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At home among the gum trees

26 Dec

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Creamy cheese, warming wine, fresh air, lone early-morning bush walks, hugs and a miniature schnoodle nipping at my heels have marked my Christmas trip to mum’s charming Hunter Valley home.

Whenever I need to escape the frenetic city and re-centre myself, I hide away at mum’s haven, high up on a quiet mountain. It’s been eight months since my last visit; far too long. One of my New Year goals is to visit more often.

As I write this post, The Lad is lying on the couch, watching the Boxing Day Test (for non-Aussies, this is an excruciating tradition which involves eight hours of mind-numbing coverage of middle-aged men strolling up and down a sandy pitch, hitting a ball). Aside from the quiet murmur of the cricket commentary, it is blissfully quiet. A tiny bird is fluttering about in the tree outside the study. Crickets are buzzing beyond the fence line. There are no car horns, no irritating mobile phone ring tones (can’t get reception!), no one trying to sell me something I don’t need. I am alone with my thoughts. I am finally having the peace, rest and reflection I have craved all year.

There’s something about the way nature returns us to our centre; our unaffected state. Without stimulation, distraction and technology (well, aside from this laptop), there’s nothing to do but ‘be’. Being out in nature and being surrounded by the bugs and bees and birds, restores our balance and replenishes our reserves. I’ve spent months trying to master the ‘mind, body, spirit connection’ through yoga and meditation. But it’s always been crammed in between ordering groceries, vacuuming the floor or getting ready for work. It’s another chore on the ‘must do’ list. So I do it without really ‘doing’ it.

Up here, in this vast space of valleys and bush, I find my mind, body and spirit seamlessly weave together on their own. There’s no need to force it. I nourish my body with fresh fruits and country eggs (still with barn hay and muck stuck to them). I set off on the dusty road for a long walk and light jog. I leave my iPod with frantic dance tracks at home. Instead, the bird song and buzz of nature spur me on. In the afternoon, I sit on the grass, at the edge of the cliff, and watch the rosellas and little brown birds peck at the seed in the feeder. I breathe in fresh air, in, out, in, out, deeply and wholly. My mind is clear, my spirit is lifted. It all happens so naturally, while all I do is ‘be’.

Then, when I’m rested and revived, I step inside mum’s warm home and tell her how much I love her. I hug The Lad, thrilled that he is spending his week off with me. I pick up little black Bella and kiss her tiny, soft head.

This is living.

‘Tis the season to be thankful

22 Dec

The valley view from mum's verandah.

This is a short post, as I’m preparing to head up to mum’s tomorrow for Christmas.

But I don’t need many words to express today’s Thankful Thursday thought.

I am…

Thankful that I was able to write that paragraph, on a computer that works, in a comfortable, temperature-controlled room.

Thankful that I have a job which allows me to take time out to be with my loved ones.

Thankful that I am in fact paid to take that holiday.

Thankful that my mum is able to live on top of a mountain, surrounded by clouds and eagles and clean air.

Thankful that she has met a man who has renewed her happiness and helps around the house.

Thankful that I have met a man who loves me unconditionally. Even when I cry after too many vodkas. Or roll out of bed with a blonde afro and blobby thighs.

Thankful to God for all these blessings.

Sara from Tis the Life has written a beautiful Thankful Thursday post. You might like to read it and leave a comment.

What are you thankful for this week?

All I want for Christmas is to not be a brat

18 Dec

I like to think I was a pretty good kid. Kind to my parents, helpful around the house, only occasionally annoying to my big brother. In truth, though, from time to time, I was a bit of a bitch. Mum and I had a close relationship. Unfortunately this meant I took a lot of my frustrations out on her. I dramatically stormed off on many occasions. Threw forks. Refused to help prepare dinner. The usual, bratty teenage girl ‘tude. I’m sure if I have a daughter, she will chuck as many tantrums and shed as many tears, while screaming ‘MUUUUUUUM!’ and thinking I’m being, like, totally annoying and unfair!

I’ve since grown up. I’ve moved across the country. I live on my own. I pay my own bills. I throw only the occasional fork. I try to be a good friend, a valuable team member at work and helpful to The Lad. I’m a respectable, responsible woman of the world.

Until I return home.

Then, the beastly bitch rears her ugly head. The horns come out. Try as I might, I can’t help reverting to my teenage self when stay at mum’s place. What’s with that?

