Saturday, June 16, 2018

Butting in

Today I had to tell my boys something important. It was important, but it bothered me saying it.  I don’t know how to explain it really,  but I felt like I was telling my own children to do something that could put them in harms way, but I couldn’t not tell them to do it.  It goes against every protective instinct I have as a mother,  but every other part of me knows it’s right. 

In a matter of just a few months, I have TWICE found myself in a public shopping centre car park, surrounded by other people, witnessing a domestic dispute between a man and a woman. 

The first I was pulling into a car park entry and thought I could hear a woman’s voice calling out.  I wound down by window but heard nothing.  I found a park and as I got out I could hear the voice again.  This time I could distinctly make out the words;

“Someone, please help me!”

I looked back to the entry to the car park and could see about a hundred metres away a white car with the drivers door open and a man blocking the door so it couldn’t be shut.  I heard the woman’s voice repeat her call for help.  I looked around and saw no fewer than a dozen people looking on, several of them men who were much larger than I am.  

Before I knew it, I was walking towards the car.  I walked past everyone watching, but didn’t really think much of it because all that was in my head was the realisation I had no idea what I was going to do when I got to the car, but I knew I had to pretend not to be scared.  

When I got closer, I could see a woman sittings in the drivers seat, looking terrified and tears covering her face.  She was trying to shut the door but whoever the man was, he was yelling at her and trying to drag her from the car.  In the back seat I spotted a toddler in their car seat. 

Once close enough I called out;

“Excuse me, are you ok? Can I help you?”

The man turned and in some colourful language told me to go away and mind my own business.  I told him this is a public car park and when I hear someone call for help, of course I’m going to see what’s going on.  

He blocked me from being able to see the woman, and again told me to leave. I took a few steps closer and told him I’m not talking to him, I was asking the woman calling for help. She was shaking and said;

“I just want him to leave me alone and let me go.”

I help up my phone and said;

“Here, let me call the police for you.”

The man again told me to leave but by now any fear had left me and I was able to tell him;

“Look, I don’t know what’s going on but I have children and there is a child in the back of that car and I’m not going anywhere. If you let her drive away, we don’t have a problem, but if you don’t back off right now I will call the police immediately.”

He leant into the car and with his face just centimetres from hers, left her with some final nasty threats and then took a step back.  I asked her again if I can call the police for her, but she declined saying she just desperately wanted to get away.  I wanted to call the police anyway, but didn’t want to violate her wishes.  This man was already doing that.  

So I stood awkwardly next to this horrible man as she reversed and drove away.  I waited til she was well and truly out of sight, then gave him one final look before turning and heading into the shops, desperately hoping he didn’t follow me.

Fast forward a few months to today, I was walking to our car with my boys after taking them to get their hair cuts.  Completely different shopping centre, but as I loaded up our boot, across from our car, I hear yelling and can see a scuffle going on between another man and woman.  

The man pushed her, and she then pushed him back.  She yelled at him;

“What are you going to do?  Hit me again? Right here?”

He shoved her and she ran around to the other side of the car and opened to the back door and 2 girls got out.  They both started crying and begging the couple to stop. The woman tried to take the girls towards the entry doors of the shop, but he grabbed them before she could leave. The yelling continued so I told my boys to get in and stay in the car.  Whilst I knew this wasn’t a good situation,  the woman didn’t seem terrified, more angry and upset.  She was still standing up to him.

By now the man had noticed I was watching him and so I took 2 steps closer and folded my arms and continued to stare (whilst feeling super awkward of course).   A few more terse words were exchanged from both parties, and then whilst he got his cigarettes out his picked, the woman hurried inside the shop and he got in the car and sped off. 

When I got in the car, the boys had lots of questions. One of the first being;

“Mum, what would you do if they started getting angry at you?”

My honest answer was that I didn’t know.  In that situation my brain doesn’t seem to think that far ahead.  Maybe I’m not good under pressure. 

As we spoke on the way home, we discussed how horrible it is to see behaviour like that, and how if people behave that way in public, it’s likely even worse at home behind closed doors. 

We then got to talking about the other experience I had had months earlier and how both times there were other people who were standing by watching. How people now seem worried about butting in to other people’s business, whether it’s out of fear, not knowing what to do, or getting their head bitten off for interfering - who knows.  They are all very possible and real reactions. It’s definitely scary involving yourself in any situation where there is violence and hostility.  

But it was at this point that I had to tell me boys;

“When you see someone in trouble, please don’t just stand by and watch it happen.  You might be just like me and not know what to do, and you will probably be scared like me, but please do something, anything to try and help.  I want you to grow up to be men who’s instinct is to help.  Don’t let being scared ever stop you from doing the right thing.”

