Unravelled

My return to work date for my second stint of maternity leave came and went like an offramp on a freeway. I glanced at it and kept driving, there was zero interest in stopping. I’d taken twelve months off but knew it wasn’t long enough. I was in a good routine at home, I had found time to let my writing breathe again and with my eldest in a standard kindy program I wasn’t prepared to let go of the last six months of weekday freedom we’d have before embarking on the thirteen year journey that is the education system. I needed more time. 

When I think back to returning to work after my first son, he was two at the time, I was eager to start something new. We’d been living on the coast for a year after moving from Melbourne, my husband had finished rehab and we were starting to put some roots down. I was excited about the possibilities of the next chapter. I knew it would be challenging but like any road you’ve never travelled, preparation only covers so many bases. Before I jumped back into full time work I’d learned to prioritise my own needs. I was doing yoga four times a week. I was reading a lot; I was writing more. I’d managed to find space for myself. Space to focus on what I needed, do the things that lit me up inside. I was grounded, the balance imperative. But that untraversed road taught me one major thing, how easily habits unravel if you don’t focus on them.

Work started at a relaxed pace. Baker was only in care part time because Carl was studying. Day care drop off and pick up were not my sole responsibility, I could stay back at work if I needed. Life was more structured but still moving slower, we found our groove. Then, like a punch in the face, we discovered how hard it is being full time working parents with a child in care. I was dragging him out of bed each morning to be out the door before seven. I’d play with him at daycare for a little while before heading to work because it was the only quality time we got together during the week. We’d get home after six each night and it would be a mad rush for dinner and bed. We didn’t stop, eat slowly and casually discuss our day. We would hurry, aware of the time every minute from when we walked in the door. I remember one night we sat and watched a movie when we got home and as I lay on the floor with him snuggled under my arm, I watched the arms of the clock tick closer and closer to bedtime and I didn’t move. I didn’t usher him into the shower. I didn’t force him into his pj’s. We just lay there, being still, together. It was an inch of balance in a mile of rushed days and it felt so good.

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The long days began to take their toll. By Thursday of each week he’d be asking to stay home. He was tired, emotional and would ask for me constantly. Sit with me Mama, lay with me Mama, I want you Mama. But it wasn’t just Baker struggling. I was too. Everything started to crumble. Meditation and yoga had gone out of the window, writing was non existent. Going back to work had been purely to get back on our feet after the life implosion. A financial decision that began to eclipse my personal needs and passions. I felt like I was drowning in a bathtub. Shallow enough to stand but I couldn’t get my footing. Mothers do this every single day of the week, why couldn’t I handle it? I ended up seeing an acupuncturist and after disclosing a little about my situation and what the previous few years had looked like, the treatment began. In a gentle voice he told me it’s okay not to be the warrior all the time. In here, you don’t have to be strong. Lying on the table, needles in my face, the weeping began. My breathing went from broken crying to long, slow breaths. It was as if he had just released the pressure valve. For the first time since rejoining the rat race, my mind was quiet. Silent. Still.

A moment of honest reflection came one particular day at work when a senior male, sensing I was struggling, told me that I was showing my son what I was capable of, that I could do it all. His ignorance was in equal parts appalling and comical. The reality was I didn’t need to be a full time working mother to show my son what I’m capable of. If there is any lesson I want to teach him it’s self awareness. To be connected enough to know when something feels off and your path needs correcting. To know your boundaries and to know when you’ve overcommitted. To dictate your own life needs based on what matters to you and you only.

 
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Still on maternity leave for a second year, trepidation is all that fills me when I spend too long thinking about returning to work.  With a second child in the mix it seems destined for anxiety induced weeks on end of chasing my tail and living on a rigid schedule and I’m not up for it. It was only when I read The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck and Mark Manson posed the question, ‘what are you willing to struggle for’ rather than ‘what do you want in life’ that put it all into perspective. I’m willing to have less financial security, to rarely treat myself, to live in a smaller house, to not go on fancy holidays, to live a minimal life. In a nutshell, I’m willing to go without to afford myself the luxury to write. The luxury to spend as much time with my kids as I can. I want a life that let’s us explore our possibilities as a family with as little pressure as possible, to do it our own way. Or as Brené Brown puts it, I want to brave the wilderness. 


In case you haven’t been asked in a while, what do you want?

 
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OPEN LETTER

To my son Baker, 

Daddy and I met when we were 19 through a girl I met in a lift. A chance encounter, the universe doing its thing. From the first time we met, it was magnetic. I felt it. He felt it. We were both seeing other people. It would only be a few years later that our time would come. He came to celebrate my 22nd birthday; both of us now single. We spent a few weeks chatting and then had our first date, movie night at home. He never left. We fell madly in love. It was like we'd been together in a past life and picked up right where we left off. We moved fast, but it always felt right. Not rushed. Just two souls meant to be together. 

We were as thick as thieves, always together, rarely apart. We just got each other. Everything was better when we were together. He calmed me. He was my yin. The safest place on Earth was wrapped up in his arms. I knew one day he would be my husband. I could feel it in my bones. When we stood at that altar and said our vows in front of our family nearly six years later, my commitment was unwavering. For better or for worse. When I thought of worse, I always thought of health. Cancer. Something life-threatening. Something I couldn't fix. What I never thought of was addiction. I never once thought that would be our worse. That became our reality around the time you were born, I just didn’t find out about it until after your first birthday. 

From the time you were conceived to when we found out you were inside my belly, instability hit our world. Redundancy, tough house sale, Daddy was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. We decided to stop trying for a baby. Everything felt so out of control. But you, our baby boy, you had other ideas. You knew before we did how much we needed you. Daddy was struggling with the job loss and diabetes. He was hurting, more than I realised. Six weeks before you were born it got worse. Daddy was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. The exact thing everyone had told us to be thankful for not having earlier that year. As it turns out, the original doctor was wrong. From that day forward, Daddy would need to inject his own insulin to stay alive. It rocked us. He’d had a tough year and that diagnosis pushed him over the edge.

The storm raged, and into it you were born. Daddy unraveled. I couldn’t catch him. I tried, desperately, but that following year became hell on Earth. He became despondent, withdrawn. He lost more weight. He looked sick, really sick. I watched the man I married disappear in front of my eyes. My heart ached, physically. His eyes grew grey. There was no life in them. Its as if he died but his body was still walking around. I mourned the loss of him every day. Consumed with anguish, I would always tell him that I wanted my husband back. 

I lost count of the nights I spent standing over your cot watching you sleep. Filled with anxiety, fear and despair, wondering if you would ever know your father as the man I fell in love with. How desperately I wanted you to but the reality felt more like I was going to have to tell you about who he was. That you wouldn’t experience him the way I had. You wouldn’t know the joy he could bring. The calm he created. The instant warmth you felt in his presence. He was kind, generous and charming. Loyal to his friends, dedicated to his family. People were drawn to him.    

Its as if he was showing me his cards one at a time. I couldn’t help him when I didn’t know what was going on. The day he showed me his full hand, changed our lives forever. We were on the phone and he told me he’d been using ice everyday, for over a year. In that single moment, our world crumbled. Tears falling from my exhausted eyes, my legs gave way underneath me. I watched you play on the carpet and my heart broke a thousand times. Like your innocence had just been ripped from you. For a year I thought it was the diabetes, him not taking his insulin, fatal sugar levels seeing him hospitalized for a week. But after that phone call, all the missing pieces of the puzzle fell into place. Everything finally made sense.

I couldn’t live through another day of the instability. The fighting. The hours spent awake at night wondering where he was and when he was coming home. To know that you deserved more than this, that we deserved more than this, I couldn’t sit idly by and watch him fall further down the rabbit hole. There was only one option. I packed up our home with the help of family and friends and gave your Daddy a choice. He could either follow us interstate and go into long-term rehabilitation with our complete support, or divorce. The boundaries had to be firm. His life was on the line. 

We boarded our flight to our new home on February 25th, 2015, you tucked up on my lap. I stared out the window as the wheels lifted, slowly closing my eyes. I didn’t want you to see me cry. Silently I shed tears. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I didn’t know if our marriage had just ended. I didn’t know if that was the last time we would be a family. I didn’t know if we would see your father again, alive. All I had was my faith knowing that I was making the best decision for both you and I. We needed a place of refuge. Somewhere we could start a new life, a place I had the space to heal and put myself back together. Nanna and Pa welcomed us with open arms. To this day, it was the best decision I ever made.  

