Things my fake plant has taught me

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Know what this is? It’s my fake plant…looking a little worse-for-wear from a couple of winters exposed on my back deck (yes I’m so great at gardening I can even kill fake plants!).

But, do you see that little green bit at the bottom…do you know what that is?
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That little one at the bottom, that one that’s a different colour to the rest, that’s a REAL plant that is. A real plant is growing in my fake soil.

There are no words for this. “Resilience” comes to mind, but this picture is about more than that. Tenacity…except this is more than that, too. This little plant is stepping out and doing the impossible, right here on my back deck. The word “neglect” comes to mind, too…it’s only because I ignored it for so long that such a miracle happened; but at the same time that little plant stepped out and grew simply because nobody told it that it couldn’t. No limits. And the last one, most powerful reminder for me as a writer of stories: Fictional Dirt has the power to produce Factual Changes.

As I write this it occurs to me that there were a lot of areas of my life that were fake dirt when I was younger. At times there was a lot more neglect than there was nurture, but because there weren’t people around me telling me I couldn’t (or shouldn’t) do things, I did them anyway. Nobody ever told me they weren’t possible. And today I’m grateful for the fake dirt that I grew in.

How about you? Ever felt like you’ve been planted in fake dirt? It isn’t easy, but you CAN grow. Embrace the flipside of neglect…learn to love the no-limits. Believe in it. I believe in YOU!

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5 Things My Friends Have Taught Me

If you stopped reading before the picture on Monday’s post you’ll have missed the most excellent and imagination-provoking tidbit of information that my friend Vacuums Her Dog. Yes, that IS what I thought when she first told me. She has a golden retriever, and it makes sense, after a fashion: you either wait for the dog to shed and you vacuum the carpet, or…you vacuum the dog. I found this so amazing I wrote about it on Facebook too, and she sent me a most valuable reply, offering the suggestion that it also works on children.

I like my friend. She is a wise woman, and not generally prone to random silliness (unlike me, and unlike certain soon-to-be pizza-shop owners I could mention), so…

I tried it.

Yes. I vacuumed my kid.

He’s three, not quite four. He’d crawled under the bed to rescue some long-lost thing, and returned with a large family of dust-bunnies adhered to his otherwise-clean jumper. It was in my hand, I was doing the rugs. I vacuumed him. He loved it.

It made me think, though. If it wasn’t for this birthday party on Sunday where we were talking about (oh heavens, I don’t even remember!) I wouldn’t have learned this valuable new form of child-maintenance. In fact, it made me remember that there are a lot of valuable life-lessons I missed out on growing up that my friends have helped with. You learn a lot from your friends.

  1. Vacuum your kid. I just explained that one.
  2. Give money away, heaps of it, until you don’t even think about it any more. I grew up stingy, and it took me a lot of years to change this. When people talked about giving I’d give what I could spare (and yes there’s wisdom in that don’t get me started on the importance of budgeting and financial responsibility, I am very much into these things!) – but I was poor in spirit. It wasn’t just the “spare” after the mortgage and the bills were paid, it was the “spare” after my extra cappuccino and perhaps a Danish as well. Until this one day in church when the offering bag came around, and the preacher was preaching on “give and it will be given unto you” stingy-me put in my cappuccino and Danish money, with the stingy prayer of “all right God, I want to see a ten-time return on this one please, because it’s going to be hard to get through work tomorrow” (this was a while ago, okay? I didn’t say I was proud of it). But tomorrow came. I lived without my cappuccino and Danish, and I felt okay, freed up by not having-to-have, and lighter (shut up, no pun intended). And that night someone we didn’t know very well gave us an envelope with $100 in it. For no reason other than “because”. We’ve been trying to pay it forward ever since. It’s changed our lives.
  3. Fold your washing while you’re taking it off the clothesline. I love this! My friend Tanya taught me this one. She folded hers while it was wet too, just to keep the wrinkles out, but I don’t go that far. But it works. By the time you get to putting the washing away (three days later…shut up) not only is it neatly folded, but there are no wrinkles and it doesn’t need ironing.
  4. Tell stories. Talk in random anecdotes at the bus stop. Share fun stuff. Share the sad stuff. Not only do people find themselves in your stories, it’s the best way to reach out and take someone’s hand, to say “I hear you. I know you.”
  5. Love extravagantly, it’s not free, but the cost is well worth it. Do I need to explain that one? I think not. But in the same way that that envelope with $100 all those years ago changed my financial life, so has the generous gift of time and words and love and coffees and crazy times from friends. I’m still working hard to pay it all forward.

