It’s 5am and like a stealth ninja I pulled myself from a sleeping baby and slinked through the bedroom door. I walked past the toddlers room, held my breath and pulled his door until the moment before it clicked. I tip toed to the kitchen, boiled the kettle, plunged a strong coffee and risked the sound of pulling my favourite cup from the dishwasher. A moment of solitude is within my grasp and it deserves fine china.

I’m now sitting in my messy office, the window is open a cool breeze is coming in, the birds are singing and the trees are still*.

She did

Everybody needs moments of peace. Moments of time alone, to sit and be or do things that make them feel alive and well. Motherhood and marriage are a grand joy but they are also a grand restriction. 95% of the time that restriction is fine. 5% of the time it is not. In my experience, the absence of the 5% can determine the mental health and well being of an entire family.

The reality is the 5% is easily pushed aside by the needs and demands of others and we allow it because they are LOUD, because it seems the easier thing to do. But it’s not sustainable and its damaging to all involved.

I am not motherhood. Motherhood is a role I play. Before motherhood I was spontaneous, I traveled, I played sport, I learnt new things, I studied things that interested me, I read books more than two pages at a time, I gave to my community, I cared for my friends, my family and I nurtured my relationship with my husband. Many of these things have been pressed out of my life, others I do haphazardly and poorly.

Here’s the rub, those passions never went away. They are still there. I have not changed. But my life has. And you know what? I grieve for my old self. I do. I grieve for the things that made me interesting, for the things my husband most likely fell in love with, the things that made me vibrant. I am a shadow of that self.

It goes without saying that my children bring me the greatest joy, I look at their faces and they make my heart sing. But as every mother will tell you they are demanding, constant, relentless and frustrating little feckers at times! They are 24 / 7. Sleep for me is broken an average of 7 times a night at present. So yeah, I mean 24 / 7. Which is fine, but give me 5%.

5% can mean a lot of things. 5% can mean a trip to the grocery store without children (equivalent to a tropical island retreat); 5% can mean time for a 30 minute walk; 5% can mean an occasional coffee at a coffee shop sans children; 5% can mean a 30 minute swim at the pool; 5% can mean participating in an organised sport; 5% can mean an opportunity to mow the lawn or potter in the garden uninterrupted or occasionally being taken out to do something nice without having to organise it yourself.

That 5% is something to hold on to, something to look forward to. It is allocated time to breath and remember who you are. That 5% is really not negotiable.

This week I claimed it. I did not ask permission. I took it. I went to my first dragon boat training session and I loved it. I planned my 5% and I got it and guess what? No one died, no one suffered much more than inconvenience and while the muscles in my back are now sore, my head is good. I once again feel I have something to give.

2015 will be the year of 5% for me. Because it has to be.

*My solitude ended at this point. I got 17 minutes. Not that I was counting.

Jump

1. I started ballet when I was four. I remember my first exam like it was yesterday. I wore a yellow exam leotard with a pretty skirt. I thought it as marvelous as a princess gown. I was terrified! We were led into the exam room where we took our position at the bar. The examiner sat in front. She was old and unsmiling. The pianist sat at the back. I had never danced to live music before. She went too fast. I was so caught in my nerves, I forgot most of the exercises and had to copy the girl in front. Her name was Hannah and I thought she was beautiful. I don’t remember the car ride home because when it was over, I promptly fainted. I remember waking on the floor of the lounge room with a fan blowing me wondering how I got there. It was all too much for four year old me.

2. I did piano lessons for two years. I never really wanted to play, I just wanted to dance, but my parents thought it was a good idea. I attended lessons in an old post-war house. The front room on the left was for lessons, the room on the right was a leather work shop. The house smelt of leather and cigarette smoke. My teachers name was Maureen. Maureen’s boyfriend owned the leather work shop. His skin looked like rough hide. It would have made a nice pair of shoes.

3. I had braces as a child. I hated them. I was supposed to wear bands at the back constantly but they hurt and I found them irritating so I often took them off. This meant the amount of time I wore braces was prolonged. My friend had clear braces and would often have the glue colour changed so it was multi-coloured. I thought hers were cooler then mine, but I was too shy to ask the orthodontist to make mine the same. On the day they took them off, my mother told me I came out of the room beaming. Apparently, my mouth was covered in blood but she didn’t tell me because she didn’t want to spoil the moment.

4. When we were growing up, we sat at the dinner table for every meal. In the mornings the table was fully laid with placements, plates, cutlery and a silver toast holder. One of my four sisters had the job of making everyone a cup of tea. I hated tea. I never drank the tea, but every day the tea appeared and each day it was tipped down the sink. No one ever seemed to notice. I still hate tea.

