My Husband Would Rather You Didn’t Read this Blog Post

Husband Blog Post - Andrew and Hammock

February

The shortest month of the year has just been and gone. With both Valentine’s Day and my husband’s birthday nestled in February it is a month where a focus on Andrew, our relationship and love seems unavoidable.

 

Uniquely Mr. S

I fell in love with Andrew a long time ago but have found over the years many of his idiosyncrasies interesting, even lovable. Here are a few:

He is a quiet, stoic man. Case in point – we had elected not to find out the gender of our firstborn so when our son was born it was an exciting time. Andrew called up his parents and in a calm voice said two words: ‘Yep, boy’. He does however become animated whenever he finds a typo in a newspaper article.

He has a lot of regulations about how a dishwasher should be stacked correctly will rain wrath down on anyone who attempts to wash the sharp knives in there.

In no particular order he loathes crowds, mushrooms, Facebook, horror movies, spicy food, and most bizarrely, pizza. Yes. Pizza. Everyone likes pizza.

He peels bananas from the bottom. Just because.

He doesn’t think people should wear t-shirts of the band they are going to see in concert but it is perfectly acceptable to wear another band’s t-shirt to that concert.

 

Grumpy Pants

I like discovering these things about my husband. But my goodness at times, I get grumpy with him! As usual it is about the tiniest things – he was telling me off about my driving this morning. But really it is always about the big things. Obviously he doesn’t trust me, thinks I am a terrible driver, always knows better… all the things my angry brain says to me.

To reduce my cognitive dissonance – I married this man and we produced two incredible children together so there must be something there – I find it helps to do an exercise where I list out things I like.

So here goes…

 

Love Letter

Andrew,

Sometimes I find it hard to unconditionally love you so I thought I would write a list of some of the reasons (conditions??) of why I love you instead…

I always think you are very handsome, especially when you have the right amount of stubble (I never notice or care that you are bald)

You are a fantastic daddy – you are a rock star to Dylan and Eloise

You are very practical and do lots of things I wouldn’t ever do myself like fixing doors, fridges and toys

You have great teeth

I am very grateful that you don’t follow sports or spend whole weekends watching cricket or motor racing

You show love through action and I am eternally in your debt for washing and vacuuming my car

You make a mean stew and a tasty lasagna

I like your intellect, dry sense of humour and your ability to pick up cultural references (you told me what ‘jump the shark’ means)

You freely give out good hugs and sometimes if I am really lucky a nice back massage

I love you, Julie

 

Just writing this list has put me in a better frame of mind. I guess I should do it more often. It is probably good that there are cultural institutions like Valentine’s Day and birthdays that remind us to love what is right in front of us.

 

References

The Five Love Languages Book: The Five Love Languages on Amazon.com

‘Jump the Shark’ definition via the Urban Dictionary:

A term to describe a moment when something that was once great has reached a point where it will now decline in quality and popularity. The origin of this phrase comes from a ‘Happy Days’ episode where the Fonz jumped a shark on waterskis. Thus was labeled the lowest point of the show.

Husband Blog Post - Andrew and Eloise on Beach

 

What I Learned from Jumping out of a Plane

Jumping out of a Plane Blog Post - Julie Skydive

Similarities

Jumping out of a plane is a lot like giving birth – it is an overwhelming sensory experience, it is painful (not physically, just on the wallet), and in both instances you ask yourself ‘what the heck was I thinking?’

 

The Top 40 Bucket List

A tandem skydive was the very last activity in my year of ticking off 40 bucket list items to celebrate my significant birthday milestone during 2016. I was happy to end the bucket list on such a high note (literally) but I was also kicking myself that I had not done the skydive much earlier in the year.

In fact, that is one of the main things I learned from jumping out of a plane – if you are really scared of something you should try and do it sooner rather than later. Anticipation can multiply your fears into a spider web of worry and stress, unless you manage them well (as I guess you should try to do for labour and birth). I didn’t just have a one hour drive and the twenty minute plane ride to think about the jump, but almost 365 days to stew on it.

