Category Archives: Things to share

Clicking into place

I had a moment yesterday when I stopped to think about something for a minute and realised that life is pretty perfect at the moment!  Lots of little things clicking into place, working out, and finding their rhythm.  Times like this need to be celebrated!

My chicks have settled into the school term well, and my boy has managed to attend school for full days on a number of occasions now. This is massive!!  All the hard work that has gone into building stability for him, helping him to develop strategies to cope, working with the teachers and executive staff, and his doctors, is paying off.   (And while part of me is touching wood that it continues because we have had these ups before, followed by big downs, this is definitely something to celebrate!!)

Enjoy life |a little bird made me

The younger two chicks are also happy to spend time with their father more often, so we are slowly, slowly, working towards a regular routine for that too. Another milestone!  (The fact that he has a new puppy at his house is certainly helping in that regard!!)

And, wait for it, it looks like we might have ADSL broadband internet within the week!  After four months on mobile broadband and constantly measuring out little packets of data for the kids, and keeping enough to keep working (and then having the kids completely shape the plan with a Youtube session and paying premium for the rest of the month – $10 per 1GB!!) this will give us all the ability to breathe out!  Homework research can be done, TV viewing can be caught up on, and life can return to it’s 21st century first world normality!

I have also had a busy couple of weeks socially – tickets to shows, dinners, and amazing behind the scenes peeks at a show about to start.  I have to pinch myself – all of this has come about because of my decisions to apply for the Human Brochure last year. My circle of friends and contacts has grown, and I have been able to experience things I would never otherwise have been able to do.

Even better, we are falling into a routine at home that sees me having one to two days a week where I can focus on my business!  I have been developing new products, designing pieces I have wanted to make for years, and starting to build up stock.  Absolute bliss!

I also have a wide circle of friends who are creative, generous, and talented.  I can now recommend awesome craftspeople to my friends when they ask for a referral to have a chair fixed, a lampshade made, a dress designed, a website built.  I love being able to share the love!

Other's opinions |a little bird made me

The irony of this is that in an exchange with my ex-husband last week he told me that those who read my ‘internet stories’ tell him that I make it appear that my life is hard and that I am a victim.   As this couldn’t be further from the truth, I hope that anyone reading this appreciates that I am delighted that all the hard work, difficult choices, and rearranging of priorities over the last few years is paying off, as I always hoped knew it would.  The challenges that my children and I have faced over the last few years were tough, but we were never victims – we are and always will be, if I have anything to say about it, survivors.

I hope that your life is clicking into place for you this week too, and that you have something to celebrate.

Thoughts about Mental Health (now that’s ironic)

While at my cutting table, preparing some new stock (‘hooray’ I hear some say, ‘finally’ say others) I have been reflecting on two different conversations that I have had in the past week, and how I have responded, reacted and considered the issues raised.

The first was a conversation with a friend last week who was complaining about his ex-wife and in the midst of the conversation said ‘And you know she is still on antidepressants.’  This took me aback and I blurted out ‘But so am I.’   (He has known me for a long time and we have discussed my medication on several occasions.)  He responded “But you are pretty high functioning, and able to operate at a senior management level” as if this somehow meant that I didn’t need to be on anti-depressant medication.

My response was that people of all walks of life, with all sorts of ability take antidepressants.  This does not mean that they are not capable, not able to function, not ‘sane’ (which was the underlying message about his ex-wife of course).  It really got me thinking about how so much of society sees that medication for mental health is somehow not a good idea, or a sign of weakness, or a sign of an unstable character.

Talking openly about mental health isn't the easy choice, but it is the right one.

Talking openly about mental health isn’t the easy choice, but it is the right one.

Then yesterday I received a communication from my ex-husband who suggested that our son may have an auditory processing disorder, and that I should research this, as it can often be mistaken for ADHD (which our son is diagnosed with, along with other mental health issues.)  Now apart from the fact that I already have an independent psychological assessment report that states that our son has processing difficulties (that has been provided to his father) it made me realise that because our son’s condition is being treated so effectively with medication, (after years of trial and error with everything from naturopaths, chiropractors, diet, exercise, behavioural management strategies etc – so please don’t offer me new alternatives to medication) his father now thinks that he doesn’t have the very issue that he is being medicated for.

While my initial reaction might have been anger at yet another challenge to the professional advice that I have sought and questioned and administered over the last 4 years, it occurred to me a little later on that perhaps the two conversations had something in common.

Neither of these men would suggest that a person prescribed medication to address a heart condition should not take it.  Neither would they consider offering their own diagnosis on what the ‘actual’ problem was.  They wouldn’t suggest that this person wasn’t fit and proper to carry out their job based on their use of prescription medication.  But when it is a mental health issue, they were both happy to judge, to re-diagnose, to second guess and to ignore the effects of medication as treating a medical condition.

