Insanity…Uncovered

covered-ombre-linen

Ombre linen covers, anyone? Perhaps not me…

Here in this Great Southern Land — which, over the weekend turned into the Great Scorched Land when the fifteen hottest places ON THE PLANET were all on Australia’s Eastern Seaboard — our children have started a new school year.

Two weeks ago, all our gorgeous little munchkins trouped dutifully off for another year of educational learning and fun at primary and high schools around the country. For the record, it was not much cooler then: last Sunday night was the first time Sydney’s temperature dipped below 20˚C since January 20th. Seriously. That’s 23 days and nights of temperatures above 20˚C and, believe me, it got hideously hot during the day…

I mean, a lot happened in those twenty-three days. America, apparently, got itself a brand new President. Those crazy cats in North Korea tested another missile. Beyoncé took to Instagram sporting a veil to announce she’s having twins (though I should point out she was also wearing mismatched underwear, which as all mothers know is a dead giveaway that you’re already raising children). Over on Twitter, the hashtag #ShePersisted was born. In the Amazon, a butterfly flapped its wings.  (Disclaimer: this last event may not have been deemed newsworthy but I’m reasonably sure it did occur…though I’ll leave it up to you to decide which of the aforementioned events, if any, are connected.)

But anyway, it wasn’t the heat or any of that other stuff that caused me to lose my mind, people.

No, it was far more simple than that:

covered

Yes, yes…I get the general principle. It’s the execution I struggle with.

I TOTALLY LOST MY SANITY COVERING MY CHILDRENS’ SCHOOL BOOKS IN CLEAR PLASTIC ADHESIVE.

Yes, you know what I’m talking about…I can sense you all nodding sagely and feeling my pain, because I suspect that you, too, have experienced it.

Here in Australia clear plastic adhesive is commonly called “Contact”, though I’m no longer sure whether this is because Contact is the brand name used by the major manufacturer of the diabolical stuff, or because contact with your children is likely to be limited by whatever they’re currently calling the government department that deals with emotional abuse after you’ve finished screaming expletives and threatening violence covering all their school books.

I mean, I try. I really do.

Most things about being a mother of primary school aged kids I think I’m reasonably good at. My children generally turn up at school wearing the right uniform and carrying the correct equipment. Including their nutritious lunch and recess and fruit break and water bottle.

Every day.

But covering school books in Contact?

I’m utterly woeful. Completely hopeless. Borderline dreadful.

And, to make matters worse, my darling cherubs spent a considerable amount of their first few days back at school carefully colouring in beautiful cover pages for their school books, which they dutifully glued to the front of their workbooks. Paper cover pages, you understand.  Some of them, in the interests of being environmentally and economically responsible, had paper covers on BOTH sides of the book so it could be used for two subjects. (Those ones are my favourite. No, really they are). At any rate, they were really quite lovely, until…

…well, until I totally bungled covering one of the books and, when trying to remove the plastic adhesive from the cover, ripped one of my kids’ ornately decorated cover page in two.  (This, to be honest, may actually have happened more than once).

I’m so sorry, I whispered.

covered-more-likely

All those nifty Pinterest “how to” videos on book covering? I suspect this tome would be just as helpful…

My younger daughter looked down at the mess I had made, aghast and uncharacteristically silent.

The older one — who has now had her books butchered by her mother for the fourth consecutive year — was a bit more supportive: she sighed (quite philosophically, I thought), shrugged, and said: Well, Mum, you did your best.

Which I did.  Really, I did.

And I promised them that next year, Next Year, would be different. Because next year, I am going to be PREPARED.

Yes, my friends!

Next year, I’m going to study all those lovely Pinterest tutorials that do their utmost to appraise you of the tried and tested tips and tricks for book covering — and look! Oh, will you just look at their darling photographs of the seventeen new and exciting ways you can cover your books: decoupage covers, coloured duct tape covers, ombre linen covers, crocheted covers.

(What the…are these people actually serious?!)

Next year, I am going to source the highest quality clear plastic adhesive money can buy for covering my childrens’ school books, and I am going to unroll said adhesive (probably down the entire length of my house) and weigh it down for a week or three so it does not spontaneously and sadistically re-roll itself during said covering process.

(Because that won’t inconvenience a soul, will it?)

covered-tequila-mug

Ah yes…the tequila cup I ordered for Christmas, in preparation for “Book Covering Season”…

Next year, I am going to make a quiet trip to the family doctor and get a prescription for beta-blockers (and/or whatever else he’s prepared to give me), followed by a stop at the nearest bottle shop for some tequila (or any other clear, water-like substitute, with which to wash those tablets down).