So I would like to share with you some things I learned from jumping out of a plane. Then if you ever decide to do something as ridiculous as strapping yourself to a stranger and leaving a functioning aircraft at 13,000 feet above the Earth’s surface, you would have benefitted from my insights beforehand.

 

Wisdom from Two Miles Up

Firstly, as they say ‘eat that frog’. If something seems daunting, do it as soon as you can. Do not procrastinate. You will either not do it at all or do it with so many scary thoughts inside you that you won’t enjoy the experience. I am almost a bit jealous of the guy who turned up at the skydiving spot with a blindfold on and was told by his gleeful friends that he was getting a tandem jump for his birthday.

Setting deadlines is ultra important if you want to do things. I set a goal to tick 40 things off my bucket list during the calendar year of 2016. I jumped out of a plane on the 30th December, one day before my deadline. Yes it was self-imposed. And no one would care if I jumped out on the 1st January 2017. But I would. As I had completed the rest of the list and there was a deadline looming, completing the jump became more important than the fear.

Stepping out of your comfort zone once in a while is really good for you. And there are not a lot of things in this world that are further out of your comfort zone than jumping out of a plane. Afterwards, I felt like a superhero.

People ask me what I was thinking during 45 seconds of free-fall and I don’t really know. I can tell you what I was NOT thinking about and that was my inbox. Jumping out of a plane reminds us to live in the present moment, which is what everyone needs more of in this frantic world. Although from now on, I can remind myself of this with my feet firmly on the ground.

Perhaps the most surprising learning was now I have done a tandem skydive, other things seem less frightening. Since then I have seen a film (‘The Cabin in the Woods’) that I previously decided was too terrifying to watch. I am looking forward to where my newfound courage takes me – I may one day be quite okay being in close quarters with a spider.

 

Best Year Ever

Completing the bucket list, and especially the skydive, contributed to 2016 being the best year of my life (so far). I was trying to work out what made it so great and came up with a few reasons.

Firstly, I designed the bucket list to cover many things I had wanted to do for some time. I felt in control of my own life, and that is a rarity these days. Also, the whole idea took some planning and hard work to execute and when I put time and effort into things I often feel more satisfied. I was probably better off than the guy who got the surprise tandem jump gift after all. Plus as I set myself a challenge and told everyone about it I built discipline, confidence and integrity. These are attributes I always want more of and I hope they rub off onto my children too.

 

Fun

And in case this is getting too ‘rah-rah’ motivational for you, what I would really like my children and others to learn from all this is that life is for living.

So live it.

Have some fun.

This is not a selfish sentiment. It is actually the complete opposite. Doing something that fills you up inside and gives you a boost of joy makes you happier and this is then spread to your loved ones and the world at large.

So jump out of plane and save the world.

Jumping out of a Plane Blog Post - Julie Skydive 2

 

 

Surprising Lessons from NaNoWriMo

NANOWRIMO Blog Post - Julie the Writer at a Cafe

NaNoWriMo – No, it’s Not a Rude Word

I have just written ‘The End’ on the first draft of my very first novel. I wrote it during National Novel Writing Month. This is a mouthful so it gets abbreviated to NaNoWriMo, which really is only slightly less of a mouthful. Each year, in November, thousands of writers all around the world take up the challenge to write a 50,000 word (approximately 180 page) novel for NaNoWriMo.

I can now count myself as a NaNoWriMo ‘winner’. Winners succeed in getting 50,000 words written before the end of the month. Other participants have varying levels of success up to that magic number.

The point is quantity of words, possibly organised in sentences and paragraphs and hopefully in some semblance of a story with characters, settings, dialogue and maybe even a plot. You are to ignore your inner editor and critic and plough on regardless. Just get those words down. My silly little romance may never be seen by anyone else but it more or less contained these essential elements that make it a complete work of fiction.

I understand that doing something like this seems perhaps too ambitious or too ridiculous or certainly quite pointless, but that is exactly why I did it. And I must say, I am extremely proud of achieving this big, hairy, audacious goal.

