Unprepared – a son leaving home

Eighteen years ago I did the most amazing thing – I gave birth to my son. It was a miracle, such pain and joy and love all rolled into one.

Today my boy left home, to start his own journey in a city far away. I feel those birthing pains again as I let him go; I love him to bits and pray for his future and his protection. Even after all those years I feel unprepared.

Have you read actor Rob Lowe’s account of sending his son to college? I don’t think anything prepares you for this day. I urge you to read this article as it captures the ‘letting go’ with great clarity.
 

Dad, what if it’s too hard for me here?” he asks me later, sitting on his fold-out bed back at the hotel, looking more “fresh” than “man.”

“You came from a very tough academic school with great grades. You took the tests, you got the scores, you did the hours and you did the travel and extracurriculars. You made it happen. No one else. This won’t be any different. This school chose you because they know you can succeed here.”
“None of the other kids look scared at all,” he says, and for the first time I can remember since he was a baby, I can see his eyes welling up. I want to reach out and hug him, but I don’t. Instead I look him in the eye.
“Never compare your insides to someone else’s outsides.”

There is much pain and joy in the letting go. As father and mother, parents to our son we share this journey together. As a family we regroup, smaller around the dinner table, different banter and chat. No one tells jokes like he does. Our lives will be altered. There is now only 6mouths2feed and I am somewhat unprepared.

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The Connection between Organisation & Gratitude

So this might be a personal question? But how do you organise your – well, your clothes? We have an old Victorian home and there is minimal storage. In my bedroom there is no built in cupboard so we are currently ‘making do’ with a few dressers and a very old wardrobe. Recently I have added a hanging rack to accommodate the larger items I have like coats, jackets and long dresses.

But I am determined there must be a better way. Could it be I have too many clothes? Too many shoes? Where do you place all of those less used items like accessories and seasonal active gear that need a home but not one that is in high rotation, so access is not necessarily a priority?

Early in the year I read Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. And for a few special moments it did change my outlook. I rearranged my clothes, my personal things and it helped a lot to remove the clutter. But I did not go all the way. Kondo argues that we should only keep that which we love……and here is the problem for me. I have mounds of things for a rainy day. An item if clothing in several sizes, old beautiful leather boots kept just in case one of my girls grows into them.

People who have adopted this KonMarie Method claim it has transformed their life. Stuff does have a way of compounding the negative. There have been many season in my life when I have felt trapped by material things – when I am busy with a newborn I have felt overwhelmed by clutter because I had not the time or energy for a major spring clean. And then I recall a time living overseas when we took with us just a sample of treasured things and lived lightly for over a year. It was thrilling.

So why then do I struggle today with organising my clothes and thinking about stuff and its hold on me. If it were just me I could possibly live a radically different minimalist life. But there are 7mouths2feed here in my home, that is seven people to help organise. Imagine the number of pairs of shoes we have…..I try not to. I think I need a radically different approach to organisation that allows me to feel lighter and brighter and to train those I love how to care for their things. Perhaps the start is gratitude for abundant material blessings. Maybe that will make parting with the excess of stuff easier.

Ridiculous, everything all at once.

Are you still with me? Maybe you have not been checking in on me either! It has been a crazy December here in the Southern Hemisphere. We like to do EVERYTHING at once. Truly.

We do the end of school break ups, teacher presents, class parties while simultaneously having our small people performing in nativity plays, carol services and special end of year assemblies. The end of the school year is an important occasion to mark and celebrate, however it coincides with a ridiculous number of Christmas parties for work, committees, volunteer groups, sports and church groups, book clubs and of course your friends! Then there is Advent (we tried and have officially failed this year!), Christmas shopping, wrapping, decorating and much Christmas baking. After the third night in a row in early December when I was juggling royal icing at 10 pm I did wonder what I was doing!? We had accumulated a crazy amount of white poison (icing sugar).  Little people had sampled gingerbreads, fudge, chocolate truffles and Christmas cakes and as they ate and licked and rubbed their tummies trails of sugar were left all through the house.

We also decided that December was a good month to complete the upstairs renovation and install carpet into all the bedrooms. Now it has been an amazing transformation. I cannot tell you how good it is not to be living with dusty, rickety floors anymore. But this mini ‘project’ meant that we had days of moving furniture and kids camping in strange places.

On top of it all we have had more illness, a birthday, friends visit and crazy busy work demands.
My own research is a faint memory of something I do/did/will do after Summer holidays, perhaps.
So as we rapidly approach Christmas day I want to wish you a blessed celebration of Jesus’ birth. May your day be peaceful and may there be joy and hope to follow the busyness and stress on Xmas day. Cheers. S xx

The Third Space

My first coffee after school drop off is more of a post mortem of the last 24 hours than a reset before the day begins. So much has usually happened in the hours before that I am need of a coffee and in need of some reflection time. But do I make the most of that transition?

I recently came across an idea that has challenged me. Dr Adam Fraser is an Australian who has developed the concept of the third space, using the transitions in life to find balance and happiness. He has a great 6 minute you tube clip that walks you through the basic premise of his idea. But I found the book, The Third Space a fabulous way of truly ascribing meaning to the idea and developing it further.