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

An army of Cinderellas

So it’s 11:34pm and my house is quiet.  I’ve just finished some ironing and am waiting for my final load of laundry to finish so I can put it in the dryer.  

Breakfast is prepped, lunches are made for tomorrow, dishes are all washed, floors are mopped, and laundry ALMOST finished. 

I’m far from a clean freak, but I find it hard to go to bed knowing I will be waking up to chores I can see need doing straight away.  No matter how sore I am, I need to let my head hit the pillow knowing I can wake up and focus on getting ready for the day.  It’s just how I’m wired I guess.  

I remember my mum mopping floors at midnight and thinking she was a bit nuts.  As time wore on I thought she was waiting til then because the floors would dry without 7 people walking their dirty feet on them. I now realise she waited til then because she was too busy in the day.  She was holding babies, playing with toddlers, cooking meals, driving kids to after school sport, helping with homework, and reading bed time stories.  Her to-do list was long and that meant many nights of staying up past midnight just to get the house to a state to begin again the next morning.  

I get it now.  

To all the mums up getting things ready just to do it all again tomorrow....Happy Mother’s Day 😊

And to my own mum and mother-in-law, thank you for all you do for me, I love you to bits! 

Saturday, January 13, 2018

No body is perfect

For perhaps two decades now, I have heard it said that for women, your thirties are a time when you become comfortable in your own skin.  A time when you embrace those quirks and imperfections and care much less about the opinions of those who have invested very little in your life.  

Part of me agrees with this.  I am certainly at a place where I am so comfortable being me, perhaps even more so than at any other point in my life.  I am also in my thirties, so I guess if I put the two together the statement does ring true.

The other part of me believes this is the case because of the people I have chosen to surround myself with, the values and support instilled in me growing up, the love I am shown constantly by my husband, sons, and family and friends, and the challenges I have been able to experience. 

I love this place in my life because I am completely aware that social media provides a very limited snapshot into people's lives where you only see what people let you see.  For this reason, I don't post a lot of photos on my Facebook page.  If I were to post photos regularly, they would include photos of my cleaning my hair off the bathroom floor, off the bath, out of the sink, and pretty much everywhere else in the house.  It would show photos of me sweeping the floor and muttering to myself.  Me washing the dishes and then stopping mid-way and forgetting about them, leaving a sink full of dishes in stone cold water.  Me lying in bed playing solitaire when I know I should get up but am feeling lazy.  This would be the honest shots of me.  True, real, photos of me.  I am all for honesty, but this would be boring for anyone who I am friends with on social media, so instead of manufacturing glamorous, but far from genuine, photos to post on a regular basis; I just live my life and forget to post photos.  And it's actually very liberating.  I still go on Facebook daily, but I appreciate the understanding that everything I see has been carefully selected for public viewing.

Along with this I have taken greater effort in surrounding myself with people who put a bounce in my step.  People who don't make me feel like I need to tidy up my house before I would be comfortable with them coming over.  If I don't have to make "the fake house" for you, I want you in my life.  I will still apologise for the mess, but I'm ok with you seeing it because you can appreciate that I have a life, and children, and this means things get messy despite my daily tidying up.  These are the people I choose to surround myself with because they make me feel like being me isn't just "good enough", it's exactly who I should be. 

I was brought up feeling like being who you are shouldn't feel like hard work.  We should always strive to try and improve in areas that we want to improve, but there was also that acceptance that no one is perfect and the acknowledgment and acceptance of flaws is realistic and perfectly ok. I was never told by my parents that I should "watch my weight" or "exercise more" or anything like that.  I was already aware of what the world deemed a "good body" by the time I was 11, but I didn't feel the pressure to try and become that.  I have never been on a diet.  
I have also found a man who tells me every single day that I am beautiful.  It doesn’t matter if I am in my pj’s or dressed in my Sunday best, he sees beauty in me and he tells me so.  

For these reasons and many more, I am l am comfortable in my own skin.  My physical body is far from perfect, but boy am I proud of what it has achieved.  It has endured great pain, it has been broken over and over and it manages to repair itself the best it can, it has grown two human beings and then was cut open to bring them into my arms, and it continues to function every day despite the pain.  Some days it functions better than others, but I am proud of my body because it works hard and has given me this life that I am so thankful for.

Enough with all the body hate and shame - I don’t have a perfect body at all, but I am proud.  I am proud to be who I am.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Fickle and proud of it

Sometimes Anthony makes me cranky.  He leaves socks about our room and forgets to put them in the wash basket.  He snores ridiculously loud.  He can't multitask for the life of him, so I often end up talking to myself thinking he is listening, completely forgetting he can't read and listen at the same time.....unlike his talented, multitasking wife.
But these things are very easy to forget.  It's easy because he has made me so happy the last 14 years I have known him.