It took six weeks for Daddy to arrive but the morning I got confirmation he’d boarded the plane, I sat on the bathroom floor and wept. You were sound asleep, none the wiser what that day would mean in our lives. It’s been one thing I’ve constantly been thankful for during this journey, how young you are. You will never remember what happened. My prayers were that your Daddy would get better, accept the help he needed and heal his broken body and mind. That he would be better by the time you had your first memories of him. 

I was always scared that if Daddy couldn’t get better that you would grow up thinking you weren’t enough. You didn’t mean enough for him to get clean. But you were his driving force. Even in the first few days of recovery when he was in detox and I couldn’t speak to him, the nurses said he was focusing on you to get him through. Daddy described detox as the worst 7 days of his life. He cried himself to sleep every night, amongst the screams and pain of other addicts trying to face their demons. You were his light, my innocent boy. You. 

I knew the day I took him from detox to rehab would be the hardest of my life. The anxiety sat in the pit of my stomach from the time I woke. Daddy begged me not to take him. Not to leave him at rehab. He was a broken man. An emotional wreck in a ravaged body; unstable and unable to cope with his feelings. It was a vision I never thought I would see. Of course I wanted to take him home but he needed professional, round-the-clock help. I repeated his options to him, treatment or divorce.

Rehab took all the tenacity and courage we had. It was the time that would either make or break us. All the lies, deception, hurt, we couldn’t hide from it anymore. We had to face it and decide if we could work through it. When I was at my lowest you were my reason to get up in the morning. To keep fighting, keep pushing, to just hold on a little longer. I wanted to make you proud. That you would grow up to know me as someone who fought for you. Fought for a better life. That we wouldn’t settle for anything less that we both deserved. I wanted you to know that I fought for our family with every morsel of my being. I fought for your Daddy because he was worth it and as it turns out, he fought his demons for us. 

Sitting on the other side, I’ve looked back and wondered what our lives would have been like if that one thing never happened, if Daddy hadn’t become an addict. I don’t have the answer for that but what I do know is this. We discovered ourselves through his addiction. It made us better humans. It made us stronger. It made us the parents we now are to you. It put us on a new path that feels more like home than anywhere we’ve ever been before. It hasn’t defined our lives in a negative way. The cracks his addiction made in our world let a new light in. A light that shone in places we didn’t know existed. That fills the deepest parts of our souls. I wouldn’t take back the last few years for anything. As hard as it has been, I found a person inside myself I never knew before. I found a level of resilience I didn’t know I had. Daddy’s addiction gave us a chance to start again. To build and live a life we didn’t have the chance or vision to live before. We are both better humans for having gone through it. 

Addiction is a shame minefield. It might be easier to pretend it didn’t happen, to keep it a secret. You are so young you would never remember anyway. But this, this is our story. This is our life. This is our truth. This is the truth of so many families out there, struggling every day through what we have. And for those people, we need to be a voice, a story of triumph, a glimmer of hope in a tunnel devoid of light. Not all addiction stories end like ours has. But it is possible and that is worth its weight in gold. 

The grey of Daddy’s eyes has disappeared and its been replaced with calm. Eyes that see a new future, bright and hopeful, one where life’s possibilities are infinite. Filled with a renewed sense of passion and self worth. An urge to be the best father and husband he can be. This will be a life long journey, something Daddy will never completely recover from. But for today, he is 266 days clean and I couldn’t be prouder. 

I realise now you were heaven sent. Given to me exactly when I needed you. You were my savior. Without you, I would have been broken beyond repair. Daddy says I saved his life. You, baby boy, saved mine. Together, we saved each other.

If there is one piece of advice I can give you, my son, it’s that no one is perfect. Not even your parents. 

Mama x 

 

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Images by Lemonade Lane

thankful

When I first started working at Sportsgirl HQ aged 22, I didn’t expect to meet the women who would become my tribe. I had a circle of friends already and you know what it’s like at that age, you think you’re set. Those friends will be your friends until you die. But like much of my younger years, I was a little naïve and my true friends were mostly yet to come.

I’ve always found the fashion industry a little sceney (is that even a word?) and I’m not that type of person. I’m not into the bullshit, the façade, the acceptance based on clothing label stuff. I tried to fit in, do things that would have me accepted but as time passed I met people who were like me. Women I clicked with naturally. Who also weren’t into the scene, who loved fashion but weren’t exclusionary. It was in my first year at Sportsgirl that I met Annie. You know the type of person that just radiates a magical type of energy? As if they have a beacon of light illuminating the space around them? That’s her. She is best described as the love child of Mother Teresa and Ozzy Osborne. Heart of saint, mouth of a sailor. 

She was always happy to have a chat, genuinely interested in the conversation. Someone over time I could confide in if things in the office were doing my head in. She had worked there for quite a while so helped me work out whom I could count on. I remember the first night we were out together. It was the first end of season party I had been to. It was themed and I was a little nervous. It was the first real social outing I’d had with work colleagues. I think I was nervous because a lot of the office had their little cliques, I wasn’t part of one and whilst I could chat to a few girls comfortably, I wouldn’t say I walked into the office each day knowing who my group was. Annie treated me like I was her friend, included me during the night, made me feel like I belonged. Perhaps she could sense my angst or perhaps that was just her. Thinking back, it was probably the latter. Carl came to pick me up so she walked me to the car and farewelled me with a hug and kiss like we were going to be friends forever. She lent down at the drivers side window to talk to Carl, whom she’d never met and the first thing to come out of her mouth was “I don’t think your seat is back far enough” in a full wog accent. Carl comes from a Spanish background, he looks like he just got off the boat (not smuggler boat, big boat that people used to immigrate on back in the day) and he drove a commodore at the time. We both laughed. To this day that is still how he remembers her.

Our relationship really developed from that night. I’d sit on the floor by her desk and chat about anything and everything. We’d poke fun at the IT guy Ramon who forever fell asleep at his desk in his glass office. One thing I could always count on with Annie was laughter. She is hilarious. Not in a trying to be funny way but she just is. Half the LOLs just come from her lack of filter. 

There was a café across the road from work that we would get coffee from. The guy who ran it was called Jim. He was always friendly. I went out one night to a friend’s 30th and Annie was there, with Jim. This was a new development. They looked like two school kids, madly in love. He used to write her loves notes in the lid of her coffee cups. She kept all of them. It was a true love story, with all the accompanying complications when it’s the real deal. It didn’t take long and they married. Annie didn’t just take his surname, she took his nationality on, deeming herself to now be Greek. It was her birthday in the office and at her request the cake was decorated as a Greek flag. She would have eaten dolmades for breakfast is she knew how to make them. She was nothing if not committed. Annie had a daughter and Jim had 2 children. Their blended family came together, Annie treating his kids like they were her own. They ended up having a child of their own, about twelve months before Baker arrived. Their family was growing and it was chaotic but she just revelled in it all, the more the merrier you could say. 

We’ve never had the kind of relationship where we hang out all the time, really infrequent to be honest. Once I left Sportsgirl, we still kept contact and no matter how far apart our conversations were, we always picked up right where we left off. She called me one day out of the blue, I was 7 months pregnant and she said she had all of this stuff she wouldn’t need any more if I wanted to borrow for Baker. Hell yes, I thought. We met up for coffee 6 weeks later and she screams into the carpark in her Tarago, as if she was driving a mini Cooper and jumps out making some quip about it being big enough to hold her 300 kids. She pops the boot and just starts off loading into my car, refusing to let me help in case I go into labour. Bassinet, breast pump, baby carrier, play mat… the list was endless. She was so generous but to her, that was just normal behaviour. Like all people would do the same. 

Over coffee she told me how her and Jim had a foster child with them now too. I swear I spat a little coffee out my nose. What? Don’t you already have enough on your plate, I said. With literally no care in the world she says “When you’ve got 4, you might as well have 40” and just continued on like it was no big deal. They’d provided a stable and safe home for this child who came from a very rough life. They found bringing her into their home had been really beneficial for Annie’s eldest daughter so no matter the strain it added, it helped Sarah so that’s all the mattered. Again, generous. 

When my life got really shitty the last couple of years, I got a call from Annie. It was about a year ago now. She didn’t know what was going on in my life. I’d kept it fairly quiet, not deliberately; it was just a baton down the hatches situation. It was a phone call I really needed at the time. I laughed so hard I cried. She was full of praise and encouragement. Not tip toeing around the topic. Just straight in there to find out what she could do to help. She genuinely felt bad that I’d been going through a tough time and she didn’t know. Even sent me a text following saying how bad she felt and nonchalantly asked for my address. About a week or so later I got a card in the post with a little wrapped box. Inside the box was a bottle of rescue remedy and the card read “For the really fucked days. I love you”. It made me smile so brightly. And again she reminded me of just how blessed I was to know her. 

