Making Memories.

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Been quite awhile since I had a cathartic write. A lot has gone on, but at the same time nothing has gone on. Mum doesn’t know that all of us kids and grand kids know she’s got a ‘use by’, having said that , one grand kid doesn’t actually know- her mum took her interstate years ago and she’s had no contact with her dad ( my little brother) she’s let me follow her on instagram so at least i have a way of contacting her if/when it’s necessary.

Christmas Day was 8/9 parts great. My 2 brothers, little sister and her husband along with mum came for a late lunch and dinner. We feasted and drank too much; well, again, 8/9 of us drank too much. My big brother insisted on driving, refused to relax, looks awful in the family photos and abused me for taking photos with my new selfie stick!! Apart from that, if that was mum’s last Christmas, as we’ve been told, it was a pretty good one. I really got on well with my little brother, which is such a gift as we’ve never been very close. Mum is trying hard to make sure I’ve forgiven my big brother as she’s clearly worried about him after she goes. He’s a total dick but I’ll never leave him alone at Christmas.

It’s funny in a way, but her biggest cause of pain and discomfort is her arthritic knee, not her metastatic cancer! We’ve been out for lunch since Christmas, had her down for lunch and a movie and lots of ‘phone calls. She’s keeping up a very brave front and is a great role model for us all.

My little sister struggles with it all as she lives away and can’t maintain the very easy contact that the other 3 of us can. She’ll be ok though, because like me, she is her mother’s daughter and we cope, as my daughter will too as she inherits our strong genes.

I’m struggling with my son also moving interstate in a couple of weeks. Have you seen the movie “Boyhood’? That really struck a cord with me, at the end when the son moved out. I’m really going to miss the afternoon coffee meets he, mum and I have during the working week.

Her next oncology appointment is 22nd January and I’ll be interstate helping my son move, so I’ve asked her if she’d like to change it or if she’s happy with my med student daughter taking her- she’s thinking on it.

For the meantime, I’m on summer holidays and have lots of time to make memories with my mum.

The Return of Joy

9713544-risk-profit-and-loss-crossword-stock-photo-forexMy son tells me that inspiration comes from focus, so here I am focussing on my laptop screen waiting for it ………………….. and the love of my life just rang me and it arrived!

Not to be too corny but life does present us with many twists and turns on the road we travel, decisions must be made and consequences accepted. A couple of months ago we made a big decision with life changing consequences;

Adrian’s work life began as an apprentice bricklayer, then when qualified he worked for The Education Department, followed by working for himself and then about 15 years working for other construction companies in management/admin roles. This worked for us at the time, regular income, company car, paid holidays, sick leave etc. Then it stopped working, not suddenly but insidiously over time.

I watched my husband slowly wizen, I listened to him verbalise his grievances yet take no action, the family bore the brunt of his frustrations and our home had a pall over it. We walked on egg shells not wanting to annoy him, wanting him to feel happy and valued, at least when he was with us.

It was while he was accessing sick leave that our fork in the road was arrived at. Even while not ‘at work’ he continued to work via ‘phone, and though I wasn’t the cause of his anger I was greeted first thing in the morning with a swearing peppered tirade of how angry he was with whatever had just occurred on the ‘phone. I turned and went back to bed. This was not for me.

When I arose the second time I articulated what each sign post was pointing too- the first to continue in his current employment alone or the second, leave work and we stick it out together. And with those so obvious and simple choices a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. We don’t always know we have a choice until someone else alerts us to it. He chose the second path. He has is own business again, and knows he is a competent and successful operator who has the greatest respect from all he encounters in his daily work. He has shown our children that happiness is most important and that risk taking is not just ok, but necessary to reach your full potential.

Profit and loss can certainly be measured financially but the loss of happiness, contentment, self worth, and joy is also measurable. These should always be in the black.

And with that, joy returned to our relationship. When I hear his ring tone on my ‘phone or hear his ute come up the drive way I beam rather than brace myself to be his sounding board. It doesn’t get much better than that

 

 

 

FOMO

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Our kids just spent two weeks in Japan together, as our daughter’s flight from Melbourne to Hobart took off I reached for my ‘phone and followed it on my Flight Tracker.

We can see the airport from our place, could actually see her plane approaching and watch it land- my husband saw it land, told me it landed  but the Tracker said it hadn’t- I believed the tracker! What a wake up call!

