Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Christmas Light Fiasco

When I was a child growing up, my sister trained me in correct Christmas tree decorating procedures. She had a thing about the whole tree being decorated, not just the front that everyone could see. Under her guidance, I became skilled in the art of evenly distributing the ornaments around the tree – something I have passed on to my own children. These days, now that the children are older, the tree can be boxed up in the garage one moment and upright and sparkling the next.
A Big Surprise
This year while I was at work, Mr Practical and our three children (the teen, the tween and the toddler) decided to decorate the tree as a surprise for me. Usually our tree looks great. At nightfall, silver lights illuminate the branches setting every ornament ablaze. I loved to wait until the children have all gone to bed and just sit near the tree and soak up the beauty of the tree and of the season. This time, however, when I walked in to the dimly lit living room after work, I almost missed the tree.
“What do you think, Mum?” chorused the children. I spun around to glance in the direction they were pointing, to see our tree adorned in the tiniest coloured fairy lights in existence. These must’ve been the ‘low impact on the environment’ lights because their low illumination had a low impact on me! Let”s just say, when God stood at the beginning of existence and proclaimed, “Let there be Light!” there’s now way He had these lights in mind. Pitifull. (I would insert a picture here except I deleted them because the lights were so tiny they illuminated nothing.)

“Wow, you put the tree up! Did you guys do all that?” I asked, knowing it didn't look right. They nodded excitedly. “You did a great job.” I held off making a comment about the lights because that would’ve been a crushing blow but I really wanted to know why they didn’t use our usual lights.
Everyone told me which part they did. The towering teen decorated the upper branches and fixed the star on the very top – obvious, the tween dressed the lower half and Little Miss (aged 3) passed the ornaments up to her brothers. A significant role. “They wanted to do it for you as a surprise,” Mr Practical whispered, leaning over to me. Okay, let the bad attitude go about the lights. Who really cares? If they liked it the way it was, then that was good enough for me too. Right? I’ve really been working on not making an issue of small things and just letting things go. This philosophy had been working relatively well… until now.
Retreating to my bedroom to change my clothes and my attitude because those teeny tiny lights didn’t meet my expectation, Mr P followed me inside. Aware of what I might be thinking, he explained that the other lights were so tangled and not working he decided to make the executive decision to throw them out. That seemed reasonable, after all they were only lights. Stores have boxes and boxes of them this time of year. No big deal – until the next day when a disturbing thought dawned on me.

What Happened to Winnie?
When our teen was a baby, for his first Christmas we bought the cutest Winnie the Pooh commemorative lights. Every Christmas since, I’d delicately draped Winnie, Tigger and Piglet over the fake branches of our Canadian Spruce - except for this year. Winnie and friends had been discarded like common trash. I felt hollow. Despair seeped into my heart like a mudslide overtaking a primitive village (too dramatic?).
I was then confronted by another thought. What lights was I going to use to decorate the room for our pre-Christmas dinner party with friends? I had none to borrow off the tree and with only a matter of hours before our guests arrived, the transformation of our rumpus room, complete with Wii and mini pool table, wasn’t looking good. Let’s face it, the chances of Colin Cowie (Oprah’s party stylist) knocking on my door carrying an armful of crystal twinkling lights and transforming the room into a magical Christmas wonderland, were nudging zero especially since he knew nothing of my dilemma.

With time ticking on and still having food to prep and cook, a house to clean and a room to do something with, I did what any resourceful woman would do… (no, I didn’t search through the garbage to find the old lights, I wish I’d thought of that at the time… and no I didn’t sit down and cry) I jumped on Facebook.

Suggestions streamed in, even a generous gift of an entire tree-full of lights from a co-worker which would have solved the dilemma entirely except, she was still at work and then had to locate her dis-used lights somewhere in her garage. There were no guarantees and time was at a premium.

After my best delegating efforts, everyone was busy. I still needed a centrepiece for the table and in the best interest of my marriage, I knew I should take care of that, myself. If I sent Mr Practical out to buy something glittery and gorgeous, he’d come back with a shiny biscuit tin! Being so practical, he’d be thinking we could use it again afterwards. Welcome to my world.

While I was out shopping I kept an eye out for Christmas lights, just in case the others were a ‘no show’. Everywhere was sold out! I grabbed six silver votive candle holders for the centrepiece – it was either that or a big, glitzy silver kneeling reindeer, but come Boxing Day, what else could I do with a bling-bling reindeer? Now I’m thinking like you-know-who!

By three o’clock, the house was clean, the room was being set up and the food was ready to go into the oven but we still had no lights.

A Slight Detour
After a horribly humid day, (remember we’re in summer Down Under), I was finally ready to shower and get myself ready when Mr P called to say he was at the petrol station and had just realised he’d left his wallet at work. I needed to take a drive and pay for his petrol. I didn’t have time for this. My hair was feral and I was sticky from sweat.

A montage of Christmases spent with our children when they were young with our beloved Winnie and friends adorning the tree flickered through my mind. How could Mr P do that? Had it meant nothing to him because it did to me and surely that was enough reason to keep them whether they still worked or not? Enough! I didn’t have time to dwell. What would be the point of being angry and upset when our friends were coming over to celebrate one of the happiest times of the year? That, not the light issue, could have ruined the evening.

Keeping a good attitude, I paid for the petrol and was relieved his wallet had been located and kept safe at work. I decided to drive to the nearest supermarket to pick up a few last minute items. It wasn’t my usual place to shop, so it took me a little longer to find what I needed but as I came around the end of aisle seven, I discovered a tower of boxed lights! Sometimes in unusual or unfamiliar places, lie the greatest blessings.

Having not yet heard back about the ‘gift’ lighting package, I figured she was probably having difficulty locating them. Racing home just moments before a summer storm, I hurled the box of lights to Mr P and the teen to hang, then burst into the kitchen to check on the lemon and garlic chickens roasting and the crunchy dill potatoes. Suddenly I realised, I still needed to shower.

A Slight Delay
The phone rang and it was my friend who was bringing her small tribe to dinner. She informed me it was hailing at her place and could she wait until the storm passed and then drive over. Excellent. Take your time. Summer storms don’t tend to hang around too long here, no matter how fierce they look or sound. Chaos and devastation can easily pass within half an hour.

All our guests arrived safely after the storm had passed. Dinner was served and it was delicious and we had plenty of it. Because all our family live far away our surrogate Grandma (family friend) joined us and gave Little Miss a scooter. Between the main course and dessert, a race track was formed around the table. It was noisy and fun.The Christmas Spirit had arrived.

I had imagined a room twinkling with a thousand clear fairy lights but instead I got a room with two hundred flashing coloured lights. All that was missing was a disco ball and karaoke machine! It really didn’t seem to matter. We were all together to celebrate our friendship at a very special time of year. My heart was full.

That’s not quite the end of the story. The day after, what did I find on the workshop bench? Winnie and Friends tangled but not trashed. Oops! It seems they were never actually thrown out. “Someone” was actually trying to fix them. Perhaps ‘someone’ could’ve mentioned that rather important detail at the beginning. Then again I wouldn’t have had the same opportunity to practise the act of grace. I could’ve really said some hurtful words to those around me especially when things didn't go the way I'd planned. I've discovered it's nice if it all comes together, but not a tragedy if it doesn’t. Gathering with those we love, is always the most important detail.

Thank heavens for delays, detours and blessings hidden for us. When we relax a little and slow down we will find them and hear the voice of peace and goodwill to all.

©2010 Philippa Vette

This is my last blog for the year. Some exciting developments for next year. I will be sure to keep you posted. Become a fan on Facebook: Philippa Vette Inspirational Writer and follow my tweets on Twitter: Wordsmum.

I wish you much peace and joy for Christmas and a fresh determination and vision to live well and let your life be full of meaning and purpose in the coming New Year. Keep laughing!

Monday, November 1, 2010

George Clooney and Mr P

Lately, I’ve noticed a change in Mr Practical. Reading material is now being held at arm’s length but according to him, that’s not an issue, because if things are held at arm’s length, he can see them just fine. (That’s not a solution, Pumpkin - it’s denial!)

Anyway, last week on his birthday he randomly announced he was going to get his eyes checked. I congratulated him on coming to his senses and before going to our favourite Greek restaurant for a sumptuous lunch, we called in to the optometrist to make an appointment.
“When did you last have your eyes checked,” asked the mature-aged woman behind the counter.
“Ooh,” said Mr P, straining to think.
“Fourteen years ago,” I chirped. I remembered because it was just before our teen was born.
The woman raised her eyebrows and inhaled through her nostrils. I was hoping she’d unload on him and give him a quick lecture or at least make a snide comment underlining how slack that was, but instead a smile emerged and she added, “I’ll book you in for the works.” Argh, she was siding with him!