None of this is new I suppose.  It just saddens me that despite education, information, and open conversations, people still can’t see past their prejudice about mental health to look at the evidence sitting in front of them.   I don’t have any answers to how to solve this, but I am comfortable with my resolve to talk about my experiences with my own mental health and that of my children (where appropriate) to remind people that depression and anxiety can affect anyone from any walk of life, and is treatable.  Maybe it will help someone else to understand that it is simply another medical condition. Nothing more, nothing less.

And now I return to cutting out fabric.  Happy days!

6 ways to help you bounce back when you are worn out

Over the last few weeks I have recognised that I am getting worn out.  Again.  (This may be the reason for my more thought provoking posts recently, now that I come to think of it!)  Between caring for my children, dealing with the mountains of paperwork that seem to accompany every decision about my son, and my income, and trying to be business like about my ‘business’, things have started to slip.  And, as I said in my post yesterday, it is important to be kind to yourself.

How do you bounce back when you are worn out?

Some of the things that I have found that work include:

1. Keep things simple.  Cancel those social appointments that you are dreading, don’t schedule any complex arrangements, and just focus on the basics.  Looking after you and yours is more important than obligations to friends.  Good friends will understand that this is temporary and that you will be back on deck soon.

Fresh is best |a little bird made me

2. Eat healthy food.  Instead of reaching for the easy peanut butter sandwich, or cheese and crackers, take a few extra minutes to eat some fresh food – a salad sandwich, a fruit platter, or even just grab a banana instead of something processed and sugary.

3. Exercise.  I know – the last thing you want to do when you are tired and worn out is to exercise.  I am not talking about a full cardio work out followed by a boxing class (although if that is your thing go for it!).  I find that even just taking a walk around the block is often enough to get things moving again, to lift your energy levels and your spirits.  Doing a bit more active exercise helps even more!M O V E

4. Rest.  Actually stop, put your feet up, and rest.  Not work on your laptop or tablet.  Rest.  Maybe read a novel, listen to some music, or just be at peace for a few minutes.  My personal favourite?  Lying in a hammock. (Note to self.  Spring is here.  Set the hammock up.  Soon!)

5. Let go of some of your responsibilities.  This is the hardest one for me.  I love sewing, creating, designing, making.  I also love earning some income from it.  But it takes all my focus, and at the moment I need to give the children a bit more focus, so sewing has to take a back seat.  This is hard, but I know it isn’t forever – it may be for a day or two, or for a week or two, but it will all be there waiting for me when I have time and head-space to walk into my sewing room and pick up where I left off.

6. Do something different.  You might remember my favourite graphic from a post a couple of weeks ago.   5 things I learned about divorce|a little bird made meI love this.  It reminds me that if we are in a rut, with tired children, whinging mother, etc, then in order for me to change that, I need to change something I am doing.  Ideas that have worked well in the past include a picnic dinner as a surprise, having a family movie night in the middle of the week, letting the kids build a fort and live in it for a day – even though they use a whole room and insist on keeping it there for days!

What helps you to bounce back when you are getting run down or worn out?

Why you should be kind to yourself

I am sure you have seen various versions of the quote that is variously attributed to Plato, Ian MacLaren and John Watson “Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”  I have been reminded many times recently of how true this is.  Life is complex.  What might be trivial for one person is the world for another. If you can treat every one you meet with respect and without judgement, their lives may be lightened and brightened without you even realising it.

a little bird made me

So why then is it so hard to be kind to ourselves?  As a mother I put my children first.  Their needs before mine.  I have written before about the ‘burnt chop syndrome‘ and how I needed to change my behaviour to stop always eating the burnt chop.  Looking back over the months since I wrote that post I can see some of the little ways that I have changed, in order to look after myself a bit more.  But I can also see that I still haven’t been kind to myself.

Other people praise me for something I have done as a parent, and I can immediately list, even if just mentally, all the things that I haven’t done so well.  I don’t celebrate myself very much, yet I celebrate each step that my children take.  I expect myself to fail at so many things, yet I expect my children to believe that they will succeed at everything if they try hard and practise enough.

Tonight my daughter was feeling miserable and sorry for herself, and I heard myself giving her advice that was good advice, and is advice that I apply in my daily life.  I realised that I need to be proud of my ability to see the silver lining in clouds, the positives in a bad day, and the achievements I have made as a result.  If I am not kind to myself, how can I expect my children to be kind to themselves?

