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Ben, happy in his bear beanie

Hellooo!  It’s been too long between post, I know.  Winter froze my words.

I’ve been busy with a family full of icky tums and runny bums (TMI?) and some deadlines of my own too.

Here’s a snapshop of my winter, I’m…

Making: Odd craft projects inspired by Mr Maker and my 4 year old.

Cooking: Magic chicken soup to rid loved ones of the lurgy.

Drinking:  Diet Coke again.  I have fallen off my detox wagon, for now.  Don’t judge.

Reading:  Daring Greatly by Brene Brown.  Saw her speak about embracing vulnerability so we can live wholeheartedly.  Inspired.

Wanting:  To get my hands on my brand new nephew, but he’s in Hong Kong.

Looking:  At my photography with fresh eyes thanks to my new student status.

Playing:  With the hepcats this weekend because I am judging the Australian Jitterbug Championships.

Wasting:  Time.  And enjoying every second of it.

Sewing:  Hand-stitched height charts for my sprouting sons.

Wishing:  I was in town to attend the first One Fine Day wedding event at Abbotsford Convent on 25 August.  

Enjoying:  Swing dance classes, after almost a decade off the floor.  Too long.

Waiting:  For our family escape to sunny Queensland, soon.

Liking:  Gorgeous new alternative wedding mag and blog, Hello May.

Wondering:  Why I have not owned flanelette sheets before.  So wonderful.

Loving:  Paton’s new bed blanket.  Now I just need crochet lessons from my Great Aunty Marj!  

Hoping:  To instill my love of theatre in my sons.  Took them to see seven tapping fellas, and one sassy chick, in Hot Shoe Shuffle.  

Marvelling:  At people who get out of their own way long enough to write a book.

Needing:  To see my mum.

Smelling:  A lemon and thyme chook roasting.

Wearing:  A gorgeous MAC lippy called Perpetual Flame.

Following:  The Hoopla.

Noticing:  The blossoms blooming all over town.

Knowing:  The days are long but the years are short.

Thinking:  That I love being the boss of me.

Bookmarking:  99U and LifeHack.

Opening:  Parcels, daily.  Must find some restraint when online shopping!

Giggling:  At my 2 year old’s frequent use of the word ‘actually’. Actually mum, I like pink.  Actually, I am not tired.  Actually, I don’t like beans.

Feeling:  Very content.

The format of this post is Pip Lincolne’s from Meet Me at Mikes.  Some of my other favourite bloggers are playing along too, see Kate Ulman from Foxes Lane (and check out her gorgeous new book, Vantastic).

So what have you been up to?
Cut and paste Pip’s list and let me know where to find your answers.

Feeling meh, blah or brrrr?  

When winter gets you down, make this.  

Best lurgy killer I have found.  Simple to cook.  Minimal chopping.  No blending.  Tastes best on the couch with a fluffy rug, an old movie (like “Singing in the Rain”), and/or someone to snuggle.

Magic Chicken & Corn Soup

2 cup water
1 chicken stock cube
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 onion, sliced
4 parsley sprigs
4 chicken thigh fillets
Then…
310g can creamed corn
½ teaspoon grated ginger, extra
1 tablespoon cornflour
1 tablespoon water, extra
60g ham, sliced
1 spring onion, chopped

MAKE STOCK
Pop water, stock cube, ginger, onion, and parsley in a medium saucepan with chicken.  Bring to boil, reduce heat, cover, simmer for about 10 minutes or until chicken is tender.  Strain and keep the stock.  Take out the chicken.

THICKEN IT
Return the stock to the saucepan.  Add corn and extra ginger.  Bring to boil.  In a cup, mix cornflour with extra water, then add that to the stock.  Stir constantly, over heat, until mixture boils and thickens.

ADD YUMMY STUFF
Chop the cooked chicken, and to corn mixture with ham and spring onion.

ENJOY
Tastes best when shared.
Serves four.
Best served immediately, but will keep overnight in the fridge.  
Do not freeze.

Hope this soup works it’s magic for you and helps you keep the winter ickies at bay.

This recipe is adapted from the Australian Women’s Weekly’s Basic Cookbook (which I stole from an ex-boyfriend).  

What do you make to get you through winter?

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Dear 16 year old me,

I know you think that you have life pretty much worked out. Fun girlfriends, good grades, a nice job that funds your wardrobe, a boyfriend you adore, dance class every other day, and big plans.

