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’.

The Nest Is But An Empty Shell.

The nest is but an empty shell. It sits on the lowest branch of our neighbour’s palm tree. I can see it from my window as I write.

To look at it now, in mid-winter Adelaide, it looks cold, hard and lifeless.

A pair of Murray Magpies built it from mud last Spring. Then they took it in turns to bring materials to line it with warmth and love–and a Murray-Magpie-mud-nest-full of our roof insulation. We had enough to share.

Over the next few weeks the birds kept the nest warm and each other company much of the time. Of course, they may well have been guarding the nest from neighbourhood cats and possums. Beware anything that gets between a Murray-Magpie-mum and her eggs!

The day arrived that we saw tiny beaks poke up to be shoved full of whatever mum and dad bird collected.

But, as happens, the chicks grew–too big for the nest. The chicks flew away.

Too soon the nest was empty.

Summer passed. Autumn too.

And now, Winter sits. Its long, dark clouds hang like a lifeless shroud.

The nest is but an empty shell. It sits and sways on a dying palm branch, waiting silently for the warmth of Spring that promises new life and love.

And this empty shell, from which I watch, fills with the warmth of hope.

 

Julie Hahn 12th August 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Not To Use a SMART list: For mothers and others

I made my list, as I’ve often been told to do.
It was quite short, and, as the experts had been coaching me SMART:
Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely.
And so the day began.
First job: Strip the bed – except that a sleeping husband lay there soundly sleeping, so I made plans to come back later.


I decided that I might as well have breakfast, except that last night’s dishes had been forgotten by the other inhabitants of the house. So, I went to fill the dishwasher. But it too was full of dishes that had not been put away. I thought that while I put those away I’d fill the sink to wash the pots and pans. I turned on the hot water and went to sprinkle several drops of dishwashing liquid into the water, but alas, the bottle was empty. To be efficient, I thought I’d write it on the shopping list straight away.
So I grabbed the shopping list, ticked the box for dishwashing liquid, and some other tick boxes caught my eye.
‘I must not forget coffee, or tuna or flour…Now what else do I need?’


But as I contemplated the list a bit longer, I heard an unfamiliar trickling sound behind me. I looked around and saw that the hot water was still running, and now there was a puddle on the floor and trickles all down the kitchen cabinet doors.
I turned off the tap and headed for the mop and bucket which I couldn’t find in its usual place. So I went to ask the sleeping husband.
“Errr…oh…Its outside!” he moaned as he rolled over and pulled the quilt back over his shoulder.


I grabbed the mop and bucket and was about to mop up the puddle on the floor. But then I thought that while I was at it, I ought to mop the rest of the floor–it was well overdue. 
So I went to the laundry to get the floor washing liquid.

One of the laundry baskets was overflowing, so I filled the washing machine with clothes to wash. But when I went to fill the rinse container with vinegar, the vinegar container was empty.

So I went to the pantry to get some more vinegar. There was no vinegar there either, so I went to the bathroom where I sometimes keep vinegar so I can use it with carb soda to clean the bathroom. Sure enough, there was some vinegar there – and also some carb soda.

The bathroom, especially the loo, looked a bit grimy and I remembered that it had missed out on its weekend clean. So I poured some vinegar and carb soda into the toilet with the promise that I’d return to scrub it later. I went to wash my hands and noticed that the hand basin wasn’t clean either. So I made the most of my time there and began to clean it.

An empty toothpaste tube lay on the vanity as a reminder to get some more – and I’d already forgotten it for three days already. So I picked it up and took it to the kitchen to add it to my shopping list.

And what did I see?

A half-made shopping list; a puddle on the floor and trickles down the kitchen cabinet; a bench full of dirty dishes and an open dishwasher full of clean dishes. I thought back to the laundry in which sat a dry mop and bucket and a washing machine full of clothes but empty of vinegar. In our bathroom was a toilet waiting to be scrubbed and a hand-basin half-done. And still in our bedroom was a soundly sleeping husband.

As far as my list of things to do – well, nothing had been done. My list of SMART was dumb for mums. It was an hour and a half later, and I hadn’t even got to number one.



