What happened to Autum?

Well, look at this… I am on a roll! Four blogs in three weeks… outrageous… apparently this was all just lurking just under the surface… and I guess I have that pesky goal of writing 15 blogs this year so I needed to start writing!

This year feels like it has gone both incredibly fast and incredibly slowly all at the same time… and that the saying of “the days are long, but the years are short” has never been more true than in 2020. I think that compounding this is my ever-present sense of anticipation… that we still need to get the year going. I guess that I hadn’t really hit my stride before everything stopped… but it in all reality it probably won’t start again in 2020… not the way I want it to anyway… I can’t go back to the long days of summer and get stuck into some project as the weather turns and just work my way through winter… it’s already here… I am writing this in August… and it’s cold… but there is less to do than ever… but we will get into that a bit later. So while I feel like we should still be talking about summer BBQs and daylight savings, that’s actually long gone… and it’s time for another list update. A list update for the season that happened without me even noticing!

March

Things started to change in march for Melbourne… well probably for everywhere… but at home here in Melbourne we entered stage 3 restrictions for the first time to try and slow the spread of COVID 19… and we did a pretty good job for a while (let’s leave what happened in July for later). And because I have been fearful of all that COVID might mean for those around me and my little family, I welcomed the March lockdown wholeheartedly. I loved the idea of everyone just stopping so we could fix the problem and then get on with things. Whenever I have the option… that’s how I like to deal with my problems… to stop everything… fix it and move on. Of course, that’s not usually how life works… but it seemed that this time it might. I loved the idea of having Dave working from home too, that our little family would be gifted this season of uninterrupted togetherness. I had the internet to connect me to family and friends, but all I needed day to day was with me 100% of the time and it was wonderful. It truly was. In fact, that first period of lockdown might have actually contained some of my most treasured memories and moments.

But of course, the lockdown didn’t start until the middle of March… which meant we did manage to cross off a big community item before the rules all changed. We started March with the Monash Children’s Hospital Walk, which was our second ‘fun run’ for the year (no. 6, completed: 06/03). In January Dave and I had participated in the relief run a virtual event to raise money for the bushfire relief effort which meant our 10km around Jells Park was our second event for the year. Isaac even got to wear a cape and wore his medal with pride for the rest of the day.

In March I finished off my summer project of my yearly scrapbooks… I hadn’t worked on these since Joshua passed away, so there was a lot to do, but now they are up to date to the end of 2019 (no. 61, completed: 15/03)… which I am pretty happy about. I have a love-hate relationship with these scrapbooks… I love to look through them and reminisce, but collecting and remember and putting them together is a slog if I don’t stay on top of it.

Because I suffer from FOMO as much as the average bear, I got sucked into the iso-baking phenomenon pretty early on in lockdown… Dave and I did a big clean out of our pantry and worked out what meals we had already and what items we needed so that we could avoid going to the shops. During our clean out I discovered we had a lot of eggs that were on their way to the bin if we didn’t use them up… so we iso-baked meringues (no. 18, completed: 22/03) and Banana Bread (no. 89, completed: 24/03)… and a LOT of other things, but they were the two that also doubled as March list items.

My last list item in March is a pretty boring one… I counted off my third month of no games on my phone (no. 49, completed: 31/03)… it wasn’t as hard as it had been previously… and certainly helped keep my useless phone time down… but it’s not very exciting to write about… So there you go… 5 things off the list in March.

April

Once we had adapted to lockdown life… we hit our listing stride in April. Isaac crossed another two things off his list and I crossed 6 off mine… not a bad effort considering we didn’t really leave the house!

Dave and I choose to keep Isaac home from childcare so that those who needed to use it could and we weren’t adding to ours or their risk… but that meant I needed to step up my activity skills. I like order and structure and not much mess… well that’s not entirely true… I don’t mind making mess as long as I don’t have to clean it up… so messy play is usually reserved for childcare… where Isaac can make lots of mess without me panicking or having to pack up. But lockdown meant we had to make some changes but it also meant we were able to cross off no. 80 Paint a picture (completed: 28/04) and no. 51 Make some cookies with Isaac (completed: 25/04)… we made some ANZAC biscuits for ANZAC day… they were delish! We also were a bit more deliberate about physical activity… Isaac mastered jumping and scooting (no. 13, completed: 26/04 and no. 8, completed: 27/04 respectively) and Dave and I signed up for an exercise challenge with my brother and his family making us move every day… this eventually led to a Les Mills on-demand subscription… which in turn meant I could do exercise classes from the comfort of my lounge room (no. 87, completed: 04/04).

For my birthday we took some family photos in the backyard (no. 27, completed: 09/04) in which I wore a bright pink jumper that I had purchased in March but hadn’t been brave enough to wear (no. 78, completed: 09/04). I actually love it and it has brought some bright and happy vibes a few times during lockdown since.

We also got to watch a brand new Disney movie… not at the movies like I had planned, but again from the safety and comfort of our lounge room Dave and I watched Onward… and it was lovely in all the right Disney ways (no. 94 completed: 26/4).

May

May was a big month for us… Isaac crossed 3 things off his list and I crossed 5 things off mine. Which again considering we were only allowed to leave the house at the end of the month… it’s a pretty great effort.

The biggest list item for May was no. 2. Find a better work-life balance (completed 08/05). At the beginning of the year when I wrote the list I wasn’t sure what this would look like, but as 2020 would have it this item was done for me… At the end of April, I was told that my role at one of my jobs was being made redundant, the company was undergoing a merge with another company and my role was the first of many that would be a double up once the merge was finalised so… being on the taken over side of the company… my job was no longer needed. To be totally honest even though I knew this was a possibility until I was actually told, I hadn’t believed it. I loved the work that I was doing and I honestly thought I was bringing a lot to the table, and that maybe somehow I would be one of the lucky ones to hold on… but it was not to be… so on the 8th of May I had my last day there and went back to only being employed in one job, rather than the two I had been managing since returning to work after Isaac was born. I went from working 4+ days a week to a regular 2days… in theory… once schools went back… which gave me three weekdays with Isaac that I could be flexible with if I needed or wanted more work. And once I got over the disappointment of my role being made redundant I was quite excited about have some extra space in my life to be a mum… after all… they are only little once. Of course, this was all good provided that schools went back to onsite learning and Isaac went back to childcare… so for a few weeks between the end of May and the beginning of July I was pretty excited about the new balance I had found. Now that we are back in lockdown and there isn’t a huge amount of need for replacement teachers during online learning I have more at home life than I was planning, but I am looking at this as a positive too… although I will confess round 2 is much harder without the breaks that my two days of work provided in lockdown 1.