How about you? What lessons in life did you learn first from friends? Do you think it’s worth vacuuming friends as well?

If I knew how to be perfect…

Ever thought you’d like to be a robot? I have. I think it’d be a good option some days (like, oh…let’s see…today!) when instead of Enough Sleep I could press my “boost” button, and I’d churn through all the work I needed to do sequentially and in an organized fashion, and I’d never EVER be sideswiped by those pesky Feelings.

I stare into space too much. I daydream far too much. Tiredness makes me look at the patterns in the mess rather than thinking what I should do about it…or, even better, doing something about it.

Tiredness tears down my defences and makes me feel guilty for “not doing it right” – whatever “right” is. Tiredness makes me forget I’m me, and not a robot, and that even though I have weaknesses, I have strengths as well.

Today I feel guilty for being undisciplined, although as I write this I’m reminding myself that I’ve been blogging consistently three times a week for the last couple of months – because I’ve disciplined myself. I’ve herded and motivated three children into school and learning and home reading and craft and cooking and swimming and numerous things – because I’ve disciplined myself. I’ve got money in a savings account and my bills paid and I’m not bankrupt – because I’ve disciplined myself. I’ve “felt the fear and done it anyway” on so many levels – because I’ve disciplined myself.

I guess I’m okay. I am.

I hung out with a bunch of girlfriends yesterday* (at my Perfect Friend’s house…well, one of them. I have two. But I love them all the same. This is the perfect friend who once complained to me that after an hour or two of housework that her place didn’t look any different to when she first started…and I agreed with her. Unfortunately for me HER house started clean and ended that way. But I digress…). We talked about another one of our mutual friends (oh, I have THREE perfect friends. Oh my), and about how well she’s going homeschooling her nine (yes, I said NINE) children, and the systems and rosters and structures and achievements, and how pig-in-mud happy she is, how madly pig-in-mud happy they ALL are. We were all quiet for a moment, and then my perfect friend said “But it doesn’t make me feel bad!” and we all nodded far too wildly, not only to tell her that she Shouldn’t feel bad, but because we felt the same way. Our nine-children-OMG-homeschooling friend is doing nothing but what she’s good at and loving it, and she’s not trying to do anything else.

We often feel bad about ourselves, not because we’re not robots, but because we’re trying to be someone we’re not. It’s time to celebrate who we are, not feel the guilt of who we’re not.

I’m good at art. I’m good at writing. I’m good at finding patterns in the mess, not only in the mess on the floor, but in the chaos of people’s lives. I’m good at finding the hope in a bad situation. I’m good at encouraging people to live through the mess and love it anyway.

What about you? What are you good at today?

*I found out yesterday too that another one of my friends vacuums her dog. Yes. That’s right. Yes, that’s exactly what I thought too.

She has a golden retriever. I felt a mad urge to buy her a Chihuahua. Image

Details schmetails…do it anyway.

For those who have been following my blog regularly you’ll know that we’ve just bought a new car, I’m about to go overseas for the first time, I’m stepping into crazy new territory on a personal level, and, just to cap it all off, we’re in the middle of a real estate/building “property development” (SMALL scale) thingo.

I’m a mother. And a writer. I have a small and fairly uneventful part-time job. What the hell am I doing with all this STUFF???? Since when did I need a lawyer and an architect and a contact person at the council? Since when did I count my budget in the thousands, not the tens? Since when did I have more US Dollars in my savings account than Australian ones? (Well that last one is easy – that would be since Wednesday, because the exchange rate is so good right now).

Since when have I been the woman who throws out old clothes and buys new ones, instead of just “making do”? Since when?

Since, I guess, since I started saying “Yes” to radical things, in faith, that were really a bit beyond my understanding. Since I believed. (If you want more details about my “saying yes”, go read this post here.

I don’t know what I’m doing right now. I’m probably making ONE KAZILLION AND ONE mistakes. And then some. I think I’m annoying some people. It doesn’t matter.

