A smile’s worth is priceless. A smile can say so much, as it's versatile too. A smile can show happiness and enjoyment. It can deliver feelings of pride and encouragement. Or express love and appreciation. And a smile may be the one thing that makes someone else feel happy on a lousy day.
A smile doesn’t cost anything, it’s not hard to do and it can make you and others feel good. It’ll be there, even in difficult situations, you just need to look for it. There’s always something to smile about.
Finding A Smile
When my son was in hospital one evening, I was desperate for something to eat and the cafeteria had already closed. Not wanting to leave the hospital, I opted for the vending machine. I waited for my sandwich selection to drop into the slot below, but it became wedged against the glass. Shaking the machine didn’t help either. Desperately, I tried it again and watched as now 2 sandwich boxes became stuck there. Surely, if I selected a bottle of water (being heavier) it would fall onto the sandwiches and knock the whole lot down? Of course - it didn't. I rang the contact number on the vending machine out of pure frustration and starvation. A lady eventually turned up with an apology, the 2 boxes of sandwiches, the bottle of water and a bonus giant cookie for my trouble.
Can Do Attitude
While on a family holiday, it was too windy one particular day to take our boat out fishing. We decided instead to fish from the jetty. Being in the sun a while, I needed a drink, so I picked up my husbands’ can of Coke and took a sip. I very quickly began to spit and gag, as he’d been using the can as an ashtray.
Keeping It Reel
Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved sitcoms and comedies for the potential to make me smile and laugh. And we’re lucky we live in the boom of multiple streaming services, giving us so much choice to do so now. They’re perfect as a mini escape, time to de-stress, or just sheer enjoyment. They also provide inspiration to me for future pursuits.
So, in conclusion, whatever life throws you, move sideways with it and remember to try and smile.
Spring brings many things. It has that way of making you feel hopeful. Whether it’s the glimpses of extra sunshine. Getting out and about a little more. Or just enjoying the awesomeness of nature - flowers blooming, bees buzzing, longer days and all that stuff.
The beautiful array of wildflowers especially in Western Australia, are stunning and everywhere during spring. So too is hay-fever for the chosen ones amongst us. As a result of increased pollen in the air, there’s sneezing, itchy watery eyes and having a tap for a nose to contend with. The exhaustion felt after a full day of sneezing and nose blowing is understandably annoying. But to me, the spring flowers are so worth it.
Spring Brings Bees
Bees, I’m slightly weary of them. Mainly because I’ve been stung one too many times as a child. The first was on my finger - I maintain that the bump on said finger is from the bee sting and not what my mum’s version was - incorrect pencil grip. The second was during a game of table tennis - while playing, my dad sent a bee flying straight into my chin as I was innocently watching on. And the third, well, I just sat on one.
There’ll Be Sunshine (and rain)
As the weather starts to change (rainy days still around), there’s more spring in our step, perfect for getting outdoors into the sunshine. The sun used to be my friend. However, those teenage years of soaking up the sun, have been replaced with vitamin D supplements and something to cover up with. The smallest amount of direct sun exposure on décolletage now, has the resemblance of a dried out chamois. But I do still love the sun especially during springtime.
In short, spring for me is any opportunity (procrastination perhaps) to look forward to some beautiful weather. It’s remembering to take the time to appreciate the nice stuff, even while maintaining the mundane.
Perspective is a point of view, an attitude towards something, or how we see it. When we change our perspective or consider things in a different way, the result can be quite amazing. After shifting my perspective at the outcome of an issue, the road forward has become clearer.
Finding Some Insight
I recently visited a Buddhist monastery with a close friend to gain some further insight into meditation and life. On the road trip there, gripped in conversation as we often are, we drove right passed the monastery by about 10 minutes. (In this case the road was not so clear, or at least the signs weren’t). Deep in the hills and without a mobile signal for our phones and the car’s GPS, we decided to turn around. We laughed at the irony, that we weren’t calm now, as we headed into a session about meditation.
The head monk gave a talk that really resonated with me. He spoke about perspective and how we can choose to look at life and any potential problems. It’s all about changing our point of view and attitude towards how we see things. Taking a step back and putting things into perspective is a truly valuable exercise.
