How an Icecream Won the War

What our five-year-old daughter wore to school each day had become a battle – so much so, that every morning we’d have another screaming match.

“You will, I won’t … I will, you won’t”.

Every morning at least one of us would end up in tears, and often one of us would end up with a spanked bottom.

One day an experienced grandma advised me to ”choose your battles.” Her wise words encouraged me to take a step back to see what was really happening.

A look from a different perspective enabled me to see that my daughter was trying to assert her independence as a part of growing up. But I was afraid that she was leaving me, so I tried to control her, in every aspect of her life.

Sure, I needed to have my daughter’s respect, but I also needed to show respect to my daughter and allow her to grow up and take on more responsibility and choices as she grew.

***

 

We soon solved the “clothes war”.

We went for our first ever “date” –which became a family custom and we continued with all of our children, individually.

Over an ice-cream, we made a mutual decision: My daughter could choose what to wear from Monday to Saturday.  But I had final say on Sunday mornings and special occasions, and I chose the clothes to weddings.

***

Grandma’s words helped me to realise that if I were to continue to fuss over every aspect of my daughter’s life, there would  come a time when I would really need to “make a point”. Then how would my daughter distinguish between what I believed was really important and what was “just a fuss”?

Ultimately, fussing over little things did not gain my daughter’s respect – just her resentment.

The difference between life and death

Little things like whether her shirt matched her shorts, or how she wore her hair did not really matter in a world where decisions about drugs, alcohol, sex and fast cars can literally mean the difference between life and death.

Saving my “fussing” for those issues that were important helped my daughter learn how to make wise choices.  And as she entered the pre-teens, equipped her to face the “grey issues”. As she grew older, the grey issues became still greyer, but she became more confident in her decision making, having had years of experience.

***

Twenty-plus years after the “clothes war” we still talk about the big and little issues with great respect and much love for each other.  We still have different tastes in clothes, and ice-cream is still our favourite date.

 

First published in The Lutheran

The Elves and the Quilt Makers

 

By Julie Hahn 2017

‘Twas​ ​the​ ​first​ ​night​ ​of​ ​Quilt​ ​Camp​ ​when​ ​all​ ​through​ ​the​ ​hall  

The​ ​shriek​ ​of​ ​a​ ​quilter​ ​stopped​ ​work​ ​by​ ​us​ ​all  

The​ ​quilter​ ​had​ ​sewn​ ​all​ ​her​ ​stitches​ ​with​ ​care

But​ ​her​ ​shriek​ ​echoed​ ​out​ ​‘All​ ​I​ ​need​ ​is​ ​one​ ​square!’ —

The​ ​quilt,​ ​not​ ​yet​ ​finished​ ​to​ ​place​ ​on​ ​her​ ​bed

Because​ ​of​ ​one​ ​lousy​ ​square-inch​ ​of​ ​​that​ ​red!

 

 

Her​ ​dorm-mates​ ​assembled,​ ​each​ ​with​ ​a​ ​night-cap,  

‘Twould​ ​be​ ​better,​ ​we​ ​think,​ ​if​ ​you​ ​took​ ​a​ ​long​ ​nap.’  

So​ ​they​ ​guided​ ​her​ ​out​ ​and​ ​put​ ​her​ ​to​ ​bed  

While​ ​the​ ​rest​ ​of​ ​the​ ​quilters​ ​scoured​ ​the​ ​hall​ ​for​ ​‘that​ ​red’.

 

To​ ​their​ ​tables​ ​the​ ​quilters​ ​all​ ​flew​ ​like​ ​a​ ​flash  

Tore​ ​open​ ​their​ ​luggage,​ ​and​ ​​combed​ ​through​ ​​their​ ​stash  

All​ ​hopeful​ ​they​ ​surveyed​ ​the fabric ​out-spread  

But​ ​alas​ ​there​ ​was​ ​not​ ​a​ ​faint​ ​sign​ ​of​ ​‘that​ ​red’.

‘It’ll keep until morning,’ the quilters then said,

‘It’s been a long day so we’re going to bed.’