I want to be helpful. I want to be a good daughter. Then mum will ask me to help her move a bed from one of the cabins, or set up a table tennis table, and I turn into an eye-rolling, huffing, puffing, foot-stomping cow. The worst version of myself.

Why do we regress?

To find out why I do this, I did a little sleuthing.

Apparently, the GFC left many 20 and 30-somethings without a roof over their heads, forcing them to head back to the nest. In a 2009 MSNBC article, clinical professor Dr. Marion Lindblad-Goldberg was quoted as saying that a return to home often results in regression. That is, grown adults move home and feel infantised. Their folks issue a list of chores, ignore their privacy and stay up at night worrying about their whereabouts. They then react the same way they did as teens – sulking, yelling and refusing to lift a finger. Guilty!

“Theoretically, by the time you reach adulthood, you’re supposed to be at the same power level as your parents,” Dr Lindblad-Goldberg said. “But it’s never like that. Parents can relate to their adult children when they’re away from home. But in the home, particularly if it’s the same home, the kid goes from being 28 down to 25 to 20 and ends up at 7.

While these insights are about adult kids moving home, it seems to be true for those of us who head home for the holidays as well. We arrive as equals, adults, and leave as bad-tempered, back-chatting brats. Why? Psychologists say it’s about repeating learned patterns of behaviour. Behaviour that gives us a sense of belonging. Within the family unit, we each play our role. A role we honed for years, learning what actions won our parents’ acceptance and those that othem up the wall. It “just feels natural to snap back into our well-rehearsed part.”

Is it possible to reverse this role? To be at home without regressing to our teenage selves? Psychologist Marie Hartwell-Walker says the key is being aware of our old role and stopping ourselves before we slip back into it. We should aim to act the way we do with others in our lives, such as our colleagues and friends. We should be our mature selves.

The last thing I want to do is upset mum or cause conflict when I head home these Christmas holidays. So I will be heading there aware of my regressive role. And doing everything I can to keep myself from turning into the bitchy brat I used to be (I know mum will read this blog post, so she can use it as ammunition if I do!)

Do you regress when you go home? Share your experiences by commenting below. 🙂

Last night I danced with the fishes

17 Dec

Excuse me while I swig on my glass of Diet Coke and eat another pizza slice. We had The Lad’s work Christmas party last night. So I’m typing this post as I lie on the couch, doona draped across me and chick flicks on the tele.

Yes, I am feeling a tad sorry for myself. But I swear, it’s due more to us trekking through the city for two hours in search of a cab after the party (while I teetered along in my tight, blister-producing strappy heels) than swigging a few glasses of white.

We had a fantastic evening. The party was held at Sydney Aquarium, so we began by meandering through the venue, peering into fish tanks, pointing at penguins and smiling at the turtles. Giant Lego men, made from thousands of Duplo and Lego pieces, had been set up along the way. A Lego man held a penguin donning a scuba mask and snorkel.

The Lad and me on the dance floor.

Dinner was set up around the dugong pool, so as we ate (not fish, thankfully!) the instructors told us all about the giant, quiet ‘mermaids of the sea’. After polishing off the mains, we were led back into the aquarium for the party portion of the evening. For a corporate office, it was a riot! The Lad and I ducked into a photo booth (see the evidence above), tucked into choccie cake and cheese and then headed into the dance room. The scene was spectacular. The dance floor was set up beside a huge panel of glass, behind which swam sharks, sting rays, sword fish and a colourful array of big and little fish. Bright blue, purple, pink, black and white, grey, orange and other fish hues flashed by, clashing with the disco lights that roamed the room. We boogied down to some golden oldies, even Farnham’s You’re the Voice and hits from all the disco decades…

That’s about all I can manage to write. It’s time to duck back under the doona for a much-needed nap!

Are you heading to a Christmas party this year? Where is/was it held? Did you end up feeling as bleuruguhgh as me?

5 things 2011 taught us

16 Dec

Oh, what a year! Social upheaval, natural devastation and far too much Kardashian koverage marked 2011.

With Christmas being a time for reflection and contemplation, I thought I’d pop open the bubbly (please, grab a glass!) and look back at 5 things 2011 taught us…

#1 – Mother Nature can be a bitch

Apparently, this year’s torrent of natural disasters made 2011 the costliest on record. And that was just by July! Floods, fires and cyclones battered our young country. New Zealand lost 100 people to a 6.3-magnitude earthquake. More than 15,000 lives were lost (and 7000 people missing) when a quake and tsunami ravaged Japan. The world wept. And continued to weep. I said a silent prayer for those who lost their lives and their loved ones. I prayed that prayer far too many times in 2011.

