Things my mother taught me. (Happy Mothers’ Day Mum!)

Biting is bad.

One day when I was about four, I bit my sister Meaghan during an argument (probably over who got to be Gumby and who was Pokey).   I remember screaming “noooo!” as Mum held my wrist and lifted my hand to her mouth as though she were about to bite me back as punishment.
“What? You’re bigger than she is and you bit her.  I’m bigger than you are, so I get to bite you. Isn’t that fair?”
Of course she didn’t actually bite me, she didn’t need to.  I’m definitely using this tactic if my kids are biters. It was a lasting, and still relevant lesson on the abuse of power, and not exploiting others’ vulnerability.

“Air on a G string” can be both giggle-worthy  and culturally enriching.

I remember as kids groaning in agony as Mum filled the house with Bach, Mozart or the warbling of German tenor Fritz Wunderlich.
“I don’t care, it’s culture, and I find it relaxing” she maintained.
Not so relaxing when we made up our own lyrics – her favourite track “Caro Mio Ben” became “Come comb your beard” , but she thought it was hilarious.

While we whinged at the time (and occasionally still do, for old-times sake) Mum’s genuine love for classical music was contagious for all of us. Just last weekend I tortured my husband by swapping spotify from Greenday  to  Debussy.   I loved it.

Listening to someone is a way of loving them.

In 1991, my sister Meags and I caught chicken pox.  After our bath we would stand like scarecrows in front of the fire, and mum would dab the itchy red spots with soothing calamine lotion.  Nooma, who was two at the time and hated to be left out of anything involving her older sisters, would stand naked next to us, searching desperately over her creamy white skin for anything resembling a pock.  I remember her pointing to a freckle on her arm and saying very seriously
“Mummy,  pickenpox!  ”
Meags and I laughed our heads off “it’s just a freckle!” but Mum nodded very seriously and carefully dabbed the spot with a clean cotton ball.  Nooma was so proud the day a real chickenpock appeared, but until then Mum made sure to dab her over just as gently as she did her legitimately spotty daughters.

Gardening is like painting a picture that slowly changes over weeks.

Mum is a very gifted artists, but not many people know this.  I remember asking her why she didn’t paint more, when I was a teenager. She replied that she preferred to be outside in the sun where the wind could blow the cobwebs out of her head.  “The garden is like my canvas. I get to choose my colours, choose what to plant where, move things around if I don’t like them. New things are always growing up, old things die back.  It’s like a painting that’s always changing so I never get sick of it.”

“The Proverbial” is not an actual body part.

Maybe this is something I learned in spite of Mum. I will admit, it took me until half way through  Anatomy in first year uni to discover that “the proverbial” is actually “of the proverb”.  I always assumed it was an anatomical structure located somewhere near the rectum, because where other people said “you’re being a pain in the bum”, our mum said “you’re being a pain in the proverbial.”
True story.

Being selfless is a mother’s gift to her children.

Whenever a treat came in a four-pack, like chocolate yogos or something else delicious, Mum  would give one to each of us and the last one to Dad. I remember thinking it wasn’t fair, but was far too selfish to give up my one so she could have it (sorry Mum, I would these days!).
I still love chocolate yogos and have decided to only have two children so that I always get one,  but Mum’s consistent selflessness  made a lasting impact and will certainly shape the way I parent my own children . The only thing I ever remember her demanding was some privacy as, once again, we all crowded in to ask her questions while she was on the toilet. We haven’t done that for at least three years though so, you know … children do learn.

Who you are is good, and you shouldn’t feel pressured to be anyone else.

Mum is a wonderful woman, a unique woman, who wasn’t like many of the other mums we grew up around.  I am ashamed to say, there were times during my school years that I wished she was a bit more “mummish”.  I am more ashamed to say that I think I even told her that.

Other mums baked biscuits and had prepared snacks laid out ready for their kids when they got home from school. (Those kids are probably 27 and still living at home.) Our mum would come home from work to find us all sitting at the table reading in silence. Never the fool, she’d run her hand down the back of the TV with a knowing grin.
“Riiiiight. Still warm hey? ”
She would then walk into the kitchen and cry out in anger “GIRLS!” at the exploded mess of baked beans and congealed cheese that encrusted the inside of the microwave.

