Like most mothers, I turn into Xena Warrior Princess if anyone so much as thinks about hurting my children; a fully-grown bear would hesitate to take me on when I’m in rabid-mother-defending-my-children mode. Unless…
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I love it when life presents me with new ideas, new skills to learn, new things. While I might get a bit scared at first, I love strapping on my big boots, picking up my rucksack and heading off into the Great Unknown looking for the Next Big Adventure.
Which is why I’m now the proud joint owner of a radio station.
My brother, Alan, and I have never been really close. Actually, that’s totally unfair on Alan. I suspect that Alan wanted to get close to me when we were growing up but I was such and angsty teenaged bitch from about the age of 5, when he was born, that I wouldn’t let him anywhere near me. So, we’ve never been close because I spent my childhood doing whatever I could to make his life miserable. Unfortunately for our parents, Alan soon picked up on how to do the same things back to me and we spent our youth fighting with one another at every opportunity.
Australia is big.
That’s stating the obvious, right, but it’s all very well to know that in an abstract, classroom kind of way; it’s quite a different thing to experience it.
Australia is big.
When we lived in the UK, John and I would get in the car, head down to the south coast and catch a ferry over to France at every opportunity. At that time, The UK had just started the free trade agreement with Europe so there were no import duties on things that you bought in Europe and brought back to the UK, which meant that… alcohol was really, really cheap.
We paid huge taxes on alcohol in the UK and all of a sudden, we could stick the car on the ferry, fill it up with alcohol from a hypermarche in one of the French ports and bring back a car load of booze for about half the cost of buying it locally, even when you included the cost of getting to France and back. Groups of friends (our friends, I have to admit but I’m assuming other people did it!) clubbed together and a couple of them would set off to pastures cheaper (or at least, alcohol cheaper) and bring back the cut price manna from heaven.
A couple of months ago, an old friend, Jane, got in touch with me completely out of the blue. In one of the bizarre twist s that life likes to put on us, we discovered that we were both going through pretty much exactly the same things in our lives. The similarities were really quite spooky. We thought that it would be a great idea to set up a daily call to each other so we could share what was happening for us that day and to keep ourselves on track because one of the things we both noticed about ourselves was that we have all these great ideas, all these good intentions… and we never carry them out. Actually, that’s not true, sometimes I carry out the ideas, but most of the time, they fall by the wayside and life goes on in the same old way that it always has and before I know it, bang! There’s another year gone by and I still haven’t started that project that was such a fantastic idea.
When I was at senior school, back in the dim mists of time as far as my teenaged daughter is concerned, we were given Gerald Durrell’s book My Family & Other Animals to read. I remember quite clearly been offended by the title on behalf of his family. I thought that it was grossly unkind if not downright rude to not only group his family in with the animals they all had but to call them animals in the first place. I mean, I knew that technically we are animals but there’s a vast difference between knowing that and calling someone an animal. That was really not very nice.
Fast forward forty years or so and I’m totally on board with the title of the book. I’ve got four kids and a husband. The title of the book is completely accurate.
I rarely take life seriously…
That’s a complete lie. I try not to take life seriously but sometimes (quite often), I do take things very seriously as they happen, but when I look back, then I see the hilarity in life.
I mean sometimes, yes, I totally get the whole inappropriate giggles that used to get my into a lot of trouble as a teenager. When I first began all this personal development work and had my first stint as a group coach, one of the group members really got offended when I laughed about something that had happened to her. I wasn’t being mean, but it was funny. She didn’t think so. She told me that in her opinion (humble or otherwise) I was a sociopath, unable to relate to other people, and furthermore I should psychiatric help if I was ever going to be able to form solid relationships with people. Right. Well, that little “contribution” burst my bubble for a little while but then I reverted back to my old giggly ways.
As I was moseying through Pinterest today, I came across a post titled “30 Day Challenge – Day 3 – A Picture Of My animals”
I assumed that it was a photography challenge (I think I’ve been tagged in a fair few of those and not realised because 1) I don’t read Facebook notifications and 2) I don’t pick up my Messenger messages very often, either), but it wasn’t. It was actually a blog challenge.