But while they were sleeping, there arose a great sight

The last thing you’d think of in a quilt hall at night.

Three not-so-miniature elves did appear:

Three quilting elves and their well-used quilt gear.

 

The elves made short work then of checking the hall

For projects unfinished, stashes, threads…and quilt stall.

At last they encountered that problem ‘fore-said

The quilt not yet finished because of ‘that red’.

 

‘Tis a problem, that’s true!’ said the first quilting elf.

‘But I have a solution. I’m quite proud of myself.’

‘She may have run out of the red that she blames

But this block in the middle has a square that’s the same.

 

If we took our unpickers and unstitched with some care

We could just change the fabric to replace this red square.’

With neat, tiny actions, so lively and quick

The elves saved the quilt with their old quick-unpick.

 

‘But now what?’ they said to each other, when done.

‘We’ve hours to go ‘til the rise of the sun.’

So to tables and projects the quilt elves returned

To help one more quilter before they adjourned.

 

And there on a table, some blocks they did spy.

The squares were all muddled so the quilt was awry.

At the end of the night then, the elves solved a muddle

Of pieces kerfuddled like a quilt jigsaw-puzzle.

 

As the first glimpse of daylight appeared from the east

The elves found the place for the last jigsaw piece.

The quilt elves looked over their work with delight.

Their elfing was finished. Good work for a night.

 

When the quilters returned to the hall for the day

The work of the quilt elves they found on display;

No more muddled pieces and no tangled thread,

And no longer a hole for a square of ‘that red’.

 

 

 

If you ever attend a Quilter’s retreat

And your work turns to porridge

You’d best get some sleep.

Though our quilts all begin with do-it-yourselfing

Our problems are solved with communal Quilt-Elfing.

 

 

How To Make A Christmas Birthday Memory

A few years ago, my entire side of the family gathered in Brisbane – to visit our brother and family, and to celebrate Christmas together.  For three weeks our three generations buzzed around Carl and Kylie’s home, shuffled between the airport, car hire companies, accommodation, shopping centres, and everything else that busy families do at Christmas time in and around Brisbane. Chris’s birthday is just before Christmas, so remembering to celebrate it became my special task.

Chris and I with three of our children house-sat in a home that was perfect for our needs. I discovered they had an extra freezer in their garage so I devised a scheme to make Chris a birthday cake made of ice-cream–his favourite type of birthday cake. The house was across the road from a large supermarket, so it wasn’t too tricky to gather the goods I needed, or to hide them in the garage freezer.

Whenever Chris disappeared, I added another layer to the ice-cream cake. The cake had layers of vanilla and salted caramel icecream with frozen raspberries and blobs of nutella mixed through. I even piped whipped cream over the top, just like one of those birthday cakes you buy from the supermarket.

Several days before the birthday, my sister-in-law Kylie and her daughters called in to spend some time with us.

‘Great!’ I said. ‘It would be so much easier to surprise him if you could take it home with you.’ We smuggled it out to Kylie’s car, safely surrounded in its lined cake tin and snuggled in between layers of ice-packs in a $2.99 Coles cooler-bag.

Chris’s birthday was possibly the funnest birthday he’s had for ages, travelling all around the sights of Brisbane. The entire family planned to get together early in the evening to celebrate.  But the timing blew out, as it often does.

During the course of the afternoon, Kylie texted me about several changes of plans. She seemed to be most concerned about Chris’s birthday celebrations. I texted her back – that timing didn’t matter. As long as the cake was okay,  all would be good.

As I arrived at Kylie’s later that afternoon, she and my sister Annie were fussing in the kitchen adding the final touches to the cake. They’d gathered inspiration from a Family Circle magazine and the cake had gone from an almost-like-a-supermarket-ice-cream-cake, to ‘A Christopher’s Super Special Deluxe’ with golden toffee castles towering above crushed Crunchie bars, caramelized pop-corn and Maltezers, all smothered in a rich, gooey caramel sauce. I barely recognized it – but was so very proud and thankful of their extra efforts.

