Tuesday, 30 December 2014

So long 2014...

So it’s the end of another year and the new one is looming. This one’s been a big one, but then they all are. My boys turned 7 and 9 blitzed it at school. I raised a lot of money for cancer research and welcomed a new God-daughter to my family. My little sister turned 21, I had breakfast with Mark Bouris, I spent more than I earned, I danced, I laughed and I yelled. Oh, and my mother-in-law moved in with us. Let’s not speak of that. 

I returned to part-time work in earnest and seem to have found my happy place but it has taken my time away from personal blogging quite a bit. Still, I managed to belt out a few and I thought I’d put a list of the most read together for you to read over your holidays.

Thank you for sticking with me. I know I haven't been around much lately but I still love this gig and you too, faithful reader. I hope you have a sensational new year and I promise to write more!!

Happy New Year Seventies Babies.

Love Tan xx

Friday, 21 November 2014

An Evening With John Edward

So a couple of weeks ago I went to see psychic medium John Edward. It wasn’t my preferred way to spend a Saturday evening but I had bought my true-believer mum two tickets for her birthday and she insisted that I accompany her, even though I had hoped my brother would go.

I was nervous in the lead up, which was silly of course. It’s just that I was raised in a family that’s into this kind of thing. Clairvoyants, tarot cards, astrology, superstitions and mediums are all things the women, at least, in my family have visited, talked about or studied. I grew up on tales of black magic and voodoo from Indonesia. My mother will not take a knife from my hand [I have to place it on the bench and she will take it from there] and will judge the merits of a new relationship based on the couples’ star signs. My grandmother could ‘read’ a house and tell in an instant if it was home to a positive or negative energy and knew every family member’s Chinese astrological sign. The whole family could tell you earnestly of crazy stories connecting them to loved ones who have passed and we all believe in the soul.

So I’m an almost believer. I reckon I’m about 85% convinced that this shit is real.  The other 15% is unconvinced. But then, I’m a Gemini so that makes me a hedge-better by nature. Anyway, it’s the 85% of me that was really nervous to go. I have seen Crossing Over so I know how John reads a crowd. There’s a lot of questioning to a particular area in the audience with what seems like specifics. He may say a name, a feminine/masculine energy, a cause of death or a date and someone in that area speak up and then we’re on. Once he’s homed in on someone he appears to become very specific with what he calls ‘validations’. And it’s about here that a skeptic COULD be validated. The ‘specifics’ that John reads were simultaneously spot-on and a lucky guess. That sounds weak, even to me but it seriously swings both ways – just like my opinion on all this.

The thing is – I WANT to believe. And that’s ultimately the crux of it, I guess. Everyone in that audience was there because they wanted to believe. They wanted answers. They wanted closure. Although as John himself so eloquently put it, they – we – were there for ‘connection’ not ‘closure’. Even the obtuse man who was brought along by his wife and initially refused to answer any of John’s quite specific and direct questions, ended up getting more out of it than anyone else once it became apparent that John was either truly getting messages from the bloke’s dead mother OR he was breathtakingly talented at reading this guy.

And that’s what I took away from it. Whether John Edward is indeed a psychic medium or not, he is incredibly intelligent. His insight and empathy is so spot on that I was floored. He used his skill [whatever you believe that may be] to counsel these people through some horrific circumstances of grief, loss, survival and life. I was fascinated to watch him essentially conduct a public therapy session with the members of the audience that the dead had messages for. He knew how far to push, what questions to ask and could deliver a piece of advice so specific to that person that you could see the clarity rise like a dawn on their face while the rest of us were collectively shrugging our shoulders in the international gesture of ‘huh??’

John uses a great analogy for the spiritual energy of our departed. “Think of a helicopter. While it’s stationary you can see the blades. Once it takes off, you can no longer see them – but you know they’re still there… a bit like the internet. You know it exists but you can’t visit. You can’t see it. You can’t touch it. Most of us can’t even explain it. It’s just there.”

Is it all for real? I still don’t know for sure, but in my heart I feel like it is.

Do you believe?

Friday, 7 November 2014

I was raised by a single mum

For most of my childhood and nearly all of my brother’s, my mum was a single mum. Not a primary caregiver who shared custody. Nor a parent who received maintenance payments from an absent father. No, she was a 100%, full-time single mum who raised two children on her own. She was the mother, the father, the disciplinarian, the breadwinner, the cleaner, the good cop, the bad cop, the cook and the nurturer. It wasn’t an easy life. For her or for us. But it certainly wasn’t a terrible life either. We endured that life together and now, as adults can look back with an almost fondness in our hearts.

