I don’t want to forget

 

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I couldn’t even find a tea cosy for the picture! I guess tea cosies are out.

Once upon a time I remember crying to my mother over the phone, ‘We are so poor that I can’t even buy a tea cosy.’

This was back in the time when Moz and I were both at university, and we had two small children to clothe and feed and put through school. Moz would work on the weekends to bring in extra cash, and we were supported through the whole journey by generous souls and by the delivery of bread. (For those of you who don’t know, the small bakers down this way get rid of their leftover bread at the end of the day by giving it to charities who then distribute to those in need, which at the time was us.)

But we didn’t have a lot of extra cash. There was no going out to dinner, or buying new clothes, or finding a nice nicknack that I wanted and just buying it. We could do all those things, sure, but we had to plan and save to do them and I would get so sick of having to keep a close eye on the money all the time.

We weren’t poor.

There are literally billions of people in the world who would have thought our house was a mansion, and we had cars to drive, and we were never hungry.

But we weren’t wealthy either. At least not in first-world terms.

Now things have changed. We have had a few years on two full-time incomes. We have a house that I actually enjoy living in, and if I ever wanted to buy a tea cosy I could just get into my car and head into town and find one. Though I find that now I can buy a tea cosy, I don’t want one anymore. Isn’t that just life?

We are not rich, at least not by some standards, but we have reached our version of ‘enough’ and we are incredibly comfortable.

But I don’t want to forget what it was like to be living on government benefits, drawing up budgets that had to pass muster with both the government and the school so we could get a bursary. I don’t want to forget what it was like to always be dressed in second-hand clothes that didn’t quite fit and so to feel a little below par every time I stepped out the door. I don’t want to forget that it was cheaper to buy processed food and to eat bread and that eating healthy meals was difficult to afford.

I also don’t want to forget what it was like to be time-poor.

I can have a cup of coffee whenever I feel like it now. I usually drink them while they are still hot. If I don’t, it is because I have got totally wrapped up in whatever project I am focusing on.

Back when the kids were small, hot cups of coffee were not standard fare. Luke-warm, I-had-to-put-this-down-to-tend-to-the-kids-and-then-forgot-about-it cups of tea or coffee were more the norm.

I didn’t get to sleep through the night. I would nap on the couch while the kids were watching TV. If napping with one eye open is really napping.

It was nothing special, just life with two preschool kids. A lot of people have a much harder time if they have more kids, or kids with disabilities or their own health issues they are trying to manage while looking after kids.

But I don’t want to forget how hard it was for me with my children and lose touch with that time in my life now that I can have a hot coffee whenever I want to.

I read a lot of blogs and they are often full of advice:

Ten things you should do each morning that will rejuvenate your life! (How about if your mornings are spent flat-out looking after children and making lunches and there is no way you could have a chance to drink a full glass of water and stretch for twenty minutes?)

Rejuvenate your health by eating fresh fish and wonderful exotic vegetables! (How about if dinner tonight is eggs on toast with plenty of toast to fill up hungry bellies and let’s not go overboard on the eggs because we can’t afford it?)

How to accomplish more in thirty days than most people do in 365! (But what if you’re so unwell that even taking a shower is too much effort for today?)

I know these blogs mean well, but sometimes it can feel overwhelming. There are so many tricks and tips for success, and in some seasons of our lives we just can’t put them into practice. Sometimes I feel like the people who have reached ‘success’ have forgotten exactly what the journey was like as they were trying to climb that mountain.

So if you’re the kind of person who gets stressed reading these things as you try to put them all into practice, today I want to say, relax.

Just relax.

You are doing the best you can at the moment you are in with the struggles you are dealing with. God sees it. You don’t have to be more than you are. And even if you’re taking incrementally small steps towards your individual goal, those tiny little steps are worth a whole heap. And I hope and pray that someday you’ll be in a position to remember what life is like now, and remembering, help others out who will be in that very same place.

I hope I do that for you.

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Introvert weekend

This weekend just gone I had an excellent adventure.