(Ahhh…now this might actually happen…)

In the meantime, I’m going to sit in a dark, quiet corner, hyperventilating into a brown paper bag while I count up to 1,349,265 (or maybe 1,349, 266) and wondering just how Beyoncé would go covering books for her soon to be three children in plastic adhesive…particularly if she’s still wearing mismatched underwear and a veil…

Operation Hoik: A Farewell to Stuff

We’ve been getting rid of a lot of Stuff, lately.

So much Stuff, in fact, that it requires a capital letter to write about it — and explains, in part, my hiatus from writing this blog.

I’d love to tell you that my latest purge was inspired by something grand like re-reading Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, but no…lately I’ve been feeling like we have too much clutter in our home, that we are struggling to keep our house in order.

As any introvert could tell you (if they were actually speaking to other human beings that day), the thought of escaping to the woods near Walden Pond to live in silence and solitude definitely has its appeal.  But in this era of massive population growth and urban sprawl, it’s hard to find anywhere that could be described as silent or solitary…except Antarctica, maybe…and the climate there is not quite as hospitable as it is here in Sydney…

That said, Thoreau’s words have been rattling around in my head a lot lately:

thoreau-1

Not so much the bits about fronting the essential facts of life and learning what it had to teach, because having kids around gets you to do those things on a daily basis (and without needing to retreat to an isolated cabin and risk being mistaken for the next Unabomber).

No, the bit that has been reverberating in my brain has been I wished to live deliberately.

Because I do want that. And I want my children to understand what it means, too.

thoreau-3

The Bloke and I have been talking a lot lately about how basic items of food are starting to cost more than other…Stuff. (Yep, there’s that word again.) It seems it’s becoming cheaper to buy a bunch of kitchen gadgets or a pile of kids’ clothes than it is to get groceries. And it feels like we’re being encouraged to buy things — any things — faster than we can say “credit card debt”.

Inadvertently, and more than a little haphazardly, as the…ahem…shall we say “eventful” year that was 2016 rolled slowly but surely into 2017, I found myself borrowing a copy of Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (though, to be truthful, I dipped in and out of that one) and being drawn into watching movies like Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things. As January approached, it felt like there was something about the transition from one year to the next that required me to take a different approach this time around, particularly in the lead-up to Inauguration Day in the US, when I strenously avoided any kind of news coverage — despite the fact that American politics has little impact on me personally.

Except that maybe American politics do impact on me, and on my family, despite the fact that we are living quietly here in the Antipodes…not least because I suspect that the election of Donald Trump, along with Brexit and any number of other things that reared their heads last year, has thrown into sharp relief the differences between the haves and the have-nots across the globe. Obviously, the situation (both internationally and domestically) is far more complicated than that — and even to describe the dichotomy in such terms is, at best, reductive and, at worst, risks deliberately misunderstanding the precursory events of the past decades.

But, that said, I can’t ignore the overriding sense I have in response to all of this political…Stuff …that something has to be done, and done differently. And the following words from Juliet Schor (who I first saw on the Minimalism movie) probably go further than most to summing up my current feeling about the state of the planet:

I agree that justice requires a vastly more equal society, in terms of income and wealth. The question is whether we should also aim for a society in which our relationship to consuming changes, a society in which we consume differently.

So that’s what we’ve been doing: consuming differently.

As a family, we’ve been discarding and donating, clearing and cleaning, reusing and recycling, simplifying and stripping back, and — perhaps, most importantly — letting go. All four of us have been part of Operation Hoik, our plan to get ourselves and our home back on track and living more mindfully and meaningfully.

thoreau-2The Stuff in our lives is disappearing and, in its place, we’ve found the space to discuss what we really need, what we really want out of life. We’re making deliberate choices, and have snapped out of the trap of mindless consumerism.

It’s not going to fix the geopolitical problems of our age, change who is governing a foreign country, or stop a war.

But attempting to live deliberately does invite us to be more thoughtful, more considered, and — hopefully — more compassionate. And I think that I, and my family, and possibly the whole world, could do with a whole lot more of that in 2017.

And with that in mind, even though it is belatedly, I wish you a truly Happy New Year.

BJx

 

Progress, not Perfection

coffee-catastrophe

I know this looks like a really good idea, but DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME…

One morning last week, having seen my children safely to school, I came into the serenity and silence of my kitchen and made a cup of freshly brewed coffee.  Black, no sugar, piping hot — just like my tea.

And then, eager to begin the day by emailing a fresh lead for a writing gig, I made my way — coffee in hand — over to my beautiful, still nearly brand new, beloved laptop.

You can see where this is going already, can’t you?

