Category Archives: Culture

Live Inspired

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I love to be inspired.

There is nothing better than that moment where it feels like something has lit a fire deep inside my belly. Where I feel compelled to write it down, to draw, to create. That feeling as the years go on has become a little more elusive, but it’s still there. I was sitting in a gorgeous little cafe in Perth with my baby girl fast asleep on my lap, flicking through an awesome new local Perth zine DotDotDash – when I felt it. It was a combination of time and place, a combination of things I loved in my pre-baby life… things that I have missed in the life I live now, mixed with my present loves. A green brain-food smoothy, organic produce, an inspirational cafe in what used to be a pretty uninspiring area, soft textured couches, my very own beautiful, sleeping child and the freedom to breathe… and there it was. Inspiration comes in a thousand forms, it pushes you to do many different things. I love it. It’s an incredible feeling, my pulse quickens, my whole body is alight and ready – creativity is there, ready and just aching to be used up.

When I felt it, I was reminded of all the times that inspiration has hit. I remembered the things I was striving for before wanderlust called and I became lost in a foreign land. I remembered the things I have always been passionate about, long before I became passionate about co-sleeping, babywearing, cloth nappies and my beautiful daughter. I remembered what used to drive me, the things that pushed me to be better, to grow faster, to create more. And I loved the way it made me feel.

Sometimes being a mama you lose a little part of who you were before. It’s a beautiful thing to love your child more than you could possibly love yourself, more than you could possibly love anything else in the world. But there comes a time, to be the best mama you can be, that you have to regain a little part of yourself for yourself. Finding the time to celebrate what makes you, you. Finding the time to allow yourself to be inspired, to make change, to grab those things that you love with both hands. I don’t know how to do this, but this moment of inspiration – it’s reminded me to try harder to find a bit more of myself in every day.

When you think you don’t have enough time to be inspired, if you think you don’t have enough time to make the change you want for yourself. Try to remember… you have exactly the same amount of hours in a day as Mother Theresa, Helen Keller, Harvey Milk, and Ghandi had. You are amazing. Have a little faith in yourself and let yourself be incredible. You are human and made of the same stuff that the worlds most inspirational people were made of. You can do anything.

What inspires you?

To inherit the earth, is our gift to them.

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Bo’s birthright: it’s in her blood.

Living in the village has taught me many, many things over the past few years. I have learned to let go where I used to hold on, and I’ve learned to hold on or hold back at times where it’s no longer appropriate to let go. I’ve learned how to eat with one hand (even deboning a fish or unshelling a prawn), how to barbeque fish over hot coals and how to shower with a bucket. I’ve learned a language, a culture and an identity I didn’t know I had in me. I’ve learned how to appreciate faith, even if I don’t have a particular faith of my own.

I’ve learned a true appreciation for the luck of my birth rights, the luck that was handed to me just because I was born when and where I was. I grew up middle class. I grew up with clothes on my back and food in the fridge. There were hard years, where perhaps I was too aware of financial stress and bills piling up… but there were also many easy years where i was allowed to just be a child. I was lucky to be given the opportunity to have government support whilst i studied at university and the freedom to study what I wanted, where I wanted, when I wanted. These privileges weren’t earned. I didn’t do anything to receive them. They were inherited. They are privileges I am so honoured to be able to pass on to my daughter, and privileges I know my husband wishes he had had.

I’ve always been aware of recycling, in Australia we are very well educated when it comes to garbage disposal etc. Our government programs that actually DO the disposal haven’t quite caught up to our education, but that’s a whole different story. When I first moved to the village I was shocked that there is no garbage disposal system here. There is no dump. There are no trucks that come to collect your household waste. Waste get dumped into a hole in the front (or back) yard and gets unceremoniously burnt off when the hole gets too full. Good or bad, it’s the system here. And as I got used to the many cultural differences I have over time come to accept our rubbish hole.

The blessing of the rubbish hole is the new thinking it brings. It makes me consciously THINK about what goes into our household bin… knowing that I will have to live with seeing it in the hole for the next few months until it is burnt or covered with fallen palm fronds. We create very little household waste now. With food scraps going over the fence to the chickens, dogs, water buffalo and other wild (and not so wild) animals that pass by and using cloth nappies (who wants to live next to a pile of dirty nappies?) we are greatly reducing our impact on the local environment we are a step in the right direction.