The family gathered and sang ‘Happy Birthday.’ Chris blew out the candles, made a wish, and giggles erupted from behind me.

I sat close to Chris while he cut the cake, eager to see the layers. He drew out the first cake wedge.  Annie and Kylie hovered above my head still giggling.  At the moment that we could see layers, they burst into laughter and retreated to the kitchen.

I followed them, put my hands on my hips and didn’t say a word, except perhaps ‘Don’t you want any cake?’

Kylie blushed and pulled a squirmy face.

‘It was such a hot and busy day when you smuggled that cake into the car,’ she said. ‘I dropped the girls off here, there and everywhere, and we got home really late. The next morning I went to my exercise class, and there, on the floor by the front seat of the car was the Coles cooler bag. It had been there all night.’

Despite the near disaster and an extra-hot Brisbane summer, the ice-cream cake was perfect. Every layer was distinct from every other layer. There were nutella blobs just big enough to melt in your mouth in between spoonfuls of ice-cream and the tangy surprise of miraculously-still-frozen raspberries. And the mountain of gold, chocolate and caramel on top covered a ‘meltitude’ of sins.

Hopefully, Kylie realized long ago that all was forgiven instantly–that’s what Christmas is about. We’re really thankful to her for being a wonderful host …and especially for a great Christmas birthday story.

And, especially that Christmas, we were also thankful to Coles for very effective cooler bags.

Oops! And Happy Birthday Chris!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Possum, We Miss You

DEAR POSSUM,
Could you please come for a visit?
That little cat that you used to scare off of your territory on our roof is now paying visits day and night. And it leaves its mark on our backyard.
And now, I’ve just turned on the Evaporative Cooler – and it has obviously left its mark on there too! The house smells worse than when your Grandma Possum died in our roof and Uncle Poss died in our wall cavity several years later.
I know we made you feel unappreciated, but could you please come and visit? We’ll even leave some fresh lettuce plants on the roof for you if you like.

Missing you

Julie and The Hahns

A Solo Adventure: Another Way To Leave Your Mother

Number four child left on his first ever solo adventure a couple of days ago. After 27 years of having at least one at home, that was bound to create some upheavals in his mother’s heart. But not quite in the way I expected.

He was supposed to make sure his room was ‘sparkling’ clean before he left.

He didn’t.

Instead, his sister visited and created somewhat of a loving distraction. We left early for the airport, and I didn’t check his room – or even that end of the house, where his room is adjacent to my office.

The next morning, as I went to my office I couldn’t help but notice through his wide-open bedroom door that his room looked like a train-wreck.

So, I did what mothers who are left with a suddenly empty house might do. I ignored my writing and went into his room to do a bit of a tidy–a rare event in this house.

I headed towards his bed to change the sheets to summer-weight sheets. But a grocery bag at the end of the bed stole my attention.  In it were two bottles of Coke.

I hate Coke.

Possibly a remnant of living in Memphis for long enough to discover that a typical Memphis breakfast was Coke and donuts, I have developed an aversion to Coke – much to the disdain of my sons. They know I hate it. They know I’ve banned it from bedrooms. And if they want to bring it here into my house, it’s on rations – like wine or beer or anything that to me should be a ‘sometimes’ thing.

So, grumpy me grabbed the bag, pulled the two two-litre bottles of Coke out of the bag and took them to the kitchen. One of them was full.

Unfortunately, it was the full bottle that I chose to up-end first into the drain of the sink. As the top of the bottle neared the lowest part of the sink, I loosened the cap.

What I probably should have realized was that the Coke was warm. And travelling from one end of the house to the other, it was slightly shaken up. And tipping it upside-down into the sink exacerbated the shaking up process.

But I didn’t think about that until…

Let’s just say that an exploding, previously unopened, warm and shaken up two-litre bottle of Coke sprays E V E R Y W H E R E !!!!!!

