Monday, November 7, 2016

Cutting corners


I despise formal exercise. DESPISE it. Funny, because in my late teens and for most of my twenties, I loved a good gym session or workout class. In the early nineties, I started with step classes, then I tried mixing it up a bit with the occasional cardio-funk class (which was more like a dance class than anything else - ie, FUN)!

Not long after our move from Perth to Sydney in the mid-nineties, Mr A and I joined a gym. I continued my step classes for a bit there, but then turned to cardio and weights workouts until I realised I preferred the structure of classes. Circuit classes were my workout of choice - I could move from station to station doing various exercises and before I knew it, the hour was up. Perfect.

After the birth of Eldest Son, my only form of exercise for a long time was walking. I did a LOT of walking with him, taking him out in the pram most days, and that pretty much continued once Middle Son came along two years later. My arms maintained their tone due to all the lifting I did with my babies. In the car, out of the car. In the bath, out of the bath. In the cot, out of the cot. In to the high chair, out of the high chair. You get the picture.

However, after Youngest Son was born, time was of the essence and conflicting sleep times coupled with Eldest Son commencing school meant that the time to exercise became less and less accessible. Before too long I realised that my body wasn't returning to my pre-pregnancy weight like it had after my first two sons were born. What a shock that was. I was always one of those annoying people that could eat pretty much anything they wanted and never gain a single ounce of weight. Not anymore, people.

I tried joining a gym once after all three boys were in school, but I didn't like it. It wasn't me anymore. There's nothing more boring to me than working out in a gym amongst other sweaty people - it's just not fun and I found the hour I was there dragged along. I soon realised that I'm not a 'formal exercise' kinda gal. Not anymore, anyway. When I'm exercising, I don't like it to feel like I'm exercising, you know?

So, I tried other stuff. Like a ladies tennis clinic. I'd always loved playing tennis and always, in truth, dreamt of playing weekly tennis once my munchkins were all in school. After our move to the northern beaches in 2013 however, my tennis playing soon fell by the wayside. I had intended to join a local club (there's a great tennis club right by the beach I coveted - location, location, location), but getting a spot in one proved more difficult than I realised.

However, I was also playing weekly netball by then too and decided to keep that up. Which, at first, I did until, that is, I hurt my ankle and started to get some pain in the other one. (Hello, forties...!) I wasn't keen on injuring myself any further and besides, by then our team had changed and we'd moved to another comp where the really competitive netball players came out to play. I was there for fun - and at first it was fun - but I soon realised that perhaps not everyone else took it quite so casually as I did. Five minutes in to our very first game in the new comp, one of our players went down, hitting her head as she did. I immediately stopped, as did most of our team, but a player on the other team, after seeing our team mate fall, ran past our fallen player and shouted, 'PLAY ON!' Well, okay then. I'm out.

These days, my workouts include walking the dog and SUP - both of which feel more like enjoying life than exercising. When I can't do either of those though, I sometimes do The 7 minute Workout - a high intensity workout consisting of exercises you can do at home (I use the app on my phone). I try to do at least two of the workouts at a time (so, 14 minutes in total). I love that it's quick and NOT in a gym. But of course, getting outside is my preference. (And on rainy days, I can walk on our treadmill at home - but that's definitely my last resort option!) Oh, and I still dance in my kitchen like it's a night club on occasion too. (Thank you, 90s Digital Radio Station!)

I like my new 'workout' routine. It feels a bit like I'm cutting corners, which actually pleases me no end. Life's too short to spend it in a smelly gym. :)

J
xox

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Internet Rules


This past week, there has been a war or words brewing on the interwebs between a couple of Aussie bloggers. Apparently.

I say 'apparently' because, to be honest, I've only read a couple of Facebooks posts and blog posts on it - I haven't read the original post that one blogger wrote that the other responded to, creating what many are referring to online as 'a shit-storm'.

It made me realise how much it isn't my world anymore. Back in my Mummy Mayhem days, I'm sure I would probably have been on top of it, perhaps even involved (respectfully) in the conversation. (And for the record, I believe everyone should be able to express their personal opinion on anything, so long as it is done respectfully.) Not anymore.

A long time ago, I wrote a blog post on MM about blog comments and how they can be a bit of a double-edged sword. Although feedback, communication and interaction can be a great thing in the blogging and social media world, it also opens the opportunity for some to take advantage of that and get, well, nasty. You see, it's easy for people to hide behind their computers and express an opinion they'd never ever probably express in public, face-to-face. Especially those who choose to comment anonymously, or have very little (if any) kind of public profile.

To be honest, I think people often makes this stuff a hell of a lot more complicated than it has to be. I have my own set of rules when online:

1. I don't have to read EVERYTHING on the Internet
If I generally don't like what a certain blogger/writer writes, then I don't read what they write. Simple. This past year, I have unfollowed a handful of Facebook pages because, generally, I disagree with most of what they write. I don't see the point in continuing to read stuff that is only going to elevate my blood pressure!

2. Any comment I make, I have to be 100% certain I want to make it
Any comment I make has to be one I'd happily make in person, and would be comfortable seeing quoted up on a billboard with flashing lights surrounding it, positioned beside a busy highway. It's not always the popular comment, and I may disagree with someone (RESPECTFULLY), but I stand by it. 100%.

3. Don't engage with trolls/haters - Ignore, ignore, ignore
This is the thing that really bothers me - people who give too much time and attention to trolls and haters. I know it's sometimes hard to not take things personally, and in the past on MM I had a couple of posts that became unintentionally controversial and, in turn, attracted some rather, er, interesting comments/direct messages on Twitter/emails towards me. But you know what? I owned what I wrote, I dealt with those commenters as respectfully as I could, and ignored the rest. Engaging with people like this only emboldens them, because for the most part, they're looking for attention. They will also, more than likely, not see your point of view anyway, so why waste your breath? As for those who just make hateful, nasty, negative comments about you - and you don't even know who they are - block/report/disengage/delete. Cut them. Easy.

4. Sometimes walking away is the best option
Every now and then, I come across a post that I disagree with quite passionately, but when I think about it, I realise there's no point commenting. I ask myself, How necessary is my opinion here? Walking (or clicking!) away is sometimes the best idea. Same applies to people who may reply to a comment I have made on a post in a negative way. Sometimes I reply to their replies a couple of times if I think it could be beneficial and/or necessary, but if I feel the person is just looking for a fight, and appears to not be very educated on what is being discussed in the first place anyway, I just stop replying. There's a saying I remind myself of all the time that Mr A has always said: If you get in to an argument with an idiot, then you are the idiot. 

5. Ignore attention seeking
You know those posts on Facebook that people sometimes make, like, 'I can't take this anymore'? Unless you know that person, and know that they wouldn't normally make posts like that and so, perhaps, really need your attention, then just IGNORE. You know these people. We all have them on our social media feeds - they constantly like to make vague posts/tweets etc (known on Facebook as 'Vaguebooking') to induce comments like, 'What's wrong, honey?' You're not helping them by replying.

Sometimes, life - especially online - only has to be as complicated as we make it, you know?

J
xox

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The tale of the lap-dancing spider


* This is an edited re-post from my previous blog, Mummy Mayhem

Above is a photo of a Huntsman Spider that happily nestled itself in my sliding door the other day. As soon as the weather gets warmer here in Oz, it really is only a matter of time before one of these charming, large spiders come crawling in to your home and settle themselves somewhere in your house. 

Often you find them high on a wall towards the ceiling (they don't like vibrations, hence they usually position themselves far away from the floor), and, unfortunately, they seem to often like the powder room. By the time you realise it's there, it's too late: you're mid-wee, and you have no option (especially if you've given birth - three times) to finish and get the hell outta there. You keep one eye on your little friend, willing for it not to MOVE or, God forbid, JUMP (as they sometimes do), until you can make a haste exit from the room, vowing never EVER to go in there again.