Now, as you’re probably aware, I don’t really need a challenge to make me start writing, but I really liked the sound of this one, so I’m going to do it. 30 days, each day a different topic, with the intention of letting the real me out into the world. Or at least, letting the real me loose on those poor unsuspecting… sorry, awesome people who read this blog!
We put up a video on our YouTube channel – Stop Being So Poor - last week about John’s recent rock climbing experience (you can check out the video here) and I wanted to tell the story in a little more detail. Actually, let me rephrase that: I want to put the story into my words.
Back in the eighties John was a pretty hot shot rock climber who spent every weekend and most evenings of his youth, down at the local quarry, Pex Hill, honing his skills so he could venture out into the rock-filled world of the Lakes District, Snowdonia, South Wales and then further afield into France (in particular Buoux). This is a man who, when we started seeing each other, would do one finger pull-ups on the architrave over the door every time he went through it. Given half an opportunity, he’d “traverse” the lounge using the Victorian dado rail as his finger hold. There was no foot hold. Heaven knows how it didn’t fall off! He climbed with the glitterati of the British rock climbing world of the time: Joe Healey, Gerry Peel, Tony Mitchell and Phil Davidson. John stopped climbing in the 90’s. But I know he misses it and I’d love to see him get back into it. John, however, felt that he was too old now to do something like that.
I’ve always loved horses, so it was only natural when Kira expressed a desire to learn how to ride, that I enrolled the kids into riding lessons.
I have to go onto a bit of a side track here: if one kid did something, then most of the time, they all did it. Extra curricular activities were just too tricky to handle if all four kids were doing something different, so while they all did something they really wanted to do, they also had to do things that maybe they weren’t so interested in. In this case, Kira really wanted to learn how to ride and the boys were interested (and turned out to be great horsemen, just not interested in riding as a long-term prospect). Keeley, aged 2 or 3 at the time, just loved it.
Like anyone who’s been around horses for a while, we’ve had some complete doozies. There were horses who were great but totally unsuitable, there were horses that were great, but they didn’t like their owner. There were horses who were perfect in every single way. Most of the time.
I’ve just finished my first “Abs, Butts & Thighs” class. You know you’ve had a good leg workout when you have to hang on to the handrail to get down the stairs. Tomorrow is going to be interesting, to say the least.
I love feeling physically fit and being physically tired, it’s one of the reasons why I’ve exercised my whole life. When I did the interview for the Daily Mail recently, about women who’re the same weight now as they were in their 20’s, the quote about me was that I “take inspiration from Kate Moss”. No, I don’t. What I said was that I relate to what Kate Moss said about nothing tasting as good as skinny feels. I’m at least 15 years older than Kate Moss, how can I possibly used her as my inspiration since she didn’t come onto the scene for years after I was on my path to health & fitness?
I had a surprising conversation with a friend yesterday when she said, “How are you? And I mean, how actually are you, with the whole menopause, hormonal thing? We say ‘how are you?’ but we never really get specific.” And she’s right.
I could never quite understand my cousin Julie (I've changed her name. Regardless of the fact that she lives over the other side of the world, I'm still not going to invite her wrath). She is a week younger than me, we look similar - same height, same kind of weight (back then, anyway), same dark curly hair - but we were totally different. I grew up in the countryside, surrounded by animals, playing in the dirt, watching horses & cows giving birth, being chased by donkeys and geese. Julie grew up in inner city Salford (now part of Manchester) among the cars and the noise and the overwhelming number of people. She is also one of seven kids. I loved going down to their house during the school holidays because it was so different to my house. Well, I loved some aspects of it, I didn’t love the fact that they were limited in how much they could eat and drink, for example.
The lengths I go to to keep my husband alive and in one piece (and hence able to earn a decent crust for the family)...
While my husband is unconcernedly swinging on the end of a rope ten metres up in the air, having gracefully ascending a climbing wall, making the whole thing look ridiculously easy, I'm at the bottom of the wall on the other end of said rope, trying, with increasing desperation to lower him just as gracefully to the floor.