The appointment was made but instead of us heading for the door, Mr P got enthusiastic about frames and veered off to the Mens section. This man has never worn glasses. He’s big and tough with a menacing permanent frown crease set between his feathery eyebrows. He owns a t-shirt that says, WARNING: CONTAINS ATTITUDE. What he’s not, is a book worm. His reading material of choice is a trucking magazine. I’ve even found volumes of magazines containing truck and machinery for sale. We’re talking page after black and white page of classifieds. It’s any wonder we don’t have a vintage plough on our front lawn! So just the thought of Mr P wearing glasses makes my head tilt.

A Few Options
The first pair were thick, black coke-bottle rimmed frames. I turned around and just one look, made me want to smack them off his face. “No!” I said, giving him that look I give to the children sometimes when they’re contemplating over-stepping the mark. I knew he was toying with me.

The second pair were red and black striped. I shook my head. “You’re not a male hairdresser or a couture fashion designer. There’s no way you could carry that off.”

The third pair glowed green on the inside which illuminated his face. “Great if you go clubbing but again, I don’t think you can make that work for you. I can only imagine what comments the men at the station would make if you rocked up in those.” Rimless options didn’t look any good either.

Then he slipped on a pair of brushed metallic Ralph Lauren frames. “I’m thinking architect,” I said, casting a glance out the door to the other side of the mall at the red SALE signs swinging in the air conditioned breeze, over at the ladies fashion store. It was hypnotic.

He studied his new look in the mirror like a model (too weird) and then he pouted. That was too much. I knew he was just joking but the greying hair and now glasses was making me feel old-er.
Times Were Changing
We’ve been together since I was in high school and the years have flown by so fast. I’ve always thought of ageing as something people who were older than us did, but not us. We were somehow exempt. This was fast becoming a sour dose of reality.
The appointment was booked for two days time and the plan was, that I would meet him towards the end of the appointment, we’d choose a frame together and then have lunch. However, I got a text message to say it was all done and he’d brought sushi home for lunch. Home? What happened to the plan? What about my consent... I mean, opinion?

This is the man who has been known to wear slide on leather sandals with thick blue work socks and think it’s funny that I get upset about it. He cannot be trusted to choose something as visible and important as reading glass frames because as much as I love him - the man has no sense of style!

Consequently, I’ve learnt to pick my battles and negotiate. To avoid further serious ‘discussions’ on the topic, he now has a designated group of t-shirts/shorts/jeans combos that he can wear and I’m not allowed to comment. If he steps outside those parameters he’s fair game because when ‘practical’ is taken to the extreme it can be... well, a little unpleasant to the eye ie. Ugly. There I’ve said it.
The George Clooney Bit
Obviously sensing my reluctance to accept the visible signs of his changing appearance, this morning Mr P tried to help me adjust (and God bless him for trying, I say.) I opened my eyes and we lay there, face to face in bed. “Do you find George Clooney attractive?”he blurted. That was random.
I was barely awake. “What?”
“George Clooney. Do you think he’s attractive?”
“Um, yeah, I guess. I don’t swoon but...”
“I saw a picture of him the other day and I thought, “He’s a good looking bloke!”
“Your point?” Where was this going? I reached for my tea.
“He’s good looking and he’s really grey now...”
“He’s also a decade older than you..!
Mr P wouldn’t accept it. He was sure they were the same age.
“Wait... are you comparing yourself to George Clooney?”
“Yeeeah,” he admitted, breaking into a laugh. I joined in and almost tipped my tea in the bed. Nice try. He really thought he was on to something.

A Waiting Game
So, as I wait to see which frames he’s chosen, my uneasiness gently simmers. Really, it’s not about which frame he's chosen, I realize that. It’s the actual change I’m finding confronting. As his hair has become more grey and now the glasses, it’s a stark reminder that time is passing quickly. We’re still young but the lines of this playing field have gradually been moving but I’ve only really just noticed.

If anything, it’s an urgent reminder to stay connected to those we love, accept each other as we change and to support and love them no matter what. Because, while we are seeing the changes, they are living them.

As for us, Mr Practical aka The Silver Fox (as our teen calls him) and his fabulous, young-looking wife (ahem...that would be me) will still be seen stepping out on the town, cuddling up at the movies and laughing our way through the rest of our lives together. I just hope we’re doing it while he’s wearing Ralph Lauren architect-style frames not the glow-in-the-dark, boom-boom-shake-the-room ones. Either way, his love still holds my heart and that’s all the reassurance I need.

©2010 Philippa Vette

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Pie Incident

When my sister arrives in town, I like nothing better than to escape with her for a few hours to catch a movie and enjoy good food. Mr Practical is usually very accommodating as it then means he doesn't have to sit through a 'chick-flick', so everyone wins.

With our movie session time selected, all we needed to do was arrange a haircut appointment for my sister and sit in my favourite cafe and relax with a generous slice of Rustic Apple/Berry Pie with the funky lattice top. That would complete me... well, my morning at least.

I have fond memories of eating The Pie. I'm a big fan of apple and berries. They fit so nicely together - like the perfect couple that you see when you're out; just by taking one look you can already picture what their children will look like. Apple/Berry is also perfect for those occasions when you feel torn and simply can't decide whether you feel more like apple or more like berry. It can be a dilemma. This way you don't have to decide - you can have both! Perfecto.

We cruised up to the cake display cabinet and my eyes scanned each shelf. Some days they have been known not to stock The Pie and when quizzed, I was told, "It's not pie day, today." How can it not be Pie day? There is ice cream; there is cream so how can there be no Pie? The Pie is the main event. When interrogated a little further, it became apparent the staff were not willing to divulge which days were Pie days. I hate to be kept in the dark.

But there, in the left-hand corner sharing a cake stand with a pyramid of Gluten Free friands (that alone is an abomination that Rustic Pie should have to share space with anything, let alone those ‘cakes’ with no wheat) were three slices of The Pie. My heart leapt and I almost burst into song, but before I could savour even the thought of plump blackberries bursting with warm juice and tender wedges of sweet apple cocooned in a crisp, golden pastry blanket - a bombshell smashed right through my idyllic pastry world.

"I don't really feel hungry right now," said my sister. I glared at her like an eagle stares down at a little bunny from several kilometres up in the sky. "No?" I replied, trying to disguise the whimper in my voice. Was I beginning to fold on the inside already? I was more fragile than I thought.

"How about in half an hour?" she added. Argh! Compromise.

"Ok, we'll do the hair thing and come back." I blew The Pie a little kiss goodbye and promised to return without delay like a mother leaving her child for the first time but every few minutes I found myself stopping to think about The Pie.

Finally it was time. I sauntered up to the cake display cabinet like a woman with a new credit card in a designer shoe store. I was on a mission and I knew what I wanted. Then, *gasp* The Pie was GONE! Not even a crumb was left. I searched the cabinet. Maybe it had been put back in another spot. Alas, there was no evidence that The Pie had ever existed.

"Can I help you?" asked the young woman behind the counter. I glanced at the other staff. Where was the guy who usually worked the register? He'd know what had happened to The Pie. It must've been his day off because I couldn't see him out the back in the kitchen either. (Yes, I looked!)

I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, opened them and said slowly, "Think very carefully before you answer because there's alot riding on what you say."

"O-kay," she replied, cautiously. Maybe she could sense (woman-to-woman) that I was teetering on the brink. Some days, circumstances are stacked in such a way that the absence of your favourite thing like The Pie can bring about a response of cataclysmic proportions. Tip: When you see it coming, know that it's a test. Tread carefully lest you have to repeat the process in order to finally pass.

"Do you have any more of the Rustic Apple/Berry Pie?" Her look said it all. Her head, cocked slightly to the side, as if I'd just told her I'd lost my cat. That only lasted for a moment. Straightening up she looked me square in the eye and informed me, "Sorry, no." Wrong answer! At that moment, I actually had a picture flash through my mind of me lying on the floor in the middle of the cafe, wailing, pummelling my fists into the floor and kicking my feet. (I've been around toddlers too much lately.) I let that whole notion pass. No way was I going there! The last thing I wanted, was to be banned from the one venue that stocked the heavenly Pie. No,this was an occasion when one was required to be very grown up, despite feeling very whiney on the inside.

