I burst into tears today….v

Emotions are a funny things. They can creep up on you ever so slightly and then completely take over in a matter of seconds.

It can be when you hear a song, when someone says something or even when you’re sitting alone reflecting on a simple moment in time.

I have found myself spending some time reflecting on what has been and what is to come. With the start of 2019 well and truly upon us I find myself looking at the upcoming year with fresh eyes.

It has been a while since I started a year with laughter, great company, trips to the beach and even some time to myself.

However, there have been moments when I have had open and honest conversations with people or those random ones where someone has said, out loud, ‘wow you’ve been married twice and you’re what, 34?’.

It’s happened, yes it has. I have digested that, but I don’t think I have fully accepted that what has happened in my life thus far has really happened…..

Growing up with parents who have been married for 45 years this year. High school sweethearts and the true ‘Cinderella story’ I always imagined that would be me.

I feel a deep sense of regret, sometimes on a daily basis that I failed myself.

I have to stop my brain from running away with itself and remember why I have already been married twice at the age of 34.

It was not that I gave up, it was not that it was to hard. It was to save me. To allow me and my daughter the best opportunities. The ability to grow and be the best we could be.

I was young when I first got engaged. The ripe old age of 18. Yes, you read right, 18. I remember being ‘lustfully’ in love. Those amazing university days when life seemed so easy. I did call it off and realised I was to young, we were to young. However, a few weeks after this I found out I was pregnant. I remember speaking to my daughters father and my words were; ‘I have never and will never contemplate not having this child. You can be in or not. If not that’s okay I know I have the family and the support to go it alone’. We had been together 3 years and engaged for a time so we both new we had something. We decided to get married, be the family we knew we could be, or thought we could be to bring up our child. Together.

4 years on this seemed something we both could not manage. We realised that our lives had not even started at the age of 18/19 and we had a young baby. He was not sure where he wanted to be and and what he wanted to do and I at the time was self motivated and driven. It was like we were holding each other back. For us both and for our child unfortunately for us we knew being apart would be better. So that’s what we did. A lot of water, dirty and full of silt has travelled under that bridge since! However, I must admit my daughter loves her dad, and me, and she is growing up to be one hell of a young lady so we have to be doing something right!

The second marriage was a whirlwind literally forgotten in time at this point. It started with a simple question in what was known as ‘Friday’s’, a night club on the Sunshine Coast and it turned into an eventful 6 year relationship.

It was in this 6 years I learnt that I can be broken, everyone can. It’s how we get up that counts. There were good times, even great times. I learnt to be a step mum to a 12 year old boy. I had to manage the smelly room, the stares and two kids who knew they were not related but had to learn to live one another. With a FIFO husband on all sorts of rosters it was hard work. I always feared the words, ‘you’re not my mum’ and that made parenting hard and unequal at times.

It was in this 6 years I overcame mountains. Went through a long court ordeal and realised that anger and sadness are hard to bear when bringing up a family. It can consume you, unfortunately in my case it did. Not me however, my husband. It’s hard to live with someone angry and constantly negative. It takes effort and constant positivity. However, this can wear anyone down. You can only carry a family for so long before you lose yourself in it.

I began to lose me. I began to think I was losing my own child. Someone as magnificent as her. Head strong, stubborn and with so much love to offer all those around her. The end began when she began to withdraw, so had I. We felt we were not allowed to be happy or positive. The constant demands, expectations and failures. Even though we never failed, it felt like we did no matter what we did or how hard we tried!

I never understood how mentally and emotionally someone could trap you. I never thought that would be me and it dawned on me one eventful evening that that’s exactly what had happened to me. I had been caged and controlled and I was not coping. Even my daughter new! Before I did. How amazing are our young people!

So overnight the second marriage was done. Not even a day after I felt I had been freed. Like one of those amazing hot air candles that they release in Thailand, I felt free.

A weight had been lifted and life just opened up. Not just small doors but huge panel doors!

I could breathe……

So at 34, yes I have been married twice. It’s hard to say and as I mentioned I have digested it but it doesn’t make it easy to explain or talk about.

I am not a failure but instead I have learnt many things. Overcome a lot and I hope that one day when my daughter is older I can explain this all to her.

I can show her she is strong and how to be strong. How she must search for what she needs and someone who compliments her. Someone who holds her high and is proud of her. Someone who asks how her day was and thinks a romantic evening is fish and chips on a rug at the beach.

We may have high expectations but it’s the small things that count the most.

Next time you hear someone has been married more than once, stop yourself before you judge. Hard I know but that’s me.