It turns out though that the extra time was good for listing… we drew pictures and completed puzzles (Isaac’s list no. 12, completed 10/05 and no. 17, completed 29/05). We toasted marshmallows in the fire pit in our front yard (no. 91, completed 16/05) which was a bit magical and way more fun than I had anticipated. I met my 3rd baby of the year (no. 20, completed 26/05) and I finished my 9th book (no. 7, completed 25/05) and that was before I managed to resurrect my original bookclub. This year’s books were a mixture of Reese Witherspoon’s Bookclub books from Hello Sunshine and some self-chosen books… here is the list so far:

  1. Conviction – Denise Mina (Reese’s Bookclub)
  2. Kings Cage – Victoria Aveyard
  3. Searching for Sunday – Rachel Held Evans
  4. Such a fun age – Kiley Reid (Reese’s Bookclub)
  5. The scent keeper – Erica Bauermeister (Reese’s Bookclub)
  6. The Jetsetters – Amanda Eyre Ward (Reese’s Bookclub)
  7. Dark Emu – Bruce Pascoe
  8. Autobiography of Jean Luc Picard
  9. Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng

Since then I have also finished:

10. Jack Charles: Born Again Blakfella – Jack Charles
11. Where the Crawdads Sing – Delia Owens
12. The Guest List – Lucy Foley (Reese’s Bookclub)
13. Conversations with Friends – Sally Rooney (The original bookclub that’s back… it needs a name)
14. A Year of Biblical Womanhood – Rachel Held Evans
15. Educated – Tara Westover (The original bookclub… yep definitely needs a name)

Not a bad effort especially given it’s only August. Although I have found reading to be a great distraction from social media and news… and a good way to fall asleep…

This month Isaac also learnt how to take a photo on the iPhone.. and he is pretty cuffed with himself (no. 22, completed 16/05) and thanks to a very thoughtful Mothers Day gift I am now the proud owner of some reusable non-paper towels (no. 5, completed 10/5). This has shown me just how much paper towel I actually use… and that these non-paper ones are just as good. Although I might need a second batch…

So while I am not sure when Autumn happened… Apparently, it was choccas. Because on top of everything listed above there were also some fun celebrations too… Easter, including Isaac’s first easter egg hunt which was much more fun than even I could have anticipated, Mother’s Day complete with homemade gifts and cupcakes delivered to Mooma and both Nannas and my return to my first craft love… cross-stitch. And even though it has all felt like a bit of a false start, I will continue to look back on this season as one of my all-time favourites, despite its challenges.

The Blessing

At the beginning of March, my best mate sent me a text with a link to a song and the sentence “the bridge is yours, my friend”. That night I wept in my kitchen to the sound of ‘The Blessing’ for the first time. Dave and I had just started talking about what it would look like to try again and expand our family and the words of the bridge “May His favour be upon you, And a thousand generations, And your family and your children, And their children, and their children” felt like a promise that one day there would be children plural… that Isaac would get a buddy and our children would have children and so on and so forth… something I had not allowed myself to think about because the fear of the alternative was just too much. This song, taken straight from scripture in Numbers 6:24-27 is an ancient blessing given to Moses by God to be given to Israel, God’s people. It is a song that has been used by Christians for a long time to bless each other, sung and said over congregations as Christians are sent out into the world. At the very beginning of March, this ancient blessing was once again given new life in the form of a song offered by Kari Jobe and Cody Carnes.

Fast forward to August and our family plans are back on hold, we like many places around the globe are in lockdown, trying to avoid others as the world works out how to manage COVID and this simple song has become an anthem of 2020. This morning I watched the New Zealand version of The Blessing and once again I was in tears. It is just one of many many versions of this song that has been produced over the last few months as a collective blessing from God via churches across the globe to all. Every time I watch one of these recordings I am struck by 4 things…

1. It’s Specific

Even though all the recordings are of the same song each one is incredibly unique. Different voices, different spaces, different languages, different circumstances. The expression of the song, the imagery that is used… footage of the beautiful land they are praying over, snapshots into people homes and lives as they record themselves with whatever they have. It becomes a very personal prayer over specific places and people. Each authentically worshipping in a style that best represents those they want to bless. It feels incredibly personal to see these worshipers vulnerably offering their sacrifice of praise as an offering to their homeland, to their families to their friends and then to the world. As I watched the Australian Blessing I was struck by how much I loved the country I call home… this beautiful land and its people and how much I desperately wanted this blessing for my home. For its beaches, for its red dirt, for its bush and for its people… this global blessing was for us… right here.

2. Unity

It’s hard not to notice the unity of these videos, bringing 100s of individual voices together to sing, recorded separately and then blended and offered together. People of all walks of life positioned side by side, presenting as one. Unified in purpose to bless. These people who represent the very wide breadth of the church working together, not fighting or arguing about theological differences, but standing together to declare God’s love for his people to a world in chaos. It is inclusive… old and young, rich and poor, traditional and contemporary, Catholic and Protestant, every denomination, every tribe and every tongue declaring a collective blessing overall they have been sent to.

3. Passion

It’s also hard to miss the passion and the affection being poured out in these recordings, people consumed by worshipping their God as they speak on his behalf. Again each in their own way, some charismatically, some more reserved, some with instruments and others with just their voice. There is even a small boy in the ‘children’s blessing’ who uses his computer to allow him to speak and participate in this collective worship. This blessing is heartfelt and offered with everything… nothing is held back. The recordings aren’t all polished and produced so that there are no blemishes, they are honest and raw.