 

The Big 4-0

In the middle of this big challenge, something significant occurred. Yes, the next leader of the free world was elected; there were earthquakes here in New Zealand and around the world and possibly some other major news events that I only caught a whiff of as I was locked in my office. But the most important thing to me was…

I TURNED 40!!!

I wanted to write some sort of blog post on what I had learnt in my first 40 years on this planet but quickly worked out that not only would that be dull, but I can’t remember much of it anyway.

Then I realised that the insights I gained from doing NaNoWriMo were actually the main points of wisdom I wanted to share. Here they are:

 

Goal Setting and All that Blah

That entire goal setting stuff really makes sense. Set a goal, write it down and commit to doing it. I heard about NaNoWriMo seven years ago didn’t make it a must until this year. Seven years – I could have seven novels by now!

Also all that guff that goes along with goal setting – having a deadline (30 November), taking action every day (writing some words even though I would regularly think they were crap), focused commitment (unimportant things like the watching TV, interacting with my family and showering were reduced to a minimum) and rewarding milestones (mmmm chocolate, I have never loved you more) are essential facets to achieving a huge goal.

 

Accountability is Key

When you aim to do something big, hairy or audacious, tell everyone about it. They don’t have to understand or even like it, but by golly they will have a great time holding you accountable to your lofty ambitions.

Doing NaNoWriMo was part of the ‘Top 40 Bucket List’ of 40 bucket list items I am ticking off throughout the calendar year of 2016 to coincide with turning 40. I tell everyone I meet about this list. There was no chance of backing out of NaNoWriMo this year.

Telling people may even mean you get a little support for your wacky endeavors. Here is my public great big THANK YOU to my family and friends and especially to my husband who at various times pulled tiny humans off me while I was tapping at the keyboard and entertained my kids well out of earshot.

But I got a lot more out this challenge than being reminded of how important the goal setting dogma of deadlines, focus, action, rewards and accountability can be. Three of the more unexpected learnings were:

 

State of Flow

Creating something, anything at all, feels great. Sometimes it is frustrating, sometimes it is fun, but the great feeling comes from being present with your creation. Yes I have written non-fiction books and blogged now for years, but it took writing a big hulk of a novel to really drive this point home.

Being in this state of flow is what humans want and need more of and it is becoming increasingly rare these days with constant distractions only a tap of the finger away. Flow is always there for the taking. In the throes of creativity you can’t help but be in flow, be really present. And it feels amazing.

 

Leap Off the Cliff

It is perfectly okay to start something with absolutely no idea of how the process will go, how it should look or how on earth you are going to finish it. This doesn’t just apply to creative projects, but a lot of things in life. As the old adage states: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

Sometimes it is better not to have the whole thing perfectly mapped out. Trust the process; let yourself be pleasantly surprised by where the project takes you. I am a very organised person and thought I would have a perfect outline and screeds of character notes before I started NaNoWriMo. In fact all I did was draw a giant mind map which I then proceeded to ignore and instead ‘pantsed’ my way through my novel – essentially wrote it from the top of my head or from my proverbial, if you prefer that image.

After all, the journey never goes exactly how you think anyway, so why try to control it? I thought I would be god-like in maneouvering my characters through the plot, but instead they took on a life of their own and surprised me with things they said and did. I thought writing every day would be a hard slog, but instead I had a really awesome time.

 

Creating IS the Point

Sometimes you just need to create. It doesn’t have to be important, you don’t have to think of a monetary reason for it and you certainly do not need to show it to anyone. As a society we consume, consume, consume, so it is important to re-address that balance by allowing ourselves the gift of pure creativity.

Putting your stamp on the universe, even in some tiny, perhaps frivolous way, not only makes you a better person, fills your tank and allows you to want to contribute in other ways, but makes the world a richer, fuller place for having you and your creation as a part of it.

Sure, all I have is one gigantic Word document sitting on my computer, but it feels darn good.