I've had to call in Mr A's services on occasion to get rid of a Huntsman on our wall. His method is the old empty-ice cream-container-over-the-top with a piece of paper slid underneath, captured and then dumped back in to the garden. I've tried this method myself in the past, but couldn't even get the container over the spider without hyperventilating. I prefer the high pressured vacuum cleaner method myself. Ssssuuuuuck! Gone. *dusts off hands*


However, these massive and ugly creatures of God are smarter than you might think. One time, in our old apartment, Mr A humanely removed a visiting Huntsman with his container trick one evening, taking it down three levels to release it in to the garden, only for me to find it BACK the next day in the EXACT SAME SPOT it was captured from the night before! Well, ok, I can't prove it was the exact same spider, but really, what are the chances of that happening? I was convinced (still am) that the spider was messing with my mind. But I won. I used the vacuum cleaner that time. Take that, Huntsman.

But the worst meeting I ever had with a Huntsman was many, many years ago back in Perth after I collected the mail from the letterbox. I pulled out a nice little pile of store catalogues, took them inside and got comfy on the couch eager to sort through them. I arranged them neatly on my lap, slowly flicking through each one - leaving my favourite until last: the Target catalogue. I took my time, relishing each page, making a mental note of all I needed to buy in their latest sale, and then, as I turned over the last page, sitting on the back was the biggest, hairiest, scariest HUNTSMAN SPIDER I had ever seen!!!

I instantly THREW the catalogue high in to the air, leaping up as I did, and screaming for good measure. Then I ran around the house, frantically running my fingers through my hair in case the spider had landed in it, then promptly ripped off my clothes down to my just my bras and knickers. 


Finally satisfied the spider was not on me, I shakily fetched the vacuum cleaner, determined to get rid of the lap-dancing Huntsman.

As I positioned myself, having finally located the pest behind the couch where I had been sitting, Mr A walked in. He smiled - a sort of, Alriiiiight, I'm gettin' me some action kind of smile until I threw him a look of despair, and in an incredibly abridged version of the events that had just occurred (because time was of the essence), explained what had happened. Mr A took over. I insisted he suck the little bugger up, and that particular time, he obliged.

Note to all Huntsman Spiders: Don't mess with me. Me, and the vacuum, are at the ready. (Or, at least - and preferably - Mr A will be.)


J
xox

Friday, October 7, 2016

Friends like these


I took the boys away down to the Southern Highlands of NSW with a friend of mine and her two boys last week for the first week of the school holidays. I've never done a trip like that before, ie without Mr A but with a friend instead. It was great - all our boys get along so well. My friend managed to find a house that had its own tennis court with a basketball hoop. Although the weather was pretty cool at times, the boys didn't care - they spent a lot of time out on that court. One day in particular was so sunny, and my friend and I sat underneath a pergola covered in vines and sipped coffee while the boys alternated between tennis and basketball. There's nothing I enjoy more than a chinwag with a beautiful friend while sipping on a cappuccino. Especially an uninterrupted one.

We did 'farm stuff' too, like feed the sheep in the hazelnut orchard, and take long walks in hope of spotting local kangaroos (we did) and to check out the cows, all while dodging animal poos galore and large wombat holes. Then there was the time we took a rather disastrous bush walk. We accidentally chose one that was close to a main road - during the walk we could hear traffic and spot local houses! Then less than ten minutes in, Eldest Son spotted a snake in the grass (that looked disturbingly like a brown snake - you know, just the second most venomous land snake IN THE WORLD) and promptly stopped to excitedly take a photo of it before sending it out to friends on Snapchat (as you do). My friend and I couldn't get out of that bush fast enough, and it didn't help that our boys were teasing us by making, 'Look - a snake!' comments, causing us to squeal and run through the remainder of the walk until we (thankfully) hit a clearing. Having decided after some lunch to take the nearby access road back to our cars instead of risking another meeting of the snake, Middle Son -  playfully chased by one of my friend's boys - managed to run straight in to a huge mass of mud, completely drenching his (only) pair of sneakers, and covering the back of his clothes in said mud in the process. *sigh*

My friend's beautiful eldest son offered the t-shirt off his own back for Middle Son to wear, and wore his mum's spare long-sleeved top instead so we could continue on to the beautiful surrounds of Milton Park (with Middle Son squeezed in to Youngest Son's thongs we thankfully found in the car) - a nice change of pace for us after our short, yet eventful, bush walk.

The biggest bonus of our boys amusing each other was that my girlfriend and I got to do a lot of talking. Whenever we get on the phone for a 'quick' chat, it's not unusual for a whole hour to pass. Even if we've already spoken to each other earlier in the week. We stayed at the farm for three nights and every night we chatted for hours and hours, warming our toes in front of the fire, sipping white wine and not once struggling with anything to say. We've been friends for almost twenty years now - we became friends pretty much from the moment she joined the bank where we both worked (where did the time go?). We attended each other's weddings and celebrated the birth of our children and supported each other through the death of our parent(s). (She lost her father just months after I did.) She remains one of my dearest friends today.

While we were down at the farm, the first anniversary of my dear Mum's death came around, and that morning I found a beautifully wrapped gift in my bedroom with a card attached. My friend had written some beautiful words of comfort for me, causing tears to well in my eyes - partly due to the memory of Mum's passing, of course, but also in recognition of the incredibly thoughtful gesture by my friend. I carefully unwrapped the shimmery, pink paper to find a beautiful candle inside.

As I write this, on the day of my mother's funeral held a year ago today, the candle is burning beside me in memory of her, thanks to my gorgeous friend.

I'm lucky to have a number of really good friends in my life. So lucky. There's nothing quite like a good friend, is there? And this one is one of the best. :)

J
xox

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

One year ago


On this day a year ago, I said goodbye to my dear Mum. I think I've done pretty well this past year. I mean, don't get me wrong, I've definitely had my moments, but in general, I've both accepted and coped fairly well with Mum's death. Better than I did my dear Dad's, in truth. With Dad, I thought I was over the worst of my grief around the six month mark at the time, but looking back, I was fairly consumed by grief for a good year, perhaps more. It wasn't obvious grief. I wasn't breaking down and sobbing uncontrollably or anything, but it was grief-related, that's for sure. I've learned that grief presents in different ways sometimes. After Dad died, I spent a lot of time looking back on my past, especially my childhood, teens and late teens - even my early twenties - basically when I lived with my parents. I questioned decisions I made and friendships I'd formed and lost. I analysed past relationships. I saw the bigger picture. It's difficult to explain, but essentially I analysed stuff a lot. No stone was left unturned in my mind. Sometimes, that was rather taxing emotionally. I've always been a bit of an over-thinker, and thinking about everything became overwhelming at times.  

Then the day finally came when I realised that not only had I stopped analysing everything so much, but that I could also think about Dad and not feel sad anymore; instead I could smile at the memory of him. Embrace today, not live in the past. Corner turned.

However, within a month or two of reaching that inner peace with losing Dad, I found myself flying to Perth to watch my Mum die. I braced myself afterwards, assuming I would react much the same as I had after Dad's death. I even warned my boys of what was to come, 'Some days, I might just seem in a bad mood and you won't be able to work out why because I'll get upset at everything - it just might be because I'm missing Grandma, okay?' In fact, I assumed it might be worse. I was close to both parents, but my Mum and I always had a very special relationship, a particularly strong bond.

Yet, what followed sort of surprised me. Following Mum's death, I found myself looking more to the future than re-living the past, and I guess that may have a lot to do with the fact that there is a sense of calm knowing that my parents are together again - and with my sister, Valda. As they say, it is the circle of life. We all die one day, so it's important to embrace life and enjoy it until that day comes, right? If you want to do something, do it. If you want to feel something, feel it. Look back if you want to - sometimes looking back is the only way we can move forward - but don't forget to look ahead. There's so much more to come, am I right?

Certainly, I feel I have probably embraced life more so over the last year than perhaps I have in the past, or at least a very long time. I'm getting out in the sunshine more, writing more, living more, appreciating more. I have my down days, yes, but all the other days are pretty damn good.

Mum would be proud.

Love and miss you, Mum.