She sends me hilarious screen shots randomly, disappears mid text conversation for days at a time, stalks people we used to work with and sends any updates she thinks I’d want to know about and is unapologetic about how much she loves The Bold and The Beautiful. She doesn’t care if what she says makes her sound cool or not, she’ll say it anyway. She would stand up for anyone, regardless of who it was against. She is generous, kind and lives her life with an incredibly open heart. She is supportive and encouraging and embodies everything it is to be selfless. She isn’t swayed by fancy things or people who go to all the best places. I would have to say, without a doubt, that she lives her life with more authenticity than anyone I know. I was in hospital last week, had my appendix removed, and as I lay in that bed an orderly walked in with a bunch of white roses. I immediately thought they were from hubby. As I inhaled the roses I pulled out the card that read “Hey Cunty Face, this will put a smile on your dial. Love ya guts, Courtney. Annie, Jim and 5 thousand kids”. Never have I received such beautiful flowers with delicate words like cunty but that is her in all her glory, the perfect combination of crass and a warm hug.

Annie, Greek goddess of love, you are an inspiring human being with a magnetic presence and I am so fucking thankful I can call you my soul sister.  You do so much for everyone else that I felt I needed to shine a spotlight on just how beautiful you are. If only the world was filled with more women like you. 

when two becomes one

I remember sitting on my sister Bree’s balcony on the Gold Coast, New Years Eve of 2012, making resolutions aloud. 1. Try to stop being so controlling (met by raised eyebrows and a cheeky smirk from Carl). 2. Sell our home. 3. Try to grow a baby. It was toasted with a Rekorderlig strawberry and lime cider, all the rage that year, and just like that, off into the universe the resolutions went. How far they would be carried, I wasn’t sure but I went to bed with more uneasiness that I would have liked. A sign of the year to come? Time would tell. 

Back to Melbourne we headed from our break on the coast and into selling our home. Offers came but they weren’t what we were hoping for. More open inspections, more cleaning than necessary, more dirty dishes stuffed in the fridge and clothes in baskets stacked in the boot of my car for the half hour time slot each Saturday morning. It became so draining. March rolled around and we were considering taking it off the market, stay put a little longer. That was until Carl called me one morning from work, I remember standing in Burke Street Mall on the steps of the GPO building with my boss, and he said “I lost my job.” Dead silence. What? I finally stammered. What do you mean? “I was made redundant.” He sounded so deflated. This job was everything to him. He had worked so hard for two years with this company in the hope of it being somewhere he could flourish, move up the ranks and spread his wings. Instead, they were clipped, with no warning and zero empathy from his boss. The word c*nt springs to mind when I think of that guy. Redundancy is part of business, I get that. But this, this was personal. He was the first to go ahead of 40 other employees who had been there less time than him and it come on the heels of him refusing to break union laws. Like I said, personal. 

By April, an offer had been put on the table that we accepted. A few hiccups and it finally went unconditional mid-May and we had 30 days to find a new home to live in. Ten days later, we found out we were pregnant. Carl needed to go get bloods done to find out his blood type as I carry a negative blood type. If he was positive, I’d need a few injections during pregnancy to avoid complications with my blood crossing the babies. His results deemed him positive but not just for blood, for diabetes. He was diagnosed with Type 2 and put on oral medication. Family kept saying we should be thankful it’s not Type 1, trying to look at the positives. I felt like the ground was moving underneath us and we just couldn’t get our footing. I was hoping that was the third. You know, everything comes in three’s? Please let that be it, I pleaded to whomever up there would listen. 

We moved into a new place, somewhere with enough room for a nursey and settled into what should be an exciting time. The one thing we both struggled with though was the diabetes. We were questioning how accurate the results were given he hadn’t been asked to fast before the test. His blood sugar level was 23. Back then, I had no idea what a normal persons would be versus a diabetic. It wasn’t his usual doctor that tested him and so he stopped taking the tablets with the plan to go and get re-tested again with my doctor. As the months wore on I started noticing changes in him. He managed to find another job but he wasn’t happy. He seemed extremely emotional and we were arguing more. Id struggle to wake him up in the mornings and he’d be up all hours of the night. No matter how many times I tried to speak to him about it, I never got anywhere. He’d agree he didn’t feel great but that was it. My instincts told me it wasn’t. Months passed and he didn’t go back to be re-tested and I was distracted with my own body as my belly grew bigger and I was preparing to become a Mother. By November, I knew something was really wrong. I could feel it in my stomach. There was this two week run where he was dropping weight like a fat person in The Biggest Loser house. He started to look sick. He was drinking copious amount of liquid. I’d wake up in the morning to find 6-8 empty 1-2 litre bottles of juice, sparkling water, milk… anything he could get his hands on. Those bottles, they were full when I’d gone to bed the night before. I didn’t tell him how worried I was but I made him an appointment with my doctor. 

A few days later I was at the doctors have my test done for gestational diabetes, ironically enough, when Carl appeared. We sat for a bit before he went in and I left for work. He called me just as I got to work to tell me what I had suspected for the past fortnight, he had Type 1 Diabetes. He was taken straight to hospital and put on insulin. I didn’t know what to tell him. I started googling to understand what this diagnosis meant. The results, they scared the life out of me. I was heavily pregnant, 7 weeks out from welcoming our son and this was the last thing we needed. I left work early, got home to find Carl sitting at the kitchen table with his insulin pens. He hated needles. Always had. We both sat together and cried. Even in that moment, we were both still completely naïve to how much this diagnosis was going to impact on our lives. Doing what I do best, I pulled myself together, grabbed the insulin pen and after some directions, injected him. This isn’t so bad, I thought to myself. I wasn’t the one with the lifetime diagnosis though. When we shared the news with our families, the responses were all very similar. They felt sorry for him, told us we could handle this. You know, all the usual stuff. It was a complete turnaround from the “Be thankful it’s not Type 1” comments we got earlier in the year.   

Overnight our lives changed. He went from living a normal life to having to inject himself 4 times a day to stay alive. It took a lot to get used to. I am pragmatic by nature. I read document after document to learn all I could about his disease. I was a walking information brochure. Ask me anything, I knew the answer. Soon enough I could spot a Hypo (blood sugar levels hitting dangerously low levels, which can result in a coma) coming a mile off. His skin colour went grey, he looked clammy and he would have the shakes. I could also tell when his sugars were high without checking his levels because he was moody, emotional, and erratic and would suffer from insomnia. The sugar high hangover from the night before would mean he was extremely hard to wake up and slept all the time. It was this never ending roller coaster of highs and lows with no happy place in between. Finally I got into a rhythm a few months after Baker arrived and started buying Diabetic Living magazine to try and ensure Carl was eating the best diet possible. We visited a dietician and she gave us guidelines by which he could eat. Every appointment, I was the one asking the questions. Carl, whilst he wasn’t silent, seemed defeated, frustrated, over it. 

His management of his diabetes was something he never got in check in that first year. It wasn’t until July, nine months post diagnosis, we went to see his Endocrinologist. She was a no bullshit kind of woman, the kind I love. She wasn’t going to baby him. She was there to help but she gave him the home truths he needed. Turns out he was supposed to have been seeing her regularly for the last 9 months. The fear was all over my face. She knew I was scared of losing my husband. I thought after that meeting things would change. And they did, just not for the better. 

I was running out of options. He wasn’t getting the message about how dire neglect of his disease can be. He didn’t think he’d die. He didn’t think about long term effects, losing eyesight, losing feet, kidney failure resulting in being put on dialysis… He was in complete denial. I found a support group in our area and asked if we could go. He agreed. I thought perhaps speaking to people living with it may help him. I knew speaking with partners of people with type 1 would help me. The day came, my sister came to watch Baker and we drove to the café but that’s as far as we got. He wouldn’t get out of the car. He didn’t seem scared, it’s as if he didn’t understand the seriousness of what we were facing and how much I was hurting. How much his neglect of his diabetes was affecting Baker and I. I just didn’t know what to do anymore. All professionals told me his response was normal for someone his age diagnosed. They go through a period of rebellion, denial, harming their own bodies by not taking insulin. It didn’t make me feel any better. I just felt helpless. 

We went to Bali in August to celebrate my 30th birthday. It was the worst holiday I’ve ever had. Carl was out of control. The arguing just got worse and I found myself wondering where we had gone wrong. What had I done? Would our marriage survive this? He didn’t feel like my husband anymore. Physically, he looked nothing like his old self. His medical team even testing for terminal illness like cancer because he looked so poor. Getting back home, I was worn out. Exhausted. My entire life was consumed with trying to keep him from hurting himself, from dying. I was raising our son most of the time alone and I’d lay awake in bed at night waiting for the other shoe to drop. It all became too much. 