He also suggested laughter as a tool, even as we face great adversity. Especially helpful when life steers us in a sideways direction. These thoughts echo my own in many situations.
In addition, he mentioned how the kindness we show towards both to ourselves and others is so important. Changing our perspective on how we treat ourselves and other people goes a long way. It’s good to be reminded of these values once in a while.
A Positive Point of View
Sometimes despair can drown us or drive us. I’ll always choose to let it drive me. Seeing the glass half full, even in tough times, always has a better feel to it. Positivity and gathering the strength to work through things (while remembering these times won’t be permanent), can be what we need to see us through.
Consequently, my recent change in perspective has led me to redefine and pursue what’s truly close to my heart. I’m striving towards these, while trying to be distracted less by banter or Netflix.
I’m addicted to podcasts when I'm driving my car. Whether informative, funny or inspirational, it’s never a dull drive. But before prolific podcasting, other ways come to mind, that provided the same ‘never a dull drive’ feeling.
To start with, the purchase of my first car. It was a glossy red Holden and I loved it. But that excitement was soon tainted when my dad maintained my sister and I go halves in it. Even though we were buying it, we didn’t have much say in it. It had to be a manual drive - his decision. We weren’t allowed power steering for fear of ‘not being able to handle it’. And air-conditioning - there would be none, that was a luxury we ‘didn’t need’. Nevertheless, it was a car to drive and I was pretty happy with my new found (partial) freedom.
It was in that same car that I had an accident. Well, it wasn’t an actual accident - I reversed out the driveway and into the neighbours’ car - parked directly across the road. In my defence, I was young.
Years ago, I picked up a new car and was driving it home with my then, little kids in the backseat. We hadn’t made it very far when my daughter decided to slide her window down. Consequently, I could hear the newly tinted film crinkling in the window sockets. I painfully turned around and headed back to the dealership.
Above all other cars I’ve driven, a favourite was my beloved Honda. That was, until I had a massive panic attack in it one morning. I was white knuckled, hyperventilating and stuck in packed peak hour traffic. Sadly, that car had to go, to keep the anxiety at bay.
Then there was the time with my current car, that I met a couple of friends for a quick catchup. When I was ready to leave and approached my car, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Someone had parked behind me, right behind me, as in, their car butted up to my car behind me! Stunned, I went back to the venue to speak to the staff. Typically, when I returned to it a few minutes later, the dodgy driver and car had vanished. Amazingly there was no damage to my car.
Just... Embarrassing Drives
And of course, the time my car was due for a service at the dealership. My daughter had brought along her breakfast in the car on the way to school. I should have stopped her when I smelled the aroma as I entered the car, but regrettably I didn’t. Her breakfast was the previous night’s leftovers, ‘Ono Kauswe’, a dish similar to a laksa. I dropped her off and arrived at the service department. When I was gathering my belongings from the car, I spotted the bowl. It should’ve been empty, but it wasn’t. Some of the Kauswe had spilled onto the car’s interior mat. Reluctantly, I had to ask the service guy if he could drain the bowl, as I still had to drive home in one of their loan cars. Fairly certain he’d never had a customer request this before, I also implored him to explain the smell in my car to the mechanic.
Lastly, not so long ago, I noticed a warning signal on my dashboard. I felt the car losing power and I managed to drive into the carpark of a nearby hospital. After I consulted the car’s manual, I found it was leaking coolant. I rang the breakdown service who advised that the only option was to have my car towed. After arranging this, I hesitantly climbed into the tow-truck along with the driver. But when we arrived outside the car dealership, I miscalculated the height of the truck to the ground. I stepped out and was intending to move onto the next step down, which wasn’t there! I fell, straight out onto the ground, complete with legs sprawled in opposite directions and handbag thrown to the floor. The stupid tow-truck driver didn’t even bother to see if I was ok. Luckily it was in the adjacent cul-de-sac and not inside the dealership yard, though they do have full glass windows!
In short, even though it's never a dull drive, I look forward to a future that involves teleportation. It would really be so much better for me.
As far back as I can remember, my mum has always been an amazing cook. This is one of her mum-ability factors. Cooking is something she loves and is her way of showing love for her family. Her knowledge and skill being passed down from her own mother. I remember when I was little and mum was busy cooking, she’d give me a mixing bowl and wooden spoon to pretend I was cooking too (didn’t help me though).