I explained that I'd seen three slices in the display cabinet only half an hour ago. She empathised then said, "Yes, those people at that table bought them all." I turned to check out who would do such a thing. A retired couple, their adult daughter and grandson beamed at their pie topped with soft mounds of whipped cream and shot large chunks of it, into their mouths. That’s my Pie!

Short of crawling into the empty chair at their table and opening my mouth for the next spoonful of Pie, like the grandson (that would be wrong on so many levels,) I was going to have to suck it up and face it – I was not getting The Pie today. Life was harsh.

"You should go and ask them if they still want all their Pie. I can heat it up for you," the cafe chick suggested. Was she making fun of me? Dangerous ground you’re treading there, lady! Then she said something that really irked me. "Maybe it just wasn't meant to be." Grrrr. *strong dislike* It always sounds like a cop-out used by people who somehow don't get what they want on the first attempt.

"No, it was meant to be but sometimes other people don't play their role as they should!" I cast a serious look at my sister. She quickly offered to pay for both our orders. Forgiven. So after much inner turmoil, because it was like choosing one child over another, I settled for the Blueberry/Almond Tart which by my book was a distant cousin to the Rustic Apple/Berry pie and was still not a pie or The Pie. It was the consolation prize.

So the moral to the story is: when you see your opportunity - grab it. Don't allow distractions to cause it to slip by or you will rehearse the sequence of events over and over, salivating and crying, "Why, why, why?" There I go again!

Come on, this life is for living. Participation is the key to feeling satisfied and fulfilled. Observing life and the people who are really living it, only leaves you feeling left out and miserable. BUY THE TICKET AND TAKE THE RIDE. Seek The Pie and eat it. Always be sure to share your love, your experiences and the lessons learned with those around you, so your memories remain vivid and your heart remains full, overflowing in generosity. And on those days when someone takes your pie, be gracious and adaptable knowing with confidence that Pie Day will come around again and next time it will taste even better.

©2010 Philippa Vette

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

An Audience of One

My day began with the sound of a child at my bedside, clearing her throat purposefully, her fingers twisting the fabric of her pyjamas. I knew she was watching me breathe - willing me to wake up. It was six-thirty.

I wondered just how long I could prolong opening my eyes. The moment I did, my day was officially up and running. How long would it be before she whispered, "Mummy, are you awake?" My parents used to call it "playing possum" - pretending you're asleep. It featured regularly in my repertoire of childhood endeavours - that is until they learned to prolong their exit from my bedroom and a cheeky smile tickled the corners of my mouth. Sprung! These days I've perfected it. I can hold out longer than any of my children, even when they're bursting to tell me something. They're dealing with a veteran here.

I didn't have to wait much longer to see how this particular stint of "possum playing" would last because at 6.40am (by my clock) the telephone rang and a whole new dilemma unfolded.

It was work and as a supervisor minus one of the team and our booking sheets bulging at the seams with over-amped school children escorted by mothers desperate for some "Me Time", it became a race to fill the vacant position.

The next few hours were a whirlwind trying to get someone to fill in and organise my own three children on the last day of school holidays. A quick prayer was breathed as I bundled children into the car and I scooped a spoonful of cereal into my mouth. I'm usually far more purposeful in my breakfast routine but the 'curve ball' pitched early that morning meant it was necessary to ditch 'purposeful' and hit the ground running.

The morning flew. It was loud and busy but in an organised and functional way. I went home and flopped on my bed. If I was a drinker, an IV would've suited fine but I didn't even have the energy or the inclination to do anything, so I just lay there, droopy, dehydrating and just a tad delirious.

Thirty minutes later my eyes were closed but I was bizarrely wide awake. I felt as if I should've been asleep but it just wasn't happening. I whispered a 'thank you" with the next exhaling breath, in complete gratitude that we'd all survived the morning. By this time, I had slid into a severe case of second-degree exhaustion. (I made up that second-degree bit. I'm feeling dramatic just recalling the events of that day. Just think, over-tired toddler.

It had been an extra-busy few weeks. Two birthday parties, school holidays, extra workload, weird dreams that stole sleep and made no sense and then there was the matter of the re-occurring visitor at dawn. For five mornings straight, a baby Butcher Bird had made my bedroom windowsill it's new perch to sing the, "It's a New Day and I'm Going to Sing Until You Wake Up" chorus at the top of it's little birdie lungs! Incidentally, as soon as I was fully awake, it flew away. How did it know? No, I didn't throw anything at the window. What kind of person do you think I am?:-)

When it came time to go to my volunteer work up at the church that evening, I was in serious need of a caffeine hit-but I don't drink coffee. I'm now re-thinking the absence of coffee. So what if it gives me a pain in my stomach, I could double up on pain meds to counter-act! I'm all for solutions.

Then, just when my arms felt like someone had attached a thousand kilo weight to them, giving me "gorilla arms", three little boys popped up on the other side of a nearby window and began a show. All three brothers began a comedy routine so creative and spontaneous, completely unaware I was on the other side of the mirrored glass. They did The Blowfish Face, The Upward Piggy-Nose Face and my favourite, The Shocked and Surprised I-Just-Won-the Beauty-Pageant Face.

I laughed until my sides ached. Tears trickled down my face and when it was all over, I felt like I'd just done a work-out at the gym but I was fully recharged and energized.
Those three brothers had no idea I was on the other side of the window, giving them free rein to express themselves. It was so unexpected and brilliant. They turned my day right back around and put me way back on top, without even knowing it. I was so grateful to be their audience of one.

The impact of just one person can be significant. Your smile could change someones day. People just want to be noticed, to feel like their life matters. Out walking one day, I noticed a woman up ahead leaning over the side of a railing of a footbridge. Nothing looked out of place until I got closer and said "good morning" to her. That's when she turned towards me and I noticed her tear-stained cheeks as she hurried away. It suddenly hit me, What was she about to do, if I hadn't come along and noticed her?

One Christmas when our boys were young, we walked through our neighbourhood looking at all the Christmas lights on the houses. Santa sleighs lit up, Nativity scenes aglow. We came to a house where the front yard was sparkling, the warm night air swirling in the palms, and there was an older couple waltzing to soft music on their front lawn. It was a beautiful sight.

Sometimes we get weary but we must never get weary of life itself. Share the love, give a smile -it costs you nothing. LOVE, LAUGH, LIVE. Don't ever hold back.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Stay In Your Lane

The Commonwealth Games kick off in only a few weeks and every runner, who's been in training for this moment understands one fundamental rule: to have an eligible time, they must stay in their own lane. To cross into another lane will lead to immediate disqualification.

If only we could remember this rule in life too. To imitate someone else is to admit we don't think we're good enough the way we are or maybe we just like them more than we like ourselves. Don't be distracted; even if you try to copy someone else, that still doesn't guarantee you'll also have their success.

If you can visualise your life like a running track, it might help you remember to run in your own lane. Chaos happens when a runner runs out of their lane and so too, when we start lane-hopping, lane-sharing and even when we fail to start.

Life is not a race -it's a journey. A journey to be discovered, enjoyed, challenged by and to be completed. Staying in your lane means showing up each day and using what you know, what you love to do and who you are to add your stamp to the time line of history and leave a deposit of something wonderful in the hearts and lives of those you've touched through relationships, and service.

Constantly trying to live up to other people's expectations, to impress or to please, makes for a weary, unfulfilled life. Recognise your strengths and attributes. That's not being big headed, it's being realistic. Then take those qualities that are so familiar to you and go and be wonderful, as only you can be. That, in itself, is not only good enough but it's what your world needs and is waiting for. So go to it. Your lane and this life is empty without you being you.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Assume the Position

There’s a sinking feeling you get when you realise you’re in the wrong place or maybe the right place but events have changed without warning. Suddenly you find yourself caught in unfamiliar territory. Do you make a run for it and hope no one sees you leave or do you stick around and check it out?

Rushing into what I thought was a pilates class recently, it took only thirty seconds to figure out, the next hour was going to be a whole new experience. Never before had I willingly been contorted into various shapes (most commonly, a pretzel), all in the name of exercise. Oh yes, I was about to encounter a whole new world of pain.

Body Balance is a mix of Tai Chi, yoga and pilates. Having never attended the Tuesday night pilates class I thought I was getting a fairly standard class, but on the night in question The Great Switch-a-Roo took place and a substitute instructor stepped in – a Body Balance instructor. I was none the wiser until I’d set up my mat and found myself up to my armpits in my ankles! I could’ve bolted for the door but this is the year of new opportunities and new experiences so I decided to stick around and check it out. By the way, you’ll never feel comfortable outside your ‘comfort zone’ if you don’t stay out there long enough for it to become the new ‘normal’. Scary but true.

