob
A house
A spiky hairdo machine
A green lantern ring
A chocolate factory.

A staffroom, eh? He might be onto something. Maybe we could get some domestic staff to go in it? I'll put them on my list.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Footy and cake

This morning I woke up to find the black dog panting at the edge of my bed. I stayed there, wavering between ignoring it and tearfully wallowing in its presence. I read my book and wallowed for a while and the luthier brought me tea. Being the household IT help desk, it was computer issues that finally dragged me out of bed. A school research project about AC/DC is due tomorrow and the interwebs weren't working. Of course it was sorted with the usual 'turn it off and on again' technique which has earned me my help desk reputation. Technical problems fixed so that hard rock research could continue, I resolved to further shake the black dog from my cardigan ties. To drag me from my malaise I decided to make cup cakes. Pink ones. It worked, even though I let the smalls help. The creaming of butter and sugar, the cracking of eggs and the waft of vanilla have a very restorative effect. As does the warm scent of cooking cake and the spreading of lemon flavoured butter cream. As the little cakes cooled on the rack, us Smiths departed to play footy at the park. On our return, I sat down quietly to a hot, strong cup of tea and a single pink cup cake with a silver cachous on a small floral plate, and the dog was sent packing.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Good Things

In no particular order:

'The Elegance of The Hedgehog' by Muriel Barbery.
I love this book. True love.

Monday night French class.
This class is just good fun. Adult classes, in my experience, can often be quite torturous, depending, of course, on the group. This crew of French talkers are hilarious folk. We get together mingling and mangling French and English over vin rouge in a plastic cup and a little fromage. The classes are offered by our local Alliance Francaise, of which I have somehow become Treasurer (I don't know how that happened). This week we learnt the handy phrase. 'Elle est passée à la casserole. It means 'She got laid'.
Our French teacher, well, we love her because she's cheeky.

Book group.
Our group has been going for nearly seven years. We've shared births, marriages, deaths, moves, new jobs, and lots of laughs and books. Last Monday there were the great ladies, red wine, wagon wheels, Tim Tams, of course (there are always Tim Tams) and big laughs. We didn't discuss the book much. Instead stories were performed with big gestures and funny voices. The book for this month is 'The Spare Room' by Helen Garner.
An excellent read.

Breakfast table.
When I got home from bookgroup, all the Smiths were asleep and the breakfast table was set and the uniforms laid out ready for an organised morning. The luthier told me that his grandma (she was the country kind that always had coco pops AND fruit loops and made meringues with the egg whites and custard with the yolks) always set the breakfast table, and even on the night she passed away, cutlery and crockery were laid out, ready for morning. (I bet she had one of those net milk jug covers with the beads to weight it down.)

Bloggers meet.
A local gaggle of bloggers got together over a work day lunch at the QVMAG at Royal Park (one of my favourite places) this week. Organized by Tanya from Suburban Jubilee, it was a pleasure to put faces to blogs, to see bloggy friends and to talk about the who, why and how of blogs and blogging. An incredibly stimulating chat with a joyful bunch of people. Thanks Tanya, I hope it becomes a regular thing.

Money is not a usual topic for my blog but I am chuffed to have reached a little savings goal. The Barefoot Investor is definitely a good thing. Excellent, simple financial advice having nothing to do with budgets. To me, the word 'budget' has the same effect as the word 'diet'. It makes me want to immediately spend all my money on something utterly superfluous and/ or eat a whole packet of biscuits. So after a lifetime of being unfeasibly useless with money, the advice of the clever Mr Pape has brought us to the point of having savings and a plan. Not just good, bloody miraculous really!

The luthier has finished a violin and nearly finished two violas. They are beautiful. He is not too shabby either.

Blocks of Lindt chocolate are on sale at the supo. The 'Coconut Intense' is my current fave, and when they do that 2 for whatever deal, it would seem rude not to buy at least ... 4.

And today on my midweek weekend, the sun shone brightly and I got to hang with my dear old friend while our girls put on too much blue eye shadow and lip gloss.

Life is full of good things.

Monday, July 02, 2012


Last week I overheard this story:
"There was a man I used to work with who would arrive at work bounding merrily up the stairs. I would say to him 'You're happy today?'and his reply would be a fervent 'Yes, I am and why not? I am blessed with work."

'What a wonderful story!' thought me to myself. 'You don't hear many people expressing that sentiment do you? That's great. I'm totally taking that attitude from now on,' the earnest and optimistic me declared to my own self last week.

Last week was obviously a very long time ago, as today was somehow, well, different. Today I spent much of the day at work involuntarily making a huffing noise like a deflating balloon.

At recess I caught sight of a Mark Twain quote on Facebook. (Well, it could've been worse. It could have been another effin' tea towel telling me how to live my life.) I dug it so largely that I printed it out and stuck it to my notice board. The quote was this:

'Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowline. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.'

The quote refreshed like a crisp glass of inspiration, for a minute or two. But then I choked on it. It stuck in my craw before sinking to the pit of my guts, bringing forth a long slow deflation.

Blessed with work? Pah!
Today I wasn't feeling it.
Today I huffed, bitterly batting at the dream of setting sail, while I finished the photocopying.