Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Ponderings (Part II)

I always like blogs that are honest. So here is the honest truth about my home today.
Here they are, two of my blessings. The sick one home from school and our baby and the lounge which never looks tidy no matter how much I fiddle with it. Weird guy on tv from Animal Planet channel.
Marcus and Knuckles chilling out. Maia is holed up somewhere else in the house, home to help out his Mama with the boys today. He's a chip of his fathers block when it comes to helpfulness.
My corner of the lounge features:
a nebuliser for sick boy
pacifiers and baby bottle
basket of baby toys
laptop and phone (for contact with outside world of course)
cushion to support my back
Another corner features three overflowing baskets of clothes waiting for someone who cares enough to fold them.
Another basket of vitals: remotes, kids books, cellphone, inhalers, spit up cloth, bibs, computer cables. Such is my glamorous life right now.
The little boys room.
The kitchen sink, literally covered with evidence that we do eat ... peanut butter sandwiches and baby rice.
Marcus made his own juice again and left powder all over the bench again. There's crumbs from last weekends baking in those plastic containers and loads more crap over the only other bench top in the kitchen.
Yes, I need a shower and to change these clothes. The baby is cleaner than I am ... only just.
His highness Knuckles.It's grey outside and cold. I am looking forward to our church life group tonight and talking to other adults. My contribution ... hot chips from the fish and chip shop.

Pondering (Part I) ...

The thing is ... when I am not happy about things, my very being refuses to settle until I have resolved it ... whatever 'it' might mean. 'It' can be someone in my world who upsets me, a situation, a circumstance, a decision, choices, changes, ... you know what I mean.

So somehow after a few (read 'many many') days and some sleepless nights, I am starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel. And it isn't another train.

Now these ponderings of mine probably mean nothing to anybody else but me, I find writing helpful.

Did you know it's ok to feel hurt, sad, angry, miserable, depressed, grumpy, bored, hungry, unsettled, directionless, tired, unmotivated, shitty even! Don't need to feel guilty or bad about it because it's all completely normal. And while it isn't a good idea to build a life around one's emotions, it isn't the end of the world when things are awful or hard or complicated.

I am watching friends I love slowly unravel in front of me. My unasked for opinion for this couple is that they have been meeting their needs (one more than the other I suspect) everywhere but in their relationship. Career, business, interests ... and now they are parting.

I like what Jesus said, "Love God, love others". It's selfless this way of loving. Yet in doing this, I believe we actually find our needs to belong, be loved and accepted, nurtured, desired, purposeful and involved in important things get met. Well, that's my understanding anyway.

In my own life, I know I have been trying to make myself feel important through my art work, because lets face it, everyone loves being caught being clever. I love being good at something.
Um, plus I actually do love making stuff.

And I am good at some things. I get feed back that I am a good friend, I am a good mum and wife, I am a good Christian.

Being an at-home mum can be tedious, humdrum and unrewarding a lot of the time. Nobody pays me and rarely are we acknowledged. Who would stay in any other kind of job if that were the case? Would you go to work if you weren't paid and people didn't notice what you did?

So what to do about it? I have been angsting about this out loud and in private for so long now, I've turned into a bit of a misery-guts to those around me. I have also figured I don't flow from one place to another in my life, rather its clunky like changing gears without pushing the clutch in.

Anyway, I have decided to stop looking for my value through my art. Really. And that frees me up to just make art for the pure joy of making stuff. It's why I love art's sister, crafting because it has lots of wonderful purposes and processes - getting stuff, making stuff, sharing stuff, giving stuff, learning stuff, admiring stuff. I realise its why the whole art school venture sucked (along with unhelpful tutors and ridiculous processes, grrrrrr).

It's like going to something that is empty and expecting it to fill me up. Ridiculous.

Meeting my needs will come when I get my head on straight about what is truly important to me and my reason for being alive. The heart of things that matter to Rachelle. And how to integrate that with my reality.

So I am excited because I feel like I am on the cusp of figuring out my dilemna ... read back posts to get the low down. (haha, low)

I just want to say I don't feel hopeless. This is how I get when things aren't working for me. I know I will work through it and be alright but it's always messy even if it is just in my head.

Prayer, talking with my husband, going to church to hear loving and positive messages about life, talking with friends who are well-journeyed, reading, and pondering are my well-worn tools in my toolkit.

Meeting my needs is not the purpose of my life, but in meeting others needs, my needs are inadvertently met - how's that for contrary thinking and yet it's perfectly logical to me. Logic I love and yet lose sight of until the next time I find my world closing in and becoming small and unhappy.