J
xox

Friday, September 23, 2016

Loose ends


This is me, twenty-five years ago, standing in front of Windermere - England's largest natural lake. (Can you believe it was actually summertime when this photo was taken? Good ole English weather, eh?) I was almost a week in to a two-week road trip through the UK with two friends that immediately followed a fourteen-day Contiki tour through Europe with one of them. (Sorry, just to digress for a moment ... I wonder, when looking at this photo, why I'm wearing black socks with grey cotton pants and white shoes, and why didn't I push down one of the legs of my pants before the pic was taken? *sigh*)

Just before I left for my holiday, I had been seeing a guy. Although it was very early days, I quickly realised the relationship wasn't going anywhere; he was still hung up on his ex-girlfriend, and I was interested in someone else at the time (someone I had planned to see on the holiday). We quite openly discussed our feelings for other people. During one of those discussions, I pondered the point of us continuing the 'relationship' (for want of a better word - it hadn't gotten anywhere near serious - like I said, it was very early days), and he said, 'Go on your holiday, see how things go, then when you come back, we'll see where we're both at. At the very least we're friends, and friendship is the basis of any relationship.'

Wise words indeed, however it wasn't enough for me. I knew - in my gut - nothing was going to eventuate between us, and in truth, I felt uncomfortable going halfway around the world to visit someone while someone else was waiting for me back home. So one day when I found myself alone in a rental apartment that I was photographing for work (I worked for a real estate company), and noticed a telephone in the corner of the room and found the line was still connected, I called him. 'It's not working,' I explained. 'I just think it best we end it now, rather than drag things out.' After a short, respectful and kind discussion between the two of us, we were done, but vowed to remain friends.

I left that rental property finally understanding the whole 'weight lifted from your shoulders' concept. I'd allowed my first serious relationship to drag on and on, well beyond its expiry date, and I was so proud of myself for not doing that again. I knew that he was probably using my upcoming holiday as an excuse to prolong the inevitable, and perhaps once upon a time, I'd have done the same, but in the past, that hadn't worked for me.

Later in the evening in Windermere, after the picture was taken, I sat on the bed in our cosy B&B room and wrote a postcard to send to my ex. You see, his ex-girlfriend was from the same town. I knew he'd find the humour in it (and he did).

Although things didn't work out with the other guy either (something I kinda knew going in to it, but wanted to know for sure), I don't regret the decision to call things off with my ex. As the saying goes, Don't put off till tomorrow what you can do today.

Maybe it's a Virgo thing, but I like things to be finished up neatly and I'm no fan of living with question marks hanging over my head. Tying up loose ends - of all types - makes me feel a gazillion times lighter, like I can start afresh and look to the future. Wipe the slate clean. I knew, getting on that plane to the UK, I was free of any future decisions, and I could just live in the moment, and importantly, my ex was able to do the same.

J
xox

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Look up


Many years ago now, I once had a conversation with an elderly lady who told me that you could see beauty in everything around you. All you had to do was look. The trees, the stars, the flowers, newborn babies ... beauty all around.

I see a lot of beauty on my paddling sessions. Birds flying low along the water, fish swimming underneath my board, distant trees swaying in the breeze, the way the sun glistens off the water. It's all so beautiful.

But sometimes, in every day life, I forget to 'look up'.

Like right now, you're reading this. Look up. What's around you? Your home, backyard, partner, child, pet? The view from the nearby window?

I was checking Facebook the other day, and as I looked up for a second, I saw the view pictured above. I don't think the photo quite captures it well - the colours in the sky reflecting over the water as the sun was setting really took my breath away, and I almost missed it - lost for a while in a virtual world.

It was a gentle reminder to look up. Sometimes the most beautiful things are right in front of you.

J
xox

Sunday, August 28, 2016

September


Most people here in Oz are no doubt looking forward to September because with it brings spring, which means warmer weather, wildflowers (and daffodils - who doesn't love a good daffodil?) and the birth of cutesy baby animals. Then there's the promise of it being just three short months until summer.

Usually I'm on the September bandwagon. BIG time. I've always had good reason to be: it's my 'birthday month'. As soon as the 1st of September hits, I know it's just over two weeks until my 'big day'. I have been known to remind friends and family weeks in advance. I've always loved my birthday (can you tell?), especially when I was younger. My dear Mum in particular always made a big deal of it with the purchase of thoughtful presents, the preparation of my favourite foods and a birthday cake (lovingly baked and decorated with care by her - Mum's cakes were always amazing).

However, it never stopped at just being my birthday month, September is also when my dear Dad was born (his birthday fell just nine days after mine) and my parents celebrated their wedding anniversary just three days before my birthday. (I remember one anniversary dinner held at home - as almost always - where I insisted we eat by candlelight. We spent the first half of dinner peering in to our plates trying to make out what we were eating, until Dad finally announced, 'Bloody hell, I can't see a damn thing. Can we turn the lights back on?')

This year, however, is quite a different story. Although I'm definitely looking forward to the warmer weather September is sure to bring (I'm busting to get back out on my board more often), September isn't ever going to feel the same way it did up until three years ago.

My parents' anniversary date is no longer just that, because three years ago come this September, my dear Dad died on he and Mum's 65th Wedding Anniversary. Then last year, my dear Mum died in September - the day after what would have been Dad's 90th birthday.

So this year in particular, with the 1st anniversary of Mum's death rapidly approaching, I'm feeling somewhat apprehensive about the month of September. I know I'll still celebrate my birthday, but it won't be the same with both parents now gone. (Let me tell you it is weird - weird - when you lose a second parent. Like, you now have to finally be the grown up, you know? There's a feeling of being alone, even if you still have your sibling(s) and/or own family around you.)

However, I also know that this September will be more difficult than those that follow in the years to come. I'll be okay. I just have to get through this one.

*takes a deep breath*

J
xox

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

'The m-word'


Although I don't want to jinx anything, I'm pretty sure I can confidently announce that the 'down' phase has finally gone. Hoorah!

I know it has been a tough few years with both Mum and Dad passing, but as I'm fast approaching 46 - and have noticed a few, let's just say body changes over the past year and a bit - I fear that the ups and downs I have been feeling lately may not just be grief-related. I think it may also have something to do with, well, hormones. As in (oh GOD, am I really about to write this?) it could be, perhaps, ... menopause?

Geez, I hate writing 'the m-word' because it makes me feel really OLD. My GP told me about eighteen months ago that there is a pre 'm-word' stage that can last for up to ten years. TEN, people! Certainly, the last time I felt this hormonal was as a fourteen year old girl who was new to the whole 'having a period' thing. I remember snapping at my best friend one time while we were sitting and talking on my bed - my period was in full swing and I felt awful - and she said, 'You know, I'm not sure I can be around you when you have your period.' I immediately apologised then promptly burst in to tears. I needed my best friend more than ever during that time, and I didn't want to lose her, but by the same token I just couldn't help myself. It was as if I was possessed by the devil himself, and as the words escaped my lips, not only couldn't I believe I was actually saying them, it seemed beyond my control to stop them from coming out!

For that first year or so, every time 'that time of month' came around, my mood swings would take over and turn me in to a complete and utter cow. For a day or two, anyway. Eventually, thankfully, the mood swings settled. I guess it was just my teenage body getting used to all the hormone changes.

Oh, the ups and downs of womanhood...

On one hand, I am completely comfortable with the idea that my child-bearing years are slowly but surely winding down. Since the birth of Youngest Son almost ten years ago, I have not once felt the need to have another child. In fact, I knew it during my labour with him. I remember standing against the bed, holding on to my swollen belly as another contraction hit, and thinking, I can't ever go through this again. I. Am. DONE. There are just some things you know, am I right?

However, if my hunch is correct, and my recent mood swings are to do with 'the m-word' fast approaching, I'm not sure how I'll cope going through those down periods. Especially if they are going to make a habit of swinging by occasionally for as long as my GP seems to think they could. I mean at 45, I'm certainly not getting any more patient with age, let me tell you!

In any case, all is good again for the moment, so I'm going to embrace that, as well as the spring that has returned in my step these last few days.