5. When I was at Uni, my friends and I made a terrible tradition of playing practical jokes. We faked a robbery, filled shower heads with dye, faked active break-in’s, filled people’s beds with cutlery, hung people’s stuffed teddies off fans to die and posted fake garage sale ads in the newspaper. It occurred to us there might one day be a real crisis and we would not believe one another so we created a secret code. The code was only to be used if we were in real trouble. The code was: “The chicken is in the oven“.

6. I was so outraged by the beginning of the Iraq war, I jumped on a bus by myself and drove 10 hours to Canberra to protest the arrival of George Bush at Parliament House. At one point during the march we sat under an overpass. A group of drummers had joined the protest and the sound of drums reverberated off the giant tunnel. It was one of most enlivening moments of my life. We changed nothing, but we felt compassionately powerful.

7. I met my husband on New Years Eve in the Top Pub of our school town. He was in my sisters year at school but back then, we never met. I dreamt about him a number of times before this meeting, I recognised him by his hair. I kissed him within 15 minutes. I’ve been kissing him ever since. He probably wishes I would kiss him more.

8. I have a tattoo of a Christian fish on my inner right ankle. The ink is blue. It is my reminder to live compassionately and love wastefully. I got the tattoo in Melbourne at a tattoo parlour called Smokey Demons. My little boy thinks it’s a rocket. My mother is concerned that if I find myself in a holy war they will cut off my foot. My friend Sharon thinks I should have a boat with a fisherman tattooed above the fish with the phrase “Hooked on Jesus”. She laughed a lot when she said that.

9. When I was at school, I would sometimes disappear into out of bounds areas at lunch time and sit by myself. I would read a book, eat my lunch and day dream. Teachers who found me, never asked me to leave. They let me be. They were perceptive.

10. I was caught walking naked across my lounge room by the postman. When I saw him I jumped back and squealed, so did he saying “I didn’t see anything!” “You did so, or you wouldn’t have jumped back!” Every time I get a parcel, I die a little on the inside. I die.

I’m tagging Em from Have a Laugh on Me, Vicki from Knocked Up and Abroad, Anne from Domesblissity and Rebecca from Wholly Listening to tell us ten random things about them!

Advent

Christmas is coming! Christmas is coming! I’m excited and if you’re rolling your eyes right now because it’s still November I say Bah Humbug to you!

I love this time of year. The weather is glorious, people are festive, children are excited and a new beginning is just around the corner.

Our annual Christmas Drinks for family and friends are on the calendar and my head is beginning to swirl around all things Christmas and how to make it meaningful and memorable.

As children we had one advent calendar that came out every year. It hung on the back of the toilet door and the first one to the toilet in the morning got to open the door to reveal a Christmas picture. The excitement of a picture! At the end of each year, we would close all the doors and put it away for next time.

I want to maintain a similar tradition, but today’s Advent calendars make me cranky. What do Lightening McQueen, football team and Monsters Inc themed advent calendars have to do with Christmas? A big fat nothing!

Christmas is about the birth of Christ and the message of love he brought into the world. Our Christmas traditions should be a reflection of that.

I figure the greatest gift we can give our children is the gift of time, our time. That’s what our Advent calendar will hold. The space for connection and the creation of memories.

I made an advent calendar a few years ago. If you don’t have one check out some advent ideas here. In each box I will place an activity we can do as a family. I’ve made up a list of things my little boy loves to do and I have been strategic about what activities are allocated to what days to make it all possible.

December 1: Set up the Christmas tree and decorate the house

December 2: Go scooting

December 3: Write and post a letter to Santa

December 4: Cook something yummy

December 5: Play under the sprinkler

December 6: Visit Nanny

December 7: Have a Christmas Party

December 8: Have a photo with Santa

December 9: Visit the donut shop

December 10: Visit Grammy and Grandad

December 11: Go to the park

December 12: Do Christmas craft

December 13: Play soccer

December 14: Fly a kite

December 15: Go out to dinner for hamburgers

December 16: Go to the beach

December 17: Make a milkshake

December 18: Visit the cousins and big dog Hudson

December 19: Go to Carols by Candlelight

December 20: Have a picnic

December 21: Visit Monkey Mayhem

December 22: Go for a bush walk

December 23: Go to the pool

December 24: Go to the shop to buy the Christmas ham

December 25: Christmas!

With a bit of forward planning you can do this too.

What sort of activities would you place in your calendar?

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