We had to move house and the first night in our new place, he just didn’t come home. It was the third time in three weeks. It was the final straw. The following day I packed up Baker with the help from family and got on a plane to Queensland to my parents place. I needed a safe haven. Some distance to let me figure out what was going on and what direction I would take from here. I still remember asking my sister as I stuffed clothes in a case, “What if this is the beginning of the end?” The pain in her eyes, I knew she didn’t want to answer but as always, she found words of comfort, “It doesn’t have to be”. 

As we sat on the plane, I hugged Baker extra tight, not for his benefit, but for mine. I needed him. So many thoughts ran through my head. Ones I wished never entered. I was in a dark place. As the wheels left the tarmac all I could think about was the safety waiting for us on the other end. I needed peace. I needed to build my energy back up, find some strength to keep going. Those three weeks in the sunshine filled me up with everything I needed because what was awaiting me at home, nothing could have prepared me for that.  

                                          

                                         

Images by lemonade lane

a new perspective

When we fell pregnant with Baker, the plan was that I would take maternity leave but not actually return to work until we’d finished having kids, most likely in quick succession.  I was raised like that, with my mother staying home from the time my brother was born in 1978 and not returning to the work force until I started prep in 1990. Both of my sisters have remained stay at home Mums since they welcomed their smalls into the world, with my older sister forging a career path after kids as a photographer, meaning she usually works weekends but is always there for school drop off and pick up. Being a full time stay at home Mum was all I was used to having around me so it felt quite natural. Even as I approached the end of my pregnancy I would see women strolling through the streets, baby in pram and was just filled with elation that soon, that too would be me. I was as ready as I could be to welcome my new role with open arms. 

Once Baker was born, I just loved being with him. All day, every day. Being at home felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I didn’t miss adult interaction, like id heard other Mothers tell me was a struggle for them, and I certainly didn’t miss work or the 2 hour daily commute. He was filling me up with everything I needed. I did have a few girlfriends have babies around the same time as me so we would have mid-week catch ups and my eldest sister Tahnee was in Melbourne too so her door was always open for visits. I’d also fly to the Gold Coast every 8 weeks or so to spend a week or two with my parents and other sister, Bree. We clocked up 12 flights in 12 months, including 2 international. I loved the freedom being a stay at home Mum gave me. Of course there were hard days where sleep deprivation had me all bent out of shape but mostly, I thrived in my new role. 

Before I was pregnant, I had fairly firm views on motherhood. I never understood why Mothers would return to work within the first year of their babies lives and if they didn’t need to, at all. I just thought family life ranked above career and work. Black and white, not a hint of grey in sight. Working in fashion, I crossed paths with some serious career women. Women who were in the office from 7 in the morning until 9pm at night, their work ethic was best described as relentless. I pride myself on being a strong worker. I’m dedicated to my role and what is required of me. I dislike the feeling I get when I haven’t given my all. But one firm belief I have always had is that there is a distinct difference between giving your all in what you are hired to do, and committing yourself as a slave to your employer’s unrealistic expectations of what they hired you to do. If you can’t complete your job 90% of the time in the hours you were hired to work, they are taking without giving. That is unless you’re earning $300k a year and then it’s just expected your blackberry will be stuffed in your pillowcase when you sleep. I don’t know what other industries are like but fashion, they are pretty keen on the relentless type of employee and it made me question ever returning to work in that industry post kid wrangling. 

We had a plan. What our plain didn’t account for was unexpected hurdles. And by hurdle I mean meteor size gaping hole in our life, the kind that brings you to your knees, instantaneously. It changed everything about the life we had planned to live. The way I intended to parent. Since having Baker, hubby and I had spoken about making the move to the Gold Coast. Start a new journey together in a new place. Moving is something that has never phased me. I’m good at it, really good. I’ve moved homes 17 times and this is the third state I’ve lived in. Like I said, I’m good at it. When the hurdle/meteor hit, we packed up and moved in February last year. Not as a way of running away from our problems but a way of running to our solution. The choice was perfect and it was a complete game changer for us. I remained a stay at home Mum and on and off last year I contemplated returning to work totally for financial reasons. Each time I got online to look for jobs, the core of my being was saying NO, you’re not ready. Each time, I begrudgingly listened. Then early December last year as the light at the end of our very long tunnel began to shine brighter than it had in a long time, chance had me. I was wasting time online and thought id check out the work front. A job for an iconic Australian surf retailer, the only brand I wanted to work for on the coast, had opened up. It was too junior for me but I applied anyway hoping that at least it would put me on their radar. A phone interview concluded I was too senior for the role but they would love to stay in contact if the right role came up. 3 days later they rang and said they wanted to talk to me about a role they wanted to introduce to their business that could be perfect for me. A face to face interview and I was hooked. You know that feeling when you walk into somewhere and you just know it’s where you’re meant to be? It was that all over. And it was unexpected in the sense that I always thought being at home with Baker would be my thing. A few phone calls and another interview with the GM and the job was mine.

The mixture of emotions that ensued was enough to have me making a few extra appointments to talk through this major life change with my psychologist. This wasn’t going to be a slow progression back into the workforce. It was full time hours, five days a week. It was either going to be brilliant or the stupidest idea I’d ever had. Time would tell.  I was filled with excitement but also so much anxiety about sending my little guy to day-care, something I never thought I would do. We looked at a handful of centres but one took our fancy immediately. Baker fell in love with it too and again, as the universe would have it, they had availability on the two days he would be going. We were doing what would work for our family, me taking the lead as the working parent whilst hubby alternated between study and daddy duty.  My Mum would have Baker one day a week. The one thing that settled my nerves was that Baker would still be home more than in care to begin with. It would be an incremental thing. As everything fell into place and we did orientation week at the centre, all the emotions I’d managed to keep at bay crept up on me like a food coma after a yum cha venture. I was dead in my tracks. Crippled with what I now know as the universal mind fuck that is mother’s guilt. 

I cried more in that week before I started than I had in a long time.  Was I doing the right thing? Was the timing ideal? Was this the best thing for Baker? Was this what I needed? Unlike when Google is a bad thing if you’re trying to self diagnose, it’s a wonderful thing for bringing mothers together in a forum to share how they managed that first day dropping off the little one and all that would follow. My expectation from reading was that it would be, at best, terrible. He’d cry, not want me to leave and I’d spend my first car ride on the way to my new job sobbing and rock into the office looking like I’d had an allergic reaction to shell fish. Thankfully, the reality was much different. Like the independent social butterfly that he is, he waved me goodbye without so much as an ounce of concern that I was leaving him there. Bewildered, I cruised out of the centre and drove to work, singing to every song and even fist pumping for the giant win I just had. Turns out, the fist pumping was short lived and by week two, he never wanted to go to day-care again. It made for a pretty shitty week of sleepless night where he would wake beside himself begging me not to go to work and Daddy not to go to school. Dagger to my heart. Thankfully my new bosses are brilliant. They are also both men. And they could not be more supportive of me being a working mother if they tried. Work half days from home, leave early, do whatever you need to help Baker transition. It’s only short term, we want you here for the long hall so whatever it takes, we support you. I’d hit the jackpot. By the end of week three, he’s somewhat bounced back and I’m feeling really good about the choices we have made, exhausted, but good.  

It wasn’t until right before Baker started day-care that it all made sense. I was on the phone to one of my best friends who has worked in day-care for over a decade. I was in tears this particular night, just filled with such a mixture of emotions about sending Baker into care while I tackled my new job. She was asking me about going back to work and what I was looking forward to. The truth was I was excited to make new friends, to challenge myself as a person, not as a mother or wife. Just as Courtney. The last few years I had given every inch of my soul to my son and my husband, this new chapter, this was for me, a new opportunity that I deserved. She said to me, “All those things you are talking about for yourself, that’s what you’re giving Baker by sending him to day-care. You’re giving him opportunities to make friends, to be challenged, to find his feet as an individual without you or Carl by his side.” It was the truth. And it was all I needed to regret all the judgemental thoughts I’d ever had about other mothers going back to work when they had young children. I’d been schooled and I was more than happy to admit my preconceived notions were far from on point.

