Just Play!

Ironically, as I compose this piece on my device, I am about to say “put down your devices“…

I have been reminded these last couple of days how important good old-fashioned outdoor playing is for children (of all ages). My children got to run around like crazy kids in the backyard with some friends they had not all seen together for almost seven years – but they laughed, and ran, and jumped, and played like it was just yesterday. No devices, no schoolyard politics, just some fresh air and a good patch of lawn.

Peals of laughter and squeals of excitement were the backdrop to relaxed adult conversation. I was reminded of my own childhood where we would get together with other families (long before the era of smart devices) and children would be children, while adults chatted around the table. I remember feeling happy, safe and secure with not a care in the world. I think and hope that is how all the children would have felt last night as they climbed – justifiably exhausted – into their beds after a “busy” day.

Good morning sunshine!

This morning when I awoke, I was greeted with warm sunshine tempered by a cool breeze. A few charcoal tinged puffy white clouds floated through the sky… The perfect day to be out and about. Fortified by the warmth of my morning coffee, I am inspired to take my boys to a nearby beach for a spot of fun fishing. Why not take advantage of the opportunity for more outdoor play when it presents itself? Not only is it good for the kids, but a breath of fresh air with warm sun on my back, soft white sand in front with gentle waves lapping the shoreline can’t be anything but a good thing for me too.

Organisation, Flexibility and Resilience

As I sit down to drink my coffee and muse for a moment, the breeze has dropped, a light smattering of clouds white wash the sky just enough to allow the sun‘s rays to penetrate through and warm my back, as the traffic hums in the distance and the birds make music in the treetops around me. After a rather hectic start to the day, I feel a sense of peace creeping in… This is my “me“ moment.

My “me” moment.

Sometimes, no matter how organised we might be, plans don’t always go as expected. My morning has not gone to plan, but with some good communication and a little flexibility, I will get back on track.

During my life, I have participated in numerous courses addressing the issue of time management. As my friends and family all know (and will probably chuckle as they read this), it is a constant struggle for me, but thanks to the necessities of parenthood and finally some of that life experience kicking in, I feel I am making headway in this area. For those of us who tend to be perfectionists and people-pleasers, time management becomes a never ending battle.

A diary will always be an organised person‘s best friend, and now thanks to the age of technology, we not only have the old-fashioned paper style available to us, but countless digital versions are at our fingertips – literally – on our smart devices. It is so easy to make use of them and to schedule “on the run“. We can even share our appointments on a “need to know“ basis at the touch of a button. These days, I would be totally lost without my iPhone calendar. My life is virtually mapped out on that device. I am not completely sure I like that fact, but nevertheless it makes my days run more smoothly, and my tasks more likely to be completed.

Ironically, I am trying to pass on this wisdom as our children progress into high school. They have so much more to remember now – more information, more responsibility, more independent activities, and definitely more homework… How do I impress upon them, given my historic disorganisation, the importance of a diary to ensure the smooth-running of their days?

A last-minute rescheduling of appointments has slightly rearranged our day, but it’s not the end of the world. In fact, it can be a good thing – learning how to “roll with the punches“ can contribute to resilience – a quality becoming increasingly valuable in our world right now.

What are your tips for getting organised?

Life Is A Delicate Balancing Act

The damp chill of a few rainy days gives way to the comforting warmth of the sunshine as it breaks through the heavy cloud cover, burning it off to bring in a clear sunny, freshly washed afternoon. My coffee offers soothing warmth from within as the bright light radiates surprising heat upon my skin.

Upward the sky becomes more blue than grey. The breeze jostles the last few clouds upon their way across the horizon while rustling the treetops in a dance of appreciation – both for the life-giving rain, and now the clearer sunny weather. The garden around me is almost an iridescent green punctuated by a rainbow myriad of flowers… not a still life painting, but rather an idyllic real life backdrop to soften the less than idyllic realities of our every day.

Trying to juggle a home and work life. Trying to prioritise between family and money. Trying to find a way of managing that limbo between the end of the school day, and the end of an average work day.

To those parents who successfully manage that difficult time of day, I take my hat off to you. Quite often the cost of that after-school care can negate the cost of working longer hours, but not utilising that option can also – understandably – cost your employment.

Now that I’ve made that statement, I think I’ve clarified my own solution… this global pandemic of COVID-19 has forced upon us an unprecedented situation in which we are being forced to re-evaluate, juggle and re-balance our entire lives. Some income is better than no income in a time where one might easily become the other.

