ten years

I want to tell a story from before the days of digital photography. Can I keep your attention without pictures? It was before the days of mobile phones and Facebook, and sharing photos of what you ate for lunch. (Sorry, I still don't get that!) Back when we soaked up every moment, ever present, rather than seeing it through the lens of our camera phone.

Ten years ago today, my not-yet-husband surprised me for my birthday, turning up at my door step in a tiny rural town where I was a youth worker at the local high school. We were just friends back then, good ones. And there'd always been a bit of something more, maybe, since I'd met him 3 years earlier. But he was over three years younger than me. And he'd just moved back home with his folks to start a band with his brother. And neither of those things struck me as someone who was going somewhere.

We filled the weekend with exploring the local area and introducing him to the local people and staying up really late drinking tea and doing jigsaw puzzles. And maybe I wasn't very good at keeping my feelings at bay. Maybe I flirted, just a little. At at the end of the weekend, he asked me if I wanted to pursue things further. 
I kind of did. But I said I didn't.
"Not ever? Or just not now?"
I felt like saying not now was still committing myself. So I said not ever. 
I lied to him, "I'm sorry if I've given you the wrong impression. Please don't read into my actions as anything more than friendship."
He left early the next morning.

The following year, his musical hopes dashed, he moved out of home again to go to uni. He was enrolled in a Bachelor of Micro-Electronic Engineering. I remember discovering that it was about speakers and audio and amplifiers and things, and thinking that he was really from another planet. I had made the right choice, really. I was after someone who was interested in saving the world like me.

I moved to Dubbo, a bigger town, not far from where I was, to study further with Cornerstone Community, the organisation we work with now here in Newcastle. That year was the very tiny beginning of learning to listen to my heart and longings, rather than the strict list of rules and plans I had written for myself as a teenager, I think as a reaction against the pain and chaos of those years. I started to take Tim's calls, and return them. I started to listen to his stories and share my own. I started to give myself permission to fall for him, and not yet think about where it might lead.

But I also knew I was slightly stuck. I had made myself clear. No matter how much I talked or giggled or batted my eyes at him. He was under strict instructions not to read into anything. As much as I loved the idea of him coming to sweep me away, I'd told him not to. I'd told him to stay away. The ball was in my court.

I found out he was going to be in Sydney for his cousin's wedding. My parents lived in Sydney, so I travelled the six hour bus ride east to meet him there. I managed to pry him away from his family and we ate the most terrible, greasy fish and chips under the Harbour Bridge. After dinner, I took a deep breath, mustered up all my courage and said,
"So, I was wondering if your earlier offer was still open?"
He looked at me, teasing, "Offer for what?"
Oh, you bugger. You want to make this hard for me, don't you?
"Umm. For a relationship?" I felt like such an idiot.
He smiled. "Jo, I want you to know that whatever happens, I think you're a really cool chic."
What! What does that even MEAN?
"Yeah, I think it could work well. Come on, let's go get ice-cream."
Work well?? Ice-cream?? I rolled my eyes at him. And we went and got ice-cream.

A year later, we were hiking through the Blue Mountains together, and having reached one of those quintessential mountain cliff views, Tim turned suddenly, dropped to one knee and proposed.
I paused. I so wanted to get him back for that night under the Harbour Bridge. But he started to look worried and I chickened out. I said Yes.
Suddenly, he turned and climbed up this massive boulder. He said,
"So, a year ago, under the bridge, I was pretty restrained because I wanted to allow things to grow slowly, but this is what I wanted to say..."
He threw his arms in the air and yelled out across the valley,
That's better, I smiled.

Well, I'm 33 today, and Tim has less hair and I have more lines on my face. And I've never managed to shed that baby weight, but I like myself a whole lot more than I did back then. And the more I've learnt to like myself, the more I've filled my life with things I like. Like studying history at Uni just because I wanted to, and having kids and sewing and deciding not to work or have a mortgage. There is less sleep in the 30s. Less emotional highs and lows. Less poetry and friendships and feeling like you're achieving something. And there's a whole lot more washing. Settledness is something that terrified me in my twenties. But now I bathe in it. I like it's solidness, the space it gives to master things, to finish a quilt, to try another, to plant fruit trees, and know (as much as one can) that we'll be here to eat the fruit. 
Yes, I'm going to enjoy 33, Tim. And I think it's mostly because you're here to shape it with me.

five years

It was five years yesterday since I became a mum. We spent the day yesterday celebrating Tully's birthday, but today I've been reflecting on the anniversary. I don't think of it often, because it makes me uncomfortable, the way that supposed-to-be-precious day went from the photo above to the one below.
They say those first moments make all that came before it fade away. Instead, I looked at this little alien and wondered where the heck he came from. 