That wooden spoon was later used as a weapon. She’d threaten us with it when we were naughty, and it came out many times. She was and still is, a fierce fighter and god help anyone who disrespected our family in any way, as she was the protector too. So protective, that when I’d come home way after my curfew, she’d be waiting up, ready for a yelling match… “Is this any time to come home?” Love my mum and the fact that we were so looked after.
Becoming a mother is both the most excruciating and euphoric moment imaginable. Nothing says discomfort more, than the pain of a natural birth, or having a baby pulled out caesarean style. And then, having to be ‘on’ again to look after the baby – straight away! A swift introduction to multitasking, something I’ve unashamedly never been great at (I’m more the mindfulness type). When I had my own kids, I remember thinking, when is someone responsible coming back to look after them?
I was never blessed with kids that slept through the night as babies. I tried the whole ‘controlled crying’ thing, which was recommended at the time, but could never go through with it. I remember stealthily crawling out of my daughter’s room numerous times, when she was a baby after she’d finally fallen asleep.
When the kids were growing up, I was never the mum who could do fancy hairstyles for school, nor the amazing baker, or the crafty mum who made awesome costumes for book week. I was more the show up for everything, be on time to pick them up and “make sure you’ve got a jacket” mum.
When my daughter needed to learn her times tables in primary school, I came up with a game to help her memorise it, while she was in the swimming pool – she can multitask. I’d randomly ask her times tables questions and she had to find the answer while she dived under the water. She wasn’t allowed to come up until she knew! She quickly became a pro at it and still is.
I spent a lot of time playing on the floor, embracing dress-ups, reading stories, teaching them how to bowl a wicked straight line in cricket and getting smashed on Xbox. And there’ve been countless playdates, parties, school excursions, carnivals, karate classes, last minute getting something from the shops, school socials and driving lessons, that I’ve been grateful to be present for over the years too. A job dotted with tantrums (mainly mine) and frustrating at times, these are the things that make up my mum-ability and I’ve (mostly) loved all of it!
Friends, not just the TV show, are something we all need. Whether to chat with, celebrate good times, commiserate with, cover your eyes with cucumbers (when we had time for this), or perhaps even have them lead you astray, everyone needs their friends.
In school I loved being part of a group of friends who in turn, were part of a bigger group of friends and so on it went. The basis of shared fun experiences and inside jokes helped us develop as people too. Cool shopping escapades, going to the movies and ‘chucking laps’ in the city were all part of our harmless fun and memories.
Though there’s always going to be people you don’t get on with (and let’s face it, high school was full of that), we were built tough to handle it. One time I fainted while I was at church with my family. My dad & brother carried me out in front of the packed congregation. I came to, while this was happening, just in time to see a girl from school (fake friend), see me as I was carried past. I closed my eyes again, hoping that she’d forget… she didn’t.
When I began working, my world changed rapidly. Having a good work ethic, expanding my knowledge and refining my skillset, helped me in my work-life. Having friends to share the fun times (and there were plenty), helped me get the balance right. With a big drinking culture in my place of work and being young and impressionable, I adapted! Liquid lunches were often on the menu, especially the weekly Friday lunch sessions. Then there were birthday drinks, promotion drinks, after work drinks, someone’s leaving drinks, someone’s getting married drinks... you get the picture!
Years ago, we had a river-cruise for our work’s end of year celebration. Our group of friends decided to stay overnight at a local city hotel. We used this as a base to enjoy the afternoon together and then get ready for our big night ahead. The river-cruise was a fun night where we ate a little, drank too much and partied till the end. We made our way back to our hotel, eventually, with a stop on the way. The parade floats used in the city’s annual Christmas pageant (also on that night), sat idle in the park near the jetty where we’d docked after the river-cruise. So obviously we climbed all over those things, posing in various shots, thankfully with no iPhone technology available back then to capture the moments.
Then there’s the group of friends I’ve known since my childhood, teens and adult life. We’ve shared a lot over the years, hanging out aimlessly, the whole nightclubbing era, outrageous conversations and plenty of laughter usually at someone’s expense!