It’s taken me three weeks to write this post but I’m learning it will take a while to get the full time hours, day-care routine and sleepless nights into somewhat of a routine but I’m sure when that happens, life will throw me my next challenge and I guarantee you, I won’t be ready. 

a fine line

There is much to be said about the change in society as far as food consumption goes from when I was a kid to now. I was raised in a household where take out was rare, white tiger rare. Fish and Chips were the take out but that was when $2 of chips would feed our family of 6 with leftovers. We lived on anything you could make out of mince and pasta. I hated tomatoes as a kid so pasta sauce was out too. I ate it plain with cheese, not even butter. Vomit. Anyway, I digress. Our lunchbox would always be a roll with ham and cheese, even though I hated ham (only started eating when pregnant, go figure), Mum insisted on packing it, apple or banana, muesli bar, some sort of slice/lamington/fruit cake thing and a packet of Colvan chips. The chips were as extravagant as junk food got for us. Lunch orders were a twice a year thing, if we were lucky. I understand now as a parent that we were a household surviving on a low single wage and we just couldn’t afford that, as a kid, I thought we were hard done by. 

My best friend through school was the complete opposite of me. Lunch orders were more frequent than packed lunches and her cupboards at home were packed with BBQ and Pizza Shapes, cookies and loads of the good stuff. She wanted more of what I had, I wanted more of hers. We were a match made in lunch box heaven.  The one treat we were allowed at home was lollies. Dad had a sweet tooth so would buy the Black & Gold bags of lollies, throw them in a tub and we would eat watching a movie or Hey, Hey, It’s Saturday. Of course we indulged in the obligatory milk bar run as kids with a $2 coin and come home with a truckload of sugar. That indulgence has seen me into my adult years and I would have even gone so far at one point to say that I was a lolly addict. Anyone who knows me well knows I love them and I even have specific rituals and ways of eating certain things. Raspberry twists are best slightly dry so they become chewy. Sour straps, pineapple lumps and starburst babies into fridge before eating. Actually quite a lot of lollies I think should be refrigerated first. Sour worms wrapped around liquorice bullets are the perfect mix of sour and sweet. As I said, addict. I’m in recovery now. I think it happened organically. I just got sick of eating so much crap. It didn’t feel good. I still eat lollies but a bag would last me a week, not a sitting. 

I think as I grew up I’ve had a pretty good relationship with food, naturally gravitating to a balanced way of eating, everything in moderation. I’ve dieted and restricted myself at times, which just doesn’t work for me, but never losing entire food groups. Carbs were always the devil. Now, it appears, sugar has taken over. Everywhere I look, I see the ‘I Quit Sugar’ movement. It landed on my desk, literally, years ago. Working in a fashion office, the girls tended to hop on and off bandwagons together. I tried it but just couldn’t handle that I wasn’t allowed to eat fruit. That to me is just fucking insane. I made the sugar free granola and it was so good. It also cost me $45 to make and didn’t even last a week, partially because my husband could not stop eating it. That’s not sustainable unless you’re financially loaded, which unfortunately, counts me out. It has to be said I was also still heavily in addict mode with lollies. I wasn’t ready to give them away so I’m not sure I was ever going to succeed at trying it. 

My husband was diagnosed as a Type 1 diabetic two years ago. It was a complete shock but it definitely spurred me on to not only find healthy options for him but us as a family. I became more aware of whole foods, hidden sugars and the overall effect carbohydrates have on his body. For example, we’ve always eaten grain bread. The grainier the better but through his diagnoses we found sourdough is actually the best for diabetics because of how low GI it is. Like me, he benefits from a balanced diet that it non restrictive. We are foodies. We weren’t foodies before getting together. We became them afterwards. We love good food. Not super expensive, fancy pants, tiny portion on a massive plate food, just food that is made with love. And this for me is where the conundrum comes in. We now live in a society dominated by restrictive ways of eating claiming to be the only ways to eat if we want to live long and healthy lives. Paleo, Sugar Free, Gluten Free… the list is endless. Personal ethical choices surrounding animal products aside, my question is this: Is the national nutrition board of Australia making up the healthy food pyramids as a way to actually kill the human race? I think not. 

To me, it feels like the same thing as extremists when it comes to religion. The extremists, in this case, are just radicalising food. It’s as if the modern day pioneers of these movements believe in a conspiracy theory where eating a balanced diet of all food groups is actually going to lead you to a premature death and I’m calling bullshit. The issue is that we don’t eat a healthy balanced diet combined with exercise. We eat too much processed food and are inactive. We can educate people, and from where I stand the message is slowly starting to come through in the younger generations, but I worry about raising children with restrictive eating habits simply because we as a nation seem to lack self control with junk food. 

In my household, I’m trying to lead by example. Eating sustainably is important. I only buy free range meat and eggs. Farmers markets are my choice of fresh produce shopping if I can. When it comes to snacks for Baker, I’ve found some awesome stuff in the health isle at the super market. Foodies brand is really good for easy snacks that are natural. I buy him the little bags of popcorn because they are only corn, oil and salt compared to all the added bad stuff in potato chips. I’m also lucky that he isn’t a fussy eater (yet). I’ve also been trying new recipes for sugar free snacks, like bliss balls, cookies and slice, with only one batch going in the bin so far. Quinoa has become a staple over white rice, wholemeal flour instead of white, oats for crumbing chicken, more chickpeas and beans to bulk up meals, homemade sweet potato chips instead of store bought and we don’t eat meat everyday anymore. For me, these are all eating habits that I can easily continue without compromising a food group.  I still struggle with cravings for sugar and night times are my weakness so with a little help from a friend’s fiancé, Jade Walker, she has made me up some tea blends and a powdered packet of the herb Gymnema (cannot take when breastfeeding), which is magic. It numbs the sugar receptors so after you hold it in your mouth for a minute, you literally cannot taste anything. I tested it by eating a jellybean straight after having it and it was bland. Not even a hint of sweetness. So for me, this is my go to as a way to manage my sugar intake when my self control warriors have gone on strike. What is the point of eating it if you can’t taste it?

The end goal for me is eating mostly wholefoods. Grow a vegie patch when I get a backyard. Teach Baker where his food comes from. Have some chooks one day that I can collect eggs from each morning. Continue making steps to a better way of living but my intention is never to cut any food groups out. I don’t want Baker to grow up thinking he can’t go to a birthday party and enjoy everything; that we can’t get an ice-cream after the beach because it contains sugar, that he can’t eat sushi (that he loves) because of the rice. It’s just too much, not only for him but for me too. As a parent, we are always in the line of judgement fire. I’ve even felt it before when offering a sugar free child a lolly snake after swim class. I didn’t know he was sugar free but he was looking at the snake like he might be willing to shank me for it and I wanted to make it out alive. I was told by the parent who wouldn’t even make eye contact with me “We don’t allow him sugar”. I immediately felt like I was poisoning my child. After much thought, my standpoint is this. If someone wants to judge me for giving my child sugar or grains or bread, go ahead. No skin off my five-food group-indulging nose.

 Image sourced from  nutritionaustralia.org

Image sourced from nutritionaustralia.org

friendship

I grew up in a country town, population about 25k.  Like most places, friendships were usually formed by the people you went to school with. As the town I lived in was small, I went through most of my schooling with the same people. There was an influx of new faces in high school and a place new friendships would form but your social circle, especially mine, always had people you’d been through both kindergarten and primary school with. To put it into perspective, I had about 35 students I did year 12 with. Not just in my class; that was the entire year level. 

As school ended, I packed up and moved to the city. Some friends stayed behind but eventually most moved on to new places.  I set up camp in Melbourne, the same place as some of my closest friends. Even sharing the same house at different times. Was that not the ultimate of moving out of home, so you could live with your friends? It was the party that never ended. When I think back, I don’t even know how I survived those days. Sometimes living together worked well, other times, not so much. But it was all part and parcel with growing up. Friendships were tested, some strengthened, others dissolved but my favourite part, it gave you the space to make new friends off your own back. Friendships that were not forced on you or formed simply because you ended up at the same high school together, instead it was because you bonded over mutual things as young adults, you saw things in each other you liked. 

Most of the people I grew up with all came from the same background. Working class families, no parents were divorced, catholic upbringing. It’s all I was used to.  Then I made a new best friend in Melbourne who not only introduced me to a group of friends I would spend most of my time with in those coming years, but her family welcomed me too. I think when that happens you know the friendship is solid. Her family acted as mine and made living away from most of my family much easier. She had a completely different upbringing to me. Her parents were divorced and had been since she was young, she was a devout atheist, was allowed to smoke, her parents were quite liberal. It was something so new to me. She opened my eyes a lot to new things and the big wide world that was out there. I would even say she helped me lose some of my naivety.  When I moved from the country to the city, it was so different to what I was used to but I treated it like a big country town. I spoke to anyone, said hello to people when out exercising, the reactions ranging from surprised hello’s in return to looks like I was an axe wielding psycho. She would always say to me, you speak to anyone. Don’t do that. You can’t trust everyone here. Her advice was sound. 