How much of reality are we missing as we choose to view our life and the lives of others via a device?

Calm water, sun shining, dogs having a ball on the near empty beach, and instead of letting the joy of it all engulf me, I am tripping over as I try to film it to show my husband.

Driving up the Far North Queensland coast as the Coral Sea comes in to view, glistening, but I miss seeing the tip of Port Douglas become visible as my husband tells me to photograph it. I look at the photo, but missed it in reality.

Travelling through Melbourne on  a tram, my husband has his map app open , tracking our journey, he doesn’t see the sites around us right out the window or the characters sharing our ride.

Meeting my granddaughter for the first time, I almost forgot my phone! Grabbed it though and took photos that we will treasure but it meant that one of the  first times I looked at her was through an iPhone 6s.

In this time of almost complete connectivity to each other all around the world, why is  it then that I spend a fair amount of time feeling just a little bit lonely?

Watching a movie or a TV show, my husband will often be looking at his ‘phone at the same time, me too sometimes.He puts his ‘phone so close to my face to show me a meme, I’d rather his face that close to mine with the imminent possibility of a kiss!

When we sit at the bench after work, a time we’d always used to talk and debrief and share the happenings of the day, my day seems less important than that of those on Facebook. I’ve noticed too how often people are in the same room and laughing, but not sharing the laughter, each is watching something different on their ‘phone. Surely the joy of a good laugh is having it with someone else?

My daughter was meeting a friend for lunch, the friend had lost her ‘phone- my daughter wondered how she would let her know if she was running late? How long should she wait before she worried or gave up? This an added layer of anxiety that has crept in for us all as we expect to be able to get in touch immediately. I remember telling mum I’d be home on the 3:15 bus, if I missed that 4:15 and so on. I moved to Darwin for a year and sent the odd letter and called every few weeks. I went to Thailand and got home before my postcard did. She wasn’t worried yet now she expects, well demands really, that we all text her as we board a plane and when we land so ‘she doesn’t worry’.

I’m not saying I’m anti-technology and I love that we can stay in touch so easily now, I love that the world is literally in our pockets at our finger tips but I do wonder if we’re losing touch with those right next to us to stay in touch with those who we would probably never call, visit or often don’t even know.

We have stopped asking  questions of those wiser than us ,preferring to quickly ‘google’ anything we want to know. What rich conversations are we missing out on as we head to Wikipedia instead of to our knowledgeable elders?  Who aren’t we meeting as we use our GPS when we used to stop and ask a real person for directions?

As I ponder this I realise that I’m suffering from FOMO- not brought about my friend’s holiday snaps on Facebook and instagram, or the steaming coffee shots followed by the cocktail later in the day, or the celebrity stories of having it all. Nope, I’m fearful of missing out on my life, of missing out on contented moments with the love of my life, of truly listening to my children when they are talking to me, of meeting new people, of gaining knowledge from my friends:  I’m fearful of missing out on NOW!

So I’m going to limit the device use and enter into a contract with myself to be with people not screens, perhaps I’ll call it INMO- I’m Not Missing Out!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bridging the gap

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In Tasmania we have a large percentage of families who are unemployed, and have been for several generations. At a recent meeting we were discussing how to re-engage families with education and then to help them feel motivated to encourage their children out of the unemployment/poverty cycle. How to bridge the gap between student achievement from different walks of life.Most of us have worked in a low socio-economic area during our careers so we all had opinions, anecdotal experience or research to fuel our conversation.

We moved then to discuss how parental expectation has a crucial bearing on student achievement and life success. I shared one of my favourite stories;my daughter was participating in a survey on the ‘phone. The surveyor asked her “When did you know you wanted to go to uni?” Her response? ” I never knew  I wouldn’t” .

This demonstrated to me the unspoken expectations that emanated throughout our children’s formative years, likely all their years.We never ever told them they had to go to uni, would have been perfectly happy with any career they chose to follow but I suspect all our words and actions would have conveyed that we expected them to be positive contributors to society, not just consumers. And we assumed they would be their very best. We loved them and told them they could be whatever they wanted to be. We showed them that hard work brought great rewards, both financially and philanthropically. Work hard, make positive contributions and you will be happy.