But I want to share some things I know now which could help you make the most of the next two decades.

Firstly, wear short skirts now. Quit hating your thighs. They will never look better than this. And you are more beautiful than you think. Later you’ll look back on this body and wish you could have it back.

Hit the beach in bathers. Do not hold back from doing anything because you think you’re fat. Big girls need role models too. Be one.

Wear sunscreen and quit baking yourself like Sunday dinner. They’ll be cutting cancerous chunks out of your skin soon.

No tattoos. You’ll be more original by having inkless skin in time. Get scars from making great stories instead.

Treasure your adorable boyfriend. He is your first love. He will become the benchmark for your future fellas. And when, after fifteen years, you cross paths in the doctor’s surgery, each with a snotty kid on your hip, you want it to be lovely.

Sex is rarely as fabulous as in your mind. So hold on to your virginal status and enjoy exploring all the other options in the meantime. Then have sex with enough people to know a great bang from a blah one.

Don’t freak out. The nuns have you convinced that you’ll get pregnant if you miss a pill (not that you’re even on that yet!) So it will come as a rude shock when you struggle with infertility in your early 30s. Keep it together. You are meant to be a mum.

Learn all you can about boys. One day you’ll be responsible for raising two of them, so pay attention.

Cook. You’ll eat more than a thousand meals every year. Knowing how to make them enjoyable is an essential life skill. And cooking for others will bring you joy. Learn from your mum while you don’t have to pay STD call rates to find out why your crackle won’t crisp.

Stop drinking Diet Coke. It will be bloody hard to kick that nasty habit later. Quit now. And do not eat whatever you want. Sure, Caramello Koalas are yum. But if you can learn to love eating healthy now you’ll save yourself a lifetime battle with the bulge. Of course, I know you’ll ignore this advice.

Be good to your parents. You think they are overprotective, old-fashioned and naive. But you’re wrong. They are your rock, lifeline, lighthouse, sanity, saviours and fans. Always will be.

You will meet Olivia Newton-John, in a bank, and she will sign a copy of Grease for you. It will be the highlight of your financial services career. Yes, you’ll have one. Shockingly uncool, I know.

Be of service in retail and hospitality. It’s fun. And it will teach you how to be a good manager, and nice to your waiter.

Remember your roots. You can’t wait to spread your wings in the big city. But don’t forget your hometown best friends. You’ll need them to remind you who you are when you lose yourself. And when you make the big decisions, like getting married, you’ll want one of them standing by your side.

Keep shooting. You’re dreaming of being a photographer. Do it. You can do anything, but not everything. So if you get a ‘proper’ job first then it will be decades before you find the space to pursue this passion again.

Travel far and wide, with friends and solo. It will keep you forever curious and grateful. And it will help you recognise home.

Get some manners, proper toffy ones. So you don’t feel uncomfortable at a formal function or ever wonder what the ‘right’ thing to do is. Know the rules, then choose to break them.

You will always love Patrick Swayze and Dirty Dancing, but don’t confuse your dance teacher for him. That man will break your heart. This blow will help you to recognise a truly good man when he opens your car door for you. And when he proposes, in a spa, while you’re wearing ill-fitting bathers and last night’s makeup, say yes.

Marry a man who is good with his hands. Musicians and dancers are fun, but a guy who can build a cubby, unblock your drain, assemble flat pack furniture, fix a leaking whatever, and make you come is a keeper.

Love learning. Study. Take jobs that are just beyond what you think you can do. Read. Seek out inspiring people. Stretch your head in new directions and you’ll always find something to be excited about.

Fail more often. Stop hesitating to try things that might not work. It’s a terrible habit. Nobody cares if you fall on your face. Honest. So long as you can laugh in the mud.

Play an instrument or sing. Otherwise you’ll spend a fortune of music festival and concert tickets while you live vicariously, dreaming of being on stage.

Be nicer to your crazy uncle and your spinster great aunt. You’ll miss them when they’re gone. And, believe it or not, you will aspire to be like them one day.

Pace yourself. You can have it all, and you will. But it is a hell of a lot to juggle. And you’ll be happiest when you’re clear about what is most important at any given time.

Save. Money can’t buy happiness, but it does give you options. You will always earn more money than you need. Don’t waste it.

Never stop dancing. It is essential for your happiness. And when you take a big break, it is bloody hard to get your groove back. Trust me.