It may be hard but I am proud of who I am and what I have achieved. There is so much more ahead of me and I can’t wait! 2019 here we come!

The curse of the tattoo.

Tattoos are something that used to be frowned upon and yet now seem to be something we see on almost everyone.

They vary from small pictures or words to full sleeves, or even whole body works of art.

I have a few.. each with their own story. I think over time that’s what they become. However, I always thought one particular type of tattoo carries with it a curse and I believe, for me anyway, that it is and was true.

My first one was in a way an act of rebellion. I was 18 and had been in Australia 5 years. Being the teenager I was and having been told I was never allowed to get one, what did I did as soon as I was able….. well get a tattoo of course!

At that stage of my life I dreamed of being a marine biologist. You know one of those fit young women who swims with the dolphins and plays with all the marine animals. Like we see at Sea World and on TV.

So away I went, I got a dolphin with a blue Maori pattern. As usual at the time, on the right pelvic bone, which would be seen when I wore my bikinis to the beach.

Back when wearing bikinis was what I did.

It hurt like hell and I managed to keep it hidden from my parents for a while. My mother was the first to spot it and from there well the rest was history.

When I was pregnant my dad used to laugh and comment on how the head of my dolphin was becoming the size of a whale. Note to all the women out there, think about if you’re going to have kids when you decide on where to get a tattoo as they don’t quite return to normal after being stretched beyond what feels like a few watermelons!

Needless to say my tattoo returned to somewhat normal and my parents forgave me.

Time for a bigger one I said.

A few years later and a painful 8 hours I had a side piece. A somewhat green, red and yellow cherry blossom. Something I pictured as white and pink but did not turn out that way.

A piece that I have fond memories of.

The next smaller one was of a persons name. Now I say this like that as I had always vowed NEVER to get a persons name tattooed onto me. I always thought it would ‘curse’ me and or the relationship in some way.

People used to laugh at me when I told them this but I stood my ground.

Well until January 2018. I had been married almost two years and with him for nearly six. We had talked about getting each other’s name on ourselves…….. ah, sweet, how romantic you might be thinking or even cringing and thinking how corny. Well it was always discussed and I managed to put it off for over a year.

However, January 2018 rolled around and we had bought the house, been married for almost two years as I said before so I though that it couldn’t possibly be cursed. Everything was going swimmingly. Or so I thought.

On it went, 1 hour and a small simple pattern on my left wrist.

By May 2018 we were separated, by July the house we bought only a year earlier was sold and I haven’t heard from him in months.

Cursed you say? Was it the tattoo? Who knows but I do stand by the notion that by putting his name on me I had in some way cursed myself. It was just a feeling.

It’s now January 2019 and I have started the process of having it lasered off.

This was day 2. It took about 15 minutes and hurt like hell. It’s literally like having your skin burnt off, slowly, and you cannot pull away!

This is three weeks later. Healing well but will take at least three more goes before it will be faded enough to be faded enough not to be seen or even tattooed over.

Itchy as hell and still a reminder but soon enough will be gone.

Round two and this time I thought it would hurt less. I was very wrong! This session hurt even more. She spent a lot longer on it and as she said later; “I really zapped it!” You sure did I thought.

Two days later and it was swelling up like a water ballon on a tap. It hurt, was itchy and burnt when I touched it. One more session to go I hope!

It’s healing, two weeks now since the last session.

I suppose after all this, and when it’s finally gone I am not sure it won’t be ‘completely gone’. There may still be marks and a tiny bit of scarring but at the end of the day it will be a constant reminder for me.

I was right!

That liberating feeling! (Part 1)

It’s weird to think that a week ago today I was finishing the final day of the Salkanty trek, ending up at the base camp of Machu Picchu……

Now I am sitting in my all to familiar little abode with the spring breeze floating through the house, the suns out and I feel liberated, free and totally self satisfied!!

The South American trip was two years in the making! It’s hard to believe now that it is over.

I am still in awe of what we did as a team! I mean who can say they have built three fully functioning toilets for a small kindergarten class that were using the small patch of dirt behind their classroom as their toilet??

Well I can and the 8 students who came with me can!

It’s amazing what hard work, being a team and basically pushing through the mental and physical barriers of being exhausted, adjusting to altitude and an overall lack of sleep can produce.

Arriving at the camp, day 2 of being in South America, our view snow capped mountains that stretched for days! Tents, our accomodation.

I was totally overwhelmed with where we were and what we were about to undertake. Would we finish our project in time? Would we all adjust to the altitude? Would anyone get sick? All these thoughts, racing through my head.

