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A New Lease On Life…

11 Jul

With my hair straightened and blow-dried, I precariously applied a light coat of lip gloss.  I studied myself in the mirror one last time and thought, “Hmm…not too bad, girlfriend.”

The meticulous preparation and the subtle pep talk to self was reminiscent of being single and first dates.  But it wasn’t.  Instead, I left the bathroom and went to find my husband to ask for his opinion.

“Wow !  You look like a brand new person…” he beamed.

The moment his face lit up when I walked into the room, I knew I hadn’t just been placing tabs on myself.

I knew I felt good.  I knew I felt confident and comfortable in my skin.

But he proved that it was also visible.

The new me.

Walking to the bus stop, waiting in anticipation, I was eager to meet up with my newly acquainted friends.

I believe that people step into your life at the right time for the right reasons.  I found it to be true when meeting my husband.

Having only met these ladies once before, we established a connection in the first instance.  So much so that I went home not being able to sleep – my head whirling with the possibilities of where the friendship could take us.

The only natural progression was to see them again soon after.  To be absolutely sure we were on the same page.  That the initial profound conversations were not a fluke.

And they weren’t.

We immediately picked up where we left off – sharing secrets, trading stories, planning goals together.

It had been awhile since I felt involved.  Where my opinion mattered.  Where my past experiences in the corporate world were considered valuable.  An asset, even.  Delving into the conversations – feeding off from each other’s excitement and passion – I felt alive again.

I know I never died.

This is not to claim that my roles as a wife and mother are unsatisfying.  Or that my existing long-term relationships and friendships are inadequate.  Getting caught in the humdrum of life, sometimes there is little time left for family and a handful of friends.

So, how is it possible that I establish a new circle ?

Where did the need come from ?

The unquenchable search to figure out my purpose in life beyond motherhood.

That it is possible to find an even newer lease on life…

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Date Night…

5 Jun

As some of you may have gathered from my Things I Know post on Friday, I was darn excited about going to the movies with Hubby for date night.

As it turned out, there was nothing showing in the cinemas that could entice either one of us (‘Hangover Part 2’, ‘Pirates of the Caribbean 4’ ???)

Besides, we kept the arrangement for our beloved Nulla Nanna to come over as she had happily volunteered for baby-sitting duties.  We just couldn’t waste an evening by staying home.  Despite the miserable weather.

Dressed in my new slinky jeans, Hubby and I decided to tread some old territory.  The past haunts of our pre-twinlet yesteryears.

We went to our old pub where we spent many a drunken Saturday night with other child-free couples – drinking, talking and socializing.  Nothing out of the extraordinary for Sydney savoir faire.

But six years on, things definitely felt different.

The same table was there to take our usual order.  Inviting us to still enjoy our familiar, favoured beverages.

Yet, the pub noise was a little too rowdy and raucous for what we were now used to.  I was appalled with the rambunctious crowd next to us.  Their arrogant behaviour was full of profanities.

What was really happening ?  I was just showing my age.

My inevitable lean towards becoming a, dare I say, conservative mother.

Four years ago at this very pub, my future husband and I would occasionally have a private, yet polite dinner together.  We would tip toe around the topic of commitment, marriage and children.  He wasn’t ready.  I was eager and keen.

Now we were comparing twinlet photos on our phones, discussing their latest learnings and most recent cute moments.

Tonight, we talked about our future: where were we going to move to, in a city that was already so unaffordable for young families to maintain an urban lifestyle; what were the best options for day-care for our boys; what were my career plans beyond motherhood.

Breaking into the surface of planning for a young family with all its potential choices and paths.

Keeping all options open, yet staying as pragmatic as possible.

What a giant leap four years can do.

And besides now being a mother and holding responsibility for two precious souls, I still could enjoy the thrill of having a drink.

The warm, tingly feeling of a crisp white wine and the comforts of conversation that come with.