Loving God. Well lots of people don't even like God, church or anything to do with Him. I do. It's ironic how politically incorrect it is to be married and be a Christian. Talk about radical. But it's good for me. I am a nicer, kinder, gentler, more loving woman living a life consciously with God. Not perfect. Not better than others. But I LIKE ME like this.

Loving God. It's an interesting sentence. Not just a sentiment or an emotion. More like an active desire to intimately know God's character, to be so close I can know His heart and live my life in response to what I believe.

In amidst all of this is my purpose. My sense of meaning. It's where I find peace. It would be nice if I knew how all the bits fit together, but that's my journey I guess.

I love being at home with the kids. If you could see my home right now you would see a sticky bench covered in dishes and leftovers drying on breadplates, toys all over the place, beds unmade, the tv's going (best intentions aside, I cannot amuse three boys 24/7 without help!), I need a shower and change of clothes having fallen asleep on the couch the last few nights (Rich comes and sleeps on the other couch to keep me company) because I fall asleep between duties and stay awake pondering my 'mum-ness and wife-ness' (and Facebook has a little something to do with it while we are being honest, haha). In spite of all of this and the neverending needs my family have, I love it. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. And although my kids don't thank me for taking care of them, don't notice that we go without so they can have things, am constantly tired and yet feel like I get nothing done, I wouldn't be anywhere else. I belong here. This is me. My life.

I found a great blog written by a bunch of Christian mum's. Pleasantly surprised and even relieved to see such good practical advice motivated by a desire to bring value to what we do as mums. Not fruity or irrelevant like some Christian stuff can be, just good old down to earth ideas about running a home. More importantly, running a home WITH A GREAT ATTITUDE. Just what I needed. It's called beautiful work (click to go see http://beautifulwork.wordpress.com/ ). Below, I have shamelessly lifted an excerpt.

So for installment No. 1 here are some super-practical ways you can love and take care of yourself. After all, as my hubby says: “If mama ain’t happy- ain’t nobody happy.” :-)
Set a basket next to your favorite chair with your bible, notebook, pen, glasses, current novel, iPod, etc. Make it as easy as possible for you to take some time for yourself each day-put it all in one place!
In effort to keep within our budget, if I’m the only one that likes a certain item it simply doesn’t get bought. So we’ve started keeping one figure friendly snack in the house that’s just reserved just for me. But remember, keep it stowed away or be ready to share!
Treat yourself to a date. A cheap date. Hit up coffee or frozen yogurt. Do it alone, with your spouse, or a good friend.
Give yourself a pedicure. It’s time well spent, and money well saved!! What woman doesn’t like seeing pretty feet when she looks down!??
Make time to exercise! You’ll feel better, look better, and have way more energy than the days you don’t.
Find a hobby if you don’t have one already. Sewing, cooking, hiking, reading, puzzles, games, scrap booking, crafts, collages, design, biking, painting, writing…we’re all gifted in different ways- so share your talents with others if you can!

Can you see why I like it? Like everything, there's a couple of things that don't fit me, but overall I feel like I stumbled upon a bit of a lifesaver with this one. It's my cup of tea actually. Right down to how to build a satisfying marriage, having a good attitude towards my husband and be a blessing (not a burden) because let's face it, my husband is really really important to me. Not my everything, but pretty darn close. How to clean a house and do a satisfying job with it. Cooking nice meals. It looks appealing which is what tired-ole me needs. Something to motivate me apart from my emotions. Just the idea of setting up a nice space for myself and filling it with stuff I love is kinda motivating once my sick kid returns to school.

On ending this increduously long post, I have reflected on three sayings I have found unhelpful (and can you tell that I've heard them more than once):

"You think too much."

Should I think too little or not at all? Given that I value living a meaningful life and care about others, I think my thinking is just about right. Muddled sometimes, yes, but never too much.

"Get over it."

If I knew what was bothering me, and I knew how to make it better, then I wouldn't be here would I!? There is too much assumption in this piece of advice.

"You talk too much"

Yes I talk a lot. That's what I do. Part of what makes me special and valuable at times to different people. Not always helpful or even particularly interesting, but not a crime either.

These words spoken into my life have often left me feeling insecure, unlikeable and inadequate. And do you know what? They are unhelpful lies. I have no idea why we humans do this to each other. Hurtful words that can burrow deep and cause so insecurities to grow. Know what? I forgive and I am happy to say that I feel more whole for it. I am ok, just the way I am.

Well that's todays ramble. How was your day?