Part Two:

My morning of doing a SMART list had resulted in many things begun…but nothing finished.
I sat and sulked…until the sleeping husband arose from his slumber and wandered out to the kitchen. He found me, shoulders slumped, at my desk–My desk is only a metre away from the sink.

‘I just wanted to do a few things and have failed at them all!’ I told him, my bottom lip drooping almost to the ground.
He took me in his arms, kissed me on the forehead and laughed gently–I love it when he does that!


Instead of lecturing me about good time-management or coming up with easier solutions, he just hugged me and listened. I ranted and raved until eventually I said,
‘Perhaps I should just be a little gentler on myself.’
At last he commented,
‘That’s about the first thing you’ve said that’s made any sense.’

I hugged him back.


It’s now a few weeks later. All of those jobs did eventually get done – just not in the linear time-frame I had originally planned.
The clothes were washed – and hung out, and brought in, and sorted by another member of the family.
The dishes did not stay in the sink or on the bench or in the dishwasher all day. I think it was the mess in the kitchen that prompted the girls to get it clean before they left for work.
The floor was mopped by the son who was working a late shift.


Eventually I realized that having put some strategies in place years before, to get each of the family to do their bit, had paid off.

As long as I didn’t expect everything to happen before 7 am!


Written in May 2013

Thanks to Beverley Eckermann for the photos


Hugh: You Can Learn A Lot About A Person From Their Texts

‘You can tell a lot about a person from their texts,’ Sally said. ‘I’m predicting he’s twenty-something from Melbourne. Who knows why he’d want to move to Darwin.’

Our house is full of twenty-to-thirty-somethings. We get along great.

I’m one of the most recent arrivals to this share-house, so this was only my second time of screening new applicants for the soon-to-be-vacant room.

It didn’t go according to plan.

 

Our home’s owner and co-resident Sally read the first text to us.

:My name is Hugh. I’m interested in the room for rent. Can I come around tonight?’

:OK. See you between 5:30 and 6:30 pm

:Great. I’ll be there at 8.

:Did you get my text?

:Oh. Ok. CU then.

 

A house with six twenty-to-thirty somethings is usually busy. 

Last night was no exception.

As well as the anticipated inspection by Hugh, Sally was holding a cosmetics party later in the evening and expected the demonstrator, her friend Bonnie, at around five for tea and a chat before the party.

Our house has five bedrooms and one bathroom. Fortunately, there’s another shower hooked up outside in the garden. 

Just before five o’clock, Sally went into the outside shower.

Her phone rang.

I would have answered it, except that she’d taken it into the shower area with her and put it on the shelf in the shower alcove. Her hands were full of shampoo bubbles.

It was Hugh – at five o’clock.

‘I’m out the front of the house,’ he said.

The rest of us saw him. Then we saw Sally appear from the garden-shower, draped in a towel.

Hugh reached out to shake her hand. Sally’s hand gripped more tightly to the towel. 

Hugh didn’t seem to notice Sally’s discomfort and began to wander around the garden.

The first thing he noticed was our plunge-pool. A partially submerged water tank–not big enough to lie down in, let alone do any laps–it provides us with an opportunity to quickly cool-off.

‘What kind of water is it?’ Hugh asked.

Sally’s face reflected what the rest of us felt. What sort of water would you like? We’re happy with the H2O variety. Perhaps you’d prefer Avian or a mineral spring water?

Sally remained silent. Hugh continued to wander.

Sally’s partner collects stuff. Mostly, he gets it from the Dump Shop, our city’s very effective recycling store. A trail of his stuff decorates the backyard.

Hugh followed the trail to the shed.

‘There’s a lot of junk here,’ he said. ‘Did you buy it like this?’

Sally remained silent. Hugh wandered, uninvited, into the house.

 

Sally raced into her room, threw on something a little less revealing than her towel and seated herself on the couch. The rest of us observed, from a distance.

‘I would prefer a gas oven. Any chance of changing to a gas oven?’

‘Oh we’re thinking about a gas oven,’ said Sally.

‘Really?’ asked Hugh

‘No.’ said Sally.

 

He turned his attention to me, in the kitchen.

‘There seem to be girls living here. I’ve lived with them before. Oh, are there guys here too? That would be good to have a kick of the footy. Are they into footy?’

