Saturday, 18 January 2014

Why did Sam fall off the bike?

Yesterday morning my 6 year old daughter and I headed off together on a bike ride.  My husband got me a new bike seat and new bike tyre tubes for my poor old bike which had been left to rot under the house since having children, and he 'restored' it (the gears are still stuck in one place but never mind) for my Christmas present.  Bike riding is the only form of exercise I have ever enjoyed so I was pretty excited. 

Since Christmas I have been riding down to our letterbox, about 1 kilometre, and back every few mornings rediscovering my love of bike riding.  The breeze, the freedom, the physical challenge, the practical aspect of getting somewhere quicker than walking and the knowledge that my heart, lungs and leg muscles are enjoying themselves too.  I'm slowly building up the courage to go further up the laneway but I'm a bit scared of being run over, anyway I digress.

Yesterday Sage woke up just as I was heading off on my ride and she wanted to come. There was a slight breeze, the tree of abundance at our back door was flowering, the birds were singing and as we were riding along I was daydreaming about how perfect this scenario was.  If I could whistle I would have been whistling a happy tune.

Oh yeah, why did Sam fall of his bike? .... Because Sam was a fish :-)

Sage got ahead of me, beating Mum at everything seems important at the moment, and as I looked up I saw her falling quickly, then her head went 'doink' on the metal grid, she cried loudly and hysterically.

I rode more quickly towards her, trying to stay calm, her head just hit a grid, with nothing breaking her fall, I knew that would really hurt.  We left the bikes, I carried her home, there was a massive lump on her head in seconds and there was a slight cut.  Oh and she was still crying very loudly and hysterically.  As we walked inside I looked again at our flowering tree of abundance and thought how quickly situations can change.

After a few hot weeks of school holidays, basically being confined to the air-conditioned part of the house, I was really starting to feel like my children were the most ungrateful, wild, whingy whiny, painful creatures and I was the crankiest, most awful, fun-less mother to ever exist.  So this bike ride represented a change in attitude, a new approach, an uplifting of our spirits, bonding, a commitment to enjoying the remaining week or so of holidays and then came the 'doink', the ice, the cuddles and the Panadol.

I don't know about you but I often put so much pressure on certain events, activities or occasions that it is impossible for them to live up to my expectations.  I am getting better, once upon a time I might have been quietly cranky that an accident ruined my perfect moment in time, I would have repressed these emotions because they were irrational and awful, but they were real.  Highly strung you might say.

The longer I live the more flexible and fluid with the flow of life I am becoming.   The truth is there is hardly anything in life I can really control, when I let go of my tight grip often far more extraordinary things happen.  It is a constant process of prayer and enlightenment for me to give myself over to the flow of life, and I regress often.  I quietly and repetitively mumble to myself “Those who flow as life flows know they need no other force,” by Laozi, this tends to help.

Anyway, my big brave girl recovered from her fall quickly, the ice meant the wound on her head went down surprisingly quickly.  It meant I got to sit and cuddle and comfort her for a long time, which was actually really lovely.  The next morning she came riding with me again, without incident, and it was very beautiful and enjoyable.

I'm not sure there is a morale to this story, except life is happening every day, no matter if it is the way we expected or wanted, and there is beauty to be found in lots of situations.

There is a dead goanna under my step and it stinks

The goanna had been peacefully patrolling our yard faithfully all summer long, keeping away brown snakes whilst not being a threat to us at all.  Sadly we have a not so intelligent Labrador, Minnie Mae, who thought the goanna was a threat to us, so when it ventured under the house Minnie Mae protected us by killing this unknown intruder.  I was very upset that the useful goanna had been killed by the useless dog but such is life.  Now the poor dead goanna is so full of maggots its skin is crawling ... too much information sorry, it is really gross?