Walking back to the car in the rain, hand in hand with my beloved, I could see how all that was familiar has stepped into a time capsule of the past.

Life now is good.  It’s not complete.  But it’s certainly happy and content.

The movies can wait until another time.

Musings of Mama Grace © 2011

The Art Of Forgiveness

29 May

Have I mentioned how much I detest our neighbours upstairs ?

I love our other neighbours.  But this couple above us really test my patience.

Similar to many in our area, we live in an old building, consisting of four units where creaky floorboards and tissue thin walls are inevitably part of the territory.

Part of Sydney apartment urban living means that you have to tolerate neighbours who elephant stomp.  Late night muffled bedroom noises of heated conversations are par for the course.  You somehow immune yourself to hearing upstairs’ toilet flush (and other *ahem* toilet activities).

That stuff, I can deal with.

But then, we enter an entire new level of misdemeanour.

On several occasions, usually in the early hours of a Sunday morning, Hubby has had to force himself out of bed to knock on their door to politely ask to keep the blaring noise of their stereo down – only to have our intoxicated neighbour slam the door in his face.  He does eventually turn down the volume.  Begrudgingly, I’m sure.

By the time Hubby returns to bed, I am completely riled up over such intolerable behaviour.  Hubby gets upset too but isn’t as demonstrative as I am.

So, I have become this grumpy neighbour and I make sure I let them know.

When the wife bumps into me at the front foyer and greets me, I will barely mumble a reply.

Hanging the clothes out on the line, I completely avoid eye contact with the husband as he walks straight past me to get to his car.

Admittedly, all this pent up anger and angst is emotionally tiring.  Yet, I have let it continue to brew inside me.

Until the other day.

While I was cooking dinner, Hubby happened to look out our back door.

“Our neighbour has left his car interior lights on…” he said.

Just as I grumbled, “Serves him right,” I realised that Hubby had made his way upstairs to actually tell him.

Yes, the same neighbour who has slammed the door in my husband’s face so many times I’ve run out of fingers.

It was then I realised that I was learning the art of forgiveness.

Right in front of my flat nose.  Right under my own rickety rack roof.

I’m not here to tell you what a saint my husband is.  (It’s State of Origin season, so he is not so ideal at the moment).

Likewise, I am even further from such benevolence.

But six months away from our second anniversary, I had an “Ah ! I get it !” moment about married life.

I started thinking about our wedding vows.  How we promise to forever love each other, be there for each other, keep each other happy.

That is all undeniably important and sacred.

But how about the importance of living through example ?  Learning life virtues from your partner ?

As parents, we expect to be role models for our children.

Lest we forget to be role models to each other.

So, the other morning, as I was routinely hanging out the washing and my blessed neighbour walked by, I gave him a smile – albeit a little forced.

I even threw in a cheery, “Good morning…”

As much as I hate to admit it, it actually made me feel okay.

Musings of Mama Grace © 2011

Who Loves Ya, Pretty Mama ?

9 May

Coming up to my (barely scratching the surface) second year as a mum, for Mother’s Day, Nulla Nanna baby sat the twinlets while Hubby and I escaped our uniform of drabby tracksuit pants and sloppy joes and actually got dressed up to head out to the city for a special Mother’s Day matinee of “Jersey Boys”.

This was a far cry from last year’s Mother’s Day.  I remember it well.

I was bowled over in nipple thrush pain.  Lying in bed, disillusioned from sleep deprivation, I was battling conflicting emotions.

On the day dedicated for mothers, a day that was supposed to be especially memorable because it was my first, I actually didn’t feel any joy about being a mother.   And I felt guilty for having these thoughts.

The boys were barely three months.  Motherhood thus far had been overwhelming and daunting.

On that particular Sunday, I just needed some peace.  I wanted some relief from the constant pain in my right breast.  I was desperate for some quiet.  To appease and to avoid the wrath, Hubby took the boys out for a long walk.