Here’s one thing I know: I’m not a details person. I never have been. I’m an arty-farty head-in-the-clouds creative daydreamer.

Here’s another thing I know: It Doesn’t Matter. Yes, there are people who would be much, MUCH better and more qualified than me to do all that I’m doing now.

I’m hiring them.

Yes. There are many, many things that could go wrong in all of this, too. I’m choosing not to look. Some people (details people) might call this stupidity. I call it vision. Or faith. I’m holding arty-farty metaphorical hands with the blokes in the bible who, when God told them to go check out the promised land, came back and said “Yeah, let’s go for it!” not the ones who came back in fear and complained about how hard it was going to be.

How about you? Are you the details type? Do you think I’m slightly mad for attempting all this stuff? Have you ever found yourself in the middle of something and thought “What the hell did I say yes to THIS for?”

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Oh, and on a completely different note (so different that I can’t even think of a segue), the wonderful Andrea Kelly has nominated me for the Addictive Blog award. Thank you!!! The equally wonderful Pat Bailey nominated me for the same thing a few weeks ago, but I was too all-over-the-place to know what to do with it. Thank you!!!! Thank you all for reading my outpourings week after week, and thank you for liking, and for commenting, and for saying Hi. It means so much, I have LOVED meeting my readers, you make it all worth it. Thank you ALL! (Oh my…this is sounding like an acceptance speech…) THANK YOU!!!

I know there are rules with accepting these things, like nominating a bunch of others.. I’ll get to that…soon. Promise!

3 Things My New Car Has Taught Me

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We’re excited today to introduce Polly, the newest member of the Sayer family. A sister for Sally, Polly made her appearance about half past three yesterday afternoon, and weighs a hefty 800 kilograms (or thereabouts) with gorgeous thick black car-seat covers, shiny silver paintwork and a dreamy back-seat-flippy-down-bit-with-OMG-cup-holders. She’s a Commodore; our first Holden. Mother and car both doing well.

Now I have friends who will be reading this and asking themselves “How did I not know about this? Was this planned? Did I even know you were trying, Megan?” to which the answer is No. We weren’t trying. It just happened. We’re still in a bit of shock, although we are absolutely over-the-moon happy with our latest purchase. It has happened very, very suddenly. Let me tell you a bit of a story…

We’ve never been a two-car family. In fact, growing up, I was a No-car family. It was okay, you learn to make-do, get good at learning bus time-tables and accept that some things just aren’t possible. When we bought the house we live in now, some seven years ago, part of the attraction was that it was close to regular bus services, and it was in a nice flat area within walking distance of schools, shops and playgrounds. Perfect, really, for a one-car family.

Perfect, really, for a family where the Dad works in the city each day and can catch the bus there and back.

Here’s what I’ve learned though:

Needs change. That’s okay.

Our city-working-Dad has become something else, a highly sought-after Recording Engineer, who regularly packs up our darling Sally car with mega-amounts of studio equipment and mic stands and crates of leads and drives to obscure locations to make albums for people. This is wonderful, although it takes a bit of effort and great communication to sort out what days the car will be available or not, and how we can work around things.

Circumstances change. That’s okay.

We’ve been “poor” for most of our married life. It still feels a bit wrong claiming poverty, because this is Tasmania, where the divide between rich and poor is very VERY narrow, and our definition of “poor” still included a decent-enough car, a decent-enough house and always enough food on the table, so maybe I should change that to things have been “tight”. We pay the bills always, but we wear socks with holes and feel stupidly grateful if there’s money for a cappuccino at the end of the fortnight.

We are not there any more, things have changed. Sometimes, though, we stay there in our minds, and sometimes there have been just so many limits we forget what it was that imposed them in the first place, and we accept those limits as Part Of Us.

Here’s the third thing I learned. This is the big one, the clincher, the say-it-out-loud-in-all-caps-until-I-remember-it:

Sometimes the thing standing in the way of receiving what you want/need the most is YOU.

Nearly two years ago I had this dream, like a night-dream, while I was asleep. I’d just decided to do the Biggest Thing Ever, the Thing I’d Always Wanted To Do, which was go to the USA on my first ever overseas holiday. My husband was supportive, it felt right, I knew we could save the money in time, there were people to stay with, it was There On A Plate…until I started thinking that I couldn’t, that it was Too Big, Too Hard, and I Couldn’t Drive on the Wrong Side of the Road, and therefore I couldn’t go.

