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…
Read the article here
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.
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’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 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.
As I write that title, I’m beginning to wonder something: our bodies reflect our minds (so the new age, mindset kind of books say), in which case, is what’s going on with my body a reflection of what’s going on with my mind? Am I mentally becoming an intolerant old bag and that’s why my body is becoming intolerant and baggy? The body is a reflection of the mind? It’s an interesting and not very appealing thought.
I’ve been a bit quiet for the last few weeks, at least as far as blogging goes, and that’s because I’ve had to spend my time learning how to cook! At my age! Like I haven’t been cooking for forty-odd years! It’s been a bizarre and overwhelming experience. I’m used to just being able to open the cupboard & fridge and make some kind of dish out of it. I rarely do a shopping list anymore, I don’t need to. But now? Now, I have no clue what I can or can’t cook, how to cook it or anything.
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?
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.
Just over a year ago, I decided to write a book about how we went from having ordinary jobs to being property developers and turning over a hefty amount of money annually. I wanted to explain to people, maybe “tell” people is a better expression, what we did to make the necessary changes in the way we think that allowed us to make that transition.
Before we started doing all this wealth creation stuff, we thought it was all just about making money, having a business, lots of employees, sell stuff and somehow the money will come. It isn’t about that at all. It was very hard to believe for a long time, but it’s actually about the thoughts we have about money that make the difference. That sounded really bizarre and we felt like we were being totally led astray and up some fairy garden path for a while, but enough books & people said the same thing that we began to pay attention and eventually give the whole “money mindset” thing a try.
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.
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.
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.
What do I want?
I shook myself, trying to regain some semblance of control of what was going on inside my head and quell some of the more strident voices that are clamouring for attention. Get a grip, I told myself, these are my thoughts, I am in charge here, it’s time to stop. Just stop, okay? What is it that I actually feel is right for me? Take what John thinks out of it, take what Keeley or Kira think out of it, what do I want?
Oblivious to the Pacific Ocean, its surface glassy and sun-kissed, its waves dotted with tanned, fit surfie-types who had succumbed to the ocean’s seductive call to come and play (and possibly drown or get bitten by a shark), I continued my stormy stomp down the beach, completely unaware of the sand massaging the tension from my feet but uncomfortably aware of the sand scrubbing away the remnants of the blisters there. Blisters that I got after a beach walk a few days ago, when I crossed the carpark while wearing no shoes.
More family stories…
I’m probably going to get into a lot of trouble for this, but I’ve been in trouble my whole life, particularly with my family, so it’s not a new experience.
This blog is one that I wrote more than three years ago about my Mum’s eldest sister, my Aunty Joan. She passed away at that time and these are some of the memories that came up for me.
I was always a little scared of Aunty Joan. She had seven children and it was always chaos at her house, so (of course) I loved going down there. It was always full of people, there was always lots of noise and there were always things going on. They also lived right opposite the local church so Sunday morning at 6.30, the bells would start ringing. All the family slept right through it and I could never figure out how they managed it.
Two days ago…
“I’ve sent my Aunty J a birthday card,” I said to my dad, “But I realised after I sent the card that I’ve put the wrong age on it: I thought she was 70 but it says on her Facebook profile that she’s 74, so this will be her 75th. I don’t think she’ll mind about getting a 70th card anyway, at least I assumed she was younger than she is, so all good.”
In true Dad style, my father responds with “Oh no, you’re not getting away with that! I’m going to make sure she minds; I’ll stir things with her until she does!”
I’m quite sure my father could hear me rolling my eyes even though he was 12,000 miles away and we were talking via text message.
I sent a message to my dad, asking how the party went.
I heard my Mum say to my Dad on numerous occasions, "You know what happens when you talk about religion or politics…"
I’m having a meltdown. Over something and absolutely nothing. To the point where I didn’t sleep last night. Actually, you can take that last statement with a pinch of story-tellers’ salt; this had nothing to do with the fact that I didn’t sleep well last night but it sounds good and it fits. So, as they say, if the glove fits… I didn’t sleep well last night because my mind was churning with conflicting thoughts. My adult, educated, resourceful, analytical mind is rolling its eyes and telling me not to be ridiculous. My six-year old inner child is telling me something completely different: I’m in mortal danger.
My Dad, bless him, will vehemently deny that he can be just a little bit obstreperous. He’d be totally insincere in his vehemence and we all know it. In fact, he’s highly likely to be so insincere that his
If you're on this website, it's highly likely you're a woman aged between 40 & 65, who's staring down the barrel of the rest of her life, uncertain as to what the hell to do with it.
Welcome to the MAWS of life.
'Maws' in the dictionary means 'jaws' or 'mouth'. In this case, it's my acronym for 'Middle Aged Women's Stuff', although originally I had it down as 'Middle Aged Woman Syndrome'. It's that point we get to where we've been doing everything for our family, the kids are leaving home/have left, we're looking at an empty nest, and the rest of our lives, and we find ourselves a bit lost. What on earth are we supposed to do now? We can't even remember what it is we used to want for our lives, and we certainly can't remember how to put ourselves first, right?
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...
***We would like to note that some of the posts on this site may contain affiliate links. This means that if you purchase something that has an affiliate link, we will get a commission from it. Not all items recommended on our site are affiliate links. We only recommend items that either we have used and tried or we have researched as much as we can. Thank you for your trust!
Please go here to read the full disclosure page.