Returning to Work

Today, I contemplate my future. Maybe you are contemplating yours…

Looking forward…

Many of us take a break from our regular work or career for a myriad of reasons. Maybe before further studies, you have taken a “gap year“. Perhaps a young mother returning to work after maternity leave. Perhaps an older parent returning to work after spending time at home as the primary carer for young children. Maybe you’ve taken a sabbatical – some extended leave – from your regular employment and are now returning to a new environment or even considering a career change. Or as is the case with so many now, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, perhaps as restrictions ease, you are looking for a new job – any job!

I find myself fitting into a few categories. I am an older parent returning to work as my young children are now well ensconced in school life. In fact, I am older than many parents of children in primary (or elementary) school, so I am also in the group who may have taken extended leave from their usual career. And thanks to COVID-19 and it’s effect on the world economy, I am now searching for employment (and an income) that will fit into my current lifestyle, requiring flexibility and restricted hours.

I am discovering a whole new world of jobseeking sites. I am so pleased to see agencies actively marketing job opportunities for people returning to work and looking for a balance with business and personal life.

One of a number of options – working from home – allows the flexibility to look after family, and in the current world situation, the ability to continue working without as much interruption as for those in a more face-to-face and physical industry. A great thing – not only for our own financial well-being, but for our economy.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, then I will be happy to update you from time to time over a “morning coffee musing”, if you like, on the resources and opportunities that I find.

Physical Distancing versus Social Distancing

It’s funny, as I chatted with a friend this morning, we talked about “social distancing” and its effects on COVID-19, ourselves, our families and friends, our colleagues and the general population.

We are really being asked to physically distance, because there are many other ways we express ourselves socially these days. Social contact is not limited to physical situations. Social (and related) media play a huge part – especially for younger people – in the way we interact. Yet, as the human species, physical social interaction is so important to who we are and our mental well-being.

We are rediscovering the importance and strength of family and social groups. Physical restrictions brought upon us by the pandemic have made us acutely aware of the value of those family members and friends we can no longer hug or comfort. Those who live alone have become truly isolated from our basic human need for physical contact.

Thankfully, we are now able to socialise on a “virtual“ level. These unprecedented times have encouraged individual families – whose members through busy lives – had become almost strangers at times, to reconnect. Facebook groups and the like have helped bring us together in ways that were never before possible. I am able to share everyday news with my whole family at one time… Not quite, but almost like being around the table together.

I know that we will have to learn to live with COVID-19 and all the lifestyle complications and restrictions that come with it. I am thankful for today’s technology – that it allows us to connect socially and visually with those we care about – but I so very much look forward to the day when we can again embrace those people with our arms as well.

A Misty Morning Musing

Barely a breath of breeze. Barely a ripple on the water. As I gaze outward the only sounds that break the peaceful silence are the rhythmic dripping of dew from the rooftop onto the awning below and the haunting call of a water bird echoing through the passage. The rising sun is burning off the mist as it drifts lazily along the surface.

I feel my spirit lifting. All thoughts of what hasn’t been done, what needs to be done, what should be done, dissipate along with the mist.

A few days away reconnecting with old friends. Children building sandcastles on the beach, playing with total abandon. Finding some yabbies and baiting a hook in the hope of catching dinner for the family. Playing games together around the dinner table and easy conversation until late in the evening.

I was reminded of a recent “getaway“ we had at home, also catching up with old friends. An impromptu “sleepover”, children laughing, adults chatting, followed the next morning by a lazy breakfast.

We were lucky enough to leave our regular reality for this idyllic place, but I realised as I sat and sipped my morning coffee that although the change of location was a bonus, the “human ingredients” were what made the perfect recipe for a perfect getaway.

First Day Jitters

Many of us are at different points in our COVID-19 pandemic experience. After almost two months in lockdown, our children returned to school today. Although the temperatures are cooler, we woke to a bright blue and cloudless sky. Barely a breath of breeze jostled the leaves in the tall gums. The usual chorus of birdsong joined us in greeting the day. The only real difference this morning was a louder hum of traffic in the distance as more commuters returned to the office – my partner included.