Be happy. Not just because it feels good. But because you are better, healthier, more generous, more patient, more productive, and more creative when you are happy.

Worry less. It’s going to be splendid. And when it’s not, you’ll be just fine.

Of course, I know you’ll ignore all this advice. You’re determined to find your own answers. And it will make for one big, beautifully messy life. Enjoy it.

Big love,

36 year old Me
xoxo

PS: Rethink that velvet hat, please.

PPS: This post was inspired by the regular Womans’ Weekly column ‘Dear Me’.

PPPS: If you like what you read, subscribe below for more.

What advice would you give your younger self?

ImageI’ve been in a funk this week. So tonight I took myself to the theatre (say it with jazz hands).

I put on a va-voom dress and red lippy, and arrived in time to soak up Melbourne’s stunning State Theatre with a glass of bubbly before the lights went down.

The Production Company’s Gypsy and was my chosen indulgence, and it was glorious.

Set in the 1930s and 1940s it’s the story of the showbiz obsessed stage mum behind the biggest burlesque star ever.

Caroline O’Connor plays the lead, Rose, to perfection. That woman is a force! And tonight she gave a world class performance. She had the audience breathless when she belted out Everything’s Coming Up Roses to send us to interval. I have never heard so many wow’s in the queue for Cornettos.   

I am in awe of Caroline. Her ambition almost stamped high heels through the stage boards, and her voice made the gold baubles on the ceiling vibrate with blind optimism. She is one woman (and a little one at that) but she filled a sell-out theatre with incomparable talent.    

Supported, on stage, by a 24 piece orchestra and an iconic score it made for a magical evening of escapism.

Of all the art forms, I have always loved musical theatre the most. Life set to music. Emotions indulged with lyrics that let us linger, wallow, and feel deeply and unapologetically. People choreographed to make living look beautiful. Color coded and styled heroes and villains. Tap dancing. Sequins. And happy endings, mostly.

I know it’s not for everyone, but it most definitely makes me feel just a little more glamorous. I sashayed from the red velvet theatre tonight with a little Gypsy Rose Lee saunter in my step.

I have been to The Production Company performances before, and been underwhelmed, but Gypsy is wonderful. Tomorrow is your last chance to see it. Grab yourself a ticket. You’ll thank me.

Writing makes me happy.  

For decades I have paid my bills by writing, in all formats.  Mostly, my prose is presented under a company’s logo or by someone else entirely.  But writing as work made me forget that it’s fun.

Personal blogging is new for me.  Putting my musing out there, in my own name, is leap of faith.  And when I published my first post in March, it was a tentative toe in the web’s water.

Thank you for reading.

I was blown away to see that 450+ people regularly read my ramblings.  Your responses, online and offline, have led to some really inspiring, encouraging, heart-warming discussions.  Thank you, from someplace deep within me.  

I began blogging for me.  But being heard, understood and appreciated has been an unexpectedly lovely side-effect.  

My blog is finding it’s place.

I began this blog without a clear purpose.  But putting myself out there is changing my life.

It’s helping me to clear my head and create, for your consumption.

I am enjoying the discipline of writing regularly.  It has helped me to find routine in my new freelance schedule.  And satisfaction too.

Blogging is helping me to overcome my perfectionism.  I have a million unfinished tasks weighing me down because I want to do them properly.  And this means I actually do nothing way too often. Perfect really is the enemy of good.   

My inner critic stops me all too often, by convincing me that everyone else is more creative, clever, talented, worthy… but bollocks!  I also know that it’s not about the best, it’s about who gets it done.  And so I am aspiring to be a completionist.  And I feel much more accountable knowing you’re on the receiving end each week.

This blog is also an exercise in consistency for me.  I am great at starting things, but not at sticking to them.  I bore easily.  There’s always something shinier that catches my eye and I’m off down that rabbit hole before I’ve wrapped what was underway.  So I am curious to see whether I can stick with this little blog.  Time will tell.

Blogging demands uncomfortable levels of self reflection for me.  Naval gazing has been something I have actively avoided in the past while I glorified busy.  But I am learning that reflection and gratitude are key to happiness.  And I want to recognise joy more often, and therefore chase it less.  

We must stop glorifying busy, for everyone’s sake.

Life’s frantic pace often sees us squishing our social interactions into sound bites.  I fear we’re losing the art of lolling, day-dreaming and in-depth conversation.  