While I can, anyway. *crosses fingers*

J
xox

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Stuck


I continue on in this funk that I thought would have lifted by now. I'm never down for long. I have my moments, then I move on. I am, in general, a pretty happy person.

In actual fact, I thought that by last Sunday, I had almost fully recovered and things were looking up. That's where writing about your feelings can help. Getting it out, admitting things aren't okay and 'talking' about it can clear the cobwebs, you know?

But I found myself on a particular low yesterday.

I think it mostly has to do with my dear Mum. I have been thinking and talking about her a lot this past week, and after talking about her death again yesterday morning with someone (without getting upset at the time, I might add), I found myself driving home afterwards from the conversation and spontaneously bursting in to tears.

In particular, I can't get the image of my Mum dying out of my head at the moment. It's the first thing I wake up thinking about, and as much as I try to shake it off, I just can't. Although I'm so glad I was there for my Mum, watching her die was the hardest thing I have ever done, and not an experience I'd like to repeat any time soon. (Or ever thank-you-very-much.) The memory of it stays with me, and partly, I want it to. I don't want to completely forget it, but I don't want to remember it with great clarity either. In fact, I'm glad that after the first 48 hours had passed following her death, the memory of her final minutes wasn't as painfully vivid as it had been immediately afterwards. I think the brain is great at protecting you from the things that really hurt. I have a friend who had quite a bad car accident; she drove in to a back of a truck. Doesn't remember a thing about it. At the time, the doctors told her it was her brain's way of protecting her from those, no doubt, incredibly horrifying final seconds leading up to the impact.

Grief really sucks. Just when you think you're feeling better, it draws you back in. I know, from experience, this first year will be the hardest. All the 'firsts' are the hardest, and there's just one month and ten days to go before all the 'firsts' are finally done.

I think I'll sigh in relief come October. I hope so anyway.

J
xox

Saturday, August 13, 2016

This too shall pass


Apart from the odd post here and there, I pretty much stopped writing about parenting when I finished up Mummy Mayhem. There comes a time in your childrens' lives when you realise it's not your story to tell. Writing about toilet training and three-year-old tantrums is one thing, but as your kids grow and so does their awareness of the world (not to mention the Interwebs), it's time, in my opinion, to stop writing about them.

But I can still write about being a parent.

Parenting can be REALLY hard. There are 'those days' that unwind us on occasion, no less me over the last couple of weeks in particular. The Queen referred to the year 1992 as her 'annus horribilis'. That's what the last two weeks have been for me, with everything culminating in me 'having a moment' in my car on the side of the road last Thursday - head down on the steering wheel and great heaving sobs escaping uncontrollably. All because one son forgot his school shoes; a fact only discovered once we were driving up to the school gate. After a slightly longer than usual drive from home that morning - almost an hour - it became the straw that broke the camel's back. (I managed to pull myself together, make a few calls, and in the end he was only ten minutes late - a gorgeous friend offering me shoes and a nice, long empathetic hug.)

Except that it wasn't just about the missing shoes at all.

Over the past few weeks the household has become a breeding ground for a dreaded lurgy that has taken all of us down one by one. When you're sick everything seems worse, right? Emotions and reactions are heightened. Tenfold. Even the smallest of things seem big. Add to that, I'm about to embark on a challenging month ahead (more on that another time) and, well, it can all seem a bit too much at once. I haven't reacted well at times.

Sometimes I'm the best mother in the world, sometimes I may not be the worst, but I feel pretty damn ordinary. I lose my *$%#, you know? Probably because I'm human. Doesn't make it any less disappointing to me though.

I think I'm particularly tough on myself because this is what I do all day, every day. I can't blame pressures at 'work'. I can't blame being time poor because I'm studying. I should be able to do this with ease, don't you think? But some days, I just feel so overwhelmed by everything. There's always something that needs fixing, you know?

But maybe, doing this gig without the kind of 'outside' help that only an extended family can provide (Mr A is great when he isn't at work and the like) is exactly what adds to the problem. For the past almost fourteen and a half years, I've had to do this without the benefit of a little extra help from a grandparent and/or sibling from time to time. I know people will probably read this and think, But you're at home all day and your kids are at school - it can't be too bad! That's true, I am, and most of the time it isn't, but I'm not sitting at home all day every day watching daytime television and eating donuts by the dozen. I'm 'working'. Household chores, but work nonetheless. I don't outsource anything. In fact, the closest I come to getting help is ordering food online every few weeks or so!

I do, however, enjoy the odd catch up with friends and I'm on my paddle board as much as possible (to me, that's my 'run' or 'gym session' or 'tennis clinic'), and I have taken a 'day off' on occasion to shop or watch trashy tv or sleep (mostly when I'm sick). But I am working otherwise.

Mr A works (like, outside the home!), and over the years he has traveled quite a bit for work, so it has always been up to me to shoulder most of the 'every day' parenting. I can't tell you how many times a work trip overseas unfortunately coincided with a sick child, and I just had to suck it up. I couldn't call on my parents or my sister or an in-law to perhaps swing by and just play with one child for an hour or so while I wiped up the vomit of another. Never. EVER.

As a consequence, it's me my boys call out for in the middle of the night when they're sick. It's me who caters to everyone's social and school obligations and coordinates it all, and it's me who has to ask them 343 times every afternoon after school to start their homework. *face plants*

I suppose eventually, the ongoing pressures and demands of parenting sometimes catches up with you. Certainly, it seems to have caught up with me lately.

But I love that old saying: This too shall pass. Because I know from experience it will, and I am always quick to remind myself that I'm not the only one with these challenges. Many are in my shoes. And then there are the mums and dads who are working and trying to coordinate everything around all the same stuff I do. I'm lucky in that regard. I do get time to myself to regroup. I know it's only up from here.

Parenting fails and days that just go from bad to worse remind us that we're human and we need to whinge sometimes. And you know what? It's not such a bad thing to show our kids that we have feelings too. However, we also need to be grateful for what we have, apologise for our outbursts (I've apologised a lot over the last couple of weeks!) learn from our mistakes, and move on.

Moving on now...

J
xox

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Where did all the bloggers go?


When I first started blogging back in '09 (I can't believe that's almost seven years ago now - SEVEN!), I used to read a lot of blogs. I followed quite a number of them, and every morning after I'd gotten the kids off to school, and Youngest Son was settled in front of the Lego container or Play School, I would sit down and religiously work through them all - reading, commenting and tweeting with bloggers. It was incredibly time consuming, but it was worth it to me, because I was entertained and found a number of like-minded people who I could share my experiences with and learn from.

I also met a number of those bloggers at the first, ever, Australian blogging conference held a couple of years later in 2011. From memory, I decided to stay at the hotel in Sydney where the conference was being held at the last minute. Best. Decision. Ever. I didn't have to rush off at the end of the Saturday night dinner, so I could relax, chat (we had some hilarious conversations during dinner) and dance. (Nutbush, anyone?)

However, something I also discovered at that conference was that I wasn't really interested in 'building a brand' with my blog. I loved writing, sharing and reading other's posts, but I didn't want to be a Dooce.com or anything.

Once I discovered this fact, my involvement in the blogging world slowly but surely decreased. I stopped reading so many blogs (and some of them became frustrating to read, because they'd gone very much down the 'brand' route) and instead focused more on my family and myself. In fact, there were a number of reasons that influenced my decision, and after a trip to New York with Mr A that same year, I had albeit decided to finish up my blog. Just eight months after the conference, I had wrapped up Mummy Mayhem, and wasn't certain if I'd return to blogging in any capacity.

I pulled away from the online world. I was amazed one day to realise that it had been four months since I'd posted on Twitter, and that was after being someone who would have posted four times in the first hour of the day back in my early Twitter days. 

Yet, I eventually realised I still wanted to write, but I couldn't go back to my old blog. Hence, I started this one. It's a space I don't overly promote. I'm not fussed by stats, it's just a space for me. I really like it this way - I feel like I'm flying under the radar, and that's quite a comfort to me.