We were tied at the hip for nearly seven years. Through boyfriends, jobs, house moves. We were there for each other. She even introduced me to my husband. Over time, I began to feel like we were moving in different directions. At the time I felt like I outgrew her but I think she outgrew me too. The paths we were seeking were somewhat going in different directions. We were different people and instead of it being an opposites attract thing, it just became something that came between us. Finally one day, after thinking about it for a few months, I ended our friendship. I don’t think I intended to end it completely, more so just take some time away to make some other friends. As we spent all of our time together, I didn’t have time to put energy into other friendships and I wanted to give myself that space. Instead of it just being a break, it was an abrupt death of our relationship. I think we were young and being young, you don’t always know how to handle things right. Hell, even as a forty year old I’m sure there are no guarantees for having the ability to handle all delicate situations well. I knew that I did the right thing at the time, choosing to go separate ways, but what I would do differently next time is be more honest about how I really felt, accept that it was going to be uncomfortable and that I would expose myself to a negative reaction but I owed her that much. I also would also do it in person. So much can be misinterpreted over email or phone. I‘ve at least learnt that much since I was 25! 

In the seven years since that relationship ended, I’ve come to think of her occasionally. A lot of water has passed under that bridge. I don’t hold any negative emotions or feelings about it. I’m thankful to the universe that I met her. Without her I may never have met my husband and my life could be vastly different to how it is now. I’m thankful for all she taught me, the unconditional friendship and love she gave me, for all her family did for me and even though I know she won’t be reading this, I’m sorry I didn’t end things very well. I’ve often thought about getting in contact to say that personally, I guess I’m still trying to summon the courage to do it. Maybe, one day, I will. Maybe. 

I’ve ended a few big friendships in my life for different reasons but I am a firm believer in it being a necessary part of our evolution. I don’t think I would have grown anywhere near as much as a person if I surrounded myself with the same friends from early childhood right through until today. I have two best friends whom I’ve known since kindergarten and prep and another from high school. Two of the three are men. Nothing changes between us. We always pick up exactly where we left off. I know I can call them any time of the day or night and they will be there to help me with anything I need.  I’m thankful for those friendships as much as I am thankful for the new ones I have made that I know will last me into old age. People do pass in and out of our lives as we need them and the older I’ve got, the better my radar has become about who I shouldn’t let in to begin with or the toxic ones I need to get rid of. I’ve witnessed friendships between other people that have gone stale over time but neither person decides to move on and I always ask myself, why? Why do you feel you have to remain friends with them? We are adults and we have the freedom to choose whom we surround ourselves with. If you ever find yourself bitching about your “friends”, they probably shouldn’t be in your life and you shouldn’t be in theirs. That or you need to build a better relationship to discuss the issues you have with them to their face. For me, that is the only relationship I am willing to partake in. One that is honest and open. Anything else is just a waste of my time.  

                                            Image sourced from  tumblr

                                           Image sourced from tumblr

too much of a bad thing

When I think back to my childhood, I don’t really remember specific toys or objects that I was, for want of a better word, obsessed with. Of course Christmas and birthdays would roll in and I’m sure I’d ask for certain things but nothing that ever consumed me. My siblings were the same. Even when I speak to friends now and we talk about Barbie dolls, I never had a single one. I had a Cabbage Patch doll named Sandy and a soft Lego dog that was red and zipped up through his tummy as a holder for your Lego but that was it. For me, my childhood memories are of days spent outside. Playing on the jumbo trampoline, sprinkler going underneath, towing a go-kart behind a ute in our paddock, riding horses, building cubbies, tearing around on a slip and slide that was actually just black plastic sheeting, riding bikes at the BMX track… it was predominantly active play.

It was always around before I became a parent, the want for more, but it feels like it became even more intense since having Baker. From the pram we bought him to what we would swaddle him in, I was totally sucked into the label game. We bought an icandy pram and I never even blinked when I paid $1400 for it. Granted, it was our only big purchase along with his car seat, everything else was hunted down second hand or on the cheap but if I had my time again I probably wouldn’t spend that much. I’m naturally a bargain hunter. When I do online shopping, I always go to the sale section first because why pay full price when I don’t have to but I absolutely had and still have moments where I’m consumed by labels and objects, regardless of their ridiculous price tag, when it comes to my child. Why is that?

It’s about perception, whether we like to admit it or not. It’s as much about how you want your child to be perceived as you do as a parent. As if the more money we spend, the better off they will be and the more they will be accepted. It’s like we want our children to have the best of everything, even to their detriment. What are we teaching them? That more stuff means more self worth? That owning the latest ipad at the age of eight somehow makes you better than a child who doesn’t have one? I feel like it’s such a scary road to navigate. How do you tread the path of instilling enough gratitude in your children without going all ‘we don’t accept gifts, instead please donate to this charity in said child’s name’ when birthdays roll around? 

They are kids. They need toys. My question is what is the ideal amount? This doesn’t just go for our own kids but what we gift to other people’s children. My niece had a party for her 8th birthday last year and her loot, ridiculous. It even included a freshly tendered $50 note from a friend because her Mum works night shift, got the party date mixed up and ran out of time to buy something. Firstly, high five to friends Mum for working so hard and secondly, high five again on generosity but what does this mean now for my niece’s expectations for future birthdays? The height of the bar makes me nervous and I’m really scared about raising my child in a world where one’s possessions rank higher than anything else.  

I thoroughly enjoy the gift of giving, as cliché as it sounds. Seeing someone open something you spent serious time making happen or something you scoured the globe for knowing how much they would love it, I’d take that any day over being given something myself. For my eldest sister Tahnee’s birthday last year, I wanted to get her something special. She’d helped me so much last year. And by helped, I mean carried me when I couldn’t carry myself. She is a photographer. A fucking good one too. So after hunting for something unique, an email popped up in my inbox from Etsy showing personalized camera straps. Yes, yes, yes! It was leather and I had it made it colours to match her business palette and it was monogrammed. It came from Ukraine, took six weeks to arrive and I was so excited when I put it in the post. She finally called when it got to her and she just loved it. Really loved it and that filled my heart more than a gift someone gave to me would. I know it will probably take a while but I want my son to realise that the gift is in the giving much earlier than I realised it myself. 

I’m lucky enough to have older sisters who have spent more time mothering than me and in turn, navigating the ‘presents’ road so they have tips and tricks. For example, when buying a birthday present for your child’s friend, make it small and educational. Another, when your children ask for ipads from Santa, you tell them he doesn’t do technology. Clean cut. Easy. This Christmas, my whole family spent it back where we grew up. My two sisters and I, with our families, all stayed in one house. So it required a little more communication on how many gifts each child would get given they were all opening them together. Tahnee, who has been mothering the longest and seems to have presents fairly worked out, said four. The four looks like this - Something they want, something they need, something they wear, something they read. Works for me! I tried to be really conscious and bought a wooden truck, craft stuff, and my absolute favourite, a submarine and seaplane from Green Toys. If you haven’t heard of them, get on it. The toys are made from 100% recycled milk jugs, made for the bath or ocean, can even go in the dishwasher for a clean and they are cheap. Tick! For me, this is going to be my approach to limiting the excess for my child. Buying consciously and sustainably as much as I can. 

So after opening a truckload of gifts between them Christmas morning, we came to eat breakfast outside and what was my son and nephews playing with? Giant cardboard boxes, like they were the best thing, EVER. Those boxes were cars, houses, boats, whatever their minds let them believe. I sat and watched them. The box acted as a booster for their creativity with zero limitations on the fun you could have with it. So, if you invite my boy to your child’s party, expect a cardboard box. If they hate it, at least you can use it to carry all their other presents home in. 

the best kind of paper

My first memories of reading were in primary school where you’d have those cardboard reader covers with elastic running through the centre fold that you tucked your chosen book into and your parents signed the piece of paper in the back to show you read each night. Reading was a requirement of school and that’s all I saw it as. It never interested me beyond that. The first book I ever read cover to cover was Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. Prior to that, I started plenty but never finished. Through high school, it didn’t change. I would never read the whole book, just enough so I could pass the written test and participate in conversation. 

I only got into reading a few years ago. I wouldn’t even say I have a genre that I really gravitate to. All I can say is I never pick up sci-fi, war stories or anything that seems too far removed from reality. I like things I can relate to. I’ve read plenty of books that were made into movies, the book is always better, but the one thing for certain is that unlike my earlier years, now I feel a bit disconnected when I don’t have a book on the go.