I believe that the explosion of counselling/coaching services in recent years is a direct reflection of our inability to make time to really listen to each other day-to-day.  We are now paying people for their attention.  Bit sad really.

This blog is a way for me to share my learnings in more than Twitter’s 140 characters, a status update, or a coffee break worth of chatting.  A kind of free therapy I guess.

I hope it helps you to slow down too, even if only momentarily, and that it makes your heart smile.

Great breakthroughs, inspired art, real progress, and happiness all require us to be still, tune-in, reflect and be grateful.  And this is bloody hard when our task lists run to multiple pages and we’re spreading ourselves wafer thin.  

My new (financial) year’s resolution is one post per week, for a year.  

Let’s see where that takes us.

It’s noisy out there (WordPress alone has more than 63 million blogs!) and so I am very grateful that you’re reading my ramblings.  

Thank you.

 

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By the unflattering light of a neon snake, I had an epiphany today.  

I want to be a Catherine Deveny.

Recently I quit the best job I ever had to try a less conventional career path. I was burned out by two decades on the corporate treadmill, frustrated by the inflexibility of western working ways, and determined to find alternatives. 

I’m on a mission to create a big life, not just a big living. So I’ve been taking random creative adventures. And today I attended a writing masterclass by the delightfully feisty Catherine Deveny

As I parked my car, Catherine cycled past in her fur coat and raspberry beanie. It struck me just how fabulous she looked.  She exudes fearlessness, fulfillment and freedom. And I wanted what she’s got.

“You can’t order hummus until you know it exists” said Catherine at the Big Hearted Business conference.  I realised today that Catherine is my hummus. 

In my teens it was Marilyn Monroe for working her curves.  In my early career, it was my big boss lady who successfully juggled it all.  And now, it’s fearless, fulfilled and free Miss Deveny who’s my lighthouse.

Fearless

“Pull your finger out and sing from your heart” Catherine challenged us. 

She is unapologetic, opinionated, feisty and funny. And her super power is her ability to articulate so that others connect.

If you put good stuff out there it comes back in spades. All you need is intent, charisma and persistence. 

For the first time in my life, I do not have a plan. And that excites and terrifies me, in equal measures. But Catherine encouraged blind faith by saying “you only need to be able to see as far as the headlights”. The rest will come into light with time.

My perfectionism streak has caused paralysis too often. So I need to lower my expectations of myself in order to get stuff done. “Perfection is the enemy of good” she said. Don’t let it stop you. 

Showing up is the hard part.  But once you’re in the pool, you will swim. 

And it’s only crazy if it doesn’t work.

Fulfilled

The satisfaction is in doing the work, even more so than getting it published, praised or paid, explained Catherine.

She has clearly been rewarded, sought out and most of all satisfied for saying what she thinks.

Great people do great things.  And if not you, someone else will do it.  Why not you?  Crack your own whip.

Free

Catherine titled her creative, financial and emotional independence “fuck off status”. It’s the freedom to say no, as you please. And it’s a pretty neat picture of success for a yes-person like me. You see, I’m a pleaser. And my inability to say no frequently gets me overcommitted and overwhelmed.

I also envy her inhibition. “Loving your body, as it is, is an act of social disobedience” she proclaimed. And I love that kind of rebellion.

Apparently, for every positive thought, we have 17 negative ones.  That’s tough competition for our fragile egos. The trick is to know to expect the negative ninnies, and when they shout, promptly tell them to piss off because you’re busy. Then you’re free to do great work.

 

From the moment I entered the funky Collingwood warehouse today, I felt inspired. Modern artwork adored white walls and hipster coffee orders abounded (strong decaf late anyone?). 

Catherine cracked the whip and made us write. And I was inspired by what people produced with the combo of reckless abandon and a ticking clock.

I’ve reignited my new sense of urgency. Before my eyesight fails, I must shoot beautiful photos.  And before my hands seize up with arthritis, I must write words that matter. I do not want to be on my deathbed regretting the risks I was too scared/tired/busy/embarrassed to take.

Catherine pitched today’s workshop as “creative laxative” and it’s given me the writing runs. Despite having a family to feed and concert tickets, I was determined to squeeze out this post fresh tonight. 

Catherine reckons that the only difference between her and anyone else is that she did it.  And so I vow to too.

My tools of trade will be different to Catherine’s 700+ columns, 8 books and countless stand-up gigs. I marry people. I shoot people. I write. And as a celebrant, photographer and blogger I am excited about finding freedom, fulfillment and my very own brand of fabulous.