I laugh now as all it took was looking out at the view and we had to realise that we had already achieved so much! We had arrived! The rest was easy!

Waking each day at 6:30am, breakfast in the small hall built by a previous team using mud bricks called Adobes, we fuelled our bodies for the day ahead. The hike down to the school was always a quick and easy one! As downhill always is!

When we arrived it was straight to work. Mixing concrete, sifting sand, walking to get buckets of water…. the list goes on! We all became brick layers, sifters and concrete mixers. We watched the wall start to grow, the first line of bricks already down! We worked alongside a local ‘Mistro’ named Sisilo! He was so amazing and man did he work. He NEVER stopped!

Here in the first world we have no idea what hard work is! These guys do!

Nothing happens quickly in a third world!

Over 6 days our toilet block started to take shape! It was extraordinary! Each day we would pack up, dirty, exhausted and sweaty ready for our warm bucket showers.

These showers though, were at the top of the hill we walked down every morning. Now as I said downhill was easy! The uphill was crazy! We felt the altitude when we started the climb! It was only a 1.16km walk, straight up mind you, but it felt like a mountain! Your heart pumping faster than ever before, your breath stolen from you, your legs burning and the sounds of blood pumping in your ears! Altitude is an amazing thing! You can’t see it but you can feel it!

It took us 47minutes on day 1 and I am proud to say by the end of the 6 days we managed to get it done in under 26 minutes! Booya!!!

When given the chance we can do amazing things! From start to finish here is our progress!!

How amazing is that!!!

I have been asked a few times before why would you pay, or make students pay to go overseas to build a toilet. Why make them pay to work?

Well it’s easy! Look at what we achieved! In the first 6 days of this amazing 17 day adventure (see part 2 coming for the second half of the trip), we flew 33 hours, went on 5 planes, discovered the airports, came together as a team, shared stories, discovered the sights of Cuzsco, hiked up and down a hill each day, watched our project transform from one row to ten to over 20!

We watched the small local kids smile as they themselves saw their toilets transform! Our gift to them! This strange group of white ‘Gringos’ who has flown across the world to build something just for them!

We pay to help as without us they would still be going to the toilet at the back of their classroom, in the dirt and the dust.

We pay to show our over privileged children just how lucky they are!

We pay to give back to those less fortunate.

We pay to find ourselves and to build on what we have already!

We pay to build resilience, grit, patience and awareness!

We pay because the benefits far outweigh the costs!

(Stay tuned, this is only a snippet of what was a life changing, mind altering and liberating 17 days!)

Bottom of the bottle…. what’s it feel like…

It’s 10am and all you think about is when will you get a chance to have a wine, a vodka and coke or something stronger?

What about it’s after a long school day and you have only one glass of wine left….. is that enough…. no it’s not, you make the trip and vow only to get one bottle but you get two as you know it won’t be enough to numb the pain, the loneliness, the emptiness….

Coming home after a long day, a vodka and coke on ice. An hour later and number of drinks later the numbness sets in. The feeling of inhibition, of pure carelessness and what we think is calmness… but it’s a false calm. A false sense of peace.

This is what you wanted, to be able to feel it’s all okay. The fact you’ve been discarded, thrown away like a piece of gum after being chewed for 6 years and just thrown away… discarded. Stuck under the chapel pew only to be found years later and scraped off by no one who understood why it was placed there in the first place.

The numbness and the haze of the bottom of a bottle makes it okay. It makes your mind seem to accept that being considered trash is okay. It makes the evening pass in a blur. What was once cuddles as you made dinner or simple conversation about your day the norm….. now a blur…

Is it okay?

Who knows, we, as in me and my actual self will have this conversation tomorrow. Then we will decide whats acceptable and what’s not. Until then, the bottom of bottle brings me the numbness and the total illusion that it’s okay, that today will pass, as yesterday did.

You climb into bed alone, the ground spinning, the bed not as comforting as it was once.

You pull the dunar over and you send your leg over the other side, searching for the touch you are all to familiar with.

Then you remember, it’s gone, it’s no longer there, and who knows if it will ever will be there again.

But it’s okay, the numbness makes it seem all okay.

The haze of the bottom of the bottle numbs the feeling of being alone, of being wrong or right. Who knows at this time as the haze is making the whole thing something you can no longer understand!

It’s knowing that eventually the numbness has to fade and something has to give.

That something is you.

You have to realise that the bottom of a bottle only hides and masks what’s really eating away at you. It’s you that’s suffering. It’s you that has to find a way out.

It takes time, it takes strength and it takes those around you to make it possible!

Seek out the help, tell those around you about the haze surrounds you.