 I’ve always had a bookshelf but it was filled with some purchases by me, others gifted or passed on. Mostly though, it is filled with cookbooks.  I love cookbooks. I have close to sixty and I just think it’s something I will never stop buying. I’m a foodie and they’re my guilty pleasure. When I moved last February, I cleared out my books. I only kept anything that mattered to me. I want my book collection to be personal. I want a library one day in my home. And when I say library, I mean a wall dedicated to books. Four walls would be great but one will do. I’m not into e-books or kindles. I want to feel each page. Highlight parts that mean something to me. Write notes about what was going through my head. It makes me sad to think that we are headed for a world that, one day, will be completely digital. 

2015 proved to be my biggest reading year yet. It might not be a lot compared to seasoned readers lists but up until last year, I read perhaps 3 books per year. So, if you’re interested in some new reads, check out what I opened my mind up to last year. Some of them changed the way I live my life in the most profound ways. 

The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

One for the ages, translated into at least 67 languages and has sold more than 65 million copies, dubbed one of the best-selling books in history. My husband was told to read this by a stranger her met. It sat on my bookshelf for a few years before I picked it up, the timing was perfect. 

Toy Soldiers, Stephen Thompson

A debut novel based on the authors own experiences of life growing up in Hackney. Crime, drugs and a broken home, it’s painful to think this is how many people spend their lives without the prospect of change or escape. 

Adultery, Paulo Coelho

Described as a book about discovering who you are, where you are going and what matters to you most. A quote from this book summed up my 2015, ‘I cannot say I’m going to miss these last 365 days. The wind blew, lightening struck, and the sea nearly capsized my boat, but in the end I managed to cross the ocean and reach dry land.’ 

A Million Little Pieces, James Frey

I first heard about this on Oprah and a storm of controversy followed. Regardless, the novel is raw and you feel everything reading it. Especially if you have lived a life affected by addiction in any form. 

My Friend Leonard, James Frey

The sequel to A Million Little Pieces, which does not disappoint. I think everyone needs a friend like Leonard in his or her life. 

Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon

My creativity piqued when reading this gift from my sister. It gave me the nudge I needed to finally get my words out there and start this blog. I then sent a copy to one of my best friends, passing on the gift on inspiration it was to me. 

Daring Greatly, Brene Brown

My psychologist recommended this to me with a warning that it changed her life. I took it away with me on my first yoga retreat and change my life it did. A book about wholehearted living from a woman who pulls no punches about the highs and lows she has faced in her own life. She achieves total connection and by the end of it, she feels like your friend.  

The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown

This came as a must read after Daring Greatly. I’ve forever been a perfectionist and it’s affected my life in a negative way. Taking a leaf from Brene’s book, I now follow her philosophy that “I am a recovering perfectionist and an aspiring good enoughist.” 

mister s

On a whim last year I bought the album Multiply by Ed Sheeran. I’d heard him on the radio like every other human being on Earth and quite liked him. After thrashing Multiply in my car for months on end, like turned to love. He was so God damn talented! When I found out he was touring again, I had to go. I wanted to buy tickets for hubby for Fathers Day. He’d taken up guitar in the last year and I figured who better to see than the musical genius himself. As I was booking, I decided for the first time I wanted to be on the floor. Every concert I’ve ever been to before I’ve been seated, which seems stupid because you spend the whole time on your feet dancing in a 40cm squared space anyway. Beyonce, Justin, Britney… I didn’t want to do it again; I wanted to feel like I was in the midst of it all, that, if the need took hold, I was close enough to throw my knickers at him. Just kidding… sort of.  So I booked general admission. 

When I gave the gift to hubby he was so excited. High five to me for a great gift! As the date approached, I started to feel a little nervous about going general ad. What if we ended up right at the back? What if I was stuck standing behind Lurch? What the hell happens if I need to pee? Enter, Google. Into the search bar I typed ‘How do you manage toilet breaks during general admission at a concert?’ The results made me both laugh and gasp. The simplest was to be very nice to everyone you pass and go out the exact same way as you go back in. People will remember you. The second required a little more effort, limit fluid intake from at least mid morning to avoid needing to go altogether. I could do that, I thought. The last was to, well, pee where you were. For a brief moment, I considered this a fairly viable option. Most forums were for people going to rock concerts where, let’s face it, the mosh is a place you could die. They had specific songs in a set list that are best to head for your break. There was no denying the level of commitment from those music lovers. 

Ed was supported by Foy Vance, Passenger and Rudimental, first act starting at 6pm. I wanted to see them all so figured we’d need to be there by 2pm to line up. Husband didn’t agree so we got there at 4pm, after obligatory Maccas stop, where I drank perhaps a quarter of my drink. As we moved through the gates, wrists covered in bands, I found myself bouncing on my feet. Even doing a little jump every now and then, pinching hubby’s arm and repeatedly saying things like “We’re going to see Ed, in the flesh!” He got sick of it after the fourth or fifth pinch, his look said enough – yes, we’re seeing Ed but calm your farm, woman! As we made our way onto the floor the more apparent it became that we were going to be close, not panty throwing close, I’ve got a good arm but the wind would have played havoc, but close enough that I didn’t need to be looking at those giant screens to see the performance. WINNING!  

We got to our spot and sat down. We still had ninety minutes to wait. Believe it or not, I actually looked at the ground and was slightly disappointed that it was plastic flooring that all clicked together like a jigsaw. Option three was immediately ruled out, I couldn’t pee where I was, so continuing to limit my fluids was my only life line even though it was 33 degrees and humid as hell. In those last few minutes before Foy Vance came on, everyone stood and pushed forward. We were twenty metres from the stage, front and centre. I couldn’t believe our luck. Even at that point, I vowed never to go seated again. 

The support acts rolled in and the momentum built. I took my designated break right before Rudimental. A million “Scuse me”, “Sorry” and “Thankyou’s” later I made it out. Fresh air. I thought that wasn’t so bad but going back in turned out to be the hard part. At one point, I thought one girl was going to punch me. So I made a joke to lighten the mood “No need to stab me in the back on the way through, just getting back to my place”, a smile plastered on my face. A few people laughed, said girl broke a mild smile. I was looking for hubby’s white Yankees snapback. Finally, I spotted him. 

I was sitting on the floor of the stadium, surrounded by thousands of standing people after jumping around to Rudimental like it was 1999. I was sweaty, my hair frizzy and I was laughing that I asked hubby before we left if I should take my face powder. Not even a super absorbent maternity pad could soak up that level of sweat. I seemed to have started a trend and eight people around me were now sitting and the ground started to feel distinctly like a hot yoga class. No one was doing reclining hero but the air was humid and it was hard to breathe and I thanked my yoga practise for helping me survive the sweat pit. “So what benefits do you find from hot yoga?”… “Oh you know, the usual stuff, helps for flexibility, helps if you’re in the mosh at a concert!”

Ed, Ed, Ed the crowd starts chanting. I stood up, bouncing from foot to foot. The crowd grew louder, the clapping in unison and then, he appeared. He didn’t even say anything and just broke into his first song, his presence commanded the attention and energy of the entire stadium. He finally took a moment to say hello, told the crowd our job was to lose our voice and his job was the entertain us. And entertain he did, song after song. I’ve seen big acts before, supported by a mass on dancers and other performers. I’ve seen bands like Angus and Julia Stone and Incubus but nothing compared to Ed. It just poured out of him. Every noise we could hear from that stage was made by him and only him. He was in his place, doing exactly what he was put on this Earth for. It was awe-inspiring. I even got teary at one point, consumed by the feeling I was in the presence of greatness.  

The clouds overhead finally gave way and the rain began to fall. I’d packed us ponchos but I didn’t even bother digging them out. Dancing in that rain felt so fucking good. When he finally exited the stage, the crowd erupted and he came back not only for one song but played 3-4 more. He was by far the best musician I have ever had the privilege of seeing. Best. Concert. EVER. 

We made our way to the train station with thousands of other fans. I sat on the curb, my throat scratchy, Nurofen in hand whilst guzzling a seven litre bottle of Powerade like I'd been stuck in the Sahara for a decade. I even sent poor husband back into the shop to fetch a three litre bottle of water to wash the sweet stuff down. I thought I probably won’t pee for days, that's how much I’ve sweat tonight. I’ve got blisters from my socks, my eyes are burning and I know my headache is going to kick in in about an hour and will stay for a day but man, was it fucking worth it

the whole nine yards

I still remember the moment I found out I was pregnant. We had been trying for a few months, not solidly but mostly just no longer trying to not get pregnant. We wanted to keep it fun. Friends who had been really consumed by falling pregnant said it just added so much stress and when the months passed and periods came, it was upsetting. I didn’t want to feel like that so we tried to just let things happen. And happen they did. 