The neon snake artwork that hung over today’s workshop stated that “fear eats the soul” and so I am getting over myself and sinking my teeth in. You have been warned.  And you can follow along via this blog (sign up in the footer).

Thank you Catherine, for the kick up the arse. 

My May was marvelous in Melbourne.  Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm.  Yep, that’s fourteen Ms.  And I’m sharing them with you in the hope of warming your winter a little.

Mums – May is the month that we celebrate motherhood. But why not every month, I say.  Call your mum today!  She wants to hear your voice.

Munchkin – My youngest turned two this month.  I’m mourning the fact that there’s no longer a baby in the house.  But we had fun making, then munching, a bright green Puff the Magic Dragon cake.

Mugs of Mulligatawny – When the chills kick in there’s nothing like wrapping your mitts around a mug of something toastie.  I’m loving Mulligatawny, the yummiest soup I’ve ever made.  It’s a gutsy Indian hug in a mug.  Try it.

Minimalism – I am enjoying Courtney Carver’s Be More with Less blog and attempting some of her mini-missions, starting with ‘five in ten’.  This  involved mining my wardrobe for five items that I have not worn in a year, then bagging and donating them.  Found this oddly exhilarating and hope it might spark a more ambitious (and long overdue) clutter cull.

Mind games – Changing my self talk from “I have to” to “I get to” is helping a little with the tedium of getting two strong-willed preschoolers to swimming lessons on time, dipped, dried, dressed and home again without meltdowns (by me or them).

Masterpieces – I’m no fine art buff, but I was lured into Monet’s waterlily pond by a gorgeous friend who has recently been appointed to a plum role at the NGV.  She treated me to a guided tour explaining the historical and social content, and how Monet literally flipped the art world on its head by painting reflections. I can highly recommend spending an afternoon getting acquainted with French Impressionism (words I never thought I’d say) by wandering through Monet’s Garden till 8 September.

Man on a mission – I love Jamie Oliver.  He inspired many in May with his Food Revolution Day.  According to Jamie, “Essential cooking skills are just as important as reading and writing, in this day and age, the rise of diet related illness has become the biggest killer on the planet”.  And so I took the kids to the market, they picked a pumpkin, and we made soup together, which they guzzled.  One small step towards hopefully passing on to them an appreciation and life long love of food.

Muddy puddles – Kinda forgotten how to entertain the kids on a rainy day.  It’s been a while.  And I’d fallen into the adult trap of seeing rain as an inconvenience, not entertainment.  But the boys convinced me to don our gumboots and get amongst it. Splashing in muddy puddles was super fun!  And the hot baths and warm Milo that followed were sweeter than usual.

MoviesACMI’s Hollywood Costume exhibition is so beautifully staged. It celebrates the costume designer’s contribution to cinematic storytelling.  I drooled over Dorothy’s red shoes, Scarlett’s green velvet gown, Tyler Durden’s blood red leather jacket, Marilyn’s delicious Seven Year Itch dress, and much more.  Eat it up movie buffs before 18 August.

Mindfulness – In my effort to live more consciously and deliberately, I’m keeping a food diary using the MyFitnessPal phone app.  It’s been an eye opening exercise.  Has not stopped me eating things I shouldn’t, but it certainly has made me more aware.

Music – Nothing lifts my mood quicker than dancing.  Mama Kin’s Apple Tree song (from the Talisman album) and The Little Stevies‘ Dear Daniel (from Most Requested) are on loop in my speakers because both are guaranteed to get the kids and I groovin’.  I love hearing my two year old sing “shoo-be-do-do-do”.  Sure beats repetitive Wiggles!

Marriage – Been surrounded by betrothed couples this month, which I love.  Went wedding venue hunting with my sister-in-law.  Lunched with a friend who’s planning a barefoot beach ceremony in Fiji in weeks.  Booked four celebrant gigs, a role which I adore playing.  Discovered gorgoeus Luminare in South Melbourne.  And found the perfect reading for a couple’s children to recite, Oh The Places You’ll Go by Dr Seuss.  Weddings make me happy.