At one of their home gatherings years ago, I was persuaded (didn’t take much), by a couple of the group members to change some things around, literally. When some of the friends were farewelling a few of the others, we moved all their dining furniture into another room of the house. Then when they came back inside, we snuck out the backdoor and went around to the front-yard and disassembled their temporary bricked letterbox, but thoughtfully rebuilt it, on the opposite side of their driveway.
Age has only intensified the crazy!
There’s always room for more friends
Being a responsible parent, I’ve been in a situation with a school mum friend, when something was burnt while we were on canteen duty. Smoke started to fill the canteen, which set off the fire alarms and the whole school had to evacuate to the oval!
No matter where you gather them from, neighbours to school friends, family to close friends, Facebook to real friends, we all need our friends. And the crazier your friends are the better off you are too!
The Bonds We Share
As the end of March nears, I face that big elephant in the room – loss - you suck! I simultaneously celebrate and remember my son Lucas, who ironically passed on his 18th birthday.
The Bond book pictured, was a thoughtful gift from Lucas as we were both fans. However, the bond of laughter we shared is what inspires my blog and keeps me moving forward.
Acknowledging this month, here are some things I’d like to share that make me smile.
These excerpts are taken from my book 18 Forever
The bond of laughter
As Lucas was growing up and achieving great things like lasting friendships, good manners, terrific grades and great work ethic, he was also developing a very funny sense of humour that I loved to encourage. He really understood the value of making people laugh and of not taking things too seriously.
As we had such similar wit, we enjoyed watching certain styles of movies and TV shows together, which made us look at each other and laugh hysterically.
When Lucas, Alisha and I watched shows together we’d often replay the funny scenes or lines over and over repeatedly, which became funnier each time - it was just something we just did!
The bond of family
Lucas as a teenager of course loved to sleep, much to Les’ horror of “Wasting the day!” He could sleep any time of the day or night. From the time he was little he would always fall asleep in the car no matter how long the journey. When Les was driving, in order to wake him up when we neared home, Les would deliberately swerve the car when the road was deserted, so Lucas would bump his head on the window and we’d all get a good laugh, except a grumpy Lucas!
On a day that Lucas was staying home to study while Alisha, Les and myself went out, she just had this gut feeling and set her laptop up to video. Her instincts were right. She had caught Lucas on video coming into her room, finding her guitar and sitting down playing it while he had a decent chance! It was hilarious that he had been caught out and could not deny it. He bought his own guitar after that and taught himself how to play.
The bond with friends
As part of their school commitment, Lucas’ year group was required to work a certain number of hours ‘community service’ and the kids were given a choice of the work they wanted to provide. Lucas chose his service at the Epiphany Retreat Centre which basically needed a massive yard clean-up. At the end of the day when I came to pick him up, to my surprise, I saw him with a big smile on his face driving the yard tractor with the trailer attached, piled high with branches. Then another lap, this time some of the girls hitching a ride in the trailer, he was in his element!
The Boys created a dud ceremony in Year 11 & 12 called the Doumbia awards. This involved them and many of the boys from their year group gathering at lunch time, donning bow ties and holding a ceremony to hand out random goofy/bad awards.
And something new...
Just recently I was looking in my office cupboard and came across a display folder of Lucas’ I hadn’t been through before. I thought it contained some of his schoolwork, but I also found a few other things he’d placed in there. One of them was an x-ray of his hand he’d cut out showing ‘the bird’. This sits on my desk now as a reminder of him not taking things too seriously.
The 'L' in Love
Valentine’s day, the day dedicated to love, has shown me that the L in Love is not the only word associated with that day.
Sure, there’s the thrill of going on a date, the excitement of a delivery of flowers or chocolates, or just time spent doing something special on the day. Admittedly who doesn’t want that? But there are more words that begin with L associated with Valentine’s day that I’ve encountered along the way…
L is for Learn
The first time I experienced anything to do with Valentine’s day was in primary school. I was sent a card from a secret admirer. I opened it, reading quickly, as my heart jumped at the possibilities. For a fleeting moment, I was eager to learn who it could be from. Then I realised a couple of family members paying far too much attention to it. And my suspicions as to its’ authenticity were dashed right there.