So, this year, I was pain-free and far more lucid in my sentiments.

Which in turn, helped me realise that my own rocky road in parenting has made me further appreciate my own mum.

On our drive to the city, I called her.  Within the nano second I heard her voice, I teared up as I wished her a Happy Mother’s Day.

The current status of the relationship with my mother is bittersweet.

There were many, many tumultuous years of trying to live up to her expectations.  Then, early in adulthood while living overseas, I kept myself at a safe distance from the pressure.  As such, I ended up continuously clashing with her uptight, conservative Asian views on marriage, family and having children.

She always wanted to know what was the hold up.  I kept telling her to mind her own business.

Suffice to say, now that I am married with children, we have somewhat reached an equilibrium.

Mum watching me walk down the aisle...finally

Yes, there are still moments when she pushes my short-fuse button.  But ultimately, she is a devoted and doting grandma to my boys.

So, for the part that’s bittersweet ?  It does break my heart to see that it’s taken me all of my rebellious teenage years and most of my young, stubborn adult life to truly understand and respect her.  As much as I think she made it tough for me as her only daughter, indeed I’m sure I have sent her around the proverbial twist.

With my mum welcoming her 80’s in the next couple of years, it’s always in the back of my mind how I wish we could have mended things a lot sooner.

But then I think, my life has to run its own, perhaps unconventional course for me to eventually be grateful for those who have always been there.

On our wedding day: Mum bestowing us with her blessings; Me telling her I love her

Don’t they say it’s not the destination, but the journey that counts ?

Lost in Love; Lost in Translation

7 Apr

I have a memory of an elephant.  I retain every piece of stupid, irrelevant trivia.  Quiz me on Michael Jackson song lyrics and I will leave you in the dust.

Alas, this memory bank of silly garbage also holds onto past wrong doings of others and misunderstandings.  I can’t seem to let them go.

Now, I can just write about them.  Reverting to cathartic blogging.

Around seven years ago –  in a single gal version of my former corporate self – business reasons took me to Tokyo for a 6 month stint.  There, I had befriended a Chinese female colleague.

Besides her native Mandarin, she spoke fluent Japanese while her English on the other hand, was rusty.  Meeting in the middle, we conversed in Japanese.

Miss J was a spruce, young lass in her mid-20’s.  Several years my junior, she was over-the-top keen to marry her Japanese boyfriend.

"Love"

Yet, most mornings she would come to work unhappy because he was struggling with commitment issues.

Attempting to prompt a marriage proposal, she had brought him back to her hometown in the Szechuan Province to meet her folks.  Miss J had even arranged professional couple photos in preparation for the engagement and wedding invitations.

Although, back in Tokyo, he kept avoiding the topic of matrimony like it was bad sushi.

One Monday morning she came into work almost in tears.  By lunchtime, we found a quiet place to talk.  There, she opened the floodgates.

Why won’t he commit ?  We’ve already had the professional photos done, so why is he stalling ?  I want to start booking wedding venues before the wedding peak season starts, but why won’t he co-operate ?

And so the discussion continued.

I suggested that it might be better to slow things down.  Perhaps he needed more time to be comfortable with a life decision such as marriage.

Being an intelligent girl, I thought she would see reason.

Instead I found myself in the middle of an emotional firing line.

Between sobs she cried, “Grace-san, the thing is…I just don’t want to find myself at your age and in your situation.”

Wham !

I thought, maybe, just maybe, my Japanese listening ability had temporarily gone haywire and I had misunderstood what she was trying to say.

But no.  I had heard correctly.

Because she then retorted, “I know that sounds rude and terrible, but it’s true.  I want to be married before my 30’s.  Live in an apartment big enough to have a dining table.”

DOUBLE Wham !  Ker-pow !!!

I knew my single status at the time wasn’t the most ideal.  A month prior leaving Sydney, I had started dating someone.  With my impending departure, we somehow decided to keep the relationship going.  However, since arriving in Tokyo, our communication had deteriorated.  Rapidly.