Life as we know it and observe it has reached unprecedented heights of crazy busy. And most of us are too overwhelmed to step of the treadmill. According to Fraser we find ourself in the first space. In order to move successfully from school drop off to work or job interview or visiting our sick elderly aunt, that is into the second space, we need to enter a third space. In that third space we are challenged to reflect on what went well on the first space, what story do I want to tell myself? We need to rest in the third space and actively try and rest, maybe for an hour or maybe for a moment. Finally, we need to reset my expectations and behaviour as I move into the second space. We have the opportunity to make sense of what went before and prepare ourself to show us in the next space, to do the next job well.

I am sure you are familiar with the parent who brings the stress and chaos of the work day with them as they enter the family home at night. Or you show up to yet another meeting reeling from the disappointment of the one before and cannot concentrate. Perhaps you allow the pressure of kid wrangling to dictate how you ‘love’ them for the rest of the day. If you are like me, you will fail at the transitions and frequently find yourself showing up badly for the next thing.

I have often written here about transitions. And I am aware of the way life takes us on a roller coaster of highs and lows. So it should be no surprise that someone has come up with a way of dealing with these transitions. The Third Space. Take a look at the you tube clip and read more about it.

I would love to know how women in particular deal with these ideas. Many would argue that women do well at multitasking. Does this mean the Third Space is more relevant to men? I think not. I am challenged to think about how I show up for the next thing. How do those of us who are juggling domestic life, family and work do that reflect, rest and reset thing? I would love to dialogue with you about this. Is there are third space for women?

Feedback Feedback Feedback

Life is busy. I found myself several weeks ago in a bit of a black hole, overwhelmed by doing life. We have 7mouths2feed and even that task seemed too hard. When I lack inspiration to cook it is a sign that I am too busy and a little stressed. When I go to the cupboard and find several bottles of the same cleaning product I know that this too is a tell tale sign of being on the cusp of a foggy brain and mild panic.

I was not thinking. I was moving through each day without purpose and goals. I did not have energy to really love and serve my family, manage my to do list, take that walk that I really needed, clear my head and be mindful, reflect or pray.

Then out of nowhere, or so it seemed I got some feedback. Some positive, kind words came my way and whoa! It pulled me out of the hole and into the land of the living.

It reminded me how integral feedback is to our ability to function each day. At work we need words of encouragement to keep on task and to keep going. As a mother and wife I crave someone noticing that we are all fed, watered and loved. But the reality is that most of us get nothing. An occasional comment, but no really motivating, sustaining, helpful feedback.

Feedback needs to be timely. Feedback needs to relevant. Feedback needs to be practical and authentic. So for me the last few days has been a reminder to seek feedback, if it is not coming my way. And be the one looking for opportunities to encourage with kind words. Be it an email, a text message, an exchange on social media, a telephone call or a visit in person – each act to feed back to the person is so valuable. A gift of feedback.

A new view

A change. A transition. A new view.

The school holidays have started, we are mid way on a smallish reno project, the house is chaos and we have headed to the beach. It must be the coldest, wildest June I have known down here on the coast. The wind is terrifying and creating a cacophany of strange howls. The cold is biting, reminding me of our need for layers of wool and warmth. Bed looks good.
But life moves on. The 7mouths need to be fed and watered, we need things to do and play, books to read, movies to watch, a pudding to make,a dog to walk.
Family holidays offer a new view. We all look a little different, have different needs and wants. There are new opportunities and challenges. It is a new ‘space’ that invites reflection, a new view on how we are doing life. Are we doing well?
Here are some points of reference:
1. Sleep – are we using the holiday time to sleep well and sleep more?
2. Speak – are we taking time to speak to each other with kindness and about new things?
3. Song – are we making music? Humming a tune, listening to the soundtrack of life.
4. Sugar – are we eating well, avoiding too many sweet treats?
5. Solo -are we investing in some serious solo time, to clear our head, rest, review, reflect and reset.
How do you do holidays in winter? Do you have some wisdom about how to find that new view?
PS I love this view of Ella Webb’s art @Wynton

Healing

I had hoped that we might have made to mid year before the season of sniffles, coughs and colds arrived. But apparently not….there has been someone sick at home every week for the last month or so. I am a little bewildered as to how I should respond. I struggle being the patient, gentle spirited mother mopping the brow. I interrogate each child ten times over if they suddenly take ill in the morning before school, so at times I may not be as sympathetic as I should be. But it is perhaps a reality when you have a large family. There are just more mouths to pick up the odd virus or ingest the latest germs.

We get through each strain of illness using a bit of panadol, a lot of rest, fluids, some favourite books, a movie and more recently the iPad. Sleep is encouraged, but at times that too can be elusive. If I am feeling particularly generous I may make soup, squeeze lemons for a hot honey and lemon drink or make cups of ice to suck on. But honestly I struggle during these times.

And what I struggle with is the opportunity I have been given to serve my family. I am overwhelmed by all the things that I now cannot do because I am confined to home duties. The tape that plays in my head is characterised by self pity, resentment and discouragement. There is no joy, just disappointment. I confess this because I suspect that I am not the only one that has to take three long, deep breaths when the kidlets fall sick. To change plans, adjust the to do list and simply go with the flow can be h.a.r.d.

But if I am honest, I know He is sovereign so this is all as it is meant to be. I am meant to be home. I am here to serve and I should trust that the unexpected blessing of being with my family will bring me joy. Somewhere in this season of illness and weariness there is healing for us all.