#2 – The world is Kardashian krazy

The KKK (sorry, I mean the Kardashian klan koverage) reached ridiculous heights this year. Twitter turned into a frantic finch cage (you know, those tiny little birds that dash about) the moment a Kardashian ate a salad, got out of a car, or said ‘Like, yeaaaah, like, you knowwww’. Kim’s quickie 72-day marriage caused a stir. Kourtney and that aggro pastel-wearing dude dominated magazine covers. Khloe apparently got ‘fatter’. And then ‘thinner’. And then ‘fat’ again. Then it turned out she was preggers. But then she wasn’t. Ugh. Over it!

#3 – On that note…the world loves butts (and it cannot lie)

The royal wedding of that hot dude Prince William to that thin lass Catherine was overshadowed by the apparently pert posterior of the princess’s sis. A Facebook page – Pippa Middleton’s Arse – was set up in the derriere’s honour. That picture of Pippa in a figure-hudding frock at the wedding turned the world butt-crazy. Second only to its obsession with Kim Kardashian’s kaboose. Which, according to gossip magazines, grows or shrinks according to her stress levels. Or the camera angle.

#4 – If you want to be a famous singer, be a bad one

Yes, Rebecca Black, I’m looking at you! Her cringe-worthy Friday Friday video, featuring lame lyrics and a heavy amount of auto-tune, amassed 167 million YouTube views. And more than 3 million ‘dislikes’. So kids, the lesson here is: if you want to make it in this world, don’t worry about being talented. Instead, focus on what you’re not good at and flog it! (By the way, I do feel kinda sorry for the kid).

#5 – Nothing in life is certain – so just live it!

Did anyone else feel that this year was a struggle – individually and globally? I felt like we were all being tested, stretched, challenged and reminded of just how precious life is. The ravaging natural disasters had us fearing the end of the world. Then the wars and social plights had me thinking it’s in fact us who will bring about the end of our world, not Mother Nature.

I don’t know about you, but I’m wrapping up the year relieved and a little uncertain about what 2012 holds. The only thing I can be certain of is the little ripples I will make.

I pledge to be more peaceful, helpful, loving and kind. I promise to try harder not to judge others, to trust and to be more open. It might not make any difference in the big scheme of things, but perhaps if each of us strives to live and love better next year, that little ripple will flutter out to where it’s needed most.

I wish you a safe and peaceful Christmas and an optimistic New Year.

Cheers!

Xoxo Kat

What are your most memorable moments from 2011? What are you looking forward to in 2012? Share by commenting below 🙂

Useless things I’ve bought this week

30 Nov

This week, I have unknowingly bought two useless products:

  • A non-waterproof tent.
  • Christmas baubles without string.

Seriously. Waddup with dat?

Is it an extended April Fools’ Day joke by the world’s manufacturing wizards? A prank played on an ever-trusting public? Or perhaps it’s a clever marketing ploy to get us back to the shops to buy more – ‘I just need to pick up some bauble strings…hey, look at that! It’s a slicer-dicer-juicer-in-one! I totally need one of those!’

Can you imagine buying a loaf of bread from the bakery and opening it up at home to find only the crusts? Then needing to go back to buy the inside bits? Or buying a brand new car and having to head down to Bob Jane to fit it with a set of tyres?

I remember as a kid, watching those toy commercials with the sped-up voice over that said, ‘batteries not included.’ Which is why after unwrapping the latest gizmo or gadget, you’d also unwrap a 12-pack of Energizers. Cheers Santa!

Not including batteries is understandable. Plus, on toys, the no-battery notification is fairly easy to spot. But why are we being sent off with a bag of string-less baubles (don’t try threading them onto a teeny tree branch, folks. It doesn’t work!), or an outdoor tent that needs a slathering of waterproofing spray before it can be used outside (unless you want to be saturated with rain as you sleep).

I’ll be honest – I didn’t exactly choose the most expensive option when buying the tent and decorations (hey, a girl needs spare change for shoes!) But I did spend a good $30 on the tent and $40 on the sparkly balls. And in my mind, that warrants being sold a fully-functioning product.