I only read a handful of blogs these days, and only a few of those I read with any sort of regularity, but I recently wondered what happened to all the blogs I used to read religiously. I came across one of my old Mummy Mayhem posts and decided to check out all the blogs from which people had left a comment from - most of which I would have been reading back in the day. I was, and yet wasn't surprised to find that so many of those blogs don't exist at all anymore, or haven't been updated in years. Very few continue, in fact. One ex-blogger reappeared in my comments here one day, and I was thrilled. I loved her old blog, and her new blog (after a four year break) was such a great read. Then she disappeared again, shutting down the new blog too. (I was actually quite concerned about her, but after asking around FB, found she was dealing with some personal stuff and wasn't ready to blog again. Fair enough - I get that.)

I kind of hope, like me, those ex-bloggers have either found other passions to put their time in to, but I also hope that some of them are still writing, because they really should. Whether that be on another blog or in a journal or whatever. It would be a shame to think that something that had been such a large part of their world wasn't anymore, in any capacity whatsoever.

J
xox  

Friday, July 15, 2016

Why regret is okay


During the so long I wanted to gouge my eyes out two hours I was lining up with Middle Son and Youngest Son for the X Factor Australia auditions last week (and that's with allocated tickets), I got chatting to a girl behind me in the line (as you do). Turns out she had auditioned for X Factor herself when she was sixteen (I didn't ask her age, but she couldn't have been more than eighteen or nineteen) but hadn't made it to the auditions that are held in front of a studio audience. (Apparently the process is quite long: a video audition followed by two further auditions in front of producers etc before you're invited to do your thing in front of the judges.)

We talked about her singing quite a bit; she recently made the decision to start singing in Arabic, her native language. When I asked if she'd thought about auditioning for any other singing or talent show, or perhaps the X Factor again, she said that she had made the decision in recent months to do her 'own thing' with her music now, and returning to her cultural roots seemed the natural next step for her.

Her music career almost took a detour to the US. A couple of years ago, she was accepted in to a prestigious music school in LA, but after much consideration, eventually turned the offer down. Her father, she said, had talked her out of going. He said to live in LA would be expensive for her, pointed out she would have no friends or family there, and because he was unwell at the time (since recovered), she felt that, ultimately, he wanted her to stay in Sydney.

Turning down such an opportunity seemed a pretty big deal to me. 'Do you regret not going?' I asked.

'Well, of course, but in my culture, regret isn't something that is encouraged. It is not right in our culture to have regret,' she explained.

I thought about this for a second, 'Well, over the years I've come to believe that having regrets in life is okay. Regret teaches you. If you have regret about something, chances are you won't want to experience that feeling again, so regret can teach you what not to do in the future. I think so long as you don't hold on to the regret, and rather just accept it and learn from it, then that's okay.'

I could see she was carefully considering my words. She smiled and nodded in agreement. 'Yeah,' she said, 'I guess that's true. I like that.'

I used to say that I had 'very few' regrets in life, or 'I don't regret anything' but that's not really true. If I think about it, there are a number of things I have said/done or haven't said/done that I wish I hadn't/had. However, I try very hard not to hang on to the regret, because I know every experience - good or bad - has taught me something and shaped who I am today. For example, regretting saying 'yes' to things I really didn't want to say yes to, and would later regret doing, meant I soon learned the art of getting picky. And realising too late that I regretted throwing away so many letters and postcards and communication I'd received from friends and family over the years means I'm now very thoughtful about what I keep and what I throw away/delete.

And then there's the X Factor auditions. There were definitely moments I regretted clicking on the link on Twitter that took me to the free tickets in the first place! Like when we had to line up for TWO HOURS and when we ended up getting home TWO HOURS later than originally planned. I'll be thinking twice before doing that again. ie Never. Again.

See? Regret gets a bad wrap. We should accept it as part and parcel of life, and own our regrets. Accept that we have them. Regret shouldn't feel like the end of the road, but an alternative route to show us which way we should be heading.

J
xox

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Ghosted


Death puts a lot of things in to perspective. You don't worry about the little things. You realise there's a lot of crap you care about that you really shouldn't, and that includes relationships, which also includes, of course, friendships.

Friends have come in and out of my life over the years, as they do with all of us. Some friendships I have consciously ended for whatever reason. There was this one girl I used to be friends with years ago who constantly put me, as well as our mutual friends, down at any given opportunity - often in front of our partners and/or other friends. She did it one time too many with me, and in front of someone I very much cared (still care!) for: Mr A. So I ceased all contact with her. Just like that (*clicks fingers*). I never picked up the phone to call her or return another phone call of hers. Nor have I friended her on Facebook (even though FB has suggested her now and then) and I never will. (There are some people who really shouldn't be in your life.)

I guess I 'ghosted' her. Ghosting is the act of ceasing all contact/communication with someone. You stop returning calls/texts/emails/Facebook messages. In the social media world, you unfollow, block and unfriend. You don't offer explanations, you just cut them out of your life until they get the message.

Ghosting isn't something that I would choose to do lightly. I really do reserve it for the people who don't deserve my contact, like the above mentioned girl.

There was also one guy that Mr A and I mutually ghosted. He completely played us off against one another to find out some information he really wanted to find out (long story)! The way he did it was so manipulative and calculated, Mr A and I felt we just couldn't keep in contact with him after that. He attempted to send an email once, and in that email he absolutely pinpointed the reason why we 'might have ceased contact' with him. That's because he knew. He knew what he'd done.

Ghosted.

I've been ghosted before too. The most notable was when my old friend - the one who used to refer to me, my husband and our children as 'family' just stopped all contact one day. It hurt. In all honesty, it still hurts sometimes. Just when I think I'm over it, I start to think about it again. What went wrong? It's just hard to accept how close you can be with someone and then suddenly they shut you out. In the case of the first two friends I mentioned, we were friends, but not 'close' like I was with this friend. It was the question 'Why?' that haunted me for so long after my friend ceased contact. At least, if she'd offered an explanation - as much as it may have hurt or as much as I may have disagreed with it - at least I'd know. You know? I've had to accept, over time, that I will probably never know the reason behind  her decision. I'd happily welcome an explanation from her, but I'm not holding my breath waiting for it either.

Everyone experiences ghosting. In fact, I can't give you one person's name who hasn't, and it's important to realise that if you're ghosted, there's probably some reason behind it. It's never for no reason at all. But sometimes it's not even about you, it's about them. I have to admit, I've often wondered if my old friend was going through something she didn't want me to know about? Who knows. Certainly, I've known of people who have ended up ghosting someone because their partner didn't like them. Whatever the reason though - as silly and/or minor you may think it is - it still happens for a reason. Not knowing why is hard - but it is what it is.

The truth is that life is filled with uncertainty, but what my parents' deaths have shown me is that I have to celebrate those who choose to be in my life, and that I choose to have in my life. In the Sydney storms we had about a month ago, it was nice that so many people contacted me to check we were okay here on the northern beaches. (We were, we are.) Real friends care. (And they don't ignore you when a parent dies either.)

It's really nice to know there are still so many people who care and are very much still a big part of my life. It's better to have people in your life who actually want to be in it anyway. Right?

J
xox

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Facing the fear


My dear Mum always worried about me. Not just when I was a kid and teenager, nor just as a young adult still living under her roof, but for as long as she lived and breathed. I can't tell you how many times I had to frantically go in search of a phone box when I was younger (pre-mobile phone days) so I could call her to tell her I would be ten minutes late home. God forbid I forgot to call, or didn't call in time. I'd return to find Mum frantically pacing the floor and looking out the window, awaiting my arrival. Sometimes I'd find her standing on the front porch, and no sooner had I pulled in the driveway, or walked up the garden path, she'd be approaching me, concern written all over her face. 'Where were you? Why didn't you call?'

I didn't make the mistake of not calling very often.