Assume the Position
From the moment we had to bend down, touch the floor then step our right foot between our hands, I knew I was in trouble. My foot couldn’t reach that far. I was terrified that ripping sensation, may not have been my lycra pants! Ouch! To top it off the instructor had a wickedly dry sense of humour. We’re talking sawdust here folks. Maybe I wasn’t really in a position to appreciate her dry wit, possibly because the position I was in, replicated a reef knot! Did I mention every single position had an ‘ouch’ factor of about a billion? I’m beginning to despise flexible people.

The Funny Side
With every impossible position, I giggled. Only on the inside, but still I giggled. Me and my great ideas! The funny side was definitely shining through. Perspective is key. Next, I identified it was structurally unsound for my right arm to thread under my bent over body to grab the outside of my stretched out left leg. Being expected to hold that position (without a face-plant into the mat) until the end of the song, was not my idea of enjoyment either. I’m sure they use the same methods to extract vital information from spies who carry out covert operations, not unsuspecting mothers who were simply escaping from the real world for an hour of solitude. (Note to self: next time just go to the library.)
“FYI,” said the instructor, beaming with her yoga glow, “this is the theme song from Avatar.” Good to know but can we resume an upright position before all the blood in my body drains to my head and I pass out in the Unconscious position?
After multiple repetitions of Downward-Facing Dog, Intense Pose, the Warrior Pose, a ridiculous Balancing Dancer’s Pose, the Triangle Pose and a Twinkling Star Pose, I wasn’t sure if I was in a serious exercise class or the children’s crèche! More giggling – on the inside. (No offense to yoga-enthusiasts. Of course yoga is serious and highly effective. I just act immature when it comes to things I didn’t sign up for but are ‘fortunate’ to get anyway. Please read on...) Striking all these poses and gazing at my feet for lengthy periods made one thing very evident – I was in desperate need of a pedicure.

In the Dark
The last ten minutes were announced as a rest period and reward. Cool face washers were served and the lights turned off. More giggling. I couldn't see anyone. For eight minutes – silence, which gave me ample time to mentally write my shopping list, prioritise my impending emails and plan tomorrow night’s dinner. When the lights came on, I was relieved to see everyone was still there. I hoped they’d used their quiet time as effectively as I had.

“I’m back again next week,” announced the instructor. Thanks for the head’s up. I think one girl burst into tears. Glancing around the room, it was hard to gauge the effects the modified class had on the other participants. Poker faces were well intact. Will they return next week for more spine-twisting positions? For me, two questions remained: 1. What on earth did I just do to my body? And 2. As a result of (1) will I be able to walk tomorrow?

Reap the Benefits
The benefits of varied kinds of exercise keeps it interesting. The benefits of attempting something new increases your skill set. Besides, you never know when you may be called upon to strike an Intense Pose at the office or a Downward-Facing Dog at the supermarket checkout. Being highly adaptable and developing the ability to keep a great attitude in a changing or new environment may just sky-rocket you to the front of the line for the next promotion or dream job offer. What can look like a blunder can actually position you perfectly for your next big move if you’ll keep your cool, keep a good attitude and keep on believing. Salutations.

©2010 Philippa Vette

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Short Story - No Ordinary Day

In case you missed it the first time, click on it on the sidebar.

Grab a cuppa and enjoy. Can you pick the ending..?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

To Succeed or Not to Succeed

SUCCESS - the favourable or prosperous outcome of attempts or endeavours.
- Online Dictionary

It always amazes me how some people think they're going to have mega success but don't have a plan of how they're going to make it a reality. Initially, we start with an idea. That's the easy part. Over time we're supposed to take that idea and begin to cultivate it by sharpening our skills and talents, drawing from our experience to build relationships and systems to support and grow that initial idea. This takes time.
We have so much at our fingertips now (literally) but some things still take time. With patience and perseverance, our idea - our dream, grows and matures just as we do. Don't be tempted to rush ahead or that sound you hear up ahead may very well be your world and your hard work, crashing to an end!
So, write a plan, be prepared to modify it and make adjustments along the way. Stick to it. Seek wise counsel and enlist the support of trusted friends and family and gradually, you'll build something worthwhile that will benefit even generations to come.
PS. Sorry about the layout of this post. Despite my best efforts, I couldn't change the line spacing between paragraphs. Hope it didn't distract from the message. :-)
(C) 2010 Philippa Vette

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Secret to Happiness

HAPPINESS - Characterized by good luck; fortunate, enjoyment, marked by pleasure, satisfaction, or joy. Cheerful, willing.
-Online Dictionary

According to this online dictionary definition of happiness, who wouldn't want happiness for themselves, loved ones and to wish happiness for others? Happiness is fun. It's infectious. Did you know when people are surveyed and asked what they most want out of life and want for their loved ones, they say, happiness?

Did you also know that your perspective largely affects your happiness, not necessarily your circumstances? How you perceive difficult situations affects more than your moods, it can dictate your decisions also. Decisions made in haste or under emotional stress may be costly later. Chill.

Be Grateful

Those who have a grateful attitude generate a contentment of the soul. Even if your circumstances are not ideal, (or perfect - which, incidentally will never happen) if you hold the right perspective, you'll also know that what you face today is only temporary - you're just passing through. Your best days are still ahead of you.

So keep a healthy perspective. Map out some ideas for where you believe your true north is and take steps each week in that direction and before long happiness will be a genuine part of your life.

(C) 2010 Philippa Vette

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Short Story - No Ordinary Day

“Opportunities like this don’t come along every day,” Darren Williams reminded himself, straightening his tie in front of his hotel mirror. He ran his fingers through his hair. An edgy rush of tension surged through his body. Calm down.

One last time Darren flicked through his proposal. Four years of heart and soul for sale, on a few simple white pages. He thought of his wife, Alana back home in Australia and the sacrifices they’d both made. Images of his two young daughters danced across the landscape of his mind. He remembered their hugs and savoured the memory of their wet kisses on his cheeks. Darren checked his watch, it was time to go. No turning back. He was ready to make his mark on the world.

At eight fourteen exactly Darren stepped into the busy city street. He didn’t notice the doorman wish him a good day or the slight crisp breeze brush against his face. All his senses were fully arrested and attuned like a jungle sniper. He was set to make a fortune.

On the ninety-second floor Darren was ushered into Globecom’s crowded boardroom. Executives in darks suits hushed as the fresh-faced Brisbane boy began his pitch. Despite feeling light years out of his comfort zone, the first eight minutes flowed effortlessly. As Darren paused to sip from his water glass, a sound drew his attention in another direction.

At the far end of the room Darren’s eyes became fixed on the wall clock. With each tick it became louder. Soon, every deafening stroke reverberated through his body. Is this a joke? he thought, looking around but no one else seemed to notice. 8.40am Focus.

Darren scanned his proposal searching for his next point only to discover the words looked encrypted. He blinked and it set off a slide show of images of his family - weeping. Something had to be wrong at home. His stomach churned, his head, now completely held hostage by a plague of fearful thoughts, left Darren only one option. Stuffing his proposal into his briefcase he excused himself and left before he could change his mind.
Moments later, Darren stepped out into the autumn sunshine. Dialing home, his breath lay imprisoned in his chest aching to escape as he nervously awaited a reply.
“Lanie, are you okay? Are the girls okay?”
“We’re fine. The girls are sound asleep. Darren, it’s the middle of the night here, what’s wrong?” Deep regret blind-sided Darren’s senses as the realization dawned that they were safe but he’d just cost them everything.
“Argh! I blew it.”
“Hey, don’t worry, there’ll be….”
“Don’t say that!" he snapped. "Everything was riding on this meeting. This was our dream, our future Alana.”
“No Darren, you and me - our family, that’s our future.” She was right. More than ever he just wanted to go home.
Darren walked a block to clear his head. All around, the crowded pavements bustled with people hurrying to get to work on time. It seemed almost comical that their day was just beginning and his was already over and it wasn’t even nine o’clock.

Without warning, a sound like a freight train careening out of control amplified through the air. BOOM! An explosion rocked the atmosphere. Shaken, Darren craned his neck to examine the skyline. Flames violently engulfed the office building where just minutes earlier he stood pitching his proposal. Suddenly it was clear; this was no ordinary day and it was one Darren Williams would never forget – Tuesday, September 11, 2001.