You might even be holding your breath…perhaps, hoping against hope, thinking “She didn’t…did she?  She couldn’t have…”

But I did.

Not on purpose, obviously. But it still happened.

As I set the coffee down beside my laptop, the cup tipped…and a warm wave of liquid overwhelmed the keyboard, sank down between the keys, and swamped the inner workings of my marvelous, magical machine.

Oh…the horror…

I’m not going to go into all that happened next, save to say that I was vacillating wildly between panicking that my little friend would not be able to be salvaged and berating myself repeatedly for my massive, monstrous stupidity.

Because that helps, obviously.

And once I’d managed to put the melodramatics aside — which took far longer than I’d like to admit because, believe me, I am more than capable of becoming completely histrionic when such a situation arises — I sucked in a several deep breaths. Then I went to my favourite yoga class and sucked in a few more.

(I may also have called my Dad…because adulting is hard, some days.)

And finally, when I got home from yoga and gingerly inserted the power cord back into the device and discovered that it still wasn’t working, I…

Sighed.  Deeply.

And followed that up with several more big, deep, sob-like sighs…

By this point, you may be wondering why on earth I am writing this? Why am I even admitting to this? Why would someone who prides herself on being organised, of paying attention to detail, of getting things right the first time — not to mention someone who, to earn a living, helps other people to become organised and precise — why would I write about what my kids would call a completely epic fail?

Well, for a couple of reasons, really.

First of all, accidents happen. We all experience setbacks.  We all, as Shakespeare far more elegantly put it, must “suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”. But it’s what we do in response that counts.  As Victoria Erickson once said, of disappointment:

Don’t immediately brush it off. Feel it first, and it then it will leave you quicker. Here’s the thing about broken glass: it needs to be acknowledged and swept up so you don’t step on it later.

The same thing applies, I suspect, to broken laptops.

coffee-peaky

Monaghan Boy’s Magic Trick: while what I do is definitely not what Tommy Shelby does with the Peaky Blinders, the guy sure knows how to plan thoroughly and execute precisely — even if it is, sometimes, executing literally.

And that brings me to the second thing: planning. Which includes, of course, planning for potential catastrophes — and explains why I diligently followed my To Do List and backed up my laptop the afternoon before I tipped coffee all over it.

Procedures. Systems. Contingency Plans. They might sound (and frequently are) incredibly boring and mundane but believe me, they have their place. And while adhering to my regular backup procedure won’t replace my laptop, it does mean that all my data — and everything last thing I have been working on for my clients — is safe and accessible.

This life — whether it be at home, or at work — is not about achieving perfection. It’s not about managing to snatch a second or two upon a glittering pinnacle. It’s not about being flawless or faultless, because we’re human beings, after all.

Rather, I would argue that life is about striving for progress, not perfection, and about aiming to be our best and most consistent selves, each and every day. Because I would also suggest that our reaction to a situation can, quite literally, have the power to change the situation itself. And the plans we make and execute can leave us in a much better position than we might have been otherwise.

tea-instead

And, just for the record: Tommy would never tip coffee over his laptop because he, as we know, is a man who drinks tea.

Even when we tip hot coffee on our laptops.

Well, that’s what I think, anyway.

Blue Jai

PS: When did you last do a back up?

 

Blue Jai Creative – freelance writing and administration services for your home and business, servicing Sydney’s Northern Beaches and beyond.

© Blue Jai Creative 2016

 

The Quirks of Squirrel Weeks

Squirrel 3

Whadya mean you never heard of a Squirrel Week?

I’m having a Squirrel Week.

I know, I know: only last week I was explaining that in my professional capacity I am like a chameleon, adapting my writing to suit my clients with all the clarity and precision I can muster, and now I’ve apparently switched my allegiance to an entirely different animal species. But if you read on, it will all make sense. Possibly.

For some obscure (and obviously unknown to me) reason, clarity and precision have gone completely out the window this week, and I am feeling so scattered that my decision making abilities resemble those of a squirrel attempting to cross the street.

I’m having a Squirrel Week.

Oh wait — I already said that. My apologies. That’s one of the quirks of having a Squirrel Week: externally, you keep repeating what you’ve already said, while internally, your head is reverberating with hundreds of random thoughts that are interfering with your ability to remember where you put your To Do List…or did you even make one today?

Squirrel 2

This never happened…you never saw me…just gonna sneak on outta here…

Is it just me? Does anyone out there have Squirrel Weeks too? I know some of you, like me, have Gotham Days, but does anyone else have whole weeks when you stride purposefully into rooms and then have absolutely no recollection of the reason why you were going there, when you go to get your car keys out of your handbag and discover a paper bag containing a half-eaten sushi roll (ewwww…) that you firmly intended to put into the refrigerator after yoga yesterday, or when you finally get yourself to the supermarket and proceed to zigzag aimlessly through the aisles and subsequently wonder how your shopping trolley ended up filled with cheese, chocolate and bottles of red wine?