In middle class families there is usually the assumption that each generation will do slightly better than their parents- my mum was a stay at home mum, and book keeper for dad’s building business, mum’s mum stayed at home too and her dad worked at a jam factory, dad’s mum stayed at home  (my dad was one of eleven!)and his dad was a fisherman. Now there’s Ade and I, a bricklayer turned project manager and a school principal, our daughter is a doctor and our son is a comedian/actor by night and a very hard working teacher assistant by day.

This begs the question has each generation of my family outdone it’s forbearers? And how do you measure progress in this area? Is it all about the income? If so is a career criminal a success?

What about the happiness of each family? Did we really show our children that our jobs brought us great happiness? definitely on some days, but definitely not on others

What about stress levels? Their self esteem? The attention they could give their children? How loved did these kids feel ?

And so today while thinking back to the conversation about generational unemployment and poverty and what ‘we’ should do about that, my musings have lead me to ask the question -” Is it ok to put our middle-class values and expectations on others just to reduce their drain on government funds, our taxes?” One of my colleagues said that many of the families he works with currently don’t want their children to ‘do better than them’ and they don’t want them to leave the community they have been ensconced in across generations. They don’t want the apple to fall far from the tree, they don’t want to lose their strong, connected and often blended families. They don’t want their children operating in a world of time cards, pay checks, deadlines, and making new connections in that world that would be as foreign to their families as outer space.

So I guess I’m left thinking that my job as an educator is to provide opportunities in an equitable way that ensures all students can achieve their full potential- but I’m not sure it’s my job to define what that potential is. Should we stop and ask them if they actually want to cross a different bridge to the one they know will take them to where they feel safe, happy, confident and connected rather than just assuming everyone wants to be like us?

 

Two Options

choices.pngGenes are a funny thing. I’m not sure just how much they have to do with mental health but if I had to hazard a guess based on my own lineage I’d say they are instrumental.

While it was never actually articulated , my dad definitely lived with both depression and anxiety, I know this now with the gift of hindsight, and not just because I asked my nurse friend what his prescription drugs were for. He spent weeks not leaving the house except to drink at the weekends and then crawl back onto his bean bag in front of the tele until the next weekend arrived.

My mum’s a  funny character and again when I revisit my childhood, adolescence and young adult years, I can attribute much of her behaviour to the same demons. She was so anxious when her house was for sale that she hid in my brother’s wardrobe while the agent showed potential buyers around. We spent time told to be silent and lay down on the floor when visitors knocked at our door, friends were not allowed to stay for meals and sleepovers were out of the question. One of my biggest regrets is from the time when she passively attempted to end her own life by not treating her diabetes, and ended up very very sick in hospital. When she was eventually moved from the ICU to a ward to recover the nurse asked me did I think she was depressed ( dad had died a nasty death two years prior) I answered no. I had not yet even began to understand my own battles at that stage so I certainly couldn’t recognise them in anyone else. I was swamped with my own grief from losing dad and was in no position to comment on anyone’s else state of mind. Mum is still reclusive, guarded, overly private and confidential and I wonder now if she’d got some support back then would  her years have panned out differently?

I finally realised I wasn’t okay after listening to Andrew Fuller, a prominent psychologist, talk about mental well-being. He talked about ways to check in with yourself and one resonated deeply with me “when did you stop singing in the car?” As well as being a boating family we were always a family with music around, the radio always on and mum and dad singing when they were in good spirits, and dad whistling his way around the place too in his lighter days. I have always loved a good sing and in the car on my own was and continues to be no less attractive than with friends and family. So when I heard these words my journey of self awareness began. My next clue was a friend pointing about my extreme weight loss as I was obsessed with walking the hills around my house, the biggest clue was when I thought I might like a ‘minor’ car crash, I didn’t want to die, I just wanted to be left alone for awhile.

I could go on for pages about my brothers, we’re a boating family and it’s suffice to say that they are definitely in the same boat as they rest of us, possibly a little further out to sea though…

Enter the next generation, my children. Fabulous, gregarious, intelligent, funny, caring they almost sound too good to be true. But my daughter hasn’t escaped from the tendrils of anxiety. She even succumbed to the Black Dog in grade 7. But I always knew this about her, I saw the signs being a consummate anxiety sufferer by now, she knew I suffered too and so she told me when she was not ok. She told me!