If you don’t it’s all you will know and it’s not fair on you to let the bottom of a bottle win!

You’re more than that!!

Trust me!!

Road Trips – what not to do!

Okay, so if you are ever unsure about how your relationship is with not only your partner but also your kids….. Take a road trip!

An unplanned one. One you haven’t thought out, planned for or even spent time trying to figure out what’s what.

Then see if you all come back in one piece, or if you all come back at all!

Let me take you down memory lane. It was a little while back now, but at the time we needed yet another car.

My husband had a thing with never hanging onto a car for to long.

We needed not just a car… but a car that was in Victoria.

Living on the Gold Coast one would think after the hours he had spent looking, there would have been one closer. Well there wasn’t.

So without the money having cleared in the bank ,the four of us set off on a plane to Melbourne.

A young daughter aged 8, a teenage boy aged 14, myself and my husband. We had no idea what the car would be really like, or even if the money was going to clear in time, but I trusted the hours it seemed my husband had spent on cars for sale and in the end all would be okay.

I even managed to imagine the beautiful scenery, the laughs we would have and the memories we would make!

road trip 2

The hard part was I didn’t even know where we would be sleeping…. this sent my OCD and planning brain into overdrive. A few deep breathes and quiet restrained meditation I managed to just go with the flow. I mean what could go wrong?

I should have realised that all would not go as planned when my daughter kept asking; ‘mum, what are we doing?’ ‘where are we staying’, ‘how long will it take’, ‘Is there a plug for my iPad?’. My reply was valid and honest in that I said; ‘I have NO idea darling!

This is what happens when a 40 year old male has an idea. I am sure if I had said, “honey there is a great dress in this shop in Melbourne that I have to see”, he would have laughed at me and turned up the TV!

FAST FORWARD – skip the plane ride and near death experience in the Taxi from the airport.

Well we pulled up and the Nissan Patrol, chunky mans car, was in the drive way.

I left the two men to do their thing, while I got the kids organised to start the long trek home. The whole time I was thinking to myself, lets hope this car is not a lemon!

lemon.jpg

Once all the finances had been settled we got into the ‘new car’. The husband and kids exploring all the new things and me just sitting int he front seat thinking I hope we make it! How different we are!

Spending the days driving for hours on end with a continual nagging feeling that the car was a ‘lemon’……… only to have this fueled by the air con shutting off …….. and then the speakers stopped working…… and being told, ‘do not worry this is normal!’

You have got to be kidding!

Not only do the long drives test your patience but also your ability to sleep in weird and wonderful positions.

I also managed to keep everyone happy, all while feeling flustered, as I had to clean the husbands sunnies, peel a lolly wrapper for the daughter and unpack the condoms we had bought for the teenage son who wanted to see how big he could get them to be if he held them out the window.

Does this sound normal to anyone else.

Mum, whens lunch? Babe, can you make me a sandwich? Mum, can you change the song? Babe, could you get me some water? Mum, how long until we stop?

Babe, why didn’t you see the sign? (Me thinking; because I was making you your bloody sandwich on my lap, on the lid of an esky traveling at 110kmh with no air con in the middle of summer, what bloody sign??)

My reply: Sorry darling,  all my fault, I will be sure to keep my third eye out for all the signs next time!

I swear I was was a second away from doing a tuck and roll out the car! The patience was being tested, the fuse being shortened!

Three days later, two motels, a lot of coffee, lollies and country hick towns we were almost home.

Now I must share with you some tips should you ever have the desire to drive and unplanned trip of 1800km….

  1. Take your own pillow – and one for each of the kids as they will fight no matter what. If you don’t you will find they steal yours just when you need it most!
  2. Toilet paper – As the need arises often when you need it most being in the car with an old man and two young children. Oh and of course it will be right at the time when you just passed the last toilet stop for the next 100km!
  3. Pack music – I think we could all sing the lyrics to the full CD of James Blunt… I still, today, 5 years on cannot play the same CD! It has scared me for life! One CD – 3 days. You do the math with how many times we listened to each song!
  4. Remember you will forget something, and no matter what or who did it, it will be YOUR fault!
  5. 5. Wet wipes are essential – you can clean up anything and everything with these! If you remember to pack them!

It was a long trip and we all survived, but I must tell you what append to the car. Well it was in fact a lemon and we sold it three weeks later.

I was right after all!

Peace… is this what it’s like

It’s been a while since I can say I felt peaceful or even calm.

Years in fact!

So what does the word ‘Peace’ actually mean. Well this is what I found. I particularly liked the second one as it feels like life has been like fighting a war!