"Life"

It was highly probable that I was returning to Sydney to face heartbreak.  Of course, there were no other potential prospects to speak of, either.

As a 30-something lost in love, you could see why an ambitiously keen-to-be-a bride-Chinese girl would not want my life.

Later that evening, I had a dinner date with my fabulous girlfriends who were an eclectic group of married and singles.

Coming from different walks of life:  Japanese; American; Eurasian.

Calling from different fields of professions:  Lawyer;  Account Manager;  Pre-school teacher.

All confident, smart and fiercely independent.

Reassuring me that my life of singledom wasn’t dire, they were my perfect audience.  They were my cheering squad.

When I told them about my bizzare lunchtime musings, the reaction was unified.

They were aghast.  Appalled.  In disbelief.

After double checking that yes, I had heard her correctly.  And no, I didn’t have a temporary Japanese language amnesia moment, we came to some insightful conclusions.

"Friendship"

Obviously, there was something far more deep seeded there.

It wasn’t about me.

Then, we all established another verdict.  One that simply involved cultural differences.

Although said with little eloquence, it seemed that Miss J was expressing her own disapproval of the Western approach towards finding love and marriage.

Frivilous dalliances and casual dating without a set schedule to the altar was too risky.

Originating from a culture where there were stringent rules and strict direction to reach goals and achieve social status, the Western way was too complacent.

After all, in past conversations, she had mentioned her  demanding Chinese Tiger Mother who had been hounding her to set a wedding date.

Talk about rice cooker steaming pressure.

As such, she was sticking to her agenda.

While, I was going to stick to mine.  (Or lack thereof).

Right up to my last day in Tokyo, Miss J stayed oblivious about that fateful lunch hour.  There was not even an iota of acknowledgement.

I returned to Sydney to officially end what was already a doomed relationship.

2 weeks later, I met my future husband.

Meanwhile, I heard she ditched her Japanese bloke, moved to New York and is now happily married in suburban New Jersey.

I’m sure there’s a nice big dinner table involved too.

It’s a shame we don’t know each other now.  I do wish her well.

Leaving cultural contrasts aside, I would remind her that when it comes to the confusing maze of finding love, heartbreak is universal.

That the journey isn’t as straight-forward for some.

I would tell her that maybe back then, my life was pretty wayward.

But it’s not these days.

It’s actually pretty good.  Awesome, in fact.

Okay, now, I can let it go.

"Double Happiness"

 

A Touch of Classic…

20 Mar

With all the stories I’ve written and shared about gastro, our rickety rack home, our beaten up, family car – as the reader, it is highly likely that you could come to either one of the below conclusions:

1.  The author is a highly-strung, neurotic drama queen

or

2.  There is simply never a dull moment in Mama Grace’s household

In fear that there will be too many of you choosing option 1, I will not be taking a survey.

So, as luck, blessings, fate (pick what you believe in) would have it, amidst the family humdrum and commotion, a small little poster at our local coffee shop had caught my eye.  I had initially ignored it.  But then, the same poster popped up at the counter of the local butcher and then at the newsagency.

It was as though Someone was gently nudging me to pay attention.  To act on the invitation intently waiting before me.

The poster was advertising a one time only concert at the Sydney Opera House.  The Cologne Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra was playing pieces by Bach, Tchaikovesky and the clincher – Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

After much coaxing from Hubby, I bought a ticket.  Just me.  Hubby’s not a big fan of classical music.  So, for this one, I was going solo.

You know how everyone has a “I know it’s daggy, but I love…” ???

Well, one of mine is classical music.  Particularly live classical music.

I know, I know…for some, I’m sure many of you would prefer to watch the cricket *ahem*.

Yet, here’sthe beauty about a chamber orchestra concert:

Its simplicity.

It’s an intimate musical recital between 12 musicians and you.  The rest of the audience just seems to disappear into the oblivion.