© 2010 Philippa Vette

Sunday, September 5, 2010

To Have and To Hold

Yesterday morning as I waited for my husband (Mr Practical) to open his eyes, I had just two little words and one big wish. “Happy Anniversary,” I whispered. And then I waited… “What? Is it the 5th?” I nodded and smiled. I passed him a card and Calvin Klein cologne - he was silent. Yes, he’d forgotten. I’d waited eighteen years for this moment and finally I’d got my wish.

The year was 1992 and I was on my way to his workplace to pick up our car then take the short drive to our home in Wellington, New Zealand for a blissful sleep in a very quite house after a harrowing twelve hour night shift. He passed me the keys, kissed me hello, asked how my night was and I was soon on my way. It wasn’t until I climbed into bed, my entire body aching from exhaustion that I noticed a card on my pillow. Is it the 5th? I remembered thinking. Too late.

Since then, at prime opportunities such as dinner parties and special occasions, very strategically, Mr P has brought it up. It doesn’t seem to matter about the background story and why I forgot. Until now.

Now we are even. Never again can he even begin to mention my misdemeanour of 1992 or he will get slammed with the ‘very recent and no decent excuse’ misdemeanour of 2010.

Now all that is required, is a card (or letter) filled with descriptive accounts of his undying love and devotion, a present that makes me feel loved (name your price) and a date that is planned, booked and executed with flair, romance and a signed pledge to do the housework.

All in all, it’s the simple things that are most enjoyable; finally being let off the hook and getting even, rank right at the top!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Feeling Good

Don't you just love that feeling when you get good news? There's a spring in your step, your whole vibe is electric and you want to fist-bump total strangers .

Good news can have that affect. Everything else going on around you, vying for your attention suddenly fades into insignificance. Your good news takes centre stage and your whole life shifts up a gear.

So if you're feeling a bit flat, here are some suggestions for sparking that feel-good feeling:

- try something new like dancing, Zumba, learn to play an instrument or painting.

- plan a trip from you Bucket List - write your Bucket List.

- help someone else out - yep, if you keep a good attitude, it's the warm and fuzzies all over.

- exercise (groan - you say?) Get up and move that body and let the endorphins kick in. Falling in love feeling x mild natural sedative = N-I-C-E.

So come on, the weekend's nearly here. Why not do something to light up your corner of the world and have a little (or a whole lot) of fun? As the saying goes: Laughter is good medicine.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Chill Out Time

There are days for bringing home the bacon
and then there are days for going fishing...
or hiking or biking or reading a book.
Relish the time when the most pressing issue is
planning what to have for dinner.

- Donna Hay, food goddess

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Know Your Worth

As she swooshed down the slide at the park, a little girl called, "Can't catch me!" I turned to see who she was talking to. A boy about a year older (so that makes him the grand old age of about 4), stood at the top of the slide and paid her little attention. Again she climbed up, brushed past him and as she pushed off and slid away she taunted, "Can't catch me," then added, " a dollar fifty!" The boy pretended to ignore her but as he passed by, but not within earshot of her, he muttered, "Two dollars fifty!"

WORTH... of value

Even under pressure this kid held his ground. There was something he knew that she didn't. Even at this young age, he knew something of his worth. Do you know your worth?

By the time we reach adulthood we have a bit of an idea of whether we feel loved and valued and as we travel further along the road of life and we hit a few potholes, valleys and sometimes the odd crevasse, the idea of how much we think we are valued can take a battering. Divorce, bereavement, missed opportunities and mistakes compound.

Perhaps worth and value is not determined by our education (or lack of), a job title, who we marry, how we look or even how we feel about ourselves. Is it possible each one of us has worth and value irrespective of whether we feel loved? Do we have worth simply because we have life?
What a privilege to get up each day, thankful, hopeful and knowing that no matter what might be said to us or even not said to us, the approval of others is not our goal and our life is important, valuable and cherished. Just a thought.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Win Win Situation

I've decided to blog more regularly with shorter blogs, you know, tasty morsels of inspiration on tap for when you need it most. I value your comments and feedback. So here we go...

WIN - to secure a result or be victorious.

Driving home tonight, I saw a beautiful thing. There, resting high in the night sky were a set of numbers up on a board, illuminated like a beacon of hope for all opportunistic motorists: 105.9 cents per litre. You little beauty! And it was only Monday. Usually discount fuel day is Tuesday but then I noticed ripper prices on a Wednesday, then the occasional Friday and now Monday. Someone's playing a game here, don't you think? I cruised into pump 2, filled the tank and sasheyed inside to pay. I sashey since I started Zumba. Walking is so yesterday.
"Love the price," I said, to the cashier/manager with a Cheshire cat grin.

"Yep," he replied. "Can't please everyone though. People get grumpy and complain about others cutting in." He looked perplexed. I couldn't help but smile on the inside as I remembered the Granny cutting in on me (see Showdown @ Pump 3). Once again there were so many things I could say, in fact I had a whole story and sub-story I could have unravelled in a detailed and yet highly entertaining fashion but the queue behind me was growing so I just smiled and said, "Really?" And shook my head as if in disbelief. Cheap fuel and letting go of a misdemeanor for the second time... that's a win-win situation.

To be able to live your life to the full you absolutely must be willing to leave the past behind. All the 'what might have been's" need to be laid to rest. You can't go back and change anything but you can make the most today, so tomorrow is more of what you want it to be. You decide.

Monday, August 23, 2010

This Side of Heaven

I knew it was going to be an interesting trip back home when I saw Pat Rafter (tennis ace and Bonds underwear model) stroll through the departure lounge like a cool breeze on a hot day and then the guy next to us checked in a surfboard bag with a spear gun inside. Gripping fear turned to a flood of relief when I suddenly realised if we encountered menacing sharks at thirty thousand feet – he was our man!

We’d promised our children a trip to the snow for several years, so when my parents 50th Wedding Anniversary on August 20th rolled around this year, we made plans and booked our flights to converge on the South Island of Aotearoa (The Land of the Long White Cloud), known by a third of the world as New Zealand and not known at all by the other two thirds. Their loss.

Flying over the Southern Alps en route to Christchurch, the closest international airport to our destination, was like a moorish, visual appetiser. Through smoky-grey clouds, we caught glimpses of snow-encrusted peaks, shingly ravines and open stretches of barren, brown pastureland as if someone had cast a giant dirty canvas across the earth.

My single, most favourite thing whenever I land somewhere is that moment when I walk out of the airport terminal into the open air. It’s a snapshot for the senses. Arriving at Brisbane, our visitors notice the warmth and humidity when they step outside. Not going to happen here! I stayed back and waited for Mr Practical’s long black coffee and excitedly watched each of my family pass through the exit. The doors parted, they stepped out and the Antarctic blast slapped them unapologetically in the face. Priceless!

Living in a sub-tropical climate they have no idea what cold is. When they start whining, I like to break into my ‘I remember when’ rendition of horror winter childhood memories, including painful descriptive accounts of chilblains on toes and breaking thick ice in our horses water trough with bare hands. “It’s all up here, kids,” I say tapping to the side of my head. Ah, the joy of being old enough to have a little tragedy and trauma to draw upon to toy with young minds.

It was my turn. I braced in front of the exit sign. Slap! Ah, fresh, crisp air. After a series of deep breaths but stopping short of an asthma attack, it was time to quit blowing ‘smoke’ with our breath and hit the road. There was a roaring log fire and a roast chicken dinner waiting down the road.

Two hours later, the outside temperature in single digits and now dark, we pulled into the shingle driveway of the home I knew from the ages of ten to eighteen, to be greeted by my two favourite retirees in the whole world. Warm hugs momentarily smothered the night chill and the distinctive oaky smell of the log fire burning wafted across the evening air. And yes, I do believe I could see stars in the night sky. Another benefit of living in a semi-rural area and having a small human population compared to a mammoth sheep population is that sheep don’t require night lights. Genius.

Food Glorious Food
My father is the Masterchef of the home. Since retiring, he’s enjoyed the odd cooking class and delights in serving up all sorts of culinary fare for my mother. Score for Mum! Since buying his slow cooker a year or two ago, all kinds of delicacies have emerged massaged and marinated in a non-obtrusive manner, poised on the end of a fork, ready to collapse effortlessly in the mouth. It’s like a day spa for over-worked cuts of meat.

Venison (yes, that’s Bambi) bathed in red wine and garlic, Asian-style pork served with wilted baby greens and the all time classic, corned beef and when left to stand, is joined by its trusty dance partner – the mustard sauce. Fred and Ginger – a foxtrot in every mouthful.