Anyway, for some reason this poor goanna has made me think of what I will be like when I am old.  No matter how useful and peaceful I am now, I will get old, and eventually suffer the same fate as the goanna, hopefully in a grave not under a step.  The Bible says "The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty ... they are soon gone, and we fly away."  Life is precious because it comes to an end, I really do want to make the most of it, right to the very end.

In my various roles in the field of Community Development, and as a member of a number of organisations over the years, I have had the pleasure of spending time with a broad cross section of the community.  I have met many elderly people who continue to contribute and inspire no matter how old they get, they have enhanced my life and I love each one of them dearly.  I also have an amazing Nan, she turns 93 soon, she is generous and graceful and kind and every time I see her I leave feeling happy.  So I am blessed to have many elderly role models.

Alternatively I have met many elderly who are bad tempered, threatened by youth, stand in the way of change and generally annoy and alienate most people.  The ones that make you silently groan inside when you see them coming towards you.  The same can be said of any age group really, but for some reason the difference between the two groups seems to be accentuated with age. 

Recently two people in Roma have turned 104, they are still pretty spritely too and they continue to amaze and inspire their whole community.  They have both said that getting plenty of sleep,  eating lots of healthy food and being true to yourself and following your dreams is the secret to their longevity.  There has to be some truth in that. 

Some other words of wisdom from elderly people I have found online are:
  • Look in your back pocket. If you're lucky you'll find some money. If you're more lucky you'll find a note from your girl that says 'I love you'.
  • Don't cook bacon in the nude
  • The grass is always greener over the septic tank
Dr Ye Li of California University is Riverside said "The findings of a recent study confirm that although brains slow down with age, experience and acquired knowledge from a lifetime offset the declining ability to learn new information".  Wisdom really does come with age.

We live in a country with a growing elderly population, if we are lucky we will get to be old people one day too, so planning for and considering what we will be like in old age isn't really all that silly.   Again the Bible says "So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day," 2 Corinthians 4:16.  There is hope and purpose even in old age.

I do pray I can be a helpful, kind and inspiring older person, making a positive contribution to my family and community right up until I take my last breath, just like our poor goanna!  If you know me when I am old and I am being obstinate and cranky please remind me of this goanna story :-)

Are there any elderly people in your life that continue to inspire and encourage you?  What sort of older person do you think you will be?

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Identity theft

In 2007 the Justine Miller, or Justine Brotherton, that had existed for the previous 30 years some how disappeared, in an instant my identity changed, how I felt about myself changed, my purpose for living changed and the things about myself that I considered important changed.  It was nobody's fault, I became a Mum, and after a long, emotionally draining IVF struggle, as I held that little pink bundle in my arms I promised myself and God that I would love this person with all my strength, every day of my life.

"Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of light" James 1:17.  I see both our children as perfect gifts from God, I see my Heavenly Father in their sleeping faces, I hear Him in their laugh, I see His goodness in their kindness and capacity to love, and mostly I feel undeserving of such gifts, I look at them and wonder why I got so lucky.  Subconsciously I feel how I love my children is a direct reflection on how I love God.  If I don't love them enough it means I am not grateful for the gift God gave me and I am letting Him down.  In my conscious mind I  know this is not true, but I have basically devoted the past 6 years of my life completely to the well-being of our children. I wanted to be the best Mum I could be (P.S. I still do not know what this means).

I do not want to interfere with the wonderful human beings the girls have been created to be, but I know they still need guidance and look to us as their parents to decipher wrong from right.  I have attended parenting workshops, read books, blogs and articles on the importance of play, attachment, early brain development, nutrition, spiritual growth etc. 

For six years I have played, listened, sung, photographed, documented, danced, created, painted, moulded, anything that helps them to express themselves, explore their creativity and develop skills.  We have gone to swimming, gymnastics, dancing, speech therapy,to ensure they get enough stimulation.  We bought 60 acres so they could explore and be free and let their minds expand and not be limited by fences or walls and so they would be physically active.  They ride motorbikes and horses, pushbikes and sometimes help drive the car or tractor.  Fun yes but exhausting, occasionally I get in the car and just drive off and for 20 minutes pretend I am free from the responsibility of caring and guiding them.  I feel perpetually guilty that I am messing them up, they seem so wild and free and out of control sometimes, actually most of the time.

