Monday, June 23, 2014

When Life Takes Away Your Lemons

"When life gives you lemons ..."

It's a saying we've all heard. When life gives us proverbial lemons, we crack jokes. Make lemonade. Ask for sugar and water. Squirt them in people's eyes. Get your friends to bring salt and tequila. Bake a pie.

We make jokes until we squeeze our way out of our sour situation into sweeter territory (terrible puns intended). But what happens when the situation spins a full 180, reverses right up onto your expectations, and life takes your lemons away instead? 

I recently had the juice knocked out of my tumbler when the universe decided to play havoc with the natural order of destruction, and take away my lemons - and the tree on which the lemons grew, and the backyard in which the tree stood, and the house over which the tree shaded.

The phone call from the landlord came on a nondescript Wednesday afternoon, an unceremonious conversation to announce that our beloved wild backyard was to be turned over the future: a scraggly grass canvas for a blonde-brick two-story townhouse resplendent with shortened eaves, double garage, paved courtyard and secure gun-metal grey letterbox. 

It would all have to go - the archaic lemon tree and it's communal bevy of produce, the stone fruit tree that ripened from hard to rotten with no in-between, the swaying verandah frame and it's pepper-holed polycarbonate roofing sheets, and the useless bicycle-part-and-reflector-light scarecrow buried beneath the overgrown lawn.

In the space of one phone call, I was brought back down to the reality that I was a tenant and not a home-owner, perched precariously in someone else's house at the permission of their contractual obligations and the mercy of their lifestyle choices, mortgage repayments and blonde-brick two-story townhouse dreams.

More the point, I was brought crashing down to the reality that we would have to move house. Again. With a dog. And a toddler. And three bedrooms full of furniture and cloth nappies and singing walkers and the general accumulated crap of two exhausted parents and a miniature hoarder with a penchant for shiny objects.

There was shock. There was panic. There was anger. There was extreme ranting at my husband, who looked like he might quite like to move house all by himself just to get away from me for a while. Then there was sweet, sweet denial.

The denial phase was kind to us. We had visitors from interstate, we potted plants in the yard, we bought more crap that would eventually have to move house with us, and our daughter  even managed to turn one, complete with a coming of age tricycle and number one birthday cake.

And so it was that we found ourselves knee deep in the aftermath of first birthday celebrations, covered in sticky green icing and crumpled wrapping paper, when the tree loppers arrived to exterminate the backyard and our ability to ignore the situation any longer.

The sound was horrific, much like a toddler squealing their dissatisfaction with the removal of their favourite toy, or a labouring woman expressing her vehement disagreement with her partner's decision to sit down for a quick cuppa and ham and tomato sandwich in the middle of transition.

After several hours of auditory torture, the tree lopping crew and the trees were gone, and with them, the sense of home. Without the trees, without the lemons, without the sun dappled light and the scratchy leaves and the boughing branches banging on the window, our rambling old terrace was nothing but an old house that belonged to someone else - crumbling mortar, sagging front door, cracked pavement, broken lattice, haggard tree stumps and an unshakeable tendency toward shedding dust and attracting ants.

Inspired by the devastation, we packed up our denial and our belongings and got out of there as quickly as we could. One truck, fifteen car trips, seven million trailer loads, and only a handful of tears and swear words, and we have successfully transplanted ourselves into another inner-outer-inner suburb, with the dog and toddler and tricycle all still (relatively) intact.

We don't have any lemons anymore, or a magnificent old lemon tree in a ramshackle old yard to shade under in the summer months. But we do have a giant olive tree out the front of the new place that looks like it's going to deliver in abundance.

Tapenade, anyone?

M x

Saturday, May 10, 2014

International Blog Swap Day 2014 - A Bloggy Blind Date with Cookies and Cwtches

It's International Blog Swap Day, and I'm lucky enough to have been partnered up and sent on a bloggy 'blind date' with the delightful Lina from Cookies and Cwtches. To mark the occasion, Lina has a written a special guest post! To really put the swap in International Blog Swap Day, I will be blogging over at Cookies and Cwtches today as well, make sure you head over to say g'day.

Hi I’m Lina and I blog over at Cookies and Cwtches. Cwtches is the Welsh word for cuddle or hug! I am 32 and a mummy to two little girls aged 7 and 3 and have another little one due in a couple of months.

As I’m writing this post for International Blog Swap Day I thought I would just introduce myself, my blog and tell you a little bit about me.

I live in a small town in Wales although I was born and grew up in London. Moving to Wales was a big change for me – there is much more countryside, the people are nicer and the houses are much cheaper than I was used to in London! I think Wales is a really nice area for children to grow up but I do get homesick for the hustle and bustle of London sometimes!

I started my blog because I love writing, and thought it would be a great record of my children’s growing up years. I write a lot about parenting in general as well as our little family memories too. I also really enjoy cooking and crafts and like to record recipes and our craft activities on the blog as well as share these ideas with other people who may be reading.  

To give you an idea of what I like to write about here are some links to some of my more popular posts…

A big thank you to Mumdanity for hosting my post…do pop over to my blog where she will be writing a guest post of her own.

Thanks to Lina for her post - head on over to her blog too!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Wintry Side of the Equation

It's been nearly two months now since I slipped into the exhausting slipstream thick of working-mum life. Most of the life dust has settled, but I am struggling to find out exactly where the time has gone, and where the halves of all the sad and single socks in our neglected washing basket have buggered off to. 

Somewhere, between reclaiming my work skirts from the back of the wardrobe and trying to source, chop, crumb, bake and pleadingly squeeze zucchini sticks into an eleven month old each evening, the trademark Australian summer days have shifted toward the wintery side of the annual equation. 