There are certain prerequisites when I go home. Most involve food and one of those high on the list is yams. And plenty of them. They are harvested in autumn and stored in sacks (or frozen) in the cool, dry surroundings of Dad’s garage. Many good things can be found in Dad’s garage; a screwdriver to suit every need, knives of varying blade length and shape to cut binder twine (fancy word for thick string) or behead the tops off hideously large parsnips precariously pulled from the dark, rich soil of their own garden or even a recycled jar with a lid to house screws, buttons or even fishing hooks should the need arise.

And then there’s the generously sized chest freezer – stop right there. When my father says the freezer is ‘getting low’ (ie. empty) all that really means is that there is a small space to fit something else in. I remember as a child, volunteering to go out to the garage, which is separate and towards the front of the house, to retrieve the ice cream for dessert. Knowing there was a certain amount of time allotted to complete such a task, because any longer would arouse suspicion and questions may be asked, a swift pace there and back would mean more time to pick at the edges of the rock-hard mass of ice cream before anyone else. A little extra treat which I felt was a necessary ‘wage’ given the sacrifice of walking out to the garage. Feeble excuse. Whatever...

These days, it’s still packed full with blanched vegetables from their garden, meat and pears from the tree by the living room door that the man said should be cut down when they moved the house onto the block thirty-something years ago. Wrong! Mum wanted a view of the mountains from that sliding glass door and the tree, so they angled the house to accommodate both. It pays to speak up. All these years later, the pear tree that could’ve become sawdust and warmed the house for one cold evening, has continued to show it’s gratitude by producing ridiculously large yields of fruit each year.
Getting back to the yams. I don’t know where else in the world these ruby, bobbled gems grow. They are not the same as yams grown in the Pacific Islands. When removed from the oven, these ochre-coloured darlings lying in neat rows look like miniature soldiers in reddish coats. A spritz of olive oil before roasting makes them glisten and therefore completely irresistible. It’s hard to describe what they taste like; some kind of delicate potato (?) and I’m not willing to divulge just how many I consumed but I will confess I did adopt the ‘when in Rome’ philosophy as all gourmet travellers should.

A Change of Plans

Usually when I go home for a visit, I sleep in the bedroom next to the living room which I switched with my sister when she left for the Air Force at the age of eighteen. In winter, this room was always the warmest and the one that was least likely to grow something sinister from mould than my original room which is now referred to as The Bottom Room. It was tastefully re-decorated (heads up: it was the eighties) in peach for my sister during her absence. That was a nice surprise for her.

However, on this visit we were escorted past my hand-me-down old room to... my parent’s room. *Insert knife-stabbing shower scene music from Psycho*
Standing at the foot of the bed, Mr P and I stood and gazed at the generous queen bed covered in a lovely floral bedspread. The curtains were new and Dad had gone modern and stripped the wallpaper from the walls and adopted a random swished, brushed look with a paint colour called, Sea Mist which really was just an elegant way of saying grey. It contained fragments of cement for a slightly textured effect, he explained. I was impressed not only by the grand job he’d done but that there was something other than wallpaper on the bedroom wall. Remember, these folks are from the wallpaper era.

I started to object to the fact that my parents had voluntarily ousted themselves to The Bottom Room which I like to think of as Siberia and into single beds. As I moved over to sit on the bed, I strongly stated they really shouldn’t move out on account of Mr P and I and immediately sunk effortlessly into the pillowy layers of their new mattress.

“On second thoughts,” I said, “if you insist!”

“And no funny business in our bed!” interjected Dad.
“DAD!” Puh-leeze.

The room was cleared and I, feeling a little grossed out about my father’s boundaries for conduct concerning his bed, did what any normal, modern woman would do. I posted a comment on FB.

Retracing Old Steps

There’s only one thing to do with well-fed children on a cold day and that’s to evict them outside. Being the weekend, we headed to the local school adventure playground. It’s all changed since I went to school there in the late 1970’s. My children affectionately call it The Dark Ages. We assured them it was literally dark. We only had candles. Electricity only came to New Zealand in the mid 1990’s (Mr P’s joke. For a good three or four minutes they believed him until they checked with Grandma who wasn’t in on the gag.)

I took my boys to the monkey bars where my best friend and I used to pretend we were Olympic gymnasts. We thought we were really something. We even scored each other’s performances – rather generously I might add. After a very limp demonstration it was painfully obvious why I never made the grade for the real Olympics. But it was from these exact monkey bars, one summer in the early 80’s that I fell and broke my wrist and my mother gave me an early birthday present - a horse encyclopedia. A treasured gift. After the hairy dismount in front of my boys, however, it appears all that is really needed now is a firm reality check... and perhaps a physio.

©2010 Philippa Vette

Coming soon... Our trip to the snow, a curious place to buy a garden hose, breathtaking scenery, woodfired pizza, the reunion with high school girlfriends, how to out-smart a puppy and the anniversary shin-dig...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Courage Under Fire

Having the freezer door seals replaced shouldn’t cause a person to crumble into a teary mess but sometimes when the line of decency is trampled down in a vulnerable zone, where the memory of a day so dark resides, the soul is left weakened, stripped bare and fragile – and so it becomes a valid response.

Our History
I’ve known WB (Walking Buddy – not to be confused with RB – Running Buddy) for around seven years. She’s the gorgeous mother of teenagers, whose artistic and creative talents make the average person wish they were gifted in such a way. We’re talking a whole other level! She is a giving and loving friend who continues to support me and urge me to fulfil my dreams as a writer. And for the record – she looks stunning in hats!

Recently WB discovered she needed to get her freezer door seals replaced. She found a fridge guy (FG) who could do the job but for whatever reason, he had an attitude about doing it. In hindsight, she said she should’ve found someone else but she just wanted someone to do the job and be done with it. Despite his complaints, he agreed to do it and an appointment was set for the following day.

Roadworks Ahead
Sometimes in life we hit potholes. For WB she’d hit a series of potholes over the last several years. Serious potholes! Some so deep a person could lose themselves entirely inside, some so dark, it was impossible to tell which way was up and some so unexpected, it felt like fragments of the soul had died a sudden and tragic death.

Nevertheless, when WB pulled into her driveway a little late from work, she remained upbeat despite FG being a tad testy. She escorted him through to the freezer and let him get to work but it wasn’t long before his attitude got the better of him. He began to vent about her brand of freezer, claiming they were cheap and distributed from discount stores. What’s it to you, buddy? (That’s me talking not WB!) And so he went on... and on complaining how nobody else wanted to repair that particular brand so he was left to do them all. Hello, isn’t that a good thing? (That was me again!)

Caution Falling Debris
WB took a deep breath to compose herself thinking he’d be finished soon and gone forever but he kept venting and that’s when FG crossed the invisible line and something rose up on the inside of her. WB stepped forward to set the record straight. As tears flooded from her eyes, she explained how her mother had taken her to buy the freezer from a reputable store while her daughter lay in a coma. The freezer was for all the meals people had made for the family.

FG didn’t see that coming but then again he didn’t see anything because he was so consumed with himself. He finished the job, messed her around on the price and left. What a winner! (Me again.)
Detours Ahead
When WB told me this story – I couldn’t help but think; what courage under fire. Her life had taken an abrupt, unplanned detour and the fact about detours is; we’re never sure where they will take us. I’m so proud of my friend who had the courage to peel back a corner of her life to set the record straight, not knowing what kind of response she would meet. Her tears demonstrated the gravity of how personal it was and still is – not a sign of weakness. They weren’t wasted either just because FG didn’t apologize because tears are an expression of many things; pain, confusion, sadness but also of healing. Perhaps this was WB’s time to testify that she’s still here. She survived. So did her daughter.

For all of you who are living in potholes, no matter how deep and dark they are, today, grasp hold of the hope that healing comes not over time but by love. When we allow ourselves to love again all the fragments gradually return, reshaped and ready, not for the old life to resume but for a new life with an outlook for a brighter day.

©2010 Philippa Vette

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Date Day

The calendar had been cleared and the day had finally arrived. Mr Practical was taking me on an all-day date extravaganza. Notions of a leisurely drive up the coast into the misty hinterland, strolling hand-in-hand, followed by a long lunch in a French-inspired bistro were ambushed the moment we drove into the car park of a curtains and blinds shop.

Not Happy Jan
Inside it didn’t go well. I was in a huff because I could see my romantic agenda being hijacked right before my eyes. Yes, we needed two new blinds but not on Date Day! Considering no one had measured the windows and neither of us was prepared to play a guessing game, we departed from the store without the blinds and no clue what would happen next.

A Turning Point
Feeling the lava starting to inch its way up my neck and being only moments away from it spewing out my mouth in a burst of hefty accusations, I had to quickly decide; let the mountain blow or cork it!

