What Comes First?

Dean and I were standing in our garage area this morning looking at lines marked on the floor with tape.

We are at the beginning of the conversations that start with the letter R and rhyme with WalletDetonation.

Yep. We are talking Renovation.

Well, renovation is probably a bit of an overstatement.

Really, we are just having a chat about how to begin to make better use of our garage space.

Back when we bought our house, we were pretty strapped for cash, and we bought for size, not beauty. We already had 3 children in our family, and we both harboured dreams of another. So we always knew that space was going to be a priority for us.

And part of the ugly space that we bought, is a double garage that runs from the front of the house to the back of the house, giving us a HUGE amount of space for our family to spread beyond the house itself.

We have put that space to good use over the years, but have never really finished it or defined it. It still looks and feels like a super jumbo garage. Not really like part of the house.

Recently, with help of Gumtree we have offloaded our biggest and heaviest items that were no longer being used. A big home gym, an elliptical trainer (bought in a moment of reactionary death fear after the loss of my uncle) and our pool table. Now, it’s sprawling space is used for Xbox gaming, a storage area with a sometimes uncontrolled tool ooze, an unused writing space, and a laundry.

My writing space looks and sounds like a great idea. When Dean set it up for me I had visions of sitting at my writing desk to share words like this, but instead I am sitting here on my bed. Because there is some crazy Xbox game underway with it’s very cool, but not conducive to creative thoughts, soundtrack!

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For many reasons, it’s time for our garage space to grow up and get some walls.

Which sounds pretty easy. Measure up the garage space, plan out the rooms and get building.

Which brings me back to Dean and I looking at tape on the floor.

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So, Dean had drawn up a bit of a plan, then had taped that on the garage floor so I could see what this first version could look like.

At first, it all seemed to be so straightforward. I was preparing to say “let’s get it started” when we noticed that one of the walls would go straight up the middle of our kitchen window. Easy fixed, Dean said. We’ll just take out the window, and make it a solid wall.

I said I really wanted to keep the window.

So, we talked about moving the wall half a metre over, so the window could stay. But then, that meant that the taped store room would be too narrow to hold anything more than a single item on narrow shelves.

OK, so then we tried moving the wall back in the other direction, and then we wouldn’t be able to open the boot of the car in the garage.

At that point I wanted to tear my hair out!!

What Comes First??!!

Isn’t life like that??

One decision is always connected to another, and another and another.

Move one piece, and it pushes something else into a space that doesn’t quite work.

There is a solution. You are sure of it. You can feel it. You know you have more than enough, but somehow it doesn’t seem to work.

How do you know where to start? Which one is the fixed piece? The one that you make the others work around?

After about an hour of move this, move that, how wide does this need to be, Dean and I escaped out for a quiet cup of coffee in the gorgeous crisp air up the mountain near where we live.

Somewhere in there, in that trip out for a coffee, the beginning became clear.

Start with what matters most. What are the things that we would kick ourselves if we didn’t get them.

And with that, it started to come together with a little more ease. We want a functional garage for our cars and an extra media / games room to give us 2 living areas. Everything else can be tweaked and manoeuvred around those things.

Are you clear on your priority pieces?

Wish us luck!

K xxx

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Are you Feeling your Feelings?

Feelings can be scary beasts sometimes.

Grief. Anger. Sadness. Fear. Those words hurt me just to look at them.

Today, I wandered off to the movies with my younger 2 children to check out Inside Out.

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If you haven’t heard about it, I imagine that you are stuck under mid year exam notes and don’t have small children within a mile of you!

This Pixar movie explores the role that Joy, Fear, Anger, Sadness and Disgust have in the life of 11 year old Riley.

Living in our current times with depression and anxiety weaving a debilitating and sometimes destructive thread through so many lives, I was keen to see a story about our feelings. Particularly one designed to explain feelings to our children.

I loved Inside Out so very much, and it appeals to the inner over thinker in me very much! Oh, and side note to self – ALWAYS take tissues to a Pixar movie.

But, let me save the story itself for you when you watch it. Which you really should, by the way.

Inside the story was the quest for daily happiness, with the feeling of Joy being generally exalted as the ultimate goal.  And I suppose that is how it is for me too.

I bang on a bit, in my head, in the conversations I have in real life, and on this screen, about how I believe that EVERYONE deserves to be happy.

It is a big part of why I continue with my Daily Gratitude practice, why our family have a “favourite part of the day” conversation starter at the dinner table, and why I lovingly do the work that I do.