Monday, May 18, 2009

I need a Personal Assistant

... preferably older than 5 months please. Anyone interested?
Yes I do, I just figured it out. Someone who can enable me to run in my strengths by taking care of tedious details like budgets, housework, and time management while I focus on taking care of people and making life interesting and meaningful all round. Anyone know where I can pick up one of these?
Someone who loves cooking, homemaking, organising and bustling about in an important and cheerful manner while everyone comes and goes. Who can make everyone feel important, is never grumpy, always positive speaking and doesn't wake up tired. Someone who loves to exercise and understands rugby (for Marcus, age 6), never complains, is always motivated and focused.

Can that person also be 'green-minded', educate us so we don't feel bad that we are killing the planet and each other with non-organic foodstuffs. Someone who will let me climb hills with my kids, comb the beaches for treasures, break all the conventional rules about bedtimes and meal times for kids, and look the other way as I spend a whole day stitching a piece for arts sake with no rhyme or reason.

Someone to be my cheerleader so I can cheer on my lot. Someone to remind me that I am doing a great job and inspire me to greater heights. To tell me that holding the baby so he can sleep for an hour is worthy of that hour, that the couch is an ok space to spend a day or three, that I am allowed occasionally to buy clothes for me and get my hair done and not feel guilty even though everybody else needs things too, always.

Hey, to be fair, Rich is definitely a lot of these things. He never complains (I mean ever!), he doesn't criticise (ever!), he does housework and cooking and a million other things that I don't even ask for. He has a real servant heart my man. He's cool about my art and crafts, about how I spend my time with the kids and the fact that our home looks like a home and not a museum. I would be devastated if he spoke to me like others do to their at-home partners. Not once has he ever complained (and yet I bet he has had plenty that he could criticise if that was his nature). he doesn't control my spending (although this may not always be a good idea) and he is happy when I am happy. He frets when I'm low. It bothers him now to see me like this.

Our combined weakness is the organisational things ... budgeting, organising events and time management. We puddle along, but that position is vacant if you are interested? Pay: none. Perks: a fantastic family. Hours: 24-7, vacation when we vacation.
It's very likely why we don't own our own home, we spent our twenties trying to figure out how to stay married and like ourselves, our thirties on how to raise kids and stay married, and the rest just blurred in the background. I know there are people out there who know right off the bat who they are and what they will do with their lives. We just kinda made it up as we went along and still do. I am so thankful to my parents who stood by us during these years and even still. To our friends who believed in us when we didn't even believe in ourselves.

This baby thing has me living day by day. And now with a sick big kid and my husband travelling away to work, a new church to integrate into and a lack of time/headspace to develop new art works, it's not hard to see why I can easily dissolve into a form of 'blankland'.

Still, I am in a good place to have nothing crowding me, nothing expected of me, nothing pressuring me and pushing me to conform. I love that part of now. It's peaceful to only have to answer to myself, Rich and my kids. My body is recovered in general and I am walking again. The Clever Crafting Project is going off.

Talk about yo-yo - random energy, fits and spurts of vision, long days of nothing but childcare, feeling tired but loving that baby when he smiles at me (it's so worth it, it really is), spiritual highs and lows.

Yeah right. I suppose I could obsess about my weaknesses, beat myself up for not being perfect or just carry right on doing the best I can each day, mistakes and weaknesses and all. If God wants to send me an answer to a prayer I don't even know how to utter, then that would be great. Perhaps a secret angel, or an answer through some kind Samaritan. Come on you mum's out there. Let me know how you do everything and not fall apart. I am keeping it simple so I don't get grumpy at my family but if there is a way to get more in there, I'm all ears.

In the meantime, I am going to be holding this little guy close to my heart and practicing patience and goodness and gentleness and kindness and love and joy and self control to my bestest ability.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sweet babies and the truth about being a mum at home ...

It ain't all roses you know. There are these moments (the one's I live for) ...

Baby and I atop Mt Victoria

My honey and I

Maia and lil' Richie
A red mohawk and skull rockstar jeans for Marcus
(what else is does a crafty mum's son wear to school?)

It doesn't take long. Our wee baby "Knuckles" isn't so wee anymore. I am completely distracted with him and his brothers, and his busy dad. My art work is on hold and athough I get the occasional urge to create, I'm unable to completely give myself to it. I have been teaching myself to knit but even that requires a level of expertise I don't have. I did finish a hat for my baby the other day, it's not this one (this is a converted felted jersey sleeve that friend Cleo made for him). I have taught myself knitting on a circular needle and only had to undo it a few zillion times to get the right size (grrr, suppose thats what all the hooha is about knitting a gauge swatch to start with). Wish I had a live-in knitter to guide me through the long hours of being a mum at home with a baby. It does get lonely sometimes, I miss my mum and husband most. On days like today though, when its stormy, raining, thunder rolls ... then home is where I want to be.