 

Relearning

I wanted to impart all this newfound wisdom onto my children. But then I realised that tiny humans already know this stuff. They are easily able to be in flow many of the hours of the day – look at how they play, eat, laugh. Kids live entirely in the present. Our 18-month-old daughter, Eloise, does everything without thinking of how to finish it, like climbing up onto the kitchen table. Dylan, at four, spends days at kindergarten creating artwork that no one sees but him, just because he enjoys doing so.

I don’t need to teach this, I just have to find a way to not forget it like I did 30-something years ago. And I need to be vigilant to ensure our beautiful tiny humans never lose this essential knowledge at all.

 

References

No Plot? No Problem! – A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days – Chris Batey (USA, 2004)

NOTE: If you wish to see some of the things I have done for the Top 40 Bucket List, friend me on Facebook and look for that photo album

NANOWRIMO Blog Post - NANOWRIMO Winner Screen Shot

 

My Family’s Secret Language

Family Language Blog Post - Playing Cards

The Conk

When I was growing up, in our family, the third game or round we played to work out the overall winner – if for example I won one and my sister one the other – was called ‘The Conk’.

Yes, ‘The Conk’.

I guess it is some shortened form of conqueror but I don’t really know and I am sure if I asked, no one in the family would know either. It was normal thing to say ‘lets play The Conk to decide the winner’.

Unfortunately I had no idea that this phrase was unique to my family’s lexicon and not widely known. After a couple of fierce lunchtime games of 500 with high school friends, suggesting ‘we play The Conk’ was met with lots of serious mocking and laughter.

Teenage humiliation now far behind me, I really like how we had made up words and used them naturally between us. We have even started to do this in my little family with some of the mispronunciations and cute ‘kid-made’ words that Dylan has said.

 

Correct Pronunciation

Like any young child, Dylan often gets words and phrases wrong and not all of these have ended up as part the natural language of our family. Sometimes we make an effort to correct his speech.

So, par-cark has been changed around to car park and bake-cano has slowly been corrected to volcano. I thought it important to teach him not to say ‘eel’ instead of ‘seal’. We are still working on putting an ‘n’ at the start of ninja.

 

Cute but Short-lived

Some of Dylan’s interpretations on words and phrases are too cute and we have repeated them back to him and even used them ourselves sometimes. But over time, they have corrected without much help from us. Cute but short-lived words and phrases uttered by Dylan include:

  • ‘parrot shute’ instead of parachute
  • washing lion for washing line
  • eye growl for eye brow
  • swimming gobbles for swimming goggles
  • flag instead of tag (the label inside a t-shirt)
  • machos for nachos
  • chicken pops for chicken pox

My four and half year old boy can now clearly tell me that he loves me, and that is exceptionally nice to hear. It is just not as cute as the first couple of times when Dylan said “I Bove You Mummy”.

 

Our Family’s (Now Not-So) Secret Language

Some of the things Dylan says have stuck. We have embraced them as a family and now say them as well. Why do we have to use the proper word when Dylan’s altered ones are so much better? I like how we have started our own family traditions. I can not only pass down ‘The Conk’ to my children, but they can pass a unique lexicon onto theirs – a kind of inter-generational secret family language.

So in our home if we play pretend shops and want to buy something, we use our ‘money-dollars’. When we hear an insect buzzing around, it is probably a ‘shoo-fly’. And when there is a loud noise, Dylan goes off to find his ‘ear-mupps’ to wear over his ears.

A few times when either my husband or I were going out, Dylan would ask us in a slightly worried tone ‘but who is going to keep me?’ It took us a while to realise that he was asking who was going to stay at home with him or look after him.

I now think this is a lovely turn of phrase and sums up what he asking perfectly. Well Dylan, who is going to ‘keep’ you? My darling, gorgeous boy, I will always ‘keep’ you.

I would love to hear your ‘kid-made’ words that have made it into your family’s secret language or unique lexicon. Post them in the comments below.

Family Language Blog Post - Money Dollars