I wonder if in the future, my kids will be left disappointed after unwrapping an empty box with ‘toy not included’ noted in fine print on the side. What a sad, sad Christmas that will be…although, incredibly cheap! Leaving Mummy with more money to spend on pretty shoes. Mwahaha.

Have you ever bought something that didn’t come as advertised? Share your experiences by commenting below.

Until then, I’m off to buy bauble string and waterproofing spray…

Why I’m not ashamed to shop online

29 Nov

This year, I shunned the shops and ordered all my Christmas gifts online. There is now a burgeoning bag of goodies in the bottom of my wardrobe, waiting to be wrapped.  I can’t stop looking at them. Unlike other Christmases, I know I made some damn fine purchases this year. The perfect pressie for each recipient. I am one seriously smug pre-Christmas shopping shopper!

The gifts were swiftly delivered to my office, headache-free and without the memories of toes being run over by racing prams or standing in an endless line to ask if the shop stocks an obscure DVD that no other store in the entire city seems to have. Followed by battling to the back of the store to find said DVD (which inevitably is not where the shop assistant said it would be) and re-joining the now longer queue to buy the bloody thing!

I also avoided the dreaded ‘Oh crap, it’s 5pm on Christmas Eve Eve (yes I call the day before Christmas Eve ‘Christmas Eve Eve’) and all I have found is this lame golfers’ book of jokes for Dad (who hasn’t played golf in years) and a novelty mobile phone holder for some poor unsuspecting friend!’

All I did was browse, click, eat some chocolate (a prerequisite for online shopping), click, click, more chocolate, put in cart, enter delivery details and sign for package placed on my desk three days later. Job. Done.

I’m afraid I haven’t been able to keep my successful shopping experience to myself. I’ve been gloating to anyone who’ll listen (and even to those who won’t).

‘Yes, I’ve already done all my Christmas shopping and it’s not even December yet!’

‘Mmm, I know, I’m just far too organised!’

‘Oh, I don’t know how you can stand going to the shops at this time of year. It’s mayhem!’

See – total snob.

But I don’t care. Because on Christmas Eve Eve, rather than sobbing into my arm-length shopping list and joining an endless Westfield car park queue, I will be slumped on mum’s couch, drinking wine and eating novelty Christmas snacks (you know those strange gooey things you wouldn’t dare eat at any other time, but because they’re shaped like Santa Claus, you can’t help but chow down?)

Is online shopping guilt-free?

Lately, there has been a lot of bad press about online shopping. The usual opponent, Gerry Harvey, one half of the Harvey Norman empire, has routinely slammed locals for turning to the net to purchase wares from overseas.  I feel for him – the true blue Aussie entrepreneur who has watched local businesses shut up shop as the internet takes over. Interestingly, the chain finally opened its own online store this week and apparently made $50,000 in the first day.

Good on him, I say. As the old saying goes, ‘If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.’

Gerry’s main concern has always been that Aussies can buy goods up to $1000 from overseas online stores without paying GST. His argument is that this is crippling homegrown businesses. I can see his point – of course our economy will wilt if we’re no longer indulging in physical retail therapy. Even if you take into account shipping and exchange rates when buying from overseas, the product will often end up costing a lot less than it does at your local Westfield.

Though, as Choice reports, ‘Who can blame [consumers buying online from overseas stores] when Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 games, for instance, cost 91% more from a major Australian online retailer than from an overseas online website based in Asia?  Or when a pair of Nike running shoes cost $240 at a major Australian sports retailer while the same product can be bought online for $134 from a US sports store?’

Choice has even launched an investigation into why shoppers in Australia pay more than those in the UK, US or Asia.

I always assumed it was a population thing – we simply don’t have enough people to pump up demand for goods. Or perhaps we’re so far away from the manufacturing hubs that we attract ridiculously high shipping costs, which are passed on to the consumer.

I’ll be very interested to read the findings…

In the meantime, I can revel in my super organised pre-Christmas shopping snobbery, as I did order all my Christmas gifts from Australian online stores. Not to make any sort of social statement, but it just seemed a lot easier than ordering from overseas, trying to find out whether they ship to Australia, comparing costs and then hoping that I chose a legitimate store. Plus, even though it may work out cheaper to buy from overseas, I do feel a twinge of patriotism (or perhaps it’s just a post-shopping rush?) when I click ‘confirm order’ on an Aussie site. For me, it just feels like the right thing to do. That and eating chocolate while I shop. 🙂

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