My brood displayed the whole range of enthusiasm (or lack thereof) for the return to school… My eldest was excited to rejoin her friends and was ready for school without a fuss. My youngest was a little reluctant, however cooperative, and we managed to arrive at school, if a little late. My classic middle child suffered a bad dose of the “first day jitters“ to the point where he became physically ill. I was forced to issue an ultimatum – off to school or bedrest (no devices or distractions) all day. Bedrest has been chosen and I’m hoping that boredom today will create a little more enthusiasm for tomorrow.

It is surprising how much our minds can influence our physical well being. For some it is easier than others to overcome unchecked emotions. It can be both difficult and frustrating, for those who genuinely want to help, to understand someone who struggles with their anxieties.

Some of us ventured out into the world, and our “new normal“ today, let’s hope that with a little understanding and a lot of support that we can all get a little closer to our “old normal“ tomorrow.

How was your return to school and working life? I’d love to hear…

Teamwork

It is Monday morning, the beginning of a new working- and learning-from-home week. As I make our coffee and note the coincidental combination of coffee cups that came from the cupboard this morning, it dawned on me how important and far-reaching the concept of teamwork has become. Our lives, more than ever, are a series of interlinking teams, much like a chain driving a series of mechanisms that need to work together smoothly in order for the machine – for life – to move forward.

In our household, our lives before COVID-19 were much more independent of each other. My partner would leave early each morning to deal with the chaos of traffic enroute to the office, and I would deal with the chaos of getting the children to school and organising the household. Then between after-school activities and my partner arriving home later in the evening, we were all so tired and frazzled that we remained relatively independent of each other through until bedtime.

Now we often enjoy a morning cup of coffee together, and sometimes a snack during the children’s break times. My partner is helping our highschooler with her work, as I supervise our primary school boys. The children also have to be mindful of their father in his office, so as not to disturb his work either.

We have all become members of each other’s teams without even realising it, and we are all working together surprisingly well – the machine is running smoothly and our life is moving forward.

Unprecedented times call for unprecedented cooperation, and a deeper level of communication has been the key. I will miss this special team we’ve become when life gets back to “normal“.

A Mothers’ Day Musing

We are all different. Our life experiences are all different. Our life expectations are all different. And so, for mothers, the celebration of their role be different.

I reflect upon my experience, and wonder about yours.

I grew up in a tight knit family where Mothers’ and Fathers’ Day were almost as important as birthdays. We’d creep out into the dewy green garden at dawn – our mother’s own masterpiece – with our father, to pick a few favourite blooms to decorate the breakfast tray. Dad would help with a hot cup of tea or coffee, and we would scrape some untidy blobs of butter and jam across a couple of squares of dry toast. By the time we were ready, the warm drink was barely that and the toast was cold, but I knew our mum would be sat up in her bed eagerly awaiting it, because three smiling faces (shepherded by my dad) delivered it with a bucketload of love.

Over the years, my little family have developed our own way of celebrating Mother’s Day. Some things never change. Their dad supervises a floral masterpiece from the garden, while my eldest coordinates the menu (very similar to the one my brothers and I used to deliver). I sit up in bed eagerly awaiting my three little smiling faces with their grand presentation, just as my mother did.

This year we followed breakfast with something a little different – a wander down to a quiet local beach with enough fishing rods and bait for a couple of hours of quality family time… And do you know what? This was my best one yet!

Whatever your experience or expectation, I’d love to hear about yours.

Brain Drain.

It is late in the day, but this is my first opportunity to take a moment and “muse”.

Shadows are starting to lengthen, and instead of the excited twitter of birds in the morning, the lazy buzz of insects is the backdrop to the relaxed chatter of children playing in the yard, now that the school day is over.

For our family, this is Day One of homeschooling, and although I have not done my obligatory 10,000 steps, I feel quite exhausted!

With a huge demand for online resources, the anticipated structure of our day quickly fell apart as the primary website crashed. We all took a deep breath, and to buy a few moments of planning time we listened to a kids’ news podcast. Thankfully, they were immediately engaged and enjoyed doing the quiz at the end to see who was listening best. I think we might start every day that way – they keep up to date with current events and it stimulates further conversation and investigation, along with some fodder for writing and other projects.

We very loosely followed our regular school day schedule, and there weren’t too many complaints… In fact, my oldest son even exclaimed that “this day went so quickly!”

I quietly breathed a sigh of relief and gave myself an imaginary pat on the back for a job adequately done. I now feel qualified to describe myself as an “Educational Guide“ (most definitely not a “teacher”), and I’m looking forward – just a little more confidently – to our Day Two.

How is this new global experiment of homeschooling shaping up for you?