The alien and I got to know and love each other slowly, rather than experiencing any fierce, instinctive wave of emotion. And if there's one thing I'm thankful for, it's that I decided just to ride it out, be with it, rather than fear that something was wrong.
And the more he's grown up and I've grown up, the more we like ourselves and each other. 
A few weeks ago, Tully exclaimed in a sighing kind of way, "Oh, I just love our family!"
And I realised that I did too. That they didn't feel like aliens to me any more, but part of myself. And I realised that deep down, that's what we all long to feel. That we love the unit we belong to. And that my role was to enjoy him and help him discover all the good parts of himself.

I've been trying to think up a poem for Tully over the last few weeks, but nothing has really been coming to me. Then one of our friends gave Tully "Oh the Places You'll Go!" by Dr. Seuss. Have you read it? We did last night before bed, and it expressed exactly everything I'd love Tully to know and feel about the world.

Here are some snippets:

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose...

And when things start to happen,
don't worry. Don't stew.
Just go right long.
You'll start happening too...

You'll be on your way up!
You'll be seeing great sights!
You'll join the high fliers
who soar to high heights...

Except when you don't
Because sometimes you won't.
I'm sorry to say so
but, sadly, it's true
that Bang-ups
and Hang-ups
can happen to you...

Somehow you'll escape 
all that waiting and staying. 
You'll find the bright places
 where boom bands are playing...

Fame! You'll be famous as famous can be,
with the whole wide world watching you
win on TV...

Except when they don't.
Because, sometimes, they won't.
I'm afraid that sometimes
you'll play lonely games too
Games you can't win
'cause you'll play against you...

But on you will go
though the weather be fowl...

And on it goes, with just the right tone of realistic optimism, communicating that it's good and right to hope, especially when your expectations are dashed. That the ups and downs are all part of the adventure of life. 

It's great isn't it? And God help me equip him to face life like this. Because sometimes there are unplanned pregnancies, and unplanned caesareans that change life forever. And some surprises will bring unfathomed grief, and others, an adventure you can only enjoy if you dive in, shoes and all. 


The Great Lego Debate

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This morning, Tully and I started the day with The Great Lego Debate. Do you empty the entire bucket onto the floor (Tully's preference) or do you fish around in the bucket for the piece you're after? (my preference)
It wasn't a very nice way to start the day. The kind of start where I end up saying he can't leave his room till it's all tidy and go drink my coffee on the back verandah, while he wails in his bedroom that he can't do it on his own.
While overlooking my garden, I started to wonder if this was just going to end up one of those horrible days where I have to follow through with what I've said, even though I didn't put that much thought into it, and he spends the whole day trying to get out of it. It made me wonder what I actually wanted him to learn, and us to achieve together.

The last two weeks I've been doing Rachel from Stitched in Color's Homeschool Handmade course. We plan to start homeschooling 'officially' in the new year. Aside from clarifying what style of homeschool I wanted to create (a decision that has overwhelmed me for sometime), I've found it so helpful to think through my goals for our home. Can I share them with you?

Order: Not in the strict boarding school sense, but in the peaceful rhythm sense. I want to make some (flexible) decisions now about our weekly rhythms so I'm not making little decisions all day, every day.

Shared Family Responsibilities: I've mostly tried to include my kids in the running of our home, but now I want them to know we all contribute to keeping it going. Tully is now Vacuum Boy, a super hero who wears a Buzz Lightyear costume and vacuums the lounge room floor each morning. A finished activity gets tidied up before the next one begins, except for special projects that are going over a period of time.

Free time: I've often felt a quiet, nagging sense of guilt about how much time I spend intentionally with my kids. It's not that I spend no time. It's just that I hadn't defined or examined my expectations, so I always suspected I was failing. A couple of days ago when the kids snuck away from the dining room table to eat their lunch together on the trampoline, I realised (again) what a treasure it is that they get on so well together and play so independently. I wondered if it was actually my job to let them create these special moments, rather than always feeling like I should set it up for them. It confirmed for me that I don't want to take Tully away from this 30 hours a week, and that I didn't want our days packed out with activity.

Holistic learning: It's important to me that my kids learn skills, and not just information. I want us to be learning together how to approach tasks we don't really want to do, how to take responsibility for our actions, how to treat each other, and ourselves, with respect and kindness. And I want to make time for creativity and things we love.

So with this in mind, I went back into Tully's room and pulled him up on my lap. We talked about how I didn't want him to empty the lego everywhere anymore. We talked about how he might find it easier to create on a tidy floor than one covered mess. Then I told him I still wanted him to tidy up the lego, that our days are full of things we don't really want to do, but we can find ways to motivate ourselves to do them. I asked him what would make him feel more like tiding up. He suggested listening to Brooke Fraser (one of our favourite 'tidy up' albums) might help. I suggested thinking up something he wanted to do after that would help him get excited about finishing. We talked about breaking up the mess into sections and doing one at a time. And then he decided to race against the music, trying to have it all tidy before the second song finished.
An hour and a half of fuss and turmoil, was all cleared up by a breather, a 10 minute conversation and 5 minutes of happy tidying.