Tip: If you let it blow there’s going to be a big mess to clean up. Anything said during an ‘eruption’ is irrelevant because it’s spoken “in the heat of the moment” and therefore becomes invalid. Save your good stuff for when you’re calm, then it has impact.

I took a slow, l-o-o-o-n-g, deep breath, tweaked my attitude and said without even a hint of sarcasm, “Well... why don’t we drive to Southbank and have lunch?” Specific and to the point – men appreciate that. See how nice I was? Don’t be mislead; my emotions were having convulsions and every blood vessel in my face felt like it was about to haemorrhage and replicate a road map of the entire inner city but I’ve learnt there is a price to pay for peace. Matters can be addressed when everyone is calm and blood pressure is back to normal. Did I mention it was now raining?

A Woman’s Hair
Now, rain is a non-issue for me. I’m not against it, I don’t complain when it happens – even for more than a week because I understand it’s necessary... so long as I have an umbrella. For the record, I do not suit the ‘wet look’. I have naturally wavy hair that does not kink in cute little ringlets around my face when wet. Mine dangles like a damp dog’s tail. So I had to tweak my attitude again because ‘people’ had not returned the umbrellas to the car after the last time they used them. This wasn’t the easiest date I’d been on and if it had been a first date – there may not have been a second!

Later, as I waited for Mr P to return on foot after parking the car, I had to admit there was something very Parisienne about the scene. Mist gently sweeping across the city, clinking coffee cups from the nearby cafe and the heavy droplets of rain piercing the wide-berth of the winding Brisbane River nearby, captured my imagination and swept me away.

When I caught sight of Mr P walking across the overhead walkway, the grey pavement stones glistening wet, my heart tap-danced. It reminded me of that famous James Dean photo, dim surroundings, his coat collar pulled up to ward off the definite chill in the air - except Mr P was wearing a Reebok jacket and jeans and doesn’t smoke, but apart from that - identical.

Without another thought, I abandoned my own agenda and what I thought the day should’ve been and met him at the top of the stairs. I felt so Audrey Hepburn. If only I had a red umbrella. Somehow that would’ve completed the picture but our red golf umbrella was somewhere at home.

It was almost lunchtime and because it was unusually chilly out, we both agreed to retreat to a snug little restaurant and warm up over hot drinks and plates laden with steaming comfort food. Getting to the restaurants, however, entailed a long walk in the rain with no umbrella. Without questions or annoyance about my hair, Mr P simply suggested we take the road under the overpass to stay out of the rain. So thoughtful yet ever so practical.

Mood Lighting
As we walked, he took my hand. The amber hue of the overhead lights gave the slightest suggestion of candlelight (you have to concentrate and use your imagination) and helped to block out the pungent fumes of passing buses. Romance and danger.

We strolled through the restaurant precinct and perused enticing menus before deciding on a short drive to a little Greek restaurant. Before long we were snuggling under a flaming, pedestal gas heater, pouring over offerings of eggplant dip, haloumi with lemon, lamb souvlaki and piping hot slow cooked lamb casserole, generously dusted with paprika. It took us on a culinary journey.

With tight tummies, we took another stroll to the bakery and picked up some baklava and then a quick stop at the Continental Deli for fresh Portuguese tarts, (I’m not afraid to mix foods from different cultures – I like to encourage all flavours to get along!) and then it was time to take a leisurely drive home.

The day could’ve been a disaster. If I’d carried the disappointment of things not going how I imagined, it would’ve been a day wasted. What was intended to bring us together to help us reconnect in the midst of our busy lives, would’ve served in driving us apart, even if only momentarily. Something so precious is never worth risking over something so trivial.

Besides, if I’d really made it an issue I would’ve missed the gems scattered along wet pavements on rainy days like my Audrey Hepburn moment, when Mr P took my hand in his in the candlelight (yes, okay it was a bus tunnel but it’s not where you are but who you’re with that really counts) and tasted the heavenly delights of Greece over a leisurely long lunch. Incidentally, we did all the things I imagined - they were just wrapped differently.

How often do we pin all our hopes and expectations on other people or worse, one other person. High maintenance relationships die a slow and painful death. Do yourself a favour; let the other person off the hook from time to time. Don’t keep a score card of let downs and disappointments and relinquish impossible standards. Then, suddenly one wind-swept, rainy day or starry night or on the bluest of blue sky days, you’ll get your Audrey Hepburn moment, having learned the grace of letting go and really living life.

©2010 Philippa Vette

Friday, July 9, 2010

Inspire Me with Brunch

I'm a big fan of breakfast. In our home, we don't eat the same thing morning after morning. I just think it's such a great opportunity to gather together before the start of a day and enjoy something so delicious you can't help but feel happy. On weekends and school holidays we change down a gear and everything slows down a little. Breakfast slides into brunch and in the summertime, the family slips out of the pool to enjoy a mid morning feast.

In raising a family, one of my objectives is to create an atmosphere my family members really enjoy being in. Even better when they want to include their friends. Now that we've entered the teenage years and my cute little boy has morphed into a (taller than me) young man, not only do I need to keep up with his monstrous appetite, but I want him to want to be at home, so I use food to keep him here!

Short on Ideas?

These days you don't even have to make everything from scratch - except maybe eggs. Plan out your menu and you can pick up most brunch items from your local supermarket: English muffins, pancakes, crumpets, raisin toast etc.

Try French toast with sauteed sliced bananas in a little maple syrup; pancakes topped with berries and Greek-style yoghurt or ice cream (even better, put out a sliced fruit platter and let the children decorate their own pancakes); easy Eggs Benny with a poached egg resting on a few fresh baby spinach leaves on a toasted English muffin, a drizzle of ready-made Masterfoods Hollandaise Finishing sauce, a crack of black pepper and a few shavings of parmesan - oh so good.

If you want to skip the traditional bacon and sausages, saute field mushrooms in a tsp of butter with a crack of black pepper and serve with oven roasted cherry tomatoes and luxurious pan-fried Haloumi. Trust me - you won't miss the bacon!
Where to dine? Eating at home is so cost effective. If the weather's good, cook it all on the BBQ. I don't know anyone who doesn't own a BBQ here in Australia! Here in Brisbane even our winter days are sunny and gorgeous. Make the most of everything you have.

So whether you opt for a warmed bagel with cream cheese and decide to climb back into bed with a dreamy novel or you invite friends over to dine alfresco - either way you look at it, brunch is a beautiful start to any day.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Showdown @ Pump 3

Queuing for petrol on discount Wednesday has become part of my weekly routine. It’s a fairly standard practice where the aim is to get cheaper petrol and avoid long queues. Recently however, I discovered some people who don’t like to wait, prefer to make their own rules...

It was nearly my turn. As soon as the guy in front of me moved his monstrous vehicle and trailer out of the way, I’d be cruising up into the vacant pump in front of him – Pump number 3. It would take only a minute or two for him to return to his car and move away but out of the blue or should I say green, a little green Corolla sped down the far side of the outside queue, stopped and darted back in reverse right into Pump 3 position. Hey, that’s my spot! Who would do that? I thought. Definitely a Gen Y male. Instead out stepped a ... granny! (Humble apologies to all Gen Y males. Please don’t CTRL DEL me.)

High Noon
I drove into Pump 4 right behind her green machine. I eyeballed her, I sized her up but my threatening glare was wasted. She was oblivious. I stepped out of my car and I’m sure I heard that music when there’s about to be a gunfight. My fingers twitched at my side, my eyes narrowed. I’m taking you down, sister, I thought, just as soon as I think of something suitable to say. (Words are weapons too.) I quickly rehearsed a few lines but nothing seemed quite right and although she looked fairly harmless, she may’ve had a mean right hook and I wasn’t taking any chances. I've spent a lot on these teeth! I filled my tank and observed instead.

Within minutes there seemed to be an issue with her pump. No petrol was flowing. Suddenly a male voice boomed over the loudspeaker. “Pump 3, hang up your nozzle, wait ten seconds and try again.” Everyone swung around to find Pump 3. I had the best view. She thrust the nozzle back into the bowser with surprising force which confirmed my suspicion that she probably did work out, then snatched it back out and returned to her car. Again the male voice boomed over the loudspeaker but this time his tone was a little more authorative, “Pump 3, hang up your nozzle, wait TEN seconds and try again.” I went inside to pay. I knew what I was going to say to him. That would be so easy. He was just about to serve me when the other counter opened and I was directed away from the loudspeaker guy. I paid in silence.