Later in '95, when I left Perth as a young, in love twenty-five year old to move to Sydney with Mr A, I sort of thought it would be easier for Mum (and for me) because she wouldn't need to keep tabs on me all the time. Instead, however, I would begin receiving phone calls that came regularly over the years from Mum after she'd see something on the news that had happened in Sydney like, say, a large hail storm. 'Are you okay?' she'd ask, genuine concern in her voice. I knew she'd have been sitting at home in front of the television imagining all sorts of possible scenarios that would compromise my safety. I got in to the habit of calling her whenever there was something big reported, to put her mind at ease (if she didn't call me first).

When I went in to labour with Eldest Son, I made the mistake of calling Mum to tell her it was happening and we were making our way to the hospital. After he was born (many hours later), Mr A and I were so intrigued by this new little person in our lives, we sort of forgot to call everyone to tell them the happy news until at least three hours following his arrival. Mum was the first person I called. 'Oh, thank GOD!' she exclaimed when I greeted her. 'I was so worried about you! Are you okay? Is the baby okay? I thought something bad must have happened!' Even though I told her I would, I didn't call her to let her know when I went in to labour with Middle Son or Youngest Son. Best she not know.

When I became a stay-at-home-mum, I was probably more contactable for the most part, but some days I would be out for a good part of the day. I'd get home then race around feeding the kids and putting them to bed, forgetting to check the answering machine. Next thing the home phone would ring and it would be Mum asking if I was okay. Why hadn't I called her back? (She'd have left a few messages on my answering machine throughout the day, and she never thought to call my mobile.)

To be honest, I really didn't like worrying my Mum - I always assumed Mum's anxiety over my safety, and the safety of our family, was due to my sister, Valda's death. I felt it was justified. I really didn't want to put her through any more worry. In fact, I felt a responsibility not to.

But I'd be lying if I said it didn't bother me to have to 'check-in' all the time. Mum was quite insistent, for example, I let her know when I arrived safely overseas on holiday, or if I drove anywhere a fair distance away. I always remember stressing about doing it. What if I forget to? Pre-mobile phone days, I wondered what I would do if I couldn't find a phone? Eventually, with the overseas trips at least, I was able to convince her that she'd hear about it if my plane went down!

I just accepted it as part and parcel of being the daughter of a woman who feared losing a child because she'd already lost one.

So imagine my surprise when I found out just after my dear Mum's death while talking to my sister, C, one morning that, in actual fact, Mum had always been an anxious person. Way before Valda's death. C told me a story about her being late home one night when she was a teenager herself - well before our sister died - and how Mum had been beside herself with worry. 'She was always like that,' my sister explained. 'She was always a very anxious person.'

No doubt Valda's death heightened my Mum's anxiety, but it appears the situation was going to always be the same: she was always going to be a worrier and hold on to the fear of losing someone, no matter what.

In truth, I think my Mum's anxiety influenced a lot of my own fears, and how I've chosen to live my life. I've always been cautious - I'm not what you would call a risk taker at all - and to some extent, I think that's a good thing. I'm thoughtful about what I should and shouldn't do. However, it probably also means I've stopped myself doing things in the past when Mum was alive, because I worried that something might happen to me, even if the chances were low. I mean, Mum was worried I'd walk out the door and never come home even when I wasn't planning on doing anything other than meeting a friend to see a movie! It was hardly risky stuff.

I'd be lying if I said that with Mum's death, apart from all the emotions I've experienced - loss, sadness, regret, you name it - I haven't felt a certain amount of relief not having the extra responsibility I always felt to 'stay alive' and let Mum know everything was okay all the time. That doesn't mean I'm glad my mother is dead. Not at all. Of course I wish she was still with us (if she was happy and healthy), but even though I believe Mum didn't mean to - she just loved us and wanted us to be happy and healthy and live a long life - she did put extra pressure on us to be careful. And, in turn, I think it has stopped me from doing certain things over the years because I was holding on to my Mum's fear in my heart.

Like all parents, I still feel an extra responsibility to ensure I'm around for a long time for my kids, but it is a little different in that the normal progression of life is supposed to be that a parent goes before their child. Obviously, that wasn't the case for my parents. Losing a parent is difficult and sad and awful, but losing a child is a whole new level of grief. I know this, because I watched my Mum go through it. The last thing I wanted to do as her daughter - the one whose place in the family was that of saviour almost - was to put my Mum in a position where she had to go through the grief process all over again.

I think I am a little braver today. I'm still not going to jump out of a plane or attempt to climb Everest, but I am doing things now that I may not have done before because I'd have had too much fear to do it 'in case something happened'. Like my paddle boarding for example.

I've written before about my fear of sharks when paddling, and I still maintain there's probably places I wouldn't paddle in Perth if I was there. To me, the risk is higher (take the two recent shark attacks there, for example), but I also know there are sharks in Sydney's waterways too. The ocean is a given, but they also end up in the harbour, lagoons and rivers too. I've paddled in all. Admittedly, when I'm paddling over deep, dark water, the thought crosses my mind: what's swimming underneath me? My heart pounds a little faster and I start to allow images to fill my head of a shark suddenly coming up out of the water, but then I make myself breathe slowly - deep breath in, deep breath out - and remind myself that the chances of getting attacked by a shark during a paddling session is incredibly low. I don't want to allow the fear to take over and stop me from enjoying the feel of the water underneath me, the sun on my face and the spectacular sights surrounding me. I really want to live. I'm not risking my life. I'm living it. (It's all about perspective.)

Mum was a happy person - absolutely - but did she sometimes allow fear to stop her from fully enjoying all life had to offer? Probably. Did her fear, in turn, maybe stop others from doing so? I think so. I have spent a lot of my life worrying about what might happen and I've worried far too much over the years about the possibility of death. It pains me that my Mum felt like that so much. If she'd lived in a different time, more help may have been made available to her.

It's not the way I want to live my life going forward, nor teach my children how to live theirs. I worry, and will always worry, about my boys and their safety, and I'll continue to be careful because I want to be around for them for as long as they need me, and, as boys, they will need some guidance about avoiding riskier behaviour! I'll also continue to worry when Mr A takes his motorbike out to the racetrack and gets up to speeds of 250km per hour(!), and I'll sometimes worry about whether there are sharks in the water I choose to paddle on. But a little risk is okay. You can't control everything.

Letting go of the fear - facing it - means you can truly live.

J
xox

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Write on Wednesdays Revisited - Is this love?


Finally, a new instalment for my Write on Wednesdays ('WoW') Revisited. Gosh, it's a long one this time.

Kate and Cassie's story continues on from here.


*     *     *     *     *

Part 12
Is this love?

Kate instinctively pushed her right foot in to the floor of the car as Cassie took a sharp left turn in her Honda Civic. ‘Slow down, Cass! There’s plenty of time to get to the airport, you know.’

Cassie turned and smiled at her. ‘Relax. I’ve been driving longer than you, remember?’

‘By four months!’ Kate scoffed. Cassie laughed. 

‘You have no sense of adventure, Miss Kate. No sense of adventure at all.’

Cassie braked sharply as the car in front of theirs came to a sudden halt. Kate sighed. ‘Well, I’m no longer nervous about the flight. If I can survive your driving, I can survive anything.’ 

Cassie rolled her eyes at Kate as they sat in the heavy Sydney traffic. ‘I can’t believe you’re going to London. Will you have time to catch up with Renee? And Trish? Oh, and what about Dicky?’

Kate frowned, shaking her head at her friend. ‘Don’t call him that, Cass. You know Richard despised you calling him that.’  

Cassie ignored her friend. ‘Oh my God - I forgot to tell you! He’s moved back to London from Ireland now. And he’s single again - he’ll happily take you out on the town. You know, for old times’ sake?’ She gave Kate an exaggerated wink.

Kate was well aware that Cassie was not-so-subtly referring to her short liaison with the English real estate agent during the month she had spent with Cassie in London over fifteen years before. 

After Cassie had introduced her work colleague to Kate in a London nightclub, just days after Kate’s arrival, there had been an instant mutual attraction between them. Less than two hours later, Richard was gently kissing Kate goodbye and promising to call her the next day. After that, they became almost inseparable until Kate’s eventual return to Sydney. 