What leapt out at me during the movie, was the role that Sadness (and presumably our other “darker”) feelings play.

If we simply shut down our feelings, we enter a daily life of numb activity. It is as if we take our soul, and park it somewhere dark and quiet, secretly hoping that perhaps one day we can allow it to move through us again.

In Inside Out, there was a single line that summed up what I need to learn to accept.

They came to help. Because of Sadness.

Without Sadness, Riley would have lost her connection with her world and herself, and it was through Sadness that she found her way back to Joy.

What a thought. That it was actually a feeling that hurt, that allowed Joy back into her life.

As I walked out of the movie, I wanted my kids to take a piece of the story with them, and so I allowed them to choose a Feeling. Clearly I am a soft touch for the marketing team right now.

Sabrina tossed up between Joy and Sadness, and decided on Joy. Mainly because of the dress!

Coby looked at Anger for a while, before choosing Pikachu from Pokémon. Yeah. I got no explanation for that really, and I didn’t want to fight him on it. Choose your battles and all that jazz.

I really wanted my own Feeling too. And I knew immediately who it should be.

Fear. For me, for this chapter of my life, it is Fear that still limits me and makes me live smaller than I need to.

What if I could make friends with Fear?

Do you have any Feelings that you shut down, instead of allowing them to move on through?

On the way home from the movie Coby was taking photos with his camera as we drove along.

I was all full of feelings, including some sadness as our life is undeniably changing. No longer are memories made very often “as a family”,  instead we are often in little sub-sets doing different things.

As I watched Coby take photos of the trees beside the road, I decided to have the sort of fun I used to have when I took ALL the kids out, even though there were only 2. I suggested we stop beside the road and do a quick photo shoot.

Coby was stoked! I stopped the car, less than 5 minutes from home, and we hammed it up for Joy and Pikachu.

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So peeps.

Feel your Feels.

We all have them.

And now, to figure out, how to make friends with my Fears.

K xxx

 

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Calm in the midst of Busy

A truth that I believe to be fundamental, is that despite the fast paced flurry of the world around us, we all need to find channels that we can use to find the inner quiet that resides deep within us all.

For some it is gardening, or painting, or fishing, or camping … but something that helps us to channel out the busy and dial right on in to ourselves and the real energies of the world. Not the world that exists at the surface and shows up in work requests, and bills, and sporting events and plans and commitments.

But the world that connects us all.

I have noticed a few of these practices showing up at home.

First, Sabrina and I started some colouring in together. It’s not a locked in thing. But every now and then, we pull out the pencils, and just chill out, filling the spaces, and turning a blank sketch into something else entirely. Something that we created together.

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Then, Dean started playing around with some sketching of his own.

It’s been lovely seeing him, caught in his own flow, creating something just because he wants to. And knowing that it will provide for him, as it does for me, a respite from the constant EVERYTHING of this adult life we have.

Tattoo Design

Then yesterday, we may have hit peak activity to keep fingers busy and minds calm.

014Last night, instead of sitting in front of the telly, struggling to understand why we devote so much of our lives in the “screen” position, then going into a massive think fest about what I could or should be doing (writing, business planning, reading for learning) … I was trying to hold wool, count loops and somehow make my hands do something that always looked so natural when my Grandma and my Mum had done it.

I remembered them, particularly my Grandma, making intricate patterns using delicate thread and fine hooks, and here I was clumsily trying to hook some wool through itself and make just the most basic chain.

But, by the end of the night, I had something.

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I’m not about to give up my day job and launch a cottage business. But it was a good bit of fun and we all need tactics to help us switch off, stop the constant chatter, and just get still.

Tactics that don’t hurt anyone else or ourselves. After all, there are always alcohol, drugs and other risk taking behaviours.

Sometimes that stillness need a busy fingers element to it.

Then today, I saw a link to an amazing online business created by Amy Jones called Map Your Progress.  It is a place you can go for colouring in designs that are specifically designed to help you keep on track.

Imagine that! You set yourself a goal of doing something everyday (make your bed, 5 minute meditation, journal) … there are 365 day designs that you can use to track your progress.

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This picture is directly from Amy Jones’ website, and is how she used her design to pay down her credit card debt.

You set yourself an incremental goal – the creator used it to pay off credit card debt. And she coloured a swirl every time she paid $100 to her credit card debt.

What a great concept.

The official grown ups star chart, but appealing to our inner child in it’s very formation.

Anyone else colouring in? Or knitting? Or crocheting?

Isn’t it lovely to put our adult responsibilities and worries on hold, and just be who we are.

