September 2, 2018

A picture says a thousand words... and all of them are important.

Father and daughter, circa 1966
I've always been a huge fan of family photographs. They are important to me, something to treasure, especially of late. Certainly the boys will vouch for my love of the family snap; I will forever be that mother who insists we take one while we're all together. "Can you just do it, please? It'll take all of 5 seconds." Then I smile and they relent, albeit sometimes grudgingly, because they know a happy mother is a generous one! They also do it because they know it makes me happy. I have a sneaking suspicion they like it too, despite their half-hearted protests. (But only as long as I don't insist on too many shots, haha. "Ohhh come on, Muuuum!")

Since I moved here a little over a year ago, my much-loved photo albums have been sitting in cartons on a shelf in the garage. Waiting for a moment to miraculously appear when I'd find the motivation and time to sort them all and find their new pride of place inside the house.

Most of the pictures are in albums but I also have three large boxes full of loose photographs. They're from varying years and are all mixed in together. I could lose a week just opening the lid of one of those boxes. They've come from many sources - some were included with handwritten letters from relatives or friends, others were stray prints fallen out of an album, ones that were on my fridge but have since been replaced by others, even some pictures were found being used as a bookmark in a book. It's a collection grown over time and several house moves, such were my attempts to be organised and clever by keeping them all in one place for ease of sorting later. Much later as it's turned out!

1968: Dad's girl 

So this morning I dived into memory lane, on the hunt for some pictures of my Dad for a Father's Day post. (I found a few, and have posted them here.) Funny how time flies by so quick you barely notice, right? Happily for me, both sides of my family have always taken their fair share of photos. Family holidays, weddings, births, special outings to the shops, school camps, you name it, they're all in there. Along with a few pictures that probably belong on the Awkward Family Photos website. But more on that another day!

I couldn't help but love how much history is there at your fingertips, if you take the time to look; the fashion of the day, styles of haircuts, types of cars, house furnishings, a treasure trove of memories of a time you actually lived but may not have been old enough to truly remember. Many of the photographs are black and white, lending the people depicted in them an almost eerie, faraway quality, a subtle nod to the moment captured being long since passed.

It's something we're in danger of losing in this digital age of iPhones, texts, InstaStories and Snapchats, that physical connection to our family history. There's a lot to be said about turning the pages of a photo album and passing on the back stories represented by those pictures. I worry our children and children's children might miss out on those if we're not careful. Because what about their stories, currently being documented on digital media? What will happen to them? Are they destined to be lost forever to the cyber ether? And what happens to your Facebook or Instagram accounts when you die? Because let's face it, how many young people do you know who make photo albums as a keepsake? On hard copy OR digital?

1987: Sharing a laugh on my 21st birthday

My mother has done her part to keep our personal history alive, by gifting my brother and I a photo album full of memories of our own individual story. It's truly the gift that keeps on giving; I smile every time I look through it. There are little details written beside photos, extra insights about what was happening that day. She has even included things like my baby book, cards from when I was born, and even a few of the letters I wrote to my grandmother, now deceased. So precious! 

So I'm kind of in two minds. Perhaps this nostalgia for things past is yet another sign that I am indeed, getting older. Certainly the indications are there, whether I like it or not! After speaking to my dear old Dad today though, I know I'm in good stead; he's 86 and in excellent form, still mentally sharp and funny as ever. But perhaps it's more my wish or hope that our family story doesn't disappear, even after we're gone; a collective legacy that will continue to grow for my boys and their children, and their children's children. Time has shown us that history is important. So bearing that in mind, I'm going to keep taking that picture, sharing that story and preserving that legacy. 

What will you do?

August 28, 2018

What I Know Now: August Edition...

* We're in the final week of winter, and I for one, cannot WAIT until the temperature rises so I don't need a hot water bottle, flannelette pyjamas and the extra blanket on my bed just to stay warm! Quite the sexy mental picture I'm painting for you, I know, but needs must! Cold hands, cold feet and cold bum is the alternative otherwise. I'm desperately yearning for those warm, lazy days at the beach when my only worry will be where my drink, hat and sunnies are.

* Australian politics this past week has lost its mind. Backroom deals, petty vindictiveness and power struggles. Is this what our tax dollars should be paying for? I think not. We have so many other important things to be focused on: farmers battling drought, violence against women reaching epic levels, the mess that is the asylum seeker situation on Nauru & Manus Island, our dying Great Barrier Reef, just to mention a few. Instead we've been given a new PM and no guarantee the carnage is over yet. We're all sick of it. The nearest display of leadership we have is across the Tasman - the NZ government led by the very impressive Jacinda Ardern recently voted against a pay rise for politicians because they didn't think they needed it - TAKE NOTE CANBERRA! Do your damn job!

* And speaking of things NZ - how fan-bloody-tastic has the performance been of the current All Blacks side? I am running out of superlatives to describe the sublime form we are witnessing this international season. Last weekend's game against the Wallabies was a master class, our boys physical efforts over the entire 80 minutes something very special. And coach Steve Hansen says there's still room for improvement! Not to mention the depth of talent seems limitless. How exciting. A fierce culture of respect, hard work and honour is obvious watching this team; the privilege of wearing that jersey is something they don't take lightly and it shows, on and off the field. These men will do anything for the All Black legacy and we as fans love them for it. Bring on the Boks!