My adventure I had came about because of the adventures my husband and son are having. Moz (the husband) has taken off to Fiji with a group of 11 students and 3 teachers (himself included) for a two-week adventure. They have taken medical and school supplies and are travelling all over Fiji by plane, boat, and truck, to deliver said supplies. They are also doing presentations at schools and churches and Moz may be even giving a sermon.

Both our kids have taken this trip in previous years and I’m very excited that Moz could go. It’s really a fantastic thing to do, and the kids got such a lot out of it. It was life-changing for both of them, I think. And I’m sure it will be rejuvenating for Moz.

Moz left on Thursday morning at stupid o’clock and I had to take him to the airport. We had to be there at 430 am. We made it by 445am but no harm was done. After waiting for them to check in their baggage and waving the team through the security I turned my head for home and tried to convince my body that it was still night time and I could sleep some more. I managed a bit of a nap and then got up and started the day again, heading off to work. At the end of the work day I drove home, gulped down some take-away, swapped my beautiful mini for a civic that was full of computer gear, and headed off again. This was because of my son’s adventure.

Caleb (the son) was leading on a camp. It’s a computer camp run by Scripture Union. The kids that come along are all gamers and the camp involves a lot of sitting around the tables racing each other or doing other computer game type things. I don’t know – I’m not a gamer! But I do know that they also pull the kids away from the computers (“Come outside! The graphics are awesome!”) and much fun is had with engineering challenges, deep conversations, and other camp stuff.

Usually Moz would go with Caleb and would take a car-load of computers and gear down to the campsite. But Moz was in Fiji by the time the camp started so I took the gear down instead. It made for a long day on Thursday – both ends of the day taken up with drives and not much sleep. I travelled the same highway in the dark both times. But I made it through and back home without any misadventure.

So both boys were gone, and with Jess (the daughter) on her four-year-long adventure in Canberra getting a teaching degree, that left me at home alone for the weekend.

It was wonderful to be alone for that stretch of time. I went for walks, long lonely walks along beaches and cliffs. I baked a rhubarb and apple crumble (but I didn’t eat it all). I headed to a cafe and had a yummy cake and coffee (that was after one of the long walks so I didn’t feel too guilty). I made myself a fire each night. I watched the Swiss murder mystery show on Netflix that I seem to have got addicted to. I listened to classical music and to pop music and to no music at all. I did some housework and washing. I read a whole book from start to finish and finished off another couple of books that I was part-way through. I did not look at social media at all.

Most of the weekend was reading, actually. I decided not to do much book writing but just to read and write in my journal what I was thinking about. I had such long stretches to think. It was luxurious.

I feel so refreshed now that I’m back at work. It was a glorious weekend. An adventure at home in comfort and warmth in the arms of a book. My kind of adventure.

Does my weekend sound at all adventurous to you?

Or is adventure the wrong word?

What kind of adventures do you enjoy?

No Bridezilla here

DH has spent most of today washing, cleaning, and polishing my little Mini (Verdi) and his bigger Audi (Wombat) to within an inch of their lives. You see, tomorrow we are going to be the wedding cars for our friends’ wedding and we are pretty excited. Yes, the bride is going to try to squeeze her beautiful gown into the Mini. We’ll put all the bridesmaids into Wombat. Then after the service the bride and groom will travel in Wombat and we’ll work out the rest later. As my lovely MIL says ‘We’ll come to that bridge when we cross it.’

A couple of weeks ago there was another wedding in our church. Both the brides (tomorrow’s and last fortnight’s) have known each other since they were tiny (if not since birth) and have grown up together in the church. Both met their men around the same time and both decided to get married at approximately the same time.

This could have been a recipe for disaster, but it wasn’t. The two brides have worked together on timing – making sure one is back from her honeymoon before the other has her wedding. Making sure the first wedding was first because the second bride is moving to Western Australia immediately after her wedding.

They are bridesmaids for each other and I heard Bride no. 1 talk about how she was going to look out especially for Bride no. 2 this week and give her extra support. Bride no. 2 has talked about how grateful she is to have been part of a wedding already and therefore she knows what sort of timing things need – things like hair and makeup, for example.