Other mums spent all afternoon preparing elaborate dinners. As a kid, I was envious of those dinners… but now that I’m a grown up, I’m definitely less like those mothers and more like our mum.   Tired from a day of work, she would stick some veggies in the steamer, chops under the grill, and start correcting essays on the couch.
“Naomi, can you come here please?”
“What?”
“Just come here please.”
“Mum why?”
“Because I asked you to.”
“Ok, what is it”
“While you’re up, can you put the kettle on? Thanks!’

Other mums braided hair and painted nails. How boring! Our mum was challenged to regular wrestling matches. I remember when I was twelve, making a Mothers Day card that said something like “I love my mum because we joke around a lot. She says that when I’m bigger than her she’ll still be able to beat me up because she’ll take steroids, even if they make her hairy”.

I am incredibly blessed to have been raised by such a woman, a lover of literature, footy, and chips.   A total dag with a razor sharp wit, she taught me to be articulate, courageous and kind.

Happy Mothers’ Day Mum! I’m sorry for any time I made you feel like you weren’t enough. You are more than enough, and always have been. I am so grateful for all the parts of you that ended up as me.   We three are very lucky to have you, and as I’ve always maintained,  “you’re the best Mum I’ve ever had!”

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Resilience

Figs are delicious. I freaking love them. I could eat figs all day.

When we were first married we lived in Richmond, an inner-city suburb of Melbourne. Back in the 60’s Richmond was heavily populated by Greek migrants, attracted by the low cost of housing and abundant opportunities for employment in manufacturing. Our neighbour Christos, a delightful man in his early 70’s, purchased their home for $60,000 in 1965. Like every good Greek, Christos converted his small, concrete yard into a food forest, planting fruits and vegetables into basically any vessel he had available: tomatoes in old tyres, capsicums and chillies in polystyrene boxes, kalamata olives in a wheelbarrow, a lemon tree in a bucket… the list goes on. Where space was permitting, these Greek kitchen gardens also featured beautiful fig trees, the branches of which would often hang down over the fence into what I insisted was the public domain. On many a summer’s evening, Lachy would roll his eyes at me as I gleefully leaped at the fragrant, purple globules.
“Oh, so that’s your tree in your garden, is it?”
“Well, this branch is hanging over the footpath. Actually, can you reach that one for me?”
“No, I’m not picking figs for you because it’s stealing!”
“ Hey, it’s either me or the fruit bats, and at least I’m not screeching and sh*tting everywhere!”

Jump for my love

I’ve been thinking about the quality of “resilience” lately.

Resilience is an adjective that means:
1. (of an object or material) capable of regaining its original shape or position after bending, stretching, compression, or other deformation; elastic.
2. (of a person) recovering easily and quickly from shock, illness, hardship, etc; irrepressible.

I love the word irrepressible; it reminds me of the introduction to Monkey Magic…
“Elemental forces then caused the stone egg to hatch. From it there came a stone monkey. The nature of monkey was irrepressible!”

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I won’t lie, I find the thought of someone describing my nature as “ irrepressible” to be very appealing. However, like the elastic of your undies that must return to size 10 after your dad puts them on by mistake, we are only proved to be resilient in the context of a stretch. Before one can “bounce back”, their lives or bodies must be bent, compressed or deformed in some way or other. It’s a simple truth that we cannot develop resilience by cruising through life. The good thing is, this truth gives us a new filter through which to view the uncomfortable or distressing things that happen to us, from “I can’t handle this any longer” to “bring it b*tch, I’m irrepressible”.

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A recent example of real life resilience is the determined comeback of my fig tree, after the Boxing Day Massacre of 2012, when 20kg of puppy decided to ringbark my favourite Christmas present less than 24 hours after I received it.

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I ring-barked Jessi’s Christmas fig tree on Boxing Day.
(I didn’t get ANY Christmas pudding, so I thought it was fair)

(NB. concept courtesy of dogshaming.com)

“It’ll be alright”  said my Gran, “figs are very hardy, just keep the water up to it.”