L is for Leave
In my teens, a boyfriend and I broke up prior to Valentine’s day. I was still friends with his friends and his buddy asked me to go to the movies with him on Valentine’s night. Really? He couldn’t leave it for another time? The awkwardness that night above all others would create would have been too much… I politely declined.
L is for Lack
When my husband and I had first started dating, I decided to cook a Valentine’s dinner for him. In the days leading up to it, I had taken recipe books (yes, that’s how long ago it was) into work with me for inspiration. My work friends and I scoured through the pages in search of the perfect 3 course meal, which I was to ambitiously create.
The day arrived, I’d bought all the ingredients required and I had prepared a feast. He came over, the table had been set and my moment to shine was here.
First course came out, cranberry infused squash (it was early 90’s!) He took a bite to be courteous and not being one to mince his words, told me he didn’t like the taste. Only slightly offended, I returned to the kitchen for the mains.
Next course was fish in a creamy, buttery sauce. This time he wouldn’t even taste it and was gagging, not even trying to suppress his need to throw up. Turns out, even though he was into fishing, he wasn’t into the aroma of the sauce the fish was in. This did not end well.
I can’t even recall what the dessert was that night. My mind probably blocked it after the tears that fell over my unappreciated food, not through lack of effort. My culinary skills have been affected ever since!
L is also for Love
Even though I’ll always be a romantic, there are plenty of ways to express love and for lots of different things.
There’s nothing like the Christmas holidays for a good, restful, getaway break. Not sure about the break being restful, but it was good to getaway. These hectic holidays I travelled with my family to a few places in Asia.
On our departing flight, a fully robed monk sat by himself in front of us. Not long into the flight, he became restless, lying across the vacant seats beside him, frequently swapping positions. He began jolting around and yelling out loudly too. As a result, he lost his glasses one of the times he rolled off the seats onto the floor in front of him. Then I noticed what he was holding - Bombay Sapphire Gin and drinking it straight from the bottle.
I signalled his drinking to the lady across the aisle from me, who had become worried too. Her husband and mine were asked by the flight attendant if we wanted to have the monk restrained. We declined, as he had finally fallen asleep. As the plane touched down, the monk asked my husband if we had landed in Singapore, when in fact we had landed in Kuala Lumpur! He then showed my husband a picture of his father, who had just passed away and it all thankfully made a little more sense.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
I’d had carpal tunnel surgery on my wrist five weeks earlier, leaving enough recovery time for the shopping onslaught we were about to embark on in KL. But even I was sick of shopping, with the crowds, heat and overwhelming multi-levelled shopping malls, that was just our first day.
The following day we decided to explore the Batu Caves not far from the city centre. It has a spectacular giant statue of a Hindu god and temples within the hillside caves. Being scared of heights, I was nervous climbing the 272 steps to the top cave. The steps were dotted with screeching wild monkeys and ridiculous humidity just for good measure. When I reached the top cave temple, surprise, there were more steps inside leading to another level, to which I ask, why?
Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
Onto Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, where it didn’t take long for us to become accustomed to the constant whizz of scooters dashing around us. This hadn’t changed in the 17 years since we were last there. But what had changed, was the swelling population and the scooters now mounting the footpaths to get in front of each other. I frequently forgot this, being honked out of the way to avoid the obvious.
Having a quick break from the busyness of the city, we decided on a Mekong River daytrip. When we finally arrived at the mighty Mekong we took a sampan ride over to an island. We had decided to sit in the back of the sampan to take photo’s, so were unable to hear our tour guide over the top of the extremely loud engine. I did however hear about the ‘Coconut religion’ on a nearby island. It was started by a scholarly man who only consumed coconut. Apparently when he died he was malnutritioned, being many kilograms and centimetres under the norm – not so scholarly.
When we reached our destination island, we took a traditional horse and cart ride to the place we would be having lunch. The horse and cart driver was traditionally on his mobile phone while driving. After lunch we hopped onto little boats and were given conical hats to wear, while two incredibly fit elderly people paddled us along a busy, windy part of the river, for only a small fee.
Next stop was Penang, Malaysia, where we have been a few times before. Our hotel had an unusually long corridor that led to our room which we named ‘the freezing tunnel of death’. The air-con was icy cold and was well appreciated after a day in the hot sun, or a stroll of the humid night markets after dinner. But when in wet bathers after swimming, it was indeed, the freezing tunnel of death.