I was watching a cheesy love story type of movie a few weeks ago on an iPad while I cooked dinner.  It was one of those "love-at-first-sight" movies where their eyes met they both knew they wanted to be together.  The kind of movie I scoff at but sort of love all the same.

I scoff because I have never bought into the whole "love-at-first-sight" thing.  It seems completely fickle to me, thinking you love someone based upon appearance without truly getting to know that individual.  How can you love a person without actually knowing them.

I sat today in church watching Anthony.  He was up on the stand helping run the meeting while I was with our boys.  It reminded me of nearly 14 years ago when I first moved to Sydney and Anthony had just moved back to Sydney after 2 years in Brisbane.  Aside from my own immediate family, everyone around me was a stranger. As we went to church that Sunday, I knew no one, but I quickly noticed, sitting on the stand, a young man who caught my attention.  Within a few minutes of watching him, I could sense his quiet dignity.  I was drawn to him from the get go.  I hadn't even heard him speak a word, but I had already decided I liked him.   Of course I didn't admit this to anyone because I knew it made me sound like a big Ol' floozy!

Before I ever laid eyes on my two baby boys, I loved them.  I loved them for months before they took their first breaths.  There is a bond there that is so strong, we were linked for life without so much as a touch of the hand.

So as I sat in church today watching my Anthony, I realised I have felt some form of "love-at-first-sight".  I sat with contentment knowing I'm very lucky. I have felt it 3 times over and it might make me fickle or cheesy,  but I'm all good with that.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Cracking it

Anthony and I come from big families. I loved growing up in a big family and even though we were both provided with all we needed, part of being in a big family often means it's more challenging to spoil your children.  There is just less to go around and more people to divide everything amongst.

Having only two children, I am conscious of not wanting to spoil our boys.  You don't need a lot to spoil only two children.  There is this weird balance of loving to seeing them enjoy life and getting to experience things they love but also not wanting them to take for granted the things we are blessed to be able to provide them with.

One of our ways of approaching this was getting our boys their pamphlet delivery job young so they learn to earn money through work.  We were reluctant to pay them for doing everyday chores (like making their beds or cleaning their rooms) because they too live in our house and should be helping care for our house too.  We signed them up for a little job that we help with, and at first they enjoyed it, but it has been 2 years and the novelty has definitely worn off.  We have discussed it and decided we don't want them to quit though because they enjoy having their own spending money, and also because we want them to learn that work is a part of life.  

The problem is they haven't yet learnt that complaining isn't a part of being a good worker.  Most adults know that complaining about going to work is fine, complaining to family and friends about your job is even okay, but spending every moment at work whining is a sure-fire way to get fired!  Tony and Carter haven't figured this out yet.  I tried to teach them this by telling them if you complain at work, you get fired and get no money, so if they complain they would lost their pay, but still have to complete their job.  This KIND OF worked, but also made them resent their job.

Instead, trying to have a more positive attitude about their job seemed like a good path.  The whole setting-a-good-example path.  

Today was a delivery day and I took Tony with me to deliver the catalogues as Tarts and Anthony were a bit under the weather.  From the moment we left the house, Tony was complaining.   We got about a third of the way in and he had complained non-stop, despite me telling him to stop, that it was annoying, and to just get over it.

Finally, I cracked it!

In the middle of the street, I marched across the road, snatched the bag out his hand and told him to just walk to the car because I was over it and was taking him home because I would rather do the whole job myself than deal with an hour of whining and moaning.

Despite him telling me how much he didn't want to be working, as soon as I told him I am sending him home, Tony tells me he wants to do the job.  This is how kids work, they push and push and then you crack it and tell you they WANT to do they very thing they have been saying they don't want to do.  IT IS INSANE.

We get in the car and Tony insists he wants to finish his job. a moment I am not proud of, I lost it!  I pulled the car over in a most dramatic fashion and ranted and raved for a good 3 minutes (even though Tony will tell you it felt like much longer).  I didn't swear (we aren't a swearing family), but I did use a word that Tony said he has never heard me say before and for which I apologised after.  I went on and on about how I was trying to be positive but he was being such a misery guts and it was making the whole thing miserable for me.

After realising his mother was a lunatic, Tony wisened up and told me he was willing to change his attitude and he wanted to stay and finish his job.

So we played a game while we worked and the next hour was fun.

As we got in the car to go home, I did what all parents do and pointed out how my crazy had a purpose.  Actually, I apologised for losing it and then said;

"So Tony, can you see that after you decided to change your attitude, the work we had to do stayed the same, the bags were just as heavy, we had to walk just as far, but it was better.  The only thing that changed and made it more pleasant was your attitude.  Changing your attitude about things can change the whole experience."