I am so thankful for this journey we're on. One where I know I'm just learning too, where we can learn and grow together, where we can bear patiently with each other in our different stages.

Rachel's Homeschool.handmade is still available as a private blog till the end of June. If you're considering homeschooling, and want to think through your family's goals, personalities and needs, and read others' reflections too, I really recommend it.


Little Boys Chevron Quilt.

I'm loving the time being in my shop is giving me to make quilts! Especially now that the Christmas rush has died down. Here's one I actually finished a while ago, but today all the planets have aligned and I had the right computer cords and gadgets to connect to the internet and blog while in here!

I made this quilt from a mix of greys, yellow, oranges and greens. I used a mix of novelty prints, all subtle and sweet. I sewed strips together in groups of four, then cut these shapes using the 60 deg line on my ruler. (Cutting the opposite direction for half of them!)

Then I sewed them together, one above the other into long, parallel lines, and sewed these ones together.

The result, I think, is a subtle, yet warm and fun baby quilt.

I backed it with these beautiful prints from Saffron Craig and Aneela Hooey and hand quilted every other row of zigzag. Come visit me in Hunter St to wrap it around you, or it's also available here.
Hope you're well! xx

P.S. What do you think of my new blog look? 

Shop Talk

Well, I've been in my shop for two weeks now! It seems so unreal that I still have 8 to go. I'm really enjoying the experience of a short term lease that is still much, much longer than a market morning. I have busy days and slow days, and both are a gift because they balance each other out. I love not needing it to be busy all the time to make it worth it. I love not packing up at the end of each day and coming in the next morning and it's all set up still. I thought I'd use this time to reflect on some more things about my first two weeks.

The Customers:
I'm really enjoying the local, in-person element to selling my wares. It's really different to selling online. I watch people walk in, enjoy the colours and the set up, look through the clothes racks, ask questions, give compliments and then decide to purchase. I meet their little girl or hear about their grandchildren. I've sent my clothes all over the world before, but hearing about my clothes being bought for family in London, America and Russia because they were made locally is a different thing altogether. People here want this to succeed because I'm part of them here in Newcastle. I really enjoy belonging to the online crafty community, and now I'm enjoying being part of something local and personal. And considering I'm so terrible at replying emails, it's also nice having the whole conversation there in person!

The Sales:
For the shop I've finally branched out and made something other than pinafores! I've made adult wrap skirts, girls' wrap dresses, scarves, quilts, and my friends from Corduroy Corner have made hats, little bags, fishing games, and lots of things for boys. I think it's a really great mix. So it's surprised me that my little pinnies have by far been the most popular product. I hadn't sold any online for a long time before opening up shop and I'd started to wonder if I'd overdone it! But people have loved them in a whole range of prints. Another interesting factor is that people keep commenting on how reasonably priced everything is. In fact, to keep up with demand, I'm wondering if I need to put prices up! I'm so used to people really underselling themselves on Facebook, Etsy and craft markets. But now I'm in the old David Jones (a high end department store) building, patronised by mostly local older people who used to shop there, and tourists who come in on the cruise ships. It's been really encouraging to see that I can sell my clothes at a price I'm happy with.
I've also sold four drawstring quilts in 6 days! It's been great to see that even more expensive items are selling in person.

Tully dressing up for Opening Night!

The Role Reversal:
This, by far, has been the hardest part of the whole adventure. Tim and I have had to negotiate roles and adjust routines since we've been married. We've been students, parents and students, parents and unemployed and now both working and volunteering in ever-changing roles. And it's never been something we've found easy. And sometimes I wonder if we'll ever get better at it! It can be heartbreaking when you're already tired, to discover what you were expecting but hadn't communicated, and what they were expecting but hadn't communicated, are really different things! It's hard when you're both tired and busy to make sacrifices for the other. It has made me glad that as a rule, we've made choices not to make life too full (neither of us work full time), so that we have space for opportunities like this, and so that the busy times are just seasons, not not the new normal.  

The Volunteers:
This has been the part that has blown me away the most. I've had volunteer painters, ironers, sewers, balloon sculptors, baby sitters, techy people, window dressers and shoppers. I've had friends bring me coffee, lunch, flowers and extra clothes racks. I've had a friend put button holes in skirts for me with her 2 week old baby wrapped to her chest! And what's more, everyone has offered. I've seen, and been part of, volunteers enlisted for important social or environmental causes, but my little business? The way in which my friends and family have owned this with me has been the most beautiful expression of community and generousity.

My wonderful, generous, creative designer friend, Anneliese.
 Well! I think that's all for now. I have made some new things which I would love to show you, but they will have to wait till I have a moment, and the weather, for photos. For now, know that I am beyond touched that you're sharing in this adventure with me!

Jodi. xx