‘No,’ I said.

He continued. ‘But they must be into the footy.’

At precisely the moment he announced that guys must be into footy, Bonnie barged in through our side door with suitcases, ready for the cosmetics party.

‘I’m moving in!’ she shouted.

Hugh looked at Bonnie. He looked at her suitcases. He looked at me. His eyes questioned though didn’t they didn’t give away what he was thinking.

Hugh left. No good-bye. No thanks. No acknowledgment.

Needless to say, Hugh did not choose to join our household. Whether it was the oven, the lack of footy, or that Sally refused to let go of her towel to shake his hand, we’ll never know.

But Sally was right.

You can tell a lot about a person from their texts.

 

Qualified to Care: Qualifications, Training, Skills and Education

If you’re old enough, you’ll remember them: Rectangular sheets of rectangular stamps in the fold of magazines, accompanying adverts for correspondence schools. Printed on each stamp was the name of a course available.

For years I ignored them. I had a job. I had other opportunities to learn. I had no time for extra study.

But this time, I was stuck at home in a country that said that if I worked, my family would be deported. Courses for adults weren’t available – or affordable. And no child-care was available anyway.

So I tore off a rectangular stamp, licked the back of it and stuck it onto a piece of cardboard – and posted it in the post-box on our front porch.

Over the following weeks, I paid a fee, and collected my course books from the post-box.

After some time, I had an exam. I was provided with the questions and I could take as long as I needed to find the answers from the books. When I was ready, I picked up the phone, punched in the numbers for the answers to the multiple-choice questions, and earned my Diploma of Dressmaking for getting the exam 100% correct. I never stitched a stitch.

Several years later, in our own country, I enquired about becoming a Family Day-Care provider.
I’ve looked after children since I can remember. I was a qualified Registered Nurse – at the Children’s Hospital. I had my own four children who’d thus far survived childhood. But I lacked a piece of paper that I could obtain – for a fee and six weeks of study – that would tell the world that I was qualified to care for children.

I guess my stubbornness got in the way of me ever becoming qualified to care for children. My Nurse’s Registration dissolved when I had to make the choice between looking after my own children, or someone else’s: Part-time employment for nurses was not an option at that stage, and to keep your registration, you had to work the equivalent of one full-time year every five years. Living in the USA for three and a half years was the end of that.

So, when my youngest began school, I went to University. I had to begin a degree from scratch. I couldn’t even do a ‘Refresher’ course in nursing, because, apparently, anatomy and physiology change if you don’t keep up your Nurses Registration.

In the past few weeks, a local Nursing Home has been in the news for its abysmal quality of care of its patients. I wonder about the qualifications of those who worked there. I think of all of the former-nurses who, like me, are sitting on the side-lines watching on, experienced and caring yet unqualified, horrified that those being employed in caring roles may have earned their qualifications by paying for a piece of paper and ticking the right boxes.

If people were able to learn skills through training on white-boards or computers or by watching dvds, we’d all be MasterChefs and accomplished builders. But it doesn’t work that way, does it? Chefs and bakers do not master their skills by watching dvds. They need to cut and chop and measure and taste and mix and practice and fail and try again. Builders need to build. They can’t learn to hit a nail on the head with a hammer, by watching a dvd. Nor can carers learn to care by copying words from a white-board.

In our attempt to become a clever country, have we provided ‘Training’ without teaching skills? Ultimately, have we confused ‘Education’ with ‘Qualifications’ – some of which are not worth any more than a rectangular stamp on a piece of cardboard.

What happens when the lights go out

The day began great

I was up before eight

Had a walk, a coffee and shower

 

Then I went to my room

Felt a shadow of gloom

Alas! We’d run out of power

 

‘Tis no matter, thought I

‘Tis as easy as pie

My PC is charged to capacity

But what I’d forgot

–So easy ‘twas not—

The NBN needs electricity

 

Though my homework was done

I’d bet three to one

My excuses would not be allowed

So with paper and pen

I began it again

Coz my homework was stuck in the cloud

 

So tonight when you say

What did you do today

Forgive when my temper ignites

Though it started out great

I’m blamin’ the state

Coz my homework went out with the lights