4. The cry of my heart

But what gets me most every time is the stirring I feel in my heart, that this is what I want and this is what I want to offer. That this is my prayer too… that God would bless me, my family, my community, my land. That this unity created by individuals because of Christ is just what this broken world needs… that the blessing is for all and is there to be received if you would just be open to it. That there is no place that this blessing can’t reach because there is nowhere God will not go for his people… us… all of humanity. This is what I want you to know, this is what I want to teach Isaac… He is for you… in all the craziness that is 2020, He is for you regardless of your circumstances, regardless of your nationality, regardless of your creed… the King of Kings is for you and wants to bless you.

So if you haven’t already allowed yourself to receive this blessing… it’s available in almost every language at just the click of button… but just to get you started here are a few of my favourites:

And here is God’s blessing for you:

The Lord bless you
And keep you
Make His face shine upon you
And be gracious to you
The Lord turn His
Face toward you
And give you peace

May His favour be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children, and their children

May His presence go before you
And behind you, and beside you
All around you, and within you
He is with you, He is with you

In the morning, in the evening
In your coming, and your going
In your weeping, and rejoicing
He is for you, He is for you

Amen

Dear Rachel Held Evans

Dear Rachel,

I first heard your name in May last year when women I had grown up with or knew through my church networks mourned your death on their social media pages, but it wasn’t until a friend suggested I read one of your books that I really understood what the world had lost. Since reading that first book in December, I quickly purchased the rest on my kindle and have started making my way through the rest of your work. Last week I finished reading ‘A Year of Biblical Womanhood’ and once again I found myself wanting to tell you how important these books have been to me and wishing I had known more about you while there was still time to express my gratitude to you directly. I also now know why these other women in my life felt such a deep loss when you passed… I feel it too.

When I read and listen to your books it is almost as if you have taken the contents of my brain and turned it to a more eloquent version of my thoughts and supported it with research. There have been many deep sighs of recognition and moments of deep peace because despite how I might feel, or have been made to feel… I am not alone… that my questions will not lead to damnation and that it is ok to want more and less all at the same time.

Thank you for reminding me that God is sufficient and that wrestling with ideas, stories and concepts is part of being human and that to shut this part of my life off when it comes to spiritual things would be dangerous. Thank you for reminding me of the beauty of scripture and sacraments and the church universal. Thank you for warning me that my journey to satisfaction in the church as it is will be a long road… that perhaps will bring pain or require me to make choices that will not be easy. Thank you for teaching me of the beauty of an authentic relational church and what this can and perhaps should look like… Thank you for telling me that despite my questions, and my doubts, and perhaps even my unpopular opinions, that my relationship with Jesus is most important and regardless of what at times this looks like in the church, I can continue to love people in my life and my community like Jesus would, even when it looks different.

Thank you for being bold, and honest and unashamed.

To say I am sad that there will be no more wisdom from Rachel Held Evans earthside, would be an understatement. You have re-defined the way I see myself, reaffirmed who I know Jesus to be, and given me permission to continue asking questions, even the ones people don’t want me to. You have reignited my curiosity in the Word and for that, I can’t thank you enough. I believe what I, my little world and perhaps even, dare I say it the world at large need now, more than ever is Jesus, but not Jesus packaged by the church, the Jesus who worked one meal at a time, one small act of kindness at a time, one bold idea at a time.

Your fellow doubter, but forever faithful friend,

Emma

When you don’t know what to write… you do a list update

Ok so it’s been a LONG time since I wrote a blog… and to be honest, I have been avoiding it… because what do you write that is even remotely interesting during a global pandemic when you’ve only left the house a handful of time in the last couple of months… and when there have also been lots of other big things happening the world that you also don’t feel qualified to write about…. yeah I was stuck too… but yet here I am sitting and typing, because I think it is important to write something… I need to something to do and I want to use my brain to escape and focus on some little wins we have had this year despite everything else that has been going on…. so in lieu of some wisdom I have learnt, or opinions on things I am only really just learning about myself I have settled on a list update.

I feel like the new format that I tried last year was a winner… so that’s what I am going to stick with, a seasonal update for those list items that haven’t been gifted a blog of their own… which at the moment is all of them I think… anyway, despite the very unusual first half of the year, we have actually managed to cross quite a few things off the list… so lets start at the beginning… January

JANUARY

Far our January feels like a long time ago… a lifetime even, and given that we are in week 2 of Melbourne’s Stage 4 Lock-down I am increasingly glad that I went hard with the list early on. In January 7 things were crossed off my list and 3 things from Isaac’s which is a pretty great way to start…

Despite the poor air quality and the horrible bush fires that were burning, we did some old school summer things… we played games… cards against humanity (no. 32 completed: 04/01), we coloured in (no. 36, completed: 06/01), I did the first puzzle I have done in a long time (no. 34, completed: 19/01) and we swam… specifically I did some laps (no. 56, completed: 29/01) and Isaac in Pa’s pool (no. 10, completed: 13/01).

January also had a lot of family time, we met the newest member of our family, another nephew for Dave and I and a cousin for Isaac (no. 29, completed: 27/01) and we started our resolution of more family updates well with a FaceTime call to NZ (no. 76, completed: 22/01).

Isaac and Dave went on a bike ride while we were at the beach (no. 18, completed: 24/01) and they also tested out his new little BBQ for a summer outdoor feast (no. 24, completed: 13/01). I managed to close my ‘move ring’, a gimmicky little feature of my watch, every day in January giving me my ‘perfect month’ (no. 57, completed: 31/01)… if only it was that easy!

February

February was a bit of a slower month for the list… but not a bad effort. Isaac crossed one thing off his list and I crossed three things off mine.