They are mature enough to have their weddings reflect their own unique personalities without even the slightest hint of competition with each other. Bride no. 1 has had a bridal shower tea with gifts of kitchenware and this awesome game where we had six pots of different kinds of tea and we had to guess which tea was what. Bride no. 2 had a bridal shower picnic in the Botanic Gardens where she wore a veil and sash and we gave her photos and written memories so that she didn’t have to pack boxes of stuff into the ute that’s taking her to WA. Both brides were delighted with the parties (except for the part where the attention was placed on them).

These two lovely humble women are starting their married lives in what I consider the right way. The weddings are a reflection of who they (and their grooms) are, not a competition as to who can make the day the flashiest. They are still doing the dress, the flowers, the service and the reception, the cake, the speeches and the dancing, but they are doing it their own way as a celebration, and as part of a community, and it’s something I enter into wholeheartedly.

So I pray for them, long life and happiness. I pray that they can face the challenges of life with a commitment to their other half that goes way beyond signing a piece of paper. I pray that their wedding day will be a milestone in a journey that lasts the rest of their lives. And I thank God for the example of selfless celebration that these two brides are.Wedding cars

Micromanaging

You know the situation. There’s a job that needs doing. You have a picture in your head about how it should be done but you don’t want to do it yourself. So you give it to someone else and they do it ALL WRONG.

This is what happened to me yesterday. I’ll tell you the story.

I am a member of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute. The RACI is 100 years old this year so we’re trying to do all kinds of interesting things to celebrate and our Chair has come up with a great idea – 100 reactions in 100 days (here’s our first one: RACI 100 Reactions in 100 Days #1). The idea is that we (we being chemists all over Australia) create small YouTube videos describing a reaction of some sort. We need 100 of these videos so we are reaching out to all sorts of people to have a go. Starting with us here in Tasmania, and that means me.

Now, DS has made some really fun YouTube videos on a whim. They are called Caleb “Cooks” and I encourage you to look them up if you want a laugh. So I said that I could provide a video and I decided that DS should be the actual person to do this.

We don’t actually have a chemistry lab in our house (though believe it or not, I know a family that does) but I knew a cool experiment that can be done with red cabbage and various household chemicals (vinegar, bicarb, dishwashing detergent – they are all chemicals). So I suggested (strongly) to DS that he do that experiment and do a video for me. He was happy to comply.

DH and I decided to go out for lunch yesterday and as we left, DS was happily story-boarding his ideas and coming up with a good video of the purple cabbage experiment. He said he’d do the recording while we were gone. I thought that was a great plan.

We had a delightful drive, a delicious seafood lunch at the Inn at Kettering overlooking the yachts in the harbour, a delightful drive back. The weather was gorgeous – sunny but not too hot. We were peaceful and in accord with one another and we felt like we’d had a micro-holiday.

When we got home the scene was slightly different: the house stank of cabbage, the kitchen looked like a bomb had hit it, there were bowls and cups everywhere and there were two more whole red cabbages being put through our Kenwood juicer (one whole cabbage having already received this harrowing treatment).

This is not what I had planned!

When I have performed this experiment I have made the purple cabbage juice by cutting up the cabbage and then pouring hot water over it. DS made the juice by using a juicer which provided a much deeper purple colour.

I would have poured some juice into a few glasses, added the different chemicals, and watched the colour change. I was actually a bit worried that DS’s juice was so strong that there wouldn’t be any colour change at all. I was concerned that he was doing it all wrong and I was severely tempted to step in and change things.

But I held back. I took my books and computer downstairs and I tried not to worry. I could hear the video being made and the first two times DS poured chemicals in to the cabbage water there was no change in colour. I got more worried. I even snuck back upstairs and peaked in through the doorway, ready to give my advice if it was needed.

But the third chemical – vinegar – did what it was supposed to do. The purple cabbage juice changed colour to become pink. I was relieved. I went back downstairs, stopped listening, and left him to it.