“Remember how poor we were Tan?” Mum would ask, smiling. And I smile too when I answer “Yes! How could I forget?” Because there’s something about shared struggle that really binds people and hearts.

We were a small, tight and happy family. The simpleness of our lives, borne out of the inherent lack of money and financial security bred intense gratitude for the smallest things. Fillet steak for dinner on my birthday and my brother’s first ever designer sneakers come to mind. But conversely it also developed a desire for a greater life and a hunger for security – both emotional and financial.

I talk about my mum being a single parent a lot. I do it because I’m proud. Because I understand just how incredibly strong and capable a person needs to be to fulfill that role with any level of success and competence. And I’m proud that MY mum is one of those people. I do it also because I wholeheartedly believe that being raised in a single parent family has shaped me as a woman, as a wife and as a mother. Some of it in my favour and some of it to my detriment.

As a woman I am empowered. I know, without any doubt, that if the shit hit the fan and our lives went to hell that I would be able to pull us through. I believe in me and I believe in women. My mum didn’t mean to raise me as a feminist, it was just the by-product of having such an incredibly non-reliant, kick-arse, can-do female role model. I value women. I value my girl friends. I value me. Seeing my mum unapologetically take on the world lit a fire in my belly. But the flipside is I don’t value men as much. I have a distrust of them. Though that is changing. With every year and with every test I subconsciously set for the men in my life, but it is still there. It’s a hard feeling to shake. Having sons helps. Watching and helping them grow into loving, respectful and reliable young men restores my lost faith.

As a wife I am mostly pragmatic and demanding. On the one hand I believe I don’t need my husband and I can do everything without him. On the other hand, I’m terrified that he will leave and I have high expectations of him to be an active partner and father. Perhaps testing him. Perhaps trying to convince myself that he’s a good man. Growing up I always knew I had to ‘find a good man’. And now that I’ve got one I almost dare him to prove me wrong. He hasn’t and the largest part of my heart knows he won’t, but the smallest part still waits. I am heavily involved with my in-law family, grateful for them and what they bring to our lives. I only had my mum’s side of the family when I was growing up and though I never missed my dad’s side I am profoundly aware of how fortunate I am to have two extended families to call my own these days.

I am far too emotionally invested in my home. We moved quite a few times when I was a kid. There’s no family home for me to go back to. My mum hasn’t converted my childhood bedroom into a gym. There aren’t any marks on any walls that show how tall my brother and I grew over the years. We were long-term renters so my dream was always to buy a big house, fill it with kids and stay forever. I am in my forever house. Even though it’s not sensible or affordable or even manageable at the moment. I am in love with my house and have an unhealthy and intense feeling of security there. Even the thought of selling it makes my stomach turn.

As a mother I am tough. But mostly on myself. I want to be all things to my boys. I want to be strong and capable like my mum. I want to teach them gratefulness by not giving them everything but I don’t want them to ever feel hungry. I want them to learn independence and resilience but I never want to not be there for them. I never want my work to be more important or necessary to me than being there for them. As the only income earner in our household, my mother’s numerous jobs were necessary to our survival as a family. It meant she was away from us a lot. Even as kids we understood that but we shouldn’t have had to and I don’t want that for my boys. I expect them to appreciate the privileged life they live, though they know no other life. I struggle with my absolute maternal need to give them the life I didn’t have and my fear that I am robbing them of ever understanding the value of disadvantage. So I am tough and contradictory. I sacrifice overseas holidays, designer clothes and new cars to send them to a private school but refuse to succumb to spoiling them with the latest technology, gadgets and toys. I tell them that our family and our home are the most important things in the world. I tell them that my main job as their mum is to help them get through life with their health and their heart and their happiness. I tell them these things in words because I’m not confident that they will work it out themselves and I need them to know these things. I tell them they’re lucky and I tell them I’m lucky too. Because if you hear it enough times, you begin to believe it. I tell them what a good man their dad is and I show them that I love him and he shows them that he loves me. We don’t hide our arguments from them. We tell them that it is ok to argue with someone you love. It is safe. Family can disagree and still be family. Together. I want my boys to always know the feeling of security. Emotional, spiritual and financial.

