The ‘Up-side’ of families

I am currently back home in Australia, staying with my brother and celebrating the marriage of his youngest son.

It has been several days of gathering together and sharing meals as well as the formalities of two beautiful young people joining to become one. What a blessing it has been to be able to be part of this celebration, and to watch the interaction of not just these two young people and their friends and siblings, but the melding of two diverse cultures.

My handsome nephew has married a gorgeous Chinese girl, whose family have lived here for decades, and who have worked hard to be part of their local community and run a business. Listening to the celebrant read out the 5 things they each love about the other most (written down secretly and given to the celebrant for the occasion) was emotional and funny as well as enlightening.

He has learned to appreciate the high level of respect and regard she has for her elders and he expressed his desire to both apply that as well as impress that upon their own children, when they have them.

She expressed her appreciation for his sense of fun and humour, that sees them laugh together every day. This has enabled her to view life less seriously and to be more self-deprecating, as we Aussies tend to be.

All in all, it has been a really uplifting family time that just doesn’t seem to happen often enough.

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Shame keeps us quiet

Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

I don’t know that there would be many people, women in particular, who have not experienced abuse of some kind in their lives – beit verbal, emotional, sexual or spiritual. From copping it in the home from parents / siblings or partners, to suffering it in the workplace, from bullies that have the freedom to abuse out of our fear and/or shame to say anything. Fear that we won’t be believed; fear that we would lose our position in our job, church, or community; and fear that our family or friends will turn their backs on us as they don’t want any ‘drama’ in their lives.

Too many grow up in an abusive home, and it can be so subtle that they don’t know any different, or that the abuse is not ‘normal’. Sadly too often these individuals then take that learned or observed behaviour into their lives with them; repeating the patterns of their childhoods.

Corporate bullying seems widespread and acceptable in society. Lives and families are too often destroyed by people in management (even Government and law) who have climbed the ladder using their narcissistic skills and are given the power to discard whoever they choose, however they choose. Employment Law (particularly in NZ) talks the talk but does absolutely nothing to protect vulnerable employees. It seems to be applauded throughout whole industries.

What is the solution? Where is the help for either the abuser – if they come to recognise that their behaviour is destructive – or for the victims who feel powerless and alone? The massive, worldwide ‘Me Too’ movement is indicative of the extent of the sexual abuse problem and damage done. But what happens from there? Once we have awareness, then what?

We each supposedly have the power to change our lives, but too many are trapped, especially in a situation where financially they are dependant on the abuser.

Technology addiction = loss of ‘life’

I’ve had several goes at writing this blog, but kept getting bogged down with the debilitating effects that this insidious’ addiction (only recently ‘formally recognised by mental health professionals) – computer gaming – has had on my life through its hold on a precious family member. This person has been addicted for many years, since the age of 15 playing ‘World of Warcraft’. His constant choice to isolate himself from other people, then suffering from corporate stress as well, sees him extremely depressed and his life in a pretty desperate downward spiral. I am only thankful that he is not interested in drugs or alcohol and is now accepting and allowing other people into his life – mainly as he can no longer afford to live on his own and he is starting to recognise that he needs help!

It does concern me how easy it is to slip into ‘technology addiction’, as I am calling it, though recognise that the ‘definition of technology is science or knowledge put into practical use to solve problems or invent useful tools’- as per yourdictionary.com.  It has become a problem for people of all ages, from the toddlers you see in prams with their parents phone or iPad, through to the old and isolated who have no ability to interact with others except for their computer and the Interweb thingy that their grandchildren helped set them up with (before walking away to get on with their own ‘Instalife’). It is far too easy to become entranced with the wonders of the (sticky) web.

I am someone who grew up without the invent of mobile, or even cordless telephones – if you could walk about a metre from the handset you were doing very well. It kept calls short, and as well, they were timed and charged, as well as listened to by other family members – keeping us safe from unscrupulous people). I remember the freedom of movement, and life, when you couldn’t be tracked, unless you’d called in at a friend’s house, or the neighbourhood stickybeak reported back that they’d seen you somewhere you possibly shouldn’t have been. I remember it, and still try to live this way. Unfortunately that cannot be said for many in the generations following me. I refuse to allow my phone to ‘know my location’. I’m sure if my body is found at the bottom of a cliff one day, they’ll still be able to track my final movements and who I spoke to prior to the fall/push.

What I fear for my children, and many others around me, is that they are so bound by electronic gadgets, entrapped by their lures and snares, that they never get to see the cliff, or the mountains, rivers and oceans. Never get to feel the fresh air on their faces and in their hair; or the salt air filling their lungs with the wonderful negative ions that relieve stress and anxiety. If they do, they have to ‘snap a selfie’ to prove that they were there.

Walk into the usually closed up, dimly lit bedroom of a teenager (often boys), and breathe in the stale, musty, sweaty body-odour, dirty dishes/empty pizza box scent that permeates the room, curtains, carpets and bedding. These young people can tell you so much about the world around them, international politics included (especially how the US Government and multinational corporations have total control over what/when/ and how much we in the rest of the world get to see and game with). Ask them to do a load of their dirty washing and hang it out on the line; cook a meal using fresh ingredients that can be picked from the garden (again outside the building) and they will look at you as if you are speaking a foreign language – accompanied by a total look of disdain. They ‘know’ everything thanks to Google, but when it comes to the practical application, many cannot transfer that knowledge into real-life.