I had only just had my shower. But now Coke was in my hair and up my nose; in my eyes and trickling down the inside and outside of my glasses; my shirt was soaked through–my trousers were too.

I dripped all the way down to the bathroom where I had my second shower and shampoo in five minutes.

And then I returned to the kitchen.

WHAT A MESS!

Coke was on the bench and on the walls, all over the ceiling and the floor, over the windows and the door. I returned at least seven times to the kitchen only to find more splashes of Coke over cupboards and utensils up to three metres away.

The walls and everything else is splattered

and my will is shattered.

My desire to clean is diminished.

From now on I’ll make sure

That he closes the door

When he says that his cleaning is FINISHED.

 

Julie Hahn 25/10/2017

 

 

 

LOVE in a Plebiscite: The Argument or the Victim

Those who know me well know that in most things, I can see both sides of an argument. On this plebiscite, I am sitting with one leg either side of the barbed-wire fence. I’m precariously balanced – a change in the direction of wind, a bird that flies past and distracts me, a call for compassion—from either side— or a well-expressed argument contribute to pain in one form or other.

What I wasn’t counting on was how LOVE would be the argument from both sides – Yet LOVE seems to have become the victim.

So, don’t tell me that LOVE is selfish, or love is cruel. That Love has rules that fit one but not another. That love sticks to one person or group’s definition. Don’t come up with your own set of moral standards about love – about whose ideals I should or should not accept. And don’t tell me what my marriage should or should not look like.

Above all, do not tell me that being LOVING is weak – or I’ll know straight away that you have never given birth, nor held your father’s hand as he died, nor held your child’s hand as they fought for life, nor reassured teenagers that they are loved regardless of what their parents have told them, nor held women in your embrace who have been hurt by those who should have been their protector.

Don’t tell me that being loving is weak unless you have held dying children in your hands and their sobbing fathers in your arms; unless you have wandered through wards in the middle of the night to give a cup of warm cocoa, or listened to tales of long ago, or have given a back-rub and a sponge-bath in the wee hours of the morning. Don’t tell me that love is weak unless you have sat in the gutter with real women who desperately want to keep their baby but are forced to decide between an abortion or food for their other children at home.

Don’t tell me that Love is anything but kind, and patient, and selfless, and always wants the best for another.

Because if you tell me that Love makes demands or looks a particular way, or fits within a particular neatly bound book of rules, you do not know Love.

And Love is all that ever matters.

 

 

 

STOP, THINK, ACT: The ABCs of what to do next

I used to give a STOP, THINK, ACT handout to parents.  Initially it was so they could remind kids to STOP, THINK then ACT before rushing into things inevitably got them into trouble.

Later, I tweaked it a little to incorporate feelings. I learnt that before any child can think clearly,  they need to be able to acknowledge what they’re feeling.

Many of the dads came up to me several weeks after their handout  made it onto the fridge in their home.

‘You know that “STOP. FEEL & THINK. ACT” thing you gave us for the kids? It works for me too. It reminds me to stop before I yell or smack. Thanks!’

 

The more I deal with parents, the more I discover that parenting kids involves learning about ourselves in the process.

So, here’s the adultified version of the ABC’s of Stop, Think, Act.

The ABC’s of STOP, THINK, ACT.

How do we continue with life when so many things around us are too horrible to contemplate – but they don’t actually affect us?
When dozens are massacred in a place we know of; When shots are fired at a house on the next block; When lives have been shattered through motor vehicle accidents; When someone else is diagnosed with cancer; When arbitrary decisions made by people who should know better affect families who deserve better; When jobs and the economy are unstable.

We can climb into our shells and pretend the world doesn’t exist.

Or we can:

STOP.

FEEL, ACKNOWLEDGE, THINK.

ACT

STOP.

Before you do anything else, especially if it’s going to lead you or someone else into trouble, STOP – long enough to take a breath.

FEEL & ACKNOWLEDGE. THINK & PLAN

What are your feelings?

Are they coming from now?  Are they protecting you and telling you to run for your life or to seek shelter or care for others?

Then fight or flee, or tend and find others to be with. 