‘Can’t you stay a little longer?’ he’d asked the night before her flight home as she packed her suitcase in Cassie’s crowded flat. 

‘I can’t. I’m back to uni next week.’

‘Just a few more days?’ he pleaded, giving her a smile that always managed to increase her heart rate tenfold. Saying no to Richard had proved close to impossible for Kate; he had a hold over her she’d never experienced before.

Kate hastily threw the last of her things in to her suitcase, including a cheesy London t-shirt he’d purchased for her at Camden Markets the week before. ‘So you won’t forget me,’ he’d explained at the time, handing it to her with a cheeky smile on his face. She ran her hand over the carefully folded t-shirt and smiled at the memory. She walked over to Richard and kissed him; her lips lingered on his. ‘I’d really like to stay longer,’ she whispered, trying not to be drawn to the soft, dark chest hair visible underneath his unbuttoned shirt; she knew exactly how it would feel to run her fingers through it - she'd done so many times over the last few weeks - and although the thought of doing so stirred a desire within her, she resisted the temptation to touch him. Cassie was due home from work any minute now. ‘I have to get back to uni. It's my final year, and a really important one. I’m sorry.’

As Richard left the flat that night, his hand lingered on the door handle for a moment, and he exhaled slowly. He turned to her, with what looked to Kate like sadness in his eyes, then leaned in to kiss her softly. ‘It’s ok,’ she said reassuringly as they hesitantly pulled apart, placing her hand affectionately on his cheek. ‘I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?’ They had planned for Richard to drive Kate to the airport. He nodded without saying anything and left, turning only once on the footpath to wave goodbye. As she leant her head against the closed door following his departure, she felt an emptiness and wondered if she had, in fact, fallen in love with him? Was that even possible after spending such little time together? Surely not. Besides, they had spent hardly any time at all talking about how they felt - in fact, they avoided it - and Richard hadn't been particularly forthcoming with a lot of information about himself, his family and his life to date. Kate had never even seen Richard’s flat; they spent most of their time out or at Cassie’s. In truth, she realised, she barely knew him.

Also, Kate had the feeling he was, as Cassie would have put it, ‘a bit of a player’. He’d never given her any particular impression that he wanted to be with anyone else during their time together, however they were continually bumping in to people he knew when they were out; especially women. They all flirted with Richard, and although he played it down to Kate - putting it down to his job (‘Real estate is all about making connections’) - Kate had the feeling that as soon as she left London, it would probably be only a matter of time before he found someone else to keep him company at night, even if he was as fond of her as she suspected he was.

On the day of Kate’s departure, Richard called her at the eleventh hour to say he couldn’t take her to the airport after all. He apologised. ‘I have to go right now,’ he whispered, ‘my boss is breathing down my neck, but I’ll explain it all in a letter, okay?’ They had agreed to keep in touch after Kate’s return to Sydney. ‘I promise there’s a good reason why I can’t be there with you.’ 

Kate was disappointed, and found it difficult to hide it from Richard. ‘I’m sorry, Kate, I really am,’ he said, before she reluctantly bid him goodbye. After hanging up, she burst in to tears. 

Thirty minutes later, sitting in a taxi cab on her way to the airport, she wondered what Richard’s reason could be for not collecting her. She strongly suspected there was something more than work commitments at play. In a way though, she wasn’t surprised he hadn’t shown. He didn’t seem like the kind of person that regularly drove girls to the airport. Besides, when she thought about it, his behaviour leaving Cassie’s apartment the night before seemed more of a ‘goodbye’ than a ‘see you tomorrow’.

Soon after her return to Sydney, a letter arrived from Richard explaining that he thought the final goodbye would be too difficult for both of them, and that he didn't want to complicate things or upset her. Partly, Kate was touched by his words, but underneath she couldn’t help but wonder if, in fact, a better offer had come up? Or if he was afraid she’d demand more from him? A further commitment? A promise to return to London? Maybe, all along, he had only been with her because he knew it would be a short-term thing. Still, she reasoned, it had seemed difficult for him to say goodbye the night before she left England. She felt certain she hadn’t imagined his sadness.   

Within six months of her return to Sydney, Kate found out her original hunch about Richard was right. His letters had started coming less frequently by then, and after pressing Cassie for information about him during one of their weekly Sunday phone calls, Cassie hesitantly admitted to Kate that Richard had been seeing someone ‘for quite a while’. A girl named Emma, from what Kate could recall. Or perhaps she’d never actually known the girl’s name at all and just referred to her as that. (It was possible the years she spent pouring over Jane Austen novels in high school had influenced her more than she realised.) In any case, Kate had imagined a pale-faced, fair-headed English rose - almost the polar opposite to her.

In his letters and during the few phone calls they’d made to each other, Richard hadn’t mentioned Emma (or whatever her name was), or any other women that may have been on the scene at the time. Kate called Richard the next day and in-between the usual questions like, ‘So, what have you been up to?’ and ‘How’s the weather over there?’ she casually asked if he was seeing anyone, and although he talked around the question at first, he eventually admitted he was. 

Richard was a lot of things: guarded with his feelings, hesitant to open up, flirtatious, aloof at times and not always thoughtful or generous (the London t-shirt was one of the few things he’d ever bought her - they had usually split their meals or took turns paying for them), but one thing she couldn’t fault him on was his honesty. Holding back the tears and ignoring the distinct feelings of jealousy rushing through her, she wished him well. ‘I’m happy for you,’ she said, and was surprised to find that regardless of how she felt, she actually meant it. 

They continued to write to each other for a couple of months after that, until their letters gradually ceased altogether.  

After finding out about 'Emma', Kate couldn’t ignore the hurt she felt that Richard had moved on so quickly. To distance herself from the pain she threw herself in to her study. Almost two years later, she was lazing around one Sunday afternoon - her first ‘day off’ since starting her first job out of uni six months before (it was the first weekend she hadn’t brought any work home with her) - and was listening to the radio when a song came on that reminded her of the night she’d first met Richard. It shocked her slightly to realise that she’d rarely thought about him, if at all, in well over a year. Although she thought constantly about him for the rest of the day, and dreamt that night they were walking through Hyde Park together, holding hands, by the time she headed to work the next day he was albeit forgotten again.

Granted, Richard had been a lot of fun to be with at the time, and he’d made her feel important during their time together in London. Even now, her heart still beat a little faster at the memory of him and the long, cold rainy afternoons they spent in bed together while Cassie was at work, but she had more than moved on and had no desire to revisit those old feelings. 

Besides, no one could compare to Nick. Once Nick came along, Richard - as well as all the romances she’d experienced in-between (the few she’d had, anyway) - had albeit been completely forgotten. 

Kate sighed. ‘Firstly, I’m not going to have any time to socialise in London - I’m there for work - and secondly … no interest. That ship sailed a really long time ago, Cass.’

Cassie shrugged. ‘It was just a thought. I mean, you could use a little fun in your life, Little Miss Serious.’ 

‘I’m not that serious! I mean, about work, yes, I am. But I’m fun! I don’t need a guy in my life to have fun.’

‘She who protesteth too much …’

Kate slapped her best friend good-naturedly on the arm. ‘Watch it. By the way, you didn’t tell me you were still in contact with Richard.’

‘I’m not. Renee is though, and the last time she emailed me she told me about his divorce and return to London.’

‘Divorce? He was married?’

‘God, I can’t believe I haven’t told you any of this stuff yet! To some Irish girl he fell head over heels for last year. They were married for, like, a hot minute. After the wedding he was supposed to sell the business, tie up loose ends then move to her hometown - some Godforsaken, tiny town in Ireland.’ Cassie laughed. ‘God, can you imagine Dicky living in a small town?’

Kate shook her head, shooting Cassie a warning look. ‘No, I can’t imagine it. At least, not the Richard I knew. It was more than fifteen years ago, you know!’

‘Well, he never really changed, apparently. His clients got older, richer and the parties he schmoozed them all at were a bit more posh. Renee reckons he still loves a good party.’ 

