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... :)