Two of my items worked nicely with my big thing of reducing my footprint environmentally as I finally used my beeswax wraps (no. 77, completed: 12/02)… I am still getting the hang of these, but I really love the concept… I also really love that my beeswax wraps were made by students at school. And on the same day, I unboxed my shampoo and conditioner bars (no. 93, completed: 12/02) that I had brought in NZ at Christmas, but had been waiting to use as I wanted to finish the shampoo I had in the bottle at home first. The shampoo bars are a hit… they took a little bit of adjusting, but I really like them and they are a good morning reminder of not using plastic for everything!

My other February list item was a bit of an adventure, after booking in a brunch in Ballarat I decided I could also book in a parkrun if I was committed to getting up really early for my drive there. I did commit… and just before our world got a little smaller I was able to be a park run tourist (no. 30, completed: 01/02), visiting Wallaby Track Parkrun, which was beautiful and it turns out very new which made it all that more exciting and worth it.

Also in Feb, Isaac, Dave and I met Isaac’s grandad at the traffic light park in Bayswater (no. 4, completed: 09/02)… also know as Marie Wallace Park. It is excellent! Miniature roads and road hazards… some local traffic and once you have done with that an old steam train and a huge adventure park… I don’t think this will be our only visit to this park. Although before we return we might need to practice some road rules with the toy cars at home… and if we practice we might even be able to upgrade our ride during lockdown and bring the balance bike next time.

So there you have it… Summer… pre lockdown freedom that feels like a myth right now… or maybe a goal… I am not really sure… but it’s been nice to reminisce…

32 Things before 33

I’ve grown to really enjoy this little tradition I have created for myself. I like to reflect and see how much I have learnt… so just like the last couple of years, before my birthday tomorrow, I have taken just a minute to write a little list of the things that I have learnt and the ways I have grown. A list of 32 things to be thankful for, to acknowledge or just remember before I turn 33.

  1. I hope tomorrow will be the weirdest birthday experience I experience in my life time
  2. I am much happier with who I am as a person now then I have been in years
  3. I am learning to be comfortable in my physical skin… and learning to trust my body again
  4. I am learning to be comfortable with being both mentally tough and mentally fragile at the same time
  5. I am learning to slow down and think about what I want and why rather than just pushing to have it all
  6. I am learning to enjoy the perfectly imperfect both in me and the world… Facebook live is hard for everyone… even the wiggles
  7. I need sleep… and I am better when I go to be early… even though I am also most creative and fun late at night… it’s a hard line to walk
  8. I love being Isaac’s mum… but it’s a different hard to what I imagined
  9. Consistent baby steps will still move you forward
  10. I have a high tolerance for children’s music and I am not ashamed of it
  11. Taking time to do indulgent things for myself isn’t a waste… but it does need moderation
  12. I am very lucky to be in a partnership marriage… I am heard and respected and valued…
  13. my faith doesn’t have to fit the same box everyone else’s does… God is big enough to handle me, my questions and my opinions and his grace is sufficient for my mistakes
  14. I can use less and enjoy more… my choices have an impact even if I can’t fix everything
  15. Flossing is tedious but surprisingly satisfying
  16. I choose not to live without the orthodontic bar holding my bottom teeth in place
  17. I am very thankful to once again be living in the same hemisphere as my bestie
  18. Life is short… phone calls are easy… just call those you love
  19. Don’t over react to you toddler… they are more sensitive than you anticipate
  20. When Isaac asks for a cuddle… always… always say yes… even when his hands are covered in spaghetti
  21. It’s ok to have all of the feelings… even if you can’t hold them in
  22. It’s also ok to say no and stop listening, watching, reading things that you can’t handle… you don’t have to know, see, feel everything just because everyone else is
  23. Just cook the meals… your body and your wallet will thank you
  24. Remember that little eyes and ears are watching you… try to behave accordingly
  25. You have to let the toddler take risks… he did not come with bubble wrap…
  26. Be flexible in your travel plans… it will lead to far less disappointment… I will see you one day NZ South Island west coast!
  27. Enjoy the world with the two-year-old… they way he sees it is way more exciting than how my tired eyes do
  28. Life is too short for boring earrings
  29. Wear more colour… it always looks better than you think it will
  30. I am thankful to the lockdown for giving me more family time… for long days with Isaac and Dave
  31. I am the office distraction… it turns out I am significantly more productive when I work from home
  32. Just keep reading, walking and singing… they are all making you a better version of you

Here we go 33… it’s going to be a good year even if we don’t leave the house again for a while.

Big Things for 2020

Ok, I know this blog might seem a little strange given that I write a list of 100 goals each year and I have already posted about them, but over the last couple of weeks… maybe even months I have been thinking a lot more about the bigger picture. I guess these are the things that have shaped the items that I put on my list… but because they have been turning over and over and over again in my mind, I thought it might be helpful for me to write it out…

I feel like there is a lot of pressure from life to have things sorted, to get your life mapped out and run the race. Ideally, the path is clear and direct and you run towards it with minimal distractions and obstacles… but that is not how life works. People always tell you that the world used to be a simpler place, but I am not sure that is true either. Life is challenging… that is the real ‘simple’ truth… things don’t always go to plan, things aren’t always what you deem to be fair and people (including myself) fall short of my expectations constantly. But as I get older, and hopefully wiser, I am starting to understand the wisdom of life lessons told to me in years gone by. Things which at the time I received hopefully graciously, but decided that for whatever reason didn’t apply to me.