I’m thinking our minds have been taken over by some alien power who will very soon be able to take complete control over our nations. Too many people are unable to function apart from their ‘smart’ phones / TVs / fridges/ houses, tablets, desktops, etc. When the power is shut down people will not be able to survive.

Depression and anxiety are at all time record levels with people struggling to hold down jobs as they can’t get out of bed (often because with their closed up rooms they can’t tell what time of day it is anyway). We are isolating ourselves as we don’t want to get hurt by others. Then when difficulties, or natural disasters come, we have no-one to call on for help, or to even just sit with and talk to to glean a different perspective on our real or perceived problems.

Self-discipline is non-existent; in our personal lives as well as in our interactions with others. The old saying, ‘Everything in moderation is good’ means nothing as people just do whatever they feel like doing, whenever they feel like doing it. Manners, etiquette or plain old consideration for others are long forgotten human attributes. We have come to relate to each other – extremely BADLY!

It is an epidemic that you can’t go anywhere without seeing people looking at a screen of some sort. Try to have a family dinner with natural conversation around the table, involving everyone – impossible. The kids (& even dad) are called repeatedly to come to the table, they reluctantly sit just long enough to scoff down what they recognise and approve on the plate, and then they scurry back to the safety of their screens. DO NOT even ASK, let alone expect that they will help clear the table and stand at the sink with you while you wash and dry the dishes – yes, that’s how things were cleaned before people started arguing over who stacked the dishwasher last! Many in the family wouldn’t know what cupboard to put the clean dishes in! I remember a time when lots of conversation and fun was had while washing up with mum or dad (albeit reluctantly); and then the flicking competition of the tea towels (walking away with red flick marks on my legs where my older brothers were always that bit quicker than me). That is part of my family memories that my kids sadly don’t have.

Sit in a restaurant and see how many couples or groups are sitting talking to each other, without a phone on the table! I say it is nigh on impossible to see that these days.

Is there any solution I ask? Any hope that there will actually be families of the future? I believe that if we lose the art of communication, we lose relationship.

A New Year – a fresh new start!

I am not one for huge celebrations, or making a fuss about a change of number on the calendar, however….

I want to start 2019 by thanking God that the New Year signifies that He offers a fresh new start, like He does with every new sunrise. A time to reflect and learn from the past (year) and to determine not to make the same mistakes, or be hampered by the old attitudes or habits that hold us back from being the best we can be!

This year I am determined to get healthier through some sort of fitness regime (I’m so not into relying on gyms etc, but through making lifestyle changes… walking more, or riding my bike regularly), eating a little healthier (we live rurally, so there are no fast food joints or good restaurants that tempt me), and by cutting back/out alcohol (day 4 and I’m feeling better without it already).

Don’t get me wrong, I have no judgement on people who want to drink etc, but my regular intake of an evening glass or more likely two (hubby and I generally share a bottle between us), has left me feeling pretty awful through the night and next morning.

Friends were recently discussing the thought on just how many summers we will get to see before our time is up. When you put yourself on a timeline like that, you start to appreciate that you need to be making the most of each and every day. By that I mean making sure that I am the best I can be, and don’t waste a day on insignificant or unhealthy things, events or even people who hold us back.

Live life to the full and grab every positive opportunity that arises, no matter how small or large. Here’s to 2019! Let’s go.

‘Gaslighting’ – AKA emotional abuse

https://au.yahoo.com/lifestyle/gaslighting-tell-happening-225104303.html

They’ve given it a name. It is sinister, incidious, and victims take years to recover (if ever) from this form of emotional abuse.
Because it is gradual, covert and there are no physcial signs of injury, friends and family – who are also hoodwinked by the outwardly ‘charming’ confident and humerous person, often side with the perpetrator, who weaves their own ‘victim’ statements very carefully and convincingly once the victim finally finds the strength to walk away. This leaves the real victim truly questioning their own integrity.

This impacted my life for far too long, aided by his patriarchal cohorts within the church (men’s club) leadership. From being a strong, confident, able woman, willing to take on the world and defend those that I love, I became weak and guilt-ridden and distanced from all those I had held so dear. Even 11 years later I have to measure what battle I can fight as I have been so depleted. The 22 years spent married to this person has left me struggling with guilt on too many levels. As we had children together, I feel I will never be free of his influence somehow, and I watch helplessly at the effects he has had on these now young adults who have their own struggles, too early in life.

Thankfully his next wife saw the signs early, but due to ‘Christian guilt’ stayed longer than she should have and is also paying a hefty financial price. She is surrounded by family and friends who also recognised his toxic behaviour and are supporting her. She is the lucky one and I wish her well.

Christmas greetings from Rakau

‘And so this is Christmas, and a happy New Year, I hope it’s a good one….’