The little person we once were, just bigger, with WAY more choices in life.

I gotta fit in some more wool loops on that hook, before I go and grow right up and make dinner. Lasagne is the plan here.

Hope you are creating … and what better combination than to use our creations to track our progress.

K xxx

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X and Y – I think I finally have mine! Do you know yours?

I have spent so long trying to get clear on my purpose, my why.

I am absolutely certain that I was not put on this earth to pay bills.

There is no way I was put on this earth

I firmly believe that we each have a special contribution to make to the world.

It is not necessarily all about big world takeovers, fortunes and mansions. But I do believe that each of us have an essential heart driven contribution we can make to the world that will make a fundamental difference.

And frankly, there is no one else who can make that same contribution.

Trying to find your purpose seems like such a critical issue. What if you get it wrong? And you spend your life chasing the issue that was never yours to begin with? For those with perfectionist leanings like me, it is a daunting challenge, to get it perfectly right.

I have spent years looking and searching for my perfect why.  I have been sure that it is right in front of me, and that I just can’t see it for looking.

I have been so grateful to come across another view this year.

One that sees our purpose as more of an X than a whY.

This idea, that there are 2 issues or values or causes for each of us, somehow takes the pressure off. That we could easily jump on either of them as your why, but on their own, they will simply be too much of a good thing. Like chocolate, or wine, or sleeping. There is a point when they become too much.

Although, I am happy to remind myself of why too much chocolate or too much wine or too much sleep is too much, now and again 🙂

But what if you spent your time looking at the interplay between those two issues that call you?

For a while now, I have been pretty comfortable that one of my X issues, is self empowerment. The challenge to really get to know ourselves, as we are, and choose to continue to keep working on our ourselves, and then learn to make decisions that are best for us.

I read about it, talk about it, and generally love the idea of knowing ourselves better and doing what we can to find and share our best selves.

But I had been grappling with my other X.

An early candidate was harmonious connection – this drew on my work in families and separation. After all, at work it is clearly my passion to limit the conflict and litigation for those I work with. But, it wasn’t quite right as a lifelong purpose.

The second candidate I played with was knowledge – that if I could learn and share knowledge to help myself and others to work on becoming our best selve. Perhaps that was intersection. But the more I thought about it, it really seemed to just be a limb of the self empowerment / self improvement issue.

More recently, I had been wondering whether it could be as simple as happiness. I believe passionately that everyone has the right to be happy, and hear myself say it often.

Something you find yourself saying often, is usually a sign that it matters to your core.

But surely, happiness couldn’t be a purpose could it?

Then, a couple of weeks ago I went and met with someone who knows their purpose, really knows their purpose. I asked them about their purpose, and in an instant, they pulled up their sleeve to reveal a tattoo of a lighthouse.

He looked me in the eyes, and said without a moment’s hesitation “I am here to be a lighthouse”.

I wondered what it would feel like to have that clarity about my purpose, and hoped I might be that clear one day.

Then as I drove away from that chat, I let it all go, and mused on the glorious sunset on the horizon.

Suddenly, I had a moment of recognition.

Many years ago, probably 5 or 6 years ago now, I had entered the world of coaching as a client. I had engaged a business coach, and was faced with a wildly new concept – that I could work on myself from the inside out. At the time it felt like I had stepped off the commuter freeway, and had found a world of adventure and exploration and growth and reward.

I just knew there was something life altering in this stuff for me.

Within a very short space of time, I was sitting in a tattoo shop, marking myself forever in that moment.

I chose to get 2 symbols on my spine.

The first was Kaizen – the Japanese philosophy of continuous improvement.

What hit me after the chat with my lighthouse friend, was that the meaning of that symbol was just the same as my first X, self improvement/empowerment!

The second tattoo I got that day was a symbol for gratitude. I had used gratitude, and my Daily Gratitude practice, to claw my way out of a deep and dark emotional hole. Today, I see Gratitude as the bucket we can use to draw from the well of happiness in our lives.

I couldn’t fight the feeling that perhaps I had it!

My purpose. My X. My Why.

And that I had marked them on my body years ago, without even knowing how fundamentally important those things were.

For me, for now, I am trusting that I have finally found what was in front of me (well, technically behind me on my back) all along.

First Tattoos

And so, I shall devote myself, heart and soul, to explore the intersection where self improvement meets happiness.

Wouldn’t that be nice. To imagine that I could help others to get to know themselves better, to become strong enough to make decisions that are good for them, and move them closer to their happiness.

I like that.

I like that a lot.