My sweet boy at 5 months

This newborn photo is 5 months old. I adore his little hand knitted hat and blanket, all from the op shop for about $1.20! So many reasons why I love secondhand gear.
Ok, so tell the truth. I love crafting, making cool stuff, designing, hanging out with artists, even participating in the odd exhibition, being around other textile artists, op-shopping, kidding myself that I want to live a more thoughtful lifestyle but ... reality kicks in when I (meaning myself) am a full-time at home mother. I am lucky if I get a shower and change of clothes, if the baby gets a bath once a week, if we make it to our monthly payday without running out of money, if the washing gets done, some days I am ahead just getting out of bed and onto the couch in the lounge. I am not depressed but there is a sense of purposelessness .... yeah, yeah, I know ... kids are my life blah blah. Of course I love my family, I would throw myself in front of a truck for them if it came to it. But there is this lethargy I fight, especially if I don't have an appointment of some sort for the day. I can't be bothered going to all those playgroups, I don't want to do coffee with friends all the time (although for crafting purposes I am always available). I need a purpose to my days again. I have a love/hate relationship with my home, I love being here but hate housework. I spend most of my time missing Rich when he's not here. Being a parent is hard work even with a partner. We see each other finally at the end of the night when the kids are in bed and everything is done, but by then it's late and not exactly a great time for talking. Everything is an effort. Being at home has this effect on me. Kinda draining and like swimming in molasses (golden syrup for us kiwi's). And then there are all my good intentions. Like The Clever Crafting Project. I had so many ideas but feel very blessed that at least our get togethers are generating enthusiasm and a warm sense of community among those who attend. Our 'free' table has lots of free goodies every month, we are seeing lots of new people and those who've been are returning (a sign of success), and the atmosphere is friendly and welcoming and exciting as we are create, inspire and encourage one another.Another good intention made good included teaching some children to knit, albeit on a smaller scale. Here are my good friend Chrissies daughters Zoe and Shalom. I didn't factor in that teaching knitting would be a slow process thinking that a few quick demos and we'd all be chatting and knitting happily. However they made great progress, got to use some of the rather large stash of wool donated happily from friend Betty-Anne. The girls got started on their first project - a scarf for winter. I thought I was going to have a tea party (talk about ambitious but I love to make an occasion out of anything) but fish and chips had to suffice. I felt pretty good when they wrapped their bits around their necks. They were proud as punch when they got home. I figured out later that I actually need to teach mums and then they can teach their kids (or at least knit alongside). So Chris, this is your early warning that you and I are going to refresh those knitting skills.

The Clever Crafting Project grows.

One of my goals was to use crafting to bring people together just like in the good old days when people belonged to a community that cared. It's great for making new friends (read: networking) and building support systems.
As a counsellor (albeit a slightly rusty one) I am always aware of how little support our modern society provides. We have to pay for someone to care and listen for an hour, bring in the specialists when our kids are struggling, have rising mental health issues as a nation (who hasn't struggled with depression and anxiety of some form or a rather). I like to think that being together, caring, laughing, talking, sharing, and making are a nice way to make people feel good, cared for and clever! A fence at the top of the cliff rather than an ambulance at the bottom to a nation who feels like I do sometimes ... isolated, lonely, uninspired, etc. I belong to a church community and in the past it has offered all of the above for me at different times. It takes time (and courage) to build meaningful relationships. Still I like it. I guess other people find their focus and sense of belonging in sports teams, other interest groups, their careers, their hobbies, Friday nights on the town etc.
Blogland has become another way of connecting me to the world, especially when the chips have been down. I have met some amazing people here. India (Prophet of Bloom), Nina (Ornamental), and Robyn (Art Propelled) are three that immediately come to mind along with Melissa (Tiny Happy) and Amanda (Soulemama) who are inspirational as mums, women and makers.

I shamelessly lifted the saying below from Robyn's blog. Frustrated that I feel like I am wasting my life away, yet knowing I don't want to be anywhere else because Rich and I are committed (willingly) to raising our kids ourselves especially during these early years. Unmotivated but not regretful. I am happy here I just wish I knew how to do it better. Lots of time to reflect, too much maybe. I hate this uncertain feeling, like being unravelled. How do all those women get so motivated at home? Is there a secret? Cause home is where I want to be ... do you have any ideas? Can anyone relate?