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What do I think is the answer to ‘why we need to be kind to ourselves’?  I believe that if we don’t think we are worthy of kindness, who will?  Remember that you are also fighting a hard battle.  You have a right to kindness.  Look after yourself.  Be gentle with your soul.  Forgive yourself.  Learn from your mistakes instead of wallowing in them.  And celebrate the things that make you special.

As for me?  I have started a 12 week health and fitness program.  I am being kind to myself when I skip a day of exercise, or eat a few extra calories, because I am in this for the marathon, not the sprint!  (And I have lost several kilos in the couple of weeks since I started, and that needs to be celebrated !)

I hope that your week is going well, and that you are able to be kind to yourself.  Today!!

5 things I learned about divorce|a little bird made me

5 things I have learned about divorce

My marriage ended 5 1/2 years ago when my husband announced, via email, that he ‘couldn’t do this anymore’.  At the time I truly had not seen it coming.  Looking back I can see that the marriage was doomed.  Ah the wisdom of hindsight.

Since then I have been through the ups and downs and ins and outs of divorce.  While I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, and while my first question to anyone I meet who tells me that they are thinking of leaving their partner is “Is there any way you can fix this?” there are a few things I have learned along the way that might help someone else going through separation and divorce, particularly if there are children involved.  I am not an expert, these are my personal experiences and learnings, but they seem, from discussion with friends, to be universal.

5 things I learned about divorce|a little bird made me

1. The grief process following divorce is the same as the grief process following death of a loved one.  I truly didn’t understand this until I read a blurb in the back of a vampire fantasy novel by Laurell K. Hamilton (I was hiding in bad literature at the time) where the author talked about thinking that nothing would be worse than losing her mother as a child until she got divorced.  That statement shocked me but also resonated with me.  The death of a marriage is more than just walking away from someone you have loved.  It is the death of your dreams, of your idea of who the other person is, of the idea of who you are, of how you fit into your community and family, and of your belief in your future.

Once I understood this I realised why I had been angry, sad, wanting him back, etc.  It helped me to heal and bounce back much more quickly when I realised that my reactions were ‘normal’.

2. Putting your children first in every decision you make about how to react to your separation helps.  When I remembered to look at my decisions through the lens of ‘how will this affect the children’ my decisions were much better than when I had knee jerk reactions of ‘I don’t want this to happen’, ‘Hell no way am I agreeing with you’, or ‘You need to suffer too’.  (All of which are completely normal but not completely pleasant reactions.)

5 things I learned about divorce|a little bird made me

3. Something that was a problem during your marriage will continue to be a problem after your marriage.  I know – really obvious huh?!  For example it took me a long time to realise that the issues that we had about money during our marriage were exactly the same issues we were having about money after our marriage.  In fact it has taken me 5 years to realise that there is no point engaging in those discussions as nothing changes.  The sooner you learn to change your response, the sooner the situation will change.  By not engaging in these pointless conversations I am more able to gain perspective, less frustrated and more able to just ‘let it go.’

5 things I learned about divorce|a little bird made me

4. Biting your tongue lets your children develop their own relationships and form their own views on their parents.  Look.  I am no saint, and I make mistakes like everyone else.  However I have tried really hard not to tell the children every thought, feeling, frustration or anger I have towards their father.  They need to be able to work out his role in their life themselves, untainted by my history and views.  I try to just give them simple facts, or direct them to him for their answers.  When it is really hard I simply say ‘I don’t really understand why he did that either. Maybe you should talk to him about that so that he can help you to understand.’    What I mutter under my breath, in my mind or to my friends when the kids aren’t around is something quite different!

5. There is no perfect way for children to share their time between their parents.  No matter what people tell you there is no perfect solution.  Week about, every second weekend, every Friday night, half of each week, just on school holidays, and all the other weird and wonderful arrangements that we can dream up will never give our kids the ideal balance or life.  They will always feel a little displaced, out of sync, and disrupted.  There will always be the drama of telling a teacher ‘sorry I left that at Dad’s house’, or ‘Mum won’t sign the form because that is on Dad’s week’ or any of the hundred ways that they are forced to publicly share that they come from a broken home.  All we can do is support them, listen to them, give them a voice (but not control when they are too young), and let them know that we understand.

5 things I learned about divorce|a little bird made me

Life is complex.  Learning more about how to lead better lives helps to deal with that complexity.  Do I sound sage or just weary?  Either way – time for a cup of tea while I contemplate the latest development in the household.

Be kind to yourself today.