Now, for the first time in six years, with the girls going to Kindergarten and School, I have to let go of my identity solely revolving around their fulltime care.  I will let go of their sweet little hands as they walk through the gates of their prospective schools and I will be left wondering 'what now'.  I will have 5 days a fortnight to explore what it is I want to do, but what the flip is it I want to do!!!! Emily Freeman in her book "A Million Little Ways" says 'Do you desperately fear you have nothing to offer the world but secretly hope you're wrong"?  Ummm, YES. 

As the years pass by and the girls become increasingly independent there will be more time for me to do the things I love, pursuing what I am passionate about.  I get heart palpitations just thinking out it, a mixture of excitement and fear.  Adele Basheer says "The best thing about starting at the beginning is you can only go forward", so this will be my mantra for a little while.

I know I will never regret my choice to spend so much time with the girls when they were small, and every moment spent with them is a blessing to be enjoyed and cherished, but I also have to give myself permission to live my own individual dreams now too :-)

“The more we let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become - because He made us. He invented us. He invented all the different people that you and I were intended to be. . .It is when I turn to Christ, when I give up myself to His personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own.” C.J. Lewis 

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Let It Be in Twenty Fourteen

As the  festive season came to an end, and I was faced with the reality of the year ahead, I felt a little hesitant. The temperatures are over 40 degrees, there has been no decent rain for months, it is hot and windy, dry and dusty, there are already a pile of bills to pay, farmers all around us are gripped in drought, I am stuck inside with two small children trying to stay cool (they have squeaky little voices, they are always hungry and they make masses of mess EVERYWHERE) and after we sat down and wrote our goals for the year ahead I was exhausted and overwhelmed.  I bemoaned to a friend "I don't know if I'm looking forward to another year exactly the same as last year, how boring".

Then it all changed, I opened my "Arrow Bone Marrow Transplant Foundation" newsletter and read about how Allan Frenkel underwent treatment for Acute Lymphatic Leukaemia at 18 years old and how the Walk 4 Whit team participated in the City2Surf in memory of Whitney Lane who passed away last year aged 19 years.  Now I am praying I have a year exactly the same as last year.

I pray my children continue to grow and learn, to be happy and safe and to be free and spirited.  I pray my husband and I continue to be fit and healthy so we can keep working hard to build our dream and  laugh and live side by side and take time to enjoy all the special moments shared while we have a young family.  I pray I get to keep talking and laughing with my sister and friends and that I keep growing and learning.  I pray I have a spiritual and creative year ahead.  I want to be softer and kinder to myself and others and now I am excited.

This quick and significant change in my attitude made me realise how easy it is to become a spoilt little toad when we have so much.  I have so much of everything; love, food, freedom, time and I still want more of everything, something.  I had the hide to say that another perfectly peaceful and happy year would be boring.  I kind of want to slap myself.

My theme song for the year is "Let It Be" by the Beatles, every time I try to plan years into the future, or fret about money I am going to sing this song and hopefully relax.  For as long as I can remember I have wanted to see how the future will turn out, this has never happened, but so far each time I get to the future it has been more amazing than I could of ever dreamed possible.  I need to trust this will continue to be the case.

We watched a movie about magicians the other night and they said the closer you look the less you will see!  I think this is true of life, when I look too closely at things, overanalyse thoughts or ideas, think too long about small decisions, try and micromanage each day and force decisions and outcomes, give myself nightmares over things that might not ever happen, then I become blind to the beauty and the gifts right in front of me.

After all the Bible says "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths" Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV.  I'm going to Let It Be and not keep such a tight grip on this life which is fragile and precious, and see how it all works out :-)  Happy New Year!!