No roaring, raucous crowds.  No grandiose stage props or blinding laser light shows.

Still, seated at the very front row, with only strangers around me, I felt utterly free and liberated.  I had the freedom to feel, enjoy and celebrate the emotion of the music.

I was beaming from ear to ear like a giddy school girl when they played the opening bars of “Summer” from The Four Seasons.

Overwhelmed, I had to catch my breath as the orchestra grabbed me for the big crescendos and the rush of complicated, melodic trills.

I watched in awe and amazement as to how their body language and nuances created a perfectly succinct performance.

Each musician carefully paying attention to the timing and dynamics of the other.  Even making sure that their breathing was in unison.

By the interval, I was hooked.  I was a groupie.  I skipped right over to the CD stall and earnestly waited in line to buy a copy.  Signed, no less. (Gush, gush…)

Then, out of pure perfect timing, in full view outside, were the fireworks to celebrate another amazing event – the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras:

After the concert, exhausted but still on an excited buzz, I went home to my family.  Back to my role as the stay at home Mama of twins with all its craziness and dramas.  (Voting lines have now opened).

In any case, that will always be the Saturday night I managed to step outside.  On my own.  Enjoy my own company.

I let the rest of the world show me what it had to offer.

Four Nights, Three Days…

18 Mar

Doesn’t seem that long, does it ?  It’s not even close to being a full week.  But when it proved to be the longest time our family had ever been apart, it really did seem like an eternity.

When Hubby was first assigned with an overseas business trip, we had thought about going together as a family.  However, logistics and the mere fact that domestic travel with one year old twins is tough enough, we gave up on the idea.  We opted for the boys and I to head out to the Big Roundabout and stay with my parents.

I don’t know who found it tougher saying good-bye at the airport.  Hubby remained stoic and strong but I knew he was tearing up inside with the thought of being away from his boys for the first time.

Getting ready to send Papa off...

Putting things in perspective, it was only for a short period.  Probably nothing to get too emotional about.

But for me, Hubby is my crutch.  When it comes to raising our twinlets, he sweeps in and takes charge of the tasks that are just too much for me to bear.

How was I going to do all of this on my own ???

Suffice to say, I had a tough time of it.

Somehow, I got through.  (Hey, I’m here – typing about it, aren’t I ?)

Four nights and three days, isn’t a long time at all.  Especially when it was all planned and we did all that we could to control and manage the disruption to our normal schedule as best as we could.

This past week, while I was missing my husband, I thought of the importance of belonging and family.

Our family is young.  Since being a married couple, only a year and a half has passed.  And since having children, we’ve just reached a year.

This first instance of absence and separation (pardon the pun) hit home.  It has made me extremely aware of not only how fragile each of our existence is.  But also, how each member of a family has their irreplaceable slot.  Their permanent fixture.

We are all – in some way – an indispensable crutch in our own families.

Then, with tragic stories constantly in the news, it was inevitable that I also turned my thoughts and prayers to the countless of families who were affected by Japan’s devastating earthquake, tsunami and the continuing chaos of the Fukushima nuclear power plants.

On the Friday afternoon that the earthquake happened, I had friends in Tokyo who were separated from their children and their spouses overnight.  Sometimes longer.  As the weekend progressed and Japan tried to recover, I would receive Facebook status updates from friends as they were finally reunited with their loved ones.  Messages that were touching beyond words.  Expressions of relief, happiness but most of all, love.  Pure unconditional family love.

The brief division of our family is nothing by comparison.

Yet, on Thursday morning, when we greeted our Papa at the airport, there were tears of joy and gratitude.  Admittedly, mainly from Mama Grace.

"Welcome Home, Papa..."

That morning, I learned that reunions – no matter how brief the time apart – are one of the biggest blessings for any family.

It’s a poignant moment when we are reminded who needs us the most.

Where we naturally belong.

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