My boy though, he didn’t tell me, and I didn’t ask. We had what I thought was a great open relationship- he told me lots of things, which I now think of as distractors, deflectors from the real him. Through his writing he has now told me that he’s right there alongside the rest of the family, for better or worse he’s trapped in the web of inane insecurities, constant self reflection and the battle to simply feel content.

So where to now? I can choose to wallow in self doubt about my parenting, dive head first into a bubbling pot of self deprecation, and finally drown under  a tidal wave of self hate. Or I can remember that it’s ok to feel anxious sometimes, that the feeling will go away, that there are more highlights than bloopers in the film reel of my life so far, and I can share this with my son so that he too can rise above and break out from the web of fear and apprehension that anxiety weaves. I choose option two!

And the beat goes on

My son has started to blog on here and after reading his first post and re-reading mine I am reminded about how much I too love to write, just like him. What an amazing young man my Matt is, he epitomises seize the day and if there was only one legacy I could leave my children then that would be it. I spent some months on the ledge of despair waiting for him to reclaim his joy in his successes instead of drugs, and he did! I have the utmost faith that he will be all he needs to be. I take great joy in the fact that he and all my children still seem to enjoy spending time with us.

Abby is an intern and really enjoying life again,she looks fabulous, works conscientiously and has a solid handle on work/life balance in so much as she has control over this. How many mothers get to have scrubs in their washing?  Time spent with her continues to be time spent so well.

Our eldest, Trent and his wife are expecting a baby girl in October. We are about to re-invent as Grandad and Grancath. How exciting.

So mum is still so wonderfully still with us, hallelujah for her ‘accepting’ her doctor of indian descent after getting past her initial ‘ I can’t understand a word he’s saying’ He talked her into her treatment and here she still is!

And so the beat goes on- life keeps happening to us and aren’t we all lucky that it does? Far better than the alternative!!

 

Dear Dad……

imageToday is the anniversary of my dear dear father’s death- his mum died when he was in his twenties and he always told me that it  never stopped feeling like she died yesterday. 17 years on from his premature death I now totally get what he was saying- god I miss him: so this is for you dad, some stuff I think you’d have loved or like to know.

Abby is in 5th year medicine, she’s pretty and confident, she sings and plays guitar as well as piano, she’s got the Fox sharp wit and sense of humour, a strong sense of social justice, a healthy love of a good drink and does not smoke!! She hasn’t been in love for awhile- I think medicine is all consuming but also think her bar is set very high, after all mum and I maried very well. She remembers you well and feels you in her life. She is everything you would have expected her to be,and more.

Matt is in Melbourne studying Film and Television. He lives in Hawthorn, which I LOVE, but as a Geelong fan you probably don’t find as staisfying ( just an aside, Hawks whipped the Cats in the first round of the season). He’s amazing Dad, and I know you’d love him but I  think you’d verbally spar a fair bit too. He does stand up comedy and I suspect you’d have provided him with plenty of material. Physically I see you in him Dad, his dark brooding eyes, his height and his luxurious dark wavy locks. I am dismayed that you two didnt have more time together.

Adrian is fabulous- he continues to be my lighthouse in each and every storm that life sends my way. He did give up the tools years ago, but you’d be pleased to know he can still turn his hand to most trades as required. He has a great boat that we go out in it regularly. I love him Dad, he is the love of my life, and I know you two would have continued to build a fabulous relationship.

Mum has metastatic melanoma. She is on her 3rd immunotherapy treatment after being told last year that there was nothing to be done for her. No side effects yet, one treatment to go. She did tell her oncologist that she still deeply misses you and can accept her imminent demise if it means being reunited with you, the love of her life. I see her more often since the diagnosis, sometimes to take her to appointments, amd other times just because I know there is a time limit and had I known that earlier with you I would have done things very differently.

Me? Well I’m in  my 3rd principalship, and going well. Not bad for the girl who you once told couldn’t teach older than grade 6 or they’d be smarter than her eh?I remember the advice you gave me, to always know or be able to do something unique, and so I work hard to stay at the cutting edge of my craft. My job is often hard but I love it, however thanks to you I also have a very clear picture of what’s really important and I take lots of time to make memories with the ones I love. Conseqently we have a sizeable mortage but my genes don’t bode well for a long life so I’m here for a good life instead.