I thought it was a good lesson.  But in hindsight, I missed the part of the lesson that was meant for me.  Tony did change his attitude, but I also made an effort to make it more fun and came up with a simple game to play as we walked.  I needed to change my attitude too.

As we drove home, Tony patted my hand and said;

"Don't worry, I won't tell anyone you said a bad word.  Some things just aren't necessary to tell everyone."

I did tell him however, that we as parents make mistakes all the time and although I regret my behaviour, I want to show our boys we can move on from mistakes and won't hide them.

I'm fairly certain that moment of my bad behaviour will be stored up and used against me at some point in the future though.


Friday, April 7, 2017

Boring...but so happy to be boring

Thirty two years old! I remember my Mum turning thirty well and I would have been about Carter's age, which weirds me out a bit but there it is.

I like where I am so far I my thirties though. It's a place I can only describe as content.  It's not perfect, and there is still lots of room for improvement, but I'm ok with that right now, hence the contentment.  

One of my greatest self discoveries in life has been that you can be happy in almost any situation. That happy isn't always joyful, singing from the rooftops - that would be annoying! But there is a kind of quiet inner happiness I have found that everything will be alright.....somehow, and to try and choose happiness in the mean time.  
And that it what I feel right now.  

I know I have the gift of being loved.  I have my darling husband, my boys, and my family who love me.  
Anthony has loved me for thirteen years now.  I knew he loved me then, but boy do I know he loves me now!  It's that fierce kind of love that I know he truly knows my heart and I know my heart is safe with him.  He drives me nuts at times and I'm proud to say I give as good as I get, but even the crazy is livable.

I also have the gift of having people to love.  I love having 'my people'.  I must admit that my social circle has shrunk somewhat of late with the changes my health, and just life in general, has brought.  It hasn't changed my feelings towards these people, just that for now it's hard to do the 'have to's'  at times let alone the 'want to's'.  I'm ok with this for now though because how things are now might not always be this way, and I want to be happy in the now. 

I find a lot of satisfaction is the quiet life I have had served to me on a platter with my back pain and epilepsy.  I actual am reveling in it.  I knew I was on the quiet side, but at thirty two I now realise I am an introvert.  No, not a shut-it, but a genuine introvert.  I don't gain energy from socialising in a busy way, even if I enjoy myself socially.  I can be out and have a great time, but have this innate need to come home and tuck myself away for a bit because I feel drained and recharge when I am in my home - nice and quiet.   I always just thought I got tired easily, but the more mature me has seen something new.  I feel excited by a quiet schedule with lots of time to just quietly 'be' and think.  It's not boring to me, it's fulfilling.  I especially enjoy hanging out with friends just one-on-one.  Getting to just have a simple chat and a good laugh is one of my favourite things - particularly when food is involved!

So thirty two year old me is still the same old Jo, just a version that knows myself better and is happier for it.  I guess you can say I am all grown up now 😉

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Crime Scene

As I have mentioned in the past, one of Carter's struggles is his fine motor skills.  I know many children enjoy drawing and colouring in, but due to it being so difficult for Carter, it has been something he has avoided.  He has a lot of other interests, but this is one area that I feel he is missing out.  For this reason, I encourage him to draw pretty much whatever he wants just because I am so thrilled to see him drawing.

Yesterday we went to church.  The first hour consists of families all together with classes specifically for children later on.  During this first hour, we encourage our boys to listen or do a quiet activity such as reading or drawing.  Carter usually opts for just listening or reading books about flags while Tony reads or draws.

Yesterday was different though.

For about 15 minutes Carter was intently focussed on a drawing.  He sat there quietly drawing, except for one moment where he asked me how to spell 'Neville Chamberlain'.  When he was finally finished he proudly showed me what he had drawn.  Needless to say I was surprised.

Our exchange went like this: 
Me: "Wow Carter - what a cool picture.  What is it?"
Carter: "It's a crime scene Mum.  The guy here (pointing to the upper left) shot the lady with  a gun,  He has a bag pipe in his mouth because he is pretending to be Scottish when he is really American so the police wont catch him."
Me: "Ok, I see.  What is the red?"
Carter; "That's all the blood Mum.  See there is no blood on her face though -  that is so the detectives can ID the body."
Me: "Right.  That makes sense.  So why does it say Neville Chamberlain up the top here?"
Carter; "Because he is the Chief of Police Mum.  He was the British Prime Minister in World War Two until Winston Churchill took over so I made him the Chief of Police instead."
Me"Well that is a very interesting picture Carter."

Yes, I was impressed at the effort he went to, but seriously, a blood covered crime scene?  During church?? 
Love my Tarts!!!