The problem is the plastic. What can be done with all the plastic? Everything comes in a plastic bag, or two… when I go to the market (which post-Bo is not very often if at all) I try to take a canvas bag with me to avoid plastic, though some sellers are pretty insistent that their goods come wrapped in plastic. We donate our unwanted plastic bags to my mother in law who uses them at her house and in her food stall to sell her wares… is there another great use for unwanted plastic?

Maybe it takes knowing that you have to FACE your garbage every day to truly THINK about what you throw out? Whether you do already or not, it’s certainly worth considering isn’t it? We leave many things for our children. We leave them love and useless belongings. We leave them with lessons and letters and photographs. We leave them with a world that we as adults have helped create. Maybe we can’t change the politics or effect global change in a day (though I’m not saying we can’t in our lifetime… because if we all just STOOD UP we truly could) but one thing we can change is our own actions and how they impact the world around us. And maybe the simplest way to start really is by looking in your bin?

Let’s let these kids inherit the same beautiful earth that we did.

A bad taste in my mouth.

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I came online today after Bo had gone down for her afternoon nap (yes, she is sleeping today – progress!) to write a post about honesty, a post about my internal struggles and to find the courage to speak. Instead of that post, I find myself compelled to write this one.

When I logged on to WordPress I read a recent comment, written by a reader in the dark cloak of last night. I’m used to wonderfully diverse comments from my readers. Some agree, and some disagree with my ideas, and I’m happy, grateful for and open to all kinds of discussion about parenting methodologies, lifestyle choices and both life and babies in general. What I am not happy to indulge in however are personal attacks.

In response to my recent posts about respect, posts in which I try to make sense of my own feelings, choices and responsibilities in this diverse and crazy world – posts where I talk about standing behind one another and our decisions… came a lengthy comment, a short essay, which not only stated quite clearly that this particular reader does not indeed agree with my decisions but went to great length to make judgement on my actions, my relationship and my [selfish] parenting of my daughter. Assumptions were made about my relationship with my husband, my background, my living situation, my daughter and indeed the village in which I live that were not only false but some of which were extremely offensive.

I have not approved the comment as I do not encourage the disrespect of anyone, myself included. But I did feel it necessary to make comment on it, I’m not sure why, I guess because I’m disappointed… disappointed that I was misread, or misunderstood… or perhaps just disappointed that this was waiting to meet me at the end of what has been a pretty difficult week for me personally. Or perhaps because after a conversation with a friend about honesty on blogs, I had prior to reading this comment decided to bear my soul a little more.

Hopefully tomorrow brings a little lightness and colour for all of us.

xox

If only there was a birth-plan for life after birth.

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Parenting advice comes in all shapes and sizes… and whether you ask for it or not, it comes. Some of it is good, some of it is bad and a lot of it is, well, for lack of a better word, painful. When you have a child, as soon as you are handed that baby, your parenting is scrutinised.

In our birthing plan we were very clear about what we wanted for the first few hours of our life with Bo. We wanted respect. Respect for the bonding that would take place, respect for the decisions we made about how to bless her, how to love her and how to welcome her into the world. We were very grateful that the hospital that we were at were extremely respectful of our wishes and regardless of how dramatic the final moments of Bo’s birth had been, within fifteen minutes the room was cleared, the lights were dimmed and we were left alone and in peace with our baby.

I chose to co-sleep in the hospital. It wasn’t a conscious choice, it was just what happened naturally because we were allowed (Bo and I) to evolve into our real-world partnership and begin to find our feet together. What we needed was closeness, and so during the night, Bo’s tiny newborn body slept in the crook of my arm in our single, crisp-white sheeted hospital bed. The midwives raised their eyebrows a few times (I could see the SIDS warnings flashing behind their freshly minted smiles) but they held their tongue. The staff respected my decision, and I was grateful to not have to justify myself to anyone. Bo and I have been happily and safely co-sleeping together ever since, and for us, it is the very best decision I could have made (or not made as the case may be).

If only we could write a life-plan, or a life-preferences sheet and give it to everyone in our lives and have them respect our decisions for the way we would prefer our life to go just like we can in a hospital for the birth of our child. If only I had my doula on hand for every step of my parenting, my very own advocate, standing by my side, holding my hand and whispering encouragement in my ear. This parenting gig is hard, and the second you walk out of the hospital (and unfortunately for some mums it starts in hospital with the midwives) people will judge the decisions you make.