My night-dream was this: I came home one day to find a crowd of people and a TV crew with camera filming to present me with a New Car. It was this beautiful thing, with shiny silver paintwork and fluffy black car-seat covers, and possibly even had a dreamy back-seat-flippy-down-bit-with-OMG-cup-holders. It looked a lot like our new Polly. The crowd were wild with excitement, people were cheering and jumping up and down and a man in a suit was there in front of the camera to present me with the keys to my new car. In my dream I’m speechless, flabbergasted, and when I get up there on the podium, as he hands me the keys, what did dream-me say? “I can’t. We can’t afford a second car sorry. We can’t afford the petrol, or the insurance, or the registration. And not only that, we live so close to a great bus route, it’s why we bought the house!” They stared at me, this elated crowd. The man in the suit stared at me. The conscious part of sleeping-nearly-awake me started jumping up and down “JUST ACCEPT THE THING, MEGAN! EVEN IF YOU SELL IT, JUST. ACCEPT. THE. CAR!” When I woke up I got the point: I needed to step into my dreams. Only I could do it, and nothing was stopping me but Me.

Let me encourage you today: Buy your Polly. Take your trip to the US. Call your friend. Say Yes to the crazy thing. Live your dream. In the end it won’t be the fear you’ll remember, it’ll be the regret of letting it ever stop you. 

The hour I first believed – a football post

And now for something completely different…

It’s September, getting towards – dareIsayit – LATE September (I’m sorry people, just speaking the truth here), and I’m feeling it in the atmosphere already: the change, the lightness of mornings, the promise of sun, the battle-lines suddenly drawn again for another year. The tension, and the rivalry of stripes and colours among people who would otherwise be friends. Shops even, decorated in flaccid balloons and fly-specked streamers displaying loyalties, or divided loyalties. Even now Kmart has a Collingwood manequin on display.

I’m not the religious sort. I’m the football equivalent of a Christmas-and-Easter believer, but I’m married to a diehard, and therefore I’m married to the Collingwood Football Club as well. That’s how things go. They’re called the Magpies – often shortened to the Pies, and supporters (of which there are many, and only of the fundamentalist diehard variety) are known utter the phrase “Carn the Pies!” in their sleep* My husband still talks about the Great Grand Final of 1990, and has the boxed set DVD collection of the Great Draw and Subsequent Victory Including Alternate Commentary from 2010. Pies fans are like that.

I don’t care, not really, but I can’t help but love the atmosphere. You can’t help but want to be with people so passionate, want to be caught up in their tears, in their pain, in their white-knuckled eyes-tight-shut enthusiasm and their wild elation. There are no other words for late September. Passion is contagious, even if, like me, you’re not a true Believer.

I read this poem yesterday, from a famous Australian poet (with thanks to Annette Young who inspired me to find it). Bruce Dawes sums it up well:

Life Cycle, by Bruce Dawe. For Big Jim Phelan

When children are born in Victoria
they are wrapped in club-colours, laid in beribboned cots,
having already begaun a lifetime’s barracking.
Carn, they cry, Carn … feebly at first
while paretns playfully tussle with them
for possession of a rusk: Ah, he’s a little Tiger! (And they are …)
Hoisted shoulder-high at their first League game
they are like innocent monsters who have been years swimming
towards the daylight’s roaring empyream
Until, now, hearts shrapnelled with rapture,
they break surface and are forever lost,
their minds rippling out like streamers
In the pure flood of sound, they are scarfed with light, a voice
like the voice of God booms from the stands
Ooohh you bludger and the covenant is sealed.
Hot pies and potato-crisps they will eat,
they will forswear the Demons, cling to the Saints
and behold their team going up the ladder into Heaven,
And the tides of life will be the tides of the home-team’s fortunes
– the reckless proposal after the one-point win,
the wedding and honeymoon after the grand-final …
They will not grow old as those from the more northern States grow old,
for them it will always be three-quarter-time
with the scores level and the wind advantage in the final term,
That pattern persisting, like a race-memory, through the welter of seasons,
enabling old-timers by boundary fences to dream of resurgent lions
and centaur-figures from the past to replenish continually the present,
So that mythology may be perpetually renewed
and Chicken Smallhorn return like the maize-god
in a thousand shapes, the dancers changing
But the dance forever the same – the elderly still
loyally crying Carn … Carn … (if feebly) unto the very end,
having seen in the six-foot recruit from Eaglehawk their hope of salvation