I love the woman I am today. It took many years to love her and to understand her but all my resilience and insecurity and contradiction combined makes sense to me now. And it all fell into place when I realised that I had it wrong. Coming from a single parent family was not something bad that happened to me. It was a gift and a life-long lesson in family, love, strength, self, vulnerability, courage and choice.

Being raised by my single mum was the best thing that ever happened to me.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Fakebook vs The Full Catastrophe

Imagine we’re friends and I’ve invited you to my place for dinner. Because I don’t want to appear fake and life-shame you somehow, the dinner table conversation plays out like this:

“Here’s some snags and some bread. We’ve run out of butter but just put some sauce on it and it should be fine. I was going to buy steak, but we had a really high electricity bill this quarter so we can’t afford it. Excuse my pjs. I’m having a shit day and couldn’t be arsed getting dressed. I know that you won’t mind though – no airs and graces for you! Just keeping it real. Isn’t your son so well behaved? I’d love for him to be able to play with my sons but they’re both in a time-out in their bedroom ‘cause they refused to pick their toys up off the lawn and are now refusing to talk because they hate their family. Oh and my husband was planning to be here but we had a fight this morning and he doesn’t really like you much anyway so he’s gone to Bunnings. Pardon? You’d like to use the toilet? Of course! But don’t sit on the seat. I haven’t had a chance to wipe the piss off.”

When you invite people over for dinner, don’t you clean the house? Don’t you wear something nice and cook something delicious? Do you serve it on a lovely, set table with some matching [or purposely mismatched] serviettes? Haven’t we always shared our ‘highlight reel’?

I’m so tired of hearing people complain about other people only ever sharing their ‘highlight reel’ on social media. What is so wrong with it and why do they care?

Seriously people. Our whole fucking life is a highlight reel. It’s called manners. And discretion. There are only a handful people that see the whole catastrophe of my family life. I have 300 friends on Facebook. I don’t bullshit to them but I also don’t tell them about every shitty part of my life. Nor would I tell someone that I hardly know if I caught up with them at a party. “So nice to see you again Tania! It’s been ages – how are things?” “Oh y’know – pretty shit. Motherhood does my head in. We don’t have enough money to do anything. My kids have got attitude. My husband is stressed all the time and I’ve put on 8 kilos in the last 12 months. But enough about me - how about you?”

I’ve shared before that I, happily, live a very ordinary life. I think that’s cool and I’m authentic in all my online antics but there’s also some stuff that’s not just mine to share. I’m married and, believe it or not, we have our challenges. But whilst I’m a chronic over-sharer, my husband is the complete antithesis. It’s not up to me to air our sometimes dirty laundry to all and sundry in an attempt to share my life ‘warts and all’.  My kids throw tantrums. I argue with my mum. My house is often in disarray which often matches my hair. Sometimes the frypan that I cooked dinner in on Monday is still sitting, dirty on the stove top on Thursday. Sometimes I cook wholesome, organic, from-scratch family meals and sometimes I wipe that dirty fry pan and whip up a sausage sizzle for dinner.

I’m normal. Just like you are. But I’m not obligated to share every ‘normal’ part of my life with everyone I’m connected to, to avoid some sort of social media misconception. I am not responsible for your feelings of guilt. Just as you [or anyone] is responsible for mine. This whole business of people feeling worse about themselves because of the ‘highlight reels’ their social media friends dare to share online drives me nuts. Would these same people be pissed off if every time they were invited to someone’s house that the kids were on their best behavior and the house was tidy and the host couple seemed to genuinely enjoy each other’s company in their new outfits? Would they leave that house believing that their host’s intention was to prove to them how much better they were at ‘life’ than their guests. Would they leave feeling shamed and offended that their hosts had dared to be so ‘fake’?

There just seems to be someone pissed off about someone else’s use of social media every fucking day. What does anybody care? If I only ever show myself looking gorgeous with my gifted and talented children while my flawless husband is off hunting and gathering when he’s not cooking the perfect bbq – who cares? Do they need to see behind the scenes? What makes people think any of that is about them? What makes people think that me showing only the awesome bits of my life is shaming their life? Maybe all us hateful fakebookers are sharing the ‘highlight reel’ as an exercise in gratitude. You know, that there are positive parts of our otherwise normal, boring, messy lives. Or maybe it just doesn’t have anything to do with anyone else at all.

You know what shits me? Breakfast updates and some trending awareness campaign that shows up a million times in my newsfeed and pictures of cats and stupid passive aggressive vague updates and any story about the Kardashians. But do I care?