I know a woman, with a young baby just like Bo, who was very recently verbally attacked in a shopping centre food court for bottle feeding her baby. The woman scolded this mother, telling her that babies should be breast fed, that she was, essentially, not doing what was best for her child. I also know of other mothers who have been made feel uncomfortable breastfeeding in cafes, restaurants and other public places by general members of the public. The first few weeks, months, years of a mothers motherhood is an extraordinarily emotional time and to think that anyone feels they have the right to comment (with anything other than praise and encouragement), or indeed pass judgement on the way a mother feeds her child (as long as the child is indeed being fed) greatly disturbs me. How have we lost so much respect for each other that we can’t just stand behind someone and say, we as your brothers and sisters, we support you…

The idea of respect has been on my mind a lot lately. Respect for peoples choices. Respect for other people situations – regardless of the outcome that those situations may have on me personally. Respect for babies as people. Respect may be something that is culturally ingrained in us, and this is something that I’m planning to ponder further as it’s something that I’m facing day to day here in the village.

Why can’t we just find it in ourselves to let go of our own judgements and ideals and just respect each other and find love and acceptance just because we are people, all in this together, just trying to make sense of this wild world… one day at a time with no life-preferences plan to follow.

What’s the best parenting advice you’ve ever heard? What’s the worst?

I’m on her team.

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Right from the beginning: Photo by Kate Heaslip Photography

How would you like to go to a brand new place, have some strange giant pick you up, get all up in your space and repeatedly tap your face until you grimace in such a way that it convinces the giant that you’re smiling. The giant will then proceed to bounce you up and down whilst waving your arms around and banging your fists together as if you are clapping until another strange giant comes over and repeats the entire game from the beginning again… Personally, I’d rather not. I’m a big fan of my personal space. Don’t get me wrong, I can be quite affectionate, I love a good cuddle and I like being physically close to people who are important to me. I love meeting new people, but I’m always a little wary at first, just trying to find my feet before I dive right in there. I like my little personal space bubble to be respected, and I am really trying to ensure that Bo has the same respect given to her.

People love babies. There is something really magical about a little person. Their little tiny feet, their chubby hands, those cheeks… they are magnetic, there is absolutely no doubt about it. Long before I ever held my own child I felt drawn to children, the purity, the naivety, the beauty is enchanting. So I completely understand that people want to look at Bo, how could you not? She’s spectacular. I even understand when people want to squeeze those chubby pillow feet sticking out of the sling when we are at the beach. I love that people talk to her when she is in the safety of my arms – it gives her a chance to interact with the world whist still feeling secure and protected. It allows her to transition into this big world gently.

What I don’t love is people tapping her face repeatedly trying to make her smile. I don’t love people leaning in until they are an inch from her face and making loud noises at her. I don’t love people bouncing her up and down and talking loudly at her and treating her like a puppet, especially when it’s nap time and she’s tired. I don’t love people trying to pick her up out of my arms when she is snuggled in close. I certainly don’t love completely strangers trying to take her from me on the beach… whilst culturally all of these things are totally acceptable here in the village, for me however they are not. For my child, they are not. I know people don’t mean any harm… but I also know people don’t always think beyond their own little bubble.

These things don’t only happen here. They happened a lot when we were in Australia too. The only difference is that in Australia I have no qualms about telling people no, picking up my child and giving her what she needs – regardless of how that may make other ADULTS feel. Here I do the same but I’m not quite as linguistically capable of explaining my actions, so I’m afraid at times I probably come across as a real bitch.

Some people may say I coddle her, others may say I’m controlling, some people may think I’m not being respectful of my elders – there are always plenty of critics. I know there are parenting “methodologies” out there that would say I’m spoiling my child, but I don’t believe it for a second. I try to be as respectful of others as possible. But my respect for my child trumps my respect for anyone else… I’m on her team first and if that means the strange woman on the beach and the surrounding crowd think I’m awful for not handing my precious baby over to her, so be it.

One day Bo will be able to tell me how she feels, and she will be able to show me what she’s ok with and what she’s not. One day she won’t need me as her advocate (even though, let’s face it, I always will be) and she will be free to do what she feels ok with, and I will trust her implicitly to do so. For now however, I’ll protect her and build her up and by respecting her as a person I’ll help her to learn how to respect herself, something that so many young women out there have forgotten how to do.

Have you had to manage cultural expectations that have been placed on you as a parent? Have you ever had to challenge them?