So Dad, I hope you’re travelling well, and I hope none of this is news to you, I like to think you’re always around and know what’s going on with us all. Please know you have changed my life for the better, and as a result of that the lives of your amazing grandchildren too. Love you Dad x

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The long and winding road

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Well, it’s been a long time since I’ve blogged, lots going on though. Mum is half way through a 3 month stint of immunotherapy- so far no side effects but she looks frail and is a lot more dependent and verbally affectionate than before. She’d originally refused this treatment as there are few guarantees, and a likelihood she will get severely fatigued and nauseated. I think she only agreed as her doctor changed and suggested it, and as my sister and I were with her I think she said yes as she thiught that’s what we’d want. She continues to syphon off $50 notes to my daughter. My sister is still great – she flies in regularly to support both mum and me.

It’s 6 months since we were given 4-12months,  which is pretty disconcerting. We’ve got a few trips booked and each time we organise one I wonder if this will be the one we have to cancel. My fabulous husband asked me to organise a trip to Sydney to see Les Mis, something he knowsI really want to do, I wonder if we’ll get there? Last Friday we went for mum’s second dose of immunotherapy- she was too dehydrated to be cannulated, it took 3 oncology nurses over 45 minutes to succeed. Mum was so upset, it was awful to see her so vulnerable as her veins collapsed. She had thought she’d be ok to go to these appointments on her own but has now conceded that won’t be happening.Easter is approaching. I’m not religous but the significance doesn’t elude me, renewal and new life.

Every new day that mum is still with us is a gift.Each day that she is still with us and feels well is a bonus- I’m focussing on the present and appreciating each moment. My priorities are the clearest they’ve ever been, my love of family is as strong as it’s ever been and I’m gathering strength for the long road ahead.

Glass half full

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We are waiting to see if mum can have some immunotherapy to slow down the progression of her disease. With only 10 weeks between PET scans the tumours have increased in her thigh, lymph node, liver and lungs. She seems more tired and her leg pain has increased. When the doctor examined her, despite claiming she has no pain or symptoms, she winced when he palpated her liver. The lymph node tumour can now be felt. The one on her lung is making her breatheless but she will admit to none of this. The treatment being considered cannot cure her but may buy her some more time, but it’s not an option if her blood tests show that her liver and/or kidney function is not good enough. It seems she probably has between 4 and 6 months left without any treatment😢 Mum wants us to help her decide if she should have the treatment, to weigh up side effects and “down time” against possibly gaining a few months. Big decison, and we may not even get to make it if her liver and kidneys aren’t ok. I guess I need to get my optimism back on and do some cup half full thInking- I’ve still got my mum for now, she’s still enjoying life, we might be able to keep her for a bit longer and it’s only 2 sleeps until we find out if she’s a candidate for the therapy.

My Mischievious Imp

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Last night I felt like I was being dragged backwards by a massive wave, all of my energy being used to try and return to the shore, nothing left to even allow me to tread water for awhile until things calmed. My daughter has been home for 7 weeks and returns to Med School on Sunday, a two hour drive away. I’ll miss her  so much. My son is so excited about his imminent departure to Melbourne to attend Swinburne University and study a Bachelor of Film and Television. God I’ll miss him too!! The house will feel empty and quiet without them both. I know they’re doing the right thing, in fact amazing things and I’m so proud of them both, but at this time I just like to draw my loved ones close. Next week Mum has an oncology appointment, it’s my first week back at school, luckily I can take a couple of hours off. But I’m dreading it…. what good news can they possibly have for us after the last lot? She still looks ok but I can see her getting thinner. She’s syphoning off cash to my daughter each time she sees her and I’m not sure that she has enough to be doing that. She hugged my daughter so hard yesterday as our weekly lunches have come to an end for now. My best friend is a nurse and over lunch she talked about the ‘awful death’ that liver tumours bring; not the cheeriest of lunch time conversations! The fact that mum’s palliative plays on my mind, the knowledge always lurking in the shadows, a trouble making imp ready to give it’s opinion at any moment: Mum comments on a new highway being built and the imp whispers to  me ” she’ll never see it finished will she?” My daughter looks at graduation gowns and the imp is right there saying mischievously ” her grandmother isn’t going to see her in that” My son talks about his 21st and the high pitched voice quips “his nan wont be at that will she?” I need to find a way to quiet the imp!!