“freedom from disturbance; tranquillity”

“a state or period in which there is no war or a war has ended”

(Dictionary.com)

Today I took a moment. In this moment I looked at Miss C as she stood in the kitchen and her school friend who had stayed overnight, both with ear to ear smiles on their faces, the TV on in the background, the breeze coming through the door and both cats calmly asleep in the sun.

Suddenly, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace.

I even felt relaxed!

Beach and rocks

Not a care in the world for just a moment!

It was wonderful! An emotion that I had forgotten the feeling of.

In the turmoil of what has been my life for the past 6 years I would say, it was hard to ever say I experienced peace or had a chance to be ‘calm’.

stressors.jpg

The past six years encompassed an emotionally abusive relationship which I removed myself from, only to return to the same man after hearing the words ‘I have changed’.

To the family and criminal court system to fight for the right for my child to have peace. With the days of affidavits and lawyers and and endless money steam out of the bank seeming like it would never end.

One would think we or more I had been through enough!

No it wasn’t to be, a few months later a marriage breakdown… PHEW!

There is so much talk about resilience and grit in the media these days. Talk about how to make our kids stronger, able to cope and adaptable. To better prepare them for what is in front of them.

The questions on; how do we make them more resilient? what can we cram in to an already to full curriculum to help them be more resilient? What can we do? what activities can we include? What speakers can we get in?

Personally, it’s not about what we show them, what we tell them or who speaks to them. Often they have heard it all before. They tune out or even, as I see hundreds of teens do each year, they say, ‘I know all this, why do we have to listen to this again?’

For me, I believe, to truly help our kids be resilient we have to be there to support them when they go through the adventure called life. The events they experience day to day, night after night, week after week are what shape them to be strong individuals.

“I am strong, I am resilient and I believe I have grit! All because of what I have both done and experienced throughout my life. I am strong because I have survived and have amazing parents and family to thank for always being there, and coming on my adventure even when they could have chosen not to.

I am who I am because of them and what life has thrown at me! I am who I am because I chose to get back up even after failing many times!

(Sorry dad, I made you grey earlier than you probably would have been and mum for the sleepless nights filled with worry)”

We have to let our children make choices, and fail safely. For example let them spend their money on the theme park rides and then let them wonder why they did after the ride ended 30 seconds later. Don’t give them more money rather say, you made your choice and now you can’t go on another ride. Make them see the other side.

If they fall, help them up and then get them back on the bike or the horse or even back up the tree. Showing them it’s okay, they can overcome their fears and in this they become strong.

To many times as a teacher we now have to defend ourselves and our positions to over caring and smothering parents who want to fix everything for their child. Who always believe it is never their child’s fault their shirt got stained, their shoes broke or the other guys started the fight.

Jumping the gun in front or your kids teaches them nothing but how to manipulate and ensure that even if they were in the wrong they can tell you in such a way you are immediately on the defensive. This does not teach them to be honest or own up to their own behaviours. Neither does it allow them to learn. This will not give them or yourself peace.

I have watched as parents come in seething hoping for justice or an apology only to be shown footage that quietens and sometimes embarrasses them. I have watched parents deflate as they hear the real story or even as their child bursts into tears and tells them they lied, they made it all up and in fact it was their fault.

Kids are kids and they learn through us as role models. We have to remember this when we lose our tempers, when we talk about other people or even how we act just around the house. They learn from us.

So back to peace, resilience and grit. While I realise the past few years have been turmoil and at times I have shriveled up into a ball and tried to hide from the world.

I have survived and am stronger than ever. My daughter, has had an emotional roller coaster ride and she to has survived.

She has in fact been strong for me right when I needed her to be. She has shown me how mature and hyper aware kids are of their surroundings. Do not be fooled by your child’s age, they see and hear everything! Now she is experiencing peace!

This strength and understanding she has learnt from life in all its awesomeness and ugliness will only benefit her in the future.

I always wanted to cover her up and hide her away from what was going on but at the end of the day doing this would only be worse for her. One day she may find herself dealing with the same things or even supporting a friend as they do. I know she will be strong enough and have the knowledge to hold their hand through it or ask for help if she ever needed it.

She has seen that life can be unfair and also rewarding all at once.

Now it’s time for peace, it’s time for us to re group. Re focus and spend time working on us. Working on her growing up to be an even more amazing woman than she already is. For me it is time to look in the mirror at the person looking back and build her back up.

It’s time to be strong, to draw on the strength and resilience I have acquired throughout life and move forward.

Remember to bring up strong individuals we have to be willing to let them go.

peace 1

Then you will achieve peace!