I wrestled with the descender with increasing desperation, but to no avail. Try though I might, the bloody thing wouldn't release the rope in any kind of controlled, slow manner and John got more and more alarmed as he jerkily dropped three or four metres, pretty much in free descent, every ten seconds or so. After plummeting the final few metres so quickly that he couldn't get his feet under him, he picked himself up off the floor and, swearing like a pirate, demanded to know what on earth I was playing at.
Weekend? What weekend? Oh, you mean the last two days? The ones that normal people, with normal Monday to Friday jobs spend doing things like the weekly shopping, mowing the lawn, washing the car and getting drunk? THAT weekend? Oh, I spent those days doing stuff for the accountant, you know, updating spreadsheets, downloading data from the bank, checking and cross-checking everything, filling in gaps, making sure everything balances and adds up, that kind of thing. And I really don’t enjoy doing it. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it’s one of the things in life that I truly loathe doing. I get a small satisfaction from seeing everything add up and reflect what’s on the bank statement, but that’s just the OCD side of me getting a hit of Dopamine and going on a restrained little gambol of joy around the living room. I spent my weekend doing the accounts so that I could have this week free and clear, happy in the knowledge that all of the detested bookkeeping work is completed for another year. Now THAT is cause for celebration. I felt so good when I finally not only sent off last year’s info to the accountant but I also updated the current year’s info to match how he’d suggested I do it. I am on top of my game! Watch me and turn green with envy. I am where everyone wants to be, I have it handled, it’s all done, sorted, completed and put away. I am Organised, the Queen of the Annual Accounts. I went to bed last night feeling incredibly smug and proud of my achievement.
I’m in this bizarre space where I’m flitting between pride, excitement, severe worry and sleepless nights. And we’re nowhere close to the time of The Event.
Last November, Keeley asked if she could go on exchange with school this year. “Sure!” says I, keen for her to spread her wings and experience the world in all its diverse glory, “Where do you want to go?”
“Somewhere warm,” says Keeley, who’s a cold-blooded creature like myself, “So I’m thinking maybe Fiji or… what about Colombia?”
Okay, Colombia is a bit left field, I didn’t expect that. Fiji I can understand, it’s close to Australia, she’s been there before and she likes it. England I’d expect, France definitely, possibly Canada, but Colombia? That's an interesting choice. Why Colombia?
I went to the laundry twice on holiday. Hoping to forestall at least some of the post-holiday pile of washing. But no matter how hard I try, no matter what hopeful strategies I put in place, a few hours after we’ve arrived back home, my laundry looks like a volcano that’s spewing smelly, slightly damp, filthy clothes, whose aroma indicates that new life is beginning to burgeon within its mass.
I met a lovely young woman on holiday recently, who proudly announced to me that she does an average of five loads of washing a week. FIVE! Most of her friends have two loads of washing a week maximum, but she has five. I think she mistook my stunned silence for admiration at the amount of washing she produces, and I was definitely admiring, but not in the way she thought, just in a more wistful, wouldn’t-it-be-wonderful kind of way. Five loads of washing A WEEK! It’s unimaginable. Three days of hard work and approximately 18 loads of washing later, I got to the bottom of this weeks’ pongy post-holiday volcano.
One of the wonderful things about living in Perth is the Fremantle Doctor. Every afternoon… actually, I’ll rephrase that, MOST afternoons he comes to visit the sweltering suburbs, bringing relief in the form of what the Sand Gropers (Western Australians) call “a light breeze”. It quickly became blatantly obvious that my idea of a “light breeze” is completely different to that of a Western Australians’. Personally, I’d describe the Fremantle Doctor as anything from a brisk wind to a howling gale, but it’s just an opinion.
Since we lived on the escarpment overlooking Perth, we received the full benefit of the doctor almost every afternoon. The only days the doctor doesn’t do his rounds are during a week in February when, like every other doctor in Australia, he decided to leave his patients to their own devices and go on holiday. Unlike most other doctors in Australia, though, the Fremantle doctor only takes a weeks’ holiday. Most specialists seem to leave their patients for six weeks.