Nope. I just scroll past and get on with my sometimes awesome life.

And I think that’s what we all should do.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

What it's like to love a 9 year old boy

My 9 year old, Nathan, has been doing my head in lately. And by doing my head in I mean sending me batshit crazy. He has taken defiant to a whole new level and is throwing moodswings at me with the speed and agility of something that is really quick and agile. This week I was ready to sell him for a bottle of gin. But to be totally honest, I would have paid someone to take him away. This whole ‘you can’t make me, it’s my life’ attitude that has taken over his body has appeared prematurely and without warning. I have always expected it, but not so early. I’m not ready for that. I’m not prepared to enter into a relatively grown up argument with a child. And, despite his best argument, he IS a child. He hasn’t even hit double digits yet!

It’s weird watching something that you grew in your belly ‘become’. It’s even weirder to realise how little their ‘becoming’ has to do with you… and how much. He’s becoming a real person. With his own opinions and feelings and preferences. His body is changing. His voice is changing. He is growing up and out and most importantly, within.

This week was his junior school drama production. Two year two classes and two year four classes all performed one act per class. Nathan’s class had the fourth act. The three acts preceding it were excruciating. Not to say that the kids weren’t all awesome and cute and talented and funny. It’s just that I’m tired and grumpy and really couldn’t give a shit about anyone else’s kid [and just for the record, I know and love some of those kids but would still rather be home in my tracksuit drinking wine].

When the curtain rose on Act 4, I waited begrudgingly for my kid to do his thing, quickly, so we could get out of there. And then he walked out on stage and my heart skipped a little bit and my smile spread so wide that my face almost turned inside out. That was my boy. On stage. In the spotlight. With a gorgeous, strong and loud voice he delivered his lines flawlessly. I could sense his entire essence from my seat in the dark. I could see his confidence like an aura and fuck that made me proud. This was the same boy who was TERRIFIED of even the thought of performing only two years before. I watched him. And I saw him. When you love a 9 year old boy, it’s not often that you have the opportunity to just sit and watch. They’re always moving or scowling or catching you spying on them. But last night, I surrendered to the good fortune of my son performing. I have no idea what his act was about and I don’t know what anyone else was doing because I just could not take my eyes off him. I watched the way his body moved and his head tilted when he was listening. I watched his face light up like sunshine when he laughed. He was beautiful. He IS beautiful.

Loving a 9 year old boy is not always easy to do. It means there are times that he seems to have no interest whatsoever in anything that comes out of your mouth unless it involves football or Pokemon cards. There are times that he will have three helpings of dinner, gulped down without any regard for table manners and a week later a declaration that he HATES that exact same dish and he can’t believe he is expected to eat it. It means he no longer comes to the ladies toilets with me and fiddles with the stereo knobs from the front passenger seat in my car. It’s a time of slamming doors and lots of rolling eyes. My days are unpredictable with my 9 year old. Some days he is entirely full of boyish love for me and happy to cuddle up next to me on the couch for hours and other days it’s almost like he wishes everyone, including me, would just disappear. There’s a lot of bashing up the younger brother and passionate refusal to do the simplest and most regular of things. Like showering and brushing teeth. And the attitude. Oh my lord, what is with the attitude?! That’s not what I was pitching for when I was gently shaping my toddler. I’m all for my kids having their own mind, I just wish it was more like mine y’know?

So, sure it’s not easy but man it’s rewarding. Watching him from the dark of the audience while he was on stage was sublime. In one of the scenes, all the boys had to dance/walk on stage to Michael Jackson’s ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’. And there was mine, entering stage left. All rhythm and swagger. Following the choreography with perfect timing, singing along word for word. I was fixated on his facial expressions and the way he held himself tall and proud. I was in awe of him. Up there, on stage, completely independent of me. I watched him confidently cross the stage at the end of the performance to hand out the gifts to the volunteers and shake their hands. He didn’t tell me about that. He doesn’t tell me lots of things these days. I sat there and understood that I’m just not so necessary to his everything anymore. My boy is on his way to becoming a man and his mum is on her way to becoming obsolete. Once he looked to me for all the answers. Now it seems that he's always looking away. Into the world. I don’t expect the ride to be easy but nothing worthwhile ever is.

What’s it like to love a 9 year old boy? Consuming. Heart warming. Heart breaking. Exasperating. Exhausting. Uplifting. Tumultuous. 

And worth every bit of it.