Friday, October 28, 2011

That there is more than one standard

Rental inspection is over for another four months. Oh boy, sometimes I wish we were still home owners but about eight years ago, when my husband decided to quit work and study, we found out we had a little baby #3 on the way and wanted to take the kids traveling, the rental option seemed like a good temporary one. Now it has stretched into something that feels permanent and definitely has its down side. Not only do we have to wait for problems to be fixed up in someone else's time schedule but it hurts my homeschooling sensibilities to be 'assessed' The lady who comes is the type who notices such trifling things as dust on skirting boards.

So all week I've been rushing about like a hyperactive Siberian mountain goat washing windows, clearing ceiling cobwebs and tidying the garden. This time she wrote that the condition of the place is 'fair' making me feel like a C-grade student. Then I remember that the "Home Beautiful" magazine judging criteria she uses for her rounds aren't necessarily reasonable considering all that goes on in this house. I look around our four walls and, hey, I think it's great. These are the bodies we have crammed beneath a reasonably small roof.

a) University Music Student for a hubby, who seems to have loose sheet music trailing after him like homing pigeons.
b) Avid 16-year-old gamer for an oldest son, whose corner gets stacked with dirty dishes, bedroom gets piled with clothes, and who skilfully blocks out the first 100 requests to tidy up.
c) Almost 13-year-old girl whose favourite pastimes are gourmet cooking and the visual arts, and who gets stuck into both with gusto and enthusiasm.
d) Active 7-year-old boy. I need say no more.
e) Oh, and then there's me. Well, I like to get a bit of writing done.

I think that given our blend of homeschooling personalities and well-used furniture which we can't afford to replace, expecting a "Home Beautiful" A-grade from us is a bit of a tall order. Instead of a wing of Buckingham Palace, our home looks more like the Weasley family's house, "The Burrow", (pictured above) for anybody who has seen the "Harry Potter" movies. It's an interesting, colourful place where books get piled on shelves, saxophones and art canvases abound and current projects get spread across the table tennis table. It's the sort of place where you can kick back to see where your heart leads you. If our home was to be judged on cosiness and creativity we'd surely receive an A, but that's not the way the real estate offices do it.

I must remind myself not to buy into other people's grading systems. Having her come through is a bit like like being assessed for a subject I never signed up to study. I keep it clean. There's always a basic order that we all understand. When the day arrives that we leave, they'll find it ship-shape. We're happy. And as a sentence on Face Book reminded me, women whose homes are always impressive and immaculate don't find time to write books.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

That too many plates were smashing!

Because I do all my work from home, I felt that I should be able to handle anything. But just recently I noticed that there were lots of plates I was keeping spinning; parenting, household maintainence, education, writing, promoting, church based activities, commitments which touch base with others in the outside community. Wow, if they were all paid, I ought to be a millionaire.
I was getting cranky and emotional.

I guess we've all seen images of those plate spinning shows. A number of large dinner plates are placed on long sticks and each given a forceful spin to help them keep their balance. Just as one gets spinning nicely, some of the others begin to wobble as they lose momentum. The fellow in charge rarely gets a chance to sit back and admire them all because he has to be so attentive and alert. This is fine for a brief show, but when we try to live our lives with this same principle, exhaustion and frayed nerves soon set in.

I think there are two accurate signs that we're trying to keep too many plates spinning.

1) The supposedly enjoyable ones get relegated to 'just another plate to spin.' Parties and social events become chores to politely attend and get out of the way instead of relaxing outlets. A womens' author I read mentioned the sort of ladies who want to groan when they roll into bed and their husbands expect a bit of intimacy. I can quite understand that. Oh, I forgot about that plate. I hope he'll be happy if I give it just a quick spin tonight. I need to catch a few hours of sleep so I can jump straight up and check what other plates are slipping.

2) As we think we're coping very well, unbeknown to us, our stress hormones are rising and our adrenal glands are beginning to resemble burnt out matches, but we can't see so we don't know. We only notice that our physical monsters are rearing their ugly heads; those chronic conditions we're prone to when things get a bit too overwhelming. For some it's migraines, for others acid stomachs, we all know what they are for us. Mine is a horrible thing called "IC" which flares up especially when I'm under pressure and has aptly been likened to a headache in the pelvis. Burning and pressure in the bladder happens which I can't easily get rid of because it isn't a urinary infection. It's part of my system's response to my being run down.