Or are they coming from the past? Are they protecting you – or are they paralysing you in panic, causing the child in you to fear something you have never been helped to deal with?  Then make an appointment with yourself to sort through them when you’re out of the current situation. But NOT right now.

But What to do now? Think and PLAN

Identify what is outside of your control. Be aware of it, but hand it over to someone bigger, stronger, wiser or kind for the moment. Pray. Dig down deep and dump it in a place where you can pick it up and be helped to deal with it later.

Worrying about something outside of your control cripples you from doing what you CAN do.

Concentrate on what is within YOUR control?

What CAN you do?

 

ABCs of what you CAN do:

  • A – Acknowledge – ‘All I can do is all I can do, and all I can do is enough’
  • B – Breathe
  • C – Create something beautiful or useful
  • D – Donate your time, talent or treasure
  • E – Encourage others with your words, your presence, your attitude, your actions
  • F – Find help to deal with those emotions from the past

You may not make a big difference in the whole scheme of things,

But you can make an enormous difference in the life of another.

ACT.

Put your plans into action. Take tiny steps forward into doing something positive. And you’ll take your thoughts under control in the process.

Ideas: 

Volunteer in a local op-shop; or Meals-on-Wheels; in a hospital or nursing home; mow a lawn or weed a garden; take immigrants/students for driving practice;  sell sausages for charities at your local hardware store; take a dog for a walk; hang up washing or sort clothes for an overwhelmed mum or dad; hold a baby; bake a cake with a teenager; cook a meal for a neighbour; listen to kids reading in school; sweep up in a Men’s Shed; grow fruit & vegetables for a Grow Free cart; work in a community garden; join a choir; teach a child to play an instrument; make costumes or props for a school concert; edit a newsletter; write to your politician or newspaper; join a quilting group …

Please add your ideas in the comments section below.

 

As adults we have the ability to determine what is within and outside of our control. Stop. Feel & Acknowledge, Think & Plan helps us to remember that we CAN take control of the next moment.

Inspired by: Ephesians 5:15-17

‘Live life then, with a due sense of responsibilitiy, not as people who do not know the meaning of life but as those who do. 

Make the best use of your time, despite the evils of these days. Don’t be vague, but firmly grasp what you know to be the will of the Lord.’  Phillips

 

 

 

 

 

Marriage… My response to someone’s post about whether to stick at it.

Twenty years ago my husband and I faced this (decision about whether we stick it out), except that we had both committed to each other for life. We are both really, really, stubborn.
We had a practice of holding hands while we argued–you can’t throw things when you hold hands.
Life was awful for both of us and our 3 kids.

One day, we held hands, and I told him that I couldn’t continue as we were…and I was stuck with him…we could not separate due to our circumstances and our commitment.

We realised that we could continue miserably, or make changes together.

We scrubbed out the ‘d’ word from our dictionary, thus removing exit strategies. And we intentionally laughed and restored positive things into our lives.

20 years later, the changes mean that we’re more in love than we thought was possible. Our 4 kids have grown up in a loving AND FUN home. And we are SO thankful that we were Stuck in a situation we couldn’t get out of, way back then.

Our experience tells us that life can improve. If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got.
But to change together gives more strength to change successfully.

My Bad Hair-Cut Day

My Bad Haircut Day

Ok. I admit it. I’m a bit precious about my hair – something I have in common with many people I think.

It seems that those of us like me, who have naturally straight hair, spend as much time and effort in trying to make it curl as those who have curly hair spend straightening it. Then there are those who, like my husband, would be proud to have any hair on their very shiny, bald heads.

To those of us who have dead-straight hair, with cowlicks and double-crowns for added interest, a hairdresser who can cope with our hair is like a rare jewel. We keep regular appointments, and will virtually camp outside of the salon in case there happens to be a vacancy, if for some reason we’ve forgotten to book our appointment six weeks in advance.  

I had one of those hairdressers recently. We formed a close enough bond that we exchanged mobile phone numbers when she moved salons.