In true transitional fashion, we are still getting a smattering of hot days wedged in among the cold ones, but they are fast becoming the warm exception to the chilly rule, like finding a prized full noodle in a packet of resolutely broken ones.

For the most part, though, the long rambling evenings of the summer months have given way to the crisp mornings of April, and the train station platform has seen a resurgence of black tights, well-loved boots and mid-length coats topped off with football scarves. 
Our cold dinners have given way to casseroles, fish and chips at the beach have been replaced with fish and chips on the lounge room floor, and picnics in the park are teetering indecisively on the precipice of seasonal give. 

In the same vein, the tantalizing waft of summer barbecues has been phased out by the acrid smell of wood fire smoke, piping from a medley of disparate chimneys as fireplaces are cleaned and test-fired in readiness for the battle of the temperatures that lies ahead. 

The leaves are starting to switch on the trees, going out in sympathy with the browning grass and the gnarling twigs, ready to peter out as daylight savings does and fall to the footpath when the first windscreens ice up in the morning. 

My crumbling old house in the inner-outer-inner suburbs of Melbourne is also showing the signs of the season, with the last good lemons throwing themselves from the tree and the cobwebs closing in on the windows that no longer need to be opened.  

To protest the shift in the the weather, a small but formidable army of mice have found their way through the cracks, making a mockery of the endless deficiencies in our antique door seals and off-kilter walls and skirting boards. 

The washing machine is now full of sturdy toddler trousers, footed pajamas and corporate shift dresses and tights - a far cry from the primary colour carnival of short-sleeve onesies, cotton nappy covers and sensible breastfeeding singlets that have been swallowed up by the missing weeks. 

The seasonal shift has even got the washing line preparing for hibernation, catching its last few weeks of relatively useful sun before it will be forced to slink off into a cool grey corner of the backyard for the duration of the lacklustre-laundry winter months. 

Somewhere, somehow, summer has turned to autumn, new year has turned to mid year, daycare has turned from new to routine, bottles have turned to cups, crawling has turned to stepping, fast has turned to much faster and I still can't find a pair of matching socks - and by time time I do, my daughter will have outgrown them anyway!

Has time crept up on you lately?

M x

Friday, February 28, 2014

Time and Biscuits

It's been a few non-alcoholic drinks between posts, but I'm back and flumped on the good old blogging couch, recovering from my first foray into the working mummy world. 

After a year in the twenty-four-seven parenting game, with teethers and tantrums and teddies (and tearing out my brittle hair with alarming frequency and effectiveness), I was ready and almost excitedly waiting for my return to work to herald an upheaval of epic proportions. 

Prepared to be swallowed whole by the real world and seventeen thousand red-flagged emails, I put on a skirt, jammed some breastpads down my bra, wiped the toast from my blouse, grabbed a child unfriendly muesli bar and slobber-free water bottle and retraced the steps of my previous life to the train station.

Stepping back through the grimy doors of the morning peak hour train turned out to be an unpleasantly pleasant letdown, like a return to the same point in the mundane romance novel I had completely forgotten I was reading last year. 

For the most part, it appears the same cast of characters from my previous life chapter are all still on stage and ready for the next sector of my working journey - appropriately sleepy, hairsprayed, briefcased, toothpasted, headphoned and jaded.

The key players are still there, playing their parts. The angry girl who somehow manages to squeeze goth streetwear into the conformity of nine-to-five office attire. The mousey haired woman with the eternally crumpled jacket and sensible lunch bag. The obnoxious bicycle man with the exceptionally oversized backpack. The guy with the epic collection of fantasy novels. And the usual cluster of Carriage Seven school girls decked out in blue and white and stripe and straw. 

Despite the slap of a bitter winter and a long scorching summer, the train still bucks just the same way on the tracks that it always did. The ticket machines malfunction just as frequently, the wind still rips through the station overhang with the same ferocity, the tram dings the same way it always has, and the coffee place halfway between the tram and the office still takes as inhumanly long as isn't really possible to make a short latte on the run. 

Time has passed and the calendar has come full circle, but the time warp has found its way into the office as well. Colleagues have come and gone, the phone system has been replaced, and the cream biscuits in the communal kitchen tin have sadly been replaced by plain - but the calls still come and the issues still run and the fluorescent lights still flicker just the same. 

My business cards are still in the second desk drawer, along with a forgotten pump pack of moisturiser, silver coins leftover from the ghost of coffees past, and a pile of long-forgotten filing tattooed with my trademark scrawling sticky notes and bent paperclips. Evidence that I did exist here once before, and that my pregnancy brain was in full swing when I packed up my desk a year ago.

Somehow, right through the soul shattering screaming match of birth and the sleep deprivation of early parenthood, my ability to function behind a desk and my recall of procedures and protocols and important calendar dates and phone extension numbers has remained intact. 

Even my name has been retained in the complicated new phone system, which I have no idea how to use, almost as if my parallel self was there in the office all along while I wasn't. Or was I?

It feels eerily like I've walked back into a parallel universe, one that was mine and is mine, but actually wasn't and isn't and won't be mine at all, even if the cream biscuits are returned to their rightful tin. 

Sitting at my old desk, trying to feel current, trying to pick reality from real, it is plain that while some elements of my universe are identical to how they used to be, others have flown the coop and have no intention of ever coming back down from the big blue sky.

Belonging and longing have become two entirely separate but identical things, divided into a smattering of small segments that can never be put back together the way that they started, but will also somehow be one and the very same. 

If it wasn't for the exploding boobs and the desperate need to pick up some carrots and teething gel and make it to the childcare centre by six, I could almost get sucked into the time warp and let belonging and longing rest together in the filing cabinet until 5pm. 

Almost, almost, nearly. But not quite.

Have you discovered any parallel universes on your parenting journey? I'd love to hear your stories.

M x