I have spent a lot of my life trying to be everything to everyone, and in the process forgotten who I actually am and by default what is important to me. Over the last couple of years, I have experienced what my counsellors have labelled ‘trauma’, physical and psychological… and while that sounds awful and it was… it’s made me stronger, more resilient and thankfully more aware of what I actually want in my life and on the flip side, what I don’t. It has provided me with time and experiences that have made me question everything and helped me work out who I am… which I guess has led me to this…

I am long term thinker, which can be, and has been both a blessing and a curse. I am a planner, I like to know what is going to happen and when, but I also like the option of being spontaneous even if I never take it. I feel things deeper than I ever have before and because I also like to fix things, I feel like it is my responsibility to do that… fix it all… I want my life to matter, and I want to make a difference, but I think this looks different in 2020 than it did even 2 years ago. I want to be part of the solution of big problems, but I am learning I can’t take on more than I am capable of. I need to push myself and stretch myself, but I also need to be kind to myself… so in light of all that, I have decided that this year I want to focus on just 3 things intentionally… I am sure there will be other things that come up across the year, but as I sit here today these are the big issues on my heart that I want to make deliberate steps to improve across the year…

Authentic Community

I want to build on the friendships I have and make sure that my relationships are intentional and honest. That if I choose to withhold parts of my life… I want to know why and reassess… I am a pretty open book at the best of times, but that doesn’t mean I am always a good friend. I want to break bread with people, share my life with people, raise my son in community and in turn support and strengthen those around me. I want to be reliable… which let me be clear isn’t always available, but intentional and deliberate. I don’t want to be afraid of my weaknesses in a social setting, because I want to be part of a community that takes me as I am… growing and changing, but flawed… just like everyone else.

Reducing my footprint

This is something that has been on my heart for a long long time… I want to be less of a consumer and more of a partner. I want to learn to appreciate what I have and not constantly be sucked into the ‘more more more’ pull of the world. I want to do right by the earth and leave it in a better place than I found it, not continue to mindlessly contribute to its demise. But I want to do this right… in baby steps… one change at a time. I also want to reduce my footprint in my social and work settings… and while it might sound it this isn’t in direct opposition to my first goal of authentic community… rather it’s about how I approach things, people, groups and task. I often go into to things all guns blazing… full or preconceived ideas, expectations and demands… and to be honest, while most of it comes from a good place, because I am passionate, it’s not a helpful approach… I want to tread softly, to listen first… light steps mean smaller footprints… and perhaps more effective communication.

Slowing Down

Life is short and fast… and unless I chose to pull out of the busy lane, it will stay this way. I want to enjoy my life, not just continue to push to the next task… I like to have things to do, but I want to also be able to stop and enjoy those things… not just cross it off my list. This last one should work really well with other two tasks above, I hope… because community and reducing my footprint takes time, they force me to stop and try new things… I want to simplify my world so that I can contribute to it better and in a more meaningful way. I want to be able to take in the moment… not just spend my life trying to capture a few manufactured perfect ones all ready for social media.

So that’s my three things… not small, and probably hard to measure, but I am hopeful about what my life might look like if I get this right. or even if I just improve a little. I am also choosing these three because they are positive… and they look at big problems and give me a way to help with what I have… I want to be hopefully in 2020, not stressed and tired and sad that the world is falling apart and I am missing all the good bits. I know it’s a lot… but I think it is achievable… and even though I hadn’t really articulated these ideas in my mind when I wrote my 2020 list, there are already a lot of things on the list that will help me work through my big things… for example last month I used my shampoo bar for the first time which I am not only very excited about because it’s one less plastic bottle… but it was no. 93 on my list… simple, sweet and helpful… once I have used it for a while I will let you know what it’s like… but even if it doesn’t work, or I forget to write… it’s a little step in the direction I want to be moving.

The Last of the 2019 List

Ok… so I started writing this last year… and then Christmas, holidays, summer… you know the drill… but I didn’t want to not post it so here is the last bit of the 2019 list… it’s the last hoorah of November and December, and the bits that just didn’t happen… it’s probably going to be a long one… so lets get stuck in…

November

November was another great listing month… we crossed 7 things off the list. We started with a fun little family adventure on the long weekend… we went camping (no. 16, completed: 03/11)… but because it was our first time trying this as a family of three we just started small, opting to camp in the backyard… but it was complete with all the best things about George family camping… the tent, our adventure gear, and peachy keeny custard… and while Isaac wasn’t sure why we were all in the tent, he eventually fell asleep and we woke up with the sun… and despite Melbourne’s best efforts it didn’t pour and wash us away.

You may have noticed that I got my hands on a tea advent calendar… but if you somehow managed to miss this though and wanted to read my reviews on all the teas… you can click here (no. 83, completed: 06/11). What you may not have noticed is that I got a massage (no. 78, completed: 20/11)… and for at least a couple of hours afterwards, I was feeling more relaxed… man I love getting massages I am glad I popped this back on the list

Way back in September… yes a whole two months ago… I re-did a Rubik’s cube… but despite having the instructions right in front of me I couldn’t repeat it… now in November… I still need the instructions, but I can do it over and over and over again… I am not sure I will every just memorize the patterns, but just solving it feels like an accomplishment… plus according to the ‘Stuff You Should Know’ podcast, using the instructions is in no way a cop-out! (no. 02, completed: 21/11)

This month Dave and I also started the process of investigating our options (no. 48, completed: 24/11) for future family expansions… I honestly thought this would never be something that we would have to really really plan for… that it would just be more of a conversation of yes or no… not how or if… but I guess after two micro preemies that’s just what you have to think about before you rush into another child… and while I am still not sure I am ready we have started to ask questions and work out what it would look like, if and when we are ready.

Even though it was only November we also had our annual Christmas Movie Marathon Day for 2019 on the 30th of November… and also in tradition, I made a gingerbread house… and as outlined by the list this year (no. 32, completed: 29/11) I did it from scratch using a good old Donna Hay recipe and despite some early claims that this house was going together, the quickest yet… it was not, and the roof required some strong encouragement to stay where it was supposed to be. But as always it was delicious and a great way to kick off the Christmas eating.

Oh and wouldn’t you know it this blog is number 41… which means no. 31 is off the list (completed: 23/11)… but the great news is that even before I started out on my tea reviews I had written and published 15 blogs… No 15 was ‘List update… A little bit of Spring’. I have enjoyed have this as a push to blog regularly but also that is hasn’t felt forced… 15 feels like a good number to aim for… 1 a month and a bit…

December

This year December, as always, was a mad rush to cross things off… and it also contained my year-long endeavours, so there were lots of tasks completed, 21 to be precise. But let’s start with the regular list items. Dave and I spoilt ourselves with High Tea at the Langham for the last of our 6 date days (no. 77 & no. 3 both completed 03/12)… I know this sounds ridiculous but we have really struggled to actually do six dates… I think this is going to need to stay on the list just to make sure we remember to hang out with each other.