What no one tells you about parenting a special needs child|a little bird made me

What no one ever tells you about parenting a special needs child

What no one tells you about parenting a special needs child|a little bird made meIn the last couple of years I have had to come to terms with the diagnosis of my boy as having special needs.  I have been walking through the fog of discovery ever since, usually taking one step forward and two steps back.  I have been extremely fortunate that I have a wonderful family who provide great moral support even though none of them live within driving distance, a steadfast group of good friends, and that I have the skills to research and find the information I need.  I have also had to learn a new set of skills and shift my thinking dramatically about so many parts of my life, so I thought that if I shared a few of those discoveries here it might help someone else who ends up in the same boat.

1. You have to become your child’s advocate.   There is no one else in the world who knows your child as well as you, and who has more right than you to stand up for what is right for your child.  If you aren’t comfortable challenging the authority of teachers, principals, doctors, or your own family, it is time to learn. Challenging them doesn’t need to be aggressive, but it does need to involve questioning whether there are other options, whether factors that affect your child have been taken into account, and whether this is in the best interests of your child.

What no one tells you about parenting a special needs child|a little bird made me

2. There are laws to protect your child from discrimination, but the only person who is going to remind anyone about them is you.  Become aware of your rights and your child’s rights. When the school says ‘oh he/she can’t join the class to do (such-and-such) because he/she will be (insert any myriad of reasons)’, don’t agree and apologise for the inconvenience that your child has caused.  Instead ask what reasonable steps they could take to include your child in the activity.  Often just by asking the question they will be reminded that they have a duty to try and include your child, and will take steps to do so.

3. You cannot do everything yourself.  No matter how independent, strong and resilient you think you are, when you have a special needs child you need to make sure that you ask for help when you need it, or accept an offer of help when it is made.  Your child needs to have other people in his/her life that they trust and are comfortable being with, and you need to have people that you can leave your child with, knowing that they will be cared for and looked after.

What no one tells you about parenting a special needs child|a little bird made me

4. You will learn to appreciate little things that make life good.  I used to think in terms of a good week, or a good month. Now I celebrate a good hour, and sometimes even just a good decision about something small.  Being able to sit and drink a good cup of tea in one sitting is worthy of a celebration isn’t it?!

5. You will become very good at making apologies for not attending events.  I have lost count of the number of times I have had to give last minute apologies, not accept an invitation, or rearrange plans because I know that I need to stay home and not disrupt (further) our routine by going out.    I used to feel embarrassed or awkward about it.  Now I just say “I am very sorry but a family commitment has come up and I won’t be able to attend’, and no one ever complains to my face.  It is about establishing your priorities – what is more important – your children or your social obligations?

6. It is okay to trust your own judgement.  I recently took my children on a spur of the moment holiday to Hawaii.  (I know – crazy stuff!)  If I had thought about it for too long I probably would have listened to all the warnings about travelling with my son, and what could go wrong.  But instead I relied on my own judgement that I could manage the situation for him, and for his sisters, and although I began to question my own sanity on the overnight flight there (when no one slept and he was becoming agitated at the sound of a toddler crying) it turns out that I was right.  By taking everyone’s needs into account we had a lovely holiday that was much more stress free than life at home usually is!

What no one tells you about parenting a special needs child|a little bird made me

7. You have to look after yourself.  This one is probably obvious to many of you, but it wasn’t to me, and I learned the hard way what happens if you don’t read the warning signs.  I had a breakdown/burn out at the end of last year that has forced me to learn what happens if you just keep going without caring for yourself.  Whether it is having time to read a book, catch up with friends, have a hair cut, go for a walk – something that soothes your soul, and re-energises you is essential if you are going to be a good parent.

8. Special needs kids fight with their siblings just like other kids.  My boy and one of his sisters argue with each other a lot.  It is loud, it involves lots of whining, and it drives me crazy.  But I have to remind myself, and everyone else, that this isn’t because of his condition – this is standard sibling stuff going on.  And in the same way, the two of them will play together for hours without a cross word and get angry with their older sister for interrupting the rhythm of their game.  Sometimes kids are just kids.

9. You will get to know all sorts of amazing new people.  I have become friends with other parents of children with special needs who I would not otherwise have met which is great for support, but in fact, because my son looks at the world in a different way, he talks to people I would never think to engage with. I have lost count of the number of times we are at a shop and all of a sudden the lady at the fruit section is chatting to us about her life, or at a camp-ground and we are invited to join a camp-fire because they have met my son, or at a park and the other parents know that I make and sell things, thanks to my greatest advocate.

What no one tells you about parenting a special needs child|a little bird made me

10.  You will learn to laugh at yourself and with your child in a whole new way.  Okay, so maybe that is because if you don’t laugh you’ll cry some days, but laughter is good for us, and if you can remember to laugh at the ridiculous, everything feels so much better as a result.

If you have any points to add here, please feel free to do so by commenting!