Becoming “Abah”…

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I am, by no means, an expert on my child. Bo is a creature of unpredictability, she’s lovely and charming and down right unique, all things I am very proud of. It has taken me the past 12 weeks to be able to read my daughter (I stopped reading “baby books” around day 2), and just when I think I have her “signs” figured out, she goes and grows up a little more and we start right back at the beginning again. I’m OK with that, we have a bond that is unspeakable. We understand eachother even in moments of complete exhaustion, just when total frustration is about to take over – we understand eachother.

My husband wasn’t as lucky as I, he missed six weeks of this beautiful childs life and so in the past week and a half he’s had an awful lot of catching up to do. His daughter, no longer a newborn, has clear needs and wants and personality. He has had to become Abah (the local Sundanese word for father) very quickly and it’s been a wonderful thing to watch.

I decided before we arrived that I would do the best I could to step back (ha!) and allow him to parent his daughter, his way. That I would try hard (ha!) to not boss him around or tell him how things should be done… even though I’d been doing it solo for the six weeks prior.

So after a few days I stepped back and I watched them together. I watched as she cried and he would hand her back to me. I watched as he would lay her (awake) next to me (asleep) and promptly fall asleep himself. I watched as he discovered her smile, her laugh and her chatters all for the very first time. I watched as he learnt being a father is not just when your awake, when you have free time, when the surfs not good – being a parent always comes first. I watched as he stopped handing her back to me when she cried, I watched as he learnt how to soothe her frustrations. I watched as he scooped her up out of bed and left the room allowing me a few hours of peaceful sleep. I watched as he whispered secrets into her ear, in a language that I don’t understand, and she gazed at him adoringly. I watched them create their bond.

My husband is becoming a father, slowly and surely, day by day – he too is learning to read our child. And it’s an absolute pleasure privilege to watch.

xox

Our village home…

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life begins… at the end of your comfort zone.

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Yesterday Bo and I arrived in Indonesia and the end of my comfort zone. After a hectic week in WA introducing Bo to family and having the whole gamet of experiences that go along with such a whirl wind trip (and a few unexpected) we boarded a plane at 2.45am (really, not recommended when travelling with an infant) and flew right through my comfort zone, landing in hot, sweaty Jakarta a little after 6am on Friday morning. A wonderful reunion for my little family, we loaded the car up with our luggage and we set off into the dusty highway. We had a long ten hour trip ahead of us  to our new home in a village I called home for many years.

The drive was much as expected, having done this trip a bazillion times before. Bo was an angel who napped and chatted and smiled the whole way. We stopped in my husbands village to do a quick first introduction of Bo to the wonderful world that is her Indonesian relatives… and here is where my first panicked moment set in.

I handed over my beautiful, calm little girl to her lovely grandmother and the craziness began as family began streaming through the doors to poke, clap at, and delight in Bo’s charms. Bo was totally fine with it all… a little wide eyed and shocked, she played along and smiled on cue and did all the right tricks. I, on the other hand, was more than a little overwhelmed watching my tiny baby swamped in a sea of Batik. I put this feeling down to a combination of heat and absolute exhaustion, and if I’m completely honest, being miles from my comfort zone and allowing myself to get caught up in an I-want-my-mummy moment.

This moment continued long after we left my husbands family behind and ventured into our own village, to our new house – as I inspected the new place and made a mental note of all that needs to be done, I felt hot tears on my cheeks… I was overwhelmed at it all. Bo and I, sweatier than we have ever been, found calm in eachother whilst my husband raced back to the last village to purchase insect repellant and a fan to make our night a little more comfortable.

I knew then that I was having one of my well known first-night-moments. I have them every time I travel to a new place and they are always magnified when I’m travelling alone (which WAS most of the time, and probably won’t happen again, anytime in the near future). In India I broke down and hid in an airconditioned hotel room for 12 hours, in Hawaii I forced myself out on the town, in Vietnam I shook the tears with a shower followed by a cold beer in a crowded bar. I know this feeling well, it’s a what-the-hell-have-I-got-myself-into feeling. What is unfamiliar is having this feeling going back to a place that is already familiar to me. This sea of faces, the heat, the sounds and smells are all strange compared to where I come from but I’ve lived in them before. What is different is bringing my little girl into this world of colour…

Last night I shook off my tears and soothed my baby to sleep. I ate dinner with my husband for the first time in six weeks and I then tried to sleep. I knew that things would be different in the morning. As I sit here now the call to prayer is dancing through the heat of the air, across the women planting rice and into my front windows. The shell of Bo’s ear will be catching its sound as she sleeps under a mosquito net next to me. I’m not nearly as panicked as I was last night. I’m calmer and more centered but I’m still out of my depth.