This month I also crossed off some of the nagging tasks I had from last year… I updated and completed Isaac’s Baby Book (no. 49, completed: 07/12), I made a decision about what to do with all the logs I kept while Isaac was in hospital (no. 57, completed 04/12) and I made some more progress on scanning our family photos in (no. 64, completed 02/12). There are still a lot of photos still to be scanned, I also have a five year booklet that I have for Isaac to keep up with and I have to actually format the logs and print them out somehow… but as annoying as I find it to make time to do these types of things I know that future me will really appreciate that I actually made the effort now…

Just before we snuck off to New Zealand for Christmas (no. 5, completed 16/12), Facebook of all things provided me with an opportunity to cross of no. 45, (completed 14/12) by giving me a friend quiz to complete on my friend Annie… thanks Facebook. My list wasn’t loaded up with holiday activities like I have in previous years as I wasn’t actually sure we would get there… but we did, for 16 days. Our little family of three explored some of the South Island for a week before meeting up with Dave’s extended family for a wonderful and relaxing Christmas in Whanganui. Despite not having specific NZ tasks on my list we still managed to cross a few things off. Isaac and I finished our barefoot texture experiment (no. 36, completed 29/12), making the most of the soft and green grass in Lower Hutt and some black sand. On Boxing Day we picked some strawberries (no. 71, completed: 26/12) and on the very last day of the year… I boiled some eggs (no. 93, completed 31/12).

Ok, so that’s all the stand-alone list items… here comes the end of year wrap up of all the year-long self and family improvement tasks… There were 20 list items that were year-long challenges of the 20… these are the ones I think I can safely cross off:

  • No. 19. Cook dinner regularly – completed: 31/12… The hello fresh boxes from way back in April (no. 94 on the list too) really helped with this, I don’t mind cooking as long as I know ahead of time what I am cooking and that I have everything I need… I think it’s all about setting expectations for myself and then just getting on with it… I am hoping this will continue because I also like contributing to our family meals and Dave has been head chef for a long time… it’s time he had some help.
  • No. 23. Keep my useless phone time under control – completed: 31/12… this is pretty subjective, but I have certainly been more mindful of it this year so I am crossing it off…
  • No. 37. Read a book to Isaac every day – completed: 31/12… It may not have been EVERY day… but it would have been pretty darn close… and it wasn’t always me, there were grandparents, aunties, uncles, friends, childcare teachers and of course Dad.
  • No. 54. Take a picture every day – completed: 31/12… Yep… you can see them on the blog already, above is November and December… January and Feb are in the first list update of the year, March, April and May are in the Autumn Edition, June, July and August are in the winter update and September and October are together in the Spring update.
  • No. 58. Wear a non-black t-shirt outfit at least once a week – completed 31/12… again, it may not have been EVERY week… but I tried my darnedest to bring some colour into my wardrobe, and I think I am making good progress
  • No. 60. Keep getting closer – completed: 31/12… my weight is something that I will probably have to work on for my whole life, but I am trying to change my mindset around this, it’s less about the numbers and more about my everyday choices and being a healthier version of me… and so far this seems to be paying off.. or it could be running after a toddler…
  • No. 74. Use my gratitude diary and Isaac’s highlight book – completed: 31/12… this is another it wasn’t EVERY day… but I tried my best, I really like having this to reflect on… so it’s worth the struggle
  • No. 87. Try meatless Monday – completed: 31/12… we were much better at this at the beginning of the year and less so the busier life became… but a meat-free meal is a pretty easy way to make less of an impact on the planet… I just need to get a little more creative with my vegetarian dishes.
  • No. 97. Make the most of our weekends – completed: 31/12… I think we did a pretty good job of this, we did a lot of fun things and a lot of making the most of our time at home… we could certainly improve, but I was good to be intentional about how we spend our family time together.
  • No. 98. Read for 10 mins a day – completed: 31/12… you guessed it… not every day, but more than in 2018… I love reading, I wish I read faster… and for longer before I fell asleep… but I will get better the more I make time for it…

Ok… so that’s the list… well almost… I forgot to blog about one from Feb… (no. 69. completed: 01/02)… I did actually attempt to find out what I was allergic to after my random hives in New Zealand on our 2018 trip… but it was a bit of a dead-end… It’s not mushrooms like I thought… it was probably just the stress of almost not getting on our flight… but even so, I think I will continue to give shiitake mushrooms a wide berth.

And these are the things that remain undone… some of them I am sad that I haven’t crossed of… like. No. 91… calling my grandparents… I have seen them more this past year and spoken to them more… but I haven’t made it a habit… so it stays un crossed… which is disappointing… mostly because I want to be better than that… but this is just how it is at the end of 2019… maybe I will be able to cross it off in 2020? Anyway, it wasn’t the only one… and for the rest you get no explanation just the rest of the list…

14. Don’t snooze – just get up
15. Plan at night
17. Walk Dex regularly
18. Plan our grocery shopping and meals at the same time – preferably weekly
20. Moisturise regularly
21. Finish the scrap books
35. Eat 5 new foods
40. Memorize a chapter of the bible
41. Take Isaac & Dexter to the dog beach.
43. 5 new cafes with 5 new people
56. Lights out by midnight
59. Update our budget
61. Wash my car at least 3 times
62. Sort out the photo storage and keep it up to date
63. Keep my desk at home clean
72. Get my step average up to 10000
76. Make an iTunes playlist for each season
85. Add a quick 10 minute clean to your night routine
89. Have a no spend day once a month
91. Call my grandparents regularly
99. Do my devotions 5 times a week

So that’s it… 2019’s list, the full review 79/100… a pretty good pass by me. Alright back to focusing on 2020’s list

New Year… New List…

Happy New Year Everyone!