"I think every artist is more or less a recluse of some sort, secretly waiting for those moments when he will be alone with his art, searching, looking into the depths of himself. I guess the idea is never to stop discovering new hidden paths inside us." - Thinker

The idea that excites me the most is that perhaps my life is like a book and this is just another page turning with different adventures awaiting overleaf. Patience has never been my best asset. And those moments with my precious baby are pretty special. I know God ultimately has it in hand, just sometimes I would like more foresight and not so much hindsight! Sigh.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

winter time for this mama...

I forget i can post without pictures. just pictures say so much without words and make it look better me thinks. so here i am. finally baby-free, child-free and it's only 11.25pm so i can make a wee deposit here because i haven't been here for awhile.

just a quick look-see to check emails and make sure i haven't missed anything major (which i did anyway). i am just not attracted to sitting at the computer: 1) because it hurts my back, and 2) i have so much running through my head these days that i hesitate to express because it's probably incoherent anyway.

Still ... lots of lovely things happening here.

I am walking again and no longer a prisoner to constant pain. Wow, was that an experience and now when people tell me they are not well ... i REALLY listen because being in pain and not being mobile really effected my quality of life. I couldn't hold my new babe Knuckles, couldn't pick him up when he cried, couldn't take myself to the bathroom, needed help to dress, shower and just to stand up made me cry out in pain. I felt guilty as I watched my husband labour with our family and home, plus try and hold down his job. I swore I would do things differently when I got better. Physio did wonders as did some scans and xrays which helped pinpoint the issues. So now I listen when someone tells me they are unwell, and I feel for them and I ask 'can I be of any help?' Because people helped us. Some brought meals, some just listened, some came and crafted, some rang, emailed and visited.

The last year was one big challenge and i have emerged a different person. An unexpected pregnancy, a new beautiful baby boy, surgery, pre and post partum complications, the end of my art studies, the end of our time with our old church, the beginning of a new church, a wonderful interlude with my mum, new friends, lots of crafting. So what's changed ... I have. I don't sweat the small stuff anymore, it just ain't worth it. Dramas are exhausting, I can't be bothered. Not when there are real things to be gotten on with. People with real issues needing help. Rich and I are solid these days after this last year. It was hard but not impossible.

My baby Knuckles, he sure is beautiful. Big and beautiful. Such a lovely smiley boy, responsive, and laughs and squeals - just a joy to behold. Sleeps through the night (seriously, it's our six year old that won't go to bed) and is uncomplicated by day. He's all smiles, lovely fat cheeks, warm and delicious smelling after his bath. He cries now if he see's someone walk away, he loves to talk and play.

Rich finally returned to work after weeks of caring for me. It was hard. I missed him. My best friend. We squabble over the little things but in the big things we are one. He turned 40 on Monday. He is amazing my husband. He NEVER complains and NEVER criticises anyone. I cannot in all honesty recollect him whinging or gossiping. His heart is good. I am blessed.

My big boys are enjoying new adventures that involve flying west during the school holidays to Brisbane with their Nan. With my heart in my throat I release my two treasures to fly miles away from me yet knowing that great fun awaits them with our family in Australia. They plead with me to put the phone to their baby brothers mouth just so they can hear him breathe into the phone. They head for him as soon as they are home. He is theirs - this baby of ours.

And I am finding pleasure slowly in this quieter life of mine. Time to pray, to reflect, to meditate and mull over things, to knit and make, to play with my little treasure Knuckles, to catch moments with girlfriends and enjoy the peace and warmth of my home. It didn't happen over night but it did happen. A steady acceptance of where I am and the ability to start to appreciate it's richness. Confident that I am where I am meant to be and doing what I am meant to be doing. Purposefully approaching each day with an open heart and willingness to be available where possible. Thankful that my husband releases me to do this.

Our craft group "The Clever Crafting Project" has taken off. I do believe we will have a full house at Aunt Daisy's next Wednesday. Cleo and I are chuffed. It wasn't hard because so many wonderful people are making it a success. The atmosphere is warm and friendly, we have lots of FREE STUFF, Aunt Daisy's is a wonderful venue and we truly are connecting together a wonderful collection of makers - our very own craft community. As well, there have been spontaneous get togethers throughout the last month at peoples homes. How clever. I can't wait for next weeks group. Come along, bring a friend. You don't even have to craft. Just come meet some neat people and have a coffe / exotic tea blend or a glass of wine.

I can't wait to post some photos. They will have to wait. It is time consuming and I want to go to bed before midnight. Not bad ... it is 11.52pm.

Ahipara Girl

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?

~ Mary Oliver, The Summer Day