What makes Squirrel Weeks worse for me is that most of the time I pride myself (oh yes, that deadliest of sins) on being a focused and organised person. Most days I have — and complete — a To Do List. Most days I use my time super-effectively. Most days I stay on task and do it in style, like a prima ballerina en pointe, pirouetting effortlessly across the stage.

And then a Squirrel Week comes along.

Squirrel 5

Because interpretive dance will ALWAYS seem like a good option during a Squirrel Week…

I’m no prima ballerina during a Squirrel Week — oh, no. During Squirrel Weeks, you’re better off imagining me as an off-my-head raver dancing spasmodically to The Prodigy (…breathe the pressure, come play my game, I’ll test ya — psycho-somatic addict-insane…) within the confines of a small windowless room. Or perhaps that’s a bit much. Maybe I just look a bit like…like a squirrel.

While writing this I’ve been trying to work out what the Australian equivalent of a squirrel is but, this being a Squirrel Week, I’ve got nothing. I’ve also been trying to find a way of describing the frenetic, slightly unhinged, sort of squirrelish behaviour I’m prone to at such times, but I’ve drawn a blank there too. I’ve considered consulting a professional, but were I to describe Squirrel Weeks to my doctor I suspect he would simply say that there is nothing about my condition that a prescription for Ritalin or a reduction in my caffeine intake wouldn’t fix.

Squirrel 4

Just gonna sit here looking like I know what I’m doing…

Coffee! A cup of coffee! That’s a great idea…it’s kinda cold today and it’s probably time for a snack anyway…

Wait, what?

Why did I come into the kitchen?

Ummm…

Oh! Look at this bright shiny catalogue — there’s a toy sale at Target. I must get a present for…for…ummm…where’s that birthday invitation again? Must be on the door of the fridge…

Hey — where did all this cheese come from?

 

Yep, I’m having a Squirrel Week.

 

 

 

My Little Friend

First World Problems.

It’s a catchy phrase, one that is probably as annoying as it is overused. But it doesn’t change the fact that, positioned as we are in our lives of relative privilege, we all have them.

Anyone who has dipped into the small, sometimes straggling stream of consciousness that is this blog with any regularity will know that I am prone to referring to inanimate objects as my friends, particularly if those objects are books. It’s even more likely if the books in question are about food or music (or more even more books).

Yesterday, however, I came to realise that there is one inanimate object in my life that falls into a category far beyond casual acquaintance. And while I will try to stop myself (in my moments of pseudo-grief and virtual mourning) from waxing lyrical like Anne of Green Gables about kindred spirits, it is with deep sadness that I have to report that my humble laptop — my cherished companion of several years, with whom I have shared many quiet and productive hours — is seriously ill.

I know, right? First World Problem — and yes, with Capitals for Extra Emphasis to acknowledge just how ridiculous this is.

But really, there’s a lot to like about my laptop. Until yesterday, and unlike my children, it did exactly what I asked it to, it didn’t answer back or throw tantrums, and it always stayed exactly where I left it. It didn’t mind when I used it to make up stories, or pour my heart out, or spend hours staring at its screen (sometimes blankly, other times distractedly if I happened to be looking at pictures of Tom Hiddleston or Tom Wlaschiha). As a freelancer, I can safely say it was my most reliable work colleague (with whom I may or may not have had various one-sided conversations), that it made an excellent travel buddy, and that it never, ever complained. Not even when I asked it to work stupid hours or make an impossible deadline.

It was with a heavy heart that I made the trek to The Bloke’s office yesterday, with my little friend tucked up in its favourite travelling case, to visit The IT Guy. Honestly, it felt a lot like the time I took my cat to the vet the week before the vet was kind enough to return the visit with a fateful (fatal) house call. I did, I’ll admit, phone The Bloke for several updates during the course of the day, but eventually The IT Guy admitted he was stumped, and began muttering darkly (or not — I wasn’t actually there, after all) about diagnostics and various other things.

And so, my little friend has been taken away.

I remain hopeful that we will be reunited, preferably in this world (I’m not certain they have blogs in the next one).

But please know that you are cordially invited to my First World Problems Pity Party, when we can all raise a glass wherever we might be in this world, whatever our particular petty predicaments may be.

Who knows, by then I might even have figured out how to add pictures to my blog posts while using the iPad…