Last week, I saw a young couple dressed like gypsies moseying slowly down the street with their baby, looking as if they were having a wonderful time. It reminded me of the lovely, laid-back time I had with my family in 2004 when we took our caravan way up to Queensland and back down the coast. Even though Blake, our youngest, was just a few weeks old when we started, it was one of the most relaxing times.

I've been making the decision to prioritise health and stop some of the plates spinning. I've stepped down from some activities, which although great, were things I realised were other peoples' priorities and not mine. If you haven't noticed yet, I tell you there'll always be people giving us more and more plates to spin if they think we can manage it. We don't have to take them all. I've pared mine back to just a few (the homeschooling, writing and family ones). I'd encourage you to do the same if you feel you need to.

When there are only the essential few, you don't need to spend all your energy just to keep them spinning. You get the chance to spend more time polishing them and even adding pretty designs to them, which is far more satisfying than simply keeping them spinning.

Monday, October 10, 2011

That I experienced some genuine "self" help

Fiction is the genre I enjoy writing most, but when I visit libraries and bookshops I also love to browse the self help and personal development sections. I'm always open to the idea of improving something and if any of these books contain ideas I've been overlooking all my life, so much the better. They often boost my mood when I read them; particularly those with lively anecdotes and stories. Perhaps anybody who has been borrowing and purchasing self help books for as long as I have ought to have their act far more together than I do. That's an interesting thought.

Once I found a website which listed what the compilers called history's Top 100 self help books. I realised that I'd already read a huge chunk of them, which left me puzzled. Surely, in that case, I ought to have what it takes then, whatever "it" is. My husband said, "Maybe you have too many self help books. I think people ought to choose just one and then stick to it."

Well, recently I found Og Mandino's The Greatest Miracle in the World in a second hand shop for 10c, which proved to be a great bargain. It's a personal development book disguised as a fictional story. The mentor character, Simon Potter, tells Mandino that he'd spent several years dissecting all the great self help books which had ever been written, trying to extract their essence. He listed Norman Vincent Peale, Dale Carnegie, James Allen, Napoleon Hill and many others I've read over the years. Finally, he was able to compress their messages down to 5 main points, a bit like reducing a scientific substance to its chief elements. Rather than suggesting you all go out to buy the book, I'll tell you what they are.

1) Count your blessings.
2) Recognise and appreciate your uniqueness.
3) Go the extra mile.
4) Use your power of choice wisely.
5) Do all of the above with an attitude of love.

It made a lot of sense to me, especially as God IS love. I'm sure that anybody who follows each of these straightforward suggestions consistently cannot help improving their mindset and condition.

Now, here is the unexpected thing that helped me. I'd just done something silly which I was paying myself out over, and I wanted to forget about. I don't know why, but I randomly decided to read a few pages of A Design of Gold, one of my own novels I've written. It was published in 2009 and since then, I've worked on two others and forgotten some of its finer details. Well, I found myself drawn into the story of how my characters Michael and Jerome had fallen down a pit (an apt analogy but pardon the pun). Their feelings and points of view really struck home with me. I even felt like cheering them on as they realised that they needed to change their thinking patterns to improve their lives. It was great for me to re-visit these two young guys with a fresh perspective.

I decided that the advice they gave each down the mineshaft was good and to take it on board myself. It was all about how a simple shift in the way individuals think about themselves can make an enormous difference to their personal satisfaction levels, even when nothing else changes. Can characters actually be wiser than the author who wrote them? Well, I have to say yes, I think so. At least we all may forget some of the wisdom we once knew. I was smiling for the rest of the day, to think that a story I wrote back in 2008 was now coming back to bless me. It felt a bit surreal in a very pleasant way. I never would have thought of myself as a self help agent, but hey, why not? Maybe I didn't need to spend all the money on self help resources.

Then I couldn't help thinking of the story of Balaam in the Old Testament. If God can choose to speak through a donkey, I guess He can speak through me.

I am down to my last 20 copies of the novel concerned, A Design of Gold. I've been selling them for $20 but I'm willing to sell them for $15 now to clear them. I'm not mentioning the $5 discount on my website because I'd like to do something nice for readers of this blog. If you haven't read this book before and would like to take advantage of my offer, please send me a message either through email (from my website) or my Face Book page, mentioning that you read my offer on my blog, and I'll be sure to get one to you promptly. That wasn't my intention when I first started writing this, but just occurred to me as I got near the end. See, I'm an impromptu sort of person at times.

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