It’s September, month of passion. Let’s Believe, all of us, because believing is fun, even when we do need to suspend our disbelief. Let’s belong, if only for a week or two, because it belonging to something bigger than you is a joy all of it’s own. Let’s all laugh and shout, and care, and mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those crazy people who are laughing until the tears run down their faces. I know that in October we’ll forget, and by December we’ll be caught up again in the culture of Me-and-My-Life, but for now it’s September. Getting onto Late September.

Let’s believe. Image

*”Carn”, for my non-Australian readers, means something along the lines of “Tally Ho Gentlemen!”, or “Come, let us Rouse This Madness To Action!”.

Also, Demons are the Melbourne team. Saints are the St Kilda team. In case you were worried…

Hearing voices

Do you ever hear voices in your head? People don’t talk about this much. Well, I have a friend that talks about it a fair bit, but she’s on heaps of antipsychotic medication and she runs a support group for people who hear voices that tell them they’re terrible and they need to kill themselves, which I think is positively awful and I’m so glad there’s drugs for that because I love my friend very much and think that HER voices are definitely WRONG.

This, however, is not what I’m talking about.

When I was a kid some people thought I was a bit loopy because I talked to myself all the time. Not like Burger King man in Susie Finkbeiner’s fabulous post the other day (that’s just weird, that is), I never did it like there was someone there next to me to talk to, more like I crawled up inside my head and my memory chatted with the people I imagined there, and sometimes those words leaked out my mouth as well (there weren’t that many people around to talk to when I was younger).

But that’s not what I’m talking about either. And I’m not meaning those strings of words that our thoughts take now that we’re adults and we’re so used to thinking in conversations sometimes our consciousness does it too…in the sense of “Megan you really should put the washing on the line before you go out this morning”. That’s my thinking coming out in conversational thoughts. Gosh our heads are complicated places.

I’m talking about something different. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced this. I know I’m not the only one, I have lots of friends who describe the same experience, but we’re friends, and we’re similar in many ways. I don’t know how universal it is.

Maybe it’s just because we listen, or we’ve learned to sort out what’s what in this messy environment known as our heads, or maybe because most of us have young children and crazy lives that we’re used to sorting through the mess really quickly and figuring out what’s what.

I call it the voice of God. Do you ever get that? Do you believe in a God in Heaven who talks to people? I’ll explain a bit better, and see if it translates to you.

I was hanging the clothes on the line one day (yes, probably because my stream-of-consciousness reminded me to do so!) and I was praying, because I DO believe in a God that talks to people, and listens, and because I’d rather talk to a God out there than imaginary people I have to crawl inside my head to find, and I was telling God (or, if you prefer, I was telling the wet washing) all about our financial difficulties, about how I had this crazy dream to go to America, but there was not much money in the bank, not much money coming in and a helluva lot of bills piling up and this stupid mortgage that didn’t change from week to week and sucked us dry. I’m grateful for my house and that we are buying it, but…having no money to buy socks that don’t have more-than-one hole each is hard, and especially hard when it continues for long periods of time.

But that was when I heard it; the voice of God. Or the washing (but I’m not on antipsychotic medication, nor do I think I need to be, so I don’t believe it was that), and it said this:

“I’m going to pay your mortgage off in three years”.

I was stunned into believing, even though there was no way I could see how it would happen. My stream-of-consciousness doesn’t say things like that to me. Neither does my washing. It made me happy, not in a socks-without-more-than-one-hole kind of happy, but a deep, resting, Heaven-touched happy. Do you know what I mean? Does that happen to you?

I wish I’d written down the date that day. I told my husband. It was, I think, a bit under two years ago. And yesterday we saw the tree felled for the building of the new driveway that will not only expand the size of our land, but also has the potential to pay off the rest of our mortgage within a year.

I believe in miracles. I believe in a God who tells me crazy, CRAZY things, and that those crazy dreams can actually come true.

Tell me, do you?

Tree felled for new driveway