Sunday, August 7, 2011

Blessings in Brown Paper Packages

These days inspiration comes from the most surprising and unexpected sources. I continue to be amazed and if I'm honest, a little challenged sometimes by the forms it takes. How long did I ask for inspiration but looked in the usual places only to find nothing?

Now I understand that some of my disappointment and unhappiness in life was brought on by allowing a very limited view to frame my thoughts, dreams and expectations. These days, I'm going with the flow a bit more, discerning not only when something is good for me but recognizing also when something is great.

The evidence is strong: sometimes God wraps something so beautiful and life-changing in brown paper packages so that only those with an open mind for the miraculous and an open heart to welcome it into their life will recognize it.

More and more I am convinced,
good things are not kept from us - they are kept for us.
Sometimes we simply fail to see them and recognize their worth. Take another look around you and maybe you'll discover the inspiration you've been holding out for, is already within your reach.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar

There are certain times in life when it's essential to dig deeper and find that something extra, just to hang on and stay in the race. For me, it was about seven years ago when I decided it was time to get back in shape and regain my fitness after my second child. He's now eleven.

Unfamiliar Territory
Never before had I stepped inside a gym. Seeking refuge inside the bathroom, I pretended to make myself look busy as I tied and re-tied my startling white, new gym shoes but in reality, I was much too intimidated to venture out because I didn't think I belonged. On the way in, I'd noticed the gym floor was saturated in testosterone and everywhere I looked perky twenty year olds wearing way too much makeup and hair product flitted about. The girls were just as bad!

Finally, after a firm pep talk I pushed myself out the door and headed for a treadmill. Seriously, how much trouble could I get in, walking? Little did I know I was being sized up like a lone baby gazelle drinking at a waterhole on the African plains. Enter Pierre the Personal Trainer – ex French Army. Ohh la la – ouch!

“Would you like me to show you a few exercises?” was his opening line. Two hours later, after what felt like a decade of squats, he chirped, “Have you had enough?” That was rhetorical, right?
The next day I could hardly walk.

Pierre called to check on me and asked if I was ready for some more pain. What sort of question was that? For a moment, I thought about faking an injury or pretending he had the wrong number, but instead the lioness stirred within me, “Bring it on!” I said, throwing down the gauntlet (and my dirty socks – it was so much more dramatic that way.)


The worst thing anyone can say to a personal trainer is “bring it on,” because they will and they'll take you on a one-way ticket to a whole new world of pain. They look like normal people but inside there’s a mean streak comparable to a 1950’s chain gang guard.

After another forty-five minute session, I wished the lioness had kept her canines clamped firmly shut! Instead of the roar of a lioness, brave and determined, a Persian kitten curled up and meowed.

“But I’ve had children, Pierre,” I whined. “My body’s a bit out of shape.”

“Then I will bend you back into shape,” he replied, like a villain with a cunning plan. I wanted to quit. It was all too hard. If I could’ve run out – stormed out – I would’ve but I had to stay because limping away wasn’t nearly as dramatic. So I stayed and conquered. I almost threw up but nevertheless I stayed and conquered. I continue to conquer today.

My point is; there are times when we must awaken the lioness within and get the job done. No more backing out, whining or complaining and no more transparent excuses or wishing things were different. Make them different. Some obstacles appear insurmountable so we hold back, intimidated unless we learn to break it down into more manageable steps. Always remember: a lioness devours her prey one mouthful at a time.

There is a time to make a commitment and follow through. It's never quick or painless and it will always cost us something but in the end, only those who finish will know how that feels.

© 2011 Philippa Vette

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Averting Disaster

As Cyclone Yasi rampaged towards the Far North Queensland coastline and thousands evacuated their homes, my phone lit up with a call from Mr P to tell me he was on his way to Townsville to be there, on the ground when Yasi hit.

Strangely, I was filled with a deep and unshakable calm. This is what he'd trained for, yet that night as I lay in bed, my mind did back flips after watching media reports. I was concerned for my sister and her family living close to the esplanade when the talk turned to how big the storm surge might be. My cousin and his family also lived in Cairns.