‘Hmmm. So what happened to the marriage?’

‘Curious, huh?’ Cassie teased. Kate rolled her eyes in response. ‘Well, Renee said that after the wedding he kept putting off the move to Ireland. He was still flying back and forth from London a lot and the amount of time he spent in Ireland became less and less and, well, the wife wanted him with her to help run the family’s pub and, Renee reckons, start a family, and Richard just couldn’t bring himself to do it.’

‘Didn’t they sort all that stuff out before they got married?’

‘It was really quick. They met when she was on holiday in London; they spent a few weekends here and there together over about a six month period, then they got married. Very whirlwind. Richard probably hoped it would just work out and he might be able to convince her to move to London but she wasn’t interested. Renee said she’s a real Daddy’s girl and wouldn’t dream of leaving her family. One of those born, bred and die in the same small town kind of people, you know?’

‘Well, big cities like London aren’t for everyone. How exactly is it that you hadn’t mentioned all this before now?’

‘Hmmm … brain malfunction? I was so excited to tell you everything when I read the gossip in Renee’s email, and was about to call you, but then Dan arrived at the apartment and, well, I kind of forgot about it.’

‘Ah, Dan. He seems to be the main source of your distraction these days,’ Kate teased. Cassie blushed. ‘Speaking of Dan, how come you’re not out with him tonight? Didn’t he fly back from Melbourne last night?’ 

Cassie sniffed in disapproval.

Kate let out a laugh. ‘What’s that about?’

Cassie pouted. ‘I’m just … a little hurt.’

‘For goodness sake, what has he done? I thought things were progressing very nicely?’

‘They were. But, well, I suddenly realised this morning that he didn’t ask me to pick him up from the airport last night. I could have picked him up. I could have gotten a bus back to the apartment after work, collected the car and still had enough time to drive to the airport.’

Kate couldn’t speak. Instead, her mouth hung open in shock.

‘What? What did I say?’ Cassie asked, looking confused.

Kate shook her head and laughed. ‘You. Cassie. Miss I-Don’t-Run-After-Guys Cassie. You wanted to drive to the airport, in Friday night traffic, to collect a guy?!’ 

Cassie went silent for a moment. ‘Sweet Jesus. I’ve turned in to one of those women.’

Both she and Kate burst in to laughter. They laughed until tears ran down both their cheeks.  

‘Cassie,’ Kate said, taking a breath, ‘You do realise what this means, don’t you?’ 

‘That I’m crazy? That I’m too involved? Oh my God, this is a disaster!’

‘No, it’s not. And you’re not crazy. You’re just … in love.’

‘I-I’m not in love,’ Cassie reasoned. ‘I’m just, I don’t know, going through a very helpful stage or something.’

‘Cassie,’ Kate said softly, ‘You’re either falling in love with Dan, or you’re already in love with him. The Cassie I know doesn’t go out of her way for you unless she loves you. Full stop.’

Cassie now had tears in her eyes. ‘I don’t know if I can do this,’ she said softly. ‘After … last time.’

Kate knew who Cassie was referring to. 

‘Dan isn’t Paul. Not all men run, Cassie. Not all men will let you down.’

Cassie sighed. ‘I know. I just … I just can’t go through that again, you know?’

‘I know.’ Kate placed her hand softly on her friend’s arm. ‘But you can’t spend your life worrying about what might happen. Or what might not happen.’

Both women fell silent. The traffic on the Eastern Distributor had been slow, but now the car was heading swiftly along Southern Cross Drive towards Sydney International Airport. Kate glanced at her watch. There was still plenty of time.

‘Is that why you offered to drive me to the airport? You’re a secretary so you know how this works - the bank would have paid for a taxi. Are you avoiding catching up with Dan tonight? I mean, it’s Saturday night, Cass. You love going out on Saturday nights. They’re almost sacred to you.’

Cassie smiled. ‘I dunno. Maybe.’

‘Well, we’re almost at the airport. After you drop me, go home and call Dan, okay? It’s still early enough.’ 

Cassie shrugged.

‘Do it. Don’t push him away, Cass. He sounds like the perfect guy for you. They don’t come around that often.’ 

Cassie pulled the car up beside the Qantas departure terminal doors and placed the car in to park. She twisted in her seat to face Kate. ‘I’m going to miss you.’

Kate smiled. ‘I’m away for less than a week.’

Cassie returned the smile. ‘I know. I’ll still miss you.’ The two women hugged. ‘And if you happen to bump in to that ex-fiance of mine in London, kick him in the shins for me, will you?’

‘I will,’ Kate promised. She climbed out of the car, removed her bag from the boot and waved to Cassie as her car pulled away from the verge. Call him she mouthed to her friend. Cassie laughed, blew Kate a kiss, then drove away, waving her hand madly out the driver’s window as she did. 

Once Kate had checked in and made her way through customs she headed to the bar for a drink before the flight. The last couple of days had been incredibly busy and stressful; she was looking forward to tuning out on the flight with a movie, and finishing off her current read. After, that is, she’d re-read all the documents tucked firmly in to her carry-on luggage.

Kate’s gin and tonic was placed in front of her. It looked inviting in the frosted glass with a slice of lime floating in it. London, here I come, she said to herself before taking a long sip of her drink. The next week, she knew, was going to be a whirlwind. The calm before the storm, she thought before turning her thoughts to Cassie and Dan. 

Even when Cassie was engaged to Paul all those years ago, she would never have offered to collect him from the airport - and she had really loved Paul. No question. Kate was happy for her friend. Cassie deserved to be happy, but like she had the other day after their breakfast before work, a feeling of uneasiness crept over her again. 

Her relationship with Cassie, she reasoned, was about to change. It had to. She just hoped it wouldn’t change for the worse like it had when she’d dated Nick. 

Nick. She was sick and tired of thinking about Nick. Sick of analysing why he’d said what he’d said,  and done what he’d done. It was all in the past and all she had to do was do exactly what she’d done with Richard: put him out of her mind and move on. The idea seemed simple in theory, but she knew the reality of finally putting Nick firmly in the past was something else entirely. Although he had been officially out of her life for close on two years now, their relationship still took up almost every resting thought in her head, not to mention the huge space it still took up in her heart. 

Kate sighed. It was all so very exhausting. 

The announcement of her flight being ready to board snapped her out of her thoughts. It was time to go. Work mode. Picking up her drink, she drained the glass. As she walked towards the gate, she could feel the alcohol working on relaxing her muscles and her mind. She smiled. London was less than twenty-four hours away now, and she was going to make the most of it.

Within fifteen minutes, she was seated in her spacious business class seat, an orange juice in hand. Five minutes after that, she'd already decided on her first meal after checking the menu and had started scanning the pages of The Sydney Morning Herald. A wave of tiredness suddenly washed over her. Maybe she would be asleep before the meal was served.  

The flight attendant collected her glass and the plane started to taxi towards the runway. As the plane lifted in to the sky, she looked out the window to view the twinkling lights of Sydney below. It reminded her of a similar view of the city lights the night she’d left London in ’92, and her thoughts surprisingly turned to Richard again. 

At the time of her departure from Heathrow, she had pictured Richard standing somewhere below, watching her plane move further and further away from London, and from him. She wondered if that had actually happened. Did he regret not seeing her that one last time? She’d never felt game to ask him. Afraid, she suspected, of what his honest answer might be. If, that is, he’d chosen to answer the question at all. You never knew with Richard. 

‘Champagne?’ The friendly voice of the flight attendant snapped her back to the present. 

‘Yes, please,’ she replied. As she sipped the cool beverage, the liquid fizzing in her mouth, she decided to set aside all thoughts of the past. Life was good, and this trip - work and all - would be good for her; a chance to get out of Sydney for a week and take a break from her usual daily grind, and thoughts. 

Richard’s face suddenly flashed in front of her. ‘Bottoms up, then,’ she could hear him say, smiling broadly. 

Damn it, she thought and sighed. What the hell is wrong with me?  


*     *     *     *     *

Until next time.

J
xox