But four haircuts ago, as she cut my hair she told me she was having a change in her career path. Outwardly I smiled and nodded – being very careful to nod in between snips so I didn’t accidentally lose an ear. But inwardly I was screaming,

‘NOOOOoooooooOOOOOH!’

Being the great actress I can be, I congratulated her and wished her all the best – while secretly and selfishly wishing that it would not work out!

Since then, I’ve been experimenting with hairdressers. I’ve really tried hard not to be too precious about it. My first haircut with a new hairdresser was not too bad. So I returned six weeks later, but unfortunately timed it at the end of a very busy Saturday. The haircut took a week to settle, but it was alright. So I went back to the same salon for the next haircut.

I smiled at the stranger behind the counter, and she took my name and number and made an appointment for me for the next day. The next day, she cut my hair.

Well, I’m still not really sure what the cut looks like or whether I like it. Usually hairdressers have a way of ‘selling’ my new cut to me. While I’m sitting in the chair looking in the mirror and waiting for them to wave their magic wand, they grab some styling gel – or in my case, some stuff literally called ‘muk’ which closely resembles putty. They fool around with my very short locks, sticking up bits that refuse to stick up if they’re un-mukked, and plastering down other bits. Somehow, they have me believing I’m gorgeous!

Not this day! The cut was finished. Precise and closely resembling a pom-pom, I wasn’t quite sure how the hairdresser would putty it. She didn’t. She moved over to the cash till and I gathered my glasses and my handbag and walked over to the cash till too. I waited for the shock of the cost. But I wasn’t ready for her next question.

‘Do you have a Seniors Card?’

My outer-actress face smiled and said ‘No’.

Inside, my heart was sinking. I thought, ‘You’ve just spent 20 minutes with me talking about yourself and your views and you’ve just commented that I don’t have many grey hairs yet. I’m only just 50. I was here to have a spiffy haircut and feel better about myself, and now you’re asking if I have a Seniors Card.’

I must say that my retelling of my story at bible-study later that night created much more humour at my expense than I anticipated.

Once I had calmed down a bit I thought back to this hairdresser who in reality had followed my instructions, but just failed in her sales pitch. I thought of the power of her few tiny words.

I know of only some of the pain I’ve caused others because of my thoughtless words. I have known no greater anguish than when I hurt others with hastily written words which were distributed unedited. Thank God, these days I have several editors who get back to me about these articles.

‘Are you sure that you want to say this?’

‘Are you aware it could be taken differently than you intend?’

‘Is that what you really meant to say?’

Wouldn’t it be great in real life to have an editor to take with me, to check my words before they leave my mouth?

Sometimes words themselves can be quite inert

As I was trying to write the rest of this article, I heard a loud yell from one of our kid’s rooms.

‘A hundred and thirty dollars?’

Sometimes words themselves can be quite inert. Nobody would raise an eyebrow at a hundred and thirty dollars if they had just checked through the contents of a supermarket trolley, or if they’d paid for a car service. But the way in which we say words often speaks more loudly than the words themselves could ever say.

I love a part of the movie ‘Three men and a baby’ where one of the three ‘dads’ read to the baby from a magazine about wrestling. His intonation was gentle and soothing, so it was not long before the baby was asleep.

When our kids were little, we used to sing a song

‘Keep your tongue from evil, keep your tongue’ (click, click, click – went our tongues!) 

For a verse we would grab hold of our tongues with our fingers – literally.It was a fun song.

But today as I write I think that I should take that song more seriously. If I can’t physically take hold of my tongue, I can practise to be quieter – to listen to others rather than offer them my words of wisdom. I can respond to emails or Facebook, but write a draft somewhere else to give me time to process what I’m really trying to say. Perhaps sleep on it before I post. I can avoid ever becoming a tweeter because hastily written or said words have always got me into trouble.

And I can always check and recheck that my words are like honey, for tomorrow, I may have to eat them.  

 

First published in The Lutheran magazine, November 2013 as ‘My Bad Hair-Cut Day’.