Unfortunately, the Fremantle Doctor’s holidays coincide with the hottest summer temperatures and I can only conclude that the incessant 45 degree daily highs finally get the better of him and (heat) exhaustion force him to take a short break, leaving the rest of us to sizzle and suffer in the scorching heat.
I’m not talking about leaving your lunch behind when you head off for school or work here, I’m talking about vomiting. Puking. Barfing. Chundering. Praying to the Porcelain God. Regurgitating. Spewing. Upchucking. Throwing Up. Doing the technicolour yawn.
I have been blessed with a child who can do all of these things WITH STYLE. The girl has class. She can hit a moving target at three paces with a steady stream of highly toxic, foul smelling, stomach contents, the stench of which no washing machine or cleaning compound has ever been able to remove. This girl is a Master Hurler. Literally. She makes the kid in the exorcist look exactly like what she is: a kid. A mere novice in apprenticeship to renowned Masters of the High Art of Expelling One’s Lunch With Velocity.
My youngest daughter, Keeley, is very, very clever, with a wicked sense of humour and a knack of seeing the absurdity in people’s behaviour, but she also has a few areas of… let’s call it confusion.
We were in the car on the way back from our diving trip, salty, tired, thirsty and in dire need of a shower, but Keeley was on top form, entertaining us with stories of school and life in the boarding house. “I love Ms P [the boarding mother who’s now moved to another school], right, but I won’t miss the prayers she used to do. [Keeley’s voice drops a couple of octaves and takes on a solemn, sonorous tone] Dear God, thank you for all the girls in the boarding house. Thank you for Annabelle and her English exam. Thank you for Jessie and her Maths HSC. Thank you for Lucy who played really well in hockey this week, she did an amazing job [pause], even though we didn’t win and we’re bottom of the table. Thank you for Sophie, who washed the dishes for the first time on Tuesday without being asked…”
I made a half-hearted commitment to myself that I’d kind of journal/write every day during these holidays so I could record what’s happened better. I haven’t managed it yet. Been too busy. This is Club Med, there’s a gazillion things to do all the time! In fact, in just sitting here, writing this piece, I’m missing yoga. Okay, that’s not something heartbreaking for me, I must be one of the few people in the world who doesn’t find yoga relaxing and rejuvenating. Personally, I just find it boring and dull. That’s not very enlightened of me, I know, but I suspect that, all things told, I’m not very enlightened anyway, so we’re all good, I can miss yoga and my soul will still be just as unenlightened as it was before.
We’re on a diving course at the moment, as in SCUBA diving. John and I first learned how to do SCUBA when we first landed in Australia in 1991. I was always a keen aquatic and one of my biggest dreams as a child was to be a mermaid. More specifically, I wanted to be Aqua Marina from the British children’s TV show, Stingray. She was beautiful and brave and the only downside that I could see to being Aqua Marina was that she couldn’t speak. But that was okay because I could speak, so all good. At some point in my growing years, I heard about the theory of evolution and came to the conclusion that if I just spent long enough lying on the bottom of the swimming pool trying to breathe, then I would eventually develop gills and clear vision.
I lie in bed, in that wonderfully comfortable world between sleeping and waking, the world where I seem to have access to ideas and knowledge that I don’t have access to once I get out of bed and start doing things. I love my time in that world and I dedicate at least 20 minutes each morning to exploring that world and finding out answers to questions and conundrums that I have, it’s like all the answers that I need are right there, waiting for me to access them.
Except the answers to one thing. One thing is eternally elusive in my omniscient morning world. One topic never appears in there, the answers just don’t come, no matter how hard I try. Actually, getting the answers is very much NOT about trying, it’s about letting go and ALLOWING, if that makes sense. A couple of days ago, I woke in the middle of the night with the solution to a dress-making problem that had been bugging me, bugging me to the point of redoing the bloody thing three times. All that stitch unpicking… [groans and cradles head in hands]…
One of the things I love about spending one-on-one time with Keeley is the little things she comes out with. Like yesterday.