I haven’t seen the final video yet. I will post it when it’s done. But I had a chat to DS after he had cleaned up all of the mess in the kitchen and this is what he told me, ‘It felt a bit boring Mum. I looked for other reactions to do but they were all a bit boring too. So I made it big so that it would be more fun.’ And I’m sure it will be. It definitely looked more fun than my idea.

If I had made the video, or made the process my process, then all of the reason for asking DS to do it would have been lost. We would have lost the joy, kept it safe, and kept it boring.

By allowing him full creative control the process was messier, true, but so much more fun. And mess can be cleaned up. And yes, DS did clean the mess up, basically by himself. There are consequences to our actions and we need to deal with that.

I think sometimes we lose a lot of joy in life by trying to retain control over processes that we should leave in other people’s hands.

Take from this what you will.

Here is the link to the finished video:

Memories

I don’t have the world’s best memory. I am not one of those writers who can remember everything that happened to me through my childhood. I forget great chunks of happenings and I’m dreadful with people’s names.

I was part of  a science panel the other night on the radio and the announcer asked me why I chose chemistry. I said that I remembered my grade 12 chemistry, how much I enjoyed it, and that was the major factor in my decision – the decision that has led to my career in chemistry. So the announcer (naturally) asked what it was that I enjoyed. I couldn’t really remember. Then she asked what was the teacher’s name – the teacher that has had a major influence on my life. I couldn’t remember. I still can’t. Dreadful.

My daughter can remember details about the house her grandparents lived in when she was two years old. Actually, I remember that when she turned two I suddenly got really stressed. I was pretty sure she’d be able to remember things from then on, and I knew I wasn’t doing great at this parenting gig, and that now she’d be able to remember what I was doing. It added a whole layer of pressure! (We coped alright though, I now realise that everyone struggles with the parenting gig, I think she’s grown up to be a well-balanced and healthy young woman, and brilliant too, of course).

When the kids were younger I blamed my shonky memory on the number of things I had to keep in the front of my brain: who had eaten what and how long ago, when the sunscreen was last applied, where the socks were dumped, and where the favourite toy was last seen. There wasn’t a whole lot of room in the head for anything else.

Now I don’t have those sorts of excuses. I still have the same memory issues though.

Instead of trusting my creaky memory, I hoard. I have journals that reach back to 2010 sitting on my bookshelf in my study downstairs, and I’m hopeful that somewhere I have the journal I wrote back when we were married in 94 and the journal I remember writing in grade 10. They are important to me, though I don’t go back and look at them often, they store my memories, my feelings, my struggles and joys of the years. And I’m hoping they will be a great resource for my writing too.

My email is another place where I hoard. When the IT guy set up my new computer it took ages, simply ages, to load up properly.

‘How much saved email do you have?’ he asked.

‘Heaps.’

‘That would be it.’

It is.

Every so often, I go to the ‘sent’ folder and I copy email after email to a word document I have set up for this purpose. I’m up to 2005. Emails I set to my parents while they were in the USA. Emails to my sister when her life turned upside down. Emails to my brother, thanking him for the flowers he sent. Work emails, school emails. All of them documenting my life.

Last night I read something about ‘my rat dying on the operating table’. I had forgotten about the big biochemistry project I did that required operating on rats and changing the nitrate levels in the blood to see how that changed the blood perfusion. It’s coming back to me now but without the email record I may have never remembered.

On the subject of rats – or rather mice – there was an email about the mouse plague we had in our old house. About a mouse that dropped onto our bed in the middle of the night, ran across DH’s face and ended up in my slipper. You’d think an experience like that would stick in the brain but until I read it in the email, I had completely forgotten.

I think there are just too many memories to keep them all in the front of my brain at one time. I have forty three years of experiences. Living with them constantly would be much to great a burden to bear. I’m already absent minded enough without all those memories swirling around me. But it’s so much fun to go back through what has been written down and relive the memories just for a while.

Sometimes I would like to keep only the good memories and delete the bad ones, but that wouldn’t be my life. My life is the good memories, the bad, and the things that I can’t even remember but that have shaped me on the way through.

I read somewhere a long time ago that the most boring real person is much more interesting than the most interesting fictional character.

But don’t ask me where I read it. I can’t remember!