Markets – I have a hereditary obsession with handmade markets.  From jam to jewellery, if it’s been made locally with love, and packaged beautifully, I’m a sucker for it.  So my wallet got a workout at Federation Square’s Markit, which featured 100 of Australia’s most coveted independent designers.  My favourite finds included jelly mould hanging planters by Angus&Celeste, journals by Rebound Books, spunky boys gear by Furious Kingston, the fox coat by Sunday Morning Designs, creative packaging inspiration by Blank Goods, the stylish family tree by Bilingual, and lovely Martine’s Vintage Prints.  The organisers also stage The Big Design Market on 6-8 December.  Pop it in your calendar and come meet the makers, buy and admire.

Magazines – In May’s Women’s Weekly the gorgeous Sarah Murdoch talked about reprioritising her commitments according to what would most inspire her children.  She said “If I’m going to be away from them, working on something, it should be something that, when they grow up, they respect me for”.  Can I get an amen?

Thanks for indulging my May musing.

I make these monthly lists to focus on what make me happy, and stop my endless ‘to do’ task list from being the dominant demand on my brain space.

Check out Grateful in April or Magic March for posts in the same vein.

And, if you like what you find here, please do sign up to follow my blog (details in the footer).

What’s on your list of things to do for fun in June?
Love you to comment and let me know, puhleeze.

PS – Don’t forget to call your mum!

This post is kinda stolen from a St Thomas More Primary School fundraising cookbook.  

I’m told that this soup originates from East India, but I discovered it thanks to my mother’s best friend.  And I’ve cooked it for lots of people I love.

This is, without a doubt, the yummiest soup I have ever made.  And my hubby’s favourite too.  It almost has me willing for wintery weather to justify this warming up.    

MULLIGATAWNY SOUP

Ingredients

2 large skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons plain flour
1 large zucchini
2 sticks celery
1 medium brown onion
1 large Granny Smith apple
2 tablespoons butter
1.5 litres chicken stock
2 teaspoons curry powder (less if you prefer it milder)
¼ cup rice, uncooked
¼ cup cream
Juice of half a lemon
1 tablespoon chutney

Method

Melt butter over a low heat in a saucepan.
Add curry powder.
Fry off diced chicken that has been tossed in flour.
Add diced zucchini, celery, onion, apple and fry off gently.
Add stock and bring to the boil while stirring.
Reduce heat and simmer for one hour.
Add rice and simmer for a further 15 minutes.
Add lemon juice, chutney and cream and stir through while simmering gently for five minutes.
Serve in deep bowls and eat heartily.

Try it and do let me know what you think.

Love to hear what you look forward to cooking/eating this winter.  

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I shot my sister-in-law yesterday (that’s her blue bump).  And while developing her images I realised that waiting makes me happy.

Admiring her beautiful bulging belly, with my new niece or nephew snug inside, I reveled in the anticipation of meeting her/him.

I believe that having things to look forward to is essential for happiness.

So tonight I’ll enjoy a slow cooked lamb curry.
Tomorrow Hubby returns from a fortnight interstate.
This weekend very dear (but seldom seen) friends are coming for dinner.
Next week I’m seeing The Great Gatsby with girlfriends and bubbly.
Next month we’ll welcome my new niece or nephew into the world.
Before Christmas we’re whisking the kids away to Bali for a week.
And next year we have a long awaited family wedding to celebrate.

So there are exciting times ahead.  And I’ll relish the lead up excitement.

Amidst our culture of convenience and instant gratification, it’s nice to remember that waiting sometimes enhances our enjoyment.

For too long I told myself that things will be better when I just meet this deadline, or lose that weight, or pay off X, or get through Y.

But what is infinitely more satisfying is accepting today and hopefully anticipating what’s to come.

What are you looking forward to?

On my 36th birthday I realised I had everything I had ever wanted.  Cue mid-life crisis.

It’s a nice problem to have, I know.  And yet a quandary none-the-less.

Now what?

I am achievement addicted.  I love the feeling of working toward something meaningful – planning, studying, saving, crafting, training, anticipating.  I get more of a kick from the process than the result most times.  And this trait has served me well to date.

But for the first time in my life, I found myself uncomfortably goalless.

I had it all – hunky hubby, gorgeous kids, happy home, healthy parents and successful career.  I should have been ecstatic.  Yet I was not as happy as I felt I could be.  But I did not breathe a word of this, for fear of sounding disgustingly ungrateful.

Then an insightful girlfriend gave me Getchen Rubin’s book “The Happiness Project”.  At first I was a little offended that she thought it apt, but on reflection it was genius gifting by her.  Much of the book is common sense, and it scared me to realise just how far I had strayed from the basics.  I resolved to make this the year I chose happiness.