Do you know your purpose?

K xx

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41 and Failing*

Last weekend I turned 41.

The night before my birthday, all my brain could tell me was just how much I was failing.

I sent this text** to my sister:

Apparently according to my brain I am a failure. At 41 we should be financially flying and instead we are barely getting by. I have this weird crinkly skin now. And grey hair. And have travelled nowhere and not done anything interesting.

Blergh.

Life is rubbish.

Of course, she sent me back beautiful words about how she sees me as someone amazing and wonderful. My brain instantly began a sing song “blah blah” override as I read her words.

After all, we were meant to be having epic burgers for lunch tomorrow, but of course the shop had no more burger buns. I couldn’t even buy burger buns for my own birthday lunch. It was a sign. I just knew it.

And to top it off, for the first time in a long time, I REALLY missed Mum.  Like a petulant child, I wanted to stamp my feet about it all.  I should be able to see my Mum on my birthday, get a big hug from her, see her gorgeous smile and have her write some beautiful words about how amazing I am in my birthday card.

Instead, I have this stupid situation where I cannot see her again.

By 8.30 that night, it was time to go and pick up Coby from his mate’s place. I found myself drive-crying. All 25 minutes of that trip, I couldn’t seem to get my composure back. As much I wanted to stop crying so that I could try not to arrive looking like some kind of crazy weirdo, the tears kept getting the better of me.

But, as with all days that are rough, the day finally came to an end. I fell asleep in my warm bed, beside the fella who puts up with me in good times and in bad. And I was given the blessing of waking up to turn 41 the next morning.

The next morning showed me that my life is anything but rubbish.

I woke up to my lovely family, big and small, wishing me a happy birthday.

We began with the birthday box. Of course!

Birthday Box

There were handmade cards and lovely gifts.

I even had a special parcel from Bronwyn & Phillip from up north.

Gift from Bron

And from Dad there was a classic.

Bullets

41 chocolate bullets inside a gorgeous box, wrapped with about 10 layers of newspaper. A lovely game of pass the parcel for one 🙂

And a handbag.

There wasn’t even too much push back when I demanded the “it’s my birthday and I want a photo of all of you with me” picture for the day.

Birthday Photo

Look at them all. How blessed am I?

Then Rob & Suzie popped around to join in the family fun.

Suzie and Fraser

LOOK!!! They are now the proud parents of a brand new baby.

Their gorgeous son, and my adorable nephew, Fraser.

Dad and Fraser

Don’t worry Pa. He’ll be playing cricket with you in the backyard before we know it!

In fact, Fraser decided that seeing as he was already 19 days old, it was time for him to begin the modern art of the selfie.

Fraser and I

But he mustn’t have liked the full colour version, because somehow his little hand swiped my screen and changed us to black and white.

Fraser and I - black and white

Cheeky!

After all the angst and anguish of the night before, I had a lovely day. At home, with my family, making my mother hen heart just so very happy.

Birthday lunch

And although the shopping gods had determined that there were no epic burgers, we still enjoyed a relaxed lunch, and made do with bread instead of rolls.

Dad brought out the most amazing birthday cake for me.

Birthday cake

He was quick to say, with a grin, how he had stayed up all night slaving over it!

It only took until the following night until all that was left was this.

Chocolate Disc

Leftover Birthday cake is fine for dinner and breakfast, isn’t it? In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s a rule.

And so, I am 41.

Not the 41 that I might have pictured from some rose coloured younger view.

But 41.

Healthy. Loved.

Working on myself.

That’s pretty much all I could possibly ask for.

K xxx

*According to my brain. Apparently the evidence is not strong in support of this submission.

** I removed the bit about sex. There is already enough sex on the internet.

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Dealing with No

Sometimes the answer is No.

Rationally, we can all understand that.

Life is not about a highway of Yes.

The trick is dealing with the No when it happens.

In the past, I would have kept anything that might lead to a No to myself, until I was pretty sure it was going to be a Yes, then I would start sharing it. Perfectionism has it’s quirks.

But recently, I have begun to wonder whether that is wise.

Sure, it protects me from some embarrassment and shame at times. And while I might be secretly handling and navigating my No‘s as course correctors, I am also living my life in front of my children.

Are they learning resilience when all they hear about are the things that end in a Yes?

The answer to that question, is definitely No.

So, I have been working on sharing my “stuff” before I am confident the end result will be a Yes.

Which is great, in theory, and surely such courageous vulnerability will be rewarded in some cosmic way, right?

The answer to that question, is sometimes Yes and sometimes No.