The kids went on a weeks' camp in the bush last week, and because it's done as part of the Army Cadets program, it's proper camping: set up your own hoochie, carry your gear, cook your food, no showers, etc. At the end of the camp, each of the platoons creates a War Cry which is then performed in front of all the students and judged by the teachers & instructors.
It's an intense competition with the winners gaining a lot of prestige over their rivals.
The girls of 7 Platoon (I hope I've got that right!) spent two days coming up with the words while they were marching, kayaking and canyoning, and an evening crafting the moves to complement the music and words. One of Keeley’s friends, Issy, is new to the school and was a little concerned about how she should behave. The school (TAS) was a boys’ school until 3 years ago and still retains a lot of the boy-ish behaviours, which is one of the reasons the girls & I love the school.
A 500-word-a-day challenge. Pfft. Not a problem. Except that it’s very likely to be a complete challenge over the next couple of months. Let’s rephrase that and “be responsible”: I’m EXPECTING it to be a challenge. I’m ANTICIPATING that it will be a challenge. Ergo, it will be a challenge.
Sorry, sorry, my personal development training just won’t let me get away with crap like that. “Take full responsibility”, “Nothing happens that isn’t your own creation”, “Own everything in your life, it’s the only way to have full power over your life”. Well, that’s all fine, but sometimes I just want to whinge about how hard my life is. Sometimes, I just want everyone else to feel sorry for me because I’m so busy and I’m so stressed. Also, I want everyone to be IN AWE when I post something because they know how busy I am and they’re amazed by the sheer amount of stuff that I get done in a day, plus they’re all then completely understanding when I flake out and don’t do things that I said I’d do; I’m really busy so it’s totally understandable, right? I put a lot of effort into convincing people of how busy I am, I can’t burst the bubble and admit that I actually spend half my life just wasting time.
One of my great long-distance driving Stay-Awake tools is singing along to Robbie Williams. At top volume. I can’t sing for toffee, as Keeley so graciously confirmed once. I was happily squawking along to some swing tune or other, aiming for the high notes and missing by quite a long way, trying to do the harmonies – which, to be fair, I am quite good at for some obscure reason – but getting it wrong half the time, and, not wanting Keeley to miss out on all this fun, particularly as she’s the family musician, I enthusiastically urged her to join in; I was having so much fun, I was sure she would, too.
“No, it’s fine, thank you,” she says. I implored her to chill out, join in and enjoy herself a little. I know she can sing, why doesn’t she participate in the family singalong? It’ll be fun! “Because,” she says, “it’s really annoying when you hear people try to hit the right notes but then end up singing off key.”
Right. Bemused a little by the criticism inherent in that sentence, I finally consoled myself by singing for a while. Off key, of course.
I’ve been thinking there was something wrong with me for the last few weeks. I’ve felt more and more listless, unable to sit at the computer and write, unable to get a string of words together. I make sure that I exercise and do all that stuff; after learning the hard way, I know that if I don’t exercise, I don’t sleep, and sleep is a vital ingredient to feeling good and having your life work. Sleep is as precious as diamonds. Hence, I exercise and stay physically active, I fall asleep quickly and I sleep well. So why am I feeling more and more lifeless, more and more depressed? Why don’t I have much enthusiasm for anything? Why are things getting to me so much? Why can’t I cope with life, taking things personally and blowing everything out of all proportion? What is wrong with me?
It all came to a head yesterday. It’s been a particularly stressful week and I’ve no doubt you’ll hear about it in one article or another. There have been massive upsets with Keeley, concerns about Kira, arguments with Jamie, things going on with Ryan, chats with teachers, emails flying all over the place, arrangements rescheduled, Christmas is hurtling towards us and I hate the whole Christmas thing, and John went into hospital for an operation on his jaw.
Hi! I’m Karen O’Connor, hormonally-challenged, menopausal writer, blogger, self-confessed sarcasm enthusiast, mother of 4, wife of 30 years, destroyer of souls... no, wait, that's just in the mornings...
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