This New Years has felt a little bitter sweet, it is always such a nice feeling to start fresh and to reset, and this time we not only get to start a fresh year but a brand new decade… the possibilities are endless… but at the very same time there are some pretty terrifying things happening in Australia, we have been traveling around New Zealand for the last couple of weeks and all the news from home seems to be it’s hot and it’s on fire and right now that seem to be impossible to stop and so it feels hard to celebrate when others are sheltering on the beach and don’t know what they will have to return to as they start 2020. It’s hard to imagine what they must be going through. As we flew home last night the plane flew through some smoke from the fires and the cabin began to smell of smoke, it was a pretty sobering reminder of what we were returning to. Dave, Isaac and I are lucky to live in an area that is pretty safe from these types of fires, but my heart feels heavy and powerless to help those who aren’t. So I guess my hope is that the fires will cease and that there will be some Happy New Years even if they are a little delayed. That there would be good soaking rain and that our land would start to heal… that would be a Happy New Year.

To be totally honest it feels a little selfish to sit here and write this blog about all the things that I am going to/hoping to do this year when there is so much going on, but the reality is there is always things like this going on… I am only feeling it more because it is in my backyard… and I will be mad at myself if I don’t do it… and despite all that is going on, 2020 feels hopeful… I feel good about what’s to come, I am optimistic about the future, 2019 was full of adjusting to a new stage in life, new jobs, new routines and new expectations… this year there should be less of that, which hopefully leaves more space for well used time, growth and learning… and because I am still a sucker for a list here are our 2020 lists… Emma’s List no. 12 and Isaac’s List no. 3…

You probably know the drill by now… but just in case… you can get up to speed on all the previous lists here: 2006, 2007, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 & 2019), and just like all the previous lists there is much of the same in 2020’s offerings. Some tasks to help me work on myself, physically, spiritually and mentally, some things just because they are fun, some challenges, and some good old family time. Isaac’s list is much the same… although his is more fun and developmental milestones so that I remember to document them. I feel like I am finally starting to find some balance in documenting and just enjoying and also making space to write about other things as they happen, but hopefully I will continue to improve with that this year too… although really (and again probably selfishly) this is just here for me, but if you like it great. And if you see anything on the lists below we can do together let me know.

Alright, enough rambling… here are the lists:

My List

  1. Make a family plan
  2. Find a better work life balance
  3. Get my steps average up to 10000 per day.
  4. Have a child free night
  5. Find another way to reduce my impact on the planet
  6. Do two fun runs
  7. Read 9 books
  8. Go to a Finders Keepers Market
  9. Find and try 3 new parks
  10. Go camping
  11. Get my VIT locked down
  12. Go to bed earlier Sunday – Thursday
  13. Blog 15 times at least
  14. At least 6 date days
  15. Volunteer at Parkrun
  16. Call / Update our grandparents regularly
  17. Walk Dex regularly
  18. Bake some meringues
  19. Take a picture everyday
  20. Meet 3 new babies
  21. Fish and chips on the beach at the beginning and at the end of the year
  22. Go through and sort Isaac’s clothes
  23. Get a massage
  24. Sort out Kinder for Isaac
  25. Exercise as least twice a week
  26. Go on a family bike ride
  27. Take some family photos
  28. Swim at the beach
  29. Meet the newest member of our family
  30. Be a Parkrun tourist
  31. Winter beach getaway
  32. Play a board or card game
  33. Make a banoffee pie
  34. Do a puzzle
  35. Make photo book
  36. Do some colouring
  37. Cross 2 things of the list every month
  38. Use Isaac’s highlight book and my gratitude diary
  39. See some fireworks
  40. Read to Isaac everyday
  41. Drink at least 1 glass of plain water everyday
  42. Play some badminton
  43. Brunch date alone
  44. Brunch date with Dave
  45. Brunch date with Isaac
  46. Floss more often
  47. Get a housework timing guide… print it out and stick to it
  48. Use the hiking backpack at least 3 times
  49. No games on my phone for 3months
  50. No Facebook or Instagram after 10:30pm on weeknights
  51. Make some cookies with Isaac
  52. Go to at least one of Dave’s school concerts
  53. Do the 10min clean most days
  54. Remember the bags
  55. Complete that 30 day exercise challenge
  56. Swim some laps
  57. Have a perfect month with my activity rings
  58. Do a weekly plan
  59. Get some better coffee tables
  60. Entertain more guests
  61. Finish the scrapbooks
  62. Keep scanning in photos
  63. Reduce the amount of take-out meals we have
  64. Go to a carols by candlelight in the park
  65. Have a no spend day once a month
  66. Earn at least 6 of the monthly activity challenge awards on my watch
  67. Do my devotions at least 3 times a week
  68. Have dinner with our siblings
  69. Make a dip
  70. Make a pav
  71. Make some ice cream
  72. Use some herbs from our garden
  73. Go some place I’ve never been to in Victoria
  74. Go to the NGV
  75. Use my sewing machine
  76. FaceTime our NZ family
  77. Use my bees wax wraps
  78. Buy an item of clothing I wouldn’t usually buy and wear it
  79. Do Parkrun with 5 different people
  80. Paint a picture
  81. Listen to a new artist
  82. Picnic in the park
  83. Stand barefoot on grass and sand
  84. Keep the house tidy
  85. Meat free meal at least once a week
  86. Keep my car free of rubbish
  87. Do an exercise class
  88. Do a trail walk/hike
  89. Make banana bread from scratch
  90. Have a meal with the parentals… all of them… separately
  91. Toast some marshmallows
  92. Edit and finalise Isaac’s logs and maybe publish them
  93. Try one of those shampoo bars
  94. See a new Disney Movie
  95. Keep my phone time under control
  96. Spend more time outside
  97. Keep an indoor plant alive
  98. Use my standing desk more often
  99. Keep my phone clean of excess apps that just waste my time.
  100. Break the next barrier

Isaac’s List

  1. Go 10 pin bowling
  2. Swim at the beach
  3. Visit all 3 Zoos
  4. Check out the traffic park in Bayswater
  5. Go to the movies
  6. Ride my balance bike
  7. Pat a new animal
  8. Ride my scooter
  9. See some fireworks
  10. Swim in Pa’s pool
  11. Go on a train
  12. Draw a picture
  13. Jump… with both feet leaving the ground
  14. Try a new instrument
  15. Dress myself… almost all by myself
  16. Learn to use the toilet
  17. Do a puzzle all by myself
  18. Go on an adventure with Dad
  19. Go on an adventure with Mum
  20. Try one of those cool parks that have water play
  21. Kick a footy
  22. Learn to take a photo
  23. Swap to a big bed
  24. BBQ with Dad
  25. Say goodbye to my ‘num nums’ (dummies)

And there they are… two brand new lists of goodness… here we come 2020

Good News, Great Joy, All People

Firstly… Happy Christmas!  Today is Christmas Day… and I hope that where ever you are that you know that you are loved and that today what we celebrate is for you… it’s Good News, Great Joy and it’s for All People!