The hotel came complete with a giant lizard, that scurried away under the rocks surrounding the pool, as I walked passed it. I’m not sure which of us more was more alarmed. Not as much as my daughter though. She was floating in the water on her pool ring, oblivious to what some foreigners were frantically talking about, when she finally noticed the lizard swimming right passed her.
Of the many times we took rickshaws rides, one night ride was more memorable than the others. Our young driver turned the volume of his disturbing music to (I’m sure) the maximum, as he began driving my cringing daughter and myself down the busy main street. We felt every person turn and stare at the flashing lights and thumping music of our rickshaw, which went on to play “I’m sexy and I know it.”
We took 6 flights within 2 weeks with the same airline, listening to the familiar repertoire of Christmas songs played throughout the cabin (totally over it). And after a busy couple of weeks of the sights, sounds and particularly smells of Asia, I recall, as I click the heels of my numerous newly bought shoes together, there’s no place like home.
For the Love of School
I loved school, the recesses and lunchtimes!
With the school year finishing for many of our kids, I’ve been thinking about what it was like during my own school days.
We moved houses when I was in Year 5 and I changed schools too. My new teacher was a very strict male, who was also in charge of the discipline at school. He would often give the cane as punishment to any unruly students. And I also remember the side of the ruler being used on the knuckles of any kids who didn’t comply.
There was one time when I needed my mum’s signature on some homework and she wouldn’t sign it for some reason. Not wanting to get into trouble at school, naturally I forged her signature. Mum later felt sorry for me and came to school to sign the work and then found my forgery - the side of the ruler may have been a better outcome!
I remember thinking on the first day with my friends, how boring the place was and how we were stuck here for the next five years. In the blink of an eye we were in our final year. But before that, we’d sit on the grassed areas and chat during breaks - it was the sophisticated thing to do. We’d bring our treasured ‘Smash Hits’ magazines to school and drool over the pages of our teen idols, which helped too.
I now have many friends who are teachers and acknowledge their valuable work. And I was fortunate to have had many wonderful teachers of my own. However, we all know teachers that made us feel inadequate at the most crucially embarrassing and pimply time of our lives.
Remember the ones who would walk around the class and stand in front or behind your desk watching you work, nervously? Or the ones that would make you get up and write the answer on the board in front of the class, only to humiliate you if you didn’t know it. And how about when they’d choose you to answer a question even though you never raised your hand in the first place?
School friends see you at your worst, best and geekiest. I’m lucky to still be in touch with so many of mine and treasure that link from which school connected us so many years ago.
Always being a fairly average student, I was never an academic kid, nor was I sporty and was never caught up with trying to be in the popular group. I was just happy being with my friends and we had a great time both in and out of school. If they weren’t in my classes, knowing that I’d be seeing my friends at recess/lunch, or walking to the train after school with them, helped me get through the day, whilst easing the drudgery of the subjects we were studying.
To this day I gauge things by comparison of a maths exam – my anathema. My thinking is, does the current situation I may find myself in, appear worse than sitting a maths exam or not? Very few times the maths exam has won out.
Physical Education lessons - I understand the rationale and importance of them, but when will they understand, that not all kids are into competitive sport, especially adolescents? This doesn’t come naturally to everyone and pushy Phys-ed teachers didn’t help. I did have my revenge though. Fast forward to part of my working life, when one of our school’s Phys-ed teachers came in to my office to arrange to pay off an account, let’s just say the payment terms were not so flexible!
In an effort to fundraise, our school participated in an annual walkathon. Students were asked to raise money for the kilometres walked. My brother was working at a bank at the time and many of his colleagues were kind enough to sponsor me. I remember proudly telling friends that I had raised $150 (a mammoth amount back then). However, another boy in my year group caught wind of it and managed to raise just slightly more and he took all the glory at the school assembly.
Whether swinging on chairs whilst chatting in the back of Maths class, the fun of school camps, or just seeing your friends every day - I loved school. I was fortunate to have been sent to school’s that had great community spirit. With discipline, structure, plenty of good times and fun to be had, I also did learn a thing or two on the way.