I’ve always believed that life begins at the end of your comfort zone… I’m certainly here. I guess it’s time to start living.

The resurection of the Easter Bunny…

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The resurection of the Easter Bunny…

Easter, it’s the first of the religious holidays to come around, and it brings up the first questions for me about Bo and religion. I am not a religious person. I don’t follow a prescribed faith, I don’t pray in a conventional way or believe in a religious God. I was however raised with Christian values and ideals that I to this day do uphold – they are just a little “flexible.” My husband is Muslim, born and raised – and a strong believer in his faith and for that I have great respect for him. He believes in a higher power, he prays and he upholds certain Muslim values and ideals – funnily enough they really are no different to my own Christian values of being good to humankind and treating people with respect, dignity and kindness.

For Bo, a child of the world, we will let her decide one day whether or not she “believes” in one religion or another… giving her the opportunity throughout her childhood to experience, learn about the worlds many religions and develop her own conscience so that one day she can decide what it is that she believes. So where does that leave religious holidays? For there are many. There is Ramadan and Idul Fitri in the Islamic calendar and Christmas and Easter in the Christian calendar, just to name a few. For now I suppose it is much of a muchness considering at seven and a half weeks old Bo doesn’t care about much except being warm, fed and cuddled.

I didn’t buy her an Easter present. And after watching many of my friends post photos of their infants with their incredible hoard of Easter presents, books, pajamas, fluffy bunny toys (and unbelievably chocolate – from ridiculous in-laws) I admit I feel a little guilty. Even my own mother took the time to set up an Easter hunt for Bo and I this morning… where in our pajamas we traipsed around the house collecting little golden eggs filled with sweet chocolate, Bo was a bit distracted with a bout of the hiccups, but I think she got the idea.

Easter for my Bo will never be about Church or prayer or Jesus – but it will always be about being thankful for what we have, for our family and our freedom to love and live the way we choose – Oh and Bunnies who bring books and chocolate, of course. Because, well… no matter how much you might want to you can’t escape the chocolate now, can you?

the kindness of strangers

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the kindness of strangers

Some of you know that Bo and I are quite isolated at the moment. We came out here to this little town to stay with my mother to welcome little Bo into the world. We knew no one. And then this most amazing thing happened. A door opened up and we were embraced by a little part of the community lead by one pretty special woman.

For the three weeks after Bo was born three days a week someone would knock on my door at 5pm and deliver me a delicious, warm, home cooked meal complete with desert. A complete stranger would cook me food, just because they wanted to and I was (and still am to this day) so grateful. I was new-mummy tired, post-birth sore, waddling around the house unable to sit, unable to stand, unable to talk in two-syllable words… I was a wreck in all the lovely (and not so lovely) new-mummy ways… and instead of having to worry about what I was going to cook on those three glorious nights a week, someone did it for me. A complete stranger did it for me.

Why?!?

This group of women (and men because lets face it Men can cook too) call themselves a “cooking circle” – they are an incredible cross section of the community who have raised their hands and said  “pick me, I will do it, I will cook for someone, anyone who needs it.” And that’s it. When someone needs a bit of a helping hand… say they’ve had a baby, they are sick, they’re grieving… someone organises a cooking schedule and tehn a community flurry occurs and cooking begins.

I was delivered healthy, delicious food that filled my belly and kept me strong when I was learning how to stay afloat in this unfamiliar world of motherhood.

Let’s face it, food heals. I’m not talking about emotional eating your way through three liters of vanilla ice cream followed by an entire ham and pineapple pizza kind of “healing.” I’m talking about the way good homemade, wholesome food does something to your body, to your mind. Chicken soup for the soul… it’s out there… it was on my menu of postpartum love and it was delicious.

I was amazed by the generosity of complete strangers and truly humbled by the gift that these people gave me as I learned to nurse, learned to love, learned Bo.

I’m about to move back to this tiny village on the edge of the world and it makes me sad that I wont get to give back to this community who gave me so much of their good food loving. But I know that I will take it with me, and that some day down the track I will start my own cooking circle and I will give it back to a whole new community of strangers… pay it forward.

Isn’t it wonderful when you have almost lost faith in the Western World, when you begin to doubt the spirit of the masses, when everyone becomes lost in a screen and desensitised to each others needs – when people seem to only take and never give – then you see a glimmer of hope amongst it all… Why not start one today? Take a meal to someone who needs it for no other reason than that they need it. Turning food back into pure life giving goodness.

Let good food heal again 🙂