It was May 23, 2013, and I had this feeling from the time I woke up. I looked for a pregnancy test but couldn’t find one so went to work and tried to distract myself. Through the afternoon I had this taste in my mouth, like I was sucking on coins, a taste that would soon become the norm for weeks on end.  Hubby and I had to go look at a rental house after work as we’d just sold our home with a 30-day settlement, the whole time my body already knowing what was going on. By the time we got home, hubby went to get dinner and I found a test. I knew you were supposed to take it in the morning but I couldn’t wait til then. Within a few seconds, two lines popped up. I sat there on the toilet just staring. Honestly, my first thought was… fuck. A week or so earlier, we’d decided to stop trying as the month prior had provided massive change in our life, now was not the right time to have a baby. The following day I already had an appointment booked to see the doctor to get a pill script. That appointment ended up being to confirm those two lines that appeared on the two tests the night before. 

I took the test and went and sat on my bed. I just kept staring. I felt anxious. All I could think of was all the reasons why this wasn’t supposed to be happening right now. We were unsettled, moving home, Carl was made redundant the month prior. The control freak in me reared her head. I just sat and stared. It felt like the longest twenty minutes of my life. 

Carl walked in the door with dinner and started unpacking it at the kitchen bench.  I walked into the room and just stood there. He looked at me, immediately asked what was wrong. I held up the stick. The grin on his face was immediate. His eyes lit up. He laughed and just said “Seriously?” The tears welled in my eyes and I told him yes. That’s why I loved this man. He always calmed me. He was so laid back. When my controlling tendencies came out, he settled them. His excitement was infectious and instantly I forgot about all the reasons why we shouldn’t be having a baby and instead couldn’t quite believe that I was growing a little babe inside. I was going to be a Mother. 

I’d heard many women say they just loved being pregnant, that they felt their best with a growing belly. For me, I didn’t hate it but I certainly didn’t love it. I loved my belly and watching my body grow but it was all the other stuff that came along with it. Early on I had the usual stuff, nausea, vomiting and a constant feeling that I suffered from narcolepsy but by the 12-14 week mark, my pelvis became very loose. I’ve always been super flexible but this caused me more pain than benefit as my belly grew. I had pinching in my sacrum to the point it immobilised me. It lasted from week 12 through to when we welcomed Baker into the world. I was told that you really get the energetic feeling around 20 weeks and it’s the time you feel your best. I got about two weeks of it before getting sick with a nasty virus, contracted in my work office from someone who felt it impossible to keep their illness to themselves at home. We weren’t saving lives at work; it wasn’t that dire to be there. But of course, they came, shared their germs and half the office got sick and was on medication. But not me, I never realised pregnant women can’t take anything. I was off work for two weeks, Mum had to fly down to look after me and I ended up in hospital to have x-rays and bloods taken as my obstetrician was worried I might get pneumonia. But that, none of that came close to the one thing I felt all pregnancy, and that was, well, the fact that I might be going crazy. 

My emotions were all over the shop. It didn’t even feel like there was a shop. I was on edge all the time, my fuse shorter than normal and I would cry a lot. It wasn’t anxiety, when I think about it. I just felt like my emotions sat right on the surface and the smallest thing would set me off. The peak though came one morning when I was sitting at the bench eating breakfast and I was crying into my cereal bowl. Not like, just a little tear, it was cheeks covered, nose running, crying. Carl asked me what was wrong. Truth was, I didn’t know but even him asking me made me want to stab him in the neck, or the eye. Either would do.

Why does no one tell you about this before you fall pregnant? The only help I got that this was normal and I wasn’t completely fucking losing it was reading Kaz Cooke’s Up The Duff. She made light of the psychotic feelings and being run over by your own emotions. That it was common to want to kill your husband, even though three minutes prior he was the greatest man to ever to live. The hormones just swallowed me up. Of course I had days that I felt good but I mostly felt like I couldn’t quite get a handle on myself. I hated it. But maybe, just maybe, it was teaching me the first lesson of motherhood. You cannot control a baby and the sooner you learn to roll with it, the better. 

Since exiting my pregnancy induced craze phase, I’m honest about my experience with my friends who are pregnant because feeling like you’re the only nutter isn’t much fun. And I’ve found the more open I’ve been, the more common what I went through is. I’ve even had friends say things like ‘Thank God it’s not just me!’ So ladies of the preggo sisterhood, share what you went through, the highs, the lows and all the freaky shit in between.

My pregnancy ended much the same way as it started. I had high blood pressure throughout that just got higher towards the end. Foetal monitoring and unexpected hospital visits led to me being induced at 39 weeks, 4 days. My labour though, that’s another story for another day. 

Images of me by Lemonadelane

Ignorance ain’t bliss

For as long as I could remember, life seemed to be fairly worked out. I knew where I was going. I knew where I had been. I knew who I was. I liked the predictability of it. That I was in control. Control being the most important part. And then, whoosh. That is the sound of the metaphorical carpet being ripped out from under me. Fast enough to leave carpet burn. If only I knew then that the carpet burn was going to be the least of my concerns.

The last few years have thrown me a curve ball that instead of landing in my catchers mitt, imploded on impact. I think the biggest realisation coming from said curveball is the fact that I had spent my life being fairly ignorant. Ignorant to the lack of control any of us has over most things. Ignorant that I thought I completely knew who I was at 29. Ignorant that I was living life as my most authentic self. Ignorant to just how powerful this big universe is that we have the pleasure of living in. Ignorant that the greatest love I shared with another could be tested beyond words. But undoubtedly the most ignorant to how much grey area is in our world.

To me, everything was always black and white. Logical. Added up. That’s why I think I fell into a career as a fashion planner easily. There was no room to interpret a number as anything but that number. It was the control freak in me, gravitating to something that fed my controlling needs. It’s only something I pondered, smirk on my face, as I sat chatting to my psychologist recently. As she always does, grin on her face, slight laughter in her voice, “What’s the smirk for?”  “Oh you know, just that my controlling habit encroached on every part of my life. Seriously, a job as a planner? *rolls eyes*“ She laughed at me. Directly at me… “I love your eye rolls!” That’s what I loved about her. She didn’t feel like a therapist. She felt like a friend who would tell me how things were, help me through the rough shit but laugh with me and at me along the way. Only difference, she was charging for it.

The more I learn to let go of control and the entire concept of it; the more grey creeps in. And with more grey, comes more compassion. More vulnerability. More understanding. More patience. More of everything that makes me feel like a better human. I can undoubtedly say I was pretty fastidious pre curveball implosion. If it didn’t sit with my idea of thinking, it was wrong. I was forceful. Assertive, yes, which is a good thing, but assertion mixed with a small strain of bitch isn’t. Who knew? I was anxious that if I didn’t control everything down a tee, things would go horribly wrong. News flash, things go horribly wrong anyway. I’m that person in the car that sits in the passenger seat trying to dictate the fastest route and actually gets angry when the driver goes another way. Driver is usually my husband. Ill let you imagine how the trips usually end… silence, door slamming. You know. All the grown up stuff.  Recently we were in the car together, a rarity inside the last year for reasons I will share later, and we missed our exit on the freeway. I turned around from speaking to our son just in time to see our exit sign. Laughing and pointing I said, “That was our exit” and without missing a beat my husband smiled and said, “Before, you wouldn’t have laughed at that. You would have got angry.” High five, sister!

It’s absolutely a work in progress but the awareness is now there and that’s half the battle. Now I can stop myself mid panic because ill be three minutes late to an appointment or mid/post losing my shit for any number of ridiculous reasons, no longer traffic incidents it appears, and realise none of it matters. Being aware to stop and breathe and get some perspective. I ain’t no Mother Teresa and I doubt I ever will be but I’m getting better and isn’t that all we can aim for? To better ourselves every day for the benefit of our relationships, our children, our friends, our community… but mostly, just for ourselves? To go to bed at night knowing you are growing as a person, that you are learning and changing and evolving? To me, that is success. I used to look at success as something long term, an acquisition, something I could touch. Getting the job you always wanted, buying the dream house, having the swanky car, not worrying about money. All those things society deems as success. I now realise that’s all bullshit. Success is living each day as honestly and as true to yourself as you can. Loving with an open heart. Doing what fills that space in your chest. Being better than you were the day before, whatever that means.

So, is it just me or could you do with a little more grey in your life too? 

 Image from  StreeandStage

Image from StreeandStage