As I drove out of the forecourt she was still counting to ten. I was tempted to roll down my window and yell, “Was it worth it, sister?” and floor it before she could get a clear view of my number plate, track me down and “pay me a visit” late one night but she had enough to deal with.

Pay Back Time?

Did she get what she deserved? So many people do things and seem to get away with it all the time but the truth is, no one really ever gets away with anything. You may not get to see the consequences rebounding back but they do. It’s called the Law of Reciprocity: what you sow is what you reap.

Sow Good Seeds

When my boys were little I taught them, “If you want to make friends, be friendly. If you want good friends, treat them well and be a good friend.” It's never failed. So, when an error in judgement is made and every fibre of your body wants to shout, “You’ve got what you deserve,” or the ever-popular, “Told you so,” pause and consider mercy.

Mercy is seldom heard of in society because it requires an individual to operate from a higher perspective. Mercy says, “I know you deserve it but I’m removing my role in your punishment. Mercy is to NOT give someone what they deserve. You may say that’s not fair, but just like the granny, sometimes the consequences of their actions are more than enough to deal with. Besides when you grant undeserved mercy you’re actually positioning yourself to receive mercy when you least deserve it, too.

©2010 Philippa Vette

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Inspire Me with an Organised Space

I've noticed on Facebook there are a few people cleaning up their homes in a major way. Toy boxes, rumpus rooms and children's bedrooms (in their absence while away on camp) and even I caught the cleaning bug and straightened up one bedroom. Took myself a bit by surprise, really and had to have a lie down!

A friend of mine, Wendy, is an organising legend and gave me these practical tips to help get organised, stay organised and not lose your mind in the process:

1. Take a moment to visualise how you want the area to look. (This could be a challenge if you can't actually see the floor, but try.)

2. Break it down. Start with one job and set a time limit. Using a timer will help you work more productively during that time. Don't be tempted to over-extend yourself as it may de-motivate you to return to finish the job or start the next one. :D

3. Start with an area furtherest away from your prime work space (if it's a home office you're organising). This will free up enough space to re-arrange things where it really counts.

4. While some people will want to get the area organised in one hit, if a large block of time isn't available and that's what's been putting you off getting started, schedule smaller blocks of time such as one hour per day over a week or ten days, so there's no pressure and the job will be completed.

5. Rather than buying a heap of expensive storage systems, organise first then you'll clearly be able to see what you need and what will work best for your area.

Wendy is co-hosting a free time management and goal setting workshop on Wed 28th July. For more details see below:

Ok, get to it! See you on Monday for a new blog... :)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Getting out of Hand

Ever since our family computer packed a sad and refused to function normally, my laptop has become the hub from which all homework assignments are now performed. I’m not happy about it and now I’ve begun to notice some changes that don’t exactly thrill me.

Firstly, the login photo of an adorable Golden Retriever with a smiley face has been replaced with a robotic war machine. That’s not all.

In “Pictures” where I upload photos of my products for my blog, I’ve found pictures of intense war scenes between two fierce Lego nations – axes and sickles raised, in a frame by (arduous) frame battle to annihilation. Wait there’s more.

Just this morning while editing a story, a freaky, black hexagonal-shaped object dropped down from the toolbar and began rolling and flipping over like a creepy spider scuttling across the bottom of my screen. Yes I yelped, wouldn’t you? My hands stayed well clear of the keyboard for several minutes until I was certain it couldn’t get me. Then it just became annoying.

But then, just when I thought that was testing my ability to be a good ‘sharer’, I found something that left me utterly appalled - pictures of Justin Bieber. Things had clearly got out of hand.

There’s one of Justin Bieber looking startled like a possum caught rummaging through garbage; a posey one of him and his HAIR - possibly two different entities but it’s impossible to tell if it is in fact a small animal attached to his head. That would be cruel. My favourite and I have to say, made me chuckle, is the one of Justin Bieber’s head super-imposed onto a beaver’s body. Justin Beaver, get it? (Is this an old joke? Sometimes my kids don’t update me as frequently as they should. I hate not being current.)
The Phenomenon

What’s with this Beaver, I mean Bieber phenomenon? Can he sing? ITunes at the ready, I decided to investigate.

A quick search revealed a song, “Baby Baby”. Ok, it was catchy, in fact a little too catchy. It’s still playing on a continuous loop in my head thanks to a recent trip to the shopping mall. Hate that background music. To make matters worse, as I typed the title just now, I actually began singing it – out loud. Nooooo!

When I saw Justin in an interview I commented that it was ridiculous that a twelve year old could be showcased in such a way, until I was told he was sixteen. Oops! An easy mistake, his voice is so squeaky.
Seriously, is this necessary? Do our tweens need to flock to this Boy Wonder? There are so many worthy causes we could involve our kids in to add some genuine depth, compassion and understanding to the foundation of their lives. Such depth would be an invaluable basis for our youth to draw from, to be inspired by and to build on for the generations to come. What is the world coming to?

O-M-G, Michael Buble’s coming to town!

Eeeeeeeeeeeek! *hysteria*

©2010 Philippa Vette

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Rising to the Challenge

When the challenge had been issued something sparked inside. It was an opportunity to rally, to rise up – a chance to prove to myself I still had the goods. Oh, but I didn’t have a clue!

The Challenge

When my friend and Running Buddy (RB) invited me to run five kilometres with her, I thought, ‘I can do that.’ If I could run three kilometres on the treadmill at the gym, I could manage five kilometres with a buddy for support. With that reasoning safely tucked under my lycra waistband, I accepted the invitation and rocked up one evening to go for a street run.

Easier Said Than Done

Our suburb is full of rolling hills and it was half-way up one of the first hills I decided I should re-think running. It was dark and our dog, Jake was next to me and he kept jostling for my spot on the footpath. If I didn’t pay attention it was extremely likely that I would trip and skid my entire face along the uneven concrete surface. Not the look I was going for!

Half-way up the second hill which seemed to stretch on into next year, RB dropped the bombshell. “We’re almost half-way now.” Wait just a cotton-picking minute!
“We’re almost half way?” I queried, scrambling for air as if I needed to suck it through a straw from a crack in the wall of the earth. “How far are we going?”
“Well, I used to run 5k’s...” Used to...?
“But that was getting too easy, so I added in another block, so it’s now 6.8kilometres. I round it up and call it seven.” That’s a big block, lady! At that moment I think my heart dropped onto the pavement. Bearing in mind that RB is only three weeks older than me, excuses were futile. I hate it when I can’t play the ‘age’ card.

But those beautiful endorphins did kick in and at times I felt like my body was powered by jet propulsion, in fact it was as if a shot of adrenalin was making me super human – like Jesus on water, above the elements. Oddly, RB’s husband drove by in his car and thought I looked “stuffed” right when I was getting my third wind. Hrmph! What would he know? People in the medical field don’t know everything. I wasn’t anywhere near cardiac arrest!

Being multi-tasking women, we even managed to talk while we ran. That’s skill! For the record, it was a much quicker pace than the ‘shuffle’ hinted at on Facebook. We discussed all the important issues of the day; Facebook, what’s on at the movies, favourite recipes and booking that much-needed massage so I could walk the next day.

I thought it was cute that RB measured our running time against her 18 year old son’s.
“He’s got nothing,” she declared.
“He’s got young legs!” I blurted, a stream of sticky spit trailing from my mouth.
“We can outlast him any day.” A big call. This girl’s got gumption!

We made it home and I survived. Several weeks later, I went out for a walk and something on the inside began to stir again. Could I do the run without anyone except the dog with me? It was like my very own cheer squad was lining the road spurring me on. I began to run, puff, lift my arms and pump my legs. I ran and I ran and I did not stop. I ran that dog all over the shop! And... I made it! *applause*

Exceed Your Own Expectations

I didn’t think I could do it on my own but what I thought was impossible was suddenly done. When someone pioneers the way and cuts a path, others are supposed to follow. Be an example, an influencer - an overcomer! You don’t know if you can make it until you give it a try and see how far you get. A starting point is always necessary to measure progress.

If you can’t imagine running seven kilometres, break it down. Put your shoes on and imagine leaving the house and taking those first few steps. That’s where RB started. Do you think it looks impossible to start a new business in this economic climate, complete those assignments on time or make lifestyle changes that seem insurmountable? Just kept putting one foot in front of the other until the job is done. It always takes more hard work and perseverance than you first think so don’t quit just because it’s hard. Of course it’s hard but just remember, after every struggle comes an ease you can never experience without first venturing out of your comfort zone and breaking new ground.

©2010 Philippa Vette