It has been a number of years since I have written a blog about Christmas… in fact, if my quick dig through the blog is correct, I have only written about it once on this blog… I did a whole series way back in 2011… but since, there has only been a few references to Christmas time and the occasional picture, but this week as we have been traveling through New Zealand, I have been thinking a lot about Christmas and all that we do to celebrate.  

Before leaving Melbourne Christmas was obvious and everywhere, there were songs, and gifts, food, lights and events and it all seemed to be everywhere all the time… It was quite overwhelming to be honest.  Since arriving in New Zealand I have discovered that over here, this appears to not be the case.  Christmas is much less obvious… perhaps this is because we have been doing touristy things and driving and not really frequenting shopping centres, but it seems to be much less constant here… and not just in one part… everywhere… Sure there are TV ads about Christmas and sales and the occasional Santa… but there is much less caroling, less lights, and generally less Christmas.  And while at first I found this wonderful and much less stressful, as Christmas Day has come closer and closer I have found myself longing for it… for the tinsel and lights, for the carols and community events, for a church to have something on for us to go to… 

Perhaps in New Zealand Christmas is just much more relaxed and they actually have it right, much less about the show and much more about the important stuff, taking a minute to stop and spend time with family? Or maybe being the end of December we’ve just missed it? I am not really sure… but I have found myself longing for the strangest things… homesick in a weird way for my ‘normal’ Christmas… which, in reality, is just as hectic and overwhelming as the weeks I described before we left.  

I have been trying to work out what exactly I am missing… and to be honest, I think it’s a few things… the familiarity of my Christmas Tree and decorations… the twinkle of the lights… and the communal carol singing… because Christmas is a story of good news and great joy… and the songs that we sing declare this over and over again, in beautiful harmonies with the occasional outrageous descant.  

A number of years ago our church’s Christmas series was on the theme ‘Good News, Great Joy, All People’ and it’s a phrase that has been stuck in my head ever since… but I think is mostly because it is true… and it’s adaptable to lots of mundane tasks you might like to declare at home.. for example… Good News, Great Joy, All People… Dinner is ready… or Good News, Great Joy, All People… I’ve finished the washing… see works for everything.  Anyway, at Christmas there is an opportunity to have shared joy with all people over the gift of Christ, the hope of the world, the comfort in his birth and the miracle it was (in fact the older I get and the further into Motherhood I journey, the more of a miracle I think it is).  

This year more than any other I have felt the weight of the world as it groans under poor human stewardship and been prompted over and over and over again to care for the land I live in and the people I live among… That in this difficult world full of pain, suffering, and problems that so often seem too big and difficult to comprehend… Where people seem to shun and judge first and listen second… Where my homeland burns and the land I am in has more rain and cold weather than a summer should or would normally contain… I know of a hope and light and joy that is for all people without a catch… and I have missed declaring this for weeks on end.  I suppose the challenge for me has been how do I celebrate and bring this hope to others without my pre-provided platform… or prompts?  And once again I think I have found my answer within the lyrics of a Christmas Carol… one I have blogged about before here way back in 2011… O Holy Night, but this time it has been the third verse that has caught me each time… it says…   

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His Gospel is Peace
Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother
And in His name, all oppression shall cease
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we
Let all within us Praise His Holy name
Christ is the Lord; O praise His name forever!
His power and glory evermore proclaim
His power and glory evermore proclaim

So that’s what I will try to do today (and every day) to share this light… When Isaac wakes up to his makeshift paper Christmas tree, when we sing with Dave’s Grandparents’ at church, when we break bread with our family on a rare Christmas where we only have one destination to be… I will love, I will be a bringer of peace, and with my actions, I will be a bringer of Good News, Great Joy for all people.  

Tea Time with Em – Dec 24

Well here we are everyone… Day 24… the last day of the Advent Calendar… it’s Christmas Eve… and I am almost out of tea… If you are have endured this review process and are still reading these blogs… congratulations… I will try to make the blog a little more exciting after Christmas… there will be no more tea reviewing for the foreseeable future… I also promise not to do this again… because it turns out that while I have enjoyed the novelty of the tea Advent Calendar when it comes to the teas I like I am actually pretty boring… I just like black tea… nothing fancy… just black tea.

Through this process though I have tried new things, I have confirmed that I am not a fruit tea person and found a couple of teas that I could be tempted by again… and that some of these new teas I can have without my usual one sugar, so that’s a plus… but mostly I have just confirmed that I am most likely to stick to the plain stuff… Thanks for sticking around… I hope it wasn’t too tedious.

Tomorrow for Christmas day my gift to you will be no more tea reviews and my gift to myself will be a regular ceylon tea…

Day 24:

Tea: Christmas Breakfast 
Initial Reaction: I thought you might be hiding here Christmas breakfast… and what a good idea to pop you last…    
Brew Time: 4 mins 
Enjoyed with: a dash of milk
Flavour: Good… There is a lot going on in this tea… and I was hoping for a relaxing finish to a hectic season… but the tea is also hectic… it tastes like Christmas spice… and look it’s probably me not the teas… but I do enjoy a less is more with spice… but it was a fun way to finish… 
Score: 6/10

Bonus review from Dave: Not as festive as I hoped… I was looking for some real excitement… 7/10