* Looking after your physical and mental health is so important, especially as you get older. Over the weekend I met up with some of my best mates I've known forever (our Mothers Group, 21 years and counting!) and much laughter ensued over a small cafe table while we discussed all things noticed as women entering our 50's. Some things you have to share. And laugh about. Because some of them are so bloody ridiculous. Like acne. Who gets acne at our age? Seriously! Didn't we deal with that as teenagers? Thanks a lot, hormones. In our minds however there is a wry acknowledgment of the changes albeit mixed in with that small element of denial. 50 is the new 40, or something like that, right? We're younger than our mothers were at the same age despite having aches where there never were any, changes in skin, lines and wrinkles, hot flushes, dryness... oh yes, it's AWESOME. Pass me a red wine, will you? I hear it's good for your heart.

* And lastly if I know anything, it's this. Just when you congratulate yourself for getting ahead in your finances, you can bet your bottom dollar that every bill known to man will arrive the next day in your inbox. And need to be paid within the next fortnight. Eeeep! However a few nights driving rideshare has helped me navigate that bumpy wee road, thank goodness. But along with the extra money, the real bonus was hearing some hilarious and fascinating stories to boot from my passengers. Real life is SO much more interesting than fiction! I may need to write these down. Book idea, incoming!

So that's me... tell me what YOU know now...

August 6, 2018

Standing in the middle of life with my plans behind me...

Circa 2000, sleep deprived and probably running on caffeine.

Any mother will tell you, having children changes you. And I don't mean financially or logistically although God knows those two things quickly become very apparent. I'm talking about that salient moment all mothers have when you know life will never be the same for you as a person, especially after Baby #1; you're slumped on the couch probably in milk-stained pyjamas and the situational reality is biting hard - there's no call button for a nurse, you're already missing the thrice-daily trolley rattling down the polished ward floors bearing food someone else made, your boobs are full and hot but not in the good way, and sending the baby to the nursery for an hour to snatch some precious sleep or even a shower is literally a pipe dream. But yet... you look at that baby and it doesn't matter. The love you feel for that child is greater than anything else. Stronger than any of your own needs or wants. You and he are one.

Not unexpectedly I found myself reminiscing about those times yesterday, the day my youngest son turned 18. EIGHTEEN. Can you believe it? My first thought was how the hell did that happen? Followed closely by the WTF knowledge that all my children were now legally considered adults and how crazy was that, I couldn't possibly be old enough yet, could I? Turns out I could, and I am. Children make you acutely aware of time, and he has a warped sense of humour let me tell you. Eighteen years have passed lightspeed quick.

Pregnancy with my youngest had been totally by-the-book normal. I felt fabulous the majority of the way through with minimal morning sickness, no spotting and sporting a shape like my others that was all out-front and carried low. Instinctively I knew he was going to be a boy, even before I saw the telltale confirmation on one of my many ultrasounds. He was child #3 but this was pregnancy #5 so I had a good idea of what to look for by then, being an ultrasound veteran. Yet it wasn't until I'd passed the 20 week mark and feeling mightily encouraged by the the regular kicking of his little feet under my ribs that I finally let myself relax and look ahead.

Like his brothers before him he was 10 days overdue but he made up for it with an arrival that was as speedy as it was efficient, a mere hour and a half from the moment the doctor broke my waters. There may have been a rather intense moment when I would've given any sum of money for pain medication but there was literally no time, this boy had other plans, he was on his way! Three or four pushes and my third son arrived, leaving me both ecstatic and filled with wonder at how my body had again created this precious human being I was beyond happy to meet. Oh there you are, my darling boy. 

And just like that, I was a mother of THREE. And all boys. My grandmother used to say that boys were all rip, shit and bust, and she wasn't far wrong. Life is full, that's for sure, it's a mile a minute but you have to handle it as best you can. With thanks to Forrest Gump for the quote, life's like a box of chocolates - but sometimes with kids by the time you manage to get your hands on that box, all that's left is the Turkish Delight no-one wants and the screwed up wrappers of the ones you do. So you end up eating the Turkish Delight anyway because, (a) it's still chocolate, and (b) the show must go on, right?

Fast forward a few years and those babies grow into toddlers, toddlers become children, and in my case, those children into grunting, forever hungry, active teenage boys who test the very limits of your love, humour and patience... before thankfully turning into gorgeous, hard-working young men who all tower over their now suddenly short mother.

My absolute pride and joy is the boys' bond with each other though, they all share a fierce unstinting loyalty and love that never fails to make me smile. Seeing them together as adults, laughing and enjoying each others company over the weekend was something I held very dear to my heart. That hoped-for reality was what sustained me through those early years of hard graft, surviving on little sleep, 70's classic rock and a politically incorrect sense of humour. I know it was well worth every second!

So, what's next? Well the newest adult in our family finishes Yr 12 in a few months so we're on to the next stage for him. The last few parent-teacher meetings EVER are on the horizon for me. It's exciting, scary and dare I say it, a little emotional for this mother-of-three. But like every other challenge I've had to deal with, this too shall be overcome with a little love, patience, persistence and good old-fashioned humour. It's worked well so far and it will again!

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