This week, we got a No.

There is going to be No new block of land.

Which means there is going to be No new house.

I had a few moments quite a while where I felt just so silly. And frankly a bit ripped off.

I had shown up. Stepped out of my comfort zone, taken action and put myself out there, only to get a No. Surely, that isn’t how it works?

But as the week has gone on, I have felt a shift. Back to gratitude that I have a home, that I even have the option to consider I might be able to change our situation. As well as a knowing that if I shut the door to make sure I never get a No, I am at the very same time closing what could be the pathway to an unexpected twist that leads to a Yes that I cannot even imagine yet.

In the clumsy words of Sabrina attempting a persuasive text “how would you feel if you worked really hard and didn’t get a reward” ….

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It is so interesting that our children can be our greatest teachers.

I can see myself in her letter to the Easter Bunny …

Dear Easter Bunny,

I’m convinced that I deserve a ton of chocolate. The reason that I think that I must get a lot of Easter Eggs is because I’ve tried to be on my best behaviour throughout the year so far. Don’t you think that is important?

The reason why I should get a ton of chocolate is because I’ve worked really hard with my school. How would you feel if you worked really hard and didn’t get a reward not even just a good work stamp.

From Sabrina.

Wasn’t I being just a little bit like that?

Dear world,

I’m convinced that I deserve a better house. The reason that I think that I must get a better house is because I’ve tried to be on my best behaviour throughout the years so far. Don’t you think that is important?

The reason why I should get a new house is because I’ve worked really hard with my work. How would you feel if you worked really hard and didn’t get a reward not even just a good work stamp.

From (7 year old) Kathryn.

Aaahhh 7 year old Kathryn. She needs to be reminded of the many amazing things and people in my life already. And with or without a new house, I am already being rewarded by those things.

With my vulnerability very clearly on show right now, I will stand up straight, hold my vulnerability by the hand, and get ready to take our next brave adventure together.

Knowing that the next brave adventure just might result in a Yes. Or a No.

Either way, I am being rewarded. Truly.

K xxx

 

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Tough Weeks are Tough

This week has been a tough week.

I have had to stare down some things that I wish didn’t exist.

The reality that I am very imperfect, and have messes to clean up.

The truth that despite my commitment to peaceful settlements, they will not always be the outcome.

The sinking feeling that the block of land we have our foot on, may in fact slip away.

The dawning that while we learn in the community of friends and family to care for our babies, parenting a teenager is a solitary experience of which one cannot speak in everyday life.

The heartbreaking sadness of meeting someone who has worked a lifetime, waiting for retirement to enjoy life, only to be given a terminal cancer diagnosis just as that retirement begins.

My insides just wanted to cry “I’m not strong enough”.

But, I had to do what I had to do.

I made phone calls I didn’t want to make. And they were nowhere near as horrid as my fear had conjured up for me.

I sent emails that pained me as I attempted to source a peaceful seed in the space of loud and noisy conflict. And the replies showed me that while there could still be a seed of peace, I cannot ignore the conflict in that search.

I took action. I took the actions that I could take. Beginning with this.

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I have shared with you many times, that putting my feet in the ocean helps me. Sometimes I stand still and just feel the pull of the waves coming in and out. Other times I walk, and feel the my feet moving through that energy.

This week I stood. I walked. I yelled at the ocean and I cried.

And when I was done, I came back, and began to do what I had to do.

Made the phone calls. Sent the emails. Followed up the paperwork.

It all led to the most important moment.

When I was able to sit quietly and compassionately, as I heard the story of the recent terminal diagnosis. They showed me their old documents, prepared by a firm in another state called Barker & Barker, and I felt a big old warm hug around me.

Barker is my Mum’s maiden name.

In 2013, we lost our own Barker & Barker. My Mum, Brenda, and my Uncle, Neil. I felt like they had given me a “you got this” hug, right when I needed it, at the end of my tough week.

But not until I had found the courage in my vulnerability, I dug deep, I asked for help, and I did the work.

And then, as I sat down to write this, all torn about life and tough moments and resilience and vulnerability, I saw this.

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It appears that the ManBun has arrived at our house. Sort of.

Sort of Man. Sort of Bun.

But enough to make me giggle, and remember that a giggle over the ridiculousness of a sort of manbun, is JUST as important as the last dilemma I was dealing with.

Dilemma. Giggles.

It’s all the same really.

A snapshot in time.

May you know that you will make it through your next tough time, and before you know it, have the world give you a hug and a giggle.

K xxx

 

 

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