The next day as residents along the Far North Queensland coastline prepared for Yasi's arrival and left their homes and Mr Practical boarded a plane heading right into Yasi's path, I got in my car and took a drive to visit an old friend. This friend has been like a spiritual mama to me since I arrived in Australia, sixteen years ago. She's encouraged and supported me as I've raised our children, lost a baby during pregnancy, launched a writing business and witnessed milestones in my life. After a visit with her and her generous, heartfelt prayers, total calm once again flooded my heart and mind.

Yasi's Arrival

Cyclone Yasi bombarded the coastline as a Category 5 during the night. Winds rocketed through towns and cities like derailed freight trains. Mr P woke at 11.30pm when a water tank was hurled into the car park of his motel. The power was out. Horizontal rain slashed his window. For hours Yasi assaulted the coastline before moving inland and eventually running out of steam.
In the morning, roads were strewn with debris from trees and the rain continued. Further north in Cairns, my sister, partner and three year old son had evacuated to a friends' house further away from the sea. Tucked into the side of a hill, they were largely sheltered from the north side of Yasi. Still, with the power out and winds whipping the trees around the house, sleep escaped them. Their home and their business near the esplanade were untouched.

Back home in Brisbane, we were having a heat wave. High humidity and scorching temperatures saw the children in the swimming pool straight after school every day. Neighbourhood kids gravitated to our place at the sound of splashes and squeals coming from our backyard. Chilled slices of watermelon were enjoyed and simple, light dinners were served to combat the heat of the night.

What Lurks Beneath
Towards the end of the week, I noticed our swimming pool looking a little murky. Not happy. I like our pool to be crystal clear and sparkling. People comment on our sparkling pool. It's about thirty years old and to set it in the ground, rock had to be blasted away to make room for it. It's definitely a stayer!
I once remember our pool going green when the weather went weird and super humid. I'm not keen on a cesspool in our backyard! With the current weather conditions and all the use lately, our beloved pool was heading for a whole new shade called 'Kermit Green'! I couldn't let it happen. Not on my watch! Not with Mr P still away. Green was not cool. I had to take immediate action.
Scooping a sample into a jar, I took it along to the pool shop for analysis. "Yep, it's way out of balance," said the pool guy. A queue was quickly forming behind me with people clutching their pool samples. It wasn't just our pool. It was an epidemic!

The pool guy disappeared for a second and returned with three bags of something and a container of something else and rang up the price on the register.

"Hold on," I said with a slight quiver in my voice, "I don't know what to do with this stuff. I don't usually look after the pool - my husband does." I think I heard someone go, Tsk! I refused to look around. I went for the sympathy vote. I needed this guy's help and I didn't need heckling from the back of the room. "My husband has been called up to Townsville with Fire & Rescue to help out after the cyclone." It was like name-dropping to get a table at the best restaurant in town but I was desperate.

"Oh, he's a big guy, yep, I know him." Phew! "Okay, here's what you need to do." I scribbled down every word he said. "If you stuff it up, you'll make the pool worse." Okay, no pressure then!

I raced home and Mr Practical Jnr (aka The Teen) assisted me. The Kreepy Krawley was also out of action but the filter hummed beautifully as we dumped, sprinkled, raked and poured all the "stuff" into the pool. The lengths we go to bathe in a large, yet contained body of water.

The next morning, I opened the curtains to find the pool - sparkling. Hip, hip hooray. I didn't suck at pool maintenance! We had averted a disaster, the pool hadn't gone green and I felt very competent as a homeowner.
After a week, Mr P arrived home to squeals of delight and handstands on the sofa and then the kids greeted him! Mr P with his well-endowed practicalness, extracted some palm fronds from the Kreepy Krawley hose and once again it ticked away, diligently shimmying along the walls and floor of the pool like a little sucker fish.

See, life does go on when your 'normal' changes. Day by day, even hour by hour, you work through those things set before you and when you lay your head on the pillow, you let your mind settle on those pleasant things like mastering pool maintenance and let yourself enjoy that slightly pumped feeling you get as you cast your eye over those sparkling blue waters, knowing in essence, after such a monumental week, with a little help, you both averted a disaster.

Copyright 2011 Philippa Vette