Here Downunder it is supposed to be summer, with Christmas celebrations often centred around BBQs and picnics. Festive food can be anything we throw on the barbie, fresh seafood, cold ham with salads, followed up by pavlova with lashings of cream and topped with fresh raspberries, cherries, strawberries, boysenberries and blueberries…all grown locally. While I miss my Aussie prawn and mango salad, I’ll cope with the fresh local produce, especially when provided by local producers, often with a bartering system. Way to go!

This is the first year that I have succumbed to the ‘bah humbug’ mentality of DH, who only sometimes gets excited about putting up decorations, complete with real fir tree, but other times not. This year is a ‘not’ on both sides, sadly. His adult son is coming to visit for the first time in over 6 years, and while I want to give him a Christmas to remember, the ‘care factor’ just isn’t there. I’m mortified at my own lack of enthusiasm.

One thing I did insist we do is to resurrect our Celebration Tree. It has its own box out among the vege plots and even has solar garden directional lights.

It withstood the one day of really hot weather and now seems to be coping, despite the torrential rain of the last 4 days.

Happy Christmas to one and all.

Wonderful Christmas Memories

Thanks so much to Laura at ‘All the Shoes I Wear’ for the fond memories of Christmas’ past.  If you haven’t read her post ‘Creating magic out of nothing at all’, it is worth a read.

My folks were never ‘well-to-do’ but we always seemed to have enough of what was needed and there was never any coverting of what others had.  That was until one day, at Kindergarten, I saw THE MOST AMAZING doll I had ever laid my eyes on.  Another girl, whose parents owned the local pharmacy, brought the doll to school as a ‘show-and-tell’.   They’d brought it back from a trip to America (that in itself was amazing in the late 1960’s as international travel was quite expensive and rare unless you were SUPER rich), and we were all filled with wonder about both their travels and the doll!  This doll stood nearly as tall as us (6 year olds), had the most lustrous long blonde hair, talked when you pulled a string on its back and when you held it’s hand it would walk with you.  Oh my gosh, I was SMITTEN!

When mum took me to see Santa I whispered in his ear that I really wanted one of those dolls, like Michelle had.  Back then we would get simple gifts from mum and dad and one special one from Santa.  The previous Christmas, when I was getting ready to start ‘school’ Santa brought me the neatest little school port (case/bag) full of the prettiest handkerchieves that a little girl could want (you would think that I was a ‘snotty’ little brat if you saw how many there were).  Some had flowers and some had cute animal pictures on them.  I was in raptures.  This year would be superceded completely!

When it was gift opening time, I got THE BEST surprise and present of my life!  There under the tree was a gorgeous wicker basket, complete with wooden coathanger rockers underneath; lined with beautiful white satin, including a pillow. Resting her head on that pillow was my own perfect doll. She was NOTHING like the other, but she was even more prized especially when I learned about her.  She had dark curls and her eyes opened when she was sat up and she then said “mama”.  She was dressed in the most beautiful pale pink dress, with underclothes and bloomers, which all turned out to have been lovingly stitched by my mother.

Mum had traveled to Sydney (Australia – a couple of hours by train) to visit the Doll Hospital.  There, rejected and forgotten dolls were repaired and brought back to life to bring joy to new owners.  This doll had received a couple of new limbs, voice box repaired and new hair follicles inserted.  Some of mums friends at the CWA (Country Women’s Association),  of which she was a long-standing member  then set to ensuring that Madeline had the perfect bed, as a gift for me (their youngest member).  One of them wove the basket while another stitched and attached the satin covers, complete with a wide blue satin ribbon woven through the cane basket.  My gift of love was actually an ‘upcycled’, reloved toy, and that made it all the more precious to me.  She was even more beautiful that the American beauty, and I loved her for many many years.  I look back now with regret that I gave her to my God-daughter as a prize possession, but she was of an age that toys were just for the trashing and I fear that Madeline didn’t survive very long and ended up at a tip, discarded and unloved.  

I am thankful to my mum for what she instilled in me, and while sometimes my friends and family might think I’m stingy, on the commercial side, I have always tried to make something personal and individual for them as gifts.  To me it really is the thought and effort that counts, way beyond the $$ value.  I really couldn’t care much for something bought in a shop really and I am again requesting that hubby think about what he can make me for Christmas.  Last year I created a personalised, hand painted journal cover for his ‘ideas book’.  We are both creative and I have been slowly learning to have an art journal nearby to jot down ideas before they are forgotten – though I really need one by the bed for my 3am brilliant ideas.  This year for him, I have designed and drawn up a fun, vintage themed sign for his shed (man cave) which a signwriter friend is having printed off for me.  I’m excited to see his reaction come Christmas day!  I’ll have to remember to come back and add a picture later.

May you all know and enjoy the real meaning of Christmas as we celebrate the most precious gift that was ever given for us, the gift of God’s son, Jesus, so that we can all have hope for a life of peace (even amidst turmoil) and even eternal life in a much better place where there is no hate, evil, turmoil or war.  A place filled only with love.  That is my hope.