In my eagerness to please and achieve, I had ended up carrying too much.  As wife, mum, boss, celebrant, photographer, friend and daughter, I made myself so busy that I had no time left to enjoy any of it.  And the stress of my over-commitment was manifesting in unwanted kilos around my waist too!

So I took stock of everything on my plate, and prioritised according to which brought me the most joy.  Then I made the brave decision to cut my job loose.

I’m pressing pause on my career, for now.  Giving myself permission to take a detour.  And making time to truly savour my many blessings.

Yes, my bank balance will suffer.  If I don’t adjust my lifestyle our savings will be hemorrhaging in fact.  But I am willing to take that.  After two decades of working I am deeming myself due for some long service leave.

If it sounds like I am justifying my decision, that’s true.  It’s been one of the most difficult I have ever made.  I love working.  And my job was with an awesome organisation, leading a team that I had hand-picked, for a boss I found inspiring.  But it took so much out of me that I had little left to give at home, and I hated that.

Having it all is possible.  But not having time to savour any of it was depressing.  Each week I survived the endurance test, but I was not having fun.  And it was making me feel yuck.

Sharing my decision to opt out has been an interesting experience.  People have told me they wish they could do the same.  You can.  Another working mum lamented the loss of a friend who shared the juggle.  I’m still here.  Others ask, perplexed, “so what do you do now?” which momentarily had me seeking a label for my new way of life.  My answer is simply “whatever I want!”  My father-in-law cheekily termed me “housewife” which is a title I hate.  It suggests I married a house.

I want my new title to be HAPPY.

I have not given up my career to be a mum.  I was already a mum.  I merely quit my job to create more space to enjoy my beautiful life.  And to invest time in being the best me I can be.

At the Big Hearted Business Conference recently, Catherine Deveny spoke about what she called ‘Fuck Off Status’ – that obligation free state where you can do whatever you choose without playing slave to anyone or anything.  Her advice included:

  • don’t have a mortgage or more children than you can manage on your own
  • use public housing, public health and public schools
  • have as few financial burdens as possible, because debt is the biggest barrier to being brave enough to do what you really want.

I resisted much of this messaging at first, but Catherine’s advice has played on my mind since.  She’s onto something.  And it’s sure worked for her.

I like the idea of not buying into the script that has been pitched to us – work hard at school to get to uni, work hard at uni to get a job, work hard at your job to get a raise.

There is another way to live.  All you need is less.  And perhaps choosing AWOL (another way of life) is the ultimate indulgence these days.

Stepping out is not the norm.  And I get that it’s an economic impossibility for many.  79% of Australian mums work, and that figure is growing.  For me, it’s merely a case of timing.  I am willing to bet that my career will get time to shine later.  But my kids will only be little once, and I will never be this young again.  I want to really enjoy now.

For years I have been striving for that elusive “balance”.  But I have finally decided that it’s not something you can achieve day to day.  We need to look at it over our lifetime.  There is a season for it all, and you can have everything, but it’s best not taken all at once.

My decision did not not feel fabulous right away.  Liberating, brave, and exciting – yes.  But it’s taken weeks for me to detox from corporate life.  And a part of me will always be tuned in to it.  I can take myself out of the office, but I don’t take away my professional skills in the same sweep.

Aussie music producer John Watson describes life as a four burner stove. “The burners represents yourself, your family, your friends and your career. True success involves you turning off at least two of those burners, and great success involves you turning off three of them.”

So it’s all about trade-offs and compromise.  I guess all we can do is be clear about what success looks like for us at each point in time.

Last week I read Alex Carlton’s “The Retro Housewife” article in The Age and I wondered if I was indeed the newest “cult of domesticity” recruit.  I have long been an admirer of the Stepford-esque 1950s aesthetic, but I draw the line at aspiring to the associated entrapment.

Inspirational baker and maker Pip Lincolne, responded to Carlton’s article with her take on women reshaping their lives and re-inventing themselves via all things home-y.  Her post “The New Domesticity” is a great read.

Perhaps I am just cementing gender stereo-types.  But I am no less ambitious or capable than I was when I was on the payroll.  I just want to find a way to do it that works for me and my family now.

That said, if I start building a backyard chicken coop or planning home-school lessons, somebody slap me please.

I’d love to hear about the bold calls you’ve made in pursuit of happiness.  Please do share.