As luck would have it, the next day we were booked to go on a 2 week beach holiday, during which time Melbourne (naturally) hit a ≥40°C heatwave. Great weather for swimming, not so great for recently mutilated figs. Had I asked anyone to water my garden while we were away? Of course not, how anal. On our return, the brown and shrivelled fig had become a cuddling post for my very clingy pumpkin.

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Not wanting to further distress the pumpkin, I left the fig in situ, where it received incidental watering. One day, below the scar, I noticed the fig was sending out beautiful green shoots.

What a champion! Go little fig tree – you are a fabulous example of resilience.
To encourage regrowth, I took the fig out of its protective enclosure for a feed and some pruning. Then the phone rang (hi Dad!)

I was gone maybe 5 or 10 minutes… but long enough for bloody Indie to have a second go at demolishing the poor thing.

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You stupid dog! What is it about you and fig trees?
However, a week later and the gnawed stump has put forth ever more green shoots

Little fig tree, you are truly irrepressible!

I’ve decided to name her Lazarus.

Enter the Vogon

Last Friday I celebrated my first week at a new job. For the past few years I’ve worked as a physio in acute public hospitals in Melbourne’s East, but this week I moved to a Community Rehab facility.

It’s a simple truth that with every significant life change there is “different good”, and “different bad”. The different good has been wonderfully refreshing. I actually have time to deliver effective therapy to people, instead of rushing around like a headless chook.
I get to invent fun ways to build people’s strength and co-ordination, eg.
“Stand on this piece of foam, on one leg. Good, now I’m going to throw balls at your head.”
Three afternoons a week I get to drive around in the sunshine to visit people in their homes. Fun!

Unfortunately, to balance the different good, there is also different bad, different confusing, and different stressful. Never in my life have I filled out so many forms! Yahgrhgarhgrhg!

Say I wanted to scratch my knee. First I would need to fill out three separate application forms to do so, and send each to a different manager, along with an email to each to inform them of its arrival. Once approval came back, I would fill in 4 different assessment forms to make sure scratching was appropriate, and identify the goals for scratching. Then I would book in the appointment times for scratching on the timetable, and also add it to the spreadsheet. Then I’d phone my knee to make sure the appointment was still ok. Once I’d scratched, I’d reassess the goals and complete the original forms, enter the casenotes in my knee’s client file, check that my knee’s home exercise program was clear (for independent scratching), refer on to any long-term scratching programs in the community (more forms), write a summary letter to my knee’s GP, then discharge my knee from the client registration system. Once that was done, I’d make sure the assessment forms were in the right folder for discussion at the next interdisciplinary team meeting.

Bleurhjrkjejhrjkehjrhhgjhg.

Have you read (or watched the film version) of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy?
Do you remember the Vogons?

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Many times in the past week I have felt like a Vogon. Especially when taking three times as long as everyone else to get all the administrative tasks done, mostly because of needing to ask 17,000 questions, and even then getting it a bit wrong.

Mmmm, job satisfaction!

After a Vogonizing day of grappling with the complex and tedious, it’s wonderful to focus on tasks or experiences that are simple and good.

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Receiving enthusiastic displays of affection that pay no heed to convenience or space limitations.

Watering my garden, and gloating over how many tomatoes are growing on my single, gargantuan tomato plant (19 and counting! Ripen up you babies!)

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Eating a super juicy plum, and resisting the urge to flick off the drips, until they have run all the way down to my elbow and jumped off themselves.

Going for an evening stroll.

Enjoying an after work drink in a little beer garden I know.
(This venue is particularly popular with the honeys.)

In considering how to conclude this post, I thought it might be nice to finish with some inspiring quote or something…. But I couldn’t seem to find anything that wasn’t painfully cheesy. So in that spirit, I’m embracing the cheese, and will leave you with this exquisite advertisement for Kellogg’s Cornflakes from 1989.

Yeah boy, this week I’m fighting Vogons with Bogans.